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”?

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France Needs a New Charles Martel

Stereotypes. Behind them there usually is some grain of truth, sometimes… For whatever fantastical reason, the French are known as a people who lay down their arms at the first sign of armed conflict or who are unwilling/incapable of sustaining a war effort.

Of course, anytime someone loses a war against México, what else can be said? (though of course without the French intervention in México, pan dulce (below) might not have become a Mexican staple and Hispanics might not have an ethnically indifferent celebration here in the U.S.)

Or anytime one of their footballers, Thierry Henry in the 2006 World Cup, acts like an opposing player (Spain’s Carles Puyol) shot him at close range in the face with a sawed-off, when in fact Puyol hardly grazed him?

That the French sent some troops to aid former British colonies gain their independence is strangely forgotten. Whatever the case, the French have this reputation for their shortcomings in the art of war.

Recently, there were 10 French soldiers who were killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The tragedy shocked that nation and even more so after the Taliban group responsible flaunted “trophies” from the dead soldiers (the fact that the Taliban’s reaction is indicative of the necessity to oppose their worldview is not even considered).

France stunned at photos of Taliban fighters with ‘trophies’ taken from 10 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan

At the end of the piece, there is a quote from one of the parents of the dead soldiers,

The magazine Le Nouvel Observateur ran yet another interview with the parents of one of the dead soldiers on Thursday. Mother Chantal Buil said she had written a letter to Sarkozy.

“Stop following the example of President Bush. His arrogance comes out of every pore. Let’s stay French. Let’s get our soldiers out of the quagmire,” she wrote in her letter.

While this mother has to deal with the agony of losing a child, her son’s sacrifice is noted and appreciated for he gave his life to oppose a worldview which ought to be opposed unless the people of the world want to live under this worldview (on this, the debate is healthy).

Charles “The Hammer” Martel, however, would disagree on her take on what it means to “stay French” (lets pretend he wasn’t born in Belgium).

Alain Bernard: Prognosticator Par Excellence


“The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for” — French swimmer Alain Bernard (above in happier times)


Oops! Well Mr. Bernard’s (right) prediction didn’t exactly pan out. The American 4x100m swim team took the gold tonight in dramatic fashion: “Phelps collects 2nd gold in relay”.

Bernard joins the ranks of athletes who have bumped their gums prior to competition only to fall flat on their faces and choke in spectacular fashion.

Perhaps none so wonderfully (if you’re American) than Mr. Bernard who anchored the 2nd place French team. The French were comfortably ahead and were poised to win gold when Bernard started the anchor leg of the relay.

What no one was counting on was Mr. Bernard’s able impersonation of an anchor in the last several meters, in conjunction with American Jason Lezak’s inspired finish to secure the gold for the American team.

Alain, my man, you are an excellent swimmer but as far as trash-talking is concerned, you’re what the French call, les incompetent.

The San Antonio Spurs: Lovable Winners

Houston sports fans (like other fans) have teams that they find easy to dislike. In baseball, it has to be the Cardinals or the Mets, in football it’s going to be the former Oilers, the Tennessee Titans with the Cowboys not far behind.

In the NBA it might be a tossup between the Jazz and the Spurs (at least in my mind). It’s probably the Spurs given the way they have dominated the NBA during the last few years. For a long time Rocket fan might have dangled Houston’s 2 championships in the mid 90s in front of Spurs fan. Not to mention, Hakeem Olajuwon’s schooling of David Robinson during the ’95 playoffs (see below)

But that coupon has long expired given the Spurs’ current run of excellence (Champions in ’99, ’03, ’05, and ’07) during which the Rockets have failed to win a single playoff series.

With all that, for this Rockets fan at least, it is increasingly hard to dislike the current Spurs squad.

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American Puritanism and Eliot Spitzer

From the pen of Tom Clancy,

The dollar was already falling… In Europe, traders on their way home heard their cellular phones start beeping to call them back. Something unexpected was afoot. Analysts wondered if it had anything to do with the developing sex scandal within the American government. Europeans always wondered at the American fixation with the sexual dalliances of politicians. It was foolish, puritanical, and irrational, but it was real to the American political scene, and that made it a relevant factor in how they handled American securities. — From Debt of Honor, emphasis mine

Thought this relevant in light of the revelations emanating from the state of New York earlier this week. I have a European co-worker who more or less agrees with Clancy’s take.

To a lesser degree, my admiration for Pres. Bill Clinton was not stifled when the Lewinsky scandal broke, but in fact it grew. My “reasoning” had to do with what I, in my darkened understanding, perceived his dalliance with a woman half his age as a sign of the man’s virility. I wholeheartedly agreed (past tense) with comedian Chris Rock in thinking that it was all Hillary’s fault. As the ever witty Rock commented,

A man is only as faithful as his options

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