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Posts Tagged ‘Football(Soccer)’

Boo birds for bitter Barca babies

April 28, 2011 3 comments
It’s pretty clear that FC Barcelona  is a better team than Real Madrid. I mean, they can keep the ball in the tightest spaces, and even a top club like Real were having a hard time keeping the ball on those rare occasions that they had it. As evidence, just look at Xavi Alonzo’s day. He was a mainstay in the Prem for Liverpool and he’s a Champion’s League winner, and he was having a hard time keeping up.

But why the simulation? Why does Pedro go to ground holding his face? Why does Busquets still get to writhe around in pain and stay on the pitch? He did the same last year and got a guy sent off vs Inter Milan. Inter had to play the rest of the game with 10 men and somehow held on. The behaviour by the Barcelona players is a disgrace and a shame on the game. I understand why football and basketball loving Americans seeing stuff like this and realize that this type of soccer is a total joke. Those of us that love soccer need to figure out a way to make it change. Even other European soccer stars can’t believe the way Barcelona’s players are behaving and what they are getting away with.

This year Dani Alvez gets a guy sent off by writhing around in pain, while most of the rest of Barca’s players crowd around the ref demanding a red card. Yet, no contact was made with Alvez’s foot (look on Real Madrid’s official site for video evidence of no contact.) Barca’s players are some of the most talented attackers on the planet (Messi, Villa, Xavi, etc.) but I can’t stand to watch them cuz of the cheating, the remonstrating against the refs when something goes against them, and the con-jobs they want the ref to believe when the shoe is on the other foot.

Here are some new rules I propose:

1. If you writhe around in pain, and then come back on and can fully sprint and participate in the game, you get a yellow card.

2. If video evidence shows (even after the fact!) that you got hit on your arm (like Pedro did) or your mid-section (like Busquets did), and you writhe around on the ground holding your face (like both Pedro and Busquets did), then YOU should get ejected from the game because you are trying to fool the ref and get someone else sent off.

3.Finally, if you come and crowd around the ref demanding a card for an opposing player, you should receive a caution.

It’s a disgrace. I don’t want Man U to get another european title. I don’t want Man U to get another European title. I don’t want Man U to get another European title……but I am thinking it would be better than this group of simulators and cheaters and crybabies. Of which Messi is not one. That guy gets slammed around and is pure class. His dribbling thru 5 Madrid defenders was amazing to see.

The ref will make the complete difference in the Champs League Final. It certainly did in the semi final yesterday.
Thoughts?
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Negative Netherlands, Diving Spaniards

July 12, 2010 14 comments

Good for Spain. Here’s a country that has collapsed many times under the weight of expectations, never having even won a World Cup Quarterfinal in their storied history. (Of course they had 2 perfectly good goals called out in 2002 Korea/Japan when playing against the hosts, the game being refereed by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour and his Ugandan and Trinidadian assistants. Um, we might need to make sure we have top class refs at the World Cups, eh FIFA?)

Of course I wanted Germany to win, but I do like Spain. It’s funny. On my first trip to Spain some time in the mid-90’s, I bought a Spain jersey. I love the country, speak the language (Castellano, at least), and I felt bad for their many collapses and unfulfilled expectations over the years. I never thought at the time that they would develop into a world powerhouse and become Germany’s Biggest Nemesis From Europe, having won the Euro 2008 Final over die mannschaft, as well as knocking them out of World Cup 2010. Ack!

But as for 2010, the best team won. It’s a sad commentary on the defensive nature of high-stakes soccer that we have to say things like “I’m so glad the best team won.” I mean, isn’t that what playing the game is for? When you watch an NFL championship, you figure that the team with the highest score at the end of the game was the best. But in soccer, with the difficulty of scoring goals against a team focused on fouling and defending to the hilt, you always have that possibility that the”best” team — the most creative team, the team with the most shots on goal, the team with most possession, the team that wants to play attacking soccer — doesn’t win. I believe it’s one of the biggest detractions against the game of soccer to the casual or non-soccer fan world wide: Why is it so difficult to score goals, and why does the “best” team some times (too often?!) not come out on top?

English Referee Howard Webb had a difficult job. Here’s a guy that’s accustomed to refereeing in mostly honest, hurly-burly England. But then he gets asked to referee the World Cup Final between the Negative Fouling Netherlands and the Amazing Diving Spaniards. Webb was out of his gourd. They needed someone that could tell the difference between a real foul and a dive, and just wave “play on.” When Referee Héctor Baldassi of Argentina did this in Spain’s game against Portugal, the Spaniards quickly realized that diving doesn’t pay, and immediately stopped the heinous practice. Webb, take a lesson from your colleagues, eh?

How is this not a Red Card Mr. Webb? (photo daniel ochoa de olza)

And it’s great that Holland was finally found out. Holland could have been beaten by Slovakia, except for some poor finishing by the Slovaks. The Brazil game was a good scalp for Holland, but they were gifted the equalizing goal by a Brazilian goalkeeping error. And Holland lucked out to play against an understrength Uruguay squad, which was without their captain and best defender Lugano as well as – up to that point – their best striker Suarez.

The Dutch can't handle the truth (photo frank augstein)

So really, I think the love affair with the Netherlands being so great was an illusion, which was uncovered in the Final. I mean sure — they made Spain work for it — but anyone can do that by putting 9 guys behind the ball parking the bus, tackle ferociously and often times unfairly, and hope to score a goal on a counter attack. Even Portugal showed us that. But Holland? That was light years from Total Football.

Whew! That was close.

Spain Celebrates World Cup 2010 (photo Laurence Griffiths)

FIFA, since apparently I know better than you do, here are some changes needed to the game of World Football. I’ve kept the list short. I think you already know why.

1. Goal line technology. You need to give the goals if they are scored, and in this day with the technology we have, it’s unforgivable. England were robbed, and we’ll never know what could have happened in that game. At least the universe is slightly more aligned if you balance 2010 with 1966. Get the goal line technology now. FIFA says that they don’t want to implement it because it wouldn’t be available to all levels of the game. That’s ridiculous. Little league baseball and high school football don’t have it — and it doesn’t matter. The NFL and MLB have replay to get the calls exactly right when the stakes are so high. FIFA needs to do the same for high-stakes soccer matches.

In the mean time, put “magic chalk” or something in the mouth of the goal behind the goal line. That way, like in tennis, it can be determined if a ball bounced there. Is there chalk on the ball? Where did it bounce? Yup. It’s a goal. Hey, at least it’s a start.

2. The yellow card accumulation process needs to be altered. Protect the players from atrocious fouls, and even from the rugby tackles in the penalty box on corner kicks. But a yellow card for what Thomas Mueller did? That was poor. And having it keep him out of a semi final game? Idiotic. Not having him in Germany’s semi final game robbed the Germans of their attacking spark and undoubtedly changed the game in favor of the Spaniards.

The same thing happened in the 2002 World Cup Final in Korea/Japan. Michael Ballack was kept out of the Final against Brazil due to a yellow card from the semi-final, and it ruined the game. We want to see the best against the best, and FIFA needs to perform some sort of review of the yellow card accumulation procedure. Did Mueller’s yellow endanger another player? Absolutely not. Then suspending him from a semi final game should be waived.

3. Post-game video analysis of simulating a foul can earn you a suspension. I am glad that Spain won over Negative Nancies Netherlands, but something needs to be done about people like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, and Arjen Robben. Sergio Busquests got tackled in the opening 5 minutes of the game, and went to the ground like he had been shot. He needs to be suspended for crap like this. He did the same thing in the Champion’s League Semi Final between his team Barcelona and Internazionale. An Inter player hit Busquets on the back and he fell over grabbing his face, which resulted in a red card for the Inter player. Acts like that need to be punished with a 1-2 game suspension.

Andres Iniesta was fouled by yet-another-hard-tackle-by-Van-Bommel-hacking-the-player-and-missing-the-ball. Iniesta fell onto the ground, apparently writhing in pain. When the referee waved play on, Iniesta immediately jumped up, fit as a fiddle, and hacked Van Bommel to the ground. Iniesta needs to be suspended for 1-2 games based on video analysis of this type of behavior.

And Robben? Too many times to count!

One master diver admiring the work of another (photo frank augstein)

The first soccer game that made me cry

May 25, 2010 12 comments

The first soccer game I cried over wasn’t one I was playing in. It’s somehow different when you are in the game. Different emotions are involved. When you are playing, you are more engaged in the battle. And if the game is close, as a player you never give up hope. But if you are watching a game, involved as a spectator, you are trapped. Your emotions rise and fall with every missed opportunity, close call, and bad referee decision. It’s a completely different experience, and it can twist you into knots, sometimes making you unable to watch what happens next.

The 1986 World Cup was the first World Cup I watched. My brother and I were insatiable. For the opening rounds, our family was in Canada for the 1986 World Fair in Vancouver, but we couldn’t be bothered.

Mom and Dad “We are going to see the Expo now, c’mon boys”
My brother and I “Aw, but Spain is about to play Denmark!”

I seriously think my father was considering throwing the hotel TV out the window.

I had grown up listening to Alan Fountain commentate the TV show Soccer Made in Germany. This show would broadcast 50 minutes of a 90 minute match, with 10 minutes of “this is how life is in Germany” to round out the hour. While other kids were following the Dallas Cowboys, I followed teams like Schalke 04, 1. FC Köln, and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sure I followed the NFL too – I am an American after all – but since I actually played soccer, it was somehow better. And since I have ancestors of Prussian extraction, plus the TV show, I grew up a fan of Germany’s national soccer team. Now I could have chosen to follow my long-lost relatives from Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, England, or Sweden – but there were no shows called “soccer made in Switzerland” that I knew of. I knew the German players from watching them each week, and so the die was cast.

The 1986 World Cup Final was West Germany vs. Argentina. For the record, Argentina won, and I think Toni Schumacher (Germany’s goalkeeper) forgot to eat his Wheaties that day. He couldn’t save a goal to save his life, and he was at fault for at least one of the goals, maybe more. His performance that day still makes me angry.

(Getty Images)

By early second half, Argentina was winning 2-0, and it appeared they were going to easily win. Argentina was bossing the game, and had taken advantage of Schumacher’s mistakes to build their lead. At this point I was bummed, but tears were not even on the horizon. If it’s not a close game, and no tragedy or near miss had befallen your team yet, there’s no chance of tears.

By the time the Final was played, we had returned from Canada. My family was sharing a Sunday dinner at my Grandmother’s with other relatives. I’m not sure how many of them had heard of the World Cup, but my brother and I risked the wrath of our Mother to skip dinner and go to the cramped TV room to watch the Final. Then – finally! – Germany scored their first goal, late in the 2nd half. I let out an extra loud WAHOO! Aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and parents filtered into the tiny room. Could Germany complete the comeback and tie the game? We all held our collective breath as Germany poured forward, looking for the equalizer. Only 6 minutes later, they had done it! Germany had scored the equalizing goal! We were jumping, hugging, hollering, and yahooing as if we were actually from Munich. Just one more goal and the comeback would be complete!

You know how sometimes you get so wrapped up in what you are doing that you forget about other people around you? Maybe you are so into a project that you don’t hear that it’s time for dinner, or you are reading a great book and can’t hear your daughter crying in the other room? I think that’s what happened to Germany. They were so interested in going forward in search of goals that they forgot about Diego Maradona, the best player in the tournament.

Well, there was one more goal all right, but it was for Argentina. The little wizard beat 5 German players with one pass, and took advantage of Schumacher’s horrible day yet again. The game ended. The trophy was lifted by Argentina.

Now, if Argentina had just won 2-0, or even 3-0, I would have been fine. No tears. We all would have made our way back to the roast beef and mashed potatoes muttering things like “well that’s too bad”, or “it just wasn’t Germany’s day.”

But the fact that Germany had come back from the dead, and scored two goals to tie the game with 10 minutes left, somehow changed the equation. I was full of hope. The sun was brighter. I wasn’t hungry. Maybe, just maybe, my Saturday afternoon heroes like Klaus Allofs, Olaf Thon, and Lothar Matthäus could win the trophy and become the best team in the world.

1986 W Germany Team (Getty Images)

Everyone left, and I sat there, alone in the TV room at my Grandparents’ house. I cried. I admit it was a little embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. I had witnessed the effort, the urgency, the frustration all play out in 100+ degree heat with no time-outs, no huddles, no coaching strategy sessions to call a final play. Just 11 men working together as a team, carrying the hopes and dreams of their entire country. And witnessing their struggle – it drew me in.

That’s why I love the World Cup. There is EVERYTHING to play for. Personal Pride. National Pride. Sporting Glory, Sporting History, and Sporting Immortality
. It is the greatest sporting event of the greatest sport in the world, watched by more people than any other event on earth. It might take a game or two to warm up, or it might explode from the beginning. If you watch the games, you will be drawn in. But be careful. You may laugh. You may exult. Your team may become Champions of the World. But you also may shed a tear or two.

And after all these years, Congrats to Argentina. There, I said it.

The Geordies are Back Up!

April 30, 2010 2 comments

Like most Newcastle United fans, I feared the worst when we were relegated at the end of the 2009 season. We expected a fire sale of our best players, especially after top players like Shay Given and James Milner were allowed to leave DURING a season we were struggling with relegation. It appeared the club ownership didn’t care about the club anymore, and that it would be reduced to tatters.

In some ways this hasn’t changed. There are still many doubts about the seriousness of the ownership of Newcastle United Football Club. Are they in it for the long haul? Are they really looking out for the best interests of the club? Many doubts remain. Following Shay Given and James Milner out the door during the 2009 season, once relegation was certain, the likes of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Sebastien Bassong, Habib Beye, and Damien Duff also were allowed to leave the club. Most of the players listed are starters for their Premier League or Bundesliga teams. With so many top players allowed to leave, the fear was that Newcastle would “pull a Leeds” and drop down to the 2nd or 3rd division of English Football.

But it was not to be. With a little luck and with a core group of committed players, as well as the improvement of players already on the team (I have Alan Smith and Steve Harper in mind here), Newcastle United has won the Championship Division – their first trophy in 17 years – and has made their way back to the English Premier League at first try.


And it’s no more than the supporters deserve. They have not stayed away, coming out in droves and setting new attendance records for the Championship. Hopefully we won’t pull a yo-yo and go back down straight away — it really depends on if the owner decides to spend some money and strengthen the club in the off-season.

Either way, we’ve done it at first attempt, and it’s great to be back in the Premiership once again.

The Geordies are back up! Howay the Lads!


Personally Pleased for Landon Donovan

March 10, 2010 3 comments

I’m really glad that Landon Donovan has settled in the blue side of Liverpool. My friends and I have discussed Landon Donovan a lot over the years, and many people point to his 3 failed attempts to jump to the German Bundesliga as evidence that he is not a top-flight player. My argument all along has been that he has not been in a situation to “settle” well, but it doesn’t have to do with his playing ability. It might have been a coaching situation, a team dynamic, locker-room issues, etc. Or any combination of the above.

My experience is that when you change to a new coach, or a new system, it’s not always easy to find your footing. I played under 4 different coaches between my years at Oregon State University and in the USL. Each had a different system and philosophy the players had to get used to. With apologies to anyone who doesn’t understand the NFL, a similar example is Darren Sharper of the New Orleans Saints. He was a pro-bowl caliber safety early in his career. Then his team changed (or he changed teams, I don’t actually know) to a different kind of defensive scheme, I think called Cover-2, where he was expected to perform different types of defensive duties. He basically sucked. For years. People thought he was washed up. But behold: he moves to New Orleans, back into a non-Cover-2 situation, and he’s back into pro-bowl form again, leading his team in take-aways and to a Super Bowl victory. Not a coincidence.

And here is Landon Donovan, who has finally “settled” in Europe, and not just anywhere in Europe. He is helping Everton, the only English top-flight team never to have been relegated from the top division, zoom up the standings. In Everton’s last 9 games with Landon involved, they have posted a 6-2-1 record — that’s one loss for the uninitiated. They have beaten some of the best teams in Europe, including Chelsea and Manchester United. He has been scoring goals, providing assists, and basically running riot over there. He even has the Everton faithful singing chants like “Sign Him Up” and “USA! USA!”. Pretty amazing for a guy that “can’t cut it in Europe” and “isn’t a top-flight player.”

Donovan confuses 2 Man United players (Andrew Yates / Getty Images)

Just like with every other sport, a player’s mental state and confidence are paramount to success. I kept claiming that Donovan wasn’t settling in Germany due to the dynamic within those teams – and it (finally!) appears to be right. I mean — Bayern Munich is not your best example of a settled club. They’ve been thru 4 coaches in the past 5 years. Super-stars from Italy and other countries are engineering their way out of the club. German national player Podolski hated his time at the club, and left. Luca Toni from the Italian national team got fed-up and left. I’m sure the Bayern faithful can tell me of even more players going thru the revolving door at the club. And we’re supposed to believe it’s Landon Donovan’s playing ability that has kept him from settling at Bayern? I’m not buying it.

The best evidence of Landon Donovan’s playing ability is before our eyes at Goodison Park. Read it and weep all doubters.

http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/030810-galarcep-donovans-lasting-impression-at-goodison

Now I know that he goes on “walk-about” from time to time during US National Team games. I have no rebuttal for that. But so does every other attacking player from time to time. (Defensive players don’t have that luxury!) Even Wayne Rooney gets subbed when he’s having an off day, just to make the point. But take a look at the goal Donovan scored against mighty, mighty Brazil in the Confed Cup last year (Here), and tell me he’s not one of the United States’ best 2 attacking options heading into World Cup 2010. Go ahead. I dare you.