30 June 2006

QUARTERFINALS Game 4

BRAZIL FRANCE

This is it, a replay of the World Cup 1998 Final. I predict just as much excitement and just as big an upset. Brazil has been having a nice walk of it this trip. And France has been sucking like a straw right up until the second half of their game against Spain. But now it's all France baby. I'm not going to get caught out, like I did in the Round of 16, not picking one upset. It couldn't be Germany Argentina, that's a close even match, as is England Portugal. Ukraine Italy is a game I'm too personally invested in to predict an upset. So that leaves this game to be the shocker.

I've just recently started swinging punditry, just this summer, for the World Cup, and I'm still getting the hang of the fit, but this bold fresh gesture of picking an old useless ugly (and French) team over the mighty beautiful giants of Brazil is making me feel good. People can laugh it off if the expected happens and Brazil thrash France. But if France pulls a stunning upset than I look like a genius. Basically I can't lose.


WINNER: FRANCE
MARGIN: 3-1

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29 June 2006

QUARTERFINALS Game 3

ENGLAND PORTUGAL

Well, this game promises to be exciting. By exciting I mean a passionate game of ugly English football stifling the Portugal offense, who will have a petulant C. Ronaldo make a few runs, but be lacking their wizard Deco, who got 3 of the 20 cards issued in the brawl against Holland. However, Maniche the Portuguese hero of 2004, and gamewinner against Holland may yet pot himself another goal.
England, for their part, would do well to provide Wayne Rooney with some assistance up front.

I'll watch this game, I'll cheer this game (probably for England by a narrow margin. Though I may cheer the Ports just to piss Corey Cornish off.) Regardless I expect a low-scoring, boring affair, that will lack rhythm but not redcards.

WINNER: ENGLAND
MARGIN: 1-1 (5-4 ON PENALTIES)

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QUARTERFINALS game 2

ITALY UKRAINE

Well this game should be easy to predict: ITALY ALL THE WAY!!!

...But of course it's never that simple, this is the World Cup. This is the Italy that drew with the weakass American team, giving that team their first ever points against a European team in Europe. This is the team that only managed to beat Australia off a weak penalty call in injury time. This is a great Italian team playing below their potential. Basically the opposite of Germany.

However I predict that in yet another game that Italy should win handily, they will barely eke out a nerve-wracking victory. Much to the relief of every Italian, Italy fan, and expatriated Canadian living in Italy. The other option, the one I can-t dare to dream, is that the Italian offence will come alive for a barrage of goals. Led by a rejuvented Totti, and of course, with Luca Toni finally coming into his international tournament own. This is less likely. There is, of course, another darker option, and that is an upset by the Ukrainians. That idea is too painful to entertain; fortunately, it is also unlikely.

WINNER: ITALY
MARGIN 2-0

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QUARTERFINALS-Game 1

Chiara and I are heading out of Rome tomorrow to go to Belgium and Holland for the weekend. we're heading to Mechelen and its' Canadian oupost of sports enthusiasm: the home of Evan and Tineke. I'm anticipating Belgian beers, much trash talk, and slavish devotion from all attendees.
Amsterdam won't happen until Sunday, so we'll be missing Boom Chicago's World Cup Show "Kick This", but we'll still get to think hope and dream football. On bikes.
I-m taking a stab at some predictions here. I did pretty well last round, though they seemed relatively easy. This round it gets harder.

ARGENTINA GERMANY

Who's going to take it, the better team? Or the home team? Both have scored 10 goals so far and let in only 2. SO they're even, on paper. But Germany let in those 2 goals both in their first game. And 6 of Argentina's 10 goals came in one game against the disappointing Serbia Montenegro. Both have potent offenses though: Messi, Crespo and Saviola vs. Podolski and Klose. In the midfield it'll be Ballck vs. Riquelme to see who can make the sweetest set-ups. Defense will be Argentina's experience vs. Germany's youth. It's a tough battle of two powerful willful teams enjoying much World Cup success this month. But I think the edge goes to Germany. I prefer Argentina, let's be clear on that. But it seems that Argentina peaked in their 6-0 rout of S&M; they struggled mightily against lesser Mexico who forced extra time. Germany hasn't conceded a goal since their opening fixture and have only gotten stronger. Their Round of 16 match was a mighty thumping of Sweden. Who it must be admitted, played pretty shitty the entire tournament. Point is, Germany's totally pumped, and when I say Germany, I mean the whole country. They're playing beautiful attacking flexible football and the whole country is becoming flexible and free-spirited, in tune with their team. I'm not sure Argentina can hold up against it. The thing I'm expecting though is good attacking football with lots of chances going both ways.

WINNER: GERMANY
MARGIN: 3-2

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200

That last post was my twohundredth. The next post, my twohundredthandsecond, will contain my predictions for the quarterfinals.

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28 June 2006

FRANCE SPAIN


FRANCE-3 1-SPAIN

Hmmm. here was the upset of the Round of 16. France beating Spain shouldn't be an upset, but the way these two tams have played at this World Cup it was. Spain=(ed) totally awesome. France=(ed) totally weak.

However this game France played brilliantly. I wanted them to lose, I wanted Spain to win, but France outplayed them. Everybody except Thierry Henry, who spent the whole game standing offside until he was substituted for the last 10 minutes.
Frank Ribery, an ugly goat who last game could only sky the ball over the net, (twice, on clean chances) beat Casillas clean to tie the game early in the second half. Vieira scored off a header and then vey late in the game Zizou himself, who's looked really the worst of the tired old-timers at this world Cup found the back of the net to give France a decisive 3-1 win.

David Villa scored for Spain on a penalty kick in the first half, but that's all they could do. Spain looked pretty good, but France looked better. that's why France gets to play Brazil in their next game and Spain gets to watch. I don't like France's chances against Brazil, but then I didn't like them against Spain either.

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27 June 2006

BRAZIL GHANA


BRAZIL-3 0-GHANA

Well, no surprises here. Brazil jumped out to an early lead when Ronaldo scored his 15th world Cup goal in the fifth minute. It was business as usual for Brazil, who wired passes around, created space and of course got that goal in the early part of this half. However for much of the rest of the first half Ghana dominated play, creating in the process a number of good scoring opportunities. Unfortunately they didn't capitalize, and in the 46th minute, just before the whistle blew for halftime, Adriano scored. This gave Brazil a commanding 2-0 lead and took the wind out of Ghana's comeback hopes.

Brazil scored one more and that's the way the game ended. No upset here. It'll be up to Spain or France to try their luck against the mighty ones. Best player in the world is supposed to be Ronaldinho, but he still hasn't done a thing this World Cup. But if things continues as they are he'll have 3 more games to prove himself.

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UKRAINE SWITZERLAND


UKRAINE-1 0-SWITZERLAND (PENALTY SHOOT OUT)

I'm glad I missed most of this boring match. Chiara and I were out for dinner. I caught snatches of it on replay and it seemed pretty mediocre. The remarkable thing about it was the penalty shoot-out after an interminable silver goal period.
Shevchenko- Ukraines 1 man show. Shot stopped. This looks bad.
But miraculously, Switzerlands first penalty shot is stopped as well. In fact all of Switzerlands 3 attempts were denied (1 went over the crossbar), while Ukraine made all their next three to advance and face Italy in the quarters.

I always thought penalty shooting was easy. Big net. So close.
But Switzerland couldn't do it. Ukraine could.

Let's hope the game against Italy is an action packed barn-burner...

... The two games these teams played in today resulted in exactly zero goals in the course of action over the 3 and a half hours of play.

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26 June 2006

ITALY AUSTRALIA


THIS GAME: Drama. My girlfriend cried. But in the good, happy, way. Because it was an emotional game.
Italy won. in the most dramatic fashion possible: a penalty shot in the 94th minute after playing with a man down for almost the entire second half. Now alot of people will tell you that penalty shot call was weak. Those people are either Australia fans, or unbiased observers. But to me, that penalty shot was a legit call.

In the 50th minute the ref flashed the red card at Marco Materazzi, Italy's resident thug. Materazzi dropped a bad tackle on an Aussie, but his mistimed tackle was in no way redcard worthy. His actions did not warrant Italy to have to play one man short the rest of the game. But in football, you have to go with what you're given. Italy did. They played a decent game, managing to repel the Australian pressure and even create some counter-attacks of their own. In fact in extra time at the end of the game Fabio Grosso caught a pass as he was streaking up the left side. this is note-worthy already because it wasn't something he'd managed to do before in this game. Anyway, he took the pass and cut in juked and jammed in the box, causing the australian defender to collapse in amazement. Grosso then tripped over the guy and was awarded a penalty shot.

No not a great penalty shot call, but the Socceroos really have themselves to blame: after having the whole second half to play up by a man, they failed to capitalize. The penalty shot was only an even-up call for the gross advantage given to the 'Roos earlier. I count the reffing at equal, only Italy made good on their advantage.

But focussing on the refereeing gets away from the true drama of the day: Francesco Totti. That guys a champ.

He didn't start the game. His play has ben spotty on the international stage, though he's revered as a demi-god at home. When I say "spotty" I mean he's been redcarded twice in international tournaments and instrumental in Italy's recent lack of success in Euro and World Cups, rather than playing a part in their success.

However, he was a late substitution in this game and he made a couple nice touches on the ball.However none of his touches compared to the one he made when he stepped up to the ball in the penalty spot. Totti decided, or was chosen, to be the one on whose shoulders Italy's hopes of advancement lay. In the 94th minute, staring down the barrel of another half hour of play short a player, Totti stepped to the ball and delivered a booming shot high into the corner of the net. No mistake. Memories of past fuck-ups on the big stage flooded out by the image of him in the replay cracking a little grin. he knew it was now or never. Fame or ignominy. And he FUCKING NAILED IT!

Right on.

And then the horns started honking and they honked and honked and honked.
I found it a little base, to be honest, I mean sure Italy won, and Totti made good and it was beautiful. But that win was something to be silently grateful for, i thought, rather than something to brag and gloat about horn ablazing.

If Italy wins next round though, i'll honk everything I can.

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25 June 2006

HOLLAND PORTUGAL


HOLLAND-0 1-PORTUGAL

Holy shit! This game was a war. Or at least a pro wrestling match. 16 yellow cards and 4 reds. Both sides ended up playing with 9 men, though when the Dutch van Bronkhorst got the boot it was well into extra time (which lasted 6 minutes-the longest spot of extra time i've ever heard of).

The game started very physical with two yellow cardable fouls being delivered onto Cristian Ronaldo in the first 7 minutes. I thought this would be good for him, pushing the defence back on that wing and giving him more room to play. Instead after receiving a mighty kick to the thigh (the 2nd foul) he tried to play on, but eventual had to go off the field. And cry. Because he does that. He's young. And a crybaby. And captain of my fantasy football team today. Because he left so early after being kicked, he didn't get me any points. That sucks, though more for him than me. I guess.

Anyway this game was full of fight and passion. The first half particularly was the passion of beautiful football. The second half had a lot more cards (15, in fact) and fight but still managed to carry some explosive action, big runs, and some goalkeeper kicking. Each goalie got roughed up, van der Sar kicked in the face, and Ricardo had cleats raked up his thigh.

A handful of the cards in the second half came during a scrum and involved pushing after the whistle. I thought this was going to be a basketball brawl, or at least a hockey fight, but it was not to be. The noise at the stadium was a constant roar. And with all the stoppages and rough play, I thought a couple times that the ref was going to lose control of it entirely.

I love that intensity. Anyway, Portugal made it through. I expect C. Ronaldo to be back next game, but Deco the midfiled playmaker who stars for my Fantasy team won't be on the pitch against England. Because that shit-head got a red card for trying to walk away with the ball when Holland has been awarded a free kick. What a dummy.

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ENGLAND ECUADOR


ENGLAND-1 0-ECUADOR

England won, as they should've, but they didn't look terribly forceful here either, but maybe that's their strategy, look kinda wishy-washy the whole way through and take home the trophy. Anyway, Beckham scored on a free kick, it was fucking beautiful. He upchucked on the field a few mintes later and was substituted. Ecuador showed they were no fluke, but ultimately the better, richer, more experienced team won. Wayne Rooney looked alright, I guess he's coming back to fitness, but Eriksson only had hime up front, so for at least the first half he looked a little lonely. Steven Gerrard didn't impress today either. I hope that shitbag gets his act together and starts earing me some fantasy league points!

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ARGENTINA MEXICO


ARGENTINA-2 1-MEXICO

You know who didn't get trounced? Mexico. That's who. I thought this game would be todays lopsided one. Instead it was a close hard-fought battle, with the better team emerging victorious. But not until after an extra half hour.
The first 2 goals came in the 6th and 10th minutes with Mexico striking first off a corner. Crespo answered for Argentina in the 10th and that's the way it stayed for the next hour and a half until Maxi Rodriguez struck the most beautiful of goals into the Mexis net. Game over. But though Argentina looked strong, they didn't look unbeatable. Mexico gave 'em trouble. And good on ya Mexico.

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GERMANY SWEDEN


GERMANY-2 0-SWEDEN

I can't decide when Sweden let themselves down the most. As I was thinking about it I thought it might've been when Teddy Lucic got himself expelled from the game in the 35th minute effectively kicking Sweden's comeback hopes in the stomach. Or, I thought, it might've been when Henrik Larsson missed his penalty shot in the 53rd minute, effectively throwing any chance of a Swedish comeback to the ground and sitting on them. But then I realized the end was probably much nearer to the start of the match, when Lucas Podolski scored twice in the first 15 minutes to give Germany a commanding 2-0 lead. You can't fuck with these Germans, not at home, not while they're playing like this. Not with fans like this. Didn't hurt that Ballack is playing well in form now. Basically Sweden got trounced.

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24 June 2006

Predictions

At the request of nobody I've made my predictions for the Round of 16. If I'm right, as I likely am the next round will look like this

GERMANY ARGENTINA
ENGLAND PORTUGAL
ITALY UKRAINE
BRAZIL SPAIN


That will also be some good football. More as it comes in. Thanks World Cup. Thank you alot.

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Yesterday's Run

UKRAINE-1 0-TUNISIA
No surprise here, not since the Ukes made a comeback after their initial pounding by Spain, now they look decent, and they won easily enough over Tunisia.

SAUDI ARABIA-0 1-SPAIN
Spain's benchwarmers worked over the desertdwellers. No surprise here either.

I only got to watch the last half of these games after work. I went to an Irish bar and had a Guiness. Great technique on the TV of flashing netween the games at stoppages in play or when something exciting happened. So I caught some action, but neither winner really brought the fight, and neither loser was capable of doing so.

SWITZERLAND-2 0-S.KOREA
Flipped back and forth between this and the France Togo match. Best moment was Swiss defender Philip Senderos scoring his goal with his head and smashing his face on Korean defender in the process. The goal celebration consisted of him being mobbed by his teammates as he's getting blood wiped off his face by the trainer. The Beautful Game; blood, sweat and tears, and all that.

FRANCE-2 0-TOGO
France won. Finally. They scored. Finally. After Trezeguet missed a shopping cart full of chances and Ribery launched two clear chances way over the bar, the French finally converted. Twice. Over Togo. they're going to the second round. Barely. Expect their cars to get burned when they go home after their loss next round.

NEXT ROUND MATCH-UPS

SPAIN-FRANCE
Cool that these two countries so close to each other, will meet in the Round of 16. Spain, historical underachievers, and France world Cup winners not too long ago but recent underachievers. Spain looks potent up front with el Nino, and Villa, Captain Pauleta maybe coming in off the bench, strong in defence with Carles Puyol the Lion, and Sergio Ramos, among other solids, and they're backstopped by one of the worlds best keepers in Iker Casillas. France looks weak and floppy up front (except for Henry's nice two-touch goal last game), mediocre and tired in midfield, and have one of the worlds baldest keepers in Barthez. Expect France to get bombed out in this one. Zizou is sucking it up, and though he'll be back for this match, after getting 2 yellow cards in the opening round, expect him to be impotent still.
3-1 Spain.

UKRAINE-SWITZERLAND
Shit, I don't know about this one. The Swiss topped their group and seemed confident offensively and stingy defensively. Ukraine started terribly, but have since poured it on. I think Ukraine will come through on this one.
1-0 Ukraine.

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23 June 2006

Italy Wins!

I didn't work yesterday. Because I had a lot of errands to run, but also because I knew if I did, i likely wouldn't get to catch the start of the Italy Czech game.
I met up with some friends at Angelo Mai, a centro sociale in the centre. They weren't playing the game so we relocated to Druids Rock, an Irish Bar up the street. We managed to get there early enough to get a seat upstairs which proved crucial because when I went downstairs to get a drink at the end of the first half the place was jammed hip-to-hip and stunk of humid summer BO. It didn't smell that much better upstairs, but a little. Also there were two simultaneous games: Italy Czech Republic and Ghana USA. Fans from all parts were represented.

ITALY-2 0-CZECH REPUBLIC
Man Italy looked good. Or at least better than that horrible game against the USA. The good news is Totti was looking good. He asisted on the first goal (a nice corner kick) and had more than a couple shots. I remember one being terribly weak. And the other being a bullet. Good news. Toni didn't play. Let's hope the scoring hero of Serie A learned his lesson and stops making a loud sucking sound when he steps onto the World Cup pitch. Marco Materazzi, Italy's sub off the bench, a giant of a man and a complete thug, scored the game winner.
Italy played well, and so did Pavel Nedved. But one man alone can't be the Azzurri. Special mention also goes to goalie Buffon who made some great saves. Proud to pretend to be Italian.

USA-1 2-GHANA
Man the USA sucks. They finally scored a goal in this World Cup though, so they can go home proud. Ghana however can be way more proud because they don't have to go home. The best news of all is that USA's coach, Bruce Arena has to go home.* That guy is such a punchable douchebag. Doesn't looking at him just make you hate his irritating face? Me too.

*The best thing so far about this World Cup (speaking hyperbolically) is the Coachcams they have. Frequently after a break in play they show the expressions of the trainers. Catch them picking their nose (Italy's Lippi) or pushing FIFA Officials (Australia's Guus Hiddink) or looking cool (Holland's Marco van Basten throwing the ball back after it was kicked out-of-bounds). Often it's just run-of-the-mill yelling and foot-stamping, but it adds a nice human element.

BRAZIL-4 1-JAPAN
Brazil kicked Japan's ass, no surprise. But Japan was leading for most of the first half, so they can take that partial coup home with them and hold their heads high. Ronaldo is now the all-time leading scorer in the World Cup, after scoring two goals. That fat bastard brought his A game, after taking heat for looking old, tired and fat in the first two games.

AUSTRALIA-2 2-CROATIA
Australia's Harry Kewell tied this up late in the game, and all Australia needed was a draw to advance. Good on those fellas.

NEXT ROUND MATCHUPS

ITALY AUSTRALIA
I've been pulling for the Socceroos up until this point, but the buck stops here. Italy should beat Australia handily, but the tenacity and flow of the Aussies game says it may actually be close. I say Italy wins 3-1. Unless the Australia keeper makes alot of mistakes, as opposed to the 3 or 4 a game he usually makes. In which case everyone on the Italian side will get a goal, even the coach.

BRAZIL GHANA
Well, I suppose Ghana can start packing, though I'm hoping so bad for a shocking thrilling upset that I'll predict Ghana 2-1 over a stunned world and a devestated nation. But the odds of that aren't good.

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22 June 2006

AZZURRI: Don't Fuck This Up!

Today Italy plays the Czech Republic. Ghana plays the USA. It's for all the marbles. This gorup could really go anyway including sideways. Italy could finish on top of the group (thus avoiding Brazil next round), or they may not even make it out of the group stage. If Italy plays like they played against Ghana in the first match, they will beat the Czechs and go through top of the group. If they play like they did against USA, they will go home an embarrased disgrace, and there will be much handwringing here in Italy. It will be blamed on the football scandal here, but also on Coach Lippi, and Totti, who is an awesome player for Roma, but internationally has done nothing but get ejected from successive international tournaments (WC 2002, Euro 2004). He's pushing 30, this is likely his last tournament. Let's hope he and the Azzurri rock it like a hurricane. I'm wearing my blue shirt, supporting our boys. FORZA!

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21 June 2006

HOLLAND ARGENTINA PORTUGAL MEXICO

PORTUGAL-2 1-MEXICO
Both teams already through, so this match didn't have too much going for it. But it was still played with alot of heart. particularly by Mexico, who after going down by two goals came back to within one. Then had two great chances to equalize. When I say great chances I mean one was a penalty shot. A penalty shot that was kicked over the bar. By Omar Bravo. Sorry to drag his name into this, but he shanked another shot over the bar on a clear chance a few minutes later. Not good. Good luck against the Argentine juggernaut boys.
They would've finished second on goal differntial anyway.

HOLLAND-0 0-ARGENTINA
Not a bad game seeing how both coaches yielded their shadowdwellers. Marco van Basten, the Dutch coach was particularly experimental, playing some young fresh faces. Both sides looked a little lost towards the end with a lack of finish up front. However, Messy Lionel Messi, the "New Maradona" (accordingto the Real Maradona) certainly had some sharp touches and dangerous runs. Basten chose to rest Arjen Robben, their best player so far, and subbed out Ruudy van Nistelrooy early in the second half. The Argies let Crespo rest and subbed Riquelme out late in the game. Both teams basically biding their time until the second round.

PORTUGAL-HOLLAND
Good game coming up. I support Holland a little more, but I give the edge to Portugal. As an Italian commentator said (I think) The Dutch team will be dangerous, but they're still a little under-ripe. However, they've got scoring threats a strong midfield and a solid goalie. Ports got it all. Still could go either way.

MEXICO-ARGENTINA
Yeah, could be a World Cup surprise, but more likely Mexico can just bend over and kiss their ass good-bye. However, they had a nice run, managed to advance,a dn if they do lose, as they likely will, they may yet be able to say they lost out to the eventual World Cup Winners.

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Ecuador Supporters

There were many a Ecuador jersey out in the city yesterday. I saw at least a dozen. Bringing the grand total of Ecuador jerseys I've seen here in the past year to...about a dozen. I'm not sure how much of the visible support has to do with the Ecuadorian teams unlikely run and success, and how much has to do with the fact they were playing Germany. I saw not one Germany jersey. Telling.

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Ecuador-Germany England-Sweden

I missed the battle for bottom of the table games in these pools. That's Trinibago vs. Paraguay and Poland vs. Cpsta Rica. They may have been good games, but I'm past caring.

ECUADOR-0 3-GERMANY

I didn't get to see this game, because,as you may have guessed, I was working. Fuck. And not only that, when I get done I can't duck into any old bar on the street and join the cluster of football crazed men and women around the TV. Nope, not in Italy. But that complaint is getting tired. Anyway, Miroslav Klose is filling the net with balls, he's currently the front-runner for the Golden Boot with four goals. That's more than a one a game average for the first round. Nice. However this game didn't matter too much, since both teams were going through anyway.
As were,

ENGLAND-2 2-SWEDEN
This game I got to soak a little World Cup flavour up for. I met up with Hoard Hudson, my well-named mate from London, for pizza at the Little Moustache (da Baffetto) Then we hit the Irish Bar across the street. Clogged up with the English. Still it would've been a good place to enjoy the game and have a beer, if only it were possible to get served there. Anyway, it was awkward to see Michael Owen's knee-wrenchingly shitty beginning to the game on such a big screen. I'm glad I didn't see the Angola-Iran game which had it's arm-snappingly painful moments.
The place lit up well after Joe Cole hammered in a deceptive shot from well outside the box. It seemed to be heading harmlessly out-of-bounds, I only had time to think "Joe, why'd you have to waste possess-" before the place erupted in cheers. Though he's not on my Fantasy Team I can cheer a good goal when I see one.

We relocated for the second half at an outdoor bar in Campo di Fiori, where there was a mix of fans, warm summer air, a waitress who brought drinks, but a smaller TV. No problem.
The Brits we were with disputed our second half locale when Sweden equalized early in the second half. Their disappointment wasn't soothed by the Swedes nearby loudly clinking glasses and shouting "Skoll!" afterwards.

However maligned English manager Eriksson looked like a genius after he subbed out Rooooooney for Steven Gerrard late in the second half. He actually didn't look like a genius until Gerrard scored 15 minutes later. Then he looked like a genius. 84 minutes gone. England up 2-1, this is gonna be it right? The end of 42 years of England not beating Sweden in international football? Nope. England blew up and shit the bed right in the 90th minute. Henrink Larsson evened the score off a late corner. As Howard said "Geez, if you're gonna mark anybody, mark Larsson!"

Shoulda listened to Howard. Anyway, Englands top of the group, Sweden is second. Which means the matchups for next round are Sweden vs. Germany and England vs. Ecuador.

ENGLAND ECUADOR
England should beat Ecuador. Not easily, but handily. If they don't, the alleged "best ever" from the country that invented football will all have their passports revoked and never be allowed home.

SWEDEN GERMANY
Sweden and Germany is harder to call, both are not terrific, but are hard to beat. Germany's got home court advantage, but Sweden isn't very far away, and there'll be plenty of blonde Volvo lovers dressed in yellow to cheer on their boys. Too tight to call, but i'll give Germany the edge on the basis that they're the hosts, and Klose is scoring tonnes of goals. Ballacks a shitbag but they may should squeak out a victory.

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20 June 2006

Totally Blowing

In all my enthusiasm for all things world cup ! forgot that the Edmonton Oilers, after going down 0-2 in the Stanley Cup finals forced it to a Game 7, back in Carolina. Awesome hockey action!

They lost.

Fuck. That blows.

Well, enough disappointing hockey, back to the World Cup.

Anyway, I'm truly sorry. I'da loved to see Lord Stanley's Cup back in Canada. Where it belongs. Arguably in Edmonton in fact. Oh well...

...WORLD CUP!

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Flagging

Yesterday, not necessarily what you'd call a big day, with a noticeable absence of extablished football powers, but perhaps some up-and-comers, and Spain, ol' sweet Spain, well they look set to finally bring some ruckus to international competition.

TOGO-0 2-SWITZERLAND

Didn' get to watch this game because I was at work. But that's not suck a problem because I didn't anticipate it to be that fantastic. NBut as the saying goes "The worst day watching football beats the best day at work." That holds true for all football matches, except of course the USA Italy debacle. Togo has been the story of the world cup for their distracted play and their focus on getting players bonuses. Coach Otto Pfister quit, three days before the World Cup, then unquit, and the players threatened to not play the game today until the received their comeuppance. They kinda did. From Switzerland. I don't support with holding their player bonuses, because they deserve them. But energy should be expended on playing football in the World Cup, while you're there.

UKRAINE-4 0-SAUDI ARABIA

Woo hoo Ukraine! From written off also rans just a few days ago when they got thrashed 4-0 by SWpain, Shevchenko and the boys step up and hammer the Saudis. Granted the Saudi's aren't the strongest side at the World Cup, but Ukraine, and Shevchenko in particular did very well for themselves. Salvaging some dignity with the scoreline, as well as a possible ticket to the next round. Right now they sit in second, with a match against Tunisia left to play. Don't write Tunisia off, but Ukraine will be pumped after this handy victory.

SPAIN-3 1-TUNISIA

Tunisia was winning 1-nil at the half. Then Spain handed them their walking papers. Three straight goals. Two by the one they call El Nino. AN appropriate nickname for one making a strong case for himself as Young Player of the tournament. He's now got three goals, and I forgot to pick him for my Fantasy Team. Seriously, I was going to. Shit. Anyway, Spain is looking sharp. Chiara and I watched most of this game at home. I opted out of the Ukraine Saudi match to earn boyfriend bonus points for this match. Regardless, the bigger my football fever gets, the sicker Chiara gets of the damn thing.

Still, she's being a great sport about it. Bt my drive to watch every single match of the World Cup tries even my own patience.

I won't be watching both of tonights matches Sweden England and Trinibago Paraguay, because they're played at the same time. Just Sweden-England for me. I'm excited about it, but I've got the feeling it'll be a slow rhythm-free game with plenty of whistles. Here's hoping it's otherwise. Anyway, both Sweden and England are going through. This si just to decide the order.

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19 June 2006

Germany Rebrands for World Cup Invasion

My article on the WC in: tiscalieurope

Germany Rebrands for World Cup Invasion

A spectator's view of football fever

From my first steps off the airplane it was clear that this Germany, the World Cup Germany, is different. First of all it was hot as blazes, which clashed sharply with my notions of Central and Eastern Europe. Secondly, though efficiency and discipline were still firmly in place, over-reaching helpfulness, and almost aggressive hospitality had taken pride of place, at least where the World Cup festivities were concerned.

Asking a red Adidas suited volunteer for directions from the airport elicited a guided tour of the S-Bahn station and step-by-step handholding in terms of buying my train ticket. A time to make friends indeed. I managed to get from the shiny brand-new Berlin Hauptbahnhof (with sign proclaiming it the newest Hauptbahnhof in the world!) to the fanzone. This required getting more directions.

I offended a helper by suggesting I would take a train to the festival, rather than walk through the historic and dynamic government district. In the end, it's a good thing I walked because I saw some pieces from the "Germany Land of Ideas" exhibit.

Part of Germany's rebranding includes showcasing not just the hospitality of the people, but also significant innovations spanning all disciplines over the centuries. Germany: Land of Ideas: "The wording expresses a wealth of positive arguments associated with Germany." See www.land-of-ideas.org for more information on this campaign. I myself was too football feverish to give much time to German innovations, other than a cameraphone picture of myself with the giant silver plastic football boots.

The fanzone was pleasantly busy, not socked full of the summer festival wall-to-wall drunkenness I had anticipated. The crowds were well-behaved and festive with many a flag-cape or flag-skirt to be found. There were also flags on flag poles. Fervent festive nationalism.

I also enjoyed the budget worthy nourishment. Sausages (or Chinese food) =delicious and cheap. Beer=delicious and cheap as well. The family oriented festival had tight but friendly security, plenty of space and sunshine and beer enough for even the thirstiest of festival goers.

Getting into the football match was another matter. As a ticket holder for the Brazil-Croatia match I was entitled to free transit on the day. That's an organizational sound and efficient policy. Yet the trains were slow and impossibly crowded, both to the stadium and back, and the security at the stadium gates was overly fussy.

Once inside the stadium the fervour of the fans stoked my fever anew. The Olympischstadion was beautiful; brand new renovations to the old Nazi Olympic stadium spliced together new and old, as well as showing a Germany looking to the future, while acknowledging it's past. The fans were out in full force with many more flag capes, wigs, face paint and other accoutrements of the truly zealous.

The match we witnessed, between Brazil and Croatia actually gave the Croatians more to be pleased about. The Brazilians, though 1-0 winners, looked less than convincing. However, with a side that talented it's perhaps unsurprising that they seem determined to phone it in for the first round. The World Cup begins for Brazil in the second round.

After cramming into another sweaty train and heading back to the city I witnessed the changing of the guard: the Brazil gold jerseys already seemed to be giving way to Sweden's yellow. I unfortunately wouldn't be in Berlin for that, I had a plane to catch.

Germany's ideas have not all been good for mankind. But their decision to host the World Cup in an atmosphere of fun, respect and carefully controlled harmless channelling of nationalism into sport has been beautiful. Actually, they really didn't come up with the idea of channelling nationalism into football, that just happened, and not just this year.

However, for this Canadian that wasn't an issue. Canada is 85th in the FIFA rankings, and not a World cup contender. But that small detail didn't interfere with my time at the World Cup because no matter where people came from we were all celebrating football.

Ryan Millar,
18 June 2006

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Soccer Sunday

Aaaah, Sunday, the day of rest. For me, not World Cup teams, who played while I watched and rested.

JAPAN-0 0-CROTAIA

A battle. Not an ugly red card filled war like the ugly game between USA and Italy, but a hard fought struggle between two evenly matched teams, desperate for 3 points. In the end they fought to a draw, and though it was nil nil,it was not without it's excitement. Still, I don't care that much about these teams so I was content to just check in on the match intermittently.

AUSTRALIA-0 2-BRAZIL
Since well before the World Cup began I had this game pegged for a draw. I was wrong. But not far off the mark. Brazil still looking well below form. Particularly fat Ronaldo, who though not as fat as everybody says, still looked fumbly out there, though his deft touch on the ball set up Brazil's first goal. Ronaldinho, Mr. Fancy, World Cup Would-be Star, still hasn't done shit. Both those shitbags are on my fantasy team. At any rate I was cheering for Australia, the newbies, the Mighty Ducks, the closest kin to Canada in the World Cup. It could've been a different game if Harry Kewell hadn't skied the ball over the bar. Late in the game Brazilian keeper Dida fumbled the ball in the penalty area, it landed, by lucky coincidence, right on Kewell's foot. He hoofed it as hard as he could waaaaaaay over the bar. What a pity. In the end Brazilian substitute Fred tapped in a late goal to end Australia's chance of a ocmeback. Anyway other than Brazil, who are advancing, this group could be anybodies. Let's hope Australi come out well against the Croats.

FRANCE-1 1-SOUTH KOREA
Oh France. Come on. After leading for much of the game France surrendered a very late goal to S. Korea meaning this group is really anybodies. Except maybe Togo's. Double Z didn't do much, except earn himself a suspension from the next match, and Henry didn't look too sharp neither. Though he did score. Chiara and I watched this game over a scrabble match, eating pesto pasta and schadenfreuding the French, as us Italians do.

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18 June 2006

TOKYO BERLIN

Waking up Tuesday morning with a hangover prompted me to accede to Alan's suggestion of going to see an art exhibit at the National Gallery. Turned out to be called Tokyo Berlin and about the relations between the two cities. Plenty of things I wasn't interested in, like the huge catalog of old photos and staid paintings. Now I don't know much about art, but I know what I like: like this:







By a Japanese artist inspired by hallucinogenic visions built this room out of mirrors and inflatable smurf housy blobs. That's what I like!

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BERLIN PHOTOS

What follows are some pictures of Berlin.


Took a bike tour with my friend Baldur while I was there. Terrific to see some of the sites of Berlin, an amazing city with a unique history. And of course we structured our day around football matches (including the glorious come from behind Socceroo victory over Japan.



I spent most of my time in Berlin with these guys, from L-R Daniel, German oustanding host and sporting non-football fan. Chris, Australian, Jesus style hair, football fan and class guy. And Alan, Irish, co-participant in football match, football fan, but disappointed that Ireland didn't make the cut. All three able to bring a good time, anytime, anywhere.



I was in Berlin, see? That be the Reichstag behind me.



Giant football boots, part of the "Germany: Land of Ideas" exhibit. Adi Dassler made these innovations, and Adidas, a family feud led to his brother creating Puma. Cool, huh?



The weather and Berlin were both beautiful.




The big soccer ball exhibit behind the Brandenburg Gate. It looks cool, but the exhibit was kinda crappy, though I saw some gloves once used by Oliver Kahn, and a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy. As I said, crappy. Like this picture with my finger in it.

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Oh No!

PORTUGAL-2 0-IRAN

With some flashes of briliance from Cristiano Ronaldo, pretty boy date rapist, and midfield general Deco back in the line-up, Portugal had no problem rolling over Iran. I have both players on my Fantasy Team, so this was a good game. Snatches of the action were caught between housecleaning chores. A long day of scrubbing, vaccuuming and absentmindely rubbing possesions with a cloth while in front of the TV.

CZECH REPUBLIC-0 2-GHANA

Totally sweet! African team wins. Ghana played a helluva game, capitalizing in the second minute of the match and adding another tally very late in the game. A missed Ghanian penalty shot could have made the score that much worse for the Czechs, who I'm sure were planning to see Ghana's advancement hopes off. It's hard not to feel happy when that prick Nedved loses. Between him losing, the Czech Republic (Italy's closest adversary in Group E) losing, and my Fantasy League adversasries with their Czech players coming up dry, things were starting to look up.

Chiara and I made it out of the house just in time to head down to Isola Tiberina to catch the match on the big screen there. I have been suffering withdrawals from teh glorious big-screen raucous flag-drenched crowds of Germany, so I was keen to touch with that spirit of sport again.
Instead

USA-1 1-ITALY

The worst game of the World Cup so far, by far. Gone were the Italians from the match against Ghana, with their delightful, inventive passing and dangerous runs, to be replaced by a team that hardly ever looked dangerous. The shitbag Americans that got trounced by the Czechs played strong and hard. Tenacious, even. The game lacked rhythm, pace and excitement. Although I suppose 3 red cards in one match, tying a world Cup record, is kinda exciting. Daniele De Rossi a favorite amongst some of my football afficionado friends here, dropped a flying elbow on American striker Brian McBride, breaking his face. For that he was ejected. Rightly so. Shortly thereafter Totti was subbed off, because for no apparent reason he received a yellow card early in the match. It was now 10 men against 11. Fortunately a couple idiot Americans jumping two-footed studs-up slide tackles into the feet of the Italians caused the Americans to end up with only 9 men.
Still, Italy couldn't add to it's measly single goal. Though tchnically Italy scored 2 goals, because the American goal was actually an Italian own goal.

The ugliness on the big screen was matched by the ugliness of the Tiber vibe.
The crowd was fine, but the monkeys running the circus chose to let people in bit by bit before the match, and waiting until they had found seats before letting another cluster of attendees in. This seemd like an emminently sensible policy until they stopped letting people in entirely, 5 minutes before the match. Italian football fans, having made the trek to the Isola on the promise of big screen football, were left outside the doors drooling at the big screen inside. And all the space. with standing and sitting room everybody could have easily been accomodated in the space, but some shithead policy made that a no-go, and the vibe was the worse for it.
It was made even worse when 15 minutes into the match these militant pricks kicked out some people who had managed to get in and had sat themselves on the side to watch the game. I can only imagine how pissed they were. I was super-pissed and I had a seat.
Anyway Fuck those Assholes at the Tiber Island, Fuck the Americans for playing so dirty, and Fuck the Italians for only managaing a draw with a way weaker side. Fuck the ref for handling the game like he was somebody's drunk uncle. Fuck him for giving Totti a yellow card for no reason. Fuck Luca Toni for doing nothing in the game (yet again). What alot of bullshit. Bad Bad game.
Me and Chiara's temporary Italian supporter tattoos just couldn't put this right. Nothing could.

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17 June 2006

Damn Tourists

ARGENTINA-6 0-SERBIA MONTENEGRO

Back from Germany and back to work. Not as good as being in Germany because: A) I'm not on holiday and B) People here aren't as football mad as the ones in Germany. If they were, they'd A) Be in Germany, or B) Be like me and wish they were.
Anyway the Vatican was so crowded I lined up for a total of an hour and a half between St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum. In fact there was so much line-up to be had I missed Argentina's entire 6 nothing thrashing of Serbia Montenegro. To make matters worse the captain of my fantasy team was playmaker Juan Riquelme ("The New Maradona.") Great, right? No. He netted me exactly .5 points. Times that by 2 for his captaincy and he netted me 1 point. Shitbag.

Anyway, I watched the highlights and Argentina looks very very good. And hungry. The 6 nothing margin was convincing to say the least. Bravo boys. And of course there is the requisite pity for Serbian Montenegran victims of the drubbing.

HOLLAND-2 1- COTE D'IVOIRE

Missed only the end of this game. And saw a very even and wide-open match. The bad news is the Ivory Coast won't advance and will have to play their final match without superstar Didier Drogba who got into foul trouble. I forgot to wear my new Bavaria beer dutch fan overall shorts. But that's just as well, because I wasn't cheering that hard for the Netherlands.

MEXICO-0 0-ANGOLA

Missd this game in it's entirety, but stayed in blackout at Chiara's Aunts birthday dinner. We watched the second half when we got home and it turned out to be a nil nil draw, so I wasn't that disappointed to miss the first half. The draw means that Angola or Mexico could qualify second in the group. I was falling asleep by the end of this one.

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15 June 2006

The Grind

ECUADOR-3 0-COSTA RICA

Ecuador, face painted goalie and all, are set to advance through group A. In fact, right now they're on top. So much for the thought that they can't play outside their home stadium at a bzaillion metres above sea level. They looked well in control of the game today. I watched it at home, in the dark, hiding from the sun that burnt me today in the Roman Forum.

ENGLAND-2 0-TRINIBAGO

Despite it all, i kinda like England. But I gotta say they play some crap boring football. They won, unconvincingly yet again, with the games goals coming very very late, and Becks and his boys looking feckless against the Trinibagons (or is it Trinibagoites? Regardless, they're probably going home early. Jug-ears Rooney made his way on at the halfway point, and I was in transit for both goals, but watching highlights he didn't seem to be involved in the goals. However, the idea of "Wayne" has grown so big that maybe he just has to be on the field and then everybody feels and plays better. Eriksson yanked Owen to make way for Rooney, and it turned out to be a good (genius?) move to leave on that flagpole Crouch, who scored the game winner. Congrats also to Steven Gerrard who scored for England, and my Fantasy League team.

SWEDEN-1 0-PARAGUAY

Sweden aren't very good. Neither it would seem is Paraguay. Sweden's Zlatan (a shitbag on my Fantasy team) didn't make much happen, but a late substitution to bring on Edmanson paid off as he set up some pretty passing that Ljungberg finished with an 89th minute header. That's almost 2 whole games where Sweden has not scored. Will they advance? Likely. Will Zlatan win the golden boot and net me a sack of points for the Fantasy League Fashionistas UY? Unlikely. But it is the World Cup and you never know what can happen.

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14 June 2006

MatchDayHome


Today was the day I said goodbye to Berlin. It was a sad farewell. But I'm sure to head back one day, however i've definitely seen it through rose-coloured glasses, all hot weather bikes, sunshine and of course, 3 World Cup Games a day.

SPAIN-4 0-UKRAINE
Right on Spain. About time to make things happen in a world cup. Big loser here, as is made clear by the 4 nothing thrashing, is Ukraine. I watched this game in a bar by Friendrichstrasse train station so I could make my way to the airport. Only saw the end of the first half. And no goals live.

TUNISIA-2 2-SAUDI ARABIA
Thank Allah for the late late equalizer from Tunisia so that Africa didn't get skunked in all their first matchdays. Heard the last goal on the bus trundling back to Rome from Ciampino Airport.

GERMANY-1 0-POLAND
What a heartbreaker for the Poles. This game they didn't suck at all, unlike their first one. Perhaps inspired to bring it to Germany on some sort of "bigger than football" front. However, their backs were broken by the iffy expulsion in the 75th minute. That's when I actively began cheering for a nil nil draw. But it was not meant to be, Chiara and I watched in horror as German substitute Neuville converted a nice cross into a goal. Looks like POland will be going home early. Fortunately they don't live very far.

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Live Screenings

TOGO-1 2-SOUTH KOREA

Poor Togo. If Tunisia loses today that´ll make it a clean sweep against the African teams, but the Tunisians may just pull out a win against the heavily unfavoured Saudi´s. Anyway I only got to watch a little of the game because I went to see Berlin Tokyo exhibit at the National Gallery. Pretty awesome stuff, especially the documentation of 60´s "happenings" and of course the hallucenigenic room. (pictures to come).
Togo was actually leading, but got worked over in the end.

FRANCE-0 0-SWITZERLAND

The old goal-less draw. Glad I missed most of this game. Switzerland should be pleased with this result but France has to pull their shit together or risk further rioting in the streets. With an attacking line-up like France has got, they have no excuse for not getting goals.

BRAZIL-1 0-CROATIA

This game was, as far as games go, mediocre. An unconvincing display by the favorites, which bodes well for a World Cup surprise. The best thing about this game really was that I was there. Sitting behind the goal into which Kaka rifled the games only goal. That was fantastic. Getting to and from the stadium did not impress however. These Germans are pretty unorganized. Or at least the train system was not well sorted with packed trains sitting in the Olympischstadion station for twenty minutes, jammed full of people.

But being at the stadium was exciting as all anything. Maybe you saw us on TV. Apparently we got a little airtime in Ireland and Slovakia. Very little. Alan and I were both sporting jerseys (he Croatia, me Brazil). And we sat near the Brazilian fans who were cheering like mad and even rocked a ltitle samba through much of the game. The game itself was a disappointment, with Ronaldinho holding back it seemed. The good news about the Brazilian team, if you have Ronaldo in your Fantasy Football line-up, is that he doesn´t look very fat.

Anyway, despite losing, Croatia played very well, except for squandering a handful of gift-wrapped chances. As well they bore up well to losing their captain in the first half.

Being at a World Cup game= fantastic. But being in Berlin watching it on one of the street TV´s or in a squat bar, or at the beach gives a better view and the beers closer. I´m stoked to have made it to a game, but don´t feel like I would want to be at too many more. I´ll be happy to move our TV outside in Rome and recreate a little of the vibe.

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13 June 2006

GAMEDAY

So it´s t minus 3 hours until the Brazil Croatia kick-off, and i´d say the streets of Berlin are almost split fiftyfifty between yellow jerseys and red and white checker ones. Everybodies been partying all day in the sun. Berlin? 30 degrees for the third day in a row! There´s a thunderstorm rumoured for shortly after I depart. It´s all in the lucky timing.
Speaking of lucky timing:

AUSTRALIA-3 1- JAPAN

The game was 1 to nothing for japan through most of the game. Poor socceroos. But then a late substitution saw wondercoach Guus Hiddink bring on Tim Cahill, who scored 2 goals mere minutes apart. Then another socceroo sub finished the Japanese off. All in the last 10 minutes of the game.

A fine debut for Australia. There first goal was pretty garbage, but the other two were class. And none were as bad as the Japanese bodycheck goal. A soft floating kick into the box, and as the goalie went up to grab it, he was hipchecked and the ball bounced into the net. Cheap. But in the end, it didn´t matter.

I´m glad my friend and bike tour guide Baldur made the call to sit and watch that game mid tour. We skipped the next one

CZECH-3 0-USA
The USA got waxed. I´m not upset at all.

ITALY-2 0-GHANA

Wooo!
When i sat down to watch the game outdoors at Kiki Blofeld, a squat type arrangement on the River Spree, I realized I tifo Italia. Tanto. And they didn´t disappoint. A dominant performance, Toni hit the post, they hit the back of the net twice. Pirlo towards the end of the first half, allowing me to relax my grip on my beer. Then Iaquinta towards the end of the second half. That´s the best outcome so far.
Some people I was with wanted to see Ghana do well. Reflecting a general soft spot towards the hard luck African teams. I´ve got that feeling too, but not in this game.
Also had a fantastic chicken kabob and couscous salad at this spot. And a little sun.

Forza Italia!

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12 June 2006

Lake River

Sunday sunshine. Late wake ups. And a trip to the edge of the city with tall Irish Alan (world cup compatriot), host Daniel, and Aussie Chris. We made our afternoon destination the bend in the river, misnomered Lake Somethingorother. Beautiful shady green and a little afternoon swim to clear the head. Plus some sunbathing to shade my pasty skin.

Serbia Montenegro-0 1-Netherlands
Caught the last half hour of this game at the beach complex. Netherlands looked sharp, especially Arjen Robben. Serbia Montenegro tactically mediocre and on their heels for the most aprt of it.

Mexico-3 1-Iran

On the way back from the lake and missed most of this game, it was tied at ones when we arrived back at Daniels beatifully restored former squat.
Sitting in the bar downstairs and no sooner had I commented to Alan that "Iran will be happy with this result" then they were ripped open for two quick and beautiful goals. Mexico certainly looked sharp and dangerous, with an accurate through ball and a beautfiully executed give-and-go with the "go" part turning into a beautifully timed header.

Portugal-1 0-Angola
Angola didn´t do that great against Portugal. My fantasy Portugal players failed to impress, with Deco not playing and Cristiano Ronaldo´s display of fancy footwork undermined by his continued petulance and floppy sleeves on his jersey. What, I wonder, is up with that? anyway he was yanked in the 60th minute, but had some nice chances and created a few as well. Figo, unfortunately, looked well past his prime.
This game enjoyed at flat of Kaya and Baldur and it was a nice barbecue and salads and big screen game. Nice.

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Night Tour

Argentina-2 0-Ivory Coast

Only caught the first part of this game. But it was awesome exciting football. Wide open play, two beautiful goals (which i missed. Cazzo!) and a nice result for the Argies. It´s unfortunate that Ivory Coast drew such a tough group, because it would be nice to see them advance, but thír defence offered at least two too many chances.
The last part of the game we watched from behind a pole outdoors in a squat bar. Nice to see even the alternative underside of the city getting down on a little WC Fever.

Post world cup viewing yesterday we continued a tour of the other side of Berlin. A squat party (mediocre and misrepresented to our host Daniel) but what the hell. Partying in abandoned buildings has a certain charm to it that I don´t get experieicne very often. Then a late nightcap at a bar around the corner in some neighborhood I don´t know and couldn´t pronounce anyway. The highlight of course was the playing of Death to the Pixies in its entirety, which roused me out of my "i´m out too late. and tired" mode and had me shaking it on the dance floor. For old school´s sake.

Barely beat the sun home.
I hope to keep the balance of Berlin sociospheres rolling.

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Saturday, Playday 2

I spent my time watching games in the fan centre today. A nice atmosphere down there. Family time, sunshine and alot of flag capes. Other than the constantly threatening sunburn there was no unease or danger or even claustrophobia. On the pitch England downed Paraguay by a score of 1-0. It started promising enough, but then in the 3rd minute a Beckham freekick glanced in off a Paraguay defender. The beer cups flew into the air at the Branderburg Gate, with much rejoicing. England then choked the life out of the game for the remaining 87 minutes. There were some moments, sure but it got a little dull.

Sweden 0 Trinibago 0.

A pretty exciting game despite the score. The Trinibagons celebrated the score at the end but the Swedes did not. Sweden deserved to win, they were the better team, but Trinibago managed to hold on and deflect the piercing attacking runs of the Swedes. Trinibago was also helped by their hard ass tackles. Those motherfuckers are mean. And their tenacity served them well after defender Avery John got sent off for a (hard-ass) dangerous tackle in the 46th minute. Makes it that much tougher for Sweden, who should´ve done better.

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10 June 2006

Berlino, Germania

I´ve arrived. And things are looking good. Mostly looking good as I´ve been cruising the city looking for an internet point so I can juggle my Fantasy squad line-up and post my World Cup blog.

Germany is ready. Seriously you guys, eat shit. These people are ready. I had volunteers helping direct me to Berlin right out of the airport doors. One man clad in the Adidas red volunteer uniform even came to make sure I got my ticket and got on the right train. We won´t keep in touch but he certainly word the "A Time to Make Friends" slogan on his sleeve.

Infact, everyone here I talked to are busy soaking up the vibe. I walked by the Brandenburg Gate to get to this EasyInternet Cafe. Right in front of the gate is the big screen where I will go check the England Paraguay game. The streets in front a pedestrian promenade with concessions and souvenirs.

All over the city (the 2 square kilometres I´ve seen) there is evidence of football fever. Aggressively friendly volunteers ready to direct people to the happy events.

It´s not a "don´t mention the war" scenario. It´s more Germany going about the ultimate in rebranding; they´re not seeking to increase tourism so much as effect a global paradigm shift in ideas of Germanism. As well as celebrating football and "making friends" World Cup 2006 is about creativity and innovation. And fun. According to the mandate of the organizers.

So the city, already well organized and full of disciplined buttoned up people, has unbuttoned their shirts, filled the squares with safe, friendly football mad faces and set the stage to if not win the Jules Rimet trophy, at least win the hearts of the visitors. They may yet get mine.

I also got a yellow card as part of a store promotion, took pictures of giant football cleats, ate a brie, tomato, and cucumber baguette, and

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It Begins

It began with restrained excitement at casa mia, as I raced home to catch the first game of the World Cup with Charlie Cornbags, friend of friend. Others soon joined and then the ball dropped and it was an auspicious beginning. 6 goals. The Germans emerging on top. Next Ecuador completed a mild upset, sticking it to Poland 2 to nothing.
I can´t believe it´s here. Fortunately Chiara helped me pack, so it all got done.
My fantasy team picked up zero points, with my only player on a squad yesterday being Germany captain Michael Ballack. He sat on the bench the whole time. What a shitbag.

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06 June 2006

More World Cup

SO if you're a blog reader (and if you're reading this you are), and you've been following my slavish devotion to all things world cup for a few posts now, let me just warn you that it's going to get alot worse before it gets better.
If you've been finding it contagious, or already are nursing a World Cup High of your own but are wondering how to get more involved (seeing how Canada is missing yet another World Cup) Here's a thought:
Join my Fantasy Football League.

got to fifaworldcupfantasysports and pick yourself a team. All the best footballers in the world are there, you just gotta pick em.

Then join my group

AS Gladiators
Group ID#: 30207
Password: romans
And then we battle it out in the realm of tactics and luck. Online. For fun and bragging rights.

Sign up soon or my awesome champ players will already be racking up points while your shitbag team of lazy gits is still getting organized.

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03 June 2006

World Cup Questions


What's going to happen?
We're all wondering aren't we? Will it be total dominance by the Brazilians? Or perhaps a strong charge from the home team, hyped on their opportunity to impress on home soil? Or something else a little more unexpected....

I think we can count on the eventual winner coming from some traditional football powers: Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany, England. But in the tournament, nothing is a sure thing.
Can England cope with the fact that Rooney, though kicking a ball now, has a broken metatarsal and his replacement is a 6ft 7in hat-trick scoring robotdancer?
Will Ukraine be able to kick off the iron curtain and prove some post-Soviet football ideal in their first World Cup?
Will the civil war in Cote de Ivoire inspire these players to heal the North-South divide with the biggest trophy of them all?
Will Togo, Trinibago, Saudi Arabia, and Angola score more than 1 goal between them?
How's the team from Serbia and Montenegro going to perform now that Serbia and Montenegro are two different countries?
Will my fantasy football team Fashionistas UY destroy all comers?

And how big (how fucking big) will the party be here in Italy if the azzurri hoist the Jules Rimet?

I hope to find out...

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02 June 2006

New Mayor, Same as the Old

Rome voted, as did all of Italy, for Mayor, Council, and Regional governments. It was seen largely as a referendum on the new Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who barely squeaked in, and his Centre-left Coalition, which barely squeaked in with him.
The news is good. Veltroni's back, and Centre-left won a big fat swack of districts. The centre-left also won Mayoral races in Turin and Naples, but lost in Milan. However, if this vote was a countrywide comment on Prodi and his bare-win of Italians Premiership, it's safe to say he got a thumbs up.



And here's Veltroni, giving his own thumbs up, which in Italy means "I'm going to kill you."

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01 June 2006

Improv Set List

The Magical Miracle Mystery show on Sunday Night went a little something like this.

ACT 1

Radio Dial
Slide Show
Speak in 1 Voice
Scene Without (blank)
Genre Rollercoaster
Arms Expert

Act 2

Alphabet Game
Parrot
Foreign Film
Half Time
Freeze Tag

This was the recipe that reminded me how much I love improv, so I'm working on keeping the spark alive, and nurse it into a small flame with more jams and more shows, so Rome can get a little bit of it's own Improvisational Inferno going.

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WORLD CUP FEVER!

It's official: my World Cup fever is of serious serious proportions.
I was really pushed over the edge yesterday when my WORLD CUP TICKETS arrived. Holy shit! As if having only 23 stickers left to complete my Official world cup stickerbook, plowing my way through my third world cup fanzine, and organizing my world Cup online Fantasy League Team weren't symptom enough, I now am in possession of some very sweet world cup tickets, complete with lanyard and plastic holder.


On the holder i've got my very own set of yellow/red cards. To flash at anyone who gets in my way. June 9th to July 9th is going to be a long month that will go very fast.

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The Time Elevator Rules!!

Katie Carachello and I had a tourist in your own town day yesterday.That means I got to see and do things I'd never done before, but had always wanted to do. Like climb the dome of St. Pete's Basilica. It was pretty great, but really just a warm-up for the highlight of the day (and one of the highlights of Katies trip, so she tells me) The Time Elevator.
Tucked into an alley just off the Via del Corso The Time Elevator is almost exactly that: a time travelling elevator. Except instead of being in an elevator, you're in a movie theatre with moving seats, like Captain EO (if you went to Disneyland when you were 12 like I did). What happens is you travel through the 2759 years of the history of Rome, touching on the foundation myth of Romulus and Remus, the stabbing death of Julius Caesar, Michelangelo working the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and a handful of other touchpoints in Rome's history.
Weighing in at a lite 25 minutes, with moving seats, triple-screen and a fullbore "immersive experience" i'd reckon it was well worth the 11 euros they were charging.

Not to mention talking statues and fountain spray.
That's right, you read correctly. Statues that talk, and real fountain spray. Such was the magic. Such was the immersionation of the Time Elevator. As they say "the past is always present."

Yes.

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