Friday, April 27, 2012

EM 2004--Round Three

EM 2004

Salutations seekers of Poetic Justice,

Yes, I’m happy to report that humble pie tastes like the sole of a Sewage Sanitizer’s boot. Serves me right for antagonizing all you pasta-munching-fucksticks. My pride may be thoroughly emaciated. Bear in mind that my wallet remains fatter than your mother….whom I had sex with last night! Ohhh….snap. Alright, enough banter. Let’s grade the bookmaker:

My Stats:

Spread: 8-8
Straight up: 9-2-5

Read ‘em and weep boys. Let’s say goodbye to two Eastern Allies.


“From the Southern Seas to the Polar Tundras,
Widespread are our forests and fields
You are uniquely one of a kind
Native Fatherland protected by God!”

Apologies there, Ruskies, but there can be only one “Fatherland”. Somehow I suspect this translation isn’t entirely accurate. I was always taught that this sovereign domain was referred to as “Mother Russia”. Pick a begetter, people! Anyway, we’re rid of the team so dull they don’t even have a nickname. Goal scorers included……no one. Highlights included….nothing. Sorry once again. There can be only one “(Drunken) Peter the Great” and he’s the one who profited handsomely off your demise.

Editor’s retroactive notes:
Eight years on and I’m yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to why half of the translations I look up refer to Russia as the ”Motherland” and half refer to it as the “Fatherland”. Surely one of my Russo-Readers can clarify this contradiction for me. Want a betting credit? First you have to admit that you actually read this dross J


Mako ne mako. Thanks so much for joining us once again. Have you met the door? It’s tailor made just for you. You’ve qualified for nine major football tournaments over the past forty years, making it past the group stage twice. One of those times was in America, so it doesn’t really count. After respective 0-5 and 0-2 defeats, we’ll be wishing you a fond 0-1 loss before you hop on the Sofia Charter. Ciao!

An astonishing 14 teams remain in contention. Let’s rank them.

1) Czech Republic 

Brückner’s Boys remain the only undefeated team in this tournament, fresh off an incredible comeback over the reeling Dutch that I cannot believe I just witnessed. If there is an Achilles Heel to this well-rounded team, the Germans have 96 hours and counting to find it. As it stands now, Schröder better send the minions out for a twelver of Budvak Lezak. LL   

2) Portugal   

Way to step it up! The much-hyped “Battle for the Iberian Peninsula” looms. You wouldn’t dare crap yourself in front of the home fans twice would you?

3) Greece    

Time to upgrade this team’s status. Looks as if they’re not junk after all. The draw with Spain requires that I hop on the bandwagon and buy me some Greece. Averse emotions precede such a transaction, as when one dips one’s big toe into a frigid lake. A quick phone call to my Greek cousin Viceis Papapeteros should put me at ease.

Editor’s retroactive notes:
A Greek piece, circa 2004, that includes the terms “upgrade”, “junk”, and “status”?  Irony climbs through the window and insists I should apply for a job with S & P.  

Viceis: ‘ello?
Peter: Hi Viceis! Your German cousin here.
Viceis: Ah, my friend, my friend, my very much good friend. I haif some very good nice special specials for nice very special good friend of mine today. You want special very today a-ok filling meal? Very special lamb, hummus, and feta for good special friend? Fill you up nice and special. Ok for friend special you today?
Peter: Er..maybe later. I was actually looking to buy in to the Greek football team.    
Viceis: Ah yes. Very very good special team, my friend. I give you good deal on this team. You really, really, really like this team. They nice team. I know you like special team, my friend. This team good special very for you.
Peter: Well, the thing is, I like Otto….
Viceis: Special good man. Otto good and special just for you. Extra good and filling.
Peter: Er….Right. I’m just a bit suspicious that you’re bereft of playmakers.
Viceis: No, no, no, no, no. You no think of that, my friend. Dis team no bearless. We haif many special good bears. Bears nice and filling. Nikolaidais good bear. He satisfy special very good nice. Everyone want Charisteas. You no take Charisteas, someone else take special very and you regret, my friend. He big, strong very nice bear. Vryzas and Karagounis make nice filling meal. Make my very special good friend happy.
Peter: Yes, but what about the Spanish, Portuguese, and Czechs?
Viceis: No,no,no,no,no,no. Other teams no nice and filling. Other teams no made very special just for you. You throw up with other teams. Very, very bad. I give you good quality very nice extra special premium no bad team. Reasonable price, my friend. Price only for good friend, special just for you. I throw in Giannakopoulos for nothing. Just for you my friend. Nice and special team. Premium team for you my friend.
Peter: Hmm…
Viceis: You no more think. You try. You try nice extra very good special heavenly team and you no like we talk about it. Other teams no heavenly. This team very special just for you, my friend.
Peter: Well…
Viceis: My friend, my friend?
Peter: Er……
Viceis: Very nice good special, my friend?
Peter: Alright! I’m on board. I’ll give the Greeks some respect and pick them this round.
Viceis: Nice extra good choice my friend.
Peter: Okay, Viceis. I’ll talk to you later.
Viceis: You want extra special nice paddleboat ride out on lake, my friend?
Peter: No, I’m cool. I really need to….
Viceis: Crispy, flaky baklava my friend. Melt in da mouth. I give you haif price. Special baklava made just for very nice special friend?
Peter: I’m fine. There are some things I…
Viceis: I paint you. You very attractive. You so beautiful, my friend, my friend, my friend. I paint you for free. You give me nothing until you see painting. I no interested in money. I must paint such very nice special person.
Peter: Thanks, Viceis, but you can’t really paint me over the phone and besides that I have to….
Viceis: Okay, my friend. I give you tour. Some very much good tour. Best tour of your life. You see everything. Nice and filling. You tell your mother and she say “what extra nice tour” 
Peter: Viceis…
Viceis: Special ladies! Very nice special ladies. Pussy taste like baklava from heaven, my friend. So very special just for you.
Peter: Viceis…
Viceis: Laser pointers! Haif price for special person on very special nice laser red laser pointers. You take pointer and make red laser then we talk about price, my friend
Peter: VICEIS!!  
Viceis: my friend?
Peter: If I pay you full price for a tray of baklava will it shut you the hell up?!?
Viceis: Okay my friend. We do business. This just business. You buy baklava and get free laser pointer and Greek Football Team. Tell your friends, mother, and pet hamster about very special nice premium good deals, my friend. We do business, my very special friend.
Peter: Thank the fuck Christ. Goodbye, Viceis! click

Editor’s retroactive notes:
Bwahahaha. You know something? I’m glad those fucking girls left! Having completely forgotten about this character, I’m bringing him back. No, I don’t care what you think. By now it should be apparent that I could give a shit if a gag doesn’t go over well.

4) France    

So the Croats exposed them as human? So what? They’re still likely to win their group and be well positioned to defend their crown. Vive les Frogs!

5) Sweden

Way to bitchslap those nettlesome wops! Group C is all yours. We have the smoking gun that proves the Swedes are for real. They’re also capable of turning into a mushroom cloud at any moment. Gentlemen, for the first time in over 1000 years, I give you “Nordics of mass destruction”.

6) England 

Rooney Fever spreads across the Isle faster than the smite of a medieval plague. We’ll hear more from these Englishmen, who true to form have plenty more to say.

7) Spain    

This team should be occupying the third spot and I should have blown my afternoon calling my Spanish cousin Pedro Don Juan Luis Rodriguez de Viceo. Unfortunately, they blew it against the Greeks and now look doubtful to punch through to the quarterfinals. In order to advance they must best Portugal or draw a high scoring match AND count on the Russians to astonishingly upset the Hellenes. How sad it is that this country’s forty-year-old losing streak will continue…and that Pedro never hears from me.  

8) Denmark  

Barring something miraculous from the Wops, “Olsen’s Eleven” is poised to sneak through. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Swedes and Danes have come to a gentlemen’s agreement: Score a few goals and split the points. There’s no such thing as a Scandinavian Rivalry. These countries stopped fighting long ago.

9) Croatia    

A pair of gritty performances just isn’t good enough in the conventional “Group of Death”. No more room for the Tablecloths, no matter which hypothetical permutation you envisage.

10) Netherlands  

Either the stalled Germans or the fuck-up Dutch will advance to the quarterfinals. Both teams deserve an A for style and F for execution. Hmmm…better make those notes European. Both teams deserve a 1 for style and 6 for execution. There we are. For the final 70+ minutes of the Czech clash the “Brilliant Orange” played like Jack Black’s “Orange County”. Not only were they unwatchable, they weren’t even comically bad. This underachieving squad may be overflowing with talent, but until they settle on a lineup there can be no chemistry.

11) Italy    

They’re still alive, but only in the way Supreme Pontiff John Paul II is still alive. The Azzuri are riddled with Parkinson’s, barely breathing, and unable to speak. Likewise, it will take the hand of the Holy Mother herself to save them. The Swedes must convincingly defeat the Danes while the Wops generate a scoring frenzy. Rosary Beads are being thumbed all over the subcontinent. Such a shame that no one is listening.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

JP II lasted another ten months or so before finally kicking the bucket. This led to one of the absolute highlights of my career as a friendly amateur bookie: Pope-a-palooza 2005. Oh man what a blast. Handicapping the College of Cardinals was initially troublesome as nothing makes it out of that conclave except for either black or white smoke. So I read up a bit on the College of Cardinals. Turns out they typically earn the right to vote around 60 and lose it at 80. Fascinating stuff. Around 130 were eligible and 117 showed up. Seriously, who were the thirteen who had other shit to do? It’s a fucking papal conclave. Days of endless free food and booze. That’s almost enough for me to give my life over to Christ. Added together, the cardinals from Latin America, Asia, and Africa outnumbered the European Cardinals 59-58. Hell yes! Stalemate and intrigue were on the menu. Almost anything could happen! After John Paul mumbled his last on April 2nd, the conclave was scheduled for April 18th. This gave just over two weeks to read up in the candidates and publish some odds.

The actual document has been lot to a flimsy 3.5 floppy, but I have many fond memories of studying ecumenical law and actors in the cozy confines of my Spanish Town cottage. Globally oriented publications such as the Financial Times and the Economist published their own odds, which were quite helpful. As the conclave approached, the smart money appeared to be dichotomously split between two camps. Polish born JP II had broken a streak of 455 years of an Italian grip on the papacy. It stood to reason that the Wops would want it back after an unusually long drought. So it was on the eve of the conclave that Italians like Maria Martini, Giovanni Cheli, Fiorenza Angelini, and Camilo Ruini had the lowest odds, going between 2-1 and 4-1. Another group, including myself, was convinced the Church would shore up its Latin American constituency, healing the wounds of Vatican II and giving a large shout-out to one of the only places on earth we people still go to Mass regularly. Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, Brazilian Jose Falcao, and Columbian Dario Hoyas also had low odds. Bergoglio would have been my choice, but I was merely serving as pool director.

Never in my life have I observed such patently absurd betting behavior. Nearly everyone was prepared to kick in a few shekels for quixotic choices with long odds. American money poured in for Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles. Why not? We rule the world. We’d be the natural choice to run the Vatican! An American pope. Still can’t say that with a straight face. Other Romantics thought, what the hell, surely a Black or Korean guy will grace the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Wouldn’t that be cool? It would be fucking awesome….if life worked that way. The coin came rolling in. One figure who received no attention from anyone was Dean of the Sacred College and JP’s right hand Joseph Ratzinger. The Economist gave him 9-1 odds and the Financial Times 7-1. I was far more skeptical. My book reads 12-1. Had someone actually bet on him they would have reaped an enormous payday. Since no one did, I retained the fortune fit for a pope.

The odds were sent out via e-mail a few days before the conclave commenced and I closed the book to bets on the day of the conclave. Presumably, since the election has taken place in secret under the auspices of sealed tight Vatican for almost 2000 years, I could have continued taking bets until the White Smoke appeared. I simply wasn’t prepared to take that chance in the digital age. Some tech-Savvy cardinal could have been all over My Space with information I wasn’t privy to. April 18th was the close. With the conclave expected to last anywhere from a few days to a week, I had high hopes for a Papal-themed “4/20 Party” involving a joint session of friends with plenty of joints to go around. I was so looking forward to this event, even though I never much cared for pot. I even made preparations to link up the live “Smokestack Cam”. Alas, there were but three discharges of black smoke before news of the selection interrupted my April 19th commute to class. I slammed on the brakes. Four years into college I would deliberately skip my first lecture. Fuck class. The new pope would appear within the hour.

Nearly seven years into Benedict XVI’s term, I must confess I get gleefully excited every time he coughs into a microphone. Hurry up and die, already! I’m aching to write another “Pope-a-Palooza”! Shit! All this modern medicine, stable politics, and disturbing lack of assassination attempts means a papal conclave is now a once-in-a-generation event. This stubborn Kraut looks like he could hang in there for another decade or more and it…well it just plain sucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in the fifteenth century, when every three years the successor to St. Peter went down from a glass of tainted wine, a disease infested prostitute, or a feckless spot of stomach flu? Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be so great to be concerned about such microorganisms myself, not to mention be unable to read or write. Still, can’t Ratzinger retire to the quiet life of seclusion, scholarship, and cats he always claims to yearn for? C’mon Papst! JP I gave us two conclaves in one bloody season.  Do it for me, Big Papa!          

12) Deutschland   

Do or die, Jungs. The Dutch face Latvia, and will surely be competent enough to tap in the Gimmie you miserably failed to. To ensure our place in the quarterfinals you must slay the dragon. You must conquer the impregnable! Operation Barbarossa is in effect! Rein machen!

Editor’s retroactive notes:
Now how did Operation Barbarossa turn out? The final result seems to have slipped my mind.

13) Latvia   

I’ll be saying goodbye to you on Wednesday, so I’ll keep it concise. A mealworm stands a better chance of surviving a supernova than you do of beating the Dutch.

14) Switzerland  

Oh, Heinz-Albert. I didn’t realize you were still here. They tell me if you beat the English by a few extra goals you’ll be headed to the quarterfinals. They also tell me Auschwitz has some fine showering facilities.

And now, AT LONG LAST, let’s place some bets!


Portugal vs. Spain


As teased, it’s time for the “Battle for the Iberian Peninsula”. Historically speaking these two countries have divided up much larger territories. Two mighty colonial powers that once cleaved up South America between them have no more room for compromise. The winner goes to the quarterfinals. The loser is surely headed home. A draw does the Spanish some good, in the way that meekly giving your phone number to a hot chick might work. The eyes of the world focus on Lisbon for by far the most significant match of the tournament thus far.

Spain will have to sit central defender Carlos Marchena, out on double-yellows. In addition to this gaping exploitable hole at the back, lead forward Jose Exteberria is listed as doubtful after sustaining an injury last match. It’ll be a new look Spain with one or more of the Xavis, Ceasar Martin or Juanito, and either Joaquin or Torres.

The Navigators appear to have found their side alongside their stride. Evidently Scolari’s strategy in selecting his heavily reformed lineup was to start as many players from UEFA Champions League winners FC Porto as possible. This brilliant approach is in fact what most National Managers strive for: players who are accustomed to one another. No further alterations are expected. A competent coach, a well-adjusted lineup, some forced Spanish substitutions and 75,000 plus frenzied fans will all combine to give the Navigators a slight edge. Should be a great match.

THE LINE: Portugal +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 1, Spain 0.  Both Torres and Christiano Ronaldo got the starting nod. This was a bold statement from the two trainers, who emphatically proclaimed that the future of their respective programs would hinge on the two young guns. Ronaldo commanded more respect with three heart-stopping chances to Torres’s two. Raul was still the go-to man, whom Vicente and Xabi Alonso couldn’t quite connect with. Nevertheless both young bucks were consistently entertaining in a match that featured plenty of end-to-end movement. Nuno Gomez crushed one from outside the 18 to secure the win.

Greece vs. Russia


The Russians have nothing to play for. They’ve already been dismissed. They have no keeper. Sergei Ovchinnikov must sit this one out after drawing red against the Portuguese. They have no defensive anchor. Top back Alexei Smertin also earned a suspension. They have no rhythm. They specialize in devious slide tackles rather than dribbling the ball. Look, let me sum up the whole sordid affair by reminding everyone that they’re Russians. They have NOTHING! They have no reliable currency, functional government, pronounceable language, fuckable women, potable water, or edible slop dishes.

The Greeks will not be at full strength, missing Karagounis and Giannakopoulos. Who gives a damn? Those of you demented enough to read the foreword know that I’ve purchased stock in this Greek team..along with a tray of Baklava, a laser pointer, an Aegean cruise, and a plethora of other shit I didn’t need. I’m a believer. Otto über Alles! And er…if Viceis calls back…I went out for a walk. 

THE LINE: Greece +2 goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Russia 2, Greece 1. Knew I shouldn’t have trusted that bastard. L For those keeping track, that’s three blowhardy predictions involving Greece that turned out to be completely false. Not to get all Nostradamus on you, but I predict the future will contain many more blowhardy predictions that leave me looking like a complete idiot. No, I wasn’t referring to football either. The eventual champs scraped by on their poorly manicured fingernails. Had Vryzas not scored a token goal shortly before half time, Spain would have advanced on loss differential. I wish I had some insight into why this depleted Russian side of third tier Muscovites, many playing in only their second international cap, pulled off such a stunner. I know they scored twice inside the first twenty minutes. That’s about all I know. The Portugal vs. Spain game was playing out simultaneously.


Croatia vs. England


Burnishing the honor and self-belief deservedly plucked from the piteous Swiss, this Three Lions team has done a complete 180 from their French heartbreaker. Sven’s Sirs are on the march and even a talented Croat team is in position to stop them. Wayne Rooney: A Star is born. The little known Rooney didn’t even appear to warrant a mention in my initial discussion of phenoms Torres and Christiano Ronaldo. Unbeknownst to me, eighteen years ago on the banks of the Mersey River, a child was born…in a manger…underneath a prophetic star…to a virgin. The savior of English football has arrived! If The Guardian is to be believed, how many goals he will score this round before being subbed to thunderous applause is the only question. Two Rooney or not two Rooney? That, my right honorable friends, is the question. Austrian coach Otto Baric refuses to disclose who will be the captain for this match, indicating there’s some discord among his ranks. The great question finds its answer. Two Rooney! Rooney grabs another brace and the Arthurians roll on.

THE LINE: England +2 goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: England 4, Croatia 2. Okay. To begin with, sorry for the cringe-inducing Hamlet pun there. That one was categorically worse than my platitudinous “Two beers or not two beers? That is the question.”  soliloquy that instantly made every drinking buddy of mine regret allowing me to grab them a cold one while I was up. Even worse than all the “Lin-sanity” lines. Next, I’d like to call attention to the fact that not all of my predictions end with my face in the dirt. Rooney DID actually grab a brace during this highly captivating six-goal match that rendered it impossible to flip over to France-Switzerland. Niko Kovac opened with an elegant set-piece finish after five minutes. The English beast let out a largely impotent roar before finally getting it up with a breathtakingly gorgeous double Rooney-Scholes header in the 45th minute. They weren’t done yet. Scholes returned the favor, setting up Rooney one minute into injury time. 2-1 England at the half and I was the very epitome of sanguine.

It was Michael Owen’s turn to set up Rooney with a perfectly threaded ball in the 68th. From the aging Liverpool Legend to the budding one J. A minute or so after Rooney was pulled to complete the transformation to a more defensive formation, long lost descendant of the English monarchical family Igor Tudor delivered a glancing header to make it competitive again. Frank Lampard quickly neutralized the last ditch effort with his own sparkling run and finish. 4-2 England. I’ve not seen them play a better match since.
France vs. Switzerland


Heed my advice: Watch the England game. This one’s a ho-hum forgone conclusion. The positively fan-tabulous news concerns the fact that within a scant 48 hours I can forget about writing something about the “Schweize-Scheiße” for an entire two years! The Swiss are missing their two best German players: Bernt Haas and Alexander Frei. This likely means a debut for the Gaulish Daniel Gygax and the wopish Tranquilo Barnetta. Practically ensured of advancement, Jacques Santini might feel the urge to conduct an experiment or two himself, maybe giving Pedretti a look or Lizarazu a sentimental swan song. Yes, Santini is back. He, his own self-defeating personality, and the FFF have worked out their problems for the time being. Sounds like a great afternoon to be a Frog. In the literal sense, if forced to choose an animal to transfer my soul to, frog would do just fine. Capriciously hop around a bit. Do some pompous croaking. Cling to a tree for a while. Do some more vain croaking. Fertilize a few eggs. Croak a self-centered symphony. Nice life. As Viceis would say, “very nice ultra extra special fine life…just for you.” Again, if the phone rings…I’m not here. Kick ass, Froggies.

THE LINE: France +2 goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: France 3, Switzerland 1. A nature monologue is never a good sign. It means you’re running out of ideas. On this sun-drenched day in Coimbra, the French had no shortage of ideas. As previously intimated, I had precious little time to check in on this match. The box score, however, spins an excellent yarn. The ever-eccentric Köbi chose an even younger surrogate than Barnetta. He wrote in the Columbian-Schweitzer with the German name: Johan Vonlanthen. His faith in PSV’s new signing was validated when he equalized Zidane’s header and beat Barthez to break Rooney’s record of five days to become the youngest score in Euro history. We’ve heard nothing from him since, oft injured when country calls. The Swiss fought a war of attrition for the rest of the match before Henry seized a brace in quick succession. That part I can testify to. 76th and 84th. Zidane and Viera placed him space and he finished with class. Speaking of things we haven’t seen in a while… 


Italy vs. Bulgaria


We won’t be thumping the upset alert button here, or will we? Neither the Swedes nor Danes will win. They have no reason to. The Swedes and the Danes must draw goalless and you will need to win a margin of three goals or higher. Otherwise the dream dies and you’re off to find succor in your 131,824th viewing of “Rocky II”. You’ll win, but as any guy whose won the batshit crazy broad will tell you, sometimes when you win you lose. What would be the decidedly un-perspicacious cliché that a pedestrian sportswriter would use here? Oh right. A “hollow victory.”

If you feel your much endeared Azzuri will finally prevail against this sham of a nation, ushering in feelings of historic elation, decisive vindication, and justified recompensation….well you’re not only insane. You’re black preacher insane. Here I am sounding like Dr. Cornell West all of the sudden. Look, so long as I’ve positioned myself behind the pulpit, allow me one final opportunity to counsel you away from your vainglorious bet of absurd ignorance. You know I only have your best interest at heart, my dearest filthy wops.

Ahem. My brothers. Your team lacks the fire…the rapid oxidation, the tantalizing scintillation, the combusting conflagration….for the amelioration of your situation. You have the motivation and there will be no capitulation. Yet the termination of your station is your most certain destination. Brother Gattuso is suspended, shut out, precluded, prevented, refused, rejected and restrained. What will you do, my brothers without your midfield captain, your rock, your anchor, your general, your chairman, your consulate, your czar, your chief? Who will replace Cannavaro, your aegis, your armor, your moat, your fortress? Vieri is hurt, his wounds bleed for you my brothers, but his legs cannot bring you closer to God if they don’t work. My brothers the time has come to accept what God has in store for you. We shall meet again in the paradise of World Cup 2006. Jesus shall show you the way.  

THE LINE: Italy +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Italy 2, Bulgaria 1. Awww…Brother Pete. Dr. West has not appeared in the Sportsbook for an unforgivable eight years. I deem it appropriate that both he and my Greek cousin make a triumphant return this summer. Cornell West was always a figure I desperately wanted to phone up when I found myself in the throes of depression. By the time I figured out what the transcendental fuck he was talking about I would forget what precisely my existential dilemma was. The good professor possesses an encyclopedic mind coupled pumped by a showman’s heart. Why couldn’t I have a father like that? Anyway, as predicted Vieri couldn’t start. In his stead a gap-toothed Lazio loser by the name of Bernando Corradi took the pitch. If you’re wondering whom in the hell Bernando Corradi is, you’re not alone. I had to look him up. Apparently he spent a couple of years at Manchester City and I completely missed him. Trappatoni exploited every last resource at his disposal to give the Azzuri a chance. He subbed in a still recovering Vieri in the 58th minute and reorganized the whole configuration to make room for Di Vaio shortly afterward. Every weapon at his disposal was utilized. At the end of the day the match played out exactly as I had augured. Italy achieved an academic one-goal victory. Under the operating rules at the time, all bets were a wash. No one lost any more money. The notion of making this a pick crossed my mind, but the preacher character overruled any attempts to be fanatically malicious. A religious streak does not come easily to your friendly bookie. At least that’s what I’ll be telling myself after picking up my naked eighty-year old father from his “Holistic Core Consciousness Meditation Symposium”.  

Sweden vs. Denmark


The above quip tells you everything you need to know. These two oft-excluded countries are signatories to a covert pact. I’m so cocksure about an inevitable draw that I’ll wager my sizeable porn collection on it. For those with easy access to a dictionary, go ahead and look up the word “cocksure”. It’s defined as “Completely and somewhat arrogantly confident and certain of one’s own mind” Sneak that term into your next paper. Sprinkle it into your everyday conversations. Next time someone asks you if you’re sure, reply, “I’m cocksure, motherfucker”.

Well. I suppose that counts as my good deed for the day. Always nice to edify the people Let’s talk a bit about the friendly derby that will be the furthest thing from competitive. The Swedes will miss Everton midfielder Tobias Linderoth, but should be still be able to comfortably engineer some forward momentum that either Larsson or Ibrihimovic will deftly finish. Once the Swedes secure an early lead, their offensive package will be pulled relatively early in the interest of sparing their legs. Then it will be either Rommedahl, Jorgenson, or Dahl Thomason’s turn to equalize to effectuate their rest cure. Some other role players or young subs may swap a goal or two, but the result will one that benefits both sides. Draw the match and prepare for the quarterfinals.  

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Denmark 2, Sweden 2. In spite of the perfectly picked line, the script played out very differently. The match was competitive right up to the final whistle. With a large chunk of change on the line, I found myself glued to the screen and Jan Dahl Thomason brace twice pushed the Swedes and my pocketbook to the brink. After Sorenson fucked royally by dragging down Larson for a patently numbskull penalty, he cost the Danes first place in the group by making a hash of a Wilhelmsson cross in the 89th minute. Mattie’s Johnson pounced on the rebound and emphatically drove it into the back of net. I leapt to my feet, let out a guttural yell, and broke into a ludicrous hot dog dance. Once I explained to everyone at the office that the Euros were taking place all was forgiven and everyone understood why I was typing more furiously than usual J 


Netherlands vs. Latvia


A tie here would be most welcome, but the there’s simply no denying that the Dutch have found their pace. The new answers in midfield are Clarence Seedorf and Arjen Robben. Van Nistelroy and Van der Sar are second to none. With Johnny Heitinga suspended, old man Frank de Boer will receive his spot and the captain’s armband. The Czech Setback now behind them, the “Brilliant Orange” will take vengeance on this miserable little fiefdom in ways the Soviets could only dream of. Van Nistelroy notches a brace and then makes way for Makaay who scores as well.

THE LINE: Netherlands +2 goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Netherlands 3, Latvia 0. Didn’t catch a second of this match. I had more important matters to attend to. Hell, I barely even put an anemic paragraph together. It took all of two minutes. Before I learned to be more flexible and less linear in my writing, I kept it as stubbornly chronological and non-expedient as possible. Chomping at the bit to get into the breakdown of the Czech-German match, I skimmed a short blurb on the Guardian Website, dropped a few names, and rolled onwards to something of greater personal interest. If there was ever a phoned in assignment that turned out to be A+++ material, this was it. Although I expended practically no thought and burned maybe a half a calorie in the construction of that diminutive paragraph, the piece contains five spot on predictions. Seedorf and Robben started in midfield. De Boer took Heitinga’s place and donned the captain’s armband. Van Nistelroy scored two goals. Makaay took his place and scored the third. Holy fucking shit. Today’s moral is as follows: Stop wasting time over thinking and overanalyzing things. Go with your first thought and spend the rest of the evening drinking and being ultra-lazy. Yeah that sounds about right. I’m outta here. 

Deutschland vs. Czech Republic


This game cannot possibly be over soon enough. Merely banging out a few words on it induces heart palpitations. They should win. They have every reason to win. On Wednesday evening I’ll be writing an upbeat composition and setting a generous line for Fatherland vs. Denmark. Yes, everything will sort itself out. A fairy tale ending will commence, gumdrops will fall from the sky, and a group of schoolchildren singing “When You Wish Upon A Star” will drive by my apartment.

Oh fuck. I’m worried. I’m not worried about the Czechs. They’ve already clinched first place in the group and have nothing to play for. They’ll likely rest all of their best players, handing us an inexperienced squad ripe for exploitation. I’m not worried about our defensive corps. Either Nowotny or Bauman can play the semi-sweeper position adroitly enough to avoid any great embarrassment. I’m not worried about our wingers. Schneider and Frings are fine on the flanks. I’m definitely not worried about the rest of the midfield. Hamann, Ballack, and Schweinsteiger have all met expectations. The object of true trepidation concerns our lack of a second striker. Klose clearly looks unfit. Bdraric and Bobic look fit for the retirement home. That leaves the juvenile Pollack, Köln’s Lucas Podolski, who has logged an impressive ONE cap for the national team during the tournament friendly. As I emphasized last time: KURANYI CAN’T DO IT ALONE! Where can we turn?

Get it together, Vicey. We’ll turn to the midfield. Ballack and Schneider will pitch in a goal. Schweinstieger will contribute a perfect set piece. Friedrich and Wörns will pour forward, risking it all for the fatherland. Risk it all for me, Jungs. I need this money. I want to hold my German mädel again. Daddy needs a plane ticket. Shake your moneymaker. Über Alles in der Welt!

THE LINE: Deutschland +1 goals


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Czech Republic 2, Germany 1. George Orwell’s “1984” is by far my favorite distopian novel. My love affair with the travails of Winston at the Ministry of Information has less to do with what Christopher Hitches would describe as “The ruthless satirization of all levels of demagoguery’s manipulations.” No, I’m far shallower than that. I loved “1984” because the sex scenes were especially gripping. As soon as Winston told Julia, “Listen. The more men you’ve had, the more I love you” I was sold. The passage where Winston reads “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” to his naked darling is beyond touching. To this day there’s nothing I treasure more than fucking the brains out of a woman, reading her obscure scholarship until she sinks into a blissful asleep, and then trudging off to watch C-Span. Don’t judge me. Anyway, I seemed to have digressed a bit. In Chapter 6 of Orwell’s masterpiece Winston struggles to chronicle his encounter with a prostitute. Over and over he reminds himself “this HAS to be written”. He goads himself. “The rest of the story has GOT to be written down.”. Orwell typed, “It had got to be written down, it had got to be confessed.” One penultimate quote should adequately convey my feelings about communicating my feelings on this game:

“He shut his eyes and squeezed his fingers against them, trying to squeeze out the vision that kept recurring. He had an almost overwhelming temptation to shout a string of filthy words at the top of his voice. Or to bang his head against the wall, to kick over the table and hurl the inkpot through the window—to do any violent or painful thing that might black out the memory that was tormenting him.”

Voeller obtusely started Kuranyi as the lone striker. Nowotny took control of the sweeper position and Schweinsteiger came on as the extra midfielder. The 4-5-1 formation paid modest dividends. Schneider and Ballack utilized the numerical superiority at the middle of the pitch to blast a few thunderbolts toward backup Czech keeper Jaromir Blazek. The Mannschaft patiently and gracefully orchestrated some splendid attacks, but Blazek stood tall. In the vast majority of instances, Blazek didn’t have to stand at all. Kuranyi has gone offsides more than any other player I’ve regularly watched with the possible exception of Luca Toni. In the 20th minute Ballack let a canon of a shot loose that only failed to go in after Brugge’s David Rozenhnal fortuitously got a “back of the head” to it. One minute later Schneider sent in a cross that Schweinsteiger alertly touched to Ballack. 1-0 Germany. Life was good. Super-sub (or starting backup) Heinz neutralized the goal not long after, smacking a free kick first time to release a shot that left Kahn without the slightest chance. Life was uptight.

Podolski was subbed in at the restart, finally giving my Jungs the second striker they required. He had no impact aside from a few brilliantly struck corners. Schneider and Ballack took control of the offensive effort. The two of them combined for six virtuous chances in the final 45. Ballack rang the post twice. Wörns and Lahm also produced strikes that shook the untested Czech keeper. The “almost-ran” flings would be rendered useless once Milan Baros was allowed on the pitch. The starter was subbed in for some intrepid reason. He swept past Wörns and out-deked Nowotny. After propelling a somewhat unenthusiastic trigger on Kahn, he was at least there to scoop up the rebound. From there on out my idolized Mannschaft produced nothing but a vale of tears. The end came and it was harsh, both financially and emotionally.

“He pressed his fingers against his eyelids again. He had written it down at last, but it made no difference. The therapy had not worked. The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever.”

Thanks, George JJJ