Monday, June 25, 2012

Didier Drogba enters the heart of the dragon; Will also star for China's Olympic basketball team

The rivalry between the U.S. and China has just transcended mere economics. With Didier Drogba’s decision to join the unpronounceable Shanghai Shenhua (and if we can’t say it, imagine the big Ivorian’s problems), the struggle to promote MLS soccer has just suffered a major blow. Since David Beckham’s move to the L.A. Galaxy, the MLS has become a haven for washed out European footballers. Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, and Rafael Márquez all took this trans-Atlantic trip to the states. So how big of a threat is the Chinese Super League to the growing MLS? Considering the quality of the Chinese competition, I’d say not big at all. The world’s most entertaining players—Messi, Andrea Pirlo, Xavi—are all marked by a gene of creativity, and under an authoritarian government like that of the People’s Republic of China (let’s be official) creativity is simply not characterized as a virtue. Drogba may join his buddy Nicolas Anelka at the heart of the dragon, but I doubt many European players will follow suit. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Italy gives England yet another early exit: Balotelli plays full game, still alive
There’s no more repulsive way to settle a soccer match than a penalty shootout, but when Italian striker Alessandro Diamanti drilled that last penalty past Joe Hart and into the net, justice was preserved. Though the Italians abandoned their typical defensive style, they squandered chance after chance while English defenders marveled at Mario Balotelli’s hair. The English attack, on the other hand, failed to make an appearance. Rooney gave validity to his oh-so-cunning Goodison Park nickname, “Fat boy,” trotting about the field like a Telitubby after a truffle. Other than an athletic stick save in the first fifteen minutes, Italian captain, goalkeeper, and part-time superhero Gigi Buffon had little to do but break down English attacks with his eyes. With his omnipotent gaze, Buffon selected the feeblest of the English squad for humiliation in the shootout—the two British players who shared a girl’s name. Both Ashleys, Young and Cole, missed their penalties and affirmed their femininity, and Italy walked into the semifinals where they face a strong German side.
In completely separated news, Mario Balotelli played a full game without earning a red card, a DUI, or a Darwin Award. Whether by his prowess on the pitch or his foolish antics, there is no disputing that this man is an entertainer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Spain ironically leapfrogs past France

A dominant Spanish side hollered “Bon voyage!" at their neighbors to the north after crushing the French foes 2-nil. Don’t let the score line fool you, however…it should have been 5. The French looked sluggish from the start, and the continual battering ram of Spanish attacks bashed France’s defense and ultimately its Euro Cup aspirations. Much of the event looked less a soccer match and more a reenactment of the Reconquista, as the Spaniards slashed away at the horde of Moorish defenders, Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri among them. France had a 15-minute stretch at the start of the second half where they looked somewhat threatening, but the side lacked the finishing touch that the absent great Thierry Henry had for so long provided. Spain's Xabi Alonso netted both goals, the first a powerful header off a precise Jordi Alba floater and the second an irrefutably deserved penalty. As Spain now turns to their neighbors to the west in the battle of Iberia, they can take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of their squad hails from two clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while the Portuguese players are far less accustomed to each other’s play. Ronaldo, however, will pose a far greater threat than Karim Benzema, or as the world now knows him, Benzemalo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Manchester United annihilates the Arsenal FC investment fund

Last Sunday, Arsenal was set to face Manchester United in what looked to be an enticing matchup.  Keyword: looked.  What Gunner fans hoped would be a thrilling victory turned out to be the most brutal thrashing Man U has delivered since their match against Grandma Gertrude's Pre-school for the Intergalatically Stupid.  Yes, Manchester United caught Arsenal with its pants down at Old Trafford, and what was exposed wasn't very impressive.  Make no mistake, the final score of 8-2 is a misrepresentation of the course of the should have been 10.  Rooney got his hat-trick; Ashley Young scored on a screamer into the top right corner...twice; hell, even Ji-Sung Park got in on the action.  When Arsenal team-member Carl Jenkinson (who's not quite deserving of the title "player") was awarded a red card in the 77th minute, Arsenal fans violently questioned the call.  "Who the fuck is Carl Jenkinson," hollered one supporter.  "Isn't there a mercy rule or something," called another.  With one day left to acquire new players, Arsenal will hope to find some players worthy of the Premiership.  The trouble is that few players are willing to take the risk of being sucked into the supermassive black hole that is Arsenal's defense, especially for the few nickel's that Wenger is willing to pay.  But who knows, maybe the Gunners will fend better in the Championship division.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Abby Wambach: our atom bomb

It's almost here.  Tomorrow is the World Cup final match between the American women and the pigmy people of Japan. Those miniature Japanese girls have upset Germany and Sweden on their road to the final, and are looking to defeat the US with similar elven magic. The US, however, possesses a weapon that could single handedly crush it's Japanese ant repellent. Some call her Abby Wambach, but I prefer "the Atom Bomb." Like a man among teeny tiny girls, Wambach's head could well be the deciding factor in tomorrow's match. Anyhow, the United States women have led an entire nation to watch a women's athletic event, leading most American sources to agree that they better not blow it. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Women's World Cup: worth a watch

Okay, I'll admit it.  I was a skeptic.  Women's international soccer?  I would have preferred watching bowling.  But Sunday's quarterfinal game between the US and Brazil turned all my cynicism into alchemy.  A 121st minute goal to send the game into penalties, despite a Brazilian player's attempt to waste time through faking an injury.  A US victory, nullifying Brazil's second half penalty goal, awarded on a phantom foul.  Fast paced, exciting, and packed with poetic justice, that was a world-class game.  And a message for all you skeptics who still maintain that women's soccer isn't soccer: please, remove your tampons and just enjoy the game.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Four "must-happens" for the US to contend at the 2014 World Cup

I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about what the US needs to do to become a World Cup contender.  Let me tell you, firing Bob Bradley is not going to cut it.  No personnel changes within the US national soccer program will catapult the US into the top tier of international soccer.  The change needs to be bigger: much bigger.  Here are the 4 things that need to happen for the US to win the 2014 World Cup.
4. Bye bye Bob Bradley.  That’s the easy one.  If any of you have a legitimate reason to keep him as the US head coach, please, enlighten us; at this point, I think even Bob Bradley’s not sure what Gulati (President of United States Soccer Federation) sees in him.  And for more reasons to axe him, well, see below.
3. Seek more contribution from our younger players.  It’s a new age of soccer.  World class players are rising at younger ages than ever (Messi, Rooney, Fabregas) and I’m not sure that older guys can keep up with the newcomers.  If you’re scratching your head, think back to what the young Mexican attackers did to our veteran defense.  Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.  At 22 and 23, Giovanni dos Santos and Chicharito don’t look like they need another few years to develop, and a 32-year-old Carlos Bocanegra looked like my grandmother trying to catch a butterfly.  Amusing, but not going to happen.   
2. Sabotage.  That’s right, sabotage.  It’s unlikely that the US will beat a team like Italy.  But it’s even more unlikely that they will beat Italy, then Spain, then Brazil.  That’s what it takes to win a World Cup.  But say we pull a few political strings.  Say Spain better not play David Villa unless they want, I don’t know, complete economic collapse.  The same goes for you Brazil.  Maybe the US’s chances are pretty good after all.
1. Pray.