Spain Wins The World Cup In Spite Of Debilitating Nike Ad

Truth be told, before yesterday the first part of the title was as absurd as “The Red Sox win the World Series” would have been 10 years ago or even “Longhorns top the Sooners” during the early naughts.

Spain’s National Team, La Furia Roja, had a knack for falling flat on their collective face World Cup after World Cup. This all changed yesterday to be sure, after La Furia Roja defeated the Netherlands, who have now lost 3 World Cup Finals (’74, ’78, 10), 1-0.

I believe however that the breakthrough which culminated yesterday began in Euro 2008, which the Spanish won by besting Germany by the same score they beat the Dutch yesterday. That tournament set them on a course of excellence, winning 35 matches in a row until they shockingly lost to the U.S. at the 2009 Confederations Cup held in South Africa.

They then proceeded to breeze through World Cup qualifiers, becoming a favorite to take home the hardware in South Africa entering as the #2 squad in the world according to FIFA. In their first World Cup match, La Furia Roja fell to the Swiss, prompting echoes of “Different World Cup, same old Spain”.

Spaniards readied themselves for another World Cup collapse by their beloved team, blame was sent down bizarre avenues.

Yet, here we are July 12, 2010 and the FIFA World Cup trophy will call Spain home for at least the next 4 years.

A more remarkable feat may be that Spain won despite three of their players’ involvement in Nike Soccer’s “Write the Future” ad (watch it here).

An ad made before the start of the World Cup featuring England’s Wayne Rooney, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Italya’s Fabio Cannavaro, Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, France’s Franck Ribéry, Brazil’s Robinho and Ronaldinho. To say that the campaign was a poor prognosticator of World Cup success is a vast understatement, a rundown:

Read more of this post

Advertisements

México: The World Cup’s Broken Record

Once again, México fails to advance to the quarterfinals in a World Cup held outside of its borders.  Like in Germany 2006, Argentina booted them out of South Africa 2010 and depriving my homeland of participating in that most elusive of contests for them, a fifth World Cup match.  In fact, here’s what I posted after that match back in ’06,

Another World Cup away from Mexican soil, another early exit in the 2nd round by the Mexican team.  This time it was at the hands of the Argentines, who should have won at the end of regulation if it hadn’t been for that bad call on Messi’s offside.

Go in peace, Mexico, and hold your heads high, you went toe-to-toe with one of this Cup’s favorites.  To my countrymen’s credit, they had their best game yesterday, if only they had played at this level during the first round, they might have won their group.

I will say this, the officiating by the Swiss ref was atrocious.  He gave el Kaiser an unmerited yellow card and let the Args get away with murder without giving them cards.  Most notable was the non-call on the dude who rolled over Zinha, and not giving the automatic red on the Arg who took out Kikin as he had a clear path to goal (the whole last man rule).

My consolation in all this is that if El Tri would have gone on and faced Germany, they would have gotten creamed.  After all, the winner of the ARG-MEX game is fodder for the host team.

LaVolpe’s decisions regarding personnel were real head scratchers.  Franco didn’t even play yesterday, he’s a much better playmaker than Borghetti (who can’t create).  Guardado had the game of his life, too bad he didn’t see action during the first round.  If LaVolpe gets the ax, it will probably be because of his personnel decisions.

To my Che friends, congrats on a solid win, but ze Germans will steam roll ‘el albiceleste.’

Germany 4 Argentina 0 (yeah I’m bitter…)

Let’s see, some similarities to today’s affair:

  • No quarterfinals for Mexico once again.
  • The refereeing today was atrocious.  Assistant ref Stefano Ayroldi (below getting an earful, Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) gave Argentina their first goal when he didn’t notice that Carlos Tevez was offside by at least the lenght of 2 gaucho knives.


Guys, you want someone to blame? Go talk to your coach…

  • Different coach this time (Javier Aguirre) but his decisions were equally head-scratching.  Starting the last man picked for the World Cup roster, Adolfo “El Bofo” Bautista, in the biggest match of this tournament is inexplicable.  Back then Guillermo Franco was the better choice over an aging Jared Borghetti.  Today, Pablo Barrera, who gave the Argentinians fits, should have gotten the nod over El Bofo instead of coming in as a sub
  • Had México triumphed today, the elation would have been short-lived since a sickeningly dangerous German squad awaits in the quarterfinals.  A German squad that taught England a graduate course in counterattacking.  As Tom Clancy wrote in Red Storm Rising that no one presses the counterattack “better than the Krauts””.
  • Aguirre’s personnel decisions will cost him his job as coach of the Mexican National Team

Interesting how history repeats itself, how Aguirre didn’t learn from LaVolpe’s mistakes or even his own mistakes back in the 2002 World Cup.

The main difference between ’06 and what happened today is that in ’06, El Tri actually had a shot to beat Argentina.  Today?  Not so much.  Which is why this loss didn’t shake me to the core as much as Team USA’s loss did yesterday.  Team USA had a real shot to do something special but came up short.

Another reason why this loss wasn’t as crushing is what I wrote here,

Thus, I shall enjoy watching El Tri get out of the first round only to get eliminated by giving a world-power all they can handle before succumbing to historical inevitability.

True, this time around they didn’t give Argentina all they could handle.  There was never any doubt Argentina was going to win this match and once again play the record that all of us Mexicans get to hear every 4 years:  México exits the World Cup in the Round of 16.

Despite what happened to El Tri in South Africa, I will always support the team that represents the country of my birth. I know it’s a fool’s errand but here’s hoping that in Brazil 2014, we won’t get to hear this same tired record again.

¡Viva Mexico!

USA! USA! USA!

Facing the prospect of a draw with Algeria and thus the abyss that would be an early exit from the World Cup, Landon Donovan managed to put a Clint Dempsey rebound into the Algerian net and propel Team USA into the Round of 16 as the winners of Group C to boot.

I could talk about the numerous chances America’s Team had throughout the match:  Dempsey bouncing a shot off the post, Hercules Gomez not blasting it past the Algerian keeper, Jozy’s numerous flubs.

I could even expound on how an elderly and visually-impaired D-Wade could have cost El Equipo de Todos (Our Team, that’s Univision’s nickname for Team USA) everything but…

No.

This moment belongs to one of the greatest sporting moments I have witnessed, not just in the World Cup but throughout all sport.  Yes there was Vince Young’s unworldly performance against USC, Gibby’s improbable blast off Eck back in ’88, the Houston Rockets going back-to-back etc.

I have loved fútbol (soccer to some of you, football to others) all of my life, it is the sport I learned before I learned to walk.  Being a native of México had a lot to do with this.  Throughout the years, baseball, basketball  and college football have take a large portion of the market share, but every 4 years, fútbol is king.

As has been extensively catalogued on these pages, I “live and die” with Mexico’s National Team (El Tri) from the time World Cup qualifers start to such a time we find ourselves in now, the World Cup.  Naturally, during qualifiers I root against the United States when they play my beloved Tri, but every other time I’m right there with Team USA.

Watching the USA-Algeria match today, my heart grew heavier with each passing minute as Team USA failed time and time again to get the ball past a stupidly grinning Algerian keeper.  As stoppage time came and Algeria headed a dangerous ball towards U.S. keeper Tim Howard’s goal, the flickering flame of hope waned…

Howard, arguably the U.S. best player, then sensed an opportunity and hurled the ball mightily towards a streaking Landon Donovan.  I sensed something special was going to happen because this is exactly how he looked last year when he scored on a counterattack against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final.

They got down to the box, the ball ended up at the feet of Clint Dempsey and the hands of the Algerian keeper, who made a mighty save.  The ball bounced right out off his hands and into the annals of history in the form of Landon Donovan’s right foot.

Elation…  Relief and Joy.

I may or may not have gotten a little-teary eyed at what I had just witnessed.  I can say with certainty that this moment surpassed anything I’ve felt watching México at this World Cup.  For me to say that…

What a country this is, where an Argentine (Andres Cantor) is calling the game on Spanish Radio and goes berserk calling Donovan’s goal.  So much so that he is unable to belt out his trademark “GOOOOLLLL!!!” because of the emotion of the moment.

What a country, where a Mexican fútbol/soccer/football chant, “Si se puede!” (“Yes We Can”) is used to fuel an historical election, only to come full circle by being plastered on posterboard in support of Team USA (Photo by Phil Cole Getty Images)

I don’t know what this victory means for the future prospects of soccer in this country, and to be honest I don’t particularly care.

Whether or not the sport ever gives baseball, basketball or American football a run for their money here in these United States is irrelevant.

Fútbol is king, and when it comes to watching your homeland (adopted or otherwise) at the World Cup, there is nothing like it.

Here’s a video of Landon’s historic goal.

Americans Haunted By A Phantom Call

Major, major props to Team USA for not succumbing to despair after falling behind 0-2 against a surprising Slovenian squad, that apparently holds Chuck Brown in no small amount of reverence. The fact that America’s team equalized in the second half is a testament to the grit and can-do attitude that fueled the establishment and growth of this great nation.

Of course, it was lackadaisical marking and a flaccid attack that put them in the early hole and to be sure that will surely be addressed by head coach Bob Bradley. Resiliency is a trademark of a team that can make a deep run in this, the greatest of all sporting events, and the American proved that they have just that.

The story of this match should have been that, a scrappy American squad falls behind early only to come roaring back in the second half to tie, then in the closing minutes to win on a Maurice Edu strike off a set piece. But nooooo…

Instead, the story of the match is head referee Koman Coulibaly from Mali who made an atrocious call that nullfied Edu’s potential game-winner. Coulibaly called Michael Bradley offside on the play despite not being in a position to make such a call. You see, that call typically goes to one of the linesmen who has a better angle on it. What makes this especially frustrating is that no one knew what the nullifying call was.

Even before making up this offside, this ref had shown a remarkable ability to make a buffoon of himself. He gave US forward Robbie Findley a yellow card for a handball. Fine and good, except that the ball hit Findley in the face. I don’t know maybe in Mali a hand is a face and a face is a hand, who knows?

I do know that this may sound condescending but what the hell is a man from Mali (FIFA Rank: 54) doing officiating a contest on this, the grandest of stages? What’s more, why is the Saudi ref (KSA’s FIFA Rank: 66) who clumsily presided over the México-France match also afforded the opportunity on this stage? Yes, I know that not all refs from low ranking FIFA members are laughably incompetent, but I’m beginning to sense a pattern and I’m not the only one.

In my opinion, the best football/fútbol is played in Europe and in Latin America so why not fill the World Cup referee pool overflowing with the best men from the leagues therein?

Mr. Coulibaly showed that he has no business presiding over a juice box-ridden and orange slice-infested FFPS lovefest much less a World Cup match.

All that said, here are some thoughts on what transpired:

Read more of this post

México Wins, France Shrugs

Thanks to the vagaries and nature of my line of work, I was able to watch yesterday’s México-France match in its entirety. From the rousing national anthems to the exchange of jerseys, still one of my favorite customs in all of sport.

The second half I managed to watch in one of our building’s lounges with a couple of fellow Mexican expatriates. We departed in exultation after witnessing our beloved Tri demolish an indifferent French squad, 2-0.

If memory serves me correct, this is El Tri’s first win over a traditional fútbol power in a World Cup.

That the French squad is highly dysfunctional or that their effort can be summed up as a collective Gallic shrug doesn’t diminish the achievement. Nor is the win besmirched by the fact that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was offside by a balding frog’s hair prior to scoring the first goal or that Pablo Barrera took a dive on his way to earning the penalty kick.

Here’s a brief analysis by the expertenPinche Klinsmann

Some thoughts on yesterday’s proceedings:

  • I have been beating this drum for a couple of weeks but why is Óscar Pérez (below, trying to pull a wool over our eyes) still starting at goal for México?  Yes, he posted a clean sheet but that had to more with the French being allergic to taking shots on goal than with his goalkeeping prowess.  I understand that after rocketing a shot off towards the Mexican goal, Florent Malouda had to go to the sideline and get an epinephrine shot before he went into anaphylactic shock.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

  • México potentially loses 2 starters for the next match:  Carlos Vela (injury) and Efraín Juárez (accumulated yellow cards).  Truthfully, it pains me to say it but based on the past 2 matches, it’s not that big of  a deal.  Vela has not been in top form when it comes to capitalizing on scoring chances .  Maybe he’s rusty since he doesn’t get on the field much with Arsenal.  Juárez should get an Oscar nomination for his rendition of the the invisible man since South Africa 2010 kicked off .
  • One way to tell that France didn’t want to play due to the fact that they had more than 10 set pieces and didn’t convert any of them into scores against my shorter countrymen.  Then again, the Mexican back line was solid all match long.  That’s the best I’ve seen them play in a long time.

Great win for México which more than likely puts them into the next round.  The question now is if they go for the tie against Uruguay (causing both to advance) or go for the win to avoid running into Argentina in the next round?

On a related/unrelated note, a South African man was beaten to death by his wife and kids because he changed the channel on the television to watch a World Cup match instead of the “religious program” his family was watching.

Tragic note to be sure, but how is a World Cup match which is attended by functioning adults sporting painted faces and all manner of accouterments not a “religious program”?

The White Rabbit Will Lead México to An Early Exit

Surely it must mean something that I posted on Team USA’s shocking draw with England before posting on the opening match of the 2010 World Cup, which pitted host South Africa against my beloved Tri.  What it means is that the opening match left a bad taste in my mouth.

Like the US and England, South Africa and México tied 1-1. For South Africa that’s as good as a win and it’s safe to say that for the team representing my native land, that result is as bad as a loss.

Again, if careful and exegetic analysis of the match are your cup of tea, go check out it here.

Before the ball even got rolling there was a problem for México: Óscar “El Conejo” (The rabbit) Pérez starting at keeper for México. What catastrophe has to unfold for Mexican helmsman Javier “El Vasco” (The Basque) Aguirre to leave this guy on the friggin’ bench? I won’t even get into another lousy decision by Vasco: starting Guille Franco as the point man up front. To summarize Franco’s brilliant performance, he whiffed on 3 clear scoring opportunities. Two off-target headers and a feeble shot on goal that Bishop Tutu could have stopped.

It’s worth noting that after South Africa opened the scoring, Desmond started cutting a rug. I’d point out something about the dignity that accompanies age but then I’d come across as the woman (not to mention legalistic Baptists) who despised King David in 2 Samuel.

Like Rudy, Conejo is 5-foot-nothing, unlike Rudy, he is a wee bit more than a “100-nothing”. In the modern era of fútbol (after ’66 when they used that ridiculous volleyball as a match ball), no team has gone deep into the World Cup with a keeper that vertically challenged.

I’d understand if the man still had his ups, but he’s 37!!!!!! Whatever spring he might have had is long gone. I’d also understand if you didn’t have any other options, but riding the pine like some perpetual bridesmaid is Sideshow Bob Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa (right). Vasco, if Allstate is going to make Memo the centerpiece of an entire ad campaign, the least you do is start the man. Forget the fact that he’s 6′, young and in the prime of his career.

Throughout the match, Pérez looked to be way in over his head. He whiffed on a couple of crosses into the box that a taller and/or athletic keeper would have easily snagged. Given that set pieces and the aerial game are 2 of México’s main problems, it’s inexplicable why Aguirre goes with Pérez. I’m not sure that even Memo would have stopped South Africa’s impressive goal, but judging by the replay, Pérez was a few inches from getting at least a glove on it.

Then in what could have been South Africa’s game winner, Pérez defends it by doing a jumping jack [Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images]:

Pérez has no business being on this team, much less being the starting keeper. If Aguirre comes to his senses and starts Ochoa, at least this gives the team a better chance and will eclipse some of the other shortcomings that were in full bloom against South Africa (inability to capitalize, adventures in set pieces etc).

Given Aguirre’s noted stubbornness and pride, I have a feeling he will continue to follow his white rabbit (below, Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) all the way into the hole that is not making it past the group stage.

Run, rabbit run… all the way to the bench please

Clint Dempsey’s Strike: From Nac-Town with Love

Yesterday morning at the store, I ran into a friend of mine and he asked me what I thought the outcome would be of today’s England-US World Cup showdown. My response? A draw.

Can’t say that I called it because I didn’t predict a score. Even as my prediction rolled off my tongue, I thought about the feasibility of such an outcome and came to the conclusion that even a draw would be a victory for Team USA, given how loaded the English squad is.

While it would be best to leave the tactical analysis of the match to the experten, I cannot help but discuss Clint Dempsey’s equalizer.

Yes, English keeper Robert Green made the type of mistake which should never be made at the World Cup level or any level of soccer save Fun Fair Positive Soccer . However, not enough credit is being given to the Texan Clint Dempsey, the man who presented Green with the opportunity to embarrass himself, his family and his country before a captivated world audience.

Prior to firing the fateful shot, Dempsey had to break free, and he did so by juking English captain, Steven Gerrard, out of his expensive Adidas cleats. Here’s a shot from mid-juke, (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)


Es OK Esteven, there are embittered Mexican men in Nac-Town who feel your pain

Judging by the display, one might have thought that Dempsey must have learned these skills from Hakeem Olajuwon who as we can see in Exhibit A below, just abused David Robinson back in the 1995 NBA playoffs.

But no, Dempsey honed these moves in his youth while playing in Nacogdoches’ Mexican League matches. As is reported here, Dempsey,

…beat men more than twice his age, proud men from Mexico and El Salvador who’d throw you to the East Texas dirt for trying a fancy move on them.

And according to one of his childhood friends, one time Dempsey

“did some kind of weird trick—it was so awesome—and the guy got mad and spit in his face.”

Due to the fact that us Mexicans think fútbol is our game and not the Americans’, I can certainly understand the ire of the men he schooled.

It’s hard to swallow when someone beats you at “your own game”, just ask British columnist and America’s Got Talent judge, Piers Morgan who penned this:

I honestly can’t believe we drew with the Americans. Soccer is a complete non-sport in the US. It ranks somewhere below tiddlywinks in their national competitive psyche.

Now, Dempsey might have picked up a huge assist from the wildly unpredictable Jabulani but it is certain that the glorified beach ball had nothing to do with his dissecting of Gerrard.

Major props to Dempsey and the rest of Team USA for their win draw against a tough opponent. I do feel bad for Robert Green but I’d feel worse if he played for Colombia.