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Tag: World Cup 2006 (page 1 of 5)

FIFA blocks homepage access again?

The Hanguk Ilbo, quoting an unnamed Korea Football Association official, is reporting that it appears FIFA has once again blocked access to its website from Korea, this time in response to angry netizens protesting their team’s admittedly hard-to-understand drop to 56 in the world rankings.

Actually, I’m not sure whether they’ve blocked access or so many people are trying to access the page that the server is simply overloaded.

wc06: recap and lasting memories

The World Cup is over and, as I struggle to resume a “normal” sleeping pattern again, here are one man’s subjective thoughts about the month-long footie-fest:

  • the winners:  Italy may be antagonistic, diving, whingeing jackasses, but I honestly feel they are worthy victors.  They survived what turned out to be the Group of Death (each of the four teams had legitimate chances to qualify for the knockout rounds when the third match of the group stages kicked off), they turned aside a tricky Oz encounter (regardless of how dubiously they did it), they dismissed Ukraine, saddened the host nation, and held their nerve in a PSO.  They had in Fabio Cannavaro arguably the more worthy Golden Ball winner.  They had a goalkeeper in Gianluigi Buffon who nearly set a clean-sheet record.  They had, except against Germany and despite all the attacking talent and flair available, a most boring, though effective, style of play.  I still don’t like Italy.
  • best one-game team performance:  Argentina 6-0 Serbinegro.  Mesmerising performance that was not to be duplicated, mostly because of coach Jose Pekerman’s over-reliance on Juan Roman Riquelme and squeamishness in going with his cast of talent on the bench that remained there for far too many minutes of the tournament.
  • goal of the tournament: There were several candidates from which to choose: Torsten Frings’s goal v. Costa Rica in the Cup opener; Phillip Lahm’s in the same match; Joe Cole’s v. Sweden in the group stages; Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 2nd goal v. Portugal in the consolation game; Nuno Gomez’s goal v. Germany in the 3rd/4th place match; Maxi Rodriguez’s goal v. Mexico in the round of 16; David Beckham’s free-kick v. Ecuador in the round of 16; Darijo Srna v. Australia in the group stages; Tomas Rosicky’s v. USA in the group stages; Esteban Cambiasso v. Serbinegro in the group stages; Carlos Tevez v. Serbinegro in the same match; Fernando Torres v. Ukraine in the group stages.  My vote goes to Maxi Rodriguez’s volley in the round of 16 v. Mexico.  I still can’t believe it–and at what a time, too.  Sensational.
  • best team not to make the final 16: Ivory Coast.  The orange-clad Elephants had the misfortune of making their World Cup debut in a difficult group (Argentina, Holland, Serbinegro), but they managed to play well, be entertaining, and leave us with a feeling of “What if they’d been in a different group…”  They lost by identical 1-2 margins to Argentina and Holland, but managed a two-goal comeback to defeat the Serbs, 3-2.  They, along with round-of-16 entrant Ghana and a host of fellow continentals who didn’t even qualify (among them, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, and Morocco), give Africa hope to perform well in 2010 when the World Cup is played on African soil for the first time.
  • most disappointing team(s): Czech Republic, Iran.  Many people will say Brasil, England, Spain, Holland, USA or Argentina, but I disagree.  You must know your history or be practical in analysing this: Brasil never do well (relatively speaking) in European World Cups and had an ageing defense, so they did as well as I predicted (one of the few I got right); Argentina had the misfortune to go against Prussian karma too early; though I’d always had England winning it since the crash-out at Euro 2004, I knew better when Sven only picked 4 strikers, two of whom were recovering from foot injuries, one of whom is still trying to figure how to shave, and the fourth of whom looks like the poster child for tall people with eating disorders; Spain never do well in any international tournament and the sooner people start realising it (until Spain actually do win something), the less dumb they’re going to look; Holland was a bit too inexperienced and have much to look forward to in ’08 and ’10; and expecting the USA to carry forth the momentum from ’02 was as much due to FIFA’s world rankings as anything.  My vote for most disappointing team is draw between Czech Republic and Iran.  The FIFA rankings are a farce, and while I could give a damn about Czech Republic’s status as the #2 ranked team in the world, there were high expectations across Europe and many other parts of the world for this team to do well and go far, but, aside from their opening-match thrashing of the Yanks, they were, quite frankly, crap, injuries notwithstanding.  As for Iran, remember, this is a subjective list–I’d seen this team play quite a few times in the lead-up to the tournament and was convinced they were underrated because most footie observers are mainstream elitists who looked haughtily down at African and Asian football.  However, the Persians looked old, creaky, and uninventive, very different from how they looked in qualifying and at the Asian Cup in ’04.  And they complained about the heat and bemoaned their own fitness.  I had no idea that Tehran was so refreshingly cool and/or balmy year-round, thereby making the German summer so difficult to endure for the poor Iranians.
  • most disagreeable team:  Hands-down, it’s Portugal. Sorry, you Portu-philes out there, but it’s true.  While they are not the only team full of prancing phairy princesses who dive better than Greg Louganis or a battalion of steroid-enhanced Chinese women, they stand alone as the best at what they do, led by that new gay icon (not my idea to think so, mind you, but others’ conception), Cristiano Ronaldo.  They created a whole new genre of footie that I never thought had existed and hope will be cleaned up.  If FIFA are going to suspend Rooney for two matches for stamping on Carvalho’s figs, if they’re going to investigate the rumours of racist taunting by Materazzi that induced Zizou’s head to introduce itself to Materazzi’s breast bone, if they’re publicly going to censure referees for merely doing what they were told by FIFA to do, then they ought to start suspending players for their acts of impudent behaviour designed to induce calls in their favour.  Yes, that might have meant some matches where there were only five eligible players for each team at the start of kickoff as a result of previous indiscretions, but I’d rather watch five-on-five, full-pitch footie than a match full of turf divers.
  • best kits: anything designed by Puma, most specifically Ivory Coast’s all-orange, Ghana and Iran’s all-red, and Angola’s red, yellow, and black strip with black shorts.  Puma designed their kits very simply–for most teams, all solid colour strips and shorts with a minimum of stripes, and with a designed coded into the background of the kit to resemble a national treasure of the respective nations (for example, if you look closely at Togo’s strip, there’s a large silhouette of the sparrow hawk, the team and nation’s symbolic bird, on the bottom half of the front).  Excellent stuff.  Kudos, too, to Nike’s efforts this year, as they were crap for the ’02 Cup.  Going away from the template design of before where each team had the same design, but in their national colours, Nike went with designs that were more tailoured to each nation and were often a look back at the past, retro-style.  USA’s all-blue change kit with the red and white horizontal stripe was classic 50s, as were Holland’s home orange with the collar & their white change strips with the blue and red diagonal stripe, and Mexico’s home green with a white chevron-type across the chest and the white change with said chevron stripe in green.  Korea’s all-white ensemble was very cool and classy, as well.  And, as always, I liked England’s change kit, the red shirt with the white shorts, as well as Argentina’s dark-blue change kit.
  • worst kits:  Why is it that Brasil, Italy, and Germany are afraid to wear their change kits?  Each of these three teams only wore one ensemble the entire month.  Personally, I like Germany’s red change strips and Brasil’s blue change strips very much.  I have no idea what Italy’s change strips look like, or if they even have one.  Korea’s new red strip with white shorts is much better than before (for one thing, the colour of the strip is not PINK this year), but the blue numbers are crap; go with white numbers.  France’s change white isn’t so hot, not with the blue-and-red spider-web effect on the front.  However, the worst kits have to be the ones made by Lotto and worn by Serbinegro and Ukraine.  The six talon-like stripes, three down the left side and three down the right side, give the effect of a pinwheel toy or a woebegone windmill with hemorrhoids.  Lotto should be banned from further kit-designing.
  • national team that earned the most respect:  Trinibago.  One of the smallest nations ever to grace the World Cup stage and given no chance to do anything–even given less chance than Botswana, Suriname, Luxembourg, and Burma, none of whom were even in the World Cup–they battled their asses off to swipe a point from Sweden, gave England fits of paranoia, and troubled Paraguay to the very end.  They didn’t score a goal, which was less than they deserved, but they played resolutely, gamely, and with pride that I’d like to have seen from others (England, Brasil, Iran).  Kudos, too, to their hearty fans who danced and sang throughout all three matches and were very generous and genuine in their support for their national heroes.
  • most entertaining match:  for my money, it goes to Croatia v. Australia.  With each team having to go all-out to qualify for the next round, it had all the makings from the very beginning of entertaining us.  Croatia needed a win, Oz a draw, so when Croatia scored first, it was game on because Oz were desperate.  When Oz levelled, Croatia resumed the desperate mantra.  After the Croats went ahead for a second time, the frenzied play was again switched back to the Aussies.  A late, late goal secured Oz’s passage.  Adding to the affair was the scene in the stands and the atmosphere in the stadium, conveyed so gloriously to us even on television.  The Croats sang and danced all match long (I got motion sickness watching 25,000 checkerboard-clad maniacs dancing the entire match; how the hell did the players make it through without decorating the pitch, ala Beckham v. Ecuador?) while 25,000 Aussies downed pints and plowed blow-up kangaroos in return.  The remaining 10,000, not affiliated with either nation, either watched in bemusement or chose a side and followed suit.  And what made the match even more entertaining than it already was?  The referee.  I guess all the checkerboard movement or kangaroo-plowing cost him his rudimentary math skills, as he proceeded to book the same Croat player three times before finally expelling him just after the match ended.
  • most boring match: Switzerland 0-0 Ukraine, round of 16; I don’t remember it, however, as I slept through nearly all of it, even though I had downed several Red Bulls and speed beforehand…
  • best individual player performance: Zinedine Zidane v. Brasil in quarterfinals. Shaka Hislop v. Sweden in group stages. Owen Hargreaves v. Portugal in quarterfinals.  Arjen Robben v. Serbinegro in group stages. Cristiano Ronaldo as Superman in semifinals. Ricardo v. England in quarterfinal PSO.  Okay, so the Ronaldo entrant is not a serious entrant, but it was quite an audition for the next Superman movie.  My pick is a toss-up between Zizou’s and Hislop’s, with the nod going slightly to Zidane because his came on a much bigger stage and was arguably more unexpected.  Hislop in goal was amazing for the ten-man Soca Warriors against Sweden, as the Swedes pummeled him for nearly the whole of the second half of their match.  He was up to the occasion time and again and thoroughly frustrated the Swedes so much that the nil-nil draw had the look of defeat to the Swedes and unbelievable victory to the tiny island nation.  Though Zizou had done well in the round of 16 match v. Spain, no one expected the performance against Brasil, which was a transport back to the late 90s/early 00s when Zizou was unquestionably the greatest player on the planet.  His performance was scintillating and he controlled the midfield and the pace of the match nearly by himself.  It was an unexpected legendary performance that not many saw coming.

The World Cup was a lot of things, but it’s going to be a long time before it’s remembered for anything other than Zidane’s momentary loss of consciousness.  Even Italy’s championship is nearly being overshadowed by most of the international media.  And with rumours swilling around about what Materazzi said to provoke Zizou, Zizou set to speak publicly about it in a few hours, and the fact that his Golden Ball award might be stripped from him, the furor is not going to die down soon.

It’s too bad, though inevitable in today’s world of mass media and the frenzy it produces at times.  Hopefully, with our recap of the World Cup hardly broaching the subject, you, the Reader, will be reminded of all the wonderful and wacky things that happened in this World Cup.  And, of course, remember that the above comments were purely one man’s opinion; if I was remiss in leaving some things out or in neglecting to mention other things, my apologies in advance.  Perhaps you’ll introduce your own ideas in the “comments” section for us all to ruminate over.

wc06: Italy 1-1 France (Italy win, 5-3, in PSO)

“However, I just don’t think Zizou is going to allow France to lose.”

Could I be any worse of a footie writer?  Honestly, how did you guys manage to put up with my dross for the past month?  I couldn’t have fared worse in analysing and predicting matches if I’d sat out in a pasture, surrounded by mounds of bovine dung and overseen by football-ignorant constellations, and simulated each of the 64 matches in this World Cup using dung beetles as players, frozen feces as the football, and LSD-induced hallucinations to choose my formation and formulate my strategies.

“Her moment of weakness cost me a lifetime of happiness.”

When Manigault wrote those immortal words about a woman he had once loved, those words could’ve been mine if I’d substituted Zizou’s for “her”, “me” with France, and “happiness” with glory

I wonder how the French public and media are going to treat the near-deity Zizou–we’ve already seen that Raymond Domenech, his manager, “understands” Zidane’s as-yet inexplicable gaffe while not necessarily condoning it–but I’m not going to let him off so easily. 

I have no problem with the headbutt, per se, as when I first saw it, I laughed my ass off, but I have a huge problem with the timing of it.  How can the leader of the squad, the man to whom all of France looked for inspiration and guidance, the man so lionised in all corners of global media for his recent resurrection on the pitch be so unequivocally boneheaded?  I don’t care what Materazzi said to him, how long he may have been winding him up, or in what manner he was obviously provoking him, but you do not do something so asinine with ten minutes left before penalty kicks in a World Cup final, especially not when three of your teammates–the very three who, along with you, are the obvious first choices to take penalties in a PSO.  If Henry, Ribery, and Vieira had not already been substituted for, I’d have less of a problem with Zidane’s momentary lapse of judgment; however, being your nation’s lone remaining grace brings great responsibility to keep your composure and Zidane blew it.

In one of the wackiest and most unusual World Cups I can remember, this ending couldn’t have been more fitting.  I suppose if one cannot go out in a blaze of glory, scoring your nation’s winning goal in a world-championship-winning match, I suppose going out in such a ferocious and controversial manner is a close second for a grand exit.

We got to see the best of genius, all in a span of one hundred and eleven minutes: from Zidane’s cheeky and very ballsy chip shot penalty take to give France an early nil-1 lead to his ball-handling and clever passing to his rocket header on goal magnificently saved by Buffon early in extra time to his impossible-to-stop bullet header to Materazzi’s chest.

Ahh, but all of this obsessive writing about Zizou overshadows the fact that Italy are once again world champions.  They move into second place behind Brasil for the number of stars (4) on their strips indicating the number of World Cups won.

Until Zidane’s act of lunacy, the outcome was still a toss-up.  Italy dominated the first half, France’s early lead notwithstanding, but nearly capitulated several times after the restart and in extra time while Zidane was still on the pitch.  Buffon rose to the occasion on several occasions to keep the Azzurri in it, while other times it was the defence, led by the sensational Fabio Cannavaro, who stymied the French attack.

Though France had lost Vieira and Henry to injury and Ribery to substitution, France were the better team for most of the last hour of play.  Even when Zidane was sent off, France had the better of possession and the better chances, as Italy were content to sit back and wait for PSO, knowing that France were going to be without four of their penalty-takers in the shootout.  Italy’s decision to pack it in and wait for the shootout was typical Italy, but disappointing, especially given the fact that they had gone all out in the semifinal extra time against Germany.

In the end, however, Italy were the better side and, based on their play the entire tournament, were deserving winners.  I may not like Italy, but credit and respect for their accomplishment must be meted out, even if the style in which they succeeded is not always welcome or respected.

This is the final World Cup post involving games in particular, but there will be shortly at least one more piece reviewing the tournament as a whole because, contrary to what I’ve read on some American sports web sites, this was an enjoyable and entertaining World Cup, to say the least.  It deserves a recap…

Again, congratulations to Italy for winning their 4th World Cup.

wc06: The Final: Italy v. France

Now that the appetising farce of the 3rd-place game is gone (won by Germany, 3-1, in a fabulous display of entertaining football by both the hosts and Portugal), we can all concentrate on the main course–and you have a choice: Italian cuisine or French cuisine.

Based on the inspired performances of both nations, especially since the elimination rounds started two weeks ago, this is a mouth-watering final.  As a neutral, one has to be happy about this final.  As well as matching two entertaining offences and two very strong defences, we are treated to only the second final without a German or Brasilian side since 1954 in Switzerland (and for the first time since 1978 in Argentina).  Not having (West)Germany or Brasil in a final is a rare delight.

On one side, you have Italy, slight favourites in this match, who’ve begun to add offensive flair (did you see them playing four, yes, 4, strikers in extra time during their match with Germany? That’s not Italian football, but Brasilian or Argentine footie…) to their usual oppressive defence and are as complete a team as you could hope to have in a final. They have famous names and a phalanx of stars, but no true world-renowned superstar, which has perhaps been a major reason they’ve been so in-form for the past two weeks.

On the flip side, you have in France a team of ageing stars on their last hurrah before the make way for the younger generation. You have one world-famous superstar in the mercurial and smooth Thierry Henry. You also have a suffocating defence and a plethora of playmakers and scorers. And, then, you have in Zinedine Zidane a superstar who surpasses mere global eminence: he’s without question the greatest player since Diego Maradona was the master a generation ago.  It is to Zizou over the next twenty years that we will be comparing any rising star who wants to be the player of his generation.

And what more fitting a way for Zizou to go out than in a World Cup final.

This a rematch of the Euro 2000 final won by the French on a golden goal by David Trezeguet. And, amazingly and understatedly, it is also a tantalising warmup to these two teams’ Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, as the two are paired together in Group B and will play one another again in Paris on 6 September.

So, what is this final going to come down to?  It’s such an evenly-matched final that it’s silly:

  • Goalkeepers: Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon is one of the top two or three keepers in the world.  He’s working on a clean sheet record of epic proportions: if France fail to score tonight/tomorrow morning for the first 63 minutes, Buffon will have set a record–currently held by legendary Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga at Italy ’90–for having gone more than 517 minutes of playing time without allowing a goal.  And, let’s not forget, the one goal that he’s allowed in the past month came courtesy of an own goal by teammate Cristian Zaccardo’s miskicked attempt to clear a ball versus the U.S.  Buffon rarely makes a mistake and is always in position to back up his defence whenever it is that they make their own rare mistakes.  The same cannot always be said of France’s man between the posts, the eccentric Fabien Barthez, who suffers from lapses of concentration at crucial times (witness his near-gaffe late in the semifinals on a Cristiano Ronaldo shot that allowed Figo a free header from six yards out, only for it to go wide).  However, it must be recognised that Barthez has been much more the consistent world-class keeper for France than he has been while playing for his club teams; he’s only allowed two goals in this World Cup and he has won a World Cup before, so he’s more than competent.   edge: Italy
  • Defence: What more is there to say?  Italy live by the defence and always have.  This edition is led by Golden Ball candidate Fabio Cannavaro and is formidable.  Cannavaro and mates have been rock-solid and figure to be no different in this one.  France’s defence is only slightly less solid, led by Lilian Thuram, who’s been nearly as good as Cannavaro.  They concede nothing easily and are a close-marking, hard-tackling group.  Edge: Italy
  • Midfield:  Italy are solid in the middle, with Zambrotta and Camoranesi the leading playmakers and the defensive Gennaro Gattuso brusquely holding down the middle from the back.  They have controlled most of the matches they’ve played in this World Cup and were instrumental in shutting down Germany’s midfield for large parts of their semifinal.  However, they lack the starpower of France’s midfield, starting, of course, with the incomparable Zizou and helped massively in defensive prowess by Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele.  France’s attack runs through this conduit and the results over the last half of the competition have been nothing short of excellent.  Edge: France
  • Strikers:  Italy’s strikers have been largely unimpressive in the tournament.  Luca Toni has been a massive disappointment, save for his two goals against Ukraine.  Francesco Totti hasn’t scored much, but I believe he’s the leading assist man in the tournament.  Being negative, he’s Italy’s top scorer with only two goals; from a positive viewpoint, however, Italy’s eleven goals have come from ten different players.  France, meanwhile, have the other incomparable: Thierry Henry.  He may be the lone striker up front, but he’s ably assisted by young wingers Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda.  Edge: France
  • Intangibles:  Both nations are poised.  Italy have rallied admirably around each other and have closed ranks to become really close-knit as a result of the Serie A scandal back home.  They have lots of stars, but no true superstar, and have played like a team comfortable with each other.  Their reputation for being stingy in conceding goals is intimidating and can wear an opponent down because the opponent is always thinking about that one chance to score and being able to do when it presents itself.  France, too, have rallied around one another and are more closely knit than one might think.  They unjustifiably have caught a lot of stick from the press back home and from some political corners, most notably the incorrigably racist Jean-JacquesMarie le Pen, who claims that France’s World Cup team, with seven blacks as starters, don’t truly represent France.  This has sought to bring the team closer and it’s hard to understand le Pen’s dumbassness.  And then there’s Zizou and his (and his teammates’) desire for him to go out on top of the world.  Zidane’s legend is already god-like and going out with a second World Cup title would elevate it somehow higher.  Edge: Even

To predict or not to predict, that is really what Bill penned for Hamlet (but with a crunch for room on the wrinkled vellum, his editors changed “predict” to “be”).  I’ve been using my subjectiveness to pick most matches, regardless of how objectively I’ve analysed them–and we all know how successful my predictions have been. 

With Italy, I’ve only picked them once (Australia) since the group stages, although I should have, in all objectivity, picked them a second time (Ukraine).  And in their semifinal with Germany, I had to pick the hosts because of the momentum they were riding at the time.

As for France, I’ve been more successful.  I’ve only picked against them once (Brasil), and that was an agonising toss-up that I basically flipped a coin over.

If you’ve been reading my opinions over the past few weeks, you know who I’m not cheering for.  And I’m sure it’s obvious my feelings for Zidane, as well.  I think France will win, perhaps in extra time, perhaps in a PSO.  This is a tossup for me, to be honest, were I more objective in picking Italy’s matches.  Should Italy win, they would be a worthy champion, my feelings for them notwithstanding.  However, I just don’t think Zizou is going to allow France to lose.

Enjoy the game and may your team win.

wc06: semifinal (NOT taepodong) II preview

Last night’s proceedings were a spectacle to behold and I expect tonight’s to be the same.

I am talking about World Cup footie, in case you’ve lost sight, while ducking your heads to avoid recent low-flying birds of a different feather, of other endeavours still, er, endeavouring here on Earth.

Portugal v. France:

As with the first semifinal, stories abound pertaining to this fixture, stories that are not necessarily all related to the actual game that will commence on the pitch:

  • Portugal have openly admitted to wanting to extract a bit of revenge for a loss to France six years ago, in the Euro 2000 semi-finals
  • Deco and Costinha return to the Portuguese midfield after serving suspensions against England in the last match
  • Six of France’s starting XI have bookings on their record from their last match played and would miss the final should they receive one here and France win
  • Portugal are the only nation among the semi-finalists never to have reached a World Cup final, much less win the prize
  • The two nations have combined to give up only three goals so far in the tournament, so goals will probably be hard to come by in this one, as well

Portugal should be very happy to have a rested Deco and Constinha back because they will be major keys to shackling France’s rejuvenated and electrifying midfield and forwards. If Portugal play as lackadaisically as did Brasil against France, which I don’t anticipate, book France into the final. Though Portugal’s defence has been stingy the past three and a half weeks, allowing just a solitary goal so far, if the midfielders don’t at least partly contain a now-rampant Zidane and Vieira, there will be loads of trouble for Portugal.

On the flip side, France are rightly favoured. There should be no reason to start thinking that les Bleus are suddenly going to revert to their group stage selves, not with the finish line so very much in sight. The French defence, like Portugal’s, has been very tough, conceding only a slow-motion crap goal to Korea and a penalty to Spain. The defence put a wiltering hammer to Brasil’s attack, but Portugal are not going to be as uninspired and will be more dangerous.

While Portugal are going to have concern themselves with Zidane, Henry, Ribery, Vieira, and more, France’s concern will be of a different hue: not allowing themselves to be drawn into Portugal’s less-than-honourable style of play. Whereas Portugal cannot allow Zidane, Henry, & Co., to run riot, France cannot allow themselves to be suckered into a barroom brawl like Holland and England were.

In the end, I believe France’s experience prevails. Zidane and his mates can feel the Cup nearly in their grasp and I think they’ll nick a tight one late in regulation or in extra time.

Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong on these things…

wc06: Dodging rockets amidst German grief

While sitting in my fallout shelter here on the northeast coast of South Korea, listening to North Korean missiles splash down in the East Sea just outside the window of my flat, I bravely held my nerve and got down to the business of watching a World Cup semifinal match.  Here’s what I saw:

Germany 0-2 Italy:

Let’s be honest about this, because I’m nothing if not honest: Italy were the better team this morning.

Damn, that hurt (but it’ll hurt even worse if I have to say it about Portugal, too, in 24 hours).

A pulsating match that gave us breathless fans extra time was decided on two late Italian goals, a stunner by Fabio Gross two minutes from time and then the polish from Alessandro del Pietro about a minute into the unannounced injury time, the very last kick of the match, in fact. 

A match that had been simmering on boil since well before kickoff and had always seemed set to make those NK missiles seem like mere flying cupcakes, a chippy affair that had not been dirtily played (save for some rolling, diving, synchronised swimming, feigned amputations, and other dramatic histrionics from both sides), an intense meeting that had been mostly well-played and had seemed destined for extra time shortly after the break and for PSO when Italy hit the woodwork twice in the opening salvos of extra time suddenly, in a less-than-two-minute span, ended in spectacular fashion.

If it hadn’t have been for Jens Lehmann, or the aforementioned crossbar and post, Italy would have ended the match long before the 121st minute–or about the same time NK’s third or fifth or tenth missile littered my swimming area.  This is not to say that Italy were heaps better than Germany on this occasion, but the Azzurri were the better team for most of the match.  John Luke the Buffoon Gianluigi Buffon was also tested on several occasions, especially in the first half, but the southern Europeans had the better chances, particularly late in the second half and in extra time.

This match was played in stark contrast to the Brasil-France quarterfinal from last weekend when both teams showed their respect for one another the entire game with repeated gestures of apologies for late tackles, hands offered to help opponents up from the ground and being accepted graciously, pregame reviews about the prowess and skill of the opponent, etc.  This match had none of it:  I remember twice where Germany refused to kick the ball out of bounds when there was an Italian allegedly hurt (the key being “allegedly”; this is Italy, after all) and at least three times when an Italian got stroppy and refused to shake hands with a German player offering to help him off the pitch.

Fortunately, the referee officiated the match levelheadedly and evenhandedly and only two cautions were issued, maybe three, I’m not sure, and the match never got ugly or out of hand, though it could easily have.

Germany had its chances throughout regulation and in extra time, only to be let down by poor finishing or untimely passing or, to give credit where it’s due, only to have the Italian defense turn them away.  Their most notable chances in the first half came when Bernd Schneider beat Buffon but his shot just skimmed over the bar and then when Buffon twice stopped blasts from Lukas Podolski.  Germany also had a first-half penalty claim that was denied by the referee when, in the box, Andrea Pirlo looked to have gotten an elbow up to block a shot by Michael Ballack.

In the end, the Italian defence held off the German advances and recorded their fifth clean sheet in six matches; in fact, their defence was so stout that they made most likely Golden Boot winner Miroslav Klose invisible for nearly the entire match.  I don’t remember any contribution to the German cause from him.

The Italians ran out deserved winners and have to feel very confident about their chances at the weekend in the final against either nation they face, Portugal or France.  Indeed, with their defence as suffocating as ever, they’re looking more and more formidable with each passing match.

And, now, back to your emergency chat sessions about the NK missile launch implications…  For me, it’s simple: how are my swimming and surfing areas now affected and how, in the future, is my daily seafood ration going to taste?

wc06: It’s down to four

The 2006 World Cup is down to four nations and three meaningful fixtures left (I refuse to count the abhorrently meaningless “3rd-place” match that’s played the night before the final; can anyone honestly remember ANY of the 3rd-place finishers from the past 20 years? Does anyone really care about this meaningless match? It’s just an excuse for FIFA to gouge the paying public an additional time).

It’s been an entertaining overall competition, to say the least, but one in which the officials and abysmal quality of refereeing have stolen too much of the spotlight. FIFA need to overhaul their precepts regarding what the officials deem booking and expulsion offences. The fact that nearly 350 cautions and almost 30 expulsions have been meted out is madness. The focus by FIFA on cleaning up the game has resulted in their missing the point and in interrupting the flow of the game.

Eliminate diving, flopping, players begging the officials or linesmen for red/yellow cards, grabbing one’s face in agony when it was the stomach that was hit, rolling around on the pitch like a drunken pirate on a ship listing in a typhoon, and other pussyfoot indiscretions and we might be getting somewhere.

When players such as Thierry Henry and Gary Neville–neither of whom have a history of such antics; Henry’s constant look of haughty indignation when flagged for offside or a foul are not antics to which I’m referring–start insinuating that they’ll have to begin resorting to licentious tactics in order to level a playing field full of thespians, it’s time for FIFA to get its collective head out of its collective arse and become aware of the game’s current course.

Anyway, on to the remaining matches…

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wc06: all-european semifinals

the following have now become official, if they hadn’t been already: 

  • when it comes to predicting this world cup, i suck like a contestant at the world cup of fellatio.
  • wayne rooney can be suckered into putting a huge dent in his team’s chances to win.
  • cristiano ronaldo is such a pretty-boy, pansy-assed, gutless wanker drama queen that i can’t even finish…
  • i will not watch a world cup final between italy and portugal, the first world cup final, should it happen, that i will have missed since ’78, when i was too young to know better
  • brasil’s back line is suspect
  • zinedine zidane is good
  • england’s penalty kick skills are not good
  • fifa’s selection process for officials in this world cup needs to revamped

i hope none of you readers has been harmed by my disastrous predictions for the bulk of this world cup.  though i set a record in going 0-for-the-quaterfinals, i think i qualified my picks from yesterday with this very sentence: “…don’t believe anything I say. I chose Argentina and Ukraine in last night’s matches…”

brasil 0-1 france:

how wrong was i about france’s fitness and the ability of their old guys to play like ’98? 

my god, zidane was heroically superhuman last night for france.  it must be his new gold boots or something because he’s been given a tonic of youth.  he looked 25 years old last night–spry, lively, and as difficult for brasil to handle as a provoked viper.  if i weren’t so bad at predicting, my money would be on france to fetch their second star now because of how resurgently young they look.  apparently, that second half against spain in the round of 16 was no fluke.

together with zidane, thierry henry and franck ribery tortured brasil all night long.  robert carlos and cafu at the back for brasil were made to look the fools and, on france’s goal, brasil’s marking was abysmal.  two things stick out in my mind from zidane’s free kick that henry buried in the 57th minute:

  1. how, on that kick, do six frenchmen end up in brasil’s box against only three (3!!) defenders?
  2. how do brasil leave the most dangerous of those six frenchmen, henry, COMPLETELY UNMARKED??!?!

france’s strong midfield play strangled the sputtering brasil attack and les bleus‘s shutdown defense never gave much space to brasil’s men upfront.  france truly have brasil’s number and looked more brasil than did the south americans.  france ran out an impressive and well-deserved win.

england 0-0 portugal (portugal win PSO, 2-4):

as for this one, what is there to say?  to be honest, portugal are shit and make me sick.  they are completely undeserving semifinalists.  in the first hour, before wayne rooney’s sending off, portugal rarely looked threatening.  it seemed that they really did miss deco and costinha in the middle.  england were better in the first hour, but, as was their wont in this competition, they couldn’t take advantage.

david beckham re-suffered an injury to his right leg just six minutes after the restart and was benched, tearfully, and replaced by the ever-so-much-more effective aaron lennon.  england were the much more dangerous team after this (un)lucky subsitution.

and, then, dodgy officiating and a foul scouser temper changed the day.

that rooney was sent off was mindboggling.  he may have stamped on carvalho’s figs, but it was not as blatant as i’ve seen other unpunished acts go.  then, he may have pushed cristiano ronaldo in the chest, but neither, taken separately, warranted an expulsion and, even when taken together, only warranted a caution, at the most.  what i don’t understand is how, in the action that led to the push and the stamp, rooney was called for the foul to begin with.  he was being wrestled to the ground by two defenders, yet was forced to conceded the foul.

and while rooney’s sending off was diabolical, so, too, was ronaldo’s wink at his coach after the expulsion: proud, obnoxious, a smug look of pleasure on his face.  rooney deserves blame for letting ronaldo get under his skin, but neither he nor the ref is to blame for england’s loss;  england are to blame.

i feel portugal are unworthy semifinalists at this 2006 european championships world cup for this reason: they were still the inferior team after rooney’s sending off.  they had no creativity, no character, no determination; they seemed content to get it to penalty kicks, where it’s a well-known fact that england are shambolic.

this is why the blame for the loss cannot be pinned on the ref or on rooney for being daft: england were, by far, the better side when they were a man down.  lennon was fantastic, crouch was impressive with his ball-handling and efforts to help on defense, and owen hargreaves–england’s man of the tournament–was otherworldly in his play, his effort, his passion; in short, he would gladly have given his life for the england cause.

in the end, england didn’t deserve to win because, even with all of their chances, they were unable to make them count.  portugal were so poor that they had very few chances, but they made count what they needed to make count: successfully converting penalties in the shootout.

so, the world cup semifinals resemble more of a european championships semifinal: germany v. italy in semifinal I and portugal v. france in semifinal II.  check back later for those previews…

WC06: Quarterfinal Preview, Day 2

What will day 2 of this year’s World Cup quarterfinals provide for us? Yesterday’s fixtures were a mixed bag: a riveting, nerve-racking penalty shootout in the first match and an absolute bludgeoning in the second one. How will tonight’s fixtures prevail? Will they bore us to tears? Will our nerves be so frayed by sunrise tomorrow that sleep will have nothing to do with us? Let’s take a look…

For regular readers of the World Cup posts here at the hole, it is patently obvious that, aside from the five nations representing Africa, my football loyalties lie firmly at the flagpole from which St. George’s Cross flies. My nerves are already shot and kickoff is still more than a third of the day away. I’ve sat here at my terminal and excoriated everything in this World Cup from the referees to Korea and its legion of football-ignorant fans to Italy’s disgraceful Tinkerbell footballing style to Ukraine and Serbinegro’s execrable kits to whatever else has crossed my rabid mind.

To this list, let me add one more thing: the incessant whingeing during this competition by England’s players. From Becks’s lamentations after England’s opening match about how “warm” it was on the pitch (note how he didn’t complain about the heat, but the “warmth” of the weather; who the hell complains about THAT? “Uh, honey, I don’t think I’m going to work today because it’s too cool outside. If it were negative thirty (-30) out, I’d brave it, but since it’s about 15 degrees Celsius, I don’t think I’ll chance it.”) to needing their wives and kids at the team hotel to boost their morale to Paul Robinson’s ridiculous claim that the state of the pitches are hindering England’s fabled passing game (er, Paul, England’s passing style of late is to huck it long to Ichabod Crouch in hopes that he’ll put his melon on it; the pitch has nothing to do with this crappy style of footie. Such a style can be done in a car park, a bamboo forest, or on an iceberg).

For the love of Shiva, fut the shuck up and play, England! You’re beginning to make Cristiano Ronaldo seem like a gracious man of class who ought to be knighted.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, England are going to win tonight and here’s why: I have to get ONE prediction right out of four, don’t I?

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germany v. argentina & italy v. ukraine

Let’s just get something straight right off the bat:

I am a neither a fan of Germany, Argentina, Italy, or Ukraine.  Though I do drink Beck’s beer, buy Patagonia outdoor clothing, eat pizza, and drink vodka (and, yes, it is known as vodka in all of the former soviet outposts, including the likes of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia {NOT the state, you southern American redneck!!!}, and Thereisntenoughvodkaintheworldformetodrinkistan), I own not a single kit or strip of any of these four nations.

However a fan of these four I may not be, I am a fan of football and, as I said earlier, I was really looking forward to the first quarterfinal between Germany and Argentina. 

And while it may not have been the orgasmic, breathless porn theatre I predicted in previous, more sober moments on these very pages, it was still a spellbinding spectacle to withhold, er, behold, if only for the tension that grew more acute with every passing minute. 

After a cautious first half that would have stunted the excitement of even the most ardent of Viagara users, the second half came to life when, four minutes after the restart, Argentina kickstarted the match on a Roberto Ayala goal from a corner kick that temporarily sent the home denizens into stunned silence.

Unfortunately for Argentinians everywhere, like it is with most men, that one euphoric eruption of a goal was followed by countless forays into the German cleave only for these attempted breaches to end time and again in off-target shots or flaccid displays of bravado.  Meanwhile, the Germans were building and building and building, biding their time for a chance to score, waiting to hit the “G”oal spot in the Argentine defense.  And so it came to pass when, ten minutes from time, Miroslav Klose rose to the occasion and put his head to the ball on a cross and buried it expertly.

80 million Germans were now in orgasmic rapture while 40 million Argentines were in unfulfilled anguish.  What made the German goal even more difficult to accept for Argentinians was the fact that Argentina coach Jose Pekerman had, several minutes earlier, withdrawn two of his most potent offensive forces, striker Crespo and midfielder Riquelme, for defensive replacements in an effort to kill off the match, much like Italy has done in every single match since the dawn of time when they’ve gone ahead 1-nil.

I said it at the time, I said it again during extra time, and, just so I wouldn’t stray wide from my mantra, I repeated it again in the penalty shootout:  WHAT THE HELL WAS PEKERMAN THINKING?  Why withdraw two of his best players for defensive replacements against a host nation fully capable of scoring?  Is Pekerman secretly Italian?  Is he Sven Goran Eriksson’s long lost Argentine cousin?  Playing so conservatively is not Argentina’s style—and it backfired like a rusty Plymouth in need of a tune-up.

When it went to penalty kicks after a told-you-so scoreless extra time, that Germany would win was as shocking as finding chlorophyll in the Amazon.  To further dent my pre-match prognosticative prowess regarding this match, I even saw Ollie Kahn shake and spit on (in, apparently, an affirmation of brotherhood) arch-enemy Jens Lehmann’s hand for good luck right before the penalty shootout.

What a soulless way to end such a closely-fought match, but I don’t make the rules and penalty shootouts are, admittedly, intense to watch.  Kudos to Germany for the fightback to level the score and then the courage to buck the shootout pressure and go perfect on penalty kicks.

As for that damned Italy-Ukraine fixture that followed, remind me never again to go the Mediterranean-Sea-v.-Black-Sea route again.  I remain steadfast by my claims concerning those two bodies of water, but…

…Italy still sucks.  They dismantled a poor, deer-in-headlights Ukraine side that looked as if they were in as much need of therapy as Paris Hilton inevitably one day will require.  The match was so one-sided and so unappealing on so many levels that it’s not even worth an attempt at levity or serious contemplation.  In fact, I’m so disgruntled that I’m using capital letters in this post.  Ingrates 3-0 Unfit-daffodil-lookalikes.

Time to take a peek at the ol’ ancestral lineage and dust off some of that hidden German in me, just in time for the first semifinal Wednesday morning at 4am, Korea time.

wc06: tonight’s quarterfinal previews (updated)

for those of you still interested in that “minor” sporting event going on “over there” in germany, let’s look at the tonight’s two quarterfinal matchups as i hope the symptoms of my two-day football withdrawal don’t get worse before kickoff tonight at 11:59.

germany v. argentina:  from a neutral standpoint, this is, in my opinion, the glamour fixture of the quarterfinals.  yes, my heartrate will be that of a dog’s after eating a box of chocolates when england play tomorrow night v. portugal; yes, there are more world cup titles, combined, on display in the brasil-france fixture–but that’s skewed because five of ‘em belong to the banana-clad, samba-dancing south americans; and, yes, outside the nation of italy, most neutrals will be pulling for ukraine to see off the panty-waisted thespians that are the azzurri.  still, this opening quarterfinal is a dandy.

this wc2006 edition of the germans is not the germans we all grew up (except those of us who are german) cheering against because of their dull, boring, boorish style of play and on-pitch demeanour.  in fact, this isn’t the same germany that, before the cup started, most germans were decrying as unfit to wear the famous kit because of their poor form in the months leading up to the competition.

they’ve played with flair, with gusto, with verve, with swerve (as evidenced by the phillip lahm and torsten frings goals against costa rica in their opening match) in their four impressive wins to get to this stage.  however, it can be argued that these “impressive” wins have come against nowt competition: an overmatched costa rica, a poor poland, a second-string ecuador, and a ten-man and disappointing sweden.

whatever.  regardless of the level of competition, just taking the german squad on its own merit, they’ve not been your usual german team.  klose has been deadly in front of goal, as has podolski.  ballack is rounding into stellar form after missing the opener to injury.  the back line hasn’t allowed a goal since the opener to costa rica, though goalkeeper jens lehmann has yet to let in a howler and the further germany go, the more likely it will be to happen.  add to this some of the youngsters on the bench whom coach jurgen klinsmann substitutes for an already young starting XI, and there is genuine reason for hope to win the cup now, as well as in four years down on the forgotten continent.

as for argentina, they’ve been classy for most of the tournament, though they weren’t always the definitely better side in the round of 16 clash with mexico.  they’ve played the “beautiful game” well, beautifully, for large stretches of the tournament–and against competition that, save for serbinegro, wasn’t too shabby.

to most non-argentinian observers, midfielder juan roman riquelme has played outstanding football–but the grapevine vibrates from down patagonia way with grumblings that riquelme has been subpar.  typical south american football aristrocracy: excellent footie isn’t enough; it has to be exquisite, effervescent, and as sharp as a stepmother’s tongue.

another gripe from the folks back home (there certainly don’t look to be any gripes amongst the mob of argentinian supporters in the stands who have enlivened every argentina match with their incessant dancing, singing, and general merrymaking), apparently, is that coach jose perkerman is not playing his youngsters enough, letting the likes of lionel messi, pablo aimar, and carlos tevez languish on the bench.

while it is true that neither of the three wonderkids has played too much, it’s because the starting XI isn’t all that shabby; perkerman’s is a luxury that any gaffer would gladly enjoy being criticised for having.

last year, germany and argentina saw each other twice, with each ending in a 2-2 draw.  if we’re lucky, we’ll have another four goals scored, at least, as well as extra time to watch these two battle.  extra football in such a glamourous quarterfinal match would be the least we fans deserve.

my take: germany’s path to this point has been as soft as downy fleece and it’s only a matter of time before disgruntled former number 1 goalkeeper oliver kahn’s bitterness at being replaced by the irritating lehmann begins to take its toll on team chemistry. 

for the first time in the tournament, germany will be going against a side that has every bit the talent in midfield, and even more talent up front, than it does.  the backlines of both sides have been exposed as being shaky at times–and very easily could (should) have been denuded even more with more expert finishing from opponents when there were chances. 

in the end, though, i see a deeper argentinian side sending 80 million germans into a state of mourning as the south americans push through to the semifinals.

italy v. ukraine:  not a very sexy matchup, unless you like prancing drama majors diving all over the pitch (okay, in all fairness, ukraine have no history of being silly corset-wearing pansies on the pitch, but the italian side have enough for two teams, if not more). 

italy haven’t conceded a goal scored by an opponent yet (the one goal to blemish their “goals against” sheet was an own goal by cristian ziccardo against the u.s.) and have looked, aside from their opening match against ghana, as boring as italy usually look. 

it’s a shame, really, with all their alleged attacking talent in midfield and upfront that they play such shit football, but it does produce results.  that, and their aformentioned penchant for going to the ground at the slightest touch (or glance) from an opponent or opposing supporter.

unfortunately for us all, ukraine, while not diving like their quarterfinal opponents, have also played boring football while advancing to this stage.  okay, their match against spain wasn’t so boring, but giving up four goals doesn’t boring football offset. 

to their credit, though, the ukrainians have rebounded quite nicely from that opening debacle and sit a victory away from progressing further than any of the former soviet republics have done on the international footballing scene since the breakup of the communist entity a decade and a half ago.

both defenses are solid, and, under normal circumstances, the midfield and striking edge would seemingly go to italy; however, with injuries and suspensions haunting the italians (and giving them plenty to whinge about when they lose), the midfield battle becomes more of a tossup and ukraine might even edge the azzurri up front, on the simple talent of andriy shevchenko alone.

there is very little reason, however, to believe italy won’t slip past less-fancied ukraine; italy have the history, they’ve been on the big stage before, and they will grind opponents and fans alike to tears in order to hoist their 4th cup.

in the end, this matchup will not be decided conventionally; it will come down to this: the mediterranean sea (italy) v. the black sea (ukraine).  and here are the key breakdowns of these two areas of contention:

  • the med borders three continents; the black only crashes upon two.  advantage: med
  • the med is bigger, more famous, and shakes hands with the atlantic ocean; the black is landlocked, underappreciated, and shakes hands with the sea of azov.  adv: med
  • the med has a chain of upper-class, obnoxious, haughty resorts named after it; the black is a huge link in the chain of pipelines that funnel oil all over europe.  adv: push
  • the med is polluted by holiday merrymakers; the black still suffers from chernobyl.  adv: push
  • the med is hard to spell or pronounce; the black is linguistically pleasing.  adv: black
  • the med has sambuca and red wine; the black has vodka.  adv: black
  • the med has made-to-order mafia; the black has mail-order brides  adv: black
  • the med is home to, among others, italian football; the black isn’t.  adv: black

well, there it is.  it’s hard to argue with the numbers.  the advantage for this fixture goes to the ruffians from the black sea.  it’s not always about what happens on the pitch or at the stadium because, in a battle of aesthetically-displeasing footballing squads, one must throw out conventional footballing wisdom or analysis and look elsewhere for prescient inspiration. 

victory to the ukrainians!  vodka for everyone!

Japanese football columnist slams Korea’s exclusive nationalism

WARNING: Potential flame war material. Viewer discretion advised.

A Japanese football columnist has penned a piece slamming Korea for its “exclusive nationalism” as seen in the World Cup, says Korean sports media OSEN.

In a column Wednesday, the Nikkan Sports‘ Nishimura Goyu wrote that Korean media reports and netizen behavior concerning referee decisions in Korea’s matches against France and Switzerland were emblematic of exclusive nationalism.

He firstly attacked the Korean media. After the match with France, when the French coach complained about a waived-off goal, the Korean media united to report that post-game griping was unsportsmanlike, yet following the Swiss match, the very same media was consistent in its complaints that Korea lost because of a doubtful call by the ref (Marmot’s note: not entirely true… some media did say that Korea didn’t play good enough to win, but yes, generally speaking, the media tone was that Korea’s got screwed).

About Korea’s netizens, Nishimura wrote that they attack foreign bodies/institutions whenever political issues like Dokdo and Japan’s history textbooks arise, and football was no different. They attacked a Korean TV commentator who took a cold, unbiased look at the offsides call in the Swiss match, and they attacked Korean forward Park Ji-sung for saying that referee decisions were part of the game (Marmot’s note: this is news to me). He also noted how they attacked the FIFA homepage based on the lie that they could force a rematch by sending FIFA 5 million protest emails.

He then claimed that during the 2002 World Cup, as Korea progressed to the semifinals, nationalism rose to a dangerous level. That nationalism turned into an atmosphere where the netizens could support an anti-Japanese, anti-American administration, he said. The reason, he explained, could be found in Korea’s understanding of history, which (he claimed) completely rejects the views of Korea’s neighbors, particularly Japan. He said the “referee decision” issue was similar to the Korea-Japan history issue and territorial issues.

He also slammed the Japanese media, asking why it was necessary for them to take Korea’s side. For example, he said NHK made no particular comment after the Korea-France match when the French goal was disallowed, but they kept showing scenes of the offsides call following the Swiss match.

He claimed after Italy’s Francesco Totti was awarded a penalty kick against Australia, another Japanese broadcaster reported that in an identical situation in Italy’s 2002 match against Korea, Totti was red-carded for taking a dive. He asked why the broadcaster didn’t report on that objectively in 2002.

In particular, he complained that the Japanese media wasn’t conveying to Japanese accurate information about Korea. He pointed out that Koreans overwhelmingly rooted for Australia during its match against Japan, and there was a big gap in views about Korea between those Japanese who knew this to be the case and those who didn’t.

Nishimura has been writing footie columns for over 10 years, but recently has been expanding his material to include political issues.

wc06: quarterfinals all set

last night was, seemingly, the first time in two weeks that there was little or no refereeing controversy in either of the matches, although there was another red card in the brasil-ghana match and a blatant offside missed on brasil’s second goal. finally, the focus in the aftermath is on the footie, not the decisions of the officials.

in brasil v. ghana, ronaldo sprung an offside trap to get 1-on-1 with the ghana ‘keeper, performed an act of magic to dance around said ‘keeper, and cooly buried his 15th goal in world cup competition, putting him all alone in first place for world cup goals scored.

congratulations, ronnie. for all the talk of ronaldo’s weight, his footwork still looks slick and he looks to be rounding into form, bad news for any opponents left in brasil’s path.

ghana certainly didn’t look overmatched on this night–the 3-0 scoreline is very harsh on the black stars–but, just as with cote d’ivoire in their group matches, ghana lacked the finishing class that separates the elite countries from everyone else. time and again, ghana opened huge holes in the brasilian defense, but, all too often, bad touches on passes, or bad control of passes, or taking too much time in the brasil box that allowed the defense time to recover, or bad decisions, or bad luck all conspired to leave the west africans empty-handed.

you knew it wasn’t going to be ghana’s night when their own john mensa, from point-blank range, headed a corner kick down to the turf and seemingly into goal for an equaliser, only to have the ball, shockingly, hit the brasil keeper’s shin and bounce away from the goal. it wasn’t until after it hit his own knee that ‘keeper dida even saw the ball.

still, the ghanaians did their nation, and their continent, proud and have a lot to look forward to in south africa 2010.

in the other fixture, matching european neighbours, spain and france, the spaniards had a great chance to try and begin ending the constant underachieving label that they seem to wear on their strips at every international tournament. so many “experts” seemed certain that this was the year for spain to shed its “choke” cloak. they had so many fine, young stars, they had romped through their group–even while playing a team of second-stringers in their final group fixture with saudi arabia–they had played with class and quality, and they were playing an ageing france team that had struggled to get out of the group stages. it was all set up for the spaniards to…

…do their usual. not content with dominating the first half and having a handful of chances, and having only one goal to show for it, they, just before the break, handed the french a lifeline and allowed france to level.

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Aussies pay price for ‘sins of 2002′?

The LA Times claims that Australia’s heartbreaking loss to Italy was essentially a makeup call for 2002:

The Aussies should have known it would end this way. It was inevitable.

The seed for Australia’s 1-0 World Cup defeat by Italy on Monday on a blatantly incorrect penalty kick awarded by Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo in the final seconds was sown in South Korea four years ago.

Monday’s devastating blow to the Socceroos was a makeup call.

Anyone with any suspicion of just how things are manipulated at soccer’s highest level, including the outcome of games, needs only to look back to 2002.

That’s when Italy was robbed blind in a 2-1 overtime loss to South Korea in a second-round World Cup game that was atrociously refereed by Ecuador’s Byron Moreno. The South American was so bad that Italians named a row of public toilets after him in Sicily.

The loss eliminated the Italians and—much to the delight of soccer’s movers and shakers—sent cohost South Korea on a run that took it to the semifinals and an eventual fourth-place finish.

Given the massive public support for the team, keeping South Korea alive as long as possible was very much in FIFA’s interests. So Italy paid the price.

This time around, the price has been paid back.

Things are all square with Italy. Australia will get the makeup call next time around, at South Africa in 2010, assuming it qualifies.

That’s how it works.

Read the rest on your own… if you dare.

fifa’s anti-korean conspiracy continues and the coming retaliation

it’s been well-documented here at the marmot’s hole how so obvious it is that FIFA are waging its conspiracy campaign against korea, koreans, korean culture, the korean language, korean way of life, kimchee, soju, scientist woo-suk hwang, and, soon, long-time national hero, admiral sun-shin yi.  however, before FIFA get their chance to smear admiral yi, they have taken on–and successfully defeated–a modern-day korean hero, the round-eyed king of korean football, guus hiddink.

in case you missed it last night, king hiddink’s australia squad were defeated by one of FIFA’s co-conspirators, italy, in a world cup round of 16 match.  the loss in and of itself is not cause for suspicion, but the nature of the loss certainly is. 

in a world cup fast becoming known less for the stellar play and sublime goals of the players of the competing nations than for the incredibly low quality of officiating, australia were a victim of a very dubious penalty given to ten-man italy at such a late point in the match that the ensuing penalty kick was the very last kick of the game. 

that the australian player was lying unconscious on the ground in the penalty area, victim of a sniper shot from one of FIFA’s paramilitary units sitting on the roof of the stadium, was completely ignored by the spanish referee.  that the italian player tripped, and then dove, over the prone and very dead aussie–because he’d forgotten his pregame instructions from one of FIFA’s goons about how to make the dive look like a brutal cutdown by the defender–was conveniently ignored by the spanish referee.  (did you notice that spanish is now the official language of FIFA? you would were you able to logon to its web site).

however, fortunately for FIFA, because korea is out of the world cup and because so many korean netijens are in their fourth day without sleep as they continue to wage their online terrorism against football’s governing body, the only people watching the football games now are me, a couple of the hole‘s dedicated footie fans, and, i believe, a group of tibetan pygmies living in the mountains of gangwon province.  none of the netijen terrorists actually knew there was a match involving their great round-eye king.

as luck would have it for the korean cause, though, irate australians are putting down their mugs of mead, their pints of pilsner, their bowls of beer, and their grails of ale to join the koreans and are plotting their own terrorist war against FIFA. 

though their strategy is still in its formative stages–and, of course, top secret–one thing is for certain: as non-aboriginal australians are descendants of great britain’s finest and pettiest criminals of several centuries previous and, as such, are feeble-minded in the pursuits of technology and internet prowess, they will not participate in a cyber-war but, more likely, will wage war involving the myriad of poisonous and man-eating creatures so prevalent to the world’s largest and most inhospitable island.

after all of FIFA’s governing personnel have been poisoned to death by snakes or spiders, after all swiss and italian citizens have been devoured by man-eating kangaroos, crocodiles, wombats, emus, and mutant koalas, the new alliance, called korestralia, will cancel the remainder of the competition and anoint itself world cup champion for 2006.

in other news: ukraine unwittingly announced itself as the new korestralian alliance’s arch-enemy when it put a crimp into all the pro-swiss conspiracy theories by somehow defying the odds, playing the entire match 11-on-14, and beating switzerland on penalty kicks to advance to the quarterfinals against italy.  the only way for ukraine to avoiding being invaded and wiped from the face of the earth in the coming days by the korestralian alliance is to lose to italy at the weekend.

all of this action sure beats england’s continuing pathetic play in the world cup, don’t you think?

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