Tag Archives: Australia

Wednesday Thoughts + the 4 Stages of Belgium

I’ll try to write up something about Spain’s elimination, and I’ll also do something about CONCACAF in this World Cup, but for now I’ll just give a little sampler of what’s on my mind (and then something about Belgium after):

-This blogging experience, which is one of many attempts I’ve made at being a blogger (I’ll probably share some of my old posts on a slow day), could be going much worse. Considering the fact that I’m terribly lazy and experience something that makes writer’s block  like eating a cookie, this has been somewhat successful.

-Apparently I’ve had views from Canada, Ireland, Germany, plus 27 from the US. While 20 of that 27 is probably me, it’s still nice to see that this blog is getting some views, even by accident. I want to add that I wholeheartedly appreciate all of you for wasting spending time reading me talk about adults kicking stuff.

-Alex Song? What is wrong with you? You shouldn’t hit people, but especially when they don’t have the ball. Not only do you do that, but you’re doing it in what is basically an elimination game at the World Cup!

-Luka Modrić, I think, might have made a mistake by cutting his hair. He isn’t playing poorly, but if I was about to play in a World Cup and I’ve been playing well at club level, I wouldn’t change a thing.

-Do you know who refereed the Spain-Chile game? MLS’s Mark Geiger! I’ve seen this guy referee a game in person, and now he’s at the biggest stage. In this case, he was proceeding over the former king’s execution like Maximillian Robespierre.

-Oh, and I’m not saying that Mark Geiger is an insane revolutionary. He’s a pretty good referee. Maybe it was a bad analogy, but any opportunity to make a French history reference is one that I can’t help but capitalizing on.

-Tim Cahill, one of Australia’s greatest players, scored his second goal this World Cup in as many games. As he also picked up his second yellow card he will be suspended for the game vs. Spain, Australia’s last due to their mathematical elimination. The 34-year-old has thus most likely ended his World Cup career, where he’s scored 5 goals in 8 games. That record is made even more astonishing considering the fact that in his three World Cups Australia has only made it out of the group stage once, when Guus Hiddink was coach back in 2006.

-Oh, and do you know where Tim Cahill plays? For the New York Red Bulls, in MLS!

-I’ll say one thing about Spain’s elimination: watching Xavi on the sidelines being sad makes me sad. I’m glad that they didn’t also show Juan Mata being sad. That would’ve been too much to bear.

-I’ve been thinking a good bit about my preview article for US-Portugal. I’ll lock myself in the closet making it on Friday, and I’ll finish it off Saturday night Eastern US time. Hopefully. It will be like my epic USA-Ghana preview, only better and with more CR7.

-And before I do that, I’ll drop a CONCACAF-based view at the World Cup, and I’ll also drop something on Spain’s elimination, if I can find the time. But I’m not making any promises on the latter.

-In lieu of a real England-Uruguay preview, I’ll say this: Wayne Rooney is England’s best player. He hasn’t showed it in the World Cup, but that doesn’t change the facts. He did poorly vs. Italy mainly because he was on the wing, which isn’t his best position. Oh, and he did have a good club season, despite the fact that his team was poor, so don’t come at me with any of that.

-I’d like to say something about Germany: in the last game they had Bastian Schweinsteiger on the bench, Phillip Lahm at central midfield, and both of the full-backs were converted center-backs. Couldn’t they move Lahm to left-back, and then put Schweini in the team? I know that Lahm is a good D-mid, and that’s where he’s been playing at club level, but he’s also a good full-back, and Schweinsteiger is too good to leave off the team, I think. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

[EDIT: I have since learned that Schweinsteiger had injury concerns. But I still insist that when the entire team is healthy it’s better to put Lahm at full-back. They’re a great team either way, though.]

-I’ll get to the Belgium thing, but first I want to reveal the USMNT’s secret to making it out of the group: we have a Boateng brother, too: Zack-King Boateng. He’ll make his debut vs. Portugal. Game. Set. Match. Boateng.

(Note: is there a name more American than “Zack?”)

The 4 Stages of Belgium

You know, I could write all day and all night about Belgium. About their fascinating country, their fascinating national team, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, “Big Rom” Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Fellaini’s Hair, Witsel’s Hair, and all that stuff, but for now I’ll just write about the thought process that has gone around about the public opinion of this team:

1. Discovery: “Wait, he’s from Belgium, too? Man, there are a lot of good Belgians.”

You notice that several prominent players are from Belgium. Not anything special yet; I mean, the Ivory Coast have lots of good players and they’ve been poor despite those players.

2. Realization: “This Belgium team is a dark horse to win it all!”

Everyone noticed that they had a lot of quality players, and that they theoretically make a good team. Everyone makes the discovery that, hey, this team can make some noise in Brazil! And they feel so good about it.

3. Hipsterism: “Belgium are as good as that underground band you’ve never heard of.”

Are Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Argentina too mainstream for you? Then pick Belgium. They’re cool. I mean, they’ve got Kompany, Hazard, and Courtois; plus, if you pick them over those four then you’re standing apart from the crowd. Is anything cooler than that combination? Belgium became trendy.

4. Annoyingness: “If you call them dark horses one more time I’m not responsible for what I do!”

Belgium have become so trendy that they’re now mainstream. Many people have scoffed at people calling Belgium “dark horses,” mainly because they’re 5th favorites to win the World Cup. By the way, if you’re telling me that Belgium have a better chance at winning the World Cup than Italy, I’m very sorry. See, World Cup success doesn’t come that easy.

Seriously, though, this is someone’s Belgium preview:

“DON’T CALL THEM DARK HORSES!!!!”

“But, I wasn’t going to ca–”

“JUST DON’T, OKAY!?!?”

“I wasn’t thinking of–”

“They are NOT dark horses!!!”

“Okay, but can’t we–”

“Because lots of people have said ‘Belgium are dark horses’ AND IT ISN’T TRUE!!!”

“Yes, but let’s talk about Hazard or–”

“Do you think they’re dark horses?!?”

“No, but–”

“NOBODY CALL THEM DARK HORSES!!!”

“We have a preview to do.”

“Nope, we’re out of time.”

 

That’s it. Remember, stay tuned to Daniel’s Soccer Emporium (I’m Daniel, by the way), your home for adults kicking stuff.

World Cup Report: Day 1: Much to Talk About

The first day of the World Cup is in the books. And it was a doozy. Table of contents:

-Super-brief recap of Brazil-Croatia.

-A Few Takeaways.

-Mexico-Cameroon preview.

-Group B preview.

-Spain-Netherlands preview.

-Chile-Australia preview.

-Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings.

Yeah, whatever. Let’s go:

In Case You Missed It

-Croatia was better in the first 10 minutes.

-Croatia scored, Marcelo own goal.

-Neymar scored, to tie it up.

-Halftime.

-Penalty on Fred. Yeah, I’ll talk about it a lot. Bad call.

-Neymar puts it home. 2-1.

-Oscar gets the insurance late on. 3-1.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia: A Few Takeaways

This is the meat of the World Cup Report sandwich. (I save the PK talk for last.)

Croatia played well

This is Brazil that they just played against! Brazil! The team that has entered the tournament as favorites. This Croatia team were better in the first 10 minutes, they scored, and then they defended well for most of the game. This team will play Cameroon and then Mexico, and they’ll have Mario Mandzukic, their best striker, who was suspended from this game.

Brazil didn’t play well

They looked sloppy against a team they should’ve beaten. They only scored one goal in regulation time from the run of play (which is an insanely loaded stat, but okay).

The first 10 minutes was bad. The next 80 minutes was a mix of mediocre and good.

Was Croatia’s goalkeeper terrible?

Kind of. Everyone is used to seeing Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois and Iker Casillas make all these crazy saves, but Pletikosa, Croatia’s 35-year-old goalkeeper, isn’t anything near World Class. He plays for an average Russian team. In no way is he World Class.

Did he mess up? Yeah, sure. Goalkeepers mess up all the time, especially against Brazil in Brazil in the first game of the World Cup. He did good stuff, too.

And you can’t blame him on the penalty. He did everything right except actually gripping the ball. Most goalkeepers would not have gotten to that.

The penalty kick

It was a terrible call. I’m 75% sure that Fred dived. The other 25% says that he clumsily fell down. I know that it wasn’t a PK.

I’ll serve up a full-length piece on that call, and the entire World Cup, for tomorrow.

Mexico-Cameroon preview

-Mexico will have Chicharito on the bench, with Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta starting up top.

-Cameroon will have Old Man Eto’o, who is by far their best player. Any chance they have to make it out of the group is based on how Eto’o can play.

-I’m very interested in seeing how Mexico can do. They were terrible last year, but under Miguel Herrera they’ve done well. Generally Mexico shows up for the big tournaments. Will they show up this year? They have a chance to set the tone against the weakest team in the group.

-Prediction: 2-1. Eto’o is good, Marquez is slow, Mexico will get a lot of chances, waste them, Chicharito will come on off the bench and help the team score twice.

Group B: The Group of Death: Revenge Edition

There are three groups of death in this tournament. Group D is notable due to three former champions (oh, and it could get Englandy!), Group G is notable due to no real weak teams, while Group B is notable because two of the teams in the group, who play each other tomorrow, faced off in last year’s final.

Without further ado, the teams:

Spain

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: WINNER! 2010.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 3 out of 3: Serious Title-Contenders!

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque (completely expressionless).

Key Players:

-Andres Iniesta (#6, pos: MF, age: 30, club: Barcelona)

He scored the winning goal in the last World Cup. A lot of people think he’s regressed, and maybe that’s partially true, but he’s still really, really good.

-Diego Costa (#19, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Atletico Madrid)

The soon-to-be Chelsea player was born in Brazil, but he plays for Spain. The Brazilian crowd will not be too happy with him, and I have my doubts that the Spanish team will be all too happy that he’s there. In addition to being Brazilian, and in addition to being an injury doubt, his style of play seems very anti-Spain. Not tiki-taka, but more “I will shove you and then kick you and if you try to hit me back I will go down really easily.”

This could be Spain’s ticket to the final, or Spain’s ticket to an early exit.

-Cesc Fábregas (#10, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Barcelona)

Fábregas will join Costa at Chelsea. He’ll look good in blue, eh? Fábregas, Hazard, and Oscar? On one team? This would be really exciting if I didn’t think that Costa would be a flop.

And yeah, I put Cesc into here just so that I could talk about Chelsea. Apologies.

Outlook:

This Spain team won last year, but can they win again this year? It’s arguably the last tournament within their “championship window,” considering that many of their key players are getting older. They have good talent coming up in the ranks, but they may never again have a team that can win 3 straight major championships. Can they extend that streak in Brazil?

Netherlands

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: Runner-up. Three times (ouch).

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Louis van Gaal.

Key Players:

-Robin van Persie (#9, pos: FW, age: 30, club: Manchester United)

The former Arsenal star has had some minor injury problems (because he’s RvP and that’s how he rolls) but he looks likely to lead this Dutch team. Which RvP will we see? The one who won the 2012-13 Golden Boot in the EPL? Or the one who was another dull part of the dull 2013-14 Manchester United season?

-Louis van Gaal (manager, age: 62, club: Manchester United)

Yeah, I totally could’ve talked about Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich star winger, or Wesley Sneijder, who had a great World Cup in South Africa, and I certainly could’ve done 3 “key players.” But instead, I talk about Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal (Wikipedia says it’s his real name), who will take charge of Manchester United after the World Cup. The Dutch will be interesting to watch if only for that.

Outlook:

It’s a hard group, everyone.

It could get Netherlandsy.

Chile

Confederation: CONMEBOL (South America)

Best Result: Third, 1962.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Key Players:

-Alexis Sanchez (#7, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Barcelona)

The young Barcelona winger/striker, as Ray Hudson says “ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!!!” will certainly be the key for Chile’s attack. He’s shown the ability to score goals, but for Chile to have a shot at a great World Cup, he’ll need to be elite.

-Arturo Vidal (#8, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Juventus)

One of the premier box-to-box midfielders in the game today, Vidal is a major injury concern. Will he play? Probably, but he’s very likely to sit out the first game.

Outlook:

This Chile team is considered dark horses by everyone. They have a very hard group, but they can certainly do it in their home continent. How far can they go? I’m not sure.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

Australia

Confederation: AFC (Asia)

Best Result: Round of 16, in 2006.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 0 out of 3: Snowball’s Chance in Qatar.

Coach: Ange Postecoglou (Greek origin).

Key Players:

-Tim Cahill (#4, pos: MF/FW, age: 34, club: New York Red Bulls)

The MLS star is in most likely his last World Cup (his third, and only the third World Cup that the Socceroos have qualified for in his lifetime) can play up front or in midfield, and he can score goals; he’s Australia’s all-time leader in scoring. Can the former Millwall and Everton man make any noise in Brazil, in a very hard group?

Outlook:

If they do well, they can get a point. Maybe multiple points, but that would be very hard considering that the second team of their opponents would be highly favored against them. Spain’s third team would be favored against Australia.

Prediction

Chance to make it out of the group (rounded to 5s):

Spain 80%

Chile 60%

Netherlands 55%

Australia 5%

Both Chile and the Netherlands are certainly quality teams. I think Spain not making the round of 16 is more probable than Australia advancing.

Schedule:

13th: Spain-Netherlands

13th: Chile-Australia

18th: Australia-Netherlands

18th: Spain-Chile

23rd: Australia-Spain

23rd: Netherlands-Chile

This will probably come down to the final game.

Spain-Netherlands Preview

-Rematch of the 2010 World Cup Final!

-Will Diego Costa play?

-Will the Dutch kick the Spanish again?

-Prediction: 2-1 for Spain. Diego Costa dives, and his Chelsea teammate Fábregas puts it away. Instant villains to the Brazilians.

Chile-Australia Preview

-How will Chile adjust to not having Arturo Vidal?

-How well can Australia defend, and can they get anything on the counter?

-Prediction: 2-0 for Chile. ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!! with a brace.

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Go back to Day 0 if you want to get all of my blurbs. I’m just blurbing the teams that I’m changing, right here, with a couple exceptions. And one of my key rules (no moving up teams that lose) is explicitly broken. Remember, I have no idea what I’m talking about:

1. Brazil (0)

Sure, they only barely won, but they won nonetheless. They’ll need to improve if they want to win the tournament, but 3 points isn’t enough to do anything more than make them a softer #1.

2. Spain

If they convincingly beat the Dutch, I’m moving them to #1. Just a little extra motivation.

3. Germany

4. Argentina

5. Italy

6. Uruguay

7. Belgium

8. Portugal

9. Chile

10. Netherlands

11. Colombia

12. Bosnia-H

13. Croatia (+3)

They looked good against arguably the best team in the world. They have Cameroon next, followed by a Mexico team that would’ve just played Brazil at that point. And they get Mandzukic back. This team seems likely to make the Round of 16.

14. England

I know, it worked so well to have England at #13. Oh, well. They’re still #13 in spirit.

15. France

16. Ghana

17. USA

18. Russia

19. Switzerland

20. Mexico

21. Ivory Coast

22. Nigeria

23. Ecuador

24. Greece

25. Korea

26. Japan

27. Cameroon

28. Costa Rica

29. Honduras

30. Australia

31. Iran

32. Algeria

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for my detailed report on that penalty and the 2014 World Cup itself, and soccer itself, and, well, life itself, and then stay tuned for the Day 2 report Friday night. All right here on Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.