Thursday, April 06, 2006
Movin' on up
To a deluxe semifinal against AC Milan in the sky. Barca progressed yesterday against Benfica 2-0, not without giving me a heart attack in the second half when they allowed former Barca player Simao Sabrosa a one-on-one with the keeper. Barca might be the only team that could nurse a 1-0 lead and still allow the opponent to break two-on-three and then free a striker to move in on goal unmolested because all three defenders came towards the ball. Brazil got knocked out of the 1990 World Cup by a vastly inferior Argentina side because of a similar mistake allowing Claudio Caniggia to score on Argentina's only shot of the game, but the Brazilian defenders could be excused more than Barca's yesterday because it seems more defensible to freak out when Maradona is advancing down the right channel as opposed to Fabrizio Miccoli.
My brother Dan was in love with that 1990 Argentina team, but they drove me crazy. I doubt there has ever been a more cynical, boring, undeserving team to make a World Cup Final. I hated them so much that I cheered lustily for West Germany against them in the Final. Then again, I also cheered for the Germans against England in the semi-finals because even at age 15, I had a good idea what sort of fans follow the English national team. Also, I was bitter that the English knocked Cameroon out in the quarters and that Cameroon team was the only exciting team in the whole tournament. The 1990 World Cup was so bad that even the Dutch came out ultra-defensive and scored three goals in their four games. The Irish, who combine the most exciting fans with the most boring style on a consistent basis, were right at home in a World Cup where sending more than two attackers over midfield was viewed as a Communist plot and made the quarterfinals, losing to Italy in a game that could have put Tony Montana wired on a mound of coke to sleep. I picked up a video of all the goals of World Cup 1990 at Media Play in Macon for $.99 and the producers had to show all the goals from six different angles to fill up a 70 minute tape.
I can't believe I cheered for these clowns and their puffy, Teutonic perms.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to give you a blow-by-blow of the game yesterday by pasting the e-mails that I Blackberried to Dan from Brewhouse, with assorted added comments:
2:44 - Si Puyol!!! The blue and red balloons are out. If there is a good insult for Portuguese people, I'd be texting it right now.
2:51 - PENAL PENAL PENAL!!!! Saved. Fuck.
3:05 - Barca don't look very sharp. They have all the possession, but the game is choppy and their passing is not great.
3:10 - And as soon as I open my mouth, 1-0, thanks to Eto'o. He deflected a Benfica pass to Larsson, got the retun ball, beat his man to the byuline, and centered to Ronaldinho to tap in. Sam had been quiet up to that point.
3:15 - Benfica like to dive.
3:18 - Eto'o just missed a great chance to make it 2-0. He just needed to chip the keeper and shot way over. The Benfica keeper is great at stopping shots, but he makes some really stupid decisions, like getting stuck in no man's land on that last play. He's not smart.
3:47 - Halftime. Barca have dominated, but 1-0 scares me. Benfica do not have a shot to their name and haven't created anything, but it only takes one. Barca dominated Real this weekend and that ended 1-1. Van Bommel missed another great chance; his finishing is Zague-esque. Eto'o has been awesome. He's playing the Ronaldinho role of beating defenders and distributing. Ronaldinho is slumping, especially on free kicks. The penalty wasn't badly hit, but it left the keeper a chance after guessing right. Larsson is in the wrong role as a winger because he cannot beat defenders with the dribble. Barca will be more dangerous with Messi. The defense has been comfortable and Valdes has had nothing to do. I'd give Barca an 80 percent chance now, but a second goal will make me rest easy.
4:01 - Andres Iniesta looks like he's ten years old.
4:02 - If you think I'm spelling this Greek fucker's name, you are mistaken. [Ed. note: try spelling "Giorgias Karagounis" on a Blackberry some time.]
4:09 - Sweet Jesus, Barca nearly gave it away. [Ed. note: You know I've been drinking when I start invoking someone else's messiah.] Great chance for Simao and he shoots wide. Valdes did well to challenge him. Simao is lying face down, wishing that he wouldn't have been so open so he could have taken a Louganis.
4:21 - Eto'o tried a ludicrous bicycle and the ball went into row Z.
4:26 - My guy Puyol just dominated your guy Luisao on a free kick into the box. SI PUYOL!!!
4:33 - Good save from Valdes, but he left a big rebound that was cleared by Oleguer. He's not exactly Mr. Safety back there.
4:37 - Done. Eto'o deserved one and got it from Ronaldinho and Giuly. Benfica were sucked forward and Barca went left-right-center and Sam had plenty of time to settle and score.
4:48 - It's over. 2-0. Barca were mostly in control, although they gave up two good chances in the second half. The ref was pro-Barca, which is not a shock since a Slovak is going to be intimidated by 98,000 fans. I doubt he gets much experience reffing in front of crowds like that on the weekend when he's handling Artmedia Petrzalka v. Dukla Banská Bystrica.