Thursday, June 08, 2006

spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 4 - Aussie Aussie Aussie Die Die Die

Landon Donovan at an awkward age.

Matchday 4: Monday June 12

You can find yours truly bright and early on Monday morning at an Alphabet City location to be determined, rooting for my motherland and heaping insults at our resident Aussie.

But that's 3 days from now. I will be leaving New York very early tomorrow morning and I will be away from the computer all weekend, unfortunately for you. But fear not, there will be plenty of World Cup coverage on the internets. Michael Davies, who was responsible for bringing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to America, covered the 2002 World Cup and his columns were consistently readable.

For coverage from the US camp, you can't beat's Studio 90 - the quality and the quantity of the content are simply astounding for a team that, generally speaking, no one gives a shit about. You can also get insider coverage from two Nike-sponsored blogs, This Is American Soccer and video-heavy journal of our favorite Clint.

I'm also expecting coverage from extrawack!, Scatter o' Light, We Call It Soccer and 116street soccer, but don't hold me responsible.

Now, I usually have little patience for soccer bashers, but I do have to agree with one half of Cole Slaw Blog in his disapproval of those commercials with Bono. Now, I like those spots, but I also see that they preach to the choir a little too much and can alienate the very people they're trying to reach. Yeah, we all know it's a big event that people travel around the world and stop working to watch. Who doesn't know that? But the commercials don't get to the $64,000 question - why should the average American sport who probably hates soccer give a fuck? Using an Irish dude as spokesman talking about those crazy ferrigners doesn't help.

Not that I care that much - I kinda enjoy soccer's underdog status (via False 45th) in this country.

Okay, a little less conversation, a little more action, let's get on with the previews.

Japan vs Australia (9:00 am ET - ESPN2/Univision)

Key player: Shunsuke Nakamura is the Steve Nash of Japanese soccer, except not as pretty and possibly without the chest hair. Nakamura is Japan's most dangerous weapon in attack, as he send pinpoint through passes and crosses, take on defenders on the dribble or shoot from distance himself. There are other talented players on the team, but like Nash on the Suns, Nakamura sets the tone.

Reasons to watch this game: Not only is Japan my home country, it is also home to one of the most entertaining teams in the cup. The Samurai Blue plays Brazilian-influenced soccer that's based on stringing passes together and multiple players making moves simultaneously. Australia, though not lacking in talent, is playing in its first World Cup, like, ever. It'll be a contrast of styles as Japan will rely on finesse and team play while Australia's strengths are size and individual talent.

Reasons not to watch this game: You're racist.

Verdict: Seriously, don't sleep on Japan. Or Australia. Neither is at Brazil's level, but they can hold their own.

United States vs Czech Republic (12:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)
Key player: DaMarcus Beasley is one of the most dangerous American attackers, but he will also be responsible for slowing down the Czech Republic's star Pavel Nedved. He also peed on the field (not safe for work) in the last World Cup.

Then again, Nedved isn't so hot right now, so maybe we should be watching Oguchi Onyewu try to stop the 6'7" Jan Koller.

Reasons to watch this game: You're American, goddamit, and Czech Republic is one of the top teams in the World Cup. And the US got embarrassed 5-1 by Czechoslovakia back in 1990. This is time for revenge.

Reasons not to watch this game: You are an America-hating commie.

Verdict: Look, take a long lunch, go out to the bar with a TV. The Americans play some good soccer these days.

Italy vs Ghana (3:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)

Key player: Ghana's half-human, half-bulldozer Mickael Essien - if he can control the midfield, he can pull off an upset against the mighty Azzuri.

Reasons to watch this game: This is the ultimate Old Guard vs Up and Comers match - Italy, with its methodical, unathletic but tactical style versus the inexperienced, but fearless Black Stars of Ghana.

Reasons not to watch this game: Italy's kinda boring to watch.

Verdict: If you want an advance look at USA's next two opponents, here's your chance.

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