Thursday, July 18, 2019

CAN 2019--Goodbyes and Championship Pick

Dearest Mates,

The “silly season” reaches its terminus. Time to begin plowing through that substantial pile of stoic books and periodicals that have been steadily accumulating on your nightstand. The flippant and fun gives way to the somber and austere. 

Though a return to normalcy doesn’t necessarily dishearten your friendly bookie in quite the same way as it used to, the task of mending my drywall so that I can prepare to frustratingly throw hardbacks like David Brooks’s latest memoir up against them reliably engenders bleak feelings. 

On the topic of “bleak feelings”, why don’t we revisit last Summer’s farewell address?

I actually considered this a rather sanguine, if godless, appeal to the potential for inspired action which resides within all of us. One doesn’t need an invented God to imbue life with meaning. Should you remain convinced that a loving deity watches over humanity, the bookie invites you to read the David Brooks memoir. Older male workaholics need Jesus just as much as they need younger women. Wonderful proof of how delusion drives the self-obsessed.

Anyway, let’s aim for something a mite more cheerful this Summer. We’ll begin with a question posed by 23-M.

Reader: How in God’s good name are you still typing, Vicey? You should have dropped dead weeks ago.

A reasonable question deserves a thoughtful answer. Some loaded down Summer this has been. Factor in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and we’ve covered four major tournaments. The bookie has covered 128 fixtures over the course of 39 days. He’s written 64 posts averaging twelve pages and some 4200 words per day. All of this while working a full time job, volunteering, and coordinating a global betting/riffing syndicate with over thirty active members. 

I assure you I don’t list such statistics in the interest of self-aggrandizement. After all, you won’t have to scroll very long through these pages to find typos, missing words, and factual errors. There exists no shortage of evidence revealing mental, physical, and intellectual fatigue. The bookie ultimately doesn’t know how it all got done or even whether he could produce such numbers again. Atheists fail to come up with answers just as much as everyone else, and are more than happy to admit it. 

One truth I can confidently assert concerns the fact that doing what one loves and maintaining contact with people one enjoys infuses one with boundless energy. So much of life centers around making ends meet though doing what you genuinely hate. So it goes. The rigorous discipline necessary to tolerate the intolerable saps one’s energy. Maintenance of one’s personal drive sucks up all the fuel. Before one knows it, one is coasting through on fumes.

Those who do have the rare privilege of undertaking work that they honestly love, if even on a very limited basis, have no course to whine or bitch about anything; not even ennui. Burnout doesn’t come into play to those immensely grateful for their chance. That’s why you see footballers still full sprinting even after playing six tournament matches in under three weeks. That’s how a writer finds keeps churning out words even after 700 plus pages. 

Footballers in these tournaments don’t allow their enthusiasm to slacken. There simply isn’t time for it. They remain intensely aware that the openings afforded them are narrow and time-sensitive. Your friendly bookie operates under the same parameters. Whether it’s the next match or the next post, one focuses one’s attention forwards, onwards, and upwards. A glance back possesses utility only should one have a mistake to learn from. Otherwise, the only other non-task oriented thing one should focus on is the clock. The irreversible flow of time happens to be the sole obstacle truly standing in your way. 

Footballers also rely upon their colleagues to inspire and instill. They feed off of each other. Your friendly bookie has his “M”s. False perceptions of enervated emptiness are easy enough to defeat when one has such great mates. Summer can never be considered complete until 88-M—the other Shadow Scholar—checks in with his thoughts. 

In the Day Thirty-Three recap, your friendly bookie took it upon himself to compose a three-page metaphysical mini-essay on the subject of self-forgiveness. Baghdad Bounedjah’s sideline behavior called for something completely off tangent. That’s how we roll over at the Syndicate. Covering 128 fixtures isn’t enough. We’ve got to work in some soul searching as well.

My much-cherished friend had this to add to the bookie’s pontifications:

Reader: Us former football captains aren’t meant for the sidelines, Vicey. Comfy, cozy, and lucrative they may be. Insufferable bullshit reigns when the vain and stupid run the field. You know as well as I do that the shallow prey upon vacuums. They love to make everyone as miserable as they are.

He’s right. The blamers, whiners, and professional victims hog the megaphone, not to mention the Presidency and the piece-of-shit management jobs. Fucking leeches want to drain you, but you don’t have to let them in. Your friendly bookie’s most sincere wish for all of his dear friends in the coming year is that you continue to strive for the associations that fill you with energy, positivity, and ideas. 

To those caught in a constrictive tower unable to see how expansive and beautiful this world truly is, your bookie swears to you that color and light are within your grasp. Possibilities abound for those who brush aside distractions and keep moving onwards, upwards, and forwards. Don’t tolerate those who would play petty games with your heart. Your heart belongs to you, and it will lead you to a beautiful tomorrow. Ignore trifling ticks.

Bookie loves you, brothers. You’ll always be welcome in this house. 

You’ll never watch alone ; )

Time for “Peace with the Metric System”, gentlemen. 

“Peace with the Metric System”

“I don’t know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives. All comes down to today. Either we heal as a team, or we’re going to crumble. 2.54 centimeters by 2.54 centimeters…set piece by set piece….til we’re finished. We’re in hell right now gentlemen. Believe me. And…….we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or………..we can fight our way back…….into the light…….we can climb our way out of hell. 2.54 Centimeters at a time.

Now I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. I look around, I see all of these young faces and think……..I mean……..I’ve made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I…ah…. pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. 

You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you…. I mean that’s…that’s…...that’s part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of 2.54 centimeters. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small…..I mean…one half a step too late or too early, you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite kick it. The centimeters we need are everywhere around us! They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for those 2.54 centimeters. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for those 2.54 centimeters. We claw with our fingernails for those 2.54 centimeters! Because, we know when we add up all those centimeters, that’s gonna make the FUCKIN difference between winnin and losin!!!!!!!! Between living and dying!!! 

I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willin to die, who’s gonna win that 2.54 centimeters. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for those 2.54 centimeters!!! Because….that’s what livin is!!! The 15.24 centimeters in front of your face!! 

Now I can’t make you do it! You’ve gotta look at the guy next to you. LOOK INTO HIS EYES!! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go those 2.54 centimeters with you. I think you’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen. And, either we heal, NOW, as a team……..or we will die…as individuals. That’s football guys. That’s all it is. Now………..WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?!?!?!”
Supreme Champion of Africa—Senegal vs. Algeria


I sometimes wonder if there exists a more profound pleasure in life than being proven dead wrong about something. When life contravenes one’s carefully calibrated somber expectations, it reminds one that predictions formulated in the head are often untrustworthy. When previewing the Malagasy football team less than a month ago, I wrote the following:  

From CAN 2019—Round One

Plenty of arguments for expanding the tournament field to 24 teams over the course of this post. Here’s one against. As cartoonishly bad as…well….the cheaply made cartoon movie series named after their isle. Somehow they’re not even the worst team in this group. Their striking corps is adequate enough to leave them mildly competitive in their sub confederation. There’s also an un-official Indian Ocean association of sorts that gifts them easy competition. 

Qualified out of a weak group that featured one of the worst Equatorial Guinean sides in years. Mostly French second leaguers on this squad. The strikers have been in the game a while, surely too long to look anything other than exhausted at this level.

Now I’m searching online for a tricot, annoying everyone with “Barea Horns” goal celebrations, and lamenting the fact that I can’t figure out how to watch Indian Ocean association games. The Malagasy have turned out to be the story of the tournament.

Your friendly bookie gets it dead wrong often enough. We even did a short lived segment about it during the 2014 WM. 33 and 36-M, among others, love to bring up the fact that I’ve picked the wrong onset winner in 26 of 29 tournaments. We’ve already closed the book on two tournaments for which I picked the wrong outset winner, pushing the all-time stats to 3-31. I also incorrectly picked the U.S. over Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Oops. 

I do wish to point out the fact that I tipped Senegal to take this crown from the onset. I’m going to plow through some reservations and bloody well tip them again here. I might be wrong. We’ll write it out a bit. Here are my thoughts on the matter: 

Two major issues still plague the Senegalese manager as he prepares to engineer a reverse result. Centerback stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly will be ineligible for the final after garnering a second yellow against the Tunisians in the semis. An injury to Salif Sané had already forced him to move Cheickou Kouyate back to centerback and give him the captain’s armband. Sané did get some minutes in as a sub in the semis, but it is unclear as to whether he is fully fit enough to start. 

Cissé has only one other natural centerback on his roster. The 23-year-old Pape Abou Cissé has only been capped thrice and hasn’t seen any action in this tournament. There’s also the matter of this team not having a designated penalty taker. Sadio Mané relinquished the role after missing two of three spot kicks in the initial five matches. Saviet stood up to take one in the Tunisian match, but he too missed. 

The Foxes have refined an effective passing scheme as they’ve grown into the tournament. A flexible 4-4-2 reverts to a 4-5-1 whenever control over the tempo needs to be exerted. Sofiane Feghouli slides inward alongside Adlene Guediourra to get the triangles moving. Ismael Bennancer and Riyad Mahrez often take turns drawing coverage. Youcef Belaili drops back leaving Baghdad Counedjah as the target man. 

This worked extremely well against Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals, but head coach Djamel Belmadi made some ineffective and—I would argue—unnecessary tweaks against Nigeria in the Semis. Shifting Mahrez left and moving Feghouli wide right clogged the engine a bit. It took the foxes some time to get their triangles correct and overall creativity suffered. Mahrez’s set-piece wonder at the death spared them added extra time and possible elimination.

I think we go with Aliou Cisse here. One must respect the man with the perfectly starched shirts and the viral “Victory Fists”. 

 Take us home, good sir. 

THE PICK: Senegal +1 Goal

Enjoy living your life. Enjoy it for its own sake. Dance to the music. Appreciate the painting. Delve deeper into that novel. Make laughter and love as often as you can. Live lionhearted or don’t bother living at all

We’ll meet again. The Syndicate will return. For the time being……

“Go kick a ball with a stranger”

Seriously…go kick a ball with a stranger. 

--S.S. P.V.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

CAN 2019--Day Thirty-Five Recap

Your “Syndicate Hangover” is proudly presented by “Perrier”

Your friendly bookie remains more of a San Pellegrino man, but we’ll accord the hosts some respect for their second-rate club soda. Along with La Croix, it’s an acceptable option when the only other alternative happens to be Seltzer Water.

Day 35: Recap

Bookie’s Stats—
Spread: 54-74
Straight up: 75-36-16

Tweren’t pretty. Our “Super Eagles” nevertheless got it done, gentlemen. They earned their bronze medals and our final daily of the Summer. If one counts the day awarded to the women’s team, that’s a sum of four days for Nigeria. 

All hail the S.S.S. Champions of the 2019 Summer Dailies!

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Thirty-Five

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Reader: Really going to leave us for a full year, Vicey?

Vicey: I’ll see you son enough, 8-M. Alas, bringing you agreeable advertising-free content carries with I the consequence of having to find other means of paying for your daughter’s Schwag Pack. : )   

Reader: Don’t go for the whole year, Vicey.

Vicey: Alright. Now you guys are touching a Schopenhauerian nerve. Just who do you think you are, 56-M? One of those countless number of people over the years who remained interested in staying in touch despite the fact that I’m clearly an impecunious imbecile?


Reader: Love how you always tease the ending. It’s like your closing a marvel universe or closing the book on The Known World.

Vicey: Had to look that second one up, 109-M. Your friendly bookie just doesn’t know his “Game of Thrones”. I’m told I missed out on some really nice breasts while busying myself with barely readable crap like Karl Ove Knausgard’s “Mein Kampf”. Perhaps I’ll give it a look some time. Sounds like fun. Dragon CGI…and breasts as well. 

Reader: You’re going to tell me to kick a ball with a stranger? My mom told me never to talk to strangers. 

Vicey: Your mom told me differently last night, 150-M. I feel you, though. Certain people threaten to sour your taste for human contact permanently. That’s precisely why misanthropes like you and I must keep seeking out the company of those who would balance out our worldview.

Reader: Watching Ighalo get subbed off. No one else is going to score in this match.

Vicey: Very prescient from 111-M early on. Watching this turgid Third Place fixture makes me miss “Messi-Medel 2019”.

No, fuck that. I asked YOU first 

Reader: I yearn to play again.

Vicey: You still can. You’ve got a full thirty years before your body really starts breaking down, 17-M. Cherish every touch.


The “Goodbyes” Section is all that remains. One last day of “friends and football.” Some of our Summer Sportsbook traditions are as old as the Syndicate itself. New ones emerge each year. Bookie wishes to maintain one that originated last Summer. 

Nowhere near sick of this number. Last day alive, gentlemen. ; )

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

CAN 2019--Third Place Match

Servus Syndicate Members,
An abridged post tonight as we’re discussing a Third Place match in which virtually all of us have the same desired outcome. 

As is customary, we use this space to take care of a little housekeeping before the bookie has to close his laptop for at least a week and undertake the monumental task of cleaning his own completely wrecked house.

I’ve opted to invoke bookie privilege and call off all bets for the Final on Friday. Let’s simply enjoy it together, catching up if we can. Finalize those spreadsheets if you don’t plan on wagering on Nigeria vs. Tunisia tomorrow. As always, betting tallies can be rolled over until it is time for the Syndicate to convene once again. 

We always use the Third Place match to discuss future syndicate chapters. Last year, we covered four. This time around, as many of you well know, there is only one.

UEFA Euro 2020

Oh yes. “Live it. For Real”. 

The introduction of the UEFA Nations League has everyone understandably a little confused about the qualifying process. Do allow your friendly bookie to simplify matters a bit for you. Here’s all you really need to know.

I) In addition to being an excuse to make more money, one should view the UEFA Nations League as a clever tool for ensuring that the big European footballing nations never again miss out on a major tournament. All of the major players are virtually assured a place in the second 24-team edition of this international

2) That being said, there are some teams lagging a bit behind in the current group qualifying phase, the fifth round of which will resume on September 5th. As usual, there will be three international qualifying breaks in Autumn 2019. In addition to the one in the first week of September, the European Leagues will also yield to Euro qualifying in the second weeks of October and November. 

Keep an eye on Portugal, Croatia, Wales, Norway, and the Dutch. It’s practically guaranteed that they’ll catch up and secure qualification, but they’re worth looking in on. 

3) Mark your calendars for the week of March 26th, 2020. That’s when the new UEFA playoffs will take place. Four of the smaller countries will duke it out in a single-leg semifinal round and a final. Thirteen playoff places are already reserved for countries that performed well in the UEFA Nations League. Nine of these teams will qualify through group play. The remaining four must compete for the final spot.

Alles klar?

…321 days remaining.

Third Place Match

Nigeria vs. Tunisia


Bookie will keep it short and snappy. Go “Super Eagles”. Lord do I hate this Tunisian side. Hope they beat the spread.

THE LINE: Nigeria +2 Goals

Over/Under—3 Goals 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

CAN 2019--Day Thirty-Four Recap

Your “Syndicate Hangover” is proudly presented by “Perrier”

Your friendly bookie remains more of a San Pellegrino man, but we’ll accord the hosts some respect for their second-rate club soda. Along with La Croix, it’s an acceptable option when the only other alternative happens to be Seltzer Water.

Day 34: Recap

Bookie’s Stats—
Spread: 54-73
Straight up: 74-36-16

A fantastic day of football to cap off our penultimate daily. Senegal-Tunisia was just plain fucking awesome. The nightcap didn’t have the same fireworks, until Riyad Mahrez captured the day with that scorcher on the game’s last play. 

Damn! That’s how one blasts and bends at the same time. What technique! Watch it again and again.

 S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown 

The bookie’s selected favorites supplied us with a real pulsating match that proved madly entertaining from throughout the full 120 minutes. The Algerians were significantly less riveting, advancing only thanks to one solitary moment of class. 

Plenty of talking points, tactic-wise. We’ll have a look at both the winners and losers in today’s analysis.

 Lineup—Senegal—Match Six (Projected) (4-3-3) (7/13/2019) 

                       M’Baye Niang                 
 Sadio Mané                            Keita Balde                       
Idrissa Gueye  Henri Saviet   Krepin Diatta                          
Moussa Wagué                       Youssouf Sabaly
      Kalidou Koulibaly  Cheikou Kouyate
                       Alfred Gomis    

 Lineup—Senegal—Match Six (Actual) (4-3-3) (7/14/2019) 

                       M’Baye Niang                 
  Sadio Mané                        Krepin Diatta                       
Idrissa Gueye  Henri Saviet   Badou N’Diaye                          
Yousouf Sabaly                   Lamine Gassama
      Kalidou Koulibaly  Cheikou Kouyate
                       Alfred Gomis    

Absolutely loved this selection from Aliou Cisse. It certainly took a pair of stones to give 20-year-old Krepin Diatta the start. Bookie was delighted to discover upon seeing the team sheet that he and the Senegalese manager were of the same mind. Diatta and Mané engaged in some brilliant rotation in the opening fifteen minutes. Bookie couldn’t place them. Neither could the Tunisian defense, who were completely confused by their adroit switching. 

Sabaly’s fine effort in the first half showed he had given a great deal of thought to that woeful quarterfinal performance. It was nice to see him having a go himself instead of slogging around looking for the overlap and ultimately crossing to no one. Gassama turned in a real gem as well. Perhaps the primary reason the Terangans were able to be potent offensively had to do with his forward runs. The Tunisians focused on harrying Niang and were able to contend with neither the Mané-Diatta switches or Gassama’s prowess.  

Virtually everyone had their looks at goal as all the players crashed into the central top 18 at some point in the fixture. Optically speaking, many will have hoped for a bit more lateral play. Bookie will argue that they played attractively enough flooding the center. There were no shortage of cheeky back heels and sublime efforts off the turn. One left this match feeling fully satisfied with the combined efforts of all the actors. 

Thank goodness the Teranga Lions—along with the correct officiating—prevailed at the end of the day. The penalty awarded to Tunisa on a purported Kalidou Koulibaly handball was ludicrous. Had it not been for VAR, the Carthaginians would have been gifted another farce. Bookie deems the penalty awarded to the victors to have been fully legitimate. Saviet also struck a very good ball. His grade isn’t adversely affected by Mouez Hassan’s stretch save. 

All subs a factor as we delve into the marks. 

 Grades—Senegal (Match Six) 

Alfred Gomis
M’Baye Niang
Krepin Diatta
Lamine Gassama
Henri Saviet
M’Baye Diagne
Sadio Mané
Moussa Wague
Salif Sané
Cheikhou Kouyate
Kalidou Koulibaly
Youssouf Sabaly 
Idrissa Gana Gueye
Ismaila Sarr
Badou N’Diaye

I was rather surprised at Badou N’Diaye’s inlclusion and even more surprised that it took Cissé 82 minutes and two other subs to finally get him off. Koulibaly and Kouyaté did make some defensive errors, but it was largely the Galatasaray man who left too much space open by failing to establish himself center-right. He was the only player the bookie truly didn’t jive with. 

Now, of course, comes the trillion-dollar-question Namely, can Senegal capture the crown without the suspended Kalidou Koulibaly? Argh. Tough one. They’re already horribly thin at centerback. Cissé only has two options: a still not 100-percent Salif Sané or the only thrice capped 23-year-old Olympiacos profi Pape Abou. He may need them both if Salif re-aggravates his injury. 

Whew. This may prove problematic. There’s also the matter of this team not having a regular penalty taker. That never bodes well for a final…

 Lineup—Algeria—Match Six (Projected) (4-4-2) (7/13/2019) 

     Baghdad Bounedjah  Youcef Belaili                                      
Adlene Guedioura             Riyad Mahrez  
      Sofiane Feghouli  Ismael Bennacer
Rami Bensebaini               Mehdi Zeffane
            Aissa Mandi  Djamel Benlamri
                       Rais M’Bohli            

 Lineup—Algeria—Match Six (Projected) (4-4-2) (7/13/2019) 

     Baghdad Bounedjah  Youcef Belaili                                      
   Riyad Mahrez              Sofiane Feghouli
   Adlene Guedioura  Ismael Bennacer
Rami Bensebaini               Mehdi Zeffane
            Aissa Mandi  Djamel Benlamri
                       Rais M’Bohli            

It’s not surprising at all that it took them quite some time to get this rolling. One could even make the case that they never really got it going at all. I saw absolutely no need to flip Mahrez and move Feghouli back out wide. The moves were clearly designed to take advantage of Feghouli’s quick cuts in possession, and possibly get him involved in some midfield triangulations.

It kind of worked for the first twenty minutes or so. There were technical enough attacking flurries inside the box as the Fennecs got their triangles right. Everything soon devolved into a back-passing clinic. I noted the strong Algerian possession game in my more recent appraisals of the team’s system, but that’s just not the sort of stuff football fans want to see.

Creativity wasn’t so much lacking altogether as lacking the second and third axis ingenuity. When Zeffane came forward we saw some good ideas on the overlap, but not much of real quality at the end of the plays. Bounedjah and Belaili weren’t very good at all. Perhaps it would have been a decent idea to sit the former after all.

Belmadi employed no substitutions and didn’t make any real adjustments until around the 83rd minute of the match. Moving Mahrez back right and having Feghouli slot back to pair with Bennancer finally got some things going. How nice it is well managers return to a stratagem so plainly obvious that even your friendly bookie can draw it up ; )

 Grades—Algeria (Match Six) 

Riyad Mahrez
Rais M’Bohli
Mehdi Zeffane 
Djamel Benlamri
Ismael Bennacer
Sofiane Feghouli
Ramy Bensebaini
Adlene Guedioura
Aissa Mandi
Youcef Belaili
Baghdad Bounedjah

Yeah…there’s very little chance we’ll witness them play this poorly in the Final, but surely you can sense in which direction your friendly bookie leans as he prepares to make this Summer’s last Championship Pick. Hard to back this bunch after watching them struggle with their rhythm today, even if they were facing a top-class opponent.

Djamel Belmadi got his players right, but his tactics wrong. His previously alluded to inexperience definitely shows. Aliou Cissé need only study the game film carefully to see what neutralizing position he needs to push which players into. The Blueprint for defeating these guys is out there for everyone to see. 

 S.S.S. Salute to Fallen Comrades 

 Lineup—Tunisia—Match Six (Projected) (4-4-1-1) (7/13/2019) 

                        Youssef Msakni                      
                          Wahbi Khazri
Ferjani Sassi  A. Badri  N. Sliti  Ellyes Skhiri    
Oussama Haddadi                       Wadji Kechrida
             Dylan Bronn Yassine Meriah
                        Mouez Hassan

 Lineup—Tunisia—Match Six (Actual) (4-3-2-1) (7/14/2019) 

                          Wahbi Khazri                      
     Ferjani Sassi                      Youssef Msakni
 T.Y. Khenissi  Ellyes Skhiri  A.B. Mohamed   
Oussama Haddadi                       Mohamed Dräger
             Dylan Bronn   Yassine Meriah
                        Mouez Hassan

I bloody well hate Alain Giresse. He really went the entire tournament not knowing where to place his best player. Msakni produced nothing on the right. How could he with Mohamed Dräger invading his space and Ayman Ben Mohamed unable to decide which team he was playing for? At least he had the temerity to yank Msakni prior to the restart and try build something more exciting with Naim Sliti spearheading a 4-5-1.

Bookie is so very glad that the worst of the Semi-Finals are no longer in the running for the title. When they weren’t boring me to tears, they were causing frustrated consternation with Giresse’s crap tactics. They suuuuck. Goodbye!

 Lineup—Nigeria—Match Six (Projected) (4-1-4-1) (7/13/2019) 

                            Odion Ighalo           
Ahmed Musa A. Iwobi   J.O. Mikel  W. Ndidi                       
                        Oghenekaro Etebo    
Ola Aina            Kenneth Omeruo     C. Awaziem
                        William Troost-Ekong
                           Daniel Akpeyi  

 Lineup—Nigeria—Match Six (Actual) (4-2-3-1) (7/14/2019) 

                           Odion Ighalo           
Ahmed Musa       Alex Iwobi     Samuel Chukwueze                       
     Oghenekaro Etebo       Wilfred Ndidi 
Jamilu Collins                                    Chidozie Awaziem
         Kenneth Omeruo  William Troost-Ekong
                          Daniel Akpeyi  

Very Well. Despite the bookie’s impassioned pleas to shake these up a bit, Gernot Rohr simply went with the same players and formations from the previous match. Something of a shame as I truly believe Etebo could have handled his own axis and thrived. Oh well. I suppose that Iwobi’s work as flight director and the Ndidi partnership were considered too valuable to tinker with. 

Chemistry can sometimes be overvalued late into these tournaments. Ndidi and Etebo did do well in central midfield, but Iwobi was left alone far too often. Bookie was afraid that might happen. Musa and Chukwueze just jetted off their lines after the team fell behind. Iwobi could claim all the space in the world, but he had too many options ahead and none by his side. 

Whether or not Ola Aina was injured, I was largely impressed by the play of Jamilu Collins. There wasn’t much either he or William Troost-Ekong could do about that unfortunate own-goal that careened off both of them. Rotten luck. It’s a tough loss to take as our Super Eagles came closer to the Final than I had anticipated in my semi-final projection. 

Take it we must. At least they’re back in the tournament again ; ) 

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Thirty-Four 

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Reader: I’m having horrible childhood flashbacks watching the African medical teams rush out to the pitch with those archaic igloo coolers. It’s Summer Camp and I wet the bed!

Vicey: Bwahahahaha. 11-M deserves a “Zing” and a detailed rejoinder. We should notify Kreskin as we were both having flashbacks without communicating with one another.

Summer Camp, you say? It reminded me of youth sports whenever it was my mom’s turn to bring the post-game soda pop! Oh Christ. 

“I thought we agreed we’d do either Sunkist Orange or Hawaiian Punch, Mom. ‘RC Cola’ and ‘Mountain Lightning’? Waahh! As if losing 0-6 wasn’t bad enough..”  

Reader: One cannot explain Ayman Ben Mohamed in the starting lineup.

Vicey: Er….well…there was my Round-of-16 Projection, but I had assumed Alain Giresse and this fucking team would be long gone by now.

Reader: Sadio Mané and Aliou Cissé’s hand gestures make me want to haggle over toaster prices.

Vicey: Don’t really have much to add to this masterful one from 72-M. I guess I could let everyone know that I obstinately refused to haggle over prices when in Africa. White guy wasn’t gonna win. You want $12 for the sunglasses? Okay. Cool. I needed them anyway.

Reader: Tunisian fat-dude fan looks like he’s straight out of the “Temple of Doom”. 

Vicey: (laughing uncontrollably)

128-M with the rock-n-roll “Überzing”. Let’s see. Been a few years since I’ve done this. How does it go? 

“OOH-numb-SHE-buy, OOH-numb-SHE-buy, OOH-numb-SHE-buy”. 

Reader: Alfred Gomis is listed at 6’5’’. That can’t be right. 

Vicey: It’s not. I don’t know who takes these measurements. He’s at least 6’8’’. Thibault Courtois pushes seven feet. Manute Bol was an eight-footer if I ever saw one. 

Reader: Vice…am I going crazy or are there green laser pointers aimed at Chukwueze every time he attempts a free kick?

Vicey: No hallucination. I see it too. I also think you’re crazy, 17-M.

Our time together draws to a close, gentlemen. With the final tournament set-up for such a great finale, the hopeful Senegalese football fans bid you a spirited adieu until we make the last calls!