December Soccer Update

Admittedly, I’ve been absent when it comes to the beautiful game on EJSIC since the end of the World Cup in July. Well, I gotcha back on some of the recent issues surrounding the sport starting with Qatar’s 2022 upset, UEFA Champions League, etc.

1. 2022 World Cup

The U.S. deserves the tournament more than a country the size of Connecticut. I will never say otherwise. Qatar’s oil money won out, so I’ll just have to get over it.

And I could fill this blog with the previously hashed out arguments of the extreme heat, grumpy Europeans with no alcohol, security issues, etc. but I’ll spare you all. We lost, I’m over it (mostly), and Qatar has some great ideas / stadium designs so maybe they’ll succeed and peace will transcend throughout the Middle East (too far right?).

The above stadium is my favorite design I’ve seen so far, but you can view them all here. They look great, and I honestly do wish them the best of luck in hosting the tournament. I’m sure a lot of the countries around the world felt the same way the U.S. now does when we were awarded the tournament in the early 90s.

2. FIFA President Sepp Blatter

The FIFA president who oversaw Qatar’s victory has since caused more controversy. While in South Africa officially closing out the 2010 World Cup (because it’s apparently a year-long event), Blatter warned homosexual fans who attend the 2022 event to not do anything sexually that is illegal there. He later apologized.

I guess it means this ref (video below) probably won’t be chosen to officiate the events.

3. UEFA Champions League – Round of 16

One can make a very strong argument that Europe’s most prized club competition features the best played soccer in the world (even better than the World Cup). Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has commented so numerous times. I tend to agree with the arguments.

The UCL provides teams with better chemistry since they play together for 8 months out of the year rather than the ~8 weeks of an international team in the World Cup. Still, there is something to be said for playing for a nation’s flag. But if you want to watch good soccer, check out the UCL when it picks back up in February.

The following are the Round of 16 match-ups with a rough preview:

AC Milan (Italy) v. Tottenham (Eng) – Milan seems to be improving from their results of the past few seasons, but the Spurs possess the ever-dangerous Gareth Bale

Valencia (Spain) v. Schalke 04 (Germ) – Two under-the-radar teams who are overshadowed by giant clubs in their home country should play an interesting 2 games

AS Roma (Italy) v. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) – Shakhtar won its group over English juggernaut Arsenal and now look to take down an Italian powerhouse

Arsenal (Eng) v. Barcelona (Spain) – Barcelona are the favorites in the tournament, but Arsenal poses a tough test in the first knockout round

Copenhagen (Denmark) v. Chelsea (Eng) – The defending English champions have struggled lately, but with two months to heal and find their form, Chelsea should be able to defeat Copenhagen

Lyon (France) v. Real Madrid (Spain) – Real is Europe’s most successful club, and they look to recapture past glory against a scrappy but slightly under-manned Lyon

Marseille (France) v. Manchester United (Eng) – United looked dead earlier in the English season, but now find themselves at the top of the standings. Marseille, like Lyon, are too under-manned to be the favorites in this match-up

Internazionale (Italy) v. Bayern (Germ) – In last year’s finale, Inter defeated Bayern 2-0 to capture European glory. Their manager left for Real, but the players remain. Bayern will be looking for revenge

World Cup Quarterfinals Preview – Friday

This Friday marks the beginning of the Elite Eight in the World Cup. The schedule follows the normal mid-morning and mid-afternoon game. EJSIC is here for a quick preview of each of Friday’s games.

Netherlands v Brazil

Friday, 10 am EST, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Results to date:

Netherlands – W 2-0 v Denmark, W 1-0 v Japan, W 2-1 v Cameroon, W 2-1 v Slovakia

Brazil – W 2-1 v North Korea, W 3-1 v Ivory Coast, D 0-0 v Portugal, W 3-0 v Chile

Analysis: Holland is one of two teams to be perfect so far (the other is Argentina), but they now face their toughest test in five-time champion Brazil. If the Netherlands wants to shake the stigma of “best country to never win a World Cup,” they’ll have to beat the best ever.

Brazil has transformed its play under former player turned manager Dunga. Their defense-first mentality has led to a disappearance of the Joga Bonita football fans grew accustomed to. However, the flashy play is still their at times and their offensive attack is as deadly as ever.

Holland also boasts their own unique brand of football referred to as Total Football. Holland has traditionally put more emphasis on offense in comparison to their European rivals.

So when these two teams meet Friday, something has to give. Will Total Football withstand Dunga’s raw mentality or will the Brazilian superstars do as always and win?

Prediction: Brazil 3-2

Uruguay v Ghana

Friday, 2:30 PM EST, Soccer City Stadium

Results to date:

Uruguay – D 0-0 v France, W 3-0 v South Africa, W 1-0 v Mexico, W 2-1 v South Korea

Ghana – W 1-0 v Serbia, D 1-1 v Australia, L 1-0 v Germany, W 2-1 v United States

Analysis: Uruguay has been a surprise of the World Cup. They dominated Group A and did not allow a single goal. If we’ve learned anything from South Africa 2010, it is that South American teams have been the class of the field.

On the other side is Ghana, the last African team alive in the first African World Cup. They’re not only playing for their country, but for the entire continent. Of the two teams, Ghana has looked more suspect, but their talent is undeniable.

Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez have scored five of the six Uruguay goals while Asamoah Gyan has added three of his own for Ghana.

Both teams have played well defensively to date with some theatrics for needed goals. Which team will come through this time?

Prediction: Ghana 2-1 (extra time).

Be on the lookout for an EJSIC Live Blog for the Brazil v Netherlands game and possibly one for Uruguay v Ghana.

The World’s Largest Swing at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Yesterday, I showcased the second stadium in our venue preview series (which can be found here). In it, I described what has been called the world’s largest swing.

As a refresher, participants climb to the fourth rung of the ladder-like arch where they then jump off a ledge into a free-fall towards the pitch. The bungee cord swings them the length of playing field in the process.

It’s quite the adrenaline rush, I’m sure. However, I wanted to see it in action. And since I couldn’t afford a quick trip to South Africa (and because I’d probably chicken out once I got up there), I visited the online library of videos, YouTube. Sure enough, it had what I wanted after a quick search.

After watching it, I’m even more sure I wouldn’t do it in real life. I would go to the top of the arch, but I’ve never been one for thrill rides.

After seeing what it has to offer, what would you do? Ride the air in free-fall or lay an egg like yours truly? Tell us in the comments section.

World Cup 2010 Analysis

The round robin stage of the world’s tournament is set a full six months in advance. South Africa is the stage for the 32 best futbol (happy Jose?) teams in the world and I’m here to provide some early analysis of the eight groups. Of course with anything this early, it’s impossible to give full predictions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Each section will feature the four teams in each group with their October FIFA rankings (the ones used to seed the seven best teams pre-draw) and some initial reactions by me, an American futbol fan.

null

Group A

1. South Africa (85)

2. Mexico (18)

3. Uruguay (25)

4. France (9)

Initial Reaction: France and Mexico obviously headline this group. The French are in after tons of controversy after their playoff victory over Ireland. France also finished second in the last World Cup. Mexico played solidly in the second half of CONCACAF qualifying and Uruguay presents a solid South American team. Perhaps the easiest team to overlook is the hosts, South Africa. However, we learned in last summer’s Confederations Cup that the South Africans will play well on their home turf and won’t back down from any team.

Group B

1. Argentina (6)

2. Nigeria (32)

3. South Korea (48)

4. Greece (16)

Initial Reaction: Argentina is one of the most talented teams in the world, but they underachieved in CONMEBOL qualifying under Diego Maradona. However, all of those struggles can be forgotten if their talent, lead by Lionel Messi, takes them far into the tournament. Greece is a solid team that won the EURO Championship in 2004 and Nigeria is traditionally a very tough African power. South Korea is the odd team out in Group B.

null

Group C

1. England (7)

2. USA (11)

3. Algeria (29)

4. Slovenia (49)

Initial Reaction: 1776 and 1812 will be reincarnated on the African continent as the Yanks and the Brits headline Group C. England slaughtered it’s group in the UEFA qualifying stage and the US played well in CONCACAF. The Yanks are also coming into the World Cup with the momentum from last summer’s Confederations Cup where they defeated Spain and nearly upset Brazil in the championship. Slovenia also rides some momentum after knocking Russia out of the UEFA playoff leg and Algeria defeated Egypt in a playoff. With all that said, the US and England should advance to the knockout stage.

Group D

1. Germany (5)

2. Australia (24)

3. Serbia (20)

4. Ghana (38)

Initial Reaction: Based upon rankings alone, Group D looks very solid. Germany is always a tough team and they’re athletically superior to many of the teams they face. Serbia and Australia will provide some tough tests, but I’m not sure any team in this group is good enough to keep the Whermacht from advancing. One dark horse for the second team is Ghana. They play well in bigger games and won’t back down.

Group E

1. Netherlands (3)

2. Denmark (27)

3. Japan (40)

4. Cameroon (14)

Initial Reaction: The Dutch blitzed through the UEFA qualifying stage without losing a single match. They’re quick and they boast a very potent offense which can move the ball from one end of the pitch to the other in the blink of any eye. Their toughest test in the group stage will be Cameroon. Samuel Eto’o, Cameroonian striker, is a goal scorer. Japan and Denmark will have their chances to pull an upset in the first round, but it’s difficult to see anyone besides the Netherlands and Cameroon advancing.

null

The Italians celebrating their championship four years ago

Group F

1. Italy (4)

2. Paraguay (21)

3. New Zealand (83)

4. Slovakia (33)

Initial Reaction: The defending champions have a relatively easy group to advance to the second round. And they may very well need it. In the past summer’s Confederations Cup, the Italians looked old and slow at times. The scariest match-up will be against Paraguay who plays a solid form of futbol. The lone representative of Oceania, New Zealand, will probably have a tough time against the bigger powers of the world.

null

Group G

1. Brazil (1)

2. North Korea (91)

3. Ivory Coast (19)

4. Portugal (10)

Initial Reaction: GROUP OF DEATH. There’s always one group overloaded with talented teams and 2010’s version is Group G. The top-seeded Brazilians will definitely have to earn their way in to the knockout stage. Portugal needed a playoff to make it with injured star Cristiano Ronaldo, but they are in and anything can happen now. Ivory Coast is one of the strongest African teams. The group of death also features some great star power: the aforementioned Cristiano Ronaldo plus Brazilian stars Kaka and Robinho as well as Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba. All four players know how to put the ball in the back of the net.

Group H

1. Spain (2)

2. Switzerland (13)

3. Honduras (35)

4. Chile (17)

Initial Reaction: While we won’t label this one as hard as the previous, Group H should be very competitive. Spain is the obvious favorite to move on. Their combination of David Villa and Fernando Torres up front is extremely hard to stop. The Swiss and the Chileans will battle it out for second in what should be a competitive match-up. Honduras is a dark-horse in the group, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. The Hondurans were solid in CONCACAF qualifying, especially at home. They won’t have the luxury of home field advantage in the World Cup, but they may pull an upset.

180 days from now, we’ll be on the verge of the greatest sporting event in the world (sorry Super Bowl, but you can’t compare). Hopefully, many Americans can discover the sport while getting to see the best of the best. If not, then I’ll just shove futbol down your throats until you scream for mercy.