Sunday, June 25, 2006

Day 18 Random Thoughts / Open Thread

Before the tournament started I picked Australia to upset Italy here, and from what I have seen I am going to stick with that pick. Australia create chances and never say die; Italy have all the pressure on them to win and advance, while Australia have none. The longer this match goes tied, the more tight Italy will get. Plus, you know that Guus will have Australia fighting and scrapping until the end. What the hell? I'll take Australia 2-1, with Cahill and Viduka netting for Oz.

Nothing personal, Bella.

Half Time. 0-0. Exciting match - definitely not the boring variety of 0-0. Several good chances by each team, with Schwartzer for Australia making 3 or 4 outstanding saves. This feels like a game that might only have 1 goal in it, and that whoever scores first will make it stand up. The referee is doing a good job as well; nice to watch a match that is not a cavalcade of cards.

50th min.: So much for the card free match. Materrazzi sent off, and rather harshly I must say. I can't really see how that tackle is anything more than a yellow card. Another in a neverending series of questionable referee decisions. Italy will play the last 40 minutes with 10 men.

55th min.: Lippi takes off Luca Toni and puts on a defender. Looks like Italy will be defending their goal and playing for penalties, hoping maybe to nick a goal on the counterattack.

Italy 1-0 Australia.
An utter and complete joke. 0-0 after 90 minutes, there were to be 3 minutes of extra time. At 92.45, Italian player Grosso made a complete meal of some contact in the box, dived, and conned the referee into deciding the match. The Australian defender has already gone down and was lying prone on the ground. He did not initiate the contact with the Italian. Rather, the Italian completely conned the referee by falling over the already lying down Aussie and making it look like a foul, when it was a total and complete snow job of a dive. Here: watch for yourself. To make matters worse, Iaquinta runs over as dude is "agonizing" on the ground, leans down on top of him, and alternately talks into his ear and looks at the referee. I don't imagine he was saying "Get up man, you are embarrassing us." Also, why at that point was Grosso clutching his head with both hands when he fell on his belly? Then the rest of the team come over and congratulate him on his brilliant performance. What a fucking sham. Penalty awarded, and Totti buried it with the last kick of the match. A total fucking joke. Of all the referee jokes in this World Cup, that one takes the cake given the situation, timing, etc.

Oh, and memo to Grosso from Cantona: "your dignity will forever remain on the floor."

Grosso celebrates his dive with the judges.

I have tried to temper my feelingas about Italy and be somewhat subjective, but fuck it, let's just get this out into the open: I fucking hate Italy. I hate everything about them, from their invention and constant use of their chickenshit, negative, defensive cattennacio style, to their ceaseless diving and attempting to con the referee, to their utter refusal to ever accept any foul called against them let alone any loss, ever, always instead concocting some conspiracy theory about the referees or FIFA or other nations conspiring to screw them over instead of looking themselves in the mirror or ever manning up and saying "You know what? We lost, we weren't good enough today and we lost - full credit to the other team, they played well." I hate all of it, and I cannot stand Italy, and like every NCAA tournament with Duke, I will not be happy until they are knocked out.
End rant.

If you are an Italy fan then I apologize for my shortminded attitude, but might as well put it out there for full disclosure.

Sorry, Sheila. You got screwed, and not in the fun way either.

Yes, Australia didn't do much with their man advantage for 40 minutes, and they should have created more chances and made a goal, but it was always going to be difficult with all 9 Italian outfield players behind the ball. But that doesn't mean that they deserved to get fucked so hard either, and without any foreplay either. Anyhow, Italy are through to the quarterfinals where they will face the winner of Switzerland-Ukraine, where I hope that they lose 0-18.

***Update 9.15 p.m. PST***
I have calmed down a bit and in all fairness want to say a few things, although I have not changed my opinion about the penalty even though Bobbeh McMahon, the commentator who I most respect, completely disagrees with me. Nor do I retract any of my statements above about Grosso or Italy.

1) As I said when it happened, Italy should not have been reduced to 10 men in the first place. That foul was either just a foul or a yellow, but no way it was a red. Most of the contact was made on fellow Italian defender not even on the Aussie attacker. Anyhow, they were hard done by to have to play the last 40 minutes a man down.

2)In the 2nd half, Italy did what Italy do best; defend. Australia were up a man in the 2nd half but didn't create nearly as many good chances as they did in the 1st half when the teams were level. So full credit to them for defending for 43 minutes when down a man.

3) To be fair, although they played 9 men behind the ball for most of the 2nd half, they did create some chances themselves. And as Bobbeh pointed out, the key moment of the game happened when an overlapping left back got into the penalty area at the end, so credit must be given for that specifically by all us cattenacio-bashers.

4) It is too much to say that Australia got what they deserved, but with a man advantage for much of the 2nd half they really didn't do shit with it, and Hiddink only made one substitution in the 81st minute. What was he waiting for? My point is that they could have done more to press forward and create a goal despite the fact that Italy were bunkered in.

5) Lucas Neill was a bit foolish to go to ground in the first place.

Having said all that I still think that the penalty was total and complete rubbish, but to be fair these things should be said in Italy's defense. I think one's reaction to this has everything to do with their overall attitude towards Italy. I am predisposed to dislike Italy, so of course I see the penalty as rubbish, whereas an Italy fan, like say A7, would view the same thing and see it as a penalty. All depends on your predisposition I suppose. In fact, A7, what do you make of all of this?

The bottom line is that it is a shame that this match was not decided by the teams on the field, but rather by the referee.

Lastly, unless these are totally watered down by FIFA, I want to point out the pure class shown by the Australian coach and players in defeat in their statements. This shows by contrast one of my main problems with Italy: if things had been reversed, and Italy had been eliminated by a last minute dodgy-at-best penalty, what would the Italians be saying? Exactly. We all remember the uproar/sour grapes theory that Sweden and Denmark conspired to draw in Euro2004 and eliminate Italy, and in the 2002 World Cup after being knocked out by an Ahn Junj-hwan extra time goal, he was summarily fired by the Italian club that he played for at the time, and also told by the mayor of that club's town that he was never welcome to set foot in that town again (from memory - too lazy to source right now). Just to name two. Anyhow, full credit to the Aussies for being much classier than I was.

That being said, Go Ukraine!

Switzerland lost centreback Senderos to a dislocated shoulder, but his replacement is another young Arsenal defender Johan Djourou. He's not as polished as Senderos, but fully capable and I think he'll do just fine. Switzerland are a really good team that have no star and play as a team. Their defense is very solid; they have yet to concede a goal through 3 matches. Ukraine on the other hand have not looked very good at all, except for a breather game against Saudi Arabia. They were fortunate to get through against an average Tunisia team thanks to two huge (and wrong) referee decisions that went their way. They are also missing some defenders due to cards and injuries. If they don't sort themselves out and play the kind of football that they are capable of, and if Sheva doesn't step up and have a Golden Boot candidate performance, they will go down to the Swiss. I'll take Switzerland 1-0.

Damnit! I am DEFINITELY going to South Africa 2010.

20th min.: Sheva appeals for a penalty, looked pretty 50/50 as it looked like there was contact but also that he went down too easily.

22nd min.: Ukraine hit the Swiss crossbar.

24th min.: Beautiful screaming Swiss free kick rattles off the Ukraine crossbar. Match is high spirited and fairly even at this point.

35th min.: Djourou is replaced; I can only assume that he picked up some sort of injury.

Half Time. 0-0. The last 20 minutes saw some hard tackles on both sides, and emotions have cranked up a notch. Like this morning's match, this one looks like it might only have 1 goal in it and that the team to score first will end up winning 1-0. I'm off to the pub to have lunch and find out.

Full Time. 0-0. This referee is the Bizarro World Cup 2006 ref, giving only 1 yellow card and ignoring several cardable offenses (and no less than 4 handballs). Sepp and Beckenbauer are there; it would not suprise me in the least if Sepp went to the referee before the match and told him to swallow his whistle, because the officiating in this cup was already a complete joke before this morning's match and it's absolute farce of an ending. Swiss defender Barretta was especially lucky, having the lone yellow of the match, not to be sent off for a studs up tackle to a Ukranian dude's shin. It surely should have been a 2nd yellow; that is the kind of tackle that breaks legs.

This match has 0-0 and penalties written all over it.

End 1st extra period. 0-0.

End 2nd extra period. 0-0. For the first time in this World Cup it's on to "the lottery of the shootout" as the Brits say.

Ukraine first.

Sheva shoots left and it is saved. I wonder if Sheva had memories of last year's Champions League Final horrid penalty in his head.

Streller weak shot is saved. still 0-0.

Ukraine scores on the cheeky chip down the middle. 1-0 Ukraine.

Swiss guy blasts it off the bar. Advantage Ukraine: 1-0 after 2 rounds.

Ukraine scores. 2-0 up, and Switzerland pretty much have to convert this 3rd kick.

Another shit Swiss kick right at the keeper. To use a golf term, Ukraine are dormi.

GOL! Ukraine. Ukraine win the shootout 3-0 after only 3.5 rounds of kicks. Not a very exciting penalty shootout.

Congratulations to Ukraine, the only 2nd seeded team out of the first 6 matches to beat a group winner.

You jokers better beat Italy.

Switzerland played well in this tournament for such a young team, and they did not concede a single goal in 4 matches and 2 extra periods. As co-hosts of Euro2008, they are going to be a tough out, and if they can find some offense, other than Frei and Senderos on set pieces, in the next two years then they are going to be a really tough out.

Get some rest, love. You'll need it.

And Ukraine? Like the Swiss today, they looked tired, like a team who, having to play their first match later than everyone else, has had to play 4 matches in 13 days. They really need the three days off between now and Friday, which will be 5 matches in 17 days (Italy played their first match 2 days before Ukraine, so they have played 4 matches in 15 days and Friday will be their 5th in 19 days, for what it's worth).


Nicole said...

I hereby nominate Maradona for the Golden Mullet Hall of Fame. That thing has some staying power! And it's been around as long as I've been alive.

He was in the stands for Argentina's last match and all I thought when they showed him was "Golden Mullet!"

You should be so proud!

moin said...

The man's a legend, even now, he's still stealing awards and recognition over the players on the pitch. A true pioneer.

phil said...

Maradonna was one of the biggest scumbags to ever play the game. A pioneer of cheating, diving and generally being an asshole. His cocaine abuse nearly killed him, and while it does not change his accomplishments on the field, it is a good reason not to treat him as a hero today.

moin said...

Well, yeah, when I said pioneer, I'm including his pioneering effort in cheating, diving, and cocaine snorting as well. (Also in pushing the limits of waist to height ratio the last couple of years.)

The man never does anything half-assed, much like Genghis Khan, except not really. Whatever, forget the comparison, the point is that he never does anything half ass, always the foremost _____ (dribbler, footballer, diver, cheat, fill in appropriate blank).

Anonymous said...

So true about Italy. Hate 'em and their cheating, whining, pussy brethren (Argentina and Mexico). Those teams are the worst. Flop and bitch. Flop and bitch.

moin said...

RVN, Pires, Reyna, Donovan, Owens, Henry, Raul, Figo, Robben, Cristiano, Ronaldo, Rivaldo. All stars, all divers, none of them are Argentine, Mexican, or Italian. Granted, they don't do the whine/bitch thing as much as the Italian and Argentine thing (especially after they commit a foul, they don't go into St. Francis of Assis mode). But come on, everybody dives. Eboue dove to win a FK to win Arsenal a goal in the CL Finals, I cheered. Owens dove against Argentina in WC2002 to win a PK for England. Deco dove to win Porto an FK that led directly to a Porto goal that knocked out ManUtd (and boy did I cheer for that one, broke my wrist). Heck, yesterday I saw John Terry dove to try and win a PK (which the ESPN announcers matter of factly stated: "and now he sees he can't get to the ball, he dives and tries to get a call, good play by Terry." What the hell? Had an Italian done that those guys would be spitting fire).

I'm just saying, everyone dives. Of course, the Italians and the Argentines have the combination of traits on top of diving that really riles people:
1) that begging/whining thing they do
2) being REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY good so that they'll beat you anyways
3) they are better than England

phil said...

A good way to put it Moin. I think the '86 cup game against England summed him up. First he punches the ball into the net with his hand (and is a big enough ass to talk about the "hand of God" covering the ref's eyes) and then later in the game makes one of the most fantastic runs to score a goal in the history of the World Cup.

I'm totally in agreement with Kanu's rant on Italy and I think the only team in the world that I'd root for Italy to beat would be Argentina. Maybe Mexico has some of the same tendencies for diving/complaining, but I don't see them as being nearly as bad. They certainly were not in the cup games I saw this year.

My favorite Latin American side though is Costa Rica. But that's mainly because it is such a fantastic place to visit. And the only place I've been on the planet where the people rivaled the Ticos for sheer niceness has been New Zealand.

moin said...

Kanu, just so ya know, Aragones is planning to start Cesc and Raul tomorrow against France. Should be fun for you, Arsenal all over the pitch (and Reyes off the bench).

Kanu said...

Thanks Moin. Cesc certainly deserves to start based on his performances thusfar.

Cesc vs Paddy, just like Arsenal-Juve CL at Highbury this spring.

Yes, it will be awesome. The ghosts of Arsenal past & present (and maybe future - Wenger is rumored to want Torres in a major way - apparently he is doing color commentary for Japanese TV and can't stop talking about him, and he has long been rumored to want him {although I don't think Arsenal can afford him}). I really like both teams and it sucks for me personally that they have to play each other this early. I think in the end I would rather that Spain win because I really think that they can beat Brasil, and I don't think France can unless Henry loses his mind and has a hattrick.

I wonder what Aragones is saying to Cesc and Reyes to get them fired up about stopping Henry this time?

moin said...

Only if Reyes gets ran out of the park by Henry again.

Also, shows you that the officials can't win either way. The World Cup has taken a decidedly physical tone over the last several days and the refs are stuck with either sticking to the rules and carding people left and right (Portugal-Netherlands, USA-Italy), or being way too lenient (this match). It's tough.

Well, not counting Graham Poll's wonderful gaffe (which actually made FIFA come out and admit that they would have a replay had Croatia or Australia protested the result) and the random handball ignoring.

But the biggest controversy thus far has actually been that Swiss-Korea game that none of us have paid attention too. Surprised? Koreans kicking up a fuss about officiating? And Apollo Anton-Ohno wasn't involved (yeah, flashback). Apparently, someone started a rumour that if 5 million Koreans protested to FIFA, FIFA would replay the match, making FIFA actually block internet access to their website from Korea.

Fun details here.

I'm not sure if I should be annoyed or amused.

Kanu said...

That was horrid, but:

1) it was in I think the 81st minute, and at the time SK were down 0-1 and because France were winning 2-0 they needed 2 goals in the last 9 minutes to go through (1-1 would have left everyone level on 5 points but SK would have lsot out on goal difference). This was a case of the utter incompetence adding insult to injury.

Also, SK got a point against France thanks to inept refereeing, when Vieira's header was a clear yard over the line but was not given. They were gifted a 1-1 draw that was raelly a 1-2 defeat. Going into the third match they had 4 points to France's 2, where it shoudl have been France with 4 points and Korea with three, so in my mind they are not in much of a position to bitch (although obviously on the face of things that call was ridiculous and absurd). I'm jsut saying that they didn't get fucked nearly as much as Tunisia and Australia did because that 2nd Swiss goal was superfluous since Sk already needed 2 goals in 9 minutes to advance even if the call was correctly ruled offside.

But for me Ukraine-Tunisia was way worse, because the referee completely decided the match. A Ukraine defender raised his hand way over his head and handled a Tunisia free kick in the box - blatant, and Tunisia should have been 1-0 up. And then he awards the softest of penalties to Sheva when it was clea in real time that there was no contact, and replays clearly show that Sheva tripped on his own foot. Terrible. Tunisia should feel most fucked, as well as Australia.

Pretty much every single match from here on out including the final needs to be an absolute cracker (and free of controversy) for the story of this WC not to be the horrible officiating.

moin said...

I'm not sure if officiating is "horrible" or just more harsh than normal. I mean, come on, other than not sending Deco and Cocu off at the same time, ther Russian official did not do much of anything wrong. (Unless you argue that Deco should have already be sent off for bringing some vigilante justice on Heitinga, and Heitinga should be smited by the football gods.) When you just consider the gaffes, which has been.. like.. 2 or 3 instances of which (one of which is hilarious on Poll's part), it's not too bad. People thought the story of WC2002 was going to be the home calls the Koreans got, but that's an after thought nowadays. (Of course, unless you are from Italy, Spain, or Portugal, or if you are an ESPN commentator, in which case you have to bring up the case where the ball bounced off of Frings' arm.)

Kanu said...

Agreed on Por-Hol. If you read my thoughts on that yesterday, I said that to me the only one he really screwed up was Deco's 2nd yellow (although not calling Valente Karate Kid studs up kick to Kuyt's chest in the box was pretty bad as well). Everyone is going apeshit over the record breaking number of cards but i think he got most of them right - it was more a matter of the two teams kicking the shit out of the other.

But now this refereeing business has captured the zeitgeist and

Kanu said...


...there is an echo chamber augmentation going on, although having said that the overall criticism is well-deserved.

The media need talking points, especially the American media who clearly do not understand the game, and this is the big talking point and will be until we see some great controversy free knockout matches. Hopefully that is what we'll get from herre on out.

parnellpr said...

I can't believe as english person I actually feel sorry for the aussies in a sporting context. But I do. Where have all the good refs gone? Where has all the romance gone? Our only hope for some good old fashioned giant killing is Ghana. Go Ghana Go is what I say. Atleast we know one thing, even their least fit player will be fitter than fatoldo. Pippa.

Solon said...

A minor point, Moin--and not to contradict the larger point that you are making--but Henry does NOT have a reputation as a diver. In fact, he is regarded so well by non-Arsenal fans in England largely because he is not one.

One incident in particular, at the beginning of the FA Cup Final against Southampton (in 2003, I believe), solidified his reputation in this regard--in the first or second minute, Henry was through on goal, and the Southampton defender, clearly beaten, attempted to tackle him (flat-out) in the box. If Henry had gone down, it's 10-man Southampton for the rest of the match and a PK to Arsenal--but he fought off the challenge, kept his feet, and shot wide (or his shot was saved, I'm not sure). I'm not sure how well I'm explaining it--if he'd just succumbed to the challenge, he'd have gone down, but he stumbled and kept his feet, when it would have been easier to have gone down.

In any event, he has earned accolades from neutrals for his commitment to fairness.

A7 said...

I speak with bias but I understand the rage of my good friend Kanu. I feel that regardless of diving I don't like any match by my team or any other to be brought down to a dive or a penalty. However Bobbeh was spot on. Hiddink is supposed to be the frickin guru and it looked like he felt the result was simply going to happen. Australia refused to push the ball. Their sense of urgency was pathetic and it falls on Guus to not have been able to bury the Azzurri. Off to Russia he goes. I thought in my heart of hearts Italy was going to lose after Kramer was sent off on the very dubious and agreed inappropriate red. A yellow for sure. I have seen Materazzi get very deserved red cards throughout his career but this was not one worthy for his collection. Karma is a bitch. I know there a lot are pissed at the result. A lot of Italy bashing for sure and I agree that the Italians do react in a Soap Operatic way when being fouled and or diving but Italy defended like pimps and you guys might want to tip your hat to Gigi. No one has mentioned the fact that his sweatervest reared its ugly head and kept the Roos on the clean. Gattuso is a maniac and I don't think he lost a step at all during the whole match. The defense at least deserved the extra 30 minutes but life isn't fair gentlemen and ladies. I can picture the post game fighting: Rugby V Ultras bloody friggin mess. Go Azzurri and maybe the next match can be an untarnished excuseless one.

DC Trojan said...

I also had the pain of breaking with Bobby McMahon, but dammit, that was no penalty. Argh.

moin said...

Solon, very good point, Henry, rightfully, doesn't have a reputation as a diver. But despite of that, Henry has dove a couple of times in this world cup already. Nothing "egregious", but he does do it. Of course, he isn't theatrical about it and doesn't complain when he doesn't draw out the whistle. But that's more or less my point, even someone who is generally regarded as a fair player dives on occasion, especially in the World Cup where the stakes are so high.

A7 said...

Oh and you might wanna just get pissed at the ref instead of the Italians for diving. He fell for it. Diving is a strategy that although distasteful has been employed in many matches and is the job of the ref to call the meal making.