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Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

Ghost goals and whingerings

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So everyone and their grandmother are complaining about the lack of use of technology in soccer after England had a perfectly good goal disallowed during the first half of their round of 16 match-up with Germany.

It is hard to argue against some kind of electronic and/or human intervention in cases of howlers such as this, or the missed off-side call during the Argentina-Mexico game later in the day.

But, even though England went on to be subsequently thrashed 1-4, apologists – chief among them coach Fabio Capello and other English players – decided to blame the entire loss that disallowed goal. Their reasoning: England would have played differently with a 2-2 score and Germany would not have had chances for the counter-attacks.

This is of course, perfect bullocks.

Here are two reasons:

(1) Look at the South Korea-Uruguay game from yesterday. Korea, down by a similar margin at the interval, came out brilliantly in the second half; controlling the ball well, not getting nervous or hurried, and constantly keeping the mighty Uruguayan defense under pressure. Their efforts paid off in a goal scored partly by a rare lapse from a defense that hadn’t conceded yet in the World Cup. Now if a country like South Korea, much less experienced at the World Cup knock-out stages,  can keep their composure and achieve an equalizer playing proper football, there is little excuse for the highly paid English footballers, majority of them playing in one of the best professional leagues in the world, and aided by a million-dollar income coach, not to do the same.

(2) The third goal conceded by England was a counter-attack off a set-piece near the German penalty box. It was not as if English defenders (or even midfielders) did not know the situation and the existence of  the possibility of a quick German counter.  The truth they should face is that English defense was a joke. The first goal by Klose proved that amply. A goal-kick results in a score only in back-yard soccer.  And that third goal was the pure speed of the young German midfield, combined with the selflessness of their players.

Capello’s whining is also a tacit admission that a tied score would’ve made England play defensively and attempt to luck it out in the lottery of penalty kicks (for which Capello famously already had a line-up drawn up for).

Anyway, I am waaaaay pleased that Germany won. I love following the German team in football for reasons I won’t go into now. (a love for German lagers and ales doesn’t hurt).

But before I end, can anyone please answer this question that’s been vexing me for the whole World Cup: what the fuck is David Beckham doing on the English sidelines dolled up in a three-piece suit and looking suitably worried all the time? The Guardian tells me Beckham is some sort of a go-to guy between the players and the manager. If that is true, then I rest my case about why England lost.  @a_muse suggested Beckham is their official mascot. In which case, I ask, ‘ Dude, where’s your monocle?’.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Soccer, Sports

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Jeers and cheers…

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Having won the test series and considering the recent dismal ODI record of the Indian team, I have not been watching the current, massive 7-match one-day series with England with much interest. Still, when the team allows the Poms, England for christsake, to creep back to a win from 99 runs to go with only 3 wickets in hand, you have to wonder what abysmal depths this Indian team has dropped to. This is not Australia or South Africa, its a team that by its own admission plays ODIs reluctantly. And we let them have a 3-1 series lead.

Of course, it does not help when we are handicapped by having only 6-7 fielders while bowling.

Meanwhile, congrats to the other, less celebrated Indian team, for a whiff of good news in a long, long time. I am talking about the football team that won the Nehru Cup. I am not sure if the opponents had brought along their full teams or not, but still, this is possibly the best news coming from Indian soccer since the ’86 Merdeka Cup.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Cricket, Rants, Soccer

Fisking an economist on football

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I am all for economists like Tim Hartford, Steve Levitt, Tyler Cowen and others popularizing a rather forbidding subject through books and blogs. But at certain times and instances, a line needs to drawn. For example Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek links to a piece by Allen Sanderson, a lecturer in Economics at the University of Chicago regarding faults with soccerfootball, which is supposedly an economic analysis.

However, written with a prejudiced view, not only of football, but of Europeans and football-fans in general, the article makes unsubstantiated conjectures galore, with nary a reference and expresses a naivete of its author that bordes on silliness. In another words, all set for a good fisking (just like this article that came before).

(click on more to read the rest)
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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 11, 2006 at 2:36 pm

Terrorist ? What’s that ?

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As mentioned in the previous post, the Zidane send-off has been the big talking point rather than the actual football played during yesterday’s World Cup final. Naturally, the question on everyone’s mind is what Materazzi did or say to provoke Zidane into such an action, since, in spite of Zidane’s record of similar indiscretions earlier (headbutting a player in a Champions League match and stomping on a Saudi player in a previous world Cup match), he is usually pretty calm and composed on the field.

Officially, Zidane has only hinted that Materazzi said something pretty abusive and promised to reveal it in a matter of days. But rumor mills have been on the overdrive, suggesting that Materazzi either said something about Zidane’s mother or called him a ‘dirty terrorist’ – a not so subtle jibe at Zidane’s ethnicity.

The Paris-based anti-racism advocacy group SOS-Racism issued a statement Monday quoting "several very well informed sources from the world of football" as saying Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist." It demanded that FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, investigate and take any appropriate action.

This accusation is pretty serious, especially in a period when FIFA is trying hard to keep racism out of football (anti-racism statements have been read out by team captains and banners displayed before each match of this World Cup). So it is no surprise to see Materazzi coming out with a statement denying the ‘terrorist’ comment. However, that statement itself sounds kind of funny to me:

"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I’m ignorant. I don’t even know what the word means," the Italian news agency Ansa quoted Materazzi as saying after the Italian team returned to Rome.

Come again ? Unless something has been lost in translation – this is quite an amazing thing to say in this day and age. Where has Materazzi been living for the last few years ? Has he been so engrossed in playing football that he doesn’t know anything about terrorists and terrorism ? I am sure no body is going to believe that ! The statement also sounds like the raised hand and innocent look routine football players indulge in after committing a foul.

So the question remains – what did he say ? Note that Materrazi says he did not call Zidane ‘a terrorist’ – that’s like admitting he did say something. I guess we shall have to wait to hear from Zidane himself.

UPDATE: Don’t know how reliable this is, but according to The Daily Mail, the ‘t’ word was used – but it seems – in a much worse manner. (via)

First Marco Matterazzi called the French star the Italian equivalent of ‘n*****’, and then insulted both his mother and his Muslim background by saying he is the ‘son of a terrorist whore.

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 10, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

The World Cup ends….

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…with a final match that was an uncomfortable reminder of several negative aspects of the tournament itself – players diving, wrong decisions by the referee, red card etc. The match will forever live in infamy for the incident – with 10 minutes remaining in the second half of extra-time and the score tied, Zinedine Zidane head-butted the Italian player Materazzi. The main referee missed the incident, but was alerted by the fourth referee (opinions differ as to whether TV replay was used), leading to Zidane’s ouster in the last international game for this legendary French midfielder.

The football itself was entertaining in parts, especially the back and forth action in the first half. France dominated the second half. Zidane’s amazing header in extra-time should have sealed the game except for an equally amazing save by Buffon. You don’t want to see a World Cup finals decided by penalties – but a decision has to reached somehow. Italy buried the ghost of the 1994 Baggio penalty miss to win. Poor Trezeguet – he will have to live with this one. Six years ago, he scored the winning goal against Italy in sudden death extra-time play to secure the Euro 2000 championship for France. This time he was the only French player to miss the penalty. So it goes.

I would have gone into a deeper analysis of the World Cup – but between this post by Confused and this one by Patrix  (two bloggers with whom much of the World Cup excitement was shared), I believe most of the ground has been covered.

This morning I was afflicted by the sad thought of no more World Cup games to look forward to. In fact, there is very little sports action going on right now – no upcoming cricket tours for India, the ‘other’ football not due to start till September and I am not much of a baseball fan (till it reaches the knockout stage). The World Cup, while it lasted, provided an easy topic to blog about. Now I shall to find some real issues.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 9, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

The FIFA ‘All-star’ squad

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According to this report, the FIFA technical study group has chosen the following 23 players for the 2006 World Cup ‘all-star’ squad.

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Jens Lehmann (Germany), Ricardo (Portugal).

Defenders: Roberto Ayala (Argentina), John Terry (England), Lilian Thuram (France), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy), Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal).

Midfielders: Ze Roberto (Brazil), Patrick Vieira (France), Zinedine Zidane (France), Michael Ballack (Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Gennaro Gattuso (Italy), Luis Figo (Portugal), Maniche (Portugal).

Strikers: Hernan Crespo (Argentina), Thierry Henry (France), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Francesco Totti (Italy), Luca Toni (Italy).

The list is sure to trigger some inevitable debates over players who deserve to be in there in place of others.  I cannot argue much against the choice of goalies and defenders. But I doubt if Viera, Henry or Crespo performed so much better to get the nod ahead of players like Riquelme, Maxi Rodrigues, Ribery or even Kaka.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 7, 2006 at 10:02 am

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

And then there were two….

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Well technically, there are still four – the losers from the semi-finals get to play another game on Saturday for the third position. But that game is as important as the position of the vice-president of the United States (well – maybe not now – but whatever).

Just in case anyone is wondering, I am talking about the FIFA World Cup 2006 – if you have been in a cave or living under a rock for the past month, now will be a good time to come out.

A month ago or even a couple of weeks ago, not many would have predicted this final: Argentina had the most balanced team, Brazil were the most talented, Germans were playing trumendously with home support. But it was the ageing French and the solid Italians who will get to fight it out this Sunday.

A France-Italy final can go either way – it could be a thrilling up and down contest or a dull defensive battle. Both teams have shown dual personalities through the tournament. Italy started off with a dashing attacking style against Ghana, then played out a boring, brawl-fest against USA and finally topped the group with a strong finish against the Czechs. Subsequently, they went back into a shell against Australia, escaping with a very questionable last-minute penalty. Since that much criticised game, however, they have displayed some dazzling football to beat Ukraine 3-0 with relative ease in the quarters and then Germany in a high-octane semi-final game. The heartening aspect of the game against Germany was that Lippi was not afraid of going all out for the win. Of course, their offense is comforted by the knowledge of having an almost impregnable defense (yet to concede a goal from the opponent) that can stop quick counter-attacks. Hopefully it will be this attacking Italian team that shows up for the final.

France meanwhile started badly – a continuation of their dismal form from the last World Cup. They barely scraped through the preliminary stage before finding some flashes of brilliance against Spain, and then put in a dominating second half performance against Brazil to secure the semi spot. Against Portugal they did not do much offensively. The penalty was justified even if Henry made it a tad dramatic. [Talking about drama, of course, brings to mind the Portugese team that seemed intent on ‘selling’ fouls  to the referee (the usual routine of dive – followed by an arm-raised and I-cant-believe-you-din’t-call-that incredulous look)  instead of concentrating on the task of scoring a goals.]. Again hoping that in the finals it is the French team that won against Spain and Brazil that shows up to play – with some dazzling moves by Zidane.

Apart from Zidane, I think the biggest gain for France in this World Cup has been the emergence of Ribery. This guy has speed, stamina and more than decent skills. Looking forward to much more action from him in Euro 2008.

Final note: my hope for the finals: Fra 3 Ita 2 (or perhaps 2-1) with the final goal coming in extra-time like the Euro 2000 finals. But I have a feeling it will be Italy 2-0.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 6, 2006 at 7:33 am

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup