Recurring Decimals…..

Everything here is irrelevant

Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

Germany vs Italy: semi-live blogging

leave a comment »

Feeling too tensed watching the Germany v Italy semi-final. Trying my hand at some live-blogging (sort-off).

After about 32 minutes – the game seems evenly matched, although I have to admit that Italy has had slightly better chances.

33min40sec: Schneider misses the best chance so far in the game to score – hits over the bar!!

German third not playing up to mark ! The passing between Klose and Podolsky is absent. Ballack not doing much either. Borowski has been the best German player so far.

39′ : good acting by Totti draws the yellow against Borowski…btw the card was probably called for.

UPDATE (the day after): All-right, y’all know what happened in the game. My first attempt at live-blogging was a damp squib – a friend came over to watch the game with me in the second half and he was supporting Italy. So time was spent arguing with him. After that I was drowning my sorrows with beer (some very good German wheat beer) and bratwursts – and some nice fireworks to wrap up the evening.

The German team played beyond expectations, spurred on by an enthusiastic coach and I am looking forward to them doing well in Euro 2008 (Austria/Switzerland).

The Italians displayed an extremely skilfull brand of football yesterday and deserved the victory. It pains me to say this, but that first goal in the 118th minute was a beauty – an unhurried pinpoint pass inside the box and a perfect shot – with enough power and the right amount of curl to beat the outstretched hands of Lehmann and sling into the net. My problem with the Italians has mostly been with the dour defensive strategy they adopt – especially if they go up early. That and their propensity to dive rather theatrically on the field. The theatrics continued (although last night, some of the Germans were guilty of it too), but this team has been different strategy-wise. With the exception of the matches against the US and Australia, they have played a visually pleasing, attacking football. Good luck to them in the finals. But I will probably be supporting whoever wins today.


Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 4, 2006 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Blog, Soccer, Sports, World Cup

Quick thoughts on World Cup

with 3 comments

So much to write about………and the usual lame excuse of so little time. I guess a major topic of discussion should be the knockout stage of the World Cup. Two excellent games on Saturday with a possible contender for the best goal of the tournament, followed by a few insipid games and one high-octane wrestling match where the referee took center stage. 

Germany streamrolling the SwedesKlose and Podolski forming a lethal combination up front, Ballack passing with (as the cliche goes) pinpoint accuracy, Lahm making some dazzling runs through the flank and my hero, Klinsmann celebrating like (yet another cliche) a child on Christmas morning . What’s not to love ?  Perhaps their only proverbial fly in the ointment is the sight of a somber-faced Oliver Kahn sitting on the German bench. He is not happy and is letting people know it.

Btw, is Klinsmann, and perhaps Van Basten, the fittest looking coaches around ? I guess there is some correlation to them being the youngest coaches as well but still, you would think football coaches would carry around a little less tire around the waist.

Mexico gave it their best – but looked visibly tired towards the end of the game – and there isn’t much defending you can do against Maxi Rodrigues’ shot.

England – are they going to be the 2002 Germany World Cup team of 2006 – playing badly but still reaching the later stages ? I fervently hope not. Does anyone else agree that England will actually score more goals (and not just from set-pieces) if someone more mobile and creative plays in the midfield other than David Beckham ? I know about all that bending, curving and dipping the ball from the spot – but I have a feeling that with Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard and perhaps Crouch, England has enough fire-power for scoring – what they need is another fast player in the midfield. Of course, I could just be speaking crap. 

I was a little upset (to use a mild term) at Ecuador for not trying hard enough to eliminate England.

Portugal-Holland – oh god – what a crazy game ! Can’t add much to the discussion other than this conspiracy theory I figured out about the referee being controlled by the Russian mafia, which for some reason has a strong interest in seeing England through to the semi-finals. 

Italy-Australia/Ukraine-Switzerland: I dozed off during both games. The Italians again showed that they spend as much time in acting classes as in training session. (Update: Abhishek at Silly Point has an excellent post on the Italian’s lack of sportmanship). The Swiss inability to score on penalties, prompted a blog post by economist Steve Levitt.On the same blog, Steve Dubner briefly comments on a possible inadvertent effect of  the poor refereeing in this World Cup on a certain profession.

Finally, can someone please explain the meaning of celebrating a goal by sucking your thumb ? A quick Google search reveals that it is the favorite celebration of Spanish player, Luis Garcia – he apparently does it to "to commemorate his first-born son" – which by itself does not explain much and what about other players ? I thought I saw the Italians do it too. (Btw, here are two related articles on goal celebrations: from the World Cup site on Yahoo! and the Wikipedia entry )

Tags: , , ,

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 27, 2006 at 7:59 am

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

Predictions and such

with 5 comments

Peter Crouch is probably the most (unintentionally) comical player I have seen on a football field for a long time. The manner in which he missed the open goal where he tried to dive and hit a volley rather than trapping and tappin the football in (he had the time, he was wide open and even the kepper had given up) was quite priceless. Well, he redeemed himself eventually – too bad we did not get to see the ‘robot dance‘.

Also as I mentioned yesterday, Wayne Rooney did not make an individual difference on the field. However, the team itself started playing with a renewed purpose after he came in.

Yesterday’s predictions were a bit off.

For today, predictions are: Ecuador wins over Costa Rica (2-1), England wins over T & T (1-0), and Paraguay wins over Sweden (1-0). The last is a crazy prediction for an upset.

I got the first two results correct – not the scorelines. And the Sweden game was just the reverse. Let’s see what happens in the coming days. I will have to be out of town with probably no net access for the next three days. So I will bunch all the predictions together.

June 16th:

Argentina-Serbia & M. : 2-0
Netherlands-Ivory Coast: 2-1
Mexico-Angola: 1-1

June 17th:

Italy-USA: 2-0
Portugal-Iran: 2-0
Czech-Ghana: 2-1

June 18th:

Brazil-Aus: 2-1
Japan-Croatia: 1-2
France-Korea: 2-0 (I hope 🙂 )

Let’s see how many I get right this time.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 16, 2006 at 7:31 am

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

The Cup so far…

with 2 comments

All 32 teams in the World Cup have now had a chance to play. Two teams have played twice with one team (Poland) all but eliminated. So a good time to jot down some thoughts. Thanks to a small TV in a nearby conference room, set up by kind souls, I have been able to watch at least parts of almost all the matches.

1. Let’s begin with the latest action. As an unabashed supporter of the German team, yesterdays game almost gave me a heart attack – especially in the last few minutes with that header and the subsequent shot both ricocheting off the inner-edge of the top post. Before that, there was intense frustration as Klose, Poborsky et al kept missing the easiest of chances. At times it felt like the German coach Klinsmann was itching to don a jersey of his own, come on the field and show these young guys a thing or two about striking. He  might have actually done a better job. But Ballack I thought was superb in the midfield with some great accurate passes. 

A draw would have been okay for Germany – but I so wanted them to win. I feel a little sorry for the Polish team but they have themselves to blame. Their offense was speedy; the German defense was having a tough time stopping their breakaway counter-attacks and couple of times, had to resort to yellow-card earning fouls. So why then, pray tell me, did they set into such a defensive mindset and adopt a time-wasting tactics as early as the 10th minute of the second half ? Jans Lehman probably just dozed off in the second half. He did touch the ball once late – around the 36th minutes or so – and the Spanish commentator got so excited to see him on-screen that he cried out – SENOORRRRRRR JAAAAAAANS LEEEEEEEHMAN !!!

2. Worst refereeing I have seen so far: the send-off of the Ukranian player, Vashuk in their match against Spain. As Torres was speeding into the Ukranian penalty area, there was some pulling of shirt – but Torres had shaken that off. He eventually lost control of the ball and fell down on his own (not a dive either) and there was daylights between him and the defender. Why the Swiss referee sought the red card in that situation, we won’t know.

Spain hardly needed the help of that penalty or the man-advantage. They were good. Imagine scoring three goals with your top striker (Raul) on the bench ! Torres, Villa and perhaps Raul at the front, Xabi Alonso in the midfield and Puyol manning the defense – that’s headache for any team.

I enjoy the skillful, attacking Spanish style of play – and I hope this team does not underachieve as the Spaniards are often guilty of.

3. Along with the Spaniards, the Czechs and the Italians are the teams that looked the most impressive in their opening games. Rosciky’s first goal is a easy nomination for the best goals of the tournament. Hopefully Koller will be fit for the later stages.

The Italians surprised me. I hate their usual dour defensive play and the score one goal and protect the lead strategies (I was so happy when that plan backfired during the ’00 Euro Cup Final). But this team is much more attacking. Even with the 1-0 lead, they did not withdraw into an defensive shell.

The Italians, btw, are hands down winners of the World Cup Oscars for best diving, acting injured (till card is given to the opposing player) and ‘ooooh that was so close hand on the head’ mannerisms. 

4. Argentina and Netherlands looked good, if not impressive, against some plucky opposition from Ivory Coast and Serbia & M. respectively. And as has been noted elsewhere – note to Robben:  please pass the ball.

5. Most disappointed by: the French side. This is another team I usually like. I hope they go far and provide a fitting farewell for Zidane. But they seemed so lazy on the field. Except Zidane that is – even at this age – the guy’s still got it. Don’t know if everyone noticed Zidane arguing heatedly with Wiltold and others during a stoppage in the second half.  That won’t do. Fortunately, their group is not very tough (South Korea and Togo are the other teams) and France can soon break their World Cup scoring drought.

6. Brazil did not have a good game by their exalted standards – but I expect the team to gel together and play better as the tournament progresses. No mistaking it – this team has champions written on them – unless they get freakishly eliminated in one of the knockout rounds. Haven’t followed the Spanish league for a while – so it was a shock to see Ronaldo – at first I thought it was Roberto Carlos who had somehow gotten taller. Seems like the Brazilian president, Lula noticed too and said something about it – only to regret it later. 🙂

7. England did not play well either. They have a good team and as usual their media and fans are predicting that this will be The Year (its a four-yearly British tradition you see). But there seems to be too much dependence on Wayne Rooney’s fitness. England would do well to focus on playing each group game the best they can instead of being distracted by the attention to whether Rooney will play or not. Even if he does play, there will always be a niggling doubt at the back of his mind and I don’t think he will be able to give 100% that way. The team has fire-power to win against Trinidad and Tobago without Rooney and that’s what they should do, hoping for his return in the later stages.

8. Among the so-called ‘smaller/weaker’ teams, Ivory Coast was probably the most impressive. Angola and Ghana played well too and of course, Trinidad and Tobago pulled the upset. I hope the latter develops some kind of an offense and does not keep depending on its keeper to earn a tie every day. Did not see Costa Rica play. Also missed the most amazing turnaround game – the Aussie versus Japan match.

6. Most spine-less performance I saw was from Ukraine. Spain played well and got two quick goals – but I haven’t seen any other team so clueless about attacking than the Ukranians. Their strategy seemed to consist of lobbing the ball from mid-field and hope that somehow Shevchenko would have a go at it. Surprising from a team that had one of the best qualifying records.

7. I also wish that USA played better than they did, if anything for the sake of popularizing the game in this country so that we can get some decent TV/media coverage. What happened to those blazing Landon Donovan runs down the flank ?

8. Apart from the Trinidad and Tobago versus Sweden match, there weren’t any big upsets this World Cup, quite unlike the last one. I guess Poland losing to Ecuador was sort of an upset.

Predictions: Having had a feel for most of the teams, I think I will be trying to predict the daily results from now on. Let’s see if I can keep it up consistently.

For today, predictions are: Ecuador wins over Costa Rica (2-1), England wins over T & T (1-0), and Paraguay wins over Sweden (1-0). The last is a crazy prediction for an upset.

Tags: , , ,

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 15, 2006 at 7:14 am

Posted in Soccer, Sports, World Cup

First upset ?

with 2 comments

Can the islands renowned (at least to us Indians) more for cricketing giant Brian Lara than any soccer prowess pull-off what Cameroon did in 1990 or Sengal in 2002 – the first upset of this World Cup ? I am watching the Trinidad and Tobago v/s Sweden game and so far they have held off the Swedes – even while playing with 10 men for most of the second half (~33 minutes as of now). As the Swedes tire, they are even starting to make a few offensive forays.

UPDATE: They did it!! Not quite the same giant killing achieved by Cameroon and Senegal since the latter two defeated the then defending champions. Also, Sweden, while consistent, are no football powerhouses like Argentina or France. Still, good job by this tiny nation.

Tags: , , ,

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 10, 2006 at 9:40 am

Posted in Soccer, World Cup

Time delay in ABC World Cup Coverage

with 5 comments

Started watching the World Cup games (and don’t ask me which World Cup) from today (missed yesterday’s action due to a conference). After a while, was extremely fed up with ABC/ESPN’s coverage – the ‘play by play’ commentary is too inane, full of unnecessary jargons borrowed from American sports and too dumbed down, perhaps in an effort to target the ‘ignorant American’ audience. On top of that they had this sappy half-time feature that somehow tried to tie-in Germany’s Nazi and World War II past and their revival with the 1972 Olympics, the 1974 and this World Cup.

Anyway, finally switched to the Spanish channel, Univision – don’t understand much of what they are saying – but the inflections in their voice, especially the excitement whenever a shot is taken at the goal or someone is brought down by a heavy tackle etc, indcates that their heart is in the right place. Couple of points about the coverage. Firstly, crowd noise is more prominent in the Spanish channel – ABC mutes it down for some reason. Secondly, ABC has a 10-second delay in their coverage. What are they worried about – a waldrobe malfunction on the field ?

Btw, love the Adidas Jose + 10 ads. You can see them here and here.

Tags: , , ,

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 10, 2006 at 9:12 am

Posted in Soccer, TV, World Cup

Another great comeback.

leave a comment »

Not talking about my return to blogging – but this. A bit late posting this – but it was one hell of a game ! I was planning to watch the match, since, to my pleasant surprise, ESPN2 actually decided that the UEFA Champions Trophy Finals is more important than the World poker series, cheerleading competitions or fly-fishing !
Unfortunately, slipping away during the day (the game was at 2.30pm EST) to watch sports for a few hours is much more difficult in the real world as opposed to the graduate student world. So one had to be satisfied following written commentary on the internet – which I must say, does not really work out that well in soccer as compared to cricket.
Not in my wildest imagination did I think that Liverpool would make a comeback following their showing in the first half – three goals against an Italian defense ? That’s not just done. Kudos to Steven Gerrard and Benitez for not getting bogged down and mounting an impressive counter attack in the second half, although one might uncharitably suggest that there was very little else they could have done.
I have talked about two major comeback in cricket and baseball in a previous post. While comparison between different sports and situations might be entirely superfluous, I kind of believe Liverpool might have had more of a challenge to overcome. In case of the Red Sox against the Yankees, they had the luxury of playing over several days, taking each game at a time; in the memorable second innings comeback against Australia, the Indians were playing over several hours with breaks in between, in a familiar environment with the opponents slightly disadvantaged by the heat and humidity. Not that I am trying to belittle the sensational nature of the comebacks posted by these teams – but Liverpool had only 10 minutes break – then a stretch of 45 minutes of continuous play, on a neutral ground (ok their supporters took up 75% of the stadium and the neutral were cheering them on in the second half) and against a defense lead by no less of a figure than Paolo Maldini. Call it a fluke, call it inspired leadership by Gerrard, they extracted themselves from one hell of a hole and then held their nerves during the penalty shootouts !!

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 27, 2005 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Soccer, Sports