Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Euro 2012 - What We Know, Who Will Win

Ok, ok, I rolled the dice on picking Holland as a semi-finalist.  And yes, I thought either Russia or Croatia would be some nice dark horses.  But alas, I was wrong.  Where am I still alive with my picks?  Germany, Italy and Spain, as semifinalists, albeit they now match up differently.  So let's reconfigure and determine what happens next.  Below are my predictions for the rest of the Euro 2012.

Quarterfinals

Portugal vs Czech Republic
Thursday June 21th - I have this one going to penalty kicks.  And with Petr Cech manning with goal, I see the Czech Republic taking down Ronaldo and his crew.  There needs to be at least one Cinderella in the semifinals and Czech Republic is it.

Germany vs Greece
Friday June 22th - Germany will continue to control and win this match 3-1.  Greece has made it interesting by surviving Group A and knocking out the Russians, but thier run ends here.  Germany won the "Group of Death" with 3 wins and left little doubt of their dominance.

Spain vs France
Saturday June 23rd - Now, the drama begins.  This is the first if two intriguing matches for the quarterfinal weekend.  Spain seemed to toy and experiment with its infamous "Group of Debt" (included Ireland & Italy).  Fortunately, they handled the group well, but created some doubt of their previous dominance.  Del Bosque is convinced to overload the midfield while leaving his forwards on the bench.  Their 90-minute match of keep away has worked, but was suspect against Italy and Croatia.  Playing a slightly more efficient team (Germany) may spell curtains for this brilliant run.

France rose from its 2010 World Cup ashes, but only to fall back into them.  Their last match (2-0 loss to Sweden) showed why they leave us scratching our heads and second-guessing their legitimacy.  We could go on about them, but why?  It's France.  Spain wins this match with their usual hot potato prowess, 1-0.  The goal will be scored around the 80th minute.

England vs Italy
Sunday June 24th - This has the makings of a hunker-down, nail-biting, don't-be-the-first-to-blink classic.  Or, it may be England with 10 men camped in the box hoping for a miracle goal.  Both teams have played fairly consistent and still have something to prove.  Although I prefer to see England advance, Italy has too many intangibles.  If their back line and Buffon play as they have, then Italy advances.  If Rooney has a break out match, then England has a shot.  Otherwise, Italy wins 1-0.  Subplot - who loses their cool first, Rooney or Balotelli?  Their tempers may determine who wins, too.

Semifinals

Czech Republic vs Spain
Wednesday June 27th - The advantages the Czechs have are grittiness, two more days of rest than Spain, and Petr Cech.  But, that is where it ends.  Spain shows why it is the defending European and World Cup champion and wins 2-0.

Italy vs Germany
Thursday June 28th - The Germans will counter the Italian passion with effectiveness.  But the Italians make a run at it and keep the Germans in check.  But, Germany wins 2-1.

Final

Spain vs Germany
Sunday July 1st - In typical fashion, this will be a low-scoring, conservatively played affair.  One goal should win it, but both teams will score in regulation.  And as it appears, extra time comes closing in with Casillas licking his chops to win a cup via penalty kicks, yet he will miss the clincher at the 115th minute.  Germany wins 2-1.

Side Notes
Spain did not coast through their group.  Typically, champions have some humbling prior to the elimination matches.  Good for Spain, not for Germany. . . .  Teams coming from Groups of Death (and maybe the Group of Debt) do not fair well after group play.  So, do not be surprised if England, France, Greece and Czech Republic pull off some miracle wins. . . .  The years when Italy has had a match-fixing scandals, they win hardware.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Euro 2012 - Predictions

Everyone is saying how this will be the best Euro championship in its history.  I think there may be some great matches, but typical football will the norm and there will be plenty of 1-0 matches.  Will Spain repeat?  No. Will Poland or Ukraine advance from group play?  No.  Sadly, this is the world's greatest tournament since there are no lower tier teams are included and it does not live up to the hype.  Will there be a miracle run like Greece in 2004?  Can Ireland muster a win? Will France flame out, or rise from its 2010 World Cup ashes?  There are many questions and all will be answered soon as the matches begin today!  The question many are pondering is who will win Euro 2012?  My forecast has Holland vs Italy and Spain versus Germany in the semifinals and Germany beating Italy in the final.  If I were to put money down on this, it would be on Germany.  But, hedge your wager with some dark horses.  My long shot picks are Russia and Croatia.  I picked Russia due to their nasty history with Poland and Ukraine and unwelcome reception, which may fuel them to thumb their noses and will victories where they are unexpected.  Croatia is a solid team.  If they can draw with Italy and Spain and win against Ireland in group play, they could become this tourney's Cinderella.

Best of luck to all the nations and hope for a peaceful, beautiful tournament.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Qatar Ticket Farce


Below is Soccernet's link on an article not getting much play, but it should. I know I am stating the obvious, but FIFA has made a mistake. Check out the article. It will make you giggle to hear Qatari PR at work.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/873723/questions-remain-after-asian-cup-final-ticket-farce-in-qatar?cc=5901

My hope is that FIFA learns from this and votes again for the 2022 World Cup. The problem is that the President of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, who is from Qatar, will most likely be the Sepp Blatter successor. So, removing the World Cup from Qatar may be impossible.

Is it me, or does the 2022 World Cup graphic look like a ball going down a toilet swirl? Please wash your hands before returning to work, FIFA.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Asian Cup Recap and the State of the Union

What Goes Up, Must Implode . . . Uzbekistan was a smidge close to winning the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, but were routed 6-0 to Australia in a semi-final. Nice game for the Aussies, but the soccer gods do not like trounces. In the final, Japan beat Australia 1-0 to win the Asian Cup final. Besides, isn’t Australia its own continent? Do they really need to be in the Asian conference? Long live Oceania!

Attendance Numbers from the 2011 Asian Cup . . . The total available tickets to sell were 875,000; the total tickets sold = 405,361. That means about 46% tickets were sold. Not be “glass is half empty,” but a stadium that was 54% empty is pathetic. Look a lot Pizza Hut Park in August.

Asian Cup Final Controversy . . . Some 3,000-5,000 people traveled to Qatar with match tickets in hand to see the Australia-Japan final, but were turned away at the gates. The stadium was locked to protect the royalty. Also, a fireworks platform blocked one of the gates. So, 37,174 attended this match in a 50,000 seat stadium and they do not have any more room or another gate? Before kick-off, the organizers gave tickets to the workers to fill the seats, but paying supporters were informed that they were late (by 5 minutes). If there were an emergency at the stadium, this could have been a catastrophe. Fortunately, the Middle East is well-organized and there is nothing to fear. If a suicide bomber doesn’t get you, then desert will. To read more of this well-planned and comical event, go to: http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/news/_/id/6073683/asian-cup-ticket-holders-denied-entry-finale

Peace in Egypt? . . . The USMNT has a friendly with Egypt in Cairo on Wednesday February 9th (12:30PM EST). Considering the current state of Egypt, a visit by the USMNT may not be advisable. However, a football match could be the distraction Egypt needs. Or, it could be a leading of the lambs to the slaughter. I hope they reschedule after things have settled down. England, Ireland and Scotland are available on that date and would be a lot less stress on the Euro-based players.

USMNT – Chile Friendly . . . Yes, the US played recently and tied Chile 1-1. It was fairly sloppy, but a few flashes of potential for the young US squad. Thanks to Juan Agudelo drawing a penalty and Teal Bunbury converting it, the US salvaged the draw. These two will be interesting to watch considering how young and fast they are. My attention was on the left side duo of Brek Shea and Zach Loyd. I heard lots of grumblings of their play, but thought they both did well for at least another trial. Shea was in position most of the match and his service was good. Loyd reminded me of Freddie Hejduk at times – a gambler and a ball of barbed wire – tricky, but helpful. The left side for the US has always been an issue and no matter what these two do or anyone else, no one will be happy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 Asian Cup Highlights (so far)

Yes, I am reporting on the Asian Cup hosted by Qatar where I will be for the 2022 World Cup. Why? There will be plenty of tickets available. So far, the highest attended game was the opener with Qatar versus Uzbekistan at 37,143 (Uzbekistan 2 - Qatar 0). The lowest attended was the 2-2 draw between China - Uzbekistan in group play match at an estimated 2,000 (probably less than 2K). The average match attendance for the 2011 Asian Cup has been around 11,000. I hope the 2011 Gold Cup has higher attendance than this. And second thought, MLS attendance does not seem so bad after all. Pack your bags for Qatar! 2022 has plenty of seats.

HOT OFF THE PRESS! 2011 Asian Cup - Uzbekistan beat Jordan 2-1 to advance to the semifinals to take on Australia. It will be Uzbekistan's first semi-final in the Asian Cup. In tomorrow's quarterfinals, Australia plays Iraq and Iran against South Korea. These should actually be good to watch. And with the Arabic countries losing today, I think they will win tomorrow. If they don't, the Cup attendance may dip below 10K since no one wants to watch some infidels play.

GOOD NEWS FOR QATAR - They advanced in the Asian Cup, which should increase their FIFA ranking from 115th in the world to 7th, just ahead of Italy. "Thus, their bid is legitimate," spoketh the Blatter (dressed in toga garb and motioning his thumb down to disqualify England and the US forever).

BAD NEWS FOR QATAR - They had 19,479 in attendance at their own quarterfinal match. What happen to the other 17,953 who came to the opener? I thought they have a stadium that seats 50K? Too many empty seats.

HUH? NEWS FROM QATAR - Qatar's squad has a Brazilian and an Argentinian. How is that possible? 1.5 million live in Qatar and just by chance a Brazilian man and an Argentinian man married Qatarian women? Dreams do come true in Qatar....

Between now and 2022, I will try to take the high road and dish out only positives about the imminent Qatar World Cup. I may slip and badger FIFA's voting and selection policies. And, I may fuss about the lack of scoring by US forwards. But remember - open seating in Qatar ... the man who builds his house on sand, will soon be homeless ... and, US defenders are a scoring threat!

AQUI ESTAN O ALLI ESTAN - With Qatar eliminated, I must pull for Uzbekistan! Something tells me this is their quadrennial! The winner gets a trip to Brazil in 2013 for the Confederations Cup! Sadly, most Asian Cup winners do not qualify for the World Cup in the next year. I have written "Uzbekistan" 7 times. I have nothing more to say.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thierry Henry: Meet the MLS 2010

Today will be the big media introduction in New York of the MLS' biggest signing since David Beckham: French striker Thierry Henry. As far as media events go, it won't hold a candle to the extravagant Los Angeles Galaxy welcome of Beckham. Given the failure of the overall Beckham Experiment, this is a good thing.

The timing of Thierry Henry's arrival to the media cosmos that is New York City would have been alright except for a couple of sports items from the last few days: 1.) The humiliating exit of France from the 2010 World Cup and 2.) The death (and corresponding media frenzy) of Yankees' owner and svengali: George Steinbrenner.


Major League Soccer had the right idea. This Henry signing has been in the works for over two years now. The month-long 2010 World Cup was going to be a temporary boost and would need to be followed very soon after with something to keep those Americans who watched the USA in South Africa at pubs across the country focused on soccer.

Henry's play here stateside will be far more indicative than any 100° MLS All-Star Game friendly against a European power like Inter Milan or Tottenham Hotspurs. If he leads the league in goals by the time the playoffs start, we'll know for certain what most people suspect - that the quality of play league-wide holds no candle against any of the main European leagues.

If he's less successful, it will be a dud locally for New York's Red Bulls - a club with a new Soccer-Specific stadium to attract fans to: Red Bull Arena (named after Bruce Arena?).  But something that the Red Bulls do have going for them: new, pre-economic downfall ballparks CitiField and Yankees Stadium that have out priced a lot of NY-area sports fans in these more dicey economic times. It's not quite the same thing that happened in Seattle with the loss of the NBA Supersonics and the hugely successful arrival of the Seattle Sounders FC. But it is a backlash trend that will further the MLS' popularity 14 years after its inception. After that whole LeBron James ego-fest that we all endured here stateside, soccer might be a nice balm for a lot of disappointed Knicks' fans.

All of this will be forgotten once the Jets and Giants begin their NFL season.

For Thierry Henry, after a difficult World Cup qualifying experience (Hand of Gaul against Ireland, anyone?) and a season on the bench in Barcelona, he will bask in the relative anonymity that he will experience on the road in places like Salt Lake City, Kansas City and Frisco, Texas. Pelé's soccer savior descendants continue their plight in the United States of American Football. Vive le fútbol.