Posts Tagged ‘World Cup 2010’


June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Way bigger than the Olympics.

The Super Bowl doesn’t come close.

The best part about going to the World Cup for a month in 2006 was that is was like going to a huge international party. Germany was the host, and everywhere you went it was party atmosphere. Munich. Nuremburg. Dortmund. Berlin. And everywhere else in between. You could hang out with Ecuadorians in the plaza in front of the Koln Cathedral, or you could dance with Angloans in Frankfurt. And when we left Germany briefly to visit Prague, we partied with the Dutch at the main plaza in the city center.

If the US team plays to their ability, we can advance to the 2nd round. Let’s hope Oguchi Onyewu is healthy, and that we don’t miss Brian Ching too much. I think Buddle, Gomez and Robbie Findley (GO BEAVS!) will pick up the slack in case Altidore, Donovan and Dempsey aren’t firing on all cylinders. Watching Dempsey score against Ghana in Nuremburg in 2006 was absolutely CRAZY! I was hoarse for days afterward. (Sorry, not worth $56 to upgrade my account in order to upload my video.)

Ghanians in Nurenburg

Singing for the USA

Witnessing the USA draw 1-1 against eventual champions Italy in Kaiserslautern with only 9 men was one of the most impressive displays of team unity that I have seen by the US team. Keller’s stop on Del Piero in the waning minutes made the house come down! Best save of the tournament.

Keller saves from Del Piero at point blank range

I can’t wait for World Cup 2010 to begin. There’s going to be way too many games to possibly watch — not that we won’t try. I am suddenly feeling the remorse for not buying tickets to South Africa. What a mistake! (Plus, you never know who you are going to run into at the airport.)

Ronaldinho and Adriano heading home to Brazil

But *THE BEST* soccer moment was being in the stands in Dortmund when Ronaldo broke the all-time World Cup scoring record that had stood for over 30 years.

Ronaldo scores #15

Or you can watch it HERE.


The Karmic Justice of World Cup 2006

June 7, 2010 6 comments

Italy was the best team at the UEFA European Football Championship 2000.

Maybe you don’t know, or maybe you do, that every 4 years they have the Football (Soccer) Championship of Europe. It’s like the World Cup, but it only includes the teams from Europe…and it’s offset by 2 years from the World Cup. So, we had the World Cup 2006 in Germany, and then the European Football Championship in 2008 in Austria/Switzerland, and then the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

At the 2000 European Championship, Italy was the best team, although they lost the final game to France. France had been beaten by the Netherlands earlier in the tournament. France was completely outclassed. And, it took a very controversial penalty kick awarded to France against Portugal in their semi final game for France to even make the final game.

Meanwhile, Italy were a revelation. Somehow they came out of their naturally defensive shell. They attacked teams, reveling in their newly found freedom. They scored lots of goals, and they played wonderful soccer. In the other semi final, Italy played with 10 men against the same Netherlands team that had previously beaten France. Italy were a man down for most of the game, but still played inspired football and won.

And the Final match was brilliant…almost. Italy were doing everything right – absolutely outplaying France – except they just couldn’t score a goal. Del Piero had three breakaways…but he didn’t score even one of them. If ever a team was lucky to be hanging on by the collective skins of their teeth, it was France in the first half of the Euro 2000 Final.

The second half started, and Italy scored a goal. Finally! I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief. Finally, finally, they made all of their dominance pay off. France tried to break through the Italian defense, but they just couldn’t do it. As the game neared the end, I was so happy for Paolo Maldini. This guy is one of my soccer heroes. He had been so close to winning a major International tournament, but had never quite done it, losing in the final in 1994 World Cup and the semi finals of the 1990 World Cup on penalties.

But it was not to be.

In the 95th minute of the game, well into extra time, French forward Silvain Wiltord took a hopeful shot on goal, and it took a wicked deflection. It wrong-footed the Italian goalkeeper, and trickled into the goal. The game was tied. France would go on to win in extra time. Italy was totally wasted after having two 120 minute games in a row, and unfortunately the wind came out of their sails after missing so many chances in the first half. Ultimately they couldn’t bounce back from the late lucky shot that tied the game.

It was horrible. Yes, sometimes luck plays its part in sporting events, and in the Euro 2000 Final, France got lucky.

But fast-forward to 2006, where these same teams met in the World Cup Final in Berlin. Many of the same players that had played against each other in 2000 were on the field again. (Unfortunately, Paolo Maldini had resisted repeated requests from the coach to play on the 2006 World Cup team for Italy, and was not on the team.)

Your probably know the story of World Cup 2006 Final. The teams were tied after regular time 1-1. If you go back and watch the highlights , try to find the foul that was called to award France a penalty kick and score their only goal of the game. I still can’t see one. Then, Zinedine Zidane lost the plot, was thrown out of his final game for France after head-butting an Italian player, and the rest is history. Italy won the World Cup!

Some say that France was a better team in the 2006 World Cup Final. I happen to agree that they played very well. France with Zinedine Zidane is one of the best soccer teams to ever play on Planet Earth. If they had a weakness in 2006, it was with scoring goals. But as the final game wore on, France looked the likeliest to score and win the game in extra time.

So what made Zizu do it? What made the greatest player of his footballing generation head-butt an opposing player and effectually end France’s hopes of lifting the World Cup just when they appeared poised to win the game?

It was Karma, baby. Karma left over from Euro 2000 final, that France won against a superior Italian team on a lucky desperation shot in the final second that happened to be deflected the right way into the net. You can try to cheat Karma on the soccer field, but it finally caught up with France in World Cup 2006.

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.