Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Claudio Caniggia is on Line Four

[Full marks to me for the pun in the title that about three of you got.]

I fully support Bill Simmons coming into the light and becoming a footie fan. The fact that he is doing so for most of the same reasons that I love the sport (although unlike Bill, I played and watched from a young age because my parents are British Empire emigres and because I was less bad at it than other sports) is especially nice. As he progresses from being a casual fan into obsession like his buddy Marc Stein, he'll learn not to make statements like this:

As a scoreless second half creeped into the 80s, he was muttering to himself and yelling helplessly at the television. Tottenham was controlling the flow and getting more scoring chances; in soccer, karmically, that eventually translates to a goal. (Note: That's different from playoff hockey, where one team can dominate an overtime for 15-16 minutes and the Hockey Gods decide, "Wouldn't it be funny if the other team scored on some garbage goal?" The Soccer Gods aren't nearly as cruel.) Throw in Man City's urgency to score, as well as its inevitable sub of an extra striker in the last 10-12 minutes, and Steiny Mo was becoming increasingly resigned to his fate. Tottenham finally scored on a defensive lapse and a hard rebound headed in by Crouch -- karma again, since he had just missed by a hair on about 25 chances in the game. Ten minutes later, we had a 1-0 final. Yet another heartbreak for Man City.

Bill, not only are footie fans familiar with the concept of a team dominating a match and then losing, but there is a term for it: smash-and-grab. The Platonic ideal for the smash-and-grab is the first example listed in that Guardian article: the Italia '90 round of 16 match between Brazil and Argentina in which Brazil created all the pressure for 80 minutes, then got beaten on one Maradona counter that caused unmitigated panic in the Selecao's rearguard.

My favorite aspect of the highlight is Caniggia's look of utter shock after scoring, as if to say "this wasn't part of the plan at all! We were supposed to win in penalties after a goalless 120 minutes!" Because of their performance at the 1990 World Cup, I hated Argentina for years, although their slick side at Germany '06 changed my mind.

There's another smash-and-grab not mentioned in the Guardian's article that is near and dear to my heart:

At some point, I need to create a tag for all of the posts in which I have invented reasons to include that clip.


LD said...

He better also learn not to make statements like this:

"The match would decide fourth place. You couldn't have a bigger soccer game."

I know his contract at ESPN is up soon and they're trying to keep him happy, but, c'mon. Edit that stuff. Seriously.

Bigger soccer games that have occurred in the last month or so:

Man City - Man U
Liverpool - Chelsea
Sevilla - Barca
Fulham - Hamburg
Schalke 04 - Bayern

And in another month or so there will be, like, 64 matches that are bigger than a battle between two big spending overachievers over a qualifying spot in the Champions' League.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I appreciate the Barca clip. Good goal at a great time. But I have 8 reasons to smile today and a league title to hoist. It eases some of that pain.

Drogba let me down with his first half crying. But he made up for that with a second half hat trip. Three goals make me forget that he's a bit selfish. But he is influencial. Ask Time magazine.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what a hat trip is. But who cares.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Was the Iniesta goal really a smash-and-grab? Chelsea had been the "better team" to that point thanks to their defense, I guess, but Barca had still had way, way more of the ball in that second half IIRC.

I agree that watching Simmons lapse into soccer fandom is like watching a baby walk for the first time. Or something. He said Spurs had "built more points" than City leading up into the match. Oooooh, he's so cute when he tries to write about soccer!

I'll agree with LD that there are plenty of traditionally "bigger" soccer matches out there at the moment, but to be fair, given City's and Spurs' history there probably haven't been too many more that meant more to the fans involved. For the teams, that really was about as big as it gets.

Michael said...

LD, you could make the argument that in terms of financial stakes, City-Spurs was as big as it gets, but it would still be trumped by Barca-Sevilla, which had one team playing for a CL spot and the other playing for the La Liga title.

Anon, I was quite happy with Chelsea's title. Anything to stick on in Sir Alex's eye. As for Drogba, I feel conflicted on him. On the one hand, he's a complete prat on the field. On the other hand, he is a saint off of it. I hope he does well this summer.

JH, Chelsea pretty much dominated the second leg against Barca. They were up 1-0, Valdes had made a pair of terrific saves, and they had a penalty shout or two (but not four as they claimed afterwards). Although Barca had a ton of possession (they always do), Iniesta's shot was Barca's first shot on target of the match. Over two legs, Barca were slightly better because Chelsea played with their tails between their legs at the Nou Camp, but for one night, they were significantly better than the Blaugrana. Too bad about that ending.

Unknown said...

Regarding the pun in the title, if I remember my 94 WC, he had a big assist there too from Maradona.