Wednesday, May 30, 2018

WM 2018--Group C Preview

Introduction—“En Marche Easily”
WM 2018 
(France, Denmark, Australia, Peru)


It’s Froggie time, Gentlemen. Mes oui, ma Cherie. Mes oui. Time to check in on that old easily ridiculed hot, chain smoking, chronically depressed girlfriend who offers you morbid takes on life’s ultimate meaninglessness in exchange for some supreme thunder in the sack.  

(Er..that would constitute our official 3,000th take on that basic theme).

Indeed, just who do these Frenchies think they are? The nerve! Prancing around with their 35-hour-work-week, six weeks of paid vacation, and full-pension-retirement at the age of 62? Who the hell are they to suggest that we actually attempt to enjoy this one precious life we’ve given by doing things like making love in the afternoon, stopping by the café on our way home from work, and actually spending most of one’s free-time outdoors? Madness!

We Americans know so much better. Large estates, status-symbol cars, the latest electronic viewing devises and the best prescription drugs are the only true paths to happiness. And how are we to afford those if we don’t completely sell our souls to our employers with 70-hour-work-weeks pumping ourselves full of performance-boosting amphetamines during the day and sedating ourselves in front of our streaming services with opioids at night?

Fucking French. Take a vacation? Our whole life is a vacation! Eating tranquilizers while watching on-demand movies and the latest live-streaming Emmy-nominated television serials while simultaneously posting snarky comments on social media. That’s real living. And let’s not forget all those rewards waiting for us in heaven! Honestly. Ze French just don’t get it. Pity the poor politically literate fools. They don’t even know how to elect empty-headed do-nothing charlatans. Look how they treated the Le Pens!

Okay….back to the football. Throw the FIFA Rankings out the window. None of the lower-ranked teams will seriously trouble the French or Danes. Peru would make for a great Cinderella Story, but circumstances work against them. The Aussies have done their best French impersonation and surrendered pre-emptively.

Les Bleus can guzzle Bordeaux and smoke Gauloises on the pitch for all it matters. They’re cruising through.

Image result for seines bank picnic  

Image result for seines bank picnic
Responsible political literacy, labor solidarity, and useful government services? Insanity!


France—“Les Bleus”

Deschamps finalized his squad very early; an oddly intrepid move given the amount of domestic pressure he’s under. Ze French rightly expect him to return with their second star. The man who captain Les Bleus to World Cup Glory in 1998 and the 2000 European Championship took the reins of this team with the expectation that he would lead them to victory on home soil two years ago. He came agonizingly close. Runners up won’t do this time. It’s all or nothing. A whole nation waits with bated breath.

The French stand as favorites in the minds of most oddsmakers as no other country, not even my beloved Fatherland, features such a large Kader of top-class young qualified footballers at this particular moment in time. As evidence of this, consider the fact that mega-stars like Anthony Martial, Alexander Lacazette, and Moussa Sissoko didn’t even make the cut. There’s only so much space available. We fully expected that Deschamps would keep us all feverishly guessing until the submission deadline. Not the case. He courageously kicked off who he considered to be overrated, even pitching Mamadou Sakho and Matheiu Debuchy. More intriguingly, he decided against streaking talents like Kingsley Coman and Kurt Zouma.

We’ll find out soon, though not soon enough in the eyes of rabid football fans, whether or not he’s presiding over a shrewd strategy. Following the injuries to Laurent Koscielny and Dimtri Payet, it comes as a surprise that he opted for a team comprised of so many tyro strikers and cautious midfielders. There are also very few natural wingers on hand. We’ll likely witness plenty of experimentation in the group stage. I can’t discern exactly where players like Mbappe, Fekir, Lemar, or Tolisso are meant to fit. Oh well. That’s what a soft group is for. He’ll find his best ten outfielders against this competition.

Building this lineup proved enjoyable, if not a tad time consuming. I’m acting on the assumption that Giroud won’t be the go-to-starter. He’s lost so much speed over the years and has settled into the role of “Super Sub” quite comfortably. Then again, he’s still the best big target forward on the roster; seemingly rejuvenated after his mid-season move to Stamford Bridge. Presumably Deschamps could position him so that he doesn’t tire out, perhaps enveloping him in a 4-5-1 with his speedsters.

I’ll still pick Griezmann spearheading the attack paired with Pogba. Even though neither player occupies that position for their club team, they’ve both affirmed that they can handle such as assignment when called upon. Mbappe distributes behind them, selecting either height or ingenuity as the situation dictates. Matuidi and Lemar attend to the flanks, cutting back or making way for new fullbacks Mendy or Sidibe. What a significant upgrade those two are over Sagne and Patrice Evra! Those two will turn some heads in this competition. Varane deputizes for Koscielny to pair with Umtiti. N’Golo Kante receives instructions to shore up the defense first and foremost before thinking about making an enterprising run.  

They can absolutely pull it off. I’d personally love to watch the Froggies lift the trophy…provided the Germans make it to the Semi-Finals of course. ; )

Bon Courage!       

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

       A. Griezmann              Paul Pogba                      
                          Kylian Mbappe
Thomas Lemar   N’Golo Kante Blaise Matuidi                            
 Benjamin Mendy                      Djibril Sidibe
            Samuel Umtiti  Raphael Varane
                           Hugo Lloris         

 The Talisman—Antoine Griezmann 

An obscenely hard worker with a heart of gold, he compensates for his comparatively diminutive stature with plenty of grit and determination. Hugo Lloris may technically be the captain, but it falls to Griezmann to lead the outfielders on the grand stage. No other player can claim more responsibility for the defeat of the mighty Krauts in the Euro Semis. Love this valiant Alsatian Knight. Wish he played for us ; )

 “A Syndicate Classic—Tip of the Chapeau” 

Editor’s Retroactive Notes:
Does your friendly bookie harbor bitterness in his heart over the French defeat of his beloved Fatherland in the Euro 2016 Semis? Au contraire! Not even the slightest semblance. He dedicated the proceedings to his European Border Brothers and extended heartfelt congratulations to them after their well-earned victory,

J’taime, mes Ames : )

It was your day. It was your turn.

Bonne Chance!

From EM 2016—Group A Preview:

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?
Image result for french celebration vs. germany 2016 
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 ; )


From EM 2016—Day Twenty-Two Recap

 Today it’s “Vive Le France”! 

We’ll be back in two years’ time. As always, it’s” Semi-Finals or Bust”. Be sure not to get in our way ; ) We’ll be back…to contend. Revel in Today’s Glory. We aren’t going away. ; ) 

Image result for french celebration vs. germany 2016 
Deschamps elected to ride the tide and keep the same starting eleven from the convincing Iceland Victory. No alterations, even after an uninspiring first half. Maintaining Samuel Umtiti was a brave move, but it paid off. Sissoko didn’t exactly have a great match, but he came through when needed. Payet did his job until it came time to get more defensive. Koscielny and Evra performed well above expectations. Mathuidi owned the trenches when it really mattered.

All of my talk about the better team losing melts away when one considers just how much heart Antoine Griezmann interjected into this match. I incorrectly stated that the Athletico Madrid forward wasn’t from Alsace simply because he was born in Macon. Griezmann is, in fact, very much a proud Alsatian. He very much wanted to beat the Germans today, and came close to garnering himself a Hat Trick. After crying his heart out on the pitch after the Germans eliminated the French in the Quarterfinals of the 2014 WM, he patiently waited for the day on which he would conduct the “Les Bleaus Orchestra”.

EM 2016He conducted quite well today, revving up the Marseille Fans with every touch. He deserves this moment. Well done, “Proud Alsatian.” You vindicated your confused heritage with a historic victory that will likely lead to a Third European Crown. ; )

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Twenty-Two

Reader: Seriously not disappointed Vicey?

Vicey: Seriously not. I’m still a World Champion, as are you 111-M. Many quality riffs came in today, but this is the one that will lead us to the ever-sentimental “Goodbyes Section”. We all had a great deal of fun. We gambled, cracked wise, traded taunts, and had a great “semi-vacation”. Time to wrap things up. Your friendly bookie shall be in touch with his “Championship Pick”.

French fervor concludes this post. ; )

Denmark—De Rød-Hvide

Shirt badge/Association crestA few headline writers, following the 5-1 defeat of the Irish in the Qualifying Playoff, excitedly dust off some of the old alliterative hyperbole. “Danish Delight/Dynamite Returns,” they pompously proclaim. As aesthetically pleasing as such prose may appear close to deadline hour, it doesn’t reflect the reality of this bromidic bummer of a team. Christ now your friendly bookie now finds himself using a bunch of hackneyed alliteration; a telltale sign that he’s having trouble talking himself into something. I want to like these lads. Truly, I do. The team that lit it up against the Irish in November and blasted Poland off their perch two months earlier would be most welcome. Instead I foresee Aga Hareide, a trainer bearing strikingly similar characteristics to American manager Bruce Arena, to eschew the more exciting elements of his talent pool in order to eke out a place in the knockouts. That’s just how the old plodding Norwegian do.

It’s been six long years since the Danes received a full write-up in a Summer tournament. That year’s version of “Olsen’s Eleven” performed admirably despite being drawn into “The Group of Death”. (A concept that, thanks to re-formatted seeding, expanded tournament pools, and diluted talent we’ll never truly see again.) Returning players include Simon Kjaer, William Kvist, Michael Krohn-Delli, Niklas Bendtner, Andres Bjelland and Lasse Schøne. Believe it or not, twenty-year-old Christian Eriksen held a position on that roster too. The young point man broke through in a big way over the course of the group stage matches, in particular leaving skid marks all over the pitch against the Portuguese in Lviv.  

Now in his prime, Eriksen’s positioning and pursuance will make all the difference. He needs enough space to fully direct tempo and flow. Your friendly bookie toyed around with the lineup a fair amount, mostly considering a 4-3-1-2 or even a sacrilege 4-3-1-1 that left the linchpin with enough operational space to control possession. Neither one of those stacked up particularly well against the competition in this group. Eventually I settled upon a somewhat unconventional 4-2-1-3. It accomplishes the same goal even if it doesn’t make immediate logical sense.

To deploy three strikers ahead of Eriksen appears to overcrowd the attacking third. It won’t, however, if for FC Copenhagen forward Nicolai Jorgensen pours forward only with well-timed runs and sticks close to young RB Lepizig Phenom Yussuf Poulsen on the right flank. Semi-retired former Bundesliga man Niklas Bendtner pushes out wide to the left, in effect giving Eriksen three large marks to hit, along with acres of space to press ahead should opportunity present itself. The only thing standing in the way of this would be Bendtner’s natural inclination to brashly crash inward. He needs to be well coached, by no means something one should treat as a forgone conclusion.

Kvist and Krohn-Delli remain far back, serving almost as centerbacks themselves ahead of Kjaer and Vestergaard. Finding a serviceable left back proved problematic. Try as I might, I couldn’t envision Ajax’s Lasse Schöne in the role. Actually couldn’t really find a place for his talents anywhere. He’s versatile enough that we could theoretically insert him in anywhere. He may even start in place of Bendtner up top. I ended up selecting Bjelland in the end for the same reason I selected everyone else: This entire squad needs to be built AROUND Eriksen’s need for enough elbow room. The model below doesn’t fully convey how I see it playing out. In a less symmetrical model, Bendtner would occupy a space far to the left, Poulsen and Jorgensen would be placed much further to the right, and Krohn-Dehli/Kvist would practically standing next to one another. What can I say? Graphics pleasing to the eye matter. Moreover, the Semi-Scandinavian Danish propensity to either have a short name or one that can’t fit on a jersey doesn’t exactly help.

How about that? I’ve essentially talked myself into the team. Perhaps I needed that banal alliteration after all, you “Nattering nabobs of negativism”.

Not so fast. I still maintain little confidence that a Hareide-coached team will do much other than win ugly. His years at the helm of his native Norway suggest as much. A truly ballsy lineup, which he could very well, would include fiery up-and-comers like Pione Sisto, Viktor Fischer, Thomas Delaney, or even Kasper Dolberg.

Might be the case that I’m projecting my own cagey concern onto him. I’d personally play it safe around Eriksen, but who’s to say that he will? Longtime Syndicate Members know that I absolutely love being proven wrong. Truthfully, I don’t really know how it’s supposed to work among this collection of players.

I do know that they should advance, boring or not.        

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

                     Nicolai Jorgensen            
   Niklas Bendtner             Yussuf Poulsen  
                      Christen Eriksen
      M. Krohn-Dehli              W. Kvist 
A. Bjelland  S. Kjaer J. Vestergaard P. Ankersen 
                     Kasper Schmeichel

 The Talisman—Christian Eriksen 

Image result for christian eriksen small
A few years back, Syndicate Member 111-M had the gall to suggest that Eriksen would never find a way to perform brilliantly for BOTH club and country. “He’ll excel at either one or the other,” remarked the characteristically Dour Dane, “never becoming one of the World’s best players”. The magnificent Hat Trick scored against Ireland in the final qualification match should put such fanboy pessimism to rest permanently. Nine goals in nine games for country over the course of 2017. Another fourteen for Spurs this season, almost all of them worthy candidates for the year’s best one.

At present I’d rank him as the third most in form European Player behind C. Ronaldo and Lewandowski. Stay tuned as he gears up for great competition.

 “A Syndicate Classic—Die ‘Hammer Gruppe’, et al.”

Editor’s Retroactive Notes:
For some reason your friendly bookie’s creative neurons fire heavy when discussing the Danes. It’s been so since I first sat down to compose a section on them back on a sultry summer night in the LSU Computer Lab back in 2002. Having invested a precious few minutes ruminating over why this transpires, I’ll settle on the shared border and memorable visits. Fuck delving deeper.

Enjoy the ABRIDGED selection. 2013 Vicey’s retroactive notes pretty much sums up existence in general ; )

From WMQ 2009—“Syndicate: Afterlife”


Copenhagen’s comin’ along! Hmm. I should preface that I am referring to the Danish National Football Team and not the “Climate Change Treaty”. That accord is not “coming along” very well at all. If you’re hoping for some sort of multilateral breakthrough at the Copenhagen Conference in December (that includes you Angie), you’re dreaming! Kyoto had much more willpower, and cuter waitresses. I’ve been searching everywhere for the U.S. Position Points for the Copenhagen Conference, only to discover that there aren’t any. Whoops. This could be Barack Obama’s worst visit to Copenhagen since…..nevermind. Let’s skip it.

I’m ordinarily not a fan of the Danes. They ticketed me once for crashing a Lego Car. On top of that, they want to kill puppies and eat kittens. Okay I made the part about kittens up. In spite of my preconceived prejudices, I’m getting motivated for the Danes using two new cheers I just invented:

WMQ 2009 (2)1) Ever since a Jeopardy! Clue a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had the song “Da Da Da” from 1980s German New Wave Band “Trio” stuck in my head. Though the German Kraftwerk clones disbanded in 1985, a Volkswagen commercial in 1997 revived the song and elevated the band to cult status. Does anyone remember what I’m talking about?

“Da Da Da. Ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht….uh-uh…da da da” Two guys drive around in a Volkswagen Golf, pick up a couch from the garbage and then drop it after determining that it doesn’t smell so good? Anyone? Oh for Christ Sake, here’s the link:

The song is virtually impossible to expel from one’s head. Here’s my effort:
“Da Da Danes….Da Da Danes…….Da Da Danes……Da Da Danes. Ich lieb euch nicht. Ihr liebt mich nicht…uh-uh….Da Da Danes…..Da  Da Danes…..Da Da Danes”

2) Gøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøøø Danes!!!!
Yes, like a Druish Prince at Hanukah, I am so overjoyed to have found out how to make an “ø” on my keyboard. Now all I have left to figure out is this weird Froggy circumflex. Join me in welcoming the following Danish players:

-Anders Møller Christenson
-Thomas Sørenson
-Per Krøldrup
-Jasper Grønkjar
-Martin Jørgenson

Obviously, Beowulf is not coming along. I was watching the animated feature last night, shocked that my favorite 12th Grade English reading assignment could be so thoroughly ruined. Even Angelina Jolie couldn’t save that movie!!

Denmark v. Sweden


Scandinavian Showdown! By the way, if you missed Flemming Moller’s (Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s replacement) proposal to kill some 40,000 puppies here is the link:

Two reasons why I’m not revolted by this proposal:

1) In certain rural regions of Southwestern Germany, the slaughter of thousands of canine mongrels is known simply as “Oktoberfest”

2) As someone who had a greyhound-racing stepfather, I’m simply not shocked by this whole Michael Vick thing. That’s my Dawg!

THE LINE: Sweden+1

Editor’s Retroactive  Notes:
Everyone chill out. I love dogs. They’re delicious.

From EM 2012—Group B Preview


The Germans have done a vastly superior job of coming up with a name for a group like this. To them, the “Group of Death” is known as “Die Hammer-Gruppe”. Origins of this designation trace back to the German exclamation “Hammer!” Its uses are quite diverse. Most commonly, you would loudly bellow “Hammer!” to express your approval of the music selection/general atmosphere/slut ratio in a club or convey to your friend how great the party was/what a tiger she was in the sack/the speed at which the drugs kicked in/how much you enjoyed bungee jumping naked, etc. It also happens to be the perfect reaction to some colossally improbable misfortune that has befallen you. For instance, if the tow truck hauling away your ride happened to snap a line at the end of an uphill tug and you witnessed your car violently flipping over no fewer than five times, taking out your mailbox, two children, grandmother, and cat before pinning down your wife at the bottom of the hill and bursting into flames a mere 2.3 seconds after you thanked cruel fate for leaving you at least one person to commiserate with….you might find yourself shrieking “Hammer!”…in spite of the fact that there’s nothing cool about the situation.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Ermmm… proves doubtful that anyone who has ever found it discouraging to deal with me in highly stressful intimate situations will find themselves reading this. This in itself constitutes a rather salient missed opportunity for an insightful look into the machinery contained within my skull. Above, I’ve essentially given you a micro-level blueprint of how my mind works. There it is. It’s there for all to see. It’s Vicey live, in concert, and unplugged. Apologies to all I’ve chased off over the years. THAT is how my mind ACTUALLY works ; )

The offensive connotations of the alliterative “Danish Dynamite” moniker notwithstanding, the real strength of this squad lies with the back four. Liverpool’s Daniel Agger finally showed us he’s ready for prime time. Should he re-aggravate his injury, Andres Bjelland has proven he can step in. Agger directs a first rate defensive corps that also features AZ’s Simon Poulsen (the unfortunate own goal scorer from 2010),  Copenhagen’s Lars Jakobsen, and Roma’s Simon Kjaer. I wrote an entire paragraph concerning keeper and captain Thomas Sorenson…..but wait a minute….what’s this? BREAKING NEWS.

EM 2012Allow me to explain. I sit typing this up on May 29th, otherwise known as “Final Selection Day”. All across Europe, sixteen separate national head trainers have scheduled press conferences to announce the selection of their final 23-man-squad. Okay….not exactly sixteen. Polish coach Franciszek Smuda already announced his on Sunday the 27th. Greek Head coach Fernando Santos gave us a 25-man-provisional squad on May 17th, with the two players to be cut fairly obvious. Dick Advocaat (Schawanz Befürworter), Russian head coach, got it all out of the way on Friday the 25th. Czech boss Michal Bilek had us all up to speed on the 14th. This fortuitous combination of early announcements enabled me to complete the Group A Preview on Sunday.

Today we have a classic example of actual updated news rendering a portion of my analysis moot. No need for sympathy as the Shadow Scholar has certainly seen worse. I once wrote a twenty-page paper on a unique coalition government in the German state of Hessen. The thesis was based on a tentative agreement reached between three parties and the analytical thrust examined all other alternative PR constellations to make the case that the new tri-partide government would serve as the de-facto arrangement in German state- level politics for years to come. Pushing a deadline, I stayed away from the Internet all day in order to complete the exercise. Five minutes after submitting, I pulled up Spiegel Online to learn that the agreement had collapsed, the results of the election declared null/void, and new elections ordered. Everything that I had written was useless, including and especially my argument. Oops. It was the academic equivalent of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Hmm....Perhaps it wasn’t quite as bad as incurring over two hundred casualties AFTER a truce had been signed…but it hit me pretty hard.  

Editor’s retroactive notes:

He’s a metaphysical aphorism for you:

At least ninety-eight percent of life consists of working entirely too hard on something that turns out not to matter at all ; ) ; )

Anyway, let’s get to the BREAKING NEWS that you’ve long since assumed I’ve forgotten about before something else happens to shit on my analysis. Talismanic keeper and captain Thomas Sorenson has been RULED OUT of Euro 2012. According to the German football magazine “Kicker” a back injury has forced him to withdraw. Daniel Agger has been named the new captain, Anders Lindegaard the new keeper, and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel will fill the roster spot. All of this matters…somewhat. Lindegaard does the third string keeping for Man U. Despite his lack of experience, he should be up to the task.

Australia—“The Socceroos”
Image result for australia national soccer team logo 
To pilfer American Football parlance—The Aussies already do, referring to the sport itself as “Soccer”—this should be a quick “Three and Out”. The Roos are currently a team very much in transition. Following long-time head coach Ange Posgtecoglou’s resignation in November, the FFA couldn’t even find someone willing to serve as a caretaker manager for a full two months. Eventually, genuinely awful tactician Bert van Marwijk agreed to a guide the Aussies through the WM only on the condition that he be released from his contract after the tournament. Yes….THAT Bert van Marwijk; the man who oversaw the Dutch Disaster that was Euro 2012, then proceeded to run Hamburger SV even deeper into the dirt. He specializes in making horrible use of large swaths of talent. Says a great deal about the state of your country’s football program when someone like that only reluctantly and temporarily wants to assume the post.

Who cares about their performance in this tournament? No one. Not even them. The Aussies have other matters to attend to. Their switch to the Asian Football Confederation reaped great dividends for the program, culminating in their fine 2015 run to the Continental Title on home turf. With less than seven months to go before they’re set to embark upon their title defense, all they’re really doing here is sorting out tactics, getting players some much needed experience, and possibly giving Cahill that long-overdue “Last Hurrah”.

In other words, it’s business as usual. Meh. Expect the same strategy that led to the torpid 30th place finish back in 2014. Anything can happen, but I’ll advise Syndicate Members down under against wagering your hard earned Aussie Greenbacks on a team unlikely to try very hard. They’ll bow out early.

Your friendly bookie got a close look at their players and formations in last Summer’s eight-team Confederations Cup. I’ll project that the Dutch coaching staff sticks with the 3-4-3 with a few practical alterations. Kruse moves into the central attacking position, Juric is dropped, and Troisi inherits the much-debated spot on the left flank.

Yeah. I know. Boooring.

Do note that were currently working with a 27-man provisional squad. Van Marwijk might spice things up a bit if he includes newcomers Arzani, Brillante, Petratos, or Karacic in his final selection.

I don’t anticipate that he will any more than I anticipate this squad will earn a single point.

Get out of this tournament and go “a-waltzing”!

 Projecting the Aussie Lineup (3-4-3) 

    Tom Rogic  Robbie Kruse Massimo Luongo
  James Troisi                                 Matthew Leckie            
               Aaron Mooy   Mile Jedinak
    Aziz Behich                            Milos Degenek
                         Trent Sainsbury
                          Matthew Ryan

 The Talisman—Aaron Mooy 

Image result for aaron mooy smallWith all due respect to Leckie, Kruse, and Troisi, this tiny little midfielder playing for a tiny little English league club seems to have inherited the mantle of this country’s new anchor. If the Roos are to demonstrate anything resembling a creative spark in midfield, it will have to come from this quirky little guy that David Wager inexplicably breathed life into.

Keep an eye on him.

“A Syndicate Classic—Wink to an Old Nemesis”

Editor’s Retroactive Notes:

No, I don’t hate them. Seriously. Don’t hate them. Loved writing about their road to the 2015 Asian Continental Championship. Can’t get enough of the “Outback Ovaries” when it’s time to cover the women’s tournament. Definitely don’t hate them. Why would I hate them? I DON’T Hate them.

Except…I kinda do. ; (

FWM 2011Look. Props are given when props are due. They’ll get ample coverage again this go-around. It’s just that.....they’re always fucking here and I’m tired about writing about Timmy Cahill. Why are they ALWAYS here?

Nggaaarrgh. This burnout began back in 2011..way back when the Soceroos reliably lorded over the OFC Confederation. Now that they’ve switched to the AFC…they STILL won’t go away! They even possess the nerve to capture Confederation Titles.

Grrrrrrr. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to reference Cahill every time. The magical “Kaiserslautern KO” a’int so magical anymore after you’ve referenced it 234,829,491 times!

From FWM 2011—Semi-Finals


What did I say about the Australian back line?? Elyse Perry is a pretty girl with a pretty goal to her credit, but she had a nightmare day at the back. Unzunlar upgraded her performance from “catastrophe” to “miserable” and Tameka Butt was subbed in far too late to make difference. (No, people. I refuse to make a joke about either Tameka “what..what” or Bayern keeper Hans Jorg “in the” Butt).

So the dream dies for our “lady-roos”, “waltzing matildas”, “outback ovaries”, blah blah blah blah. Rest assured we’ll be back with this perennial oceanic qualifier next time around, talking about their fierce “Never say die” attitude, trying (and failing) to find something funny to say about the Prime Minister, and pretending as if Yahoo Serious is a legitimate pop culture reference. Yawn. Don’t you understand? They won’t go away! They’re always coming back! LEAVE ME ALONE!  

Peru—“Los Incas”

Shirt badge/Association crestA syndicate debutante! Cool. Cool country. Cool nickname. Really cool story. Your friendly bookie truly relishes such opportunities. It broadens the mind and awakens novel spirits within. In the diametric opposite effect of what one observes in the above text, your friendly bookie gets outright ecstatic welcoming a newbie into the fold. Had a better way of putting it four years ago when discussing the “Golden Lillies” of Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Writing about an entirely new country in the Syndicate is akin to stumbling upon a conversation that completely blows your previous paradigm out of the water.” Yeah!

A little backstory. These Bolivars have actually participated in the World Cup Finals four times. They played in the inaugural 1930 tournament and qualified again in ’70, ’78, and ’82. In the intervening 36 years there’s been little to write home about football-wise except the time they hosted the Copa America in 2004. A little less than a tenth of the country lives in abject poverty while a little less than a third can be considered below the basic poverty line. The latest estimation of the Gini Coefficient is just under 0.5. Many countries have it worse, but consider for a moment how magical a moment this shall be for those who struggle to make economic ends meet. Years of brutal domestic insurgency and minority-rule by elites like Fujimori are behind the citizenry now, but they’ve certainly earned the right to cheer on their team on the grand stage for the first time in nearly four decades!

The team itself began its resurgence with successful performances in the 2015 Copa America and the great Pan-American competition that took place the subsequent summer. Qualifying out of CONMEBOL, never an easy affair to begin with, wasn’t easy this time around either. Los Incas barely fended off Chile, advancing to the inter-continental playoff only by virtue of a +2 Goal differential decided in the dying moments of each team’s last matches.

Hopes were high for a Cinderella Run after a convincing victory against the Kiwis on Aggregate…..but then came Paulo Guerrero’s speed bender. In an incident best not discussed in too great a depth, the talismanic striker tested positive for multiple illegal substances shortly after the World Cup draw in December. Appeals were filed, but his suspension holds up. It’s a huge loss, considering the form he found himself in.   

Still plenty of talent on this team, but I can’t see Schalke veteran Jefferson Farfan filling Guerrero's shoes. He’s too old. The midfield and defense remain suspect. Yutun and Tapia will have trouble containing the world class attackers they have the misfortune of facing in their initial two matches.

This year’s “Costa Rican Cinderella”? Methinks not. They might steal a consolation win from the Aussies on the final day of group play, but that’s about it.   

 Projecting the Inca Lineup (4-4-2) 

        Jefferson Farfan  Andre Carillo 
Edison Flores                  Christian Cueva
      Yoshimar Yutun  Renato Tapia
Luis Advincula                       Aldo Corzo
  Alberto Rodriguez    Christian Ramos
                     Pedro Gallese

 The Talisman—Andre Carrillo 

Image result for andre carrillo smallHopes fall squarely on the shoulder of the Portuguese League man now. Premiership fans like myself had a chance to scout him at Watford this season, where he scored a nice Cup Goal. That’s about it. Despite plenty of raw talent, he never seems to get his positioning figured out. Perhaps he’ll click here. It would make for quite the story.

 “A Syndicate Classic—Anyone for a 2-3-5?”

Editor's Retroactive Notes:

Scant coverage of this syndicate debutant. We’ll thus post one from the previous group that didn’t make the final cut. Syndicate Members justifiably frustrated with their bookie’s growing obsession with tactics might be interested to know that I was actually always this preposterously nerdy.

It’s in print!

Written in 2006. Retroactive rambling added in 2012.

From WM 2006—Round Two:

Portugal vs. Iran


After narrowly fending off their former colony, time for my Navigators to let it all hang out. Bring out the big guns, Scolari! Bring in Deco to augment Simao, Pauletta, and Christiano Ronaldo. Throw Petit forward for a 3-2-2-3. No mercy. I don’t want to see any praying on this pitch. Dizzy up the Persians. Fuck those spoony bards. Prove to everyone that I know how to pick an overall winner. Punish these primitives as if they were the Greeks. Look them straight in the uni-brow. They might as well be the Greeks. That’s your motivation.

THE LINE: Portugal +3 Goals

Editor’s retroactive notes:
RESULT: Portugal 2, Iran 0. Scolari wasn’t quite as bloodthirsty as your friendly bookie. He did reorganize the midfield giving Deco the start over Tiago. Costinha replaced Petit and third striker Simao was withdrawn in favor of Maniche. The resulting 3-2-3-2 would fall tragically short of the internecine carnage I required for the big payday. True football fans will note that this was one the exceedingly rare times I opted to divide the formation by four. Yes, I am aware that over 75 percent of football teams play a formation cleaved into tiers of four or higher. Were I some sort of serious journalist it would my pleasure to report on Fabio Capello’s 4-1-2-1-1-1 experiment. All the sum permutations exist. Before my father smacks the back of my head to remind me there are no such things as “sum permutations”, I’ll point out that this was merely an esoteric way of saying that football teams employ all sorts of positioning layers. All the layman truly needs to know is that as long as it adds up to ten; it’s been tried on the pitch. I once read that Brian Clough experimented with a 2-1-2-1-1-2-1 at Nottingham Forrest. It would appear only the 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 hasn’t been written about. Personally I appreciate it when commentators give me insight into a Quad-stratum. Beyond that, you’re merely showing off and I draw the line.

WM 2006Have you any idea how challenging it is to write a reasonably lucid Sportsbook that can simultaneously sustain both my novice interest and the ephemeral attention span of amateur fans? It’s so goddamn hard that I’m in some way unsuccessful every time I sit down to try. All anyone needs to know concerns the fact that not all midfielders fulfill equal roles. Some have intermediate functions that place them between the rest of the midfielders and the forwards. Likewise, some defenders don’t occupy the same lateral position on the pitch. When I write about a 4-5-1, it may actually be more of a 3-4-2-1 or a 2-4-2-2 or perhaps even a 3-3-1-1-1. Some extraordinarily clever individuals who’ve wasted extraordinarily precious moments of their extraordinarily short lives solving extraordinarily boring Sudoku puzzles have written me over the years in the vainglorious hope that their ability to count to ten somehow makes them smarter than me in one crucial respect. Here’s the deal: people have been telling me to “Keep it Simple, Stupid” since I was old enough to speak. Having largely ignored this advice and met with train-wreck scoped disaster for a good bit of my twenty-nine years, the absolute least I can do is keep my Sportsbook simple. End of discussion. Formations are reported as triple quotients. Quadruple quotients may appear here and there, mostly unintentionally. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Ahem. Amidst all of this rubbish an enjoyable game of football took place. The Navigators were hungry right from the start. C. Ronaldo came agonizingly close twice. Miguel laced another swerving effort from fifty yards that Allah seems to have guided into Mizrappour’s hands. After 80 minutes of sheer dominance, poetic justice was finally served when Rezaieri bludgeoned Luis Figo with a clumsy challenge just inside the penalty area. Ronaldo was credited with the goal he so richly deserved after an unbelievable SEVEN decent efforts on goal. In total, the Iranians were credited with one shot on goal, nineteen flagrant fouls and 32% of possession. If only they could have miserably sucked just a bit more…    

Vicey’s Fearless Group Prediction (2 to 1 Odds for bookie)

 1) France  
  2) Denmark
 3) Peru
 4) Australia

Overall Championship Odds

  France (Straight up)
   Denmark (10 to 1)
  Peru (30 to 1)
  Australia (35 to 1)

Round of 16 Odds

  France (NO BETS)
   Denmark (Straight Up)
  Peru (Straight Up)
  Australia (5 to 1)

Quarterfinal Odds

  France (NO BETS)
   Denmark (3 to 1)
  Peru (8 to 1)
  Australia (15 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

  France (NO BETS)
  Denmark (6 to 1)
  Peru (20 to 1)

  Australia (25 to 1)