Friday, April 27, 2012

EM 2004--Goodbyes and Championship Pick

My syndicate brothers,
EM 2004

Another Summer of Revival and Rebirth arrives at its culmination. As a committed Atheist I must admit, much to my chagrin, that the events of the past four weeks oblige me to proclaim faith in two separate sets of Deities. It appears that we must accept the existence of the order of Mount Olympus. No other explanation suffices to explain how in the hell the Hellenes (80-1 odds prior to the tournament) are now one valiant miracle away from capturing the only continental title that matters.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I would like to qualify that statement by saying that I now find the African Cup of Nations eminently entertaining. Africa is the only continent that holds a meaningful annual tournament, and it’s always a showdown between an unlikely Cinderella and an established power. This year Zambia astonishingly knocked off Cote d’Ivoire. The whole Endspiel was so gripping that my Internet connection gave out no fewer than fourteen times. Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Cameroon had previously fallen to the mighty three-peat Egyptian champions. Thanks to the Arab Spring, the Northern African football programs are all in disarray. This means we can all look forward to a few years of truly competitive African Football….maybe even a lighthearted Sportsbook courtesy of your friendly bookie JJ Before embarking on such an endeavor, I still must figure out what is consistently funny about Africa. You have my word that I’m on it J That being said, I insist upon laying down the law. Ahem. Africa and Europe provide the only worthwhile regional tournaments. Fuck your insipid CONCACAF Gold Cup. What shit could I possibly give about a tournament that will perpetually come down to Mexico vs. The U.S. Juniors? The Copa America never fails to escape my interest. The Asia Cup and the OFC Nations Cup put me straight to sleep. Viva Afrika! Viva Europa! 

In addition, I profess unequivocal conviction in the blessings of an eccentric group of pseudo-intellectuals known as “The Syndicate” “Summer’s gone, A Summer Song. I look at you and then I’m gone.” At I think those were the lyrics. The best I can do from hazy memories of being a flannel-shirt-clad young lad who foolishly thought that there was such a thing as an “Alternative Revolution”. I’ll miss all of you. I’ll think of all of you. I might even fantasize about the three female ones that came close enough to giving a shit about football that you wrote me. Great to hear from you, Ladies. J How about we engage in some wagers in subsequent times?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Hahahaha. The infamous trio included two ex-girlfriends and one soon to be ex-girlfriend. In keeping with the essential spirit of respect, I shall not identify anyone beyond those with whom I’m so close that they should have seen it coming. “The Three” do, however, do justifiably deserve a smile and a wink. You were and surely continue to be very nice girls. No hard feelings on this side. It wasn’t your fault that your boyfriend was hopelessly crestfallen over some below-average expendable mare. There we are. Before getting into any more trouble, let’s expend some words on Vicey’s wretched pursuit of a proportionate soundtrack for his schmaltzy farewells. The preceding words were written to Jan Garbarek’s “Twelve Moons”, spinning interminably on the old trusted JVC “Multi-Bass Horn”. Back in 2008, the Economist devoted an entire holiday double issue to the reasons we love music. Bottom line? The notes stimulate certain unreachable dormant neural networks that would otherwise be inaccessible. Your mind contains over 300 Octillion separate neurons. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the amount of grains of sand on earth or number of stars in the universe. Moreover, there’s very little you can do short of drinking yourself into a coma or snorting cocaine five times a day for fifteen years to kill them off. Merely because their not readily accessible doesn’t mean that you cannot gain passage through the proper stimuli. Music happens to be one of hundreds of thousands of incentives for you to infiltrate the dark recesses of your mind; the hitherto quartered offed and insurmountable barriers. I earnestly hope you allow your own personal melodies endow you with the license of penetrating your own impervious barriers. Now we’ll progress to the Top Ten songs that inspire me to write a proficient “Goodbyes Section”:

10) “Wake me up when September Ends” –Green Day
9) “My son” –Nubou Uematsu
8) “Dreamlover” –Faye Wong
7) “You’ll Never Walk Alone” –Die Tote Hosen
6) “X-mas card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” –Tom Waits
5) “The Blood of Eden” –Peter Gabriel
4) “Ask me Now” –Thelonius Monk
3) “With God on our Side” –The Neville Brothers
2)  “Soledad” –Pharaoh Sanders
1)  “Parce Mine Dominihe” –Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble

Thankfully a man named David Letterman popularized the Top Ten List. I, like every last one of you, would have been elated to present my Top 100 list. The former roommates even knew how to put a decent sound together. All of us have the inherent ability to compose a symphony, be it through words, notes, cadence, or what might otherwise be construed as prosaic work. Don’t get me wrong. I find indistinct paint splotches to be as trite as the next man. One simply has to believe that every last creature has something majestic to bequeath us all with…..a typical feeling when one is listening to Pharaoh Sanders. JJ

Ideally all of this obsequious talk will compensate for my decision to close the final match to all bets. Apologies, mates. The Euros have no third place playoff. The Czechs automatically collect the bronze by virtue of goal differential. Though the lack of redemptive prospects for the Czechs, Dutch, and much cherished syndicate members saddens me, I feel we should all enjoy the dramatic conclusion together, free from any fiduciary philandering. So without any further ado, allow me to communicate why this final shapes up to be a historic battle royale.

Supreme Champion of the European Football Universe—Portugal vs. Greece

Portugal vs. Greece

We end where we began. These two teams kicked off a tournament full of surprises with a shocking Cinderella upset over the highly favored hosts. The Navigators battled through their early adversity to win a rematch with a team that no prognosticator thought would even win a group stage game. I myself have incorrectly handicapped the Greeks in all six of their matches, picking them to lose five times and win once. Were I an actual Sports Journalist, the entire country of Portugal would surely be begging me to pick the Greeks. I sincerely doubt any other odds maker has been so consistently wrong about this team. My Final Stats:

Spread: 18-12
Straight up: 19-6-5

Sigh. Those these figures are among my best ever, imagine how dominant I could have been had I not been 0-5 with respect to the Greeks? Actually all one has to do is some simple arithmetic. On paper the Portuguese attacking options should make them 2-3 goal favorites, just as they were in the opening match. The Greeks are not only undermanned, they’ll be without Inter’s Giorgios Karagounis. Of course I’ve been saying this all tournament. The entire globe expects Christiano Ronaldo, Pauellta, Figo, and Deco to prevail on their home turf. How can they possibly dishonor themselves against a meek opposition with proven weaknesses?

I see a way. The Greek back four are miserly little obstructionists. They’ve blanked both the French and the Czechs by inserting themselves into the path of nearly every ball. Finesse teams have been constantly frustrated by their inability to string together more than three passes without encountering an obstinate Hellenic obstructionist. Fyssas, Setararis, and Kapsis appear to form some sort of triangulation defense that intercepts everything aside from pure flank prowess. In Ice Hockey parlance, this would be termed a “Neutral Zone Trap”. I do not purport to whether Rehhagel will be able to sustain his model or Scolari has a plan to exploit it. All I can say for certain is that chances are always at a premium during a Finals match. Either team can eke out a 1-0 victory on a controversial spot kick or corner. We’re there money involved, I’d have no qualms about making this a pick. I do not foresee the Portuguese offense catching fire in what will be a closely contested trench fight. I do think, however, that they just barely manage to avenge their previous abasement. The Greek pattern thus far has been W-W-L-W-W-? I say the trend continues. Portugal’s the pick. Enjoy the match. Enjoy the next two years. See you in the Fatherland for WM 2006!!

THE LINE: Portugal +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Greece 1, Portugal 0. Hmmmm…for those of you keeping track, that’s….fuck it you get the idea. How many times can one person make the same mistake? As you can see, some stubbornly endure to do so until the very end. Re-reading this passage brings raises memories of how I toyed with the idea of picking Greece. It’s plainly apparent that I even made an effort to talk myself into it. If my father were present he would without hesitation launch into his “You’ve once again weighed the evidence correctly and made the wrong decision.” Man, I can really hate that man sometimes! Why must he have such a valid point?

Persistent defending, timely substitutions, and the insanely recurrent curse of injuries/crossbars that afflicted Greek opponents led to the biggest upset in tournament history. To this one might add “The Curse of the Amateur Bookie.” There was much clamoring for bets on Greece after I made my pick. Thankfully I was equally stubborn in insisting the match was off the table.

Miguel and Figo produced the best opportunities in the first half the former forcing Nikopolidis into a fingertip save. Insofar as I recall, Christiano Ronaldo didn’t even manage a touch. Fullback Miguel limped off with a knee shortly before halftime, depriving the Navigators of the only player who had successfully pervaded a stolid Greek defense.

As predicted, chances were at a premium. While the Navigators had only secured two chances on target during the first half, the Greeks had none. They earned their first corner ten minutes after the restart. Basinas and Charisteas combined to make it count. Basinas had been subbed out comparatively early against the Czechs and was rumored to be jealous of Tsiartas’s heroics in that game. After spending days perfecting his delivery, he served up a perfectly curled ball that dipped right into Charisteas well-timed leap. Scolari immediately sprang into action, bringing in Rui Costa and Nuno Gomez. It would be to no avail. The Navigators did not produce a memorable effort until Caravlho forced a touch from the keeper in the 81st minute. Fyssas, Setararis, and Kapsis stood tall until the very last moment, deflecting desperate dying efforts from Ronaldo and Figo safely out of harms way. The whistle blew and the Navigators had blown it with hardly a whimper. A mere eight years ago, the Greeks were the beasts of Europe. It’s been downhill for them ever since.