Bringing March Madness to Soccer?

Gus Johnson is widely regarded as one of the best announcers in television. And when he’s paired with the incomparable Bill Raftery, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament becomes a little more special.

Thanks to YouTube user pbombz24, we can now know how Johnson and Raftery would sound calling the beautiful game. For instance, if the U.S. needed a last minute goal to advance from the group stage…

I still get chill-bumps watching that goal. The sound of Johnson and Raftery just make it even better. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

In Memoriam

Paul the Octopus has died.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Paul the Octopus…is no longer with us.  The world has lost a great sports fan and ambassador.  Words can’t truly express the void his passing will leave in our hearts.

Paul became an international superstar this past summer when he famously and correctly predicted  winners in all 8 matches he was presented with.

Prior to that, Paul lived a mostly quiet life in his Oberhausen, Germany aquarium.   That is, until his gift was discovered.  He honed his prediction skills during the 2008 Euro cup and became a sensation with his perfect World Cup in 2010.

But, with rising fame, the cautionary tale often warns, comes the crushing fall.  And, like so many bright, young stars before him, Paul burned out in glorious fashion at the tender age of 2 1/2.

Paul the Octopus.

He loved soccer.

He loved life.

He loved sucking the heads of Copepods.

And he will be missed.

Landon Donovan is a Real American Hero

American history is filled with the great heroes of democracy and justice for all: Abraham Lincoln, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and now we add the name of Landon Donovan. Cheer him, America. Fill his ears with chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.” He is deserving.

Who is Landon Donovan you ask? Why he is the most prominent soccer (futbol for Jose) player for the U.S. He is currently playing in England for the Premier League team Everton. And it was in the land of tyrant kings and queens that Donovan became a hero.

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In the 57th minute of Everton’s match against Chelsea, Donovan challenged Ashley Cole of Chelsea who also happens to play for the England World Cup team. Cole suffered a broken ankle from the challenge which will keep him out for at least 3 months and hamper his chances of playing for England.

And if you know anything about the U.S. and the upcoming World Cup, the Americans play the English in the opening game. So you see, while Donovan was playing in the nasty, wintry rain of the north Atlantic where tea and crumpets are considered delicious, Donovan maintained the red, white, and blue.

When Donovan returns from England at the end of the Premier League season, throngs of Americans will be the airports, chanting and shouting, casting their eyes upon the greatness that is Landon Donovan. His ears will ring with “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” and his eyes water with the satisfaction of putting country above everything else. He has made the sacrifice, will you? God bless America (and screw the others)!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.