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Archive for July 2010

2010 World Cup Final Review

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THE LOWS

Diving
This tournament has definitely been soured by all the diving and play acting on the pitch. Sure, there's always going to be "selling the call" to the ref from the players, but at times some players looked like they were shot by a 9mm, wriggling helplessly on the field, only to get up when the ref blows the whistle, hands a card or walks away nonchalantly. Italy are the masters at this (one of the reasons why I can never root for Italy no matter what), but more and more teams are using this as a tactic to keep possession and advance up the field. 
  
Non-Beautiful Football
Along with the diving, so many teams have resorted to a defense and counter attack type of football. All the great display of attack and goals were only shown in glimpses, while most of the games were a battle between wills and patience, waiting for the other team to start slacking or exposing their weakness for a last minute goal before the end of the match. In the end, Brazil tried to win with this tactic and failed. Netherlands tried to win with this and failed. 

The Old England 
England yet again disappointed everyone with their play. They boast one of the best leagues in the world, are the inventors of the sport, and annually receive tremendous hype about being serious contenders and have the potential to win it all each time. Yet, they showed no organization or grit, and seemed archaic compared to all the other teams. 

French Meltdown
What more can be said about the French? Domenech is now gone, and Laurent Blanc is the new head coach. The team imploded during training, and did not have a single player to step up and be the leader to galvanize the team. They boast some of the best talent on this planet, and yet have failed to win a single game. Only if they could convince Zizou to step out of retirement once more, things might have been different. Never mind the fact that he's been in retirement for a few years now. Some youtube footage of Dennis Bergkamp playing currently shows that these legends still can provide some pizazz. I expect France to be competitive once again with their new guard in Nasri, Gourcuff, and Lloris. 

Nigel De Jong
His flying karate kick was worthy of a spot in a kung fu movie, but deserved a red card on the World Cup final. The fact that Howard Webb didn't have the gall to send him off in the first half is probably even more atrocious than the kick itself. It truly epitomized the nastier side of football at the highest level.

Nike's Write The Future
At the time, everyone thought it was a genius piece of advertisement: the world's celebrated footballers coming together to film an epic commercial by one of Hollywood's prominent directors. But, little did everyone know that it would be the reason for such dismal performance from players who often carry the weight of the world's expectations. Not a single person highlighted in the commercial did anything to "write the future". Sure, maybe it's all just hokey pokey non-sense, but there's something to be said about the fact that Drogba, CR, Rooney, Ribery, and Cannavaro did little to push their teams through. Are they too over-hyped? Are they not hungry enough? Do people expect too much out of them? Whatever it is, this commercial doomed them from the start.

THE HIGHS

Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal

The best goal for me was the first goal made by South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala. It was a beautiful breakaway clinically finished. As the first goal, it truly got everyone excited for the tournament, regardless of what country they were rooting for. In my mind, it showed all that was good and beautiful about soccer. Plus, coming from the tournament hosts, everyone can get behind the goal and celebrate it. 

Diego Forlan
Forlan is truly the player of the tournament. He is a leader among leaders, a consummate professional, and an inspiration to the whole nation. He has single handedly carried his team all the way to the semi-finals, often providing the much needed goal to keep the team alive.  Every time the ball was given to Forlan, you could tell that he was going to do something with it, and that the opposing team was fearful of him. He was truly talismanic, and a joy to watch. 

Maradona
Misunderstood for the most part, Maradona showed the world that he did indeed know what he was doing with the Argentina national team. He not only had the appearances of a coach, but he also acted like one too. And some of the set pieces and strategies were from himself. The only piece that Argentina is missing is that of a true playmaker. Messi likes to attack from the wing, while Di Maria likes to come from the opposite end. Neither are meant to be playmakers, but were often forced to play that role for the likes of Higuain and Tevez. Once they have a true number 10, Argentina may yet have another revival.

The New Germany
Germany was easily the most entertaining team this time around. They had three games where they scored 4 goals, and never were afraid to go on the attack. Their squad is young with an average age of 24, and truly play like a team. The world is now familiar with rising stars such as Mueller, Oezil, and Khedira. While England and Italy are languishing as their veteran stars grow old and young talent yet identified to replace them, Germany has successfully blended the two, ensuring a smooth transition. Kiessling, Marin, and Kroos are also up and coming and will make their mark in the future.

Knaan
What an awesome theme song to accompany the first World Cup in Africa. There's joy, there's celebration, there's spirit, and there's heart. I can listen to it over and over again, and it brings chill down my spine. The song is truly one of the highs of this tournament.

But now, the World Cup is over. And with this, I've decided to take a hiatus of sorts from football. I'll be sad to miss Chamakh's debut as a Gunner, and will miss out on who else Le Professeur will sign on to Arsenal this year. But life is more than football, and there's other matters to tend to. I'm entering another season of simplifying my digital life, spending more time with books, contemplating, and writing.

No more streaming matches, soccer updates from the Guardian, and footytube reviews. Instead, more playing on the fields, more interaction with people, and more being present. But for those of you who want to continue on, best of luck. The internet is your friend and will allow you to follow your favorite teams and players, even if you don't live in England, Spain, Germany, or Italy.

See you on the other side.

 

Posted via email from Long Way Round

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Written by shindz

July 13, 2010 at 7:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2010 World Cup Semifinal Review

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The Orange Dream Machine
Now everyone knew that Uruguay without Suarez and his Hand of Diablo was not going to make it out against the Dutch. So, the real question and concern on everyone's mind was in which manner would the Dutch win? Will they show an appreciation for style and the "beautiful game"? Or, will they eek by with some defensive game like so many games displayed by Chelsea and Inter Milan? Fortunately, Gio Van Bronckhorst decided to shake things up in the 18th minute of the game with a totally unmarked shot from 42 yards out of the box. At the beginning of the tournament a friend and I were reminiscing how useless Van Bronckhorst is to the team, and how much of a liability he has been over the years. Funny how easily that reputation can be changed with one beautiful kick.

If Netherlands wins the whole thing, Sneijder will have racked up so much silverware in one year, it won't even be funny. And he was integral to all of those trophies, so good for him. But truly the unsung hero among the Dutch is Dirk Kuyt. He has been hustling like James Brown all over the field, defending, marking, pushing the ball up, chasing loose balls, and setting up his teammates for goal. Without him, the Dutch would have languished early on. 

And what can I say about Van Bommel? Is he a genius? Is he a punk? There's some talk that in this tournament, the holding midfielders have made the difference (the final four have arguably the best holding midfielders of the tournament: Alonso, Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger, Egidio Arevalo) and that's probably a very accurate observation. But Van Bommel's incessant bullying has paid off, and now the Oranje have a ticket to the final. And if it's truly up to the holding midfielders, then my money is on Netherlands, because not only does Van Bommel act like even bigger bully than Gattuso, but he also has the uncanny ability to avoid getting carded. 

Klose But No Cigar

Beautifulpeople.com allows you to rate the most attractive and the ugliest footballers of the world cup. Not only that, but they've managed to compile an average "beauty" score for each team. The winner is Spain. Funny how the best looking players also happen to be the best footballers so far. And coincidentally the North Korean team ranked lowest in beauty. 

But Spain didn't just win on good looks. They played their typical possession football, stringing pass after pass, as if to weave an intricate pattern with the ball on the pitch. In effect, they lullibied the German baby to sleep before going in for the lethal header by Puyol. It was perhaps their best performance of the tournament, even though the scoreline only showed one goal. So this pits two nations to fight for the World Cup title. Neither country has ever done this so whoever wins, it will be history in the making. 

So many questions remain in light of this World Cup saga. Will it be the Oranje and their pragmatic approach that vaguely reminisces total football? Or will it be Spain and their tiki taka? Will Robin Van Persie score a goal? Will Paul the Octopus be sautéed before getting a chance to guess the final?  

And for those who are still downtrodden about England's early exit, rest assured their future will be on the shoulders of Jack Wilshere and Josh McEachran

And this is what a nutmeg is. 

And as a parting gift, I present to you, my man Julio Cesar schooling Materazzi.

Written by shindz

July 9, 2010 at 3:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2010 World Cup Quarter Finals Review

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Uruguay and Ghana performed a spirited match in which a Sully Muntari strike opened the door for Ghana to advance. But-and how many times have you heard this storyline?-Forlan would drag the team back into contention with a wonderful free kick that led Kingson helplessly flail his arms and the Jabulani in the back of the net. The rest of the match was a stalemate, all the way to extra time. At the end of extra time, a late scramble in front of Uruguay's goal led to a header by Adiyiah, only to be prevented by Luis Suarez's hand (of God, or Diablo, you pick). 

Now, the referee, thankfully, saw it and gave a red card and a penalty. All Asamoah Gyan needed to do was put it in, just like he did twice before in this tournament. But that didn't happen. Instead, he shanked it high above the goal. Did Suarez cheat? He did what he had to, and was punished within the rules of FIFA. Was it considered "beautiful football?" Probably not. Would anyone else do the same thing to help their team? Absolutely. I, for one, wanted to see Ghana advance because it would have made for a great story, this being the first tournament in Africa and all. But, unfortunately when it came time to perform, Gyan simply couldn't. And during penalties, Mensah, out of his arrogance, made a poor penalty that practically gifted it to the keeper. And finally an Adiyiah miss put Uruguay through. So, yes the Suarez handball may not have been the classiest act, but was well within the rules of the game. Suarez' claim that the real hand of God belonged to him was an even more of a douche move. But the fact of the matter is Gyan should have put that penalty in to win the game. But he didn't. The Black Stars had another opportunity to win, but they failed to deliver. And that's where the men are separated from the boys, and the mega million paycheck is separated from the paltry million paycheck. Maybe this calls for changes to the rules, but until then Suarez did what he needed to keep his team alive, and Gyan didn't do what he should've done to put his team through. It's sad, but it is what it is. 

Oranje Crush
Screen shot 2010-07-06 at 6.13.57 PM.png
The Dutch have done it. They beat the tournament favorites Brazil. And now, every football fan is rejoicing that Dungaball is over. Let's face it, Brazil without its flair and panache, without its Ronaldo (the fat one), Ronaldinho, and Kaka trifecta is not really the Brazil we want. We want the samba, the dancing, the pass after pass, the nutmeg, the pedalada, and the goals that will be shown in highlight after highlight and immortalized in Youtube. Instead, we were subject to the god-forsaken Dungaball. We were coerced to watch defense and counter attacks over flair and possession. But everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief, as the Dutch have now crowned themselves as the nation with the spirit of jogo bonito

A Felipe Melo error put Julio Cesar out of reach from the ball going in. And not to be outdone by his first error, Melo committed an unnecessary stomp on Robben that got him sent off and Brazil down with ten men.    Sure, even I prognosticated that this tournament would be the era of counter attacks and defense first. I had Julio Cesar as the golden boot winner, and Brazil as the lifter of the Jules Rimet. But, alas, Brazil was left unraveled and all their defense couldn't save them from the tireless Kuyt who provided the engine, and a masterful Sneijder that put in both goals to put them on top. Meanwhile, my favorite, Robin Van Persie was lackluster like all his superstar colleagues, and he's not even a Nike man. By the way, Arsenal released their new jerseys, hot or not?

David Villa's Spain
Screen shot 2010-07-06 at 6.11.11 PM.png
There's no doubt anymore that Spain is David Villa's team. It's not Fernando Torres', or Xabi Alonso's, or Xavi Herandez's. And with his lone goal, Spain marched to their first ever semi-final of the World Cup. But let's take a step back here and watch the manner in which Spain has come here. At times in the group stage, their defense was exposed, and all their tiki taka was for naught, but in this crucial quarter final match, it produced a winner. Alas, that's all that I could say about this otherwise lifeless match.

Die Mannschaft!
But what you really wanted to hear about is Germany. Yes, this new youthful, multi-cultural, Germany. The Germans have shown England and the like what happens when you spend millions in your youth setup, instead of on pointless exhibitions to pimp your star players and ungodly salaries to your Italian mob boss. What you get is a successful transition from old to young, from blonds to non-blonds. Team Germany truly reflects this multi-cultural, multi-polar, and multi-ethnic world we live in. Even the Aryan looking Germans are actually from Poland!   How cool is that?  But wait, there's more delicious offerings from the National Mannschaft. Miroslav Klose, the striker that everyone written off, including Bayern fans, have emerged as a Golden Boot contender with four goals to his name. Thomas Müller, is the youngest footballer at the age of 20 to score in the World Cup, and have done it four times already. The average age of the team is 24. And their coach, Joachim Low has the best sartorial taste among all the coaches in the tournament by a landslide. 

And finally, all of the punditry touting this tournament as the death of the old world domination, including from myself, has been made somewhat in haste, now that we have three out of four teams in the quarter-finals represented by European nations.  

Written by shindz

July 7, 2010 at 6:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2010 World Cup: Round of 16 Review Part 2

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It's no surprise that Brazil has beaten a lackluster Chile in the round of 16. But the manner in which they have done is anything but Brazilian. A standard corner kick was met by Juan's not-so-large head to open up the scoring for the Brazilians. Alexi Lalas praised Brazil for their wonderful display, and deftly opined that the Brazilians are big and tough. Unfortunately Brazil is not known for their size, nor for their physique, but rather for their guile and somewhat "soft" play. Yes, that's right. Until Alexi Lalas hangs up his mic, I will not tire in pointing out his inferior commenting and analysis of the game. For those of you who may not know what to compare with, just think of Alexi Lalas as the equivalent of Bill Walton of soccer. How many times have you seen a crap play and hear Bill Walton say something that is clearly biased towards the center position? "He is so big and strong in the paint" (a center who manages to put the ball in the basket in a crowded area, aka doing his job). "One of the greatest players ever to play the game!" (any center who is playing a decent game at the moment). "What display of skill!" (a center landing a bunny). 

Meanwhile, across the pond, the folks at the Guardian lamented that the cross was the fault of the Chilean defense rather than a truly "beautiful goal." Everyone is bemoaning the fact that Brazil, molded after their coach, no longer subscribes to Jogo Bonito, but rather on defense and counter-attacks a la Mourinho. Do we really want to see more Mourinho-esque football? Did anyone truly believe that the Champions League final between Bayern and Inter was mesmerizing (besides the individual brilliance of Milito)? Brazil as national conscience care as much about winning as they do about the manner in which they win, but from the likes of it, an ugly defensive-minded game with a quick counter will look to win the World Cup this year. The flat top crew cut of Dunga should've alarmed everyone of this. 

If They Were True Samurais, They Would Contemplate Seppuku 
Although Japan was the other nation to make it to the round of 16, there were probably hardly any Koreans actually rooting for Japan. This means, Japan would have to go it alone if they were going to make it. And make it they did not. The Brazil v. Chile game was a cracker of a match compared to the lifeless game that Japan and Paraguay displayed. But perhaps it was not as atrocious as the Algeria v. Slovenia game, which if you happened to have devoted 90 odd minutes of your life to watching that match, you would never be able to recoup that loss ever again in the history of the world. 

To be fair, Japan was the more spirited side, although they were never able to capitalize on their chances. Paraguay, or more specifically "The Most Beautiful Footballer In The World" (Roque Santa Cruz), was dismal in their performance. Had not the coach substituted him out for Oscar Cardozo, Paraguay would have probably lost in penalties. But going back to Japan, despite their best efforts, they were not able to beat a mediocre team of Paraguayans. And when the pressure mounted, Yuichi Komano couldn't deliver. Good thing they're not really samurais. So the debate rages on, whether Korea is better or Japan. The likelihood of settling this is slimmer than the likelihood of figuring out who's land is Dokdo Island. 

His Name Is David Villa
If you didn't know his name because you were too busy familiarizing yourself with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, then you can forget those names now and just remember one: David Villa. He has singlehandedly captured the imagination of everyone watching the world cup with his performance so far. With four goals so far to his name, Villa looks to be a front-runner for the Golden Ball. And what a contrast he was to Cristiano Ronaldo, who seemed to be busy looking the part than actually being the part. Perhaps it is the gel on his hair, or the awareness of every single camera on the pitch capturing his every move, or maybe it's the curse of the Nike commercial, but CR looked quite dazed and confused. He was busy complaining about non-calls than he was about playing football. Meanwhile, David Villa was literally everywhere on the pitch, hustling back when he needed to, then sneakily moving from left to right and at the crucial moment freeing himself up to receive a pass for the kill. A true predator. And what better way to shine than on the world cup? All his "quiet" years in Valencia are now paid off million times over, as he will start the new season with The Yankees Real Madrid. 

Don't worry friends. The lull is almost over. I know your body is uncontrollably twitching and you can't stand the fact that there is no football to watch during work hours, and that you don't have to sneak away to a pub nearby to watch more World Cup.  In two days, it will be the best weekend ever. Dream match-ups between Argentina and Germany, and Netherlands and Brazil. If I'm going to stay on top of my bracket I'd want Germany and Brazil to win, but if I want to follow what's right in the world, I'd want Germany and the Dutch. And how is it that a country where hash brownies and the finest ganja is legally consumable have such technically superior and beautiful football? I want to visit now. 

And now, I present to you, the nutmeg of all nutmegs:

Written by shindz

July 1, 2010 at 7:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized