Recent Movies

Mara-Villa! Spain 1 - Portugal 0

The Univision announcer gets the credit for the title.

Thoughts from the Spain game:

1. David Villa. Simply amazing. Has to be the MVP of the tournament thus far. Spain has played well, but hasn't been the most impressive team. Argentina as a whole has probably looked the best. But their offensive attack has been pretty evenly dispersed between Tevez, Higuain and Messi. All three are playing very well, but no single player in the tournament is carrying their team like Villa. Spain has 5 goals and Villa has scored 4 and assisted the other one. Other players are playing well and contributing, but Villa has put the team on his back and is carrying them through the Cup.

2. Too Much Possession. This is what got Spain into trouble in the first game against Switzerland. It's what caused Barcelona to lose to Inter Milan in the Champions League. Spain's midfield likes to control the ball and create the perfect opportunity. But when a team shuts down and disrupts the midfielders and prevents the opportunities, Spain is vulnerable. It happened against Switzerland and it almost happened against Portugal. Spain controlled the ball more, but until the Villa goal, Portugal had the better opportunities. Spain's opportunities were few and far between. It's fortunate that they have Villa who really only needs one good look at the goal to score.

Along with that, I think Spain got way too conservative after the first goal. They were already playing keep away and there were 20+ minutes left. There are too many other teams in the tournament that will punish Spain if they get too conservative. Teams that can play defense and stop the midfield and score goals. I think it was the semi-relaxed attitude that got Spain in trouble and the sense of urgency that really propelled them into the knock-out rounds. The relaxed attitude seems to be creeping back.

3. The Nike Curse lives on! Tchau Cristiano. All six featured players in the Nike commercial have been eliminated from the World Cup. Before the knock-out rounds only Rooney and Ronaldo were still alive, now both have been eliminated. Hopefully all the players can put their endorsement money to good use and throw World Cup finals party or something.

4. The Straight Red Card: To get upset at the officiating is like a broken record at this point, but the officials really bring it upon themselves. Ricardo Costa was red carded in the 89th minute off a weak foul. The foul didn't even deserve a yellow. The Spain player, Capdevilla did a great job at selling the foul, but even the ref should have known it didn't deserve a straight red card. A straight red card is for when a player breaks someone's knee or something. It's fortunate that it was so late in the game so it arguably didn't really impact that outcome of the game. Still though, I know the official's job is hard, but you have to do better than that.

Mexico and England: Controversial, Yet Deserved Losses

Two games on Sunday and two more controversial calls from poor officiating. I don't know the current progress of the replay debate. I know the FIFA president seems pretty adamant at the moment that they won't do replay. Personally, I think they will have it in 2014. There have been too many blown calls. I think it's only a matter of time until the individual European leagues start to use replay or the ball chips that indicate when the ball has crossed the line, and that FIFA will eventually follow suit for the World Cup.

Regardless, no point in discussing that now since it's not going to change during this Cup. Nevertheless, two teams were on the raw end of the no replay stick on Sunday. But I don't think the missed calls actually changed the outcome of the game. Even if the refs had gotten the calls right, I think Germany and Argentina would still be moving on.

In the Argentina v. Mexico game, the missed call was so poor. Any ref, even the one on the other side of the field could have seen how far offside Tevez was. It wasn't even close. Just poor, poor officiating. But the goal only put Mexico down 1-0. Granted, its tough mentally to be down by a goal, especially one that shouldn't have been allowed, but one goal is not insurmountable. But it clearly was for Mexico because Argentina was just flat out better. Mexico never really threatened and Argentina put in two more goals before Mexico scored their only goal. Some may argue that the one goal messed them up for the entire game, but it shouldn't have. If you are the better team, you can and will come back and win. If the roles were reversed and Mexico got an undeserved first goal, Argentina would have come back and won the game. I think most people that watched the game today would agree.

The situation is a little different with Germany and England. Mainly because England was down 2-1 and the missed goal would have tied the game. Not only that, it would have come only a minute after the first goal. A huge confidence booster and swing in momentum. England really would have had a different mentality coming in from the second half. There could have been a different outcome.

However, I don't think anyone outside of England is actually convinced that the outcome would have been different. Maybe that second goal would have inspired them to play better and they would have pulled out the victory. But after watching the rest of the game, I don't think that England would have won even if they had tied the game. Germany exposed the deeper issues plaguing England: no defense, weak goalie, and not much going on at striker. England was pretty poor from the outset of the Cup. Elevated expectations that didn't match the quality of the product on the field. They were definitely shafted in this game and they should have deserved the goal, but they really weren't a better team than Germany on Sunday.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the outcome would have been different if the refs got the calls right. What do you think?

2010 World Cup: Top 10 Moments from the Group Stages

Well, the World Cup never takes a break. It's not like the NBA or NFL playoffs where they take days off between rounds. Although the group stage just ended, we are already a day into the knock-out rounds. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we wanted to provide the top 10 moments/storylines from the Group Stage. In no particular order:

1. Landon Donovan scores in the 91st minute to beat Algeria and send the U.S. to the Round of 16.

A fantastic goal. A fantastic moment for US soccer. It may be somewhat tainted now that the US was eliminated. But these are the best moments from the group stage. For all US fans, this easily takes the cake.

If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what could.

2. France stays on the bus:

Maybe the best part of the tournament thus far. The whole French appearance was a complete debacle, but this was the best moment. I love the idea of the team going onto the bus, pulling down the shades and then just sitting there. It's not like the bus went back to the hotel. It just stayed there at the training facility with the players in it. It's like going to dinner with some friends and asking where their 9 year old son Dylan is and them replying, "Oh, he was being a baby and threw a fit so he's sitting in the car in the parking lot until he's ready to behave and come and join us."

"Hey, where's the entire French National team?"

"Oh, they are all on the bus pouting because they are upset that someone leaked the story that Nicolas Anelka called the coach's mom a whore."


3. New Zealand scores against Italy.

New Zealand was supposed to be the North Korea of their group where they would lose to powers like Italy 7-0 just like North Korea losing to Portugal. Instead, they shocked everyone and tied all three teams in their group. Granted, they didn't advance, but they finished above Italy as Italy finished with only 2 points. No one expected anything from them and they caught everyone, particularly Italy on their heels and Italy needed a gift from the referee and some classic Italian acting just to pull out a tie.

4. Distracted Iker Casillas lets a Swiss goal in:

One of the better headlines thus far from the World Cup and shows you how passionate and ridiculous other countries are about the World Cup. After Spain lost to Switzerland, the Spanish media was blaming the loss on the fact that Spain's goalie, Iker Casillas, girlfriend is a sideline reporter and her presence on the sideline was distracting Iker during the game and contributed to the loss. Pretty awesome. Here is an clip of the post-game interview where she interviews Iker about the loss.

5. David Villa saves Spain:

Spain had a dismal start and lacked offense. They needed two big wins and David Villa came out and saved them. In their final two games Spain scored 4 goals. Villa scored three and assisted on the other one. Two of those goals were arguably two of the best of the tournament. Many people already knew that David Villa was brilliant, but it's nice for him to prove it on the world stage.

6. South American Dominance:

Five teams, one loss. The Euros have struggled but the South American teams have completely dominated. All 5 teams moved on and all except for Chile won their group. Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Uruguay and Argentina have already won the first knock-out round game.

7. Leo Messi and Argentina cruise into the next round:

This one sort of goes on with the previous one, but Argentina quietly dominated the first round. I say quietly because the headlines were about other team imploding or struggling and all the while, Argentina was just calmly and collectively handling their group. They are just hanging out in the wings and have yet to look challenged. They have to be the favorites right now. Brazil and Spain were the favorites coming into the tournament, but that was all based upon previous play. Based upon what we have seen, it has to be Argentina.

8. Portugal drops 7 on North Korea.

This is what we expected everyone to do to North Korea. Brazil only won 2-1 and everyone thought that North Korea was not only secretly building nuclear weapons, but also building a super soccer team. Turns out they are only building weapons and are as bad as expected.

9. England barely scrapes through, Rooney nearly absent:

This was a huge storyline in the group stage and just as everyone thought that maybe England was just struggling out the gate but they were going to turn it around, England gets eliminated. What a poor, poor showing. So much hype and expectations and they completely folded. Some though Rooney might make a showing in the knock-out rounds, turns out he left all his game back in England.

10. African nations fall by the wayside.

Ghana is the only African nation to advance. Sort of a bummer of storyline. It would have been nice if some of the teams could have had a better showing for their home continent. At least Ghana is still alive. But Africa had a solid representation: six teams. For only one to advance, is pretty disappointing.

U.S. Loses to Ghana: Bob Bradley gets it wrong

While I respect him, I disagree with his starting lineup.  Bob Bradley pulled Ricardo Clark after only 30 minutes, essentially admitting that he got it wrong.  Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber should be starting.  They proved their worth against Algeria by possessing the ball well and controlling the midfield in conjunction with Dempsey and Donovan.  

The goals were bad.  Clark was dispossessed and Howard was completely out of position.  The second goal was more of the same.  When overtime hit, the U.S. abandoned the strategy that got them the first goal.

Tough ending to a fun tournament for the U.S.

Thoughts on the game?

Thoughts on Bradley's future?

David Villa Wins it Again for Spain

David Villa and his sweet flavor savor struck again versus Chile. Somehow he managed to make an even more impressive goal than the one he scored against Honduras. The goal is so good and so difficult. Sure there is no goalie, but to hit that ball first time from that distance is so hard.

Villa is amazing though. He's carrying this team. Spain played too conservative in their first game and needed two big wins. He has come through with some clutch goals in two games when they had to win. Can you believe that next season he will be playing on the same team as Messi? Ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, here are his two goals from the previous two games. He's so good.

The Nike Commercial Curse

Below is Nike's 2010 World Cup commercial. By now you have either seen it or at least seen some variation of it. It is spectacular. We blogged about it not too long ago when it first came out. The theme of the commercial is to write the future. Basically saying that you can become a hero or a goat in the World Cup. The potential is endless since there is no bigger stage in all of sports. However, apparently the potential is endless for everyone not featured in the commercial as everyone in commercial seems to be cursed.

Here is the commercial:

Let's run through the players:

Didier Drogba: The commercial starts with Ivory Coast's striker Didier Drogba. One of the best strikers in the world and arguably one of the best in the Premier League. Love him or hate him, he's really good. He was on the Chelsea team that won the Premier League this year. Two weeks after the Premier League ends and right before the World Cup, he breaks his arm in one of Ivory Coast's warm up matches. Granted, he still manages to play in Ivory Coast's three games, but he never had quite the impact people anticipated. On top of that Ivory Coast was just eliminated today. Drogba is done.

Fabio Cannavaro: In the commercial, Drogba's shot is stopped by a sweet bicycle from Cannavaro. It leads to Cannavaro being hailed as a celebrity and some pretty catchy tunes being made about him. Not to mention some pretty flexible ladies paying their respect as well. As mentioned on this blog and as everyone knows, Italy bowed out in the first round. Pretty embarrassing for the returning champs. Not only did they bow out, but their defense was rather suspect throughout the entire tournament. Cannavaro is not only the foundation of that defense, but the captain of the team. You can't blame him for everything, but he's the leader of that team, and that team, especially the defense, never showed up.

Franck Ribery: The commercial then jumps to Wayne Rooney making a pass which Ribery intercepts. Ribery was of course part of the French team that was a complete and total embarrassment during the World Cup. No need to repeat everything. Not that Ribery was the one causing all the headlines, but still part of the cursed team.

Wayne Rooney: Quite a bit of the commercial is centered around Rooney. Probably because he had an amazing year in the Premier League where he carried his team to a strong finish barely behind Chelsea. I'm pretty sure Nike, and the whole world for that matter, anticipated he would do the same with England. But he's been a complete non-factor thus far. There was so much hype and promise for England coming into the World Cup and it was supposed to be Rooney at the helm of the ship and leading the team to glory. Instead the England ship looks more like it's slowly leaking and heading towards it inevitable sinking. Maybe things will change. England has advanced, so he still could write a different history. Thus far though, he looks more like the player in the trailer park than the one being knighted by the queen.

Spain: There is a brief moment in the commercial where three players from Spain throw down a newspaper. The players aren't really highlighted in the commercial so you can't really say they are completely cursed. Yet even their small contribution to the commercial has clearly affected their play as they lost their first game. Good thing they were smart and barely participated.

Landon Donovan: Speaking of small participation, there is a brief clip of Donovan throwing down a newspaper as well. He's been anything but cursed this World Cup. But he's American and Nike is an American company. Thus any Nike curses don't impact him or other American players. It makes sense just like this whole curse makes sense.

Ronaldinho: After Rooney, there is some action by some Brazil players before the ball goes to Ronaldinho. He didn't even make the final Brazil squad. He was cursed before the Cup even got started. Should have been a warning sign to all of the other players. Instead, they were too busy cashing their endorsement check to even notice. Cha-ching! Right Cannavaro?

Cristiano Ronaldo: I'm pretty sure the best part of the commercial is Homer Simpson saying, "Ronal...doh!" Pretty good. Not sure who gets credit for that, but its clever. Anyways, Ronaldo is really the only one where things are up in the air. He hasn't played bad, hasn't played great. Portugal pulled off a tie against Ivory Coast and Brazil and pummeled North Korea. It's still uncertain if Portugal is any good. Regardless, Ronaldo hasn't been much of a factor at all. The commercial has somehow inflated his already enormous ego. Every free-kick Portugal receives, no matter how far away it is from goal, Ronaldo lines up just like he does in the commercial and he always takes a shot. He's clearly trying to "write his future" just like Nike wrote the commercial. Unfortunately, he has yet to put his free-kicks on target, let alone score.

So Drogba, Ribery, Cannavaro and Ronaldinho are all out of the World Cup. Their history is written, and it wasn't a pretty one. Rooney and Spain have a chance to salvage their history even though the start was pretty bad; horrible for Rooney. Ronaldo is the only one that has been decent. But maybe that will change too. Everything changes in the knockout rounds.

Regardless of the finish, of the six players highlighted, four are already finished. Maybe one of the two will write a glorious future. But if the curse is real and they follow suit with the other players, doomsday is right around the corner.

Arrivederci Azzurri: Italy Bows Out of the World Cup

World Cup fact: No European country has ever won the World Cup when the tournament was held outside of Europe.

Here's the thing about that fact: you read it and understand it, but sort of think its a fluke or a coincidence or something. Not something that you would take seriously and take into consideration when making World Cup predictions. But apparently it's legit. What European team has played well thus far in the Cup? The Netherlands. And that's about it. Both Germany and England barely qualified for the second round. Spain, the favorites, have yet to qualify and are in a win or go home situation. Sure, Portugal won 7-0 the other day, but it was against North Korea. We can talk more Portugal tomorrow after they play Brazil. France bowed out in the most embarrassing way possible. And now Italy is done.

So here are my Italy thoughts:

1. Italy's style, or modo if you will, is to play defense and look for the counterattack. They are very proud of their strong and impenetrable defense. Which is fine. I think it's incredibly boring and can hardly stand it, but to each their own. But the Italian defense was TERRIBLE this World Cup. In all three games their defense gave up early goals. Italy was playing from behind the entire cup. This modo only works if you have 1. a good defense; and 2. good forwards. Someone like Roberto Baggio that can singlehandely win games for you (or lose games depending on how you look at it). It's somewhat ironic that the thing that helped Italy win the World Cup four years ago, was actually their biggest weakness in this Cup.

2. Frankly, they don't deserve to move on. I realize that is obvious since they aren't moving on and because they failed at their own game. But Italy is better than what they gave us. Not much better, but better. I don't mean any offense to Paraguay, Slovenia and New Zealand, but if you can't beat any of those teams, you don't deserve to play more than 3 games in the Cup. I know no team is a push-over, but you have to do better if you have veteran players and are the defending champions. Really no excuse.

3. Come on coach, shake his hand. This happened with France as well. The head coaches of both Italy and France didn't shake the hands of the opposing coaches after their teams lost and were eliminated from the Cup. Maybe not that big of a deal and maybe coaches never shake hands in the World Cup, but I'm pretty sure they do. It's not the opposing coaches fault that your team completely self-destructed or that your team didn't start playing with urgency until after they were down in each game. In fact, it's your fault. So shake his hand. Give him kisses or whatever it is you do over there. Might as well keep good relations with other coaches. They are the ones that are still going to be employed.

4. Combining all of the above 3 points, this is why I was frustrated by Italy this World Cup. Coming into the Cup, I don't care for them because I think they are boring. The best thing to happen in any Italy game is for the opposing side to score first. Because then Italy decides to play offense and it gets exciting. Which is what happened in all three games. Suddenly, I find myself rooting for Italy because they are now the underdog. But then I think, "wait a minute. They should be better than this. They shouldn't be losing to New Zealand, or even Slovakia." So then I go back to rooting for New Zealand and Slovakia because they are actually the true underdogs. But Italy played so well against Slovakia today and really played like a quality team, well, they did for the last 10 minutes until their "shut down" defense gave up yet another late goal. But they finally showed heart and grit, which made them likable. When Slovakia started stalling at the end of the game I was sort of upset at Slovakia. Even though Italy created and perfected the art of faking injuries or fouls and stalling in games.

For instance, in the video below, after Italy finally scores a goal and are now only down 2-1, one of the Italian players runs into the goal to try and get the ball to run it back to the midfield so that they can quickly start the game again. There is some sort of scuffle with the goalie and before you know it, the Italian player is flailing on the ground as if the Slovakia goalie took out a rusted spoon and just scooped out one of his eyes. Granted, the replays show the Slovakia goalie did sort of punch the Italy player, but he barely hit him. And even if he hit you over the head with a bat, you are still down by a goal with only 5 minutes left! Quit moaning in pain and trying to get the ref to give the goalie a yellow card. What good does that do you at this point?!!! You need a goal, not a goalie with a yellow card. Despite the dire circumstances, the Italian doesn't ever pass up the opportunity to embellish a foul. And despite all of this frustrating behavior and even though I can't really stand them, I still sort of wanted them to pull out the last minute victory, which is frustrating.

Regardless of it all, another European power is out. Maybe we should just fore go the rest of the games and just give the Cup to Brazil or Argentina. Or maybe even the US...those Americans sure are sitting pretty right now.

USA 1 - Algeria 0: US Wins on a Fastbreak

I love this photo. I think it says it all about this game. Feilhaber's face is the best. Just so happy and elated after such a hard fought game. The whole team played so well and there was so much pressure to win. Yet despite playing quality football and playing their hearts out, they couldn't put the ball into the back of the net. That is, until Landon Donovan scored in the 91st minute. Fitting that Donovan scored one of the most important goals in US soccer history since he has been the player that has received the most criticism (including from yours truly) in the past.

But hats off to the US. They were once again robbed by the referee. Dempsey scored in the first half but the goal was called back because the ref said that Dempsey was offside, even though he wasn't. It was actually close so it's more forgivable than the Slovenia game where the ref didn't even give a reason for calling back the goal.

There is definitely more to this US team than what shows up on paper, or even what you see when they are warming up before the game. Sure they had a lucky break against England. But they have had lots of adversity since then and had their backs pinned against the wall twice and they have clawed their way back to not only advance, but win their group. England, Italy and France are all testaments this year that individual talent can only get you so far in the World Cup. You need lots of team chemistry. Brazil has pretty much always been a testament to that. Of course, they always have individual talent, but they play great team soccer. I think the US had the chemistry before, but overcoming these obstacles as a team only magnifies that chemistry and gives them all confidence that they can overcome anything and beat anyone. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself and say they have won anything because they haven't come close yet. But they have definitely proven that all of the pieces are there.

Here is the video of the goal. I could watch it over and over. Right when they get the ball they are all running to goal. Just fantastic.

The French Implosion

So France bowed out of the World Cup on Tuesday. That, in and of itself, isn't too surprising. They barely qualified for the World Cup and only did so with a controversial hand ball. Technically they shouldn't have even been in the World Cup. Even though this is France, winner of the 1998 World Cup and runners-up in the 2006 World Cup, everyone knew that a first round exit was possible because of their struggles to even qualify. But who knew that they would exit how they did?

For anyone not following the awesome drama, France completely fell apart in the most dramatic of fashions. Let's go through the time line of events:

July 2006: In the World Cup final, Zinedane Zidane, perhaps the greatest footballer of our generation completely loses his cool and headbutts an Italian player and gets redcarded and sent off the field. Not sure how this really relates to the events of this Cup, but things haven't been right since that moment.

July 2006 - November 2009: France plays the 2010 World Cup qualifying matches and barely qualifies. France only qualifies by beating Ireland and they scored the winning goal off of a hand ball. Apparently some Irish curse was put on the team after the game.

June 11, 2010: France plays their first World Cup game against Uruguay and they tie 0-0. This isn't too surprising for a couple of reasons: 1. Uruguay is good. 2. France isn't good. Remember how they barely qualified?

June 17, 2010: France plays Mexico in their second World Cup game and loses 2-0. Admittedly, I was even surprised by this one because I was fooled into thinking that France was better than they really are. It's easy to forget that a team isn't good and has chemistry issues when you look at their roster. France has a pretty impressive roster: Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Patrice Evra, Forent Malouda, Eric Abidal etc. Those names may or may not mean something to you. If they don't, just know that all of those players don't just play for premier European soccer clubs, they are crucial parts to those clubs. Some of the best players in the world.

But France is strange like that. They won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Cup. Then in the 2002 World Cup with pretty much the same team that won the championships, they completely fall apart, fail to even score a goal and are eliminated in the first round. So individual talent alone doesn't carry a team. You need team chemistry as well. Just ask England.

But apparently the chemistry was real bad. During halftime in the Mexico game, France's striker Nicolas Anelka and the coach, Raymond Domenech had a bit of a blow up. A pretty fun exchange ensued. Some quality name-calling between two adults. Stay classy France.

June 19, 2010: Not surprisingly, Anelka is sent home. Usually something like that happens after you call your coach's mother a whore. Even if Anelka had scored 6 goals in 2 games, he would likely have been sent home. Given though that he had failed to do much, it was probably a pretty easy decision.

June 20, 2010: This is where the drama gets good. Here's the abbreviated version: France is going to their training facility. They arrive in a bus. All the players get off except for the captain Patrice Evra and the coach. They have words. Evra thinks the fitness manager leaked the Anelka story. He's upset. He confronts the fitness manager. They get upset at each other and their verbal fight probably ends with the fitness manager throwing a glass of wine in Evra's face before the fitness manager quits. Evra and all the players go back on the bus, pull down the shades and refuse to practice. Which is great because it's just like a little kid throwing a fit and going and pouting in the car. Only in this situation its 22 grown men. But they are French, so it seems fitting.

June 20 - 22, 2010: Everything blows up. The team director resigns because he is "sickened and disgusted" by the team. The French president even gets involved and asks the sports minister to stay in South Africa to try and resolve the issues.

Zidane gets involved as their are allegations that he is influencing the team on some of their decisions.

June 22, 2010: France loses to South Africa 2-1 and ungraciously bows out of the World Cup. The captain, Patrice Evra is dropped by the coach and doesn't play in the game. It's pretty much a total embarrassment for a team with their history and quality of players.

Quite and awesome story. Someone should write a book about it. Or at least make a movie about it. With all the estrogen and drama queens involved, I'm sure Lifetime has already secured the rights.

US v. Slovenia - In Pictures

Bob Bradley's Wardrobe: The Key to the US Success in the World Cup

So the US has a must win game against Slovenia tomorrow morning. I'm sure they have been making some adjustments in preparation for the game. But one adjustment, which might be overlooked admist all the on-field adjustments, would be to change the wardrobe of Bob Bradley. It very well could be the key to America's success tomorrow, and in the rest of the World Cup. Note some of the examples below:

Exhibit A: Fabio Capello, coach of England. Professional looking guy in very professional dress. You wouldn't expect anything less from 1. an Italian, and 2. the coach of a legit soccer team like England.

Exhibit B: Sven Goran Eriksson, coach of Ivory Coast.

Exhibit C: Maradona, the coach of Argentina who looks like this off the field and used to do a lot of this, he looks like this during the game.

Exhibit D: Germany's coach, Joachim Low, although he looks like he just came from the late 90s or Night at the Roxbury convention, he at least wears a suit coat during the game.

Exhibit E: New Zealand and North Korea, considered by many to be two of the worst teams in the tournament. Both teams actually did better in their opening game than expected. New Zealand tied Slovakia with a late goal and North Korea, although they lost to Brazil, played much better than anyone expected. Why did they play so well? Because both coaches, New Zealand's Ricki Herbert and North Korea's Kim Jon Hun wear suits. At any point during the game, their players could look to the sidelines and see their coach in a suit and know that they were led by a pro. It was the suit that motivated them to play well.

Exhibit F: United States coach Bob Bradley. Notice a difference between him and his colleague Fabio Capello? Or any of the other coaches mentioned above or in the World Cup even? Is he doing a product placement plug for US gear? We know you are the coach of the National Team. You don't need to try and sell their gear. The players can do that for you by wearing their uniforms on the field.

Maybe Bradley hoping that all of the players get injured and they need him to go out on the field and play? If that is the case, is he wearing shin guards underneath the pants? Apparently he already has his cleats on. But if its not the case that he wants to play in the game, then why is he dressing like the players? Is he trying to be "the cool coach." The coach that isn't like the other coaches that sit there in their fancy suits and are mean to their players. "I'm just like you guys. See, I even dress casual. You can talk to me about what's going on in your life."

Seriously though, if the other team is warming up and they see this, then they would probably think they are playing a worthy opponent and that it will be a tough match. That is until they see this on the sideline and realize they aren't really dealing with a professional team. It's like in youth soccer when you watching the other team warm up and you think that they will probably be pretty good until you see a player run out in jeans and you realize that you already won the game.

Anyways, I'm honestly not trying to rip on Bradley. I do actually think he is a good coach and he has done well with the National Team. But this is the World Cup. Big boy soccer. The biggest stage. The US needs to get over the hump and become a legit contender. This might be the way to do it. To put Bradley in a suit. Plus, the next game for the US is a must win game. No room for error. The US needs to come out and play well and be ready for the game. Maybe upping the wardrobe would help get the players ready and send a message that this is an important game. It would let them know that everyone is a professional. Because really, that's what this all comes down to. "Professionalism is...and that is all I want."

Not Very Neutral At All: Switzerland Upsets Spain 1-0

Well, the first upset of the tournament has happened. There have been lots of surprising results, but no upsets like this one. No doubt the country of Spain is already in panic mode and fearing that their National Team curse has returned. Everyone thought they had the monkey off their back after they won the Euro Cup in 2008, but the World Cup is its own beast.

A couple of quick thoughts:

1a. Hats off to Switzerland. You have to give credit where it is due. I think they took a page out of the Inter Milan book for how to beat a strong Spanish team. Inter Milan eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League last season. They let Barcelona play their game and then took advantage of their few opportunities. Switzerland seemed to do the same thing. They were content letting Spain's midfielders pass the ball back and forth between the half-line and the 18 yard box - which they did for about 90% of the game. Switzerland allowed Spain to have the possession they crave and just focused on preventing Spain from getting great opportunities inside the box. Spain had some great chances, but couldn't really penetrate the defense like they wanted, or thought they could.

1b. Along the same lines, Switzerland took advantage of their scoring opportunities. Switzerland knew that Spain wanted to control the ball and so they would have to make the most of their chances, and they did. They weren't just fastbreaks either. They had some legitimate build-up and scoring opportunities. It very easily could have been 2-0. They didn't play panicked and didn't run towards goal every time they got the ball. They were calm and just realize that they wouldn't have the ball as much, so they better make sure each possession mattered. So hats off to them. They played an excellent game.

2. Spain needs to drop their 5 midfielder offense. They pride themselves on their passing and controlling the ball and waiting until the perfect moment to place the perfect through ball to the forward making the perfect run through the defense where the forward will have the perfect shot and score the perfect and most beautiful goal ever. Cut it out. Seriously. Start Torres up top with Villa and let them make beautiful music together. They had chemistry towards the end of the game and they were starting to click, but Torres is rusty and needs more touches on the ball. Until he came in though, there weren't too many legitimate socring opportunities as there weren't enough scoring threats up top.

3. With that said, Spain did have loads of chances. So it's not as though the midfield was ineffective, but there needs to be a different approach.

4. Iniesta. Get up. I love you but you were on the ground for half the game. I understand you are half the size of the rest of the players on the field, but so is Messi and he doesn't fall half as much as you do. Either grown 5 inches and gain 40 pounds by the next game or just expect to get knocked around and when you do, get up.

5. Where is Fabregas? Is his leg still broke? Spain needs to mix things up and he might be the perfect solution.

6. Well, at least there is more drama now. The second round got that much more interesting. Mexico v. France; US v. Slovenia; Ivory Coast v. Brazil; Chile v. Switzerland and Spain v. Honduras.

7. To quote every media outlet right now: "No team has ever won the World Cup after losing their first match." Whatever. If anything, this was exactly what Spain needed. They are too cocky as a National Team. Don't count them out. They are about to let the Led out.

Portugal v. Ivory Coast: The Cristiano Ronaldo Show Ends in a Draw

Portugal and Ivory Coast squared off in the first Group G matchup this morning and finished with a very unimpressive 0-0 draw. Did you know that FIFA ranked Portugal as the 3rd best team in the world? These rankings don't mean much anyways, but putting Portugal 3rd really lessens the credibility of the rankings. They barely qualified for the World Cup and it showed in their first game. They looked completely lost and played one of the more boring first-halfs I have seen thus far in the Cup. Denmark, who lost 2-0 to the Netherlands looked better than Portugal.

All they hype around Portugal is of course for the star of stars: Cristiano Ronaldo. Since Ronaldo would likely be the first person to tell you that he is really the only player on the field that matters, lets chronicle his first-half of the Cup:

5:05 - First significant touch. Dribbles to the sideline. Dances and then falls over the foot of the defender. Foul called.

6:24 - Receives a pass and touches the ball around the defender. But instead of running onto the ball he takes the dive instead. Replay confirms that the defender didn't touch him. He really had the momentum and if he wouldn't have taken a dive he might have created a good scoring opportunity with his teammates. This way however he gets to roll on the ground for awhile and is awarded a free kick from 40 yards out. This gives him the opportunity to show off his magnificent free kick skills. Although he's 40 yards away, he still tries to shoot on goal. Lots of build up for the ball to only go into the wall 10 yards away. No where near goal.

10:30 - Receives the ball, pulls a move on a defender and cracks a shot from 30 yards out which bounces off the post. It's an amazing shot really. This is the reason players and teams put up with Ronaldo. He's a "me-first" player and a total hot head, but his flashes of brilliance surpass most every other player that even the harshes critic (or blogger) has to admire his skill.

19:54 - Ronaldo booked for a yellow card. He actually was fouled on this one outside the box and it was a cheap yellow. The players were jawing at each other, but neither players should have received a yellow. The ref should have just told the players to calm down.

32:55 - Receives pass. Taken down from behind. Gets up limping. Replay confirms that he wasn't actually touched.

34:30 - Good touch and dribble through the middle.

36:11 - On the sideline. Pulls a move and dribbles out of bounds. Looks at the ref in dismay as if the ref was supposed to give Portugal the ball even though Ronaldo dribbled it out of bounds.

39:25 - Receives a pass. Bad trap. Loses ball.

43:10 - Heads the ball going out of bounds.

And that was the half. First half recap: One shot. One yellow card. Lots of complaining and falling.

In his defense, Ronaldo did play better and more team play in the second half. Regardless, Portugal lacked a lot of creativity and played as though they had never seen or played with the other players on their team. They seemed to play for a draw, which makes no sense because they have Brazil looming in the background. If they play like this against Brazil, they will lose 4-0. They had no offense.

Ivory Coast on the other hand gave it a valid attempt. Drogba did actually play despite having a broken arm. He came in a sub in the second half and gave the Ivory Coast a nice spark. They had some chances.

Again though, I don't know if it was the nerves or what, but I expected more out of these teams. Well, I expected more out of this game. Either team could come out and shock Brazil, but it's unlikely. Since they tied, both teams now have to try and beat North Korea by more goals than the other team and lose to Brazil by less goals than the other team. If either team would have won this game, they would have likely advanced with a win over North Korea and they wouldn't have had to worry about Brazil. I'm sure the teams knew this and weren't playing for a tie, but you would have never guessed it by watching most of that game.

But the first act of the Cristiano Ronaldo show comes to an unimpressive end. It's going to have to get a lot better if Portugal wants to play more than two more games.

US v. England Recap - Lego Style

In case you missed the US v. England game on Saturday, here's a pretty awesome, and accurate, recap of the highlights:

The World Cup All Name Team

Essentially, in order to play for a country in the World Cup, you need to be a citizen of that country. It's not that cut and dry as the rules are a little more complex and have changed in recent years after Qatar started handing out citizenship to a bunch of Brazilian players (smart move). Regardless, unless you are dealing with North Korea where no one has ever been let in or out, you sometimes, although not always, will get some unexpected players and names on World Cup rosters.

So here are your starting 11 players for the Wild Card team. Try and guess the country they play for and even the country of origin (Answers are below).

1. Nikita Rukavytsya

2. Jean Beausejour

3. Hans Sarpei

4. Georgie Welcome

5. Blaise N'Kufo

6. Xherdan Shaqiri

7. Benny Feilhaber

8. Taye Taiwo

9. Alex Song

10. Khalid Boulahrouz

11. Steve Mandanda


1. Nikita Rukavytsya: Forward, Australia(shown in the left). Born in the Ukraine. Moved to Australia at 14.

2. Jean Beausejour: Midfielder, Chile. Haitian father and Chilean mother.

3. Hans Sarpei: Defender, Ghana. Born in Ghana, raised in Germany.

4. Georgie Welcome: Forward, Honduras (pictured to the right). This gets my vote for best name in the tournament. Who knew "Welcome" was a Latin word?

5. Blaise N'Kufo: Forward, Switzerland. Born in Zaire.

6. Xherdan Shaqiri: Midfielder, Switzerland. Born in Yugolsavia. Those Swiss are pulling in players from all over the world. Typical.

7. Benny Feilhaber: Midfielder, United States. Benny was born in Brazil and came to the US when he was six. You might have guessed American, but I didn't think Feilhaber was a Portuguese or Brazilian name.

8. Taye Taiwo: Defender, Nigeria. Taiwo seemed more, well, Taiwanese to me. However, it could very well be a "classic" Nigerian name. I must admit that I'm not too familiar with common Nigerian names. It just didn't quite sound as "Nigerian" as Obafemi Martins or Dickson Etuhu.

9. Alex Song: Midfielder, Cameroon. Granted, if I had put his whole name, Alexandre Song Billong, some people may have guessed his country. I'm not sure if the full name is a common Cameroon name or sounds like it's from Cameroon. But it seems closer than Alex Song.

10. Khalid Boulahrouz: Defender, Netherlands (pictured). Although he was born in the Netherlands, he's a Dutch-Muslim and his parents are from Morroco.

11. Steve Mandanda: Goalie, France. Mandanda was born in Congo but moved to France at a young age. Even though French is the official language in Congo, this doesn't sound French at all.

Just for fun, here are the starting 11 for the Classic Names Team. (Note: I'm operating on complete name stereotypes here.)

1. Bastian Schweinsteiger: Midfielder, Germany. The Captain of the team. It's every cliche German sound all rolled into one last name. Plus his first name is Bastian.

2. Grafite: Forward, Brazil. A great Brazilian soccer name. His full name is Batista Libanio Edinaldo. I'm not sure if all Brazilians go by one name or if it's an honor you get once you make the national team. There were a lot of other candidates like Kaka or Robinho. But it's hard passing up Grafite.

3. Sokratis Papastathopoulos: Defender, Greece (pictured on the right). Classic Greek name. Or so I think at least. You need a K and P somewhere in there and the last name has to be at least 15 letters long and completely unpronounceable.

4. Antonio Di Natale: Forward, Italy. One of those names where you can't help but sound Italian and even sing a little bit while saying it. You might even hold up one of your hands and touch all your fingers together as you say it.

5. Keisuke Honda: Midfielder, Japan. For an admittedly ignorant American playing the stereotype card, this is as good as it gets. The only way it could have been better was if his name was Sony Godzilla.

6. Zdravko Kuzmanovic: Midfielder, Serbia. I'm honestly not sure how uniquely Serbian this name is, but it seems to fit with things like the "Zd" combo. Actually born in Switzerland, but parents are from Serbia, so that is why he played for Serbia.

7. Kim Jung-Woo: Midfielder, South Korea. A seemingly simple and predictable Korean name.

8. Andre-Pierre Gignac: Forward, France. If someone told me to think of three French names I would have said Jacques, Andre and Pierre. This guy has two of them in his first name. Not to mention a last name that I'm sure I would completely butcher as I doubt you pronounce it how an American would read it.

9. Rafael Van der Vaart: Midfielder, Netherlands. This is more of the Dutch name you think of versus Khalid Boulahrouz. You can't get any more classic than Van der Vaart.

10. Pedro: Forward, Spain. His name is actually Pedro Rodriguez which is just about as common as John Smith.

11. Jesper Christiansen: Goalie, Denmark. I picture Jesper cruising out in the morning with his buddies Lars and Soren and grabbing a pastry.

Mexico v. South Africa - The Kickoff Game: Quick Hits

So Mexico and South Africa have started things off with a 1-1 tie. Here's a couple of quick thoughts on the opening game:

1. Man those vuvuzelas are annoying. I don't know who invented them, but the person should be tortured along with the person that invented the "boom sticks." They should be sentenced to a small room where their inventions are either smacked together or blown loudly until the person goes insane. They are so annoying. Just listen to the video. It's amazing that the noise is constant throughout the game. At any given point during the game there are at least a dozen 10 year old boys just blowing their lungs out on those things. I much prefer the singing.

2. Somewhat inexplicably, Mexico subbed in this guy: Cuauhtémoc Blanco. I say somewhat because he is clearly skilled. When he got the ball, he made some pretty precise passes. However, he didn't get the ball that much because they guy is 37 years old and at least 20 pounds overweight. It was actually really entertaining watching him play. He looked like every old man playing pick up soccer in your local park. Every time he ran or attempted to run, he looked like he was laboring quite a bit with a bad hip and or two bad knees. Apparently he's a legend for the Mexican soccer team. He played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. I'm glad Mexico is honoring their elders, but at some point the guy becomes a liability because he's so slow and out of shape.

3. South Africa has some legit forwards. They are fast. South Africa didn't have many chances, but they played the long ball well and had some great fastbreaks. And they took advantage of one of them. What a great first goal to the cup. Just a beauty.

4. I know a tie is boring, but in this group, it's great. If Mexico had won they would likely go through as they could probably tie or beat France and Uruguay. But with a tie, it just adds to the unpredictability of this group. I guess we'll know more once France plays. Who knows what team will show up there. They could be brilliant or dismal. So with a tie in this game and bi-polar France, it sets up for a lot of fun drama. Which is always great.

Here is the goal, and the vuvuzelas:

Copyright © 2015. Fastbreak Futbol
Blogger Templates