Friday, June 16, 2006

Open Wide For Some Soccer!!!

Simpsons - Soccer: Mexico Vs Portugal

Thanks to Grant Wahl and the World Cup draw bringing Mexico and Portugal together, here's an all-time favorite. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the last few days:

1. Argentina...holy shit! Part of my nervousness at the end of the Dutch game was based in the knowledge that Argentina's second-string are as good as their first string, so getting a result in the group decider would be difficult for the Netherlands, even if Argentina had nothing to play for. Argentina, with their sublime one-touch short passing, are now more like Brazil than Brazil. Remember in 2002 when Argentina were the favorites and Brazil came in under the radar? Remember how that turned out? Now, you think that we might have something of a role reversal at hand? Remember that Argentina '02 started with a relatively unimpressive 1-0 win over Nigeria? Now how did Brazil open this Mundial? It's too bad that Brazil's group is ridiculously easy and Australia is already talking about resting players to make sure that they're fit for the decider against Croatia. (A mistake, in my opinion, because Brazil are beatable [or at least tieable] while they still labor under the misapprehension that Ronaldo can kick a ball properly. Australia should also be concerned about goal difference so they don't have to go into the Croatia match needing a win.)

She's excited and that jersey is hanging on for dear life.

2. The Netherlands...whew! The Dutch played, dare I say it, a German game against the Ivory Coast. How many times over the years have I watched Germany play and then muttered afterwards "the Germans were outplayed, but they won. Kraut bastards!" Well, the Dutch displayed defensive frailties by allowing the Ivory Coast to get into good shooting position on a number of occasions (starting Gio is probably a defensive frailty in and of itself...and how the Dutch allowed a two-on-one immediately after a corner kick while nursing a 2-1 lead is beyond me) and they didn't generate that many chances, but they came out 2-1 winners anyway. At halftime, I had the same sinking feeling that I did during the Netherlands-Czech Republic classic in Euro '04, in which the Dutch blew a 2-0 lead and lost. This team is defensively superior to the '04 Oranje and also a little luckier. Or maybe they just benefited from the fact that Nedved and Baros weren't playing for Les Elephants. The Dutch allowed only one goal and that can be chalked up to an outstanding offensive play. Beyond that, van der Sar wasn't forced into a really challenging save. Was that because of poor shooting by the Ivory Coast or am I being too harsh on the Dutch defense?

The good news for Holland, other than the fact that they qualified for round two and will likely draw Portugal or Mexico (both of whom are eminently beatable), is that Rafael van der Vaart came on and looked very good, certainly better than Wesley Sneijder, who was anonymous in both games. (Kudos, by the way, to Tommy Smyth for spotting the Dutch weaknesses - Sneijder and Heitinga - before they were substituted. It was refreshing to have an analyst who knows his ass from a hole in the ground. His taunting of the English play-by-play guy about the Three Lions' epic performance against Trinidad and Tobago was even better.) If the Dutch can just get Arjen Robben to PASS THE F***ING BALL (which I may or may not have yelled at the TV in the 70th and 85th minutes when he shot instead of feeding open teammates in the box), they'll have a tidy offense. Van Persie is living up to billing and Ruud is due for a big game if he gets good service. For instance, if the star left winger would share his toys with the rest of the class.

2a. I feel really bad for the Ivory Coast. They're one of the better teams in the tournament and are heading home after losing two tight games against excellent opponents. It's not at all a stretch to say that they would have qualified out of just about any other group, other than Group E and possibly Group A if Ecuador really is that good. Tommy Smyth was pimping them for a run in South Africa in four years time and that sounds like a good bet.

3. Spain...grrr! Going into the tournament, Spain was a team in search of a striker. All of a sudden, Raul is banished, David Villa has started reproducing his form that let him bag 25 goals for boring boring Valencia, and the Spanish look to be a real threat to win the whole thing. They're solid everywhere else and Xavi is in position to be one of the standout players in this tournament now that he's healthy and rested after having missed most of the season with a knee injury. The Liverpool pair of Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso also look good, although maybe that was just because the Ukrainian players couldn't sleep the night before on account of the frogs outside their hotel. (Best excuse ever!!!) And don't think that I didn't make a "no one has flattened the Ukraine like that since Heinz Guderian" joke to my German friend.

4. It's so rare that I'm right about something that I need to take every advantage of repeating it, but I told you that France had offensive problems, right?


Anonymous said...

Oh man . . . I never tire of that Simpson clip. That is one of my all-time top 5 Simpson clips (from one of the best episodes ever, too).


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