Friday, April 27, 2012

EM 2004-Quarterfinals

EM 2004

A fine welcome one and all to my personal nightmare,

“Ach du Scheiße! Verdammt, verdammt, verdammt. Argggggggghhhhhhh.” Such thoughts cycle through the heads of all Germans, including the soon to be unemployed Rudi Völler. I imagine these are the only words swimming around in his skull as he stares at the blank page of his DFB letterhead resignation template. Why oh why did Christoph Daum have to do so much blow? Now we’re completely rudderless, with no apparent leader to ready to guide us back to greatness. Franz doesn’t want to return to the sidelines and Otto’s preoccupied. This leaves only one clear choice: A newly unemployed mathematics instructor from Baden. No, my father’s doing fine. He still has tenure. I speak of former Bayern star and coach Omar Hitzfeld. Hopefully 2001’s “Coach of the Year” can put an end to the string of forgettable trainers that have consistently failed to tap into the great promise of a reunified Mannschaft. This bites worse than the coked-out prostitutes at a Daum orgy. 

Editor’s retroactive notes:
Neither Daum nor Hitzfeld ended up taking the reins. Hitzfeld actually declined the job, preferring instead to take a three-year break from the game at teach Math at a small Gymnasium. Rehhagel too was approached after the tournament, but could not be plied away from Greece. It was then that the DFB made a move stupefying for both its risk and ventureness. They hired infamous diver Jürgen Klinsmann away from the LA Galaxy, where he served a dubious advisory role and had never managed. The entire country was flummoxed, not to mention thoroughly sullen. I was among many who were incensed. An MLS Advisor was to lead our Mannschaft? No one thought he could even make it past the round of sixteen. Klinsi’s rather New Age doctrine of fitness and sports psychology elevated a very thin side to the semi-finals, an accomplishment that owes more to home field advantage than any of his amateurish tactics. Thankfully, the rather quirky “Zen Master” bowed out after the 2006 tournament, going on to prove mediocre with Bayern and the U.S. National Team. A modicum of stability endures under his old partner Jögi Löw, who has ensured that the Mannschaft has no reached three consecutive semi-finals. I reiterate that Löw is welcome to stay so long as we advance to the semi-finals. Should this highly questionable 2012 team bow out any sooner, he needs to return to Karlsuhe and Otto can have the drapes fitted before the tournament is even over.

Oh well. I suppose a one-striker team simply isn’t good enough. Back to square one. Bobic, Brdaric, Wörns, Nowotny, Jeremies, Ziege, Hamann and Schneider are all set to retire. Out with the old and in with some fresh faces. Back to the Fatherland in two years. Tchüß, mein Jungs. Bis dann. Okay. The knockout stages are finally here! Before getting to all the excitement of this most spectacular weekend, we’ve six teams to say goodbye to


I feel like dropping to my knees Willy Brandt style. No amount of Höpfner will can wash the taste of devastation out of my gob. That Czech game was an absolute abortion! It was piercingly painful, unimaginably sad, and at the end the child inside me died. Searching for positive aspects to build on proves more impossible than finding a coherent point made on the Fox News Channel. Time to back the Benz into to the garage for a two-year overhaul. Is it 2006 yet? I see. How about now? Right.


I’ve completely run out of pokes with which to satirize you. I never want to see you running with the big boys again. Not only were you paralyzingly boring, you failed in your mission to serve as a German doormat. What the hell is wrong with you Riga Rouges? In Lebowski terms, you’re nothing more than a rug that draws Europe together…one to be pissed on at that. Goodbye.


Arrivederci! Looks as if none of those prayers were answered. A monumental flop from a very talented side. Doubtful that Trap’s contract will be renewed, so you’ll be in market for a new head case…er…head coach. Other than this change, you’ve a very young an immensely talented squad that come back largely in tact in two years time. Let’s hope you’ve learned to play by then.


The Blazers shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. They simply lost the lottery. They gave us two entertaining matches and will be back in plaid before one knows it. We witness the emergence of a top-tier footballing nation. Let Baric stay!


Look on the bright side, Heinz-Albert. Your anachronistic microstate retains its status as the #1 choice for despotic tax shelters! You’ll also be the co-hosts of the next European tournament. Now if you would kindly shut the hell up for the next two years, the actual nations to your north would like to pretend you don’t exist for a little while. There’s a nice chap.


The Spanish situation mirrors that of the Italians. There has been a colossal breakdown during which a very talented squad underachieved. New management must assume the helm, but a young group of players will return with more experience and better prospects. Few critical decisions need to be made, beyond what different shade of blue and red the team will wear next time.

Editor’s retroactive notes:
I know everyone’s anxious to read my upcoming forty-page dissertation on football uniforms, a masterpiece that will force Paul Lukas to bow down before my brilliant aesthetic prowess. For now, perhaps a little teaser will suffice. The Spanish kit cycle follows a predictably cool trend. During European championship years they sport darkened hues of red and blue, which they tint up to brighter ones in World Cup years. This merits a full investigation that I am now obliged to conduct. Rest assured that I’ll be back in touch with a full explanation soon.

Oh right. And here are my stats:

Spread: 14-10
Straight up: 15-4-5


Portugal vs. England


What a treat this one will be. Two red-hot squads with respective teenage sensations clash in what should be a fast-paced goal fest. Strap in, football fans. It seems like eons ago that both of these teams debuted languidly. Since losing their opening matches, they’ve both been on a ferocious tear. I sincerely doubt my ability to pick a winner; a task easily as difficult as predicted the outcome of a head-on collision.

Nevertheless, one side’s airbags will deploy and they’ll emerge from the carnage as the newly anointed favorite to capture the full glory. It will be the hosts. It has to be the hosts. Please let it be the hosts. I’ve no desire to read about mass riots across the Atlantic coast. Beyond my aversion to violence I genuinely think the Navigators are a more fluid outfit. Deco and Maninche own the flanks and should be able to out-maneuver Beckham and Gerard. Pauletta must sit this one out, but Nuno Gomez has shown that he can fill his position quite readily. He actually appears an upgrade, a speedier and more innovative partner to Christiano Ronaldo. Gary Neville and Ashley Cole are extraordinarily talented backs, but they've logged way too many minutes and are due for a slip up. Rooney can’t possibly keep up his superb play either. It’s only a matter of time before his one dimensional bull rush formula gets cracked.

A nasty premonition haunts me. These two countries are so evenly matched that the final result may be plagued by some embarrassing controversy. Here’s hoping for an honorable and fair match. Keep it clean out there, lads.   

THE LINE: Portugal +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 3, England 2. 6:5 PSO. Talk about one of the most electrifying matches ever. With apologies to Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, this one was a true “thrill ride for the ages.” Nah. Fuck Peter Travers and that useless fish wrapper. Michael Owen poached an ill-conceived back pass to Ricardo and resolutely booted one in at the three-minute mark. The Three Lions were off to a golden start and the back line were razor sharp in defense. Just when it appeared that St. George was invulnerable disaster struck. An overly fired-up Rooney tried to emulate Owen’s antics with a strong tackle on Navigator defender Jorge Andrade. His ambitious attempt to pickpocket left him limping. What an entire nation had hoped was merely a sprained ankle turned out to be a badly fractured foot. After five minutes of winced pinch hobbling, Sven was forced to sub him off. Reinvigorated by the ding in their opponents, the Navs orchestrated unrelenting pressure for the next hour of the match. James, the Coles, and the Nevilles stood tall, denying the command performance the equalizer it truly deserved. As the hour drew late, Scolari burned all three of his substitutions for extra attackers within a ten-minute span. His imposed gamble finally paid off in the 83rd minute. Two of his playmaking substitutes, Simao and Postiga, combined for a dazzling rope of a cross with an exquisite headed finish. Minutes away from elimination, the hopes of the host country were resurrected. Flares ignited all over the stadium. Pandemonium all over the strip.

Sol Campbell drilled a free kick off the post and hustled head in a second effort. It appeared the gritty Gunner had sensationally averted 120 minutes. But…no. John Terry was judged to have fouled Ricardo. Off to extra time we went. The Portuguese push left James very uncertain of his positioning. Twice Beckham had to clear the ball of the line with his confused keeper in no man’s land. One hundred and ten minutes in Rui Costa surged forward with a stunning individual. After shaking off defenders left and right for solid thirty meters he finally crushed an effort that left a flailing James without a prayer. The Navigators needed only to hold on for ten more minutes, but a perfectly implemented set piece established that we weren’t done yet. Beckham service. Terry won the aerial challenge to head it forward. Lampard with a bit of space to work with space. ON THE TURN……LEVEL. The singing subsided while an entire country shat out a collective brick.

This particular shootout actually went seven rounds. Beckham and Rui Costa traded misses to leave the leave the opening stages tied at four. The Portuguese had exhausted their reliably trained spot kickers. This meant that after lunging to his left to stop a misplaced Darius Vassell effort, keeper Ricardo Pereira had to dust himself off and seal the country’s aspirations with a successful strike. Watching a keeper peal off his gloves, pull up his socks and take a relatively short four purposeful strides toward the spot was a strange sight. The Shoulder Chain at midfield didn’t lose a link as the bizarre keeper on keeper standoff commenced. Ricardo stood twelve meters out and stared down James for one of those eternal moments that makes one swear one can sense the universe aging. Finally he stepped forward for a side footed low shot. James guessed wrong. Ballistic doesn’t even approach a serviceable portrayal of the reaction. Welcome to the goddamn jungle. To hell with Saturday Night in Death Valley. This made any American Football celebration I’ve ever witnessed look a women’s golf tournament.  


France vs. Greece


Grrr…These feta fucks are REALLY starting to piss me off. I discount them and they shock us all. I buy into them and they fold. Much Agrajag of “Hitchhiker’s” fame, I keep getting reincarnated only to have my new earthly vessel be mercilessly killed by the same person. What do you want from me, you damn dirty uni-brows? Blood? Damn you Viceis! My nose is now as out of joint as yours! My rectum is rosy red thanks to this unlubricated ass fucking! This ends now. The defending champs will make mincemeat out of you. They’ll slaughter you, hack you up into aesthetically pleasing portions, and serve us all a fine steak Tartar. Viera, Henry, and Trezuguet will school you in the ways of true impact players. The three strikers will be fed through passes from a rejuvenated Zinidine Zidane all evening long. No, I don’t give a lofty circumnavigatory fuck that Karagounis is returning. The talent-divide between these two teams spans wider than the goddamn Gothard tunnel. Goodbye, Hellenes. Hector me no more.    

THE LINE: France +2 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Greece 1, France 0. Ffffffffrmmmmm. For those keeping track, that’s four consecutive incorrect predictions involving the Greeks. This game illustrates the perils of skimping on your research. Had I elected to read up a bit more, I would have availed myself of the information that both Henry and Viera were injured. Henry ended up starting, but exhibited poor form for the entire match. Will Sagnol was hurt as well…but that probably wouldn’t have factored in. Another tidbit of gossip entailed Santini’s mental breakdown and subsequent secret resignation. One must always know if the French are of their Meds.

Santini’s neurosis proved no match for Rehhagel’s Zen-like sagacity. He penciled in Nikolaidis for his first start. He swapped in the more daring Fyssas at left back. The primary complaint I’ve received over the years goes something like this: “Vicey, why are you wasting everyone’s time with lineup projections?” Answer: the Daily Double. Mea Culpa. Always wanted to write that. I enclosed lineup predictions for two reasons, both of them more altruistic than opportunistic. First, I wanted to encourage more familiarity with player names so as to facilitate prop bets. Nothing maleficent about that. If more of you would be so bold as to lay $20 on a Rooney brace at 2-1, you stand a halfway decent chance of walking away with $40. I’m trying to help you, people. Next, I provided a service for football aficiandos. My lines often come out days before critical information might throw the line off. I reserve the right the move the line after multiple bets and/or new player data. However, the possibility of “out-scooping” me remains alive and well. That’s the way it should be. Otherwise you won’t keep coming back. You will keep coming back regardless, though won’t you? Please? You don’t even need to place a bet. I’m just happy to hear that you’re still alive.

A few diehards scooped me on this one. With Henry in deplorable shape, the French attack resembled…well…it resembled the Vichy Regime. The derided Karagounis threaded for Zaragorkis, who then marched down the flank before releasing a full switch cross that set-up the overlooked and perfectly positioned Charisteas. The Vichy parallels continued. By the seventieth minute the French supporters we’re booing their own team worse than a Phillies Game. Nothing worthwhile followed. Henry took some initiative in extra time, enough to see him get called offside twice. 


Netherlands vs. Sweden


In terms of Northern Europe, it’s an “acute conflict”! Hahahaha. Get it? Because the two countries are separated by a 35 degree line that runs through Denmark? You see? See? ……….okay…..that was lamer than “2 Fast 2 Furious” on opening night. All this talk of Omar Hitzfeld has me inclined towards the occasional math-related bomb. Both of these countries have traveled here via elliptical orbits….I mean….dammit….they’ve arrived here despite inconsistent and irregular performances.

This one’s a bit tricky as the Swedes will regain two starters and revive the Juggernaut that bitchslapped Bulgaria 5-0. The central problem remains they a’int facing no low-down dirty squad. They’ll come against, to quote Dolomite, the squad that “kicked Monday’s ass, put Tuesday in the hospital, smacked Wednesday around so that it would call Thursday up to tell Friday not to bury Saturday on Sunday.” Yeah…he’s bad. The man is out of sight. No one bets against Clockwork Orange and lives to tell about it. One team is peaking while the other stumbles down the mountainside. Van Nistelroy outlasts Larsson to grab a brace.

THE LINE: Netherlands +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Netherlands 1, Sweden 0. 5:4 PSO. Linderoth and Svensson returned to great fanfare. Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaakson valorously kept his side on level terms throughout much of the first half. Old man de Boer cracked a femur in the midst of a 50-50 early on, but the loss of the gray mare posed no significant difficulties. The Dutch unintentionally retaliated by cutting underneath the previous match’s hero Matthias Johnson, who had to crawl to the sidelines after an obnoxious knock from van der Meyde. The Dutch threw in every attacker they could to achieve a result. Heitinga and then Makaay came in to reform the formation. An impetuous back and a second striker were insufficient. Am over-stuck Ibrahimovic blast followed closely by a Mellberg miscue sent van der Sar and the Dutch to the semi-finals. What remains curious about this result is why Söderberg and Lägerbeck decided against utilizing their third substitute. Had they replaced Mellberg with Jakobsson, the result might have been quite different.


Nearly three weeks since we’ve filed a report. Before drawing to a close with a final pick, I wish to reassure all that the Summer Man finds his life improving. In large part I have one man to thank. Many indubitable thanks to my dearest mate, ------. It’s been a true joy to take in a few films with you, to discuss said films afterward, and to awake the next morning thinking about said discussions. Thanks so much, -------. The pleasure of having an intellectual equal to carry out eccentric conversations with transcends description. Thanks so much, -------. It’s a fascinating summer in large part thanks to you.

Editor’s retroactive notes:
Up until this point I’ve refrained from censoring anything. O.K….I might have deleted a reference or two directed at people who deserve protection. I preserve the preceding passage only out of respect for Buddy “------.” No I did no have some sort of lurid homosexual affair with Buddy “------.” A bookie must protect his clients and his friends until he draws his last breath. Perhaps the Italian side of me awakens, but I maintain that honor is a distinctly German concept. Keep up the great work, Buddy “------.” Rack up all the successes you can, mate JJ


Denmark vs. Czech Republic


Much to my delight the Czechs have earned their stripes…at the expense of the Fatherland. LL Red, White, and Blue stripes for Brückner and the boys. Now comes your advent. Destiny dictates that you demolish the most inferior of sides to make it through to the Semi-finals. You’re the only undefeated team left in this consternating tournament! Brückner wisely played only the reserve second-stringers in the Germany disaster. I’m scared shitless of a well-rested Barros. Ujafulsi, Rosivcky, Hübschman, Nedved, and Koller. Time to hit the bricks, legoliers. Czech and mate. Off to the semi-finals with the Prague Princes.

THE LINE: Czech Republic +2 goals


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Czech Republic 3, Denmark 0. Barros hit a brace and Koller added one. This was an implausibly great match that featured an amazing finish by Koller four minutes into first half injury time and two rapid-fire thunderbolts from Barros twenty minutes in to the restart. Around this time I began contemplating a shift in the betting structure.