Man. What a World Cup, so far. Blogging time is still at a real
premium for me, but I thought I'd punt out a few notes (no pun intended
on Chime's entry "Incredible Golie
First of all, I'm glad for all the co-signs on my recent complaint
about the atrocious ABC/ESPN
found the same on-line petition to get rid of these
others did. I
signed with the following comment:
O'Brien is atrocious. Messing is an buffoon. The rest are tolerable,
but ESPN must do better.
If you feel our pain, go add your sig. At least you'll get five seconds
of satisfaction out of it.
I must say, though that I'm not quite as harsh as some of
my fellow complainers. I do think that some of the announcers are
decent. I don't mind Dellacamera. He clearly does not have a 130
football IQ, but he does keep a decent rhythm in his play-by-play, and
knows enough of the game not to get too many details egregiously wrong.
If he were paired up with a good analyst, again a
Robbie Earle type, he'd be just fine. I also think Balboa is decent,
and suffers mostly by having to spend so much time untangling O'Brien
from his own tongue. I was relieved years ago when ESPN replaced
Wynalda with Balboa for most of their big-game commentary.
I also share people's disdain for Wynalda (who does that punk think he
is?) and Lalas (another self-inflated bladder). Balboa doesn't wear his
hall-of-fame credentials as triumphantly on his sleeve as that pair.
Finally, I won't hear a bad word against Julie Foudy. Some people may
not like the idea that a woman is one of the better American football
analysts, but it's true, and for good reason. She ran the on-field
tactics of one of the most dominant football squads ever, and if you
watched the US Women's national team at its peak, you'll know that it
was often mid-game adjustments driven by Foudy that led to their
success. In my opinion, she not only has a brilliant football brain,
but she also explains the
tactics well. I do think she has not shown her best in this World Cup
coverage, but I think it's in large part because of the silly moderator,
who has the apparent mandate to ask the analysts for dumb analogies, and
for 100 different ways to repeat their assessment of the US team (even
if the US game is days in the past, or future).
And hey, I've watched Faye White giving analysis on Sky TV, so I know it
can get a lot worse than Julie Foudy.
I must say that I have resorted to watching some games on Univision, and
I've always loved those commentators. Good way to practice my Spanish
comprehension, as well. Good for Univision. They treat the game with
respect, and they should get the advertising mojo. Based on comparing
ads on ESPN and Univision, the big business names definitely know better
than to sink too much money into the former's diffident coverage.
But anyway, about the fun stuff--the games.
I must be the only one who thought Avery John's second tackle in the
T&T/Sweden game was undeserving of a foul, let alone a second yellow
card. Sure he went in hard, but he clearly went in for the ball. I
thought the draw was a bit of justice.
Argentina/Côte d'Ivoire was a marvelous match. The Africans paid for
being so wasteful in front of goal, and for having the most scandalously
bad center back pairing until the U.S. team played. Their midfield
pretty much dominated Argentina's, but they never picked their heads up
to send the last ball in to the strikers. Instead they either dribbled
into dead ends, or passed the ball merrily to astonished, but grateful
Argentines. Touré and Eboué were as solid as you'd expect
(Gooooooners!), but they
were let down by their central colleagues.
The Dutch played their signature, gorgeous football, but seemed to lack
predatory instinct beside Robben and van Persie. Robben's dazzling goal
was enough for them in the end, though.
Mexico/Iran was also a huge treat because it's rare to see a game fought
so uncompromisingly, and yet in such good spirit. It was high speed and
high pressure across the board, but clearly played by 22 gentlemen (no
one was calling Mexico gentlemen in 2002, so let's hope they keep up the
hygiene). Mexico clearly had the advantage in fitness, which was the
difference in the end.
Angola/Portugal shares the snoozer award with England/Paraguay and
France/Switzerland so far.
Having watched Ghana play Italy I'm not so sure Côte d'Ivoire is the
best African representative. Ghana played a lovely game, with the
unfortunate lapses in concentration that have become characteristic of
African teams. And we all know what Italy does to teams who lose
And then there was U.S. versus the Czechs. I hope now people can drop
the hyperbole about Landon Donovan. He's a good player, but just put
the likes of Nedved on the field and the difference in class is
painfully apparent (and Nedved was having a relatively off day). At
least no one gave Nedved reason to throw one of his characteristic
temper tantrums. Sure Landon ran circles around an aging German team in
2002, but let's see him manage that against the current Germans (beside
the still-ponderous central defender pairing). I hated to see Oguchi
Onyewu so badly outclassed as well (Igbo represent, or...not). I just
hope this tournament will teach him lessons that he won't really pick up
in the Belgian league. Beasley's disappearance was amazing. I really
didn't expect all that much from Convey, despite the hype, but I did
expect Beasley to be ghosting past giant defenders until one of them
decided to chop him viciously down. As it was the Czechs didn't need
Eddie Johnson came
in and provided a heck of a spark. I'd been pretty annoyed when Arena
didn't start either of the soccer-hip-hoppers Dempsey or Johnson.
They're the only two players on the U.S. team who don't know any better
than to take on world class defenders one on one (that's probably the
Hip-Hop attitude right there). I think that considering that Italy will
neuter the U.S. midfield as surely as the Czechs did, Arena had better
bench McBride (a shame, because McBride is a fine goal-scorer) and put
in both Johnson and Dempsey, who can cause havoc blazing in from near
the half-way line. McBride plays best with his back to goal, and the
present U.S. midfield will never get the ball to such a forward.
Personally, I can't see the U.S. beating either Italy and Ghana without
wholesale changes. Italy versus Ghana proved how fast and physically
imposing both teams are. If the U.S. couldn't handle Koller's strength
and Rosický's quickness, they'll really be in for a belting against the
other Group E teams. Sure the U.S. was over-matched, but I put the loss
down to Arena's tactics. He never really gave them a chance. And the way
he's shifting responsibility to his players in the media is disgraceful. The
last thing the U.S. needs right now is blow after blow to team spirit
inflicted by their own manager.
Speaking of Rosický, hell yeah! Let's see some of that at Ashburton
Grove. It would go some way to making up for his big mouth.
So Togo actually scored a goal. They should be thankful. I predict
misery for Togo, and it would serve them right for their treatment of
Keshi. It's not just that Keshi is a Nigerian, but that he's an
African. I have as much disdain for the Nigerian sport authorities for
not promoting Sia-Sia after the Flying Eagles' U-20 world championship
heroics. If African nations don't start appreciating African coaches,
they'll never attain the class of the Europeans and South Americans.
Brazil/Croatia was what I expected. Brazil did just enough to get the
result. It's too bad Croatia never managed to score, or we'd have had
more of a spectacle. Ronaldinho had a few flashes of outrageous
brilliance, and Carlos proved again that he wallops a leather ball as if
it were a toy balloon. Ronaldo, however, grew roots under his boots.
Something's up, and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't make an
appearance for the next game.
Spain/Ukraine was nothing like I expected. The new-look team seems
to have worked for Spain, because the players clearly haven't read the
script, and have no idea they're supposed to disappoint everyone. They
assailed the Ukraine, sally after sally with such venom that the Eastern
Europeans staggered back instinctively, finding themselves down two-nil
in under 25 minutes. I hope some other teams pay attention and go for
the feeding frenzy start. The U.S. definitely will have to do so
against Italy. The Spanish victory was quite sullied by the
inexplicable foul call and red card early in the second half. The
referee looked as if he was in a great position to see that David Villa
took a wild swing, didn't strike the ball well, and fell of his own
clumsiness. How he construed a whack by the Ukranian defender is beyond
me. The refereeing so far has been--shall I say--quirky. But my oh my,
that fourth goal. I would have thought nothing would top Puyol's
rampaging run and visionary pass, but El Niño's scorching strike just
about did it justice. I picked Puyol as a player to have a real
presence, but I expected it to be more a matter of erasing an opponent's
star striker, rather than with mid-field cameos.
BTW, I was going to say that this World Cup has been a terrible
advertisement for central defenders, and then Puyol came along and
redeemed the class. Who knew he'd shed his occasional clumsiness so
emphatically on the big stage?
Tunisia/Saudi Arabia was maybe the best spectacle so far. It was also
fought with a combination of intensity and good spirit. You're either
Tunisian or born with a heart of stone if you didn't cheer Al-Jaber's
marvelous goal. And if you know Bolton at all, you recognize the
pugnaciousness that went into Jaidi's response.
As for Germany/Poland, all I can say is: didn't I say Neuville is one of
the wiliest strikers? And a great choice for a late entry? One thing
the World Cup is lovely for is giving the true soccer fan those
occasional moments when he can puff himself into a petty Nostradamus.