SAVAGE Beatdowns, Teams Falling Apart, The Robert Rojas Incident, Calling Dead Players Injured, Living to Fight Another Day and Happy Birthday Lionel Messi!

While I don’t care about the BOLD typeface for the countries, I would like to install a ruling that MARADONAshould always be bolded.

Portugal vs. North Korea. WOW. In a tournament that has been low scoring and completely bizarre, a tournament that has seen complaints about the ball, the field, the vuvuzelas gets its’ first out and out BEATING as Portugal decided to warm up in the first half scoring one goal and then decided to spend 45 straight minutes making the North Koreans look like a youth soccer team. It was a flurry of goals and we may have our first argument ever for a mercy rule, especially when we know that the North Korean team has to go back home to this guy and explain what the hell happened. Oh sure he promises that there will be no repercussions if they lose, but why then are there rumors of four North Korean players trying to defect during the tournament?

7-0 is a score you see in club play a lot, especially when a large market team goes up against a smaller one. In the World Cup however, 7-0 is a rarity. Ketchup bottle goals INDEED, Ronaldo, who now looks like some pouty faced Nostradamus. Speaking of Ronaldo, there is nothing more humorous than a lip pouting, Zoolander face making, third person referring, US starlet sexing guy just beat up on a team that represents a country that is lead by a guy who is ultra conservative, insane and controlling. It’s as if excess won out decisively over repression.

Chile vs. The UPSET SWISS. Chile wins 1-0 on a nice little piece of soccer skill. I have noticed that I have not really written about Chile at all. Since I am all about equality in nations, let’s talk about the Chileans. They made their first World Cup appearance in the first Cup in 1930. Their nick names are translated to read “everybody’s team” and “the red one”. You’re a bit bored right now I assume? Well don’t think I suddenly decided to talk about Chile without unearthing the ROBERT ROJAS SCANDAL.

During a 1990 World Cup qualifying challenge against Brazil the Chilean team did something that banned them from not only the 1990 Cup but also the 1994 one. With Brazil leading 1-0 in the qualifying game, Chile knew that a loss would prevent them from going to the tournament. At the 67 minute mark Chilean goalkeeper Roberto “Condor” Rojas fell down with an apparent head injury. At the same time a firework thrown by a Brazilian fan was smoldering about three feet away. Rojas was carried off the field and the Chilean players and coaches refused to come back out, claiming that the conditions were not safe to play. Sounds fair, right? WELLLL FIFA studied the tape of the game because if fans are throwing fireworks at the players an investigation must be done. After reviewing the tape FIFA found that the firework NEVER HIT Rojas. Chile was banned from trying out for the next two World Cups, Rojas was banned for life (amnesty was later granted in 2001) and Chile is now known for committing the ultimate flop.

Argentina vs. Greece. Basically a warm up game for the second round for my favorite coach. Here are some fun facts – did you know that the Greek national anthem is the longest national anthem in the word, at 158 stanzas? Did you know that Lionel Messi, best soccer player in the world turns 23 on Thursday? Did you know that MARADONA made SEVEN changes to the starting lineup, basically having the team be Messi and the bench, basically just for the hell of it? Did you know that

Nigeria tied South Korea 2-2 as well, and YOU JUST CAN’T MISS THAT BAD

And the reason why this column is going up late; USA vs. Algeria & England vs. Slovenia. 4 teams. Your two (1?) favorite ones need a win to move on and not have the two “other countries” make it in. WHAT WILL HAPPEN??

The US and England win, both on 1-0 scores. Let’s take a recap:

After weeks of infighting, press quotes and tabloid infighting and possible curses the three lions got big Emile Heskey out, put in Jermaine Defoe and GUESS WHO SCORES THE WINNING GOAL? England looked better, attacked the ball better, played defense well, the same really and looked more like England than before. John Terry, the former captain who spoke in the press about the discontent ends up winning the PR gamble with what he did. See, Terry is a guy you either love or hate; he is polarizing in that way. He’s either a dumb thug troublemaker (think of your favorite distracting player in the NFL or NBA) or he’s a guy who plays with passion and is honored to rep his team. His press conference in which he commented on boss Fabio Capello got swerved into a whining complaint. When that happens you better win with improvement to shut them up or lose and look like a fool. Terry gets to live another day and England probably gets stomped by Germany, unless this new lineup is the right one.

The USA is a totally different animal. They always were on the side of “any result but a loss is good for us”, so the pressure was mostly self-imposed. The US mood within the team was probably one of wanting to prove the international community wrong, which they are in essence doing by hanging with these good teams. The countries mood is different; we like winners, and call me when you’re winning. Even a promotion into the knockout round for the US is moot to some people, as no one is predicting a USA cup win. You have to look at all of these performances as baby steps for the rise of the sport here. The screwjob from last week got a lot of people talking, and turned the USA’s (they so need a nickname) into guys who played fair and got screwed over for it. Hopefully that sentiment rides into the quaterfinals, as the 2010 World Cup has proven to be a landscape in which it is a total crapshoot for the US; they’re either winning or losing against 80% of the teams still in it.

ESPN though (by the way THANKS ESPN FACEBOOK PAGE for spoiling the results of both games) covers the US in an unfamiliar way. This is not like the NFL, where there is always team updates and a guy like Jeremy Schapp can camp outside the compound and get a few quotes. Really, these teams come to South Africa, play a game and then either chill in their rooms or do boring stuff like Safari and golf. This is why the US brought multiple PS3’s and Xbox consoles – not much to do but practice and think. This is why the whole ESPN 24/7 USA update thing doesn’t work out well, and if I see Alexi Lalas behind a desk say that the US can’t fall into an early setback ONE MORE TIME….


The French ended its’ WC run in complete “fall apart” mode. They fought, players got sent home, French manager Raymond Domenech called his team “unspeakably stupid” and in losing to South Africa 2-1 Domenech wouldn’t even shake the hand of the opposing coach.

In the Brazil/Ivory Coast game, you probably noticed that Brazil player Luis Fabiano’s great goal was a bit of a handball. By the way, watch that video – why the hell is the ref giving him the “yeah I saw that but we’re cool” smile? So how the hell did that goal get allowed? Why did the referee smile? What the hell is happening? Please MARADONA, explain this for me!

“What’s tragicomic is the referee’s smile afterward. When I scored the goal against England, I didn’t see the referee laugh. He had so many doubts, he looked at his linesmen, there was no fourth referee at that time, he looked at the crowd to see if they gave him a hand. But yesterday, the referee went [back to the center circle] laughing and that’s what shocked us all. So if you saw it why didn’t you penalize it?” – MARADONA at recent press conference.

That man just used the word “tragicomic” correctly, and I ENJOY that immensely.

Insanely attractive fans watch soccer – I’m all about putting countries who qualify in this, so welcome to Brazil readers.

The World Cup is (of course) an international game, which means that you get commentary from all countries. During the Germany/Australia beating from a few days back, Serbian TV commentator Vladimir Mijaljevic said the following about the German goalkeeping situation: “Neuer is in goal, because Enke cannot play. He is injured.” Here’s the problem with what he said: Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper that Mijaljevic referred to as injured is actually DEAD. Enke committed suicide in November, 2009. Whoops.

ORANGE DRESS-GATE never dies. British TV Network ITV has a pundit named Robbie Earle. ITV gets a ton of World Cup tickets because they are a big network. Earle used his allocation of tickets to give it to a friend, who in turn gave them to/sold them to…. you guessed it – the girls! Apparently the tickets, some 400 in all were given to the network, with a face value of about $3000 per ticket. Earle has been fired for his transgression and later admitted that he got the tickets for his close friend Keith Higgins, who is known as basically a scalper for various international events. This is seriously the weirdest story ever; 36 girls wear the same tight orange dress, get kicked out, get arrested under some odd South African “ambush marketing” law, then someone involved with a major British network gets fired – it’s like a huge ball of mistake rolling down a hill messing up everything it passes by. UPDATE. The charges against the girls have been dropped. We eagerly await the Playboy spread that I am sure is being negoiated as you read this.

GAMES TO RECORD; Thursday – Sunday

Well peoples, we’re finally entering the best part of the tournament; THE KNOCKOUT ROUND. WIN OR GO HOME, 1ST ONE WHO BLINKS DIES, no tie games, no excuses. This weekend we see the end of the group stage, and the beginning of the knockout round. As of this writing not everything has been established, so here’s what we have so far (with an update on Friday):

Cameroon/Netherlands – Thursday 2:30 PM EST. Watch it because the Netherlands are good and you can get a review of just how good they are.

North Korea/Ivory Coast & Portugal/Brazil – Friday, 10 AM for both, EST. The final games for the group of death. Ivory Coast and North Korea is basically Didier Drogba trying to make up for the unlucky break in his arm by scoring 10 goals (the math states that if Portugal loses by a ton and Ivory Coast wins by a ton then Ivory Coast gets in) and the North Koreans trying not to get blown out again. Brazil/Portugal (the two teams that look to advance) is basically an exhibition for Brazil and an excuse for Cristiano Ronaldo to try and get himself more shots.

The weekend starts THE KNOCKOUT ROUND (say that with an air of danger in your voice). So far we have the US and England playing on Saturday (The US) and Sunday (England), so Monday’s column may be an obit for one or both of those teams. Argentina also starts out against Mexico, and if Mexico wins my relationship with MARADONA would come to an end. If the US and England AND MARADONA all go home, then I am warning you now that Monday’s column will be 1/3 USA post mortem, 1/3 me bitching about English tabloids and 1/3 me doing a tearful tribute to the loss of Diego from the Cup. Let’s hope that that scenario never happens all at once.

JW does a weekly podcast that is at both times awesome and better then awesome. Twenty9cast for direct download, or subscribe by searching your i-tunes for twenty9cast. Episode 25 is now online!