Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Quarters

Clearly I was a tad intoxicated when I wrote that last post. Rooting for Germany, France, and England? What? Well, I guess I did root for England yesterday, but that was only because they were playing Portugal, who, out of respect for the Portugal fan sector of the VTK readership, I will try not to bash today (other than to say that Cristiano Ronaldo ('ian-Ron) is a detestable pratt). All in all, it was a pretty dismal weekend for the teams I was supporting. Here's some notes on the matches, followed by the updated power rankings:

Argentina vs. Germany - While the result and the post-match fracus were disappointing, the match was fantastic. Maybe the best of the Cup. It's a shame that this was a quarterfinal match instead of a semi or the Final. You had two of the best in the world battling to a draw for 120 minutes, each notching a spectacular goal along the way, and it had to be decided by a penalty kick shootout. Unfortunately for Argentina, their star keeper (who I have read described as a PK specialist) had to leave the game due to an injury, and his replacement just wasn't up to the challenge put forth by Germany's great keeper, Lehmann. What can I say. It really sucks that a team that played as well as the Argentines did got bounced in such a fashion. But that's the game.

I watched the match with scoutie, duffless, et. al. at PJ Ryan's in Teele Square, which is a great place to watch soccer (I watched all the Quarterfinal matches there, actually). I had my Argentina jersey on and there were about 5 or 6 off us rooting for the Argentines. We sat on one side of the bar, across from the sizeable German contingent that were decked out in jerseys, face paint, hats, flags, horns, etc. Both groups cheered loudly, but it was friendly and I talked to a few of them, shook hands, congratulated them, etc. They left after the match, while we stayed for the second match. A few minutes later, I notice there's a Scorpions song playing. Then another. Then 99 Luftballons. I look over at the bartender and he starts cracking up. They gave him the mixed cd as they were leaving. Damn Germans.

Italy vs. Ukraine - One of these teams is not like the other. Let's face it - the Ukraine just wasn't up to it. They got pounded by Spain, then managed to get out of their group because of the poor quality of the other teams (and they only barely beat Tunisia), and then they get past an overachieving Swiss team via PK shootout. Italy revealed them for the second tier team that they are. There wasn't a moment in this match that I thought that the Ukraine would lose by less than 2 goals.

England vs. Portugal
- I think this was the first time I've ever rooted for the English national team. In '02 when the Brits came over to watch the early morning matches, I didn't actively root against them (except against Argentina and Brazil) but that's not the same as actively rooting for them (but I guess you could say that I was actively rooting against Portugal). And so, of course, they blow it as soon as I join their side. Sven insisted on using the 4-5-1 again. Lampard finally got a shot on net, but it was right at the keeper. blah blah blah, then the Rooney Incident.

This kid needs some anger management classes. That was obvious before this game. He just looks like he's going to kill someone. But I've always liked him as a player, even when he jilted Everton for Man U and became a star for England. He's passionate, tough, fast, and incredibly skilled. Leading up to the red card, he had been controlling/protecting the ball impressively against two players on his back. The battle got heated, Carvalho was holding his shirt and using his leg to block Rooney from the ball, Carvalho falls and pulls Rooney down, Rooney gets up and steps on his groin. Intentional? Tough to say. Probably. Didn't look like he "stamped" his nuts, as many are wording it, but it didn't look very accidental either. As a soccer fan I can say that this stuff happens in such a heated battle. As a man, it's absolutely inexcusable. Yellow card? maybe. Though Carvalho definitely should have gotten one for pulling him down by the shirt as well. The ref was right there and it looked like he was just calling a foul. Red card? I don't think so. Then comes The Antichrist, 'ian-Ron, to plead for a card and Rooney pushes him. Yellow card? Unfortunately, probably so. Two possible yellows in a 10 second span equals either a Yellow card or arguably a red card. I haven't heard/read anyone confirm whether he got it for stepping on Carvalho, pushing 'ian-Ron, or both. Regardless, it was an error of youth to allow yourself to be baited into losing your cool that much in a quarterfinal match. You just left your team a man down for the next 60 minutes. 'ian-Ron is trying to do damage control in the British media now, since he has to go back and play there [see comments for update on his future], but you know what kid? We saw that little wink and the snide shush gesture when you came off the field after helping to get Rooney sent off. When they get back to Old Trafford, I hope Rooney stabs 'ian-Ron's pretty boy face like he did to Ribery. Just kidding. I don't know if if was Rooney that stabbed Ribery in the face, but it sure looks like someone did. And I don't really hope that he stabs 'ian-Ron in the face. Black eye might be nice, though [update on Rooney v 'ian-Ronny in comments]. (sorry dewy/cj. I just don't like the way they play.)

France vs. Brazil - The most stunning moment of this match came in the 78th minute when Brazil subbed in Robinho for Kaka. Stunning why? Stunning because I thought Robinho wasn't playing because he was injured. Why would you not play your 2nd or 3rd best player (behind Ronaldinho and Kaka)? Am I the only person who recognized the difference in the way Brasil played with and without Robbie on the pitch. He's match-fit and available and you wait until you're a goal down with 12 minutes left in the match to bring him in. And he had an immediate impact. But there just wasn't enough time for that impact to play out. Would Brazil have won if he had played? I don't know. They definitely looked vulnerable this year, despite flashes of brilliance and wins in all 4 matches. France played great once again. Their defense is tremendous. I still think Barthez is suspect though. It seems as if he's allergic to catching a ball. But he's got decent reaction speed, parrying skills, experience, and confidence. And that might be enough for Les Bleus to Allez. I'm shaving my head ala Zidane for the France - Portugal match.

Current Power Rankings (penalty kicks may advance you in The Cup, but not in the Power Rankings):

1. Germany
1. Argentina
3. France
4. Brasil
5. Portugal
5. England
7. Holland
8. Italy
8. Spain
8. Mexico

lastly, here's a few interesting articles:

- Here is an interesting article on the representation of the power football clubs in this and future World Cups. Chelsea really was everywhere. (also, did anyone else realize that Romario is still playing? I thought he was dead)

- Essien campaigns for Adu to come to Chelsea/Ghana.

- Hope Amid Heartache For Argentina

Au revoir, Selecao.


Duffless said...

I've got World Cup fever, i'm shaving my head too!

Nice write up.

Dan said...

Merci. Vive la fromage.

Dan said...,,1811389,00.html

"Cristiano Ronaldo was in no mood for making apologies last night. The Manchester United winger seemed untroubled by the complaints about his underhand tactics in Saturday's quarter-final, smiling broadly and shrugging his shoulders before reiterating that he does not expect to be playing in England next season.

... Terry reflected that it would be "interesting" the next time United and Chelsea faced each other, but Ronaldo already seems to have made up his mind that his time in England is all but done. The 21-year-old expressed a strong desire last week to join Real Madrid, much to the irritation of Sir Alex Ferguson, and when asked whether a deal had been completed behind the scenes he smiled again and, choosing his words carefully, answered: "I like Real Madrid. We'll see after the World Cup."

He was asked why he was smiling and it was put to him that his body language suggested he knew more than he was letting on. "We have to sign it first, then I will talk to you after the World Cup," he replied. "As I say, I like Real Madrid. Do I want to leave Manchester? I don't know. Maybe."

His confidence about becoming a Madrid player may partly explain why he was not worried about having to explain himself to Rooney and the possible reaction were he to remain in the Premiership next season."

Dan said...

hmm. why are links getting cut off. don't know.

re: Rooney Rage

The Daily Mirror, The Sun, and Fox Soccer News were reporting today that Rooney tried to run into the Portuguese locker room to attack 'ian-Ron, but was restrained, and that the following day he threatened to "split him in two" the next time they met. Rather than citing the tabloids and Fox, I waited for the story to develop. Sure enough, later this afternoon, ESPN/Soccernet has Rooney saying the following in an official statement:

"I bear no ill feeling to Cristiano but am disappointed that he chose to get involved. I suppose I do though have to remember that on that particular occasion we were not team-mates"

That's the official statement. Did he charge the room and unofficially promise to split him in two? Dunno. Maybe. I guess it doesn't matter. I'm only really following this because of the 7th grader in me that wants to chase the crowd that's yelling "fight! fight! fight!"

Dewy24 said...

Ok. I hope your sweater is tied down because the gloves are coming off. Bitch all you want about a justified red card for an indescribably stupid move by Rooney. Portugal won because they are the much more talented team that has been chronically underestimated by the fraudulent VTK Power Rankings. If England had a player with half the creativity of Figo or Christiano Ronaldo they would have won something in the last 40 years and not be reflexively blaming their defeats on Latin cheaters. Ronaldo could care less what the English fans think of him because he plays for Man. U. whose fan base is 95% Irish that, by the way, despise the English team. Also I must say it doesn't surprise me one bit that a Yankee fan is supporting Argentina and Germany and not a legitimate underdog like Portugal. Why don't you add Brazil and Italy so you'd have 90% of the World Cup winners covered. Let me venture a guess who you were rooting for in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest yesterday. Was it Kobayashi? I knew it!

Dan said...

Surprise, surprise, dewy24 disagrees with me. Surprise surprise, he makes it a Yankees issue. Surprise, surprise, he roots for the team supported by all the people around him (in this case, Portugal, where he used to live) and defends them unquestioningly. Surprise surprise, he doesn't actually respond to the allegations that Portugal is a dirty dive team.

Gloves are off, sure. But you just punched the dude next to me. What the fuck do I care about England? But do you really think that all the criticism directed towards Portugal is reflexive anti-Latin racism? Just because a team is Latin doesn't mean they're being falsely accused of Latin stereotypes. Watch the games. I'm not the only one saying this about Portugal (and I'm not saying it about Italy, which is the more common target of reflexive anti-latinism). And it's not like I've always hated Portugal. I've rooted for them in the past, with you, and I actually went into the Holland match rooting for them (mildly albeit). Their quality of play has directed me to my current distaste for linguica. Are they creative and super talented? Absolutely. Maybe that's why it enrages me that they choose to play dirty anyways. They don't have to. (btw, it was very creative of them to not score on England when a man up for 60 minutes and wait for them to self-destruct in PKs (though I should mention here my glaring omission in this post, which is to give props to Ricardo who was absolutely unconscious in those PKs (and w/out a cheat sheet like Lehmann) and has played superbly all Cup)).

95% of Man-U's fan base is Irish? Doubt that. Irish despise the English team? Hate to tell you but I doubt that too. It's no longer universally true that all Irish despise the English team. As "the troubles" recede in many's minds, as "the Celtic Tiger" continues to bring prosperity and transform the country, as its residents become more worldly, as they continue to root for members of the English team through their EPL teams, as they continue to share cultural similarities with their neighbor, they continue to despise the team less. What used to be despising is now more often only a mild distaste if not actually rooting for the English team. To the point where I (the Irish American) found myself disliking England (because of vestiges of Irish nationalism) more than most Irish I know.

In case you were blinded by the light of even the slightest criticism of your beloved Portugal, I should point out that I concluded that the red card was probably justified (if given for a combo of the 2 fouls) and was critical of Rooney.

And lastly, I won't even respond to your stupid criticism of my support of World Cup teams having any relation to my Yankeefandom, because it's stupid.

Cristiano is an anagram for Anticriso, which is "Antichrist" in Portuguese. Just sayin'.

Dewy24 said...

I'm not saying Portugal doesn't dive. They do but I don't think they do it more than other teams and I don't think they are cheating when they do it. Nor do I think it is a "dirty" tactic. Exploiting a weak referee is smart play. Italy was flopping all over the field yesterday when it was in their interest to slow the game down. Thierry Henri acted like he was shot in the face in the France/Spain game which set up their equalizing goal. There are countless other examples of diving in the World Cup and the only consistency in the complaints is that they always come from the losing side.

I also find it curious that you didn’t mention who you supported in the Kobayashi/Chestnut match or that the Yankees lost 19-1 to the 4th place Cleveland Indians last night. What’s up with that?

Dan said...

classic. always with the Yankees trash talking.

I didn't mention who I was rooting for in the Hot Dog Competition because I'm blogging about it right now (and I won't get into how you blew me and my hot dog party off).

also, a quick update: I just talked to Joel who spent 2 weeks in Ireland during the World Cup and he put the percentage of people that were rooting for England at 50%. It's not your da's Ireland.

And of course other teams are diving. Of course it's part of the game now and of course it would be stupid not to recognize that and take advantage of it. All I'm saying, as we've discussed offline, is that Portugal is the worst offender. by far, in my opinion. They played in the dirtiest match of the Cup and 2 out of the 3 dirtiest matches of the Cup (Italy v US being the 3rd), and their opposition in those matches played considerably cleaner against other opponents. And England was the least carded team of the Cup prior to playing Portugal, and then when they play them they're fouling (or getting called for "fouls") left and right. What do all 3 of those matches have in common?

Dewy24 said...

I've figured out your hidden agenda. You are hell bent on labeling Portugal as the dirtiest team in the tournament in order to deflect attention from the most egregious violation of fair play and display of poor sportsmanship in Argentina's pathetic temper tantrum after their defeat to Germany. Way to go out with dignity. Submit to the mighty Portugal, Nolinho. You will be a happier man.

Dan said...

interesting. The French and German crowd is relentlessly booing 'ian-Ron right now. They must love the English.

who gives a shit about a fight after a match? at least they played clean during the matches.

Dan said...

speaking of 'ian-Ron, sorry bout your luck Kenny Boy.

Brian said...

I think you are both right and wrong. Portugal had some beautiful and inspired play but they do go flying at the drop of a hat (See Figo). England, on the other hand did not play anywhere near the level of Portugal, and got exactly what they deserved.

Is diving dirty? I think it is what it is. As things currently stand, you are rewarded for playing up contact more often than not, so it can be considered savvy. On the other hand, it is, in my opinion, the biggest obstacle to this sport being embraced by the United States.

I am officially rooting for "Not France" in the finals.

Dan said...

again, I am in the odd position of defending England: They did play a man down for the last 60 minutes of the match. Prior to that, I thought they played Portugal pretty evenly and most of the people I was watching the match with agreed.

As Portugal just got eliminated, I don't really want to get into bashing them, so I'll just address the issue of diving in general. I'm sure I'll be labeled as naive for the following, but: I think diving is a form of dirty play. It's cheating. It's punishable by yellow card, according to the rules. That everyone does it doesn't make it any more palatable. It's dirty deceptiveness. If you want to criticize A-Rod for slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove, and I know you all do, then you have to be equally critical of any player that dives in soccer and critical of the sport for tolerating it. One of the problems with soccer is that it is too black and white in its punishment. It's free kick, penalty kick, yellow card, red card. This results in the refs being reticent to A. call certain fouls in the box, since the only result is a PK; and B. punish dives, since the only form of punishment is a yellow card (you're not going to give team 1 a free kick if team 2 dives, because team 1 probably retained possession). So players know that they can probably get away with diving because even if the ref doesn't buy it, he's probably not going to give them a card. He could, but it's a chance they're willing to take because there's a set piece for their team and a possible card for the other team if they get away with it. For all the cards that were shown in this Cup (and they set the yellow and red card records), there weren't that many for dives. Maybe 5? I can only remember a couple.

Brian said...

The PK is much too nuclear an option. I think most fouls should result in the opposing team being awarded possesion with a free throw. Truly flagrant fouls should result in, bear with me, a timed man advantage (see Penalty Box.)

By the way, the whole three substitutions, once subbed for can't return, thing is stupid. It's a 90 minute sprinting contest, why not mix it up with fresh legs? Wouldn't that be more entertaining? This would allow for my other new rule, which is that any player writhing on the ground must be immediately subbed for and must leave the field for at least 10 minutes. That should cut down on the flim-flammery.

How do I get in touch with FIFA?

Dan said...

I definitely think that there are certain situations in which a PK is appropriate, like when a non-keeper uses his hand to stop a goal or when a player has a clear chance at a goal and is taken down. But for other ticky tack fouls in the box, I like your idea about the throw in.

I like the 3 substitution thing though. Makes it interesting.

Fuge from also suggested the idea about forcing a writher to sit out for a period of time, but without the sub so your team would be a man down. He suggested 2 minutes. I like 4 minutes. They would definitely think twice before rolling around.