Saturday, April 28, 2012

WM 2006--Round of Sixteen (Part I)

Frohes Wochenende Syndikat Mitglieder,
WM 2006

I great you with some awful German in line with my awful mood as pertains to the officiating. Some very amateurish antics dominate the coverage of Round 3. Chief among them was the “Hamburg Havoc” of earlier today. Because of the unforgivable ineptitude of those asinine Argentines, I will soon be obligated to write still more about the Swiss. Damn it all to hell. How the hell can you quash an offside flag, confer with your linesman, and stick to your decision?!? I’m seething, SEETHING I tell you. I was supposed to be ridding myself of the Swiss, not engaging in deeper study of their team. Verpiss dich havaus! I already wrote your obituary. How DARE you hang around in my country? HOW DARE YOU!?!?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ermmm…..yes I do believe I already noted that it took 24 hours before the rage BEGAN to subside.

Oh well. Such is football. One can only dwell on insanely bad calls for so long. Life moves on and we’ve much business to attend to. To begin with, I’ve been inundated with accusations that my choice not to enclose oddsmaking stats constitutes some sort of conspiracy to cover up my torpid performance. To those of you, (you know who you are), to even facetiously suggest that a man who frequently writes…er… “in the buff” has something to hide is patently ludicrous!! You are aware that you have all the lines and results in front of you. Should you have a spare five minutes and some 1st grade arithmetical skills, you can score me yourself. In half the time it took you to construct the bloody e-mail you could have had your answer.

My choice to skip over the oddsmaking stats relates solely to the aesthetic incompatibly of numbers with the popular satirical segment “Dispatches from the Penthouse.” I reiterate that I have NOTHING TO HIDE. I am a proud nude typer. I will gladly send a racy photo of myself completely naked with only a laptop obscuring my genitals to anyone who petitions…and even those who don’t petition! Hmmm…well…rather than clog up everyone’s spam filter, why don’t I simply accept the criticism that 48 matches is an unusually long time to go without published stats? Read em' and weep, boys.

My Updated Stats:

Spread: 30-18
Straight up: 37-4-7

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Hehe. This little segment of course led to calls for that picture. Truly sorry everyone. At that time I didn’t own a digital camera. At present I own two. Something inescapable is coming. Just remember that there are some things in this world that one cannot “unsee”.

Another tradition I’ve been reprimanded for neglecting is the “goodbyes”. I’ve been sporadically working on them the entire time, right up until just now when I had to cut out the Swiss. Next time, Schweizer. LL I’ll keep her warm for you.

Serbia and Montenegro (32nd Place) 

Wow. That went so astonishingly bad that I think we should go ahead and dissolve the country. Oh right. The “Serbs” shall return, and I’ll never have to spell check “Montenegro” again!

Costa Rica (31st Place) 

The following is an excerpt from the ESPN “Tico Fan Blog”. Evidently the author will soon publish a collection of disparate thoughts under the heading “Football Poetry”. Here now is a special sneak peak at some of those thoughts.

“We’ve heard the Western Announcers sing our praises,
We’ve heard them shout our Latin names,
We’ve heard them proclaim our upset,
We’ve heard it thousands of times before kickoff,
We’ve heard it in our minds.”

Wow. That was also astonishingly bad. Then again, I don’t believe there exists such a thing “good” or even “okay” poetry. Free verse or rhyme scheme, my response remains the same: “Why are you wasting my time?” Safe trip back there, mate. Tell those voices in your head I said hello.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Coincidentally, “Why are you wasting my time?” is my favorite form of professor feedback. Again I have a uniform response: “Because I’m subsidizing your shitty scholarship, you talentless fat fuck”

Togo (30th Place) 

By all means come back again sometime. Next time, pay your players their contractual bonuses, keep your African coach on staff, and try harder not to impair the spirit of the game.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I’ve already written extensively on the tragedies experienced by the Togolese Football team over the past six years in another note. Suffice to say that I apologize for appearing to pile on a country that has suffered from a prolonged hex. The only appropriate emotion when writing about the Togolese Football Team in present times is one of humble and reverential empathy.

USA (29th Place) 

America……FUCK NO!! Cheer up, Yanks. So you soiled yourselves. It happens to the best us. Time to head home, immediately throw your maculated underwear in the trash, and get on with the rest of the day. Everyone shits their pants sometimes. In this case, there’s no shortage of besmirched garments you should be delighted to be rid of.

Which grimy discard should we address first? How about freeing yourselves of the “Bruce Bondage”? A keeper shouldn’t coach your team! Sure he coached D.C. United to a pair of titles…in the first two seasons of MLS’s existence. For the love of Christ, the clock used to stop when the ball went out into touch. You might as well crown him for winning the Southeastern Montana Coed over 30 Ultimate Frisbee Invitational. Let it go. He brought you further than you ever dreamed of in 2002, or was that merely a creampuff group and one bracket win? Prior to this tournament, he brought you all the way up to #4 in the worldwide FIFA Rankings….which mean absolutely nothing. My country was ranked #18. So many of you base your bets on the FIFA Rankings, erroneously thinking they’re determined like late season college football polls. A generous tip to all of you: It’s just an average guy in Brussels who, like so many average guys in Brussels, hasn’t a fucking clue what he’s doing.

What other dead weight are we about to cut? Though he cannot directly be blamed for the six goals you allowed, you should be thankful that Kasey Keller is hanging em up. One of the reasons you advanced so far in 2002 was that Brad Friedel, as a veteran Premiership player, had been exposed to the world’s best his entire career. Though Keller had his stint in the Premiership as well, his skills have certainly atrophied in the German Bundesliga. Sorry to say it, but Mönchengladbach is not where you want your keeper to be. It should prove exciting to watch Reading’s Marcus Hahnemman and Man U’s Tim Howard duel it out over the next few years.

Claudio Reyna happens to be a much better player than this tournament would indicate…or one might say WAS a better player. Man, does he look washed up. So does McBride. I don’t see either one of them spending more than another year in the Premiership and their days with the national team are numbered. The future looks bright. Dempsey and Covey will continue to develop, the former poised to be one beast of a player. Beasley, Donovan and Bocanegra will return with more experience. No, Freddy Adu will not be ready in four years time. He’s only 15! Other prospects from your U-23 U-20 and U-17 squads might. Keep an eye out for Samuel Ochoa, Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven, Lee Nguyen, Omar Gonzalez, and Michael Stevens.

We’ll see you in South Africa, boys. Don’t worry. Owing to CONCACAF withdrawals, I believe you’ve already qualified. JJ

Editor’s retroactive notes:

It was a miserable summer for U.S. Soccer and this early exit threatened to kill off a large portion of the readership. One can always rely on Americans to lose interest once they stop hearing their names being called. Even in the dead of summer, with three of their four major sports leagues on hiatus, I received plenty of “well, we’re out of it. I’m going to take my ball and go home now” e-mails from bitter Yanks. The very least I could do was give them a lengthy farewell…gently reminding them who their players were.

So much to say regarding this dissection six years on. How about that list of “Up-and-coming U.S. Stars”? It’s a veritable who’s who of “WHO?” Only Feilhaber made it to the national team. The rest of those guys, including Freddy Adu, wallow in obscurity. Okay, I’m being a little unfair to Freddy Adu who has received multiple call-ups and may yet prove to be a reliable presence. The fact remains he came nowhere near the savior status we all accorded him back in 2006. He was supposed to be THE Michael Jordan of U.S. Soccer. As it stands now Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Daniel Williams, and Brek Shea keep him off. Barring an injury to one of them, one doesn’t see Klinsi giving Freddy a ring anytime soon.

I presciently predicted the evolution of Clint Dempsey into one of the world’s best players. He’s in the midst of another fantastic season as Fulham’s beating heart. It’s amusing to read how I thought Bobby Convey would be back. He lasted another year or so before being dropped. We missed just about everyone else. No mention of Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Spector, Timmy Chandler, Jay Demerit, Brek Shea, Ricardo Clark, Jonathan Bornstein, Edson Buddle, Stuart Holden, or Kyle Beckerman. It just goes to show that truly understanding a national squad takes far more than a few hours of research JJ I hope at least one U.S. Soccer fan learned something about their team through the either the original passage or this update. Some points to raise before moving on begins with the fact that the U.S. national team is actually an agglomeration of four separate squads: U-18, U-20, U-23, and the National Squad. The Youth Teams function much like a minor league farm system.

Different countries have different configurations and the age limits change from time to time. In any event, most every country has 2-3 “Developmental Squads”. Players move between them all the time. A national squad itself will go into each individual friendly match with 5 to15 different players on the roster, depending on whom the trainer wishes to give a look. Furthermore, one of the developmental squads plays in a tournament in almost any given month of any given year. The aim of all of this info is to emphasize that one can actually scout the national team practically anytime one wants. No need to wait four years to learn about your players.

Of course I won’t judge you if you decide to look up players one week before the tournament starts. After all, that’s how I handled last summer’s Women’s World Cup. Nevertheless, we cannot afford the embarrassment of 2010 again, when rabid U.S. Soccer fans poured into South African stadiums only to be out-chanted by the infamous “Name three U.S. Players” taunt. Success on the pitch notwithstanding, the U.S. has a LONG way to go before winning a “Stands Battle”.

Trinidad and Tobago (28th Place) 

How sad that it’s already time to return to your island paradise, where you’ll all sip cocktails, blow herb, and engage in exotic sex for a full six weeks before training camp starts. Yes, I know you’d rather spend another two weeks sweating your balls off on a German football pitch while the rest of the world shows you up. Just let it go. Hit up the hammock and wait for the phone to ring. European player managers are sure to offer you some overpaid contracts after three matches on the grand stage. Just relax. You won’t even be drunk before the first calls come in.

Japan (27th Place) 

So ends the Zico experiment; the most misguided choice for a Samurai Leader since Tom Cruise. Mowed down by the Howitzers, the mighty Blue Samurai have six months to regroup in time for the Asian Cup. They need a coach with the “will of the warrior”. Time to tap into the J-League for someone worthy of the suffix “-san”, whatever the hell it actually means. Time for a Japanese coach again. It’s been eight doleful years of abject failure. We’ll surely see most of the crew back in four years time. Quality players. All they need is a Shinto injection.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

The Japs hired a Bosnian named Ivicha Osim. He had coached one of the domestic league teams to great success. I’m glad the Japs didn’t follow my advice as this guy turned out to be one of the greatest characters the game has ever seen. The stories are legion. He once went off on a thirty-minute rant disparaging his player’s performance after a disappointing match. The long profanity-laced tirade was such an overload on his interpreter that she collapsed in tears, forcing him to console her. When he narrowly failed to lead Japan to their third consecutive Asian Cup title, he gave a 30 minute long self-deprecating speech saying among other things that he had “dropped his pants” and “spanked [his] players with the wrong belt.” A collection of his Trappatoni-level quotations sold very well in Japan. In late 2007 he suffered a stroke while watching a Premiership Game. Reportedly his first words after emerging from weeks in a coma were “What was the score?” Legend has it he refused to discuss anything else until someone told him.

Were it not for his health problems, we would have been treated to oh so much more. The Japs brought Okada to succeed him. After another early exit in 2010, a Wop is in charge. When will you learn, Japs? You didn’t win back-to-back World Baseball Classics with foreign managers?!? Oh, I’m going to write about that one someday JJ Block me now.

Saudi Arabia (26th Place) 

From dead last to 26th in four years. Not bad, desert dwellers. Now if you’d be so kind as to never come back. I can't write about a team of players solely drawn from a league I have zero chance of ever giving the remotest of shits about. Be gone, vile creatures!

Iran (25th Place) 

On the subject of teams I never wish to write about again, please stay gone. Having no more vitriolic energy to expend on political matters, I shall chastise you for your choice of kit manufacturer. Puma? Any friend of Rudolf is no friend of mine! You better don Adolf’s three stripes if you want my support!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Hmmm..perhaps some explanation is in order. Shortly after the war, two German brothers finally decided they had about all they could stand of one another. Rudolf and Adolf Dassler had previously been joint owners of a small shoe factory in Northwest Bavaria. During the war, the slightly older Rudolf had been an ardent and enthusiastic member of the NAZI Party. Adolf joined too, but mostly out of necessity. The story goes that as the war drew to a close Adolf turned his older brother of to the Allies. In any event, whatever happened between the two, it was so serious that they never reconciled or spoke again. Rudolf combined the first two letters of his Christian name and the first three of his family name to form “Ruda”, later renamed “Puma”. Adolf Dassler quickly realized that having the name “Adolf” in postwar Germany did not exactly help his business prospects and proceeded to go by his nickname “Adi”. Out of pure spite for his brother he started his own shoe company, utilizing the same naming technique “Adidas”.

Irrespective of the amount of truth in the story, Germans are quite clear in which shoes and apparel they consider worthy of their postwar pride. Not that one can’t get away with wearing Puma in Germany, but you’ll eventually be told in no uncertain terms “Dems NAZI shoes.”. The true German brandishes his or her Three Stripes as a symbol of the Wirtschaftswunder and a de-Nazified economy. Adidas has always been and shall forever remain the official outfitter of the German team. Puma outfits the Italians, the Serbs, the Ukrainians, the Saudis, and pretty much any other country with no moral conscience. Plenty more to come on this topic once we get to this summer’s uniforms. Adidas forever! Call me a wannabe Soccer Prep all you want.

Tunisia (24th Place) 

Christ, can we get out of the Arab-Persian Axis? That’s now three Islamic Nations in a row! Okay, the Tunisians can come back, but only because I like Jaziri.

Angola (23rd Place) 

These guys can definitely come back. A homogenous team by no stretch of the imagination, it was a pleasure to watch the Antelopes. I already miss Akwa, Jamba, Loco, Andre, Mendonca, Love and Figuerdo. We didn’t even get to see the guys with the coolest names, the ones I want to name my children after: Flavio, Lebo Lebo, and Titi Buengo. Note to the Togolese: This is how it's SUPPOSED to be done. Keep your African coach and play your heart out. A gutsy and lionhearted debut for our sub-Saharan brothers. They deserve a standing ovation. Keep it going!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Fuck. I miss them. Could have used them in 2010, rather than another Pfister-fucked Cameroon side. They still have an African manager, Luanda born “Lito”. Come on back for Africa. Come on back for Vicey. J

Croatia (22nd Place) 

I still haven’t a clue what happened. I’ve cannibalized every article I could find. I’ve gone for a run. I’ve swung by Capitol Grocery. I’ve actually used the stove in my kitchen to cook for the first time. I’ve eaten for the first time in days. I’ve disrobed and pondered all three matches buck-naked. No idea what happened. It makes no sense. I feel like a dazed accident victim in the back of a speeding ambulance.
“What happened?”
“You were in an accident, sir”. 
“Yeah, but what happened?”
“You’re on the way to the hospital”
I suspect most Croats feel the same way. It’s “Bye-Bye Blazers”. With half the team retiring, they face an uphill struggle to qualify for Euro 2008.

Poland (21st Place) 

Well, we know what happened here. You got the wind knocked out of you by a bunch of Krauts. It wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time. Even more debilitating, a bunch of drunken Poles got the shit kicked out them by German fans that took umbrage at their fearless taunts. With respect to hooliganism, when will we ever learn that drinking more cannot recapture the euphoria of ten minutes after downing your first drink? That’s it. You can drink slowly to sustain your buzz, but doubling your intake will do nothing but make you bitter and belligerent. Shame on both the German and Polish fans for introducing violence into our unity festival. I personally could do without a rematch. Let’s see if I can come up with a parallel for my local readers. Eureka. Germany vs. Poland is essentially the same thing as LSU vs. UL-Lafayette. It’s a merciless riot-inducing slaughter that shouldn’t mean as much as it does. Good luck, post Janas my friends. Oh by the way, send over your budding superstars. We’re running a little low on Polish talent over here.  

Editor’s retroactive notes:

The Poles rebounded impressively, qualifying for their first-ever European tournament two years later. Naturally, they drew the Germans again…and more people got beer bottles needlessly smashed over their skulls.

Czech Republic (20th Place) 

Firing Brückner would be a huge mistake. For fuck’s sake it wasn’t his fault that he was
dealt a hand of FIVE injured strikers. It’s been quite the derailed rollercoaster for Czech fans. I thus feel I owe you some discussion of your team’s future prospects.

The ledger of soon-to-be retired players is disturbing. Galasek, Pobrovsky, Koller, Nedved, and Lokvenc are all questionable to return. Rotten luck to have them bow out on this note. The good news is Grygera, Barros, Plaisil, Ujfalusi, and Peter Cech should return even better. Lord knows who’s fermenting on your youth squads. I can’t be bothered to look it up. Bottom line: Why not take solace in the six consecutive IIHF World Hockey championships you won from 1993 to 2001. Sure you were upset this year, but why should anyone have sympathy for you? Well see you in 2008. Just chill

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ohh…the IIHF World Hockey Championships. Something else I’d love to write about someday. Look, is it asking too much that someone employ me to continuously travel around the world writing gambling columns on international sporting tournaments? It is? Okay. How about if I receive no salary, just travel expenses? Okay, okay. I’ve got the message. How about if I get down on my knees and satisfy you orally? What? It was worth a try.

Cote d’Ivoire (19th Place) 

Not at all happy about letting this team go. Something tells me we’ll see them again, hopefully this time outside of the “Group of Death.” Drogba is young yet. The very same applies to Dindane, Kalou, Keita, the two Kones, the two Toures, and Eboue. They’ll need a better coach. Henri Michel has now failed with France, Cameroon, Morocco, the UAE, Tunisia, AND the Ivory Coast. Someone must stop these Africans from thinking they’re gaining a coup when they hire failed managers. Stop it already. Hire one of your own!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Michel went on to fail with Morocco again, four separate African club teams, and Equatorial Guinea. The incredulously stupid Ivorian football federation hired Sven Goran-Eriksson for 2010, when they were unfortunately once again placed in the “Group of Death”. Finally they’re in the hands of native, Francois Zahoui. Will they qualify again? Eh. I doubt it.

Paraguay (18th Place) 

Farewell, Albirroja! We shall meet again in four years time. Hopefully I will have thought about something not involving Guarani to say about you by that time.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

God bless Fernando Lugo. Bless you, my son. Thank you for fathering two children while you were a Priest. You gave me something to talk about…a little mystery to figure out.

South Korea (17th Place) 

This is not happening. I am not writing these words. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. You don’t want to sell me death sticks. It’s not that I’m going to miss Schwanz Befürworter. I give no shit about retiring defender Jin Cheul-soi. I want my Korean girls! Waaaaaah. Give me back my Korean girls! You can’t take away my Korean girls. Damn you, Swiss. I’ll have my revenge. This is all your fault. Everything is your fault. Helvetian Font is YOUR fault. Foul smelling cheese is YOUR fault. Expensive European vacations, all YOUR fucking fault! Bruno Ganz is YOUR fault. You gave us the modern Swiss Hitler. Fuck your little tax haven. You provide security to all manner of dictators. If that wasn’t enough, you decided to screw with MY Koreans. One day I shall invade. I don’t believe your bullshit about Hitler decided Switzerland wasn’t worth it because the army was too strong. Switzerland wasn’t worth it because practically everyone in the fucking party had impressionistic art stashed in a Geneva vault. I’ll never forget this. You killed the Red Devils of Asia. I SHALL HAVE MY REVENGE!!!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ermmm…..yes I do believe I already noted that it took 24 hours before the rage BEGAN to subside. Sure as shootin' Old Schwanz Befürworter popped up again, first for Belgium and now for Russia. The Taeguk Warriors made it to South Africa in 2010 for another meltdown. What a shame that I don’t cover the Asian Cup, where they always make it to the Semi Finals. Wait a second…hey don’t go just yet! Look, maybe oral satisfaction isn’t your thing. How about manual labor? I’ll clean your house…HEY…please don’t go. I’ll sprinkle rose pedals around you as you sip your morning coffee! Turn around I beg you! I’ll pick cotton! I don’t have a womb, but I can find you one….PLEASE!!

And there’s one more matter to attend to before we get to the lines:

Dispatches from the Penthouse (Fit the 5th)

Petrochemical haze makes for overwhelmingly beautiful sunsets. There are those who might suggest that living across from an oil refinery might be hazardous to your health. This pack-a-day smoker thinks hazards to his health can take a long walk off a short cliff. Have you ever witnessed a sunset with green tinges? The entire spectrums of ultraviolet red hues are present. Burgundy, Chestnut, Magenta, Maroon, Brick, Copper, Salmon, Vermillion, Geranium, Rubicund, Crimson, and Cardinal. I’m halfway through a Crayola Ultra-box and not anywhere close to halfway describing the innermost colors of this sunset. Radiating outwards from the spherical ball of incandescent gas one crosses an all-encapsulating symmetrical nimbus of green, emerald, almost azure aureoles. Viewed from an acute angle, the colors take on a more amaranthine complexion. Tilt your eyes further downward for a tangerine dream. For those who believe I’ve been sparking, I assure you that is not the case. For those who are certain that I’ve ingested mushrooms, I admonish you that the season is not until next month. All I’m doing is sitting at a poolside table doing what I love, observing a South Louisiana sunset. I haven’t even cracked open a beer yet.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Wow. That was astonishingly bad AND oddly creepy. I also happen to think it was strangely beautiful. Steve Jobs once recalled how a wheat field played Bach for him. Is anyone on his case?


Deutschland vs. Sweden


Ill-at-ease? Wouldn’t put it quite that strongly. On-edge? Perhaps a tad. The better team is no point of contention. For that matter, neither is the better country. What remains slightly bothersome is Klinsi’s repeated insistence that the Jungs operate on the “120 minute fitness level.” When someone makes a point of emphasizing a bold claim, chances are there’s some dishonesty involved. The Jungs must be tiring out by now. Only Metzelder received a full day off.

Far be it from me to suggest the Krauts are hiding something. Let’s dive into the numbers to see if he makes a valid point. Lahm and Mertesacker have played the full 270. No big deal. Those two have barely passed puberty. They can still drink all afternoon and wake up without a hangover. kids and your music. The older Friedrich clocks in at 244. Cause enough for optimism. Klose’s down at 235. That’ll work. Schneider at 253, Schweine at 257, Frings at 246. Hmmm..Well I’ll be damned. He’s done a very apt job with fitness management. Additionally, our players are significantly younger. We’ll run circles around these plodding Swedes!

The Swedes finally put together something worth writing about with two goals last match. Alexandersson found his groove to reclaim his spot. Jonson, Larsson, and Allbäck function well as an attacking unit. With Ibrahimovic’s return, however, Allbäck will likely be the odd man out. He has proven he can more of an explosive terror of the bench anyway. No shortage of firepower for Lägerbeck. A few short days ago I wrote that this team was “limping and confused”. Now that Ljunberg, Alexandersson, and Kallstrom have solidified the starting eleven and appear to be playing well together, they are legitimately dangerous. We may well see a hard-fought 120 minutes. Fretful? a minute extent.

THE LINE: Deutschland +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Germany 2, Sweden 0. The Swedes came out in droves to the Allianz in München. My most striking memory of this match was the seas of yellow strewn about the stands. More appallingly lousy officiating in this one, but a fair result prevailed. Klose crossed the line in the 4th and Isaakson charged out to meet him. Clever Klose executed one final dribbling maneuver to pull the ball away from Isaakson’s grasp before he was tripped up. Podolski lurked behind to pick up the pieces. 1-0 Fatherland. It was to be Podolski’s coming out party. Lägerbeck had obviously spent entirely too much time working with his back four on the obvious threat. Klose set up Podolski again a scant eight minutes later. Drawing triple coverage just inside the 18, he again alertly drew all three defenders to the left before shoveling to a wide-open Podolski on the right. Isaakson stood no chance.

It would have been nice to see the Germans continue their dominant run, but the ref decided he would own the match instead. He bought a few ridiculous simulated injuries from players on both sides and out came the cards. Frings and Lucic were the first ones to enter the book. Lucic got sent off on double yellows for the most innocent of tugs on Klose’s sleeve in the 35th. The Swedes were later awarded a penalty for a nothing Neuville Shove that Larsson shot over the bar. Plenty of tears from the amber-clad audience. It just wasn’t their day.

Argentina vs. Mexico


Four years ago I predicted the “La Albiceleste” would recapture the former glory of the 1978 and 1986 Championship Teams. Though that side didn’t even make it past the group stages, this gang is strong enough to muscle their way to gold, return home in time to kick the Brits out of the Falklands, and conquer the South Shetlands after marching across the Drake Passage on foot. They’re that good. Jesus after snorting amphetamines.

All the big guns will be back on the pitch. Sorin, Crespo, Saviola, and Heinze were the recipients of a welcome rest cure. Should their absence lead to reduced touch, Tevez, Milito, and “the kid” stand ready to relieve. Lavolpe gets Borghetti back at long last, but must do without Francisco Rodriguez, Luis Perez, and the still injured Guillermo Franco. After an ebullient opener, striker Omar Bravo has decidedly cooled and may be left off.

It looks to be a bad day for Lavolope against his home county. He’ll be back in Buenos Aires in time to re-touch his highlights. This will be the worst Mexican Mariachi Routine since “The Naked Gun 2/12”. Adios Amigos.

THE LINE: Argentina +2 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Argentina 2, Mexico 1. (a.e.t 120) Things began promising enough for the wetbacks. In the 6th minute, the ever-exciting Pavel Pardo sliced in a beautiful free kick clinically headed on by Mario Mendez straight the boot of Javier Marquez. The Mexican lead lasted all of four minutes. Riquelme delivered a corner straight to the battling duo of Herman Crespo and Jared Borghetti. In a flailing attempt to keep the service from reaching Crespo’s outstretched leg, Borghetti’s first significant play since returning from an injury sustained in the first match was to head the ball into his own net. Things settled down thereafter with Borghetti and Saviola swapping near misses before the 90-minute march. An extra half hour would be required to separate these two teams, but in reality it was over after Maxi Rodriguez scored THE “Goal of the tournament” in the 98th. Maxi chested down a Mascherano switch and fired first time off the volley for a dazzling 35-yard half-moon effort that curved elegantly into the top left corner. “La Fuerta! Maxi, Maxi, Maxi, Maxi, Maxi Rrrrrrrrrooodriguez “ One day someone will repeat my first name five times for effect.  


England vs. Ecuador


Not much standing in the way of my right honorable friends and the quarterfinals. Yes, the Michael Owen injury is a tremendous blow and Rooney looks he should be playing for the Paralympics team. There remains enough talent to get this squad past lowly Ecuador. A goal can come from so many different sources. Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole, or even Ferdinand or Terry. Sven has learned the hard way that Rooney and Crouch cannot share striking duties. Both are authoritative players with distinctly different styles and physicality. Does this mean we’ll see Arsenal’s new phenom and future Billion-Dollar-Brother Theo Walcott? I wish. I’ve been dying to watch this kid in action since Arsenal made him the highest paid seventeen-year-old in history. Not ready yet.

This doesn’t mean that a fresh face won’t have a chance to make history. If Sven sticks with one forward, he’ll have to call upon Aaron Lennon, Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas, or Steward Downing to augment the midfield. One of these Tottenham Tots will play for a fat new contract. English deficiencies combined with Ecuadorian trainer Luis Fernando Suarez’s perplexing decision to rest his two top strikers and captain against the Germans will make this match competitive, possibly even boring. In any event, three Lions trumps three colors.

THE LINE: England +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: England 1, Ecuador 0. Sven tapped Michael Carrick on the shoulder and his worthy answer to call saw Man U ink his overrated ass to a five-year contract. Downing, Jenas, and Lennon all stayed put. Any exposure on this level is practically guaranteed to move one into a bigger house. The fixture itself turned out to be the midfield malaise I foresaw. Carlos Tenorio and other future overpaid Man U footballer Antonino Valencia wasted golden opportunities in front of goal in a game decided by a “Beckham Specialty”. One cannot watch how Beckham used to ingeniously curl a free kick that sailed over the wall and neatly tucked itself inside the goal post without wishing that one could go back in time and urge him never to go to the States. Christ, he used to be so amazing and surely had a couple of good years left.

Portugal vs. Netherlands


To paraphrase that great modern Philosopher Homer Simpson, we’ve got a game certain to get rid of the unpleasant aftertaste of Church. It’s our first titanic clash of the knockout stages. Purple vs. Orange in the battle of ugly colors that don’t rhyme with anything.

Van Basten has used every player except for striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselnick. Yes, that’s the man’s name. His wildly eccentric lineup selections have made him look quite sagacious up to this point, but it will all be for naught if he picks wrong here. It all begins up front, where we’ll want to see Robben, van Persie, and van Nistelroy. The trio behind them should be Cocu, Sneijder, and van Bommel. Mathijsen, van Brockhorst, Boularhoz, and Heitinga are the ideal back four. You’re welcome, Marco. Putting together that lineup cost me a half hour of my meaningless life!

For the Navigators it all comes down to execution. Simao, Christiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo will score if Costinha, Maniche, and Pauletta generate enough forward momentum. Ronaldo may be the most dynamite set piece master the game has ever seen. I think that’s about enough from me. Expect a classic here. Do not miss what will be one for the ages.

THE LINE: Portugal +1 Goal


Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 1, Netherlands 0. It entered the record books for all the wrong reasons. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov issued 16 yellow and four red cards. Twenty bookings shattered the previous record. After the sloppy, sordid mess was over, Sepp Blatter suggested Ivanov should have cared himself. Yuck. Before getting into all of that, we’ll rake Marco van Basten over the coals a bit for not following my advice. He started Ooijer in place of Heitinga, and, more surprisingly Kuyt in place of van Nistelroy. Kuyt sent four balls in that Ricardo had no trouble catching and Van Persie bobbed-and-weaved his way to two quality chances. Nevertheless, the Dutch lacked the crucial finishing touch all game, albeit in a game that one could hardly say anyone deserved to win.

Three controversial bookings preceding Maniche’s goal in the 23rd. The well-worked tally began with a Ronaldo/Deco give-and-go that freed up Luis Figo, who cut it back for Maniche. Before the half was over Costinha had been expelled for a non-malicious tackle and a handball. Bouhlarouz was next after two challenges that were hardly even worthy of a talking to. Sensing that the game was slipping out of the official’s control, an insane amount of dives followed. Four more bookings in four minutes before Deco was finally punished for the massive simulation fest. By the time the game drew to a close, the level of frustration was so high that Rafael Van der Vaart was suplexing Miguel and Petit was wrapping up Robben American Football style. Ugly, ugly stuff. It would have made for a good Ice Hockey match.