Tag Archives: Alexi Lalas

Azzurri, “Too Little, Too Late”

“It’s the end for Italy, tears of utter despair.”

Fabio Cannavaro leave the field, devastated after Italy's elimination by Slovakia (ESPN.com/AP Photo/Gero Breoloer)


Johanna: I am mourning for Italy
Kim: And France?
Johanna: France deserved what they got.
Kim: Do your tears taste like pasta?
Johanna: Salty, bitter pasta.

That pretty much sums it up, but I hate to be brief—particularly when I am upset.

Yesterday was a rough day in my life. Not only did my people fail me by becoming the most pathetic defending world champions and being eliminated in the group round, but I had some moving logistics set-backs (my which I mean my morning in the afternoon was an epic shit storm on many levels).

I’ve gotten over my moving troubles, but I’ve yet to recover from the bitter disappointment of Italy’s defeat, dealt by 3:2 by the Slovakian side.

Last weekend’s draw with New Zealand had a scent of embarrassment about it, but it was OK. Things were still OK—or rather, things could still be OK.

If the US team has taught us anything, it’s that things can still be OK at the last minute.

Of course, it’s best not to depend on a sudden eleventh hour stroke of genius. Yesterday’s Italian team played in a haze until the last minutes of the game when suddenly they seemed to remember that this nightmare was actually happening and that they’re Italian.

How often can one criticize Italy for a lack of passion? I mean really. That’s clichéd, but still—really.

If only, they had been able to get that shot of energy and passion (panic?) 30 minutes earlier even. They came close to a draw, there was that one moment at the end for a shot…

Instead, we had to watch in horror as the defending champions confirmed for the last time that they just didn’t have it in them any more. As the Italian side dragged each other off the pitch at varying stages of dismay, disbelief, dejection and despair (the four Ds, if you will), I just stared blankly at my television screen.

I had already cried earlier in the day, so I did not join my countrymen in their tears of devastation (that’s the fifth D), but that might have been due to the numbness induced by this unbelievable (yet painfully believable, which is the worst part) upset.

Oh sigh. I’m dwelling.

You had the easiest group for God’s sake!

Sorry. That was me continuing to dwell.

Let’s see what Alexi Lalas had to say.

“Tt was just absolutely—this was not even close to half the team we saw four years ago. They came in old, they played old and they left even older.”

He is so mean.

He proceeded to call the Dutch a well-oiled machine, and to wax poetic over Honda from Team Japan.

Whatever.

Now I am so confused. Am I going to end up fully supporting Team U.S.A.?

Weird.

More importantly, does that mean that I am going to have to start liking the U2 commercials? Because I am going to have to draw a line somewhere.

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Waterloo References Never Get Old: The French Embarrassment

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“France should just go home, OK? Fly in the Irish…”

So says Alexi Lalas in the ESPN wrap-up session after today’s World Cup games.

Oh haven’t you heard? Not only has  France performed abysmally in their first two group games, but yesterday a bona fide mutiny broke out at a training session, as alluded to in my previous post.

Patrice Evra got into it with the fitness coach Robert Duverne during a very public session on the French training ground. Generally disliked head coach Raymond Domenech intervened, yadda yadda… we end with Duverne storming off the field and chucking his credentials into the distance.

The last bit of that widely circulated footage is Alexi Lalas’ most favorite. He is also wondering if anyone has found the discarded loot, because he bets it would be worth a lot.

The entire team then managed to agree on the first matter on which they have had such success: They banded together and refused to practice, raising concerns about forfeiting their last group match against Bafana Bafana.

The crux of their beef? The sending home of forward Nicolas Anelka, who purportedly insulted Domenech during their last half time.

Of course, all of France has been insulting Domenech for a while now, but that’s besides the point. There is mutiny here.

So after the team stormed off, they sent poor Domenech back out to read their statement.

It’s just too ridiculous. The whole thing is just absurd. You have to almost feel bad for him.

“All the players in the French squad without exception wish to affirm their opposition to the decision taken by the French Football Federation to exclude Nicolas Anelka. The French Football Federation did not at any time try to protect the group. It took a decision without even consulting the players as a whole, uniquely based on facts reported by the press. As a consequence and to show our opposition to the decision taken by officials of the federation, all the players has decided not to take part in today’s training session.”

Are you serious? Etes-vous serieux?

While all this was going down, the Team Director and Soccer Federation Managing Director for France, Jean-Louis Valentin also took leave of the field, announcing his resignation.

“They don’t want to train, it’s a scandal,” said Valentin, tears of anger in his voice. “It’s a scandal for the French people, for the youngsters who came here to watch them train. I’m resigning, I’m leaving the federation. I have nothing more to do here. I’m going back to Paris.” (source: ABC.com)

Talk about embarrassing.

So you start out with a team that people are feeling isn’t going to live up to past glory (quite a bit past, really). You have an unpopular coach. You are still the national team. France loves you. You’re there to do the whole French glory thing, uphold the Patrie. Then you draw with Uruguay. Then you go ahead and lose to Mexico while insulting your coach. To remedy this, you figure, “Oui, I will cause a massive scene in front of fans and the press, jeopardize any remaining iota of respect we might possess and funnel national frustration with our performance into hate for our actual selves.”

The French press is not reacting kindly. Waterloo references are being made (and you know, that’s not their favorite thing to bring up in France), the team’s behavior is being compared to steaming pile of shit, and the Parisien (on the gentler side of things) bemoans the fact that not only is France stuck with the worst team at the cup, but “to also have the most stupid is intolerable.”

Stupid.

Even “villain” Zinedine Zidane condemned this former team: “There’s two things that will be remembered from this World Cup—the winner and the fact that the French team refused to attend the training session ahead of their match with South Africa.”

Furthermore, French corporate sponsorship is being pulled. The likes of Credit Agricole and Quick want nothing to do with the scandal.

Recall my sadness when Les Bleus lost to Mexico. I was upset, feeling both tragic and frustrated. And while it pains me to turn my back, I now just really, really, really want to see South Africa finalize the decimation of the French team—not only because it would be great to see the host nation win one, but let’s face it: those French cocks need to be taught a lesson about…

…Well there are so many things. Let’s go with “functioning,” to put it broadly.

There, I said it.

And I am so thankful not to be a French child football fan right now. I might be destroyed. Can you imagine heading to the training session to get some pictures, maybe an autograph and seeing that unfold?

I’m thinking of sending a telegram:

France National Team: [stop]

I regret to inform you that we are breaking up. [stop] At least my true loves the Azzurri aren’t a hot mess. [stop] Be better at life next time. [stop]

Regretfully yours,
Johanna [stop]

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Koman Coulibaly of Mali & the USA-Slovenia Draw

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Are. You. Serious.

Really. Really?!

Where to begin?

As a prelude to the inexplicable reffing, I shall begin where I began my live tweeting of the USA- Slovenia game. It was a fairly rapid turnaround in sentiment.

Petulant? Maybe. Relevant and understandable complaint? Yes.

I had a similarly toned exchange on gchat with my Maine expert:

Me: I mean, was he just hanging out having himself a self-reflective moment?

Spike: “Oh man it’s so cool to be in the World Cup, the US isn’t great in soccer so we have to do well, I have to do well, I’m the goalie, I have to goal…wait…what just happened?”

Me: Really, after I tweeted about how happy I was that his ribs are not sticking out of his chest.

At least the second time Slovenia goaled Howard moved towards the ball. That was an upgrade.

Zlatan Ljubjankic scores past Tim Howard for second Slovenian goal (FIFA.com/Getty/Kevork Djansezian)

And then there were the calls. Most people are focusing on that last goal disallowing call, but Referee Coulibaly was a mess throughout. Commentators were consistently baffled by calls made by the Malian official, having no qualms openly and definitively disagreeing with his decisions.

“Absolutely ridiculous decision, one of the stupidest decisions I think I’ve ever seen.”

I’m no expert, but there was some crazy shit going down.

Not that I don’t admit the American performance in the first half was entirely lackluster. As favored Words To Bumble commentator Alexi Lalas put it: “They had their chances [in the first half], and they didn’t finish their chances.”

The Lalas man was not happy.

Donovan scores (FIFA.com/Getty/Kevork Djansezian)

Luckily for Team USA—as I am confident that Lalas was about to personally go kick some ass—Donovan brought them back into play immediately into the second half.

Bradley Celebrates (FIFA.com/Getty/Christof Koepsel)

It was about time.

And that must have been one hell of a half time pep talk, because—albeit 45 minutes late—the US finally starting playing.

And then, magically, Michael Bradley (son of the coach) put another one in for the US. Fans in the stands were literally in tears. It  was a special moment.

And then came the penalty kick; and then came Maurice Edu (upon whom I had decided to pin all my hopes in a fit of halftime frustration) and what appeared to be the third goal and a win for the US.

So much happiness.

Maurice Edu heads in to Donovan's penalty kick (NYT/AP/Luca Bruno)

And then so much devastation when inexplicably, Coulibaly blew his whistle and disallowed the goal based on an invisible foul. In fact, it looked like the American players were the ones being fouled.

Seriously.

Sample from the commentators?

“I cannot believe that call by the referee, that is horrible.”

They called it a “nightmare.”

After the game, Coach Bob Bradley commented: “A lot of emotion went into the second half… Still don’t know why the goal was disallowed.”

“I think there was nothing there. I think it’s a good goal and that’s that.”

“Nobody knows” what that call was.

And in the nature of the game, there are no forthcoming explanations, just moving along, on to the next match.

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Sleeper Greece: Just When I Decided Not to Trust Alexi Lalas

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Really.

There I went and adjusted my bracket. First, I had Greece and Nigeria listed for a draw. Then I changed it to Greece because, you know, I figured they deserved some faith, plus I like Mediterranean folks.

Then my desire to win the bracket (currently behind by two… sigh) took over and I went back to a draw. Then I felt that I should be more decisive and that really one of these teams needed a win, so I decided to go with Nigeria since they had held up not too badly against Argentina.

You see how crazy I am becoming?

At any rate, I decided to once and for all discard the Alexi Lalas’ advice and go with the African team.

I never should has questioned. This I know now.

Oh hindsight.

FIFA.com/Getty/Paul Gilham

My favorite moment was Vassilis Torosidis airplaning around the field after his goal (the second of the game).

Congratulations Greece. You’re ruining my bracket, no matter which way I place you, but congratulations.

Actually it is sort of valiant that Greece managed to score not once but twice—just look at the Nigerian goalie. If that man doesn’t mean “no nonsense,” then I don’t know what “no nonsense” means.

Vincent Enyeama was not a happy camper. He glowered, he shook his head and generally stalked about looking furious.

It all went going downhill when Sani Kaita got red carded for petulantly kicking at Torosidis during a bit of a tangle on the line. The Greek looked to his cultural roots and made a huge dramatic scene of it, falling tragically and expressively to the ground.

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When the call was made Kaita fell to his knees in disbelief, and the following journey lasted eons. Watching Kaita trudge off the field was one of the most tragic scenes of the Cup thus far—in my humble opinion. He went nearly the whole way with his shirt over his face, devastated by a moment of reflexive frustration.

Kind of dampens the Greek victory a bit, doesn’t it?

Plus of course, it’s pretty much rubbish.

Breach of proper decorum? Of course. A full-on violent kick? Not so much.

Ah well: drama, drama, drama. Thank you World Cup for illuminating my life with awkwardly timed live international sporting entertainment once again.

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Alexi Lalas & the Greek Sleeper

Remember that time Alexi Lalas picked Greece as his sleep pick for the World Cup?

I do.

You know, I decided to go ahead and trust Mr. Ginger. I did. Plus, who would have thought South Korea would win?

Not I said the girl with the editing internship that requires her to read endless World Cup analyses.

I missed the game, but Molly assures me that Lalas was conspicuously quiet during the post-game conversation on ESPN. Personally, if I were mediating, I would have called him out.

On the upside, for nationalistic causes, as the ENG-USA game carried on the Americans pulled it together and the following tweet ceased to be true:

Clearly someone was checking their tweets midgame and took my expert advice to heart.

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The World Cup is Finally Here!

That’s all really.

The opener between South Africa and Mexico is 46:19 in as I type and we’re off to the halftime report. Neither team has scored. This is apparently the first time that has happened in an opener since 1994.

The vuvuzelas are already annoying and if I was sitting behind someone wearing a sombrero, I would be a little pissed.

Just saying.

And that Nike ad has not yet aired in its entirety, but I am hopeful.

Oh and the gear people are sporting is amazing. As is all the footage of safari animals.

World Cup!

And just to officially lay it out there: I am supporting Italy. They are my people and I will be there later this summer. I also own a Forza Fiorentina scarf.

I also like France (on principle) and Uruguay (my original pick), who are playing this afternoon whilst I am unable to be watching—lame—although given my indecision, that might be best. At some point, I suppose I can get behind the US. Like, possibly at the England-USA game tomorrow.

Alexi Lalas has declared Greece as his sleeper, the Netherlands and Spain as finalists with the Dutch taking home the Cup.

World Cup!

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