Category Archives: World Cup

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.


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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Group G

I thought about skipping the 7 AM match between Ivory Coast and Portugal, but then I read the analysis on the FIFA website about Group G. This group consists of Portugal, Brazil, Ivory Coast, and North Korea. Brazil was ranked first in the 2010 season, Portugal third, the Ivory Coast fifteenth (I believe), and North Korea 105th. Talk about a tough bracket!

Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a scoreless draw. There seem to have been a lot of draws in this World Cup. It makes the group standings rather interesting. More on that later. The draw likely hurt Ivory Coast, and may have helped Portugal. Both teams are likely to get beaten by Brazil — although North Korea gave the Brazilians a run for their money today. Both teams are also likely to beat North Korea. Second place in this group may come down to goal differential. We shall see.

I was definitely impressed with the North Koreans today. Their defense had Brazil stymied in the first half. But Brazil wore them down, scoring twice in the second half. North Korea scored a brilliant goal, and was really pressing to score another one at the end. With the exception of the guys in Brazil jerseys, most of us at the Italian soccer bar were rooting for the Koreans in the last few minutes. They scored against the best team in the world, and you have to respect that.

Group H plays tomorrow, and then we start all over again with a Group A match — South Africa vs. Uruguay. Right now, two groups are essentially all tied up in the standings — Group A and Group F. Like I said, there have been a lot of draws in this World Cup.

USA vs. Slovenia on Friday. Slovenia’s Andrej Komac has been trash-talking, predicting that Slovenia will beat the US. This is the equivalent of Hasselbeck saying “we’ll take the ball and we’re gonna score.” Bring it Komac. Bring it.

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World Cup Fever

I have been getting up at 6 AM to watch World Cup matches since Saturday morning. Something about the atmosphere at the George after the Sounders loss on Thursday night — I got caught up in World Cup fever. The best way to learn about a sport is to throw oneself into it, I think. So I’ve been hanging out at the Azzurri soccer bar in Fremont. Great atmosphere — really chill. And people are happy to teach me about soccer.

I caught the first few matches at The George and Dragon. Nice atmosphere, too, although I don’t like getting hit on by extremely drunk dudes at 9 AM. Predictable result for the first game I saw — Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0. They replayed the South Korea-Greece game at 9 — SK looked completely dominant.

And then, the big kahuna. England vs. USA. The George is a Brit bar, but it seemed like 3/4 of those there were rooting for the US. We could not get inside, and watched the game from the beer garden in the parking lot. US got scored on early, which seemed to deflate the crowd. But then we got a lucky break. Green, the English goalie, really lived up to his name. He missed the ball. 1-1 tie. The bar erupted in cheers of “USA! USA!” And I was hooked.

I still don’t quite understand the mechanism that allows teams to advance to the next round. I know you get a certain number of points for wins and draws, and then goal differential gets involved. It’s rather confusing. But a draw with England is great for the US. Since Slovenia beat Algeria, both teams have to beat Slovenia to be assured of advancing. We will see what happens.

Got here early yesterday to watch my Serbia lose to Ghana. Serbia played really ugly, and got a red card. And then, one of the players gets an automatic yellow card for a handball. Kevin-Prince Boteng kicked a beautiful penalty kick. Serbia’s goalie went one way, and the ball went the other. Tough break for my Serbs, but you can’t make dumb mistakes in the World Cup.

Just finished watching Japan v. Cameroon. First real upset of the cup. Cameroon stepped up their game in the second half, but it was easy to read their strategy — long pass forward and hope a forward gets it. Japan could read it no problem — they just moved everyone back.

This place is about to be hoppin’ for Italy vs. Paraguay. It’s an Italian soccer bar. By default, I’m rooting for Italy.

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Japan v. Cameroon

A lovely buon giorno to you from the Azzurri Vino Bar in Fremont! After watching Saturday’s games at the crazy George and Dragon, I am now hanging out in a much quieter place. Dealing with drunk dudes trying to hit on me at 9 AM is not my idea of a good time. I’ll be camped out here for most of the World Cup, and anyone is welcome to join me. I’m not hard core enough to get up for the 4:30 AM matches, but I’ll be here for most of the 7 AM ones. After Summer Quarter starts, I will be watching the 11:30 matches at Schultze’s on The Ave.

Good match so far. Japan caught Cameroon’s defense back on its heels, and scored a lovely goal in the first half. Second half is starting. Better pay attention. More about World Cup madness after this game finishes.

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World Cup Fever

After watching the Sounders game last night at a great soccer bar in Seattle, I got hooked. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius scored three goals, and it was 3-0 for most of the game. My uneducated observation (I’m rather new to soccer) was that it seemed like the team had difficulty finishing their drives. The Sounders were great at getting the ball down the field, but had difficulty getting open to take shots on goal. And when they did take a shot on goal, the shots often missed the mark. It was frustrating.

Then, an amazing thing happened. Two Sounders goals in the last few minutes of regulation! The bar I was watching went nuts. And for the minute of stoppage time, we were riveted to the screen, waiting to see if the Sounders would score a third goal and tie the game. They didn’t. But I got hooked.

The World Cup began today, and I have soccer fever. I have it bad. I drove over to Microsoft to watch the 11:30 Uruguay-France match with a friend of mine. When ESPN replayed the South Africa goal at halftime, the entire restaurant erupted in applause. Both the South Africa-Mexico match and the Uruguay-France match ended in ties — so all four teams in Group A are essentially tied in the standings. South Africa could actually advance if they beat Uruguay and tie France. It’s exciting.

Yes, Seattle has gone soccer mad. And I’m using the World Cup as Soccer 101, trying to learn all I can about the sport. I’ll actually be getting up at 6 AM tomorrow to drive over to the George and Dragon to watch Argentina v. Nigeria at 7 and England vs. USA at 11:30. It’s going to be awesome.

Stay tuned for interviews with big-time soccer fans! Are you watching the games? If so, where? And why do you love soccer?

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