Friday, December 3, 2010

Goodbye Ronnie.

Ron Santo died today. I feel sad of course, but mostly I am just angry. I know that isn't any way to live life, but in this case I think some anger needs to be released, because the Santo family is too classy to do it themselves.

Ron Santo played 14 seasons for the Chicago Cubs. He was one of the greatest third basemen of all time. He was never elected to the Hall of Fame. Journalists had years to put him in, then the Veteran's committee had their opportunity. Through arrogance, derision, our outright jealousy they denied him his place while he lived. Now, more than likely, Ron will be inducted posthumously. That is an outrage and and an offense of grand proportion. Ron developed diabetes at 18 and played his entire major league career with the condition. He never had the medication or the treatment that would have prolonged his career or could have prevented the amputations that robbed him of both of his legs a few years ago. He put up numbers that rank him as one of the best players of all time, period. The stats don't lie people.

Ron smiled through it all. He never let the insult get him down. He was the epitome of class to the very end. Ron deserved better. The Hall of Fame is filled with racists, cheaters, junkies, and others whose entire existence never held a candle to Ronnie's. He was a champion of the game, and he was champion in life.

So I find myself standing for his defense. After Ron ended his playing career, he became an announcer for the Cubs on the radio. Ron was the voice of the fan. The heart of every bleacher bum was Ronnie. He called the games as his emotions dictated. It was never in-depth, but it was always from the heart and it was never mean, never cruel. I don't know if Ronnie had it in him to be spiteful.

Those members of the Veteran's committee who never voted for him before but will vote for him now should be ashamed. Through their own arrogance, they have denied a man his reward for a lifetime of love dedicated to the game. Ron deserved the chance to speak before the assembled throngs of Cooperstown. He deserved to see an ocean of Cubbie blue filling the lawn to applaud his induction. I have always felt that if you earn your seat in Cooperstown, you deserve it from the day you hang up your spikes. I don't believe in the absolute sham of voting that exists today. No one will ever care about how may votes it takes to get into the Hall. The only thing that matters is induction. We will never know who kept Ronnie out, but I can take a guess. They were people who built their own careers off the greats that played with them. They had teammates who enhanced their stats and helped win them championships. They held it against Ronnie that he never won a World Series. Which, the last time I checked was impossible to do by oneself in the game of Baseball.

My heart weeps for the Santo family. Ronnie's number hangs from the foul pole at Wrigley to wave until the game of Baseball is wiped from human history. The city of Chicago has lost a legend. They have lost a role model. They have lost a beloved friend. Fans of all teams knew and respected Ronnie. They feel his loss almost as dearly as Cub fans do. He will be greatly missed and his legacy will live on. The young man, the Cub, the embodiment of joy in the game of Baseball clicking his heels in the summer of '69 will never be forgotten.

We love you Ron. In our hearts and minds there is no one better.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time flies when you are sleep deprived...

What day is today? Is it Wednesday? Thursday? Halloween? I really don't know from day to day anymore. For anyone not in the know, my wife and I celebrated the birth of our first child last month and it has been a blissful blur of days ever since. So much so that I haven't time to jot down my thoughts. I am beyond happy to have a child in the house, and I love my wife even beyond the bordering on silly levels at which I loved her before. While we have plenty of ups and downs as any new parents do, the change to your life is truly indescribable until it happens to you. I had all these preconceptions of what fatherhood would be like, but nothing prepared me for the moment. The wave of emotions and realizations that wash over you is all-encompassing. Every parent has a World of hopes and dreams for their child and we are certainly no different. Keeping perspective through all of that has been a priority. I am trying very hard to enjoy all the small moments of every single day and appreciate just how wonderful those quiet, serene moments are as I stare at him in amazement. Every time he looks up at me and squeezes my finger I can't help but feel that I would move mountains for him if I could.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tastes like victory!

This weekend I joined the American consulate dragon boat team in defending our championship. We won first place for the third straight year, but it wasn't the cakewalk that last year's was. We defeated the second place team by just a mere second. I have to say, I don't know if my arms have ever hurt more than they did at the end of that race. For 500 meters we paddled as hard as we could. Probably too hard! With our Marines up front setting the pace, we started fast and furious and probably burned ourselves out faster than we needed too. We kept our lead, but our second place rivals saved their best for last and were only a few more meters from taking the trophy.

The race was held out at a huge recreation park holding an aquatics center, a golf course, residential villas, and an aircraft carrier... Yes, that's right. A full size aircraft carrier parked in concrete. Surrounded by rockets, and old model jet airplanes. Ah, "The China". I really wish we had a picture of the thing so everyone could see it. It is really something to behold.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Blurg.

I have a new blog that I will be posting on dedicated to my pursuit of all things trivial and geek related. I can't say my first post is light and fluffy considering the subject matter, but be aware that all who go to this blog will lost in a land of geekery from which you may never return. Stay tuned to Global D'oh-mination if you just want random stories about daily life in "The China" and cute baby photos which are coming soon. You can find the direct link to Aspiration Figures on the right side under "Other assorted ramblings".


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh, the anticipation!

Today my wife is officially full term with her pregnancy. It's great news, but we are still three weeks from the expected due date and we are both tired of waiting. This baby cannot arrive soon enough. I find myself having a difficult time focusing on any non-baby related tasks simply for fear of having to abandon them for a full week once the baby decides he is tired of hanging out in his own personal water-park. I have some custom projects yearning to be worked on, but I just cannot muster the single minded intensity to leap into them. Now, many of you would say; "You better start them now, because once the baby is there every free second you get is a blessing." To that I say, you're right. Fundamentally I understand that a whopping majority of my free time will now be spent seeking out a comfortable nap. However, there is still this small section of me that thinks I can slip in an hour or two to paint or sculpt.

How do you get impatient with something that has no idea it is on time table? We want that baby here, but baby gonna do what baby gonna do. At this point he has essentially finished cooking. Yes, I am comparing my unborn child to a chicken-pot pie. Once he arrives though he still requires an absurd amount of care. We are one of the only species that gives birth to a child that is absolutely helpless for nearly the first year of it's life. A video we watched posited the theory of using the first three months outside the womb as the fourth trimester. It is a fantastic concept and one I never gave any thought to. When I look back at my lifeline, I am amazed at how little real concerted thought I gave to the concept of childbirth and development. Anyone betting on me to be a pediatrician lost big time, and I am talking Los Angeles Clippers big time.

We have another doctor's appointment on Saturday, but let's be honest, that baby could show up tomorrow! I don't have time for all these "appointments" I am too busy observing my wife, and jumping every time she says "ooh".

And in a case of "wow, this would be a great water breaking story..." We are going to try and see Inception today. I will finally be able to absorb all information pertaining to said film and discuss every crazy plot point a full month past the point of anyone caring!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So, so low...

I am at my absolute lowest point as a Cubs fan. It has always been a real emotional test, but right now I think it is hitting me the hardest. The team is in the cellar, they traded off two of their starting infielders and have no real hope of redemption for the rest of the season. I think what ices this season as the worst I have experienced is the promise it began with.

Obviously beating St. louis this year was always going to be a chore and I don't know where the Reds came from to be as good as they are. Still, at the beginning of the season it seemed like the Cubs had a team that could compete strongly. They had a good but not great pitching rotation and a very solid infield and outfield group. It seemed they were still better off than most teams in the Central division.

2003 was not nearly as heart wrenching because we were so close to the World Series and the ride had been so phenomenal. It was that short sharp shock that stung, but it was really only one moment. Most of the early 90's were pretty bad, but the team never looked terribly good so it wasn't a case of getting one's hopes up. No, this season takes the cake. It has been a Eugene O'Neil play as they slowly slipped into the abyss.

The Cubs have officially raised the white flag on the season and we are now left to observe the remains for signs of hope. I'm not one for curses, I don't blame Steve Bartman, or goats, or black cats. I just sigh and shake my head as I watch a team that just cannot catch a break run themselves into a wall. I look at the stats and I am just bewildered. It is amazing to me that this team won the NL central two years in a row and then completely bottomed out.

Through it all, I'm still here though. I'll take my castor oil and get ready for next season. This feels very much like a return to the crucible of my youth. The Cubs are the lovable losers once again, but we know that in this modern era that philosophy will no longer stand. The new owners can't be happy with this performance and I hope it lights a fire under them to make some strong decisions that will see the team back on top sooner rather than later.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The heat, oh God the heat!

Just your standard complain about the weather post. The last few days have been in the 100s. Throw in humidity over 50% and a heat index of 117 and you really feel that you might spontaneously combust. Most of Shanghai is doing it's best just to move from shady place to shady place.

Alls well with baby news. Monday marks 34 weeks meaning we have just about six weeks left until he decides to make an appearance. So, is it the same deal as groundhogs day? If he sees his shadow do we get 6 more weeks of summer? Why does that sound wrong? Hmmmmm.

My Cubs are a disaster. They started off the second half with a nice run and then the wheels came off. The part of Chicago that could care less about the White Sox has already begun to focus on the Bears. I'm conflicted about bringing a child into the swirling chaos of Chicago sports fandom. Should I bring a child into this World and try to make him a Cubs fan. Is that cruelty? Is that endangerment? Am I psychologically scarring the child for his entire life? Granted, one World Series win would erase all guilt, but the potential trauma is there.

The English Premier League season opens today. It feels a bit like having the old "hair of the dog" if you will after the World Cup. Don't get me wrong, I am really excited. This was one of the most hectic transfer periods in recent memory with Manchester City loading up like the Yankees. I don't know if that bodes well for my Red Devils over at United, but it is a long season. Chelsea gets off easier if you will with an opener against minnows West Bromwich Albion. I think I might hit the pub with friends and catch some of the early games before heading off to a colleague's birthday party.

Last night saw me attending a "Gentleman's whiskey and cigar night". No ladies allowed. I laughed at the silliness of it all. I am about the last guy you would usually find attending any kind of an old boys club type event like that, but it ended up being a good time as the rep from Diageo gave us a tasting of the Johnny Waker line from Red to Black, to Green to Blue. Having never indulged in the higher end fare, I was surprised at how much of a difference in quality there was as you moved up the ladder. I now understand why the Blue label goes for so much more. While I don't see myself buying a bottle of Blue label every time I need a bottle of whiskey, I know I probably won't be buying the Red label unless I'm buying for mixers. Ironically enough, the rep who gave the presentation doesn't drink a drop of alcohol. Thankfully that last bit of information was not revealed until the end, lest we rebel against him.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The problem with...The Phantom

So what is wrong with the Phantom? Hmmm? The truth is nothing. just like there is nothing wrong with Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, The Shadow, or any of the other pulp narrative characters that came upon us in the 1930s. Why hasn't this character latched onto the higher tier of popularity like Batman? What separates the A-level characters from the those that hang on with cult followings such as The Phantom? The problem, or rather the truth is that a lot of these pulp-hero characters will never quite reach the apex unless their worlds are expanded and the characters updated.

It almost seems a lost cause to hope that many of these pre-WWII characters will ever find a massive foothold outside of their current fan bases. As the years go by, many of the original fans die off without enough new fans being brought into the fold. It is the task of a few to keep the torch burning brightly so that these characters can survive to greet a new generation of fans. Ultimately, stagnation may kill many of these characters as time rolls on. An obsessive need to pigeon hole a character for the sake of the loyal can only help to weaken the character further. As the memories of the era fade so does interest in it's fiction. It doesn't have to be this way though. The road map is there and is easily traced for anyone looking to follow.

Many of these characters run on a familiar cycle. Years go by, a comics company or a television or movie studio pick up the rights thinking they have a sure fire franchise bought on the cheap. A mediocre effort is put forth, the fervent adoring faithful smile enjoying the fact that anyone has proffered a new story while secretly twisting inside knowing that so much more can be done if only a true creative force were to place it's weight behind it. You can see the pattern. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, The Shadow, The Phantom, and now The Green Hornet all received similar treatment only to lapse back into the hands of the ardent supporters as the speculators walk away wondering what went wrong. Granted the Green Hornet film hasn't hit yet, and the new run of comics has only just started to stretch it's legs. The signs are there though. We get a film that looks like a cash grab plagued with trouble and very little respect paid to the original and very little new added to the legacy.

So what do you do? Do you even bother? I mean, let's create something new and move on. Weeeell, let's not yank up the tent posts just yet. Most new ideas are barely even new anymore. Most themes have been played over so many times that we have to distill story ideas past the concepts. If you are like me, then you believe that the way forward is always with the characters. You can mold any concept around a rich cast of characters. Star Wars is a great concept, but what is it without Han Solo, et. all? What is Batman without the Joker? Ahhh, now we are getting to it.

As a sidebar, one of the things that a lot of these top level characters have going for them is fortune. In the last few years we have seen numerous characters dusted off after emerging into public domain. The Green Lama, The Black Terror, have all received a new coat of paint and have been kicked out the door. Batman and Superman had DC Comics which did a very good job of surviving the post-war years and conservative censorship to eventually be picked up by a major media conglomerate which was happy to throw marketing muscle behind it's properties. I dare say that if characters like Flash Gordon and the Phantom hadn't been running consistently in newspapers, they very well might have died out like many of these other pulp-era heroes. So we find that many of these characters exist in a different strata. You have the household name characters like Spider-Man, Hulk, Superman, etc. Then we get our 2nd tier heroes of yore that exist outside regular comic circles but still maintain a foothold in that realm and have also enjoyed a broader media life; Gordon, Phantom, Shadow. Then below them we find all these characters that exist in their isolated media world's like most comic characters yet to have a cartoon or a film such as Iron Fist, Blue Beetle, Grendel and so on.

Let us start with Flash Gordon. A personal favorite of mine, Flash lives on kind of a middle plane between the Batmans of the world, and the Phantoms and Shadows. Part of what creates that buffer is the world created around Flash. He has one of the greatest and most surreal cast of supporting characters you will ever find. Without those, Flash really is just Buck Rogers on another planet. So it is with Batman, Batman has the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and on and on ad nauseam. If Batman didn't have a constantly expanding roster of interesting characters to interact with, he would just be the Shadow.

So now we get down to it. What is wrong with the Phantom? Is it the purple? Nah, my favorite character wears tights and dresses like a bat. Purple isn't the problem. Is it the white horse and the wolf in the jungles of Africa? Well, no, Wonder Woman cruises around in an invisible jet and has a lasso that makes you tell the truth. Bad origin? Nope, His ancestor, Christopher (Kit) Walker washes up on the island after his ship is attacked by pirates and swears to devote his life to eradicating piracy from the Earth. Each generation followed in his footsteps to take on the mantle of the Ghost Who Walks, The Phantom. Sounds cool to me. Daredevil was a blind kid in Hell's Kitchen that got doused with radioactive waste. The Phantom in particular suffers from a lack of really interesting support. We get the Singh brotherhood and that about sums it up.

The Phantom has never really had a great set of friends or a rogue's gallery to help drive his adventures. Moonstone did a really great job of telling traditional modern day Phantom stories. Part of the issue though is the world he was in never grew. Right now African pirates are a great modern enemy but they end up being pretty faceless. The Phantom has always had allies, but never anyone who truly was worth keeping up with. Dynamite entertainment begins their own Phantom comic series this month and it remains to be seen what they will add to the legacy of the Walker family line. The man in charge of writing these new adventures, Scott Beatty, has echoed my own belief in character and talked about the journey of Kit Walker. Can he choose to end the legacy of the Phantom? Sounds interesting, but you have to grow the universe the character lives in. The world is an enormous place and piracy exists everywhere in myriad of forms. I'm not talking about middle aged men with handcarts of DVDs in Shanghai, but you catch my drift. The Phantom seems like a character ripe with possibilities for modern times.

Syfy (that name change still drives me insane.) network just released a new Phantom TV movie that they are hoping to turn into a full series. I haven't seen it yet, and I have to say I was really underwhelmed by the new look of the Phantom costume. Really it was mostly the look of the helmet which resembles a scarf wrapped over a person wearing really big flat sunglasses. I applaud the attempt because I do acknowledge that if we want to throw a superhero into a modern setting, some effort has to go into creating a look that won't get you laughed out of a bar. Not to keep bringing this back to Batman, but Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight did a great job of creating a functional and cool looking costume that never seemed like a terrible stretch from the original concept Bob Kane came up with all those years ago.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Phantom's International following. It is one of the keys to his staying power and ability to capitalize on a global market. The Phantom is still one of the most popular comic books in Scandinavian countries, along with Australia, Italy and Turkey. While I have to admit a lack of knowledge of their own independent Phantom story lines, it seems clear that there is an audience that cares deeply for this character and is ready to see the character move on the next level.

As I stated, the road map to relevancy is there. Establish a fully realized world for the character to inhabit and journey through. Give the character sounding boards and obstacles to overcome in the face of characters that push the hero to become even stronger. Allow the character to evolve as the times changes knowing that continuity is your friend and not your enemy. Do remember that these characters are popular for very good reasons and that is because they once touched a chord in the public's heart that can still resonate with a modern audience.

Spoiler Alert!

I have nothing to spoil. I just want to talk about spoilers and how you really have to go out of your way to avoid information these days. Especially now that I can't see a film on opening weekend or pick up a game or a book right away, I find myself in a constant game of cat and mouse, except almost in reverse. I am still the mouse, however the difference is now the cat no longer chases me, he just sits in places I have to go except he has no idea I am coming. I run out of my hole to the kitchen pantry and, BAM! Kitty is already having a snack. Such is my life attempting to remain somewhat spoiler free in a world of instant gratification and all enveloping news coverage.

As a consumer of pop culture, and by consumer I mean a mental landfill into which pop culture information is poured by large trucks, I seek out information on that which interests me. As I have spoken to on other occasions, living abroad makes the consumption of such things a bit of an H.G. Wells like experience. I find myself fighting today armed only with last month. My only true defense that keeps me safe from harm is the spoiler alert and I am grateful for it.

Par example, I have not seen Inception. It will not open in "The China" for another month and a half. I am trying to remain as information free as I can. I do not necessarily care about definitive information or answers to plotlines and such. My need to stave off the information wave that crests over my shoulder shadowing it's impending doom is to keep my mind open and experience the images and themes as intended and in the moment. Now surely it should be simple to avoid information about the film by just forgoing any articles about the film, right? Here is where the cat sits sleeping with it's jaw wide open as I plunge into it's open crevasse of spoilery death.

If avoiding information were that easy, I could rest sound. Anymore you have to be constantly on guard, especially if you are me as the information you seek to avoid now filters it's way into all the other media I consume. In the fight to stay relevant, all media devoted sites cross-pollinate. They cover a little bit of everything in addition to their bread and butter. My comics and my film mix on a regular mix. Cool sports journalists use media references to keep a younger audience engaged.

Sports columnist Bill Simmons of ESPN has a podcast that very often touches on television and film. A recent discussion of Mad Men's latest season opener got him on the subject of spoilers and why having to issue spoiler alerts at all seemed ludicrous. He admitted that anyone living overseas obviously does not have instant access such things and often finds themselves in the same predicament I face. Again, if it were just avoiding any bright flashing sign that said "I AM GOING TO DISCUSS ALL DETAILS REGARDING THE THING IN WHICH YOU HAVE SHOWN INTEREST" I could live my life in ease.

How do I avoid these thing when they pop up in everything else I turn to for entertainment? A particular webcomic I read has a penchant for talking about the most spoilery of spoilerishiest information almost the day of or after these things open or air. I had to avoid it like the plague following the LOST finale and found myself having to turn away the other day after I caught a glimpse of the word inception.

Turn back the clock to 1994 even, and we don't have this problem. You are aren't smothered, covered and chunked with every intimate detail of plotlines or revelations. Such is the nature of a life abroad in a modern age. So thank you to everyone who uses the spoiler alert. Your consideration and kindness are greatly treasured.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


New layout design, decided if I was going to keep up with this, I needed an adult looking format.

Yes, I lose Homer, but I gain safety in the knowledge that I am now safe from being cited for any kind of copyright violation.

Baby doctor visit today and I can report all systems are go. Everything looks good and our son is about two weeks bigger than the average at this stage. Will this mean an early arrival? I have no idea. The lovely wife is certainly hoping he doesn't get too big before the end of September rolls around.

I find myself in this odd space between. Too soon to be Daddy. In literal "we still have two months" too soon, not "I can't handle the pressure" too soon. Many things are drawing my attention. San Diego Comic Con is in full effect and the news and coverage is flowing like water. Tron Legacy and Walking Dead are the two media projects coming in with the most buzz and steam. Marvel's Thor, Captain America, and the soon to be Joss Whedon directed Avengers are all at least a year away. TRON Legacy is just around the corner and the amount of viral marketing for this film is absurd. They have done absolutely everything they needed to and then some to push this film to a modern audience. In the end it could be terrible, but I think the mouse house may have a winner here. The look of the film is breathtaking and feels like a worthy successor to the original cult classic.

Anyone too much older than me is shaking their head, and anyone too much younger than me has no clue what I'm talking about. The original film's sweet spot is geeks in their 30's who grew up on Jeff Bridges as Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner as the titular TRON/Alan character. This was the stuff of sleepovers with excessive amounts of popcorn and pizza. It had a cool video game and toys. The premise was almost absurd at the time. Now when we look back through the lens of massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs), hacking, and social networking, the film and it's sequel take on a bit of cyber-punk cool.

In related media driven obsessions. I am finishing up Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Unlike the first book, the second and third are the same large story split into two volumes. Larsson's heroine, Lisbeth Salander is elite hacker on the wrong side of seemingly all the right people. The first two books started slowly for me with the last two hundred or so pages suddenly hooking me like an addict forcing me to consume the stories' conclusions immediately.

As I mentioned, also coming out of Comic Con is AMC's new television drama The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman's amazing zombie survival comic of the same name. Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption/The Mist) is producing and directing some episodes, so I have great faith in the translation. This one will join AMC's stellar original programming lineup in October just in time for Halloween. The greatest strengths of all zombie stories is that of the the people just trying to survive. Kirkman's is one of the best with an extraordinary cast of characters. Like with all adaptations, some things will change, some things will be worse, some will be better. I am personally really excited for this one. AMC picked this one up without a pilot so they have great faith in it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The death of Dagu Rd.

Dagu road is dead, long live Dagu road. One of the amazing facets of navigating Chinese culture is tightrope walk of pirated dvd and cd shops. Dagu road might as well have been the Barbary coast for all of the operations running such shops on that stretch. Movie World, Even Better Than Movie World, and more all held sway over the denizens of Shanghai looking to catch the latest releases from around the World for what may as well have consisted of a song. Alas, Dagu road is no more. Oh, the road is still there along with all of it's legitimate businesses, but the dvd shops have vanished to make way for boutiques and pet stores.

This marks another chapter in the ongoing evolution of the Chinese in a world of global trade. Headlines were made just a few months back as Shanghai authorities cracked down on the dvd shops for selling pirated versions of films, some which had barely been in US movie theaters a matter of days. However, the "crackdown" resulted in even more ludicrous business practices as the sellers simply erected temporary walls behind which they placed all contraband material. Any patron simply had to look lost for the space of two seconds before being ushered back to the racks of illicit discs. The MPAA howled in disbelief, excoriating the Chinese government for not taking a harsher stance to the problem.

It was assumed by most, that the shops would operate in their "reduced" capacity until after the World Expo closed, then return to their normal operation. As I walked down Dagu road the other day, I couldn't quite believe my eyes as I passed what seemed to be familiar store fronts but no trace of the movie shops remained. I applaud the Shanghai authorities for making a statement, but it still rings a bit hollow. You can still buy pirated dvds and cds just about anywhere in Shanghai. Even the shops that closed on Dagu road have probably just moved elsewhere. If they are gone for good, then some other merchant will just fill the vacuum until a serious effort is made to shut down piracy on a wide scale.

Just like any crooked enterprise, there is a lot of money at stake. It remains to be seen where it comes from and who benefits the most but you can probably guess. When you factor in that most people frequenting these shops just don't care about where their money goes, it becomes a difficult task to rally popular opinion against them. Going to see a movie in Shanghai is an extremely expensive proposition and when you add in the fact that so much media is never allowed to reach legitimate outlets for distribution here, the market is ripe for plunder. Aaarrrrrrgh me heartys! The Chinese film industry suffers almost as much if not more as their ticket prices are sometimes 15 times the cost of buying a street dvd of the same film on opening day.

Dagu road seems more of a symbolic gesture than anything, but at least it is something for a city woking to be seen as an urban paradise.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

World Cup hangover

So needless to say, I didn't post the day after the final. Somehow I couldn't bring myself to compose any thoughts on the matter. Nine days removed I feel refreshed from the physical and mental toll of staying up late each night to catch the knockout round games.

So the right team won. I hope my last post didn't sound like sour grapes. Spain proved themselves to be the class of the tournament. I just wasn't happy with Iniesta's tactics in extra time. You dive twice and get one guy sent off, administer your own brand of rough play, and then get the winning goal is not the way to endear yourself to me. I hate diving with a passion. When Van Bommel and Robben do it, I hate it just as much as when anyone else does. I think it cheapens the game and belittles the skill it takes to play at that high level.

A lot of people said this was a terrible World Cup. The quality of the Final probably supports that argument, but I found it to be a really enjoyable one. Of course I purposely found ways to invest myself into each game so I cannot say how that colors my opinion. I think we came away with a lot of fantastic stories that will help drive interest for the next four years. The arrival of a young German team that can only get better. The dominance of a Spanish side that can truly claim to be one of the greatest teams of all time. After winning Euro 2008, and taking the World Cup this year, they definitely have to be considered one of the greatest international sides to ever play the game. A case you can certainly reinforce if they repeat as European champions in 2012.

The fall of France and Italy, the rise of Ghana and Uruguay. Great stuff all around. I'm riding the excitement right into the regular season of English Premier League play. I'll have to find a good bar to try and catch the Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and German Bundesliga. Supposedly there is an official Manchester United themed bar opening this fall in Shanghai. I'll have to track down that place at some point too.

Top moments ( in no particular order):
Tshabalala's opening goal for South Africa- Talk about lifting an entire country up.
Landon Donovan's goals against Slovenia and Algeria- No more Landycakes please...
The absolute revelation that was Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil.
Switzerland wins against Spain- Way to walk the tightrope Espana!
Portugal's 7 goal performance against North Korea- Letting off steam in the rain.
Netherland's performance against Brazil- One of the great comebacks in World Cup history.
Diego Forlan of Uruguay- 'nuff said...
Kensuke Honda of japan- Asia's next superstar
David Villa's 40 yard piece of cheesecake- Lesson to all young goalies, know who is behind the ball before you charge out of the box.
Chile- Who needs defense?
Diego Maradona on the sidelines- I haven't seen that much crazy behavior since a late night trip on the Chicago L train.
Argentina in the first round- Raise your hand if you hadn't already penciled them into the final... Liars.

I will remember others but, I have a lot of mental inventory to get through.

I find if I write about my beloved Chicago Cubs, my brain seizes up and I start to shake, so I'll merely say how happy I am that the second half of the season is here and they have a bit of a fresh start.

I am really missing the movie theaters back home right now as we are probably not getting Inception or Predators on the mainland. I find myself missing a lot of of American pop culture right now, but c'est la vie.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Rapid Fire Reaction-

If anyone else gets the goal, maybe I don't mind... Iniesta flops like the catch of the day two minutes before he scores when he wasn't even touched. That guy doesn't deserve to win the World Cup. Bitter, bitter taste for that one. More later, sleep now...

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

And noooooow, the end is neeeaaaaar, and so I faaaace, the fiiinaaaal curtaaaaain...

I totally lost count of match days and I am too lazy to go back and count up from a previous post...

Welcome to the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. One month ago I made a promise to myself to blog every day of the World Cup. The fact that I managed to do it is surprising. Oh how time flies. It has slipped like quicksilver from my hands. 30 teams have tried and failed, only two valiant sides remain. A bit of luck, a bit of skill, and a bit of willpower are the only things separating these two teams from immortality.

The story lines are fantastic. The Dutch, the perennial also-rans, have been to the top of the mountain only to fail it's summit each time. A gifted generation could not secure the prize in the 1970s. The faced heartbreak in the 80s and 90s. They have a chance to take their place amongst only a handful of countries as true World champions. This is a team built on will power and determination. Only by exercising both traits tonight can they hope to claim that which has been denied their predecessors.

Their mirror are the Spanish. A team that has never made it this far before. Only in the past few years have they managed to unlock the secret to footballing greatness. The spotlight has always melted their reserve. This time they have truly put forth a golden generation of players the likes of which we rarely see. They feel the momentum, they know they can take it all. Now European champions, tomorrow possibly the best on the planet. A nation split in two, hoping to unite as one under the glory of this team of Catalans and Spaniards.

Enough hyperbole! Let's get to the nitty gritty...

The Netherlands:

Renowned World wide for the invention of the concept of Total Football in the 1970's. The theory of each player being capable of moving from his position to another with no loss in skill or capability. While this philosophy no longer rules the Dutch game, they still put forth some of the most creative, artistic players in the World who offer dangerous first touches and possession football every time on the pitch.


Spain play a possession game built on frustrating opponents and then attacking their off balance opponents. This current Spanish side has played together since most of them were in youth leagues. The majority of the team plays for Barcelona, one of the greatest and most popular sides in the World. They play with the unity of a club team in a tournament where most countries only play with the same lineup for three weeks before the tournament even begins.They hold the ball up better than other team to enter this tournament. Their passing is well known and is no secret, but is still incredibly hard to stop.

Position breakdowns:


Spain -Iker Casillas
Netherlands-Maarten Stekelenburg.

Advantage: Spain- Iker Casillas. Iker has had a tough tournament. He has been criticized for punching more balls away than trapping. However, momentum is on his side and he is still regarded as one of the top goal keepers in the World. He plays extremely well in big-game situations and is a known penalty killer. If it goes that far, Casillas has the advantage.

Spain- Joan Capdevilla (Left Back) Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique (Center Backs) Sergio Ramos (Right Back)
Netherlands- Andre Ooijer ( Left Center Back), John Heitinga (Right Center Back), Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Left Back), Gregory Van Der Wiel (Right Back).z

Advantage: Spain- Carlos Puyol and Pique are two of the best defenders in the game right now and are very dangerous moving into attack. Bronckhorst is no slouch, but his goal against Uruguay was the exception rather than the rule. Spain's passing is the true defense of this team as they know exactly where to send the ball with almost every first touch of the ball.

Spain- Sergio Busquets (Central Midfield), Xabi Alonso (Left Midfield), Xavi (Right Midfield)
Netherlands- Nigel De Jong (Left Midfield), Mark Van Bommel (Right Midfield) Wesley Sneijder (Attacking Central Midfielder/Forward)

Advantage: Offensively, Spain. Defensively, Netherlands. - This is where things start to change dramatically in terms of lineup choices. Van Bommel and De jong are defenders first and foremost. Both are exceptionally talented but are like bouncers at a Kung Fu night club. They like to kick people...hard. A lot of this game will rest on those two and how they behave in the midfield against the keep away game that is Spain's midfield. Wesley Sneijder plays more like a forward anyway and I should really group him as such. Spain is set up for offensive distribution. Xabi ALonso is strong in attack, but he and Xavi will spend most of their time pinging in passes to Villa and Torres.

Spain- David Villa, Iniesta, Fernando Torres
Netherlands- Robin Van Persie (Forward), Dirk Kuyt (Attacking Left Midfielder/Forward), Arjen Robben (Attacking Right Midfielder/Forward)

Advantage: Draw- Why? Well, I'm factoring in a lot of different things here. Fernando Torres is incredibly dangerous, but the frustration must be getting to him and so his form has suffered. He could still have a big game that could change everything. David Villa is the known quantity so no need to dwell. He was taken out of the game against Germany, but he played in an odd role as essentially the lone striker. He plays much better when he has support. Iniesta will float in between attacking and support. He should always be guarded carefully, but he isn't the same level of threat as Villa. The Dutch essentially play with four forwards if you count Sneijder. Oddly enough, Van Persie has not been very good in this tournament. He has almost negated his importance in most matches. Dirk Kuyt will be the hardest worker on the field on that you can expect guarantee. He runs after everything in his area and tries to get to anything outside his area. He is incredibly hard to defend as he just doesn't get tired or stop running. Arjen Robben is the mad genius. Equal parts prodigy and antagonist, he confounds defenses with deft ball skill. He can be a bit predictable if you can force him across the plane of the goal and load up with defenders. Sneijder is the general on the field. He has the killer instinct to go get the ball and shoot. Feelings be damned. If he thinks he can create a better opportunity, he will take it. So Spain wins on overall talent, but Netherlands draws even with numbers and creativity.

You can almost see a bit of the Cobra-Kai sensei inside Mark Van Bommel's head screaming "Sweep the leg!". This could be a disaster for the Dutch if he lets himself get carried away. Howard Webb, the referee tonight will be watching closely. He will not be afraid to interject himself if the quality of play suffers from egregious challenges. It is very hard to cut off passing lanes when the other team rarely holds the ball longer than a touch or two. That is exactly the problem the Dutch face tonight. While they are an excellent ball control team, they suffer from a carelessness in defense that Spain absolutely will take advantage of if given the opportunity. Daydreaming about a warm summers day in Amsterdam will get a ball rammed down your throat. At the same time, Spain cannot take for granted the Netherlands skill on the ball. If David Villa is still nursing a bit of a dead leg as is rumored, then the Dutch counter attacks will come far more often. Their weakest points are at the sides where the Dutch are the strongest. Robben and Kuyt can make life miserable for them. Van Persie must live up to his billing and start playing like the superstar he believes he is.

The call: Again, I'm going to chicken out and not venture a guess. I've got my blinders on a bit as I fell in love with the Dutch team back in '98. If I am being honest, I think Spain wins tonight, but my heart will be pulling for Holland. Either way we get a brand new World Champion and soccer/football fans worldwide get a fantastic game.

Tomorrow I will give my reaction to the game and what I felt I learned from the World Cup experience as a whole. Until then, enjoy the game and have a Heineken on me. I guess you could bill me, but that would just be awkward... Tell you what, buy yourself a Heineken, if you see me down the road, I will buy the next beer. Sound good? Awesome!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Welcome to the third-place game, or "Does anyone feel like showing up to claim the $10 winning lottery ticket?".

As my friend said; "Ugh, more cousin kissin..."

Just kidding, I'm still excited for this game. Although it looks like a lot of the German squad is out with the flu. That is really unfortunate especially if they lose to see them go out in that fashion. Even their coach Joachim Loewe has been hit with the bug meaning he may not even attend. Uruguay is back to full strength with Luis Suarez back from suspension.

Obviously both teams in this match will be looking to salvage something besides a good performance from this Cup. Germany has the most upside leaving the tournament, but Uruguay should be commended for rebuilding their national program and even getting to this point. It's nice to see them recover form and return to the tournament that would not really have existed if not for their amazing teams from the 1920's.

I could probably handicap this one if I tried, but I don't know who is playing or even who is coaching so it would feel a bit forced. I'm going to sit back and enjoy this one as I milk the last 3 hours of World Cup left before I'm left with an empty feeling until the Premiere League kicks off in August. Tomorrow I plan on doing one really big post to preview the final match.

LeBron James to Miami, I say meh...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Semi-finals match day 2 - Germany vs. Spain, or when a final isn't a final.

Glaring Omissions- While I am reasonably competent about my stats, I still get things absolutely wrong. Yesterday I completely forgot that the yellow card rules changed for this tournament meaning that the slates wiped clean after the quarterfinals instead of the second round. Only people with accumulated yellow cards had anything to worry about. This rule change helps prevents players from accumulating two cards in the quarter-finals and the semis then subsequently going out for the finals. I've already biffed on a couple of other things, but I felt it important to mention this one tonight since I made such a big deal out of the Netherlands situation last night.

On with the tomfoolery!

Last night's game played out as I thought it might with the exception of the Dutch defense falling asleep on Diego Forlan for a second and then being a little too exuberant in stoppage time and then letting the game get much closer than it should have been when they allowed the second Uruguayan goal. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's piledrive from 40 yards is my goal of the tournament. I still can't believe that one went in. Arjen Robben continued to show why he is one of the best players in the World with his beautifully executed header for goal. I would have liked to have seen Uruguay with Suarez in the lineup. I think that game is much closer if he is on the pitch. Diego Forlan is one of the best players in the tournament this year and is certainly in the conversation to win some hardware for it. Wesley Sneijder has played so well that when you put his regular season performance with Inter Milan together with a possible World Cup win, he may just get the player of the year award.

Germany against Spain is the final that everyone would have been happy with anyway, so getting this in the semi-final round is fantastic. Spain are looking to cement the reputation they started creating for themselves at Euro 2008. Germany are looking to stamp this game with their newfound artistry. Both teams come in with key injury and roster question marks that could really change the nature of the game. Thomas Muller is out for Germany with card accumulation. His passing and shot selection has made up a fair amount of the German offense in the tournament, so losing him hurts. Spain has Carlos Puyol and Cesc Fabregas under injury concern meaning a whole in the center of the defense and the better offensive option up top pairing Villa possibly out too. Both injuries are not absolute at the time I'm writing this so until the game starts we just won't know. If Fabregas is out, then Spain just falls back on Fernando Torres. Torres has been out of form most of the tournament but one goal changes everything. Puyol is the greater concern because the last thing they need is to leave an open door for Podolski or Klose to stroll through. Germany has the unfortunate task of trying to stop David Villa. He has accounted for 5 of 6 Spain goals this tournament.

Spain's keys to the game:
1. Give David Villa space. Villa is playing on the left side which is the actually the stronger side of the German defense with Captain Lahm using his quickness to negate Villa's own blistering pace. Spain should be looking to Xavi to slip passes closer to the middle of the box for Villa to poach.
2. Get somebody to offer pressure other than Villa. The German's probably have an amazing scouting report on Spain and you would have to be blind not to know David Villa was your number one challenge. It will fall on Cesc Fabregas or Torres to turn the pressure up and pull markers away from Villa.
3. Shut down Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger. You cut off the passing lanes and Podolski and Klose won't have any ammunition. If Puyol is indeed out, then this becomes a very difficult proposition.

Germany's keys to the game:
1. Villa, VIlla, Villa...
2. Compensate for the loss of Thomas Muller. With Ozil and Schweinsteiger, Germany still has a ton of options in moving the attack forward. Shutting down both of them will be very difficult. Right now, they actually play more of a Dutch style football than the Dutch do.
3. Shut down the Spanish midfield. So much easier said than done. Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta all provide challenges for any club team when they play by themselves. Now you throw them together and it it becomes an OCTOPUS OF DEATH! Well, not really but you get the idea.

It has the potential to be the game of the tournament. It could stink to high heaven, but a lot of the ingredients are there for spectacular play. The Dutch people desperately want to play the Germans to get a little payback for 1974, and possibly other things... 'cough' WWII 'cough'. I'd love to see either team make it through because of the quality of play from either side.

Best guess: I have no guess for this one. I can only sit back and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

4 more games....

And my mad little project will be over. I can't believe we are at the semi-finals. It has been an extremely entertaining tournament to this point. The first week wasn't raising anyone's hopes, but the last two have completely raised the level of excitement to fever pitch. The ideal ending is probably to have the Netherlands vs. Spain so we get a new World Cup winner. We essentially crown a new king of Europe in a run up to Euro 2012.

First things first, we got a game to cover!

Uruguay v. Netherlands.

Uruguay still has a game to play despite my expectations for the Dutch. I don't expect them to roll over and die for the Netherlands. The problem is they are severely hampered with roster issues. The most pressing issue is how to handle the hole left by the suspension of Luis Suarez on his red card from the Ghana game. Diego Forlan has been one of the outstanding players of the tournament, but a lot of that has been in service to Suarez. Captain Diego Lugano is out with a knee injury leaving a big hole in the midfield. Player of the future Nicolas Lodeiro is also gone with a broken foot. They come in looking like the walking wounded. They will try and fill the hole at forward with Sebastian Abreu who plays like Frankenstein's Monster set loose upon a small village. Shambling, always shambling...

The game change for the Dutch defense is to try and negate headers now instead of worrying about Suarez' speed. They have their own concerns with over half the lineup with at least one yellow card and Nigel De Jong out on suspension due to his own accumulation of yellows. They have to be incredibly careful because even one suspension from the big three forwards up top could seriously throw off the offense for the next game whether it be the final or the third place game. Van Persie, Robben, and Kuyt are all in jeopardy. If things get dicey at all for the Uruguayans, they could go into spoiler mode and start taking to their own three ring circus at the expense of the Dutch.

Uruguay's keys to the game:
1. Neutralize Arjen Robben. Wesley Sneider may be the most dangerous man on the field, but Robben is the one up front who creates havoc with his coring runs and auditions for Broadway. The Uruguayan defense cannot allow themselves to get suckered in like Felipe Melo did in the Brazil game. Their main job will be to cut off the goal box parallel to the goal and shut down his shooting and passing.
2. Frustrate Wesley Sneijder. Cutting off his passing lanes and using physical play to knock him off the ball may give them the time to create counter attacks.
3. Pressure the right side of the Dutch Defense. This is probably the best spot for Uruguay to attack. Brazil penetrated this side early and often. It will be up to Forlan to make this his home for 90 minutes as he takes free kicks and bombs in crosses for Abreu.

Netherland's keys to the game:
1. Remain calm. I can't overemphasize the yellow card situation enough. If you get past Uruguay, you are facing off against Germany and Spain, both more than likely at full strength.
2. Ram the ball down the middle. Netherlands plays really well down the wings, but the middle of the Uruguayan defense seems to be it's weak point especially with Lugano out of the midfield. I think Dirk Kuyt is critical to the finishing this World Cup campaign as champions. His pace and relentless work ethic should be used to frustrate the Uruguayan defense and draw markers away from Van Persie and Robben.
3. Play the game that got you here. Their ball control has been impeccable in just about every game except the Brazil game, and Uruguay will not be anywhere near the level of Brazil in terms of control. Sneijder's passing and field awareness is the best on the field. He is the post on which all the offense swings.

Best Guess:

Netherlands 2-0 Uruguay. I think Netherlands scores in the first half and then closes it down with another in the second. Uruguay goes into the third place game dissappointed, but still riding with a chance to win something.

Tomorrow night we get the barn-burner between Germany and Spain. Woooo!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

You might think that Bastion Schweinsteiger or Thomas Muller get man of the match for their amazing performance against Argentina. Nope, my man of the match goes to Per Mertesacker for this...


Then what did he do? He calmly turned towards his goalkeeper and slapped five for sackin' up. In a game where people like to hit the ground for getting sneezed on, Per really earned some respect. Unfortunately, it does not stop the odd font on the back of his jersey from making his name appear to be Meatesacker. Although, Meatesacker would be a perfect name for a defender. Just, you know, rather unfortunate...

No more posts today, but tomorrow I may get to my young players of the tournament which is essentially a preview for the 2014 World Cup.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Rapid Fire Reaction-

It got ugly, but not in the way I expected...

This Germany squad is one of the most complete, stylish, entertaining teams I have ever seen in the World Cup. I never thought I would use the word stylish to describe German football. I'm still aghast that they hung four goals on a really good Argentina team. Although can I call Argentina really good after that performance? It seems like the second goal was the real nail in the coffin and they just lost control of any team aspect to their game.

Argentina started very well. They were getting through the right side of the German defense almost at will. Then at some point it seemed like Messi just got taken out of the game. Every time he stepped up to the box the German back line had a two man wall set up to stop any shots or passes. Diego Maradona had no answer tactically to Germany's midfield press. It was very sad in some respects to watch him stroll the sideline with a dour expression and arms crossed after all those games with him bouncing off everything like a psychopath.

Again, the scary thing to consider is Germany's youth. If they bring this same team to the next World Cup, you can pencil them in as early favorites to win the whole damn thing. Of course they haven't won this World Cup yet, but they have to be the favorites right now. I don't know if Spain or Paraguay can stop them from getting to the final. Unfortunately, Thomas Muller is out for the semi-final due to card accumulation. Speaking of, the second goal doesn't happen unless he makes that amazing desperation pass to Lucas Podolski who then makes a great cross to Klose.

Speaking of Miroslav... He is now one goal away from tying the all-time scoring record held by Brazil's Ronaldo. That is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that Germany didn't win either of the last two Cups. What a way to end your International career...

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 21- Come on, can't we all just get along?

Germany v. Argentina

This is not going to be polite. Tensions between these two teams have been escalating all week with both sides taking verbal jabs at each other. Argentina has dismissed Germany's wins and Germany has called them "aggressive and provocative". A lot of other things have been said, so expect things to get a little ugly tonight.

Germany will look to expose the Argentinian defense which gave up a lot of early chances to Mexico and could be weaker than we think. The German midfield is extremely precise if we can bother to shoehorn on the stereotype. Germany also feature three exceptionally dangerous scoring threats in Muller, Klose and Podolski. Argentina again counters with Lionel Messi engineering most plays from outside the the 18 yard box. He will look to score on his own or offload to Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.

Did I mention things might get ugly? You might see more playacting in this game than in an entire season of Shakespeare in the park. Expect the entire supply of shinguards to take a hell of a beating. I don't see this one going to overtime tonight. There is a lot of offensive firepower out on that pitch, and penalties could come in to play. Set pieces should be especially brutal. I'm not even going to try and call this one. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it.

Spain v. Paraguay.

Paraguay is looking to suck all the oxygen off the field tonight to snuff out blazing fire that is David Villa. Villa has been on an amazing tear in this Cup. Paraguay's main task will be cutting off access to Villa. Taking your chances with Fernando Torres isn't a great choice but considering the form he has been in, it will be the Paraguayan's best option. I expect Paraguay to sit back a bit as they won't be able to dominate ball control as they have in their last few games. They haven't scored in their last two games, and Spain's defense and midfield won't make it any easier. I think Spain takes this one in the 90 minutes.

Just a few more words about yesterday's games. I feel terrible for Ghana, It's a horrible way to go out. Going out to penalties usually is, but in this case the manner they got there was depressing. Asamoah Gyan misses the penalty kick that ends the game stopping the decision from going to a full shootout. It is heartbreaking and he will carry that for the next four years. I hope he overcomes it mentally. He seems strong though. For Uruguay, Diego Forlan was in absolute top form last night driving cross after dangerous cross into the box. His free-kick goal was spectacular. Luis Suarez however, earned himself a lot of haters. He played well enough, but he dove all over the place and his handball shut out the sure goal that would have won Ghana the game. Obviously, he was crushed by getting sent off and at the same time giving Ghana what appeared to be an almost certain goal in the penalty kick awarded after his foul. Now, Uruguay's most dangerous striker is out for the semi-final game against the Netherlands.

Friday, July 2, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

ORANGE CRUSH!!!!!!!!! ORANGE CRUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I can't believe that just happened! What an amazing win. After the first Brazil goal, hell, the entire first half, the Dutch were under siege. The Brazilians had created so many a


I proceeded to write a great post that profiled the agony of Brazil and the utter jubilation of the Dutch. Blogger decided to have a meltdown and has destroyed everything but the beginning. I am very tired and have no interest in rewriting it. Rest assured...


World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 20- When Ryan is a bitter, bitter man.

For those of you who know me from the way back, know I am a huge Harry Connick jr. fan. Tonight, one Mr. Connick Jr. is playing at the World Expo for United States National day. Am I going? No... Why? Well, nobody thought anyone who works for the United States government, or the family of said employees were worth inviting. Even the people who are WORKING THE EVENT had to scramble to get tickets. So my lovely wife will be attending after a full days work organizing the party at Expo for National day. I take comfort in knowing that my unborn son's first concert is Harry Connick Jr. It is nice symmetry...

On to the feckless hooliganism!

Tonight's action: Netherlands v. Brazil, Uruguay v. Ghana.

So just to set the table, the Dutch have a history of in-fighting at the World Cup. Most people anticipate it. They know it's coming. People wrote about it in preview blogs for the Cup, and joked about it on talk radio. This World Cup had been fairly quiet for the Netherlands. We all thought that the Dutch had excised the demons and were all happy campers talking about bicycles and weed. Then, the day after the last game of the second round, like clockwork, stories of the Dutch having a go at each other began to surface. Robin Van Persie was substituted in the 82nd minute of their last game, and boy was he unhappy. He was pleading his case to the coach quite visibly. Evidently, in that exchange he said that he should have stayed in and midfielder Wesley Sneijder should have come out. Sneijder promptly scored two minutes later putting the game out of reach for Slovakia. The dust-up evidently goes back to an argument the two had at the European championships. The coach has squashed all the talk, but sometimes it is good to know you can depend on certain things.

Tonight, we find out exactly how good this Netherlands team is and whether or not they can dominate possession against an incredibly stingy Brazil team.Hopefully all the talk about problems in the Dutch camp were indeed overblown or exaggerated, because they cannot handle a weak spine on that team. Brazil will probably capitalize on the weaker Dutch defense. Holland's job is to try and keep up and create enough chances so that if they do get a lead, they can fall back on that exceptional control to siphon away time from Brazil's dangerous midfield and forward attack. I really love the Dutch team, but I think that Brazil takes this one. I think they are just extraordinary. However, they have not been tested at this tournament yet and you can bet that Netherlands will make things hellish if given the opportunity.

Uruguay v. Ghana will be interesting to particularly because it will give us a sense of how tough this Uruguay team really is. They have cruised up to this point and run into a Ghana team that finally got the monkey off their back and scored from open play and took a fairly dramatic victory in their win over the USA. Uruguay looks like the real deal in this tournament. Kind of an Argentina light without the Messi. Ghana plays such a tough physical band of soccer that it will be tough for the Uruguayan back line to hang in there without getting chippy. Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng will again be the point men for the attack with Ayew streaking in from the wing to create opportunites. Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan will again be the main culprits looking to end Ghana's feel good story. I think Uruguay wins this one, but not without a tough fight from Ghana who will make their standing as the last African country in the tourney count.

Now I'm going to go listen to the "When Harry met Sally" soundtrack at full blast and see if I can get a sense of what I'm missing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 19- Did you really think three men at the back was a good idea?

I am going to miss Chile in this World Cup. They were a lot of fun to watch. Tim Vickery said that this was the easiest game to predict, and I have to agree. Brazil was a larger side that excels on counter attacks and set pieces. With Chile playing a three man back line, they were just begging to be broken open. For 30 minutes, Chile had done a really nice job defensively and had created some good chances. However, it ended up looking like a lot of their other games with chances that built up only to fail in the box with no one getting open or bad finishing. That said, they have some real promise. Alexis Sanchez is certainly a superstar in the making. Brazil just outworked them. They were kept at bay for a brief time, but after their first goal they opened up and Chile had no solution for Brazil's attack.

The Netherlands v. Slovakia game played out as it did in my head. Slovakia had a few chances, but their aggressive style played into the Dutch game plan. Netherlands controlled, controlled, and controlled. They looked really good, and their two goals were brilliant. Arjen Robben is so dangerous when running parallel to the goal. Dirk Kuyt showed great awareness in dishing off his pass to Wesley Sneijder for that clinical finish. Slovakia as a team has to work on staying cool under pressure. They were screaming at the referees at every opportunity late in the game. They just unraveled mentally. Their goal, while well earned, was utterly pointless as it was the very last play of the game. Slovakia is still a team with a lot of promise. I'm really excited to see the Dutch play Brazil. These are two great sides and even though Brazil is not playing with the 'samba' philosophy, they are playing amazing football.

Paraguay and Japan get us underway tonight with Spain and Portugal finishing off the 2nd round. Paraguay v. Japan is a contest of two of the most organized sides in the contest. They both play a really tight defense and a balanced methodical attack. Combined with that measured attack, both sides have some real creative zeal as well. Keisuke Honda has been one of the top players of the tournament and looks to torture the Paraguayan back line. Both teams are very dangerous from set pieces too. I think Paraguay takes this one, but Japan will makes it insanely difficult. We could have both games tonight go to penalty kicks. The first game seems more likely than the last.

Spain v. Portugal will hopefully answer some lingering questions for both sides. Portugal has been a mystery for me as I can't quite figure out whether or not they have the ability to play at the highest level and win out. The North Korea game was this bizarre anomaly against a much weaker side. Their games against Brazil and Ivory Coast showed no real inspiration. So the focus for me tonight is to really observe the defense and see how well they handle Fernando Torres and David Villa. Spain has a different attack from Brazil and I think they could be the team to break open the Portuguese puzzle box. At the same time, Spain looks like a team that has been working for every single goal. Will we see a repeat of the Switzerland game where they are constantly frustrated and put off balance? I think Spain takes this one, but again don't rule out Portugal's defense holding up and this goes to a penalty kick shoot-out where anything can happen. I would also say that Spain seemingly holds the edge in that too.

Competition takes a couple of days off until the start of the Quarter finals and I might too. I have got to be honest, keeping up with every second of this tournament has been fun, but exhausting. I still want to look at the young players of the tournament, and also give a preview of what may be in store for the U.S. Men's national team down the road.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 18- Goal, what goal? I saw no goal...

If it weren't for definitive endings, all anyone could talk about today would be the officiating errors in yesterday's games. FIFA has to be embarrassed by the two missed calls. At the very least we can hope they respond with better communication between the referees and the fourth official who is watching on a monitor. They can add another official or two while they are at it. If they really feel like joining the 21st century they can set up a replay official to check goals during celebrations. Calls like those would have taken all of two seconds to verify and overturn.

Argentina looked really good, but once again there defense is still a small mystery. Mexico tested them early with good chances. I am really excited to see their next game against Germany. It could be a real classic. Carlos Tevez had one of the goals of the tournament with what looked like a rocket launcher in the second half. Another game down and no goal for Messi, but the way he is playing that can't be much of a complaint for anyone. He has been brilliant on the ball and just about the only option anyone has had is to take his legs out from under him.

Tonight's action is Netherlands v. Slovakia and Brazil against Chile. I'm really curious what Slovakia can do against Holland. The Dutch ball handling has been impeccable. I'm not seeing a repeat of the Italy game, but momentum is a funny thing, and Slovakia are coming in with a lot of it. The Netherlands has been flying somewhat under the radar this tournament with workmanlike showings in their three group stage games. The re-introduction of Arjen Robben in the last game was a huge boost offensively. His creativity near the 18 yard box is undeniable. This could be the first game to go to penalty kicks, but I see the Dutch winning this one without that scenario presenting itself.

Brazil v. Chile is a great game to fantasize about because in my head it will probably be better than what unfolds on the pitch. Chile has only managed one goal per game, but you just feel like that will broken open at any time. They do such a good job of creating chances. Their aggressiveness cost them in the game versus Spain. Hopefully they won't fall into that trap again tonight. I still don't know what to make of the game Brazil had against Portugal, but at this point it doesn't matter. They are back to full strength with Kaka and Elano back in the lineup. Brazil's offense should have plenty of opportunities tonight as Chile likes to play as if defense is a nice idea rather than a necessity. Most people would pick Brazil tonight. Not me, I'm going to pick Brazil. You like that? You like how I looked like I was going to pick Chile, and then at the last second didn't?

I have to say, I don't like big games ending in penalty shoot-outs, but I can't deny I like watching them. I don't think we will see one tonight, but in the World Cup all options are on the table.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 17- Rapid fire reaction...

Meine Damen und Herren, alle an Bord des Zuges Schmerzen. Translated for English: Ladies and Gentlemen, all aboard the pain train.

At the end of the first half, I thought this game was going to end only with wild controversy about the English goal that crossed the goal line by a country mile and never got called. Then Germany went and busted the thing wide open with a couple of laser precise counter attacks. They just look scary good. You want to know what is even scarier? Germany is the youngest team in the tournament. Yep, almost the whole team, except for possibly Miroslav Klose will be back in four years and will probably be better.

I think Miroslav Klose still has three more goals to go before he takes the overall World Cup scoring lead from Ronaldo (not that Ronaldo, the Brazilian Ronaldo from 1998). I need to double check. Wow, I don't envy Mexico or Argentina going up against them.

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 17- "Sun can't shine on the same dog's ass everyday." -Hoosiers

To start, I am very sad but it is easier to keep things in perspective these days with a child on the way. Last night felt like a Greek Tragedy. The US team had a fatal flaw and you know what the problem is with a fatal flaw, right? It's fatal... They once again succumb to a porous central defense. No single person is responsible for the first goal. It was a collapse down the spine of the defense that just hurt. I really thought that this game would be different. I thought they could hold off most of Ghana's offensive attempts, they would settle and then dominate the remainder of the game.

Eventually they did settle and the start to create chance after chance, but nothing stuck. They again had issues finishing. For whatever reason, Robbie Findley and Jozey Altidore just don't work well together. I'm not going to get into dissecting Bob Bradley's lineup choices because I am just not qualified. I have my opinions, but I wasn't with that team for the last few months so I cannot speak to the mechanics of that team and who works best with who. He had reasons for not starting Edu and Buddle. I think he did a great job with the squad and he should remain the coach for the next round of qualifying. Most of the plays were great, but the execution went lacking at times.

I'm still wildly proud of this team. They gave themselves a plethora of chances to win. They never gave up even after Asamoah Gyan's lightning bolt in the extra time put Ghana ahead for good. I think that US Soccer can be very happy with the progress shown if not disappointed that the team did not live up to it's full potential. I don't know if it inspired any young kids to want to take up the mantle, but every positive step in the United States counts for something. I think when we look at player's like Michael Bradley, we know that the system is still growing and prospects are improving. Hopefully the next World Cup will see players like Charlie Davies and Freddy Adu back in the mix and at the height of their powers.

Landon Donovan can walk away knowing he left nothing on the table. Whether he returns for another Cup or not, he has cemented his legacy as the country's greatest player of all time. Whenever anyone uses the term Landy-cakes now, you know that they mean it with affection and admiration.

I don't want to go on much further because I can write for days about the ups and downs this team encountered. I will say that they inspired the nation and gave it something to be truly proud of.

On the opposite side of the field, Ghana lives to fight another day as the only remaining African country left in the competition. They played a fast, physical style of football they gave us fits. While I don't see them getting past Uruguay, I know that their run in this tournament is important to the entire Continent. Ghana's footbal federation deserves a lot of praise for structuring a system that has developed some top World class players.

Speaking of Uruguay, they did a great job of neutralizing Korea's pace. Luis Suarez nabbed a couple of great goals, one brilliant, one lucky as hell. South Korea can hold their heads up high knowing that they also show great progress and promise. The match up with Ghana will be really interesting as it should look a lot more like the France game from a control perspective.

Tonight is another great match up with Argentina v. Mexico and England v. Germany. Time to get riled up and start making WWII references. Bloody Jerry! Never give up, never surrender! Fraulein, drei Hoffbrau mein damen! I don't know if England ever need help getting up for a game with Germany. I actually favor England in this game since Germany will be out their midfield general Bastion Schweinsteiger. However, German striker Miroslav Klose is back in action. It really could go either way.

Argentina and Mexico will hopefully turn into the game that Brazil v. Portugal failed to be. Mexico has some tough lineup choices to make at forward with speed and endurance needed to keep up with a wicked good Argentine side. I think Argentina will come out on top, but Mexico won't make it easy.

I'm going to call it good for today so I can have enough time to recover mentally to enjoy tonight's action.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 16- One loss and it will all be gone, like tears in the rain.

A tip of the hat to Blade Runner as I can't stop watching all the special features and different versions on the Final Cut Blu-Ray edition. I had to mentally step back and realize that all the effects in that film were done with film exposure and models. No computer effects were used at all. Still just stunning to think how much was achieved without what is now an embarrassment of riches in terms of digital art and architecture.

Last night's games were a little anticlimactic for me, as we had no real surprises. I don't know if Portugal's defense is really this good, or if they've just taken advantage of uninspired play from the other teams. They didn't allow a single goal in any of their matches. I chalk a lot of it up to their midfield possession being so strong that they inevitably fight the majority of their battles around the center circle.

Brazil still looked good, but a scoreless draw between those two teams is a tad disappointing. Ivory Coast put a good whuppin' on North Korea, but that wasn't entirely surprising. Jong Tae Se went 0 for 3 in goals per game, but he still showed off some solid skills. He was indeed the Asian Wayne Rooney...

Chile looked really good against Spain until the wheels fell off and Fernando Torres' dive sent off Marco Estrada. They were controlling the possession and creating a lot of fantastic chances. The first goal was an absurd piece of art with Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo wandering into the wasteland to try and snuff out a Fernando Torres wing run only to knock the ball into the path of Spanish hit man David Villa who bombed it 60 yards into an open net all the while backpedaling to admire what might be one of the easiest and most beautiful goals of his career.

I have to be honest and admit I caught all of three seconds of the Switzerland v. Honduras game as I felt there would be very little action or drama resulting from the match. It turned out to be even less of a quality game as neither team could muster enough offense to take the game. Switzerland obviously has a pretty good system in place for defense. Four years from now they better have a much stronger offense to put on display. I think the Costa Rican Federation must be angry because they probably would have contributed far more to this tournament than Honduras did.

Here we go, the round of 16, the time to prove that all the training, luck, and effort mean something.

Two games tonight with Uruguay and South Korea facing off early and then the big one for the USA as they take on Ghana in a rematch from the 2006 World Cup.

Uruguay v. South Korea.

Probably the most important stat I can parrot for the run up to this game is the fact that Uruguay didn't allow a single goal during the group phase. They had excellent ball control and stayed mostly on the offense. They had some tight moments against Mexico, but were still fairly comfortable in winning the group. Diego Forlan has had a great World Cup so far, and looks to be the main supplier of scoring chances through his own shots and his distribution to Luis Suarez.

South Korea has the unfortunate stat of having allowed more goals in the group stage than they scored. Of course, when you are playing an Argentine side as good as it is, you can be excused a portion. Still, Korea feature an organized attack which has no trouble taking advantage of any mistakes left in their path. That I think, is the key to the game. Korea will have to be lightning quick to capitalize on the holes Uruguay may leave as the press the attack. Korea might have a difficult time handling Uruguay's possession skills.

I won't posit any possible scores because you throw in an added 30 minutes of golden goal time in the case of tie and then the penalty kick showdown if nothing is settled in overtime. Once you go to penalty kicks it becomes this massive game of psychology where suddenly your individual talents are under the microscope. So many of the World's best players have failed in this arena.

USA v. Ghana

I feel better about this game than I did the Algeria game, but of course that means nothing. I think the USA should and will win this game as both of Ghana's group stage goals came from penalty kicks and they had some real trouble forcing themselves through the midfield. The US has shown no lack of resilience and capacity to find goals chances. The finishing needs some work, because they have had more than enough opportunities that went begging due to failed execution. They should have won the Algeria game by a fair amount. Of course Ghana are not pushovers and any team that makes it this far is not expected to be. They will have the majority of the crowd support being the only African side left in the tournament. Asamoah Gyan is a great player and I expect him to make life very difficult for whoever inherits the job of defending him.

The US defense has to establish dominance early. The offense must be patient and not allow anticipation of shots to ruin certain goals. I think they are playing with so much confidence right now that they know they are going to win. The whole team trusts in the coach and they trust in the man next to them. I think the US wins this one in the full 90 minutes. That being said, I will be watching from the fetal position.

Go go USA.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

So, I'm an emotional guy. Anyone who knows me or has spent a decent amount of time around me knows this. I get a little choked up singing the Star-Spangled Banner. It should come as no surprise then that I have formed an emotional bond to this US team. I haven't cried after the victories as some people have. I have felt the pull and the patriotism, but I haven't broken down. Maybe it was being so far from home and far from so much national reaction, but the tears just didn't come. Until I saw this...

That about did it for me. The sense of community and spirit is the thing that drives it home the most. Obviously it is only a game, but as people keep saying, this team plays with the American spirit. They play for each other and never let adversity detour them. I could write for hours about patriotism in the face of politics. I find it sufficient enough to say how proud I am to be American, and how being away from home constantly reinforces my love for my country and all the positive things that our country stands for.

Match Day 15- The Rumble in the Jungle, The Bongo in the Congo, The Shakedown in Capetown.

I give you Portugal v. Brazil. All hyperbole aside, this should be fun. Ivory Coast need a miracle to advance and if anyone can give them that kind of help it certainly is Brazil.

Group G:

1. Brazil 6 points+3 GD
2. Portugal 4 points +7 GD
3. Ivory Coast 1 point -2 GD
4. North Korea 0 points -8 GD

Brazil and Portugal can draw and advance, but both will want to win to ease their path to the quarter-finals. Ivory Coast need a 9 goal swing if they are to have any hope of advance after Portugal's absolute thrashing of North Korea. While possible, the likelihood of that happening are about as great as the entire Portuguese team coming down with the runs. That being said, Ivory Coast will attempt to make Portugal's beating of North Korea look like a pillow fight. North Korea may bunker back down after what can only be described as a major error in tactical application.

Best Guesses:

Brazil 3-2 Portugal.
This should be a fun back and forth contest with Portugal trying to rest control of the group while leaving defense as a slight afterthought. This will be the first real test for Brazil especially when you consider Kaka is out for this game on a red card suspension.

Ivory Coast 3-1 North Korea.
I don't think North Korea will let the same thing happen twice in a row, but Ivory Coast won't get the same kind of production we saw from Portugal. I also think that North Korea might pull out at least a goal so they go back home with some pride intact.

Brazil and Portugal move on with Portugal likely awaiting Spain in another heavyweight showdown.

Group H:

1. Chile 6 points +2 GD
2. Spain 3 points +1 GD
3. Switzerland 3 points 0 GD
4. Honduras 0 Points -3 GD

This is the fun group for me tonight with a tons of scenarios. Chile and Spain should be a blast with both teams trying to blow each other out of the water. Chile really only need a draw, but Spain need to win to guarantee anything. Strangely enough, Honduras is still not out of this despite having an absurdly low number of shots on goal. Even stranger, Chile could get eliminated if Switzerland turn the Honduran back line into a ski slope. Switzerland needs to break Honduras over it's knee if they want to outpace Chile or Spain. Okay, here we go...

Chile to advance:
1. Win against Spain
2. Draw against Spain.
3. Loss to Spain without Switzerland recouping goal differential in possible win.

Spain to advance:
1. Win against Chile and overcome goal differential to take group.
2. Win against Chile and maintain a goal differential over Switzerland.
3. Draw against Chile with Honduran win over Switzerland.
4. Draw against Chile with Switzerland drawing Honduras and not recouping goal differential.
5. Loss to Chile with Honduras beating Switzerland and not overcoming goal differential.

Switzerland to advance:
1. Win against Honduras, overcome goal differential of Spain or Chile with Spain win.
2. Win against Honduras with Spain loss or draw.
3. Draw with Honduras with Spain loss.
4. Loss to Honduras with Spain loss compensating goal differential, and Honduras not overcoming goal differential.

Honduras to advance:
1. Win against Switzerland, with Spain loss and overcoming goal differential.

Wow, that was exhausting just to type.

Best guesses:

Spain 2-1 Chile.
Spain looked good in their last game and Chile doesn't play a great defense, so I think Spain pulls out the win.

Switzerland 1-0 Honduras.
Switzerland wins but doesn't have the offense to break the balance between Chile or Spain.

A couple of thoughts from last night's (this morning) late games. I really need to trust what my eyes see instead of going with generally accepted philosophy. I could have and should have told you Japan was going to take Denmark out. Japan have played so well. The warm-up games were a bit of an aberration and didn't indicate what this team was capable of. In addition, Keisuke Honda is the real deal. This kid looks to be the next big thing coming out of Asia. I'm still kind of flabbergasted by his amazing free kick that he knuckled in like 40 yards. The ball moved at an insane speed and had virtually no spin, so it knuckled back to the left totally catching the Danish keeper off guard. The third goal was entirely his making as he slit the Danish back line like paper and then dished it off for the goal. Denmark have been sporadic at best. Their size meant absolutely nothing because the Japanese defense swarmed them once they got into their area.

Tomorrow, all safety nets get yanked. No more point combinations to rely on. You don't win, you go home.No goals at the end of 90 minutes means golden goal sudden death. After that, if nothing is decided, we go to the dreaded penalty shootout. The downfall of many an excellent team has come at the cost of poorly executed shooting.

Let's go USA.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Rapid fire reaction!

Slovakia 3-2 Italy

Wow. I thought Slovakia had a chance, but I didn't expect them to thrash Italy for 90 minutes only to have it turn into a roller coaster for the last six. I also forgot that Italy was playing with their number two keeper in the net which would have changed how I looked at it slightly. I probably would have pulled it back to a draw or given it to Slovakia outright. So another European side goes down in flames. Italians will destroy this team in the papers. The entire Serie A season will be overshadowed by what has to be viewed as a colossal failure. Italy and France, the two teams who played for the championship in 2006 are out. Mull that one over if you will.

I watched the New Zealand v. Paraguay match which was notable for nothing in particular. New Zealand just never had enough possession time to build any kind of strong opportunity. Paraguay held onto the ball, but never did very much with it. Paraguay advances, but new Zealand still get to go home satisfied with a wonderful performance knowing that they have stoked a fire for their sport back in the home country that should burn for quite some time. This group turned out to be one of the most fun in the tournament despite pre-World Cup speculation that Italy advancing was a foregone conclusion.

Speaking of crazy things, I just watched John Ishner finish off Nicholas Mahut in the longest match in tennis history finishing the 5th set 70 games to 68. They played over three days and a total match time of over 11 hours. Imagine that... In the time it would take some people to run three or more marathons, these guys battled back and forth in a match that sapped every bit of energy. That is a feat that will never be equaled again. Get that Ishner kid a beer and a Costco size bottle of Ibuprofen. Evidently he now has to play his second round match in a few hours...

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 14- I love my wife and won't be watching until she falls asleep day!

Today is our four year wedding anniversary so I'll be keeping comments short as the warden is watching me. Ha! See how I made an outdated joke about marriage as a prison? HA!

Seriously, I love my cell mate, I mean wife...HA!

We just had a lovely dinner at this new restaurant called Madison which is run by some people who used to work at M on the bund, one of the nicer restaurants in Shanghai. Great interior that really takes you out of the city for awhile. It exuded a warmth and comfort. The food was excellent and it was just a great evening all together. We still can't believe we have been married for four years. I have had the best times of my life with this woman.

Tonight's matches:

Group F

Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand tussle for control in what is still a wide open group.

Best guesses:

Paraguay 2-0 New Zealand
Believe me, I would love, love, love for New Zealand to pull this out and advance. I will be cheering my head off for them. So I hope I am wrong. Paraguay has been one of the most consistent teams of the tournament with very few holes to exploit. I expect them to seal first place in the group. Oddly enough, the "All-Whites" will look a lot more like their Rugby counterparts by wearing all black tonight. Please expect endless Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords references if they make it.

Italy 1-0 Slovakia
Italy will get it's s#!% together? Slovakia probably won't win this but they certainly have a chance. If they keep their heads and don't let Italy mind-game them out of the match, they could still pull a win here. Ultimately, I think Marcelo Lippi will have sorted out any tactical issues with the team.

So final results may end up:

1. Paraguay 7 points
2. Italy 5 points
3. New Zealand 2 points
4. Slovakia 1 point

Group E

Cameroon who are already out play Netherlands who have already advanced. No real drama to be had. Denmark has to win versus Japan, but on the other side of that Japan can draw and get through. Japan will be playing for 1st place hoping to achieve the 3 goal swing they would need on the off chance Cameroon beat Netherlands.

Best guesses:

Netherlands 1-0 Cameroon.
Cameroon is playing for pride alone, but it won't be enough to break down the Dutch. The Dutch will probably start a lot of the substitutes until things get hot at which point they will bring on the first teamers to put out any fires. The Dutch may open up their game a bit which could make for some entertaining moments. I would think that now is the right time to play the youngest on the squad to give them the feel of what the big stage is truly like. Cameroon could give themselves a head start on the next African Nations Cup and qualifying for the next World Cup.

Japan 1-1 Denmark.

I just finished typing the line above and I already feel like it is wrong. Japan is very organized and should frustrate the Danish attack. At the same time, I don't see them keeping the promising yet inconsistent Danes out of the net. Nicklas Bendtner is a tough challenge for the Japanese back line with his skill and size. Okay, I'm starting to think Denmark wins tonight. Hmmmm, I'll hold fast on my guess, but don't be surprised if Denmark break it open.

Final results?

1. Netherlands 9 points
2. Japan 4 points + goal differential
3. Denmark 4 points
4. Cameroon 0 points

Tomorrow night is the heavyweight showdown between Brazil and Portugal for top of the group honors. Both are essentially through, but I think Portugal wants to make a statement tomorrow night. We also get what could be a thrilling and fast-paced game between Chile and Spain. Lots of scenarios are in play tomorrow night, so I'll be up and running with lots of breakdowns.