Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spain Shall Reign at the Final

ESP 3 - 0 RUS - Content to let the dreary first half play out, Spain outclassed the Russians in the second half with a brilliant display of football. The fact that Spain can play (and has played and won) bogged down football, yet can still find ways to display their flair, indicates that they are ready to claim the throne. On that note...

GER - ESP - While you can never count out the Germans, this is Spain's championship to claim. Even without Villa (and with Ballack on the pitch, however hampered he may turn out to be), Spain should be able to carve up the German defenders even worse than the Turks. This is set up for the Spaniards to win. We shall see shortly.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Über Alles

GER 3 - 2 TUR - Über the Turks, anyway. Ironically, the Turks go down when they took the game, to say the least, to the Germans. The Germans, apparently looking to manage the match rather than play it, spent the first part of the match on their heels. As was speculated in a previous post, the Turks literally stumbled into a goal. The Germans then put their foot on the pedal and quickly equalized. Nobody can pull back a game like the Germans.

The second half brought more fireworks, figuratively and, possibly, literally. Unfortunately, the world didn't get to see it live because the feed kept going out. It was spun as a bolt of lightning...three bolts apparently, that's why the feed went out three times, right? The most entertaining part of that was when the worldwide leader was fumbling around, trying to disguise that it does not have commentators on-site...because that's how a worldwide leader would roll.

Anyway, a pair of goalkeeper mistakes led to clinical finishes by each side, with the Turks pulling back the German advantage. Finally, Lahm, who had been carved up all match on defense, hammered home on the end of a beautiful combination. Thus, the Turks are vanquished, but it took some doing to finally bury them.

This can't bode well for Germany in the final. Except for a free kick strike, Ballack has been nowhere. Say what you will about the Turks' spirit but, if they can carve up the Germans as they did (with half a team), what will Spain (or Russia) do to them?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


So, we've reached the semis. Once again, my wishy-washy predictions are there for all who care to see. The teams I want to win are bolded.

GER - TUR - The Turks will have six more missing through injury or suspension. Discounting their guts, once again, I will pick against them. While Turkey have pulled out matches from their asses (careful) against the Swiss, Czechs and Croatians, I can't believe that, even though this German team is nothing special, that Turkey will be able to take out a top-level nation. Nothing indicates that Turkey can hold the Germans to less than one goal. With anyone capable of creating sidelined, there's no way the Turks can stumble into two goals. I find it hard to believe that they'll even score one.

RUS - ESP - Since Spain beat Russia 4 - 1 in the first round, Russia have this in the bag. You have to think that the Russians are far more motivated this time. Still, a lot more has to go right for the Russians and wrong for the Spaniards to turn around that result. This is possible because, despite having top shelf talent, Spain have always met with disappointment.

Russia can match Spain's pace, but will have to take away the Spaniards' spirit to win this match. More importantly, the Russians will have to, as Andy Gray (long a Bokolis favorite) would say, take (finish) their chances...because I just can't see Russia holding Spain to one goal. A five-goal shootout, with the Spaniards getting the odd goal, must be the most popular result, setting up the preferred (by the burocrats) final. But, don't underestimate Guus.

The More Things Change...

So, the Mets haven't exactly sprung to life after firing Willie. Jerry Manuel claims to be gangsta. Did he do the Crip Walk when he pulled Reyes from that game against the Angels? Do they call it the Crip Walk in the OC?

The way it went down is typical of how mickey mouse that organization is. I worked for them for a hot minute way back when (RIP Jim Plummer, he was a something more than good man), so I can say shit like Tiger my cousin. Ever since Wilpon started having a say, they've fucked up left and right.
  • Go back to the first move with Wilpon's stamp, trading Kevin Mitchell (because of perceived bad influences on the coked-out Gooden and Strawberry) and Dykstra (due to his fast-living), only to pick up a couple of douches like Bonilla and Vince Coleman a few years later
  • subsequently letting the team go to shit, to the point where greasing the usher with a 20 would get me and 3 of my homeboys seats in the wives section...the team was so bad, the wives didn't show
  • alienating Rickey (Rickey is Bokolis' favorite player, so you can't say shit about him to me) over a million (or so) dollars and trading Melvin Mora for Mike Bordick (I know Rey Whore-donez was hurt, but Bordick didn't want to be here) ruined that 2000 team (even though they made it to the Series, they never had a chance),
  • R. Alomar (I can't forget Alomar and Cedeno fighting in the dugout over who was better looking),
  • Burnitz (even though he gave full effort, they didn't learn from his first go-around that Shea was almost as harsh to him as it was to Bobby Murcer),
  • Mo (Cheeseburger) Vaughn, resulting in the paralyzing neurosis that prevented them from signing Vlad (Vlad spent six years auditioning for the Mets, he would have sucked someone's dick to play here if he had to), then signing Beltran for double the price.
  • Trading Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.
  • Jeff "I got this" Wilpon pulling rank to sign Kaz (torn asshole) Matsui.
  • Signing Reyes to a shit deal (Castillo makes about the same) and thinking they got over.
Since Wilpon has had a say (and up until Reyes and Wright), the best homegrown player had been Edgardo Alfonzo...that's over a ~20-year span...that's as damning as it gets. The Mets will never win while this douche is around. Now that he's built his ballpark, we figure to be stuck with him for at least the next 15 years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quarterfinal Round-up

We get two dark horses for the price of one. Turkey and Russia each knock out teams that sailed through unscathed to match up, respectively, with traditional powers Germany and Spain.

POR 2 - 3 GER - As was expected, Poof-naldo, showing the heart of his predecessors, was nowhere to be found in the big match. He is a victim of his talent, immaturity and the EPL, none of which have prepared him for knockout tournament football. He found out that he can't simply run around the flanks against motivated opposition. Moreover, he was scared to mix it up with Germans bigger than he.

For all the pretty running the Portuguese do, it was the German attackers' pace that proved more potent. The Portuguese had no natural striker, which has yet again, come back to bite them in the ass...although Poof-naldo likes that shit.

HRV 1 - 1 TUR (Turkey advance 3 - 1 on penalties) - Can't fault the Turks' guts, but Croatia lost this game as much as the Turks won it. Hitting the bar from 4 yards, something only Andy Cole can appreciate, seemed to take the starch out of them. They stopped running and their attack bogged down as their passing became less fluid. Though hardly looking threatening, the Turks once again showed their mettle.

Nonetheless, the Croats seemed to have things locked up when they scored in the final minute of extra time. The Turks found magic from the proverbial last-gasp effort, when their striker, with his off foot, shot between two converging defenders and into the top left corner. He couldn't do that again if you left him out there for three days...but he doesn't have to, does he?

I was told that Croatians don't miss penalties, but they had nothing left for the shootout.

NED 1 - 3 RUS (a.e.t) - I didn't see the game, as I was busy securing a 2 - 0 victory of my own. I'm told that, just as I explained, the motivated Russians matched the Dutch pace and had the lion's share of the chances. While they seemed the strongest side, I've never been keen on the Dutch. Robben and Robin are overrated and I have no respect for Van Nistelrooy. Once you get past that, what is there, besides an ordinary squad with a (still) top-flight keeper?

ESP 0 - 0 ITA (Spain advance 4 - 2 on penalties - Again, Spain have shown marginally more toughness that I'm used to seeing. Italy's defense was stronger than it had been, but it came at the expense of attack. Perversely, that's how the Italians like it. They would rather lose like this than win 3 - 2. So, the Italians can go home with no gripes. The only issue I would have is that, if they were going to bring on Del Piero (whether he should have been playing, given his age and that he doesn't like to take penalites, is another argument), they should not have waitied until the 2nd half of extra time.

Generally, the only real issue I have is that so many of these games are coming down to PKs. I don't have a problem with the PKs per se, but it didn't happen as often before 1990, so it was a novelty. As tactics have become more corporate and playing styles have converged, it seems that, all too often, 90 minutes aren't enough to settle matters. If we're going to have half of these matches settled at the spot, let's just go to golden goal. Leave them out there as long as it takes and, once we get to extra time, lift the cap on subs and let substitued players back on the pitch. I'm never going to remember any of these PK shootouts like I remember Bierhoff in '96 and Dellas in '04.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 3 and The Quarterfinals

Well, we saw the Turks come back from the brink. Guts turned out to be enough, after all. The Swedes collapsed as the Russians found their motivation. The Italians slide through, as dogs France proved what garbage they are. The Greeks had the tournament they should have had the last go around. Nobody that left did anything to make you wish they would have stayed. The Spaniards look the prettiest, the Portuguese the poof-iest and Dutch look the frontrunners, but the Croatians have a chance to steal the show.

Predictions...5 minutes into POR - GER (as I type, not as I post)...all right, they're veiled, wishy-washy predictions. The bold are who I want to win.

POR - GER - Can Portugal's talent overcome an ordinary German side and their own lack of heart? I don't know, but I've never trusted Portugal in knockout tournament football.

HRV - TUR - Guts can only take you so far. With half the regular squad unavailable, the Turks look to have reached the terminal.

NED - RUS - A motivated Russia take a back seat to no one. The Russians have no qualms about running with the Dutch. Still, there must be too much Dutch firepower.

SPA - ITA - Spain look marginally tougher than I remember them. I'm not sure if Spain's opposition have served to properly test them in advance of Italy. That said, without Cannavaro, the Italian defense is not of typical strength. I cannot pick Italy here, but this one figures to last longer than 90.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group D Day 2

SWE 1-2 ESP - The two strikers made it happen in the first half. Sweden took off Ibra at the half, which would, to a team with more grit than the Spaniards, signal that the match is there for the taking. Spain didn't pounce. As usual, Spain was ineffective when the game wasn't pretty and needed a horrid blunder to take the points.

To be fair, Spain did show some grit to hang with- and defeat- the tough Swedes. Spain got hosed by not getting a penalty when their man was run down. They did enjoy far more possession, even if they didn't capitalize. But, they will have to do more if they want to win this show.

GRE 0-1 RUS - The difference here was Clooney going after a stray cross like a child chasing the ice cream truck. Some Russian flipped it back over his shoulder to another Russian who was left unmarked, likely due to the Greek back line's stunned disbelief at their keeper's jaunt. Facing elimination, the Greeks actually tried to push for a goal, which left them exposed. But the Russians missed all of their many opportunities.

The Greeks hardly made any half chances from their efforts and are left to cry foul from a dubious offside flag that nullified a potential goal. Vainly chasing the game should make it clear to the Greeks that they caught lightning in a bottle with their success of 2004. They are shown the exit door, as the nominal holders go two and done. See y'all later, boys; rework that phalanx and...don't forget to drop off the cup.

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group C Day 2

ITA 1-1 ROU - Despite the best efforts of the officials, Italy have managed to keep themselves from being eliminated. After the burocrats declared the opening goal against the Dutch as justified, these match officials flagged the Italians when, under FIFA's own bastardization, Toni was onside. After Mutu pounced on Zambrotta's hash for the opener, the Italians immediately equalized. It might have been fun to see the neurosis build. The officials again tried to hose Italy, via that atrocious penalty call, but Buffon came to the rescue.

In the grand scheme of things, the Italians didn't deserve a better result. The Italian defense
has holes and the Romanians, though only counterattacking, confidently operated in those spots. They forced two other excellent saves from Buffon. This speaks to Italy's lack of quality, as they typically only ask for one of those saves per match from Buffon.

NED 4-1 FRA - This is the combination of Dutch pressure, missed chances and atrocious defending by the collection of Africans playing in the France shirt. Thuram was especially horrid on Robben's goal, destroying the momentum created by Henry's goal. Henry, for his part, bungled a sitter prior to his strike. The referee did them no favors, refusing a hand ball in the box.

Henry must have thought that this was his testimonial, as he was smiling, hugging and schmoozing with all the Dutch in the post match handshakes. I can't understand what could make Henry so happy after he just had is ass handed to him. Personally, I'm not much for post match festivities, certainly not in a competitive match. When I lose, which isn't as often these days, I do my best to keep away from people because I feel like I want to mangle someone.

I was noting this to my match company as it happened and, perfect timing, the cameras cut to a scowling Ribery storming off the field. That's me, after a loss. Ribery's one ugly sumbich, but he is the only one that can go home to his old lady and say that he played.

A lot can still happen in this group, provided the Dutch don't play their match against Romania from the bar.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group B Day 2

I was waiting for everybody to finish calling Croatia's win over Germany an upset. Generally, I only hear Tommy Smyth's bad comedy act. But this tournament has showed me that, as an analyst, he is football's answer to Joe Morgan. He's been watching football for 50 years, but he knows nothing about it. Just like Morgan, when he is proven to have made an invalid point, he chases that mistake right off a cliff. Now, I understand that the man trades solely on his brogue.

HRV 2-1 GER - Croatia got the better of an ordinary German squad. There was no upset, the Croatians weren't lucky. As was explained, the Croatians are a dark horse in every tournament they enter. Right about now, that horse is isn't so dark.

AUT 1-1 POL - I wasn't sitting through this match. From what I understand, Poland has a pet Brazilian who put them out front, only to be vicimized (I saw this part) by a blatant case of home cooking. That penalty call was awful. This was the only way they were ever going to score. Their borrowed Croatian stepped up and drilled home the penalty- I think it was mentioned that Croatians don't miss penalties.

If Platini has channeled David Stern- and Austria get a little more home cooking against Germany- the Germans could have themselves a Euro party at Frings' villa next week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group A Day 2

CZE 1-3 POR - A fun watch, especially the first half. Portugal is a little better than the Czech Republic, as the Czechs, having nothing resembling Barbie, are just not as strong as they have been. The match proved as much. Poof-naldo hit a fantastic one-timer for the clinching goal. Portugal then caught the Czechs napping- or searching the crowd for the next porn starlet- and stole a third at the end. Once again, Poof-naldo wasn't sufficiently impressive overall for the level of his hype, even against a side not terribly interested in defending. But, he deserves full marks for that strike, even if he was preparing to dive in case his shot went awry. I want to abuse him for that, but I'm somewhat impressed by his having the wherewithal to plan ahead like that.

SUI 1-2 TUR - I wasn't going to watch this game. I can only guess that the Swiss stayed in the locker room for the second half and the Turks managed to score twice- and needed stoppage time for the second- while left alone on the field. Seriously, the Turks are marginally better than the Swiss, who probably wouldn't be playing were they not hosting. That said, the Turks did well to pull out this road match and have given themselves a shot at advancing with a result against the Czechs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group D Day 1

ESP 4-1 RUS - Of course, it's easy to spout the virtues of David Villa after that performance. He looked good even when he wasn't scoring. As a whole, the Spaniards didn't look as good as the score would indicate, but were plenty better than the unmotivated Russians (a redundancy). It's easy to swoon over Spanish football. They play so pretty. I've seen it so many times. How will they play when the game doesn't come so easily?

GRE 0-2 SWE - As holders, Greece owe more to the game than bastardized catenaccio. If the champ is going to lose, he should go swinging. One of the chief downsides of sacrificing offense is that you have little room for error, a margin, on this day, made even smaller by the mere presence of Ibra, supposed balky knee and all. Karagounis, awful as he was, should give back that number 10 shirt.

The Greeks' tactics, made necessary by a lack of talent, were excusable when they found a way to score in each of the knockout rounds in 2004. This time around, there is no Zagorakis to marshal the squad to withstand the pressure and there is no Tsiartas to create magic out of nothing when there is a need to chase the game.

Sweden, just as big and tough and, through Ibra, more talented, didn't help the game any by refusing to push the game when the Greeks pulled. Sweden's tactics were to hammer high balls into Ibra to wear down the Greeks. As well they should have, as Ibra is the one clear advantage Sweden had over Greece. It's hard to fault them, especially because it worked.

Greece were finally lulled to sleep by their own game and Ibra pounced for a bit of magic. Soon after, they pulled Dellas- proving the brilliance of Sweden's tactics- and Sweden walked right through the hole in the defense to stuff home the second.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Not offsides, huh?

So, some burocrat from UEFA decided that Van Nistelrooy was correctly judged onside on his goal.

The starting point, said Mr (UEFA General Secretary David) Taylor, is the Laws of the Game – Law 11 – which deal with offside... "If you think back to the situation, the first is the goalkeeper, and the second is the defender (Panucci) who, because of his momentum, actually had left the field of play. But this defender was still deemed to be part of the game. Therefore he is taken into consideration as one of the last two opponents. As a result, Ruud van Nistelrooy was not nearer to the opponents' goal than the second-last defender...If we did not have this interpretation of the player being off the pitch then what could happen is that the defending team could use the tactic of stepping off the pitch deliberately to play players offside, and that clearly is unacceptable..."

In the modern interpretation (read: bastardization) of the offsides rule, when an offensive player is in an offside position, he can avoid being called offside by not involving himself in the play. The most recent case is the Czech Republic's goal against Switzerland. Even though the defense has set up to trap a player offside, this player can, in effect, negate that trap by not involving himself in the action, even though he is still in the way. Another player, who was not previously in an offside position can then streak behind the defense and walk in on goal. The defense winds up being punished because, even as the trap has snared its victim, they still have to defend against the players still in an onside position.

Now, UEFA is saying that the defenses do not enjoy that same privilege. So, when a player is sprawled out injured at the back, he plays the opposition onside. But, if an offensive player in a similar situation does not play his team offside. Similarly, if an offensive player, in tracking down a ball, winds up in the stands, and stays for a swig of beer (as well he should), he does not play his team offside. However, if, in trying to make a clearance, a defender winds up in the advertising boards, he is deemed to be part of the play and is "nearer" his goal than the striker standing at the goalmouth.

Being the (C U Next Tuesday) that he is, the UEFA burocrat hides behind a supposed defensive tactic of pulling off players from the pitch to trap teams offside...because running off the pitch is a more effective tactic than marking your opponent. What's worse, the statement implies that UEFA would not even trust its referees to determine if such a tactic was employed.
That's european burocracy for you. The arguing prevails over the argument. I'd rather hear the truth; that the powers that be want goals and don't care how they come. Sling that bullshit somewhere else.

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group C Day 1

ROM 0-0 FRA - France without Zidane is Senegal. France without Henry is (insert African Federation ranked lower than Senegal). Makelele is still too much quality for Romania. Nobody was ever going to score.

NED 3-0 ITA - History will remember this as the worst destruction (to date) in Italy's history. The Dutch certainly played well enough to trounce the Italians. To take this match simply as that would be to ignore the dubious breakthrough and subsequent ripple effect. Granted Sneijder's goal was magic but, does that happen in a nil-nil match? Do the Italians expose themselves at the back by pressing as they did? Nonetheless, the Italians had plenty of time and chances to pull back the game, but they didn't take their chances.

They're an aging team, to boot. Without Cannavaro to marshal the team, Italy's biggest sin will prove to be that they have not replenished the back line. Panucci, at 35, is still out there. Materazzi is 34. If Cannavaro were available, he'd be another 34 year old at the back. Zambrotta, the baby of the bunch at 31, will bring down the average age of Milan's back line next season. Had he wanted to, they would have let Maldini play. The 3/4 Milan midfield isn't much younger.

Milan never saw it coming and crashed hard with its geezer set. Italy have learned nothing from this and are set to mimic Milan's crash.

The holders will be in action on Tuesday. While they may even be a little better (on paper) this time around, everybody sees them coming. The Swedes, meanwhile, will see what they can get from Ibra.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group B Day 1

The second day of Euro 2008 brought a couple of snoozefests. At least there haven't been any draws.

AUT 0 - 1 HRV - Hrvatska, d/b/a the anglicanized Croatia, drew an early penalty and pulled back, content to let Austria fumble its way around the pitch. I'm sure Croatia would have been happy enough with a draw against the hosts, so an early goal gave them even less incentive to chase the game. Croatia's defense was good, but not so good that they could not be scored upon. A goal was probably beyond Austria, but it didn't help their cause that they couldn't cross the ball worth shyte. As Croatia typically plays to the level of its opposition, they are a dark horse in any tournament they enter. They pick up a relatively painless 3 points and, if they advance, figure to cause some problems.

GER 2 - 0 POL - Actually, a Polish guy did all the scoring, but he plays for Germany...there's some awful ethnic humor in there if you try hard enough. I'm not sure if Germany has any Germans on the squad. Although they almost pulled one back at the end, it was never going to happen for the Poles. They have a bunch of guys that aren't of much use if there is no one around to score goals.

Monday brings the first death match, as the Italians link up with the Dutch. Forza Italia, but be careful how you say's got dual meaning.

Are you ready for some footbaaalllll!!! Group A Day 1

No, not rugby for fairies, world football. Specifically, Euro 2008 is now in full swing. Here is some perspective.

SUI 0 - 1 CZE - The Swiss were marginally the better side, as the Czech's, on the road, seemed content to play for a draw. But, while the Swiss were able to move the ball pretty much as they wished, they can't cross a ball worth shyte and they did not take their chances. Granted, they should have had a penalty when Ujfaluši, with his hand high enough to order drinks, handled a pass in the box. The ref apparently played advantage (the Swiss wound up drawing a save from Cech and hit the bar from the rebound, but I can't understand how he played an advantage when a penalty was in order). The Czech's scored from a defensive breakdown on what I think was their only shot on goal.

POR 2 - 0 TUR - The Portuguese were never seriously threatened. Without anything resembling a striker, they could have left the Turks alone out there and they would have had trouble scoring. It probably doesn't help the Turks that, political distinctions aside, they aren't European.

Poof-naldo almost brought magic when he hit the post from an angled free kick, but didn't do all that much during the run of play. Maybe he doesn't realize that playing against second-rate EPL defenders is quite different than playing against guys, even Turks, playing for their flag. Portugal's best player (Pepe) on this day, just like in their history, was an import.

Poof-naldo reminded me of the pesetero by playing out wide. The difference is that Figo had to play out wide because the field wasn't large enough to hold both him and Rui Costa, with Figo relegated to the wing. Poof-naldo is hiding out there because, being a man by anatomy only, he doesn't want the contact that will come with carrying the ball in the middle of the park...even though he would get to dive and cry and all the cameras would be focused upon him. Don't divas live for that?

The Turks gave it what they had. They even had a couple of guys that can hang. 7 was decent and 18 looks like he can play with anyone. Both of these guys were on the right and, when the ball went that way, things flowed for the Turks. While they had the guts, they also had a stodgy back line. Once a couple of their less skilled mongoloids thought they could string together some passes, they pissed away the ball and it led to Pepe's goal. While guts was enough for Sergeant Hartman, on this day, it was only enough for a 2-nil defeat for the Turks.

After a larger sample set...

...we can see now that the Mets are a middling squad. After playing like they were entitled to Monday off, they managed to take the next two from the sub-par Giants. The were subsequently swept by the even more horrid Padres. They didn't face one upper echelon pitcher in those seven games, but they lost five.

Sure, Willie uses that bullpen like bizarro Tony La Russa. But, it's not like his players win any games for him. They give away plays, at bats and bases. I don't know if that's a vicious cycle, but I'm pretty sure the pattern is not going to change. They've wasted enough of my time. I have something better to do.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Willie not Freed

So, Willie wasn't shit-canned. It's just as well; as was discussed, these issues aren't his doing. While it's too early to tell, I can only hope that these chumps were shaken out of their comfort level and get it moving. Here's the rundown:
Monday, on the heels of the meeting and press conferences, they were flat.
Tuesday, they beat a 4-A pitcher with their ace.
Wednesday, they pulled the game out of their ass, twice coming back from deficits while down to their last three outs.
Thursday, with the help of a catcher's interference call, they beat a guy who never wins at the dump.
Friday, after chasing a 20 year old making his second MLB start, Heilman- Doug Sisk re-incarnated- coughed up the lead.
Saturday, after sleepwalking through seven innings, Beltran finally hit a breaking pitch (granted, it didn't break).
Sunday...don't know. I've been staring at Stacy Nelson's legs and ass. I'm sorry I couldn't get you an ass shot. That's all the UFAA had to offer. Why was I watching chics play softball? As a (world) football nut, the fact that one score is so damned important makes this compelling. Let's just leave it at that.

As for the Mets, Petey coming back has to help, but they go as Reyes goes.