Category Archives: Soccer

Seattle Saturday Roundup 4/30

I’m going to try to actually make sports blogging a regular activity, since I often find myself talking about sports with folks. I just don’t have the discipline to sit down and write out my thoughts at the computer all the time. From henceforth, I will try to write a new post here once a week. Getting on Twitter helps when following sports. 🙂

Had a couple of exciting things happen in the Seattle sports world today. It was day 3, and, I believe, the final day of the NFL draft. The Seahawks primarily bolstered their O Line during the draft. I think James Carpenter was a good first round selection. Our right and left tackles are going to be beasts, and that will do wonders for our running game. However, wouldn’t Carpenter have been available in Round 2? He was so far under the radar that most folks were surprised when the Hawks picked him.

I’m a little disconcerted that the Seahawks did not pick a QB this time. Happened to catch Trent Dilfer’s commentary on ESPN radio yesterday, and he thinks the Hawks should have drafted a quarterback. Charlie “Clipboard Jesus” Whitehurst is not a good longterm solution for the Hawks, and this will likely be Matt Hasselbeck’s last year. Dilfer thinks the Hawks missed out on a potential NFL quarterback in TCU’s Andy Dalton. We’ll see.

This draft class may be wasted, anyway, because of the NFL lockout. All of these college players aren’t getting the training or the coaching they’ll need to survive the NFL. It could end up being very difficult for them to transition as a result.

Moving away from the NFL to the other league that plays at Qwest, the MLS — how ’bout them Sounders? What an emotional win today. USMNT Brad Evans and Alvaro “El Flaco” Fernandez were all over the pitch. Flaco, in particular, looked great. He’s really stepped it up. Seeing 36,000 fans holding #11 cards in the 11th minute for Steve Zakuani made me choke up. I hope someone recorded that or took pictures to send to Zak. We’re now tied with RSL for 2nd in the Western Conference, which is just awesome.

It will be interesting to see what happens when we play a competitive opponent. Toronto kinda sucks right now. We were making mincemeat of their defense. How will the team play against Columbus or the Timbers? We’ve got some tough opponents coming up. We’re going to miss the speedy Steve Zakuani. Rosales should be back soon, and will get more playing time with White and Zak both out. Hopefully White will come back as well — although Nate Jaqua surely proved able to fill his shoes today. Nate had some good shots on goal.

Last but not least, the Mariners. Believe it or not, the Ms are going for another sweep tomorrow! Fister pitched a gem today, and it sounds like the Ms took advantage of some breaks. Finishing 12-15 after starting out so poorly — hey, I’ll take it. As my awesome boyfriend and fellow die-hard Mariners fan put it “Nice to see them show a little heart.” This team is playing like it’s possessed. Whatever Eric Wedge said to them to make them go 8-4…well, he needs to keep saying it when they’re slumping. While I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs by any stretch of the imagination — way too many holes in the offense — this team could very well break .500 ball. If they keep Felix and Pineida, and build around them as the core, we could be seeing some very good baseball in Seattle in the not-so-distant future. Hands off, Yankees. Felix is ours and there’s no way in hell you’re getting him.

Peace Out. Got an early Mariners game (10:35 our time) tomorrow I don’t really want to miss!

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The Suspension

I didn’t hear the break, thankfully. I turned the radio on right after it happened, only to hear Arlo White describe it. Those who happened to be tuned in when it happened heard the sickening sound of Colorado’s Brian Mullan breaking Steve Zakuani’s tibia and fibula. It was a dangerous, reckless tackle, and while I don’t think Mullan meant to break Zak’s leg, he meant to take him out for sure. Mullan was pissed off after yet another MLS non-call, and wanted to take out one of our best players. He meant to knock him down, but I don’t think he meant to hurt him.

Still, it’s a huge blow to the Sounders to have Steve Zakuani out for an extended length of time. His speed, quickness, and agility are tough to replace — if these factors are even replaceable. Plus, Zak’s a class act. He plays the game the right way. He doesn’t jaw at the refs, and garners a lot of respect from other soccer players. It’s a tough blow. Especially now that big forward O’Brien White is out with a blood clot in his leg(thank God they caught that before it was fatal), and breakout player Mauro Rosales is a gametime decision. The Sounders have depth, but they may not have enough depth for all of the extra games this summer — Champions League and the US Open Cup in addition to all the regularly scheduled MLS matches.

Even though Mullan apologized, which was pretty classy I gotta say, I’m glad he was suspended for ten games. MLS needs to send a message that retaliatory tackles will not be tolerated. You don’t make a hard tackle into a guy with your cleats up. That’s not cool, and could be very dangerous. But for anything good to come out of this, MLS needs to take a look at its refs.

The reffing is horrible in the MLS. Absolutely awful. Refs miss more calls than not, and seem reluctant to give players a red card. You don’t see that in international soccer. Pepe got kind of a bullshit red (in my opinion) in the Barca-Real match. It was definitely a yellow (I think it was a hard tackle — that game was so full of drama that I honestly can’t remember). Yet the ref didn’t hesitate to try to calm the game down, keep the emotions between the two sides at a simmer rather than a boil, and send a message that dangerously physical play will not be tolerated. What happens in the MLS is that a ref misses a foul, and the team that feels like it should have benefited from the foul ends up taking out a player on the opposing side. This can escalate to dangerous levels. The fouls that do get called in MLS, more often than not, are phantom fouls where nothing ever really happened. Maybe it’s time for MLS to train its refs on what a foul looks like. Time for the league to get a little tougher on reckless play.

Don’t just suspend Brian Mullan for ten games to send a message. Reform your reffing system, MLS. Start calling real fouls, before more good players like Steve Zakuani get injured.

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Community Shield Match

These Sounders look ready to start the season! The first half saw more of those troubling defensive lapses. James Riley made a pretty sweet header to save a goal Keller wouldn’t have been able to get to. US Men’s National Teamer Brad Evans (hearby known as USMNT Brad Evans) was sprinting all over the place, although it was hard to tell if there was much point to all his sprinting. We couldn’t get a good answer out of fellow Sounders fan Justin why USMNT Brad Evans is his favorite player on the team.

Many times, I wish Blaise Nkufo has been a bit faster. He’s so slow that it looked difficult for speedsters like Zakuani to set him up. Zak or Fernandez would try to pass the ball to him, and we just knew he was never going to get to it. Sigh. It’ll be interesting to see how long he sticks around, with O’Brien White here. White’s definitely much faster, and is a very skilled player.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s header was an amazing goal. He seemed to come out of nowhere, fly up over a bunch of maroon jerseys, and smack the ball right into the goal. Awesome.

I’m still learning how to “speak soccer,” so apologies if my analysis isn’t as insightful as y’all would like. I’m as much a fan of the game as anybody, but nuances still escape me. And I tend to get distracted by the chants of the ECS, whom my date found rather entertaining. My season tickets are right behind the ECS, and I know I’m going to be torn between watching and chanting with them and watching the game.

We had great seats, down on the 50 yard line. It stayed dry until about the 75th minute. And then the heavens opened up. All the clothes I was wearing got super soaked. We felt like die-hards, standing there in the pouring rain. Thank goodness the Sounders won!

Fredy Montero was on fire. I like to see him get going before the season starts. He apparently wanted to put on a show for Colombian pop star Juanes (who was in the stands). And boy, he did. Scored two goals in the second half. Great form. If he can stay strong for us at the beginning of the season, it’ll be awesome.

A bunch of players are going to have to step up. Evans is out with a pulled hamstring for 1-3 weeks. He’s replaceable, so I’m not too worried. More worrisome was the loss of Steve Zakuani, my own favorite player, towards the end of the match. I didn’t see the injury, but he was down on the turf for a while. Apparently it’s his hip. Hopefully he isn’t out for too long. Looks like Tetteh and Friberg will be seeing more time with both Evans and Zak out. They’re both good players, but Zak’s got more experience and is, in my own humble opinion, one of the better midfielders in the MLS.

Fucito will be out 3-6 weeks with his injury. Everybody root for him to come back healthy and strong! We love you Mike Fucito!

All in all, it was a fun game. Good luck against LA and Houston, Sounders! I’ll be back in the stands in April. My next update will be from England, as Dave and I recap the Chelsea-Man City match! Cheers!

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Cascadia Summit

My awesome friend Sabrina spent 40 minutes trying to get tickets via TicketBastard, and the two of us ended up sitting in the stands at Starfire for last weekend’s Cascadia Summit. On Friday night, it was pouring rain while the boys in rave green took on Portland. The field conditions were pretty terrible and the ball was rather slick, which likely contributed to Kasey Keller’s misplay on the first Portland goal.

The final score left we Seattle fans disappointed and the incredibly obnoxious Portland fans cheering. Reports from friends who ended up sitting on their side of the stadium mentioned that they were rude and uncouth. Soccer city USA? I don’t think so. Their bleachers weren’t even full!

Anyway, the final score of Friday night’s game was 2-0. Portland played really dirty football. There were quite a few missed fouls (hey, it’s the MLS), and one of Portland’s defenders physically held Blaise Nkufo’s shirt the entire game. Our attacking players just couldn’t finish though. It was really frustrating to watch. Zakuani and “El Flaco” Fernandez had a few good looks. I thought for sure one of Flaco’s balls was going to hit the back of the net at some point during the game. The man is fast, let me tell you. If we can get him going, he could definitely be a playmaker for us this year.

Sunday’s game took place on a rather nice, sunny, warm-ish day. The field conditions were still pretty gross after all the rain. It was our backups vs. Vancouver’s backups. Sabrina and I sat next to the ECS (Emerald City Supporters) so the, uh, rather salty language that often escapes my lips when watching soccer could blend in with the ECS’ frequent use of a four-letter word that rhymes with fork. Ahem. Before the game, as we were all launching into our “Clap Clap Ay” Sounders chant (you really have to go there to see it…I can’t describe it any better), the Vancouver fans were doing the YMCA dance. They were trying to do the “A” part in time with our Sounders “Ay.” Even the ECS was chuckling. The Vancouver fans were definitely acting goofy, and I loved it!

Like I said, it was our backups vs. Vancouver’s backups. And our backup goalie, Terry Boss, did not look good. He mishandled the ball on the first Whitecaps goal. Then, he ran way out of the box to try to stop an attacking player who was probably offsides, missed, and left the goal wide open. One of our defenders valiantly headed off a shot on goal, but another goal scored while Boss was struggling to get back. We were all pretty pissed. There’s a reason why Kasey Keller doesn’t run so far out of the box. The third goal was basically a one-on-one attacker vs. keeper — and I don’t fault Boss for that one.

Fan favorite Mike Fucito, who does anything he can to score a goal, pulled up limping with an injury. It looked bad. He had broken free and was sprinting down the field. All of a sudden, he started hopping and collapsed to the ground. He was on the ground for a good five minutes. This was not something that the freezy spray could have helped. Poor Mike. He got the loudest cheers of all when he was introduced (he and Ozzie Alonso get the loudest cheers in the lineup). The crowd started chanting “Mike Fucito” in support. He got up eventually, but had to be helped by two assistants back to the locker room. Word from the team is that it’s an adductor strain. Ouch. The universe needs to give Mike Fucito a break.

Backups that stood out to me included #14 Michael Tetteh. He plays a lot like Steve Zakuani. In fact, Zak later replaced him in the game. Tetteh is quick, and has a nose for making plays happen. Really solid play. Erik Friberg and O’Brian White also have a lot of potential. White seems to be quite a bit faster than Blaise Nkufo. If Nkufo doesn’t start producing, it’ll be interesting to see if Sigi goes with White or Nate Jaqua.

The Community Shield match is on Wednesday. You betcha I’ll be there! I have to miss the first two games of the season, but other than that, I should be at all the games. Scarves up, Sounders!

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Two months without blogging? Really?

Have I really not updated this for two months? Sorry sports fans. Grad school and work got to me, and I just haven’t had time! I promise a new, longer blog post soon.

This sportsologist has some exciting news. I’m going to Europe over Spring Break! And my buddy Dave and I got tickets to go see some Chelsea football! GO BLUES! We had to pay for a half season’s membership in order to even have a chance to buy tickets. It’s a racket, if you ask me. Is demand for Chelsea really that high? We’ll be taking in all the action from The Shed end. I promise I will write a blog post about it. How can I not?

Hope all you soccer fans are enjoying some Champions League action! Did you catch Barca-Arsenal last week? That game was absolutely AMAZING! We watched it in a bar, and I found myself rooting for Arsenal by the end of it. If you missed the first game, the second is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s in Barcelona. Should be broadcast at 11:45 Pacific Time. Many Seattle area bars will have it.

What else folks? Sounders preseason is underway, and the Cascadia Cup is in a week! The organization really dropped the ball on tickets. My friend Sabrina and I were both trying to get tickets — she was successful, I was not. You betcha I’m going to be there, rooting for the Sounders to destroy Portland! Dave and I managed to get season tickets. We have to miss the first two games for the Europe trip. Come on over and give us a holler this season — we’ll be catching all the action from Section 125 row HH seats 1 and 2.

The 7-9 Seahawks won their playoff game in January. Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run shook the earth. It was awesome. Go on Youtube and find the video of Lynch running to the Super Mario Brothers theme song. Hilarious!

The Mariners are at Spring Training. I’m having a hard time getting excited about baseball this season. Maybe it’s because I have Sounders tickets, or maybe it’s because Dave Niehaus is no longer with us (Rest In Peace, Dave). The last I read about them, they have a tall pitching staff. Intersquad games are beginning today.

How ’bout them Huskies? Husky men’s basketball is having a good season. They won’t win the Pac-10 due to some ill-timed losses to Arizona, but they’ve still been fun to watch.

And last but not least, I gotta give a shoutout to my alma mater. The Whitman College Fighting Missionaries won their first ever playoff game. Should they win tomorrow, they’re bound for the NCAA Div III basketball tourney. That deserves an enthusiastic MISSIONARIES MISSIONARIES WE’RE ON TOP!!!

More soon. I promise. I’ll come up for air.

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Welcome Blaise Nkufo! Now start scoring some goals…

Blaise Nkufo, striker from the Swiss national team, is here! And boy, did he look good in rave green at Sunday’s friendly. The 6’2″ 35-year-old forward had some great touches. With he and Montero up front, the Sounders could finally have the goal-scoring tag-team we’ve been sorely missing. It’s too bad Boss got a red card in the first half – Montero came out right after, and the Sounders had to shift to a more defensive game.

I read an article yesterday that said that the Sounders have to get 24 points in the final 13 games to make the playoffs. So they need to win at least 8 games, or win 6-7 and tie the rest. Tall order. I hope they can do it.

In other soccer news, it sounds like Freddie Ljungberg may be on his way out of Seattle. Lame. He, Nkufo, and Montero on the same pitch would have been amazing.

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Apologies for the long delay.

So, I guess I got a little bit caught up in World Cup fever. And now I’m going through some serious withdrawal. My days for the past couple of weeks have gone like this:

6 AM — Wake up
7 AM — Watch early match (I could not get up for the 4:30 AM ones. That would have killed me.)
9:40 AM — Class
11:00 AM — Watch lunchtime match
1:10 PM — Class
4 PM — Home. Homework
6 PM — Dinner
7 PM — More homework
10 PM — Bed

Yeah. No time in there to blog. But now that the World Cup is over, I’ve got a bit more time and can catch you up on all the sports news.

First off — Diego Forlan wins the Golden Ball! I totally called that. Without Forlan, Uruguay would not have gotten as far as it did. He was clearly the leader on that team, and an absolute inspiration. I loved watching him play. Even a newbie like myself could tell that he just dominated the pitch. Kudos to you, Diego. I’m going to try to watch you with Atletico Madrid, or with whatever team picks you up, soon.

Secondly — Viva España! One of the nice things about this World Cup final was that neither Spain nor Netherlands had won before. I was rooting for the Oranjje (or however you spell it in Dutch), largely because of Wesley Sneijder. See, I’m an American football fan, and my favorite footballers were the ones who played futbòl like it was, well, football. Sneijder played like a badass. And he looks like a miniature Freddie Ljungberg. Gotta respect that.

Thirdly — Sounders. Watching MLS after watching the World Cup is so disappointing. So many missed passes and missed opportunities for goals at Sunday’s game. I was there with a friend. It was rough. They tied. Again. And they played well enough to win. At one point Zakuani was one-on-one with a defender, and did not take a shot on goal. So frustrating. But keeper Kasey Keller is awesome, and one of his saves was so amazing that the entire stadium chanted his name in unison.

Fourthly — Cliff Lee is no longer a Mariner. OK, I totally saw that one coming. We got Rangers 1B prospect Justin Smoak and some minor leaguers in the deal, including one guy who pleaded no-contest to forced sex and unlawful imprisonment of a woman. Why he is still in the Mariners minor leagues, I don’t know. Honestly, they need to release him right away. Domestic violence has no place in sports.

Anyway.

I hope that the Lee trade ends up being like the big trade which sent The Big Unit to the Astros and netted us Halama, Carlos Guillen and Freddy Garcia. That was a good trade. Smoak is very good, has a great name for baseball (I can’t wait to hear what Niehaus comes up with), and provides some much-needed power to our lineup. But I will miss seeing Lee in a Mariners uniform. And, as my friend Loren pointed out, the Mariners threw away a perfect opportunity to build a team around a core of two phenomenal pitchers — Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. True, they *could* win the Cliff Lee sweepstakes after his contract is up this season and sign him. But will they really? And can they afford him? Had the Mariners locked him up, we would have kept our killer 1-2 knockout punch and built a team around that. One of these days the Mariners Front Office has to face the music — fans are tired, dead tired, of “rebuilding.” We haven’t made the playoffs for almost 10 years. That’s a long time. The Mariners better get off their butts and start building fans a team they can actually rally around before fans lose interest and start following the boys in green (Sounders) across the street. At least the Sounders Front Office will refund fans their tickets for a poor performance against the LA Galaxy earlier this season. How many poor performances does the Mariners Front Office expect us to put up with?

Lastly — I’m going to try really hard to update this a couple times a week. Honest. But Landon’s amazing goal inspired me to learn how to play soccer. And I’m learning how to rock climb. And I’m going to climb Mt. St. Helens. So this is going to be a busy summer for yours truly. It will be fun — and sometimes, fun is all you need.

OK. The Premier League needs to start soon. I’m going through Clint Dempsey withdrawal.

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Date Update

OK — so the sportsologist’s 6:30 AM date to watch US vs. Slovenia was kind of a dud. No, really a dud. I had already walked over to Azzurri by the time the guy called to say he had showed up. He was 15 minutes late. And he wasn’t really all that cute — didn’t look anything like his picture. The game was fun, but at halftime, he was on his iPhone the entire time. Um, not cool.

I happily trotted over to Azzurri after the game to hang out with my Italian friends and watch England vs. Algeria with them. A scoreless draw, after the referee’s debacle in the US game, was the best possible outcome for the Yanks. If we beat Algeria, we’re in!

My classes start tomorrow, so I don’t know how much time I will have to watch soccer and write. I will do my very best, though!

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That Red Card Was Crap!

OK. I’m pissed. That red card the South African keeper got in the 2nd half was complete and total crap. On the replay, it clearly shows Khume going for the ball, and not going for Suarez’ legs. Suarez has a flair for the dramatic and boy, did he ever capitalize on it! That was the worst call I have seen yet in this World Cup.

South Africa is basically all but guaranteed not to advance. Mathematically it’s possible, but here’s what has to happen. The standings for Group A right now are as follows:
Group A
Uruguay — 4
South Africa — 1
France — 1
Mexico — 1

France and Mexico have to tie tomorrow, giving each team two points. (So…Uruguay 4, France 2, Mexico 2, SA 1). South Africa then has to beat France in its final match, and Uruguay absolutely must beat Mexico. That would make the standings look like this:
Uruguay 7
South Africa 4
France 2
Mexico 2

I think that’s the only way to do it. Otherwise it comes down to some complicated math regarding goal differential, which I really don’t understand. (If one of my soccer-loving friends would propose another scenario by which South Africa could advance, please do so in the comments.)

I hope that Uruguay does not survive the Round of 16. Diego Forlan, you may be hot, but you’re dead to me after today. Uruguay was just flopping all over the place. It seriously felt like they were stopping the game every 3 minutes.

So, tomorrow’s Mexico-France game basically could decide the tourney. I’ll definitely be watching that one.

And a correction from the previous post — I’m predicting Ghana and Germany to advance out of Group D, not Serbia. I kinda was on autopilot when I wrote “Serbia.” Whoops.

I don’t think I’ve ever texted anybody so many swear words before as I did after that red card. Sorry about that, soccer buddies.

(An aside — now I’m kinda worried that the incredibly foul mouthed sports fan I usually keep inside on dates is going to come out on Friday morning. I don’t think the phrase “that red card was f*cking bulls*it” is really that charming, do you?)

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Spain vs. Switzerland

Wow. That was an amazing upset. Spain was heavily favored to win this one, but the Swiss stepped up their game quite a bit. Their defense really put the hammer down. Spain had a couple of good chances, but the Swiss defense stymied them.

And that goal. Amazing. Just amazing. Keep had come out, leaving the goal basically undefended. He couldn’t get back in time, although he really tried. Hard to tell if the goal went off the Spanish keep or not. Beautiful goal. Stunning upset.

It’s anybody’s World Cup, now. Switzerland could advance out of this bracket — Group H is really tough, too. It’ll be great to see what happens in the next couple games.

All 32 teams have played now. Here are the groups and standings, plus a few of my hunches on teams you should watch.
Group A
South Africa — 1
Uruguay — 1
France — 1
Mexico — 1
South Africa managed to play to a draw with Mexico in the first game. They could advance, especially since Uruguay, the team they play today, has two players with yellow cards and one who managed to get two yellows in the game against France — a red card. If South Africa beats Uruguay today, they could advance.
The Mexico-France game is likely to determine the first seed. France has three players carrying a yellow card, including Ribery. Definitely going to be a great game tomorrow.

Group B
South Korea — 3
Argentina — 3
Nigeria — 0
Greece — 0

I caught a replay of the South Korea-Greece match, and the South Koreans look really strong. Argentina only beat Nigeria by one goal, which was surprising. Nigeria will likely beat Greece. My predictions are that Argentina and South Korea will advance out of this group.

Group C
Slovenia — 3
US — 1
England — 1
Algeria — 0

Despite Slovenian trash talking, I think both the US and England can beat them. But the US has had problems with Slavic defenses before. US is playing with some confidence after the tough draw with England — hopefully some of that carries over into Friday’s match. Sorry Slovenes, but we will crush you. Both US and England should be able to beat Algeria. My prediction is that both US and England advance. I’d rather US get out of this group first seed, and not second. Second seed is likely to face Germany…

Group D
Germany — 3
Ghana — 3
Serbia — 0
Australia — 0
Boy, did the Germans ever make mince meat of Australia! I’m picking Ghana and Serbia to advance. If Australia is really that poor, Ghana can beat them. My poor Serbs have no chance against Germany, but will likely beat Australia. Sorry Aussies. Better luck next time.

Group E
Netherlands — 3
Japan — 3
Cameroon — 0
Denmark — 0
If Denmark beats both Japan and Cameroon, it could come in second and get out of this bracket. But Japan played well against Cameroon. Asian teams are playing well at this World Cup, and they could very well advance out of this bracket if they keep it up. I’l be watching the Japanese closely.

Group F
Paraguay — 1
Italy — 1
New Zealand — 1
Slovakia — 1
Italy nearly lost to Paraguay, but should be able to beat both the Kiwis and the Slovaks. Second place is anybody’s game. Paraguay played tough, and are likely feeling pretty confident after playing the 2006 WC champions to a draw. I did not see the NZ – Slovakia match.

Group G
Brazil — 3
Ivory Coast — 1
Portugal — 1
North Korea — 0
As I wrote yesterday, Brazil is all but assured passage out of this “Group of Death.” Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a scoreless tie. North Koreans scored a great goal against Brazil, and proved surprisingly tough. Their defense wore out at the end, though. Second place will likely come down to how much Portugal and the Ivory Coast beat NK by, and how much they both get beaten by Brazil. But Brazil did not look dominant for much of yesterday’s match. Watch the games with Portugal and the Ivory Coast closely. Could have a few surprises.

Group H
Chile — 3
Switzerland — 3
Honduras — 0
Spain — 0
The big question after today’s upset is — will Spain advance? Only 8% of the teams that lose their first match advance to the second round. Switzerland, as I wrote earlier, played absolutely brilliantly against Spain. Their defense, and keep, were both bad ass. Switzerland could be the dark horse out of this group. Watch this one, as well.

Thoughts after the first matches? Comments? Predictions? The upset made this WC a lot more exciting.

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