Monthly Archives: May 2010

World Cup 2010: Group B jerseys

In part 2 of a series, I’ll look at Group B’s jerseys.

Argentina home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The Argentine squad will wear a classic in South Africa. The sky blue and white striped shirt is synonymous with Argentine soccer. It’s so well-known that not even Adidas had the gall to add silly extraneous piping or weird swooshes. The stripe pattern disappears a bit on the shoulders, but on the whole it remains the traditional shirt. And I like that.

Greece home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

While the country’s economy collapses around it, the Greek national soccer team heads to South Africa in a barebones white kit. Don’t get me wrong – I like the shirt for its simplicity. I wish the collar was a full collar but, once again, Adidas must do something stupid. I think the half-collar is more ridiculous than the abstract strip that wends its way around the player’s body. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to represent, but somehow it doesn’t look completely stupid. The Greek FA’s crest is well-done, as well.

Nigeria home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The Nigeria jersey appears to be a remnant of old Adidas templates. The bad side striping and the silly sleeve striping make a mess out of an otherwise classic-looking shirt. The other major problem is that the shirt borders on the boring. I don’t know much about Nigerian soccer or its history but I would think that the FA could come up with something to link the past and the present. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the shirt. It’s classic and simple – and I like that – but it’s missing a certain pizazz found in other classic shirts.

South Korea home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

This is not, I must say, an improvement over the 2006 World Cup jersey. The red is an excellent color and goes well with the blue but the shockingly idiotic ribs – for lack of a better term, because they look like human ribs – on the shirt ruin everything. I’m not sure what Nike was thinking, to be honest. Perhaps it will look better on the field when the players are in motion (something I’ll look for) but somehow I doubt it. This is not a good shirt, which is too bad since South Korea figures to be entertaining.

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World Cup 2010: Players already whining about the ball

The root of all evil?

Less than two weeks before the World Cup begins, several players are complaining about Adidas’s new ball.

Complaining is becoming a bit of a tradition as Adidas introduces a new ball before each World Cup. It promised that Jabulani (meaning “to celebrate” in isiZulu) would bring “radically new” technology. The most notable features are small dimples designed to make the ball fly true. Instead, players are complaining that the ball suddenly shifts direction. I find all of this hard to believe.

Players are whining because that’s what players do. In the NBA, players complained about a new ball a few years ago so much that the old ball was re-introduced mid-season. On the one hand, I understand this. Players like to be comfortable and most people who play sports have their own little rituals to get into their comfort zone. Messing with a vital piece of equipment can throw players off. But they’ll adapt. They always do.

Neither FIFA nor Adidas have released a comment. I don’t think they ever will.

UPDATE, 1 JUNE 2010: Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon said today that “usually you get used to it, but in this case every touch comes with the unknown. The trajectory is really unpredictable.” Midfielder Andrea Pirlo’s passes, he said, usually missed by 10cm if they missed at all, but with the new ball, “he risks missing by three metres.”

Seems like hyperbole to me.

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World Cup 2010: Group A jerseys

With the World Cup just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at what the teams will be wearing. I’ll start with Group A and move on from there over the next few days.

France home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

Let’s start with everyone’s least favorite team, France. Ever the traditionalists, the French are going with blue as their primary color. Red and white thingamajigs on either side of the player’s number serve to break up the monotony. I’m not a fan of random accents on jerseys (as will be demonstrated later) and these are no exception. But at least they’re symmetrical, so good on Adidas for not screwing that up. Overall, it’s a pleasantly banal shirt.

Mexico home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

Mexico continues a pattern established in the previous few years where it experiments with its jersey. Okay, Adidas was experimenting, but the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol was a willing co-conspirator. And at least it’s back to normal green. I like the simplicity and the small accents within the shirt’s body but the red armpit stains have to do. I suppose this is an Adidas thing (the random stupid lines, I mean) as they’re featured on a number of Adidas-dressed teams. That said, I like the Mexico shirt and hope they stick with the green because the black away shirt is awful.

South Africa home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

One would think that the hosts would come up with something original for the tournament. But no. The South African Football Federation, along with Adidas (them again!), decided to go with what is basically a Brazil knock-off. Perhaps they’re hoping yellow will bring some Brazilian karma. Perhaps they’re uncreative. Who knows? What I do know is that the shirt is uninspired and was best left on the drawing board. An opportunity lost.

Uruguay home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

This shirt, by Puma, is interesting. I like the subtle sunbursts and the blue color but I don’t like the white stripes on the armpits (though the ones on the sleeves are less offensive). I love the collar as it brings back memories of a simpler time in soccer kits. This is, overall, an interesting mix of modern and retro and it works for me.

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World Cup 2010: US 2-1 Turkey

Goodson v. Turkey

Clarence Goodson v. Turkey (Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)

In the end, the United States pulled out a victory over a rather good Turkish side.

In the end, manager Bob Bradley turned to his first XI to salvage a result.

In the end, we learned that, despite the positives of the last year or so, the US still has a ways to go.

The international friendly versus Turkey was, to a degree, an exercise in experimentation. The roster now set, the players should have been relaxed and ready to show what they could do. And, for good or ill, that happened. Old stalwarts like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore showed why they’re starters. They all played well during the match. Others, like Benny Feilhaber and Clarence Goodson, may prove to be hopeful picks by Bradley. That is, the manager is hoping that they show more good than bad in South Africa. I remain unconvinced that Feilhaber was a good choice, though I don’t think he’ll play very much. Goodson, though, has to be better. Without question, the biggest problem for the US going into South Africa is the back four.

In my view, there are two very good defenders on the US roster: Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra. Onyewu is bordering on world class but he’s coming off a severe knee injury. His mobility might be hampered. Bocanegra is useful because of his versatility and his intelligence. His speed may let him down against the fastest players but so long as he’s in proper position, Tim Howard (a legitimate world-class keeper) should be able to bail him out. That, boys and girls, leaves two more places and, sadly, Howard isn’t Doctor Octopus. To be fair, Steve Cherundolo looked far better than Jonathan Spector and I think Jay DeMerit is better than he showed. So defending for the US will be more about positioning and minimizing mistakes than anything else. There won’t be any Dani Alves-style attacking runs (unless Bradley loses his mind and plays Beasley at left back again).

But that’s okay. The US doesn’t play the Brazilian/ Barcelona style. The US plays a more Italian style, with a focus on possession and defense (granted, both Brazil and Barça prize possession; really, everyone should focus on possession since you need the ball to score. I suppose I’m just making little generalizations that may or may not be absurd. But I digress.). The US isn’t going to win 6-1 or 5-4; they want to win 2-1 and 1-0. Unfortunately, that puts a lot of pressure on the back four and Tim Howard. I know Howard is up to the task but I’m not sure the defenders can last for 3 opening round matches and (hopefully) part of the knock-out phase.

I want to be proved wrong.

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World Cup 2010: US roster announced

US manager Bob BradleyBob Bradley announced the United States World Cup squad today, and there were a couple of surprises.

Following his good performance against the Czech Republic, I was very happy to see Herculez Gómez selected. He’s an under-appreciated player who’s going to get a chance to shine on soccer’s biggest stage. I’m also glad Edson Buddle was selected. Because Bradley had to replace Charlie Davies, his hand was somewhat forced in choosing less experienced strikers. But there are surely worse players than Buddle and Gómez, both of whom have a serious propensity to score in bunches, at the World Cup. Including Maruice Edu, Stuart Holden, and José Francisco Torres was also a good move by Bradley. I’m a big fan of all three players. Edu and Torres should provide speed off the bench while Holden and Torres will bring creativity and technical skill to the pitch.

On the other hand, I have no idea why DaMarcus Beasley made the team. The only reason I can think of is that he’s a Bradley favorite. I also think Benny Feilhaber is a bit of a reach, given what he’s shown in the last couple of years (or lack thereof). The talent is certainly there for Feilhaber but he doesn’t seem to know how to put it together. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

With all that said, I’m looking forward to matches against Turkey and Australia to see how the team does, now that the dust is settled.

The entire squad, with those whom I would start in bold (4-4-2):

Keepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, José Francisco Torres

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findlay, Herculez Gómez

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Chelsea wins the Premiership

There is a tendency, in disciplines like literary criticism, historical writing, and journalism, to look at the negative aspects of any positive act. Call it an attempt to be controversial or perhaps uncreativity or whatever you want. It is, in many respects, the propagation of the “whole is greater than the sum” argument; that beneath every triumph are a series of mistakes that had to be overcome. In the absolute, that’s true. Every triumph results from hurdling mistakes in a steady climb to the top. It’s true that if you look at Chelsea’s season, you’ll see let-downs as well as triumphs. Let the belittlers focus on the former. I’m looking at the latter.

Three times this year – indeed, three times since January – Chelsea scored 7 or more goals. Seven. They scored 103 goals and had a goal differential of 71, which speaks volumes about their offense. Offense was expected, though. Didier Drogba is a gifted striker. Nicolas Anelka, for all his sulkiness, has considerable talent. The question was defense. Everyone knows about John Terry. The former England captain is an excellent defender. The question, in my mind, was everyone else.

Way back in July 2009, Chelsea came to the United States and wowed most commentators. An excellent run of form followed through August, September, and half of October. They took both games from Arsenal and both from Manchester United. Though they lost both to Manchester City, it didn’t hurt them as much as United’s week of stumbles that began, appropriately enough, with a loss to Chelsea. But I’m rambling. Look at the defense. The back line allowed 3 or more goals in exactly two games. That’s impressive. What does it mean, though? Defending is about cooperation and, to a degree, intimacy. Familiarity allows defenders to move around and know that coverage is there. Chelsea had that this season. Following Terry, the Chelsea defenders did their jobs and allowed Drogba, et al. to do theirs. It’s a beautiful thing when a team is firing on all cylinders.

In the end, Chelsea played well enough to win. It is my opinion that they were better than 86 points and that United was lucky to hang around until the final day of the season. Although Ancelotti sees flaws – apparently on the right side – and really, really, really wants Alexandre Pato next season, the team, as constructed has a better than decent chance to repeat next year, which is bad news for United.

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