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.