Googles gone Goal!

My friend pointed out to me that Googles, gone Gooooooooall!


Search for world cup, and look at the bottom! Less than 24hrs to go!

I think ESPN got it!

*Yawn*. Its good to stretch once in a while, get some blood to some relaxed muscles.

Waking up at 5.30am on a Saturday is normal behavior for me now. Get up, brush my teeth, and wonder downstairs and turn on the telly. You know its early when the cats ignore you, while you stumble across the dark floor to the sofa and fumble around for the remote.

Regardless, turned on the telly. Its June 5th, 5 days before WC2010 starts, 5.30am. I press the two power buttons, one for the TV, one for the dish network receiver. After about 5 seconds of eye rubbings, i hear a familiar voice. A very soothing, familiar voice. Martin Tyler.

At first, i make sure its not a rerun of a EPL game on Fox Soccer Channel. Then slowly, i realize that his color commentator, is John Harkes. Instantly I’m satisfied with something. I feel that ESPN got it right.

It was 5.30am on June 5th, and Australia were playing a pre world cup warm up against the USA, and it was being shown live from a tiny stadium in South Africa with less than 7,000 people in the crowd – on a pitch that looked like an empty field in the middle of the African jungle.

ESPN got it right. The commentary pairing of MT and JH was good, it wasn’t boring – even during the boring parts of the game. They weren’t even talking down to me as a viewer, they were just commentating. That was sweet.

Well done ESPN.

But wait! There’s more! After the game, ESPN showed a nice little piece on the Robben Island soccer league in South Africa. A very nice 30 minute segment about how the comings of a new government were practiced in the form of a full on “professional” football league within a prison.

Well done ESPN.

But wait! THERES MORE! E-60 had another segment on “saacker”. 3 short documentaries. The first was about Clint Dempsey, the 2nd was a great emotional piece about the U17 girls national team from Haiti after the quake, and finally a 3min segment on the craziest par 3 19th hole in South Africa, where the Tee is at the top of a mountain, and the green is a thousand feet below.

Well done ESPN.

ESPN has got it right, almost.

With the World cup only 15 days away, i thought its time to put out my views before the tournament starts. Thoughts on the coverage of this magnificent tournament in the United States of America. The worlds largest, most loved event.

Football has been a hated sport in this country for all 16 years I’ve been here. But there is change coming. I can feel it. Something has happened over at ESPN that’s making me think this. All of a sudden, we’re getting High Definition broadcasts of games, real commentators commentating on games, and a heck of a lot of advertising for the world cup on ESPN.

During the 98, 02 and 06 world cup’s, you’d not have known it was coming on ESPN as they hardly mentioned it. For 2010, they’ve had a campaign going since 2008 to tell people that the world cup is coming, and you can see it on ESPN/ABC. That’s a 2 year long campaign. That’s a change to what I’ve seen in the past. That’s a good change.

I should have noticed this change in 2008 when ESPN showed every game live in High Definition of the European Championship. You know, something that the USA doesn’t, and can’t participate in. To have the final shown on network TV was even more of a blessing. 4 years prior to that, the entire tournament was PPV only.

Not only did ESPN show Euro 2008 in High Def, they threw out all of the rubbish American commentators and used real class commentating. It was a great tournament to watch. I took it for granted. I thought i was back in England for those 3 weeks.

So what have i noticed for 2010?

  1. Colorful advertising. Very stylish/artistic graphics for the logo – taken by the theme of Africa.
  2. Announcements all the time, that the world cup is coming.
  3. Live draw, with *full* coverage – although Bob Ley was getting a bit annoying talking over the hosts of the world cup draw.
  4. The ESPN logo in the corner of the bottom line flashing over to the WC2010 logo periodically.
  5. A sudden and shocking announcement that they will be showing live EPL games in 2009 *in HD*. It happened literally two days before the first game of the season.
  6. A sudden and shocking announcement that Martin Tyler will be commentating for ESPN for the world cup. *Drool*
  7. A Live roster selection segment on Sportscenter.
  8. ESPN3D to cover some of the games from the world cup, allegedly the first 3d broadcast in the US.

ESPN will be boasting a British only commentary personnel line up for all 64 games, that’s incredible given that it was all American (except Derek Rae and Adrian Healey for some of the games) just 4 years ago.

Martin Tyler and Andy Gray for USA v England ? *yum*

They’ve added my buddy Klinsmann to the panel of personalities to review the post games.T

hey will all be on site in South Africa (apparently) to cover the games.

So, this all sounds good for the football fan in America, so why do i say its “almost” there?

Simple. I think there will be a tendency for someone like Bob Ley or Anthony Hopkins to try and teach the audience the game. I hate that. I think that needs to go away *now*.

ESPN has to know by now that you cant teach an old dog new tricks. You cant make a left hander, a right hander. So why bother? The only audience watching these games, will be the open minded person who cares about the world and wants to watch it. Or has an interest in it. Everyone should completely ignore the ignorant Americans who *hate* the sport. I really don’t give a toss about the Americans who hate the game. They don’t even know *why* they hate the game, its just something they were brought up with. You know, like the English hating the Germans. We don’t know why we hate them today, we just do! Ok sure, there might be something about WWII in there someplace, but that was 80 years ago. Who cares now right?

If ESPN can get through this world cup without Bob Ley telling me that England vs Germany is like the Dodgers vs the Yankees, that’ll be a huge step for mankind. I swear I’ll slit my wrists if i hear some crap like that – Ok maybe not.

But really, its time for ESPN to let go of trying to convince “America” that “soccer” is a good game. There is just no need for it. Come to think of it, if John Motson tried to tell me that Yankees vs Dodgers was like Germany vs England, I’d switch channels – immediately.

My thought process here is, show the game as its meant to be shown. If there is a brain cell in any NFL loving American, he’ll be interested and may enjoy the next 2hrs. If not, it doesn’t matter. There are 6billion football lovers around the world. we don’t need anymore.

It probably turns the American audience off when they hear comparisons between the peoples game, and their game.

Football is a different game, built on different principles. Its a game designed by people, for people. Its not a game designed by advertisers for people. It has a different flow, a different feel, a different language.


USA and Bob Bradley

The first game ended today as a 3-1 loss to the world champions Italy, and it was a good game for the most part. Scrappy, stop and go football with the possession changing frequently as both teams went head on with tackles. However, it was a loss to the US. It was expected to be a loss, as the Italian squad had rebuilt since the debacle at Euro 2008, they brought back the world cup winning coach and got a few new faces that are pretty good, including an American.

But that’s not why I’m writing all this. I’m writing all this because I’m a bit upset with Bob Bradley as the coach for our team, and I’m a bit upset with one of the players on the squad as well. I don’t think we’ll do well at all in any major tournament without some real talent in coaching.

The US has been playing pretty well for quiet a while, and its gotten pretty solid at scraping out results, against good teams and bad team, home and away. It’s also gotten pretty good at wiping the floor with rubbish opposition. It’s been like this for a very long time, probably all the way since 1998 when Bruce Arena took over. He was able to stabilize the team after the 1998 debacle, and get some winning form to the nation’s team. However, there’s always been one thing lacking. That one thing is Style.

The US has no style of play. It’s all individuals that work their magic, and sometimes it works and we get a decent goal. But it’s never the same kind of goal over and over, or a well worked goal.

Sure, that might be because the strikers in the country are no good, but I’m not quiet certain that’s what the problem is. We have good strikers now, they can score from anywhere. But because we don’t have a style of play, it gets lost, and only found in the players individual flares.

What I’m really looking for is a stand out style of play. Lets take for example a team that we all know has a style. Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has stamped his authority on the team with a special kind of progressive attacking style that the team never sways away from, no matter what the score is, no matter what the condition is. When you turn the telly on, and you see Arsenal playing, you know you’re going to see high possession – high speed – high passing games, and generally, a lot of goals (for or against doesn’t matter). Barcelona plays in a similar style too. Germany plays a distinctive style as well with pin point passing as its signature.

So why cant the US have a style? Better yet, why not adopt on of these styles? Is it too difficult to do, is it so special that only Guardiola, Wenger, Loewe, Beckanbaur or Klinsmann know? If so, fine i accept that these coaches have special ingredients. But guess what, some of these coaches are available, including one that lives 15mins from the USMNT’s base camp.

No more excuses, i want a style for the team, and i want it now before the 2010 world cup.

This means that Bob has to go. He’s a good coach, for scraping out the wins. But for a country that’s do dominant in CONCACAF, i’m expecting the team to blow out rubbish opposition with lots of goals, not just 1-0’s and 2-0’s and 3-0’s. Some of the opposition we play in CONCACAF are comprised of part time players, that aren’t even considered professional. Surely we’re good enough to get 6 goals against them, right ? I think its because we have no technical direction. Arsenal would wipe the floor with some of the CONCACAF nations, with its reserve team.

As for the team itself, i think its more or less fine. The backline is decent, its good enough given the talent pool. The midfield is also alright given the talent pool. We’re weak up top, but almost every other country is weak up top (no, i don’t include Spain or Brazil in that list of “other countries”).

What i do think, is that Landon Donavon is done. He’s had more than a 100 games to be a leader, and he’s just not up to it. Sure’ he’s a great player when playing for games that don’t matter, or a game vs Mexico on home turf. But beyond that, he’s useless for the USMNT now and he needs to be dropped ASAP. It’s dragging the team down trying to find a spot for him. Just like how Aragones dropped Raul for Spain in 2008, USSF as a whole, has to drop Donovan to progress. I also think that FIFA should put a cap on international caps for a player. I think that number should be 100. Play for the country 100 times, and you’re done. No more. Do not pass go.

No more Landon please. Thank you

Thats it.


Kieran Gibbs, its ok.

Dear Kieran,

I watched with great anticipation today, to see Arsenal go through to the final with two splendid goals. However, it all got upended because you slipped in the 8th minute, and J.S Park notched in a goal.

I am writing this letter to say that its ok, nobody (especially me) blames you, and you are the 2nd best left back in the Premier League, after Clichy.

Yes, what i’m saying is that its not your fault. Even Clichy could have slipped. It was just not meant to be. In fact, J.S Park should have missed it, but sadly he didn’t.

I can tell that you must have been heart broken as you didn’t make it out the tunnel for the second half.

You should cherish the fact that you took C. Ronaldo to the cleaners in the first leg, and use that to build your skills upon, and be the next best left back in the world I support you on this.

Here is a reminder.

Thank you for your efforts, and continue the hard work.

Austria Vs Poland

Austria are still in the tournament after a lucky decision in their favor in the dying moments of this game.

In a way, you can call it justice. Poland were awarded a goal that was clearly offside in the first half. At the end of the 2nd half, in stoppage time, Howard Webb awarded a very soft penalty to Austria, who used the opportunity to tie up the game.

Nothing else really happened in this game, except we did see that Austria do have some shooting boots. But i doubt they will poise any problem to Germany in the final game, which Germany have to win.

Croatia Vs Germany

Germany fell today. My day was devastated after waking up to see Germany loose 1-2 to Croatia, a team that have beaten them before in an eerie looking game resembling 1998.

Podolski got the loan goal for Germany, and thats the only thing i’ll say on this game.

Switzerland Vs Turkey

Switzerland were the first team knocked out of the tournament, after a very entertaining game againt Turkey in Group A.

Switzerland lost the game 1-2, after failing to keep the lead. The game started, and then it rained. Not just rained, it poured. It poured a for quiet a while, making hte pitch slow, and sluggish. Switzerland thanked the skies for this, as it fell into the style of play they wanted to play – slow and comfortable. This allowed them to get the first goal. A cross from the right, passed into Yakin. The ball skipped once in the goal keepers box, and came to a stand still 1 yard away from Yakin.

Switzerland kept trying to get the second, but failed to do so before the half. During he half, the grounds men were able to take of a lot of the surface water, which made the game more playable for the turks, who were able to score two goals to win the game.

Czech Republic Vs Portugal

Portugal won the match 3-1, with a good performance from Deco to pull them through. Deco started the scoring with a simple tap in after a fumble by Czech. Ronaldo had driven himself into the box and started rounding the keeper but Czech stopped him, and fumbled into the path of Deco, wh slotted in the early goal. 

Minutes later, the Czech republic tied thegame from a set piece, and the game stayed at 1-1 into the half.

In the second half, Ronaldo found some of his skills and was able to smack in a goal from just outside the box, with a stellar finish.

This was a much better performance from both sides, compared to their first games. The Czech Republic did look a lot better with Milan Baros on the field, rather than the aging Koller.

Greece Vs Sweden

Sweden won this game overcoming some poor football by 2 goals. The greeks started the game with a very defensive posture, 5-4-1. This made it extremely difficult for Sweden to penetrate, and it showed for a while. However, Zlatan got a bit of space late in the 2nd half, and fired the game winner in from about 20yards out. An excellent strike.

Greece had plenty of chances as well, had they put away some of them, they would have shown why they were the champions.

Playing in a 5-4-1 relies heavily on needing a goal early, and then defending strongly, or trying to pip a goal in the later stages (as they did in 2004).