Sunday, July 15, 2007

Selecao Handily Defeat Feeble Albiceleste:
Brasil Es Campeao Sudamerica

No Kaka...
No Ronaldinho...
No Gilberto Silva...
No Adriano...
No Ronaldo...

No Problemo.

Copa America 2007 Final
Brasil 3-0 Argentina
Baptista 5'
Ayala o.g. 40'
Alves 69'

Even if you hate footy, you have to admit the cartoonish
sound effects on Brasilian TV are pretty sweet.

The last time Argentina played Brasil was in a friendly match in September at Emirates Stadium in London. As it happened I was in Buenos Aires at the time, and there was mondo excitement leading up to the match- the country came to a damn near standstill for 2 hours. Brasil dominated Argentina 3-0 that day, and it was like a day of mourning in Buenos Aires, the feeling of disappointment/letdown was palpable in the air. That was just a friendly, so I can't even imagine what BA is like this evening.

Brasil got off to a flying start thanks to La Bestia, Julio Baptista, who scored a wonderful golaso against the run of play that filled me with another round of bitterness, the third round of bitterness in the last week to be precise. Again, Julio, where the fuck was that all last season during your failure at Arsenal? Thanks alot, fucker. The goal gave Brasil a huge shot of adrenaline and confidence, which they never relinquished for the entire 90 minutes.

Argentina came within inches of equalizing a few moments later when Riquelme rocketed a left footed blast off the post, and it was on. The first 20 minutes were pretty pulsating stuff, but then the match settled down a bit, and Argentina were never really able to get into full gear offensively.

A tight match turned less tight before halftime when a dangerous cross was volleyed brilliantly into the Argentine goal... by Argentine defender Ayala. Oops. 2-0 into halftime. Touogh day at the office for Ayala the Argentine captain, who also got schooled by Baptista on his golaso.

You figured after the break that Argentina would come full bore in wave after wave after wave of attacks, but they still couldn't seem to get into full gear. Huge credit to the back 4 of Brasil, who played a wonderful game without the cover of their suspended invisible wall. Obviously at this point the third goal would be crucial, because it would either mean game on or game over. It came on a counter attack in the 73rd minute, when Dani Alves did what he did all season for Sevilla, make a bombing overlapping run on the right and slot home a sweet one-timer shot into the far corner. 3-0 and that was that. The rest was a formality, and just to add insult to injury Messi scored a perfectly legitimate goal in the final 10 mintes that was incorrectly ruled offsides.

A huge statement win for Brasil to put one over on their biggest rival with far from their strongest squad against a full strength Argentine side {OK, Crespo was injured, but still}. Brasil have had the hoodoo over Argentina in the last decade or so, and this win will just add to it in a massive, massive way. I can't think of a great comparison, the first one that comes to mind would be if Georgia entered the Georgia-Florida game 8-0, Florida were 5-3, Tebow was out injured, Georgia were 14 point favorites, and Florida still won 28-6. The hoodoo that Brasil currently enjoy over Argentina is not as strong as the hex Florida has over UGA the last 17 years, but that was the first thing that popped into my mind- I'm sure there are better comparisons out there.

And for Argentina this will be a huge mental blow, after all the buildup and promise and expectation to win, only to have your full strength team get embarrassed by a far from full strength Brasil team. This was to be Argentina's first major tournament win since the 1993 Copa America {outside of a youth tournament}, so to fall flat against their most hated rival will leave a scar that will take a good long time to heal and fade away. Their next chance will be the 2010 World Cup, by which their winless stretch will be 18 years.

Riquelme did not boss the midfield, and will again be ridiculed for supposedly disappearing in the biggest of stages, which I think is unfair today and in general. He had Argentina's best chance when he rattled the post early on, and a bunch of his teammates were pretty anonymous today as well, including Messi, Tevez, Veron, Mascherano, and Cambiasso {by the by, I thought 34 year old Zanetti played a blinder for the albiceleste}. He seems to get a similar treatment that Thierry Henry is subject to: when he kicks ass and dominates everyone is up his ass and full of praise, but in the matches where he doesn't kick ass and dominate then suddenly everyone says he sucks ass and is a choker, when the former happens a hell of a lot more than the latter. I wonder if there is commonality on treatment because both players a a bit moody and mercurial- would they get more slack of they were the never say die super passionate bulldog type like say Gattuso, or even like Steven Gerrard? I wonder...

Let's be clear, it wasn't a total and complete domination. In fact, Wagner Love once again largely did nothing- granted his run and pass on the last goal were very good but that was about it, making me conclude that he just isn't good enough to be a starting striker for the Selecao. Robinho was also largely anonymous. The match was probably tighter than the final score indicated, but 2 moments of magic from Baptista and Alves, plus the midsummer Christmas gift from Ayala, and there you have it. But again, the fact that this result occurred when Argentina had assembled their dream team of worldbeating superstars and Brasil were decidedly less than full strength was the significant point, making it the mental equivalent of a dominant beating in the eyes of both teams, sets of fans, and nations.

Speaking of Wagner Love, the most disappointing thing about him was the complete abandonment by the Univision announcer of saying his name like the Ladies Man {blah blah blah Wagner Loooooovvvveee} after the 2nd game. I cannot believe that the play by pllay man did it of his own volition, so my guess is that either someone in Love's camp asked them to stop or some suit at Univision asked him to stop {although perhaps he trotted it back out today for the grand final- I was at a pub today which had the GolTV feed}. Either way it was disappointing to say the least.

Oh, and it finally dawned on my today who Riquelme is. He's Gilbert Gottfried with short hair. Same face, although I cannot iagine that Juan Roman's voice is anywhere near as irritating as Gilbert's.

In yesterday's 3rd place match Mexico beat Uruguay 3-1. That's about all I know since I didn't take the time to watch a match that is essentially a meaningless friendly.

Overall the Copa America was a wonderful event with lots of attacking footy and tons and tons of goals. Eighty six of them, to be exact, in 26 matches, for a healthy 3.3 goals per match. A very pleasant and refreshing surprise after the offensively challenged World Cup 2002, Euro 2004, and even World Cup 2002.

The South American 2010 World Cup qualifying starts this fall. Anyone care to wager against Brasil and Argentina finishing 1 & 2? Not me...

End Of The Road For US Under 20 Team, After They Beat Themselves 2-1

Austria 2-1 a.e.t {1-1} United States


The circumstances of life conspired in such a way that I missed the first half, saw the second half, and missed extra time. The US's opening goal was great, and both that they conceded were total clusterfucks at the back. Sounds like the US keeper was still not nearly 100% fit after sustaining is injury during Brasil's goal, which forced him to miss the match against Uruguay. That's about all I can tell you, but as usual Bobbeh was all over it and has an excellent writeup.

Still, an excellent showing by the US team, in which they improved off their performance in the U17 World Cup of 2005, in which they shocked a Messi-lead Argentina in the first match, made it to the knockout stage, went 1-0 up on Italy, and then lost 3-1. Things look pretty good for the future with the core group from this team, with Adu showing that he can live up to his promise and Altidore looking like a really great big man of a striker. Those two play well together, compliment each other perfectly, and you can tell that they like playing well together as well- could be a really great strike partnership for the future. I also really like Zizzo out on the right. I would think that the stars of this team will start slotting into the senior squad as qualifying for World Cup 2010 starts, and I bet we'll also see some of them at the Confederations Cup in 2009.

In the other quarterfinal yesterday, Czech Republic upset favored Spain on penalties after a 1-1 draw in which they apparently played some serious anti-football. If there was a bet for under 2.5 goals for the Austria-Czech semifinal, I would take it, as both teams seem to win by negating the other team and taking their chances when they get them, a la Greece at Euro 2004.

The other two quarterfinals are today, with Nigeria playing Chile at 11.15 a.m. PST and the 2 pretournament favorites, Argentina and Mexico, playing at 4.45 p.m. PST. I will definitely be giving that one my full attention, as I want to check out their 2 best players, Carlos Vega, who plays for Arsenal's youth team and is supposedly the next big thing, and Giovanni Dos Santos, who plays for Barcelona's youth team and is supposedly their next big thing. I tried to watch their round of 16 match on Friday, but only managed to see the 1st half via Slingbox at my desk, and I was at happy hour at the pub after that and there was pretty much no way I was going to get the Oakland A's game switched over to a Under 20 World Cup quarterfinal, especially without one of the teams being the US. From what little I saw both players are really skilled, fast as shit, and great on the ball, which is nothing new. I did learn that Dos Santos is left footed and rather short and small- like Romario small; as I had never seen him before I had no idea. Also very fleet of foot. Oh well, looking forward to seeing more of them today.

Copa America Update: El Super Clasico Del Sudamerica It Is

Life really getting in the way this week, sorry for the delay. I really don't know how all the multiple posts a day bloggers do it...

Brasil 2-2 Uruguay, 5-4 PSO


As I stated earlier, I had a funny feeling one of these matches was going to go to PKs, and this one was it. Brasil went ahead twice only for Uruguay to equalize in what was a very good match. Brasil always looked in control, but Uruguay always bring a little something against their old rivals and neighbors, and always seem to carry the self belief that comes with handing Brasil their most painful defeat in it's existence, on it's own home soil, in the most attended football match in the history of man.

So after 90 minutes it was straight to PKs, and what an exciting shootout it was. Forlan's 1st for Uruguay was awful and easily saved, and Brasil were up for the first half of the shoot out, but then they had a dude hit the post and Uruguay tied it up. After 5 kicks it was still even; in the 6th round Brasil hit the post again, so miraculously Uruguay now had 1 kick to defeat Brasil and move on to the final. Dude's shot easily beat the keeper and looked for all the world that it was going into the corner, but then it hit the post as well. In the 7th round Brasil scored and then Uruguay's shot was saved and the super exciting shootout came to an anticlimactic conclusion as yet another referee refused to enforce the rules and allowed a goalkeeper to come a good 3 yards off his line before the kick was taken, and he saved the penalty. Yes, some of the blame lies with the kicker, as this penalty was very poor, but still, such blatant cheating should not be allowed. Sevilla'a Palop did the same thing with the final kick of the UEFA Cup shootout earlier this year, and it is just annoying that when a goalie cheats so badly and comes so far out that the referee does not simply order a re-kick. Makes no sense to me, and had always bothered me since Brainna Scurry did it on all 5 penalties in the 1999 Women's World Cup final vs. China, which is forever forgotten because OMG Brandi Chastain took her shirt off. The remarkable thing about that penalty shootout, where the USA made all 5 kicks and China made it's first 4, is that China made 4 out of 5 with Scurry almost out to the 6 yard box every time; I remember being more impressed with that feat than with the US team making all 5 with the China keeper obeying the rules. Anyways I hope for the day that a referee will grow a pair and call for a re-kick when the rules are so clearly breached.

So on to the final for Brasil. That's the good news. The bad news is that Gilberto Silva, captain and "invisible wall" who expertly shields & provides cover for the back 4, will miss the final due to card accumulation when he picked up an incredibly ticky-tack yellow card in the final minutes of the match. Normally reserved Gilberto went a bit mental to the referee, so you know that he immediately knew what it meant and was gutted that he would be missing the final.

Argentina 3-0 Mexico


These two teams had played the best footy for the entire tournament, and it looked like if anyone was going to perhaps beat Argentina that Mexico might be able to do it. You also knew that Mexico would be super motivated to have another shot at Argentina after their epic World Cup Round of 16 match last summer, which was one of the best of the entire tournament and ended in heartbreak for Mexico when Maxi Rodriguez scored the goal of the World Cup to give Argentina a famous 2-1 win and send Mexico home.

The match was very tight for an hour, with Mexico hitting the woodwork twice and Argentina scoring a goal just before halftime when Heinze took advantage of some poor defending and latched onto a Riquelme free kick.

About the hour mark things were settled pretty quickly. First, two quick passes put Messi semi through but not really, as a defender was closing him down quickly and he was at a terrible angle. So he simply decided to score the goal of the tournament thusfar, which is saying something in this goal fest of a competition. He received the ball, and in a split second, and without breaking stride, chipped the keeper, which was the only way he could have scored from where he was and where the keeper was. By the time Messi kicked the ball, the defender had recovered and was between him and the goal, and the goalkeeper was well positioned giving him no angle to score. The slow, high, loopy chip was absolutely perfect and just looked even better because of the futile way that the goalie tried in vain to get to it. A really special goal for Lionel, especially that he did it on a full run without breaking stride and as a split second decision. But then again, it's Messi, and he's is doing special, special shit every time out these days.

Que ridiculo golaso del Messi

2 minutes later and Carlito Tevez made a meal out of some contact with Rafa Marquez and sold a 32 piece set of a penalty to the referee better than Uncle Rico ever could have. Riquelme slotted it for 3-0 and that was game, set and match.

So Brasil-Argentina, El Super Clasico Del Sudamerica, in the final, which is what most of the world has been foaming at the mouth over for 2 weeks now. As you might guess, these two have quite a history as neighbors and powers of world football, and their rivalry is, umm, intense.

Argentina would be solid favorites even if Gilberto was playing for Brasil. Without him, it will be even tougher for Brasil to snuff out Argentina's massive arsenal of attacks. I can't really see Brasil winning to be honest, but considering the magnitude of this rivalry, anything is possible, and remember, if it's tied then we go straight to penalty kicks where literally anything can happen.

Prediction Argentina 3-1 Brasil.

The match is on Univision at 2 p.m. PST today. Enjoy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Feel Good Friday: 2AM Edition

Last weekend one of my absolute favorite bands, Slightly Stoopid, released the first new track from their upcoming album on their myspace site. It's called 2 a.m., it absolutely rules, and I've been digging on it all week, so today I share it with you. Unfortunately there is no YouTube vid for it, but if you click here it will load and play automatically.

I remember them playing this song a few months ago at the show I went to up in Petaluma, and thinking "shit I hope this is on the new album, the horns sound awesome with their sound." Looks like that is the case, which is sweet. I'm even more geeked for the Stoopid/G. Love/Ozomatli show at The Greek Theater on August 11 now, because it looks like the new Slightly Stoopid album is dropping that very week, on August 7. Can't wait.

Enjoy and happy weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It Wasn't Pretty, But The US Are Through To The Last 8

Unites States 2-1 a.e.t. Uruguay {1-1}


If the Poland and Brasil matches were a showcase of the great technical football for the US under 20 team, last night was not. I wasn't able to give this match my full attnetion, as I watched the first half via Slingbox from my office and had some work distractions, and during the second half I had 2 TVs going but my main focus was on the Argentina-Mexico Copa America semifinal. That being said, here is what I did see even if it didn't have my undivided attention for 90 minutes.

A very different kind of game: scrappy, and let's face it, pretty disjointed and ugly. A tight 0-0 for most of the night, the biggest news for the US was that Altidore went off around halftime with what looked like a pretty serious leg injury. In the 73rd minute Uruguay went up 1-0 after a good buildup that was aided by the US goalkeeper spilling a shot right onto a dude's foot to tap in. It looked like he could have done better but such is life.

Just when you were starting to think that this team had done a Red Sox pre 2005 {gotten people all excited that they were going to break though, only to flame out in disappointing fashion}, the US knotted the match at 1 with only 3 minutes left when a good cross was turned into the net by a Uruguyan defender for an own goal. If he hadn't done that then the US striker would have had a tap in, and even in doing so he brought down the striker, so it would have been a penalty anyways, so not the lamest of own goals by any stretch.

The US got extremely lucky in the final moments of regulation when a great header from Uruguay beat the keeper bu not his best friend, the goalpost. On to extra time.

Some decent chances for both teams in extra time, but it looked like we might be headed to dreaded penalties when the US cobbled together a scrappy goal early in the 2nd extra time frame. They managed to hold on for 10 minutes and that was that. A scrappy and physical match that boiled over into a bit of handbags at the end.

So not another virtuoso performance, but they did what they needed to do and scrapped out a come from behind win, and many times winning those kind of matches does more for a team's development that winning beautifully and perfectly.

On to the quarterfinals where the US will play Austria, who overcame Gambia 2-1. Austria's 4 matches thusfar have been 1-1, 1-0, 0-0, and 2-1, which tells me not to expect a free flowing offensive beautiful game on Saturday. More likely it will a low scoring, tight, lockdown, scrappy match similar top last night. Also, Altidore's status for Saturday is uncertain, and although he is not the whole team it would be a significant loss if he was unable to play.

Spain 4-2 a.e.t Brasil {2-2}

I watched the nightcap match between Brasil and Spain which was a much better show for the neutrals- good end to end free flowing stuff and tons of chances for both teams. Brasil scored 2 in 2 minutes towards the end of the first half, but then crucially Spain got one back immediately and just before halftime, even if it was a little dubious. It sure looked like it went in off the striker's arm, but the referee was positioned in such a way that this was obscured from his vantage point, and there is one replay that makes it look like it went in off his thigh, which it may very well have. Either way, the goal stood and Spain went into the locker room with hope. The second half saw lots of action but no goals until Spain scored a nice equalizer with only 6 minutes left. On to extra time where Spain went ahead 3-2 near the end of the first extra period, then the game really opened up as Brasil desperately went forward trying to equalize, resulting in end to end action usually seen in the latter stages of a pickup basketball game when everyone is tired. Spain had 3 breakaways that were either 2 on 1 or 3 on 1, but each time the dude with the ball was selfish and tried to score a great goal on their own instead of passing to a teammate for a much easier goal. Then in the final minute the very dude who was forsaken by his teammates selfishness scored to make it 4-2, which was someone poetic justice for him. So Brasil completed their tournament of disappointment by blowing a 2-0 lead and losing 4-2, and in their 4 matches played they lost 3 outright, the first with a man advantage for 60+ minutes. Has ANY Brasilian team, at any level, produced a set of results to match these?

In the other late match the Czech Republic came from 0-2 down against Japan to get to 2-2, then beat Japan in a shootout.

Today's matches {all on Galavision I believe in addition to ESPN U}

Argentina-Poland 1.45 p.m. PST
Zambia-Nigeria 1.45 p.m. PST
Chile-Portugal 4.45 p.m. PST
Mexico-Congo 4.45 p.m. PST

Hoping to catch the Mexico match as I'm hoping to see my first glimpse of Arsenal youth player and supposed next sensation Carlos Vela.

Saturday's quarterfinals are:
Spain-Czech Republic

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Arsenal Joga Bonito Wednesday:
Invisible Wall Edition

Gotta rep soon to be new Arsenal captain and current Brasil captain Gilberto Silva, who has been an excellent captain to the young Brasil team this summer and has guided them to the finals of Copa America. Sadly he picked up a very ticky-tack yellow card late in last night's semifinal match with Uruguay, and as a result he will have to sit out the final on Sunday. Pretty weak sauce from the ref, especially considering how rough and tumble parts of that match were. If Brasil do in fact win the Copa it would be a shame that someone else will lift the cup after he has done such a good job captaining the team all spring and summer.

A defensive midfielder, he is nicknamed "the invisible wall" in Brasil {"volante" en Portugese} because he protects the back four and is not at all flashy, and you often do not notice his great play. In that regard he is the kind of player that is often taken for granted and only truly appreciated when he is not playing, as the resulting instability in the back and loss of shape contrasts to when he is on the field. A World Cup winner with Brasil in 2002, he was the only player on the team to play every minute of every match. With Arsenal he has won 1 EPL title, 2 FA Cups, and was a member of the 2004 "Invincibles" team that went the entire season undefeated. They only thing lacking from his club resume is a Champions League winners medal, although he does have a runners up medal from 2006.

Muito bom, Gilberto, muito bom

Finally, he is universally hailed as a class act, gentleman, and one of the humble and genuinely good guys in football. He also took his fellow countrymen under his wing and mentors them at Arsenal: first Baptista and then teenage sensation Denilson. Oh, and he also plays a pretty good cavaquinho, which is a Brasilian mandolin, although he says that musically he is not yet on the level of team samba organizer Ronaldinho.

Many, many people don't fully appreciate how good he is because his lack of flash, but I for one love the dude and am happy to give him thanks and praise.

Galavision To The Rescue

If ESPN flakes and doesn't pickup the U20 World Cup US-Uruguay match, and like me you don't have ESPNU, then fear not- Galavision is showing it.

The match starts at 4.45 p.m. PST, and Argentina-Mexico Copa America semifinal kicks off at 5.50 p.m. PST over on Univision.

I wanted to do a preview and a writeup about some Freddy Adu thoughts I've had in the last week, but work intervened today; hopefully I can crank that out in the next day or two.

Here's a great preview of the Round of 16 by Bobbeh.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I've Heard Of A Woman Throwing Herself At A Man, But Damn...

Lionel Messi. Every woman in Argentina {and many beyond} wants to fuck him. Every man in Argentina {and many beyond} wants to be him. He just turned 20 2 weeks ago and is already one of the very best players in the world, and is the first of the "next Maradonas" to live up to that comparison with his incredible skills, goals, status & success as a phenom; even Diego himself thinks so. It also helps that he is also left footed, short, and fast as fuck. Oh, and before his teenage years had even ended he had already damn near replicated Maradona's most famous goal, as well as his most infamous goal, just adding to the growing legend. Most agree that he is destined to be the next to be universally hailed as "best player in the world".

So yeah, he's all the rage. I'm sure thousands and perhaps millions of young girls have huge crushes on him, and many likely have a poster of Lionel on their wall, his picture on their cellphone, have joined his fanclub, and scream at him like he's the Beatles on Ed Sullivan back in '64. If there is an Argentine version of Tiger Beat magazine, then they have them all plastered all over their room just like you did with Kirk Cameron back in the day.

Well this Chica Loca! took it one step further the other night after Argentina beat Peru 4-0 in the Copa America quarterfinals: she threw herself at him.

'What do you mean, Kanu- she found the hotel, snuck in, and tried to approach him at the bar?"

No. She literally threw herself off a fucking ledge at the stadium as he was walking off the field and risked life and limb just to get close to him.

And she got drilled in the ass, but not from Lionel {at least not in this video}.

As we all know from Groupies 101: Don't do this, cause you
won't be able to starfuck Messi with your newly broken pelvis

She did get a hug and a kiss, but damn... ouch. Oh well, she can tell her chiropractor about it every week for the rest of her life.

Copa America Quarterfinals: 22 Goals In 4 Matches, But Amazingly Little Excitement

If you told me that the 4 quarterfinal matches would result in 22 goals but not too much excitement my head would explode from an utter lack of comprehension. But in the end that's what happened.

Uruguay 4-1 Venezuela
This match was actually alot closer than the final score indicated, with is being 2-1 for a long time before Uruguay got 2 late goals.

Brasil 6-1 Chile
Brasil basically sleptwalked through the group stage with somewhat lackluster play and benefitted from a few dodgy penalty decisions that went their way. Well obviously the alarm clock went off, and loudly, as soon as this match started, because they dominated: 3 goals in 25 minutes ended the match as a competitive contest, and they went on to add 3 more for good measure.

Their 2nd goal was a bit if a kick in the nuts for us Arsenal supporters, who were all left to mutter, "fucking Baptista... where was that last year?" as La Bestia scored a goal that was better than any of the 10 he scored for the Gunners last season.

Mexcio 6-0 Paraguay
I actually liked Paraguay's chances for an upset here, thinking that fatigue from all the matches in the Gold Cup might catch up with Mexico, and also that in Roque Santa Cruz Paraguay have a striker who can pick the team up, put them on their back, and carry them to victory {think Totti at Roma; RSC is a similar leader/scorer/talisman for Paraguay}. And after the 2 blowouts on Saturday I was thinking this could be a really good match. Well my idea lasted all of 90 seconds, when Paraguay's keeper took down a breakaway striker in the box and got the dreaded quadruple whammy: 1) penalty kick awarded 2) keeper sent off with a straight red card by rule 3) having to use a sub to bring in the backup keeper, and sacrifice an outfield player in the process 4) having to play the rest of the match, 89 minutes in this case, playing 10 v 11 and only having 2 subs to relieve sure-to-be tired legs in the 2nd half. The result? An absolute slaughter.

Argentina 4-0 Peru
No one outside of Peru really expected this match to be really close, as Argentina have far and away been the class of the tournament thusfar and since shocking Uruguay in the opening group match, Peru have not.

Peru played verrrryy conservatively and cautiously, and made it into halftime 0-0. Without a shot in the first half, it was obvious that they were hoping to hold off Argentina for a 0-0 draw and go straight to penalties and take their chances in the shootout. Argentina quickly made it 1-0 to start the 2nd half, and then it was always more likely that they would get a 2nd now that Peru had to come out and play a little, and go forward to try to score. Even having to do that, Peru were downright awful, and Argentina put on a clinic in the 2nd half, completely dominating possession and toying with Peru at times with strings of 10-20 "ole!" passes, and going on to score 3 more for a 4-0 thrashing that was not even indicative of the difference between the two teams on the day. Peru finished the match without a single shot. Now I watch a shitload of soccer matches, but I cannot ever remember seeing that happen at any level. Argentina march on.

A word about their 2nd goal: for all the goals in this round, many good and several great, the best goal of all wasn't even a goal, it was Riquelme's assist to Messi for his goal. Breaking free outside the box, looking ready to wind up a big right footed shot, he had the vision to see Messi streaking in from the side and played him in with an absolutely brilliant pass instead, which young Lionel finished off by nutmegging the keeper. Not many players have the vision to see and then execute that pass, and many of them who do don't have the unselfishness to then do it rather than finish attempting the thunderbolt shot that they were just starting to attempt themselves. For me this setup/pass by Riquelme was better than any of the 22 goals. Just amazing.

The Argentine radio announcer is as enthusiastic as you would expect.
BTW, is this the same dude, 21 years later, who had probably the greatest call ever, of what is widely considered the greatest goal ever? Sure sounds like him...

So yeah, amazingly, 22 goals in 4 matches yet still a little disappointing for anyone hoping to see a compelling contest.

Your semifinals are:

Today 5.50 p.m. PST Telefutura

Argentina- Mexico
Tomorrow 5.50 p.m. PST Univision

At this point everyone want to see "El Clasico del Sudamerica" in the final, with the two big dogs locking horns in what is sure to be a classic. But Uruguay has a lot of history against their neighbor & old rival Brasil, even if much of it is in the distant past, and Mexico will be super motivated at the chance to avenge their heartbreaking extra time loss to Argentina in last summer's World Cup Round of 16.

On the face of it I find it hard to see either favorite lose, but with the no extra time/straight to penalties rule of this tournament, I have a funny feeling that one of these matchups is going to penalties where we may very well see an upset to ruin the match that everyone wants to see.

Under 20 World Cup: Welcome To Bizarro World

I know this is late, but still worth talking about:

United States 2-1 Brasil

All the highlights of an incredible match
Aside: Hey ESPN, why don't you move that scoreboard bar down a bit? It isn't quite blocking enough of the screen; you might be able to make it even more annoying if you put in a little effort...

Before the tournament Brasil were one of the 3 favorites, with Argentina and Mexcio, to win the whole thing. Then they were shocked 1-0 by Poland, who the US then went on to demolish 6-1 in an amazing display of footy. Even still, the US were certainly underdogs to Brasil on Friday evening in their final group match. It's freaking Brasil, and no US mens national team had ever beaten a Brasil mens national team in any tournament competition at any level before.

US went out to a 1-0 lead and were playing with confidence rather than awe or fear against Brasil. They created as many chances to score a 2nd as Brasil did to equalize. The whole thing was exciting enough on it's own, but with the other final group stage match between Poland-South Korea going on concurrently, it was even more so, as qualification hung in the balance for both teams, but especially Brasil. Eventually Brasil did tie it up in the 70th minute on as crappy a goal as you will ever see. Up until that point I was really impressed with the US team, and when this happened I said to myself "now we'll really see what this team is made of". Brasil {and eveyone else in the world} were thinking "we're fucking Brasil, we are going to get a winner or worst case scenario we'll finish level, but there's no way this American team is taking this punch and coming back to knock us out."

But damn if that isn't exactly what happened, when Altidore finished off a move that started when Freddy Adu was literally cornered by 2 dudes and did some complete circus shit to leave those two in the dust and put in a cross. An amazing move, a deflection, a nice finish by the big man, and 2-1 to the US, who then held on for a second famous win in as many matches, and damn near knocking Brasil out of the tournament in the process {I don't think Brasil have ever failed to get out of the group stages in the U20 World Cup before}. In the end the results in the other groups allowed Brasil to slide into the round of 16 via the backdoor as one of the 4 best 3rd place teams.

So the US won their group with 2 wins and a draw, and find themselves pitted against Uruguay in the round of 16. They also got a pretty good draw, with favorites Argentina & Mexico on the other side of the draw, meaning they wouldn't see them until the final, and Brasil on the bottom of their side, meaning they wouldn't see them until the semifinals. First things first, though- round of 16 against Uruguay on Wednesday evening.

Your quarterfinal matchups are:

United States-Uruguay
Japan-Czech Republic


I have to admit I am crushing on this US team, and it is the first time for me that I have really gotten behind a US mens soccer team at any level. My attitude towards US Soccer had always mirrored my attitude towards US automobiles- I can't bring myself to cheer fervently for/purchase one just because they are American and I am American, mainly because they are a shittier product than those available in other countries.

This is the first time I have seen a US team playing with confidence and bravado like they really belonged with the biggest of big boys. As much as the US has improved, by and large they have become a team that is confident against CONCACAF teams but not so much against the big boys. And I'm not just talking about results, more about attitude and how they played. Even when they US shocked Portugal 3-2 in the 2002 World Cup and went on a run all they way to the quarterfinal, they were an underdog cinderella team {on par with, say, George Mason in the 2006 NCAA tournament}, and even they knew it.

This team seems different, they are playing with confidence and even dare I say, a swagger. It's not the typical US underdog "shit, let's just try to contain them, and maybe we'll get some luck on the offensive end and pull off a shocker." It's more like "fuck that. We're don't give a damn who you are; we're playing you even, and we're going to play with panache, style, we're going to attack you, we are not timid or afraid, and we can play with and beat you no matter who you are". This is hard to explain, but it shows in their attitude, body language, the way they play, their style of play, their projected confidence, etc. And they're doing the business. For these reasons I am watching their matches as more than a neutral observer; I am pulling hard for them to win, which has never really been the case in the past because for the most part US teams have always been inferior not only in talent but in style of play.

Anyhow, enough about me, that's not the point. The point is that this young team is legit, and they have shown that they have as good a chance as any to make it to the final and perhaps even win this thing. More importantly, it means that the future of US Soccer is bright, and that the leadup to World Cup 2010 will be exciting as the better members of this group {Adu, Altidore, Zizzo, etc} slot in with the senior national team.

I'll be hoping that ESPN chooses to show the round of 16 match against Uruguay tomorrow night so I can watch them again. Friday they pre-empted showing a replay of a hot dog eating contest; hopefully they will do the same with the planned replay of the home run derby.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Feel Good Friday: Sublime Classics

Here's three absolute classics from Sublime to put you in the proper summertime feel good mood for the weekend.



What I Got

What about you? What are you digging on right now? What musica should I be getting my hands on ASAP?

Have a great weekend, whatever you get yourself into.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Copa America Update: Quarterfinals Set

Copa America has made for good watching this time around, with lots of goals, good attacking play and overall positive footy during the first two rounds of group stage games, which saw 43 goals in 12 matches or 3.6 goals per match, and not a single scoreless draw. An overall better display than last summer's World Cup, which is so massively important that teams play not to lose much moreso than playing to win, which results in more defensive and less free-flowing and exciting matches. As is the case with most tournaments, things have tightened up a bit in the final round of the group stage which determined who goes on to the knockout stage and who goes home: only 5 goals in the 4 matches played Tuesday and yesterday, with 2 scoreless draws. Not nearly as enjoyable a spectacle, but even so, overall we're still at 3 goals per match which is pretty good {48 goals in 16 matches}.

Sorry, I don't have time to go find all the highlights and post them, but if there is a match you are interested in just YouTube the two team names, sort by date added, and you'll be set.

Today is the final set of group matches in Group C, but neither the US or Colombia has any chance to qualify as one of the top 2 3rd place teams, so the only thing to be decided tonight will be who goes through as group winners and who goes through as runners-up between Argentina and Paraguay. The group winner gets Peru in the quarterfinal, the runner up gets Mexico.

Here are the standings before tonight's final Group C matches with the qualified teams in bold:

 GROUP A        GP  W   L   D  Pts  GF  GA  G/Dif
Venezuela 3 1 0 2 5 4 2 +2
Peru 3 1 1 1 4 5 4 +1
Uruguay 3 1 1 1 4 1 3 -2
Bolivia 3 0 1 2 2 4 5 -1

Peru 3-0 Uruguay
Venezuela 2-2 Bolivia
Uruguay 1-0 Bolivia
Venezuela 2-0 Peru
Peru 2-2 Bolivia
Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay

Mexico 3 2 0 1 7 4 1 +3
Brasil 3 2 1 0 6 4 2 +2
Chile 3 1 1 1 4 3 5 -2
Ecuador 3 0 3 0 0 3 6 -3

Mexico 2-0 Brasil
Chile 3-2 Ecuador
Brasil 3-0 Chile
Mexico 2-1 Ecuador
Mexico 0-0 Chile
Brasil 1-0 Ecuador

Paraguay 2 2 0 0 6 8 1 +7
Argentina 2 2 0 0 6 8 3 +5
United States 2 0 2 0 0 2 7 -5
Colombia 2 0 2 0 0 2 9 -7

Paraguay 5-0 Colombia
Argentina 4-1 United States
Paraguay 3-1 United States
Argentina 4-2 Colombia
Argentina - Paraguay
Colombia - United States
The quarterfinals will be Saturday and Sunday and things will get very interesting, not only because we'll be in the knockout stage, but remember that in Copa America there is no extra time, so if a match is tied after 90 minutes then it's straight to penalties.

Venezuela(1A)-Uruguay(3rd place #2)
Brasil(2B)-Chile(3rd place #1)

Mexico(1B)-Group C #2
Group C #1-Peru(2A)

It is just me or is it silly that Venuzuela is playing the 3rd place team from their own group and Brasil is playing the 3rd place from their own group, meaning 2 replays of matches that have already occurred? In the future they should add the MLB Divisional Playoff Rule to avoid this; I would much rather see Venezuela play Chile and Brasil play Uruguay...

I missed the Brasil match yesterday because I was exploring, so I missed out on the hilarity of the 'Wagner Loooooove" references by the Univision announcer every 2 minutes. Hoping to correct that on Saturday; it is the funniest shit from the announcer since the constant references to David Beckham as "Spiceman" and "Mister Spice" during the World Cup last summer.

Watch Argentina this if you get a chance; they are fielding damn near a dream team. Not sure how hard they will try tonight with not a whole lot on the line {although I would think they would prefer a QF date with Peru to a Mexico team that took them to the brink in the World Cup round of 16}, but on Sunday check them out if you can- they are playing beautiful stuff and have kept the diving, rolling, and playacting mainly in check to this point.

From what I have seen I will be shocked if Argentina don't win the competition at a canter, but with the straight-to-penalties thing I suppose anything can happen. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th Of July, Rooftop Style

Went up to the rooftop for the fireworks shows tonight- caught the end of the show across the bay on Tiburon and then the always excellent SF show down in Aquatic Park.

Here's the tail end of the finale from my rooftop.

Aquatic Park fireworks lighting up Russian Hill in the foreground

I hope y'all had a happy and safe holiday.

Arsenal American Joga Bonito Wednesday:
America, Fuck Yeah! Edition

I'll start off with Benny Feilhaber's stunning gamewinner in the recent Gold Cup final against Mexico, since it is probably the best US goal I've ever seen.

Que golaso del Estados Unidos!

Yesterday, at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup The young US team must have been feeling extra patriotic. They were lucky to draw their first match with South Korea despite getting pretty much dominated, and they faced a Poland team high off their shocking 1-0 with only 10 men upset over always favored Brasil. The US spotted Poland a 1-0 lead and then cued up the soundtrack to "America Fuck Yeah!" and annihilated Poland by scoring 6 unanswered goals to win 6-1. One of the best performances by any US national team, well, ever, with a good bit of Joga Bonito to boot.

Warning: American asskicking ahead: proceed with caution.

Freddy Adu got a hattrick {his 1st was something special} and I'm pretty fired up that we have a dude named "Zizzo", who resembles Cesc Fabregas both physically and in his play. Overall the kind of performance by the youngsters that gives US soccer fans confidence and hope that we will be able to compete at the highest levels in the years to come.

Oh, and if you hate soccer, then just watch this video.

"America, fuck yeah!!!"

Happy 231, America.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Professional College Football Coming Next April

Unlike prior professional leagues which in one way or another tried to appeal to NFL fans, the All American Football League will try to tap into the borderline insanity passion of college football fans in The South, with plans to use college rules, college stadia and or locales, and surprisingly requiring all players to have possession of a college degree. A very interesting read from the great King Kaufman for any fan of CFB.

The forces behind this are all former college football officials, with former ACC president Gene Corrigan and former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey seeming to be the point men.

One of the most interesting things about this to me was the degree requirement, as initially you would think that they will be excluding themselves of some major available talent:

In fact, the college-degree requirement is only partly an outgrowth of the idealism of a bunch of former university officials. It's also a business decision: The AAFL wants to coexist with college football. "We want this association with the colleges," Corrigan says, "and if they see us as people who are, if you will, giving opportunities to kids to just leave college without a degree, then it isn't going to work for us."

Smart. You can clearly see that for this to work, they are going to need the Universities on their side, as happy and willing partners, so the degree rule prevents the league from being seen by the Universities as yet another threat for talented "student-athletes" to leave early without getting an education making more money for and further raising the profile of Big State U.

Interesting to look at this from the view of the college athletic departments. University of Florida has already signed on to host games in the swamp, and it seems that teams will be loosely affiliated with the college teams in their vicinity. Take Florida; I guess they are signing thinking that this could be an additional revenue stream for them. Perhaps charge the team rent, get a cut of the ticket gate, parking, concessions, etc. On the cost side of the ledger would be the usual game day things like security, logistics, etc., and by agreeing to this it looks like UF is rolling the dice that enough tickets will be sold to make it a worthwhile. The risk is that if 437 people show up for the Florida Lizards first game then they would take a hit. I would think that the main angle to prevent this will be for each team to stock itself with as many players from it's affiliated university as possible; basically the top dozen or two players that 1) graduated and 2) are/were good but not quite good enough to make it in the NFL. Players like former Florida Gator receiver Travis McGriff, who has signed up as a promoter/spokesman for the league but is also hoping to play.

Like many startups it may very well live or die by the television deal that it secures. Again they are being smart in this regard by choosing not to go after a huge national television deal but rather shoot for "regional cable". NFL fans in the Northeast corridor will not watch this, or any other poor man's version of the NFL product that they love so much, on a major network. But college football fans, already familiar with Sunshine Network, JP Sports {now Lincoln Financial}, Fox Sports South, and the like, just might tune in to watch a team named simply "FLORIDA", wearing royal blue and orange of course, playing in the swamp, and stocked with 15-20 guys they already know very well from their college days.

They'll watch. They most definitely will watch.

Will it succeed? Seems doubtful, but football fans in the South are a passionate lot, so I can see their reasons for taking a chance on it.

More info here. I just hope that the Georgia Barkers don't lose 15 of their first 17 games to the Florida Lizards {or will they be the Fightin' Jorts?}...

Arsene Wenger Pulls An Arsene Wenger

With all the media {and player agents} tossing around names of known footballers and linking them to Arsenal as the signing to replace TH14 {Anelka, Torres, Tevez, Martins, et. al.}, Arsene Wenger very quietly went out and did what he almost always does: signs a talented player way off everyone's radar that many people have never even heard of, just like he did with Vieira, Henry, Ljungberg, Kolo Toure, Diaby, Adebayor, and so many others before, leaving many to say "Who?".

His name is Eduardo de Silva. Born in Brasil, he moved to Croatia at age 15 and became a talented young star, recently becoming the main man for both Dinamo Zagreb as well at the Croatia national team. He is 24 years old.

Good article on him from a few weeks back by the great Jonathan Wilson here.

What we know: dude scores goals, and is a classic goalpoacher {think Van Nistelrooy-type} rather than a striker to create goals from nothing. His goalscoring numbers are damn impressive: 71 goals in 100 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb, including 34 last season in only 32 matches, a Croatian league record. Similar numbers for the national team: 7 goals in only 12 appearances, and his 6 goals in Euro 2008 qualifying have led Croatia past England, Israel, and Russia to the top spot in Group E.

Arsenal sure could use a goalpoaching finisher; with Pires leaving and Ljungberg declining into a shadow of his former self, things have dried up in that department. Last year Arsenal created a ton of chances but their finishing was poor, so one would think that he could only help in this regard.

What we don't know: if he can score goals at this level, which is an extreme jump up in class from the Croatian league. Only time will tell. Van Nistelrooy scored a shitload of goals in a "lesser" league then went to ManUtd and scored a shitload more; Kezman scored a shitload of goals in Croatia and then failed at Chel$ea. I am reminded of Curlin this year going into the Derby, when he had won all of his races in dominant fashion but against lower competition, and the $64,000 question was whether or not he could compete against the big boys {he could, finishing 3rd in the Derby and winning the Preakness}.

Only time will tell. Personally, I think Wenger is a genius, and even though some of his signings haven't worked out {remember Francis Jeffers?} I believe in what he is doing and in his proven ability to find talent that fits what he is trying to do and make it better in the process.

As they say, "Arsene knows."