Archive for June, 2012

Euro 2012: Group A, Game 2

Greece went Sparta and withstood Poland in Game 1.

It was Russia all over the Czech Republic in the nightcap.

Poland v. Russia (and the fun-lowing Arshavin) and the Czech Republic v. Greece coming up.

Click here to check out our original previews

C’mon, Arshavin is just one of the boys…

Know The Complete Unknowns, Your USMNT Rosetta Stone

Subjection Dome: Estadio Matteo Flores, Guatemala City

This is Elliot Turner’s first piece for The Shin Guardian. He didn’t hold back.

For TSG’s Official USA vs. Guatemala, click here.

ET: I prepared this for our US national team, but since Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez are now out there every game, their “game” should suffice.

Oh hello there, you sexy cosmopolitan US national team soccer fan, you.

Every World Cup qualifying, you brush up on your Central American geography and then rock the Trivial Pursuit.

Everybody wants you on your team, but there’s a problem: there’s only one you. You watch re-runs of the National Geographic Bee and mouth the answers before the snotty nine year-olds can even think to blink. You basically rule the world, but you suffer from a lingering doubt.

Your Achille’s heel?

Limited language proficiency. You ask yourself: when at an away game in some far away place, like Pasadena’s Estadio Rose Bowl, are all those Spanish-speakers dissing you, your mother, or both?

Luckily, I am here to help.

As everybody’s favorite white chicano–that’s US citizen of Mexican descent for your TP game–whom you used to make highly questionable Mexican jokes in front of, I possess a wealth of knowledge. Callejero Spanish is my native tongue.

I’m also hitched to a Central American gal, and today’s lesson will teach you just how, when, and if those Guatemaltecos are dissing you or just yapping about. I’ll teach you some basic terms that are easily confused. Think of it as soccer Spanish meets a verbal self-defense class and I am your G.I. Jose.

Listen before your speak…

The first common error involves the term puta.

This word basically translates to skank or prostitute. However, in soccer, a common term for a forward is the similar sounding punta.

Notice the “n” all tucked away in there?

Continue reading

TSG’s Official USA vs. Guatemala Mini-Preview: Who’s Your Pappa?

Stewarding through CONCACAF….

The preview for this one almost wrote itself at the press conference following the Brazil friendly.

US coach Jurgen Klinsmann charged his squad with being more “nasty” next time they laced up their cleats after their 4-1 Marcelo-led beatdown. According to the manager, the US players needed to get stuck in more and practice the lost black arts of the beautiful game.

It’s a double-edged sword asking a team to dirty up a game, especially in World Cup qualifying where one wrong “statement” can lead to a red card, then in turn initiative for a weaker US opponent and then perhaps points going the wrong way in the match.

It’s an even worse disposition to take when a team is on the road where regrouping in the face of slanted calls or being put on edge by a fervent crowd can cause focus to slip just the necessary tad.

So the common wisdom would be for the US players to take the comments in stride and go to the office with at most a small change in character.

That’s where history comes in though.

—-

August 2008.

USA vs. Guatemala, same Estadio Mateo Flores as Tuesday night at 7:30.

The US battling in Guatemala City against a feisty La Bicolor side. Steve Cherundolo misses a tackles and swipes at the leg of an attacker with his arm as he lies prone after getting beaten.

Red card.

It’s always McBride and the “DeRossi job,” what about Lewis and the “Gustavo Cabrera job?” Yeah doesn’t sound as good….

Eddie Lewis does airborne and gets DeRossi’d, woozified, bleeding profusely.

The 80th stanza then sees Carlos Ruiz swim his way through the US central defense and drag his leg enough to hit Tim Howard–purposely–in the head after Howard has scooped up the marble.

The moment here for USMNT fans?

Howard having to protect himself while none of his teammates readily interceded.

Maybe they didn’t know what happened or maybe it took a minute to set in. Maybe it was weariness. Maybe they were holding their character. The 1-0 result would prove that they in fact did.

Still it is off-putting to see the keeper have to fend for himself in the face of a blatant attempt to injure.

There are two sides to everything and this is where CONCACAF rookie Jurgen Klinsmann’s commentary about “being nasty” may come to bear.

How will the US play Tuesday’s match in Guatemala? Will it get “appropriately” nasty and keep an even keel as a barrage of who-knows-what rains down on them on the pitch and from the stands? Will the States be to demur? Will Jermaine Jones…or rather the entire US be too aggressive and risk dropping a man down?

There is one change in that match–broached later here–that is. Guatemala is a counterattacking side and the US are looking for possession. Will that retard the vitriol as up-down affairs tend to get chippier faster.

Without further Freddy Adu, on to our (mini) preview.

As usual it goes:

About The Opponent

TSG What We’re Looking For?

11 At the Whistle

Guatemala’s Pappa….will he be the Yanks’ too? (photo credit: MLSSoccer.com)

About The Opponent:

First stop is not TSG’s preview on this one. Blasphemy!

Brent Latham is a freelance writer who typically writes for ESPN and MLSSoccer. He’s based in Guatemala and TSG tried to get him to write this section. No deal.

His preview here really cannot be duplicated. So check it out.

Our skinny:

Guatemala come in to the game wounded and in need of points. They jaunted over to Jamaica and came back on the wrong side of 2-1. They’re at home and they need a victory.

With that comes urgency.

However  it is yet to be determined whether a young Guatemala side can bottle that urgency, that energy appropriately while maintaining shape and doing what they do best. Will Guatemala beat itself or will it be a reckoning of strictly American consequence?

Almeida’s playing days…

Against Jamaica, the worst happened for Guatemala, the blue & whites fell behind. Coach Ever Almeida prefers for his troops to maintain discipline in a 5-4-1, remaining defensively stout (Almeida was a keeper in his day) breaking on the counter after sucking the opponent in.

Once Jamaica got up on Guatemala, La Bicolor was rearranged into a more attacking 3-4-3, hoping to create turnover advantages in midfield and have less space to navigate on the way to pay dirt.

Expect a 5-4-1 (much like Antigua & Barbuda regressed into Friday night) from Guatemala and for them to be counseled in the wake of the Jamaican loss.

They’ll likely deploy a backline of Carlos Gallardo, Jonathan Lopez, Luiz Rodriguez, Elias Vasquez and Erwin Moran. Defender Rafa Morales might enter that fray against the States, but across the board it’s a very youthful backline. Gallardo is the cap leader with 35, with no other player having more 15. So the question becomes–of the three wingback options (Jonathan Lopez, Rafa Morales, or Erwin Morales)–can they snookered into losing shape and joining the attack. Just how composed can they be against the US attack?

Ahead of the back five, are players more familiar in the States, names like Marco Pappa–the MLS version of Jamal Crawford–and Carlos Ruiz spearhead the attack.

While you’ve seen Pappa on MLS’s Chicago Fire, probably the best game to watch how well Pappa and his opposite winger counterpart Jairo Arreloa play in tandem is last year’s quarterfinal Gold Cup loss to Mexico, 2-1.

It was by all accounts a thrilling match and one that the La Bicolor should probably have nabbed if not for several missed chances. Guatemala of course sat deep and sprung to life on a deep change of possession and shredded Mexico’s defense up with Arreloa, Pappa and Ruiz going on mazey runs sometimes all the way from the half-line. Unlike many teams that wilt in track meets, Guatemala seemed stronger than Mexico as the game wore on (though it was Mexico who overcame a goal deficit and won going away.)

For Guatemala, it’s defend deep and counter. That’s their plan.

TSG What Are We Looking For:

• Can Jermaine Jones–and US centerbacks for that matter–avoid being tossed?

You’d knew we pick on Jones and he alone may deserve his own bullet point. It was Cherundolo whose mug was brandished a red last time at Estadio Matteo Flores.

Continue reading

Euro 2012 Group D Day: The Group Of The Dead

Today’s marquee match-up between France and England feels like just another entry in the Grumpy Old Men movie series in some ways.

Two former soccer powers–one much further removed from glory than the other–go toe-to-toe like two curmudgeons fighting over the new (old) bird that’s just moved to the neighborhood.

They go at each other in a crotchety, slapstick and not always pretty way, providing great fare for all those watching.

If any nation is ready to break character on the “Grumpy” series, it has to be France where Laurent Blanc worked to great pains to distance the country from the calamities of off field issues that torpedoed it’s World Cup excursion just about two years ago. Blanc introduced new blood and made the old blood earn their way back into the squad. It was an arduous and pain-staking process and France appears to be the better for it. Of course, having an in-form striker (Karim Benzema) and players familiar with England’s style of play from reps in the Premiership (Cabaye, Malouda, Evra, Nasri) should benefit Zinedane’s lineage in this one as well.

While France holds the stronger poker hand, England is not quite departed it’s typical tournament drama. Alexi Lalas put it aptly when he said that “England being considered an underdog is both an indictment of how far [the Queen's men] have fallen, but probably also a positive.”

The English, dogged again by another squad issue, have…hold up! Can anyone even remotely understand why England manager Roy Hodgson would willingly discuss Rio Ferdinand’s candidacy and lack of involvement less than two days before the opening match? Why invoke it? Is the English media just that harsh and wind-blowing? Who demanded a command? Why did one need to be authored.

England–despite Hodgson’s poor media calculation–probably do have the right manager in place. The former Fulham (and Liverpool) steward is no stranger to being an underdog and more importantly clearly recognizes that maintaining shape, playing direct and counterattacking football, is England’s singular hope to Euro glory. He’s aptly set up his team as such, playing Ashley Young in the swivel role behind a still untested Danny Welbeck while calling on Theo Walcott to burn up the right side. The industrious James Milner–who had a World Cup to forget–mans the left flank and will be called on to provide cover for the advancing theatrics of 82-year-old Ashley Cole–man that playboy has been out on the town, doing it right for a long time.

England’s keep-it-simple shape and disposition is further buoyed by the presence of a real man between the wickets this time, Joe Hart. Hart is arguably England’s best keeper and best dressed keeper since David Seaman and if he can come up aces England might just surprise.

Q-Bert’s inspiration…

(For more ridiculously hideous keeper kits, click here.)

The second match-up of the day pits another re-invigored squad, Sweden with TSG fave Kim Kallstrom up against co-host Ukrainian. That should be an up-down affair.

For TSG’s entire preview, click here.

Enjoy the games.

Oh and some political science humor:

Excerpt: On Ronaldo & Group B

Zack Goldman succinctly and eloquently on Ronaldo & Euro 2012.

This morsel of golden writing might’ve got lost in the shuffle last week. We excise it from TSG-Page Two. The whole preview is excellent, but this piece–per some acknowledgement on Twitter–deserves its own promotion.

Kobe

Portugal: Ronaldo (Duh.)

For the second tournament in a row, the Portuguese are in the group of death. In this case, Ronaldo does have a reason to whine.

I’m really sorry.  I wish I could offer you something more creative or tactically interesting than just talking about Ronaldo.  The reality, though, is that Ronaldo is the key to Portugal’s fate in this tournament—and, intriguingly enough, this tournament is in some ways the key to Ronaldo’s own fate as a legend of the game.

European glory this summer would go a long way for the Madrid star’s legacy, starting with aBalon d’Or and an acknowledgement that he was able to bring the international triumph that the likes of Eusebio and Figo could not.  Of course, we could talk about any one of the other big names in the lineup, from Pepe to Nani, but Ronaldo is clearly the x-factor.  He must show up for Portugal to have any chance of getting through this group.  If he ‘goes Ronaldo’ on everyone, who knows what success might follow

(Author’s note: ‘Going Ronaldo on everyone’ refers to the soccer version of the Kobe Bryant underbite—the ‘I’m rolling up my shorts and pointing to my Iberico ham haunch of a thigh’ mindset that Ronaldo gets into.  It refers to that moment where you meditatively concede to yourself that this man, as much as you may dislike him, might just be right—that this is his world and we just live in it.  Messi has made my jaw drop hundreds of times with his goals, but when Ronaldo ‘goes Ronaldo’ on everyone, it is an entirely different brand of “Oh my God”).

Euro 2012 Group C Day: The Day We Learn About the Azzurri

Oh how we’ll miss Gennaro Gattuso.

The biggest wildcard in these Euros? Has to be the Italians, no?

They come in having lost their two friendlies this year, to the States (1-0) and Russia (just last week, 3-0) respectively. The Blues have two attackers that could be described as “combustible,” but more appropriately. Mario Balotelli needs no introduction and neither does Cassano–a TSG fave and 360-degree player.

The midfield see DeRossi of course and surprisingly Pirlo who will be Italy what Beckham is to England. Wait, scratch that.

The defensive spine is all Juventus with Buffon backing Bonucci and Chiellini–who can’t decide just how good he wants to be, but despite Juventus decorated with the Scudetto this year this year at the international level the backline is decidedly ho-hum….meaning coach Cesare Prandelli may actually look to push up the field and show more attacking verve.

What’s go on here? For more on Italy, their opponent Spain, Ireland and the Table Clothes, here’s your preview.

Group C goes live today!

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