Saturday, July 5, 2008


As you surely know by now, we are taking a brief break here at UF to enjoy the 4th of July festivities. Why did I write this post, then? Mind your own business, you ingrate! I simply thought that, in light of the wonderousness that is the United States of America, I would take some time out to opine on the boys that will be representing us next month in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympic games.

Who are these courageous lads, who will brave smog, food poisoning, and being spat upon by old Chinese women? Join me after the jump to find out.

Well, hurry up - you can stare at her later. Besides, it's not even proper etiquette to wear the US flag. She should probably take those off.

So, the lads are off to Beijing in a short while to compete against the best in the world in the 2008 Summer Olympics. What's that? Oh, well, yes. Technically it's true that these are U-23 teams so there will be some exciting players missing. And some countries don't care about the Olympics since they are more focused on World Cup 2010 qualifiers and the beginning of various domestic league seasons. So why should you watch? Patriotism, dammit!

The US was drawn into Group B with Japan, the Netherlands, and Nigeria. Interested in watching the games? We are playing Japan on August 7th at 5AM (yes, in the morning), the Netherlands on August 10th at 7:45AM, and Nigeria on August 13th at 5AM. Set the DVR!

The 18-man roster is not due until July 23rd, so these are some predictions for what that team might look like.

GK - Brad Guzan (Chivas USA); Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

DEF - Jonathan Spector (West Ham United - EPL); Michael Orozco (San Luis - Mexico); Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC); Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg - Germany); Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake); Hunter Freeman (NY Red Bulls)

MID - Maurice Edu (Toronto FC); Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen - Eredivisie); Freddy Adu (SL Benfica - Portugal); Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA); Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew); Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo)

ST - Brian McBride (rights to Toronto FC); Jozy Altidore (Villareal - Spain); Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire); Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

The biggest question mark on this roster is Altidore, as this will be his first season at Villareal, and the club is under no obligation to release him for duty in the Olympics. We'll keep you updated in the coming weeks to let you know who will be representing us.

Now, get back to eating and drinking!

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Enjoy the fireworks

ABC got some decent ratings for the Euro final [EPL Talk]
So did TSN in Canada [Live Soccer TV]
Either this picture is pulled vertically, or Cheryl Cole REALLY needs to eat [TIET]
Mike Ashley has a price in mind to sell Newcastle. American firm interested [The Sun]
EPL refs to crack down on dangerous tackles. Just like every year before [Guardian]
Wolves player attacks bouncer with handbag. What is it about the Colaship, nightclubs and handbags? [Metro]

And, finally:
We are pretty chuffed about this. Now watch it flatline [Ballhype]

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UF at rest

Yep, just another day around here in UF towers. My roommate tells me something about this "Fourth of July" thing, which is still rather ambiguous to me. Something about the USA kicking my homeland right in the pants en route to independence?

I won't lie, it still hurts, although not as much as when Michael Owen fled Anfield for sunny Spain. Bastard. Karma may have paid him back with a string of difficult injuries, but I digress.

I think we're all taking a rest for a couple of days, to recharge and refresh after a mad month. Euro 2008 was a phenomenal tournament, when it's all said and done, and it's been a while since a major international soccer event has been so exciting. The quicker I try to forget Germany '06, the better.

We have to thank you all again for giving us independence from boring office jobs and the blog where we infested the comments section with our futbol chat, struggling to get away from the "soc-cer?" remarks from the less fortunate.

You are all making UF the place to be, and we're eternally grateful. (what, two thank yous in a matter of weeks? Does this make us Will Leitch? Has his midwestern humility touched us all?)

Enjoy the respite from jobs and life, down a thousand beers and eat a million chunks of char-broiled animal flesh.

We might well have some material over the weekend, but failing that, we'll see you Monday.

Now if you'll excuse me... I'm off to watch the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. This country truly is a wonderful place.

After the jump, a couple of LFC videos, because I simply couldn't resist.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Illegal Sextravaganza! (Allegedly)

Just a heads up--we may be barely posting over the long weekend. Or we may not. Either way, we promise to be at full force on Monday. Or maybe Tuesday.

Porn maven, and Birmingham City owner, David Sullivan arrested over sexual assault allegations [Birmingham Mail]
KC Wizards front office also accused of sexual indiscretions. The details sound positively pervy [Kansas City Star]

Other stuff after the jump

Thierry Henry continues to blend in with the average American [The Spoiler]
(The formerly Mighty) MJD thinks C. Ron would be great in the NFL [Shutdown Corner]
LDU-Quito win the Copa Libertadores in stunning fashion. Also scored this goal some rounds before [Guardian]
Vietnamese match-fixing ref banned for life [Vietnam News]
Blogger quickly agrees with Precious Roy that Pie should be loaned out [The Arc of Time]
Mascherano to miss start of EPL season for Olympics. Enjoy the new asthma as well, fella! [BBC]

And, finally:
The New Arsenal away kit revealed. Thanks to Goat for the tip [EPL Talk]

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It Was in the Stars for Domenech

By now I am sure that you all know how I feel about Raymond Domenech, particularly after France's poor performance at Euro 2008. I mean, really, does this man look capable of competent management?

Nice smile, douchebag.

So what does La Federation Francaise de Football do to me?

They fucking retain Domenech as coach! Yes, he had 2 years left on his contract and it would have cost us money, but is he really the man to lead us into South Africa 2010? He completely lost control of his team during Euro 2008, and his decisions were a tactical nightmare. Yet, for some reason he retained the support of some of France's more notable (current) players, including Vieira, Ribery, Benzema, and Ben Arfa (whom Domenech didn't even take to Euro 2008!). However, Zizou had prominently called for his dismissal, supporting his old teammate Didier Deschamps for the position.

Even more stunning, the vote to keep Domenech was 18-0 (with one abstention)! What are these council members smoking? FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes and council members Frederic Thierrez (Ligue1 president) and Gerard Houllier (FFF technical director) all came out in a strong display of public support for Domenech, which obviously influenced the other members of the committee. So, it seems that we are stuck with Raymond the astrologer through the end of World Cup 2010.

Reached for comment, Didier Deschamps replied "Merde."

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And the Winner is...

The SFL voted today on which team would replace Gretna. Early favorites Spartans of Edinburgh polled poorly and dropped out. Finally, in the third round of voting, with all of the Central Belt teams having dropped out, it was down to Annan Athletic in the South and Cove Rangers in the North. Annan Athletic won the vote 17 to 12.

What I labeled as, at best, a sentimental choice won out in the end. It seems that there were four factors leading up to their admission.
1) Location-This team is located in the under-represented South of the country, where Gretna were also from. The sentiment here is that this area had lost a team, and needed another team to replace it.
2) Stadium-This may have been the top reason for Annan's inclusion. While the other four teams had various approvals in place for expansion, Annan's ground was the only one deemed immediately up to snuff and ready for play.
3) Central Belt glut-When Edinburgh City joined the race, that made for 3 of 5 squads in the Lothian area running for inclusion. Presumably, though vote totals have not been released yet, these three squads split early vote totals causing them all to drop out.
4) Anti-Northern Bias-So when it came down to Annan and Cove Rangers, teams took into account travel distances and cost, and that had been Cove Rangers achilles heel from the start. Traditionally, Northern squads have had a tough time gaining entry into the league, and this time was no different.

So, the club that enters the league is the one that had the poorest season of all the contenders last term, finishing seventh in the East of Scotland league, behind all of their Edinburgh-area counterparts, as well as Cove, who finished first in the parallel Highland League. There has been some mention of an England-style non-league promotion into the SFL in the coming years, which would have favored Cove or the non-running Whitehill Welfare this past season. However, since any such setup would require the approval of member clubs, don't look for a unanimous passing any time soon.

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Things American Sports Could Learn From Soccer: Part I - Player Loans

There's this guy, Felix Pie (that's PEE-eh, not Pi). He's a Cub. Sometimes a Chicago one, other times an Iowa one.

As an Iowa Cub—that's the AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs—he's a terror. Last season he hit .362 and had an OPS of .973. On top of that he's got pretty good speed and an even better glove.

Oh, we're talking baseball by the way, and if you don't know what those numbers mean, just know they are good.

But once up in the bigs, Pie kind of sucks. He spent part of the '07 season in Chicago. There he hit .214 and had an OPS of .603. Those numbers are not good.

To put it in perspective, Micah Owings, a pitcher, is currently hitting .250 and has an OPS of .675. Sure Owings is a pretty good hitting pitcher, but generally, pitchers are so bad at hitting that, in the American League, they stopped making them do it.

Basically, Pie can hit the junk they throw in the minors but once he sees the wicked breaking stuff they throw in the majors, he swings and misses. A lot. Forty-three times in 177 at-bats in '07.

So what are the Cubs' options?
A) Send him to the minors where they know he gets more hits than an electrified hitting machine.
2) Keep him in Chicago and have him cost you an out four of every five times he comes to the plate, which is going to be such an offensive liability that they're not going to want to do it often enough for him to have the chance to improve.

But what if Monte Hall could offer them a third door?

3) Loan him out to a shitty team like, say, the Washington Nationals.

The Nats are currently in last place, 17 games under .500, and 11.5 games out of first place. Their RF is hitting .250 with a total of 17 RBI and their CF is in his third game ever.

Think they'd take a chance on a 5-tool player who has shown the potential to hit for power and average?

Seeing how their back-up LF is also their catcher (seriously, Paul Lo Duca is behind Willy Mo Peña on the depth chart?), I'm going to guess they would.

Cubs call Nationals. Arrange loan. Everyone happy.

Pie gets a roster spot and regular AB's (Bonus: He avoids Iowa). The Cubs get to see if their player can figure out how to hit a breaking ball. The Nationals get someone who has the potential to be a serious upgrade over anyone else currently occupying their outfield.

Okay, maybe the 'Burg isn't happy as someone might threaten them for not worst team in the NL. But let's not concern ourselves with third parties that also have bad teams, they'd be free to take Homer Bailey on loan from the Reds (suckas).

It's not just player development that could make loans an intriguing proposition for baseball. Think about the trade deadline. Usually what happens is you get teams that are out of the pennant race unloading valuable players that are going to be free agents (and really expensive to resign) in exchange for an array of prospects.

Okay, now suppose you could loan that free-agent-to-be out for the balance of the season for a huge chunk of change instead of trading for prospects. Generally, you probably would still want the prospects, but in soccer there is usually a provision that prohibits the loaned-out player from playing against the team that holds his rights, and that could make for some fun GM'ing.

So you're the Oakland A's. You have Rich Harden, who, when healthy is as close to a sure thing as there is on the mound. We're talking like 7 innings, 9 Ks, and less than 2ER per start kind of sure thing.

If you don't know much about baseball, he is to the A's what Van Persie is to Arsenal (and that's both in terms of "Holy shit he's awesome" and "Holy shit he's injured").

Anyway, you're going to lose Rich Harden at the end of this season and get nothing back if you don't move him before the deadline. But now in this hypothetical soccer-rule infested world, the A's could loan him out to some team that pisses cash, say, the New York Yankees.

Maybe they crap cash, who knows? But the Yankees pony up $8 million to the A's for half the season of Harden. If Johan Santana is getting more than $20M a year from the Mets, then Harden is worth at least that much for half a season.

But the A's aren't the Nats. They aren't awful. Quite the opposite. They've got more young arms (something they seem to have an endless supply of) on their staff and are currently just 5 games out of first in the AL West behind the Angels (and given the Halo's run differential, that gap is likely to close).

So the A's part with Harden, pocket the cash, and somehow make the playoffs, which isn't really out of the question (especially since Ellis and Suzuki seem to be swinging the bat a little bit better).

Now, on the other coast, Harden solidifies a currently-shaky rotation in the Bronx, the Yankees pass both the Red Sox and the Rays, and they also make the playoffs. As an aside, I'm not sure what's more bizarre: merely writing that sentence or thinking there is little chance of any thing after the word "Bronx" actually happening.

Finally suppose that the Yankees meet the A's in the first (or second) round of the playoffs. The Yankees wouldn't be able to use their best pitcher because he's still technically a member of the A's (remember the provision mentioned above).

So not only have you taken the Yankees money, but you've partially crippled them as they attempt to beat you. Imagine the Yankees paying the loan fee, then losing a series because they can't run out their staff ace. No, go ahead. Imagine it. It's fun. At least it is for me because I can't fucking stand the Yankees. Being a Yankee fan is kind of like being a United fan, only with better dental hygiene.

Anyway I'm sure there are other wrinkles I haven't even thought of (it's late and frankly I'm not feeling it upstairs).

Okay, admittedly, player loaning is the least sexy and most limited of all the things worth stealing from soccer. It probably has no applications in the NFL as roster spots are already at a premium and most teams are desperate for depth. So any player worth having is already on a team someplace, and any player that needs more work, well, that's why they have practice squads (and steroids).

The NBA has kind of the opposite problem. The guys on the end of the bench never get much playing time to begin with. A team would have to be Charlotte Bobcats bad for seasons on end to even want to consider taking other players that aren't playing elsewhere. Just because you made an NBA roster in one city, doesn't mean someone else in another city wants you.

Still, loans plus baseball, that equals potentially much cooler baseball.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: We're number 30!

New FIFA rankings came out today. Spain is your new number 1, and the USA is number 30. England split the difference at 15. If we get our act together, we'll address this tomorrow. [FIFA]
A good, but lengthy, look at Spain's Euro campaign and beyond [What Would Oakley Do?]
Soccer mom embezzles $75k from her son's league. Mmmmmm. Soccer mom. [Pottstown Mercury]
Gareth Barry is trying his damndest to get out of town. Did you know Birmingham is England's #2 city? Not for football, it's not [Soccernet]
German club, SC Freiburg, runs its stadium largely with solar energy and power converted from wood chips. Damn hippies [CNN]

And finally-
Tomorrow, the Scottish Football League votes on which team to add as a replacement for Gretna. Rather than bore you with my analysis, I'll just link to somewhere I would have liberally borrowed from anyway [Sporting Life]

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German Humans Not the Only Ones Sucking At Futbol

In an impressive display of national unity, a catfish decided to symbolically show its support for the German national team... by sucking.

And this being a catfish, it cost him his life.

A catfish was found dead in a Bavarian canal having choked to death on a soccer ball. The 6-and-a-half-foot-long fish was floating lifeless on the surface with a blew blue and white soccer ball lodged in it mouth.

Police first responded, "Holy shit, that's a huge fucking catfish," then settled down to release the following more prosaic statement:

"Whether the fish was caught up in soccer ball fever in the aftermath of the European championship and hence snapped at the ball can unfortunately not be determined," police said in a statement.
German humor, only slight less bad than the German National Team's recent performances in the finals of major tournaments.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

This week we will continue to plow the fertile ground of South American football, looking to dig up little gems of wonderfulness for you to peruse. While this week's entry will not be a good as last week's, I think it may raise a chuckle or two out of some of you.

You see, there's some stealing going on here. There is the appropriation of an image I have not seen in 20 years, but which I used to see all the time as a kid, on the weekly grocery store runs I used to take with my mom. It took some google searching, but I have resolved the image on the shirt with where I remember it from, and it is one odd pairing, to be sure.

So there's the shirt. Nothing too oddball about it, considering that one of the club's nicknames is Los Diablos Rojos, or the red devils. But I knew I had seen that particular image of the devil before, but I could not place it.

So I searched. Let me just tell you, doing google image searches for things like "Devil Meat" with the safe search off is not the best way to spend a morning. Thank goodness my wife never looked over my shoulder while I perused page after page of girls with horns and cocks shoved in mouths.

I refined the search, after a short break, and found what I was looking for. The very same little devil which had stared back at me from the shelves of the Bi-Lo was on this shirt.

I remember once, probably when I was about seven or so, I begged my mom to buy some because it had to be good. It wasn't. I can remember the toxic aftertaste even now.

Here's the rub. It's not like the product is unknown in South America. On this page, you'll see that General Mills claims that the product is found in 9 out of 10 Venezuelan homes. So, this Independiente shirt not only steals a corporate image, but it also does so for a product that is well known in the region.

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Lightning Crashes

While I was watching the second semifinal between Spain and Russia, the video feed put up a picture of lightning cracking over the top of the stadium in Vienna. I was watching the match with some friends, and we debated for about two minutes whether it was a live shot or a shot from before the match started. After some quick back and forth, we decided it was from before the match since there was no way they could continue in such conditions. At that point, we dropped it and continued to watch the match.

Well, it would seem that we could have been wrong, since apparently soccer has no contingency plan for stopping a match for lightning. Last weekend, three Cambodian youth players were killed and three others were sent to the hospital when they were struck down by the electrical phenomenon during a tournament match.

The Cambodian Soccer Federation's response was something like this:

Well that sucks. Perhaps we should consider not playing when there is bad weather in the area. Like thunderclouds and such. Oh, and why aren't we being referred to as Kampuchea anymore?

No one could answer him.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses:

Since we seem to have morphed into a Norwich City blog, we must mention that the team may be sold soon [Soccernet]
Qualifying Round matchups in the Champions League have been drawn [BBC]
Torres smartly turns down Chelsea (and increases the tumescence of several UFers) [Daily Mail]
Eduardo is looking healthier. Sell Bendtner now [The Sun]

More fun after the jump

Thierry Henry meets some American fans [Just Jared]
The campaign hits full stride. Nando for World Player of the Year [The Sun]
Rooney sets goal target. What it is is anyone's guess [Sky Sports]
Arrests 14 years later in World Cup watcher's slaying [BBC]

Finally, C. Ronaldo and friend in juggling escapade (video) [The Sun]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses:"...

Ask The Player!!


What's that noise you cry? Why it's old Bigus patting himself on the back.

Again I am going to continue my summer excursion behind the closed doors of football and that's right blog are all invited. You are a lucky bunch!

Earlier this week you got a little glimpse of what it's like to be youth coach for the greatest football team on the planet. John Revell kindly answered your questions and satified your insatiable thirst for behind the scenes footy training knowledge.

How could that be trumped, Bigus? I'll tell you how, readers. How about if you got to quiz ex-footballer and current BBC Radio pundit Neil Adams? Would that do it for you?

.....I thought so.

Neil taking on bin man Geraint Williams (Current Colchester manager)

Neil Adams played on the right 182 times for Norwich. He also played for Everton, Stoke and Oldham. Click here for his Wikipedia page (I am sooooo lazy!). Neil was the designated penalty taker during his time at Norwich, missing only once. He was voted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame in 2002.

Neil currently works for BBC radio Norfolk and covers every Norwich game live alongside Chris Goreham. He is pictured here with Roy Waller.

Neil is visiting the NY Canaries this Saturday evening for some beers and some...beers.

While I have his attention I will be asking him YOUR questions so get em in early. Email us or leave your comments below. Keep em clean and interesting. Hear that Goat? CLEAN! Oh, and make 'em interesting too.

The smart ones amongst you may even be able to dig up some web tidbits and come up with juicy questions involving an incident with a certain manager....My lips are sealed!

Get busy!


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Showdown in Chinatown, Pt. 2: The Red/Green Carpet

I'm not cut out for journalism. I'd love to say that I could do it, but after our experiences Wednesday, I'd say that I simply don't have the tenacity for it. Hours of standing around under any kind of weather, fenced in like farmyard animals, clutching the dictaphone for dear life and waiting in agony for your interview subjects to turn up.

I also suspect I'd fail at a newspaper because I'm filing a report from last Wednesday night today, instead of adhering to the regular standards of filing something three hours after it happened, or four hours later, or some other insanely tight schedule.

So when we left off, we'd moved ourselves across from pitchside to standing outside a SoHo storefront, with no dinner and only a couple of beers in our bellies. The press pass got us into their glamorous iron gate enclosure just after 8pm, and then the waiting began. Oh, the wait.

Spectator and I dug in amid the real journalists, waiting for things to happen. Standing in such company wasn't so painful, considering the various ESPN Soccernet writers and fellow soccer bloggers we met with whom to debate transfer rumors and wax lyrical about Euro '08.

That part was fantastic, and it helped the concept of time fade into the background as various PR coordinators kept giving us the equivalent of the Seinfeld episode in the Chinese restaurant: the phrase "5 more minutes" echoed in my ears as dusk turned to night, and as youthful exuberance turned to impatience and irritation.

I digress: the conversations made it worth it. Considering that we were all in the same boat, it was hard to remain bitter as this was just par for the course. For these guys, they were used to it day in and day out, whereas we were merely imitators for the day, starstruck idiots with paper and pen looking to get our first taste of athlete/average joe interaction. Discussing the truth behind a whole raft of transfer rumours definitely kept the fatigue at bay, thanks to some well-connected folks with good information being whispered in their ears.

Were we surprised at the long wait? Of course not. They'd just played 90 minutes of fast-paced soccer in the strong early evening sun. Should they not be allowed an hour or two to sit in an ice-cold shower and relax?

And so the night wore on, and eventually, people did arrive.

We felt bad for Bradley and Sunil Gulati, who turned up promptly at 9.15 or so and walked unhindered down three city blocks to the event before calmly strolling through to minimal flashbulbs or chorus.

However, there are few people who'd pick Brian Barwick out of a lineup, so it's not so terrible. Gulati was polite and cordial, hamming it up with the AP reporter and a couple of other journos before quietly entering the charity event a few minutes later. 90 minutes in, and we've seen exactly one person.

However, much to our relief, it was not long until everyone started filing in. The Liverpool lads weren't much in the mood for questions, soured by a reporter at the front of the line who pulled Fowler aside for a quote and then promptly asked: "Who are you, and what do you do?"

That was enough meet the press for GOD for Macca, who darted inside fairly quickly after that. A shame, as I was finally working up enough gumption to actually ask a question.

(Sidenote: I was told that you can't have any shame when you're a reporter. I've lost most of mine, but I'm still working on shedding the rest.)

Claudio was first to arrive of the night's main stars, and by that point, I'd drank enough complimentary glasses of Vitamin Water to ask a few questions.

The main point on my mind was his thoughts about the state of soccer in the US. Events like his are fantastic, but will they help soccer gain a more solid ground in the American mainstream?

"I don't think there's just one thing that can help boost the status of soccer in the US, it's going to take a big movement. These days, soccer fans get it all over here, they get the EPL, they get Serie A, La Liga on satellite, and it's tough for MLS to compete. We have to keep pushing, and the quality of the league is always improving." I asked him about the impact of having basketball superstars and soccer superstars combining for such an event, and he framed the follow-up simply: "If soccer has a cool image, kids will play."

Spectator and I thought on this for a while, as soccer and basketball aren't that far apart. They're games for the people, played on dirt strips and dusty parking lots around the world. They give people hope and a way out of their struggles, and the best players in each sport often appear from the most unlikely places, fulfilling the grand Disney-esque storyline of diamonds in the rough coming from outside the game to transform it at its very core.

More events like this would definitely help the comparison!

The most telling part of his press line procession were his remarks about the Red Bulls giving him the all-clear to participate in the event despite his recovery from injury, and that they were fully aware of what was going on. He even quipped about having injections in his back recently, and this news didn't go over too well around the blogosphere. The Red Bulls fans are somewhat justified in their anger, but honestly, it's a charity event. Is this really grounds for condemnation and vitriol?

Nash was next in, and he was too coy for soundbites, preferring to keep his investment plans for the MLS and the new Women's Professional Soccer League under wraps. Well, that and my ability to write at the speed of sound was decidedly less than impressive.

After those two, we began the wait for Thierry Henry, the last person of interest for the bulk of those reporters still standing.

By this point, it was close to 11pm, and we'd received word that Titi was not far away from the press line. Baron Davis did roll in shortly before, and I had to ask him about the yellow card he got for handball: "It's how I play, man! Rough and tough!"

Hilarious guy, although he didn't have an on-the-record comment when I asked if he thought the ref was more biased than some in the NBA. Just a laugh, a smile, a few pictures of his own, and off into the event.

Finally, Titi rolled in. It wasn't as pronounced as the rest; he left his black SUV car service well up the street, and strolled down casually, uninterrupted. He was relaxed and calm and looked happy to be there, with the event as much of a novelty for him as it was for the masses who'd lined the park some hours before to witness the action.

No entourage, no hangers-on, no protectorate guarding his every movement. Just a footballing legend in a Reebok t-shirt and jeans walking down the street.

Just to our right, a guy who looked like a young Steve Nicol (as Ives Galarcep had quipped earlier, much to our amusement) had been waiting just as long for a chance to see Thierry up close, and he got what he came for: a handshake, a greeting, and a chance to hear him speak.

We did too; the NY Times reporter, a big jolly man in a grey suit, hogged the attention, mispronouncing Barca and breaking my heart just a little bit. The MSM did have a presence, albeit not a very inspiring one.

The subject of MLS popped up, and he was reflective, almost coy in his response: "Why not? I love America. I love it here. And whenever I come here, I feel free. Hopefully, one day. You never know what's going to happen. But at the moment, I'm still over there."

While a lot of outlets took that as a sign of his imminent arrival, I read it the other way. He feels free here; why would he destroy that for a few dollars more in his pocket and a PR campaign that would surely see him and Beckham standing side-by-side in their crisp, clean Galaxy shirts, visions of spellbinding brilliance and the brand name partnership that ESPN has been craving for years?

Moving to play here would ruin that completely. He mentioned Los Angeles and Miami as other places he loves to go, but playing MLS would definitely dent into that freedom. In the US, he can walk around anonymous for the most part, except for the odd well-wisher here and there, but with the grinding gears of corporate synergy and promotion just looking for the next Beckham to sink their energy into, America would become just another place around the world where he has to hire bodyguards.

I'm highly skeptical of him coming here, but then again, I've made a blogging career out of being categorically wrong on things in the past.

All in all, we left after 3+ hours in the pen, one of the last to depart. It was a wonderful experience despite the agonizing waits, but then again, we must suffer to get what we want. Oh, and I did get to meet Thierry Henry. As much as I begrudge the bastard for so many wonderful goals against Liverpool and in the EPL at large, it was still a pleasure.

Yeah, and another reason I could never be a journalist: I can't find a neat way to wrap up this already-too-long post, so this will have to do.

Read more on "Showdown in Chinatown, Pt. 2: The Red/Green Carpet"...

Transfer Rumours: Arsenal

So, Euro 2008 is over and most clubs won't begin their pre-season friendlies for another month (Arsenal v. Real Madrid, August 3rd!). In the meantime, we need to provide some content for all 12 of our dedicated readers. In the spirit of completely made-up shit that has so enraged the mainstream media (MSM, for the cool kids), we will periodically present some transfer rumours for our favorite clubs. Join me after the jump for some Gunner goodies.

By now we are all aware that Arsenal have signed Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri. If you didn't know that, then you are not a Gunner. In addition, Arsenal are targeting 21-year old Amaury Bischoff from Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga. The youngster, who not surprisingly is technically a French citizen, only made one appearance for Werder's senior team, in a UEFA Cup match in 2007. Despite this, Wenger feels that Bischoff will eventually be a good replacement for Mathieu Flamini.

It is also rumoured that Wenger has targeted Miguel Veloso, the 22-year old midfielder for Sporting Lisbon. In addition, as transfer rumours continue to swirl around Adebayor, who is being pursued by both Barca and AC Milan, thoughts have turned to either Roque Santa Cruz, the Blackburn striker, or Obafemi Martins, of Newcastle United, as his possible replacement.

Your thoughts on these and other possibilities in the comments.

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Hey Look We're Exprets, Too

That was intentional.

Anyway, we're going to milk the Euro for all we can, because once we run out of related posts, we're going to have to think of things to write about.

Sure there's the transfer market, but Liverpool is holding Crouch hostage for a fee that is almost exactly what they need to buy Gareth Barry. So their financial situation is fairly transparent and any move they make will be similarly telegraphed. As for the Gunner contingency among us, we will simply plug our ears—la la la la not listening—place faith in Wenger, and conveniently forget that it hasn't really worked out the last two seasons.

So as futbol's hot stove heats up, we go to eleven and present our best squads from Euro 08.

Of note, only one of us put Xavi, the UEFA player of the tournament, in their starting XI. By our collective accounting, Marcos Senna was probably the Spanish midfielder of choice, as he made every single list.

In fact, I'm just going to call out UEFA's panel of nine technical experts as collectively 'tarded up for their choice. Not that Xavi was at all bad, but it's pretty clear that Senna was the main reason that Spain went through the knock out stages without conceding a goal.

He so disrupted the Russian and German midfields that Casillas didn't even have that much to do; and the reflex kick-save on Camoranesi in the quarters turned out to be the most title-saving save he had to make.

Anyway, David Villa and Carlos Puyol were similarly lauded. The latter made every list but one and the former all but two (and the two he was absent from had striker partner Torres instead).

As for players not from Spain (or naturalized Brazil-born Spaniards) there was lots of love for Andrei Arshavin.

It's tough to poo poo that choice after he riddled the Dutch silly, but I'm going to try anyway. Arshavin only played in three games, and in one of them he was completely shut down—like NYC November '65 shut down—by Senna. So Arshavin had one nice game against Sweden, and a superb game against a Dutch team that, pre-tourney, everyone thought had a suspect back line that was waiting to be exposed. So maybe don't believe the hype.

My personal favorite squad? Not even mine. The NY Kid went genius crazy on us and cooked up a formidable 4-5-2.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Backpasses: Moving On

Websites give us links. We link back.

Six most disappointing player performances in the Euros []
Lehmann has plenty to say about ref, but never about his teammates [Soccernet]
German writer has surprisingly negative reaction to the Euros [Deutsche Welle]
C. Ronaldo cannot master the inflatable toy. Includes N. Gallardo wedgie pics [Daily Mail]
Some people like to watch soccer at bars. Others choose differently [Washington Post]

And finally, Euros likely to be extended to 24 teams by 2016 [Daily Mail]

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Euro 2008 Squad of The Tournament

To the victors go the spoils.

Nine Spanish players were named to the Euro 2008 all-tournament squad, with Xavi Hernandez earning player of the tournament honors. Iker Casillas, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Carlos Puyol, Marchena, Torres, Iniesta, David Villa, and Marcos Senna were the Spanish representatives.

While Xavi had a good tournament, I think Senna should have the greatest recognition. He bossed around Arshavin and then Ballack in order. He helped secure the Spanish backline that did not allow a goal in the knockout stages. And, he was a threat at times offensively with some ground missiles he launched at goal. But, a defensive midfielder is not going to win this award.

Only Lahm, Podolski and Ballack earned honors for the runners up. And, if you had watched the games, I don't think you would have given Lahm that much credit. He was worked by Turkey and Torres. He did have a nice gamewinner, but his overall tournament was not his best.

After the jump the full squad, but please note the one person not on list:

Cristiano Ronaldo.

UEFA's squad of the tournament:

Goalkeepers: Buffon (Italy), Casillas (Spain), van der Sar (Holland).

Defenders: Bosingwa (Portugal), Lahm (Germany), Marchena (Spain), Pepe (Portugal), Puyol (Spain), Zhirkov (Russia).

Midfielders: Hamit Altintop (Turkey), Modric (Croatia), Senna (Spain), Xavi (Spain), Zyryanov (Russia), Ballack (Germany), Fabregas (Spain), Iniesta (Spain), Podolski (Germany), Sneijder (Holland).

Striker: Arshavin (Russia), Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Torres (Spain), Villa (Spain).

For a team that got worked so hard defensively, I'm not sure how Portugal got two defenders on the squad. More importantly, Bastien Schweinsteiger is not on this list. He did get red-carded in the tournament, but proved invaluable to the German squad. I also think Ruud Van Nistelrooy got shafted as he acquitted himself quite well after Van Basten dumped him at World Cup 2006.

Anyway, post your thoughts or Starting XI in the comments.

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The day after...

So the Spanish have won, making England the biggest underachievers once again, and I'm hoarse of throat from singing the Torres Kop song (well, just the chorus, really) far too much at Kinsale yesterday. Apologies to anyone who now has that refrain permanently embedded in their cerebral cortex.

And so we find ourselves in that frightening void, that scary abyss where championships end and new seasons struggle to kick into life.

What on earth will we do with ourselves for the next month? Should we take up a hobby, like beekeeping, home brewing, or philately? (Actually, the home brewing doesn't sound like such a bad idea)

Or should we look to the MLS for our fix, struggling to find a vein in which to mainline the excitement?

If more matches end up with Beckham and Donovan looking bruised, battered and humiliated, then I might well try.

It's always fun to see Beckham suffer. Really, it is. It ranks high on the list of casual pleasures, to see the tattooed twit from Leytonstone looking well and truly bemused and frustrated. Yesterday was no different; in a smart bit of promotion by ESPN, they put the MLS's centerpiece on TV right before the Spain/Germany match, and while it wasn't quite what they'd hoped for, I certainly enjoyed it.

DC United ran 'em ragged, and I lost track of the number of closeups Beckham received in the game's dying minutes. Each shot seemed to be searching for signs of life or fear in Beckham's eyes, perhaps a flicker of realization that while his bank account is neatly padded (and, ahem, his underpants too), his cultural account might be dangerously close to overdrawn. (I should write for the AP with lines like that)

Simply put, he was an island, a one-man island lost amid a sea of black shirts. No free-kicks just outside the box with which he could drag his team back into contention, and the awful defending from Xavier and friends didn't help either.

Mannix's point about the league needing more Beckhams was, as was his entire article, horribly misguided, because one player can't make that much difference. Just ask Gerrard in that strange pre-Torres year, where teammates looked to him and him alone for inspiration and crucial late goals.

I enjoyed the match greatly, even if the combined forces of advertising and corporate synergy didn't.

I hope to see more shellackings like this before the MLS realizes their transfer monies might be better spent elsewhere.

Here's the match highlights, and some thoughts from one of the better US soccer writers, Steven Goff.

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The Coach Speaks!

Some of the New York Canaries with John(far left) and (former City coach) Dick Mills(far right) at George Keeley bar, NYC.

Bigus here! As you may recall, last week I told you lot that my mate and Norwich under 12's coach John Revell was in town. I offered you the opportunity to have your questions answered by a proper, certified footy coach. You took that opportunity and eagerly submitted your questions. Here are the answers.....

u75: "Ask him if Delia tries out any of her new recipes on the kids?"

JR says: "Delia is influential in chef appointments & menu content ensuring they meet her high standards & understanding our athletes dietary needs. The first team eat at Colney Training ground as do the scholars each day & U-15 & U-16 players when they train during the day from School release. Listings are made for the players’ guidance relating to carbohydrates/fats/protein content."

Mike Georger: "What I've always wondered with these youth teams, lets say a ten or eleven year old hits a growth spurt and all of a sudden has five or six inches on the other kids. Do they bump him up to the next level?"

JR says: "Growth spurts can be a real problem to growing players and the Academy youngsters are regularly monitored for weight & height so that significant changes are identified. Rather than creating a situation where growth spurts improve performance thus enabling upgrading to the next age level, they are more likely to impair performance leading to a loss of mobility and therefore form & are often one reason a player is struggling."

The Fan's Attic: "Where does he get his training drills? How does he decide if they are good for his kids?"


"Is there anything new in training for soccer or is it simply stuff that has been used for years and years? I guess this question is, how well is training advancing in soccer. I feel like in the past 20 years training for the major sports in America has become much more refined/specialized/targeted, has this become true in soccer?"

JR says: "Personally I spend quite a bit of time identifying what I want to achieve & make some of my own drills to meet the requirements. However there isn’t too much new in basic needs, ie. Coaching players to receive/control/pass the ball & moving when under pressure & its often about tweaking drills used by other coaches, watching videos, reading articles etc. etc. As with everything, there is no shortcut and it involves hard work & a passion to improve knowledge. At the academy we regularly hold in-house coaching sessions covering a range of topics & presenters which include tactics & an understanding of different systems of play.

The key for deciding benefits for the players, in my opinion: is it relevant to the game? Is it going to be interesting & are the players going to enjoy being involved in it? If they can see/understand the benefits to them, then the session will be easier to deliver as they are more likely to “buy into it”.

The specialization players in the Academy receive coaching in groups for defenders, midfield & strikers within their training sessions from age U-13."

Andrew: wanted to know.. "How tied into a single position are kids at the age of 10-11? Are position assignments more fluid, or are kids already locked-in at that age?"

JR says: "When players are scouted for the Academy from their local teams they have probably been earmarked into either defenders, midfielders or strikers by their manager or dads & it is as such that they are recruited. However it is often apparent that players have differing qualities that can suggest they may be suited in other positions & it is not unusual for movement around positions within their Academy teams to see how players individual qualities enable them to adapt to other positions. I know of individual cases where boys have moved into different positions & found a new lease of life."

The Fan's Attic: "Do you see any downside to having kids focus on one sport at such an early age? could it be helpful to have them do other activities?"

JR says: "The benefit of only seriously playing one sport is that they can put all the effort into that area concentrating completely on improving. In the Academy we encourage players to participate in other sports such as athletics if they wish but clearly as they diversify the impact in any one sport becomes “watered down” but we see benefits in players having a more rounded sporting profile. By age 15 or 16 decisions should be made as to what sport is it to be. Fish or cut bait!"

Who is the next Sutton? John (far right) with his current crop of budding young footballers!

Hockalees: "As kind of an offshoot of one of FA's questions... if training in the UK has become as targeted/specialized as it has in the US, does he ever encounter the "diamonds in the rough" that excel at an older age (in their teens, a la Michael Jordan)? Or does the early specialization tend to discourage those who come to the game later?

How early do they start with 11 v 11 play with youth in England?

JR says: "When working with young players it is clear that their development can be at different ages. There are many who are ahead of the field at 7,8,9 who then plateau out & are “caught up” by others. Similarly there are some who, for whatever reason, come good at a later age & pass those early flyers. Since all the training/coaching that Academy players get from entering the Academy at U-9 they will have benefited from it if they stay the course. It is unusual for players to come into the academy at a later age matching those players through the complete package although they have demonstrated at their clubs that they have potential & are worth consideration & some indeed do make it.

Eleven v. eleven is currently introduced at local league level under English FA jurisdiction at U-11, but this may be reviewed. However in the Academy programme. U-9 & U-10 play 5 or 6 a side, U-11 play 9 a side & U-12 start at 11 a side."

Finally, The Fan's Attic: "Who was your greatest success?"

JR says: I presume you mean which Academy boys featured in my Academy teams over the years have made it to pro? Since the advent of the Academy system players are now starting to come through into the senior ranks & I will mention that from the U-14 team which I was helping with approximately 5 years ago, Joe Lewis, Michael Spillaine, Rossi Jarvis & Chris Martin have achieved professional contracts."

Many thanks to John for taking the time to address your questions.


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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time to party in Madrid

Congratulations to Spain on winning their second European Championship today. Aside from the first 20 minutes of the game, Germany were never really in it, and Spain controlled play easily. The finish from Torres was top drawer, and will provide ample spank bank material for LB for the next few months. Senna once again marshaled the Spanish defense, and hopefully the rumors linking him to Arsenal are true. 

We'll have some more meta tournament thoughts tomorrow, but certainly Euro 2008 was a huge improvement over the past few World Cups and European Championships. For the most part, everyone tried to play attacking football, and negative cynical bullshit teams like Italy and Greece got what was coming to them. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the upcoming season, and looking a bit further, to South Africa in 2010. 
And here is the rest of it.

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Euro 2008 Liveblog: Germany v. Spain

Okay kids, this is it! You know where we stand in terms of predictions, but we have yet to hear from you clowns. Let's get some suggestions in early, before the match gets too far underway. Germany v. Spain! Wienerschnitzel v. tapas. Berlin v. Barcelona. BMW v...Oh well. Hopefully you are in a good mood and ready for today's match. Personally, I am ecstatic, as I have been watching Landon Donovan cry in HD thanks to the abuse heaped upon him and the LA Galaxy by DC United. After the jump, all the details.

The starting XI for Joachim Low's German squad:

GK: Lehmann (tee-hee; all EPL fans assume at least 1 howler is in order)
DEF: Friedrich; Mertesacker; Metzelder; Lahm
MID: Hitzlsperger; Ballack (C); Frings; Podolski; Schweinsteiger
ST: Klose

Notes on Germany: Obviously, the big news here is that Ballack is fit and will start, although talk has immediately turned to whether he was simply providing a pre-made excuse in the case of a poor performance. Germany plays a modified 4-5-1, which in practice resembles a 4-3-3, with Podolski and Schweinsteiger both acting as offensive midfielders/defensive forwards.

The starting XI for Luis Aragones' Spain squad:

GK: Casillas (C)
DEF: Sergio Ramos; Marchena; Puyol; Capdevila
MID: Senna; Iniesta; Xavi Hernandez; Silva; Fabregas (finally!)
ST: Torres

Notes on Spain: The Spanish side plays a 4-1-4-1, with Senna acting as the lone defensive midfielder. Also, Aragones is a racist.

The match is being played at Ernst-Happel Stadion in Vienna, Austria.

Centre official: Roberto Rosetti (ITA)
Assistant referees: Alessandro Griselli (ITA); Paolo Calcagno (ITA)
4th official: Peter Frojdfeldt (SWE)

Is anyone out there, or am I blogging with myself?

00:01 - And we're off!

01:00 - Throw-in from Torres put out, resulting in a throw for Ze Germans.

01:50 - The boobirds come out as Spain opens up very timidly, moving the ball in their defensive third of the pitch.

02:55 - Bad touch from Ramos forced by Schweinsteiger, but Klose is unable to get off a shot.

03:43 - Long ball from Silva, but Torres is offside.

04:27 - More offense from the Germans, as Podolski plays Lahm at the endline, but he is unable to cross the ball in-bounds.

05:56 - Sergio Ramos pushes forward, and the ball eventually gets to Capdevila, who is about 28 yards offsides.

- Ballack gets loose on the left around Puyol, but the ball served across the goal doesn't find anyone waiting for it.

08:24 - Klose pushes the ball into the middle for Hitzlsperger, but the quiet midfielder gets off a very weak shot. Too easy for Casillas.

09:16 - The Germans are moving the ball much better than the Spaniards. The crowd is still booing, although that might be residual from Enrique Iglesias' performance.

10:54 - Poor ball forward for the Spaniards, and Torres and Mertesacker get tangled up. No foul, as the ball was already firmly in Lehmann's hands.

11:10 - Klose earns a corner. The resulting kick by Schweinsteiger is punched out by Casillas, straight to the Germans. Frierich delivers a ball into the box which is grabbed by Casillas.

12:29 - Torres is fouled by Lahm, but the Spaniards play the resulting kick back into the midfield. They are very tentative.

13:50 - Torres drives the ball into Iniesta, but it comes off Metzelder, which forces Lehmann into an excellent save. The corner is played short to Iniesta, back to Xavi, who puts forth a poor cross.

16:09 - Spanish free kick from 35 yards, and the ball goes directly to Lehmann. Very poor effort.

Ed's note: I am not impressed by Torsten Frings' tale of pain. I once broke 3 ribs in the first game of my rec season, and played 3 more games before I realized it. Suck it, Torsten!

18:51 - Deep ball from Silva to Torres, and Metzelder hacks at Torres resulting in a free kick. The ball from Xavi finds Torres, who heads it over the goal.

21:26 - Ballack fouls Xavi as he passes the ball to Cesc. The free kick is played back to the Spanish midfield, and then back forward for Fabregas. He gets it to Torres, who puts it off the post and Sergio Ramos and Capdevila both muff chances at the follow.

24:11 - Podolski earns a corner. Schweinsteiger puts in a ball that is too low, but his second ball comes out to the far post. Ballack receives the ball and fires the ball into Xavi. On the Spanish break-out, Lehmann goofs and has to put the ball out. The resulting throw-in leads to a low shot taken cleanly by Jens.

26:23 - Klose plays the ball through to Podolski, but he is unable to find Hitzlsperger in the middle.

During discussion of NASCAR, we find out that Andy Gray was treating a lady-friend to some shopping yesterday. Fascinating!

28:28 - Ballack is fouled by Senna, and Lahm takes the free kick quickly, but the Spanish take control.

28:51 - Torres gets loose, but Metzelder is able to track him down and put the ball out. The corner kick is played in, but the Spaniards are called for a foul in the box (Sergio Ramos).

30:21 - Silva plays the ball out, resulting in a throw for Lahm. Silva has some words for the AR, who doesn't seem interested. The ball comes back out to Fabregas, who puts in a low shot that is taken cleanly by Lehmann.

32:20 - GOAL! Spain 1 - Germany 0. Torres gets loose once again, this time darting between two German defenders (Lahm and Mertesacker). Lehmann comes out for it, but Torres pokes it over him.

34:10 - Iniesta gets forward and plays the ball to Silva, who puts it way over the goal. The Spaniards have their tails up.

35:11 - Ballack is bleeding, although it's not clear where the cut came from. Ah, it appears it was a head-butt from Senna.

36:01 - Schweinsteiger draws a free kick at 30 yards out. The kick is played into the box, but it skies over the bar.

The replays really demonstrate just how brilliant the goal was from Torres. He beats 2 German defenders (one of whom, Lahm, is arguably the team's best) with his speed, and then beats Lehmann with a smart touch.

37:49 - Ballack fouls Fabregas, and is then sent off again for blood streaming down his face.

39:11 - Schweinsteiger is fouled by Capdevila, although it's a soft call. Hitzlsperger plays the ball into the box, but the ref calls it back since he hadn't blown the whistle. The stoppage actually gives Ballack a chance to get back in. The second kick is played into the box and put out by Senna for a corner. The third kick of this series is played out by Casillas, directly to the Germans, who earn another corner. That ball is played out to the top of the box, and played out by Xavi before Hitzlsperger can perform the bicycle kick.

41:31 - Ballack gets involved in an altercation, and Casillas comes flying out of net to push him away. They both earn a yellow card for their trouble.

43:18 - Free kick for Spain near midfield, and it gets played all the way back to Casillas. Fabregas moves forward with the ball, but is dispossessed by Schweinsteiger. The ball is played into Metzelder, but the Spanish respond well, and get the ball up to Iniesta, who earns a corner. The resulting kick is played short to Senna, who eventually plays it into the box. Sergio Ramos goes down trying to earn a PK, but the ref waves it off.

45:00 (+01:00) - Halftime. Spain 1 - Germany 0 on a brilliant goal from Torres.

u75 has posited that all which Ballack has contributed today is chipping at the ankles of the Spaniards, which is a bit unfair. He has also bled on them.

45:00 - Friedrich off, Jansen on for Germany to start the half. CORRECTION - It's Lahm who is off.

46:01 - Klose goes down in a heap after a pass from Frings, but he was offsides.

48:09 - Fabregas to Iniesta, but Frings recovers the ball and is then fouled. Andy Gray isn't happy with the call.

49:01 - Torres is taken down, but no foul is given. Andy Gray disagrees with this call also.

50:09 - Torres is caught offsides, and Klose takes a boot to the coinpurse.

Signal to Noise has put in a vote for Senna as "best under-the-radar player" for the tournament. Luis Aragones doesn't think that he should be eligible, since he is black.

52:46 - Fabregas to Torres to Xavi, who puts the shot wide.

53:29 - Corner for Spain, as apparently Lehmann got a hand onto the ball. The kick comes out to Silva, who puts a shot on goal. Sergio Ramos tries to redirect the shot, but it goes wide.

54:43 - Xavi slides the ball through for Torres, but Lehmann comes out quickly and manages to make the save this time.

56:58 - Frings tackles Iniesta, who goes down in a heap. Looked worse than it actually was.

57:22 - Karanyi on, Hitzlsperger off for Germany. Karanyi will play up top with Klose.

57:49 - Good build-up from Spain, and ends up with Sergio Ramos putting the ball across the goal mouth and over the endline.

59:00 - Puyol coughs up the ball, and it comes to Schweinsteiger who touches it for Ballack. The shot goes just wide, hitting the side netting.

- Karanyi is called offside, but he looked to be even.

- Torres goes down after a kiss from Metzelder, and the crowd boos. No foul is called. The counter-attack comes out to Ballack, who crosses for Karanyi. Casillas barely manages to get to it.

61:23 - Schweinsteiger plays a beautiful ball for Klose, but Sergio Ramos guides it out. The Spanish counter-attack results in Torres being taken down, but the free kick goes nowhere. The Germans attack again, but Schweinsteiger puts the ball out off Klose.

62:54 - Fabregas off, Xabi Alonso on for the Spaniards in a defensive move.

63:01 - A bit of the argy-bargy as Silva and Podolski jaw at each other. Silva barely moves his head, and Podolski immediately grabs his eye. The ref ignores everyone, particularly Ballack who is trying to get a red for Silva.

65:49 - The ball comes off Metzelder's hand, resulting in a free kick. The ball is played into the box, and Sergio Ramos gets off a blistering header that is stopped by Jens.

67:01 - The resulting corner is played quickly, and the shot comes tearing in but Frings clears it off the post. The ball makes its way back to Iniesta, who pokes it towards Jens. The save is made, and Spain earn a throw-in.

69:40 - Jansen earns a free kick by running into Sergio Ramos' back. The ball is played by Frings into the box, but Casillas punches it clear.

71:48 - Casillas is bent over in some pain. It may be stomach or groin pain, but it's more likely a jammed finger.

Apparently, I missed a substitution, since Cazorla is running around the pitch for for Spain. Possibly on for Marchena.

73:33 - Torres earns a yellow card for an accidental headbutt of Metzelder. Poor decision by the referee.

75:00 - Torres gets loose, but his touch to get around Mertesacker is too heavy and goes directly to Jens.

76:10 - Good pressure from Spain, but Torres is unable to get past the German defense. The ball is played out for a corner, which results in nothing.

77:25 - Guiza on, Torres off for Spain. Gomez on, Klose off for Germany.

78:00 - Lehmann gets away with playing the ball off his arm just outside the box. The ball bounces around midfield, and the Spaniards come back with Iniesta to Xavi to Capdevila, who puts a shot low directly at Lehmann. The Germans try to counter with Schweinsteiger in space where Capdevila should be defending, but it comes to nothing.

80:50 - The Spaniards attack again, and Guiza heads the ball back toward Senna, who just misses scoring the killing goal.

82:00 - Guiza comes down 1-on-4, and draws a corner. The resulting kick is useless. Germany play the ball out, but it comes back to Senna who is fouled. Xavi puts the ball over the bar.

86:00 - Karanyi offsides as the Germans continue to push.

87:01 - Yellow card for Karanyi for a late tackle.

89:58 - Late German pressure, but Gomez fouls Capdevila.

90:00 (+00:55) - Podolski takes the ball off Capdevila, but is unable to find Gomez.

90:00 (+01:24) - Xavi takes the ball into the corner, and then to Cazorla, who lays it off to Xabi Alonso. Long kick from Lehmann and the Spaniards earn a free kick.

90:00 (+02:25) - Throw-in for Germany in their own end. Lehmann almost gives the ball right back to them, but Schweinsteiger plays the ball long. Puyol gets a head on it, and sends Metzelder to the turf at the same time. No foul called, and the whistle blows after Casillas' kick.

90:00 (+03:00) - FULL TIME. Spain 1 - Germany 0.

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Another still kinda-drunk post about today's final

So, still in the grip of two solid, sustained days of drinking, we have made it to today's final. And my Spain pick (trendy, but justified) is still there! Wunderbar.

Even though we're all losing in the UF Pick 'Em League to you commenters, we still felt like we couldn't let the Big Kahuna pass by without offering our final predictions for the final. After some back and forth and a firm grip on the definition of irony, we present a sampling of our guesswork after the jump.

If you're in the NYC area, traipse on up to the Kinsale Tavern (3rd Avenue between 93rd and 94th) to join the UF contingent and friends for a drinking binge in the back corner.

But first.... our wildest and most comical guesses!

Ian: Spain 2-1

A howler from Jens at the death dooms the Krauts.

u75: 3-1 Spain. 'Cause that's what I have in my pick'em.

Spectator: 2-1 der Germans, because I predicted Germany would win at the start of the tournament (also correctly predicted Germany v. Spain -- I am so
very talented at picking the favorites!!).

Precious Roy: Spain 2-2 (Win on PKs 5-3).

Cesc and Guiza for Espana. Klose x2 for die Germans.

Clueless of the overtime periods, some ABC producer throw switch to a WNBA game after the end of 90 minutes.

Moonshine Mike: 1-1 with spain winning 4-3 on PKs. of course Cesc nails the clincher, then falls down, twists his knee and is out for the entire Arsenal season.

The NY Kid: 1-1 after full time (Klose v. Torres). Germany wins on PK 3-2.

The Likely Lad: I picked spain 2-1 in le juge euro 2008 (don't ask), so I'm sticking with 'em!

Lingering Bursitis: My thought: 3-1 Spain.

Torres 1-0
Bastian 1-1
Xavi 2-1
late breakaway tap-in at the death to seal it from Silva 3-1

The Fan's Attic: Spain 3 (Torres x2, Silva)

Germany 2 (Ballack, Klose)

It's who I picked prior to the tournament.

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A really quick, hungover preview of today's festivities

Die Mannshaft. La Seleccion. Cooly efficient Teutonic machinery against the emotional, flamboyant, insanely skilled Spanish. And about a million other timeworn national cliches. ESPN is even bringing up the Holocaust. Yes, it can only mean the final is upon us. A quick UF preview, after the jump.

A good portion of this blog was picking the Germans before the tournament started, but 
Spain's demolition of the pesky Russians seems to have swayed opinion. Since Villa is likely not playing today, Cesc seems a lock to start in some version of a 4-5-1  4-4-1-1 (the Spanish would never resort to such ugliness as a 4-5-1! please). If Torres can convert some of his chances into goals, Spain have a really good shot today.

Meanwhile, Ballack faces a late fitness test on his injured calf. After missing the final six years ago in Tokyo, I would imagine that he plays if his leg is still attached to his knee. The general consensus is that the Germans will have to use their physical advantage and rough up the more skilled Spainiards a bit. And lets not forget that Jens is in goal for the Germans.

Your thoughts, dear readers?

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