Tuesday, February 5, 2013

CAN 2013--Semi-finals

Samassa Syndicate Members,
CAN 2013

The much heralded weekend came nowhere close to disappointing, at least from this humble perspective. An explosive quarterfinal round serves as a precursor for the excitement yet to come.

The next episode transgresses every last convention that a sane-minded bookie should abide by.

For the first time in over a decade, we’re pleased to present a set of line ENTIRELY comprised of upset specials.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Those wishing to watch an intrepid bookie fall flat on his face should read further….

Such a set of lines by no means represents a cynical ploy to subliminally coax more members into watching a tournament that appears relatively obscure to them. Absolutely not. In twelve hours time, the results of the most intriguing African Cup of Nations since 1992 will be in hand. The gravitas of such a momentous occasion almost leave me unable to rant and rave….almost.

Alright…to be perfectly honest, I’m not much in the mood to ramble. All the same, it was promised. Let’s freestyle for a bit before getting to the football section.

Random Thoughts gleaning from spelunking a soul….Vicey is a Rambling Man

--Well done, New Orleans! The Crescent City delivered everything an amateurish cocktail party patron could want in a Super Bowl. Nothing like a power outage to get the conversation started. Professional Sports needs more live commentators with nothing to commentate on.

“Let’s check in with the sidelines reporters. Fred, how’s it going?”

“Well Jim, the players didn’t expect this to happen. They’re wondering why this happened and wondering when play will resume.”

“Thanks, Fred. Truly valuable insight from our man on the field.”

It was priceless. It wasn’t quite “Kahn’s eating Pasta”, but it came close.

--Congratulations to Gerard Depardieu on your Russian Citizenship. While we’re on topic, congratulations on your Belgian Citizenship. While we’re on topic, please stop pissing on the floor of planes. While we’re on topic, please stop pretending that you have a gift. While we’re on topic, please pay your taxes.

--Silvio Berlusconi has taken a stand against his racist A.C. Milan Fans. He’s threatened to fuck them and force them to pretend as if it was actually enjoyable sex. That, gentlemen, is a threat.
Editor’s retroactive notes:

Well….ol’ “Bunga Bunga” certainly got what was coming to him, eh? I mean, one half of one whole afternoon feeding elderly patients pudding at a nursing home every week for TWO WHOLE MONTHS? We sure showed him who’s boss!!  Don’t count out democratic judicial systems! We know how to mete out justice in a manner that serves the superrich…excuse me…er…the citizenry. That’s what I meant to say. Honest. 

--Everyone in the Anglican Church can relax. Gay bishops will be ordained so long as they pledge to remain celibate. That may prove akin to asking a Strip Club DJ to stay away from the dancers, but still.

--A recent edition of “Der Spiegel” I happened to read contained the cover story “Deutsche Waffen für die Welt”. That translates to “German weapons for the world.” Evidently, the Germans are finally realizing that they manufacture over a quarter of the world’s munitions…and finally realizing that there’s something they forgot to feel guilty about.

That’s more or less what it’s like reading “Der Spiegel”. Every week. “Hey guys…we forgot to feel guilty about [insert cover story]!!!”
Editor’s retroactive notes:

An even more recent edition of “Der Spiegel” that I happened to read contained some useful information. A full 80 percent of Germans are satisfied with the direction of the country. A full 61 percent of Germans list “Future Generations” as their preferred top policy-making priority. By contrast, the percentage of Americans satisfied with the direction of their country generally hovers around 20-30 percent. It last cleared 50 percent during Obama’s initial three months in office. 

When it became apparent that the man wasn’t a wizard (sometime around April 2009), it was time for a Teabagger Revolution. I don’t exactly have to time at the moment to unearth some hard polling data on what percentage of Americans consider “Future Generations” their top policymaking priority, but I’ll gladly eat my shirt if anyone can demonstrate that it’s anywhere near in the neighborhood of 60 percent.  

--At least the Germans know that regulating beer is wrong. The poor Russians have to deal with a ban on beer at street kiosk. I agree with 56-year-old security guard “Victor”:

“You can’t regulate beer. It’s NOT a spirit! It’s a drink that quenches the thirst, NOT the underlying conscience!”

A wiser man I’ve not yet known.
Editor’s retroactive notes:

Perhaps the ubiquity of beer keeps us Germans happy…..and I mean REAL FUCKING BEER NOW. Keystone DryIceLite never made anyone’s day. 

--To Round things up, God bless Brent Musberger. So he called Katherine Webb “hot”…so what? Fuck that whiny bitch. Anyone watching a sporting event has the god-given right to observe hot girls in the stands. As any Syndicate Member will enthusiastically attest, it’s a goddamn “GOD-GIVEN RIGHT”!!!

My updated stats:

Spread: 8-20
Straight up: 9-6-11

Had Les Elephants not blown it, your friendly bookie might be toasting to an undefeated quarterfinal round. As it stands, he’ll merely have to settle for a semi-lucrative one instead. Good enough for government work.

Goodbyes Section

Cape Verde
Cape Verde
Until the bitter end they waged battle with all the spirit and heart one could reasonably expect. Their top quality performance may be lost to all history, buried under a deceptive 2-nil score-line, but it shall flourish forever in the memory of this armchair commentator.

Ghanaian keeper Fatau Dauda bailed his side out of a contest during which they were out-ran, out-maneuvered and thoroughly out-played. (We’ll spare everyone the clichéd “out-coached” clausal device, as it wasn’t, strictly speaking, true in this instance.

Dauda did extremely well to stop scorchers from Nhuck and Ryan Mendes. He bravely ventured out to collected inviting crosses from Tavares and Marco Soares. He sacrificed one of fingers to stop a Platini scorcher. His full-stretch finger tipping over of Djaniny’s rocket looked more impressive than anything to come out of that Cirque du Soleil garbage.  All of his heroic prancing and flexing was absolutely justified, for it was only his elevated game kept the Blue Sharks from advancing.

Both Black Stars goals came against the run of play. Gyan’s 53rd minute tangle with Carlitos constituted the first legitimate piece of forward momentum the sluggish Gold Coast Playas had managed all game. Replays confirm it was even a likely undeserved penalty, with Carlitos lunge looking more like a good-old-fashioned legal shoulder challenge. Mubarak’s doubling of the advantage served as the football equivalent of a late Ice Hockey empty net goal. Vozihna had to come forward to crowd the box with bodies for the final corner and the Ghanaians took advantage of some random pinballing to orchestrate the counter break.

In response to this string of hard-luck swings, there remains little for us say other than “Tough Break, Creoles”. As tempting as it may be to attach some best wishes for an improbable rise from the basement of their 2014 Qualifying Group, trainer Luis Antunes’ unsportsmanlike cries of conspiracy after the match leave one unable to invest any further love in the Archipelago Aces. Atunes whined that biased officiating did his small contingent of underdogs and even tinier cohort of traveling fans in. That so, crybaby? If CAN were truly concerned about setting up marquee matchups in the placement rounds, where are Les Elephants?

In truth it wasn’t merely a few unfortunate bounces and a red-hot keeper that ended the Blue Shark Dream. Antunes himself must take a sobering look in a reflective surface and contemplate his lineup selection. Tavares over the streaking Platini? Djainy in a full fourteen minutes after the first goal? What about the use of Rambe as the final substitution? If aerial supremacy was needed to muscle out Daouda, why not give Ronny a final shot?

Only time will tell if such a pass-the-buck mentality will enable his team to take full advantage of their shock tournament performance or stem the wave of momentum they hope to ride. The Blue Sharks find themselves at the very bottom of Qualifying Group B after some decisive spankings from Sierra Leone and Tunisia. 2014 Qualification isn’t out of the question, yet the long and hard road back continues this Spring with the Sharks looking to fend off a surging Equatorial Guinea side. 

As dangerous as this side looks on set pieces, however, one ultimately has to confer upon Antunes the benefit of the doubt. He clearly drills his boys hard on the training pitch. Should he continue to do so, a few immature words uttered in frustration will mean about as much as a non-binding Senate Resolution. Good luck, lads. I’ll watch you with interest.

South Africa
South Africa
Bafana head for the exits, pushed toward the light for the second consecutive year by the upstart Eagles of Mali. Plenty of praise for the hosts, who supplied us with a truly gritty match and were unfortunate to lose Tokelo Rantie to injury.

Setting aside the most atrocious round of penalties I’ve ever witnessed (even by England standards), there was enough fortitude and determination on display for the boys to feel a little hard done by.

Rantie played an exquisite match. As perplexed as of us were to see him all alone up center at the helm of the Bafana attack, he justified his selection within the first five minutes. The Malmo speedster took great direction from Lesothoyanye, Mahlungu, Furman, and Phala. Keenly anticipating their runs in space, he positioned himself precisely where they needed him. Only brilliant slide tackles from Coulibaly and Tambourra precluded him from opening the scoring early on.

The audacious defending the Malian full and centerbacks could even have been described as risky, late challenges that were undeniably fortunate to find the ball. Backup keeper S.M.E Diakite even robbed Rantie of a sure tally on the break as the half-hour mark neared.

When the incontrovertibly dominant Bafana finally broke through in the 31st, this bookie even jotted down, “No way in hell they blow this one.” If you happened to miss the goal, it truly amounted to the best team goal of the tournament. Khune jump started the attack with one of his patented quick-hit distributions upfield. Mahlangu then blazed his way forward until the hosts had a numerical advantage. After gaining the 18, he picked out Phala, who touched it over to Rantie for the emphatic finish.

We witnessed another beast of a game from token-white-dude Dean Furham. He seemed involved in every play, both tight cut-outs at the back and sweet little flicks on the offensive. No, your ears did not deceive you. He was routinely booed upon obtaining touches. Look, people. The legacy of Apartheid will linger for generations to come. Majoro relieved Rantie more than adequately. He played as strongly as a center-forward coming off of injury could be expected to.

Mahlangu and Lesothoyanye earn top marks for their creative display in midfield. Also deserving plaudits were substitutes Thunlani Serero and Siphwe Tschabalala. The former gave us a taste of the greatness he’ll produce down the line, while the latter came in to prove that he remains a world-class veteran generate some neat and professional opportunities.

So what went wrong? Ach. Penalties never fail to make the rabid football fans cringe. Sure, they’re thrilling, suspenseful, and climactic. Nevertheless….hell’s bells, Bafana certainly didn’t deserve this humiliating of an elimination. Furman’s weak low effort deserved boos of even more deafening decibels. Mahlangu’s decision to emulate (“precisely mimic” one might say) the same feeble low leftward drive was patently stupid. Nerves got the better of Majoro, who was a solid 8 meters away from even the post. Ugh. Endgame. Not the finish this enthralling match or this inspired team deserved.

Taking the entire tournament into perspective, Igesund definitely spun some dull straw into gold. His effective management bodes well for a squad still very much in the hunt for Brazil. The four-time-domestic league winner took courageous risks when he needed to, stuck with underperforming talent when they showed him something, and proved verifiably adept at rolling out a novel fitting formation against all four of his opponents.

The good news for beleaguered Bafana fans centers around the continued stewardship of this team by the native maestro. The silver-haired fox has topped the South African League table with FOUR (count em’) different clubs. Surely he should be capable of getting his lads into gear against Ethiopia, CAR, and Botswana. The Zulus may not be off to the most cracking start in their 2014 qualifying campaign, but they’ll make it to Brazil. Of this I’m now convinced.
Editor’s retroactive notes:

Igesund remains coach, even if Bafana find themselves in for a prolonged period of obscurity and adversity. Overall, this was a wise move by the S.A.F.A. Keeping the Maestro in place is the rational option. If it’s time to rebuild, leave the system in place. Consistency often begets the potential to overachieve….or so I just decided to write.

Cote d’Ivoire
Ivory Coast
HOW THE YAMOUSSOKORING-FUCK DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING? Again? Really? How many times must a platitudinous writer be forced to hack out, “Once more time runs out for the Golden Generation of the Ivory Coast”?

I’m honestly running out of words to elucidate how, yet again, this talent-laden squad of top-tier players has somehow fallen short of the prize. Nuts! Oh well. Might as well get it over with….

It’s hard to fault French head coach Sabri Lamouchi, who merely placed faith in all of his top talent, including the struggling former Chelsea striker Solomon Kalou. To show confidence in them may have been a generous move, but it was by no means an altogether unintelligent one. Neither was sticking with them through 80 minutes of tense play. Romaric, Drogba, and Yaya Toure all defied their advancing years, all coming within millimeters of fine finishes that could have altered the dynamic. Apropos aging titans, Ya konan, Eboué, and Siaka Tiene all turned in stellar performances. Tiote’s well-rounded play proved a real treat to watch.

Had Enyeama not acrobatically pawed away his laser late in the match, we would have most assuredly have seen extra time. Lamouchi pieced together the right blend of past-their-peak-titans and upstart youngsters. Sending his well-laid plans straight down the tubes, it was none other than….the unpredictable and unforeseeable “off-game” of his keeper.

What a nightmare of a fixture for Boubacar Barry! First he organized a ridiculous four-man wall for Emmanuel Emenike’s 43rd minute free kick five yards outside of the area. The veteran keeper surely left himself partially screened. There remains no other explanation for his delayed reaction after Emenike Struck. The bend of the ball might have constituted a piece of technical mastery, but the effort was certainly medium-paced enough for Barry to get a better jump. In any event, that half-hearted Spanish bullfighter “ole, ole” parry was….well…what the hell was that?

It may sound ludicrous to blame him for being unable to react to the wicked deflection off Bamba that gave the Super Eagles the winning goal in the 78th, but he was tentatively under committed anyway. It seemed doubtful he would have been able get his paws on Mba’s effort even without the deflection.

Barry’s poor positioning was the inevitable consequence of an evening during which he found himself congenitally rattled. Time and again we saw him scrambling to pick up flurries, oscillating far too long before committing to a dive, and just generally looking uncomfortable as Emenike and Victor Moses regularly kept him guessing with their crosses. So there you have it. One can build a well-rounded team, concoct the most innovative of starting elevens, and ride a wave of destiny all one likes….if the keeper fucks up, forget it.

Now we look ahead to 2014, not having a clue what this team might look like. Over the course of this competition, Turkish Superclub Galatasarray saw enough in Drogba to sign him right out of China. Can he be expected to be part of the Elephants next incarnation at the age of 36? Anything’s possible. Should he show some sparkle for Faith Terim it’s entirely possible he’ll be back.

Arouna Kone? Again, entirely possible. He’s struck six times since signing at Wigan this autumn. If he can manage to keep Roberto Martinez’s side afloat through the end of the year, he stands a fighting chance of keeping himself fit. Kolo Toure? Absolutely. He shows no signs of slowing down at Man City. He might be anointed the 33-year-old captain next summer.

Zokora? Romaric? Ya Konan? Kalou? Hit or miss really. Zokora is most likely done, playing at half-speed for Trabzonspor. Romaric needs to secure a transfer to a better Spanish League Club. Ditto Ya Konan, who desperately needs to be picked up by Bayern München. Kalou needs to fight his way back to the Premiership….yesterday.

Press chatter appears to be nothing if not brutally candid. It may very well b time for these old hares to voluntarily step aside in order to allow the “Golden Generation 2.0” to flourish. Gervinho, Razak, Tiote, Wilfried Bony, Lacina Traore, and Max Gradel all had strong tournaments. The involvement of too many plodding veterans threatens to crowd out this budding group of superstars, precisely when they need the space to shine. Time to wipe the slate clean? Christ am I happy to be thousands of miles away from that decision. 

Editor’s retroactive notes:

As of these notes Drogba, Koune, Didier Zokora, and Kolo Toure all look to make Lamouchi’s final cut. Seeing as how the odds have finally given in (Les Elephants no longer find themselves situated in the Group of Death) Lamouchi’s chances of replicating some sort of “French Renaissance” (the likes of which Domenech accomplished with his dinosaurs saw in 2006) remains high. 

Held held high, Sparrow Hawk fans! There really wasn’t much you could do against those dogged Stallions. Moreover, the future looks bright. Adebayor is back, this time most definitely for good. With him back in the lineup, you’ll get your turn….in 2015 at the very least.

For all of the Cassandras who bemoaned the sandy Nelspruit pitch, the Burkinabes and Togolese actually furnished a fine match that featured high speed breakthroughs, plenty of gorgeous tricks, and 120-minutes of captivating football. This bookie wholeheartedly rejects the media consensus that the final quarterfinal match was “nearly un-watchable”. I couldn’t tear myself away, not with Ayite and Gapke orchestrating so many elegant switches, not with Bossou and Nimbombe pulling off those wick tricks & flicks, not with Adebayor splitting, shaking, and old-school sweeping his way past the defense en route to two delightful efforts only just cleared off the line.

Okay, okay. The pitch was terrible. The officiating was bay far the worst of the tournament. Still it was fun football. Stand down, dreary British journalists! This one was fun, and the Sparrow Hawks put on an exemplary show!

The road forward for the odd sliver of a country that the Germans once insisted upon claiming…..looks to be about as depressing as the German Colonial Administration. No way this team qualifies for 2014. It simply a’int happening. The Togolese have drawn the proverbial “Group of Death”, facing traditional powerhouses Cameroon and Libya along with the upstart Leopards of Congo DR. Now that Adebayor has committed to an official return, one can expect the side to improve greatly on its genuinely terrible performances in the opening two qualifying rounds. Given the current group dynamics however, they can at best hope to salvage some semblance of pride.

Instead, we’ll look ahead to 2015 and speculate a bit on the future of this tournament’s standouts. Jonathan Ayite’s monster competition means he can soon expect an upgrade from his post at French League Club Brest. At the very least, expect Bordeaux to make a play for its hometown hero.

Serge Gakpe will likely see his loan at Standard Liege become a more permanent arrangement following his performance. Dove Wome has to have earned himself a ticket out of Africa after closing out the Algerians in such fine fashion. Other young risers soon to be inking new deals include Serge Akakpo, Prince Segbefia, and Djene Dakonam.

It’s likely the end of the road for veterans Dare Nimbombe and Moustapha Saliphou, but the young core will return….as will Adebayor, slicker and more enterprising than ever before. See you in a couple of years, mates. You’ll contend. Oh yes you will.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

The latest incarnation of the Sparrow Hawks features a highly intriguing collection of domestic youngsters looking to break into the European leagues. The next round of this country’s 2015 CAN Qualifying matches will be worth a close look.

Well…it a’int exactly the “ASS-KICKING-TERRIFIC-AWESOME-MOTHER-OF-ALL-MOTHER-FUCKING WEEKENDS”, but who’s ready for a “Hump-Day Spectacular”?

All lines are calculated personally by your friendly bookie Vicey…a man who has watched “Tombstone” no fewer than 234,810 times. “The correspondence that follows is, as always, crafted with sincere amity for those who appreciate sharp wit and a small extra spot of fun in their day. Should you prefer solemnity, drama, and conflict…kindly return to your DVD Copy of Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp”   


Mali vs. Nigeria

Mali vs. Nigeria

It’s the clash of the brave; two brave countries locked in the intractable struggle for their basic liberties. Excuse me one moment as we here at the Syndicate emphasize our allegiances thrice more.




I’ll gladly continue to type those words until every last territorial hamlet dances just like the recently liberated citizens of Timbuktu. Got a problem with it? FUCK YOU. Send me a few more grossly misspelled death threats. You only embarrass yourselves.

As of this installment, the party in Timbuktu rages on. Women proudly don their ritual dress for the first time in over a year. Men publicly exercise their inalienable right to congregate in the pub while watching a football game. On paper the “Super Eagles” out-class the juxtaposing ragtag group one can only refer to as the “Regular Eagles”.

Many journalists surely salivate over the prospect of a Malian upset and the Pulitzer-worthy post-game wrap-up that would essentially write itself. Not only would the uplifting commentary about a country embroiled in civil strife “united in the implausible miracle of their team’s historic advance” magically appear on the page, the words, “The Nigerian curse endures” would pop-up without the writer having to bite so much as one measly cuticle.

This bookie is prepared to buy stock in the upset…and not for any of the inherently shallow reasons articulated above. Presently “Five Reasons Why Mali Will Prevail”:

1) Keshi under Pressure

Keshi’s stubborn insistence on rolling out the 4-3-2-1 every match reflects a degree of terminal obstinacy. More significantly, it tells us that he foolishly adheres to a “suicide pact” of sorts. A certain someone has a certain something to prove. Could it be that Mali was wrong to fire him just over three years ago?

 Is that why he’s unwisely running his already half-empty tournament team through twice-daily practices in the run-up to this match? Bad move. Mali coach Patrice Carteron, by contrast, has the right idea. Let your players rest and reflect. Allow their touch to sink in. Keshi may have a fully fit Kader, but it’s entirely predictable that he’ll imprudently select a tired eleven…not to mention roll out the same formation again.

2) Mahamadou Samassa (1990) is no Boubacar Barry

Fresh off his suspension, the Malian Number One won’t concede soft goals so readily; precisely the type of soft goals that led the Super Eagles out of the group and through the Quarterfinal Stages.

3) The Keita/Maiga Dynamic

Traore who? These two are clicking in ways that would induce wet dreams in most any obsessed trainer/chemist/alchemist/chef/alcoholic…..you get the idea. Coordination between opposite flanks remains the key. The wider one’s game is, the more space for improvisation. Whereas chemists and alchemists may have less flattering things to say on the topic on improvisation, chefs and alcoholics will always be available to extol the virtues of chance. Mayonnaise and Gin?

An undercooked burger placed between two donuts? Stumble upon greatness. Keita and Maiga have something in store for us. They’ll stretch the defense and open up caverns of space. Keep an eye out for the “Goal of the Tournament”.

4) Moses/Mikel Fatigue

Hell with the clichéd ruminations on “tournament football”. These guys are running on empty merely by virtue of the fact that they’re Premiership Players. England’s ardent football fans demand the most grueling schedule in all of professional sports. Their insatiable thirst is Africa’s loss. Calling it like I see it.

5) 4-3-2-1 vs. 4-3-2-1

The Royal “We” known as the Syndicate projects a C. Diabate start at center forward. This notwithstanding, we’ll surely see Mahamadou Samassa (1986) get a turn should the identical formations yield a stalemate. In the event that you find yourself confused, welcome to the club. At times it feels as if the Malian squad features 23 “Diabates”, 14 “Diakites”, 47 “Coulibalys”, and 22 “Diakites”, and 108 “Diarras”.

As if all of that weren’t enough, the current lead striker and first-string keeper are both named “Mahamadou Samassa”. The two happen to be cousins, and the only way of distinguishing them is to parenthetically note the year of their birth. Na, hevorragend. Will we see 1990 kick start a counter attack to his fresh-legged recently inserted cousin 1986 in the 102nd minute? Not giving odds on that one, but what would Carteron have to lose if the two sides canceled one another out? 

Much respect for Keshi, who led Togo to a heroic 2006 World Cup Qualification before the numbskulled football association sacked him in favor of Otto “Iron” Pfister. The time will come for him to finally exorcize his demons….just not yet.

Let’s hit the button…..UPSET ALERT!

Projected Lineups:

 “The Eagles” 4-3-2-1 
                              Cheick Diabate 
            Modibo Maiga               Seydou   Keita
S. Diarra           Mohammed Sissoko      C.F. Diarra
A. Tamboura    M. Wague   A. Coulibaly       F. Diawara          
                     Mahamadou Samassa (1990)

 “Super Eagles” 4-3-2-1 

                                 Ideye Brown
     Emma Emenike                                 Victor Moses
         Sunday Mba    Ahmed Musa    John Obi Mikel
 Uwa Echiejile G. Oboabona K. Ommerou  Efe Ambrose          
                               Vincent Enyeama

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own):

Over/Under ---4 Goals
120 Minutes— straight up
Penalty Shootout— 2 to 1
Mahamadou Samassa (1986) start—straight up
M. Traore start—2 to 1
S.M.E. Diakite start—straight up
S.A. Diakite start—2 to 1
Samba Sow start—3 to 1
Maiga brace—2 to 1
Mahamadou Samassa (1986) brace—2 to 1
Mahamadou Samassa (1990) howler—straight up
Keita brace—straight up
Keita hat trick—3 to 1
N’Diaye substitution (70+)—2 to 1

Uche start—straight up
Ahmed Musa start—straight up
Joesph Yobo start—3 to 1
Enyeama suspension—straight up
Nosa Igebor start—2 to 1
Victor Moses brace—2 to 1
John Obi Mikel brace—2 to 1
Emenike set piece goal—straight up
Onazi from outside the 18—3 to 1
Sunday Mba substitution (80+)—2 to 1
Uche substitution (50+)—straight up
Reuben Gabriel substitution (90+)—straight up
Brown substitution (45+)—straight up

THE LINE: Mali +1 Goal

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Nigeria 4, Mali 1. Oh Christ. Not liking how much work explaining away this one is going to be. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Would an eloquently written contrition such as, “Duh….I done not thunk with my headbone” suffice? No…alright let’s break her down then.

1) Keshi under pressure

Keshi rolled out (more or less) the exact same 4-3-2-1 he used to defeat Cote d’Ivoire. (He simply flipped Onazi and John Obi Mikel). If anyone was tired I must have missed it. Whether or not Keshi had revenge on his mind turned out to be immaterial. The early lead allowed him to play the safe tactician.

2) Mahmadou Samasssa (1990) is no Bobacar Barry

I’d have taken Barry in this one. Note that you friendly bookie also misspelled the player’s name incorrectly……for he 352,234,984,912nd time.

3) The Keita/Maiga Dynamic

At least I was right about mayonnaise and gin. These two did nothing other than get booked.

4) Moses/Mikel Fatigue

Moses only played 53 minutes, but he made it count. Mikel did indeed mostly sit back and defend, but who the hell needed him when Emmenike, Mba, and Onazi were in such fine form?

5) 4-3-2-1 vs. 4-3-2-1

This one was just plain fucking stupid. It’s all fine and good to discuss formations when one squad relies upon an unconventional one, but highly skilled internationals will make what they wish out of twenty players assigned to standard fare. That being said, I’ll try no make no more than 30 stupid fucking predictions based on formations in this summer’s tournament.

One-way traffic for the Super Eagles even before Elderson sent in the spectacular opener in the 20th. Moses outright embarrassed Maiga by sweeping past him on the right flank. He then chipped a low-driven cross that Echiejele did a superior job of anticipating. The Braga Left Back dropped to his knees and headed home off of a bounce. Keshi’s lads rolled with the momentum. 

Ideye Brown tipped in the second five minutes later. Emmenike and Brown found themselves well ahead of the last line of defense. A desperate sliding tackle by N’Diaye couldn’t prevent Brown from collected Emmenike’s cross. It only served to prod the effort in. Capping a sensational half, Brown pummeled in a free kick in the 44th via a deflection off the wall.

Emmenike wasn’t finished yet either. He sprung substitute Ahmed Musa past the offside trap at the hour mark. The CSKA forward dribbled a full thirty yards and finished between Samassa’s legs to put matters beyond any doubt. Musa might have grabbed a brace were it not for a borderline offside call five minutes later. The consolation prize “Les Aigles” grabbed in the 75th was wholly unremarkable. Chieck Diabate cut back for Chieck Diarra. Ho hum. 

Burkina Faso vs. Ghana

Burkina Faso vs. Ghana

A few lines removed from our previous plunk, it’s time to smack that button again….


Yes indeed. The overrated Black Stars left this bookie with nothing left to rely upon. A controversial penalty and a last-minute empty net goal DO NOT constitute signs of encouragement. Something very important fails this version of Jerry Rawling’s snipers. Namely, they still haven’t found a way to distribute. Moving Kwadwo up front to share duties with Asamoah Gyan. The pair might be better suited on their respective wings. As ridiculous as discounting this über-talented squad sounds, they cannot be expected to function without a “Flight Director”.

A “Flight Director” may be defined as a midfield man in the mold of Schweinsteiger. The Black Stars come agonizingly close with Agyemang-Badu. The Udinese standout produces his moments. At this point in his career, he might even outplay Schweinsteiger up and down the pitch.

Nevertheless, the Burkinabés possess a secret weapon with the whole goddamn Great Chicago Fire burning in his belly. His name is Jonathan Pitroipa and the two occasions he happened to appear on the score-sheet explain less about his current form than a single volcanic plume explains continental drift.

Pitroipa drives the pick. Deal with it gentlemen. Put your money where your mouth is.


Projected Lineups:

 “The Stallions” 4-2-3-1 

                           Moumani Dagano            
Jonathan Pitroipa     A.R. Traore          Willy Sanou
              Charles Kabore      Djakaridja Kone
 Saidou P.  P. Koulibaly  B. Kone  Mohammed Koffi
                              Daouda Diakite

 “The Black Stars” 4-1-3-2 

               Asamoah Gyan  Kwadwo Asamoah
Mubarak Wakaso  E. Agyemang-Badu  Albert Adomah
                              Christian Atsu     
Harrison Afful  Isaac Vorsah  John Boye Richard Boateng
                          Abdul Fatau Dauda

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own):

Over/Under ---4 Goals
120 Minutes—straight up
Penalty Shootout—straight up
Asamoah Gyan brace—3 to 1
Kwadwo Asamoah brace—2 to 1
Mubarak Wakaso brace—2 to 1
John Paintsil start—2 to 1
Mohammed Raibu start—3 to 1
John Boye booking—straight up
Dauda howler—straight up
Agyemang-Badu substitution (80+)—2 to 1

A. Traore start—3 to 1
Outtarra start—2 to 1
Pitroipa brace—straight up
Pitroipa hat trick—2 to 1
Willy Sanou brace—2 to 1
Kabore set piece goal—straight up
Dagano goal—straight up
B. Kone penalty—straight up
Balima substitution (65+)—2 to 1
Koulibaly substitution (55+)—2 to 1
A.R. Traore substitution (80+)—2 to 1

THE LINE: Burkina Faso + 1 Goal


Editor’s retroactive notes:

RESULT: Burkina Faso 2, Ghana 1. (4:2 PSO) Agyemang-Badu lived up to his billing as a “Flight Director”, but ended up the goat anyway with the penalty miss that sent the Stallions into the finals. It was a pulsating encounter from start to finish, replete with gorgeous efforts, fascinating tactics, and no shortage of officiating controversies.

Right Back John Paintsil got rolled up in the 8th and could not continue on a badly twisted ankle. This forced Kwesi Appiah to sub in natural midfielder Soloman Asante, who by all accounts had a lousy evening. It appeared as if the injury wouldn’t affect the outcome when the Black Stars were awarded a penalty in the 13th
Panatetiguiri contested aerially against Christian Atsu. Atsu didn’t land on his feet, but replays showed no evidence that Panatetiguiri had anything to do with it. The Antwerp center back only appeared to give Atsu a slight pat on the chest, and this some time after neither had won the ball. Mubarak Wakaso stepped forward to take the spot kick. Diakite guessed right but was too late off his line.

A period of cautious play ensued, lasting approximately 15 minutes. Bance and Pitroipa began cycling around the half hour mark and the later sent one wide. At the other end Agyemang Badu set up Gyan to fire with the wrong side of his foot. Kwadwo Asamoah dangerously lurked in the central slot and came within centimeters of connecting on a cross.

Charles Kabore served up an excellent corner shortly after the restart that Bance met with an equally impressive header. The shot rattled the crossbar so hard that the entire frame dipped. Asamoah Gyan himself hit the woodwork some six minutes later, leaving one with the impression that a goal simply had to be forthcoming. Two minutes after that, Paul Koulibaly picked Agyemang-Badu’s pocket ten yards shy of midfield. Kabore then first timed to Bance, who had already split the defense. With all the time and space in the world, the former FSV Mainz 05 rother coolly stroked home the equalizer almost precisely at the hour mark.

When officiating goes south, it truly goes south. Koulibaly delivered a vicious kick to Asamoah Gyan’s unmentionables in the 77th. The controversies continued into extra time. Prejuce Nakoulma appeared to have given the Stallions the lead in the 99th with an unreal leaping toe-poke finish, but was harshly ajudged to have climbed up Kwadwo Asamoah’s back illegally. Eighteen minutes after that, John Boye gave Jonathan Pitroipa a diabolical chop to the shins just inside the 18. Tunisian ref Slim Jedidi ignored the evidence before his eyes and shockingly sent Pitroipa off for diving. It was a disgustingly bad call.

The thirty minutes of added extra time belonged solely to the Stallions. Bance fired an expert tricycle in the 112th that Harrison Afful had to give up the body to clear off the line. Koulibaly then throttled a 113th minute rocket that Dauda did just well enough to tip over. One felt the Stallions absolutely deserved to book their ticket to the final match, particularly after the scandalous decision-making that led to Pitroipa’s dismissal (and suspension) in the 117th. Justice was serve when Isaac Vorsah and Emmanuel Clottey sent their respective shootout chances wide. Paul Koulibaly also supplied a miss to keep matters interesting. After Atsu and Afful converted, however, Diakite hopped of his line early to parry away Agyemang Badu’s stellar effort. The Burkinabes gave us a celebration worth remembering. The dramatic upset will surely go down in the annals.