Sunday, April 29, 2012

EM 2008--Round Two

Grüzi syndicate members,
EM 2008

My sincerest gratitude (especially all you hopelessly deluded Wop-enthusiasts) for making the initial four days of the tournament a highly pleasurable experience! For those I haven't formally met yet, make sure to have those clean crisp bills handy for our introductory handshake on that CA Fall morning. Many thanks all of you for all the multi-book networking. All in all, the inaugural “Sobriety Sportsbook” proceeds nicely. I only think of how a nice cold tall one would complement these matches an average of 73 times per day. That constitutes progress, no?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Er…is it me or was the “Sobriety Sportsbook” lacking something other than a few extra pages, rants, and cutting jokes? Parts of it feel positively soulless. Sigh. Not a very salubrious message we’re sending here Vicey. LL

I’ve barely had enough time to pointlessly overwork my academic assignments. Yes, sadly that sentence reflects a pathetic reality that I must contend with daily. Hmmm…I’ve a notion. Let’s waste some time ranking these sixteen teams just like old times. JJ

1) Spain   

How about those Spanish language broadcasters? Villa, Villa, Villa! That name was repeated a minimum of three times after each of his three goals. Such an enchanting language. Everything comes neatly packaged in alluring groups of three. Gol, Gol, Gol! Chicas, Chicas, Chicas! Chicas, Chicas, Chicas??? Vamos, Vamos, Vamos!!!

2) Netherlands   

The descendants of the Flemish Aristocracy put on a fine show against the Vaticanos, and I am inclined to consider them odds on favorites. Watching the "William of Oranges" kick some ass is always a thrilling exercise: "van Basten sends in van Persie....van der Saar sends it ahead to van der Vaart....van der Vaart kicks it out to van Bronckhorst...van Bronkhorst finds van Nistelroy in space....van Nistelroy forwards it to Mario van Peebles ("Panther" sucked)........van Peebles has van Camp's Pork and Beans in front of the net...VAN CAMP'S PORK AND BEANS SCORES!!!!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I do believe I’ve fucked the hell out of this barb over the years. About the only thing left to say is that both “Panther” and “Highlander: The Final Dimension” really sucked. Poor Mario van Peebles hasn’t done anything decent since “New Jack City”, which by the way hasn’t aged very well at all.

3) Deutschland   

Oh, we’re back baby. Back with a vengeance. Croats, we’re coming for you! Our style is impetuous. Our defense is impregnable. We’ll rip your heart out and eat your children. Nothing can stop us now, not even….what’s that Jose? Chicas, Chicas, Chicas? Fuck football. Vamos, Vamos, Vamos!!

4) Portugal   

Way to prove it’s a new tournament, Navigators. Christ, Ronaldo is the best player in the world. How the hell can anyone stop him?

5) Czech Republic   

Coach Karel Brückner has expressed his doubts about besting the Portuguese…publicly. He also stated, “I still don’t think we’ll win our group and you can quote me.” Excuse me? Did you just shit on your own team? We’ll, if they don’t rise to the occasion you might as well pop open a Pilsner-Urquell and call it a career. 

6) Croatia   

After handling the wannabe Krauts, are you prepared for the real motherfucking deal? Going to eat your children. All praise be to Allah. JJJ

7) Sweden   

Okay, you won. Your team was still so boring I wasn’t entirely sure I wasn’t watching an unassembled Ikea bookshelf. Watching wood. Spent a perfectly lovely summer afternoon indoors watching wood. My wood-watching threshold is about met.

8) Romania   

Round One in the “Group of Death” is complete. Hold the Wops to a draw and you just might survive.

9) Turkey   

Ganz Ruhig, Brüder. The worst is over and you can now focus on the important matters….like whether there’s enough Scharfes in that Döner I ordered. Get on that, please. J 

10) Russia   

Speaking of the worst being over, it’s smoother sailing on calmer waters for the Ruskies from here on out. They showed enough in that Spain match to suggest they might challenge the Greeks and Swedes.

11) Poland   

We’ve done all we can for you. After respectfully kicking your ass without so much as lifting a celebratory fist to rub it in, your self-esteem should remain intact. We obviously couldn’t let you win, but we sent you on your way cordially. If you can’t beat the Austrians, the pokes shall resume.

12) Italy   

Stop crying into that vat of olive oil without delay! It’s far from over, pasta fornicators. Your team will play better..if only because they could play better with my portly father in central midfield.

13) France   

You Froggies may continue drowning your sorrows in that nouvelle cuisine presentation. For in your case, I’m afraid it truly is over. You failed to secure three points against the lowliest team in the group. Your lead striker is a sociopathic shithead. Where the hell is Henry? Until someone explains to me why he didn’t start, I give Segolene Royal better odds in the 2012 Election.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Interesting. The line was written as her only tangible asset, a middle-aged ass that somehow inexplicably looked fuckable in a sleazy thong, began to fade. I shudder at the thought of what she might look like a coin-slot emphasizing bikini now. Once the genes stop cooperating, older women really take a nosedive. Unbeknownst to me, it would be her baby daddy Francois Hollande who would stage a comeback. Back in ’08 we thought for sure it would either be Aubry or Royal again. Suddenly, without the slightest inkling of something resembling a warning, who dat is? That’s just her baby daddy. Who dat is? Alright you get the point.

14) Greece   

Well, we can eliminate the possibility of any more miracles. Or can we? Yes, we absolutely can. Rehhakles is finished and so are the Hellenes.

15) Switzerland   

Well done, hosts! You have the dubious distinction of being ranked near the very bottom, propped up only by your impotent brethren. Thanks so much for inviting us in. The real Germans will take it from here.

16) Austria   

Peter Weis,
Peter Weis,
Every morning you tweak me
Thin and white,
Full of spite,
You’re never happy to meet me.

Looking forward to singing you toward the exit.

My Stats:

Spread: 7-1
Straight up: 7-0-1

Good enough. That should preclude me from submitting something triple the page limit. Onwards to the lines.


Czech Republic vs. Portugal


Brückner has to sit Koller. It’s Barros’s turn anyway. Bring the old man on in relief. He’ll also have to make substantial changes to the midfield if he wishes to stop that Ronaldo-Deco-Simao Axis. The Czech 4-5-1 is conducive to absorbing the Portuguese 4-2-3-1. On the scrap of paper I just scribbled it on the Czechs are looking very vaginal indeed, with Jarolim, Galasek, and Polak absorbing the phallic Deco-Nuno Gomez thrust. Yes, I’m spending my time in the library wisely. At least I’m decent enough to quietly scrawl some vaguely sexual fenestrations on a scrap of paper. The girl behind me hasn’t stopped talking on her cell phone for the past half hour. We’re in the library, bitch! Shut the fuck up!

Where was I? Oh right. The cavernous pocket of the Czech midfield should be able to withstand the undulating pulsations of the Portuguese attack long enough to make this match competitive. Eventually, however, Portuguese penetration will lead to a climactic copulation the timing of which cannot yet be determined…Now if you’ll excuse me, a certain yapping Soristitute is begging to have her mobile slapped away from her face.

THE LINE: Portugal +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 3, Czech Republic 1. Not to give anyone the impression that I find incessant chatter in the library attractive. The default tactic for tuning out thirty minutes of unceasing “Yeah, but, I was like, no because, like, it’s, like, too much work, like, like, like, like” was fantasizing about duck-taping the whore’s mouth close while I gave her an overdue lesson in submissiveness. As suspicion rose that I was unduly distracted, bets poured in faster than the line could move. This one was all over the place…much like a surprise load of frothy lukewarm seamen.

Brückner heeded the advice, sitting Koller and starting Barros. In a surprise second move, he benched Jarolim and started Matejovsky. The Czech cushion proved to be easily permeable when Ronaldo shook off his marker and charged goalward, working a splendid reciprocal feed with Nuno Gomez before leaving for Deco. Eight minutes in the Navigators had the upper hand. An electrifying interval of end-to-end action followed before Libor Sinoko stabbed through a diving header off a Plaisil corner in the 18th.

A good match was in the works as Ronaldo defied all attempts of the Czech defense to close ranks. Between him and Deco, they managed five quality chances on Czech before the stroke of halftime. The Navigators stormed out of the gate in the second half, thumping Cech with shot after shot, often in rapid succession. Nuno Gomez and Simao made him earn his paycheck. Eventually Deco flighted in a perfect ball directly onto Ronaldo’s right foot for a driving finish in the 63rd. The Christiano Ronaldo show continued right up until the final minute, when he motored past an over-committed Czech offense to set up substitute Ricardo Queresema for the third goal. In the event that anyone is dying to know, NO. I did not slap the electronic cock out of the bitch’s mouth. I went out for a cigarette instead.   

Switzerland vs. Turkey


Neither Alexander Frei nor Marcos Streller will play. Köbi will have to employ an unorthodox formation in order to simply field a team. Somehow, central midfielders Hakan Yakin and Gökhan Inler will need to be deployed in a supporting striker role to assist nineteen-year-old Ehren Derdiyok, the only option left from the Swiss reserves. In a deliciously ironic twist, all three players the Swiss will rely upon are of Turkish descent.

Can the Swiss Turks beat the actual Turks? Potentially. Two of the Turkish stars are injured, defender Gökhan Zan and talismanic captain Emre Belözoglu. No clue how Terim will make it work, but the flexible Nihat and Tuncay give him options. My Turkish brothers. Surely you can get passed a dilapidated Swiss side?

I shall stick my neck out and proclaim that, while Turkish ingenuity is not in principle more resourceful than Swiss ingenuity, Köbi can lick my balls.

THE LINE: Turkey +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Turkey 2, Switzerland 1. And did they ever come through. Rainy night in Basel. I said it’s a rainy night in Basel. Feels like it’s raining all over the world….yeah. This game was played through an early summer mountainous monsoon, sloppy and messy throughout. Köbi used Yakin in the supporting striker role while Terim brought Tuncay forward to play next to Nihat.

Of course the tactical formations were immaterial in this relentless downpour. FIFA had never held a summer tournament in a locale prone to such harsh weather, and a freak occurrence in the 32nd soon showed why. The infantile Derdiyok hunted down a ball on the right flank and played a poor forward pass that should have gone out for a goal kick. Instead the low pass slowly crawled to a stop on the drenched pitch finally resting directly on the goal line where a grateful Hakan Yakin tapped it in. It doesn’t get any easier.

The tenacious Turkmen were not going to stand for such nonsense. They stubbornly stuck with their ground passing game, even when the pitch wouldn’t cooperate. A triangular series of passes in the 57th left second-half substitute Semih Sentürk perfectly positioned to head in a Nihat cross. Two minutes into added time, amid the constant flashes of lighting and rolling thunder, the legendary mystique of this most extraordinary team was born. The “comeback kids” would conclude the first of three unprecedented last-minute marvels. Midfielder Arda Turan sloshed forward, maintaining possession in spite of the deplorable conditions. His final strike couldn’t be said to be entirely accurate, but it did carom in off of central defender Patrick Müller for a sensational last minute goal. So began the journey of the most amazing team I’ve ever witnessed. Perhaps Allah was Akbar after all.  


Croatia vs. Germany


Slowly talking myself into this new attacking formation of Löw. It may very well be that Klose-Podolski II would prove nothing more than a hapless sequel. Gomez can only mesh better with Klose the more experience he acquires up front. Perhaps Fritz can play wing better than Schweinsteiger. Perhaps Jansen is better than Friedrich. Perhaps….you win another fucking match before I declare myself sold. This one will be no walk in the Tiergarten. Ah..running around Elsa. Berlin could truly be serene at times J

THE LINE: Deutschland +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Croatia 2, Germany 1. Ugh. This one elevated the term “fall off the treadmill” into the Pantheon of overused hackneyed Sportsbook phrases where it joined “What the [hemorrhaging] fuck?”, “It’s the battle of…” and “Keystone DryIceLite”. The actual fall was prompted after watching Michael Ballack fluff his chance to score a meaningful international goal for the 4,312th consecutive time. As painful as the match and the tumble were, I at least earned some sympathy points from a cadre of cute girls in the gym.

Löw’s lineup crumbled immediately as the Blazer 4-4-1-1 effectively neutralized any impetus forward. The first shot on goal came in the 24th minute. As it so happens it was an opulent show of skill from Dario Srna, who executed a perfectly-timed jump and even more flawless header into the back of the net from a deep cross from Daniel Pranjic. One rarely sees a 50-yard cross travel with such accuracy in the international game. It could only have come from former teammates. Ballack twice sent bending free kicks directly on Pletikosa and both Gomez and Metzelder sent his deliveries over the bar. The Mannschaft simply couldn’t coordinate.

Löw’s halftime adjustment was to bring in Odonkor for Jansen and move Fritz back into the defensive corps. The move summarily failed to alter to the tone of the match, with the best opportunities still belonging to the Croats. They finally capitalized in the 62nd when Lehman parried a Ivan Raktic stinger that had deflected off Podolski. As quick a reaction as it was, he might have done better than to steer it towards the post, where it bounced back into the area again. Neither Mertesacker nor Metzelder were in position for a clearance and Ivica Ollic to ease it into the unguarded net while Lehman remained on the deck. Total defensive meltdown. I fell of the treadmill a second time. No angelic damsel came to rescue after this spill.

The news got increasingly worse for the Mannschaft, even as Podolski pulled one back in the 79th. Substitute Schweinsteiger was sent off for arguing with the referee. The final twenty plus minutes contained zero creativity. Miscues are one thing, but a team dry of ideas is far more ominous. Four days after erasing twelve years of Euro misfortune, it looked as if the ship was once again listing.  

Austria vs. Poland


It’s the battle of Red/White German Whipping Boys! Can I refer to this one as “Pommes Rot-Weiß”? Why am I asking myself for permission? Thanks to those of you who pointed out that Austrian keeper Jürgen Macho may moonlight as a professional wrestler should he need a fallback career option. I’m quite familiar with this line, as he used to tend goal for my hometown FCK. Many were the afternoons spent high playing FIFA at my place when some stoner would interject “Hey…your keeper’s name is ‘Macho’…hehehe…that’s funny.”

Like most anything else, you sort of had to be there….and even then it wasn’t really funny. The world’s game produces plenty of ironic names, but keepers seem to be disproportionately represented. Lest we forget, Macho isn't even the most waggishly named keeper in this tournament. That honor belongs to, for the fourth consecutive summer, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon. Two-time Mannschaft third stringer and current heir to Oliver Kahn in Bayern Hans-Jörg Butt is likely to give me more headaches after Lehman retires. “Hey Vicey….hehehe…your keeper’s name is…” Yes, yes I get it. Pass the bong, Beavis. It’s pronounced [Boot] as in “Das Boot”, [Butte] as in the city in Montana! I must pre-empt all you budding punsters out there.

Anyway, gentlemen, I think it’s about time we had a Pick. Home-pitch advantage pulls the Austrians even with the Poles. Accuse me of viewing them through Kraut-colored glasses if you must, but I don’t see very much between them. 

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Poland 1, Austria 1. As it turns out there was a great deal between the two sides. After controlling the flow for 93 minutes, Marcin Wasilewski tugged on the shirt of a streaking Sebastian Prödl inside the box, giving “Das Team” an absolute last second penalty. Ooops-ski. An otherwise fantastic performance down the drain. More scratch for the bookie.


Italy vs. Romania


Alright, Azzuri faithful. Want you money back? Here's your chance. I hate your country and your team. You stole a WM from my beloved squad in 2006 and a place in this tournament from the more deserving Scots! Not to mention, you are the reason I seem to be perpetually at war with myself. Panucci's dramatic antics are a perfect example of why to deserve to lose (Van Nistelrooy WAS onside because of you divin' Dagos). Toni is still among the best players period. Still, Cameronesi and Buffon are old garbage in the Kahn tradition. I’ll give you ANOTHER low line!

Come on, you Central European, Dracula inspiring, post-communist Republic. We didn't let you into the EU and NATO for nothing!! Calling all pasta-fornicators. Get your bets in by 10:30 a.m. ET.

THE LINE: Italy +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Italy 1, Romania 1. It could have been much worse for the Wops. It couldn’t have gotten any better for the bookie J. Yes, the new guidelines and the accompanying strategy were just the ticket. Textbook bill? Bah. Irresponsible students hit their parents up for money. I maturely ran an illegal betting operation to pay for my overpriced course materials. Grad School in the states is one massive extortion scheme. It eases the pain somewhat to fork over dirty dollars that came from shady work. Hard-earned cash or future mortgaging loans only serve to deepen the depression. The only way it could have possibly been sweeter would have been if they were bloodstained. It’s no use pretending that you wouldn’t derive the same sick satisfaction. Tell me you wouldn’t love to saunter into your university’s bursar’s office with a dolly full of bulging shopping bags:

“So it looks like I owe you $17,000 for this semester’s tuition? Very Well. Here are 340,000 unrolled nickels for you. I’m just going to dump these out all over your desk if you don’t mind. Have fun!”
Truly a great game. Donadoni made five changes, effectively overhauling the defense and midfield. De Rossi and Del Piero were the new arsenal backing up Toni and they made their presence felt early with a hard driven cross and a header deflected inches wide. The Romanians were not content to stay back either, testing Buffon via Mutu, Chivu, and Tamas. Plenty of action in the first half as both teams signaled intent while being stymied by effective goalkeeping from Buffon and Lobont.

Chivu and Mutu picked back up where they had left off, making Buffon sweat. Chivu pestered Perotta mercilessly every time the anchoring midfielder attempted to set up the Azzuri attack. Mutu was trolling around the danger area looking for any sort of sniff. He got his chance in the 55th when Zambrotta found himself facing a cross all alone and attempted a back-header to Buffon that he didn’t get all of. Mutu collected and throttled it in for the lead. Less than one minute later a Pannucci corner took a deflection off Chielleni and we were back on level terms.

Both sides pushed hard for the winner and Buffon and Lobont were forced to make more brilliant saves over the next half hour. Mutu was afforded the chance to surely win it from the spot in the 81st after Pannucci obstructed Niculae in the penalty area. Instead it was Buffon with a dramatic diving save that saved his squad from almost certain elimination.

Netherlands vs. France


Much love for Domenech & Co. It genuinely blows to be written off after one game. Henry, Ribbery, Gallas, and Makelele are among my favorite players. I love ze French. We should see Henry in action here after that childish nonsense from Anelka. The question remains, why wasn’t he the first choice? There must be something going on. There’s little choice but to stick with Benzema, unless Domenech cares to move either Ribery, Malouda, or Viera back up to striker. We also might encounter old friends Sydney Govou and Willy Sagnol. It looks to be a sentimental affair.

Sadly, there is no denying this is the year of Orange. Robben, van Persie, and Heitinga are not only superior players; they’re well rested. Van Basten hasn’t even begun to show his cards, starting many B-Team players in the Italian Orange Crush. This Mac Truck won’t slow down on account of a frog in the road.

THE LINE: Netherlands +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Netherlands 4, France 1. Sneijder, Kuyt, and van der Vaart again started in place of Heitinga, Van Persie, and Robben. For the frogs, Govou started at left back and Ribery moved up as the second striker adjacent to Henry. Dirk Kuyt got us started in the 9th, winning the aerial battle with Malouda off a van der Vaart corner. To their credit, the French refused to capitulate. They finished the first half the stronger side thanks mostly to furious work from Ribbery along the flanks. Whatever crosses or squares he sent Henry’s way, however, the then Barça striker displayed shockingly poor finishing techniques.

Robben and van Persie were early second-half substitutes and wasted no time proving why amateurs such as myself had them picked for the starting eleven. In the 59th, Robben tore up the left flank and crossed to van Persie to a one-touch volley rocket. Henry managed to pull one back with a flick of a Sagnol cutback in the 71st. Robben restored the two goal lead one minute later after some fine passing by van Nistelroy and van Persie. Just for shits and giggles Sneidjer lofted a ranged effort the 92nd that bounced in off the crossbar. My cats have brought me Frog corpses with more liveliness.


Sweden vs. Spain


Well done, Zapateros. “Fernando Fernando” and “Villa, Villa, Villa!”. Yes, it’s the country where even if you reduce five names to one, the remaining name must be repeated at least once. Get some lyrics for that National Anthem and we'll talk.

Likewise, well done Swedes. The win was about as ugly as the blond dye jobs your less Nordic-looking players feel compelled to give themselves, but Ibrahimovic has the squad purring along like a well-tuned Volvo S80...or perhaps even a Saab S32 Lansen.

We all know who the better team here is, but the Swedes have a secret weapon stashed away: Mind-numbingly tedious football. Should they succeed in slowing down the pace of the game, tackling controversially, and keeping the ball in neutral territory rather than even attempt to press forward……well then we all lose even if they draw LL

THE LINE: Spain +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Spain 2, Sweden 1. It was Villa with the Thrilla. The opening goal at the 15 minute mark owed everything too his opportunism. He took a quick corner short to David Silva. Silva used the seemingly infinite time and space he had been granted to carefully pick out Torres on a cutting run.

Five minutes later an injury to Carlos Puyol left the Spanish defense weakened, enough so that Ibrihimovic could blast in an equalizer in the 34th over a flat-footed Sergio Ramos desperately trying to cover the side he wasn’t accustomed to. Ibrihimovic himself suffered a knee injury sometime before the end of the half and would not play after the restart. The back 45 belonged solely to La Roja. Villa and Torres shelled Isaaksson without interruption, at one point knocking his nose out of joint with a scorcher that would leave him with two black eyes the next morning. Villa could have easily scored a hat trick with all the comets he unleashed. Instead, it was his final strike in the 92nd that bested a clearly fatigued Isaakson. A much deserved last second win.

Greece vs. Russia


Oh we’ve a very tasty special for all of those who think the Pavlyuchencko and Pogrebynak injuries are too much for the Ruskies to overcome. True, a disappointing debut for Hiddink's squad. Still, I am confident this is the best Russian squad ever. An inspired qualifying campaign makes me two entire goals confident! Act now, before I claim the Artic Seafloor as well.

Odds on Players opposing Russia getting poisoned
Ionanis Ammanatidis (Greece) 3 to 1
Nikos Liberopoulous (Greece) 9 to 1
Christian Wilhelmsson (Sweden) 12 to 1
Henrik Larsson (Sweden)  25 to 1


THE LINE: Russia +2 Goals


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Russia 1, Greece 0. Too confident. This would have been a fine payday had the poisoning gag led me to get cocky. Note to writers of all stripes: When, near the end of a marathon writing session, you surprise yourself by coming up with an idea in spite of your depletion: IT’S NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THINK. You’re standards have merely been lowered.

Pavlyuchencko recovered from his testicular injury and made the starting lineup to little effect. In a game in which he squandered numerous chances, the only goal came when Greek keeper Antonis Nikopoladis foolishly abandoned his goal to chase a ball he had no business going after and Segei Semak coolly flicked it over his head to a Konstantin Zyrkanov waiting in front of an untended goalmouth. The knuckleheaded play currently circulates among various online blooper reels.