Sun, Jun 30, 2002

: Vacation/Travels

Well, tomorrow morning I head out for several weeks of vacation and traveling. Friday was my last day at the printshop — I’m now officially a full-time magazine publisher! So I’m off to Oregon to relax for a little while. I’ll get to play some golf, visit with my 87-year-old grandfather, read some books, and watch some DVDs. After that I head to New York City for the Macworld Expo where my magazine will be unveiled, and I spend a few extra days exploring the City. Then I’m back home and go to work. I’m nervous but excited. I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but whatever it is won’t be the norm, and change is always interesting. After ten years at the same day job, I’m ready for anything different.

Topic: [/personal]

Link

: World Cup Final: Brazil vs. Germany

While others were predicting a goal-fest, that made no sense to me: I figured it would be 1-0 in favor of either team. First goal wins, in a sense. People criticize Brazil’s defense, but their defense is actually pretty good. Germany might be able to score, but would be happy would a one-goal lead. Brazil’s won their last few by one, as has Germany, so why not in the final where everything is at stake?

The first half was all Germany. They came out aggressively, but couldn’t really find much of a goal to shoot at. Brazil defended, and Germany’s physical play and tight marking meant they rarely got anything going. Although Brazil had the better chances, requiring a few desperate defender saves and saves from goalkeeper-of-the-tournament Oliver Kahn, Brazil only played in flashes, never able to build to a goal the way they like. In the second half, in was more of the same, but with Germany a touch more desperate and Kahn’s saves a bit more frantic. Finally, on a hard shot from Rivaldo that seemed harmless as it went right at Kahn, the wet ball dipped at the last moment and Kahn’s shutout streak went away. He couldn’t hold the ball and fumbled his catch. The ball bounced out of his arms and right to the feet of a charging Ronaldo, the last person on the planet you want with the ball in front of goal if you’re his opponent. He slid the ball into the net without breaking into a sweat, and suddenly Brazil was leading and Ronaldo had done what he’d vowed: score in every match of this World Cup! After that, it was time for Germany to attack ferociously, desperate for the tying goal. But that left them exposed at the back, and it didn’t take Brazil long to capitalize. A half chance for Ronaldo and it was 2-0 Brazil. Incredibly, Ronaldo ties Pele’s 12 World Cup goals (the most for a Brazilian) in the same 14 games. However, Ronaldo’s only 25 years old and potentially has two more World Cups left. He might win the Golden Ball (tournament Most Valuable Player, decided on Tuesday by the world media) but he definitely wins the Golden Boot (most goals in the tournament with seven). Overall, a predictable performance by both teams. Brazil was quieter than expected, more like the troublesome team we saw struggle through qualifying and occasionally hiccup in this tournament (like in their lackluster 2nd match against Turkey). Germany played their predictable boring defensive game, lots of high balls in the attack, and relied on their super-keeper Kahn to keep them in the game. In the end, Brazil won, and that’s great. It’s their record fifth World Cup title (Germany and Italy have three each), and though this particular Brazil team is beatable, they did what they had to do in this tournament, and that’s the bottom line. Good stuff. Final: 2-0 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sat, Jun 29, 2002

: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Kansas City Wizards

Wow, what a game. You really appreciate a win when it comes this hard. San Jose started well, controlling the game, but gave up a soft goal early to K.C. The goal was at the other end of the field and I couldn’t see it very well, but it looked like a keeper error. Cannon wasn’t in goal tonight — it was his backup, Jon Conrad. Sloppy play no matter what. The crowd wasn’t worried, figuring the Quakes would equalize soon, but then something bizarre happened. After a routine foul by Richard Mulrooney on Mike Burns, Burns went nuts and attacked Richard. To me it looked like Richard was just defending him — he was on the ground with Mike above him, striking at him, but after the melee that resulted, the ref gave both players red cards. With both teams at ten, the Quakes were hurt worse since Mulrooney’s such a good player and controls the midfield for San Jose. For the rest of the game, K.C. did what I hate worse than anything: attempt to hold a 1-0 lead. While San Jose attacked and attacked, K.C. just sat back, smugly confident their lead would hold. Even worse, the Wizards resorted to fouling and play acting to slow up the San Jose attack. The Quakes have several attacking styles, but when down a goal, they usually resort to the “slow buildup” attack, starting the ball at the back and playing it forward in a series of passes until they can (hopefully) get a shot on goal. In this case, that strategy proved difficult, as K.C. constantly disrupted the attack. The ref sided with the Wizards on every 50/50 ball or challenge, and San Jose couldn’t get anything going. Every time an attack was stopped, they had to build from the back again. San Jose really needs to try some alternatives: long shots, through-balls, something. If they get behind, that slow attack is just what the other team wants. In the second half the Quakes put in Landon Donovan, and he tried to get things going with some excellent touches, but the other players were asleep. Ekeland generated a few sparks, but again, the others were asleep. Time slowly eeked away and the crowd became restless and furious at the ref, who continued to call everything in K.C.’s favor. (I don’t think Graziani got a single call all night, though several times he was obviously fouled.) In one sequence, a shoulder charge by San Jose was determined a foul. But two minutes later, a shoulder charge by a K.C. player in the penalty box was not a foul! Crazy, inconsistent refereeing. (I remember this ref from previous games, and he’s always bad. I don’t care if he makes a bad call or two, but he must be consistent.) Time was running out. The Quakes were trying, but either missed chances, gave the ball away trying to get an extra touch, or watched Meola save it for K.C. I was becoming depressed. I have so much to do before I leave town I had debated not going to this game, and now I was depressed at the thought of this feeble game being my last home game for a month. (I will miss the Earthquakes next few home games.) But finally, with just five minutes left in the game, DeRosario crosses to Graziani in the box. Ariel shoots and it deflects into the goal. But wait! A defender makes a spectacular goal-line clearance. The crowd gasps and moans. Everyone was on their feet, holding their breath. Suddenly the ref points to the center circle — the ball crossed the line and it’s a goal! Everyone is screaming and dancing. The Quakes surge forward with renewed momentum, suddenly a different team. With two minutes to go, DeRosario gets a one-on-one with the keeper. Instead of shooting however, he feeds an open Ramiro Corales who bangs it home for the game-winner! Amazing. All that time with no goals, and suddenly, two in three minutes. At that point K.C. decided they’d better play, but San Jose held the off with a great save by Jon Conway (he had a couple and amended himself for that early goal). After five minutes of extra time (K.C. players spent a lot of time on the ground, pretending to be injured), it was over, with the Quakes scoring a huge three points on a comeback victory (and preserving their long home win streak). Great stuff. When the Earthquakes scored that second goal the crowd was screaming so loud I couldn’t hear the announcer over the loudspeakers! It was incredible: 88 minutes of pent-up energy and nerves released in a massive scream of excitement. Even Coach Yallop and Assistant Coach Dominick Kinear were screaming and jumping up and down like twelve-year-old girls at an N’sync concert. Very cool to see even the coaches so happy with a win. Wow! Final: 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: South Korea vs. Turkey

Third place games are usually boring, but this one was awesome. I figured Korea would dominate, being the home team, but they started off thinking this was a practice. Just ten seconds in Turkey scored. It was none other than Hakan Sukur, their top scorer, who hadn’t found the net all tournament! As a couple Koreans played pass with the ball in their own half, Sukur’s partner stole the ball with a flick to Hakan. He pounced and finished before anyone could react. South Korea was knocked down, but not out: they came back minutes later with a terrific free kick that was just impossible to stop. But then a mistake at the back let in Turkey for another goal. Minutes later, Ilhan chipped the keeper for a three-goal lead. Amazingly, South Korea gave up three goals in this game when before they’d only given up three goals in the entire tournament! In the second half, South Korea turned on the pressure something fierce — Turkey’s keeper Rustu made a half-million saves! He finally allowed one in on a terrific long bomb that was deflected, but unfortunately for South Korea that was two minutes into extra time. Still, a great showing by both teams, both celebrating their best World Cup ever. Final: 3-2 Turkey.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Wed, Jun 26, 2002

: World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey

Repeat games can be either duds or dynamite. The first game between Brazil and Turkey was terrific, but this one was lackluster. Turkey didn’t play nearly as good as they did the first time, and though their defense held up for a while, they gave a tiny bit too much room to Ronaldo and he took advantage with a quick shot that caught keeper Rustu off guard and knocked Turkey out of the semi-finals. Turkey rarely showed much in the way of offense, and in the end, they deserved to lose more than Brazil deserved to win. Final: 1-0 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Tue, Jun 25, 2002

: World Cup: South Korea vs. Germany

Excellent game. Both sides attacked relentlessly from the start, with the speedy work rate of the Koreans matching the tough physique of the Germans for most of the match. Unfortunately for South Korea, Oliver Kahn was a wall in goal, and Michel Ballock came through with another game-winning goal for his side. Unfortunately for Germany, Ballock’s second yellow means he’ll miss the final on Sunday. Will Germany be able to suceed without him? Final: 1-0 Germany.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Mon, Jun 24, 2002

: Ghost World

Nothing like what I was expecting. The key flaw: promoting this as a film made from a comic book. That sets up a certain kind of expectation. If I’d known the comic, of course, that wouldn’t have mattered, but I didn’t, and I wasn’t sure what to expect throughout the movie. Basically, this is an existential angst teen flick. It reminds me a lot of black comedies like Heathers, though this isn’t dark. It’s more like a serious comedy. The story is about two unique high school girls who graduate and prepare to take on the world. They have a weird sense of humor and opinions about everything. Slowly the girls drift apart, as one becomes more normal and tries to fit in with society (gets a job, an apartment, etc.), while the other continues to rebel against normalacy. She falls for a strange guy, a record collector who claims he can’t relate to 99% of humanity. It’s basically about her trying to figure out who she is and what she’s doing on this planet. Ultimately, the film asks more questions than it answers, and the humor tends to dilute the message instead of expanding upon it. Still, it’s a good view. It’s the kind of film that gets better with each viewing. The first time you may not completely like or understand it, but with each subsequent viewing you’ll like it more and more.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sun, Jun 23, 2002

: Dracula 2000

Astonishingly, I liked this! Like most vampire movies, it’s rather silly, but I liked the “surprise” conclusion (the identity of Dracula). Some good action and fun special effects. Certainly nothing deep, but entertaining. Weaker toward the end, especially as the final set pieces aren’t very dramatic, but still fun.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: King of Texas

Fascinating retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in Texas in the Old West. Lear, played by Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart, is a ruthless ranch owner with three daughters. After he divides his property among them, they throw him out. Good stuff, with complex gray characters, though it goes downhill a bit when it gets into action stuff at the end.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sat, Jun 22, 2002

: World Cup: Senegal vs. Turkey

Strange game. It started off wildly with both teams playing aggressively. Senegal had the upper hand in the attack, while Turkey controlled the ball better. Senegal’s defending was occasionally desperate, but they didn’t let in a goal. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite score either. In the second half, it was obvious both teams were tiring. Senegal’s best advantage is their speed, but they allowed Turkey to set the pace, and they weren’t as quick as in the first half. Their lackluster play was extremely disappointing. Both teams seemed okay with going to Golden Goal in extra time — perhaps Senegal figured they could recreate their magic goal against Sweden. If so, their plan backfired, for Turkey scored and advance and Senegal is out. Very sad, as I was truly hoping for a terrific Senegal-Brazil match-up. Final: 1-0 Turkey.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: South Korea vs. Spain

Terrific battle, though Korea got some questionable calls as Spain had a couple goals cancelled. Perhaps that’s home field advantage. At any rate, Spain couldn’t score, and that’s what’s most important. The game went into overtime and then penalty kicks. Spain seemed confident that their keeper would rule the penalty area, but instead it was the other way around: Korea’s keeper Lee stopped a shot, while Korea scored all five shots. That puts Korea through and Spain go home, again disappointed. Final: 0-0 (Korea advance 5-3 on penalty kicks).

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids

Awesome game, as useful. The Quakes come alive at home, and this was a celebration of soccer with the return of Landon Donovan from the great American success in South Korea. Before this game was a mediocre match between the Mexican side Morelia and the Argentinian River Plate. I like Argentinian soccer, but I wasn’t familiar with this River Plate team, which seemed to be made of up extremely young players (probably River’s “B” team). Morelia scored four minutes in and then just defended, while the young River players seemed to lose composure when they got near the goal and couldn’t finish. Finally, late in the second half they equalized, and then the game got a little more interesting as both sides fought a bit. In the, however, it was a politically correct draw. The bigger news of this double-header, however, was that the match drew a large crowd of Mexican fans (there were a few Argentinian fans, especially one group of about 50 in the South end that danced and cheered wildly during the whole game). Most stayed for the Earthquakes game, and that changed the atmosphere of the game a great deal, as Americans still seem to be learning how to cheer.

In the Earthquakes game, we scored just five minutes in on a header by defender Jimmy Conrad. Great start. Then the Quakes struggled a bit. They had some good opportunities, but the mid-field got clogged and they couldn’t work the ball up the way they like. Colorado never looked truly dangerous (though Cannon did have a couple solid saves), but it was worrying having the ball at that end of the field. In the second half, the Quakes played better, attacking with purpose and determination. DeRosario made a cool run up the left side, pausing before two Colorado defenders right in front of where I was sitting. I shouted “Go Dewayne!” and he listened, splitting the two brilliantly and charging toward the goal. The keeper blocked him, so he crossed the ball. I watched on my feet screaming, the action seemingly in slow motion, as the ball hit a Colorado defender on the chest. The player was facing his goal and the ball deflected behind his keeper (who was facing DeRosario) and into the goal! It was a bummer Dewayne didn’t get credit for the goal, because he did all the work. Minutes later, another terrific attack. A ball was sent toward the near post with Grazianni sliding toward it. Since it was the near post and the keeper was flying there, and Ariel had to catch it with a difficult volley (while sliding), I had visions of it rebounding into the side netting. Suddenly the play was over and there was the ball bouncing inside the Colorado goal! Wow, what a great goal! But the Quakes weren’t done. Superhero Landon Donovan, just 38 hours after playing against Germany half a globe away, came in with five minutes left in the game and immediately created a chance with a head-ball pass, but Colorado stopped that attack. Minutes later, however, he threw in the ball to DeRosario in the penalty area. DeRosario succeeded in getting the ball over the diving keeper (former San Jose keeper David Kramer, in his first start for Colorado this season — his goals against average went down the tubes after this game), but in the mix-up the ball was put into the goal by a Colorado defender. Another own goal! Dewayne was again bummed he didn’t get credit, but as far as I’m concerned, this night was a two goal game and an assist for him. Great play by the Canadian international. (With Donovan coming back, Dewayne knows he’s got to produce to keep his starting place.) So it was another fantastic shutout for Joe Cannon (his goals against drops to a league-low .91), Graziani moves to third in the league in scoring, and the Quakes increase their lead at the top of the MLS table with 26 points (six points ahead of runners-up L.A. and Dallas)! Final: 4-0 Earthquakes.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Fri, Jun 21, 2002

: World Cup: USA vs. Germany

What a great game! While the result didn’t go our way, the Americans played well and gained a huge amount of international respect. It’s probably hard for non-soccer fans to understand how losing a game gets you respect, but we really pushed the Germans and until the final whistle sounded, they were very nervous we’d squeak by. My only regret is that we didn’t at least score, but losing 1-0 to Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal round is nothing to be ashamed of. The U.S. had most of the attack and the possession. In the first half, that was our choice and the Germans didn’t like it but couldn’t do anything about it. In the second half, it was a combination of the Germans letting us have the ball and us being desperate to score. We outshot them considerably, but that’s meaningless compared to the only stat that matters: the score. Still, all the Americans played well and you could see the Germans were surprised and impressed. Unlike their talk before the game, and unlike other teams, the Germans did take us seriously. They played a strategically sound match, getting a goal and then setting back and attacking us on the counters. Good job. But congrats to the U.S. team. Remember, this wasn’t supposed to be the team that did well at the World Cup. That’s not supposed to come for a couple more World Cups. By that time the Landon Donovans will be our senior players and we’ll have ranks of new youngsters lining up. The combination will be potent: our World Cup results proves Major League Soccer is an excellent development environment. Players that do well in MLS will do well in the world. That’s good for MLS and for U.S. soccer. Final: 1-0 Germany.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Brazil vs. England

Disappointing game. England started off well. Brazil had most of the possession, but 23 minutes in, Michael Owen, on his first (and only) touch of the game, scored. The defender, Lucio, couldn’t control a pass, and left the ball for Owen, who pounced on it and cleverly (and easily) finished. It looked like England, who had one of the best defenses in the Cup, was going great. But in first half injury time, Beckham didn’t kick a ball out of play, allowing Brazil to start a counter-attack that culminated in Rivaldo scoring. Five minutes into the second half it got worse for England — with Seaman ridiculously off his line, Ronaldinho took a long distance free kick, and instead of crossing like everyone expected, he chipped Seaman to give the Brazilians the lead. I’ve never been a Seaman fan — I like Nigel Martyn way better — so hopefully this will be an inglorious end to his national team career. But I can’t say that Seaman lost the game for England. That second goal seemed to kill something in the team. A spark went out. Beckham was quiet, Owen invisible, Heskey did nothing, and Scoles was just terrible. Offensive substitutes Sheringham and Vassel added nothing, and England went out with a whimper, scarely fighting. A shame — I was hoping for a more competitive match. I love Brazil, but when their coach subbed out Ronaldo while they led by just one goal, I was rooting for them to lose to just spite his stupidity. I hate those kind of substitutions. But Brazil held on (or rather, England didn’t have anything to offer) and they advance. Final: 2-1 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Wed, Jun 19, 2002

: The Mummy Returns

I hated the original, which was bizarre and incomprehensible, but I liked this one. It was silly and pointless, but it knew that and had fun with it. Lots of cool special effects (digital creatures, landscapes, etc.) and some good action. The plot’s some ridiculous thing about — heck, I have no idea. Just go along for the ride and enjoy the scenery.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Tue, Jun 18, 2002

: World Cup: Japan vs. Turkey

Yawn. Games are often tight in elimination bouts, with the team leading afraid to take risks. Turkey goal a goal early and just held on, taking the crowd out of it, and putting the pressure on Japan to score. Japan never looked into it, seemingly resigned to a loss from the beginning. Turkey had no problem with that, and though Japan looked dangerous a few times, they never truely threatened the Turkish goal. Rather a weak exit for Japan, who’d looked very strong in previous games. Final: 1-0 Turkey.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: South Korea vs. Italy

Wow! Start off with a massive crowd of screaming South Korean fans creating a deafening cauldron of sound, add a penalty kick to South Korea just minutes in, throw in a great Buffon save on the kick to keep the score at zeros, and you know this is going to be a great game. Ten minutes later, and Vieri scores on a header off a corner kick — gotta mark those Italians on the set plays, folks! So in minutes the tide turns from Italy potentially down to leading. And people don’t think soccer’s exciting? What other sport offers such drama?

After that, South Korea seemed to lose something. Italy controlled play, defended easily, and Korea was frustrated. But they didn’t give up. Late in the game Italy began to tire, but the Koreans pressed on. Not quite as intensely as in previous games — the tremendous efforts of their three previous games finally taking their toll — but with a lot of courage and fight. Suddenly, out of nowhere, came the equalizer. A missed clearance in the penalty area opened the tiniest sliver of an opening and a Korean player toed the loose ball into the back of the net. The tie sent the game into sudden death overtime. Both sides had chances, but after fifteen minutes there was still no goal. Then Totti was called for diving in the box and given his second yellow. It was a poor call — there was contact, just not a foul. But Totti was out. Then, in the second half of overtime, a shocker: Ahn, who’d missed the Korean penalty in the opening minutes, got a header on goal and scored! Golden goal! Korean advances. Italy is knocked out. Wow. Four out of the eight quarterfinalists are first timers. Final: 2-1 South Korea.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Mon, Jun 17, 2002

: World Cup: USA vs. Mexico

Unfreakingbelievable! What’s not shocking is that the U.S. won this game, but the way they dominated. Sure, Mexico had chances, but in general the Americans totally frustrated them. You could see that in the way they tackled and tried to bait the U.S. The U.S. didn’t let the Mexicans play their game, but also played their own counter-attacking game that kept Mexico on edge. Claudio Reyna, who’ve I heavily criticized in the past for not playing well for the U.S., had a standout game. He played wide instead of in the middle, and that was a much better role for him. It opened up the mid-field, forcing the American players to pass the ball well, and it gave us a controlling pressence along the side. He started the first goal, getting past his man on the right and running impressively quickly up the side. He crossed it to Josh Wolff in the penalty area who had two men on him, so it didn’t seem like a threat. But Josh instantly fed the ball behind him — a brilliant pass that found an on-rushing Brian McBride who side-footed it into the goal. The early goal boosted the confidence of the U.S., who’d given up two early goals to Poland in their last game, and shocked the Mexicans. (Afterward, the Mexican coach said the Americans “Got lucky.” Give me a break. It was a fantastic goal generated out of team play.) The Mexicans tried hard but couldn’t equalize, and late in the game Eddie Lewis broke away on the left. Running at a full sprint he crossed the ball into the Mexican penalty area. Landon Donovan outran the Mexican defense and perfectly headed the ball home. With a two-goal lead, the Americans could smell victory. The Mexicans fouled hard and often, finally getting their captain sent off on a brutal tackle against Cobie Jones. But it was not Mexico’s day: the U.S. wins and advances to the quarter-finals for the first time ever! (Yeah, technically we made in 1930, but there was no “Round of 16” back then, so I don’t count it.)

A couple words about the missed penalty call. On replay, it looked like American John O’Brien played a ball with his hand but the ref didn’t give the Mexicans a penalty. The idiotic ESPN commentators should made a meal out of that, harping on it non-stop. Look, non-calls and missed calls are a part of life. Get over it. If you’re going to talk about that call, you must give equal time to the Landon Donovan goal against Poland that was taken away, and I’ve hardly heard anyone mention that. That was a key turning point in the Poland game for me, giving the U.S. a triple-whammy: giving up a goal, scoring a goal that didn’t count, and giving up a second goal. The non-penalty in the Mexico game, while it could have change momentum by tying the score, might not of: Friedel’s saved two penalties already, so Mexico is deluding themselves to think the penalty was a gimmie goal. Anyway, things like that happen. The U.S. had bad calls against it earlier in the Cup, and benefited in this case. Things balance out in the end.

So the U.S. plays Germany on Friday. In a way, I’d felt that reaching the quarters is good enough for the U.S. — no sense being greedy. But that was until I heard the comment by “The Kaiser,” Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary German. He said that Germany has “no hard matches until the Semi-finals.” Okay, Beck — get ready for the USA. We love being the underdog. We’re gonna kick your butt all the way home! Final: 2-0 USA!

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Brazil vs. Belgium

Ho hum game. Brazil played like they were asleep most of the game, and Belgium dominated and had a number of excellent chances (including a legitimate goal by Wilmots waved off). Finally, Brazil woke up on a great goal by Rivaldo, who spun 360 and put the ball away. Ronaldo added to the tally late in the game, continuing his ridiculous scoring rate. Belgium played very well and deserved more, but unfortunately them’s the breaks. They go home and Brazil advance to play England. Final: 2-0 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sat, Jun 15, 2002

: World Cup: Tunisia vs. Japan

Good game. Japan was pretty much through, but they wanted to win because if they finish second in the group they would face Brazil in the “Round of 16.” So they fought, and Tunisia continued their weak play (though they had a few good minutes in this match). Japan scored twice, including Nakata finally got his first goal of the tournament, and that was nice to see. He headed it through the legs of the keeper! Not really contest, but fun. Final: 2-0 Japan.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: England vs. Denmark

Which England would show up for this game? The aggressive one, that’s who. Five minutes in Rio Ferdinand scores off a corner kick, then Michael Owen gets a great goal off a through-pass. The mediocre Heskey finally gets his first World Cup goal giving England a sweet three-goal lead into the second half. After that, the game was a bit boring. England controlled everything, delivering a perfect example of how to defend a lead (unlike the U.S. against Portugal). A deserved win, but now England must face the winner of Brazil/Belgium. Any bets on who that will be? Final: 3-0 England.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Germany vs. Paraguay

Yawn. Boring game. There were pathetically few shots on goal in the game, especially in the second half. Paraguay was obviously playing for a penalty kick shootout, all defense, and Germany had trouble breaking them down. Finally, in the 88th minute a great cross and Oliver Neuville snuck in at the far post to flick it into the goal and the Germans are ahead. Desperate, Paraguay puts in a striker, but he’s only got minutes to do his magic, and that’s just not enough time. Suddenly Paraguay’s day is done, and deservedly so. Lame. To work so hard to get to that second round only to not even try to win is just dumb. Go home, Paraguay. Go home. Final: 1-0 Germany.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup Commentary

What an incredible tournament the 2002 FIFA World Cup is turning out to be! Amazing, unexpected, historic events are happening in almost every game. I don’t know if it’s because the tournament is being held in the Southern Hemisphere, but everything is backwards in this competition. World champions France are out. Favorites Argentina, who looked so good in qualifying, are flying home. The U.S. and South Korea upset fifth-ranked Portugal, whose dream is over. Brazil, which shocked everyone by struggling to get the World Cup, are doing great — but they haven’t faced serious competition yet. One of only two teams with three wins in the opening round (Spain is the other), and with the confidence of having already scored 11 goals, they now are the team to beat. Nothing is predictable in this World Cup and that’s great. Anything can happen, and any team can be sent home.

The Americans, who played so well against Portugal, have struggled and played worse in every subsequent game. What’s up with that? I realize the players are tired, that other teams have studied the U.S. games and know our weaknesses (that was very obvious in the Poland game), but the U.S. defense has looked like they were out-classed and over-whelmed. Offensively we’ve been stronger, but even there we’re inconsistent. Mathis is a good player when he’s on, but he fades in matches and it’s like we’re playing with ten men. Claudia Reyna has never impressed me: he was the reason for our poor play in France 1998 and I can’t figure out why he’s our leader. He can play well — it’s just that he often doesn’t. The U.S. has a lot of players like that: Hejduk, Sanneh, Regis, etc. In the Poland game Reyna was ineffective in the attack, and he often gave the ball away leading to dangerous counter-attacks by Poland. Reyna does better when he sits back and defends, but he likes to move forward too much. I’d either bench him for the Mexico game or give him strict orders to sit back and act more defensively. At the back, Goose is a good player past his prime. I’m glad he’s gotten some World Cup experience, but in truth I’m relieved he’s out injured for the Mexico game. While he brings a lot of experience and stability to the U.S. team, he can do a lot of that from the bench. On the field he’s a liability at this level. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t deep in quality defenders, and that’s definitely our primary weakness. But Mastroanni needs to be on the field (in any position). Pope has been great, but he can’t do it all. He needs a partner back there. Heiduk has been excellent, playing better than he’s played in years (people forget he was widely considered our best player at France 98 and he got his German contract based on that performance), but he’s out suspended for the Mexico game. Eddie Lewis strikes me as the best substitute, but he’ll need the game of his life. I’d tell him not to move up unless we’re down more than one goal or up several: that leftback position is primarily for defense and we don’t need forward runs that leave us exposed. Sanneh’s just been brilliant, with his only mistake giving up the penalty in the Poland game. He’ll be ready for Mexico. O’Brien had his weakest game against Poland, but he’s a strong player. Stewart is also important, though I don’t picture him going 90 minutes. Not starting DaMarcus Beasley in the Poland game makes me wonder what’s going on the Bruce’s head. Perhaps he was just trying to give DMB a deserved rest, but Beasley’s a critical player for us. Not only is he super dangerous on the counter-attack, but he does some incredible defensive work, coming back and stealing the ball from the other team. He’s our brightest star so far (not counting Brad Friedel, who’s been insanely amazing). Landon Donovan needs to be more involved. He’s already a much better player than Reyna, and the U.S. team would do better to run play through him instead of the captain. Landon’s got so many good attributes: he’s fast, has a great first touch, he’s a lethal finisher, and has the best vision of the field of any American player ever. His quick flicks and through-balls are breath-taking, and they make him a double-threat: he can score himself or slip a ball through to a teammate who can finish. The best position for Donovan is “sunken forward” — pair him with McBride and they can feed each other balls. McBride was invisible in the Poland game. After two great games from him, I put that to fatigue and the fact that the Poles were strong in the air. But McBride needs to be on the field: he’s strong, can be lethal if given the chance, and he’s a battler who can win balls for the U.S. in the upper midfield. I’d tell him in advance he’s going to play for fifty minutes — let him run his heart out — and then sub in Josh Wolff. Wolff’s speed make him dangerous and I’d like to see him get more playing time. Clint is the biggest puzzle. He’s such a one-dimensional player. When he wants to he can be a playmaker, but much of the time his task is just to score goals. He can be a liability in how he gives up the ball. His passes are often weak and easily picked off, and in the Poland game he caused us a lot of problems by helping Poland start counter-attacks. Still, Mathis can be magical. He’s got a spark that can invigorate a team. He can do amazing runs and strikes that are world-class. Depending on his attitude, he probably should start, though he’d make a dangerous sub as well.

Well, these are just my thoughts before the game. We’ll see late tomorrow (Sunday night/Monday morning) who Bruce puts out and what happens. Good luck, USA!

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Fri, Jun 14, 2002

: World Cup: Belgium vs. Russia

Terrific game! Why is Belgium producing some of the best games to watch in this Cup? Their game against Japan was one of the best so far, and this was a terrific game, with great goals at both ends. Belgium jumped ahead early on a fantastic free kick, but Russia came back to tie, then Belgium put a two-goal lead in the second half. Russia got one more and that made the final minutes of the game very exciting as a draw would see Russia through. Unfortunately, they couldn’t equalize, and Belgium advances to the second round. Good stuff. Final: 3-2 Belgium.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Portugal vs. Korea

Wild game, especially if you knew what was going on in the U.S.-Poland game. With the U.S. losing badly, our best chance to advance was a loss by Portugal in this game, and they seemed to be doing everything to help make that possible. A horrible tackled from behind got a player ejected in the first half, and a second yellow (deserved) got another ejected early in the second half. So now it was nine men for Portugal fighting eleven Koreans. Stupidly, the Portugese sat back. Aware that the U.S. was losing and that a draw would advance Portugal, they didn’t attack as much as they should have. Suddenly, South Korea scored! It was a great goal where the Korean player did a cool move to pop the ball with his right foot over to his left, fooling the defender, and putting the ball on goal with his left. The quickness of the move and shot befuddled the keeper who let it slip through his fingers into the net. Suddenly Portugal was losing and had to fight. They put on a lot of pressure, but amazingly, the Koreans, who only needed a draw, played wonderfully, defending well and blocking every Portugese chance. In the last few minutes the U.S. hearts were in our mouths as we watch Figo’s free kick miss by inches, another player contrive to miss with just the keeper to beat, and the Korean keeper make a fantastic up-close save in the dying seconds to keep Portugal off the board. Wow. The result means the Koreans finish top their group and advance, keeping alive the World Cup record of every host nation advancing (co-host Japan also advanced), and the U.S. sneak in on their well-earned four points. Portugal goes home in misery, their only solace that other favorites France and Argentina were also eliminated. Final: 1-0 South Korea.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Poland vs. USA

What can I say? The U.S. has done well tactically so far in the Cup, but they severely misjudged this Polish team. The U.S. did not play well, but this could have gone differently. First mistake: pre-announcing their strategy. I heard on ESPN before the game how the U.S. was playing to attack heavily in the first few minutes and get an early goal or two, and the Poles were prepared for that. With nothing to lose, they brilliantly pushed on the counter-attack, and with the U.S. all focusing on attack, we forgot to lock the barn door. Three minutes in, the U.S. is down a goal. That’s when fate dealt us a bad hand. We equalized a minute later on a great goal by Landon Donovan. But the Chinese referee (not to stir up controversy, but who’s idea was it to have an Asian ref for this game where a loss by the U.S. could help the South Koreans advance?) immediately cancelled the goal, saying Donovan fouled his opponent. On replay it’s clear there was no foul: it was a legal shoulder-to-shoulder challenge. Yes, sometimes refs do call those around the box (especially if against a keeper), but this wasn’t against the keeper, and it was the slight Donovan who outmuscled his opponent to get to the ball and he deserved the goal. If that had happened, the U.S. team could have settled down. Gave up an early goal, equalized. Back to business. Instead, the refs’ callback set the U.S. team on edge, and before we could recover, we gave up another goal at back! That’s right, we’re two goals down just give minutes in! Exactly the opposite of the strategy we planned coming into the game. Poland is an organized side, and though they’d had a terrible Cup so far, losing two games and not even scoring a goal, they played a good strategy against the U.S. After the two early goals they didn’t just sit back and defend like so many teams, but continued their deadly counter-attacks, keeping the U.S. from moving too many men forward. Poland kept enough men back that the U.S., while we had chances, could never quite get the goal we needed. In the second half it was more of the same, except the U.S. was more desperate. We pushed forward and twice got caught on the counter. One sequence game up a goal, and the other gave up a penalty kick. Fortunately, Superman (a.k.a. American keeper Brad Friedel), blocked his second penalty of the tournament (no one else has stopped even one). Wow! With just minutes left, Landon Donovan scored a terrific goal on a volley sneaking in from the left — but it was too little too late. They needed to get Donovan much more involved. I hope Bruce Arena puts Donovan up front for the next game. Speaking of the next game, despite the embarrassing loss, there is a next game for the United States. Our suddenly good friends South Korea saved us by beating Portugal, eliminating them from the tournament. That means the U.S. advances as the second-place team! That’s good for us because Korea gets to face Italy, while we get Mexico. We’re familiar with arch-rivals Mexico and that should be an awesome game. If the U.S. brings their A-game, we should be able to defeat them, but they might bring their A+ game, so we’ll see. Final: 3-1 Poland.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Thu, Jun 13, 2002

: World Cup: Turkey vs. China

I liked Turkey a lot in their earlier games, but they didn’t display much in this game. Though they won solidly, they made it look like a struggle. Very odd. Interesting game, though. Poor China really wanted to at least score a goal so they could exit the tournament with something, but failed. Final: 3-0 Turkey.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Brazil

Costa Rica had impressed so far, but now their lackluster play against wimpy China (only winning by two goals) came back to haunt them as they needed a draw against Brazil. That seemed unlikely as Brazil quickly went ahead by three, including an amazing bicycle kick goal. But Costa Rica fought back with two goals of their own, a result that if it had remained, would have put them through on goals scored. But Brazil were merciless, playing wonderful soccer and putting a few more goals to finish them off soundly. In the other game, Turkey had the gall to win 3-0, a result that also hurt. So Costa Rica is done. Brazil has yet to face significant competition, but right now they are looking the best in the tournament, which, oddly, with all the struggles they had in qualifying, is surprising. Final: 5-2 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Ecuador vs. Croatia

Cool result. Ecuador really played well and Croatia was just anemic and deservedly lost. I’m delighted with the result, as considering the controversy with Croatia’s game against Italty it would have been unfair for Italty to have been knocked out. And by losing to Ecuador Croatia can’t blame anyone else for not advancing. Final: 1-0 Ecuador.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Mexico vs. Italy

Wild game. Italy had an early goal called back for offside (again), and the day seemed to be darkening for the former champs. Mexico played well and got the first goal (fantastic header), and now the Italians were in a deep hole. With ten minutes to go Del Piero was inserted and minutes later he scored the tying goal. Great stuff. (Totti, who I really like, is just not having a good Cup. He had a shot at an open goal and sent it wide. Ridiculous.) The final minutes of the match were hilarious as the players had heard of Ecuador’s win which meant both these teams were through, and so the players just stood and passed the ball around for the four minutes of extra time. The ref finally blew the whistle to put an end to the silliness. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Wed, Jun 12, 2002

: World Cup: Spain vs. South Africa

Good game. Unfortunately for South Africa, they didn’t quite get the result they wanted. Spain didn’t seem that concerned about the result (having already qualified), but the motivation of an extra day’s rest by finishing first did the trick as they pressed hard to win. South Africa came back twice to tie, but in the end Raul put Spain ahead. That result, combined with Paraguay’s two-goal win, sends South Africa home (the teams finished even on points and goal difference, but Paraguay scored six goals in group play while South Africa only scored five). Final: 3-2 Spain.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Sweden vs. Argentina

Awesome game. In the first half it was all Argentina with 65% possession. But Sweden’s defense was impressive: organized and confident, they repelled attack after attack. It helped that Argentina, while they had tons of shots, couldn’t put hardly any on frame, but contrived to miss high and wide. Then Sweden went ahead on an incredible free kick goal. Argentina fought back, but it looked like they were done (a draw would not advance them). Finally, in the 88th minute, Argentina was awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box. Ortega’s feeble penalty was blocked, but Crespo pounced on the rebound and put it away to level the score. But the lifeline came too late. Minutes later the whistle blew and the “Group of Death” had claimed another victim: Argentina. Wow! Favorites to win the whole lobster, they’re now on their way home. Amazing. England and Sweden advance, Nigeria and Argentina go home unhappy. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Nigeria vs. England

Boring game. Started out well, but by the second half it was obvious England was content with a draw. Afraid of Nigeria’s speedy counter-attacks, they never committed forward. Both teams had a few chances, but overall there just wasn’t much happening. Nigeria goes home with a point, so they gained some respect, and England advances with a draw. Final: 0-0.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Paraguay vs. Slovenia

What is it about the World Cup that brings out the best of teams? Paraguay has been talking a lot, but so far their performance in the competition has been poor. But they needed a big win here (as well as help from Spain). Unfortunately, things immediately went downhill. In the first half, one of their defenders was sent off for his second yellow. Then Slovenia had the gall to score a goal! That gave Slovenia confidence and rattled Paraguay, who started playing even worse, with even leader Chilavert fumbling the ball. But Slovenia’s attack went to their heads and they forgot about defense, sending too many forward. Substitute Jorge Campos capitalized, scoring twice for Paraguay. Chilavert almost made history scoring on a free kick, but the shot was blocked by the Slovenian keeper. Then Slovia had a player red carded for a bad tackle and the sides were even. Paraguay countered with a great goal from the top of the box to give them the two goal lead they needed to advance. Incredible. With Spain defeating South Africa, Paraguay go to the second round! Gutsy performance from a team a man down. Final: 3-1 Paraguay.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Tue, Jun 11, 2002

: World Cup: Germany vs. Cameroon

Cameroon had a tough task: with Ireland most likely to win their game, giving them five points, and Germany’s incredible goal differential due to their 8-0 win over the Saudis, a tie wouldn’t be good enough: they must win to advance. They played best in the first half, but couldn’t finish. Germany had a man sent off late in the half and it seemed that Cameroon was in the driver’s seat. But in the second half, Germany’s substitute Bode scored just five minutes in. After that, the game was over. Cameroon tried, but still couldn’t finish, and then had their own man red carded. Then Germany added another goal and Cameroon’s World Cup is done. Final: 2-0 Germany.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Senegal vs. Uruguay

What a great game! Senegal started a little slow, but after being awarded an early penalty kick (on a phantom call), got energized and tore into Uruguay with two great goals by Diop. The first was a poke from ten yards up, roofed into the upper net, and the second was a cheeky poach from the top of the box that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced inside. Leading 3-0 going into the have, the Senegalese became overconfident, and one minute into the second half they gave up a goal. A penalty kick brought Uruguay closer, and with just minutes left, Uruguay had a great strike by Diego Forlan who scored on a blast from far out. Unbelievably, the score was now tied! Injury time was a hectic battle, but Uruguay couldn’t claim the winner. The result advances Senegal, but only as the second team in their group, meaning they’ll have to face the top team from the Argentina-England group. If they could have held on to the big lead, they would have finished first. But in truth it makes little difference — anyone from the “group of death” is going to be tough competition. The bottom line: former champions Uruguay go home and first-time participants Senegal advance. Final: 3-3.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Ireland vs. Saudi Arabia

Good game, with Saudi Arabia playing much better than in previous games, but Ireland persevered and played very well in the second half scoring two more goals to give them a decisive victory. Ireland needed a two-goal win, which sounded tough since Ireland has never scored more than one goal in a World Cup match, but they did it this time. Final: 3-0 Ireland.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Denmark vs. France

World Cup 2002 has brought us many surprises, and is proving to be one of the most fascinating contests in years. This result is definitely one of the top stories. In France 1998 the French team was criticized because they had no real strikers (Henry, Trez, and others weren’t established), but they ended up scoring a boatload of goals and winning it all. Coming into this tournament France had proven goal-scoring talent, with three players leading three different leagues in scoring. Unbelievable talent and everyone predicted France would be in the Championship again. But all that individual talent didn’t translate into teamwork. In France 98 the team worked together, with everyone contributing the goals. This time it seemed all the pressure was on the forwards, but the link between the mid-field and them was weak, and they rarely even got positive chances. They lost against upstarts Senegal in the opening game, then had the tournaments only nil-nil draw. This game had more of the same. France needed a two-goal win to advance (a win would only tie them with Denmark with goal difference as the tie-breaker), but couldn’t even score one goal. Denmark scored twice and defended well, and though France through everything they had at them, it wasn’t enough to break through. Admitedly they were without their best striker, Henry, who was suspended because of his red card in the previous game, but that’s still no excuse. Unbelieveably, the World Champions go home not only without advancing past the first round, but without scoring a single goal. That’s worse than the U.S. in France 98 — we at least had one goal! Wow, astonishing stuff. With all these upsets, surely a lot of betting houses will be going under. Final: 2-0 Denmark.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Mon, Jun 10, 2002

: World Cup: Belgium vs. Tunisia

Surprisingly interesting game. Belgium played their typical defensive style while Tunisia were impressive, attacking vigorously with lots of chances and keeping Belgium on their heels. Wilmots scored for Belgium, while a terrific free kick from Tunisia equalized. Unfortunately, though Tunisia tried hard, they just couldn’t quite get the winner. Belgium can still get through, but they need a big win against Russia. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Portugal vs. Poland

Portugal started off slower than I liked, taking fifteen minutes to score the first goal and not adding to that tally until late in the second half. Finally they got their act together and scored a bunch of goals (including missing a bunch of chances), but for a while there I was worried. Pauletta got a hat trick, which was impressive, and this gives Portugal lots of momentum for their final game with South Korea, which is a must win if Portugal wants to advance. Poland is out, but playing purely for pride against the U.S., they could be tough. Final: 4-0 Portugal.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Korea vs. USA

WOW, what a battle. The U.S. team that looked so strong against Portugal played more defensively this game and struggled, allowing Korea too much possession and fending off attack after attack. Right from the beginning the U.S. was defending, but they picked strategic times to attack, and mid-way through the first half a through-ball by O’Brien to Mathis and he finished it off perfectly, absolutely deadly finishing. But after gaining the lead, the Americans sat back too much. Late in the first half, a mass of bodies in the U.S. box lead to a bizarre penalty call against Jeff Agoos. Unbelievably, goalkeeper Brad Friedel makes the save (the first penalty kick stopped in this year’s competition). The U.S. take the lead into the second half, but it’s more of the same relentless, high-pressure attack with the American’s frantically defending. Brad made a number of key saves, as did the U.S. defense, but eventually the pressure was too much and something blew, with a Korean player getting a header into the goal. After that it was all-out war. Somehow the U.S. kept the Koreans out, and finally managed a few offensives runs that helped relieve the pressure at the back and almost scoring. Donovan had the Americans’ best chance when a beautiful ball dropped to him in the box, but surprisingly he didn’t get a shot off, hesitating and allowing the keeper to snare it. At least the U.S. held on for the draw, an excellent result. A loss would have been bad. Overall, the U.S. looked tired, especially in the second half, and one gets the feeling the overworked defenders never realized the incredible pressure one gets in a World Cup. They gave their all in the first game and had little left for this one. It was also disheartening to see the Koreans encouraged by the massive crowd of screaming fans make run after run after run. Still, the U.S. held on, played good enough, Brad had a phenomenal game (no doubt his price tag just went up), Mathis did what he gets paid to do (score goals), and everyone had a decent game. The match against Poland on Friday will decide the group — a tie should get the U.S. through, but a win would have them top the group. South Korea will not fare so well against Portugal and should be eliminated. Great stuff! Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sun, Jun 09, 2002

: World Cup: Mexico vs. Ecuador

Good game, though Ecuador faded at times and allowed Mexico to dominate. Ecuador drew first blood scoring just four minutes in, but Mexico equalized twenty minutes later. In the second half, Mexico took the lead, and though Ecuador played hard in the final ten minutes or so, they couldn’t score again. Final: 2-1 Mexico.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. Turkey

A critical game for Turkey as a loss would eliminate them. I was excited about this game after seeing Turkey’s terrific play against Brazil, but that must have been a different team: this collection of players did very little, and Bastuk, who was so good against Brazil, was a non-factor here. After a scoreless first half, Emre proved Turkey with a lead with a cool goal where he spun 120 degrees with the ball and slid it inside the near post. When Costa Rica couldn’t equalize, it seemed they were going down, but with five minutes left they managed an opportunity, and finally, after countless shots going way high, they put it in the goal. With just minutes left, Turkey scrambled desperately. Then came a bizarre sequence with Emre losing his temper and shoving the Costa Rican assistant coach who didn’t give the ball back fast enough after it had gone out of play near the Costa Rican bench. Ridiculous. In the end, though Costa Rica played better, neither team really deserved the three points. With Costa Rica scheduled to play an already-advanced Brazil in the next game, Turkey still has a chance. If they win against China and Costa Rica lose to Brazil, both teams will have four points, so the deciding factor will be goal difference, meaning a Turkish win by three goals over China will allow them to advance. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Japan vs. Russia

Good game. The Japanese played with passion and vigor, while Russia was anemic. Japan scored a great goal by Nakata and earned their first World Cup victory. They now have a good shot at advancement, especially considering their next game is against Tunisia. Final: 1-0 Japan.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sat, Jun 08, 2002

: World Cup: Brazil vs. China

An absolute rout, but the Chinese, in their first World Cup, played well and deserve a handshake. Roberto Carlos got things started with an amazing free kick — a blast from forty yards out and nearly tore a hole in the net! Rivaldo was next, taking a great cross and finishing it easily. Then Ronaldinho got his chance on a PK after Ronaldo was taken down. In the second half, the Chinese got chances when a shot hit the post and a free kick almost went in. But Ronaldo got his goal to seal the victory. Final: 4-0 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: South Africa vs. Slovenia

Rather silly game. Slovenia never looked dangerous, and South Africa seemed to be their own worst enemy, clumsily defeating their own best chances. South Africa did put in a good goal, but Slovenia was just feeble, and South Africa should have done considerably better against them. But still, this was South Africa’s first-ever World Cup win, so it is historic. But they’re still a weak team. Final: 1-0 South Africa.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Italy vs. Croatia

Terrific game, though extremly controversial refereeing. Italy’s first goal was called back because of an invisible offside situation, but Vieri finished off a beautiful header to give the Italians the lead. That’s when I felt the Italians made their mistake: they didn’t continue to press, but sat back, content with their lead. Italy is famous for 1-0 victories, but this time it didn’t hold up. In the second half Croatia came alive and poor marking allowed a cross to be easily kicked in. Minutes later, one of the best goals of the Cup. After the first chance was rejected, the clearance was headed back in, and this time it was finished with a chip so soft it was almost a lob. It literally just floated into the top corner while half the planet watched with bated breath. With Croatia on top, Italy now had to play, and they pressured magnificiently. A Totti free kick hit the post, inches from equalizing. In injury time, Italy thought they’d scored, but the goal was called off due to a pulling foul. On replay, no foul was evident. In the end, Croatia’s goal stood, and since I love underdogs, I was happy, but the Italians have a case that they’d been robbed. Fun match, though. Final: 2-1 Croatia.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Kansas City Wizards

This game started off slowly, with neither team moving very fast, but after a half hour or so, the Quakes got it going. Wade Barrett put forth a ball up the left side which Ariel Graziani ran on to, giving him a one-on-one with the keeper. Ariel finished it neatly, and the Quakes had the lead. Minutes into the second half Graziani got his second, pouncing on a rebound of a DeRossario shot, and as San Jose continued to dominate, Richard Mulrooney, who rarely scores, took a crack from long range and it curled into the top corner! Late in the game K.C. had a terrific chance with a shot that was going into the top corner, but keeper Joe Cannon made an incredible leap to palm the ball over the bar and away. And that’s the way she ended. Great stuff. Final: 3-0 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Fri, Jun 07, 2002

: World Cup: Spain vs. Paraguay

Rather boring game. I guess I’m just not a fan of Spain. Their play has a feel of struggle to it, as though even the most basic moves are a challenge. There are flashes of brilliance, and individually they have some great skill, but as a team though just don’t gel. Paraguay’s goal-keeper, Chilavert, is one of the most colorful characters in soccer, and his arrogant comments against Spain came back to haunt him in this game. Paraguay played poorly. They got a goal, but it was a gift from Spain when a defender put it into his own net! Spain came back with goals in the second half, however. A snap header gave Chilavert no chance, and then Chilavert himself made a ridiculous blunder, flailing hopelessly at a cross, leaving the goal wide open behind him. When he didn’t get the ball, it was child’s play for Spain to finish it off. Later in the game Spain was awarded a penalty kick, and Chilavert wasn’t even close to stopping it. Technically, Paraguay is still alive, but I doubt they’ll make it. Spain’s way overrated, and though they’ve got two wins to advance, they won’t make it past the second round. Final: 3-1 Spain.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: World Cup: Argentina vs. England

Easily the most anticipated match of the first round, given the historic games between these two countries. It was a physical battle, but England took control from the start. Argentina had a lot of the ball, but rarely managed to get it out of their half. Batistuta had one good header on goal, but it was right at the keeper. Most of the time Seaman had little to do in the England goal. Michael Owen was brilliant, sometimes intimidating the Argentines to much they put five men on him! The scary part was that even with five men on him he still looked dangerous. Against three men he managed to ping a shot of the post, just inches from scoring. Though David Beckham was slow to get in the game, once he did his deft touches made a huge difference, keeping possession of the ball for England, and just being calm and confident on the ball. Late in the first half, Owen was brought down in the box and England awarded a penalty. David Beckham easily put it away and all of England went mad. In the second half it was more of the same, with England settling back but looking strong, and Argentina did very little. It looked like they didn’t want to win very badly, but their loss combined with Sweden’s win, puts Argentina at the bottom of the group and in danger of not making the cut. If Sweden and England both draw or better in their final games, they advance and Argentina goes home. Basically, it’s a must win for Argentina in their game against Sweden. That’s a game where Sweden would be happy with a tie, so it’s going to be tough against the organized Swedes. Should be good. England gets to play the eliminated Nigerians and should advance. Final: 1-0 England.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Sweden vs. Nigeria

Great game. The Nigerians went all out with nine forwards and a “forget” defense attitude. Great for fans of scoring. Unfortunately, not so great for winning soccer games. Especially when the finishing’s weak. Though Sweden looked strong from the start, Nigeria scored first with a great header goal. The seven-flip celebration was one of the highlights of the Cup so far. But that was the last of the Nigerian celebrations. Sweden scored on a terrific bit of play by Larsson, who took a through-ball deep into the Nigerian penalty box, deked a couple defenders, and slotted the ball into the goal. Later, a Nigerian take-down gave Sweden a penalty kick, which Larsson brilliantly scored. Nigeria gave it a good run and played well, but this is the “group of death” — and they’re the first victims. Final: 2-1 Sweden.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Thu, Jun 06, 2002

: World Cup: Cameroon vs. Saudi Arabia

You’d have figured that after their 8-0 loss to Germany, the Saudis would become the whipping boys of the group, but they put on a surprisingly feisty performance here. In the first half, the Cameroons couldn’t score, and Saudi Arabia actually had a few chances themselves (more than in the entire Germany game where they attacked maybe twice). In fact, at one point in the game they were out-shooting the Africans 9-7! But in the second half, a beautiful through-pass gave Cameroon a chance and they finished it off. After that, while the Saudis looked dangerous at times, it was over. Unfortunately for Cameroon, they couldn’t score more goals, and the way this group sets up, a tie against Germany in their next game, combined with an Ireland win against Saudi Arabia, would put three teams tied at 5 points, meaning that goal differential would be the deciding factor. With Germany’s huge 8-0 advantage in that category, Cameroon needed to score a bunch of goals in this game. It’s hard to predict, but I’d say Cameroon, who were considered by many to have an outside chance at the title, are going home (due mostly to their lackluster performance in this game). Germany and Ireland will advance. Final: 1-0 Cameroon.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Senegal vs. Denmark

What a strange game! In the first half, Senegal played badly, completely differently from their first game against France. Here they struggled to get the ball through the mid-field and tried long ball instead and it just didn’t work. Sixteen minutes is, an idiotic tackle in the box gave the Danes a penalty kick, and they took the early lead. Denmark controlled the first half, keeping the pace leisurely, but even they had some odd defensive errors, giving the ball away and almost trying to give Senegal a chance. In the second half, a completely different Senegal team emerged from the locker room. They came out storming, counter-attacking with speed that terrified the Danish defense. About ten minutes in the Senegalese put in a goal that I consider the best of the tournament so far. Most “best goals” are the kind where the final shot is spectacular. This one was all about teamwork. Starting in their own penalty area, the Senegalese put together a series of brilliant passes and runs through the Danish defense that left them standing scratching their heads. In just a few seconds the ball was in the Denmark penalty area as a clever feed to Diao left him one-on-one with the keeper, and he easily put it into the far corner of the goal to equalize. Wow, what a sequence! Just mesmorizing, jaw-dropping stuff! But after that the Danes regrouped and though Senegal controlled most of the play and had several chances, they couldn’t take the lead. With about ten minutes to go, the goal scorer, Diao, did a foolish and incredibly dangerous tackle where he came in with his studs up into the shin of a Danish player, the kind of challenge that could easily snap a shin in half if the foot was planted. The stupid part was he did this literally right in front of the ref who had no hesitation in pulling out the imediate red card. So Diao’s World Cup is probably over — he’ll be suspended for the next game, and most likely FIFA will extend that, considering the severity of the foul. Just not smart. Playing with ten men, Senegal was never threatened by Denmark, but they never quite got that last challenge on goal they should have, pressing the older, tired Danes late in the game. So they ended up with a draw in a game they should have won. The two teams are now tied at the top of the group with 4 points each, but Denmark faces an uphill battle against France next, while Senegal tackles Uruguay. Assuming France wins both of their games, just a point from the Uruguay game would put Senegal through, but if France don’t win, goal difference could be significant in this group — Senegal needs to score a lot of goals. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: France vs. Uruguay

Well, it finally happened — the first scoreless game of WC2002. Who would have thunk it would happen in a game with France? But it wasn’t a boring game. France desperately needed a win. They managed a draw which barely keeps them alive. But they had an excuse this time, playing better than in their first game, but the surprising ejection of Thiery Henry mid-way through the first half after a rash tackle meant they had to play with a lone striker the rest of the game. That gave Uruguay plenty of opportunities on goal, but they squandered them. Recoba sent a free kick, his specialty, a mile high over the goal, and later, when he’d drawn Barthez out of his goal and dribbled around him, with an open goal to shoot at he hit the side netting! Granted, he was shooting from an angle and running in full stride, but still, at this level you just have to finish. Late in the game France put in Cissie, their other top striker, and he actually threatened the Uruguay goal better than either Henry or Trezuget ever did. He’s the leading scorer in the French league, but for some reason he’s sat on the bench the whole tournament. (France are blessed with three strikers who are the leading scorers in three different leagues. Wow. Yet shockingly, France haven’t scored a goal!) Ultimately this result keeps both teams alive, but just barely. They each need a massive goal-fest win in their final game to continue in the tournament. Final: 0-0.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Wed, Jun 05, 2002

: World Cup: USA vs. Portugal

I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect the U.S. to win this game. I figured we might be able to take the lead at some point, and perhaps finish with a draw. When I saw Bruce Arena’s line-up I was pleased. He went with a nice mix of youth and experience, and though I was disappointed that Clint Mathis wasn’t playing, I was still optimistic. (Claudia Reyna I feel is over-rated and it wasn’t such a big deal that he couldn’t play. In a few years Donovan can take over his role and do it a hundred times better.) Anyway, I was getting so excited about this match, dying to see how the U.S. team would play, that I stayed up and watched the match live! Sure, it was a 2 a.m. kickoff, but who needs sleep when you’re rooting for your national team?

The U.S. team did me proud! Starting things off aggressively, the Americans looked sharp from the kickoff, putting pressure on Portugal, who looked a little surprised. We quickly won a corner kick, and when Stewart put in a great ball, Brian McBride almost scored on a strong header. The Portugese keeper blocked the shot, but the rebound fell to the feet of John O’Brien, and he calmly slotted it home giving the U.S. the lead in just the fourth minute of play! Twenty-five minutes later, Landon Donovan’s cross is deflected off the back of the head of a defender. The deflection wrong-footed the keeper who dived wildly but couldn’t stop the goal. It was ruled an own goal for reasons I don’t understand: own goals should be when the opponent does something deliberately, but in this case the Portugese player knew nothing about it. So Landon gets credit in my book, but not officially. In the thirty-sixth minute of play, Donovan was again involved, quickly sending the ball up the right side to a streaking Tony Sanneh. Tony placed a pin-point cross over into the goal mouth which McBride caught with a diving header to give the U.S. an amazing three goal lead! That’s the first time the U.S. has scored three goals in a World Cup match since 1930, and the first time we’ve ever done it in one half. Minutes later, unfortunately, Portugual got a goal back. On a corner kick the attacker beat Jeff Agoos to a head ball, but his shot was rejected by O’Brien. Unfortunately, his wimpy clearance gave the ball right back to the same player and he finished off the second chance. In the second half, Portugal put on gobs of pressure, and though the U.S. struggled at times, we managed to keep our lead until about twenty minutes left when Agoos’ attempt to clear a wicked cross deflected the ball into the U.S. net. An own goal both directions — justice? While the last twenty minutes were nail-biting, fortunately we managed to hold on for the win — a win most are calling a bigger upset then the Senegal-France shocker. I was especially impressed with how the U.S. played the final few minutes. The players were obviously exhausted, barely able to kick the ball, yet they got the ball into Portugal’s side of the field and wouldn’t let it out! Great time-wasting, and it obviously frustrated Portugal.

This was just a fantastic game. It wasn’t that Portugal played badly — the U.S. just played well. Figo was very good, very dangerous, but it’s possible he wasn’t up to his world class standards (he’s rumored to be nursing an injury, though he played the whole game). I think this was a case of the Portugal under-estimating the Americans. I was most impressed by the U.S. attack: I greatly favor offense over defense and I felt that the speed and skill of DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan was what won the game for us. Some great mid-field play by O’Brien and the others kept the ball well, allowing them to feed the ball forward giving some great chances for the forwards, and that kept Portugal from moving too many men up in the attack. The defenders fought hard and worked hard, and though Goose had a couple critical mistakes, he actually had a good game overall and saved a few plays. Even his own goal would have resulted in a goal anyway if he hadn’t blocked the shot (there were two Portugese players waiting for the ball on the other side of Goose). In short, this was a great team victory, with every U.S. player putting on a great show, playing with heart (Pope had an excellent game), and working very hard. Now they just have to do it again against South Korea! Final: 3-2 USA!

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Ireland vs. Germany

Routine game for the most part. Germany got on the board mid-way through the first half and really didn’t look back. Ireland pressured, but couldn’t break through the German defense. Late in the game the tall guy, Niall Quinn was put in, and injury time his knock-down header dropped between two defenders and in the path of Robbie Keane. He pounced on the loose ball and coolly stuck it in the net to tie the game. Germany’s hopes of a victory and advancement to the second wrong faded and Ireland’s huge point save keeps them alive in the group. With Saudi Arabia left to play, they’re in great shape. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Director: Kevin Smith

Unusual entry in the Kevin Smith “view askew” universe. It’s almost a parody, with sequences that mock Star Wars and Scooby Doo, as well as lots of star cameos in self-mocking appearances and even jabs at Smith’s previous films. Uneven and more of a straight comedy than Smith’s previous outings. Unfortunately, still extremely foul and crude but without the character insights of his better films. In short, okay if you’re a Smith fan. (Certainly better than Mallrats but nothing like Chasing Amy Chasing Amy.)

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: World Cup: Russia vs. Tunisia

Okay game. Tunisia looked very interesting — a nice aggressive style — but their finishing was incredibly poor, with guys putting point-blank chances well wide of the goal. Russia should have dominated easily, but they struggled a bit, and didn’t look especially sharp. They finally got their goals, the first on a mistake by Tunisia’s keeper, and the second on a penalty kick, but if it wasn’t for either of those one wonders if they would have scored. Karpin had a terrific game, though. Final: 2-0 Russia.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Tue, Jun 04, 2002

: World Cup: Costa Rica vs. China

Surprisingly good game. China started off attacking and looked pretty good. Costa Rica didn’t do much. But in the second half, China went defensive and Costa Rica turned it on, scoring twice in four minutes. Both goals were excellent. Gomez set up the first, sending a back heel through-ball to star Wanchope. But his shot was blocked. Gomez smacked the rebound with his left foot high into the net to give Costa Rica the lead. Four minutes later, Gomez’s blind cross into the middle found a wide open Maurico Wright (formerly of the San Jose Earthquakes) who beautifully finished with a glancing header that gave the Chinese keeper no chance. Final: 2-0 Costa Rica.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Japan vs. Belgium

If you’re going to watch this game, just skip the first half, which was incredibly boring with no chances on goal from either team. But the second half was incredible, one of the most exciting so far in the Cup. First the Belgians go things going with a fantastic bicycle kick goal from Marc Wilmots. With their good defense, it seemed Belgium was all set. But minutes later a communication error at the back as a defender let the ball go through to his keeper, and a quick Japanese player (Suzuki) pounced on it and just managed a toe to put it in the goal. Japan was back in it with the huge Japanese crowd going mad. The goal awoke Japan and minutes later they scored again on a marvelous individual effort as Inamoto beat the back line and put in an incredible shot to beat the keeper. But Belgium had their own answer to that, capitalizing on a Japanese bad offside trap that let in a player behind the back line, and he gracefully chipped it over the keeper to level the score. Wow! Great stuff. Late in the game Japan had a terrific individual goal from Inamoto where he beat several players in the box to score, but the goal was called back, apparently for offsides. Belgium had their own appeal for a penalty in extra time, but it wasn’t given. In the end, a decent result for both teams. Great stuff. Final: 2-2.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Korea vs. Poland

Terrific game, but bodes ill for the U.S. The Korean team was just on fire, playing attractive attacking soccer the whole game, and scoring two gorgeous goals of incredible skill. What can one say about Poland? Their keeper, Dudek (one of my favorites), played well, but every other player was asleep. If they play like this against the U.S., we should easily win. But with Korea already registering a win, that pretty much means the U.S. needs to win two to advance (a win and a draw might not be enough). Final: 2-0 Korea.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Mon, Jun 03, 2002

: World Cup: Brazil vs. Turkey

Excellent game until the last few minutes. Brazil had tremendous offense and was only kept off the board by the Turkish keeper. Turkey looked dangerous on the counter-attack, and sure enough, just before the second half they took a 1-0 lead. Brazil quickly game back in the second half with a goal by Ronaldo, and after that it was a good old-fashioned battle. Near the end, however, the ref got involved, red carding a Turkish player for a foul outside the penalty box, but he gave Brazil a penalty kick anyway, and Rivaldo converted. That bad call put a sour note on the match, and then a Turkish player kicked the ball at Rivaldo as he waited to take a corner. He fell down like he was shot (it was not a hard kick) and the idiot Turkish player was sent off. Dumb play. Anyway, the good news was that Brazil played some beautiful ball and Turkey, despite the loss, played well. Final: 2-1 Brazil.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Italy vs. Ecuador

Boring game. Ecuador forgot to show up. Italy scored twice in the first half hour, both goals by Vieri (the first was terrific with an assist by Totti), but after that Italy didn’t have to work hard. Ecuador played slightly better in the second half, but never really got into the game, barely registering a shot. Final: 2-0 Italy.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sun, Jun 02, 2002

: World Cup: Croatia vs. Mexico

Surprising game. After a tough qualifying round, the good Mexican team showed up and really pressed the Croatians. Croatia didn’t play badly, but they didn’t have the spark they did in France 98, where individual players lifted the team to unprecedented heights. Unfortunately, the ref had to help decide this match, awarding a deserved penalty to Mexico when Blanco was clearly taken down in the box. But the ref also ejected the Croatian player, which was harsh, and the result was that was the end of the day for Croatia. Mexico, while they played well, did not capitalize on their extra man, which could cost them if goal difference becomes a deciding factor to get out of the group. Final: 1-0 Mexico.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Paraguay vs. South Africa

Terrific game. I figured this one would be a boring defensive affair, but it was anything but. Paraguay showed a lot of attacking prowess, scoring twice early, with one goal an amazing free kick that I could see a hundred times and still not quite believe. Incredible. But in the second half Paraguay fell apart. South Africa pressed hard and they crumbled, as a shot led to an own goal. It still looked like they had it won but South Africa didn’t give up, and the referee gave them their chance in the final minute of play when Paraguay’s substitute keeper fouled in the box for a penalty kick. It was converted and the score was tied. Wow. Final: 2-2.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Argentina vs. Nigeria

Excellent game that could have gone either direction. The Nigerian’s showed great attacking drive, but were weak on the finishing. While their goalkeeper made a number of terrific saves, his indecision on a cross ended up costing his team a goal, which, of course, was scored by Batistuta. Argentina looked weaker than I expected. Though they’ll win this group, they didn’t dominate the way I thought they should have to be true champion contenders. But it’s a long tournament. Maybe their form will pick up. Final: 1-0 Argentina.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: England vs. Sweden

Odd game. I like both teams and I have Swedish ancestry, so the result is probably appropriate. But I was disappointed with England’s lackluster play. In the first half they were filled with fire, but after their early goal, they relaxed and Sweden got into the game. In the second half it was all Sweden, with England looking mighty pathetic and frantic. The result does neither side any favors, though it doesn’t hurt. The group’s still up for grabs. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Spain vs. Solvenia

I found this game boring. I don’t know: I’m just not a fan of Spain. Occasionally they play brilliantly, but most of the time they just let you down. Solvenia was great in Euro 2000, but and they showed some interesting stuff here, but in the end the ref screwed everything up. Spain was up by two goals when Solvenia gained one back late, and they should have been awarded a penalty kick. Instead, the ref waved play on. But seconds later he awards a penalty kick to Spain on a non-foul at the edge of the Slovenia box. So what should have been a deserved 2-2 tie became a 3-1 Spanish win. Lame. Final: 3-1 Spain.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sat, Jun 01, 2002

: World Cup: Germany vs. Saudi Arabia

My only complaint here is about ESPN. What are they thinking???? ABC isn’t going to air the Ireland-Camaroon game until 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, yet in the first minute of this 4:25 a.m. broadcast they tell us the result of that game with no warning or anything! Don’t they want us to watch the ABC game? It’s so ridiculous and infuriating. While I appreciate ABC/ESPN covering the World Cup, if any other network would take over the duties, I’d go for it. They’ve go to be the most incompentent network on the planet. I already have to tape paper across the bottom two inches of my TV screen to keep from seeing the idiotic running scores ticker, which often reveal the score of the games you haven’t seen yet. But when they blantantly announce the final score of a game that hasn’t aired yet, that’s just stupidity.

Okay, rant off. Back to soccer. Wow, a complete blow-out. I wasn’t excited about this game (the Saudi’s are usually poor), but I was curious about Germany, who haven’t been in best form the past few years. But they showed world class domination in this affair, putting in four goals in each half! Wow. Absolutely incredible. Germany’s biggest win in World Cup history. I hereby predict the Saudi’s coach won’t last the day. Final: 8-0 Germany.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Uruguay vs. Denmark

Great game, with lots of end-to-end action, passionate, aggressive play, and a deserved win by Denmark. Denmark’s goals were textbook, arising from team play; the goal from Uruguay was pure inspiration on a long blast by their leftback. Great stuff. Final: 2-1 Denmark.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

: World Cup: Ireland vs. Cameroon

Terrific game. The first 35 minutes stunk as neither side seemed to want to attack, but finally they got over whatever was making them tentative and began to fight. Cameroon owned the first half, with tons of chances that culminated in a goal. But Ireland showed they had skill in the second half, attacking relentlessly and nearly connecting on tons of chances. They equalized on a great long shot by Matt Holland. In the end neither side could top the other, but it was a great hold-your-breath fight until the final whistle. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link