Wednesday, June 1, 2016

EM 2016--Group B Preview

Introduction—“God Save the Team of Destiny”

EM 2016(England, Russia, Slovakia, Wales)


Will the Curse of the Three Lions at long last be lifted? All things must come to an end at point. Nothing is permanent in this infinite and ephemeral universe, though a great deal of it will take geologic eons to change. ; ) Your friendly bookie does not possess a crystal ball. For all he knows, England will continue to be eliminated from international football tournaments via penalty shootouts until either the human race finally destroys itself via nuclear war or our bloated sun expands and cannibalizes the earth. What I can tell you is that football fans everywhere are “feeling it” after Leicester City’s historic triumph against 5000-1 odds. Anything seems possible now. We haven’t felt this way since Blackburn Rovers took the Premiership Title back in 1995…and England failed to win the Euros on home soil in 1996. Ah dammit. Now I’ve gone and shat on my own point ; ( ; ( Oops. ; (

Many football junkies, your friendly bookie included, would love to see this to happen. The reason why doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that your friendly bookie grows tired of posting the “Why England Always Loses” graphic every summer. It’s not simply a matter of us not behind able to stomach the sight of an old proud dog getting euthanized again and again. To help you fully comprehend the reason why this bookie will be cheering heartily for England in the coming weeks—provided they don’t play the Fatherland—I’ll break it down for you from both of my cultural perspectives:

 The Kraut Vice 

As a Kraut, I’ll always root for Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke, Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, Gladbach, or whatever ‘freak occurrence’ team represents Germany in the UEFA Champions League. I also love the Pokal (our domestic cup). My beloved FC Kaiserslautern routinely makes the Quarterfinals of that tournament before crashing out just as I’ve come to expect them to do. The Bundesliga itself, on the other hand, is entirely too predictable. It always comes down to Bayern vs. One Other Team. Every year the same story. The Super-Rich Bavarians buy the best players and try to fend off one single solitary challenger. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a real treat to attend the matches. Moreover, the “Relegation Race” is also highly entertaining. Otherwise it’s difficult to care. Schalke vs. Dortmund? Double yawn. I’m not from the Ruhrpott. I’m a Pfälzer. To hell with coal-mining. Let’s sample some wine.

One might counter that the English Premiership, since its inception, has always been about “The Big Three”: Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea. Fair enough. In recent years, Manchester City spent a lot of money to join the ranks and it’s morphed into “The Big Four”, but that’s still an ultra-exclusive mega-rich cadre isn’t it? Not exactly. Liverpool and at least one other team routinely challenge for top-four spots. Virtually any English Club can get a huge influx of money from a foreign investor and go on a tear. Everton, Aston Villa, Southampton, Tottenham, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, Bolton, and Fulham are all examples. The fact that some of those clubs have been relegated enhances my next point. The “Relegation Race” in English football features most exciting mercurial rises and falls. The two and a half professional tiers of the German Bundesliga do too, but the English have FOUR full professional tiers. The Third Tier of the German Bundesliga still features Youth Squads/Reserve Squads of the larger teams. Mere arithmetic makes the EPL more interesting.

Do the math:

“The Big One” vs. “The Big Four”

Image result for die toten hosen small“Two Leagues (+semi professional Third Bundesliga) vs. Four Leagues”

Done and done.

“Ich werde nie zu FC Bayern München gehen”!

 The Yank Vice 

As an American, I’ll address a recent trend that deserves attention. A few U.K. Syndicate Members have mentioned how absolutely spoiled rotten the American Footballing Audience has become. They preach the gospel of truth! While Broadcasting Rights Regulations prohibit most living on the British Isles from even watching the best weekend fixtures, Americans get a full overdose of football courtesy of NBCSN. And to think that we all whined and griped the day that Fox Soccer Channel died. ; )

Image result for rebecca lowe smallAmerican audiences wake up every Saturday and Sunday morning to full coverage of all the fixtures on a Basic Cable package. As if that isn’t enough, they’re inundated with full studio coverage accompanied by thumping dramatic music. As if THAT isn’t enough, they can view all of the weekend’s action on a “Breakaway Channel” that takes them right to all the goals, fouls, substitutions and moments. As if THAT isn’t enough, they can view carefully edited action-centric highlights after the matches conclude. As if THAT isn’t enough, they get professionally crafted “news-magazine” pieces giving them documentary-style reports on the travails of small-town fans and their football clubs.

As if THAT ISN’T ENOUGH, there’s also a full highlight show for everyone to catch up with. AS IF THAT ISN’T ENOUGH, the comedic duo of Michael Davies and Roger Bennett will give you a brilliantly irreverent look at the weekend’s action. AS IF THAT ISN’T ENOUGH, those same two geniuses will invade your Playstation Copy of FIFA 2016 and tell you which matches you should be looking forward to next weekend!!

Good God. The Exponential Growth Curve of technology. Small wonder the Rest of the World hates us. We live the high-speed life on the “Information Super-Autobahn.”

The Rest of the World is cordially invited to join us in the fast lane. We may be spoiled, but there’s plenty of room for more on the bus. Don’t make me repeat the fellatio reference. I will if I have to. ; )  

England—“The Three Lions”
Shirt badge/Association crest 
Note that the projected lineup below bears no resemblance to the actual eleven that “Uncle Roy” will choose to trot out. The F.A.’s patience with Hogdson after the failure to attain the Knockout Phases in 2014 speaks volumes about the deep and thoughtful desire to allow an English manager to carefully paint his own masterpiece. Given the colors available on his palette, let’s hope that he has the where-with-all necessary to daub and dash until he’s drawn a fabulous fresco. This draw will be different…or so I choose to believe. 

Jaime Vardy and Harry Kane should start together up front. “Prince Harry” and “Pauper Vardy”. Sink or swim, we need to see these two together. Daniel Sturridge’s potential as an “attack back” cannot be denied. Raheem Sterling’s ability to get creative upfield is only surpassed by Deli Allie’s long-range talent. Keep them all on the left side. Ross Barkley injects some pace into Rooney. Kyle Walker can move up  and make a few things happen if the need arises.

Marcus Rashford should be substituted in around the 60th minute regardless of what the score is. He’ll run his ass off. Chris Smalling can hit him with pinpoint crosses if nothing else.

Here we go, lads. At the very least, you should make the Semis.

 Projecting the Limey Lineup (4-4-2) 

                  Jaime Vardy   Harry Kane
    Daniel Sturridge              Wayne Rooney                               
             Raheem Sterling Ross Barkley              
      Bamidele Deli Allie          Kyle Walker   
              Gary Cahill   Chris Smalling
                             Joe Hart

 The Talisman—Jaime Vardy 

Image result for Jamie Vardy small 
Unless you’ve been living in some sort of fantasy “Pixar Universe” filled with anthropomorphic ketchup bottles, you’ll find yourself fully aware of the fact that Jaime Vardy has been having a party. Whether or not the party continues is a subject of some debate. Most of the current Internet Chatter focuses on his ability to sustain his current form after his historic season. Some say he doesn’t have the stamina. Similar talk centered around Miroslav Klose in 2006 after he scored 25 goals for Werder Bremen. This bookie opines that the party continues. If Klose could do it, so can Vardy.




 “A Syndicate Classic—England” 

From WM 2014--Group D Preview:
WM 2014

The above sentence directly answers a question I’ve not yet posed. Who will “seize the day”? Who sits poised to take advantage of this momentous new development? Full disclosure: Your friendly bookie is an unabashed Limey enthusiastic. He’s biased. Here’s some material to confirm: 

From EM 2012—Group D Preview

EM 2012The Three Lions will have to do without Wayne Rooney for the first two games as he serves a backdated suspension. They also have to deal with Roy Hodgson as coach and Steven Gerrard as captain. Seriously. Roy Hodgson. ROY HODGSON? A sixty-four-year old habitual failure? What the limeying fuck is wrong with the FA? Just to be clear, we are talking about the same Roy Hodgson who did an atrocious job at Udinese, Inter, Blackburn, Fulham, Copenhagen, and Merseyside? The same Roy Hodgson who couldn’t handle Finland or the U.A.E? I know he has experience….but what about SUCCESS? He did a halfway decent job with WBA, but this is insane. If you were going to hire a sixty-year-old manager, why not Harry? Bad, bad move. This would be akin to the DFB hiring Rehhagel or Omar Hitzfeld. He won’t get this group together. The curse of St. George shall endure.

Whew. Let’s calm down a bit here, Vicey. As a devout Premiership fan, I care entirely too much about seeing England succeed. I love the league so much I actually nixed plans to move to England for university because I knew I would spend entirely too much time going to football games and get nothing done. I worship the English. Four of my five favorite authors are English (Douglas Adams, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Alain de Botton). I cannibalize “The Economist”. I drink tea in the afternoons. I get up at 6 a.m. on Wednesday mornings to watch Prime Minister’s questions. I read “The Guardian” even before I read the Grey Lady. I missed the Super Bowl because there was a new episode of “Downtown Abby” on for fuck’s sake. All of this doesn’t mean I even consider rooting for England when they play Germany. When they played the States in 2010, my allegiances were similarly straightforward. I have to wince as this snake-bitten country fucks up year after year after year after year…..

They invented the game! They have the best league in the world. Even the Championship is occasionally more entertaining than the Bundesliga. Why can they never get it together? I read Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s masterpiece “Why England Lose: And other Curious Football Phenomena” and I’m still flummoxed. After Terry and Capello went down together, I had a terrible hunch we were headed for another fiasco. There was hope as the FA flirted with Harry Redknapp. Then they selected Hodgson. I haven’t been so infuriated at a choice since Ratzinger was elected pope. Horrible choice. Way to foul the ball, assholes.

I know what will improve my mood. Let’s run down the classes of fans I’m looking forward to hanging out with.

 English Fans 

How many ways can express my love for the English? They eat horrible food. They drink terrible beer. Most of them are hideously ugly. I haven’t met one with decent teeth yet. Their cockney accents are equivalent to Swiss German in terms of the amount of blood oozing from my ears. I love them anyway. I’ll “fancy” a “tumble” with a buck-toothed English girl any day of the week. I can’t explain it exactly. Maybe it’s football. Maybe it’s the House of Commons. Maybe it’s heavy drinking. Maybe it’s a self-deprecating sense of humor. Maybe it’s the fact that they too come from a country where it rains all of the time. Maybe it’s Shakespeare. Maybe it’s Emma Thompson. Maybe it’s Joss Stone. Maybe it’s Adele getting me interested in chubby chicks again. I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IT IS! I just like them and I love hanging out with them. I even liked the “Fine Young Cannibals”. I’m hopeless. Someone please kill me now.

I’ll audaciously augur that the Three Lions will make the Round of Sixteen, if only because they need to be eliminated via another heart-breaking shoot-out loss. Roy Hodgson has flown in a Sports Psychologist (at great expense) to mentally instill the Zen-like calm needed to execute under pressure. It’ll make for a great story when this “two-bit carnie hypnotist” proves every bit as effective as the quack depicted in “The Natural”. Life delivers irony like that. It just does.
As for the book briefly referenced in the above segment, I highly recommend it to all football apologists. It supplies some really solid material. Of course you can always skip the tome and just admit that the real reason England always loses pertains to the fact that Great Britain’s best players are very often Welsh. ;( ;(

Oh Gareth Bale, Gareth Bale. Where art thou, Gareth Bale? We can’t we behold your marvelous skills in this tournament. WHY?!?!

Russia—“The Ruskies”

Shirt badge/Association crestIt feels somewhat peculiar to begin a write up of the Russian football team without de-briefing everyone on their latest foreign managerial coup. Following the departure of Fabio Capello in 2015, one truly expected another Dutch journeyman to succeed the likes of Gus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat. Perhaps the fact that Louis van Gaal was unavailable at the time led the RFU to select CSKA Moscow head coach Leonid Sluzky for the gig. The steely-eyed man from Stalingrad was the first domestic manager employed by the RFU in over a decade.

Sluszky refused to resign his position as CSKA Moscow boss. He’s thus one of the last “Iron Men”—a.k.a. those who manager BOTH a club team and a National Team—that we’re likely to see in this contemporary football age. He’s repeatedly stated that he considers his task a temporary one, so look for the now-available Louis van Gaal to lead the host Russians in 2018. You read it here first! ; ) ; )

In terms of the team Slusky has put together….meh. A bunch of dinosaurs in your friendly bookie’s humble opinion. These Senior Citizens might break through to the Knockout Phase by virtue of the fact that a 24-team-tournament will allow four third-place teams through. Alan Dzagoev’s injury more or less seals their fate. Dzyuba finds himself in top form, but who will feed him? Certainly not the still hobbling Kokorin. Shirokov, Samedov, and Denisov don’t have a lot of legs left. Ignashevich and the Berezutski Brothers are nothing more than stay-at-home defenders at this point.

It would prove most prudent for Slusky to treat this tournament as a dress-rehearsal for neulings like Roman Neustädler, Aleksandr Golovin and Oleg Ivanov. Forget about actually winning the matches. Test drive some new talent. Feel out their potential in preparation for the big show.

Two incredibly strong centrebacks and a world-class keeper may yet prove me wrong. It might be the case the likes of Akinfeev and Ingashevic might keep things so miserly at the back that I’m proven completely wrong. We shall see.

 Projecting the Russian Lineup (4-4-1-1) 

                            Atyom Dzyuba
                        Alexander Kokorin
            A. Samedov                   O.  Shatov          
                  R. Shirokov D. Glushakov
 A. Berezutski V. Berezutski S. Ignashevich D. Kombarov       
                            Igor Akinfeev

 The Talisman—Artyom Dzyuba 
Image result for artyom dzyuba
Simply stated, it’s been one helluva qualifying campaign for the Zenit St. Petersburg forward. He’s knocked in seven goals for his country and 23 for his club. Meet “Mr. X-Factor.” Nothing like a player in “peaking form” to shake things up. If he can accomplish a bid for the Golden Boot without any discernable out! 

 “A Syndicate Classic—Russia” 

From WM 2014—Group H Preview:

WM 2014 Perhaps 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.

 Slovakia—“The Fighting Repre” 
Shirt badge/Association crest

Greetings, old friends! It’s been so long. Six years after they qualified for their first international tournament as an independent country, they’re back, with a snazzy new logo no less!! Everyone digging the suspiciously Jewish crisscrossed star? Who needs the Czechs? They’ve got themselves their very own squad. Unfortunately, it happens to be one captained by Martin Skrtel. Oops….and boom the dynamite doesn’t go. ; (

One just can’t envision it happening for them. Herta BSC’s Petr Pekarik can rove and rave, but Hamsik and Weiss are especially selfish players that won’t let their fullback through. Sestak hasn’t been the same since he left VfL Bochum. Stoch only appears to possess breakthrough potential when he’s playing for tangential clubs. Weiss’s career has nosedived faster than an airplane over Ukrainian Airspace.

It’s not happening. Skrtel can provide the occasional moment of magic, but mostly specializes in scoring own goals in important matches. Every tournament needs a doormat. We may have very well just met ours. They took advantage of weak qualifying group to get here. Karma arrives to deliver the return punch.

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

                       Adam Nemec
    Miroslav Stoch        Vladamir Weiss           
                    Marek Hamsik
           Juraj Kucka    Stanislav Sestak
 D. Svento J. Durica M. Skrtel  P. Pekarik
                        Jan Mucha

 The Talisman—Marek Hamsik 

Image result for marek hamsik 
This “shoe-in” for Slovakia’s “All-Ugly-Team Representative” has the potential to disprove every last iota of the above assessment wrong. His unrivaled creative flair makes watching the Serie A worthwhile. The leadership skills he displayed in 2010 won’t soon be forgotten. Keep up the good work kid. Ditch the “Moose-Mohawk” at your earliest convenience.  

 “A Syndicate Classic—Slovakia” 

From WM 2010—Round of 16 (Part III):

WM 2010 
Netherlands vs. Slovakia


Vladimir Weiss made some brilliant alterations to put the wops out of their misery. What an exceptionally ballsy move leaving out your son! My father was quite good at doing that as well, but he didn’t have the cool pinstripe suit that you always wear! It has been a magical ride for the forgotten half of Czechoslovakia. Now enter the reaper. This should be another smooth ride for our flying Dutchmen. Glad you got your girls back! Now let’s work on your god-awful beer…….

From WM 2010—Round of 16 (Part IV):

Send offs

 “The Velvet Easterners” of Slovakia (4 games played, 14 Hot Girls )

“Repre”  is the formal recognized name of this team, but I’d like to bestow upon the forgotten “cast off wives” of the velvet divorce deserve something a little more provocative. Also have no clue what what “repre” means and am too tired to tired to be bother with it. These commensurable bastards have watched the Czech Republic take everything in the separation. They got the football team, the hockey team, the beer exports, the EU Membership, the Tom Cruise movies, and the worthless American slackers who want to spend a few years smoking pot and teaching English while “getting to know themselves”. Prague has made us forget that an entire other country other than former Soviet Satellites and Tito’s “Yugo-Mistako” gained independence. Bravo, Slovaks. You’ve done your young country proud and reminded us all that there is, in fact, a country to the East of the Eurailer Terminus! Now you just have to deal with the fallout from all of those Eli Roth films LL

The Slovaks played with pride and flourish to the very end, right up until Vittek’s last second penalty kick (which saved me a bit of coin). Farewell to Vladimir Weiss Sr. (former Czechoslovak superstar now dribbling saliva in a retirement home), Vladimir Weiss II (current coach of Slovak team) and Vladimir Weiss III (current hot/cold Slovak/Man City/Bolton Wanderers midfielder). In this country, only blacks consider a name worthy of a dynasty LLL The rest of us are too modest. We’ll miss all of you. You’ve reminded any numbo who happened to tune into one of your games of the proper pronunciation of my name. I can never repay you. Actually, having cost me some money, so you should be repaying me. Guess we’ll call it even.

Wales—“The Cyd Dragons”

Shirt badge/Association crestFINALLY!! Your friendly bookie is so ecstatic that he can barely keep still or keep a thought in his head. All of us will behold Gareth Bale in all of his glory. The kid from Cardiff gets his chance to shine on the grand international stage. The undisputed most talented/most expensive footballer on the globe will tear up the pitch in front of a full international audience previously ill-exposed to his eminent majesty. Oh happy day ; )

Beyond my “Bale Brown-nosing”, isn’t it cool that we’ve all lived to witness a tournament in which Wales and Northern Ireland have both qualified? We’re only missing the Scots. The fact that U.K. teams compete separately frustrates your friendly bookie, though he does appreciate the rich tradition behind it. Note that my bias toward the teams of the British Isles may prove exploitable. I’m projecting the Welsh to finish second in this group, defying their current FIFA Ranking.

Sam Vokes and Simon Church are “threshold players” ready for their big break. Love what little I’ve seen of Aaron Ramsey. Andy King was a substantial part of the “miracle”. Let’s do it, lads. Let’s make the Knockout Round!!

 Projecting the Welsh Lineup (4-3-3) 

                      Gareth Bale
   Simon Church        Sam Vokes
                    Aaron Ramsey
          Andy King   Joe Ledley               
B. Davies A. Williams C. Gunther A. Mathews
                     Wayne Hennessey  

 The Talisman—Gareth Bale 

Image result for gareth bale smallIn this particular instance, the links must speak for themselves. Your friendly bookie espouses full confidence in this team. May Yahweh strike me dead if I…..aargh… Perhaps I’ve backed the wrong pony, or perhaps I’ll ride this pretty pony all the way to the bank. You decide. GENTLEMEN, ENTER YOUR WAGERS!





 “A Syndicate Classic—Wales” 

From WMQ 2009—Syndicate with A Vengeance:
WMQ 2009 

Bizarre Micro States galore! We’ve got ethic enclaves, medieval fiefdoms, breakaway republics, “kingdoms” that have been a part of the U.K. for 600 years, bitterly dived realms that can’t decide on a nationality, new countries that were formed yesterday at 3:34 a.m. when no one was paying attention, land’s whose teams have goats and sheep playing for them, States who have survived centuries of warfare by functioning merely as a picturesque tax shelter and a newly approved treaty that aims to make sense of the whole tangled mess! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the quirky inheritor of feudal Christendom… I give you a veritable patchwork quilt of technocrats squabbling over milk subsidies. I give you EUROPE! (Turks, Israelis, Russians, Kazaks, Azerbaijanis, and Nordic Colonial islands also welcome. Everyone join the party!)

There is simply no possible way I might concisely elucidate for you who’s in and who’s out. Accordingly, we’ll stick to the big boys. Portugal is in serious danger of not qualifying. They cannot settle for anything less than six points this week. The Greeks need a solid showing as well, though they should still qualify for a playoff spot. Northern Ireland is in the hunt for the first time in years! The non-unionist Irish will definitely make things interesting, but haven’t secured anything yet. The French are teetering on the edge of disaster, while the Ukrainians are fighting for their lives. Unfortunately, the Scots will not be joining us following yet another heartbreaker.


Finland v. Wales


Presenting “Exhibit W”. Formally part of the British Crown since 1536, informally part of Britain since the Magna Carta, do we still have enough pride to form a national football team?

Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru!

The Welsh have been officially eliminated, meaning we will not have the opportunity to behold the splendor that is Craig Bellamy. The Finns are gone as well, but somehow I don’t give a shit.


THE LINE: Wales+1

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

 1) England
 2) Wales
 3) Slovakia
 4) Russia

Overall Championship Odds

 England (Straight up)
 Wales (4 to 1)
 Russia (6 to 1)
 Slovakia (8 to 1)

Round of 16 Odds

 England (NO BETS)
 Wales (Straight up)
 Russia (Straight up)
 Slovakia (2 to 1)

Quarterfinal Odds

 England (NO BETS)
 Wales (2 to 1)
 Russia (3 to 1)
 Slovakia (4 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

 England (Straight Up)
 Wales (4 to 1)
 Russia (5 to 1)

 Slovakia (6 to 1)