Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup Day 7

(Kevin Alston via Twitter)

Before I get into the World Cup banter, I have to mention that I stumbled upon a moment of unintentional comedy about an hour ago. The scene: Fenway Park. The situation: Red Sox-Diamondbacks pre-game festivities. The individual: Khano Smith. Yes, that Khano Smith. In a Red Sox jersey. The action: the ceremonial first pitch.*

The pitch? What else? An eephus. A left-handed eephus. L.M.A.O.*

(*Adding to the hilarity was that fact that he was introduced as a member of the Bermudan National Team. Oh, you mean the Bermudan NATIONAL TEAM. Oh, ok. "Daddy, why is he so tall? And where's his soccer ball?")

Anyway, let's start with the early morning affair between South Korea and Argentina.

As I may have said before, I think Argentina could win this whole thing, but only if they dump Maradona prior to the final. Don't get me wrong: I really like him. I do. He obviously has an immense passion for the game. So do I. But that doesn't make me qualified to oversee a catalogue of multimillionaire players in the most important sports tournament known to man.

Having said that, I thought that a team like South Korea, a team that plays with precision and discipline (unlike the Nigerian side that should have been beaten by five or more goals last Saturday) could give Maradona some problems. Well, needless to say, it was me who was walking around the office with the tail between his legs this morning.

It's obvious that Argentina is a club brimming with attackers. Messi, Higuain, Tevez, DiMaria, Aguero, Batistuta (holla!), and so on. I suppose the apples don't fall far from the short, stocky tree. Even so, I was positive that the quality displayed Park Ji-Sung and Lee Chung-Yong against Greece would shine. And by "positive," I obviously meant "entirely off base."

Lo, the Albiceleste attacked with fury. They dominated the midfield and proceeded to pitch their flag, set up camp, and roasted marshmellows with Jung Sung-Ryong in the attacking third. It was every man up for much of the match. And when that happens, well, it's not particularly difficult to find the back of the net. Just ask Gonzalo Higuain.

The second match du jour allowed Greece to redeem themselves after playing some of the ugliest, most wretched football I'd seen in my entire life. Okay, maybe not that bad. But it was close. Very close.

Kalu Uche's early goal for Nigeria had me thinking it was going to be more of the same from the Greeks. Of course, I was wrong again. Now, granted, they weren't exactly Brazil circa 1982 - not even close - but hey, they took advantage after that foolish, imbicilic red card to Sani Kaita just after the half-hour. An opponent's red card: the universal sign to stop playing ugly football.

The Greeks, to their credit, scored the necessary goals to put them over, and clinched their first-ever World Cup win. Gyros for everyone.

Finally, the French - yes, those French - were pretty much eliminated by a powerful Mexican team that pretty much proved why France had to handball their way into the tournament. Raymond Domenech waxed poetic after the match: "We feel a great disappointment and sadness. We struggled. At the moment I really don't have an explanation for it."

Sadness? Sure. I'd be sad, too, if I were outed as the worst manager to have a gig at the World Cup. Disappointment? Over what? Trying to hide the fact that France has obviously regressed to the point where they won't even get out of their group?

No explanation? Domenech, who is wont to use astrology in his decision-making, left Karim Benzema - easily one of the best French players on the planet - off his roster. Hmmm. I guess don't have an explanation, either.

So that was Day 7. A day long trip to North Carolina tomorrow for Wedding #2 will likely hamper my efforts to catch USA-Slovenia in its entirety. Clearly, the wedding gods are waging a successful campaign against the soccer gods this year.

Given my proven track record of wild inaccuracy through seven days, I will once again flirt with futility on this prediction: USA 2, Slovenia 1.

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