WWC: Not For Me

While I am a footie fan and follow the game worldwide, I am not a fan of the MLS, WPS or either the men’s or women’s USA national teams. Some individuals I talk to were surprised that I had no interest in watching the Women’s World Cup. Maybe it’s much like the WNBA, while their skills could be technically sound, watching them play is not my idea of exciting. I won’t deny what the women’s team have achieved in the past as they go for their third World Cup Championship (as I understand it).

As for the men’s team, their skill level is not on par with that of countries and clubs worldwide. There are some individual players who have made their livelihood playing abroad, for example Tim Howard, goalkeeper for Everton. Unfortunately after his little tirade when he was a sieve against Mexico I have lost much of the respect I had for one of the USA’s best players.

The game played in the states is not on par with the top leagues in countries like England, Spain, Italy just to name a few. Again, I have nothing to compare the women too since I have no idea the level of play of leagues outside the USA. I can’t even begin to comment on the WPS since the league is of no interest.

I am glad to see many non-soccer enthusiasts excited for the Women’s World Cup final, but I won’t be one of the many watching or really caring about the outcome of the game. For me the excitement begins with the new EPL season, August 13th with friendly matches kicking off this weekend.

Futbol Kicks Off

While the Community Shield match usually kicks off the start of the new English Premier League, today started with big names, big teams and big money headlining the weekend matches. While my horse in this race is actually in the Championship League, I have been a supporter of Liverpool over the last 5-7 years.

Today was a enjoyable start to the EPL with Villa putting the smack down on West Ham, 3-0 as Robert Green (England National Team member) looked terrible. On the other hand at least he got a start, unlike Shay Given was was upstaged by youngster Joe Hart. Way to go Roberto Mancini, not quite sure what spurred that move. I guess you can make a few million selling Shay to Arsenal now, since they have no good keepers, but need one in order to compete.

It was a great day for Blackpool supporters, who made their debut in the Prem and came off a highly impressive spanking of Wigan, 4-0. Roberto Martinez must have talked tactics too much during the 2010 World Cup because his squad was downright terrible today. Another loser was Everton, not sure why David Moyes can’t get his boys to start quick, since they finished last season so strong.

It was Spurs and Man City that got things started with a 1-1 draw, but it should have been a match that Spurs took all 3 points, if it were not for the play of Joe Hart. Even though Hart saw no time on the pitch during the World Cup, he played like a veteran today. I still think Given should have started. Hart spent all of last year at Birmingham on loan from Man City, where he played very well.

How about Chelsea, 6-0 over WBA! Welcome back to the Premiership, not quite the return West Brom had in mind. Oh yeah, Drogba netted a hat trick. Chelsea looked good, but West Brom looked bad.

I am participating in only one fantasy football pool this season, sponsored by www.premierleague.com where I finished strong last year, but have gained some more experience and think I am ready for a better year. As for my game predictions, I did not do very well. But it is early and I know I will fair much better in that department this season.

Finally The Super Cup is next weekend between scudetto winners, InterMilan and runner-up, AS Roma. The following week starts the actual Italian Serie A. The beautiful game is back.

2010 World Cup: Final Thoughts

So I have just finished watching Espana defeat the Netherlands, 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup final. The game was not all that pretty, many yellow cards and a single red card marred the match, but a late goal in the 117 minute by Andrés Iniesta gave Spain their first Jules Rimet Trophy.

I won’t say I lost interest in the finals this year as opposed to 2006. I was frustrated at the display the Azzurri put on as defending World Cup Champions, but when you play like shit, you usually end up going home after the group stage, which they and the other 2006 finalist, France, did. Then again France got what they deserved after how they secured the final spot in the field of 32 for South Africa.

I was more upset with EPSN and their terrible coverage, once again. Sorry, but their in studio talent was terrible. Alexi Lalas was just as bad as his counterpart 4 years ago, Eric Wynalda. While not as negative he was unwatchable. Props to Jurgen Klinsmann, Steve McManaman, Roberto Martinez and Ruud Gullit, all provided good studio insight to upcoming matches. But the likes of Mike Trico, Chris Fowler, Bob Ley are terrible. Why? Because they don’t follow the beautiful game. I will give them their due credit for American sports (MLB,NFL, NBA, NHL), but football they don’t have the knowledge or the understanding of the game to bring out best of the in studio talent.

I had no problems with their actual coverage, but the commentary was bad all around, much like 2006. Why? Because Americans don’t follow soccer…football for the rest of the world. Derek Rae, Adrian Healey, Martin Tyler (outstanding!) and Ian Darke brought their talents, as well as accents to bring the matches alive. All are very talented, as well as knowledgeable when it comes to the game. Ally McCoist and Robby Mustoe were the others worth mentioning.

John Harkes. GO AWAY! Sure you played the game, but you don’t have a very good studio presence when it comes to calling a game and lending your insight. Not to mention we always had to hear about the US team when they were not even playing. I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE USA WHEN THEY ARE NOT PLAYING, so stop! I doubt we will see him in 4 years. Hopefully we don’t get the likes of Landon Donovan.

Sadly, I would have to catch the first half of many games driving in listening to ESPN Radio, which was worse than watching it on television. The only voice worth a mention, Tommy Smyth for obvious reasons. If you don’t know the voice or the experience, then it’s your loss. The rest of the bunch were awful!

As I said in 2006 about 2010, I don’t think the commentary will get any better. Chances are it won’t get better in 2014 down in Brazil. I guess I make the effort to learn Spanish and watch the games elsewhere, because ESPN fails again in bringing the World Cup to America.

Soccer bandwagon

I find it quite amazing. Suddenly EVERYONE in the states is a soccer fan, especially after the run of the the Men’s National Team recently in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. I don’t expect the buzz about the sport to remain after July 11 when the World Cup comes to a close in South Africa. After the limited success the US tasted there could possibly be more interest in 2014 if they qualify for Brazil.

At work, I am the only individual who watches football on a regular basis, be it the World Cup or Euro Cup, Serie A or Premiership. When a game is on and I am not working I will be found watching. The going joke is I give people who pass by the break room 3 minutes, after that time, they get bored and walk on, usually commenting something about the low or no score. Typical.

Needless to say the media has been going World Cup crazy with all types of reports from local bars where USA fans gather to support their team. I heard one report of a “fan” who stated, “I am watching because I am a fan of the USA.” Huh? a fan of the USA, not necessarily the sport. Okay, maybe it just give you and many others an opportunity to gather, toss back from beer and watch a game.

I also need to say that ESPN has been worse than they were 4 years ago in Germany. The announcing, which I thought would be better has been horrid. There are some bright spots, such as Ally McCoist and Martin Tyler. Unfortunately ESPN is “renting the British accent” for the worldwide event. Nonetheless the addition commentary being provided by John Harkes I can do without. He like his counterpart 4 years ago don’t lend much to the game. I was tired of hearing about the US team when they were not even playing being televised!

A bright spot has been the insight provided by Roberto Martinez, currently the manager at Wigan. He has been very good in the studio pre-match and at half-time providing his insight to individual players, tactics or the game in general. To a less degree I have also enjoyed listening to Ruud Gullitt. Hopefully 4 years from now they decide to can Alexi Lalas, but PLEASE do not hire Landon Donovan!!! I hope 4 years from now I can get coverage from someone like Sky Sports, where they understand the sport and are passionate about it. Hell maybe I should learn Spanish, as I hear the announcers have been top class on another network from a few friends.

Italy Doesn’t Advance

The 4-time World Cup Champions, Italy are going home. Their performance has been deplorable! From their initial group stage match until the introduction of Andrea Pirlo, during the 56th minute of their match with Slovakia, the drive, creativity and play making of the Azzurri was missing.

Questions will be raised as to the decisions of Marcelo Lippi, his squad, his tactics and his desire to guide the nation through the 2010 World Cup. Unfortunately, one thing he cannot do is step on the pitch, unlike his selection of the starting XI.

Italy was beset with injuries to Gigi Buffon during the first match with Paraguay. A reoccurring back injury has caused him to miss the remaining two games. This was probably the biggest loss to the team, since he was one of the leaders of the team. Federico Marchetti was his replacement during the match with only 7 caps on his resume. There are no ways around this, Buffon’s loss was crucial. Maybe in 4 years Marchetti will be ready on the international level.

The other injury was to Andrea Pirlo, who was the master of the midfield for Italy. His decision and play making in the midfield helped Italy win the cup 4 years ago, but with his current injury there was no one to step up and fill his boots. Riccardo Montolivo was his replacement, but Montolivo is highly inexperienced on the national level and not the same type of player as Pirlo.

The strikers were probably the worst of the group. I am not sure why Lippi decided to stick with Iaquinta. His play was terrible in 2006 and no better in 2010. While he does have a nose for goal inside the 6 yard box, he brought very little to the offensive attack for Italy. Alberto Gilardino was missing in action. Younger players like Pazzini, Quagliarelli and Di Natale (the future) all saw limited action. Not calling up the likes of Rossi, Cassano, Boriello and even Balotelli will be questioned.

I know this has been mentioned before, but there was no on pitch leadership the likes of Francesco Totti. Maybe I am still living in the past, but Totti brought so much to the squad when on the pitch. His leadership was invaluable and there were no current players who stepped up to fill that role.

The creativity, decision making and play making of the Italians was missing. They were not playing with any heart through out the tournament. Only for a brief moment did we see them switch gears, which led to their goal versus Slovakia. Outside of that moment, the performance of Italy was terrible. We kept saying, “next game,” well during the last match we look back and contempt why we did not advance out of the group.

I guess we look forward to the Prandelli era for the Azzuri, as Lippi steps down now and start working for Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. None of the old guard will remain, names like Pirlo, Gattuso, Buffon, Iaquinta and Cannavaro will all be gone.

Pathetic Performance

It is getting more and more difficult to watch the Azzurri in the group stage. That would be Italy, for Americans who don’t follow the sport. This has been a very interesting World Cup in South Africa. We have seen perennial powerhouse teams struggle. Earlier in the week, Spain defeated by Switzerland, 1-0. Brazil put to the test in a 2-1 victory over North Korea. France with all their in fighting not performing well on the pitch. That is called karma. Germany looked good in a 4-0 drilling of Australia, but turn around and lose 1-0 to Serbia.

So why is Italy struggling to get out of the group stage? Commentators will claim it’s their age, as Lippi has held on to many of the old guard and did not give talented, younger players a chance on the squad. I have been frustrated with the play because of the lack of play making and creativity by the midfielders. On big problem was the loss of Andrea Pirlo to injury, which has caused him to miss the two group stage games to date. Riccardo Montolivo has played well in Pirlo’s absence, but the creativity from that position is not to the level of Pirlo.

What continues to be lacking through out the team is a lack of leadership on the pitch. Francesco Totti combined leadership and creativity to be one of the best Italian players in recent history. This current squad has no one who has those attributes while on the pitch. I thought Lippi would have been able to lure him out of retirement just one more time. Unfortunately Totti stuck to his guns and I respect him for that.

The game Italy has played in the past included long, lofty passes from 30-40 yards out into the top of the box and let Toni run onto them. I can’t say it really worked then and it’s not working now. I won’t blame the ball for one minute since many crosses are being over hit. It all goes back to team work and working the ball up the pitch in order to create opportunities on goal. The few opportunities they did have were saved by Mark Paston to his credit.

They have one game remaining versus Slovakia, who lost to New Zealand and Paraguay, so Italy will have to sack up and play much better in order to have a good chance to advancing. Lippi should have a few changes in mind. Hopefully Pirlo will be ready to command the midfield. We will know in just a few days if the Italians will be defending their 2006 World Cup.

America Plays Soccer, the World, Football

I believe there are many fans who are supporting their nation during the 2010 World Cup are not fans of the game, especially in the US. I am sure the same can be said of other countries too, but I chose the US because football…er…soccer as most Americans call it is not one of the top sports played in the states especially at the youth levels cannot compare to that of baseball, football, basketball and even hockey or auto racing.

Now that I have said that, I have received e-mails and comments saying I have “un-American” and “not patriotic” amongst other colorful adjectives when it comes to my lack of support for the US Men’s National Soccer Team. While not Italian, I have support the Azzurri since I started watching football from the Serie A, being a supporter of AS Roma, it stands to reason I fly my colors for Italy when the World Cup comes around.

Many “fans” seem to have a problem because I lend no support to my home nation. Why should I? First, the sport is not popular in America. Their professional league is mediocre at best, usually used as a playground for older European players. Any homegrown talent makes the move to Europe in order to advance their football careers.

Through out this World Cup I have found myself cheering for the likes of North Korea, Switzerland, Japan and New Zealand. Not necessarily strong teams when it comes to international competition, but because they have pushed some of the perennial favorites and in some cases victory. It’s more than just about your home nation. This is “the beautiful game” and watching players of this caliber on the international stage provides for some great football.

I will give credit where it is due, the US did create two nice goals versus Slovenia as they came from behind to draw. Funny, but when the US drew 1-1 with England many in the media and fans called it “a win.” Not sure how they come up with that logic, but whatever makes them feel successful.

Much like England, the US is underachieving in this World Cup, England more so. Another point versus Algeria and they will be on the long flight home possibly ending another three and out campaign at the World Cup. We have already heard the cries of “foul” for the disallowed goal that would have given the US a victory yesterday. Wouldn’t be the first time and I am sure it won’t be the last. Take your lumps and move on. Just ask France, who shouldn’t even be in South Africa if it were not for Thierry Henry’s “Hand of God” moment.

World Cup Fever

So ham radio has taken a backseat since June 11 because of the 2010 World Cup that is taking place until July 11 in South Africa. It has been a wonderful tournament to date., As I write this I am watching Argentina trying to hang on to a 2-1 lead over South Korea. This cup has already produced some shockers, such as #1 Spain dropped their opening match to Switzerland and an injury time victory by New Zealand.

My morning has consisted of getting up at 4:20am, putting on a pot of coffee and watching football for 6 hours. So far I have caught every minute of every match, some recorded because of my work schedule. No team has really impressed. Germany, by virtue of 4 goals, then again they did play Australia.

The other surprise was the effort put forth by North Korea to drop a 2-1 decision over powerhouse and 5-time winners, Brazil. I found myself pulling for North Korea to upset Brazil, a team that did not really impress me with their play. Dunga has already said he it was not the Brazilian football we had seen in the past.

Couple an unimpressive victory of Brazil with a loss by Spain and the 2010 World Cup could be a wide open tournament. As the tournament moves on in the group stage, teams usually step up their play. Case in point, Argentina is now 4-1 up over South Korea. So talented team can strike and strike quickly putting a game out of reach.

There have been a lack of goals in the first group stage matches, 6 teams scored 2 or more goals. Blame the ball or the defensive style of play early on. Based on the performance by Argentina, a favorite in my book and you will see the better teams open up the play and fill the back of the goal with balls.

Enjoyed the play so far, it’s great seeing all these talented club players come together on a great team. Unfortunately some fans have unreal expectations of their nation and players. Not sure why I even contribute my comments on FoxSoccer.com because there are some really asinine comments from what seems to be people who don’t even follow football.

As for the US, I am still not a supporter. They got a gift and a lucky victory over England. With Tim Howard now injured and a lack of talent up front, coupled with a lack of experience I think the US will have a tough time versus Slovenia.

A Draw?

I find it kind of curious how many articles I had read regarding the 1-1 draw between the US and England and the opinions that Americans are “satisfied” with this outcome. Just add this to a long list of why the US will never be a world power when it comes to the football or on the international stage. While I cannot comment on the match today, since I only caught the second half, this loss lies squarely on the shoulders of England goalkeeper, Robert Green.

Since I have played goalie since I was a kid, the mistake Green made was a basic mistake of not getting his body in front of the ball. I don’t see how you try to half-ass a save at this level of competition. Ultimately, Fabio Capello is to blame, since he decided to use Robert Green and all 10 games of international experience instead of the more experienced, but at time inconsistent, David James. I feel James would have been more comfortable, especially in this game with his experience. I can say pretty confidently he would not have made a blunder of this caliber to cost England the game.

Pending the outcome of the group stage I still feel England will advance, but have more serious problems on defense With Ledley King now injured and James Milner somewhat outclassed by an average US team, Capello will have to rethink his line up in order to gain a maximum of 6 points from his next two games in order to advance. I don’t see England going past the round of 16. Not with the squad they have, the question marks at the goalkeeper position and now some injuries.

ESPN: Not Good Coverage

Damn their pregame is just as bad as their post game. Thankfully Julie Foudy and Eric Wynalda are no longer with us as in studio guests. Although Alexi Lalas is not much better. But it’s the host for those shows who don’t know a damn thing about the sport, yet their try to sound like they know the game and have studied it, when that is not the case. They are promoted with scripts that try to make then sound knowledgeable. While I am not a real big fan of the Fox Soccer Channel, at least they provide a bit better insight, unfortunately games are not shown on FSC. Setanta Sports, now part of FSC would have been excellent, but again ESPN has the rights to the 2010 World Cup and we must go with their below average coverage. With that said, at least ESPN did hire some on air talent in Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Derek Rae and Adrian Healey.

As for the matches themselves, the RSA v Mexico match was a bit more entertaining that the last 35 minutes of the Uruguay v France match I saw. France just looked terrible and maybe Mexico, who showed flashes of brilliance will advance, possibly with Uruguay who played the last 10 minutes or so down a man. RSA, much like France were terrible. A nice goal in the second half gave Bafana Bafana some life, as did the crowd in the stadium, but I think they will come back down to earth in the next match.

Mexico looked much better and controlled the flow of play for a majority of the time, but they could not finish and in my opinion got caught too high on defense at times, once which led to the South African goal. All teams still have a shot at advancing. After seeing France (and I”ll watch the rest of the game today) it looks as if Mexico and Uruguay could both advance.

2010 World Cup: Let’s Play

As I sit here at work composing this piece we are a mere 15 hours away from the first kickoff from Johannesburg featuring host nation, South Africa taking on Mexico. It has been 4 years in the making and now the waiting is over. The media can stop with hit pieces and predictions as all bets are off when the whistle blows.

I am still going over my bracket and will have it finalized today (courtesy of FoxSoccer.com and Facebook.com). I still have Brazil winning the cup for the 6th time, but I do believe there are a few (very few) contenders who can playing the kind of football necessary to stop Brazil.

Those other teams are Spain and Argentina, even with that madman, Maradona. Spain is a complete team, the starting XI are all world-class players. Memo to the USA, wanna know when you have a good team, look at Spain. Hell look at Spain’s bench! Sorry, got sidetracked, did not want to turn this into another anti-USA piece. Argentina, while a bit suspect on defense, maybe because of the formation have the best firepower up front. But as the saying goes, “defense wins championships” but if the big guns get going it might not be possible to stop guys like Messi, Tevez, Higuaín, Agüero and Milito.

As much as I follow Serie A and the Azzurri, I have serious doubts they can defend the World Cup. The last team to repeat, Brazil in 1958 and 1962. If history plays a role, then Brazil comes out on top as they have won every 8 years going back to 1994, nearly as impressive as their run from 1958-1970. Brazil is a complete team on the pitch. They control the midfield and dictate the match. They are quick on the counterattack and and can build even quicker from the back. They are coached by a legend, Dunga who participated from 1982-1998.

I tend to believe that all the hype, speculation and “fluke” victories in previous cups and matches leading up to the World Cup Final don’t mean a thing. For example, France’s version of the “Hand of God” as performed by Thierry Henry or the US upsetting Spain, 2-0 last June in the Confederations Cup. Or the controversy surrounding Uruguay and Costa Rica and Algeria and Egypt. These 32 teams did whatever it took to make the trip, unfortunately the reality is 26 of those teams have no chance at raising the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Of the other teams I did not add, I feel Germany, Holland and the 2006 champions, Italy. Germany will play a sound game, as they usually do, having success in their ground, drawing an easy second round match, but possibly running into the freight train, if they get into the quarterfinals. Holland much like Germany have an injury in Arjen Robben to deal with, but a healthy Van Persie who could pick up the slack. In my bracket, Holland wins the group, and makes it to the quarterfinals only to be KO’ed by Brazil.

Finally the reigning world champions, the Azzurri. This is not the same team that won 4 years ago, while some of the names are the same, it is still a team looking for some leadership and direction. Put nothing in to their (lack of) performance up to this point. As defending champions, you feel a certain aura surrounding them or any other champion. Hopefully that aura is not broken early on. In a very favorable group they could draw the powerhouse that is Spain in the quarterfinals. Still I feel Lippi has one more shot at glory and that would be holding on to the trophy for four more years.

Since I seem to catch a fair bit of flak as being “un-American” or “hater” when it comes to comments about the US National Team, here is my reasoning. First the “professional” league in the US, the MLS does not field the same caliber of player as many of the European leagues. Many of the national team players play abroad, or shall I say apply their trade, as many don’t see regular playing time or attempting to help their club from being relegated to lower division football.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, there are a handful of players who could play and possibly star on some of the big name clubs though out Europe. Tim Howard, while not a top 10 goalkeeper in my book is proven and a solid shot stopper. Clint Dempsey plays for Fulham, who is a middle of the table EPL club and his skills could see him coming off the bench for larger clubs. Finally, the man with the chip on his shoulder, Landon Donovan. Why he continues to play in the MLS is beyond me. You cannot dispute his skills and he proved he could play in the EPL while on loan to Everton. But why the hell go back to the Galaxy and the MLS? You want to be taken as a serious footballer, leave the MLS. At 28 years old, he still has a few good years remaining, but the MLS is were aged stars come to play, so I guess it fits him.

All in all it will be a a great 30 days of football to watch. Looking forward to catching every game as I did in 2006.

FoxSoccer.com: WTF?

I am beginning to resent reading articles from FoxSoccer. The writers who have provided recent content are not good. Maybe some of this can be knocked off to the 2010 World Cup. I doubt it, but I was looking for some excuse to continue reading what they print.

How about we start with Jamie Trecker. He claims to be a “working journalist for 25 years” but his writing begs the question, “Does he really follow the beautiful game?” He has been covering the 32 nations competing in this year’s world Cup, but there has been a considerable amount of inaccurate “journalism” (if you can call it that) provided. Much of the country history provided could be found on Wikipedia and probably more accurate that some of the information he has attempted to convey.

When it comes to the nations and players his style of writing seems to continue done a poor path. Anyone with an opinion can be called a “working journalist.” Hell, by me writing this why don’t I call myself a journalist, but unlike Trecker I have a real job. Chances are I could have provided as good of synopsis as he has done for 29 days. I already know the homer support for the USA when it comes to the last team he will write about.

Today, it went from bad to worse with Robert Burns, “a senior editor” submitting a piece titled, “Burning our flag should incite U.S. payback.” It is an absolutely terrible article about “a mob of despondent Liverpool supporters” who burned a U.S. flag in protest because of the American owners.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Jr have been terrible owners for Liverpool. Want to know why L’pool had such as poor season, outside of injuries, look at the owners. Of course you see them on TV sitting in their box, looking like footie fans, but we know better. “I’m disappointed because I think we’ve done everything we can to improve the club in so many ways over the past three years from the way it had been run before,” said Tom Hicks. The only success L’pool had was in 2006 when the Americans took ownership losing in the Champions League final.

As the Liverpool motto goes, “You’ll never walk alone.” The only ones who should be walking alone are Hicks and Gillett making sure the door does not hit them in the ass on the way out.

Now that I am worked up, the article is nothing more than a poorly planned hit piece attempting to banter support for the USA prior to their first group round game with England. This is not a newsworthy story at all. Who cares what a few Liverpool supports did. Much like the mainstream media, Robert Burns has taken an isolated incident and turned it into an international disaster.

Mr. Burns who cares if another country is burning our flag. We have seen these actions by many countries over the year. Americans still don’t know shit about, what they call “soccer” while the world call it football. On Saturday that big stick you see and feel will be the US being smacked upside the head once again, by another superior nation on the pitch. Keep asinine articles like this to yourself. I am shocked Fox Soccer would allow such a thing. Guess there are always other, more reputable football sites to read.