Friday, June 30, 2006

spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: reports of my demise are somewhat correct

Kobe looks so happy when he doesn't have to pass to anyone.

If you're still reading this site, I apologize for the absence. Personal and professional obligations got in the way (hey, you guys are #3 on my list of priorities!) and I completely bypassed the Round of 16 and we find ourselves in the quarterfinal round and with just one full week left before we go back to not caring about soccer for another 4 years.

But for now, the World Cup is the only thing anyone anywhere should care about. We're now down to 8 teams and what do you know, 7 out of the 8 are past champions, accounting for 15 of the 17 past World Cup winners (Uruguay, winner of 2 Cups, didn't qualify for the party and Ukraine is the only non-winner remaining).

Not exactly a World Cup of upsets here - 6 European teams and 2 South American. Yay diversity! That doesn't mean there aren't compelling stories here, which is why I'll be re-profiling the 8 teams that have outwitted, outplayed and outlasted like so many Richard Hatches.

Now, a guide to the quarterfinal matches:
  • Friday 11 am: Germany vs Argentina: Michael Ballack is Adam Sandler, Hernan Crespo is Paris Hilton
  • Friday 3 pm: Italy vs Ukraine: Francesco Totti is Chris Martin, Andryi Shevchenko is Julia Stiles
  • Saturday 11 am: England vs Portugal: David Beckham is Jessica Alba, Luis Figo is Jack Nicholson
  • Saturday 3 pm: Brazil vs France: Ronaldo is Fat Elvis, Kaka is Young Elvis, Zinedine Zidane is Jay-Z, Thierry Henry is Beyoncé

  • spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Brazil vs France

    Saturday, July 1

    Brazil vs France
    (3 pm ET ESPN/Univision)

    Ronaldo is Fat Elvis, Kaka is Young Elvis, Zinedine Zidane is Jay-Z, Thierry Henry is Beyoncé

    Laugh all you want at Big Ron/Elvis, he makes shit happen. You remember that comeback special in Hawaii? That shit is classic. He's not as sharp as he used to be and he certainly can't move end to end like he did back in '98 and '02, but they still can't defend against him.

    Meanwhile, Kaka has been running things in midfield like Elvis shaking his hips on Ed Sullivan. Like Elvis back when he was doing those crappy movies and pretending to serve in the army, Kaka isn't quite polished yet, and he's not even a Top 5 attacking midfielder in the world, but when you're passing to Ronaldo and Ronaldinho and Adriano, you don't need to be great, just good enough.

    So is Zizou retiring or isn't he? I mean, he said he was done playing for France, but the team looked clueless without him and he had to come to the rescue, like Jay pops out of his Def Jam office now and then to help out Memph or Jeezy. Sure, he's not as good as he used to be - we worship him because of his Juventus years/Reasonable Doubt - but when he wants to, he can drop a classic like that goal in Champions League final or Blueprint.

    Meanwhile, both Henry and Beyoncé seem capable of putting out good stuff when they're counted on, with Arsenal or Destiny's Child, but when playing for France, Henry seems content to let Zidane work the magic or let the Rich Harrison production do the work. Henry has yet to really show up for his country, but they're going to need him to keep the Brazilian defense honest.

    Here we have the the winners of the last 3 World Cups (France in 1998, Brazil in 2002 and 1994). So yeah, it's kind of a big deal. It's also a tough one to handicap. Brazil is Brazil, but they looked human against Ghana, who took the game to the canaries and the game wasn't out of reach until late. Kaka made a brilliant pass to set Ronaldo free on the first goal, but that doesn't happen had Michael Essien not been suspended. And France finally came out against Spain, but they sleep-walked through the whole first round. Was the Spain game a sign of things to come or the soccer equivalent of a dead guy twitching? Both teams have a lot to prove. Both teams are flawed. But I'm going with the team that has Ronaldinho.

    My fearless prediction: Brazil 2-1 France

    Oh, and since we're going with a Jay-Z theme here, Patrick Vieira/Claude Makélélé are Ghostface/Raekwon

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: England vs Portugal

    Saturday, July 1

    England vs Portugal
    (11 am ET ABC/Univision)

    David Beckham is Jessica Alba, Luis Figo is Jack Nicholson

    Both Becks and Jessica are really pretty. But they aren't that pretty and they're not that good. Beckham is, at best, the fourth best midfielder for England and possibly the fifth most dangerous player on a team that hasn't looked exactly dangerous. And we all know Paul Walker was the star in Into the Blue (plus, I liked Alexis Bledel better in Sin City). Still, they managed to parlay their pretty faces and tight bodies into becoming the biggest people on the planet. You gotta admire that. That said, it's infuriating to watch England play - loaded with talent, yet they play this boring, unimaginative brand of football. They could be beating up on teams, yet they're content to beat Ecuador and Paraguay 1-0. Same with Jessica Alba - I wish she'd do something other than looking pretty and, I don't know, pose for Playboy or something.

    Figo and Jack are the elder statesmen of their fields. They can pretty much get away with anything, be it head butting an opponent or playing the same character over the last 30 years. But hey, they both still have a little bit of that magic left and combine well with their younger counterparts, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kathy Bates. Though the stakes are high for Figo - he won't have Deco, suspended for a red card against Holland, running things in midfield and Cristiano's giraffe-like body is less than 100% fit.

    Not sure what to make of this match here. Wayne Rooney showed flashes of brilliance against Ecuador, but he's being wasted in England's "kick really hard" strategy and he doesn't have a decent strike partner. We'll see how Cristiano Ronaldo looks - both he and Figo can still terrorize the defense, though the English backline has looked adequate so far.

    Fearless prediction: England 1 - 1 Portugal, England wins in penalties

    spinachdip's guide to the World Cup: Italy vs Ukraine

    Friday, June 30

    Italy vs Ukraine (3 pm ET ESPN2/Univision)

    Francesco Totti is Chris Martin, Andryi Shevchenko is Julia Stiles

    I find both Totti and Chris Martin a bit annoying. They don't really seem to bring anything different, though I have to admit, I kinda like the 2 or 3 songs they keep making over and over. It seems like they're superstars by default, like we need an Italian superstar too ooh-ahh over, while the music industry wants a massive band to be the U2 of this generation, the kind that plays accessible songs that people can sing along too without feeling like a pedophile.

    Shevchenko and Julia Stiles are supposed to be really talented. But what have they done? Sure, he's scored a lot of goals for Milan and they've won championships, but it seems like he's almost detached from the success - when you have Gattuso, Pirlo, Seerdorf and Kaka in the midfield, you don't need that much quality at the forward spot. Julia Stiles has had her hits, but they've generally been formula flicks that any pretty face could have filled. You put her in an ensemble piece like State & Main and she completely disappears (in a relatively minor role, granted). Far less talented actresses show more charisma than Stiles, who has gotten through her career with exactly two facial expressions and one tone of voice...

    Which is what it feels like watching Ukraine play. There's no real attempt to play soccer - they just whack the ball really hard and hope Sheva gets to it first. No imagination, no variety. Somehow, they've outlasted their Groupmate Spain, who had so far been the second best looking team after Argentina, but had the misfortune of facing a suddenly rejuvenated France, while Ukraine was rewarded for finishing second in a mediocre group.

    To me, that's a bigger injustice than Australia losing to Italy. I know I'm going to piss some people off, but the Socceroos didn't deserve that game. I wanted them to win. I thought they looked much better than Italy and controlled the match, but like Japan against them, the Aussies refused to capitalize on their opportunities, even after Italy went down a man after the questionable red card. And the penalty? I'm going to say it was 50-50 after watching the replay (turn up the volume REALLY LOUD on this one). And even if it wasn't a foul, there was a good chance it wasn't a dive - it looked like Grosso lost his balance trying to go around Neill. But that's really beside the point . Lucas Neill should never have gone into a tackle two-footed like that. Even though he didn't initiate the contact, that was just a reckless tackle and he was basically asking for a foul to be called. And for their part, the Italians, divers or not, didn't stop playing and the way Buffon was defending the goal, I don't think Australia would have had a chance in extra time. I still hate the greasy diving Italians and admire the way the Aussies played, but Italy belongs in the quarterfinals, and presumably the semis.

    Fearless prediction: Italy 2 - 1 Ukraine

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Argentina vs Germany

    Friday, June 30

    Germany vs Argentina (11 am ET ESPN/Univision)

    Michael Ballack is Adam Sandler, Hernan Crespo is Paris Hilton

    Michael Ballack/Adam Sandler isn't the most graceful of players, but he gets the job done. And he's been a winner pretty much everywhere he's gone. Sure, Ballack/Sandler resorts to cheap means to get to the championship/#1 in the box office, like playing for the club that can outspend the rest of Germany or remaking The Longest Yard, but you can't deny the talent or the resume. Last week, Sandler rode a weak ass formula - a remote control! that stops other people! - and got himself a #1 hit. So far, Ballack has led the weakest German team in memory and is in a prime position to win the ultimate prize. But they'll have to get past....

    Hernan Crespo/Paris Hilton and the Argies. I don't think much of either Crespo or Paris. They're both kinda goofy looking but surprisingly effective. Crespo has gotten by just showing enough, and his club, Chelsea won the championship without him doing fuck all. Paris's claim to fame? Being a spoiled rich girl and that sex video where she just laid there getting fucked (albeit the night vision thing was groundbreaking at the time). But the more you watch them, the more they grow on you. Argentina has played some pretty soccer and just ground out a gritty victory against Mexico in the Round of 16 (Maxi!!!!). Meanwhile, Paris has a single out that's surprisingly infectious. So what if it sounds like scraps off Gwen's Love Angel Music Baby? It's fucking summer - you put out a reggae-tinged pop song, computer-process the fuck out of your voice, it's going to be a hit. While I still wouldn't touch Paris with a 10 foot dildo, I have to appreciate her ability to self-promote and to be in the right place at the right time (her dancing is horrendous, howevs). Likewise, while I'll never be a fan of Crespo, I have to recognize his nose for the goal.

    As a fan who got his soccer education in England, I am obligated to hate both the greasy diving Argies and the boring brutish Krauts. But I catch myself liking both of them, Argentina for its quality football displayed over the last 2 weeks and Germany for taking advantage of the opportunities at hand. But I'll take quality over gritty here, and go with Argentina. As solid as the German defense has been, they haven't faced the likes of Argentina. Riquelme will keep the German midfield busy and even if the German defense can contain Crespo and Saviola, the South Americans have Tevez and Messi waiting in the wings. And more importantly, the backline will provide, if you will, protection from zee Germans, who have thus far feasted on lesser defenses.

    Fearless prediction: Argentina 2 - 1 Germany

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, good night

    More thoughts, commentaries, teeth gnashing coming later.

    Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (from Monty Python's Life of Brian)

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup - Matchdays 14 and 15: America, fuck yeah!

    Indulge me here for bit as a take a trip down memory lane.

    Four years ago, my roommates (one of them paid rent, the other had asked 3 months ago if he could crash for a couple of nights) and I mostly did our World Cup viewing en Espanol. The reason? Our cable was pirated, thanks to an illegal box that our smarmy but friendly slumlord had given us, which meant we got HBO on Channel 16, Spice on Channel 61 (just eight dials short of the obvious joke) and ESPN on Channel 28, but no ESPN2. And since most World Cup matches were on the Deuce, we had to turn to the easily excitable commentators on Univision and TeleFutura. Why am I telling you this, you might be wondering? Trust me, it's important. It's the proverbial gun on the wall in Act One that will be fired by Act Three.

    So four years ago, USA was in a much different position in the World Cup than it is now. The Americans upset mighty Portugal in the first match, got a valuable draw against the co-hosts, the Koreans. Now, all USA had to do was earn a draw or better against Poland, whom both Korea and Portugal dispatched easily. The only question was whether the US would go in as the #1 or #2 seed out of the group.

    But within 6 minutes of the match, Poland jumped out to a 2-0 lead and USA's World Cup, which had started so gloriously, looked like it was going to end. Realizing that USA's hopes of coming back in the Poland match was all but gone, we switched over to Korea vs Portugal.

    The only way USA would advance was if Korea beat Portugal. The score stood at 0-0, and if the two scores held, USA was out. There wasn't much hope here either, as two teams looked content to finish the match 0-0. A draw would send Korea to the next round as the group winners and the Portuguese as runners-up. The last thing either side wanted to do was risk losing. In fact, there's a video still of Luis Figo, the Portuguese captain, flashing "0-0" to the Korean captain.

    Then something happened. Completely against the run of play, Park Ji-Sung scored, giving not only the lead to Korea, but handing a lifeline to USA. Portugal had several chances to tie the game, pretty incredible when you consider that they were down 2 men by the end of the game.

    Feeling secure about the Korea vs Portugal result, we switched over to USA vs Poland. Americans were now down 3-1, but the players knew, or at least had a feeling that they got away with one. Players on the bench were celebrating and Korean fans in the stands were singing. The Univision (or TeleFutura? I don't remember) camera showed Landon Donovan as he came off the field. When one of the bench players informed him of the result of the other match, Landon let out a clearly audible "Fuck yeah!"

    And for me, that summed up the last day of the group stage. To let everything that you worked for slip away, and then to somehow get it back at the end of the day due to sheer luck? What can you say other than "Fuck Yeah!"?

    This time around, the Americans in the opposite position, having started the World Cup in hopeless fashion and now have no room for error. But they managed the improbable the last time around. Nothing says it can't happen again.

    Thursday, June 22
    Group E
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Italy (4 pt; 3 GF; 2 GA; GD) - advance with draw or better vs Czech Republic; clinch 1st place with win vs Czech Republic, or draw vs Czech Republic and Ghana loss or draw vs United States
    Ghana (3 pt; 3 GF; 2 GA; GD) - advance with win vs United States, or draw vs United States and an Italy draw or better vs Czech Republic to advance; clinch 1st place with win vs United States and draw in Czech Republic vs Italy
    Czech Republic (3 pt; 3 GF; 2 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Italy; clinch 1st place with win vs Italy and Ghana draw or loss vs United States
    United States (1 pt; 1 GS; 4 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Ghana and Italy win vs Czech Republic

    Ghana vs United States (10 am ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Czech Republic vs Italy (10 am ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    Here's the other Group of Death, the rare group where every team has a realistic chance of advancing to the next round. Italy only needs to tie the Czech Republic to advance, but the 2nd place finisher will presumably face Brazil, so the greasy Italians will be going for the win...

    ...which would help the United States, who can advance with a win over Ghana and an Italy win (they can also advance with a Czech Republic win, but good luck erasing that -3 goal deficit). Of course, the Yanks play Ghana, who easily beat the Czechs, who, in turn, made the Americans look absolutely silly, so file this one in the "Easier said than done" drawer.

    I say watch the United States, but root for Italy in the scoreboard in the corner of the screen.

    Group F
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Brazil (6 pt; 3 GF; 0 GA; GD) - already qualified; clinch 1st place with draw or better vs Japan or Croatia draw or better vs Australia
    Australia (3 pt; 3 GF; 3 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Croatia, or draw vs Croatia and Japan loss or draw vs Brazil
    Croatia (1 pt; 0 GF; 1 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Australia and Japan loss or draw vs Brazil
    Japan (1 pt; 1 GS; 3 GA; GD) - advance with win by at least 2 goals vs Brazil and Croatia win vs Australia

    Japan vs Brazil (3 pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Croatia vs Australia (3 pm ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    Ah, my beloved Japan. After two very disappointing results, the Samurai Blue needs to win by at least 2 goals. Against Brazil. And then hope Australia doesn't win and stay ahead of Croatia in goal differential. Sheeee-yeah. I am cautiously pessimistic.

    So my heart says watch Japan vs Brazil. But my head says Croatia vs Australia - Socceroos probably only need a draw to advance but should go for the win anyway. Croatia must win. Plus, there are a few Australian-born guys on Croatia and a few ethnic Croats on Australia, so that's fun.

    Friday, June 23

    Group H
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Spain (6 pt; 7 GF; 1 GA; +6 GD) - already advanced; clinch first place with draw or better vs Saudi Arabia
    Ukraine (3 pt; 4 GF; 4 GA; 0 GD) - advance with win or draw vs Tunisia;
    Tunisia (1 pt; 3 GF; 5 GA; -2 GD) - advance with win vs Ukraine Saudi Arabia loss or draw vs Spain
    Saudi Arabia (1 pt; 2 GF; 6 GA; -4 GD) - need to win by at least 3 goals vs Spain and Ukraine loss or draw vs Tunisia

    Saudi Arabia vs Spain (10 am ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Ukraine vs Tunisia (10 am ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    Ah, the group of snooze. There's Spain, and then there's everyone else. At least Ukraine looked commanding against Saudi Arabia and Tunisia let another early lead slip away, meaning the Carthage Eagles need a win against Shevchenko and company. I suppose Saudi Arabia's still in it, but they need to beat Spain by at least 3 and even that won't be enough. In a word, don't count on it.

    Ukraine vs Tunisia is the match that matters, but Spain's playing some good soccer. Keep the clicker handy, I say.

    Group G
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Switzerland (4 pt; 2 GF 0 GA; GD) - advance with draw or better vs South Korea, or France loss or draw vs Togo; clinch 1st place with win vs Switzerland;
    South Korea (4 pt; 2 GF 1 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Switzerland or France loss or draw vs Togo;
    France (2 pt; 0 GF 0 GA; GD) - advance with win vs Togo by 2 goals or more
    Togo - eliminated

    Togo vs France (3 pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Switzerland vs Republic of Korea (3 pm ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    The G stands for "Goal Differential", because that's what everything could come down to. We're assuming France will win here, but let's not forget, Lay Blews still haven't scored a World Cup goal since 1998. But a France win and a draw between the Swiss and the Korean will tie things up at 5 points a piece.

    If that's the case, the Swiss are okay based on their goal differential advantage over Korea. So the question will be whether France can match Korea's 2-1 win over Togo. Win by a bigger margin or score more goals, France is through. A 1-0 win - a real possibility - means Korea is through.

    But it won't come to that if Switzerland or Korea has anything to say about it. Even the Swiss have something to play for, since 2nd place means a 2nd round match against Spain. Even Togo has motivation, since they just so happen to be a former French colony.

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup - Matchdays 12 and 13: please excuse the appearance

    As I have mentioned before, my internet has been on the bad end of the dead-alive spectrum and I haven't been able to access the information superhighway or watch the games at home. As a result, this post here is a little short on pretty visuals and useless information. And definitely light on proofreading. Sorry.

    So we're getting to the really exciting part of the first round (unless your team is already out), the final group stage matches. The good news is that we're going to get 4 matches a day instead of the 3 a day we got to this point. The bad news is that two matches are played at once, so you have to either miss a match or keep switching back and forth. They do this so as not to give any team the advantage of knowing the result of the other group match.

    While some teams have already booked their ticket to the 2nd round and some are just playing for pride, most teams are still in contention, even if only mathematically, and the much coveted 1st place spot (and a presumably easier matchup in the next round) is up for grabs in every group. Usually, this is when teams rest their tired stars and players carrying yellow card (two yellows in the group stage gets you suspended for a game, but the slate's cleaned when you advance), but with a lot to play for, most teams won't have that luxury.

    For the next couple of days, I'll be breaking down what every team needs to do from here on out, and which game you want to be watching. Of course, you could just go out and get a second TV.

    Matchday 12 - Tuesday, June 20

    Group A
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference; goal differential is the first tiebreaker, followed by goals for)
    Ecuador (6 pt; 5 GF; 0 GA; +5 GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with draw or better vs Germany;
    Germany (6 pt; 5 GF; 2 GA; +3 GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with win over Ecuador;
    Poland and Costa Rica - eliminated

    Ecuador vs Germany (10 am ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Costa Rica vs Poland (10 am ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    It's obvious which match you want to watch here. Both Germany and Ecuador are safely through to the next round, they do want to avoid facing England, the expected winner of Group B, so they have something to play for. Costa Rica and Poland are just playing out the schedule. Ecuador, surprisingly, sits in first place with a superior goal differential and only needs a draw to win the group, but Germany has the home field advantage. I'll be rooting for Ecuador here.

    Group B
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    England (6 pt; 3 GF; 0 GA; +3 GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with draw or better vs Sweden
    Sweden (3 pt; 1 GS; 0 GA; +1 GD) - advance with draw vs England or better, or Trinidad draw or loss; clinch 1st place with win by 2 goals or more vs England
    Trinidad & Tobago (1 pt; 0 GF; 1 GA; -1 GD) - advance with win vs Paraguay and Sweden loss vs England
    Paraguay - eliminated

    Sweden vs England (3 pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Paraguay vs Trinidad (3 pm ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    The Soca Warriors of Trinidad (and sometimes Tobago) has been the feel good story of the World Cup (well, besides the Ivory Coast halting their civil war, but they shouldn't have been fighting in the first place, naughty boys) but they need some help here. They need to beat Paraguay to have any chance. But they also need England to beat Sweden. Or if England and Sweden tie, they'll have to win by 2 goals or more. Given that they haven't scored a goal in the World Cup, not likely. If Sweden beats England, T&T is out.

    So what's England's motivation, besides helping the Trinidadian cause? Well, they're through to the next round and can clinch 1st place as long as they don't lose by more than 1 goal. But they haven't beaten the IKEA Warriors in over 40 years so there's that. And Wayne Rooney will be getting some playing time to get some match fitness.

    Matchday 13 - Wednesday, June 21
    Group D
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Portugal (6 pt; 3 GF; 0 GA; +3 GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with draw or better vs Mexico
    Mexico (4 pt; 3 GF; 1 GA; +1 GD) - advances with draw or better vs Portugal, or Angola loss or draw vs Iran; clinch 1st place with win vs Portugal
    Angola (1 pt; 0 GF; 1 GA; -1 GD) - needs win vs Iran and Mexico loss vs Portugal and goal differential to advance
    Iran - eliminated

    Portugal vs Mexico (10 am ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Iran vs Angola (10 am ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    So we're previewing Group D before Group C, thanks to the quirks of scheduling. Don't blame me, blame FIFA.

    Portugal still hasn't looked very inspiring, but they're through to the next round anyway, and need only a draw to clinch 1st place. Mexico looked even less inspiring in its draw against Angola, but advances as long as it maintains its goal differential advantage (+2 vs -1).

    Although Angola has played valiantly to this point, they have to start scoring if they want to have any chance of squeaking through to the next round. Meanwhile, the talented Iranian squad won't want to three and out. Given the low level of incentives for either Mexico or Portugal (I can't see either side getting by Netherlands or Argentina), Iran vs Angola might be the more entertaining match.

    Group C
    (pt = points - 3 for win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss; GF = goals for; GA = goals against; GD = goal difference)
    Argentina (6 pt; 8 GF; 1 GA; GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with draw or better vs Netherlands
    Netherlands (6 pt; 3 GF; 1 GA; GD) - already advanced; clinch 1st place with win vs Argentina
    Serbia and Ivory Coast - eliminated

    Netherlands vs Argentina (3 pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
    Ivory Coast vs Serbia (3 pm ET - ESPN2/TeleFutura)

    Both the Dutch and the Argentines have booked their tickets to the next round, though the South Americans have looked much much much much much much more impressive, beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 while Netherlands needed some Arjen Robben magic to get by 1-0. The Dutch can still clinch 1st place with a win, but they might just want to rest their horses (and Van Horseface) for a match that means more.

    Ivory Coast has looked very credible in their two 1-goal losses against the two group leaders and probably would have advanced if they weren't placed in a Group of Death. Tough luck to the Elephants. I'm rooting for them to get a win before (speaking of death) they go back to fighting their civil war.

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    A thank you , an apology and a fuck you

    Originally posted to Flickr by Petroleumjelliffe

    First of all, thank you to everyone who came out to the little birthday party Heather and I threw ourselves. We had a ball and hope you all did too. The shots were unnecessary and ill advised, but appreciated nonetheless. The cupcake was lovely. And whoever gave me the pony, you read my mind. Photos will be up shortly.

    Second of all, apologies to everyone I didn't invite, which is to say, everyone. I meant to post an invitation here but I never got around to it. Maybe next year. And I imagine we'll have to throw another Blogmukkah in December, so I'd love to see you all there.

    But fear not, my actual birthday isn't until the Saturday the 24th (Cancers stand up, what?), so you all can still keep wishing me happy birthday and giving me ponies. Heather's birthday was on the 15th so you're out of luck there.

    Third, a fuck you to Time Warner Cable for not restoring service in my neighborhood. The internet (along with unpaid cable TV) has been down since Sunday morning and as of this morning, was still not working despite what the customer support guy told me over the phone.

    More World Cup punditry coming up, Time Warner willing.

    Now we are into Day 3 of internet outage. I'm getting the shakes and the cold sweat.

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Your guide to spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup

    Currently previewed:


    Previously previewed:

    Blood and guts

    Bon Jovi - Living On A Prayer
    Fiona Apple - Red Red Red

    Left is right. Up is down. And nine is greater than ten.

    Coconuts. Melons. Or whatever your choice of large spherical fruit, that' how you can describe USA's play against Italy. Balls, guts, all the cliches you can pull out. That was a 1-1 victory for the Yanks. That's the shit you tell your grandkids about.

    Down a man for the majority of the second half, the US never looked like it was at a disadvantage and could have taken the lead depending on your interpretation of the offside rule. The eight American field players were Honda Civics and Chevy Cavaliers running circles around nine Ferraris and Alfa Romeos. The Italians looked like the final whistle couldn't come fast enough.

    The game ended 1-1 and Italy is in a better position going into their final match, needing only a draw or better to advance while the US doesn't control its destiny. But the US showed it was better than Monday's debacle and with a better ref, with some lucky bounces, it could have taken all three points. At the very least, the US showed it can hang with the best. Maybe the Americans aren't Top 5 in the world, but they are very capable of beating the Top 5 on any given day on any given field.

    On Thursday, the US has to beat Ghana and hope Italy beats the Czechs to advance to the next round. Easier said than done. But fuck that. Just win and let the rest work itself out. The World Cup died for me on Monday. Now it's back on again.

    Oh, by the way, where was Eddie Johnson? Didn't the US have one substitution left?

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 11 - battle of who could care less

    Ben Folds Five - Battle of Who Could Care Less (Live from Sessions at West 54th)

    I'm not going to tell anyone not to watch soccer, but this might be a good day to stay at work and Tivo the games in case anything happens. But that's just me. And I don't have Tivo.

    Matchday 11 - Monday, June 19
    Togo vs Switzerland (9 am ET ESPN2/Univision)
    I'm going to plead complete ignorance on this match. Sorry, I didn't watch either of these team play and I can name maybe one player involved in this game. I just know Togo made Korea work for the three points and the Swiss neutralized (see, get it?) the French attack. So it could be good. Maybe.

    Saudi Arabia vs Ukraine (12 noon ET ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player: I like watching games on Univision because when the announcers decide they like a player's name, they'll shout it out, like "SHEV-CHENKOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" Which is to say, Shevchenko is the key for the Ukrainians. Sheva is also married to an American model named Kristen Pazik, whom you shouldn't do a Google Image search for at work.

    Reasons to watch this game: The Saudis looked fairly credible against Tunisia while Ukraine couldn't get anything going against Spain. But Spain is a little bit better than Tunisia, so who knows which is the better team?

    Reasons not to watch this game: I have a feeling we're looking at the two teams that will be going home early from this Group of Snooze.

    Verdict: Both teams need a win here, so it should be a compelling matchup. That usually makes for good soccer.

    Spain vs Tunisia (3 pm ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player:
    Fernando Torres and David Villa showed Spain doesn't need Raul in the lineup to hand out a beating. That's a scary thought.

    Reasons to watch this game: When Spain is on, they can play some lovely football as they showed against Ukraine, while Tunisia looked very dangerous (and alternately sloppy) against the Saudis.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Not that big a game for either team, to be honest. Spain looks like it's going to wrap up this group sooner or later with either a draw or a win here while Tunisia should be happy with a draw.

    Verdict: I'm going to say Spain rolls. Which was fun to watch the first time, but two games in a row? Maybe not. Although Tunisia could be the underdog that Spain trips over. That could be fun.

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 10 - Living on a prayer

    Roxy Music - More Than This
    Celia Cruz - Yo Vivre (I Will Survive)

    First, let's answer a reader question:
    Matt from Australia asks, "Do you really believe that Japan looked the better team until the final 10 mins? I know Australia aren't a great side, but we dominated possession and goal attempts. And the goal attempts were generally of a high quality. Japan also had a couple of good looks, but the one goal they did score shouldn't have counted, and the ref apologised post-match for his mistake (a practice that I don't encourage from a professional ref).

    Good question. I do indeed belive that Japan looked the better side. I think posession and shots-on-goal are usually good measures of a teams performance. But in this case, I think they are more a reflection of Japan's tactics than anything else.

    European teams tend to play their defensives line higher, to put more pressure on the opposition and win the ball closer to the opponent's goal. But Japan sat back much deeper, because Australia couldn't create attack from the midfield and to prevent crosses from the sides and through balls. This meant Japan was content to let Australia hold the ball in the midfield and take shots from outside the penalty area.

    Of course, this tactic backfired on the second Cahill goal and it's not one I would've used. But my reasoning is that Japan was doing exactly what it planned to do, create chances from build-ups from the back and minimize Australia's effectiveness in the attacking third, while Australia was forced to play away from their strengths.

    You do have a point about the shots on goal though - Kawaguchi was forced to come up big several times, while most of the chances created by the Japanese midfield didn't lead to shots. But that's Japanese soccer for you - pretty midfield play, crappy forwards.

    Matchday 10 - Sunday, June 18
    Japan vs Croatia (9 am ET ABC/Univision)
    Key player: Again, Shunsuke Nakamura. The floppy-headed midfielder for Japan showed great ball control in the Australia game, but he failed to create really dangerous chances and didn't get close to the goal on his one free kick. He has to be involved for Japan to have any chance.

    Reasons to watch this game: This is a huge game for both teams, coming off losses and needing results. And there's history, Croatia beating Japan 1-0 back in 1998. Plus, Croatia is the Brazil of Europe and Japan is the Brazil of Asia. Or something like that.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Croatia actually isn't all that Brazil-like and Japan seems to find ways to disappoint. It might be a little early in the day to be drunkenly yelling at the screen.

    Verdict: Look, it's two talented teams fighting for their World Cup lives. Plus, Croatia has that funny uniform that looks like a tablecloth.

    Brazil vs Australia (12 noon ET ABC/Univision)


    Key player: There aren't too many guys in all of sports who are as fun to watch as Ronaldinho, and I say that as someone who's grown up watching Michael Jordan play. Dinho is Joga Bonito personified.

    Also, Ronaldo's getting kinda fat, isn't he?

    Reasons to watch this game: It's Brazil. What's the point of watching the World Cup if you're not watching the Selecao? Plus, Australia showed great grit and energy in beating Japan and their confidence level couldn't be higher.

    Reasons not to watch this game: We all know Aussies are damn dirty bastards.

    Verdict: The Socceroos can make things really interesting if they can get a result here (and screw Japan and Croatia in the process). But this is Brazil's tournament to lose. We haven't seen the best of them but I don't see them falling to Australia. Sorry Heather.

    France vs Republic of Korea (ABC/Univision)

    Continuing with the music theme...


    Key player:
    We all know about Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry by now, right? Park Ji-Sung is the Korean player with the most pedigree. But the wildcard for Korea is Ahn Jung-Hwan. He scored the equalizer against the US and the winner against Italy in the last World Cup. Against Togo, he came off the bench to score the go-ahead goal. Basically, he's scored 3 of the 4 most important goals in Korean football history. During the offseason, he plays Jin on Lost.

    Reasons to watch this game: Both teams come in with something to prove. Les Bleues want to show they aren't over the hill while the Koreans want to show 2002 wasn't a fluke. The real France has to show up sooner or later, right?

    Reasons not to watch this game: France hasn't scored a World Cup goal since 1998. Henry doesn't seem to come up big for the national team. And this could be the most boring group of all.

    Verdict: Say what you will about France's current form, this World Cup is your last chance to watch Zidane play. Zizou is must see TV.

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 9 - Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

    Coldplay - Everthing's Not Lost
    Master Killah f/Ghostface and Raekwon - It Is What It Is

    Back by popular demand, it's spinachdip's (more or less) day-by-day guide to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

    Let's recap what has transpired in the past few days:
  • Spain looks like it's well on its way to advancing after a 4-0 pounding of Ukraine and a thrilling 2-2 draw between Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Of course, Spain being Spain, they just might find a way to fuck this up.

    Though the real big story is how great Spain looked without its posterboy Raul, starting Fernando Torres and David Villa up top. Also, Torres has a glorious mullet-mohawk.

  • You gotta feel for Poland. The Poles looked like they were going to escape with a 0-0 draw with a man down against Germany, after two German shots hit the crossbar in the waning minutes. And then Oliver Neuville ups and scores in stoppage time to win 1-0, sending the Germans to the next round and Poland out of the cup.

    Germans look shaky though, and Ecuador, ahead on goal differential, sits on top of Group A. Germany will have to beat Ecuador to avoid (presumably) England in the next round.

  • England comes up with another unimpressive win but put itself through to the next round. The Three Lions can win Group B with a draw against Sweden, but we're hoping for a win here, not just because they haven't beaten the Swedes in like 40 years, but also because a win would help Trinidad & Tobago's cause.

  • In Group C, Argentina looked scary good in dismantling Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 while the supremely talented but inconsistent Holland squeeked out another close win against the Ivory Coast. The Dutch are through to the next round, but it will be tested against Argentina in te next match.

    Tough luck to the Ivory Coasters though. They really could have come away with points in both matches, but are now eliminated. Here's hoping they get a win against S&M.

  • Now, the previews:
    Matchday 9 - Saturday June 17
    The day rounds off with USA in a must-win match against Italy, while Portugal tries to look a littl more interested than it did last Sunday, and Ghana also tries to fight elimination against the mighty Czechs.

    Portugal vs Iran (9 am ET ESPN2/Univision)
    Key player: Ali Karimi has to be the key if Iran wants to avoid elimination after a 3-1 defeat to Mexico. Portugal's giraffe boy Cristiano Ronaldo has to show more than he did against Angola.

    Reasons to watch this game: Both teams play attractive, entertaining soccer - if they want to.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Yeah, they're both talented teams, but they're also known for not living up to potential.

    Verdict: Despite their inconsistency, both teams want to make up for their performance from their last matches. If you're up at 9 am, I say watch it. Otherwise, you can stay in bed, but definitely get up for...

    Czech Republic vs Ghana (12 noon ET ABC/Univision)

    Key player: Tomas Rosicky. Seriously, did you see his goal against the US? And that other one? Yeah, Arsenal's pretty happy to have him for next season.

    Reasons to watch this game: As bad as the Yanks looked Monday, that had as much to do with the US team's cluelessness as it did with Czech brilliance. And Ghana looked quite credible, if somewhat naive, against Italy. Ghana needs this match to stay alive, Czechs want to win to stay on pace with Italy. Good times.

    Reasons not to watch this game: You can't decide if Pavel Nedved looks more like Patrick Swayze in Point Break, Owen Wilson in Zoolander or Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale.

    Verdict: This match will partially decide if Group E is Group of Death of Group of Snooze. And you have two very good teams playing each other. Head to the pub for this, even if only to grab a seat for the next match, which is...

    Italy vs United States (ABC/Univision)

    For all the doom and gloom after the 3-0 beatdown by the Czech Republic, US isn't out of it, though publicly bitching hasn't helped matters much. USA can advance to the next round by winning the next two matches. They only have to beat the mighty Italians. But as the saying goes, the ball is round. Anything can, has, and will happen.

    Remember four years ago. Before I could even finish my cup of coffee, USA found itself up 3-0 against heavily favored Portugal and Jack Edwards's eyes saw the glory. Why? Because USA came out attacking, refusing to be intimidated by Luis Figo and company.

    Remember eight years ago. USA lost its opening match before a single goal was scored, because an early tackle by Jens Jeremies on Claudio Reyna took the Americans out of their game.

    Remember twelve years ago. With a little luck, a little grit, USA knocked out Colombia.

    Remember sixteen years ago. USA sent a team of amateurs and college students and held the host nation Italy to just one goal in a losing effort.

    But by all means, forget Monday. It's a new day, a new game. When you get knocked down, you get the fuck back up.

    Key player:

    Four years ago, USA had a rising star by the name of Clint Mathis, a country boy from Georgia. Cletus, as he was affectionately nicknamed, scored a key goal against South Korea which helped send the team to the second round. Mathis never fulfilled his promise though, and fattened himself off the national team.

    This time around, there's Clint Dempsey, another Southern boy. He didn't get any playing time against the Czech but I expect that to change for the Italy game. His dribbling and willingness to take on defenders is needed against Italy.

    Also, Eddie "Grown Ass Man" Johnson was about the only US player with a pulse out there against the Czechs. Expect him to start.

    Reasons to watch this game: As Eddie ever so tactfully put it, "we're here for war", and dammit, this is the most important game for American soccer, like, ever. At least since 2002 and until 2010. This isn't just one match, or even one tournament. We're watching, essentially, Alyssa Milano grow up on Who's The Boss, shedding the innocence, fighting the the pubescent awkwardness and trying, as impossible as it may be, to become a mature soccer nation overnight.

    Reasons not to watch this game: If the US loses, it'll get ugly, uglier than what happened Monday. There will be rioting in the streets of New York and kids everywhere will be burning their soccer cleats and deflating their balls.

    Verdict: Dude, this is as big as it gets. Park your ass in front of the TV and grab a pint. Win and live to see another day. Lose and go home. Draw, and you're not out, but you're hanging on by a thin thread. Don't be a commie, root for the US of A.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Four days late and a grand short

    Neutral Milk Hotel had that one song, you know, the one about that mode of transport going over a certain body of water.

    I know, 12:30 am Thursday is a bit late to be doing a weekend recap, but as longtime readers should have realized by now, such is the nature of this blog. At least until y'all start paying me.

    So how was my weekend? In a word, awesome. I took a much needed a break from the city to attend the wedding of my good friends Whitney and Scott on the very gorgeous island of Nevis. In Nevis were a sea to be swam in, lobsters to be eaten (and then emulated by my skin), and carribean rhythms to be danced to (badly).

    Pictures here, bullet points below.

  • My initial impression of Puerto Rico, where I changed planes: damn, that air conditioning's strong.

  • My second impression: this is nothing like Spanish Harlem.

  • So I was originally scheduled to fly down on Thursday, but came in a day late because of work conflicts. It's never a good idea to "catch up" on your tan.

  • Five years in New York made me really, really pale.

  • Not any more!

  • Every wedding should be preceded with a lobster bake on the 18th hole.

  • The bride's mother, who is essentially my mom away from home, was disappointed that I only ate three lobsters and failed to outeat two other guests at the party. I pointed out to her that the two probably outweighed me by 200 lb each.

  • Note to party bands: "Wonderful Tonight" is a lovely, romantic song but there's no need to play it twice in one night.

  • And I'm not sure how appropriate "Careless Whispers" is on a night before the wedding.

  • But "Suspicious Minds"? I highly approve.

  • The conga line superior to the Electric Slide

  • I'm seriously considering moving to Nevis. I could raise sheep, I'm sure. That should be enough to pay my cable bill, right?

  • Preachers who talk about the man's duty to derobe the woman: excellent.

  • Watching the bride's parents squirm as the preacher repeats the word "naked": superb.

  • Let's say the reception is over and your group has managed to commandeer the drinks from the open bar. You are partying in your hotel room but your group wants to play flip cups and there is no suitable surface for cup flipping. So naturally, you head out to the pool.

    You realize you have a case of beer and no bottle opener, so you volunteer to get it and join the others. After retrieving the bottle opener, you are on your way to the pool, but you are almost driven off path by a golf cart carrying two drunk girls. The drunk girls ask if you want a ride. Without hesitation, you say "Yes." How often do you get to ride a golf cart driven by a drunk in tropical paradise? You abandon your beer bottle opener retriever duties and get in the back.

    As the golf cart speeds down the path, you realize this could be your very last drunken ride in tropical paradise. You hold on for dear life. Then you look around and see how beautiful the island is at night. And you look back and see a van trailing not far behind. You hold on tighter. They're shouting something. You think to yourself, you're not doing anything wrong, are you? It is a moot question, as you are at the mercy of the driver who is not slowing down.

    The death ride comes to a screeching halt as you find yourself at the resort's security gate. Three issues come up. The security guard at the gate does not want us to leave the resort and hit the open road. And it turns out that they were shouting from the van because you were on the wrong side of the road. And you do not have your headlights on. That three drunk guests are riding the hotel golf cart is not an issue.

  • I miss the beach already. I vow to be back in the Carribean before the year is out. Vow, dammit.

  • Again, congrats to the happy couple who are island hopping as we speak.

  • music:
    Elvis Presley - Suspicious Minds
    Rilo Kiley - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (live)

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Help a friend of the blog: Team Band

    Chicago's Team Band is competing in Lollapalooza's Last Band Standing contest for the final slot in this year's Lollapalooza and needs your help.

    Follow this link, listen to the song, vote and congratulate yourself on the good deed you just performed. It's not exactly saving rhinos or fighting diseases, but it's close. As they say in the Windy City, vote early and often.

  • lollapalooza profile|official|myspace
  • Black Monday

    Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

    I hate Australia.
    I hate Tim Cahill.
    I hate Zico.
    I hate Heather.
    I hate Yoshi Kawaguchi.
    I hate Shep Messing.
    I hate Japanese strikers.

    Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

    I've never had my heart ripped out from me with bare hands, but I imagine it's probably not as painful as watching Japan hand a match to Australia.

    To control the majority of the game and hold onto a 1-0 lead, and then to lose 3-1 is absolutely unforgivable. I have to give credit where credit is due, Australia took the opportunities that came to them and won, something Japan failed, nay, refused to do. But this is a match Japan should have won easily. Piss poor match management by Japan, and a horrific mistake by Kawaguchi on the first Australian goal (though he also saved the defense several times). More analysis here and here.

    But I can at least solace, however small, in knowing that Japan actually looked the better team until the last 10 minutes. The same can't be said for USA, who looked completely uninspired against the Czechs. It wasn't so much the lack of quality. They looked clueless and couldn't link up the midfield with the forwards and create chances. Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley were nearly invisible, while the usually steady Eddie Pope and Oguchi Onyewu were far too visible, making costly errors. Everybody on the team except Eddie Johnson needs to be slapped hard.

    There's still a chance for both USA and Japan to advance, but they have their work cut out for them. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    In defense of baggage-filled relationships and by extension, New York

    Previously: In defense of New York men, sort of

    It's 1:30 am. I have a flight to catch in 5 hours and I have done zero packing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. My dress shirt is in need of severe ironing and I have yet to check on the condition of my suit. But here I am, writing a blog post.

    So yeah, I'm a procrastinator. In fact, my high school yearbook quote was "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow." Good to see my youthful ideals are still intact.

    Ironically (or aptly) enough though, I'm taking care of an older object of procrastination. Little over a week ago, our friend Monkeypants vented her frustrations in re: her dating life. What followed were the inevitable "you can do better" comments.

    Nothing against those commenters. I actually like a couple of those people in real life. But they got me thinking. Why do people feel compelled to give out Self Help-style advice on matters that they could never hope to really understand (granted, I've done the same before, but I never meant anything I said). And more importantly, what's wrong with a relationship filled with frustrations, letdowns and emotional pain? I mean, besides the frustrations, letdowns and emotional pain?

    Throughout life, we are taught the value of sacrifice. No pain, no gain, you don't always get what you want, blah blah blah. But somehow, when it comes to relationship, you're not supposed to take any shit at all? You should never feel neglected, under-appreciated or otherwise have your feelings hurt?

    That's some pansy ass bullshit if you ask me. Here's the thing - we have these romanticized notion of, well, romance. And according to the romanticized version of romance, no guy or girl is worth an excessive level of frustration or dips in self esteem or hours spent killing oneself. Which sounds reasonable enough if you are a pansy ass who's afraid to go after what you really want and willing to settle for "reasonable". No one is worth the pain, you say. Fuck you, the pain makes it all more worthwhile.

    I've always been taught, "good enough" is the greatest enemy of greatness, and it applies to love as well. When I'm interested in a girl, I'm either just kinda into her or just crazy about her, and there's nothing in between. And when I'm at the latter stage, there's almost nothing that can discourage me from pursuing the girl.

    A wise woman once sang, you are what you love and not what loves you back. I'm not willing to love, and be, simply acceptable. Love is about investing yourself emotionally, and I want high returns. That means taking risks on girls my friends don't think are good ideas, seeing potential where others might be pessimistic, and accepting losses.

    The way I think, I can work on issues. A girl can frustrate me with her hangups or trust issues or whatever. But we can always talk it out. But there is no talking out chemistry or passion or good ol' fashioned hotness.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't an apologia for abusive relationships, physically or otherwise. Nor am I suggesting that you can't have a fulfilling relationship without the bullshit. No, it's possible to find a someone who satisfies you in every way AND doesn't give you any bullshit to deal with. That would be fantastic. But you're doing yourself disservice by abandoning what could be the most passionate relationship of your life because you don't like getting your feelings hurt. Aldous Huxley would climb out of his grave and bitchslap you for thinking like that.

    You have to ask yourself - are you going into a relationship because of who that person is, or who that person isn't?

    I've made this argument before about New York City. I have people ask me, how do you put up with it? The smell, the (apparent) rudeness, the substandard quality of living, the cost of living, the alienation, etc etc. And I see their point. I've been here 5 years now and if I could take a guess, I've been either drunk, clinically depressed or both for the majority of the time. But it's worth it - there is nowhere else in this country that could come close to giving me the opportunities and the lifestyle, and that unexplainable feeling that New York can.

    Anywhere else in the US, I would probably be healthier, emotionally and physically. But then, I wouldn't be living in New York and I'm going to feel like I have lived life to its potential. I can deal with the stress and the bullshit. But the idea that I'm settling for less, I wouldn't be able to live with.

    All right, time to start packing.

    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.

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 3 - It's a jungle out there

    Matchday 3: Sunday, June 11

    Serbia & Montenegro vs Netherlands (9:00 am ET - ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player: Netherland's #9, Ruud Van Nistelrooy (below). Deadly scorer, has many vowels in his name.

    Reasons to watch this game: The Dutch are always talented and entertaining to watch, but they also have a tendency to self-destruct, which makes the Oranje a compelling team to watch. The Serbians (and to a lesser extent, the Montenegroes) are also talented and also temperamental. Though I have to go with the Dutch since they don't have a history of genocide.

    Reasons not to watch this game: While I do love the orange-clad Dutch supporters, they are kind of a strain on the eyes.

    Verdict: Match of the weekend - either of these teams could win the group, and both could end up last. And I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Dutch for their style of play.

    Mexico vs Iran (12:00 pm ET - ABC/Univision)

    Key player: Ali Karimi, Iran's unibrowed wonder.

    Reasons to watch this game: Mexico has been decent in the last couple of World Cups. Iran is talented has great attacking talent, even if they are a little suspect in the back.

    Reasons not to watch this game: I'm guessing most US fans hate both teams - Mexico out of principle and Iran because they're Iran. I guess it depends on which you think is worse - denying Israel's right to exist as a nation or causing diarrhea.

    Verdict: Meh. Could be entertaining and could decide second place in the group and it's a rare game that lets you root against both teams. But it is a letdown after the S&M vs Netherlands game. It's up to you. I think you should get out and get some sun.

    Angola vs Portugal (3:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player: Portugal's young winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks a lot like a giraffe.

    Reasons to watch this game: This is Portuguese legend Luis Figo's final World Cup. He's gotten a touch slower over the years but he's still magic on the ball. The biftoque eating, Port drinking Iberians are mighty motivated after losing to USA (USA?!) and Korea last time, and then losing to Greece in Euro 2004, a tournament they hosted. Also, Angola used to be a Portugese colony - they might be a weeee bit motivated too.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Come on, we're talking frickin' Angola here and Portugal is like that no-good boyfriend of yours who says he's going to straighten out, but you inevitably catch him smoking crack with some hooker. I hate that.

    Verdict: Angola's way overmatched here so you could skip it. But unheralded African teams often pull off surprises (Cameroon vs defending champs Argentina in '90, Nigeria vs Spain in '98, Senegal vs defending champs France in '02), and as talented as Portugal is, they might even start playing up to their potential.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 2 - Do ya think I'm sexy?

    Previously: Matchday 1

    Matchday 2: Saturday, June 10

    Neither Wayne Rooney nor his girlfriend will be playing in this one. Shame, that.

    England vs Paraguay (9:00 am ET - ABC/Univision)

    Key player: Two months ago, I would've said England's Wayne Rooney, but his foot's all messed up. Without the Shrek lookalike, the colonialists will have to depend on Michael Owen (#10) and the inimitable Peter Crouch (#21) up front. It won't be hard to spot either of them since Owen looks like a midget out there and Crouch looks like Shawn Bradley's Mini Me, standing at 6'7" and weighing 100 pounds soaking wet.

    Reasons to watch this game: England used to play boring soccer, to the point of driving their fans to violence, but they have some exciting players in the midfield these days. You should expect some fancy footwork from Joe Cole (#11) on the left side of the midfield and we hope Steven Gerrard (#4) gets a few cracks on goal. And there's some guy whose name rhymes with "Shrek Ham".

    Seriously, enough already.

    Reasons not to watch this game:
    You'll probably get tired of the Great Escape theme that England supporters will keep playing over and over. The commentators will go gaga over Shrek Ham. Crouch's robot dance (above) is getting old already. Plus, Paraguay's one of those teams that usually play well enough to not embarrass themselves but not well enough to make a difference.

    Verdict: Forget what you heard, England is a fun team to watch. As much as I would like to hate them, they are as talented (and inconsistent) as ever. Get your ass out to the pub (or at least your couch) for this one.

    Trinidad & Tobago vs Sweden (12:00 pm ET - ABC/Univision)

    Key player: I could tell you about Zlatan or Larsson, but here's one for the ladies - Freddie Ljungberg (#9), whose half naked body has been gracing Times Square for quite some time now. Insert some joke about Swedish meatballs and lingonberries.

    Reasons to watch this game: Because Sweden is the nation that gave us Ikea, H&M and the Cardigans? I don't know, they're certainly talented and they should run all over T&T so there could be a lot of goals.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Because there's another big game coming up and this is the least interesting match of the day.

    Verdict: Take a lunch break or a siesta, because Argentina's coming up.

    Argentina vs Cotê d'Ivoire (3:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player: Carlos Tevez is as ugly as Ljungberg is pretty, but he's got that whole Joga Bonito thing going.

    Reasons to watch this game: Because you hate Argentina. They wear ponytails and headbands. They're damn, dirty bastards. They dive, hack and whine. They are the team you love to hate. But they're also very talented. The Ivory Coasters aren't bad either, and they have a decent forward in Didier Drogba (who is also a damn dirty bastard) so they could give the Argies some difficulty. Watch this game and get your hate on. You're rooting for a draw here,

    Reasons not to watch this game: Because your friends did not have the decency to schedule their wedding around the World Cup.

    Verdict: Watch this. Even if you have to sneak out of your friend's wedding. On the off chance that this game ends up sucking, which just gives you more ammonition for the hate.

    spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Matchday 1 - Sausage Fest!!

    For the next month, yours truly will guide you through the trecherous terrain of world cup viewing, highlighting what to watch out for, and warning you when to avert your eyes. If you have any questions about the World Cup, i.e. "Why do all those eye-talians look like chicks?" or "Exactly how does one get nutmegged and is it a painful procedure?", I will be more than happy to answer them in a more-or-less helpful manner.

    So here's how things work - we have 32 teams in 8 groups of 4. The 4 teams play each other for the next 2 weeks, and the top 2 advance, and it's single elimination from that point on. During the group stage, we're going to have 2 to 4 games a day. Since the tournament's held in Germany and they use this crazy time zone, the games are going to be on TV during the day, 9 am or noon to 5 pm ET each day - but seriously, if the game is good enough, it's well worth skipping work and getting fired.

    Weltmeisterschaft, as the sauerkraut eating practioners of schadenfreude call this little tournament, gets started this Friday at noon. So like Clint Dempsey says, "so like young jeezy say 'lets get it'."

    Matchday 1: Friday June 9
    Let's start with the opener, the host nation versus the home of the airborne urine bags and Jurassic Park.

    Germany vs Costa Rica (12:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)

    Key player: Germany's unquestioned leader is Michael Ballack (#13), who kinda reminds me of Matt Damon from School Ties (whatever happened to that young actor?), but Michael Ballack is out for this match so watch out for Lukas Podolski (#20). He was born in Poland (will the Germans ever stop stealing from the Poles, ever?) but he's all teutonic, tall and scores a lot. He appears in this German Axe body spray commercial, presumably because he's teutonic, tall and scores a lot

    Reasons to watch this game: It's the opener so there's going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance and shit. Plus, Germany is a deeply flawed team that could be exposed by a dangerous attacking team like the Ticos - it's always fun to watch European teams lose.

    Reasons not to watch this game: Germans are traditionally boring and there's very little star power besides Michael Ballack. Plus, chances are, Costa Rica will outplay Germany but end up losing on dubious officiating or some stupid error. Also, you're probably supposed to be at work. Or on your way to a wedding.

    Verdict: If you can take off a couple of hours for lunch, go down to your local and down a pint or two. If not, no big deal. There are more (entertaining) games in the coming weeks.

    Poland vs Ecuador (3:00 pm ET - ESPN2/Univision)

    Honestly? I don't really care about this game. I'm going to be on the beach. Poland should win and Ecuador is quite possibly the least entertaining South American team.

    Verdict: If you had a pint too many and you're too drunk to get back to work, you might as well finish your workday at the bar. Otherwise, take it easy. Go take a nap. You're getting up early Saturday.

    Matchday 2 preview to follow, obviously.

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    The death of hip hop

    1. So the line up looks great, right?
    But you also remember what happened last time, right?

    2. Jurassic 5's new single: "Work It Out" (Real) featuring.... the Dave Matthews Band.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Stuff, stuff and other stuff

  • So I was feeling a little insomniac the other day and I'm searching for porn on my computer, and I came across this little video I downloaded a couple of years back, presumably while searching for porn.

    You might notice that the audio and the video are out of sync by about a whole second - it works fine on my computer but somehow screws up when it's on YouTube. Still, it's worth your time. There's Coolio, Sarah Silverman (before she started talking about her vagina) and a guy who wears a blazer - how can you go wrong with that?

  • This past Saturday, the Gentrifried One and I sunk to the depth of nerdosity and did Crumpler's Beer for Bag (warning: audio!) promotion. The deal is pretty simple - you bring in a specified brand and amount of beer and you get a bag. The bags are kinda expensively priced, but I got a pretty decent laptop bag priced at $80 for $32 worth of beer, so it's not a bad deal at all.

    What are they doing with the beer, you ask? They're throwing a party next Sunday and everyone who did the exchange gets in. So essentially, if you can drink all the beer that you brought in (for me, 24 bottles of Sapporo), you're getting a free bag. Pretty good promo, I gotta say. The product gets out there, the word spreads and they can throw a party without paying for booze.

    I have a few pictures up on Flickr, as do the folks at the store.

    A few observations
    • New Beer Distributors on Chrystie St is all kinds of awesome. It's heaven for party throwers, beer aficionados and alcoholics.

    • 24 bottles of beer is surprisingly heavy, even if the walk is only 10 minutes long.

    • As mentioned before, the party is on Sunday, June 11. I'll be on an airplane. Fuck. Motherfuckers will be drinking my stash. Not cool.

  • There's going to be some World Cup madness on this here blog. Catch it! Also, I plan to be at Nevada Smith or some other bar at 9 am next Monday to watch Japan demolish those dastardly Australians, followed by the Yanks kicking the Czechs back behind the Iron Curtain at noon.

  • It's hard to think almost 3 months ahead, but A Clockwork Orange on an outdoor screen? Oh, and there's the usual Bryant Park movies.
  • Friday, June 02, 2006

    Peter Crouch Superstar, do you think you're what they say you are?

    Today's posting is dedicated to Peter Crouch, the 6'7" England forward who may or may not be a giraffe.

    (thanks cj)

    The Robot is apparently a big deal in England. They don't get Chappelle's Show over there?

    Wait, there's more Crouchy:

    And more:

    (via World Cup Blog)

    Finally, another reason why BBC is awesome: Virtual Replay. You can watch match highlights from practically any angle you can imagine, like so:

    The robot dance is not included in the virtual replay for some reason. The thing takes hours to load, but it's well worth it if you can dedicate that much amount of time to wasting time.