Saturday, January 26, 2008

Setting the bar lower each and every time

Havant & Waterlooville 1, self-respect 0
[Photo credit: BBC/Getty Images]



There are dreams, and then there are nightmares. Rafa Benitez understands this concept very well, although the brand of sleepy-time entertainment he prefers to peddle certainly falls into the "fever and terror" category.

Today, Rafa's understrength side [although "understrength" doesn't come into it when we play a fucking pub team] laboured through a first half that saw us trail twice to the part-timers of Havant & Waterlooville. A hat-trick from Yossi Benayoun and some spirited saves by backup Charles Itandje were needed before we could finally relax, but the 5-2 result is flattering. Simply put, the minnows deserved better.

I sat through most of that game, glued to the sopcast on my laptop instead of doing something more productive, and I sometimes wonder why I do this to myself.

I've been a Liverpool fan since before I could walk [although with the amount of alcohol you have to consume sometimes when we play like this, it's a miracle I can still walk], and while the last of averages dictates that your team will invariably play like shit from time-to-time, it doesn't matter. It still hurts.

This one, despite the eventual win, will hurt for a while, not just because I am good friends with several fans of the other Big 4 clubs, but because it's personal pride.

I'm going to need a lot of booze today to wash this one down. I look forward to all the colourful photoshops and opinions over the next week. We deserve them all.

Read more on "Setting the bar lower each and every time"...

Appalachian State Would be Happy

Quick Update: 8:15 AM PST And so ends H&W's awesome run. We no longer require updates, as the match has moved to 4-2. Rafa survives another day, albeit with a ransacked house.

7:50 AM PST Equalizer at the death of the 1st half! Well, the 44th minute, but honestly, if we've got a 2-2 match between H&W and Liverpool, the 44th minute is now the death.

7:35 AM PST And Liverpool prove their Premiership bona fides! Thank goodne...well, that didn't last long. TWO-ONE to the Loovillians? I don't even think I could do this on Championship Manager.
Rafa Watch: His house has already been burgled, and they'll soon be coming for him at Anfield.


Yes, that is Havant and Waterlooville 1, Liverpool 0. At Anfield. We will have more from this potential hilarity as events warrant and an APB is put out on Rafa.

Read more on "Appalachian State Would be Happy"...

Because it has worked so well for Liverpool

That's it, it's officially a trend. Derby County is set to announce new American owners on Monday, if Sky Sports is to be believed. I'm undecided as to which is the better joke, so I'll let you decide:

A) Just wait until they find out the team is in the Championship next season.
B) Just wait until they find out they are not allowed to move the franchise to the States.
C) Just wait until they find out there are no more US players available, because Fulham already signed them all.
D) (fill in the blank in the comments)

Read more on "Because it has worked so well for Liverpool"...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tips from the West Ham training ground: FA Cup edition


This weekend is the fourth round of the FA Cup. The drama, the passion, the true soul of English football, plus wild bets on lower division sides I know nothing about!


Last week I went 1 for 3, correctly picking the draw at Newcastle, but got fucked over by West Ham and Liverpool. Wankers. Anyways, here's who I like in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Liverpool vs. Havant & Waterlooville H&W 80 to 1 to win

So, the chaos at Anfield continues, with Hicks and Gillett larding additional debt onto their already teetering LBO of Liverpool. Meanwhile.....ok, who am I kidding? If Rafa loses this one, he had better be on the first flight back to Spain before Hicks calls up his ole buddy G.W. asking for a favor that involves airstrikes on the casa de Benitez. Liverpool are going to win this one five-nil.

Arsenal vs. Newcastle Gunners 4/11 to win

After the black day against Spurs in midweek, expect Arsenal to bounce back to make quick work of Newcastle's shaky backline. Its going to be like a gay porn shoot out there with all the balls flying around. In a quirk of scheduling, these two play each other again in London on Tuesday. Lets see the Gunners go for at least ten over the two legged Kevin Keegan beatdown.

Derby vs. Preston North End 11/5 to draw

Derby, as we all know, are terrible, while Preston North End are stinking up the joint in the Colaship. So I'm betting on a dire 0-0 or 1-1 game that leaves no one satisfied.

Mansfield vs. Middlesbrough 'Boro 2/5 to win

Don't worry, I still think Gareth Southgate is a shit manager. But Mansfield are starting relegation from League 2 square in the face, sitting one from bottom. Despite the homefield advantage, I'm going with the Premiership class to shine through. Yeah, I just used class and 'Boro in the same sentence. Lets just move on.

Bonus long shot pick: Wigan vs. Chelsea Lattics 11/2 to win

So Steve Bruce was on the FA Cup preview show last night and sounded confident about his side's chances. One look into his doughy face and I'm convinced he means it when he says Wigan can pull off the upset. Actually, Wigan usually play Chelsea pretty tough, before giving up a backbreaker in the last 20 minutes or so (excepting that 2-0 loss they took in November to Roman's boys).

Read more on "Tips from the West Ham training ground: FA Cup edition"...

Is Waterlooville near Pinacoladaburg?


Waterlooville Sunset's Fine.

It's an FA Cup weekend. We'll see if Liverpool can finally make a bitch of a lesser opponent. It's going to be tough as they host non-leaguers Havant and Waterlooville [Note: mp3 link], the only side in English football that stole their name from a second rate Monty Python knockoff.

I'm sure nobody at the FA is reading this because I'm not sure any of them are literate (hey, these are the people that hired Steve McLaren) but here's a modest proposal. And it doesn't involve eating Irish babies.

Uh, what's the biggest untapped market in all of fútbol? And what is going on in said market this weekend? The correct answers are "the US" and "fuck all." If you got both right, congrats, you're now qualified to manage Fulham.

Imagine if the weekend's match-ups included, say, Arsenal v. Man U; and Chelsea v. Liverpool and they were given late kicks, say, 20:00 GMT. Give Americans just long enough to panic and realize there might not be shit besides golf on TV. Then give them a cushion so that can not only find a bar, but they can get their BAC up to something near "impaired."

Instead the one weekend on the sports calendar where rabid sports fans on this side of the pond have no fucking clue how to occupy their time, the FA gives the world Blackburn v. Villa.

I'm not suggesting the FA tailor its schedule to work around the NFL, but it would be fucking an ideal time for another "Grand Slam Saturday" (Or Sunday) if the FA had tailored its schedule to work around the NFL. Or at least complement it.

Dumbasses.

That said...the scores for next week. Numbers ahead of time, teams affixed after midweek fixtures.

3-2
4-1
2-2
0-1
2-1
2-0
0-3
2-3
2-1
4-0

Read more on "Is Waterlooville near Pinacoladaburg?"...

Frank Rijkaard Sure Knows How to Make a Girl Feel Good

Who ate all the Feijoadas? Ronaldo (left) or Ronaldinho (right)?

If you've known a girl for more than 10 seconds, you know the question's coming sooner or later - "Do I look fat?"

The answer is always, always, always, "No, you look great." Do not pause, not even for a second, lest she thinks you had to think about it. Don't qualify or embellish, opening yourself up to a follow-up question. And whatever you do, don't compare her to someone else - you're just digging yourself a hole there. She'll think either, (a) "Why did he bring her up? Does he think she's prettier than me?" or (b) "Why did he call her fat? What a dick!" Completely irrational, I know, but that's how girls think, and there's no way you can win. Of course, Frank Rijkaard never learned this lesson, and answers the question, "Is Ronaldinho too fat?" with "Oh no, but you know who's fat? Ronaldo!"

Good lord, that has to be the back-handiest compliment/defense ever. Also according to Rijkaard:
  • Adriano doesn't have a drinking problem. George Best, now there's an alcoholic!
  • Fulham isn't having a bad season. Derby, now there's a team staring relegation in the face!
  • Jamie Lynn Spears isn't trashy. Britney, now there's an unfit mother!

  • Right about now, at a restaurant in Barcelona, Rijkaard's frantically trying to explain that he didn't mean anything by it, while Ronaldinho refuses to take a bite out of his dinner. They can be so weird.

    Ronaldinho image from Getty Images

    Read more on "Frank Rijkaard Sure Knows How to Make a Girl Feel Good"...

    I'm still a little drunk

    In lieu of anything more productive from me today, enjoy this wonderful piece of history from the crossroads where music and football collided.

    Why, it's the Anfield Rap!

    Read more on "I'm still a little drunk"...

    Yahoo Fantasy Soccer Advice

    Your weekly does of rampant fantasy football speculation. Remember, I know nothing. Just try to get as much information as possible before making your selections.

    Last week wasn't so bad. It was quite sweet to be sitting in Kinsale Tavern and watching my pick Benjani Maruwari pick up his second hat-trick of the season. Not so sweet, me not having enough units to pick him up. Oh well. On to the rules:

    Rule #1: Go outside spend time with your loved ones.

    There is only one weekend matchup the rest being midweek after the FA Cup ties, so you have time to go outside.

    Rule #2: Pick players from teams with good matchups.

    Only my pick of Arsenal matchups was any good last week. This week I have my money on:


    Arsenal (home to Newcastle) - Arsenal looked decent last week without Toure and Eboue, with the obvious exception of the Carling Cup Massacre at the hands of Tottenham.


    Chelsea home to Reading - Reading is just not very good and I like Anelka to break his Chelsea duck. He scored decently last week with a goal. Also, look at Chelsea wingers J. Cole and Malouda, and maybe Ballack.


    Man City at Derby - Derby sucks less at home, but it still sucks. Look for Petrov and Elano to have big games and a strong showing by Man City's defense. One thing to look out for--Man City sucks on the road and Bianchi looks like he gone. Not much scoring upfront...maybe Vassell?


    Man U home to Pompey - Class is class and Man U is the class of the league right now. Plus they are at home. Unfortunately, everybody is expensive so pick wisely. Rooney looks to be back on track and Ronaldo is always on this season. See Rule #4.


    Both teams in the Villa - 'Burn matchup - Take the offense in this one, both defenses have look suspect. Bentley is one of the top middies in the EPL and a price to prove it, but he produces every week. Roque Santa Cruz (Santa Claus) has cooled recently but I expect him to pick it back up. Villa strikers is where I think the points will be at Carew, Young and Agbonlahor. Of those, I like Gabby to victimize the suspect 'Burn defense.

    Rule #3: Don't pick players that won't play.

    Check here for injuries. Check here for suspensions.

    Rule #4: Don't ever drop Cristiano Ronaldo prior to the December double matches and you should probably have him in your squad.

    Ronaldo seemed to do nothing last week and still managed 16.5 points. The guy has never met a shot he won't take. If you have him at a discount no need to sell him, but don't gut your roster to get him. Spend money on Bentley or Adebayor.

    Rule #5: Don't chase points. When choosing, just remember class is forever, form is temporary. Just because somebody scored well last week doesn't mean he will score well this week. I'm looking at you Benjani. Your units are better spent elsewhere and his price will probably come down after the ManU and Chelsea matches.

    Rule #6: Look for cheap transfers.

    Their prices will be low. Just try to figure out who is class like Petrov, Elano, Torres and Santa Cruz have been this year. Try to avoid the Pizarros, Maloudas, Bianchis, Ballacks, and Shevas of the bunch. Funny, a lot of Chelski there.

    This year there hasn't been any big transfers that have come in for cheap to free up units in your squad. So, try and make some money by buying cheap defenders and keepers. Although I feel this is cheating, you can put Mokoena in for 2 units even though he's not playing. Ryan Nelsen, injured, is also cheap but not likely to play. Michael Ball is cheap and new Sunderland players Bardsley and Evans might be worth a punt, although it is Sunderland.

    As for keepers, I am thinking Niemi might be worth a punt. Also, Reina isn't likely to get any cheaper, you just have to think LFC will do better this week. I have my doubts.

    Read more on "Yahoo Fantasy Soccer Advice"...

    Scotland Round Up


    You know it's a bad day when your team scores a goal in each half, but they would not have been able to cover a +6.5 spread. That happened last weekend to Berwick Rangers of Scotland's Division Two. Iain Diack bundled home a brace for the visitors, but home side Peterhead netted nine times in reply. I'm sure Berwick wish they could blame it on the red card they received, but it was already 7-1 at the time.

    After the jump, a look at last week's matches and this weekend's upcoming games.


    In the SPL, top side Rangers squeezed out an 89th minute winner to defeat home side Inverness CT 0-1. Celtic maintained pace with Rangers, lazily defeating Kilmarnock 1-0 at Parkhead. Dundee United shocked me, for one, by pasting Aberdeen 3-0. The game hinged on a missed penalty by Aberdeen at 1-0, while United padded the win with two goals in the last ten minutes. Gretna, showing good form with the return of prodigal goal scorer Kenny Deuchar, beat Falkirk 2-0. Hearts topped Hibs 1-0 in the Edinburgh derby, and St Mirren ran over Motherwell 3-1 (which is the only score I predicted correctly). In the Third Division, East Fife took care of Forfar 3-0.

    Record on last week's predictions: 3-4.

    There was also some midweek action, as teams struggled to fit in Scottish Cup ties. Aberdeen bounced back from their weekend loss by continuing to deny Falkirk, winning 3-1. Rangers thrashed East Stirlingshire, but not by as much as they probably could have, keeping the score at only 6-0. And, in an all SPL clash, Motherwell and Hearts both managed to reverse their results from the weekend. Motherwell benefits from a 1-0 win.

    This Weekend's Action:
    Aberdeen (5th, 33 points) v. Hearts (10th, 24 points)
    Both teams reversed my expectations last weekend, and both played in midweek. Aberdeen's home form has been very good this season, but too reliant on late winners in the last few ties. This will be an uncomfortably close match with one team grabbing a goal in the last 5 minutes. If Aberdeen gets it, it's a two goal win, if Hearts grab it, it's a draw. Prediction: 3-1


    Hibernian (8th, 28 points) v. Gretna (12th, 13 points)
    I learned my lesson last week. Since the good doctor has come back from being on loan, Gretna has looked a lot better. They are still 9 points away from safety, but will make Hearts, Killie and St Mirren very nervous after the split. Road form is still a question, though, so look for a draw here. Prediction: 2-2


    Kilmarnock (11th, 22 points) v. Dundee United (3rd, 35 points)
    Remember what I said about Killie last week? Forget it. Bland football is not the way to my heart. United is coming off of a confidence boosting win over fellow Euro hunters Aberdeen. Their tails are up and looking for points. Prediction: 0-2


    Motherwell (4th, 35 points) v. Inverness CT (7th, 31 points) Caley Thistle were unlucky last week, holding Rangers until the last minute of regulation. Motherwell grabbed a cathartic win in midweek. ICT will probably be the fresher side here, but Motherwell should hold on for a draw. Prediction: 1-1


    Rangers (1st, 50 points) v. St Mirren (9th, 25 points)
    Saint Mirin was an Irish monk and Missionary who settled in the area which became Paisley, Scotland in the 7th century. Helen Mirren is an Oscar-winning actress, and hot. Neither of them will help St Mirren come Saturday. Prediction: 3-0


    Falkirk (6th, 32 points) v. Celtic (2nd, 46 points)
    Falkirk has had a run of overachievement through the years. The town has one hell of an architectural wonder. Maybe that's what will distract Celtic on Sunday, because the Bhoys are going to drop points here. That's right, Rangers will have a 6-point lead on Monday. Prediction: 2-2



    SPL logo from scotprem.co.uk
    Other images from Wikipedia.org

    Read more on "Scotland Round Up"...

    Guinea and Ghana take care of business


    Guinea holds off the score-happy Moroccans in a surprising well played match while Ghana helps Nambia packs their bags for their trip home. Also, news on possible match-fixing has reared its head four days into the tournament. Sadly, I lost the office pool as I expected match fixing stories to come out on day two.



    Thursday Results
    Ghana 1-0 Namibia A closer game than one would have thought after Namibia's trouncing by Morocco two days prior, but swapping keepers is a worthy idea. The play was inspired but the result was probably set before the match started. Sorry Namibia.

    Guinea 3-2 Morocco This match features some great ball play, more excellent goal scoring, and the tournament's first red card, a very nice unprofessional ankle kick. Guinea bounced back from their early lost to Ghana with great play from Pascal Feindouno, who then decided to pull a sweep the leg move on Morrocan midfieler Erbate in an off-ball incident. Morocco's first was a nice free kick just a few minutes into the match that left the keeper confused. After a second goal by Bangoura, Morocco scored on a brilliant strike to bring the match close. However, there was too much Feindouno: two goals on set pieces, and a red card. Well done.

    Other News

    In other news, there are stories surfacing that the Benin coach was asked to fix the Mali match. The mistake the gentleman made was that he approached the right team, but the wrong coach. You never ask a German to fix something unless you have some serious cash. They are always righteous. But he has a valid point - the smaller African counties can not pay their players that much, and the ones that don't play in larger leagues could always use the extra cash (forget that, most people could use the extra cash). We'll see if something comes out in the coming days on more stories on match-fixing.

    Friday's Matches

    Ivory Coast v Benin, B, 17:00 Speaking of match-fixing, they should not have to worry here, and Ivory Coast should be set to handle Benin with ease. Nothing against Benin, but with Drogba leading Ivory Coast, they will be motivated to play well or feel his wrath. For some reason I always think if Kevin Garnett when I see Drogba out on the pitch - fiercely competitive and unhappy with sloppy play.

    Nigeria v Mali, B, 19:30 Expect this match to be a bit tighter, and Nigeria may play this one tense. They need to win or go home, and going home isn't an option to them right now. Mali is playing fairly inspired ball so far. Having an obscure music festival in their western desert doesn't hurt either.

    Read more on "Guinea and Ghana take care of business"...

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Manchester United Has Already Signed The Squirrel


    Squirrel soccer
    Uploaded by slzaza

    Read more on "Manchester United Has Already Signed The Squirrel"...

    Corona + Soccer = Crazy Delicious Lame


    If someone were to drop the phrase "ultimate fan experience" I'm thinking that I might be getting an invite to the next Man U Christmas party. Hell, save for the fact that I'm not one of the top strikers in the EPL, I've got better game than Wayne Rooney (Seriously, dude, those are the pickup lines you can get away with when you're a world class footballer?). And I don't look like the groin stomping older brother of the 'Free to Be You and Me' babies.

    Instead "ultimate fan experience" is how Murdoch's Globochem Soccer Channel is pimping their viewing parties. Co-sponsored by Corona, the network is throwing these at soccer watching bars around the country.


    By sheer coincidence, there happened to be said viewing party at Ginger's in Chicago last Saturday (January 19, 2007). Ginger's Ale House holds the distinction of being America's "#1 Soccer Bar" from 2003-2005 (as voted by US Soccer). Perhaps the fact they are both in Chicago has helped stack the deck in their favor, but Ginger's is a perfectly good place to watch games. Three rooms, lots of TVs, and I have yet to arrive at an hour too early for them to be serving alcohol.

    That's batting 1.000 in my book.

    When I checked the Web to see what time the Gunner's kicked, Ginger's site made mention of the Fox Soccer Viewing Party. "Okay, cool, maybe some soccer schwag and cheap beer both being handed to me by chicks in bikinis." I'm not opposed to some spring in Springfield before 10 am on a Saturday.

    I'm going to go watch the Gunners regardless. Any freebies on top are just that: freebies on top.

    When I walked in, there was absolutely zero sign that there was anything to distinguish this from any other weekend of fútbol watching. No signs, no people in crazy sombreros, no overly hot girls be used as currency solely for the purpose of getting me to order a beer I probably wouldn't otherwise.

    Instead about halfway through the second half of the matches (United and Chelsea were on simultaneously in the other two rooms) some mid-thirties guy opened up a cardboard box and dropped the above-pictured bottle openers on my and most everyone else's table. He actually dropped five, but I only took three (something about being greedy).

    About 10 minutes later some douchebag came out of the back room and asked the guy if he was giving away free beer. In all fairness, I never actually met the guy, but I'm comfortable in saying he was a douchebag because he was sporting a Chelsea jersey.

    About five minutes later I saw the same guy drinking a Corona. I don't know if he got it bough for him by the churchkey master or not. But that was the extent of the "ultimate fan experience" as it took place at Ginger's.

    Truth be told, most such "parties" are usually pretty lame, but at least the alcohol company in charge has the good sense to hire busty bimbettes in skimpy clothes to hand out their schwag. So even when it comes to sexist exploitation of women for the purposes of whoring products, soccer in America is still pretty much on the last rung of the chain.

    On the other hand, you have to give either FSC or Corona credit, it almost takes effort to produce something that lame.

    Read more on "Corona + Soccer = Crazy Delicious Lame"...

    David Beckham, What a World-Killing Wanker

    This is how it is. You get to the top and they try to bring you back down. Here we have a man living the dream. Wife, kids, money, living in Beverly Hills, and all the press wants to do is shit on him. Well, I for one, am having it.

    Today we learn that David Beckham is the dirtiest Englishman on the whole planet. Even when we include this guy. Inside, we'll break down some of the numbers and see just how Becks stacks up with some average Americans.

    Beckham is, of course, "playing" for LA Galaxy while trying to earn his 100th cap for England. He's probably also on his way to becoming a Scientologist, but that's really not germane to the discussion (or is it?). Of course, club and country being so far apart (5500 miles) leads to a lot of Frequent Flier miles. Those miles are industry code for how much you are killing the planet, and Becks is doing a smash up job.

    Someone with a lot more time than me calculates that Becks logged about 250,000 miles in the air last year, and not all of that was when Steve Sidwell took him out. That equals up to over 20 trips between his new home and his old one. It's also equal to one trip from LA to the moon, but that's just one way.

    So how about some hard numbers?, you say. Okay, why not?, I answer. Beckham is theorized to have been responsible for 163 tons of Carbon Dioxide last year, just under twenty times of what the Average Englishman puts out. But he's in America now, so we have to look at how he stacks up with Americans. Let's take an average American in the news, Michael Bloomberg. The Mayor, who has advocated a greener style for his city, pumped 364 tons of the stuff in the atmosphere last year. Or, as I like to call it, 2.23 Beckhams' worth. Sure, Becks is high for an average American, as we do about 20 tons of damage per person a year, but he's low for an American in the news. Some difference could be answered by the stupid English version of a ton, but I'm not touching that.

    Some discussion is also given to the Beckham's large fleet of 15 vehicles. That does seem like a lot. I know I only have two in my household, but then, I only have one kid. There must be some sort of geometric exponential that goes on when you have three kids. Unfortunately, the article make no mention of how much fuel goes into these cars, but it can't be as much as Shaq uses. Shaq spends $24K a month on gas. He must have one of those cars that goes 7 feet to the tank.

    Cheer up Becks lovers. It's not all bad news. There are plenty of worse people out there, even some bad ones in Britain. That doesn't mean he's off the hook with us, though. We may not stop until he gives up his jet-setting, footballing ways forever. Even then, we'll undoubtedly be hit with links for how he's moving to some smaller club, even when he's retired. Right, fellas?

    Thanks to my blogmate, E-town Hooligan, for the graphic.

    Read more on "David Beckham, What a World-Killing Wanker"...

    Scandals. Italian Football. Surely not!


    Inter beat Parma last weekend thanks to a rather dodgy penalty call that left the Italian press (or at least those in Rome, Turin, and half of Milan) crying foul.

    Of course referees favoring big clubs is about as Italian as Peroni, falling governments, and Fiats. But the odd thing is that Milan or Juventus historically have gotten the calls, not Inter. Clearly Berlusconi and the Angelli family are not bribing the right people at the Italian FA anymore.

    Paolo Bandini writes in the Guardian that:

    Now - although there's no concrete evidence to back them up - the whispers are back. Insinuations that Inter benefit from too many questionable decisions have been brewing all season, and yesterday's controversy comes just one week after they were awarded a far more dubious spot-kick at Siena. Before Calciopoli, many Italians would talk of the sudditanza psicologica - psychological subjection - suffered by referees, a supposed involuntary mental shift which caused them to unconsciously favour big clubs. More and more, the term is creeping back into the Italian football discourse.
    Those who expected Inter to crash to earth this season will be surprised by the Nerrazurri's presence at the top of Serie A with 49 points. Skeptics will point to the referees, but Inter's players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in particular, have been having great years.

    There is, however, still some drama left, as Roma managed to snag a win against Catania despite the absence of Totti and about half the first team. The Romans are only seven back, and if they don't sell half their team to Sven and Man City during the transfer window, they have a chance to win the Calcio for the first time since 2001.

    Milan, who have a ton of games in hand thanks their mid season vacation in Japan, won as well, meaning they sit only 10 points out of a Champions League spot.


    Photo from interfc.com

    Read more on "Scandals. Italian Football. Surely not!"...

    Fulham, You're So Moneyball and You Don't Even Know It



    So you probably heard, Eddie Johnson is now the fifth and latest member of the "Fulhamerica" contingent at Craven Cottage. Though perhaps more curiously, he is just one of five strikers that Roy Hodgson will have potentially signed by the end of the January transfer window, with Marlon King, Daniel Cousin, Erik Nevland, and even Jari frickin Litmanen linked with the Lillywhites.

    That's not to mention the forwards who are already at Fulham, including the incumbent Yanks Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride, as well as Hameur Bouazza and Diomansy Kamara!

    Granted, the aformentioned players aren't exactly in the class of Dirk Kuyt, anyone who has watched Fulham play this season can tell you that their problems lie in the middle and the back; their reliance on long balls means they do lose possession and run out of gas too easily. Combine that with the lack of size and an authoritative central midfielder, and you can see why they allow so many goals in the last 10 minutes of the match.

    So why another American? And why so many forwards when they really need defenders and defensive midfielders?

    First question is easy - Americans are, relative to their value, cheap. Americans are reasonably priced, and for the most part, they've turned out to be decent investments in the past. Plus, they already speak English and the second-class status of the sport in the US means they aren't prima donnas. American players are the soccer equivalent of the emerging market stock - if you know what you're doing, you're going to get great price-to-earnings ratio.

    And their insistence on creating a glut of forwards? For the same reason Fulham likes them Yank boys - market inefficiency. My fellow Unprofessional foulers have pointed out that defenders and midfielders are expensive, especially in January when demand outweighs supply, and recent history is littered with January acquisitions gone wrong. Rather than make a desperation buy on a player who might not improve their chances significantly, it's better to buy reasonably priced assets whose value would be about the same in the summer, when they'll either be selling off players (if they go down) or looking to fill their needs in the transfer market (if they stay up).

    If nothing else, the surplus of forwards might allow Dempsey, who's often isolated up top and forced to come back deep to get the ball, to drop back into midfield. Anyway, here's hoping that even if Fulham does relegated, at least some of the American 5 will find jobs elsewhere in the Premiership.

    Read more on "Fulham, You're So Moneyball and You Don't Even Know It"...

    Japanese pervert finds refuge in the birthplace of perversion

    How do you say "good times" in German?
    [Image: Japan Times]


    Anyone remember this story? Didn't think so. Well, the classiest Asian midfielder ever is back in the news again as he finally finds somewhere to peddle his wares. His.... soccer wares.

    22-year-old Naoya Kikuchi, banned for 1 year from playing in the J-League after his teen-tampering exploits, has signed on to play in Germany for second -division club FC Carl Zeiss Jena, a club once known for being one of East Germany's most dominant clubs while the wall still stood.

    It is unknown at the moment what he thinks of the deal, but perverts moving to the home of schiesse-porn [don't google it], busty frauleins and a burgeoning teen porn empire is surely a bad idea for those on the receiving end.

    Read more on "Japanese pervert finds refuge in the birthplace of perversion"...

    The Italian Stallion gallops home


    Man City summer signee Rolando Bianchi previously told us how much he loved playing for the Citizens. Now it looks like he will get his wish and play in Serie A again with Lazio.


    (Picture from Football.co.uk)

    Read more on "The Italian Stallion gallops home"...

    African Cup of Draws



    Wednesday featured two very excellent matches, with some sweet long balls ending up in the back of the nets. While South Africa/Angola and Tunisia/Senegal both ended in draws, both matches featured late equalizers.

    (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

    South Africa 1-1 Angola South Africa is claiming to be fielding a younger team, and are using that as an excuse in case they fail. Angola struck first, and looked solid. They ended up getting lack at about the 30 yard mark, and that was all it took for van Heerden's equalizer. Nice way to catch the defenders napping.

    Tunisia 2 - 2 Senegal Senegal should of won this game outright. Even though Tunisia struck early and first, Senegal scored two and seemed to have the match in hand. But this late strike from outside the box salvages the draw for Tunisia.

    Thursday Matches

    Guinea v Morocco (1700) Guinea played well but lost against Ghana. Morocco played lights out against Namibia. Morocco won't be able to score at will against Guinea, but it will play well enough to win easily.

    Ghana v Namibia (1900) West Ham defender John Paintsil is currently doubtful for Ghana due to a possible concussion, and it looks like they may have other injuries that could give them problems. Namibia needs a win or they're packing their bags.

    Read more on "African Cup of Draws"...

    Wednesday, January 23, 2008

    Those Who Can't Do, Offer Expert Analysis

    At least he has his good looks. (photo from the BBC)

    Since when did getting fired from a job make you an expert on the very job you failed to perform?

    Steve McClaren is more annoying now than when he actually held a meaningful position. There goes Second Choice Steve, giving a world class coach advice on how to win "the England way" (what exactly does he know about winning, England way or otherwise?). There he goes again, saying Beckham deserves to get his 100th cap, nevermind that Becks would have gotten the century mark under his stewardship if he hadn't insisted on leaving him off his squad until way too late in the Euro qualifying campaign or sucking as a coach.

    So when I scour the headlines, just seeing the name "McClaren" causes my eyes to go into a Pavlovian roll. And sure enough, the is spouting crap again:

    The MLS is developing but it’s not of the standard required for international football.
    That's odd, because less than six months ago, McClaren had this to say about the league's level of play after watching Becks in his first MLS match:
    It was a good standard. It was possibly Championship top half, lower Premier... I understand the concerns, but he will be OK. Maybe playing in central midfield, he will get more of the ball, do more running and get more involved and that might help him.
    Gosh, someone's a lot more candid now that he doesn't have any bridges to burn, isn't he? And really, the Premiership's just doing a bang up job of developing goalies and strikers.

    Read more on "Those Who Can't Do, Offer Expert Analysis"...

    Pharoahs feast on Cameroon


    Two matches Tuesday in the African Cup, with Egypt laying the smack down on Cameroon, and Sudan returned to the pitch after a long absence, and then realized that they needed to practice more.


    AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell



    Cameroon 2 - 4 Egypt
    Zidan, Rabou, and Eto'o hogged all the scoring, and it took Cameroon a half before they woke up and played with any intensity. By that point, the match was essentially done. Zidan's goals were both great works of quickness and footwork; if I was smart enough, I would have video embedded, and not linked.


    Sudan 0 - 3 Zambia
    Finding something about this match was a daunting task. It was like we wanted to ignore Sudan for fielding a team based on players from the northern half of the country. I've always been a big fan of the theory that Sports can bring cultures and people together in ways that forced politicalization can't. But in this case, we're apt to see an early exit for the Sudanese team if they keep it up. Zambia scored in the second minute and controlled the play.


    Wednesday's Matches
    ----
    17:00 - Tunisia vs Senegal
    19:30 - South Africa vs Angola
    (Times in GMT of course)

    Both of these matches kick off Group D action. South Africa is not a strong favorite as I had first though to advance from this draw. Senegal seems to be the most polished squad, and I think the Tunisia match should be the most entertaining football of the two. Angola has the physical team, and will probably push around South Africa.

    Read more on "Pharoahs feast on Cameroon"...

    The Good, The Bad, The WTF

    As I dive deeper into the mess of football shirts from the '80s and '90s, I can't help but wonder just how bad it can get. Sure, we've had pink shirts, brown shirts, and a couple of Why? shirts, but we haven't really had a bad shirt yet. Well, friends, that all changes now.

    Peterborough United generally has a pretty classy look about them. Blue shirts with white trim is the order of the day, somehow fitting for the club known as "The Posh". Their change strips are not much different in style, usually solid color shirts without much fussiness. But in 1994, possibly inspired by the World Cup creations of Jorge Campos, that all changed.
    This, my friends, is what was dubbed "The Pizza Shirt". The most immediate thought I had when I learned that name is that I never want to eat an English pizza. Too much sauce, I suspect. But back to the shirt. The most aggravating thing about this shirt is the fact that the design swallows up everything that would identify it as a Peterborough United shirt. You can't see the crest, the hat, or even the the lettering at the neck, unless you are within five feet. Now sure, teammates could pick each other out in even the worst conditions, but who is going to buy this? Well, some people did, because there are pictures out there, but those people must feel really stupid when they think about it today.

    Lest you think that PUFC may have sensibly paired this shirt (if that was even possible) with a short that might complement it while not being heinous, I give you this
    I guess we should all be thankful that they did not extend the confetti theme down to the socks. I wonder how long it took that kid to throw away his copy of the programme that he was on. I'm guessing by the time he turned 19 he was far too embarrassed having been pictured in that kit to still have it in his possession. I don't blame him.

    Shirt image from oldfootballshirts.com
    Programme image from specialistauctions.com

    Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

    Dickstomp.

    [Cheers to Bigus Dickus for the snapshot]

    The "Dickstomp".

    It's an especially sweet, humiliating form of torture, one that longtime Arsenal fan and Deadspin writer David Hirshey has enjoyed dishing out to the EPL rank-and-file for some time now.

    In Tottenham's case, they've been dickstomped enough to be reclassified as being positively female, their genitals now a pallid, gray mash thick with bootprints and ridicule.

    Well, last night, it was Arsenals' babies who felt the cruel smash of shoe-on-groin.

    Hirshey, Bigus Dickus and myself gathered to enjoy the game in midtown, and by the hour mark, Hirsh had packed up and scurried back to the office, muttering something about having flap copy to write.

    From the third minute onwards, after Jenas' jinking run-and-shoot goal amid a sea of pubescent Gooners, you had a bizarre thought in the back of your mind: will this turn into a rout? It did, thanks to further goals from Lennon, Keane, Malbranque and a superbly-headed own goal by Bendtner.

    Arsenal tried their best to keep it competitive; after an early injury to Denilson, Fabregas leapt off the bench to play 75 minutes. Wenger's excuses about it being a young side were shaky at best from the get-go, with Gallas captaining and playing his first game in the Carling Cup for three years, and the decidedly non-youth team presence of Sagna and Hleb for the full 90. After the fourth Spurs goal, one which saw Goon keeper hiding his face from the shot, Wenger sent Eduardo and Adebayor into the game for reasons best left unknown.

    And in proof that dickstomping can be successfully applied to oneself, Adebayor butted Bendtner in the nose, prompting such a row on the field that the FA's requested footage of the incident.


    Malbranque's injury-time tap-in completed the rout, and ended Arsenal's long, arrogant run of consecutive wins in North London derbies.

    As a Scouser, it irritates me that Arsenal do not lose very often, but they need to remember this feeling. It's important to know how to lose with grace, and casting all the youth and inexperience comments aside, their on-field petulance and fondness for dirty from-behind tackles in the last third of the game was hilarious to watch.

    This is Spurs' biggest win against Arsenal for almost 25 years, and their first win against the Goon since 1999.

    And while it's only one game in a middle-of-the-road knockout tournament, it still feels good. Seeing a big team get embarrassed every once in a while gives the pretenders hope. It lets you know that the game is still all about who wins in the 90 minutes, regardless of current form. Bendtner and co can put this to one side, say their apologies and get themselves ready for an EPL run that sees neither Spurs nor my Liverpool in the hunt for the trophy.

    It remains to be seen if Arsenal will have recovered their genitals for Keegan's jaunt into town this weekend.


    Photo Credit: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images

    Read more on "Dickstomp."...

    Fuck shit fuck

    Look kids, a smiling douchebag!
    [Photo Credit: Liverpool Echo]


    Fellow Scousers, our nightmare is about to come true.

    Hicks & Gillett are close to securing their 350 million pound loan refinancing, which will keep them firmly where they are in the owners' box for the foreseeable future.

    The Yank wheeler-dealers borrowed 185 million pounds for the purchase of Liverpool last February, which was augmented by another 113 million from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Somehow, despite Monday's stock market issues, they've managed to assure both RBS and Wachovia that a 350 million pound refinanced loan is a smart idea.

    How did they do it? By upping their personal guarantees from 30 to 55 million, and in doing so, breaking the hearts of fans and players alike.

    I'm sick of these two. Dubai is still in the picture, but they're adamant that they won't give a huge profit to the Duo if any buyout was agreed upon.

    The refinanced loan does keep stadium plans on the table, but it remains to be seen what will happen with the squad and with Rafa Benitez.

    Gerrard spoke out the other day about the distraction, and now with this new loan deal, there's seemingly no end in sight.

    The Guardian blog has a couple of good articles about this mess, each of which dives into the numbers and percentages points better than I certainly could.

    The one thing I do know is that the continued ownership of Hicks & Gillett is bad for the club. The longer they're there, the bleaker things might get, as it won't take much in an already-unstable financial market for the bottoms to collapse out of their heady gambling.


    ---
    Fuck. This takes the sheen off last night's Goon shellacking. I'll still find a way to enjoy it later though.

    Read more on "Fuck shit fuck"...

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Carling Cup Preview: You Are My Arsenal

    I will freely admit that I came late to this party. It was only a few years ago that I started following Arsenal (I'm told that makes me a "Gooner"). There was no Simmonsesque process of elimination. Instead, it happened pretty naturally. Arsenal play beautiful football, their games were regularly on FSC, and I will freely admit to having a mancrush on a certain striker who used to wear the number 14 for Arsenal. If you're going to start following a foreign sports league, you might as well pick a pony to win, place or show (or, as the case may be with Arsenal recently, finish fourth). I bought my Arsenal scarf and kit, smiled at people on the street when they noticed them, and pretty much went about my business like any other fair-weather fan of a foreign sports team.

    The only problem is that the closest bar in my neighborhood that shows football also happens to be home to the Spurs support club. Said bar is the home of Spurs supporters because, I'm told, they have been kicked out of every other football bar in New York. These supporters are not in any way like the chosen people they so like to align themselves with. In other words, there was no wandering through the desert looking for a home. You see, the Jews (of which me and a certain Dave Hirshey are proud members) are polite, well-meaning people. These Spurs supporters are nothing like that. No, I've learned that this particular tribe is rather loud and arrogant. And I'm still not sure why, other than it has to do with overcoming certain anxieties and lack of confidences.
    It was in early September that I wandered into Floyd to see the much-anticipated Arsenal versus Manchester United match. As you may recall, Arsenal was at the top of table. The game ended in a hard-fought draw thanks to a last-minute Gallas equalizer. The late match was Spurs-Middlesbrough, so Floyd was filled with Spurs supporters waiting for their team to play. And wouldn't you know that the Spurs fans were cheering against me and the few other people wearing Arsenal gear. As impressive as it was that so many Spurs supporters could sing in unison, it was all pretty silly and frankly none of us who were there to see Arsenal play really cared. But, when the game ended in a draw, there was a huge cheer and songs and dancing and clapping and wagging of fingers. Remember, Arsenal were top of the table and they had just got a tough draw against Man U. Meanwhile, Spurs were deep in the relegation zone and, later that day, Spurs got the same result as Arsenal –- only against Middlesbrough.

    Which brings me to today’s Carling Cup fixture between Arsenal and Spurs, and a point about disparate expectations. For Dimitar Berbatov, tonight will be the Spurs' match of the year. For Arsenal, it's just another chance to humiliate their north London rivals.
    Hoo hum. How disparate are the expectations between these two teams? Such that injuries and African Cup of Nations absences mean that Wenger has to resort to starting first team members such as William Gallas, with Fabregas, Adebayor, Hleb and Sagna also having been named in the squad. That's right, Wenger has to change his game plan of letting the toddlers beat Spurs's starters. And it's really a win-win for Arsenal, no matter how much celebrating there will be if Spurs win. If Arsenal loses, they get to concentrate on the Champion's League, Premiership and FA Cup. If Arsenal wins, it's a trip to Wemberley for the kiddies. Oh, and another humiliating defeat to the Arsenal for those Spurs fans who populate Floyd.

    Read more on "Carling Cup Preview: You Are My Arsenal"...

    Second coming of God not as fun this time around

    Even though my own team is in a far bigger palaver at the moment, it doesn't mean I can't poke fun at those only just less fortunate: the stripey dolts on Tyneside.


    Kevin Keegan has returned, and his second coming was fucking terrible. There, I said it. Despite only staying for the first 45 minutes on Saturday, it was no coincidence that virtually the entire front end of the Kinsale, save for a few families enjoying meat pies in the dining room section, vacated en masse once the half-time whistle blew.

    He hasn't really been given the chance to flex his muscle yet, as he frantically compiles his last-minute January shopping list going into the final week of the window, but his triumphant entry to St. James was loud and proud enough to fill even the most jaded fan full of belief. The Kool Aid was passed around before kickoff, and it amounted to nothing.

    Where was his talismanic influence? The team exhibited their classic sleepwalking style, fudging their way through, barely stringing two passes together and rarely threatening the goal. His team managed 6 shots on goal all game, all of them woefully off-target, and the game fizzled to a dull 0-0 draw.

    The lineup saw Rozehnal, a player more comfortable in defense, anchoring the midfield, and while you suspect that the selection of Shola Ameobi was more due to lack of depth than anything else, surely Kev had other options.

    ---
    It's going to take a lot for Kevin to learn how to drive this beaten-up car again. He'll learn that it's no longer a reflex, and his years out of the game might well put Newcastle years more behind their competition. The expectations are for a top-six finish, hard to see considering the caliber of the 8 teams currently jostling at the top of the table.

    He's trying to patch things up with Michael Owen by letting him keep the captain's armband, but it's a band-aid on an old, gaping wound.

    Keegan also has to juggle the tricky relationship with co-chosen one Alan Shearer, one who was publicly upset at being turned down for the big job, and who might have too much pride to really cooperate with Keegan moving forward. Kev's already gone so far to tip Alan as the man to succeed him at St. James's Park!

    For now, owner Mark Ashley has his man. He also has the same old results. Let's just hope Keegan gets more than 8 months to flex his muscles in the hot seat.

    Photo credit: Eurosport UK

    Read more on "Second coming of God not as fun this time around"...

    How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Titus Bramble


    I first heard the phrase "another Titus Bramble moment" last season, as I watched Newcastle suck as hard as it is doing this year, and the commentator (I'll just assume it's Martin Tyler) referred to a defensive error by the then-Newcastle defender. I thought that was British witticism at best - such a simple turn of phrase, yet full of bite and possibilities. I decided then that if I ever formed a band (i.e. when I can afford an Xbox 360 and a copy of Rock Band, and when I have three non-imaginary friends), I'd name the band "The Titus Bramble Moment".

    We've been generally free of Titus Bramble Moments (TBM) this season, save for the swing-and-a-miss against Citeh, and he's even helped snatch a point from my beloved Liverpool (basically, he's personally swung 4 points to the blue half of Merseyside - we'll get to that later). But as my blogmate (good lord that sounds homoerotic) Lingering Bursitis has already mentioned, he up and gone done it again.

    Wigan manager Steve Bruce said of the error,

    "The boy has all the attributes to be a top player, but the one thing he has to do is work on his concentration levels."
    Besides ranking as one of the greatest understatements of all times, Brucie's assessment begs the question, when you rank all the attributes for a top central defender, doesn't maintaining focus for the full 90 minutes rank pretty high up there?


    Though come to think of it, that a player whose name is synonymous with lapses in concentrations and their disastrous results has a job in the allegedly Best League in the World may be an indication of how much his managers past and present value him (holy shit, that's a run-on sentence if there ever was one). It's like in a relationship - every girl's going to have some quirk that will drive you fucking insane, but as long as the awesomegirlfriendness outweighs the crazybitchness, you're good. In fact, your willingness to put up with a girl's negative qualities can be an indication of exactly how freaky she gets behind closed doors (though a video is probably the best indicator). A club like Wigan who's fighting for Premiership survival, they can live with Bad Titus as long as Good Titus shows up most of the time (residents of Newton Flotman are probably less comfortable with Bad Titus, however). THAT'S HOW GOOD HE IS, REALLY! Plus, have you seen Newcastle's defending lately? It ain't Jean-Alain Boumsong they miss, that's for sure.

    As sacrilegious as this may seem, I'd almost want Bramble instead of Sami Hyypia in the Liverpool backline. That's right, you heard me. See, you know how in Moneyball, they discount traditional fielding stats, because it punishes players with superior range, which is exactly what you want in a fielder? Hyypia is basically that Yankees shortstop who has limited range, and therefore has a deceptively decent fielding percentage. Think about it - would you take Hyypia, whose deficiencies not only force the backline to adjust, but also holds back the attack. I'm no sabermetrician, but I'm willing to bet Sami costs Liverpool more points than Bramble does Wigan.

    By all indications, people seem to like the guy, and the more I think about him, the more he intrigues me (he reminds me of back when I was trying to convince people that Rasheed Wallace was actually really great off the court, and that he has an incredibly high basketball IQ). For starters, there's that goofy anti-gang gang sign thing. And shit, I totally forgot he helped Ipswich Town qualify for Europe. Ipswich! Did you know? He's eligible to play for Montserrat, who actually holds the unofficial title of the worst footballing nation in the world after losing to Bhutan!

    Though really, more I think about him, the more he reminds of me, and humanity in general. I consider myself to be fairly intelligent and well adjusted, but I make my share of stupid mistakes. I'm fine with the big picture - it's the details that escape me. In a sense, we all have our Titus Bramble Moments. Except when we make embarrassing typos, spill coffee in the break room, hit "Reply All" by accident, we're not televised worldwide and we don't affect the company's balance sheet for the next fiscal year by tens of millions. What Bramble does, in effect, is to absorb all our everyday humiliations. He is truly our patron saint of silly mistakes.

    So why have I just written 50,000 words on a low-level Premiership player? Probably because it's a lot less painful to think about the meaning of Titus Bramble than to face the fact that Liverpool won't challenge for the Premiership title for the foreseeable future. Better to think about Titus Bramble Moments than to ponder the Liverpool Season.

    Read more on "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Titus Bramble"...

    MLS Superdraft=Superaction!

    Chance Myers. This little bundle of smiles is your #1 MLS Superdraft pick of 2008. He joins a list of luminaries taken #1 in previous years, including Steve Shak, Chris Carrieri, Chris Gbandi, and Nikolas Besagno.

    Alright, before I go any further, I'm going to go ahead and own up. I believe that the Superdraft is one of those many things that make the MLS a league that will never have true international standing. It should be obvious that American soccer can't be treated like other leagues in the US, but still the powers that be try to fit the square pegs into the round hole. Meanwhile, the kids in college (or earlier) who don't want the hassle of going through a ranking process just go ahead and sign overseas, like Oguchi Onyewu, or Landycakes. Besides, it's not like college programs are the best step up for building international talent. America's budding young players need to get away from the TV timeouts and multiple substitution patterns as soon as possible. But I digress.

    Chance here is a single-year starter from UCLA. His top collegiate honor is a 1st team Pac-10 spot in 2007. He also got a call to the USA U-23 camp this winter. Ooohhh. All signs are go for that Steve Shak revival, I tell ya. From the looks of things, the best chance he has to make history is being the guy who changes the play Take Me Out from baseball to soccer. Fun bonus fact--he was not even on the MLS poll of who will be the first pick. Those guys are all over it, aren't they?

    The rest of the first round proves that it pays to either go to a California state school, or be a part of generation adidas (no capitalization necessary). Of the top eight picks, only Patrick Nyarko from Virginia Tech, who would have been my personal top pick of the draft, did not come from one of these places.

    Patrick Nyarko. Next year's MLS Rookie of the year. May be Marlo Stanfield's cousin.


    Truthfully, there's not a lot to take away from this draft. Some teams don't care for drafting. Chivas and San Jose traded away picks for players, leaving them with one pick apiece. There were some interesting draft day trades. Pseudo-international Chris Albright was sent to New England, and he-of-the-headgear (and total ass) Alecko Eskandarian was traded to Chivas, where he will undoubtedly thrive and become my Titus Bramble.

    Some last, random thoughts
    • Players drafted came from seven nations, including the new Haitian Sensation, Ricardo Pierre-Louis. Oh, and MLS can't decide how to spell Haiti.
    • Furman, a smallish school in my hometown, had two kids picked in the second round, Shea Salinas and Johnathan "With" Leathers. God, I hope he makes SportsCenter someday.
    • While Stephen King and David Roth came close, the best name in the draft is Rauwshan McKenzie. When I see that name, an image of a kilt-clad Busta Rhymes pops in my head.
    • Really. A quarter of the picks came from California state schools. If your kid wants to play in the MLS, get him a scholarship there.

    Chance Myers photo from mercurynews.com
    Patrick Nyarko photo from hokiesports.com

    Read more on "MLS Superdraft=Superaction!"...

    Your African Cup of Joe

    "When I Disguise My Body in the Shape of a Plane..."
    (photo credit: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

    Some updates from Monday's action in the African Cup of Nations, with a match from Group A and two from Group B.


    Group A:
    Namibia 1 - 5 Morocco
    I don't know what was more suprising: The hat trick by Alloudi that broke Namibia, or the fact that no one showed up to watch this match in person. Thanks to the Interwebs, we can catch all these highlights. I expect someone to sniff Alloudi away from the UAE league if he keeps this up.

    Group B: Nigeria 0 - 1 Ivory Coast
    Nigeria, who has been urged to victory by their President, acted nonchalant , and it showed. Good score from Chelsea's own Salomon Kalou, who gave a little clinic in scoring. The video is sweet.

    Group B: Mali 1 - 0 Benin
    It seems as though trying to create a distraction didn't stop the nation of sand beat the might Benin. Learn more about other tiny African country and find out that they have a National Voodoo Day. This is something all of us can get behind. In the fight for the bottom of Group B, Kanoute banged in a PK in the 49th minute to set this match from dulling folks to sleep.

    Tuesday's Preview:

    It's all Group C matches on Tuesday:
    Egypt vs Cameroon
    Sudan vs Zambia
    The Egypt-Cameroon match will show if Egypt can have enough horses to proceed to the next round. This will be the match to watch on Tuesday. The Pharaohs may have to resort a plague of locust if they want to have a puncher's chance against Cameroon.

    Read more on "Your African Cup of Joe"...

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


    See that? That's Satan.

    Sometime about 21:30 GMT on May 25, 2005, Liverpool walked into their Ataturk Stadium locker room in Istanbul to see that guy lounging in the corner casually smoking a Nat Sherman.

    Basically, our friend the Dark Lord here said that he could assure the Reds a victory with what remained of their match against Milan, and it wouldn't even cost them anything that day. All compensation would be taken out of future earnings.

    Great. The Scousers all signed up. And, holy shit, the Miracle of Istanbul was miraclized.

    So fast forward two years to Olympic Stadium in Athens, and Liverpool had to feel that they got a fair deal when Milan won a far less exciting rematch by a 2-1 tally. "Okay, so we entered a pact with Satan, and we ended up batting .500 in a couple of Champions League finals. We'll take that any day and twice on Sundays." That was the collective wisdom of everyone in a Liverpool kit.

    But, oh. How wrong. The '07 final wasn't payback. Mephistopheles was an uninterested observer that day. Nope, Satan is now extracting payment on the '05 deal week by week, point by point, and is slowly raping the collective lifeforce at Anfield.

    There is no other explanation.

    Liverpool held about 2/3 of the possession, outshot Villa about what looked like 31-2, yet they still needed a strike by Peter Crouch 2 minutes from time today JUST TO EQUALIZE! And Liverpool is, for the moment, out a of Champions League spot. Insult meet injury. Crosstown rival Everton currently hold the fourth spot in the Prem.

    Satan is kind of a dick. So this might not be ending anytime soon.

    He also might be fucking with UF as its majority shareholders are Scousers (present company excluded) and we had our worst week prognosticating, or whatever it is that we are doing pulling numbers out of a hat.

    Crytal Soccer Balls

    Man City 1-1 West Ham
    Wigan 1-2 Everton
    Birmingham City 0-1 Chelsea
    Tottenham 2-0 Sunderland

    Close

    Portsmouth 4-1 Derby (3-1)
    Fulham 1-3 Arsenal (0-3)

    Close But Not Really

    Newcastle 1-0 Bolton (0-0)

    This Would Have Made More Sense

    Liverpool 2-1 Villa (2-2)
    Blackburn 2-1 Boro (1-1)

    If I Could Make a Deal with Satan

    Reading 4-2 Man U (0-2)


    Read more on "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time"...

    The Things I Missed


    This weekend was a relative blur for me, and entirely without rhyme or reason. One bad decision turned into a veritable string of questionable choices and bad decisions, the last of which saw me stumble into the Kinsale, as I normally try to do, for a morning with the lads, Pauline, and the three gigantic televisions that showed every interminable minute of the weekend's biggest games [Of course, I would argue that tonight's Liverpool/Aston Villa match is the EPL highlight this week, as it's two teams in the Top 6 squaring off and not a giant pistol-whipping a procession of minnows like Saturday turned out to be].

    And so, what did I learn? In-between beers, I watched most of the Man Utd game, and I'll be damned if they don't keep pulling wins out of their arse like a bad episode of Criss Angel: Mindfreak. Rooney's instinctive leg jab at a looping cross from Tevez was delicately placed, and Ronaldo's irritating breakaway tap-in during stoppage time were enough for the Old Trafford Tossers. I began crying in my beer.

    Beside me, it was Arsenal romping all over a pathetic Fulham, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Chelsea steal themselves a win in the last 15 at the head of Claudio Pizarro.

    In short, a dismal morning's viewing. It reminds me of my own team's ineptitude to conjure up wins, as magic is the magic word in the EPL. On any day, things might not go your way [read: home draw vs. Wigan, the last-gasp win at Derby], but you have to be able to pull things out of your arse, much like I expect Sheva does after a late-night romp with partner-in-pounds-sterling, Roman Abramovich.

    I missed Lassana Diarra's arrogant proclamation, which made me laugh for no other reason than its jarring honesty.

    In this day and age, with profits and rich foreign investors snapping up every football club in sight, are we really to believe that Diarra's the only player who has glory and personal success is etched on the brain?

    Lassana can't really be blamed for this mindset; the EPL is such a transient league these days [just ask Anelka], and it's hardly to be expected for so many young players who plan their careers nomadically to understand the cultural nuances from one club to the next. Diarra's press conference was the kind of thing you expect a player of Beckham's stature to say, but he's well-versed in how to deal with the media.

    I missed the US game against Sweden, which Precious Roy covered far better than I could have ever managed. Jozy Altidore, eh? Anything must be better than Taylor Twellman, right guys?

    I missed the MLS SuperDraft, which we hope to cover later in the week.

    I missed Titus Bramble's latest pathetic effort, this time against Everton, a team that doesn't deserve the good fortune. When will Wigan learn? Bramble in defense is a mistake akin to the Maginot Line, and he's about as mobile as that was too. The result nudges the Toffee Twats up into 4th place, and while I begrudgingly admit the impressive work of David Moyes, it's still something that defies all logic.

    I missed all the hubbub surrounding out-of-favour Bayern striker Lukas Podolski, and his will-he, won't-he trip to Man City in Eriksson's latest effort to further cosmopolitanize his team. Looking at the squad from March compared to now... it's no small feat what Sven's managed to do to turn that team into a serious contender. Podolski's a cracking young player, and I hope it doesn't pan out for Sven and Thaksin, because it will surely strengthen their claim to the final Champions League spot.

    And of course, it wouldn't be another day without further fuel on the smoldering mess at Anfield. I'll choose to ignore that until at least tomorrow, at least until the bourbon wears off.

    Read more on "The Things I Missed"...

    He's Like a Mime With Tourette's

    You have to give Sir Alex a little credit. He could have tried subtlety in letting Reading fans know of his frustration in Saturday's match and quickly flashed a middle finger. But no, Fergie went two handed. And tacked on a quick encore just to make sure nobody missed it.



    SAF is playing it off, saying he was expressing "relief" with Christiano Ronaldo's injury time score. Seems like "relief" would go with a gesture that would have him squatting to poo, but, hey maybe the FA will buy it.

    Still, almost makes you wonder why more people aren't kneeing him in the nuts more often.

    Read more on "He's Like a Mime With Tourette's"...

    African Cup of Nations Group D




    Yesterday the African Cup of Nations kicked off with the hosts Ghana taking on Guinea. From all accounts, the Black Stars were buzzing offensively, and could have won by a much larger margin than 2-1 if they hadn't hit so much woodwork. At the same time, their defensive frailties were also evidentt, led by West Ham's John Paintsil.

    Today's slate of games is highlighted by Ivory Coast vs. Nigeria, which is starting right now. Drogba vs. half of Portsmouth. It might be the game of the tournament, and if you can catch this thing at a bar or something, I think its worthwhile. Earlier, Morocco beat Namibia 5-1.

    And finally, we reach the end of the line in our ANC preview. Group D lacks the sizzle of the rest of the field, so you EPL snobs can skip over the rest now, if you wish.

    South Africa
    Benny McCarthy was left in Northwest England, due to a fall out with Carlos Alberto Perreira , who decided to field a younger side with an eye towards the World Cup. I know nothing about the younger players, but they have some sweet names, like Excellent Walaza and Terror Fanteni. I'm expecting the future hosts to crash out in the first round.

    Angola

    Angola made it to Germany with a mostly domestic side, and the roster is more or less unchanged this time around. I remember the game they played against Portugal. They were a very physical team, with a bit of hardman-tackling thown in. Angola will make it out of the group.

    Tunisia

    These guys actually won the whole tournament four years ago, but they don't have much in terms of recognizable names.

    Senegal

    The shock of the 2002 world cup was when Senegal took down France in the first game. El Hadji Diouf remains, but the key player for the Senegalese is Mamadou Niang, who has been killing it for Marseille this year. Fulham fans are happy to see the useless Diomansy Kamara has been called into the squad, along with Ibrahim Sonko from Reading. Senegal will win the group.

    Read more on "African Cup of Nations Group D"...

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Obligatory USMNT Recap


    We won.

    And that's about the biggest takeaway.

    How good was that Swedish team? No Ibrohimovic. No Kallstrom. No Mellberg. But Sweden manager Lars Lagerbäck did note that, after their match against Costa Rica a few days prior, the squad had about 2/3 of the side that he would roll out for Euro 2008. So this wasn't the Swedish B-team.

    Not bad considering by and large, the USMNT was B and maybe even B-minus in a couple of spots. And we got the result. It wasn't impressive. It wasn't ugly. But it's the kind of thing that separates countries that advance in major cup competitions and the US of recent past.

    The three most obvious things worth singling out, they are all damned obvious:

    1) Landycakes. How appropriate that Donovan's record tying or record setting goal (can we all get on the same page about the Denmark match?) came from a PK. If you're already the American that even the Americans love to hate, don't put on bright orange shoes that scream "I'm either gay or Dutch."

    2) Guzan. Great, the one position we already didn't have to worry about, we can now worry about even less. Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan. While Howard is clearly the #1 right now, does any American soccer fan sweat it if we have to go to the pine? When the Swedes threatened to equalize late in the first half and seize momentum going into the break, Guzan was almost always in good position and he came up with the saves when they needed to be made. A clean sheet is a clean sheet. Get thee to Europe, my man.

    3) Brad Davis. Not great but good enough on set pieces. Better than what Donovan's been giving the USMNT. Davis earned more time on the pitch. Now if we could just get some more dangerous strikers on the other end of the service.

    As for the negatives. Bradley seems content to err on the side of a defensive midfield. That'll fly in CONCAF qualifying but it's never going to get us past the first round of the knockout stages in South Africa. Is it too much to ask this country to produce one Cesc Fabregas? If it is, we'll settle for, say, an Elano or even a couple of Tim Cahills.

    Then there is Twellman. Enough already. The guy has been prolific in MLS but rather lackluster in the National Team kit. He's also going to be almost 30 by the time of the next World Cup. Why start him over Altidore? The second the Haitian Sensation was in the match, the Swedes had to account for his speed. His first touch produced a penalty and subsequent touches cost the Swedes yellow cards.

    There seems to be a general hesitancy at US Soccer to throw youth into the fire. Bruce Arena was irritatingly consistent in this regard. It was almost like you had to be able to drink to get on the pitch under his reign. But Bradley seems peculiarly similar in his hesitancy to go young early (unless a player's surnmane just happens to be 'Bradley'). Can someone explain this? Is it a larger strategy coming out of the 'brain trust' in Chicago?

    The previously mentioned Fabregas is all of 20. Messi was 19 during the last World Cup. And wasn't Michael Owen 18 or 19 when he emerged as a potential star for England during the 1998 Cup? Play Adu, play Alitdore. Play them now. You can't coach speed. Speed kills. Speed doesn't go into a slump. Etc. Etc.

    And if they are the real deal, US Soccer will know they are in great shape up front for not one, but two and maybe three Cup qualifying cycles.

    But again, we won. And won over a decent side.

    Read more on "Obligatory USMNT Recap"...