Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WM 2014--Group E Preview

Introduction—“Another ‘Group of Life’”
WM 2014 
(Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, France)


What does one make of group in which the Swiss are the highest ranked country? One makes another “Group of Life”, of course. Seriously, the Swiss? The “Goat Herders”? The “Alpine Assholes”? THE SWISS? No way. Your friendly bookie isn’t having any of it. Someone sound our time-honored alarm:

We go BLAH!

(alpine horn)

We go BLAH!

German General Ottmar Hitzfeld has assembled a team every bit as boring as a trip to the Guyelles Cheese-Processing Factory. Like the great Swiss medical student Victor Frankenstein, he’s once again stitched together a patchwork of human refuse to create a hulking, slow moving, hideously ugly monster that clumsily destroys everything it its path.
Okay that last part isn’t entirely accurate. I think Frankenstein was a biologist.

In addition, the Swiss don’t necessarily win ugly. They sport regular goalscorers in Bundesligists Xerdhan Shaquir, Tranquilo Barnetta, and Josip Drmic. One simply hates to see this afterthought of a country be gifted a trip to the Knockout Stages. Preferably, one wishes to read this grouping as a gift to France, Ecuador, and Honduras; actual legitimate nations. The French should have no problem topping this “junk group”. I’ll augur that Ecuador will rise to the occasion as well. The Hondurans aren’t going anywhere…other than to a lawn care service near you.

Switzerland—“Die Schweizer Nati”

Shirt badge/Association crestThe Swiss aren’t exactly welcoming of immigrants except as pertains to their football team. Strikers Drmic, Seferovic, and Gavronovic are all of Bosnian descent. Captain Gökhan Inker is a Turk. Midfield stars Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemali, and Xerdhan Shaquir are Albanians. Three Africans and a Spaniard are also among “Hitzfeld’s Heroes”.

The Swiss out-diversify the Germans in this tournament. As we shall see in a few days time, the immigrant character of Die Mannschaft sadly fades away. ; (: ( The Swiss coasted through qualifying mostly thanks to goals from Xhaka, Inler, and Shaquiri, though homegrown boys Fabian Schär and Tranquilo Barnetta pitched in too. Barnetta and Gelson Fernandez are the most notable holdover from the 2010 side that couldn’t get out of the group after drawing with Honduras. Both appear to have lost their starting spots/ Von Bergen, Senderos, Benaglio, Inler, and even Drmic were on that side, but none started regularly or featured prominently.

Many recognizable Swiss names are either retired or no longer in Hitzfeld’s line of sight. Midfield mainstay Benjamin Huggel announced his retirement on the day the Swiss were eliminated in South Africa. So did defender Lugovich Magnin Former team captain and all-time leading scorer Alexander Frei withdrew from international competition after being regularly heckled by Swiss fans in 2011. Talismanic veteran Hakin Yakin hung up his cleats shortly thereafter. Defender Stephane Grichting followed suit. Fullback Mario Eggiman fell out of Hitzfeld’s favor. Ditto attackers Pirim Schwegler, Eren Derdiyok, and Albert Bunjaku.

The German legend thus trots out a starting eleven comprised of ten outfielders, none of whom have scored a goal in meaningful international competition. The aforementioned Gelson Ferandez (Cape Verdian by birth) tallied in Switzerland’s stunning scalp of Spain in 2010, but it appears he’s lost his job to Herta left-winger Valentin Stocker for now. Bullied by the press, this new generation of Swiss footballs insist they’re ready for the big time. We shall see.

Drmic doesn’t quite have the height to compete in their air.  Stocker and Behrami haven’t scored for their country in two and four years respectively. Xhaka, Shaqiri, Inler give the Nati the potential for nice triangulation in the middle of the pitch, but fullbacks Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner are too inconsistent up the flanks. Hitzfeld’s benching of Philippe Senderos in favor of red-hot younger Fabian Schär makes sense from a performance standpoint, but one wonders whether or not it will mess things up tactically.

The Swiss were awarded perhaps the weakest group in European qualifying and now their fortune extends to the World Cup finals. They’ll likely get through, supplying us with maybe one or two goals in the process.

 Projecting the Swiss Lineup (4-2-3-1)  

                          Josip Drmic
Valentin Stocker                      Xerdhan Shaqiri
                        Granit Xhaka
    Gökhan Inler                      Valon Behrami
R. Rodriguez S. von Bergen F. Schär S. Lichtsteiner
                         Diego Benaglio

 The Talisman—Gökhan Inler  

He knows how to whip in a perfect cross, and can let fly with some real lasers as well. Everyone likes to think of FC Bayern Winger Xherdan Shaqiri as this team’s star, but he’ll accomplish little without quality services from the captain.

 “A Syndicate Classic”—Switzerland 

EM 2004From EM 2004: “Revenge of the Syndicate”


Question: And where are the Irish this go-around?

Answer: They got shoved down a snow-capped mountain by a bunch of Lederhosen-clad, goat tending, cheese-fermenting, dirty-money-hoarding goofballs.

We-go-blah. (Alpenhorn blows) WE-GO-BLAH! Fuck. I hate these alpine assholes, speakers of a German dialect so diabolically maligned that I wish to reach inside their foul smelling mouths, grab their imbecilic tongues, and screech lessons in vowel pronunciation before knocking every last one of their teeth out. The Swiss arrive for just their second European Championship appearance ever. Insofar as I’m concerned they can’t depart soon enough. My personal experiences wasting exorbitant amounts of money traveling in Switzerland certainly play a role in my intractable hatred of this useless microstate.

More broadly, who the hell wants to watch a patchwork group of extra-mechanical Germans, extra-Lazy French, and extra-incompetent-aggravating-dumb-painfully ugly Italians scamper around the pitch? For Chrissake, how do you take the rural hillbillies of three separate ethnicities and call it a country? That’s not fucked up enough for you? How about we throw in some small communities of inbred ogres who have been speaking Vulgar Latin and fucking their cousins since the first century BCE? Yes, we’ll call it Switzerland! A nation of outcasts living on unconquerable terrain where every nation can stash their bloody spoils of war! Have I mentioned that these trolls purport to claim racial superiority as well? Piss on these revoltingly arrogant puffs of cow flatulence!

Editor’s retroactive notes:

And a young writer finds his voice…through a hate-laced diatribe punctuated by a bovine fart joke. This will be immortally etched in stone at Oxford someday.

From EM 2008—Round Two:

EM 200815) Switzerland  

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

From EM 2008—Round Three:

15) Switzerland  

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

Editor’s retroactive notes:

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

From EM 2008—Quarterfinals

EM 2008Moving right along, there are SEVEN goodbyes to be made. Before getting to the lines, an irreverent farewell to those whose European Dream has gone the way of South Korean beef imports:

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ugh. Insofar as I recall, I was trying to allude to the Korean protests of the USDA Mad Cow Ruling. The joke was of course lost on everyone…including “future Vice”


Out with a bang that only partially made up for the opening whimper. "Ach, Gunther. Our bizarre little microstate hast failed again. I must take solace in the "Shrine of Account #68943534"

Ecuador—“La Tri”

Shirt badge/Association crestIf you’re looking to fit anyone for a Cinderella slipper, look no further than Antonio Valencia’s “La-Tri”. After missing out on 2010, the FEF scooped up Columbian manager Reinaldo Rueda (then fresh off a four-year-stint with Honduras). Rueda didn’t tinker much with the FEF’s Prime Directive. The team still plays a classic 4-4-2 with one Big Target Forward and an anchoring speedster. It’s been said that this system is sacred.

Rueda’s Big Target Man is former Man City prospect Felipe Caicedo. Since leaving the Etihad, Caidedo has bounced around Portugal, Spain, Russia, and Kuwait. Although he may not have established himself with a club, he’s always demonstrated strength in corner battles and precision heading. Enner Valencia is the little piston. He’s quick enough to carve out space anywhere in the box at a millisecond’s notice. Such agility has enabled him to score 18 times in 22 appearances for his Mexican club this season. He’s also scored in his last three caps for his country.

If the course the REAL Valencia on this team is ManU’s Antonio. He doesn’t often find the back of the net for the storied club, but he does invaluable work on the right flank and figures in most of the stronger runs of play. Valencia is joined in midfield by fellow veterans Castillo, Noboa, and Montero. The four players have international 231 caps among them, giving Ecuador by far the most experienced center of gravity in the tournament. As if that weren’t enough, Edison Mendez and Luis Saritama are available off the bench. They contribute another 150 combined caps.

The vast experience of this squad extends to the back four. Left Back Walter Ayovi captained the back line almost interrupted since 2002. (as it so happens he missed the 2006 World Cup for unexplained reasons. Right Back Juan Carlos Paredes has held his job for four years. Centerback Jorge has been off an on the first team for well over a decade.

Man, we really had a blast with this country back in 2006. They demolished Poland 2-0 and stomped all over Costa Rica 3-0 to finish second in their group behind the glorious Fatherland. They gave us a well-fought battle against the Three Lions in the Round of 16 too. All the emphasis on “experience” serves to highlight how delighted I am that so many players are returning after six long years. Guaga, Mendez, Castillo, and Saritama all return. One really wishes it wasn’t too late for Austin Tenorio and Austin Delgado. Regrettably, six years turns out just to be too damn long for some.

Antonio Valencia also returns. He was but a teenage lad playing in the Spanish League back then. Now everything hinges on him….EVERYTHING. Factors working against a repeat of 2006’s success story include really poor coordination in the defensive ranks, an awfully skinny keeper who has difficultly punching the ball clear, and a general lack of creativity on the left side of midfield.

It’s up to Valencia to overcome these limitations and slice some through balls in for his forwards. They’ve proven that they can finish, but first they’ll need the ball.

 Projecting the Ecuadorian Lineup (4-4-2)  

          Enner Valencia    Felipe Caicedo
 Jefferson Montero                  Antonio Valencia
           Christian Noboa    Segunda Castillo
Walter Ayovi                               J.C. Paredes
             Jorge Guagua    Frickson Erazo
                  Alexander Dominguez

 The Talisman—Antonio Valencia  

We need form like this if we have any hope of dislodging the Swiss:

 “A Syndicate Classic”—Ecuador  

From WMQ 2009—“Syndicate with A Vengeance”:
WMQ 2009 
Ecuador v. Uruguay


It’s do or die time for these two clubs in what can only be described as…..dammit. Of course, the match is being held in Quito and I simply can’t think of something catchy to attach to the venue. Shit. Were they playing in Uruguay, one could easily dub it “Montevideo Madness”! Oh well…Let’s see where else asinine alliteration and some shallow cultural references can get us. Will ManU’s Antonio Valencia lead his boys to the promised land of Ecuadorian Ecstasy? Or will Athletico striker Diego Forlan and the madmen from Montevideo rain on their Jipijapa? Okay. That REALLY sucked. You write a global sportsbook. Go ahead. Your mother liked this one.

THE LINE: Ecuador+2 Goals

Honduras—“La Bicolor”

Shirt badge/Association crestOh this team is bad. I mean BAD. They’re plenty of names that you’ll recognize…but they’re BAD. Forget not finishing dead last in the Group or fighting not to finish 32nd overall. We’ll concede that. It will constitute a surprising moral victory if the “Big Blue H” can pull off their first victory ever at the World Cup Finals. They’ve got an enthusiastic backer in this bookie. I’d love to see the feisty little underdogs succeed. It’s just that they’re….well…They’re BAD. I’d almost rather re-post my thoughts on the 2009 Coup than discuss this team.

Bad, Bad, BAD!

Lead striker Jerry Bengston has problems scoring…..against MLS competition. Wilson Palacios has yet to score for Stoke City. Roger Espinoza has tallied all of once for Wigan. Maynor Figueroa and Juan Carlos Garcia have been tremendous flops for Hull City and Wigan respectively. The rest of the roster is predominantly filled with a mixture of domestic league players and MLS Second-Stringers. We need to do away with CONCACAF. Merge it with COMNEBOL or the OFC. DO SOMETHING. The North American Qualifying Conference continually produces teams capable of little beyond humiliating proud players who absolutely don’t deserve to be subjected to this kind of mistreatment.

Left Back Emilio Izaguirre remains worth a look. He’s turned in three solid seasons for Celtic-Glasgow of the Scottish Premiership as a stay-at-home fullback. Highlights below. I simply cannot bring myself to write any more about this team. The mind wanders. Having broached Celtic, all I can think about now is how in the hell Glasgow Rangers got arbitrarily placed in the Scottish Third Division, where in the hell the greatest Derby in the world is, and why the Scots have to make everything too complicated. 

Get it together, Vicey. Must find a way of encapsulating this section somehow. Hmmm…
“La Bicolor” are a terrible team…in the worst group of the tournament. Nuff Said.

 Projecting the Honduran Lineup (4-2-3-1)  

                  Jerry Bengston
Roger Espinoza       Wilson Palacios
                   Carlo Costly  
     Andy Najar    Luis Garrido
E. Izaguirre M. Figueroa V. Bernandez J.C. Garcia
                  Noel Valladares

 The Talisman—Emilio Izaguirre  

He’s actually quite good. Incisive passing. Curling crosses. Well-timed tackling. All skills one might expect from the 2011 Scottish Player of the Year. Don’t expect too much out of him offensively, even the lad can dribble:

  “A Syndicate Classic”—Honduras  

From WM 2010—Round of Sixteen (Part I):
WM 2010 
The “Big Blue H” of Honduras (3 games played, 16 Hot Girls)

A bittersweet (or outright miserable) moment for me as I must say goodbye to some people I have great respect for. The Zelaya jokes from last Fall retired, I’d like to give a shout out to all of my Honduran mates. Farewell my old Spanish-town pal Marco, my old girl Loupe, the guys who did my roof, Manuel the Gardner, Taquito the tire man, all the guys on the N.O. cleanup crew, the janitor at my middle school, my former boss Pepe the Poolman, Ramon the part-time adult film star, Concietta the part-time adult film star, Esteban from the drive-thru, Julio from the Restaurant, Mauricio from Valet, Giorge from the take-out pizza parlor, Jose from the bar, and of course Pablo down at the office.

To all the Hondurans working a crappy job, or those who had the misfortune to work a shitty job with me: I salute you! So sad that you had to be this year’s “CONCACAF Doormat.” I also apologize for the way Americans treat you. As someone who has worked an endless sting of shitty jobs, I don’t understand how why we always must be resented. I’d write more about your team, but I have to get back to my current shitty job…….

France—“Les Bleus”

Shirt badge/Association crestThis bookie likes their chances. Ze Frogs follow a pattern that, while capricious, is perfectly predictable. It’s almost as if they’re nothing more than a bunch overly-ruminative bi-polar rubes! Don’t believe me? Consider the evidence:

1998—World Champions

2002—Cataclysmic embarrassment that lost to their former colony, finished dead last in their group, and failed to score a single goal

2006—World Runners-up

2010—Absolute travesty that collapsed amid a internal revolt, finished dead last in the group, and sent one quarter of the players home before the final match.

2014—Champions? Runner’s Up? Bronze Medalists?

It’s France, Gentlemen. They’re essentially your bi-polar girlfriend. Instead of running on an eight-hour-cycle, they run on an eight-year-cycle. One year they’re making passionate love to you, astounding you with their overwhelmingly brilliant pontifications, and making you believe in the universal connectedness of all sentient life. Four years later they’re screeching incoherent accusations at you, chain smoking Gauloises, and threatening to jump off the roof. Four years after that they’re tenderly rekindling your belief in a higher power, going down on you twice daily, and cooking you sumptuous dishes that release endorphins you never dreamed existed. Four years down the road, they’re slashing your tires, threatening castration, and mailing your mother death threats.

You get the idea. It’s France. They rise high. They burn. They emerge from the ashes. They burn again. It’s the most bi-polar country in the history of the world. They guillotine a monarchy, and then reinstate it. They expel a general, then take him back They popularly elect a leader, then destroy his approval ratings even faster than Americans do. Expect nothing less from an overly philosophical race that looked to America for inspiration.

Beyond this embryonic theory, there are plenty of other reasons why we should expect this team to go far. Laurent Blanc did an excellent job reconfiguring the scaffolding of France’s collapsed house. Though he was later fired for being a closet racist, his scaffolding still stands. Oliver Giroud keeps getting better over at the Emirates. He netted 22 Goals for Arsenal this year during their historic “Return to Silverware Season”. Laurent Koscielny found his way into Wegners good graces too.  Karim Benzema just knocked in 24 for European Champions Real Madrid. Mathieu Debuchy earned himself a Newcastle contract. Mathieu Valbuena exceeds his natural talent whenever God and country are on the line.

Perhaps just as important as who Blanc opted to kick out was who he allowed back into the fold. Franck Ribery is the hardest working midfielder you’ll ever encounter. He just completed another magnificent season for Bayern. You better not blink when he’s in possession of the ball. Patrice Evra was one of the few steady bright spots in ManU’s disappointing campaign.

New trainer Didier Deschamps adds his own stamp. He unexpectedly left off Samir Nasri in favor of this kid Paul Pogba. Smart move. The wee lad has come alive since moving to Juventus. He’s brought in Moussa Sissoko. Another smart move. The Newcastle international creates opportunities no matter where he finds himself on the pitch. He reeled in Real Madrid centerback Raphael Varane. Wise decision. It’s not as if Mexes or Rami were viable options.

They’re poised for a title run, gentlemen. Let the pattern be proven. Let ze French eat cake. Let them tear through all the inferior competition this sad group has to offer. Vive!

 Projecting the French Lineup (4-3-3)  

                 Karim Benzema
Franck Ribbery     Mathieu Valbuena
     Yohan Cabaye    Blaise Matuidi
                 Moussa Sissoko
P. Evra R. Varane L. Koscielny M. Debuchy
                  Hugo Lloris                

 The Talisman—Franck Ribery  

No sets up his fellow players like this man. Back in 2012 I labeled this man, who deliberately refuses vainglorious plastic surgery, as my “Alpha Dog”. Frank Ribery just fucking works his ass off. He’s the football equivalent of a Shadow Scholar. Fuck the accolades. Fuck the endorsements. Just get to work. Keep kickin’ ass.

He’s a man’s man. He’s also “the man”. Enjoy.

 “A Syndicate Classic”—France  

From WM 2010—“Round One”

WM 2010Uruguay vs. France

Never a shortage of reasons to hate the frogs, particularly if you happen to be a German EU proponent. This Greek crisis gave the other half of the Franco-German Engine more opportunities to propose fantastically stupid grandiose ideas that the Germans end up paying for. A European Monetary Fund (EMF) to protect YOUR bond purchases? Solidarity always seems like a great idea until you send us the bill. Naturally, I could go on and on, bitching about the Airbus board, the Sarkozy-Villepin nonsense, anti-music piracy laws, and continued West African oppression, Loads of stuff to love about the French as well. Sometimes, however, it simply feels like having a hot, chronically depressed, chain-smoking girlfriend who brings the thunder in bed, yet never shuts up and never picks up the check L L 

Sorry Froggies, but you have no right to be here this time. The infamous “Henry Handball” is not forgotten. Not only did you rob the deserving Irish of a spot here in King Zuma’s court, you also deprived us all of Giovanni Trappatoni!! I cannot forgive you for this sweetie. You should have done the honorable thing and replayed the match!! I’m picking you today as an inferior opponent has no chance against Anelka, Malouda, Gallas, and Govou. Otherwise, I expect you to meet your demise fairly early.

Vicey’s Fearless Group Prediction (Straight Up for bookie)

1) France  
2) Switzerland  
3) Ecuador  
4) Honduras 

Overall Championship Odds

 France (Straight Up)
 Switzerland (5 to 1)
 Ecuador (10 to 1)
 Honduras (22 to 1)

Round of 16 Odds

 France (NO BETS)
 Switzerland (Straight up)
 Ecuador (Straight up)
 Honduras (3 to 1)

Quarterfinal Odds

 France (No Bets)
 Switzerland (2 to 1)
 Ecuador (4 to 1)
 Honduras (8 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

 France (Straight Up)
 Switzerland (4 to 1)
 Ecuador (6 to 1)
 Honduras (17 to 1)