13 June 2010

World Cup, Day 2

So the big news from yesterday, of course, is that I watched about 15 minutes of the first half of Nigeria vs. Argentina. (I also heard something about the U.S. tying some pretty well-known team, but obviously my news trumps this.) This week I'm cat-sitting the magnificent Zeus and the svelte (or the now at least somewhat less soccer-ball-shaped) Miss Lucy, and their human, the lovely K, has satellite TV.

I think this may be my first visual experience of a World Cup match ever.  I was very impressed by Maradona's suit.  And he seems to have adopted his style of running up and down the boundary of the field from NBA basketball coaches (who also often have nice suits).

Let's see, what else.  Oh yes, the Argentine goalkeeper was really cute and has hair most women would die for.

And I can actually begin to see why people find it fascinating to watch the matches (no, really).

Oh wait, who won? (I have to look this up.....)

Argentina won, 1-0.

This must account for Maradona's expression here (via Michael Lorenz).

I missed that part.

For those of you who (like me), are clueless about which countries are playing, and which country is in which division, the  "World Cup Preview" by Jeff Blum at n+1 will be helpful. Some quotes to give you the flavor:

On the one hand I feel like I should root against Mexico because they are our main soccer rival and every time the US plays in Mexico the Mexican fans throw stuff at the American players. On the other hand, they mainly throw stuff at Landon Donovan, who once peed on a Mexican field.
Argentina has the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, and lots of other talent. They also have a coach, the legendary Diego Maradona, who is bat-shit crazy. Maradona recently had his stomach stapled because after he quit using coke he got super-fat. When Argentina qualified for the World Cup, he held perhaps the greatest press conference in the history of sport, during which he repeatedly told the Argentine press to (in my very rough translation), “Suck it and keep on sucking it” (Que la chupen y sigan chupando). The next day he apologized to all the women in the world who heard him say these things, especially his mother, but pointedly not to the journalists he had repeatedly insulted. He recently had two (2) luxury bidets installed in his hotel room.
The best of the second-rate European teams. They keep mentioning how they are proud that this is their first World Cup as independent Serbia, as they used to compete as Yugoslavia and then later as Serbia and Montenegro. Their fans are really scary and hardcore and some of their players are too,  especially Nemanja Vidic, who looks and acts like a Soviet bad guy in an ’80s Bond film.
For a Scandinavian team, the Danes are exciting to watch.
Japan is not very good at soccer, but it has the world’s highest average life expectancy.
Brazil games are the ideal moment to expound upon the role of the attacking fullback in the modern game, and the revolution in tactics this has brought about. Fullback used to be where you stuck players not good enough to play anywhere else, so no good players developed into fullbacks. Then coaches figured out that if you had a quick, skillful fullback he could attack as well as fulfill his defensive duties. Now all good teams rely on fullbacks who can overlap and join the attack to great effect, and often play without the traditional wide midfield players.
It is a little known fact (it seldom came up in academic job interviews) that football was my main sport in junior high and high school. In fact I lettered in it twice (which is now difficult to prove, because some jerk later stole my letter jacket).

Except, of course, we had to call it "soccer," because "football" had been co-opted by the dim beefy guys who played American football (and that team was coached by the headmaster, so that gave them additional incentive to play it).

Of course, the cool kids—the intellectual non-conformists whose hair lapped over their ears—all played soccer. Although for some reason, the girls didn't seem fully to realize how much cooler we were.

And I was, for most of my brief career, a defender (fullback). And in those distant days, we played 5 3 2, instead of something sensible like 4 2 4, so I had really a lot to do.

But in one of the seasons that I lettered, I was the only defender that season to score a goal. So I was ahead of the curve (so to speak).

(And we'll overlook the fact that at the time I was subbing as a midfielder, and I was so astonished to see the open goal in front of me, that I nearly forgot to kick the ball into it.)
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