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:

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Kabul: The New Live Music Capital Of The World

Look out Austin, you might have an usurper to your “Live Music Capital of the World” throne in the form of Kabul, yep, that Kabul.

At least judging by the enthusiasm and moxie of bands such as “Kabul Dreams”.  Check out their YouTube page here unless you think the Taliban’s ideology is just peachy keen.

They are profiled in the following story,

We’re the Tali-band! Afghan rockers challenge hardliners to a duel… with electric guitars

Bands such as this would have been jailed under Taliban rule, no doubt for using corrupt Western practices to pollute their religious utopia. In fact, when the Taliban were in power,

Playing musical instruments was banned. Singing was allowed, but only songs praising Allah or the Taliban.

Gee, that sounds like a lot of churches here in the States, not to mention universities, looking at you Bob Jones. Same tune, different key.

As for the music that is making the rounds in Afghanistan,

Rock music has made inroads since the fall of the Taliban. A smattering of music shops sell pirated CDs of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other bands. Indian and Pakistani groups also are popular among the youth.

What? No one’s thought of slipping The (now disbanded) Afghan Whigs in to the mix? Or  at least Mr. Mister (below)


♫Take, these broken Whigs…♫

[Photo Credit: Tonymix’s Blog]

Somebody Get The Queen A Lime!

That and a good bottle of Scotch to get over her well-compensated subjects’ shoddy performance at the World Cup.

Speaking of which, the Argentina v. Germany showdown looms large this Saturday. The verbal broadsides being taken by players on both sides (not to mention Maradona) guarantee that the contest will be an epic grudge match. Can’t wait.

Finally, Vlad Guerrero busted up his former team last night to the tune of 4-for-4 with a Grand Slam and a solo shot. You think the fact that they didn’t want to resign him last off season might have motivated the man?

In case you’re wondering about the post’s title, this should help.

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.

Move Over Lloyd Christmas

In that great cinematic work, Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) asked Mike Starr’s character, “Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” And he proceeded to serenade him with what, at the time, was the most annoying sound in the world. Here’s the clip:

Well, suffice it to say, that sound plays second fiddle to the drone emanating from those ubiquitous South African “stadium horns”, vuvuzelas. That infernal noise was first heard by a worldwide audience during last year’s Confederations’ Cup. They were annoying then, and they are annoying now at the World Cup.

Opinion varies as to whether these horns are “annoying irritants” or “joyful expressions of African culture”, but at the risk of sounding dismissive of other cultures, they simply are annoying and irritating expressions of joyful African culture.

Whether it’s a South African, German or Mexican (below) providing the wind power, the noise produced is equally irritating. So much so that earplugs have become a hot item in South Africa. One might conclude that the vuvuzela was a clever scheme concocted by ear plug vendors, but I digress…

I took this pic after a México win at Reliant Stadium a couple of years ago, a match which proved to be my first exposure to the glorified funnels. As horrible as the noise is, it can’t take away from the beautiful game, especially at an event like the World Cup.

However, it would be a good if somehow Univision or ESPN found a way to filter out the vuvuzela noise, as the BBC is thinking of doing.

Here are a couple of observations from yesterday and today’s action:

  • The Germans have looked the best out of all the teams that have played so far. So effortless do the Krauts look, so crisp and pinpoint their passes are, are they not? They seem to have mastered the troublesome Jabulani (the official match ball), could it be because most of their squad plays in the Bundesliga, which used the Jabulani as its match ball last season?  Things that make you go hmmm…
  • Speaking of ze Germans…  How ’bout that rousing advertisement for globalization that their squad is?  The German National Team, dubbed Die Mannschaft (insert joke here), boasts a naturalized Brazilian, a son of Turkish immigrants, a guy named Gomez (born in Germany, has a Spanish father), 2 naturalized Poles (seems to be a running gag), another guy whose father is Tunisian.  Ol’ Adolf must be turning over in his grave…
  • What is it with Italy allowing headers from Latin American teams at the World Cup?  In ’02 it was México’s Jared Borghetti and today it was Paraguay’s Antolín Alcaraz who did the honors. Like in ’02 against El Tri Italy tied with Paraguay 1-1.
  • ESPN, I know that you learned from the last World Cup and hired good announcers to man your booth but you are still lagging behind Univision’s varsity, Pablo Ramirez and Jésus “El Profe” Bracamontes.  After Italy equalized today, Ramirez sung in Italian.  That is how you do it ESPN.  When a goal is scored don’t call it like it’s a throw-in, call it “with feelin'” as Jon Bon Jovi crooned.

Finally, on a totally unrelated not, you are very welcome Baylor.

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.

The Arm of God Haunts México

[Para Español no oprima el #1, nada mas haga click donde se termina el Ingles]

I was not able to watch yesterday’s México-England match in its entirety yesterday given the fact that this small thing called work kind of prevented it.

Thanks to Telemundo’s live streaming of the events, I did manage to catch a good chunk of the 1st half and about a quarter of the 2nd half. Kudos to Telemundo legend Andrés Cantor for dropping an f-bomb on live television. His partner, Sammy Sadovnik asked him what Mexican coach, Javier Aguirre, shouted at English captain Steven Gerrard.

Cantor obliged him by repeating Aguirre’s “Hey Steven, F*ck you!” Cantor thought the mikes were turned off, fail. Oh well, I guess the FCC doesn’t care since it is a Spanish station.

To the match…

It was good to watch El Tri go up against seemingly top-flight competition without throwing up all over themselves. That is, if we’re not going to consider the inability to defend set pieces and to put the ball in net (looking at you Carlos Vela) as examples of throwing up all over themselves.

México’s performance was tantalizing and typical of what happens when they go up against world powers (Though England hasn’t won a World Cup since 1966, they are still considered one of the world’s best, if not by merit then by tradition.)

El Tri created a myriad of scoring opportunities and yet failed to capitalize. If you want to beat good teams you have execute in front of the net. England? They had 2 corner kicks in the first half and scored in both. Granted, in the second corner English forward Peter Crouch was offsides and brushed the ball into the goal with his arm, but still.

Seeing the Frankenstein monster’s-like 6’8″ Crouch tower over my diminutive countrymen was hilarious but things would have been far more humorous and haunted if the Mexican contingent would have invited noted Mexican ref and Dracula doppelganger, Marco Antonio “Chiquidracula” Rodríguez (below)

Good teams (México is not there yet) find ways to maximize the opportunities granted to them, that they create opportunities should be a given.

I know it’s just a friendly, but the flashes of brilliance shown by the usual suspects up front, Gio and Carlos Vela, gave us Mexicans a glint of hope that maybe just maybe we might have the horses to get out of the frigging Round of 16 in South Africa. Then Vela blows 2 clear scoring chances.

Oh well, my beloved Tri has pined to be in that top tier of squads, and dwell in the lofty spires where Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy make their home. Unfortunately that is not currently the case as evidenced by the setting of this very match. This was England’s World Cup send off.

The host picks a “lesser” opponent to play in the send off match. Very much like homecoming in American football. For your homecoming, you schedule a team you know you’re going to beat. England had no doubt that it was going to beat México, hence the 3 lions scheduled my Tri.

That’s OK, until México shows that it can beat top-tier competition it will reside in the middle of the pack.

That said, I think they earned the respect of the Brits, or at least their journalists judging by some of the pieces I’ve read from their newspapers.

Here is a fine example of one from the Telegraph,

England 3 Mexico 1: match report

Up next for México? The Netherlands tomorrow at 1:30 PM.

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