Monday, May 30, 2016

EM 2016--Group A Preview

Introduction—“Make Love in the Afternoon”
EM 2016 
(France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania)


We’ve certainly had more than our fair share of fun with the Froggies in this Sportsbook. An abundance of clichéd ethnic stereotypes afforded your friendly bookie more than ample opportunities to sneak in endless elbow jabs. You’re just too easy, mes Amie! You smoke Gauloises whilst proclaiming “life es sheet”. You actually legislated a 35-hour-work-week. Approval ratings of your political figures rise after news of their extramarital affairs comes to light. At any given moment, between 6 and 8 of your Public Sector Unions are on strike! I do believe it’s actually illegal to ride a bicycle that doesn’t contain at least one baguette in the basket. Alright….that’s enough.

Indeed we’ve covered it all in this Sportsbook. Everything from smoking babies to sunken Greenpeace ships. We worked in the riff about the smart-targeting bomb that only destroys restaurants under four stars. We covered Raymond Domenech’s selection of players based on their astrological signs. Sarko’s Napoleon complex. Hollande’s stutter. Chirac’s hearing aide. Marie le Pen’s electronic cigarette. Segolene Royal’s irresistible “Milfness”. The 2002 National Team meltdown. The 2010 National Team Meltdown. Good God, Frenchies. You really don’t even bother to make it challenging for us, do you?

In what became perhaps the Syndicate’s Most Infamous Line, your friendly bookie—circa 2010—likened the French to “a hot, chain-smoking, chronically depressed girlfriend who brings the thunder in the sack, yet never shuts up and never picks up the check.” Virtually all my French Mates embraced this line. They absolutely loved it…even if they cleverly used it to weasel me into pay for hundreds of dollars in mutual bar tabs. ; )

In many respects, this year’s festivities are dedicated to all of my own mates from the land of “Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite.” Fantastic People; always willing to share a drink, a conversation, and even ceaseless laughs at their own expense. Culturally speaking, they’ve got it nailed down. Why not dally on your way back from lunch, stop by the café on your way home, or squeeze in a conjugal visit/cat-nap between shifts?

 Vive Le France! 

The shameless assault on this culture by those incapable of laughing at themselves remains too pathetic for me to waste any more of my sparse free time writing about. Your friendly bookie knows who he is, knows who his friends are, and knows the full extent of his deeply compassionate heart. I’ve little to say to those who would try to ruin our precious time together with their insipid primordial practices. I think I’ll just aver that their prophet regularly performed fellatio on pigs and be done with it ; )



France—“Les Bleaus”

Shirt badge/Association crestShould you find the above comment distastefully racist, let’s not forget that the French always field a multi-ethnic team and have zero tolerance for racism in their ranks. Ask Laurent Blanc what a priority multiculturalism is to French Football fans.  He was thrown out despite doing a fine job rebuilding the squad completely from scratch. The French take great pride in the diversity of their National Eleven. Les Bleaus always provide the most multi-variegated assortment of players in nearly every tournament. Rally around France, Westerners. WE understand the true meanings of diversity and tolerance.

Didier Deschamps enters his second major tournament poised to cruise through the Group Stage easily. Don’t let any of talk centering around their current FIFA Ranking fool you. This team remains quite good, even if most of the players appear to have taken the year off for their club teams.  Likewise, no one should be concerned about Karim Benzema’s suspension or the injuries to Jeremy Mathieu or Raphael Varane. The core group of players comprising this squad lost Franck Ribery to injury at the last moment in the previous tournament, and it made no difference whatsoever.

Lead-striker Oliver Giroud just completed another decent campaign over at the Emirates. Though Gunners fans will incessantly gripe that he failed to score clutch goals when it truly mattered, 24 tallies and two Hat Tricks aren’t bad numbers at all. Should Giroud falter, Deschamps can always move up Anton Griezman, Moussa Sissoko, or Dimitri Payet. Young phenom Anthony Martial constitutes another option. France’s “next big thing” has yet to net a goal for the National Side, but is off to a cracking start at the “Theater of Dreams”. Can’t wait to see if he can parlay it into a dream summer campaign.

Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris will keep things secure between the pipes. Again, Spurs fans will bitch about some of his clutch failures down the stretch, but one should really trust bitter Premiership fans after this season. If there is a cause for concern, it’s the four defenders directly in front of the French netminder. Patrice Evra may have logged significantly fewer minutes this season, but we’ll just have to see if his 35-year-old knees can take the pressure of tournament football. Centerback Laurent Koscielny also appears to have slowed significantly. Bacary Sagna, Christophe Jallet, and Adil Rami are all past their prime. This leads your friendly bookie to project starts for youngsters Lucas Digne and Eliaqium Managala. Those two don’t engender a lot of faith on the right.

While I think the defensive question marks will ultimately preclude the hosts from capturing their third Euro Star, I will predict that they’ll steamroll through this group and at least make the Semis. Should I proven wrong, just as I was back in 1998…..that won’t be a great disappointment either ; ) 

 Projecting the Froggie Lineup (4-3-3) 

                                  Oliver Giroud
           Anton Griezman               Anthony Martial       
                                   Paul Pogba
                    Blaise Matuidi    Yohan Cabaye  
     Patrice Evra L. Koscielny  L. Digne E. Mangala
                                   Hugo Lloris

 The Talisman—Paul Pogba 

Image result for paul pogbaDeschamps firmly put his own unique stamp on Laurent Blanc’s rebuilding project in 2014 by selecting then 18-year-old Paul Pogba over the more familiar Samir Nasri. The move paid immediate dividends. Pogba scored a crucial goal in the Round of 16 en route to being named the tournament’s best young player. The man sometimes referred to as “the French Balotelli” brings the complete package for a midfielder. He defends with precise tackles and explodes forward with breathtaking pace. Deschamps looks to deploy him in central midfield, where he will be responsible for directing the flow and tempo of the game. Watch his every move intently.

 “A Syndicate Classic—France” 

From WM 2014—Group E Preview:
WM 2014 
This 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.

Switzerland—“Die Schweizer Nati”

Shirt badge/Association crest Must we really maintain the tradition of labeling these rubes “alpine assholes” and blast our ricola-inspired “Horn of Scorn”? Actually…no! There’s no need apathetically dismiss the Swiss this year. Their team shall prove exciting to watch, particularly when players of Albanian descent--Xherdan Shaqiri, Blerim Dzemaili, and Granit Xhaxa-- square off against their home country during the group phase. Anticipate all the fun and intrigue of the German/Polish rivalry! Your friendly bookie has already begun breaking it down. Looking very much forward to it.

Since taking the reins from the legendary Ottmar Hitzfeld, new head coach Vladmir Petkovic has demonstrated that he fears no convention in scouting new players and reassigning established ones. In moves as audacious as they were brilliant, he dropped waning stars like Phillipe Senderos, Timm Klose, Valentin Stocker, and Göhkhan Inler. Additionally, he opted to pitch young talent like Josip Drmic and Pajtim Kasami because of weak form. He promoted THREE 19-year-olds from the youth squad and stuck with them through the final cutdown. One may safely say that the wise old maestro knows precisely what he’s looking for and isn’t afraid to sculpt a squad that strictly adheres to his own vision. Hell yes1 Applaud such intrepid selections. That’s one reason why your friendly bookie loves this time of year.

I’d like to devote some space to the three youngsters as they may stand on the precipice of a breakthrough. Should we find ourselves talking about any of these tyros extensively in the years to come, I’ll thoroughly enjoy combing back through these pages to assess the impressions we had of them before they debuted.

First up, there’s 19-year-old striker Breel Embolo of FC Basel. The Cameroonian-born-Stürmer has been thrashing through defenses in the Alpo Super League for three years know. Numerous top European Clubs are rumored to be biding for his services and he might land a prime-time contract this very Summer. Dennis Zakaria is a Swiss midfielder of Congolese-descent who forced his way into the squad after some truly mesmerizing performances for Bern Young Boys. He’s another one angling for a top-flight deal. Lastly, there’s Borussia Mönchengladbach defender Nico Elvedi, an exceptionally mobile centerback with a Mertesacker-like gangly stature. Premiership sides are rumored to be interested in him too.

Whether or not we get a chance to scout these kids is questionable. The Swiss first team remains so strong that their services may well not be needed. Former Freiburg man Admir Mehmedi appears strong enough to anchor the attack. Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a “Goal of the Season” candidate over Christmastide, giving all of us a taste of his incredible potential. Granit Xhaka is headed to the Emirates. Gelson Fernandez might get scooped up soon. Stefan Lichtsteiner, Johan Djourou, and Valon Behrami refuse to slow down. Gentlemen, we have an immensely strong football team here. Your friendly bookie hesitated for days before eventually picking the French to top the group.

Alert the Media. Vicey disowns and disavows all of the puerile crap he wrote about the Swiss over the course of the last fourteen years…including what stands below. ; )  A great deal of the shift has to do with what a great story Vladimir Petkovic is. The man from Yugoslavia settled in Western Europe, learned seven languages, and put together an amazing football team that will defy one of the most intrinsically racist nations in Europe.

This is precisely what the Swiss deserve.

 Auf geht’s Nati!!    

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

                         Admir Mehmedi
Xherdan Shaqiri Granit Xhaka Gelson Fernandez
               Valon Behrami Fabian Frei
   Stefan Lichtsteiner              Ricardo Rodriguez
              Fabian Schär      Johan Djourou
                            Yann Sommer

 The Talisman—Xherdan Shaqiri 

Image result for xherdan shaqiriThe fearless Kosovar. His unforgettable Hat Trick against Honduras in the 2014 World Cup ensured that even Bayern couldn’t afford to keep him. Though his spells at Inter Milan and Stoke City have proven somewhat underwhelming, the 24-year-old has plenty of time left to find his niche. Look for him to showcase his technical prowess over the course of this tournament. As that goal against Everton evinced, he’s got the magic touch.   

 “A Syndicate Classic—Switzerland” 

From EM 2004: “Revenge of the Syndicate”

EM 2004 Switzerland

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.

Romania—“Transylvania Tricolorii”

Shirt badge/Association crest 
Very few Stateside Bettors will recall the Romanian victory over the USA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during the 1994 World Cup. Your friendly bookie barely remembers it. As he recalls, most of America was preoccupied with the O.J. Simpson pre-trial at that point. No one had time to spend on the planet’s greatest sporting event, taking place on U.S. Soil for the first time. An American footballer (who happened to be black) was accused of murdering his ex-wife (who happened to be white). I bring this up because some of the internet trolls have already accused me of disgracefully distracting everyone from the weighty problems of the world with football. Er..what about those who distract themselves with shallow voyeurism of the criminal process? They’re still at it! Nancy Grace still has a show last time I checked.

Okay…point made. Sorry to digress. It all went downhill for the Romanians after they topped their group and advanced to the Quarterfinals in 1994. They did advance beyond the Group in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, but they’ve not made their way into the Syndicate other than the truly embarrassing collapse in Euro 2008. Adrian Mutu dropped the ball, making a mockery out of that tournament’s “Group of Death” in the process.

The proud Eastern Europeans return, albeit with a highly suspect attack unlikely to make too many waves. None of their strikers play in top-flight leagues. The midfield remains thinner than an un-poached egg yolk. No one outside Gabriel Torje stands a chance of getting something going. One hates to off-handedly reject a charming side of Draculites with a captain named Vlad, but it must be done.

These guys aren’t going anywhere. Razvan Rat happens to be one of my favorite players ever. He kept Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League for nearly an uninterrupted decade! They’re still not going anywhere. Sorry.
 Projecting the Romanian Lineup (4-2-3-1) 

                  Bogdan Stancu
 Gabriel Torje  C. Keseru A. Chipciu            
        A. Maxim     M. Pintilii 
   Razvan Rat           Valercia Gaman     
       Vlad Chiriches Dragos Grigore
                   C. Tatarusanu

 The Talisman— Vlad Chiriches 

Vlad Chiricheș (5 Jun 2012).jpgIn a last-minute surprise move, trainer Anghel Iordanescu elected to bestow the captain’s armband on a 26-year-old defender with only 40 caps. Spurs fans, myself included, truly appreciated his unrelenting effort during the dark days of Tim Sherwood’s reign. He hasn’t played much this year in the Serie A. That can work to his advantage. Perhaps he’ll burst through with an unexpected burst of energy, giving us all something to rave about. Here’s hoping for a story ; )

 “A Syndicate Classic—Romania” 

From EM 2008—Round Three:
EM 2008

 4) Croatia

You sneaky bastards. That’s our top spot! Keep it warm for us, Slavs. Alright I’m over it. Can’t win em all. One cannot let the loss of a little money get one down. I’ve found solace in the recent exchange between me and my 67-year-old black stepfather George. I called to offer my condolences after he lost a hefty sum on the Belmont Stakes. Always remember, IT COULD BE WORSE:

Peter: Hey George, sorry to hear about your horse.
George: Well, Peterman. At my age, you just have to accept that the horse don't stand up no more.
Peter: (!) uh.....George I was talking about "Big Brown".
George: .....(long sigh) So was I Peterman, so was I.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

“Big Brown” was one of many horses over the past forty some odd years to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown Challenge before fading in the third. Man do we ever need a horse that can do something more than get euthanized on the track. I can’t take any more of these horse movies clogging up the basic cable circuits. “Secretariat”, “Seabiscuit”, on and on. Over and over. Where’s the movie about the undefeated greyhound dog? Hell, I’ll take a cockfighting movie at this point. “Alfonse: Lord Rooster of French Settlement”. Someone get me Hollywood. No, not Pixar. I want a live-action drama!

 5) Romania

Nicely done, EU Brethren. Looks like you’ll be headed out of the Group of Death. Forward we march toward a regionally integrated…hold on; I’m being fed some updated news. The Irish did WHAT now? Fuck me. Looks like I have another “goodbyes” section to write:

Research Career

Tsk, tsk. Had the Irish qualified, would the Lisbon Treaty have been rejected? If the nation that has probably benefited the most from European economic integration is prepared to nix the new Constitution, there is some SERIOUS doubt whether Europe will ever get on track. Well there goes my idea for a thesis. Perhaps I’ll buy a farm. Keep some sheep.

Albania—“The Red/Black Eagles”

Shirt badge/Association crestWelcome Syndicate Debutantes! A Summer Football Tournament would amount to a whole amount of useless drivel were it not for the stories that accompany a new country entering the fray for the first time. The Albanians have never qualified for a major international tournament before. If you’ve skimmed some of the passages above, you might have gotten the general gist of why they haven’t: Their players are being stolen and snatched up by other countries! Such recruitments are a fact of footballing life. The Germans steal Polish, Turkish, Scandanavian, and African players. The Swiss snatch up all the available immigrants in their immediate vicinity. Hell, even Jürgen Klinsmann, Andi Herzog, and Berni Vogts are hard at work getting players with multi-national citizenship to commit to the USA as we speak! That’s the game.

Chances remain slim for this crew. It’s unlikely that they’ll attain a single point. We should nevertheless appreciate their presence, and root for them to do their country proud. Let this photo speak for itself. Javoll, Albania 

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

          Armando Sadiku
Odise Roshi  Shkëlzen Gashi
  A. Abrashi  E. Lenjani M. Basha
   Taulant Xhaka        Andi Lila        
       Lorik Cana   Ansi Agolli
                Etrit Berisha 

 The Talisman—Lorik Cana 
Image result for lorik cana

He put in his time at Sunderland, Lazio, PSG, and Galatasary. In each of those stints, the determined Kosovar put forth all of the effort that one could reasonably expect. Coaches often request a “110% effort”. It works football-wise, even if it doesn’t work arithmetically. Here’s hoping you give your boys a few marvelous moments to cherish. ; )

 “A Syndicate Classic—Albania and Obscure Europe” 

WMQ 2013 (1)From WMQ 2013: “Das Fröliche Syndikat”

Norway vs. Cyprus


Who else is tired of reading about Cyprus? Trick question. This divided microcosm of a country conceals lessons of vital importance for all of us. Ahem. When dealing with the freewheeling arithmetically inclined wizards of international finance, is it really fair to fuck over pensioners in the interest of obverting contagion/preserving the integrity of the globalized fake commodity exchange?

The answer is “hell no”, even if the crucial thrust of entrepreneurship suggests otherwise. No reason to hate on mathematically sound economists. They know what they’re doing, even if they happen to be horribly shitty writers (think Paul Krugman). Capitalism isn’t the enemy. What no one should abide is the ruthless use of monetary policy. The Cypriot Solution was to sacrifice the hard-earned living of honest workers in order to catch a few tax cheats. Noble goal. Still, monetary policy always tends towards the better off.

Consider our current “QE Situation”. By artificially suppressing interest rates, we assist those willing to leverage while punishing those hoping to save. This is theoretically supposed to spur a sustainable economic recovery. Well…it’s been over five years. Anyone see a sustainable economic recovery?

I’m still looking. Maybe it’s between the couch cushions…. ; ( ; (

THE LINE: Norway + 3 Goals

Slovenia vs. Albania


Interesting...two tiny states vying for influence. One is an EU member. The other fights for a seat at OSCE meetings. We’ll stick with Slovenia, even if they remain unkind to their ethnic Albanian minority.

THE LINE: Slovenia +2 Goals

Switzerland vs. Iceland


The preceding Summer afforded your friendly bookie a chance to deeply research the “Ice Dottirs”

From FEM 2013—Round Three
FEM 2013

10) Iceland (Previously #3)

“Sorry girls. It was pure laziness that led me to effectively skip over you as if you were some worthless backwater like Mississippi. I fucked up. You have no much to offer this tournament. Your striking beauty AND striking prowess shall henceforth not be overlooked! Trouble is, it will take me time to sort through the tangled, sordid mess that is your surnames. You’re all named Dóttir! I’m not kidding. Have I stumbled into some sort of comically devised RPG dwarf village? I can’t reasonably be expected to differentiate between you right away. Give me time. I’ll get to you when I can. I do have a job, you know.”

I can’t believe I forgot! The suffix “dottir” means “daughter”. All Icelandic children are named “sson” or “dottir”! Think of the great Magnus VerMagnusson! Duh. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure getting to know this team. Having been busy, I’m still a little slow on the uptake. No matter. I’ll have more to write about this team….just not tonight ; )

This isn’t to say that I don’t wish the “ssons” all the best, especially against the parasitical Swiss. It’s still not going to work.

THE LINE: Switzerland +2 Goals

Russia vs. Luxembourg


We’re not having the discussion on Russia’s anti-gay laws. Zero chance. Pour all the Stoli down the drain if it makes you feel better. Talk about boycotting the Sochi Olympics if you must. I personally find it uninteresting, and that has nothing to do with the ever-blunt Dan Savage. Express your identity in whatever way you choose. I’m just not interested.

Enough “Identity Politics” research.  I’ve done my time. I put in my years. Leave me in peace ; )

THE LINE: Russia + 3 Goals

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

1) France 
2) Switzerland 
3) Romania 
4) Albania 

Overall Championship Odds

 France (Straight up)
 Switzerland (6 to 1)
 Romania (8 to 1)
 Albania (12 to 1)

Round of 16 Odds

 France (NO BETS)
 Switzerland (NO BETS)
 Romania (2 to 1)
 Albania (5 to 1)

Quarterfinal Odds

 France (NO BETS)
 Switzerland (Straight up)
 Romania (3 to 1)
 Albania (6 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

 France (NO BETS)
 Switzerland (3 to 1)
 Romania (5 to 1)

 Albania (10 to 1)