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Tag: "soccer"

LGM World Cup Challenge Update

[ 0 ] June 25, 2010 |

After group play it’s still anyone’s game, except for those who did really badly during group play:

1 Better Legs on SofasB. Mizelle 24 24 99.6
2 AlSuA. Berry 23 23 98.8
2 timeagan101 1T. Eagan 23 23 98.8
2 Great Russian DinosaursM. Jeffery 23 23 98.8
5 Eccentripity 1E. Cerevic 22 22 97.0
5 greller49 1A. Greller 22 22 97.0
5 The HypnotoadD. Raskin 22 22 97.0
5 bobby lenarduzzid. loveland 22 22 97.0
5 QAS410 1, 22 22 97.0
5 tnpsc 1v. las vegas 22 22 97.0
5 bourbon renewalh. hjklhljkh 22 22 97.0
5 brokenax16 1D. Collins 22 22 97.0
5 Europa05 1m. allen 22 22 97.0

I’m sitting at 21 points, tied for 14th, which is much, much better than I had any reason to expect. Will be cheering hard for USA in tomorrow’s W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Bowl.


Now You Have A Reason To Whine And Cry!

[ 26 ] June 24, 2010 |

I think I feel the way about Italy being eliminated the way most people feel about France. The really weird thing is how attractive I find most of the cultural products of these countries otherwise. Lots of people hate France on principle, but for me the puzzle is how two countries this great produce football teams that are so reprehensible…

World Cup Predictions Foolishly Revisited

[ 19 ] June 24, 2010 |

Back in December, immediately after the draw for the World Cup, I had the temerity to write a long post breaking down each group, and I foolishly offered predictions as to how the sides would finish.  I’ve been meaning to write this post prior to the last round of matches from the group stage, but a series of events have intervened.

Now, half way through those matches, let’s see how I have fared.

Group A

Prediction: 1. Mexico, 2. France, 3. Uruguay, 4. South Africa

Result: 1. Uruguay, 2. Mexico, 3. South Africa, 4. France.

The difference between Mexico and South Africa was down to goal differential.  At least I was smart enough to state “And Uruguay don’t suck either”.  I don’t think I can be faulted for horribly mis-predicting France, as I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the circus that France became in this tournament.

Group B

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Greece, 3. South Korea, 4. Nigeria.

Result: 1. Argentina, 2. South Korea, 3. Greece, 4. Nigeria.

Not a bad prediction, only a point separated South Korea from Greece.  Of course suggesting that Argentina take the group isn’t exactly a risky proposition.

Group C

Prediction: 1. England, 2. USA, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

Result: 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

As predictions go, as I was only off by the “goals scored” tie breaker, I can’t feel too bad about this one.  Furthermore,m I did say “Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you”.  I should have also said “don’t overestimate England”.  Furthermore, it was a lot closer on the final day than most would have predicted, and had those two 1-0 scorelines been reversed, it would be Slovenia and Algeria progressing, not the USA and England.

Group D

Ill-Advised Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Serbia, 3. Australia, 4. Ghana.

Result: 1. Germany, 2. Ghana, 3. Australia, 4. Serbia.

Well, two out of four isn’t bad.  And I did say the following about Ghana:

And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.

If one chooses to ignore the final two sentences, I come out looking pretty good.

Group E

Prediction: 1. Holland, 2. Denmark

Situation: 1. Netherlands 6, 2. Japan 3, 3. Denmark 3, 4. Cameroon 0.

Fina matches: tonight, 19:30 BST.

The Dutch should win the group — they play Cameroon tonight, and all they need is a draw to win the group.  Even if the Oranje were to lose, their goal differential advantage (+3 over Japan, +4 over Denmark) should be enough to protect them.  The big match is Denmark v Japan.  They’re only separated by goal differential, and that’s one goal; however, that logically means Denmark have to win in order to progress.

Group F

Prediction: 1. Italy, 2. Paraguay, 3. Slovakia, 4. New Zealand.

Situation: 1. Paraguay 4, 2. Italy 2, 3. New Zealand 2, 4. Slovakia 1.

Final matches: today, 15:00 BST.

Any of the four can still progress, and any of the four can still go out.  If Paraguay draw New Zealand, they’re through.  Nothing separates Italy and New Zealand at the moment, they’ve both drawn two, scored two goals, and conceded two goals.  This will be a fascinating one, much like Group C yesterday afternoon.

Group G

Prediction: 1. Brazil, 2. Cote D’Ivoire, 3. Portugal, 4. North Korea.

Situation: 1. Brazil 6, 2. Portugal 4, 3. Cote D’Ivoire 1, 4. North Korea, 0.

Final matches: Friday, 15:00 BST.

Brazil are through, but have not secured the top seed.  However, if Brazil and Portugal merely draw, Brazil are through as top, Portugal are through in second.  The Ivory Coast will beat our reclusive friends from North Korea, but even if Portugal were to lose, the commanding goal differential advantage currently enjoyed by Portugal (+7) over the Ivory Coast (-2) dooms the Ivory Coast to third with near certainty.  Unless Brazil win by a couple, and the Ivory Coast put seven or eight in against North Korea.  An unlikely proposition.

Group H

Prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Switzerland, 4. Honduras.

Situation: 1. Chile 6, 2. Spain 3, 3. Switzerland 3 , 4. Honduras 0.

Final matches: Friday, 19:30 BST.

The Switzerland victory over Spain threw a spanner into the works of this group.  Chile are through, but (UPDATE: as per the first comment below, there is a scenario, not improbable, where Chile don’t get through) face Spain in their final match.  All that separates Spain from Switzerland is a single goal on goal differential.  Again, this will provide for an engaging set of matches.

All said, I haven’t done terribly bad.  I horribly overrated both France and Serbia, and have slightly overrated Italy and England.  I predicted England 2-1 over USA, which was ever so slightly off, and predicted USA 2-1 over Algeria.  I knew we would beat Algeria, if I began to seriously doubt that around the 80th minute of yesterday’s match.

At least I seem to have nailed the North Korea position.

I fly to the USA on the 28th, which means I’ll miss a couple of the first knockout matches, but I’ll be able to watch USA v Ghana from home on Saturday (with my daughter no less).  If the USA make it past Ghana, and I think we will, I’ll be able to watch a USMNT quarter final match in the USA, which will be a pleasant change.  The next match would be against the winner of Uruguay and South Korea . . . and an English friend of mine here sent me an email this morning predicting that the USA make the semi finals.  He thinks we’ll get past both Ghana and Uruguay.

Me, I’m happy getting out of the group.  Not getting out of the group would have been a major disappointment.  Finishing top means we avoid Germany (for the time being), which does help our cause for progression.

Landon Donovan: A Musical Tribute

[ 7 ] June 23, 2010 |


Who Knew that Portugal Felt So Strongly About the Cheonan?

[ 7 ] June 21, 2010 |

Wow. And of course Ivory Coast now has strong incentive to try to beat the DPRK just as badly. While I suspect that concerns about the DPRK team suffering retribution upon its return are a touch overblown, I do sincerely hope that all of the players will be alright…

Morbidly Comic Soccer Nationalism at Fever Pitch

[ 8 ] June 12, 2010 |

This video was shot by an LGM field correspondent at the US-Czech Republic warm-up match in Hartford on the 25th. Unfortunately these members of the American Outlaws were too drunk to muster a sentence when the Daily Show’s John Oliver showed up to interview them, so the scene that followed did not make it into Oliver’s premiere World Cup coverage. (According to our source, another problem was that the crowd around Oliver’s film crew could not keep from laughing no matter how sternly Oliver instructed them ‘whatever you do don’t laugh or we can’t use the clip.’) Because rabid, violent, sports nationalism is just so insufferably funny.

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has a few more points on the relationship between soccer and nationalism, and he mentions Simon Kuper’s book Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sports Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power. However, in a humorous twist, Somin sounds surprisingly nationalistic himself in describing the jingoism associated with soccer as a foreign or international phenomena, vis a vis the more civilized American pro-sports scene.

UPDATE: As I posted this, my eight-year-old stated ponderously while watching the Argentina-Nigeria FIFA game: “You know, soccer is good for world peace. Instead of wars, just put the country’s teams against each other.” Hmm…

LGM World Cup Reminder

[ 5 ] June 10, 2010 |

The World Cup kicks off with Mexico-South Africa tomorrow morning, giving you precious few hours to register and/or update your LGM World Cup Challenge entry.

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

World Cup Challenge

[ 6 ] June 2, 2010 |

I have created an LGM World Cup Challenge group at ESPN:

Group Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Deadline is June 11.

Speaking of pointless competition, here are the current LGM Baseball Challenge Standings:

1 Feces Flingers, B. Drunk 366 99 0 0 0 0 0 2801 2801 98.4
2 free leonard, M. Ricci 357 98 0 0 0 0 0 2787 2787 98.2
3 kolmogorov-smirnov, W. Krummenacher 203 95 0 0 0 0 0 2738 2738 97.1
4 C. Quentin’s Unicorn, A. Katz 301 127 0 0 0 0 0 2722 2722 96.7
5 HeadlessThompson Gunner, S. Hickey 302 90 0 0 0 0 0 2711 2711 96.4
6 Dwarf Mammoths, T. Mohr 233 127 0 0 0 0 0 2700 2700 96.1
7 Ambulance Chasers, J. Shurberg 326 67 0 0 0 0 0 2672 2672 95.3
8 Bangers and M*A*S*H, N. Beaudrot 337 91 0 0 0 0 0 2644 2644 94.3
9 Signal/Noise, B. Petti 252 92 0 0 0 0 0 2619 2619 93.3
10 Better Arms on Chairs, B. Mizelle 337 124 0 0 0 0 0 2610 2610 93.0

NAC Breda 0 – 2 FC Twente

[ 2 ] May 2, 2010 |

FC Twente Enschede win the Dutch Eredivisie.  Why does this matter, the uninformed might ask?

1. Twente have never won the Dutch league (at least in their current form, or in “modern times”).  They nipped Ajax Amsterdam (whom one or two around LGM might have heard of) by a single point on the final table.

2. Before the University of Plymouth saw fit to pay me money to do my hobby, I worked for three years at Universiteit Twente, in Enschede.  U Twente is literally across the street (and train tracks) from what was then known as Arke Stadion, and now goes by De Grolsch Veste (Grolsch is brewed in Enschede).  When I lived in the west (first Amsterdam, then later Rotterdam), I would take the train into the Enschede Drienerlo station, which is in the shadow of the stadium.

3. OK, enough about me.  Steve McClaren is the manager.  The same McClaren who failed miserably as England manager, in the post-Sven, pre-Capello months, and became something of a national joke.  He is now something of a hero in Enschede and Twente more generally.

Words I never thought I’d hear in my life time in this precise order: “There’s Only One Steve McClaren . . . “

Plymouth Argyle 0 – 2 Newcastle United: Relegation.

[ 20 ] April 20, 2010 |

Something I’ve always loved about the way soccer football is organized virtually everywhere not called North America is promotion and relegation.  For the uninitiated, league “systems” are set up in a pyramid fashion.  England’s is the most elaborate, extending down 21 tiers, and in theory, a team at the bottom tier could some day be playing in the English Premier League.  In practice this is virtually impossible, of course; however there is a team in the EPL this season who were playing “non league” football a generation or two ago (“league” football is considered the top four divisions in the English structure).  Wigan Athletic, for example, were only first added to the Football League in 1978, and have been in the EPL for several seasons now.

An easily understood analogy is baseball.  Imagine the constituent teams in the minor leagues to be independent entities, with promotion and relegation existing between the divisions.  The lower teams in the “major leagues” would be relegated to AAA, with the top teams in AAA promoted to the “major leagues”, and so on down the divisions.  Of course, while I favor promotion and relegation, as a fan of the Seattle Mariners I’ve long realized that they would have been playing beer league softball by the early 1980s.

There are several strengths to this system.  Most notably, towards the end of the season, not only the teams towards the top of the table have something to play for, hence attract crowds.  With relegation, fans of teams at the bottom of the table also have reason to show up: their team is fighting for their very survival in their division.

When I moved to Plymouth in 2003, the local side, Plymouth Argyle, was in the midst of a period of sustained success.  From flirting with relegation from the bottom tier of the Football League (the fourth tier overall) in 2000-01, Argyle were promoted two out of three seasons to the “Championship”, the current brand name of the second tier.  Argyle won the fourth tier in 2001-02, and the third tier in 2003-04.  I arrived in the midst of that season, and the talk in the pub was not if, but when the then manager would be hired by a higher ranked club (Paul Sturrock did leave before the 03-04 season ended for a brief spell with Premiership side Southampton).  Argyle even flirted with the play off spaces for the Premiership a couple seasons ago under Ian Holloway.  Then, the discussion in the pub wasn’t whether or not Argyle would finally be promoted to the top flight of English football, but whether or not that season was “too soon”.  As Argyle had never been in the top division, the consensus was “too soon”.

And it was.  As of tonight, Plymouth Argyle have been officially relegated down to the third tier of English football with their 0-2 home defeat to Newcastle United.  As Newcastle won the division with this victory, Argyle fans back in Plymouth suffered the distinct ignominy of watching Newcastle fans celebrate an immediate return to the EPL following only one year in the second tier while considering a return to the third tier following six seasons in this division.

What does this mean?  Rather than the visit of Newcastle, Middlesbrough, West Brom, Nottingham Forest, Reading, Crystal Palace, or other recent rejects from the top division, they will now enjoy away journeys to Brentford, Walsall, Brighton, Oldham, and possibly (assuming that they survive in this division) Exeter.

The local paper hasn’t picked it up yet.  However, in an article on how the local airport and the airline based in Plymouth (with a fleet of five, and yes, I’ve been on every one of them) are shut down five days running, they offered this bit of optimism:

But Plymouth Argyle could benefit from the mayhem, after tonight’s opponents Newcastle United were forced to make the 400-mile journey to Home Park by coach.

Wishful thinking, it turns out.

Donovan 1, Cole 0 and Other Random Soccer Observations

[ 0 ] February 12, 2010 |

I want to preface this by asserting that I don’t revel in sporting injuries, even if they’re players that I loathe. As a result of what the BBC characterizes as a “mundane-looking and perfectly legitimate challenge” by Landon Donovan in Everton’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park on Wednesday, Ashley Cole was forced to limp off the field in what has since been diagnosed as a broken ankle (which came to my attention over at Prost Amerika). I have loathed Cole since he lamely forced a transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006.

Cole is out for three months, and while it’s not impossible for him to make England’s World Cup 23, will not be at 100% match fitness even if he does make the squad.
There are a couple delightful ironies here. First, it’s Donovan, the USA’s best player, taking out a dead cert member of the England starting XI in the run in to their opening group match in South Africa.
More ironic is that Cole’s likely replacement in the starting XI is Man City’s Wayne Bridge. Meaning, Bridge would play alongside John Terry in the England back four. I’m only going to treat this briefly for those LGM readers who do not follow soccer (and care even less about who is shagging whom), but there was a spot of bother over the last couple of weeks fuelled by the English tabloid media (as only the English tabloids can do) that alleges Terry had an affair with the ex partner of Bridge, with whom Bridge and said partner have a son. Terry himself is married with twins. While this non-story story remains an allegation, it has had an effect on Terry’s career; Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy last Friday, and Chelsea have since allowed Terry to go on leave because of the allegations and concomitant media furor.
The ever erudite, eloquent, and quite possibly existential FIFA President Sepp Blatter sagely opined that “Terry would have been ‘applauded’ in Latin countries.” Because, well, we know that Catholics are all about adultery, especially the women who presumably constitute over 50% of the population of said Latin countries. This is the same Blatter who once suggested that women’s soccer would be more popular if only it were sexier, advice from the sage that was not well received by its target audience, oddly enough. This is too good to pass up:

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Whatever, Sepp. When are you going to just go away?
In other random soccer / football news:
My local side Plymouth Argyle are edging closer to certain relegation from the English second-tier. When I arrived in Plymouth too many years ago now, they were enjoying their second promotion season in three years; this will be my first experience of a relegation season. At least the lads still have the fight in them. They’ll need it next season when matched against another Devon side, Exeter City, in League 1. And, ah, Millwall. Oh yes, I think I’d rather be in Glasgow during an Old Firm derby than in Plymouth when Millwall come to town.
Speaking of the Old Firm, astonishingly Celtic managed to score goals while at the same time keeping a clean sheet, against Hearts no less, which usually secures three points (but with this Celtic side, I don’t assume anything.)
On the same night, Rangers dropped points, narrowing the gap at the top of the table to a mere eight points. There’s hope for Mowbray and the Bhoys yet, but don’t get too excited, Marc-Antoine. I sure as hell can’t. An eight point gap in mid February is not quite Everest or K-2, but it is an uphill slog, made more difficult with half the squad now playing for Middlesbrough.
I know it’s difficult to get excited about the SPL, especially when we’re eight points down, but I’m trying to have some faith. I certainly have more faith in Celtic’s chances than President Obama’s chances at reaching a bi-partisan agreement for Health Care Reform that includes the word “reform”.

Clint Dempsey

[ 0 ] January 18, 2010 |
I have a post on the small matter of tomorrow’s Massachusetts Senate election underway, but figured I’d fire this off ASAP. Dempsey was injured in Fulham’s 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers yesterday, which is not a positive development for the US MNT’s chances in the upcoming World Cup.
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