Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Notes (IV)

1) South Korea did everything they needed to do to win against Uruguay in the Round of 16 except find the goal. They dominated, especially in the second half, but came up deficient where it really matters. As a result, it was the South Americans who advance 2 - 1.

2) Later that night (as we count time here in the Land of the Morning Calm), the USA looked harried, hurried and pressured against Ghana, the only Afrcan team to make it out of the group stage. When matched up player-to-player, the US should have won this game, but they chose to play "kickball"--long balls from the defensive third to the attacking third--hoping to generate the quick strike.

Ghana did what they needed to do where the US team did not--score. Still, it has to be said that on the occasions when the US passed and controlled the ball, waited for an opening, that's when they looked good, and that's when they got off the good chances. They never seemed to notice that, though, and that's why Bob Bradley, despite all he's done for this team, has to go.

3) On the one hand, I wanted Japan to succeed, in order to demonstrate the power of Asia today in world competition, but on the other hand, I just finished reading The Rape of Nanking, so I wanted them to suffer at the hands (well, feet) of the Argentinians (Hmm, Maradona--make that hands, I guess). I was frankly surprised that Japan made it so far, since they never had to prove themselves as they were consistently on the easy side of Asian qualifying.

Over all, the round of 16 game with Paraguay was pretty even, though it was the South American team that put on the most pressure. In the overtime, I was sitting on the patio with my neighbor, his cousin, and his Japanese roommate, when Alex started hoping for a PK shoot-out. Me, I hate those damn things, so I didn't say anything about it.

I've been there three or four times, and have only won once--after twelve shots. I certainly know what coaching points to make, but I just think it's a spin of the roulette wheel, all things considered.

Sure enough, one young Japanese player hits the crossbar, and it's elimination for his whole team. Tell me that's not nightmare material for the rest of his life!

4) Got to hand it to South America, though, as the Elite Eight consists of one African team, three European teams, and four South American teams. When you look at the history of the World Cup (beginning in 1930, host: Uruguay--winners: Uruguay) South America is totally over-represented: of eighteen World Cups, they have nine. Nine! Half of all World Cup finals have been taken by them: Brazil (5), Uruguay (2), Argentina (2).

5) In case you were wondering, only two championship games have come down to the PK shootout--both involving Italy: first in a loss to Brazil in the US in 1994, then in a victory over France in Germany (though it was Zidane's head-butt that got all the press).

6) All that being said, I was pleased as punch to watch the Netherlands come from behind to score two unanswered goals on an arrogant Brazilian side who haven't bothered to give a good goddamn this whole tournament. Like it's supposed to be theirs to lose, what with being favorites and all.

Well, okay. They lost it, and good riddance, I say. I'm rooting against South Americans from here on.

7) My first WC was (West) Germany v Netherlands in 1974, so I suppose a repeat of that would suit me, although Beckenbauer and Cruiff are no longer the masters of their sides. This was surely one of the most storied WC final matches, and for good reason. Here is a delicious play-by-play w/photos, the sort of thing the internets were built to provide.

This year, Germany doesn't have the home field advantage--though it's arguable Holland does, since the Africaaners who ruled the RSA for so long have deep connections and linguistic ties to the Dutch.

8) I read an interview with Cha Du-ri, the Korean defenseman who has been released by his German club, and states that he has been learning Engish because he wants to play in an English-speaking country. Celtic football club have just confirmed that he has signed with them. Celtic play in Glasgow, Scotland. I thought he said he wanted a place where they speak English ...

9) I'll point this out, just as time begins to wind down, though it's been available for a while--if you watch a video on YouTube (except maybe soccer ones), they have added a little button so you experience the vuvuzela sound right in your browser. Just click on the little soccer ball on the control panel:


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