Monday, April 30, 2012

EM 2008--Round Three

(A very poor attempt to alphabetize a yodel),
EM 2008

What a tournament we’ve got, football fans. THREE last second victories in ONE round! I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been a most enthralling round, except of course for that German high-speed ICE train wreck L I had the misfortune of witnessing the debacle of a Mizzou Rec-Center treadmill, racking up over ten miles to show some solidarity with the "Jungs". Unfortunately, I fell off the treadmill twice. Once after Ballack failed to convert. It happened once again after the COMPLETE defensive breakdown that was that second Croatian goal. By the end of the match I was drenched in sweat, wild-eyed, pumping my fist, and shouting German obscenities at the top of my lungs at everyone from David Odonkor to Joachim Löw. One silver lining concerns a couple of attractive chicks on the neighboring treadmills who thought this spectacle was somewhat interesting. Of course it went nowhere, but not because I cancelled to focus on my proofs. Alright….that’s what happened. Look, one has to have priorities.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Pardon me if this sounds entirely too clichéd. WHAT THE HEMORRAGING FUCK WAS WRONG WITH THIS KID?!?! Oh…he makes me want to vomit Santorum style. Feeling dizzy over here. The horror. The horror. “One has to have priorities”?!? Yes, Vicey. Prioritize your pre-work for some useless Graduate Program. Nothing’s more important than getting an “A+++” for a bunch of mediocre professors too preoccupied with their own petty pursuits to even come close to giving a shit about you or your grades. Priorities, motherfucker. Wracking my brains for some sort of explanation, the only one I can fathom is that the Vicey of 2006 felt he had some catching up to do. If you’ve been following me throughout all of these years, congratulations…you do not exist LL

Let’s rock some stats:

My updated Stats:

Spread: 12-4
Straight up: 13-1-2

Only one goodbye as we head into Round 3. Can you believe it? Fifteen teams remain in contention!  


"Stink-opolis!" Horrible performance from defending champion "Team of the Uni-brows". With two years to go before the next major international competition, I suggest you guys invest in some laser hair removal. What's up with that shit? Someone fail to tell the Greeks that the new-and-improved upright-walking human race should have TWO eyebrows. A more accurate "300" would have featured a horrendously ugly Phalanx of warriors. Thank you for allowing me to insult you using shallow terminology. I’ve been waiting four years for this.

Let’s rock some…er….“remaining fifteen team rankings”

1) Netherlands   

Brilliant Orange. Clockwork Orange. Orange Crush. William of Orange. The Orange Theme. Oranges and Lemons. Orange Juice. Orange Jews. Have I forgotten something? All I originally intended to convey is that the team kicks ass. Never in the history of the European Finals has a team gotten off to such a magnificent start.

2) Spain   

Guaranteed knockout round place. “Viva la Villa.” After I purchase a Spanish Cottage in the country, I’ll write that sentence again. Mark my words.

3) Portugal   

England's failure to qualify means Eric Wynalda and Marcel Balboa have been, thankfully, relegated to making imbecile comments on their own living room sofa. In their place, ESPN has brought in many British Legends to cover Euro 2008, including one of my personal favorites, former Glasgow Rangers star Andy Gray.  My one major complaint about the coverage is the inclusion of Julie Vagina..or whatever the fuck her name is.

 I know Women's Soccer is a sport too. I know both my countries have recently won the Women's World Cup and that makes me smile...a little. Still, she seems to have little to contribute by means of analysis. Her only redeeming comment thus far came after watching Dirk Kuyt get kicked in the groin. "I can't say anything about that," she rightfully observed. Beyond that, all she does is tout the virtues. I'm fucking of hearing about how great Christiano Ronaldo is. We all get it. We’ll see him and this ferocious team in the quarters after a brief Swiss holiday.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I would later learn that the inclusion of British announcers had nothing to do with England’s failure to qualify. ESPN simply made the intelligent aesthetic decision to move away from American announcers after hearing things like “He shoots, he scores” from Dave O’Brien and “Oh man that’s gotta be a PK!” from Marcel Balboa. Not to mention the two of them could never manage an intelligible conversation when discussing subjective challenges.

Dave: Does that look like a foul to you?
Marcel: I don’t know, what do you think?
Dave: Well, he did slide in “studs up”.
Marcel: Yeah. Studs hurt.
Dave: He came in a little early, or perhaps a little late?
Marcel: Yeah, sometimes when you try to tackle the ball you can come in a little too early or too late.
Dave: ….right….and you can’t do that can you?
Marcel: No, you can’t do that.
Dave: Not good to do that.
Marcel: No, not good. When you do that then the referee has to do something.
Dave: Yes, and it looks like the ref has done something.
Marcel: Yes he has.
Dave: Yes he has.

Such trenchant analysis. Though we’ll never know whether or not it was a fair challenge, we’ve been imparted enlightening and essential insider knowledge such as “studs hurt”. Yeah, someone has to do something about that. Yeah. Such was life before Ian Darke and John Harkes. Anyone up for putting a bullet through their brains? For all my inappropriate banter directed at Julie Vag…er…Fougherty, I actually always thought she was a very skilled color commentator. She’s especially sharp when discussing catfights.

4) Croatia   

You sneaky bastards. That’s our top spot! Keep it warm for us, Slavs. Alright I’m over it. Can’t win em all. One cannot let the loss of a little money get one down. I’ve found solace in the recent exchange between me and my 67-year-old black stepfather George. I called to offer my condolences after he lost a hefty sum on the Belmont Stakes. Always remember, IT COULD BE WORSE:

Peter: Hey George, sorry to hear about your horse.
George: Well, Peterman. At my age, you just have to accept that the horse don't stand up no more.
Peter: (!) uh.....George I was talking about "Big Brown".
George: .....(long sigh) So was I Peterman, so was I.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

“Big Brown” was one of many horses over the past forty some odd years to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown Challenge before fading in the third. Man do we ever need a horse that can do something more than get euthanized on the track. I can’t take any more of these horse movies clogging up the basic cable circuits. “Secretariat”, “Seabiscuit”, on and on. Over and over. Where’s the movie about the undefeated greyhound dog? Hell, I’ll take a cockfighting movie at this point. “Alfonse: Lord Rooster of French Settlement”. Someone get me Hollywood. No, not Pixar. I want a live-action drama!

5) Romania   

Nicely done, EU Brethren. Looks like you’ll be headed out of the Group of Death. Forward we march toward a regionally integrated…hold on; I’m being fed some updated news. The Irish did WHAT now? Fuck me. Looks like I have another “goodbyes” section to write:

Research Career

 Tsk, tsk. Had the Irish qualified, would the Lisbon Treaty have been rejected? If the nation that has probably benefited the most from European economic integration is prepared to nix the new Constitution, there is some SERIOUS doubt whether Europe will ever get on track. Well there goes my idea for a thesis. Perhaps I’ll buy a farm. Keep some sheep.

6) Deutschland   

Keep it together, Vicey. Everything is going to be all right. Rather than dwell on the possibility that we might not make it out of the Group Stages again, seek an irreverent distraction. My favorite mistakes made by the Close-Captioning-Guy during the Germany-Croatia Match are as follows:

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)= SWINE TIGER
Ivan Klasnic (Croatia)= CLASH NICKS
Niko Kranjar (Croatia)= CRINGE JAR
Igor Budin (Croatia)= BOUDIN

“Swine Tiger” sounds like a great “Top Gun” name. “C’mon Goose. It’s Swine Tiger. Talk to me, brother!”

7) Turkey   

Ah, my Turkish brothers and the SERIOUS bank that they made me. Suckers! It takes a German to appreciate the labour class. All you haters can kiss my ass! I'm using the proceeds to have a Döner Kebab fed-exed straight from Berlin.

8) Russia   

What the pusillanimous fuck was Nikopoladis thinking? The Russians suddenly have new life thanks to one very dumb Greek. They’re alive. Alive I tell you! Unlike that ring of frozen Cosmonauts orbiting the planet, THESE RUSSIANS LIVE.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I should emphasize that there is absolutely no evidence that the Soviets sent human guinea pigs outside the orbiting Soyuz capsule. Furthermore, if they had they would not have been Russian. Only Uzbeks or Kazaks would have been deemed expendable

9) Czech Republic   

It’s beginning to look a lot like 2006. A spellbinding opener followed by two decisive defeats and an early exit. Czech and mate. You like that one? Yeah…only 5,992,991,998 people thought up that one before I did. I’m number 5,992,991,999!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ah…it seems like only four years ago that global population had recently topped six billion.

10) Sweden   

Looks like you were on the receiving end of a “Spanish Suckerpunch”. Fwahahahahaha. And I’m not finished yet! You got stung by a “Barcelona Bumblebee”. Fwahahahaha. And I’m STILL not done…..alright…I’m done. I promise.

11) Italy   

Doesn’t look as if you’ll make the quarterfinals unless you beat the Mighty French. Hmmm…to rephrase, see you guys in the quarterfinals.

12) Poland   

Dammit. I can’t believe I have to ask you this. Are you TRYING to blow it? There hasn’t been a Polish reality series this bad since “Survivor: Auschwitz”. Every goddamned year you play to lose. I can’t watch this anymore! It’s worse than those “Christian Children’s Fund” commercials.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

The contemporary equivalent of the Christian Children Funds commercials would be either the full-page “Hair Lip Ads” in the Grey Lady or those Sara McLaughlin SPCA Commercials. Why are you doing this to me? Can’t I just relax for a few minutes without being reminded of how broke and useless I am?

13) France   

Technically, they’ve still got an outside chance…in much the same way that a solider standing directly in front of the door of the amphibious transport on D-Day had an outside chance. The door comes down on Tuesday and you’re dead before anyone even moves. I’ll still root for you….in much the same way I root for the guy in “Saving Private Ryan” not to be immediately shot in the head before the door finishes coming down. Somewhere around my 386th viewing of that movie I’ll come to terms with the fact that he’s going to get shot every time.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Yikes. The front lines during the invasion of Normandy. How did they select that first wave? “You guys go ahead. We’re right behind you now. Never mind that we’ve got all the equipment to establish the beachhead. We’ll catch up to you. Go ahead now.”

14) Austria   

Coming in dead last for the second week in a row, it’s the hosts. LL They’ve switched places with the Swiss, who now occupy the very bottom. It’s about as significant as Louisiana and Mississippi shuffling between 49th and 50th in citizens above the poverty line.

15) Switzerland   

It’s the “Mississippi of Europe”. A fetid backwater of hicks and inbreds. Man do I ever like the sound of that. To be fair to Mississippi, at least they gave us some decent writers and Blues music.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I made a huge mistake here and I can’t help kicking and flagellating myself for my error. The Swiss had actually already been eliminated at the time I wrote this. They should have been included in the “Goodbyes” section. What? Oh you thought…..

FINALLY, Let’s rock some lines


Switzerland vs. Portugal


The Portuguese have already clinched, so Christiano Ronaldo, Deco, Simao, Nuno Gomez, Petit, Pepe, Bosingwa, look let’s just say the ENTIRE starting lineup will be taking a tour of Basel’s historic Roman ruins whilst the Swiss try to salvage some pride. Can the Swiss give their fans something to cheer about against the Portuguese reserves? I say yes.

THE LINE: Switzerland +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Switzerland 2, Portugal 0. Congratulations to Hakan Yakan, who netted a brace in Köbi’s meaningless final match. You’ll likely never meet anyone who watched this one. Not with the “Tenacious Turks” playing simultaneously.

Turkey vs. Czech Republic 


Since both teams have identical goal-scoring records, this happens to one of those rare group games that will end in a shootout should the two teams draw. Fresh of their thrilling last-minute victory over the Swiss, the Turks will get Emre Güngör back, but still be without Gorkahn Zahn and Emre Bezöglu. Man, am I going to have a ball spellchecking this one.

Koller or Barros? Does it even matter? After the Portuguese shellacking it’ll probably be Koller again. The Turks are short, injured, and disorganized. Regrettably, this is the end of the line for my cherished falafel- munching friends. Think differently?

THE LINE: Czech Republic +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Turkey 3, Czech Republic 2. I don’t even care about the money. What an amazing match! 2-0 down with fifteen minutes to go, the Crescent Stars embarked on one of the greatest comebacks the game has ever seen. Andy Gray’s “You have to believe” remark could have been the Al Michaels “Do you believe in miracles”, had ESPN actually stumped for his flight to Basel. All commentary in this tournament consisted of broadcasters sitting in front of a television watching the international feed. ESPN had hired the right guys, but wouldn’t pay for them to leave Bristol.

His place in the starting eleven in serious jeopardy, Jan Koller did his beast of burden impression. His diligence was finally rewarded in the 34th, when Grygera finally supplied the perfect cross and Koller the perfect finish. Plaisil doubled the lead in the 62nd with a sliding finish off a Sionko cross. When Jan Polak hit the crossbar a few minutes later, it felt inevitable that the Czechs would soon score a third goal to put a bow on the proceedings. Hamit Altintop had other plans. He crossed for the last-minute goalscorer against Switzerland, Arda Turan, in the 75th. “Andy Gray muttered the unforgettable words. “You have to believe”.

“You have to believe”. The Czechs fought hard to close it out. Kadlec and Ujafalusi played keep away at the back, claiming the lion’s share of possession. Plaisil and Koller once again worked their way forward, not so much in the interest of generating chances, but keeping the ball pinned down by the right corner flag. “You have to believe”. Altintop eventually managed another cross in the 87th. Cech went out to meet it and, jaw droopingly, couldn’t hang on after the ball hit him directly in the chest. A lurking Nihat Kavechi scooped it up and got off a weak poke before any of the Czech defenders could reach him. It was just enough. “You have to believe”. Two minutes later it was again Altintop to Nihat. Barely threading his way past two defenders, he had to generate some sort of effort before he was dispossessed. Again, the he could manage was a light prod. The feather-floater found it’s way past the goal line via the underside of the crossbar.
“You have to believe.”


Deutschland vs. Austria


Now what? I shall tell you what. We dump Marcell Jansen and Clemens Fritz. Schweinsteiger’s suspension means it shall be Arne Friedrich and Thomas Hitzlsberger. Not entirely sure how much longer we should stick with “Super” Mario. He reminds me so much of Kuranyi four years ago that I’m convinced we need to return to the 2006 scheme.
Congratulations to 38-year-old Austrian Striker Ivica Vastic, who won a lifetime supply of beer for scoring for co-hosts Austria. No joke. Savor the flavor, you Edelweiss sniffers, cause Monday's match will be over before you can say "Anschluss, baby". The Fatherland will recover and make it into the next round.....just in time to get crushed by the Portuguese LL

See you in Wien!

THE LINE: Deutschland +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Germany 1, Austria 0. Whew. Money lost. Heartbreak averted. Löw did dump Jansen for Friedrich, but left Fritz and Gomez in place. We just didn’t have the strikers. The best chance of the first half when Klose set up Gomez brilliantly, yet the Spaniard couldn’t time his touch. Not only was the game scoreless at the half, both coaches had been sent off by Spanish referee Juan Carlos Jimenez for arguing with his fourth official. Passage was by no means secured.

Thankfully, the Mannschaft pulled ahead four minutes after the restart. Lahm drew a foul and Ballack absolutely crushed a free kick from 30 yards out. The remainder of the match was easily forgettable. We were through. By our fingernails we had made it

Croatia vs. Poland


Trust the Polish pattern. In 2002 and again in 2006 the Poles have been deplorable before getting their act together for a third and final inconsequential group match. C’mon you fucking [barber] Poles. I cannot withstand another abject failure from you. One may liken it to rooting for the kid in class that stutters. C’mon, dude. You can do it. Just get it out. I believe in YOU!

THE LINE: Poland +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Croatia 1, Poland 0. Even Vicey’s elocution lessons couldn’t fix the King’s speech. They “p-p-p-p-p-played sh-sh-sh-sh-shitty”. Didn’t watch this one. The honor belonged to Ivan “CLASH NICKS”


Netherlands vs. Romania


Will the Dutch reserves help prolong the Azzuri-agony? My money says no. Looking for a draw here as well as in the Wop match.

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Netherlands 2, Romania 0. For all those convinced that a verbose asshole such as myself is thoroughly incapable of brevity, study this three-sentence write up closely. There’s running out of gas, running out of time, and even the conclusion of the loquacious soul that “less is more”.

The lucky reserves on this day were Klaus Jan-Huntelaar and Robin van Persie. Another great game from Robben. Van Persie turned some sick tricks on the touch line, keeping the ball away from a Romania side that might have managed two minutes of possession.

France vs. Italy


How low can we go? We’re going to limbo all the way down to a Pick. Bookie bets on a draw.

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Italy 2, France 0. In addition to losing a great deal of money on this day, I also received some genuinely spiteful hate mail conveying something to effect of “Vicey, why can’t you always tamper it down to three sentences?” Look, no one forces you to read anything but the lines. I happen to enjoy writing. I write my friends twelve page e-mails. I write my coworkers mini-magnum opi.  I write fifty page papers…for other people I don’t know..…for under $10,000 a year. You’re simply going have to accept that I mirror the Geoffrey Rush character in “Quills”. Were I to find myself naked and in shackles at the bottom of some sordid dungeon, I would use my own feces to write on the walls. Let that visual swirls around for a while.

The white-clad Azzuri resorted to their usual bag of tricks with a Toni flop in the 24th. Pirlo converted the ensuing penalty, for which Eric Abidal was cruelly expelled. Domenech’s latest attempt at finding some sort of cohesion placed Henry and Benzema together up front. The pair managed a whole lot of nothing. Henry continued to display his alarmingly bad form, either directing shots well over the goal or directly at Buffon. His defensive skills were also called into question after he knocked in a Daniel De Rossi free kick in the 62nd. He was finished. We all knew it. Barça had gotten a raw deal.


Greece vs. Spain


What can one say? The Spanish are on holiday, but their reserves are hungry. I’m curious to see how Xavi Alonso and Juanito have been holding up. The unjustly neglected Pepe Reina should also get a start. Aragones has also indicated that the all-too-coolly named Central Midfielder “Rueben de la Red” will get a look. He’ll be anxious to prove that he’s more than just a guy with a cool porn name.

THE LINE: Spain+1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Spain 2, Greece 1. Pornstar exemplar de la Red came through with a blistering effort in the 61st to tie the match. Within a few weeks he would suffer a heart attack that would cut short his career. The other Spanish goal belonged to David Güiza, who made the 2009 Confed Cup team before being dropped permanently. Nice that these guys had their day in the sun against a Greek team desperate to pay some sort of homage to their 2004 exploits. Charisteas scored the opening goal. Two cats we rarely heard from again took care of the rest.

Russia vs. Sweden


Never again will I wager on a team with Pavlyuchenko in the lineup! This guy couldn’t finish in front of a screen of Korean porn. I'm through backing the damn Russians. Go back to your sad little Moscow field where the grass NEVER grows. The Swedes are better, even without Ibrihimovic.

 It’s sad to let you go. It’s sad to see the Swedes advance. As with most matters involving Russia, it’s just plain sad.

THE LINE: Sweden +1 Goal


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Russia 2, Sweden 0. So ended a very weak end to the second half of Round Three. A connoisseur or two might note that this was the final tournament during which I provided neatly segmented rounds with lines for all the teams. I had been toying with the notion of sending out more irregular lines, but found it difficult to deviate from the precepts of orderly schedules. Everything had to be cleaved up in a formal and methodical fashion. Tank jobs like this (three bad losses out of four) eventually convinced me that I would be better off pacing myself. It only took eight years.

Pavlychencko and Arashavin earned Premiership contracts with an inspired performance. Anykov found Pavlychencko for a splendid first time finish in the 24th on a play that began with Arshavin deking-out half of the Swedish midfield. Arshavin himself would make a smart run to link up with Zhirkov’s cross in the 50th. Within six months, Arshavin would be an Arsenal Star. The other North London squad, Spurs, would snatch up Palychencko by September.

For the “nth” time, these international tournaments are can’t miss affairs. True, the players aren't as familiar with one another as they are with their club teams in Champions League. Nevertheless, it’s not lost on them that they’re playing for millions. Ask these two. They gave everything.