Tag Archives: World Cup

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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Au Revoir aux Bleus: France 1-2 South Africa

Bakari Sagna of France tackles Siphiwe Tshabalala of S. Africa (FIFA.com/Getty/Clive Rose)

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The cosmos and the Bafana Bafana delivered a victory for South Africa.

I didn’t get to watch the game. This is not because I have a job, but because I have an internship and even though they’re not paying, it is still sort of frowned upon if you show up and proceed to do nothing but watch sports and Google yourself.

I did listen for a while on ESPN radio online (dear lifesaver), but then I had a meeting.

Happily, South Africa did not let me down in my absence (although it was unfortunately not enough to advance them to the Round of 16).

Yes, yes, you may have read that I was supporting France a while ago, but catch yourself up folks: I had to jump ship because the French team went to hell in a hand basket. And no, I did not defect due to poor performance. I broke up with the team because of appalling behavior.

FIFA.com/Getty/Clive Mason

Anyways, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that had I been able to watch the game I probably would have cried. Happy for the win, sad for the elimination despite the last group round victory. Talk about rough city for the host nation.

But at least they got a win, right? And at least they didn’t lose to the shambles that was the French team after all that drama. That would have been terribly tragic. And really, there are things worse than a draw, a loss and a win.

Things like being Les Bleus, for example.

On the menu for tomorrow? Missing the USA-Algeria game whilst at my last day of interning (but that’s a sad story for another day).

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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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Descent into Mayhem: Brazil vs. Ivory Coast

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That’s really all I have to say about the closing minutes of the Brazil – Ivory Coast Game.

Michel Bastos argues with Siake Tiene (FIFA.com/Getty Images/Martin Rose)

It was absurd.

The commentators regretfully informed the world that such behavior is the downfall of their sport. Tsk tsk.

Add to that the scandalous behavior of the French team at practice, and it was quite the drama day.

And events/causes of scandal aside, don’t you think that as a supposedly elite side who has performed miserably, nigh on embarrassingly, that instead of boycotting practice maybe you ought to—oh I don’t know—do some teamwork drills or something? I mean—obviously—aside from agreeing as a team to march off the field and refuse to return whilst under the lens of the media.

I mean, I hate to say this, but (and especially since they are playing South Africa next) I might have to pull my support from Les Bleus (anyways, I have another blue—technically azure—team that I back above all anyways, and then of course there is Team USA… lots of blue here).

Anyways.

Soon I will have to relive my aneurysm regarding the Azzurri. Returning to my dark place to write that post will be interesting.

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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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Les Bleus… Well… OK, So They Blew

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The Loneliest Man in the World: Raymond Domenech (FIFA.com/Getty)

This can’t have done much to improve the general French attitude towards their national coach.

Choice bits from Steve McManaman (and it really says something about the behavior of the French team that I am choosing to quote McManaman, seeing as he has the worst hair, the worst suits and some pretty bad ties as well. He is also occasionally unintelligible, but that’s a story for another day):

“Awful, abysmal, terrible… I could go on… They look unorganized, they play whatever they want, they look selfish. Uck.”

“There was no passion, no power, no nothing.”

“They should have scored in the first half.”

McManaman goes on to say that they might have, if players hadn’t been being “a little bit selfish,” and could have been bothered to, oh I don’t know, maybe pass to each other?

FIFA.com / Getty

And I had such hope as I heard the familiar strains of La Marseillaise before the game. You know, all that stuff about snuffing our enemies, using the blood of the enemy to water the fields of France, general fury about being masters of their own destinies, avenging themselves, being heroes, et cetera, et cetera.

Am I the only one who knows the lyrics? For God’s sake.

Je suis en grande détresse, grâce aux Bleus.

As a disclaimer to the general tone of this post: I love the French, I love all things French, I have lived in France, and I have studied France and French due to my love of said place and people, for which you can thank my mother.

FIFA.com/Getty/Streeter Lecka

It was repulsive. It made multi-tasking nearly impossible. I had been stalwart in my optimism. I had been confident that the dull and disjointed game against Uruguay was no reason for writing off.

I mean, don’t they even want to have a go at winning the right to wear another little star on their jerseys?

I shall have to resort to discussing the French uniforms and then using them to mock the team. There’s no way around it.

First of all, aside from the astounding photographic quality available to us in this delightful modern era, and aside from the amazing athleticism in that amazing leap by Evra… let us take note of a special element of the French uniform: those delightful gloves. A good number of Team France chooses to sport dainty blue gloves throughout the game.

Dandies.

Let’s just go with the most historically popular slur against the French and just call them fancy dandies, running about being generally useless.

The sad, cold French team. (FIFA.com/Getty)

I mean, I know it was cold out and all, but the other teams did not appear to be wearing gloves. And it’s one thing to bundle up on the bench, it’s one thing to wear extra layers but I take issue with those royal blue gloves.

Hmm… what to decry next?

FIFA.com/Getty/Mike Hewitt

How about how tightly much of the French team choose to wear their jerseys? Perhaps the tightness was cutting off the circulation to their brains, thus rendering them incapable of communicating and functioning as a team?

Dear Sagna, that is a very tight shirt. I think the lack of circulation also caused him to select his current hair-do. Love the blond tips to your cornrows…

I am sorry, but I am very upset!

Although to be fair, probably not as upset as Sagna and Diaby in that photo. At least they know they should be ashamed; those expressions are just rank with despondence mixed slowly boiling rage.

Not like the sheer infectious joy of the Mexican side. I was clearly having myself a fit during the game, but upon reviewing the images a few hours later, I must admit… I feel a little happy for them.

Dos Santos and Blanco After His Penalty Shot putting the tally at 0:2 (FIFA.com/Getty/David Cannon)

How can you not? Just look at that face. Also, the Mexican side actually functions as team, so they actually deserved to win.

Unlike Les Bleus.

C’est dommage.

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