Sunday, June 8, 2014

WM 2014--Group H Preview

Introduction—“One Final ‘Group of Life’”
WM 2014 
(Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea)


Greetings on what has been a rough 48 hours for football fans everywhere ; (  Tournament-ending injuries continue to mount up, depriving us of some of the globe’s best talent in the lead-up to our endless summer. As if the exclusion of Luis Montes, Radamel Falcao, Luis Suarez, Juan Carlos Medina, and Phil Jones weren’t enough, the Germans have just lost Marco Reus. He broke his ankle in a warm-up friendly against Armenia on Friday night. Huge loss for the Fatherland as he was projected by many (including this bookie) to start up front. Huge loss for Aral Industries as well. Now what are they do with all those life-size cardboard cutouts?

Enormous blow to French hopes of making the Knockout Stages as Franck Ribery threw out his back again. Les Bleaus lose their Talisman and most consistently exceptional player to a lingering injury. We football fans lose perhaps the tournament’s best dribbler/set-up man. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Life moves at a rapid clip. This book can only hope to make a concerted effort to keep up in real time.

In terms of the Group we’re about to discuss, Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Roman Shirokov succumbs to a nagging Achilles Tendon injury. There goes the Ruskie captain and charismatic midfield general. Oops. Fabio Capello now has to re-design his entire strategy and figure out how to re-work lateral play into his offense. The entire Russian game-plan just got chucked.

Indeed it is that time of year. With the World Cup Dream so tantalizingly close, the dream harshly and precipitously dies for many worthy participants. Plans go to hell. Most of our pre-tournament analysis is rendered completely moot. The good news to be gleaned from all of this is that…WE”RE ALMOST THERE! To hell with the validity of all our armchair musings. We’re about to play the matches! Now it truly gets interesting.

We find ourselves less than 96 hours from kickoff, less than 72 hours from uttering the sacred phrase, and less than 48 hours away from full activation of syndicate communication channels with your friendly bookie. Not to mention, IT’S SUMMER PEOPLE! Take a stroll outside. The temperature rises and the girls aren’t even attempting to cover up.

Even those with zero interest in football can certainly appreciate warm weather, outdoor seating, and scantily clad chicas. Girls in their summer clothes pass you by….


….Everyone needs to go out and get laid tonight. EVERYONE! That’s an order, gentlemen!! ; )

We fittingly close the preview sections with the tournament’s unprecedented THIRD group of life. The Belgians have long been the consensus pick for the tournament’s Cinderella. The Algerians and Russians are nevertheless strong contenders. The South Koreans have reached their nadir in terms of FIFA’s international rankings. That doesn’t mean this bookkeeper has any intention of discounting them.

Let’s roll. After all, we all have to go out and get laid tonight, don’t we?

Algeria—“The Desert Foxes”

Shirt badge/Association crest
After crashing out of the 2013 African Cup of Nations in the Group phase, the A.F.F. surprisingly opted to retain Bosnian head coach. They stuck with throughout a rather tumultuous 2014 World Cup Qualifying Campaign which saw the Desert Foxes barely sneak by Burkina Faso on the away-goals rule come playoff time.

To his great credit, Halihodzic appears to have derived the right lessons from the 2013 Shock. He’s ditched the 4-1-2-3 in favor of an easier-to-implement Classic 4-3-3. The inconsistent Ryan Boudebouz and Foed Kadir give way to the surging Sofiane Feghouli, who now appears to now have a secure spot on the right flank. The Valencia-based attacking midfielder has finally caught fire over at the regal Mestalla ground. The right-wing best complements his vision and preferred foot. He’ll be responsible for keeping the offense in gear.

Mehdi Lacen relinquishes his starting spot in central midfield to Udinese’s Hassan Yebda. Both players are of equal skill and age, but the latter simply fits better in the reconfigured scheme. He’ll get a better backup in young upstart Riyad Mahrez. He began streaking during the second half of Leister City’s run at the English Championship. A very wise inclusion. More impressive, Halihodzic appears to have found a way to work him into the puzzle.

Shortly after the CAN 2013 debacle, Halihodzic skillfully snatched up anchoring midfielder Yacine Brahimi from the French ranks. The promising newcomer scored 15 goals for various French national youth teams. He has the potential to be a tremendous asset in terms of speed and distribution. He’s certainly an improvement over Mostefa, Guediourra,  Lemmouchia, or whoever the hell else Halihodzic found himself desperately inserting in the position in hopes of bringing some tempo to the defensive third.

The back-four has undergone a complete overhaul. Mesbah takes a seat in favor of Ghoulam. Bougherra returns from injury to take over for Halliche and reclaim his captain’s armband. Carl Medjani and Aissa Mandi replace the ineffective committee assignments that left the Desert Foxes porous at the back. The two Ligue-1-based starters bring with them outstanding recent form and much-needed pep. Medjani is another recruit stolen from the French Ranks.

Everyone has a chance in a “Group of Life”. Halihodzic has already expressed discontentment with his job. Look for him to leave after the tournament, possibly on a very high note.

 Projecting the Algerian Lineup (4-3-3)  

                        Islam Slimani
     E.A.H Soudani        Sofiane Feghouli
         Hassan Yebda     Riyad Mahrez
                     Yacine Brahimi
F. Ghoulam M. Bougherra C. Medjani A. Mandi
                        Rais M’Boli

 The Talisman—Sofiane Feghouli  

Feghouli elected to forswear his French eligibility some three years ago. For the longest time, football analysts shrugged the commitment off with a perfunctory “Na, und?” It took some time for him to truly get his form in order, but he’s finally maturing into a very dangerous right-winger. Here’s a look:

 “A Syndicate Classic”—Algeria  

From CAN 2013—“Syndicate: Dark Continent”

CAN 2013
The “Desert Foxes” are back…mostly to annoy me. They’re heavily favored by most every oddsmaker to take the tournament….again mostly to annoy me. Welcome to the THIRD installment of “Your friendly bookie doesn’t much care to expend too much energy on North Africa”. Should we be worried? Damn straight we should. They beat the everlasting shit out of Libya (contrary to whatever popular logic dictates, a VERY good team) during the qualifying stages.

I happened to catch those games via laptop and can attest that they were cold, clinical, systematic ass-whippings. The desert dwellers have Vitoria Guimaraes forward El Ardi Himmel Soudani flitting from left to right in what appears to be a non-spontaneous fashion. Whatever the hell they’ve devised, they’ve got him sniping from all over pitch. Thus far he’s been capped eight times and scored six goals. Not to be outdone, his partner Islam Slimani occasionally hangs back as anchor, pressing forward to function as a target the rest of the time. More scary stats: 5 goals in 6 caps.

One must strain hard to find weak links in the midfield. Marseille’s Foued Kadir, Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli, and Racing Santander’s Hameur Bouazza. Gulp. Academica’s Rafik Halliche and A.C. Milan’s Djamel Mesbah will keep things tight at the back.

Say it a’int so, Vicey. Sorry. It would come as a great surprise if both Algeria and Tunisia fail to advance out of this group.

Belgium—“The Red Devils of Antwerp”

Shirt badge/Association crestOne has to travel far back into the Syndicate Tome to find the last time the Belgians were represented in one of our books. Way, way back. Alllll the way back to our first competition back in 2002. An interesting little factoid for you: The 2002 World Cup represented the SIXTH consecutive World Cup that the “Brussels Boys had qualified for”. Their absence over the ensuing relevant chapters of the Syndicate very much constituted a historical aberration.

Now they return…with a damn devastating lineup no less. It wouldn’t count as a surprise at all if the “Brugge Brothers” steamroll their way to the semi-finals. I’m deathly serious. They’ve got the talent and the momentum. Let’s explore:

Lead striker Roman Lukaku is the latest one rumored to potentially succumb to injury. This one just broke over the wire shortly after your friendly bookie finished his opening section. For now we await word, but nothing cryptic has come over the wire yet. Lukaku will simply sit out a few training sessions. No one has booked his flight home. The 21-year-old natural target man just scored 16 goals on loan to Everton this season. Every reason to believe he’ll be back at the Bridge soon, and that he’ll likely ripen into one of the Premiership’s best forwards. He racks up goals and assists with his chest, head, and BOTH his feet. Should he be cleared to play, we have ourselves a potential Golden Boot Candidate.

Lukaku is supported by Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard on the left flank and VfL Wolfsburg forward Kevin De Bruyne on the right. Marouane Fellaini, despite being something of a bust after his ManU transfer, is still a very talented anchoring striker that keeps the ball glued to his foot in possession. Trainer Marc Wilmots retains plenty of above-average options off the bench when it comes to the attack. Everton’s Kevin Mirallas gave Roberto Martinez eight quality goals this season, many from difficult set-piece positions. Napoli’s Dries Mertens drove in 13 Serie A strikes as well. Should all else fail, 19-year-old phenom Adnan Januzaj gave ManU four strikes, mostly in relief.

Spurs mainstay Moussa Dembele comprises on half of an extraordinary defensive midfield pairing. Zenit DFM Axel Witsel is also an adroit passer and an astute defender. Should anyone get past them, they’ll have Man City’s “Super Centerback” Vincent Kompany and Bayern’s “Super Sub” Daniel Van Buyten to contend with. Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen also features at left back. It’s a very intelligent and accomplished back four. One doesn’t see them conceding too easily.

Even if they stole my precious FCK’s nickname…..who cares? We stole our moniker from ManU, and our song from Liverpool. Very little stands in the way of this team and the group’s top spot. Even a “Group of Life” has rules. 

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

                      Romelu Lukaku
Eden Hazard  Maroune Fellaini Kevin De Bruyne
             Axel Witsel   Moussa Dembele
      Jan Vertonghen           Toby Alderweirld         
        Vincent Kompany Daniel van Buyten
                    Thibault Courtois

 The Talisman— Eden Hazard  

First of all, great porn name! It’s priceless….even better than “Jack Hammer”, “Rod Johnson”, and “Peter Vice”. Hazard has torn it up for Chelsea since being signed out of the French League two years ago. At only 5 ft 8 in, he’s very “Lahm-like”. He zips in and out of most any defensive scheme, crushes long-range efforts when in space, and makes a mockery out of his markers with his speed and agility. He’s capable of some legitimate wizardry; a brave little alchemist. Show em’ how it’s done, little man:

 “A Syndicate Classic”--Belgium  

From WM 2002—“The Humble Beginnings of a Syndicate”:

WM 2002Belgium 

Though this team has attained the title of “Red Devils”, I prefer to call them the “Brussels Sprouts”. Beyond Brugge and Anderslecht, there exists no perceptible reason to give two shits about Belgium football…let alone the country itself. Douglas Adams once bleatingly fictionalized an instance in which Belgium was the most obscene intergalactic insult. Good for him. I cannot expect to top that.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Reading the notes on the past four countries, memories surface of the dank LSU computer lab, smelling faintly of removed asbestos. This young writer was desperately pushing the pedal to the floor, unequipped to deal with the reality that he was running out of gas. As I recall, he began to wonder what he was doing typing up something that no one would ever read. His thoughts turned to his youth, feasibly better spent getting high and laid. Against all odds he produced some farsighted and judicious words about Belgium; the current world record holder for longest period after elections that a coalition was actually formed. Eight fucking months. Iraq occupies second place with seven. Have we some idea of how futile this state is? 

Russia—“The Ruskies”

Shirt badge/Association crestPerhaps the saddest aspect of the recent incursive annexation of Crimea (apart from the inhumane subjugation of the Tatars that is) is the cheapening of the international policy discourse as pertains to Russia. Two years ago we were discussing the nascent indigenous protest movement under leaders such as Udaltsov. Now all anyone wishes to talk about is “Pussy Riot” and Obama’s perceived weakness on Foreign Policy issues.

A country such as Russia deserves a rich discourse. The more we simplify matters into “bite-size” talking points, the more we disavail ourselves of innovative solutions to the most important bilateral diplomatic relationship in the Age of Non-Polarity. Yes…it sucks. I trust the hipster-scum over at “Vice Media” will soon hijack the discourse in its entirety.

For more ranting, see below. Your friendly bookie still has a football team to tell you about. The Ruskies return under the auspices of their third foreign manager in as many tournaments. After overachieving under Dutch legends Gus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat (“Schwanz Befürworter to Syndicate Members), the RFU brought in former Real Madrid, Juventus, and England manager Fabio Capello. He’s quite the skilled one. England enthusiasts such as myself continue to side with him when asked about the John Terry dispute.

Capello has done an admirable job leading this team in the direction that the 2012 performance necessitated. Arshavin, Pogrebnyak, and Pavlyuchencko have been permanently dropped. Kerzhakov, Kokorin, Dzagoev, and Denisov have received meritorious promotions. The best young Russian domestic stars form the thrust of this Russian incarnation, steadied by the backbone of hard-working veterans Vasili Berezutski, Sergei Ingashevich, and Igor Akinfeev.

One hesitates to write off such a tight-knit group, but Syndicate Rules dictate that a squad composed entirely of players from one country must be overrated. This is known as the “Trappatoni Tenet”. They’ll supply us with some entertaining football, but this bookie declines to project them past the Round of 16.

 Projecting the Russian Lineup (4-3-3) 

                       Alexandr Kerzakov
         Alexandr Kokorin   Alan Dzagoev
   Viktor Faizulin Yuri Zhirkov Denis Gluschkov
    D. Kombarov                       A. Koslov
             V. Berezutski S. Ingashevich
                         Igor Akinfeev

 The Talisman—Alan Dzagoev  

If his performance in Euro 2012 wasn’t enough for you, check out this athleticism:

 “A Syndicate Classic”—Russia 

From EM 2012—Group A Preview:

EM 2012Russia 

Transmit THIS information to Vladimir: His team is wildly overrated. A broad consensus coalesces around Schwanz Befürworter’s “Sbornaia”, group-thinking them all the way up to the position of universal favorites to top this bracket. I myself remain unconvinced. One may recall that I designated the 2008 Russian squad “the best ever” whilst others all too laxly wrote them off. After Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin sprung to life and catapulted the Ruskies all the way to the semi-finals, everyone belatedly joined in. This year we may very well observe the inverse bandwagon phenomenon.

Too many incorrectly assume that this highly experienced band of Zenit St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow players will automatically duplicate the previous effort. I acknowledge scrolling down the selection that Advocaat has retained faith in over a dozen players with 60 or more caps. Herein lies the problem. Old Schwanz Befürworter appears to behave as if he’s already semi-retired. He’s not shook up this team in the manner that their non-2010 qualification necessitated.

I’d be more pleased to once more invest fidelity in Advocaat’s approach, much as I did when he coached the Dutch (twice), the South Koreans, Zenit, Rangers, and AZ Alkmaar. The man racks up successes the way I down beers. Let’s not forget, however, that he has produced sub par results as well. He had less than stellar stints with Belgium and the U.A.E. He tanked in Mönchengladbach. Of most exigent concern is his impending departure to PSV Eindhoven effective July 1st. Perhaps Dick doesn’t have one foot in retirement, but has simply checked out. Looking at this archaic club of fragile egos, it seems reasonable to conclude.

We begin with Roman Pavyluchenko, a tournament all-star back in 2008. Advocaat judged him a “sleeping giant”, and he rose to the occasion with a magnificent performance that earned him a fat £14 million paycheck at White Hart Lane. Though he would score 21 goals for Harry Redknapp’s Spurs over the next 3 ½ years, he exhibited a precipitous drop in form towards the end of the contract that left him expendable. After being placed on the football equivalent of waivers CSKA and Spartak Moscow showed no interest in him. He ended up signing for half his worth with the current third best Moscow club, Lokomotiv, and has spent most of the last three months on the bench. Andrei Arshavin has also steadily played less of a role for the Gunners at the Emirates over the years. By January Wegner wasn’t even considering starting him. In desperation he secured a last-minute transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg in order to get enough playing time to maintain tournament fitness levels. Bottom line: Both players are in the midst of a steep decline, an unfortunately all-too-common occurrence for players entering their thirties.

Other questionable selections include Igor Semshov and Konstantin Zyranov in the packed midfield. What Yuri Zhirkov is still doing at the back after Chelsea dumped him and every respectable Russian club passed on him is beyond me. Not trusting the madman in charge of Anzhi Mackhachkala. He throws good money after bad like a drunken stockbroker on a cocaine binge. Likewise, anchoring midfielder Roman Shirokov is a mercurial at best. Reportedly, he and Advocaat have come to one of those understandings that propelled Pavlyuchenko in 2008. I’ll certainly believe it when I see it.

If the front is full of either average players or deteriorating hotheads, Russian fans may take solace in the stabilizing presence of Moscow’s granite giant Sergei Ignashevich. Now capped 73 times, this enormous iron curtain of a man captains one supremely stingy back line that only gave up four goals throughout the entire qualifying stages. Alexander Anyukov and Alexei Berezutski are also determined defensive stalwarts likely to frustrate any attempts at offense by the other anemic teams in the group. Perhaps the Sbornia should be considered favorites after all. Certainly not before Schwanz Befürworter makes some bold decisions, however.

First, backup keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev stepped up big time after Igor Akinfeev went down with an injury last autumn. Malafeev strung together a scoreless streak that spanned over 500 minutes, a new record for the qualifying stages. Advocaat must give the red hot Zenit backstop serious consideration, especially after Akinfeev has not recovered well. Next, the late season form of Stuttgart and later Fulham’s Pavel Pogrebnyak should elevate him to the starting position at lone striker. Advocaat faces serious problems with the group of squabbling has-beens. In addition to the wounded pride of Arshavin, the recently supplanted Alexander Kerzhakov further complicates the Prima Donna show. The solution happens to be simple: Sit them all and start Pogrebnyak. Clearly he’s a player entering full bloom. It’s his turn.

A Public Service Announcement from your Friendly Bookie 

At first glance it may appear that the Ruskies have some unpronounceable names. In point of fact, they’ve been translated from the Cyrillic precisely so that you can pronounce them with the greatest of ease. Not buying it? I’ll show you:

 1) Pavel Pogrebnyak = [PAH-ville POH-greb-NI-ACK]

 2) Sergei Ingashevich = [Sir-gay Ing-GAH-shev-itch]

 3) Roman Pavlyuchenko = [Row-man Pav-LI-OOH-Cheng-KO]

See? Simple. All one needs is a few seconds to carefully plod through the letters. Get up to speed on those Russian names as we’re headed there for World Cup 2018. I mean…it’s not as if you don’t have enough time, but why procrastinate?

Yes, so long as I considered it fair to ramble on about Greek elections, I suppose I should say a word or two concerning the 2011 Russian Parliamentary elections and the recent presidential elections. True, the suppression of dissent remains highly disconcerting, as do many of these toothless puppet “loyal opposition” parties. Media censorship blows, even if most of the populace can find away around it. Corruption, stagnation, propaganda……look. I’ll throw my lot in with the OSCE and assess the non-Orwellian results as largely fair. To an outside observer, the steadily sinking poll numbers of United Russia would seem to suggest the country is on the right track away from oligarchy. Absolutely loving these new Perestroika Protests, essentially ongoing for the last eight months. Love me some Nemstov, Bykov, Shenderovich, and Shevchuk. I love people braving frigid weather to bum rush and flash mob public parks. You’re absolutely correct. They can’t stop you all.

So Putin has generously allocated a new SIX-year term for himself. So what? He can’t defeat the Internet. He doesn’t even know how to use the Internet. He’s never sent an e-mail in his life. He doesn’t know how to use a mouse.  He doesn’t know what a screensaver is. He hasn’t the faintest clue of how you organize yourselves. This guy makes the late Ted Stevens look up to date. He may be correct in opining that the net is “80 percent porn”. Hell, some days he may have it spot on. Still, keep up the good work and he’ll abdicate before 2018. Er…have I mentioned that we’re headed to Russia in 2018? Try the whole police state thing when 30 million rowdy football fans descend on your country. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

From CAN 2013—“Syndicate: Dark Continent”

CAN 2013
How does one explain a fascination with Africa? Much better writers than me have tried. We’re talking MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better. Lydia Polgreen can’t give a satisfactory answer. Jeffery Gettleman can’t put his finger on it. Dambisa Moyo appears close to the right idea, but can’t seem to put it in the right words. Gettleman’s inability to articulate his love of the continent remains the most curious. How can such a brilliant journalist not explain why this continent enables one to experience life at a level so intense that it makes one grateful for drawing breath at all?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

In the event that the “Gettlemen” reference escaped anyone, Jeffrey Gettlemen is the Pulitzer-Prize winning East Africa Bureau Chief for the NY Times. His well-informed and trenchant coverage of matters of genuine public interest and massive historic significance include the Sudanese genocide, the Congolese Civil War, the post-election Kenyan ethnic violence, the al-Shabab insurgency in Somalia, nearly all of the political turmoil in Egypt, and America’s Shadow Drone war in Yemen. He’s also an indispensable source for in depth political analyses on the governments in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia just to name a few. In addition to his work in East Africa, he’s served as a war correspondent in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He’s been jailed. He’s been kidnapped, abducted, and detained on multiple continents. In summary, his courageous reporting, extensive knowledge, and gifted writing style render him nothing short of a treasure for those of us who crave salient and straightforward information about the planet on which we live. He’s always a must read for Africa enthusiasts. Gettleman’s been quite preoccupied with commentating on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide at the moment. I, among many others, anxiously await his more nuanced take on the C.A.R. situation. When attempting to inform oneself of such a tangled ethnic conflict, one relies upon a veteran field reporter to locate the right sources and supply the pertinent information. 

By the way, that doesn’t serve as my “official explanation”. If Gettleman can’t do it, then what hope do I have? For now we’ll say that Africa receives too much attention from celebrities who are in need of extra attention for themselves. It’s deplorably sad. Visit a luxury hotel in East Africa and you’ll see the photos of Bono, Angelina Jolie, some asshole hipster from the “Vice Magazine” Team wearing a Fedora, and some German douchebag sporting a Safari Hat and a giant check.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

In the event that the “Vice Magazine” reference escaped anyone, Shane Smith and his spoiled hipster cronies are a bunch of talentless bozos busy jerking themselves off while they go on their own personal safaris. Their ill-informed and un-informative coverage of their own “party boy” vacations would actually be entertaining, were they not constantly bragging about what an indispensable source of “groundbreaking new media” they are. Expect nothing else from narcissistic hipster scum. Contributions they’ve made to the Global Affairs Discourse include wandering around the Hindu Kush with all the investigative zeal of a bunch of lost pub-crawlers, spending a week in Kashmir boasting about how unique they are, cruising for fat chicks in Mauritania, cruising for bruised chicks in Tahrir Square, cruising for chicks with single guys in China, visiting a toxic waste dump in Iraq (naturally only taking time to inform us about how “dangerous and different” they are), looking up General Butt-Naked in Liberia whilst sophomorically smirking about the human feces on the beach, attending what passes for cock fights in Senegal, playing playground pirates in Nigeria, introducing Dennis Rodman to Kim-Jong Un, and (somehow) finding a few ultra-rightists in Eastern Europe ready to mouth off for the cameras.

The “Vice Crew” knows nothing of truly courageous reporting, nor will they ever. In summary, their self-obsessed thinly-veiled travelogues ensure that no one other than themselves are even remotely edified. Surely Shane Smith will be headed back to Africa soon to film an “investigative segment” about what an intrepid wunderkind he is. Yes, he valiantly treads where NO ONE ELSE (expect for the foreign bureaus of ALL 20+ major international papers of record, PBS, NPR, the BBC, Al Jazeera, American PCVs, foreign service agents, and tens of thousands of Western freelance journalists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, NGO Doctors/reporters/volunteers, and accredited scholars) DARE TO GO! Perhaps we’ll learn a fact or two about the C.A.R. situation after Shane is done whining about how Canadians “fell the tallest trees”. In all likelihood, however, we’ll all simply be dumber for having watched it. When attempting to inform oneself of a nuanced international political issue, we can all do without a self-delusional fat fuck sporting a fedora.       

South Korea—“The Taeguk Warriors”

Shirt badge/Association crestIt just wouldn’t be Summer without our “Tigers of Asia”. They deliver us arguably the best fan-base in all of world football, some of the hungriest youngsters in the entire competition, and one of the coolest Bundesliga prospects in recent memory. Before delving into South Korea, I must (as is customary) disclose that I deliberately choose not to adhere to any uniform set of standards when discussing Korean names. I like to mix it up. ; ) With no clue whether the first name or family name should be cited first, I just go with the flow that my mood dictates. Who’s to stop me?

You’ll note that Ji Sung-Park is missing. He retired from international football after the 2013 Asian Cup. The former captain still theoretically plays for QPR, but spent the entire season out on loan in the Erdevisie. Looking forward to seeing him back in the Premiership next year. Other familiar faces missing are keeper Lee Won Gae (retired), defender Pyo Young-Lee (also retired), forward Kim Jung-Woo (injured), and striker Yeom Ki-Hun (out of form).

The Koreans rely upon a bi-furcated attack spearheaded by Borussia Dortmund’s Ji Dong Won and Arsenal’s Chu Young-Park. Not a bad tandem at all. Park had a chance to escape all of the Emirates pressure on loan to Watford this season. Won earned himself a fat contract with Dortmund after some inspired play for Augsburg. Jürgen Klopp likes his moves. So do I. ; )

Left-winger Heung Min-Son primarily plays as a striker for Bayer Leverkusen, but works better deployed further back on this team. The kid has amazing stamina. T’would be a pity if he wasted it all waiting for the perfect ball up front. Bolton Wanderers midfielder Lee Chung-Yong occupies the opposite flank. He can slice and dice his way past the best on any given day.

Two midfielders form an unconventional pocket behind the attackers. Koo Ja-Cheol serves in this capacity for FSV Mainz 05. Ki Sung-Yeong does the same for Swansea City. In their respective leagues, both footballers play for “underdog clubs” that weren’t expected to escape relegation from the first league. That’s the reason I truly like this “pocket”. Here we have the “hungry youngsters” I was telling you about.

The defensive ranks feature more such heroes: Park Joo-Ho of Mainz, Hong Jeong-Ho of Augsburg, Lee Yong of Hyundai, and Kim Young-Gwon of Guangzhou.

Here we have MY Cinderella. Take them or leave them.

 Projecting the South Korean Lineup (4-2-2-2)  

         Ji Dong-Won     Chu Young-Park
       Heung Min-Son   Lee Chung-Yong
       Koo Cheol-Ja     Ki Sung-Yueng
     Park Joo-Ho                    Lee Yong
      Kim Young-Gwon Hong Jeong Ho
                     Jung Song-Ryong

 The Talisman— Heung Min-Son  

His endurance remains his best asset. Watching highlights like these, you may wonder why he never gets tired:

 "A Syndicate Classic”—South Korea  

From WMQ 2009—“Syndicate with A Vengeance”
WMQ 2009 
South Korea  

Oh yes. Yes sir. Together with the Spaniards and the Japs, there will be no shortage of eye-candy in the stands for the male viewing contingent! The triumvirate of gorgeous hotties is already in! One might even call the Korean girls the Jefferson of the “Mount Rushmore of Babes. The Spaniards are my Roosevelts. I’m just not cool enough. Besides that, I can’t dance. The Japs are my Washington. They will dump you quicker than you can day ”Snow Falling on Peter”. Oh well. Other than reasons that make me appear to be a very “dirty old man”, here are four reasons, why I’m psyched about the Koreans:

1. The drum section of the “Tigers of Asia”. If you haven’t heard this fan club yet, you’re in for a treat!

2. In poor forlorn Kaiserslautern, you simply have to love a team with the nickname “Red Devils”….er with the possible exception of the loathed ManU

3. The Koreans got completely gypped by those microstate cheese yodelers known as the Swiss in the 2006 WM. They were polite to the Ref and everything!! Fucking useless Swiss.

4. ManU’s Ji-Sung Park ready to kick some ass while Park Chu Young is poised to tear up the scene (Chan-Ho Park is still bothered by a hamstring). Lee Chun-Yong of Bolton Wanders is an intriguing prospect while Lee Dong-Gook (tearin’ up the K league) and Lee Young Pyo are back for more! In addition, we’ve got Lee Keun Ho, Lee Chung-Yong, Lee Jung Soo, AND Lee Woon-Jae called up? How about that? Kim Young Kwang, Kim Dong-Jin, Kim Hyung-Il, and Kim Jung-Woo are ready to play!!
(Okay…love my Koreans. Still waiting to meet one that does not have Jong, Hong, Park, Kim, or Lee in their name. Also, is anyone NOT from Seoul? I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Go see Park Chan-wook’s latest epic “Thirst”. I mean, GO RIGHT NOW! If you loved “Oldboy”,  “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” and “I’m a Cyborg, but that’s Okay”, you’ve not a moment to lose! The Koreans are the ONLY ones left that can still do artful horror.

Vicey’s Fearless Group Prediction (3 to 1 Odds for bookie)

1) Belgium 
2) South Korea 
3) Algeria 
4) Russia 

Overall Championship Odds

 Belgium (8 to 1)
 Russia (10 to 1)
 Algeria (13 to 1)
 South Korea (15 to 1)

Round of 16 Odds

 Belgium (NO BETS)
 Russia (Straight Up)
 Algeria (Straight Up)
 South Korea (Straight Up)

Quarterfinal Odds

 Belgium (Straight Up)
 Russia (Straight Up)
 South Korea (Straight Up)
 Algeria (2 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

 Belgium (Straight Up)
 Russia (2 to 1)
 South Korea (3 to 1)
 Algeria (8 to 1)