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2010 World Cup Round of 16 Review – Part 1

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It was 94 degrees today, and people were crazy enough to play soccer. Every time I sucked hot air into my lungs, it was immediately transformed into lead and coursed its way down to my legs. After 90 minutes of running in what was like the sahara desert from the movie Lawrence of Arabia, a few chances at goal came and went, and it began to dawn on me that the Suarez-esque late winner I was envisioning was never going to happen. At least I didn't make a Kim Nam Il mistake. Or is that a Cha Du Ri error. Or a Lee Dong Gook miss. Oh well. I guess I should be content that I'm still standing and not keeled over because of the heat.

Korea Packs Their Bags

Korea made history by advancing past the group stage for the first time on foreign soil. But, history ended there, as they were bested by Diego I-have-abs-you-should-be-jealous-about Forlan and a better Uruguay. As much as I am sad, I am very optimistic about Korean football and its future. Yes, I ranted on some of their errors and mistakes, but overall they performed valiantly and garnered much respect, almost beating out the South Americans. The real challenge now is to develop a stronger defense, one in which many of them have top level international experience. The difference between Korea and Uruguay (besides having superior strikers Suarez and Forlan), was in the back line. While Uruguay's defense has regular exposure to Champions League football, the Korean defense mainly plies their trade in the K league or in a mid table team in Germany (i.e. Cha Du Ri). Once we have defensive center backs who can handle the pressure, pace, and guile of a Forlan or a Suarez, we will be much more competitive.

Meanwhile Suarez, and his goal that is perhaps the best goal in the tournament so far, put Uruguay back into the quarter finals since 1970. Well done.
 
Kudos goes to all the Koreans who showed up to plazas, public places, and Seoul City Hall (pictured here) to root for the team, even in ungodly hours such as 1am or 3:30am. They were religious in their chanting and meticulous with their thunder sticks (who cares if the team can't hear it in South Africa). Bleary eyed children and old grandmothers made their way through Lawrence Plaza here in the bay, and we laughed and we cried together with the team's successes and failures. 

Now, I expect many Koreans to start following the EPL, SPL, and Ligue 1 with some of the stars playing in Europe. You can still pick up a Ki Seung Yeung Celtic FC shirt (the "bumblebee" strip will be a collector's item for sure) and begin to support Koreans playing abroad. 

Ghana Did It For Africa
Ghana also made history by advancing to the quarterfinals by beating USA. Maybe the grueling battle with Algeria sapped the energy out of the Americans, but they were definitely the weaker side. I happened to be rooting for Ghana (yes, I was born here, am a citizen here, and enjoy my freedom to consume in safety) because having the tournament in South Africa, I really want to see an African nation go far. I was actually cheering for Ghana in the company of friends who were all cheering for the US. After the match, I got an earful from the mrs and in retrospect realize that perhaps I was not respectful enough. On top of that, I also got a schooling on priorities and loyalties that are still ringing in my ears. 

So having said that, let me just say the USA, while technically not as advanced as a Spain or Brazil, has tremendous heart and a "never say die" attitude. They played with all they had, and was unfortunate to be beaten by a Kevin Prince Boateng strike and a Asamoah Gyan goal. The good news about the US is that MLS is a growing breeding ground for quality soccer players, and more cities and teams are investing in soccer-specific stadiums (it's atrocious how many MLS teams play on astro turf). I vowed to never watch an Earthquakes game again (high ticket price for a mediocre game at best), but perhaps I should also put my money where my mouth is so that soccer can continue to grow in this country. The best US player this tournament is Michael Bradley, who did a lot of everything: hustling to win 50/50s, passing through to move up the offense, hustling back to cover D, and scoring the dramatic equalizer in the cracker of a match against Slovenia.

And instead of incurring the wrath of the mrs, I will root for the USA next time around. USA! USA! USA!

The Fatherland Marches On
Perhaps we all saw it coming. The birth place of soccer, England was supposed to march to glory but would be thwarted by a far superior, athletic, and young Germany. The Guardian has bemoaned the loss with some stingers in their titles:

"English Football – The End of the World"
"England Hit A New Löw"

Even though Frank Lampard was denied a goal (oh the injustice!), Germany was the far better side, with their crisp passing and delicious dribbling skills that left the likes of Glen Johnson and even Cashley Cole confused and bewildered like a deer caught in a pair of oncoming headlights. Klose, who was largely silent with his club Bayern Munich throughout the year, has found his World Cup mojo and is closely catching up to Ronaldo's World Cup scoring record of 15 with 11 of his own after today's match agains the English.

Maradona Wrong Footing Everyone
I read an interesting article about how Maradona may just be "wrong footing" everyone this tournament. Argentina barely qualified, and much of the malaise was blamed on Maradona's inexperience with coaching, his troublingly odd antics, and his puzzling selections using over 100 players in a myriad of combinations. He may just fooled everyone and this World Cup may reveal just how much he is a genius as a manager as he was as a player.

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Written by shindz

June 28, 2010 at 4:29 am

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World Cup 2010 Day 12 & 13 Review

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As a companion to the World Cup, I’ve been reading Soccernomics, and it has been revelatory. The book borrows from Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, an in-depth look at Billy Beane’s strategy in looking at statistics and buying for cheap to build a very competitive team of relative unknowns, and then making a further profit by selling those players for much more. The book talks quite a bit about modern day Arsenal and its manager, Arsene Wenger, who as a trained economist, employed Beane’s methods to not only keep the club in the positive, but also manage to make a highly competitive team with its “youth players.” Part of my love for Arsenal lies in Le Professeur and his ability to discover great young talent and develop them into world class players. I’m glad that there’s a book that actually details some of the inner workings of soccer.

But I digress.

Democracy Is Better
Korea survived their battle with Nigeria and advance to the round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil. This is an amazing accomplishment and a dream come true for us Koreans. I remember growing up in Korea, whenever a World Cup came around, all the newspapers and all the coaching staff would say “our goal is to advance into the round of 16”. It would be splashed around in every kiosk, every newstand, and every subway advertisement panel. And with hope in their hearts, Koreans would buy their newspapers and ride their subways, but alas hope is meant to be deflated and dreams are meant to be crushed. 

Until now.

For the past few days I was quite furious at the way Korea played (as evidenced by my colorful Facebook updates), especially from the likes of Cha Du Ri (who practically rolled out the red carpet for the Nigerians to score in the box) and Kim Nam Il (who made an elementary mistake of dribbling the ball into the box instead of outside), and a little left over for Park Chu Young (despite his wonderful free kick goal). I had some scathing remarks for them, but since it’s been a few days I’ve cooled down quite a bit. Good thing I didn’t write this the day after. But if I can say one thing, coach Huh should not play Kim Nam Il, even as a substitute. 

Playing against Diego (!) Forlan and Uruguay will be tough, and it will require a much more defensive approach and a fast counter attack. I would think a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Park Chu Young as the loan striker, and Ki Seung Yeung and Lee Chung Yong on each flank supporting the attack. Four backs lining up the defense and Park Ji Sung holding up central midfield just might do the trick in stopping Uruguay’s fast paced game through the middle. 

Before I get into my cynical doomsday mentality, one bright spot about the Korea National Team is the successful transition and development of their youth. Ki Seung Yeung and Lee Chung Yong are both 21 and have become an integral part of the squad. The new keeper Jung Sung Ryong has been a breath of fresh air and looks to make a move to Europe after the World Cup. All of this combined, shows that Korean football is on the rise and will only get better. I suspect, many more Korea fans will become EPL fans and Scottish league fans as they follow the likes of Lee Chung  Yong (Bolton), Ki Seung Yeung (Celtic FC) and Park Ji Sung (Man United). 

La Fondue
By now, it’s old news that the French team had a complete meltdown and have left South Africa early. Domenech refuses to shake Carlos Perreira’s hand after the match with South Africa, Le Sulk does what he does best, Evra is left out of the game because of his insubordination, and the entire French team flies back home economy class. Oh la tragedie! Fondue in the largest proportions!

Meanwhile, Laurent Blanc is quietly plotting a course for a French comeback, and this time, Benzema and Nasri will be towing the line.

Good Riddance!
The defending world champions, the mighty Azurri have fallen and the unlikely heroes, Slovakia, have taken their place in the round of 16. I suspect some of the blame must be put on the coach for his team selection. Camoranesi was the one to provide the spark and the lead up to goals in the past two matches, yet he was left on the bench. And as my friend pointed out, Pirlo was nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he is probably Italy’s best playmaker. Without him, truly Italy has to rely on their operatic acting skills more than their passing. 

To be fair, the latter half of the match was a thrill to watch. Italy did wake up from their slumber and pressed for the attack, eventually netting two goals. Yet, in the end you could tell there was just not enough gas in the tank. 

And as the runners up France and the champions Italy fell in group stage, it is a telling sign that once you’re on top, it’s hard to sustain the hunger and the drive to keep going, especially since the tournament is every four years. A back to back title has not been done since 1962, and even then Brazil had possibly the most gifted footballer in the history Pele on their side. 

Wunderkid
How good is Mesut Özil? He’s been instrumental in Germany’s attack every game, and had a beautifully struck goal against Ghana. Now there’s even talk that Arsenal may be interested in the 21 year old. I won’t succumb to the rumor mongers just yet, but suffice to say part of the fun in watching Germany this tournament is because of the Werder Bremen wonderkid.

Van Persie Strikes
And finally, my man Robin Van Persie scored a beautiful goal in the otherwise lackluster match against Cameroon. RVP is always a joy to watch, and exemplifies the Dutch way of playing football. With Robben back on track and Sneijder firing on all cylinders (do these guys ever get tired?), truly the Dutch look like they might go very far this time around. With all the English players fatigued after a grueling season in the EPL, the Brazilians not yet dominating like they are expected to, and the Germans showing some weakness in their back four, you could say that the Netherlands just might push ahead of their European counterparts. 

Jogi Watch
Joachim Low puts as much effort into his sartorial taste as he does into the strategy on the pitch. Against Ghana, he sported a black double breast trenchcoat and scarf. Can you imagine his directive to his staff before arriving to South Africa? 

“I want all of you to pack the following: powder blue v-neck, slim black sport coat, black double breast trench coat, white pressed shirt, black pants, and oh yeah, it’s cold so a dark scarf is optional.”

Next match against England, I predict Jogi and staff to don a white shirt and black sport coat with a nice watch to give some accent.

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Written by shindz

June 25, 2010 at 6:27 am

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World Cup 2010 Day 11 Review

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In our pickup game yesterday, we played with a real Jabulani ball. Not the cheap $20 replica, but the official one that costs a mere $149. The ball did have more flight and stayed up in the air longer, as if it grew wings every time it took off. It might have even elevated everyone's games, as we looked like a well oiled machine, playing the "beautiful game" with pass after pass that eventually leads to a beautiful goal.

Well, maybe not that beautiful, but it did give us a sense of importance and grandeur. If not in our play, at least in our minds.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo ended his goal drought and put in a goal. It was quite a display, as the ball landed on his back, and he then proceeded to flick it over his head for a easy finish. In fact, Portugal put in six others to stomp out the North Koreans 7-0. It was a clear difference from their previous game against Brazil. They came out more attacking, and perhaps they were too confident in themselves, having held the giants Brazil. But Portugal, as we have seen, is no pushover. They clearly showed North Korea a lesson, and perhaps in the dressing room they vowed to repeat the 5-3 scoreline of the 1966 world cup. 

David Villa scored twice, and nearly scored a hat trick if he did not miss the penalty. Spain comfortably beat Honduras 2-0, shaking off their defeat from Switzerland last week. They say it's bad omen since no team has advanced to the finals after losing their first match in the World Cup finals (statistic courtesy of the stat happy ESPN). Whether Spain can hold on will be one of the major storylines this time. 

And people can finally rejoice at all the star players hitting their stride. Now we just need Red Card Rooney and El Nino to step it up as well. 

Perhaps it is not yet the end of football in the old world, as I predicted last time around. Germany and England still have a chance to prove themselves, and France… well I'm watching France right now and it is a complete meltdown. Platini is kicking himself as we speak.

Today Korea will be playing the most important game of their lives against the Super Eagles. I'll be sporting my Seung Yeung jersey during the match. C'mon South Korea, show the North how it's really played. 

 

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Written by shindz

June 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm

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World Cup 2010 Day 10 Review

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It's a funny World Cup when news from the training camps are more dramatic and interesting than news from the pitches themselves. But that's just what 2010 South Africa is turning out to be. When we look back, perhaps we will say that the 2010 World Cup was the end of the football domination by the old world, and the crowning of a new era of the new world. Powerhouse Germany lost to Serbia. England suffers from lackluster effort and the fans have turned against them. France has created a melodrama of its own, starting with Anelka being sent home prematurely, the fitness director storming off the training ground, and the FFF president quitting soon after. The fans have hit out social media style, with mock Facebook entries making fun of the team. 

And the champions Italy couldn't fend off the roaring Kiwis. Despite an Iaquinta goal, the All Whites came back to tie the game and played a very spirited side, something quite uncommon this tournament. The only Italian that seemed to have a spark was Camoronesi. And did everyone else notice Public Enemy #1 as the fourth referee? I bet all the Americans were burning with anger at every sight of him. 

Meanwhile, all the teams in the new world are doing superb. The US has tied both of its games, Argentina is breezing through, and even teams like Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile are all on top of their groups. Brazil, of course, cruised through Ivory Coast with a 3-1 finish. Fabiano had two hand balls for his goal, which the referee saw and yet didn't blow the whistle, as evidenced by the wink and smile to Fabiano afterwards. 

It turns out the referee was French. 

But perhaps the real concern is with the fact that except for Ghana, all the African nations are languishing. Ivory Coast and Cameroon are virtually eliminated after their matches yesterday. I had both advancing out of their groups, so my optimism has gotten the better of me. It would have made for a great story, to see African nations do well, but that epic shall not be written this time.

 

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Written by shindz

June 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

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World Cup 2010 Day 8 & 9 Review

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At work we have a live feed of the BP oil spill underwater cam on one of our screens. It's atrociously amazing how much oil is being spilled out, after its first burst in April 20. That's a full two months. The full consequence of the damage it will bring is still to be seen. But really, all is not right with the world because we have seen quite a few controversies on Day 8 of the 2010 World Cup.

Ze Germans Beaten
After Germany's fine display against Australia, I was hoping for another thrashing against Serbia. But the referee had other plans in mind. Klose was given two yellow cards for innocent tussles, and Germany was forced to play a more compact game against a very tough and defensive minded Serbia. A Khedira strike was denied by the third arm of the goalie, and Lukas Podolski had a chance to equalize, but failed to convert the penalty. The distinguished media noted that perhaps this is the end of the world as we know it, as Germany has not missed a penalty since 1982. I think this particular statistic speaks on Germany's efficiency, but really, does it matter? In another match, I remember ESPN spitting out stats like "this team has not won a world cup game since 2006," which to the casual observer might seem like a very big drought, but really all it means is the two games played this year, and a handful of games played in the last world cup, which is coincidentally in 2006.

Jogi Low's Slim Cardigan Was Not Enough To Pull A Win
Jogi Low and his staff came out with matching cardigans, which looked slightly more stylish than their previous powder blue v-neck t-shirt under a dark sport coat. Unfortunately, games are not won on looks, otherwise Germany would be the runaway winner.

Does anyone else think that ESPN's coverage is woeful and tragic? At least they don't have Dave O'Brien calling the games like in 2006, but seriously, some of the trivia is just horrendous. And the in-studio commentating by Alexi Lalas and crew are absolutely unbearable to watch. Oh, and if I hear another John Harkes comment, I might just stick a metal fork in the closest electric socket. The only silver lining is Martin Tyler and long time Champions league commenter Derek Rae calling certain games. 

The English Tragedy of Shakespearean Proportions
If there's any game more unwatchable than the Algeria v. Slovenia game so far, it's the England v. Algeria game on day 8. The English seemed to be resolute on proving everyone that they are not a kick and rush team, as expertly analyzed by Franz Beckenbauer. Why Beckenbauer, a German, decided to impart his wisdom to the English, I have no idea, but maybe it's a European thing. But their on-the-ground game was no better than their kick and rush game. In fact, it was just as bad if not worse. It was so bad that the English media has hit out on all four cylinders against the two and a half lions (as the Guardian's Marina Hyde calls them). This quote during the live coverage amply conveys the attitude:

"But Algeria seem to have hit upon the effective tactic of kicking the ball deep to Carragher and then waiting for it come back to them in a better position."

"David James flings the ball to Emile Heskey on the halfway line. He's standing alone under no pressure, the ball hits his shin and bounces to an Algerian player standing five yards away. Good hold-up player my backside, he's a joke. He couldn't trap a bag of cement."

You get the idea. Meanwhile Robert Green is now sighing with relief, as this game cannot be blamed on him. 

Cappelloface!

The only entertaining thing about the game was the constant slow motion captures of Fabio Capello's endless rage (Capelloface!), and something-for-the-ladies Beckham showing his rueful facial expressions, as if he knows exactly when the camera is on him. Another friend commented that anything in slow motion makes it awesome, even when players are elbowing others in the face (Dempsey), braving the cold on the bench (Thierry Henry), and biting their fingernails (LeBron James). Well done, ESPN.

Denied by Koman

How good is Donovan? He's come a long way from his awful spell in Germany back in 2005. He's made a killer goal at an awkward angle, unlike the rubbish that is the Maicon goal. Yes I still think that Maicon goal is non-sense in the fact that he "just went for it" and it happened to bend and go in. Almost as rubbish as a "f–ing Frank Lampard goal." The USA has come back from a two goal deficit and even made a third, only to be denied by a certain referee Koman Coulibaly. The Americans are at an outrage, and Koman Coulibaly has become public enemy number one. I've seen the highlights multiple times, and find it puzzling that he blew the whistle even before Edu had a shot at goal. He must have seen something, and perhaps it is as stated in this NYTimes Goal blog

Meanwhile, The Oranje marched on over Japan with a 1-0, with Dirk Kuyt dishing out some "fine" trash talking, by saying to the media that many of his teammates enjoy eating sushi, and look forward to eating it for dinner after the match. They shall eat sushi indeed, just as me and the mrs have done the night before. 

The real story behind this year's World Cup is not in that the games are not exciting enough, or that the Jabulani is horrendous, or that Cristiano Ronaldo's hair has too much product in it. The real story is that even the minnows are capable of holding their ground, and able to compete in a meaningful way. The USA is now a legitimate contender, South Korea is a respectable opponent, and North Korea can put up a fight that doesn't involve guns and nuclear warheads. This makes for a more exciting tournament with less blow-outs and less rubbish games at the end of the group stage, where teams rest their best players and the rest on the pitch play 90 minutes of monkey-in-the-middle.

By the way, it's becoming increasingly difficult to write these blog posts, with erratic sleeping patterns (4:30am for us west coasters), work (unfortunately can't take 30 days of PTO), and being in my first year of marriage (so many things to do, so little time). The fine folks at the Guardian seem to be watching and live blogging during work (oh, the productivity!), while I'm busily writing while I watch at 7 in the morning. Only if I can apply such efficiency and dedication to more important things like spirituality. 

Postscript: Anelka is going home after giving a mouthful to his coach, Domenech.  Bon Voyage!

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Written by shindz

June 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

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World Cup 2010 Day 6 & 7 Review

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I really don't want to write this. I really don't. A loss is devastating, you see. I've braced myself for it, and I was very realistic about it, but when it happens it is crushing nonetheless.

But let me get onto other news around the World Cup scene.

Giants Beaten
The biggest upset from the tournament came on Wednesday when tournament favorites Spain lost to a very defensive minded Switzerland. All their finesse passing and harlem globe trotting didn't break through the stalwart defense of the Swiss. Pass after pass, the crowds were mesmerized and the commentators commentated on how beautiful the game is, but the reality is goals win games and Spain had none. 

It reminded me of many of Arsenal's games at the end of this past season, where the virtues of passing and playing beautifully didn't lead to results. It was as if the point of the game was on making the most intricate string of passes instead of netting the ball. If offensive mindedness was lacking, del Bosque should've put Fabregas, one of the best midfielders in the EPL, to provide some spark in the dying embers of the game. But alas, Cesc never even warmed up, leaving it to Xavi and Iniesta to provide something that wasn't there to begin with. 

Diego!
How good is Diego Forlan? How many times have he scored when his team needed a goal most? He's done it plenty of times with Villareal. He's done it with Atletico Madrid this past season, especially against Liverpool in the semi finals of the Europa league (sorry, John). He is a clutch player that delivers clutch goals. 

And he delivered two to beat out tournament hosts South Africa. I still have hopes for  the Bafana Bafana, but after this loss, things look slim. As I mentioned earlier, Diego Forlan makes for a great story this tournament. Can he take Uruguay to glory? Can he repeat 1930? I still don't think they'll make it to the end, but a quarter final finish would definitely be a swan song for Forlan.

The Little Pea
France has a load of talent, but have been struggling to show what they are capable in their past two games. But don't let me detract you from how awesome Mexico was. They were composed, had a lot of passes completed, and kept their composure even when France was trying to hack their way through.

Javier Hernandez, also known as "Chicharito" (little pea), made an incredible goal, bringing Lloris out of his line and slotting it in the back of the net with a cool finish. Looks like Fergie made another good buy, although small strikers have never faired well in Manchester United. We'll see if Chicharito can turn that little piece of history around.

But let me talk a little bit about France, one of my favorite teams in the World Cup. Domenech's only good decision has been to convince Zidane to come out of international retirement back in 2006. That ultimately led the French to the final. Other than that, Domenech has shown so much incompetence, from choosing his starting eleven, team tactics, and antics in the dressing room. His new age influences have definitely not helped the team perform better either. Gignac and Govou have been such liabilities in front of goal, and Henry never even came off the bench. Why even have a player in your selection if you're not even going to play them? I feel the frustration with the team and I'm not even French!

Fighting Spirit Deflated
There's a tag line going around among the Korea national team, and it's 투혼, or "fighting spirit." It comes from the fact that all throughout Korea's history, they were underdogs and that it took a fighting spirit to make it through. The tagline is inscribed behind the shield inside the jersey. Yes, I'm a nerd for looking there. But looks like Messi and company undid the fighting spirit of the Taeguk warriors with relative ease and composure.

Unlike my compatriots, I had very realistic aspirations for the team. I know how much of a flop Park Chu Young can be. I know how uncreative the team can get under pressure from a much more physical, athletic, and faster opponent. A win over Greece is hardly an indication for greater things. If anything, tying with or beating Argentina is truly a statement. I had hopes, but my hopes were crushed by the lightning feet of Messi, who was pretty much involved in every goal, and by the "right place at the right time" Higuain who made a hat trick out of his uncanny ability to poach his way through. Consequently, my friend called it the "f—ing Frank Lampard goal". How much he hates Frank Lampard and his "right place at the right time" ability is still beyond me.

The omen was there as soon as the Park Chu Young own goal happened. If it were any player I would've brushed it aside, but the fact that it happened from Park, showed to me that the game was doomed from the start. Park has a real problem with confidence, and even though his position is as a center forward, he likes to play on the wings and give passes than take a shot at goal. And putting an own goal in your own net? Good job coming back from that. 

And a late substitution with Kim Nam Il? Tired legs are not going to bring a spark. And Lee Dong Gook? He's never done anything good in any international competition. NOTHING. Why he's even on the squad? I'm not even sure. If there's anyone more useless than Govou, it is Lee Dong Gook. And a brilliant goal during the first half injury time from Lee Chung Yong brought the game to 2-1. Why we didn't swarm the back and play solid defense, I'm not even sure. It seems that we've also adopted the fad of "playing beautifully" but we cannot beat the giants of Argentina at their own game. The North Koreans knew that. Kim Jong Il knew that. But supposedly the open and free South Korea, with its highest broadband penetration rate and free flowing information society, didn't know that. We continued to stubbornly pursue the "jogo bonito" with our deft passing and our simple trickery, only to be handed a lesson from the bulldog Tevez, the mesmerizing Messi, and a brilliant Di Maria.  By the way, how annoying is Real Madrid? There's already talk that they're going to swoop up Di Maria for 30 million. 

I'm done with my ranting. The next game South Korea will have is with Nigeria. It is truly win or go home. Again.

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Written by shindz

June 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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World Cup 2010 Day 5 Review

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The World Cup is in full swing, and only four teams have not yet played their matches. Already, lots of controversy surrounding the ball is making its rounds in the news and a lot of teams are playing very conservatively and ending up with draws rather than wins. A lot of the stars that people expect to perform at a high level have been largely silent, perhaps except for Messi and the Ze Germans. But as the saying goes, form is temporary but class is permanent. As teams are forced to go for wins instead of draws to escape the group stage, a lot of defenses will open up and the stars will shine as they take their teams to glory. 

The Kiwis Fight Back
New Zealand is definitely one of the lowest of all the teams next to North Korea. They battled Slovakia early this morning and I was surprised how good they looked compared to their perceived reputation. Slovakia did have more organization, but New Zealand was no pushover, equalizing with a header from Reed at the end to draw 1-1. Yet, as mentioned before as teams become more desperate and aggressive for three points, I imagine New Zealand will end up making a lot of errors and concede many goals. 

Drogba Cometh
Ivory Coast and Portugal played a very uninspiring game that led to a 0-0 draw. Ronaldo's reputation preceded him (he's a big sissy), and unfortunately a foul committed against him was misperceived as a dive and subsequently was handed a yellow card. To be fair, the ref gave a card to both Ronaldo and Dumel for arguing but was completely unnecessary. Then, the ref missed two more crucial calls later on in the game. Gervinho looked promising but no cigar. Basically, the most interesting thing about the match was the ref. 

Lucky Maicon
The powerhouse known as Brazil played the minnows known as North Korea, and contrary to my friend's prediction of a double digit scoreline (Brazil's, not North Korea's), the game ended in a relatively subdued 2-1. Maicon put in a goal literally parallel to the goal line, which when seeing it for the first time is an absolute screamer, but upon careful mental dissection can only be considered as luck. Don't hate me because I'm supporting your Yankees, but if you asked Maicon to do it again, I don't think he'd be able to (this was Xin's point). The second goal by Elano was simply beautiful, as Robinho threaded a pass just right to get to Elano's feet. The People's Rooney (인민의 루니) cried during the anthem, whether because he was swelling with patriotism (never lived in North Korea!), was asked to do so as a PR ploy from the dear leader, or because he was thinking about his parents possibly being sent to a labor camp if he didn't score, we'll never know. On the pitch, he showed some flashes of brilliance, at least more than Park Chu Young. No, I'm not hating on Park Chu Young, my favorite player from South Korea, I'm just disappointed at how he doesn't show up to big games. A consolation goal from Ji Yun Nam showed the world that our northern brothers were not going to go quietly. 

Tomorrow is the match that everyone is waiting for, the indomitable Spain versus the Swiss. Spain has too much talent to go quietly, especially against a Swiss team that lacks many components. If Brazil is the Yankees, does that make Spain the Red Sox? 

And before I leave, more robertgreen goodness.

 

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Written by shindz

June 16, 2010 at 2:13 am

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