Monthly Archives: June 2010

World Cup: USA beats Algeria in injury time

donovan.jpg

I’ve been busy — and won’t be blogging much in the days to come — but given my previous posts, I felt compelled to comment on yesterday’s breathtaking U.S. win over Algeria in injury time. A few thoughts.

  1. I watched the game with some friends at an English pub here in Bangkok. The England-Slovenia game was on in the main bar area, and the US-Algeria game was on in a separate room.

    I cannot describe the anguish I felt when England went a goal up, and when the US continued to miss chance after chance after chance. If England had won, and the US had tied or lost, our World Cup campaign would have been over. To make matters worse, another seemingly good goal was called back that should not have been called back.

    And then, when all seemed lost, finally — finally — in injury time, when I must admit I thought we were finished, Landon Donovan slotted home:

  2. Speaking of which, Donovan has really shown his quality in this tournament. To get down the length of the pitch and be there, at the right moment, after playing hard for 90 minutes, and then to have the focus to score a goal like that…well, it’s just top-notch. Michael Bradley has also been exceptional in midfield. As so has Tim Howard in goal. Clint Dempsey has been very good going forward, as well.
  3. In terms of US soccer successes, the only other American victory that I can compare this to in my lifetime ((Yes, the U.S. team made it to the quarterfinals in 2002, but yesterday’s win was more dramatic.)) was Paul Caliguiri’s goal against Trinidad and Tobago in 1989. The U.S. qualified for the 1990 World Cup — the U.S.’s first World Cup appearance since 1950 — because of that long-distance effort.

    When I watched that game, as a 14-year-old, I was simply astounded by the outcome. And I was similarly astounded — and so, so happy — when the U.S. team won last night.

  4. And finally, let me ask you this: When the World Cup draw was announced many months ago, who would have predicted that Group C would end up like this?
    group_c.jpg

Up next: Ghana on Saturday…

Six links

Six links that have caught my eye of late:

  1. You Are Not So Smart — “A celebration of self-delusion.”
  2. Bangkok parties on surface, but unease hides below — AP
  3. Too Many Lenses, Too Few Eyes — the NYT‘s Lens blog
  4. David Foster Wallace — commencement speech at Kenyon University, 2005 — web.archive.org
  5. Biography of Usain Bolt, MutantEsquire
  6. “Target Anxiety: the Penalty Shootout Reconsidered” by FredorrarciNorman Einstein’s

Following the World Cup on Twitter

I have a created a Twitter list of some 43 (and growing) World Cup related feeds. This includes news outlets, players, pundits, journalists, bloggers, and other commentators.

A few of my favorite feeds are @henrywinter, @runofplay, @FourFourTwo, and @Zonal_Marking of the exceptional Zonal Marking site. ((@Zonal_Marking also has a Twitter list of 105 football journalists.))

World Cup: USA’s comeback against Slovenia

A quick note to share a few World Cup related links. ((By the way, a programming note: Things will return to normal here at Newley.com, with regular posts about Thailand, soon. I promise.))

I can’t stop thinking about yesterday’s remarkable USA-Slovenia match, in which the US went down 2-0 in the first half and then fought back to level the score.

bradley_donovan.jpg

As I Tweeted earlier today, I was thrilled with the US team’s resilience. Landon Donovan, in particular, was exceptional. And Michael Bradley’s play was truly inspired; his neat toe-poke finish for the second goal was surely much harder than it looked.

I watched the game live and then watched the replay in its entirety today. What would have been the US’s winning goal was called back, which was — to say the least — unfortunate. (Indeed, the 3-2 win would have been the most memorable and dramatic US soccer victory in decades.)

No US player appeared to be offiside on the play, and though there was jostling among American and Slovenian players in the box, that had been happening all game long. It seems the referee chose to enforce the rule and whistle for a foul in this one instance, when that sort of pushing and shoving is commonplace in the modern game and had been happening throughout the contest.

That said, the US also benefited from other odd refereeing decisions during the game. Clint Dempsey’s foul in the opening minutes could easily have warranted a yellow card. And in fact, I’m not convinced that the foul that led to the free kick and the US’s called-back goal was actually a foul in the first place.

Here’s a match report from the NYT‘s George Vecsey, in which he rightly points out that the US team were to blame for falling behind in the first half.

And here’s an AP piece that describes scenarios for the US team advancing. The Americans can still progress, but they must beat Algeria. If they draw with Algeria, it gets complicated, but depending on the result of the England-Slovenia game, it’s still possible.

As for yesterday’s England-Algeria match, all I can say is that the Three Lions delivered another tepid performance. More on their side soon.

UPDATE: June 20: Regarding the called back goal, this theory seems possible: it was a make-up call, since the foul leading to the free kick — as I noted — was dubious.

“Crisp your hype” with “African Style” potato chips and sausages

My previous two posts clearly illustrate my unhealthy obsession fascination with the World Cup. But I am also, as many readers know, always on the lookout for quirky snackfoods.

So this advertisement in today’s Bangkok Post — in which these two interests of mine converged in a mishmash of globalization, odd English phrasing, and apparent ambush marketing — was right up my alley:

"African Style," "Limited Edition" Crunchips potato chips
(And here’s a larger version of the scan.)

Yes, you read that right: The ad is for Lorenz’s “limited edition,” “African Style” Crunchips brand potato chips and “Afrikawust” sausages from Hareico. (I believe that both Lorenz and Hareico are German companies.)

I especially love the copy on the right. It reads:

Don’t miss a moment of the excitement of The 2010 FIFA World Cup and crisp your hype with African Style Lorenz Crunchips and Hareico Sausage from Tops market and Central Food hall.

(Emphasis mine.)

German potato chips and sausages being sold in Thailand, using African advertising motifs and designed to capitalize on the World Cup. Wow.

Crisp your hype!

The World Cup so far: goalkeepers in the spotlight

We’re less than a week into the month-long World Cup, and there’s already plenty to discuss — much of it involving goalkeepers’ poor performances.

Specifically, much scorn has been heaped upon the usually top-notch Robert Green, whose mistake in the U.S.-England game on June 12 allowed the underdog American side to earn an unlikely point from a 1-1 draw.

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England goalkeeper Rob Green.

The Three Lions scored a good goal in just the fourth minute via Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. But the U.S.’s Clint Dempsey, who plays for English Premier League outfit Fulham, equalized for the Americans in the 40th minute when Green fumbled Dempsey’s speculative shot from distance:

The English side were expected to win. And though they played better and created more chances than the U.S., it was Green’s error — in addition to some inspired saves from his counterpart in the U.S. goal, Tim howard — that turned the game. ((The result inspired frenzied media coverage in the U.S. and in the U.K. For a British take on the media response in the U.S., see this Sun item. And here’s a summary of British tabloid headlines from USA TODAY. There was also plenty of discussion on Twitter. @ShamSports tweeted: “Dictate, command, govern, eclipse, lead, dominate…then give it all back for free. Pretty much sums up England’s relationship with America.”))

I mentioned, in my last post, that I’m eager to see how the world’s best goalkeepers perform in this tournament. And I must say I’m surprised we’ve seen so many goalkeeping errors so far. Indeed, Green hasn’t been the only one to commit a conspicuous mistake.

On June 13, Algerian custodian Faouzi Chaouchi let a fairly tame shot slip through his hands, costing his team points against Slovenia.

And then yesterday, North Korea’s goalkeeper, Ri Myong Guk was caught out when Brazil’s magnificent Maicon scored at the near post. ((Perhaps the North Korean stopper found himself intimidated on the world stage. It would be hard to blame him if that were the case. He plays his club soccer for Pyongyang City Sports Group in the DPR Korea League.))

Indeed, all goalkeepers — even the best of them — make mistakes that lead to goals. Here’s Gigi Buffon, widely regarded as the world’s best custodian, making a schoolboy error a few years back.

So what’s the problem?

Some have speculated that the ball is to blame.

jabulani.jpg

Germany coach Joachim Löw and the Jabulani.

The new Adidas Jabulani model is said to swerve and bounce unpredictably. Others say that the altitude may be to blame, as many games are being played in thin air, where driven balls dip and bend in strange ways. But these lapses seem to be errors in technique more than spills caused by odd aerodynamics. It will be interesting to see if the goalkeeping blunders continue through the tournament.

And finally, on a lighter note, if you missed the U.S.-England match — and Green’s mistake — you might enjoy watching the replay below, which has been recreated using LEGOs:

World Cup predictions and links

south_africa_2010.jpg

The 2010 World Cup begins in just under two hours, when the hosts, South Africa, take on Mexico. This will be first World Cup ever held in Africa. ((My earlier post about South Africa, Mexico, and a World Cup for prisoners here in Thailand is here.)) Given my love for the beautiful game, I am very, very excited.

A few thoughts:

On the U.S.’s chances and group C

I will be cheering on the U.S. team, naturally. The Americans face England, Algeria, and Slovenia in group C. First up for the Yanks: England.

The Three Lions are obviously the favorites to win this group, with the top two sides — as in all of the eight groups — advancing to the knock-out rounds.

I think it’s an advantage for the Americans to play England first. The pressure on the English side, in their first game of the tournament, will be enormous. There are lofty — and, many would argue, unjustified ((In the book Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that England are not, as conventional wisdom has it, an under-performing world-class side. They perform in an above average manner for a second-tier European team.)) — expectations for England to make it at least to the semifinals in this tournament. ((A bit more on the subject of England’s past performances: history shows that England has not come close to winning any World Cup in the last twenty years. The side won their only World Cup in 1966, and even then they had the advantage of being the host nation. They reached the semi-finals in 1990 but haven’t made it past the quarter-finals since. I point this out not because I dislike the team. In fact, the English Premier League is my favorite of the world’s domestic leagues, and I would enjoy seeing the English team do well.))

In the team’s favor, of course, are a few world-class players (Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard) who ply their trade at the very top level in the English Premier League — the world’s most popular, most visible domestic league. And England now have a world-class coach in Italian Fabio Capello.

I think England will top the group, and I think that despite the fact that Algeria and Slovenia are weak sides, the U.S. will be fortunate to advance. After all, let’s not get ahead of ourselves: America may be the world’s third most populous nation, but the U.S. is a world soccer minnow.

The team’s FIFA World Ranking — a value to which I don’t assign much importance, by the way — may be 14, but apart from the team’s surprisingly successful performance at the 2002 World Cup, when many of the opponents may have under-estimated the American side, the U.S. has not yet shown that it is able to compete for the World Cup crown. ((Yes, the U.S. team did perform admirably in last summer’s Confederations Cup, losing to Brazil in the final.))

On the Group(s) of Death

Group D has Germany, Australia, Serbia, and Ghana. Group G has Brazil, North Korea, the Ivory Coast, and Portugal. ((Yes, the North Koreans.))

On the weather

The World Cup always takes place in the summer — well, the summer in the northern hemisphere, that is. This year it will take place during the South African winter.

The temperatures will be cool, and some of the games will be played at altitude. Some argue that this will favor teams from the northern hemisphere, who are used to playing in the cold. In reality, though, many of the key players from the South American and African teams play their club soccer Europe, so the weather may not have a major impact.

On goalkeepers

Given the fact that I am stupid proud goalkeeper, I shall be watching, with great interest, the performances of the custodians in this World Cup.

I am eager to see how France’s talented, youthful Hugo Lloris gets on. And will Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, thought by many to be the world’s best goalkeeper, continue to perform for the Azzurri?

What about Brazil’s magnificent Julio Cesar, who has been in top-notch form for Inter Milan? And then, of course, there’s Spain, with another best-in-the-world contender, Iker Cassillas, between the sticks.

On the eventual winner

Only eight teams have ever won the World Cup: Brazil (five times), Italy (four times), Germany (three times), Argentina (two times), Uruguay (once), England (once), and France (once).

Despite projections that this may the year that Spain or the Netherlands break through to seize World Cup glory, I think the title will be won by one of the big three, based on past performances: Brazil, Italy, or Germany.

Of these three, I think Brazil will triumph. For one thing, a European team has never won a World Cup not hosted in Europe. And the Brazil side has a ruthless streak about them. They may lack a bit of their characteristic flair, but they are a unified team. And they know how to win.

The month-long tournament isn’t, ultimately, about who has the biggest stars. It’s about which team can play best as a unit. These three sides are masters at organization, discipline, and consistency. And, as the saying goes, they’ve been there before.

What about Argentina? I would love to see Lionel Messi, the game’s best player, work his magic and lift the World Cup next month. But my feeling is that Argentina’s coach — a guy by the name of Diego Maradona — doesn’t have the strategic ability to win at a major tournament.

And, finally, what about Spain? They could well do it. I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen. They play beautifully. We shall see…

Some links

Thailand’s World Cup Behind Bars

I spent several hours at Bangkok’s Klong Prem Central Prison yesterday, where the “World Cup 2010 Behind Bars” kicked off. It was a truly uplifting event.

The tournament is modeled on the actual World Cup, with foreign and Thai inmates competing for a gold colored replica of the World Cup trophy.

In yesterday’s opening match, South Africa played Mexico — just as the two nations will square off later today, in the World Cup’s first game ((More on the real World Cup soon. I am highly excited.)).

There were cheering spectators. There were dancers. There was confetti. There was even a marching band. The prisoners with whom I spoke were all, understandably, delighted with the competition.

Here’s the story I wrote for AFP.

UPDATE: Here’s the full text of the story.

Thailand: some news stories since May 19

Here are a few news stories that have caught my eye since the events of May 19 here in Bangkok. ((As a reminder, here are my images of the Rajaprasong intersection aftermath.))

As ever, a link is not an endorsement, but these should provide some interesting reading. And as I recently asked on Twitter, if you’ve seen a single news story or other work of journalism that you think does an especially good job of illustrating Thailand’s political crisis, please let me know.

I welcome feedback — newley at gmail dot com — and comments below. ((I may not be able to reply to all email, but I certainly try. Also, regarding comments, I generally only approve comments here that I feel add to the conversation in a constructive way.))

(Thanks to BP for pointing to many of these items.)