Monthly Archives: December 2009

¡Arriba Rayados!

Aldo de Nigris scores for Monterrey (Mexisport)

My favorite Mexican side, Rayados de Monterrey, have finally won another title after dispatching Cruz Azul 6-4 on aggregate. This is their third title overall and their first since 2003. Perhaps Cruz Azul should have won the second leg after dominating possession for long stretches. However, they couldn’t top the Monterrey manager Víctor Manuel Vucetich’s magic (he’s taken 4 teams to the final and won 4 times).

Aldo de Nigris scored the decisive goal for Monterrey. He played with a heavy heart after his brother, Antonio, died in Greece last month of a heart attack. Keeper Jonathan Orozco explained that it was team unity that drove Rayados: “The way this team hung together is the key. We have always stayed united despite everything. That’s the strength of this team.”

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Mad Jens needs to use the little boys room

This is a couple of days old, but it still needs to be mentioned. Stuttgart keeper Jens Lehmann apparently couldn’t hold it and had to take a leak during a match against Unirea Urziceni.

All things considered, I’m impressed that he finished and got back into position in time. I’m sure it would be hell trying to stop the flow and jump over the boards in a crisis.

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Filed under Bundesliga

Stephen Hart named full-time coach of Canada’s national team

Finally, the CSA got one right. Stephen Hart had the “interim” label removed from his title and signed a deal to guide Canada through the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup. Granted, it might be a futile process until the team improves sharpish but, hey, having a good coach is a step in the right direction. I, for one, am quite pleased with the hire. I’m now on pins and needles waiting to see how the CSA will screw this up.

On another note, what’s up with Asmir Begovic? Has he made a decision yet?

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8 men out

Michael Carrick celebrates his goal v. Wolfsburg in the early stages of the Champion's League (Getty Images)

Rio Ferdinand. John O’Shea. Jonny Evans. Gary Neville. Peanut Head. Fabio da Silva. Rafael da Silva. And Nemanja Vidić stricken with the flu. United are, in Sir Alex’s words, “down to the barebones” on defense. It’s not a good thing.

All of that means that Michael Carrick (!) and Patrice Evra (!!) will start as center backs versus Wolfsburg and their 6’3″ striker Edin Dzeko (perhaps a transfer target for United. Though I’d still like to see them go after Igor Akinfeev and a central defender or 3. Oh, how I wish Gerard Piqué was still at Old Trafford. But I digress). Perhaps it is not the best time to mention that Evra is, in fact, a midget. Even though the Red Devils are already through to the second round, finishing second in the group might result in facing Real Madrid or Barcelona, which is not altogether appealing at the moment. Thus a win is probably necessary.

Sir Alex is going to have to break out one of his better inspirational speeches and play very conservatively at the back. No playing the offside trap or anything that smacks of taking a chance. In any event, even though Wolfsburg are on a poor run of form, they can’t be taken lightly. Dzeko has been a goal-scoring savant and the lack of a Vidić or a Ferdinand in the middle will not help things.

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World Cup 2010 draw – the real one

Charlize Theron and FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke draw the teams (AFP)

Today, after about 45 minutes of annoying “festivities,” FIFA got around to the World Cup 2010 draw. On ESPN, Bob Ley was trying to be hip (he called Johannesburg “Joburg,” as if he knew what it meant) while at the actual draw, Charlize Theron looked thoroughly unamused. It was a great time!

Even though I don’t really understand FIFA’s seeding methodology – which has something to do with lunar cycles, continental conflicts, plate tectonics, and the Illuminati – I did like the suspense. And I also liked how they didn’t delay between every choice, like ESPN does with the NFL Draft.

On to the groups, then:

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia.

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal.

Group F: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile.

Quick thoughts:

1. The group of death is clearly Group G. I actually feel a little bit bad for North Korea; looks like Kim Jong-Il is going to be a rittre ronery.

2. I love the mother countries battling their former colonies: England v. USA, Portugal v. Brazil, and Spain v. Chile and Honduras. Or maybe that’s just the history dork in me.

3. France got a lucky break. Again. This needs to stop. South Africa needs to ride the host’s luck and go through, along with Mexico, and prevent France from reaching the Round of 16. If the soccer gods have any sense of justice, that will come to pass.

4. I like the draw for the US. I think they should get through to the Round of 16 rather easily. It would be great if they beat or draw with England but I don’t think either with happen. They should beat Algeria and Slovenia rather easily, unless they’re complacent.

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My World Cup draw

Inspired by John Nicholson and the real World Cup draw tomorrow, I’ve decided to conduct my own unseeded draw. Why? Because it’s more fun that way and Nicholson has a point: the group stage is where it’s at and we should have awesome matches (or, perhaps I should say awesomer matches) then. Forget about trying to engineer a round of 16 match-up between world powers. Let’s see them play. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to see France dismantled on the first day?

Herewith, my unseeded draw:

Group A: Algeria, Australia, Honduras, USA

Group B: Chile, Japan, North Korea, Portugal

Group C: Argentina, Denmark, England, Mexico

Group D: Germany, Paraguay, Slovakia, Uruguay

Group E: Greece, Holland, Ivory Coast, South Africa

Group F: Ghana, New Zealand, Serbia, South Korea

Group G: Brazil, France, Italy, Slovenia

Group H: Cameroon, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland

There are two groups of death: Group C and Group G; I feel really bad for Slovenia. Groups D and E are pretty tough, as well. In this draw, South Africa has a really good chance of becoming the first host not to escape the group stage.

The real draw is Friday, December 4 at 12pm EST on ESPN2. Check it out.

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FIFA is that crazy girlfriend you can’t avoid

Sepp Blatter: "I used this one myself. Swear!"

There’s no other explanation for the decision to investigate Thierry Henry’s handball. Or maybe that just makes Sepp Blatter indecisive. Or maybe he’s just insane. Who really knows at this point? The whole Ireland-France situation has devolved into the worst parts of a kindergarten class: everyone whining and then FIFA taking its ball and going home. Of course, the Irish FA’s request to be the 33rd team in the World Cup was absolutely insane. Then again, so was FIFA’s handling of the matter – a one-off playoff would have been an acceptable solution, with international precedent – and now the stupid, misguided, idiotic singling out of Thierry Henry. Why hasn’t the referee been called out? Or, better yet, the referee’s assistants who most definitely should have seen the handball. I know the answer: FIFA is insane. As an organization, it is greedy, bureaucratic, obstinate, controlling, jealous, selfish, imperious, and possibly corrupt. Would you date a girl like that? I think not. Unless you’re a gold-digger. In any event, FIFA – and Sepp Blatter – are clearly insane. The world needs to break up with them ASAP.

This whole thing is frustrating me.

I need a drink.

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Filed under FIFA, World Cup