Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Been a while since I had the chance to blog on the World Cup, but as our days dwindle and our lives return to the normal grind, it seems a bit more pressing. That, and regular reader Ross Mattson has informed me that his summer internship bores him and he needs stimulation. Either way, here's some food for thought as we enter the weekend's final games:

- Say what you will about the coverage and, specifically, the commentary, but the ESPN/ABC family have absolutely done their part. Not only has every game been able in HD, they've also offered free through July 17th, meaning every game could be watched online, live. The footage is decent too.

- JP Dellacamera is our best play-by-play man. Tommy Smyth, I'm sorry to say, is our best color guy. John Harkes isn't bad. Marcelo Balboa continues to be abysmal, and I can't imagine he will stick around unless he's married to Chris Berman's sister. He talks as much as Dicky V. but has no schtick, nor expertise, nor humor.
Soccer needs to breathe. If you've never had the pleasure of watching a game with a single, knowledgeable play-by-play man at the helm and no color guy (as many Premier League games are televised), you're missing out on a lot.

- comanche/soul shortlist for World Cup Best 11:
GK - Buffon (Italy), Lehmann (Germany), Ricardo (Portugal)
Defenders - Cannavarro (Ita), Lahm (Ger), Terry (England), Miguel (Portugal), Grosso (Italy), Cole (England), Ayala (Argentina), Marquez (Mexico), Senderos (Switzerland)
Midfield - Appiah (Ghana), Riquelme (Arg), Beasley (USA)...just kidding, Rodriguez (Arg), C. Ronaldo (Port), Pirlo (Italy), Nedved (Czech), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Cahill (Australia), Zakora (Ivory Coast), Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago), Frings (Ger), Zidane (France), Viera (France), Ribery (France)
Forwards - Klose (Ger), Podolski (Ger), Torres (Spain), Henry (France), Villa (Spain), Robben (Netherlands), Crespo (Arg)
*Anyone I'm missing? Let me know in comments. I'll announce the full team next week.

- The Italy-Germany semifinal was a fine game, with both teams committed to playing balanced soccer. Italy went forward far more than usual. You almost sensed that they feared the ensuing penalty shootout -- where history unquestionably favored the Germans -- and really pushed for the regulation win. And when the goal did come, what a goal it was. Pirlo slid a nicely weighted ball between two defenders to Grosso -- excellent all tournament -- who bent the ball immaculately past a few defenders and the diving hand of Lehmann. As Germany pushed for the winner, del Piero sealed it with a terrific finish from Gilardino's through ball. Italy may have had the easiest run to the final, but they've looked pretty sharp, displaying a typical tight defense and quality midfield play. They've also looked stronger as the tournament's gone on. Cannavarro has been tremendous, and should get some votes for Golden Ball (player of the tournament) should Italy win it all.

- We're halfway through the France-Portugal semi, 1-0 to France off a Zidane penalty, calmly stroked past the diving Ricardo. Chances for both teams, with Portugal looking more and more dangerous running at the French defense. Look for France to grab another, then Portugal pull one back for a grandstand finish. We'll see...

- Everybody's saying it so I may as well join in: Eriksson's coaching job was one of the worst in recent memory. Failing to address any of the obvious problems with his team, England barely deserved their quarterfinal spot. 17 year old Walcott had no business on the team and Eriksson paid badly for foolish selection choices. How about a proven goalscorer? Better yet, how about someone with an actual top flight game to his name? The four man midfield of Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, and Cole would've cleaned up in a long distance shooting exposition (save Lampard, perhaps), but simply couldn't play together. A creative manager would've figured out a way to get the most out of four quality midfielders and seen the pressing need to inject some speed onto the right wing (the left had it in spades). The center backs were predictably excellent and Robinson was good, but goals were clearly the problem. As for the performance in the shootout, you had to see it coming.


At 11:16 AM, Blogger fattson said...

I couldn't agree with you more about the guys announcing the games. How come Tommy Smyth has only done like 2 games and Balboa has done every big game. I've had to watch the games without volume to avoid breaking my television. Thanks for the shout out.


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