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.