Return From Kiwiland: Jonesing For Soccer

Wow! What have I missed?!

Well, first I’ll tell you what I didn’t miss and that was the Fox Sports replay of the Everton comeback and Tim Howard making the goal bulletproof

Lovely....

again as I walked in the door straight off 4 airports and too many airplane Heinekens (that has to be the worse beer this side of Tiger, Coors Light or Czechvar)…what a nice return to the States, even if it is the Premiere League and not the MLS.

Henceforth through next year’s World Cup opening matches I’ve resolved to use the words that rhymes with “Sminglish” or “Bingland” as infrequently as possible….kidding….

While Mark made allusions to a party atmosphere in New Zealand, you’d be hard pressed in the Land of the Kiwi to find more than one person out of 50 not focused on the forthcoming Rugby World Cup championships to be played on both of NZ’s north and south islands. To put it in perspective, the country is already chock full of 2011, not 2010, World Cup memorabilia.

Welcome back New Zealand...now go beat the champs...

The same cannot be said for All Whites gear as every store was either sold out of their three All Whites standby XXL t-shirts manufactured in 1983 or was an Adidas store as the All Blacks are sponsored by them. (The Whites are sponsored by Nike…hence…no Adidas store having soccer kits.)

In case you’re not reading any potential 2009 best-of sports blogs about rugby (chuckle and VOTE!), the All Blacks is currently the top rugby team in the world having just annihilated highly ranked and favored France the first week in December on the the French home turf. They are poised to win the “other” Cup on their home soil…don’t really see that happening with the Bafana, Bafana….

A great job by Mark and Shaun in keeping me up to date via The Shin Guardian. I took in the World Cup draw via Shaun’s bloody mary-induced commentary alone. Oh and rumors that I was banished to Oceania to prevent a rat-a-tat-tat barrage of questions on ESPN’s current USMNT and EPL coverage are unfounded.

A final thought on the All Whites…the New Zealand rags are all aflutter with the notion that the Zealanders want to play Australia in a friendly but the Aussies, who have already turned down the junior team are “scared” and “chicken-sh*t.” While the Aussie-New Zealand rivalry is one that Zealanders take seriously and Australia casually guffaws at, you have to admire the bravado of the All Whites even though they are only hitting up the World Cup for the first time since Eddie Vedder was in high school…and have the matter of contending with the current World Cup champ Azzurri.

Getting back to…What have I missed?!

Bear with me as I just rattle off some top of the head comments to get me back in the writing, reporting and researching mode.

♦ Did I read, via TSG, that Charlie Davies has a shot (which is all he can really ask for) of coming back for South Africa….wouldn’t that be poetic? Coming back on the same pitches that where CD9 jumpstarted his national team career?

Get this man in a friendly....stat!

Of course Charlie might not make it, but a few weeks have shown that Robbie Findley gets a shot, a certain vet is on fire up top and maybe there is a wildcard out there lurking? Marcus Tracy? Mike Grella?

World Cup Cursory Thoughts:
♦ This is a cold weather (relatively speaking) World Cup so we can dispel the commentary that African teams have a leg up just because the games are on their continent. You’ve got altitude. You’ve got weather. It’s not quite Mexico City Jr., but it’s not Dakar either.

♦ I like the USA draw and the schedule, relatively speaking, though I don’t think it’s going to be a stroll to 2nd place for the Yanks.

First, every single team in the World Cup is potent or they wouldn’t be there. Does anyone think Cameroon, for example, is going to be a pushover with the likes of Samuel E’to, Alexandre Song and cagey vet Geremi. Every team in the World Cup has talent, so none are underestimated.

While all the hype is around how the Slovenia upset Russia and Algeria took Egypt to the hilt, let’s remember that Slovenia beat essentially a 10-man Russian squad in that clincher and Algeria couldn’t close it down on the road a week with a two-goal series advantage.

♦ USA – England…I can’t do this match-up justice in the least. There is a good chance that TSG might ring up 100 pieces between now and then on this single match-up.

In fact, Mark and I have a draft column from September of this year sizing up England vs. States (we decided to go Irish vs. Yanks, but no matter). If Bob Bradley squeaks a win in the WC opener, does he become the first coach or even person inducted into our Bill Jeffrey (Coach of the USA in 1950) Comment Hall of Fame Wing?

My mind is still exploding at this match-up and I’m not even jet lagged.

Lest I not do this tete-a-tete justice, we’ll come back to it with a story and comments in the coming weeks.

♦ If 6 months of writing this publication has illuminated anything to me about national team cohesiveness, it’s that players being familiar with and understanding their roles are vital to the team. Keep this in mind as a team like England or Brazil moves players around the pitch after those same players just spent a year in a different role with their club team.

♦ In my book, group play is not a snoozer for Spain. First, the US took them apart in land of diamonds just this past summer, and you’ve got a team in Switzerland that’s comfortable playing in altitude and a very dangerous Chilean team. Spain will end up number one in the group, but they won’t be playing their B squad.

That would be EPL Top Scorer Clint Dempsey to you....

Uh, non-World Cup bullets:

♦ What, no Ballon d’Or for Ryan Giggs?! Thank you, thank you…I’ll be humoring you all week.

♦ Is this table on the right, correct? You’re telling me that USMNTer Clint Dempsey is a top scorer in the EPL?! He’s got more goals than Gerrard, Lampard and Berbatov…not to mention Anelka?! Not only that but he’s now playing the point forward/attacking forward role?!

What’s next, Altidore going on a goal run?

To go with Mark’s USMNT injury commentary last week, the States are looking decidedly “ant-Irish” lately….as in lucky!

♦ Did I read somewhere that Stu Holden is rumored headed to Aberdeen…go further east young man! EPL or Serie A.

Henry? Handball. Tiger? Clubbed? Federer's racket? Anyone?

♦ Maybe someone alluded to this already, but…..did I miss some Roger Federer news here? What’s going to happen with his tennis racket?

♦ I did read a soccer book on holiday. It was called Soccernomics. Three words, “Save your money.”

♦ From the archives: RSL (TSG’s prediction post first round of the playoffs) wins the MLS Cup. Bob B and others take note, it was a an offensively potent and defensively suffocating midfield that took the Salt Lakers on their Cinderella run.

TSG calls dibs on the sequel, The Beckham Partnership by the way.

♦ And finally, who doesn’t want to see Mr. Mark Shinguardian in the anchor chair for the World Cup….c’mon put your hands together, get out your signs….sign the petition. It’s a perfect pairing with Martin Tyler.

Mark, testing out his future desk....

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4 responses to this post.

  1. as a Spurs fan i was CRUSHED that Howard stopped that pen, but inside of me, there was a smile as i thought to myself (as a USMNT supporter), “He is our Goalie! Bring on the World Cup!! He is the the F’n man!!”

    Reply

  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/07 at 6:45 AM

    I think as a Spurs fan place your “crushness” in giving up 2 goals in the final 20….though they were on the road.

    On the penalty, Howard said he watched video of Defoe which helped his dive.

    Reply

  3. [...] Today, Duke Blue Devil alum Mike Grella, battling in the FA Cup, lashed home two in stoppage time for Leeds of League One in a 5-1 victory. A US striker, playing against English competition and (just) scoring some goals….recipe for a USMNT invite. This is tongue-in-cheek mind you–though I’m feeling oddly omniscient by throwing his name out in my piece on Sunday. [...]

    Reply

  4. Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/08 at 7:23 PM

    Does anyone else notice the semi-irony about ESPN getting Martin Tyler, an English man, to be the commentator on all the US games, and we end up paired with England?

    By the way I don’t think I ever saw Mark on ESPN (I may have just fallen asleep though)

    Reply

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