Saturday, April 28, 2012

WM 2006--Round Four

Sämtliche Freuden,
WM 2006

The pace quickens. The plot thickens. Insofar as I’m concerned, it’s hailing happiness. Welcome to the “lightning round”. Four games per day as we round out the group stages. Sixteen dead-weight nations are soon to be lopped off. As they say in Karlsruhe “Jetzts gehts los” My naïve brain remains incapable of processing what those dirty hippies were thinking when they declared a “Summer of Love”. I also never understood why those Ravers elected to brand heavy drugs and darkened rooms as some sort of generational unity statement. We’ve got everything we could ever possibly need right here. Football, friends, and gambling. Not to say that some heavy drugs wouldn’t be welcome..I mean if anyone’s holding. JJ

All of the money I’ve pilfered from you cats will barely be enough to cover my cell phone bill. Very little is more pleasurable that staying up until 7 a.m. central time arguing with a Spaniard about whether or not God exists, grabbing two hours of deep sleep, and then getting up for an entertaining football match to see if he actually does. Same goes for chatting about ECOWAS with a skeptical South African until the rains come, depart, and then come again. I could go on forever as most of our conversations do. Please do not be offended if I neglected our particular conversation in this blitzed out passage. I still must expend some calories on the dichotomy of exhaustion. There is the frustrated exhaustion characterized by the inherent sense that energy is being expended towards a futile and petty purpose. Symmetrically there is such a thing as satisfied exhaustion, a comforting realization that while one may not be operating at full capacity, the bulk of one’s initiative has been directed properly. The latter soothes my weary bones. My love to all of you.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Hmmm…as overly simplistic as he might have been, there’s something constructive in there. Of course life inescapably tends toward the former type of exhaustion, a type of which no one should be ashamed. We cannot expect that hard work or the manner in which we push ourselves will be appreciated by anyone. In fact it is quite vain and narcissistic to do so. Woody Allen may have playfully noted, “90% of life is showing up”. That’s a celebrity’s incomplete vantage. Ninety percent of life is showing up AND realizing that you have to play by other people’s rules AND accepting the reality that they don’t give a shit about you AND becoming conscious of the fact that they have no reason to give a shit about you. Who the hell do you think you are anyway? There’s a point to be made here. Namely, should you find some people that really do give a shit about you, give them everything you have. Hell, should you find ONE person who gives a shit about you, funnel all of your efforts. With a wink I deliver this message to some unbelievably intelligent peeps all around the world…and to anyone who recalls my long dead Bwana.

Now that we’re past the Küschelrock section, onwards to the hubris-laden segment that everyone looks forward to.

Dispatches from the Penthouse (Fit the 1st)

Another beautiful Summer Evening in South Louisiana. This morn I awoke at the crack of 11 a.m. After brewing some perfectly proportioned Community Coffee, I sat on my balcony for a half hour consuming caffeine blissfulness while I chained smoked Marlboros while staring at the Mississippi.  The true measure of how pimped-out your crib is literally pertains to the activities you may engage in your bathrobe. The breeze beckoned me. After reading the paper and hitting up the clubhouse treadmill, I favored a quick swim in the pool followed by the pure euphoric ebullience of a sun-dried anhydration. How wonderful it feels to revel in the sensation of every last hair on your body standing straight up courtesy of a mystically burning nuclear furnace over 3.5 Million miles away. A read some more of the essay-centric book “A history of the world in 10 ½ Chapters”. When that began to bore me, I rifled through some more of “The Last Hayride.” When that too failed to sufficiently captivate me, I read two chapters of Madeline Albright’s “Madame Secretary”, did the NY Times Crossword and fell into a deep tranquil sleep. I awoke as the hour drew late and the gentle afternoon breeze wafted over me. A modest dinner and a few glasses of delightful Pinot Grigio later I was back on the balcony re-reading my Oxford Companion to Philosophy with the occasional glance toward the flare from the nearby oil refinery, wondering what in the hell I did to deserve such a peaceful and reflective day. Yes, my friends. Life’s great when you’re a guy who’s privileged enough to be left alone.  Hope you’re all jealous. God may not be great, but life certainly is. JJ

Dispatches from the Penthouse (Fit the 2nd)

When throwing a Football Soiree, how many televisions are appropriate? A 52-inch plasma tucked inside the private bar somehow doesn’t seem to be sufficient. Sure eight to ten people can comfortably sip cocktails, snug in their posh surroundings. What about those who prefer to lounge out by the pool? To accommodate the dozen or so who prefer to soak up the sun in chaise lounges, you’ll need to bring down another unit. Careful not to set it too close to the grill or the hot tub. What of the two extra flat screens back in the clubhouse? The ones symmetrically situated on the mahogany-paneled wall in front of the two camel leather couches and four pop-block sofa chairs? Well, this host believes in making the multilingual contingent feel welcome. Thank heavens there are two flat screens. Were one operating under more indigent conditions, it would not be possible to have both the Telemundo and Univision broadcast on. This concludes today’s homemaking hint from Heloise Vice. Four televisions should be commensurate.

Dispatches from the Penthouse (Fit the 3rd)

The requisite mezzanine flooring option for the Southern Intellectual is none other than amber-colored hardwood. The Southern Intellectual can easily acquire a glossy marble tabletop bedecked with candles and bowls of fresh fruit. The Southern Intellectual can easily amass bookshelves full of Faulkner novels, Nietzsche compilations, Allain de Botton masterpieces, and AJIL journals. The Southern Intellectual may pour himself a wine refill before striding out to a balcony overlooking an oil refinery, raising his glass high to make a point less erudite than his surroundings might suggest. Should this striding not take place across amber-colored hardwood floors, something is lacking. The great Southern Intellectual is nothing more than a lucky bastard felicitous enough to fall into, for a brief moment, the lap of luxury. Faulkner, Percy, Toole, Styron, Fox, Lee, Capote, Welty, O’Connor, Dickey, and Hurston. A life without undue reward remains incomplete. Undeserved comeuppance focuses the mind. The mind zeroes in on more than amber-colored hardwood floor, but that will have to wait until tomorrow J

Dispatches from the Penthouse (Fit the 4th)

Eros Ramazotti normally only pervades the spaces of subpar European Pizza Parlors. Seriously. Go sit down for a Margarhetta in any European Italo-joint. If you get through the entire pie without hearing “Dove c’e Musica” the meal is on me. I’m more of a “Piu Bella Costa” man myself. At least when this soulful serenade drifts from the Mac to marginally reach my ears as I sit on a spacious balcony overlooking the Mississippi, the notes properly modulate the effects of alcohol to foster something of a moonlight nocturne. “Piu bella costa” roughly translates to “nothing more beautiful”. Hence, I shall now attempt a very un-poetic translation of Ramazotti’s kitsch in a shitty, yet heartfelt, “Ode to my Penthouse”

“com’è cominciata io non saprei
la storia infinita con te
che sei diventata la mia lei
di tutta una vita per me
ci vuole passione con te
e un briciolo di pazzia
ci vuole pensiero perciò
lavoro di fantasia”

“I don’t remember how it began
My timeless story with you
You’ve become my girl,
A lifelong love
I experience passion with you
With some insanity as well
I care for you deeply
(enough) to work on this fantasy”

“ricordi la volta

che ti cantai

fu subito un brivido sì”

“Remember the time,
When I sang for you
We both were made to shiver”
“ti dico una cosa

se non la sai

per me vale ancora così”

“I’ll tell you one thing
Even if you don’t know
For me it’s true”

“ci vuole passione con te,

non deve mancare mai

ci vuole mestiere perché

lavoro di cuore lo sai”

“I experience passion with you,
(passion) that I’ll never miss,
I speak from knowledge,
Because you know I speak from the heart.”

“cantare d’amore non basta
mai, ne servirà di più
per dirtelo ancora
per dirti che
più bella cosa non c’è
più bella cosa di te
unica come sei
immensa quando vuoi
grazie di esistere...”

“To merely sing about love will never suffice,
it shall use me,
I must tell you that now
I must tell you that still
There is nothing more beautiful
More beautiful than you
As unique as you are
Endless (love) if you wish
Thank you for existing,”

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I’ve double-checked to confirm that there were actually THREE more stanzas. Poor Vicey got tired. Understandable considering how immensely fucking hard translation work is…even when you speak the language! To all those who falsely believe I speak a bit of Italian: You’re wrong. I suck. What you see above took over three hours of online dictionary work, extensive review of verb conjugation tables, and eventually some frantic pacing to decide upon the right amount of poetic liscense. Measuring it against other legitimate translations, I see I took far too many liberties….again. My overreaching precludes me from even being a German-English translator. The perfected ability to write in multiple languages fluently is UNIMAGINABLY hard. No, I don’t care about your drunken conversational skills. Your companions were too tired/disinterested/polite to correct you. Precision can only be achieved through hard work. Even my own father can’t write in English without looking like a fool, and he’s been speaking the language for over thirty years! International Football tournaments present you with the optimum opportunity to hug a translator/interpreter. Thank them for their hard work. A sad aspect of being human is that one has trouble functioning when one doesn’t believe in one’s own uniquely uncommon and unrivaled genius. A sad aspect of reality is that one is neither uncommon nor unrivaled. Admittedly I’ve been watching too much Republican Primary Coverage and thus feel the need to interject some sense of scope into Gingrich’s enormous head. At least Dubya could string together a few sentences in Spanish. Newt would have trouble ordering his daily eighth slice of pizza over at “Ramazotti’s”. Food for thought and thought for food.      

Enough of this shit. Time to set some lines.


Deutschland vs. Ecuador


“Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!
Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!
Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!”

All across the Marktplätze of the Fatherland, this catchy Easyjetter techno remix of “Scotland the Brave” has the Krauts dancing in the streets. That is to say…swaying their hips and tapping their feet in a manner vaguely reminiscent of what might be called “dancing”. We’re not exactly “flexible” or “limber” people. German dancing usually consists of standing in one place and bending one’s knees lightly. If we’re feeling especially spontaneous we might lift our arms a tad, but no promises. It takes plenty of beers to loosen us up that to that degree. In any event, we are headed to Berlin for a decisive final group match with the Quito Warriors. We’re likely also headed to Berlin for the Quarterfinals. The song, however, exemplifies our explicit hopes in being in Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the final match. Hence the refrain must be sung at least three times.   

“Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!
Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!
Berlin. Berlin. Wir fahren nach Berlin!”

First place in the group is not yet sewn up. La Tri have won their two matches by a combined 5-0 margin. They need only a draw to pack us off to a frightening Round of 16 encounter with probable Group B winners England. This is a real concern. No matter how energizing Neuville’s last minutes heroics were, the Poland match laid our shortcomings bare. 
In spite of pronounced dips in form, Schweinsteiger and Schneider are expected to start. No rest for Ballack, Klose, or Podolski either. Unless the Mannschaft captures an early insurmountable lead, we’ve no choice but to let the starters run for 90 minutes. Even if we win, we risk carrying an exhausted bunch forward. You know what that means, Jungs. Take care of business early. Out onto the pitch with a full out blitz! Sonst fahren wir keineswegs wieder nach Berlin LL

THE LINE: Deutschland +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Germany 3, Ecuador 0. What was immediately shocking about this match was trainer Luis Fernando Suarez’s decision not even to contest it. He left out four of his top starters. Lead strikers Augustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio had scored four of Ecuador’s five goals. Captain Ivan Hurtado was the team’s beating heart. All three joined the high-flying Segundo Castillo on the bench as Suarez waved the white flag before we even kicked off. What the extravagating fuck? You can’t just surrender to the Germans without even putting up a….sigh…INSERT YOUR OWN VICHY JOKE HERE.

Ye old “Surrender Monkey” line rarely fails to elicit a laugh. It’s still little fun watching a defenseless chimp undergo Mengle-like medical experiments. That’s how this one felt. As soon as the lineups flashed across the screen one already knew it was over. Progress may depend upon finding ways to skin a cat, but does one have to toss the poor kitten in the microwave? Klinsi gave only Metzelder a break, starting the “Berlin Wall” Premiership star Robert Huth in his place. Schneider and Schweine recovered from their poor firm quickly, both assisting on the first Klose goal four minutes in. Ballack finally got involved with a cheeky little flick on to set up Klose again one minute before the half. Finally we saw the creativity Abrammovic paid handsomely for. Schneider crossed square for Podolski in the 57th and the reserves started filling in. Yawn. Apart from Ballack’s wizardry it was a sad one to watch. The Mannshaft debuted the “bowling pin” charade after it was all over. Torsten Frings rolled a ball toward ten White-clad players standing in a triangular formation thirty yards away, who then proceeded to fall down when the rock reached them. Cute enough I suppose. 

Costa Rica vs. Poland


With only pride to play for, these two teams will march out the reserves for some pro-active training. The gnawing sense of déjà vu molesting you has nothing to do with the fact that you got drunk and hooked up with the ex-girl again last night. You’re thinking about what happened to the Poles four years ago. They were upset 2-0 by a weaker team in the opening match. After obstinately standing by their men, they got sucker-punched in the second match to earn embarrassing elimination before anything really got started. In their farewell game they managed to pull it together and salvage some semblance of honor. And we’re just about done here…

THE LINE: Poland +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Poland 2, Costa Rica 1. Caught up with this one on Youtube, in between watching Carl Lewis’s Music Video and coming to the realization that I would need to work in a “boom goes the dynamite” line at some point. It did not start off auspiciously for the Poles when Ronald Gomez bypassed their wall’s northeastern flank with a free kick headed straight for East Prussia. A pair of first-rate corner deliveries from Zurkowski and Kryznowek found the head of Bartoz Boscki, whose brace gave the “Football-skis” the edge. The 2002 Rerun was complete. Wanchope slipped through the porous defense to get jiggy with it two final times. Only two true fullbacks started for a Poland side determined to throw everything they had at goal. Acutely aware that they were already appallingly late for the ceremonies, Polska made the conscious choice to fly straight through the storm. What? Too soon? Oh come on. Know the hell misses Kaczynski?

Sweden vs. England


As scrotum-scratchingly dull as the Swedes have played thus far, they shave a chance to finish atop this group. We all know what that means. Fractured Metatarsus or no, Wayne Rooney will start. Inconceivable that he won’t be paired with his soul mate Michael Owen, so anorexic equivalent of Shaquille O’Neal Peter Crouch will take a seat. Gary Neville has been ruled out for the duration of proceedings so we’ll probably see part-time fullback Jamie Carragher again. Other than some rumors of midfield shuffling, nothing much else doing for Sven’s Eleven. The Swedish coach should have no trouble dismantling his languid home country.

The nattering Nordics are through irrespective of the result. I’m as miffed as anyone who’s past the “Shitty Ikea instructions Event Horizon.”. One measly goal? Lagerbäck has tried everyone. Alexandersson and Wilhelmsson. Svensson and Eriksson. Nilsson and Hansson. Don’t be surprised if emergency backup forward “this-guy-really-sucks-asson” partners with Henrik Larsson, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to nurse a muscle strain. The non-sardonic picks for this confused and limping squad will likely be Källström, Johnson, Allbäck, and Ljunberg. That’s a significant amount of players with the Midas touch. Absent their best player, however….

THE LINE: England +1 goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Sweden 2, England 2. Terrific pace to this one, even as St. George lost both strikers early. A few seconds after kickoff Michael Owen cracked his knee open and had to be carted off on a stretcher. Rooney could only take 69 minutes, and looked genuinely atrocious throughout. Even had he been healthy, the Rooney/Crouch Combo has never gelled well at all. The bullish finisher and the aerial master make for an awkward Asterix/Obelix pairing without the magic potion. Can’t believe I just wrote. We’re a few more paragraphs away from a Tintin gag LL. With the frontal force mired in cloddish maladroitness, Joe Cole manned-up to play perhaps the best match of his career. Ordinarily overshadowed by midfield partner Steven Gerrard, Cole had the whole left side of the pitch to himself in this one. In the 34th he chested down a free ball and impulsively elected to send in an effort off the volley. The astonishing floater traveled a solid sixty yard parabolic path before brushing past Isaksson’s fingertips into the right corner. Later, after Gerrard was subbed in, he showed tremendous patience and impeccable touch. A few meters outside the 18 he unhurriedly sent the Swedish defense flailing in different directions with three fake shots. All the while he kept his eye on Gerrard as he moved into break position. With perfect timing he swung it in directly towards Gerrard’s noggin for the second England goal. The Swedes grabbed two garbage tallies that had more to do with fumbled Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand clearances than anything else. The Vaterland breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing that these pretenders would be our next opponents.

Paraguay vs. Trinidad and Tobago


Hmmm…what’s the “Guarani” for “Don’t even think of bothering with this game.”? Should the England/Sweden match reach a dull impasse, flip on over to a “Matlock” rerun. Farewell Soca Warriors. We hardly knew ye. The proud Albirojja will send your team on their way now. Please feel free to remain in Germany and we can all use a few more dreadlocked friends. Back to the Pfalz and Fritz Walter Stadion.

THE LINE: Paraguay +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Paraguay 2, Trinidad and Tobago 0. Over 40,000 Pfälzers turned up to ensure that not even the most mundane of matches would fail to sell out. This Pfälzer flipped over in the final moments just in time to watch Nelson Cuevas score a goal that was in no way memorable.


Netherlands vs. Argentina


For the third consecutive time slot we arrive at match between two Round of 16 Qualifiers jostling for first place in the group. With one more round to go before the slate is wiped clean of yellows, Van Basten has indicated that he’ll rest Robben Heitinga, and Van Bronckhorst. Van Nistelroy and Van Persie are playing well enough up front to merit only two strikers anyway. The back-to-back “man of the match” is in line for break. Will we see Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, and Dirk Kuyt? Anyone’s guess but I rather doubt it. Van Basten appears fairly committed to integrating Laadzat and Van der Vaart into the team at any cost. He’s all set to use this match as a confidence booster for them.

Projecting lineups for both of these teams is next to impossible. Both have a surplus of talent and it’s unclear whether they truly wish to play for the win. Pekerman will presumably also wish to sit his yellows, making me tentatively scratch Heinze, Crespo, and Saviola. Gonzalez and Sorin are hurt. Fuck. Excuse while I go fiddle around with the chalkboard some more.

Okay. Professor Pete returns, prepared to upgrade his lecture from “clueless” to “subpar”. Pekerman will be unable to resist calls to start “the Kid” next to Tevez. Hence, all my speculation about the Dutch is hereby declared an intensively irrelevant waste of time. The formula presently reads as follows. “The Kid” crushes a dopey lot of Flemish-Germanic clowns. Q.E.D.

THE LINE: Argentina +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Argentina 0, Netherlands 0. Yes, when I was a child my parents bought me a chalkboard. Twenty years later they’ve not ceased to drop both subtle and overt hints about what they feel I should be doing with my life. Until this moment I hadn’t fully connected the dots with respect to this gift. Who gives a six-year-old a chalkboard? “Look son, never to early to start preparing your lectures!” Man. How miserable it is to grow up the only son of two scholars. They concoct endless theories about you that would make for fine hypothetical broad strokes yet ignore the reality that you’re a living, thinking entity. Go to them with your problems and the best they can do is list a dozen more problems you might not have thought of while carefully eluding any concrete solution. Bring home your 2nd Grade Science Essay and they’ll immediately begin to pontificate on its worthlessness. Should you break the lamp, you get an ACTUAL lecture…on the chalkboard they gave you last Christmas.

The pain never relents. Before one knows it, one is all grown up, facing the selection of one’s own corner niche of bullshit to spend the next forty years toiling in mediocrity. Fighting the urge does absolutely no good. What else are you going to do there, killer? It’s not as if you can build an Artesian Well or design fighter jets for Lockheed. Even the army doesn’t want you. Soon raging against the urge becomes a full-time gig. You’re helping hundreds cheat their way through school while spewing acrid anti-academic tirades all over the place like a chronic mental masturbator. Where does it all end? Scale the Ivory Tower or not, it all ends in the same place. Eventually you return to dust, the very same dust that collects on your life’s work after people rapidly stop giving a shit. The very same dust that accumulates on everything that ever mattered to you after your relatives clean out your office, take out the trash, and decide where they’ll have the celebratory meal. 

Such a morose monologue fits this game nicely. Professor Pete and his chalkboard did a piss-poor job of predicting the outcome. The Lineup forecasts were close to fully accurate. Messi did start along with Tevez, Van der Vaart and Landazaat. However, the possibility that these teams would simply cancel each other out was not allowed for. There weren’t even any memorable misses…or so I’m told. After twenty minutes of stagnation I said, “fuck it” and watched the Africans.

Cote d’Ivoire vs. Serbia and Montenegro


This meaningless match won’t be short of thrills. FINALLY, the Africans catch a break. With the two global superpowers in their rear view, they should find plenty of space to turn some tricks against this soon-to-be-dissolved debacle. Sadly, Drogba will be unable to take part after picking up a second yellow against the Dutch. We’ll still have Dindane, Kalou and the two Kones as part of a four striker set…at least I hope that’s what Michel’s planning. We’ll still see Keita, Eboue, and the two Toures. Tune in to give these boys a proper send off.

It just never came together for the poor Serbs, who lost their captain (Milosevic) to injury, their most prolific striker (Kezman) to suspension, and their big shot midfielder (Stankovich) to form so poor I’ve no choice but to conclude he contracted syphilis at a Leipzig brothel. Nevertheless, the “White Eagles” will play as a team with nothing left but one Montenegrin to lose should.  They’ve got guns left in Zidic and Klasjnic. By convention, eliminated teams give their backup goalkeeper a look in meaningless matches. We could be in for a high scoring affair.

THE LINE: Cote d’Ivoire +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Cote d’Ivoire 3, Serbia and Montenegro 2. It might not have been such a triumphant afternoon for Papa Elephant and the gang had it not been for the hands of defender Milan Dudic. He blatantly handled the ball in the box twice, resulting in two successful penalty goals. I’ve been unable to verify whether or not the urban legend of his house being burnt to the ground was true. In any event, he was unceremoniously kicked off the team, never to return. Predrag Djordevic threaded a booming pass directly through a spit defense for Zigic in the 10th. Ten minutes later backup keeper Boubacar Barry rushed out foolishly to contest a ball that Shasha Ilic was already on top of. 2-0 Serbs. Dindane finished the first of Dudic’s imbecilic penalties in the 37th. He and Arthur Boka were responsible for the two most ferocious of many ferocious efforts in the interceding half hour. Dindane finally broke through with a well-timed header in the 67th to level the score. Kalou finished the second idiotic Dudic blunder in the 86th. Dudic eventually broke out of the Russian and Serbian leagues to play in Austria. As noted above, he never received a call from the national squad again. As to the fate of his wife, dog, car, house, plants, lawn, and overall sense of well-being, only anecdotal information exists.

Portugal vs. Mexico


Sense a pattern just yet? Of the four groups we’ve covered thus far, we’ve yet another scrabble for first. Differentiating this fixture from the rest, should Portugal beat Mexico and Angola best Iran by a sufficient number of goals, a third place side has an outside chance of qualifying. Okay. To be entirely blunt, the Angolans have almost no chance. Therefore we detail a match more or less like all the others.

We’ll see the best that both these countries have to offer. Well, sort of. The Navigators are already through and Scolari is rumored to be considering sitting Christiano Ronaldo and Pauletta. He certainly has apt enough replacements in Petit, Simao, Tiago, and maybe even Porto’s Helder Postiga. The “Hossas” are still missing Borghetti and Franco. They’ll also be without Guadalajara’s Gonzolo Pineaida, out on double yellows. Gerardo Torroda, also said to be hindered by an injury, looks doubtful. These bloody wetbacks are doing little besides getting crippled, which makes no sense. They’re supposed to show up for work regardless. I say they give us a show before giving in to the Navigators.

THE LINE: Portugal +1 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 2, Mexico 1. Slovakian referee Lubos Michel would before long be “yellow carded” himself by FIFA for his consistently shoddy refereeing. To the belligerent and numerous U.S. fans who purport to see a conspiracy every time Uncle Sam finds himself on the short-end of a call, allow me to emphasize that bad officiating is part of the game; a part we attempt to police. Michel had a nightmare in this one and would soon be excommunicated from the cadre. First he gave the Navigators a questionable penalty when replays showed Rafael Marquez did little wrong. To be consistent he awarded a bullshit penalty to the Mexicans when Luis Ernesto Perez tripped over his own feet. Finally he sent Francisco Fonseca off for diving after Miguel unmistakably planted his boot in his crotch. Overall he issued nine yellow cards and one red, none of them related in any way to the actual game he was officiating.

Simao converted his nonsense penalty with a stutterstep while Omar Bravo sent his into the fourth row. Maniche and Jose Fonseca scored legitimate goals in a game that should either ended in a tie or a Mexican win. Great game, ref. You won.

Iran vs. Angola


Ahmandinejad has been permitted to watch this one in person, provided he doesn’t open his mouth. If only we were shrewd enough to place some BND NOCs in his box with the aim of casually soliciting his views on 1939-45. I fear we’re going soft on constitutional principles. I mean, allowing Holocaust Deniers to pass through our borders? What’s next, Scientologists? What? They gave Tom Cruise a work visa! Oh Fatherland LL We’ve got a football tournament going on here. This is no time to invite in bad karma!

The match? No sense setting a favorite. I’ll miss the Black Antelopes, but I’m not betting on them.

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Iran 1, Angola 1. Tom Cruise’s work visa was actually a hotly contested issue back in 2006 as he was scheduled to begin filming “Valkyrie” in early 2007. German paranoia with respect to Scientologists has subsided appreciably in previous years. One should not infer from my choice of adjectives that I appreciate this trend. Scientologists continue to frighten the hell out of me. I like my Thetans. Lord Xenu placed them in my mind for a reason. Leave my Thetans alone!!

This free-flowing game proved a splendid antidote to the Portugal/Mexico farce. Both sides lost key players to non-tackle related injuries, giving respective third string subs a chance to shine. After Angolan forward Mateus slipped and tore his ACL, a little known domestic player by the name of Arsenio Love came in and lit a fire under everyone’s posterior with three long range bombs and several sweet crosses. The great Farsi Unknown was Rhasoul Khatabi, who wasn’t afraid to peel off three ambitious efforts of his own. Always fun to watch nobodies with nothing to loose throw everything they have into the game. Tarika’s headed in a gorgeous cross while Bakhtiarizadeh nodded in a nicely curled corner. Fine runs, plenty of space, fluid passing, and intriguing set pieces. A game like this was sorely needed as the officiating continued to deteriorate.


Ghana vs. USA


It’s morning in America. Your friendly bookie Vicey shall serve as your alarm clock. Ahem…


Juice, Coffee, Sausage Links, Crushed-up Nodoz, Irish Coffee, Wake & Bake. Whatever you have to do to rise up and stay up for this one, get to work on your strategy. If anyone happens to mention in passing that they slept in late, I’m going to insert a mop-handle directly up your rectum you unpatriotic asshole.

I know it’s been trying to follow these foundering footballers and their regrettably unexciting brand of pitch play. Fortunately you remain in contention for the Round of 16, where we can put all of this unpleasantness behind us and look forward to a fresh start. You’ll need to come out guns blazing. The loss of Eddie Pope is as inconsequential as it gets, considering Arena will have to deploy a third striker anyway. I’d personally like to see either Ching or Wolff get a confidence vote, but we all know it will be either Beasley or Johnson. Donovan will press on the right and one of those two will fill the left with McBride in the middle.

A suspension of greater concern is Pablo Mastroeni. Ordinarily his absence would be immaterial, given how shitty he’s played and the equal or greater worth of John O’Brien. While O’Brien could potentially be an upgrade, he’s hurt and in a crisis. Thus, we’ll likely see Eddie Lewis return to his natural position. He can’t possibly perform worse than he did at left back against the Czechs, but he’s still well past his prime. Dempsey has certainly earned his stripes. He must start. In terms of the rest of the midfield, we’ve heard almost nothing from Convey and Reyna this entire tournament. Convey was indirectly responsible for Zaccardo’s own goal in the Italy match, but I’m afraid that’s not nearly good enough. Arena would be a fool not to start defender Jimmy Conrad as the roving midfielder. Someone has to instigate better movement up the pitch. This would leave Onyewu, Bocanegra, and Cherundolo at the back. Risky as it may be, you’re asking to lose if you start five backs in such a crucial match.

The Black Stars boast a more talented team, but must reorganize in light of two pivotal suspensions. Goalscorers Asamoah Gyan and Shelly Muntari are double-yellow ineligible. Gyan’s replacement will either be Razak Pimpong or Alex Tachie Mensah. The two have only nine Caps between them and neither has ever scored a goal for their country. The Muntari loss is even more devastating. A plastic-pitch player from the Serbian League named Haminu Draman is only remaining midfielder available to replace him. Word is he was called up by Serbian coach Radomir Dujkovic on a preposterous hunch.

So there we have it, Yanks. The preceding paragraph affords you some hope, a single ray if you will. Chelsea’s 35 million dollar rent boy Michael Essien will be starting. He’ll get plenty of balls forward to Matthew Amoah whatever other cast Dujkovic assembles. I’ll give you a low line and wish you luck. Don’t oversleep on me.

THE LINE: Ghana +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Ghana 2, USA 1. “Plastic pitch player” Haminu Draman may not have been such a “preposterous hunch” after all. He snatched possession from an inattentive Claudio Reyna just outside the 18 in the 22nd second minute, propelling the ball forward before catching up for a rifling strike that left Keller with no chance. Reyna buckled his knees and fell flat on his face. He tried to play through the injury for another twenty minutes before Arena was forced to sub in Ben Olsen. For the American captain it was a fitting end to a disastrous tournament. Two minutes before the half Demarcus Beasley won a smart tackle of his own in the danger area. He then crossed to a streaking (and slightly offside Clint Dempsey) for the only American goal of the competition.

The celebration was short-lived as the Ghanaians pushed to restore the lead before halftime. Pimpong missed by inches in the 46th. An incontrovertibly bad call gave Stephen Appiah a successful spot kick in the 47th. Inside the box Onyewu gave Mensah a slight shove that he shamefully oversold. Heading into the tunnel, the Black Stars were back on top. As disgracefully bad as the call was, the U.S. still had 45 plus minutes to rectify matters. During the second half they failed to even produce a shot on goal, though McBride did thunk a diving header off an Eddie Lewis cross of the bar. Onyewu, Donovan, and Bocanegra could only produce efforts that were humiliatingly wide. Substitutes Convey and Johnson did absolutely nothing. 

Czech Republic vs. Italy


What did I tell you? Without Jan Koller the Czechs are rudderless. He’ll remain on the sidelines once again and the Azzuri will undoubtedly seal their remarkable collapse. To recap now: Jan Koller is injured. Marek Heinz is injured. Vlatislav Lokvenc is suspended. Milan Barros is injured. Jiri Stajner is injured. For those keeping track, ALL FIVE STRIKERS are out for a 4-5-1 team. What the undulating fuck?

No need for the Wops to employ the clever play here. As much as it pains me to write it, this will be an easy authentic victory. With the Czechs sunk, the winner of the USA/Ghana match will head to the Round of 16. So disquieted am I by the forthcoming Wop Romp that I can’t be bothered to speculate on Lippi’s lineup. Just get your bets in gentlemen.

THE LINE: Italy +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Italy 2, Czech Republic 0. Dammit. Had I only made this line a little higher I would have made out like Madoff. I suppose I kept it at two assuming that Lippi would rest most of the first team. Devoid of any other options, Brückner started a woefully unfit Milan Barros. The then Aston Villa could barely walk let alone run with any pace. Brückner then subbed in still hobbling Heinz and Stajner, who also both waddled around lame and flaccid. The three wounded strikers could only rack up offside call after offside call. Thankfully the USA Ghana match kept me largely preoccupied as this one was like watching the Special Olympics version of the Kentucky derby. “Will someone please euthanize these poor horses,” I recall thinking! To be fair, Brückner had little choice but “bring out the gimps”. Marco Materazzi and Fillipo Inzaghi went Bruce Willis on their ass. Inzaghi’s goal counts as one of the most hilarious of all time. He and Simone Barone found themselves all alone in front of Cech. Instead of passing to his wide-open colleague for the tap in, he kept it himself so that he could out-deke the keeper and walk it in himself. Such dickishness I’ve never seen.   

Japan vs. Brazil


Zico faces his home country….and surely a pink slip that makes its gradual way to him via the newly privatized Japanese Post. Though the Japs haven’t technically been eliminated, they stand about as much chance of beating the Samba Kings as I do waking up tomorrow with a miraculous few extra inches of meat. Captain Tsuneyasho Miyamoto is suspended. Takahara and Yangisawa have been horrible. Nataka, Fukunishi and Ogsawara have been something beneath horrible. Even their Brazilian half-breed Alessandro dos Santos (“Alex”) exhibits all the flair of dwarf Phillipino slapfighter. The Croatian match only confirmed that Zico has no idea what the hell he’s doing. He stands there on the sidelines with a thumb up his ass before FINALLY making last-minute adjustments in the 88th minute. Le sigh. I had such high hopes for this team. They were supposed to be as entertaining as an episode of “Takeshi’s Castle” (“Most Extreme Elimination Challenge” for U.S. Readers.) Instead they’ve been as head splitting as a drunken Karaoke rendition of New World’s “Living Next Door to Alice” (Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” for U.S. Readers).

To make matters worse, Ronaldo seems to have found his legs and Parreira wants Robinho to start next to him. “Lulas Lads” are already through so expect some experimentation. Cafu and ze Roberto need a break, making room for Junhino and Cincinho. My prediction is Robinho, Ronaldo, Junhino and Robinho again. Over under on the number of hot chicks in the stands is 19.

 THE LINE: Brazil +3 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Brazil 4, Japan 1. And had I made this line a little lower I would have raked in the cash. What a great game! Zico went bold with Zaki and Tamada. They did not disappoint…initially at least. No one touched the over/under on shots of hot chicks, which easily exceeded 30.

Ronaldo got things started with a spectacular turn that Kawaguchi had to paw off at full stretch. Juninho, Ronaldinho, and Kaka grazed the bar. The Brazilians were hungry and dominant, if not quite awake. Events after the half hour mark certainly jarred them fro their slumber. Just when it appeared a Brazilian goal was imminent, “Alex” weaved his way past at least four challengers on a cross-pitch dribble. He eventually found Tamada unmarked, who then fired a shelver that Dida didn’t even bother to stop. The Samba Kings weren’t about to allow the Samurai to head into halftime with a lead, however. Kaka and Ronaldinho exerted sublime control to the left flank of the area. Their prolonged spell of possession drew in at least five Samurai deifiers. This allowed Cincinho to creep all the way up unmarked from his defensive position. Ronaldinho spotted him and delivered an impeccable ball which Cicinho headed toward Ronaldo, who then in turn headed it into the back of the net. Peerless. Flawless. Crisp.. Professional. Out-of-this-world play, I’m telling you.

Junhinho’s breathtaking long-range effort in the 53rd was so overwhelmingly impressive that I initially thought it was Kaka who had scored. Gilberto bested Kawaguchi flat out a scant few minutes later to make it 3-1. Finally, the Ronaldo who for the first time was fit enough to play ninety minutes gave us a heart-stirring thundersrike in the 81st. The money on Brazil would come pouring in after this one. They looked unstoppable.

Croatia vs. Australia


The Croats get their captain Niko Kovac back and are poised to secure their advancement. Actually, I’m not so sure. The Blazers have hardly been lighting it up. They're yet to score a goal and we've heard nothing from Babic, Simic or Olic. In principle this is an obscenely talented team. Kranjcar shows promise and Klasnic seems to have found his form. Still, they look the diametric opposite of the team that owned the qualifying stages.

I’ve no clue what could possibly be wrong. Does the team resent Kranjcar’s nepotism? Are there too many English and German speaking players? By all accounts they should make mincemeat out of the Socceroos, especially with Tony Popovic ruled out, but something is just off. The Aussies need but a draw to advance and Hiddink’s reputation as a master tactician has been restored. In short, I’m totally nonplussed. If only there were some way I could cheat my way out of this. Oh right………

THE LINE: Pick em’

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Croatia 2, Australia 2. Nice payday. Pretty solid game, too. Hiddink caused much consternation when he replaced Mark Schwarzer with Zeke Kalac, citing goaltender height as a the reason for the surprise move. We shall never know how it might have turned out absent this impulse, but I’ll take it.

Kalac’s first fuck-up came two minutes in when he constructed a poor wall in front of a set piece. Dario Srna easily curled it around the thin barrier to the gaping hole Kalac left with his poor positioning. He’d fuck up royally again in the 56th, failing to secure a Niko Kovac tapper, allowing a goal softer than a….not feeling the dirty quite yet this eve. An Igor Tudor handball inside the box led to a Craig Moore penalty and Harry Kewell finally broke through to even things up. Of course the goals were far from the story of this game. For some it was the degenerative security situation. After intoxicated Croatian Fans began striking flares in the stands there were scuffles. Apart from these mini-riots and a brief belligerent melee among German and Polish fans the tournament was largely non-violent.

Another story was, much to my personal chagrin, the shitty officiating. Tim Cahill should have been credited with a goal that clearly crossed the line before Pletikosa covered it up. It a bizarre incident, Croatian defender Josip Simunic received three yellow cards. English referee Graham Poll evidently mistook Simunic for an Australian player. Simunic was born in Australia and speaks with an Australian accent. As a result, he was not sent off after his second yellow, picking up the historic “third yellow expulsion” some time after he should have already been thrown off. Crazy stuff


Togo vs. France


I don’t even feel like rehashing the Togo situation anymore and I definitely don’t feel like writing about this match. Yeah, yeah. It’s a “colonial battle”. More like a “neo-colonial subjugation”. I encourage all syndicate members to boycott this disgustingly unfair display. What sort of God permits the French to polish their skills on the backs of their trampled, tortured, and maltreated former minions? Fucking Frogs. With any luck they’ll be lured into a false sense of accomplishment just in time to be crushed by the Spanish. One cannot rely on such a destiny in a godless universe. Only silence exists out in the ether…silence occasionally ruptured by your resident bookie, who will happily accept bets.

THE LINE: France +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: France 2, Togo 0. Yes, it was a detestable slaughter. No, I did not watch. I was far too busy shouting “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” at the Switzerland/South Korea feed. Two televisions in the clubhouse enabled me to watch both games at once, but the one I shall tell you about next was far too engrossing. Later I caught up on all the highlights and read up extensively. The subject most worth a mention involves Ribbery’s first start. Marseille’s late edition had clawed his way up to the starting lineup after only three caps. The tiny scar-faced scrapper found himself directly involved in two goals, first setting up Patrick Viera with a nifty flick, then creatively switching for Sagnol who crossed over to Viera who headed it on to Henry. Okay. I make a bit much of his original involvement in the second goal. One might say I’m somewhat taken with Ribbery, who now spends his days setting up “Super” Mario Gomez at Bayern. He happens to be a rare find: An authentically likeable Frenchman. Henry is amiable as well. The remaining crew only serves to piss me off.

Switzerland vs. South Korea


Jumbi Ju-bi Koh!
Jumbi Ju-bi Koh!
Jumbi Ju-bi-Koh!
Jumbi Ju-bi-Koh!

You’ve got to come through for me, Taeguk Warriors. Grab destiny by the short-and-curlies. C’mon Schwanz Befürworter! You’re rightful place is in the Quarterfinals. You cannot allow a quirky microstate to tyrannize you. You are the Red Devils of Asia! An army of delightful dainties has traveled over 10,000 miles just for you.  You’re the real country in this duel. Send the mountain men back through the Gotthard Tunnel!

The Koreans should function just fine without a tepid motivational address. Chon Soo Lee and Jae Jin Cho took the day off against France, but I’m not worried. As the next U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon can attest, Koreans are never at their strongest when dealing with the French. Advocaat only needs to make minor adjustments, possibly starting Ahn Jung-Hwan and Chu-Young Park, The Swiss will also be forced to make a few changes, perhaps replacing ineffective deadwood like Daniel Gygax, Phillip Degen, Ludovic Magnin, and Ricardo Cabanas.

Being too dense to craft any more inspirational passages involving Hyundai, Daewoo, Kim-Chi and Samsung, I will close by earnestly proclaiming that I expect you to take care of business. Any further involvement of the Swiss in this tournament will be a damaging blow to the sport’s international reputation. The honor of the game dictates that you throw these bastards out.

THE LINE: South Korea +2 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Switzerland 2, South Korea 0. Fuck me. This was the beginning of unprofitable day. Even more frustrating, yet another contest fell prey to erroneous officiating. The scoring began lawfully enough. Hakan Yakin struck a set piece in the 23rd that Phillip Senderos bravely broke his nose to head in. The Swiss medical team was only able to control the profuse bleeding temporarily and Senderos was forced to leave the pitch after the restart. Shortly after the hour mark, Schwanz Befürworter went into all out attack mode, bringing on extra strikers Ki Hyeon and Ahn Jung-Hwan. Hwan himself peeled off two vicious efforts that nearly leveled the score.

Then the Argentine officiating crew outrageously requested that the Red Devils bend over. The Linesmen made several impudently false calls that should have earned the surging Koreans a corner. When the right side judge finally got something correct, flagging an egregiously offside Alexander Frei, the Koreans took heed of the flag and stopped playing. In a scandalous move that one rarely sees, Argentine referee Horatio Elizondo overruled his linesman and waved off the offside. Such nullification is practically unheard of. Presumably Elizondo annulled the linesman’s decision because Xavier Margairaz, who was not involved in the play was further offside, and he thought the linesman had mistakably flagged him.

It shouldn’t have mattered. Frei was a good four yards past the last defender. The Linesman had made the correct call and the Koreans were correct to halt play. The Latin Americans had a chance to void this criminally heinous decision as all four officials conferenced. The respectful Koreans humbly approached the gathering with clasped hands and low-key pleas. To no avail. The refs broke camp allowing the ignoble atrocity to stand. Free goal for the Swiss. Alexander Frei had made it 2-0 after keeper Lee Woon Jae had stopped in deference to the flag. Motherfucker. It took a full 24 hours before I BEGAN to calm down.

Ban Ki-Moon made his way into the write up after I had read an article that he had emerged as the new front-runner to replace Kofi Annan at the October G.A., vote. Moon’s candidacy, declared six months earlier, had primarily been dismissed because it was thought his French wasn’t strong enough. I read with glee how this perceived shortcoming was becoming less germane. Three months later the U.N. G.A. made the logical selection. Fuck French. Fuck the Swiss too.

Saudi Arabia vs. Spain


Through to the Round of 16 after clinching first place in the group, Aragones is set to rest essentially the entire team. We already know that Casillas, Xabi Alonso, David Villa, Xavi, and Sergio Ramos will get the day off. Highly unlikely that we’ll see Torres, Raul, Puyol, Fabregas or Senna either. This will be an entirely different Spanish squad mostly comprised of Athletico or Villarreal players. Insofar as I’m concerned, Aragones can submit the Malago C.F. starting eleven if he wishes and it still won’t make a damn bit of difference. They’ll crush these losers. It’s another beautiful summer’s eve in….you guessed it…Kaiserslautern!

THE LINE: Spain +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Spain 1, Saudi Arabia 0. At the time this was written, Malaga had just been relegated. They’ve since climbed back up to the first division and are a reputable middle of the pack team. My apologies if I’ve struck any Andalusian nerves. It made sense at the time!

Aragones started Fabregas and Raul. Torres, Villa, and Xavi were kept sharp as substitutes. Juanito grabbed a goal while Reyes, Joaquin, and Iniesta got some target practice in a game played with all the intensity of a meaningless friendly. Didn’t turn a profit on this one, but didn’t lose anything significant either. Plenty of money came in Spain.

Ukraine vs. Tunisia


We round out the group stages with another match hardly worth risking carpal-tunnel for. I’ll barely be concentrating on this one, putting the final touches on the next set of lines instead. The blow of the final whistle will coincide with clicking the “send” button. The Ukrainians are also through and have the benefit of fitting in some extra training. Blokhin will likely rest….blah…blah….blah….blah. Wishing every last one of you the worst of luck in Round 3. Enjoy the matches. Until the weekend, this is your syndicate leader saying……


THE LINE: Ukraine +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Ukraine 1, Tunisia 0. Shevchecko scored a penalty goal. This concludes the shortest recap ever.