Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Wesolych Swiat! Maligayang Pasko!

Christmas time, my most favorite time of the year, is here. Wish for health for all my family and good, happy new year. God Bless us everyone!

But this Christmas time is more special to me. God has answered my prayers and is healing my beloved Mom in front of my eyes. Thank you Lord for your mercy, thank you Baby Jesus for your touch and thank you Mama Mary for your constant love and support. That is all I need for Christmas. Next year if You can make our house crowdier it would be nice as well. I know that You give us what we need. I am forever grateful for Your love.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Orlando-Phoenix-Washington trade

Suns are the big winners! Orlando got desperate, Washington is rebuilding so getting insanely overpaid Lewis still is better than much longer Arenas contract. However, it is my wife's Phoenix Suns that clearly got what they needed. Size (Gortat), defense+scoring (Pietrus) and offense (Carter, on some nights but still a good deal). Nash can do his magic again. It is stupid to read some reports that now Nash will be traded. Suns just got better! And assured a playoff spot. I see them finishing 6th and...taking out Lakers in the first round! You heard me! Nash will have his revenge. The biggest obstacle to Suns will be Spurs. Last year I picked them over Spurs and actually predicted the sweep (yeah, I am THAT good) but this year grandpas from San Antonio will be more dangerous. Much more.

Orlando removed itself frome the East elite making a room for Bulls. Miami is not on the same level as Boston. Only Bulls can, and will, challenge successfuly grandpas from Boston. Bulls-Boston east finals will be a beauty and see the end of short Boston's reign. The next decade will belong to Bulls again.

NBA playoffs 2011

Why not?! It's only Christmas but the top 8 teams in both conferences seem to be set already. Who gets what spot? I think I know! (one question mark is Carmelo: if he is traded, Denver won't make playoffs. And to whom traded? Exactly. If New York then Knicks can finish 4th or 5th. If Nets, they are 7th or 8th. I am guessing it is Knicks. Overall, it does not matter. Melo can only succeed in Chicago but we don't really need him to win it all! Go Bulls!

1. Boston Celtics
2. Miami Heat
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. New York Knicks
6. Orlando Magic
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Indiana Pacers

1. Dallas Maverics
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Utah Jazz
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Portland Trailblazer
8. Houston Rockets

East 1st round: no upsets
East Semis: Boston-Atlanta 4-1; Miami-Bulls 2-4
East Finals Boston-Bulls 3-4

West 1st round: Dallas-Houston 4-2; Spurs-Portland 4-1; Lakers-Suns 2-4; Utah-Oklahoma 4-3
West Semis: Dallas-Utah 4-2; Spurs-Suns 3-4
West finals: Dallas-Suns 4-3

NBA Finals
Chicago Bulls vs. Dallas Mavericks
(I can see Suns beating Mavs, mostly because they are my wife's team but I am sticking to me preseason picks. It would be nice though to see Steve playing at least once in the finals. Whether Suns or Mavs it is Bulls time anyway).

The 7th heaven for Bulls as we will celebrate first of many Grant Park parties after 4-2 victory over cry-baby Cuban. BULLS are BACK!!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A rise to stardom

Wojciech Szczesny, a 20-year-old Arsenal London goalkeeper, is another phenomenal Polish kid who could become #1 in the Polish national team for a decade.

He is a son of Maciej Szczesny, a very good goalie himself who, however, never got a chance to be #1 in the Polish team playing only several times. He won Polish national championships with 4 different teams (an amazing accomplishment) but he was not trusted to be Poland's #1. It was likely a mistake but to his satisfaction his son could live his dream.

This is a golden age for goalies in Poland. For some reason world-class goalkeepers are growing like mushrooms nowadays in the land of milk and honey. Boruc, Fabianski, Kuszczak and now Szczesny. They could start for any team in the world. Szczesny replaced an injured Fabianski in the starting lineup last Monday. That was his first game in the English Premiere League. And he got this opportunity to play against arch rivals - Manchester United! Szczesny, who is a very cocky goalie, did not disappoint. Despite the loss (0-1) he was named the best player in Arsenal receiving a 7 (out of 10) note. His counterpart, legendary Van der Sar (still playing at the age of 40) got 6. Manchester had a great chance to score one more but Rooney missed the penalty badly sending the ball over the bar. If you ask Szczesny he will tell you that it was no accident. He played a big part in that miss. He might be right.

Szczesny could very be THE most talented of all Polish goalies. Fabianski is very good but Boruc was not only my #1 choice being overall a better player. But Szczesny has something extra special. He does indeed since Barcelona, already interested in him for some time, was so impressed after the Monday match that it now is seriously considering acquiring Szczesny over the summer. Lucky Poland! And lucky Barca as well. I can really feel that good days are returning and the beginning of the golden age will be the Euro 2012.

Monday, December 6, 2010

WC 2018 - Russia; WC 2022 - Qatar

Russia somehow managed to copy Brazil, which has its WC in 2014 followed by the Olimpic Games in Rio de Janeiro two years later. The Winter Games are set in 2014 in Sochi and now a beautiful game will travel from the sands of Copacabana to the dry fields of Moscow.

England is the big loser receiving only 2 out of 22 votes. USA and Australia felt confident enough but it is Qatar where the world's best teams will compete in less than twelve years. Unfortunately, there are many reasonable voices that the Russian pick is a political move and Qatar - an economic. It is hard to disagree but what's done is done. More important is the game itself and that becomes the focus for everybody from the very first kick. Just wait 11 1/2 years!

P.S. Revenge of the Brits. Katia Z., a 25-year-old Russian employee of the British Parliament, charged with espionage, is to be deported from England. How will USA/Australia spank Qatar?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Decision 2018/2022 World Cup

December 2, 2010, Zurich, Switzerland. At around 3pm tomorrow, FIFA officials will announce the successful bid for the 2018 and later on for the 2022 World Cup.

The finalists are:
2018: Spain/Portugal, Russia, England, Belgium/Holland

2022: Qatar, USA, Australia, South Korea and Japan

The first vote should give a good indication of how the second will go. If Spain/Portugal prevails for 2018, that's bad news for the USA, since it's been widely reported that the seven or eight international allies of the Spain/Portugal bid have made a deal, in which they've agreed to support that bid in 2018 in return for backing Qatar in 2022.

One is already known. WC 2018 will take place in Europe. The latest favorites are Spain/Portugal and Qatar. My picks were England and US but now I am not sure because the voting is unfortunately not so clear or better say not just (they put it "deliberations and votes are secret." Secret my ass!). The 2006 WC was to be played in South Africa but one of the voters was bribed and never showed up for the voting. That one vote cost South Africa the election. Germans. Go figure. Pretty disgusting. Nein, nein, nein! And who ended up in jail?! Nobody! And that was a real crime! Makes me sick! At least pizzaronis denied bratwurst the final.

WC in England in 1966 saw the English side win its lone WC title. US was not so lucky in 1994, though getting out of the group stage was considered a great step forward at the time. For some reason I think the two might be winners but it does not really matter to me. A beautiful game is beautiful everywhere.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roger is alive, again!

Federer over Nadal. 6-3 3-6 6-1 win in the season-ending tournament featuring 8 best players of the year saw the top two seeds making it to the final for the first time since 1986 (Lendl and Becker). After losing the last 6 of 7 games against Rafa, Roger finally won his arch nemesis. And he won convincingly. Not long ago was he a clear choice as the best player of all time. With recent dominance by Nadal over everybody else the choice has not been no longer that clear. Amazing but we might be witnessing two best players of all time playing each other in the same era. Rafa is 5 years younger but that's a small age gap.

Next year Fed should dominate again. He might even win the grand slam! That is all 4 major titles. The more they play each other the better for us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Polska wins!!

I was onto something. In my prediction I simply doubled the score (6-2) but I take 3-1 victory over Ivory coast any time! Fantastic win for Poland! Great offense again, but ... horrible defense! The goal by Ivory Coast in 45th minute was the third gift from the Polish defender (a pass in a penalty area to opponent is never advisable!). Fortunately, they took advantage of only one mistake. Horrible defense!

The 11 that started against Ivory Coast: Fabianski - Piszczek, Jodlowiec, Wojtkowiak, Sadlok - Matuszczyk, Murawski - Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Mierzejewski - Lewandowski. Out of that 11, 4-6 players do not guarantee international level of play. Three of them are defenders! Scary!

However, there is hope about (lack of) defense. Early next year, and if everything goes smoothly, Columbian Manuel Arboleda, French Damien Perquis and Brazilian Hernani, will receive Polish passports. Since we have very unreliable defenders (shame!) there is no other choice. Now if that happens, Poland will have a complete team that will only need time to gel for the next 18 months to compete successfully against the European elite.

Offense is almost ready, Smuda (our coach) declared following the game. Well, it is impressive at last and international level in every game is certainly achievable for them. That would be a dream come true. Another important fact, this is a young team built not only for Euro 2012 but also beyond. Wait a minute? Could it be!? Yes, something unthinkable a short while ago but Poland is on its way to the elite! And I am not being biased (ok, maybe a bit but it looks like this team can join European superpowers relatively soon). Don't you screw this up, young Polish eagles! You kin do it! Just don't fall in love with yourselves after one good game.

My evolving starting lineup (since Boruc seems out for good, at least get Szczesny to back up Fabianski, Mr Smuda): Fabianski - Piszczek, Perquis, Arboleda, Boenisch - Matuszczyk, Murawski - Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Grosicki - Lewandowski.

Matuszczyk, only 21, looks to be a fantastic player. Murawski is certainly replacable (Majewski? a new name? Hopefully). Same with Grosicki, whose position is taken by Mierzejewski for now but Grosicki should be given a chance. No Peszko please! Smolarek, if he comes back to his old self one more time would be great, too).

Poland wants to surprise many during EURO 2012 and it certainly can. Its main goal is to make at least quarterfinals. I hate such minimalist thinking. As a host nation, especially as a host nation, there is only one goal - the championship!

The EURO 2012 will reveal a true character of all players. It is unknown how Poles, who only play friendly matches now, will cope with such pressure. No doubt, standing in front of 40 thousand fans facing Italy (my guess) in an opening game in Warsaw will be completely different. There is only one player who passed such test with flying colors. A fact is that in world cup 2006 in Germany and Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria it was only Artur Boruc who revealed a world class. The last line of defense will likely watch his fellow countrymen in front of TV in two years. Therefore with the help of fanatical Polish fans, myself included, I can only hope that the lucky 11 will copy Boruc's perfomances from 2006 and 2008. If they can, Poland will be crowned a new European champion!


Monday, November 15, 2010

About a mess, about the next game

That was some tumultuous time the last couple of weeks for the Polish national team. The best goalie, and one of the best in the world, Artur Boruc fought publicly with the national coach, Franciszek Smuda, over his inappropriate behavior (screaming and drinking a few glasses of wine. He was joined by Poland's captain, Michal Zewlakow, who just set national team record with 101 caps) on the way back from last month games against USA and Ecuador. Ugly.

On the one hand, our coach is right. Players called to national team represent the entire country and should behave properly. That is, should be at least, obvious. Unfortunately, it is not for many of them. The problem of alcohol in Polish team is real and last September proves it (two players were kicked out of the team after heavy drinking following the game against Ukraine). Naturally, when you win, it doesn't matter and no one (media, coaches) would not even touch the "problem". But the last win Poland had against Bulgaria (2-0) last March. Go figure. In the old, good, days (1970s and 80s) it was a normal practice (some former players say today) to have a shot or two before a game (yes, before). (Some said to play better after a couple of drinks. Nice!). But in those days we had truly talented players on and off the field. They could handle it. Today's players clearly cannot.

On the other hand, drinking and getting drunk are two different things. Wine is even recommended with certain meals. It is widely known that Boruc was never Smuda's favorite player but Zewlakow played in almost all matches under Smuda. To make a long story short, according to Smuda, Boruc's behavior was a bad example to other (especially younger) players and not worthy of a national player. So was Zewlakow's (with several key mistakes in the last few games and his advanced soccer age (34) the ex-captain likely said good-bye in a very poor way). The wine incident seems to be an excuse to get rid of them. Boruc even declared to be ready for World Cup 2014 campaign, guessing/wishing Smuda won't be the coach by then anymore. Time will tell.

I do like Boruc and undoubtedly he is Poland's #1 goalie but it is not about personal relationships when it comes to national team. I like him because he is the best. Smuda should take this under considereation. However, the good thing is that Fabianski and Szczesny are not too far behind. Let's hope they will be ready by 2012.

Now onto the real problem. It is unthinkable that many Polish players treat national time as a party time, a vacation from everyday club work. Unfortunately, they do not work as hard as professional players in the western Europe otherwise, with our natural talents, Poland would be in the top ten in soccer ranking. No, they are simply lazy! Playing three games a week is a standard in the west. In Poland, two games a week already provides a problem. This must change.

With all that mess aside, let's talk for a second about the upcoming game. This Wednesday, November 17 in Poznan, Poland is set to play Ivory Coast - a team that should have reached at least semis of the last World Cup. Drogba, Kalou, Toure brothers, Eboue - world class players! However, they did not play as a team, unlike Ghana, but rather as selfish individuals. A great opportunity was lost. That's their problem, though. Poland has its own but I can bet that our coaching staff would welcome Ivory Coast problems for a change. Oh, who wins? Polska! 6-2! Why not?! Led by Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland's biggest star and new captain, it can be done. GO POLISH EAGLES!

Lastly, an important note, I agree completely with Smuda on another OBVIOUS TO ME matter. When Radoslaw Majewski (a talented and ambitious midfielder) complained publicly to play only 18 minutes against Ecuador last month, for which he already apologized Smuda, our coach replied: "knowing I would play only one minute for Poland I would bike to Canada!"

Against San Marino or Brazil, for one minute or 90, playing for my beloved Poland would be the greatest honor. Something that I will likely never experience.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A guessing game

Poland's EURO 2012 squad remains a mystery. It's still 19 months left to the kick-off but picking the RIGHT players who will represent proudly a 40-million nation in the biggest event after world cup makes me nervous. Franciszek Smuda, our coach since 2009, had it all figured out. Until he became the team's coach (he waited patiently for over a decade for his dream job). Sadly, one year has passed for him to realize that Poland does not have too many quality players after all.

Really?! He needed a full year?!

So Smuda is searching. Searching everywhere inside and outside of Poland for players who will help Poland in its lets-not-bring-shame-to-our-fellow-Poles campaign during June 2012. There is already some success. He found left defender Sebastian Boenisch in Germany (born in Poland; waited for a call from German national coach, which never came, so he picked Poland). He wants Frenchman Damien Perquis (nice first name, huh?), a central defender, and Damien wants to play for Poland, as well. Good. Hopefully next year once he gets a Polish passport. Smuda wanted Laurent Koscielny, who opted to play for France. (Your loss Laurent!). We already have Ludovic Obraniak, a fantastic French midfielder, who still cannot speak Polish. But does it really matter? No! He plays great, he is ours. Yay! (by the way, quite an amusing story: Boenisch does understand Polish but does not speak it. Yet when he is asked a question in Polish, he replies in...English. Educated man, I say, and sensitive, too, not wanting to use that beautiful, poetic near-native language of his).

I say go for Manuel Arboleda, a Columbian central defender who actually speaks good Polish by playing in the Polish league for several years. Smuda is still against it (Arboleda has no blood ties with Poland yet he does want to represent Poland) but he was also against playing Artur Boruc again (world-class goalie, who had some personal problems) and was making fun of out-of-form Ebi Smolarek. Both are already back with the Polish team. If you want to avoid laughter, Mr Smuda, do not be so picky. There are many more not-so-Polish Poles but they might, quite ironically, give Poland a minute of joy in 19 months. Like Obraniak.

That brings us to Polish Poles - you should be ashamed of yourselves! Have some honor! Be proud of representing your country and leave your heart on the field. Like Obraniak. Like Arboleda and Perquis want.

Honestly, my biggest fear is the aftermath. In case of national tragedy (3 group games and out) I do not want to hear, for a millionth time, from coach and players their pitiful excuses. It will make me sick to the core of my body if I hear the usual: "we were not ready...we should have done this and that...we were not aggressive enough..." etc. WE, FANS, DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT!

Poland is rich, making everyone else jealous, by having fanstastic goalies: Boruc (Fiorentina), Fabianski (Arsenal London), Szczesny (Arsenal London), Kuszczak (Manchester United), Tyton (Roda Kerkrade), Zaluska (Celtic Glasgow) to name only a few great ones. That's already half the team! If only did they have the same talent to play different positions. Unfortunately they do not. Two things we know for certain: (1) we do not have 11 native Poles who can guarantee success; (2) we will not find 11 Brazilian-born magical players who dream about playing for Poland. Where does it leave us? Mr Smuda and we, fans, need to keep looking and keep our options open.

It's nearly impossible, even for me, to predict Poland's starting line-up in 19 months. My best guess, based on available talent, is: Boruc - Piszczek, Arboleda, Perquis, Boenisch - Matuszczyk, Murawski - Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Grosicki - Jelen.

Jelen, a near-irreplacable forward in Auxerre, is my biggest question mark. Often injured and he has not copied his club performance in national team can be replaced by Lewandowski, who should be there in the first place but has lost his touch lately. I fear he might not recover in time. I hope that I am mistaken but more importantly I hope that a couple of players will have breakout perfomances in the next 19 months and will rise to stardom. Because the above squad does not guarantee a championship. Positions currently taken by Piszczek, Murawski, Grosicki and Jelen are up for grabs. In reality, only Boruc, Blaszczykowski, Obraniak and Matuszczyk seem to be locks.

Whether it is a Polish Pole or not, the Polish team needs a true star who will bring the glory time of 1970s and early 1980s back. A star who will provide example to everyone else that playing for your country is the greatest honor. A star, whose both talent and passion will be contagious and take the entire team to the next level. A championship level.

Bulls look good!

The opening act is over. Erasing the last 3 minutes of the game, in which powerhouse Bulls gave away a victory by too many sloppy plays, Bulls outplayed Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in their arena. The so-called ESPN and TNT critics did not give Bulls too much of a chance but it was Rose, Noah, Gibson and company that played superb from the start. Rose's foul trouble limiting him to 31 minutes (28 points!) and 25 more free throws by Thunder help them to steal the game. As disappointing as it obviously was to me, Bulls strong play has showed how good they already are. Without Boozer! Noah, my favorite Bull, was fanstastic with 18 points and 19 rebounds. MONSTER! This Saturday poor pistons will be crashed! Go BULLS!!

Chant of the week: OOOOVVVEEEERRAAAATEEED! (Naturally, miami freaks are!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago BULLS look good. Really good!

First non-soccer theme but life is more than soccer (yeah, I did slap myself immediately for saying that! hurt tiny bit). Bulls and tennis are my other loves so I will squeeze them here from time to time.

It took 12 long years to get over with the Jordan era. Finally, it looks like this season is the start of the new, great Bulls team. Of course, the beginning was 2009 play-offs and one of the best series EVER between Bulls and Celtics that left everyone grasping for air after another and another and another overtime. Two games won by Bulls in double and triple overtime went immediately to ESPN Classic channel! Yes, they were THAT good!

But this season is truly the first time when everyone around the league includes Bulls in contender discussion. Top 4 East teams are: Boston, Chicago, Miami and Orlando (alphabetical order). I expect Bulls to win the title this year. Why not?! Bulls are talented, big, strong, young and versatile. Anything less than conference finals will be a huge disappointment in my view. But I really think we can win it all against... Lakers! If they make it there. Hate lakers but it would be a great story since this is 20th anniversary of Bulls first championship against... Lakers! They would meet again with jackson coaching stupid lakers. No doubt Bulls would win that series. Bulls will be there, the question is: will lakers make it?

My favorive Bull, Joakim Noah, stands tall and is already regarded as top NBA center. To me, the best of course! I love how he plays (coincidentally that is how I play soccer - with passion unmatched by others). An All-star Derrick Rose and this year All-star Noah, they create a fantastic duo that is feared around the NBA. Three Jazzmen: Boozer, Korver and Brewer, compliment this team perfectly. Luol Deng looks reborn; Omer Asik could be a surprise of the season; an entire bench seems to be the deepest in the entire NBA.

Yes, this is going to be a great year!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EURO 2012 - after OCT 12 games

Quite a Tuesday night in Europe. The most shameful evening happened in Italy. Psychotic Serbian fans, who should be jailed and banned for life from all stadiums, did not allow the teams to play. Tough penalties are certain to follow.

Now, real soccer. Turkey lost to Azerbaijan 0-1 as it did not recover from the big loss to Germany last Friday. A crazy game between Belgium and Austria (4-4)! Ireland and Macedonia missed big penalties. Holland demolished Sweden 4-1 and Montenegro, which I correctly predicted to be on a rise, almost beat England on Wembley! A nation of over 600,000 people against a big-time opponent. David vs Goliath? Only on paper. It becomes clearer that World Cup fiasco was just the beginning. England lacks energy and good players. It will be lucky to finish second.

It is not how big you are but how big you play that counts!

Current tables (games played, wins, draws, losses, goal difference, points):
Group A
1. Germany 4 4 0 0 13-1 12
2. Austria 3 2 1 0 9-4 7
3. Turkey 4 2 0 2 6-6 6
4. Belgium 4 1 1 2 8-8 4
5. Azerbaijan 3 1 0 2 2-9 3
6. Kazakhstan 4 0 0 4 0-10 0

Group B
1. Russia 4 3 0 1 6-3 9
2. Armenia 4 2 1 1 9-4 7
3. Ireland 4 2 1 1 7-5 7
4. Slovakia 4 2 1 1 4-4 7
5. FYR Macedonia 4 1 1 2 4-4 4
6. Andorra 4 0 0 4 1-11 0

Group C
1. Italy 3 2 1 0 7-1 7
2. Slovenia 4 2 1 1 7-3 7
3. Estonia 4 2 0 2 6-5 6
4. Northern Ireland 3 1 2 0 2-1 5
5. Serbia 3 1 1 1 5-4 4
6. Faroe Islandes 5 0 1 4 3-16 1

Group D
1. France 4 3 0 1 6-1 9
2. Belarus 4 2 2 0 3-0 8
3. Albania 4 1 2 1 3-4 5
4. Bosnia Herz 3 1 1 1 4-3 4
5. Romania 3 0 2 1 1-3 2
6. Luxembourg 4 0 1 3 0-6 1

Group E
1. Netherlands 4 4 0 0 12-2 12
2. Hungary 4 3 0 1 12-4 9
3. Sweden 3 2 0 1 9-4 6
4. Moldova 4 2 0 2 5-3 6
5. Finland 3 0 0 3 2-6 0
6. San Marino 4 0 0 4 0-21 0

Group F
1. Greece 4 2 2 0 4-2 8
2. Croatia 3 2 1 0 5-1 7
3. Georgia 4 1 3 0 3-2 6
4. Israel 4 1 1 2 5-5 4
5. Latvia 4 1 1 2 3-5 4
6. Malta 3 0 0 3 1-6 0

Group G
1. Montenegro 4 3 1 0 3-0 10
2. England 3 2 1 0 7-1 7
3. Switzerland 3 1 0 2 5-5 3
4. Bulgaria 3 1 0 2 1-5 3
5. Wales 3 0 0 3 1-6 0

Group H
1. Norway 3 3 0 0 5-2 9
2. Portugal 4 2 1 1 9-7 7
3. Denmark 3 2 0 1 4-3 6
4. Cyprus 3 0 1 2 5-8 1
5. Iceland 3 0 0 3 2-5 0

Group I
1. Spain 3 3 0 0 10-3 9
2. Czech Rep 3 2 0 1 3-1 6
3. Scotland 4 1 1 2 4-5 4
4. Lithuania 3 1 1 1 2-3 4
5. Liechtenstein 3 0 0 3 1-8 0

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicago, 10/9/10 POLAND-USA 2-2

The last touch, so important, is yet to be there just as the energy and effort for the entire 90 minutes however, fast defense-to-offense transition, ball-handling and individual brilliance of blaszczykowski and obraniak are something to look forward to. I like 21-year-old matuszczyk as a defensive midfielder. Another 21-year-old, Kamil Grosicki, should be in a starting lineup. Smolarek as well. And TWO new defenders. Damien Perquis (when he gets his Polish passport) and Kamil Glik should be given a chance. Horrible defense by Poles tonight. Boruc is a world-class goalie, our wings are great, we only need only one defensive midfielder (murawski out, grosicki in). Smolarek on the left. Forward - Jelen or Lewandowski once he returns to form. Polska has nice pieces. Now only fit them all together and keep playing against very good teams. Tuesday in Montreal against Ecuador. That must be a win.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EURO 2012 Fixtures - October 2010 - update 10/9/10

Why are the games on Fridays now?! That is so cruel! I am at work in the afternoon and can't watch now! It is not that I already missed wednesdays games (now moved to tuesdays for some reason) and now this! That is one thing I really miss about Europe. Beautiful evenings with lots of soccer games. And good food...Sacrifice must be made!

In bold, updates. Next games are already this coming Tuesday. New tables and analysis shortly after!

Here is the groups situation after September games:
Group A
1. Germany 2 2 0 0 7-1 6 (six points)
2. Turkey 2 2 0 0 6-2 6
3. Austria 1 1 0 0 2-0 3
4. Belgium 2 0 0 2 2-4 0
5. Azerbaijan 1 0 0 1 1-6 0
6. Kazakhstan 2 0 0 2 0-5 0
Kazakhstan - Belgium 0-2
Austria - Azerbaijan 3-0
Germany - Turkey 3-0

The last game will be a beauty and I take Turkey over Germany (yes, can't and won't ever bet for Germany even though they don't play like cyborgs anymore having foreigners on the team). With Hiddink in charge I would expect Turkey to narrowly win this group. If there were pure Germans in the team then no hope for Deutsche. Interesting to see how Real Madrid Mesut Ozil (his family is from northern Turkey; he speaks fluent Turkish) plays against Turkey. The other games have to happen. Or do they?
Big win for Germany (3-0). Ozil, who was booed by Turkish fans throughout the game (that was played in Germany!) scored a goal and now the hatred will multiply by a zilion (not that he cares, I guess). The rematch is in a year and a lot can happen in 12 months. Winning in Istanbul and Germany losing points with Austria playing their little derby can still see Turks atop. But they have to play to their potential. Ozil Khedira and other youngsters are sehr gut.

Group B
1. Ireland 2 2 0 0 4-1 6
2. Slovakia 2 2 0 0 2-0 6
3. Russia 2 1 0 1 2-1 3
4. Armenia 2 0 1 1 2-3 1
5. Macedonia 2 0 1 1 2-3 1
6. Andorra 2 0 0 2 1-5 0
Armenia - Slovakia 3-1
Andorra - Macedonia 0-2
Ireland - Russia 2-3

Ireland must win this group relatively easily with Russia finishing 2nd. Performance of Macedonia will be interesting to follow. They might finish ahead of Slovakia, which will run out of luck this time. WHAT the hell was that?! 0-3 at home to Russia?! Irish found a way to score 2 late goals but way too late.
Group C
1. Italy 2 2 0 0 7-1 6
2. Serbia 2 1 1 0 4-1 4
3. Northern Ireland 1 1 0 0 1-0 3
4. Estonia 2 1 0 1 3-3 3
5. Slovenia 2 0 1 1 1-2 1
6. Faroe Islandes 3 0 0 3 1-10 0
Serbia - Estonia 1-3
Slovenia - Faroe Islandes 5-1
Northern Ireland - Italy 0-0

Although Italy is likely to top the group, unless erratic Serbia surprises again, in 2012 - 3 games and out. That's all folks. Next! Total HUMILIATION for Serbia! Italians end up only with a draw. These teams want to top Group F in terms of "excitement" that they offer to their fans. Ugly.

Group D
1. Albania 2 1 1 0 2-1 4
2. Belarus 2 1 1 0 1-0 4
3. Bosnia Herz. 2 1 0 1 3-2 3
4. France 2 1 0 1 2-1 3
5. Romania 2 0 2 0 1-1 2
6. Luxembourg 2 0 0 2 0-4 0
Luxembourg - Belarus 0-0
Albania - Bosnia Herzegovina 1-1
France - Romania 2-0

Actually picked Bosnia to win this group. Horrible to see them lose to France instead of taking advantage of the frogs' weakness. It still might happen, though. Romania and Belarus will only annoy the two teams. Albanians at home are always dangerous. Quite a humiliation for belarus as well. important points lost by bosnia and frogs luckily won again. This will be a tight race all the way till the end.

Group E
1. Sweden 2 2 0 0 8-0 6
2. Netherlands 2 2 0 0 7-1 6
3. Moldova 2 1 0 1 3-2 3
4. Hungary 2 1 0 1 2-3 3
5. Finland 2 0 0 2 1-4 0
6. San Marino 2 0 0 2 0-11 0
Hungary - San Marino 8-0
Moldova - Netherlands 0-1

Holland all the way. Sweden will take the 2nd comfortably. Sorry crazy-blonde Fins, sorry Balaton lovers. Just get out of the way. Ok, make Swedes suffer a bit. They deserve it. Just because. (Ibra's face does make me want to shoot him with a dart.) Holland wins barely but 3 points are all it matters.

Group F
1. Croatia 2 1 1 0 3-0 4
2. Israel 2 1 1 0 3-1 4
3. Latvia 2 1 0 1 2-3 3
4. Georgia 2 0 2 0 1-1 2
5. Greece 2 0 2 0 1-1 2
6. Malta 2 0 0 2 1-5 0
Georgia - Malta 1-0
Greece - Latvia 1-0
Israel - Croatia 1-2

Give me a break! Boredom! HEEELP! Croatia leading the way of this "fantastic" group. Brazil of Europe? That is ancient history. Greece will have to come 2nd again (emphasis on "will have to"). Israel should play in Asia where it belongs. They would actually qualify to world cup with that weak competition. Just like americans in their ridiculously uncompetitive zone. Shame. Commentary is needless of course. 1. Croatia, 2. Greece.

Group G
1. England 2 2 0 0 7-1 6
2. Montenegro 2 2 0 0 2-0 6
3. Wales 1 0 0 1 0-1 0
4. Switzerland 1 0 0 1 1-3 0
5. Bulgaria 2 0 0 2 0-5 0
Wales - Bulgaria 0-1
Montenegro - Switzerland 1-0

Unfortunately, England. I like Montenegro to stay 2nd. Big game for them against the cheese factory on Friday. Bulgarians and Swiss are so mediocre. Ouch. Nice win for Montenegro! They have a real chance to make the play-offs. Wishing/hoping that they win this group would be an early Christmas present for me. Go right ahead! Make my day!
Group H
1. Norway 2 2 0 0 3-1 6
2. Denmark 1 1 0 0 1-0 3
3. Cyprus 1 0 1 0 4-4 1
4. Portugal 2 0 1 1 4-5 1
5. Iceland 2 0 0 2 1-3 0
Cyprus - Norway 1-2
Portugal - Denmark 3-1

Here comes Denmark again. Norwegians will take Portugal out. Cyprus will surprise till the very end. Maybe even challange for the 2nd spot. Norway might be a winner in a battle between Denmark and Portugal.

Group I
1. Scotland 2 1 1 0 2-1 4
2. Lithuania 2 1 1 0 1-0 4
3. Spain 1 1 0 0 4-0 3
4. Czech Republic 1 0 0 1 0-1 0
5. Liechtenstein 2 0 0 2 1-6 0
Czech Republic - Scotland 1-0
Spain - Lithuania 3-1

Who else? Spaniards will leave the competition so far behind that earth-to-moon distance will look like a bedroom-to-bathroom stretch. Czechs are back! Not the good, old version of the 2004 great team but strong enough to cross the Polish border in 2012. Hey neighbors! Poor Lithuanians but I feel even worse for Scotland! Always high expectations, always getting kicked in the ass. Somebody has to, guys! Focus on your independence movement from London. You have my support. Cheers! Spain and Czech are through.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

EURO 2012 update

Euro 2012 - 8 June- 1 July 2012. 21 months left to the mini world cup!

Opening Euro 2012 game will be in Warsaw (Poland vs. whoever).
3 group games will be played in Poznań and Wrocław;
3 group games and quarterfinal - Gdańsk;
3 group games, quarterfinal and semifinal - Warsaw.
Final in Kiev.

Poland is to play the first two games in Warsaw, third in Wrocław. Hopefully we get to visit Gdańsk, Warsaw and Kiev later on! Polish team is being built from scratch, there are some "nice names," on paper at least, but the issue is the commitment to the national team. Unfortunately something as obvious as national pride does not factor for most of the players.

21 months left. A lot and very little time. I would play for free if I could since this is the ultimate challenge and the most beautiful time for any soccer player: national team, Euro championships, facing the best players in the world AND playing in front of your own fans! However, those sons of bitches, who earn so much money from their clubs, treat a national team like a vacation time. It is time for Mr Smuda to show how tough a coach he really is. Otherwise the best opportunity to restore glory days of 1970s and early 1980s will be wasted. Then all - coaches and players - should be banned from the team forever. Best - stripped from Polish citizenship! Investment in younger players is the only way to succeed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Post-WC trauma

As usual, the after-WC life seems empty, miserable, boring... sadness all around with suicidal rate doubling on july 12...

WELL, WAKE UP PEOPLE! Of course just kidding, and yes, it's just a game (yes, yes, lying to myself, it is sooo NOT just a game!) so we can all do it - move on...

(yeah, right, tell this to me after a daily cup of cherry yoghurt with delicious Polish cookies on the side and my angry face will do all the talking! Good idea, don't even try, buddy!)...

By the way, I heard on the street that some people got some nice money of out my WC predictions (good for you guys and thanks for not sharing, you cheap bastards), which is inspiring to do some more goodness around me. I was thinking weekly meetings online with all participants bringing wuwuzuelas, cookies and WC t-shirts and we all sing "Show must go oooon." Just a thought. If you have something better on mind share with us, please.

In the meantime, Champions Leauge (CL) and Europa league (EL) should occupy our time with national competitions slowly coming alive, as well. Yup, it's gonna be fine. (I really should stop lying. Seriously!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 WC is over - time for analysis

That was some month! For a soccer fanatic like myself it was a honeymoon part deux! Thanks to my wife for bearing with me this entire time when, straight after work, I literally ran home like a madman to watch 3 games a day. By the way, I have to admit that my wife did enjoy the soccer madness a bit, as well! I know, who wouldn't. For the love of the game!!!

A crazy thought but I have something in common with Clevelanders, who ask themselves after James went south: What the hell are we gonna do now in winter... in Cleveland?! True, I still have Champions League coming up in September and national league competitons all season long but world cup is unlike anything else. Everyone would want to experience it more often but the magic would not be the same. So it's ok, I'll live and in the meantime we can all prepare to sharpen both our soccer and writing skills for the appetizer: EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine before 2014 WC in Brazil.

A bit less crazy thought: I begin to think I should really get into professional sports and make some big bucks. After watching and reading espn analysts I do have a real shot! If they somehow get there (I won't name names, the so-called experts know who they are) I should replace them effortlessly. Confident? You bet I am.

For the love of the game it is more important, though, to focus on the WC. It started with the host nation, South Africa, playing Mexico. 1-1, nothing spectacular. However, Uruguay tough play against 2006 runner-up France was a preview of its great run all the way to the last 4! Forlan and company started and ended with a big bang.

Let's re-live the glorious soccer month, shall we?

Group stage: BOREDOM!
Unfortunately there was no great games at this stage. NONE! Pitiful exits by Italy and France, 2006 WC finalists.

2nd ROUND: Referees!
Oh my goodness! First goal by Argentina (vs.Mexico) was offside by a mile and 2nd goal by England (vs. Germany) INSIDE by a mile! However, at least the better teams won, which does not make it right at all, of course. Can you say video replay?! Hmmmm seeing 175-year-old Mr Blatter makes me want to shoot a penalty kick with him as a goalie. And I win only when the ball strikes his ironic face.

QUARTERFINALS: Finally! A drama!
The game that will be remember for a long, long time. What a spectacle! What a remarkable finish! F A N T A S T I C! Uruguay and Ghana gave us an incredible show... Holland came back from behind to defeat Brazil 2-1! Dutch performance in the 2nd half was brilliant... Casillas saved both the penalty and Spain against Paraguay... Finally, Muller's goal in 2nd minute changed the game before it actually started. Messy exit by Argentina.

SEMIFINALS: Taking care of business.
Spain and Holland won as expected to set up a WC final clash. Two best teams playing each other for the very first time in WC history.

3rd PLACE GAME: Let's have some fun!
Open game, no defense therefore no wonder Uruguay did not win. Germany took the 3rd just as in previous WC when they beat Portugal.

Despite the opening loss to Switzerland Spain won the remaining 6 games with 5 shut-outs! Only 8 goals scored (5 by Villa) was the least number of goals scored by a WC champion but quite enough for the greatest triumph in Spain's soccer history. Holland had its moments (Robben bad misses) yet it could not stop the best team in the world for the past 2 years from winning its very first WC title. Nothing legendary, it was simply the Dutch lionhearts against Spanish magicians.

Goal in 116th minute by Iniesta,
ended 31 days of soccer fiesta.

Things we will remember about the 2010 WC:
-Vuvuzuela, a new kind of alarm clock daily at 630am (Chicago time)
-Hand of Suarez with 121 minute penalty miss by Gyan that would have sent Ghana as the first African team into WC semifinals. WOW!
-Beautiful runs by Spain (expected), Uruguay (expected only by me), Holland (not surprising) and Germany (shocking! even to me)
-Official end of aryan race in Germany
-Diego's pre- and post-game hollywood-style interviews
-Italian-French-English misery
-Fantastic fans chearing for their teams
-New Zeland - the only undefeated team of WC. Are you serious?!

Don't cry for me, Argentina ... in four years we will meet again!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The other game

July 10: Uruguay-Germany - 3rd place game

I support the idea to abandon the 3rd place game (just as it is at EURO championships). Emotional pain after coming so close to earn the right to play at WC final must be excruciating. It is not fair to ask the teams to play on the eve of the final game and expect a great performance. To finish 3rd? So what?! No glory in that.

Nonetheless, since the game will be on I pick my dark horse to win. Uruguay! Suarez will be back with a vengeance. Forlan, who has had a fabulous WC, will be the engine behind every attack one more time. Moreover, Germany already overachieved leaving Klose as the only player to have a real motivation to play so that he becomes the best scorer in World Cup history. Stuck at 14 he needs 2 more goals to overtake Ronaldo. Bad news for him, Uruguay plays excellent defense and will not hand him the record. 2-1 La Celeste!

The best of World Cup

My best WC collection:

The best player of WC: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
The best goalie: Iker Casillas (Spain)
The best player of WC final: Iker Casillas (Spain)
The best coach: Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay)
The best game: Ghana-Uruguay (quarterfinal)
The best goal: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland-Uruguay)
The best moment: 116 min, Iniesta scores, Spain wins.
The best drama: A.Gyan misses penalty in 121 minute after Suarez red card (Ghana-Uruguay)
The best analyst: hmmm octopus?!?! nah... Damian, of course!

11 All-Stars: Casillas - Boateng, Lugano, Puyol, Fucile - Iniesta, Xavi, Robben - Sneijder, Forlan, Villa

See you in 4 years in Brazil! But do not forget Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, the 2nd best soccer competition in the world!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


That's what is awaiting a World Cup champion this Sunday, July 11, 2010. The ultimate prize in soccer world has no cash equivalent. Glory, Pride, Respect, Fame - now and forever. Your name will never be forgotten.

SPAIN vs. HOLLAND. The battle will be legendary!

Who will rise to the occasion? How will both teams cope with stress? In the WC final match players' characters are revealed, mental strength plays a much bigger role than soccer skills and, in the end, whoever has a bigger heart goes home and life will never be the same.

HOLLAND, a challenger, a.k.a the best soccer nation never to lift up the World Cup, focuses on its tactical philosophy intertwined with exceptional skills. Holland is so determined to win WC that its coaches and players finally understood and accepted that they do not have to win playing only a beautiful way thrashing opponents with a smile on their faces. Consequently we saw in this WC hard-fought victories against Denmark, Brazil or Uruguay. When possible, Holland will entertain fans showing its world-class skills (like in 2nd half of the semifinal against Uruguay) but mainly it will maintain its strategy on stopping the Euro champs relying on its counterattack. Holland is a better, more experienced and braver version of Greece (I mean Germany).

SPAIN, a huge favorite, was so impressive against Germany that it made it look like Greece indeed (10 defenders, 1 forward). It was perfomance worthy of a WC champion. If only it were a final...

Interestingly, in 2006 WC Italy played its best game in semis against...Germany. 2-0 victory featured a superb performance of Marcelo Lippi's squad. However, it was France that outplayed Italy in the final and only for the Zidane's infamous exit Italy luckily won the cup.

For the past 2 years Spain has been a definition of a perfect team. They truly play soccer, out of lack of a better word, perfectly. Will this be enough against the Dutch? Perhaps. But 2006 experience teaches to be extra cautious. And you should always respect your opponent. One mistake and it's opening loss to Switzerland all over again. I do pick Spain to win yet Holland's triumph would not surprise me for it is a very good team playing a determined and tactical soccer.

And there have been upsets before. The biggest of them all occured in 1954 (WC in Switzerland) when Hungary, known as the Golden Team, lost to Germany 2-3 after beating them 8-3 in group stage (Hungary was the best team in the world at the time being unbeaten for a record of 32 consecutive matches). In 1974 (WC in West Germany) my beloved Poland was the best team of the tournament. Its semifinal loss "on water field" (there was a severe thunderstorm right before the game) to, naturally, Germany 0-1 stripped another golden team off the well-deserved championship (Poland won Olimpics in 1972, finished 2nd in 1976 and finished 3rd in WC 1974 by beating Brazil 1-0, then the defending champs). In the final match it was the favorite Holland playing a "total football" that was upset by Germany 1-2 (interesting note: the first goal scored by Holland in 2nd minute came before any German player had even touched the ball!). In 1998 the defending champion Brazil was a big favorite only to watch France (Zidane enters the world stage) win 3-0. This is the only great game France played during that WC barely passing by each opponent on the road to the final. As I already mentioned Italy only played a fantastic game in the semifinal against Germany in 2006. This time France was upset by Italy (rematch of Euro 2000 final "stolen" by French in the 90th minute).

The biggest game on the biggest stage with world watching demands nothing but perfection and creativity from every player. This is a dream to so many, myself included. This is a dream that only the best makes it a reality for himself.

My wife tells me that this is just a game. No, my love, this is not just a game. The game represents what each country is made of. It translates into political and economic life as people tend to forget about everyday's problems, conflicts and petty arguments while cheering for their teams. The game unites entire countries for these 90 minutes and while a loser must cope with a life-long heartbreak, a winner secures a place in the soccer's pantheon of greats.

Undoubtedly, this is a beautiful game.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The last 4 standing

July 6: Holland-Uruguay
July 7: Spain-Germany

Let's see what happens when Spain scores first against Germany. I sincerely hope it does. If Germany is really very good (they are a solid team, as usual) then it will not matter. Spain will be in trouble. Serbia scored first and beat Germany 1-0 in the group stage. Germany must have in mind that when Spain scores it does not turn to defense-only mentality. They want more. The key to game will be who scores first.

My pre-world cup finals pick was Spain-Holland. Later on I replaced Spain with Argentina falling for its super attack. Oh well, I am sure I'm not the only one but it teaches all of us a lesson: stick with your choice no matter what. I'll remember that. It was painful to see Argentinians attacking and falling short on so many occastions to equalize. A deflaction after deflaction as if every German defender had an extra leg! Diego's team was attacking but Germans were scoring. Tough luck but luck runs out sooner or later.

What a crazy game between Spain and Paraguay! A missed penalty by Paraguay (great save by Casillas) was a game-changer. However, as difficult as it was for Spain to get to semis it is still a favorite against Germany, which will be a rematch of the Euro 2008 finals game won 1-0 on Fernando Torres goal. They have to bring much more than luck and solid play because Spain is unquestionably a superior team. This time I am sticking with my pick. (And yes, there is no way I would bet on Germany)

Uruguay's resilience has been so impressive in this WC. It is true that I am very happy also because I did see them reaching semis and falling to Holland. They will miss Suarez but mostly it is about a better Dutch team and running out of steam after an emotional roller-coaster in their epic quarterfinal match. Well done Uruguay and once again, what a thrilling game it was!!!

Because of that game i want more! Therefore I can't wait to see Spanish and Dutch magical trio playing against each other: Iniesta-Xavi-Villa vs. Sneijder-Robber-Van Persie. This game will provide more entertainment and drama than a fantastic show that Uruguay and Ghana gave us last Friday.

Sunday, July 11, 2010, 1:30pm Chicago time. Where will you be (watching it)?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Finally a drama!

Finally AMAZING games! BOTH quarterfinals (Holland-Brazil and Uruguay-Ghana) were nothing short of SPECTACULAR! The last minutes of Ghana-Uruguay game must have been written by Alfred Hitchcock. WOW! I mean WOOOOWWWWW! The first two quarterfinals are the essence of a beautiful game loved by millions around the world.

Incredible!! Soccer, it's fantastic!

And now comes Argentina!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Argentina, the real giant, will have a chance to avenge its ugly quarterfinal exit four years ago at the hands of Germany, a paper giant. Its loss on penalty kicks followed by a melee on the pitch in 2006 as well as recent comments coming from the German camp that Argentina does not respect its opponents are just a small reason to sit back and relax on Saturday morning Chicago time because we will see a fabulous display of attacking style. This attacking fury will devastate Germans. Bieleve or not, this could end up being a rout 5-1 or more. Be careful what you ask for and who you mess with. Messi, the closest thing to a new Maradona, will be Germans worst nightmare.

It is no secret that I do not like the German team. Ok, fine, I hate it! For some unknown reason they have reached the last 8 of WC ever since 1954. Does IT not make you nauseous already!? Can you imagine Detroit Pistons making 10 straight NBA Eastern Conference finals?! We were all sick of them after their two straight trips. No, that ain't right!

For some unexplainable reason Germany won WC in 1954 and 1974 being an inferior team not only in the final games. In 1990, the most boring WC ever, somebody had to win. (You guessed right: it was Germany). They always find a way to win (their favorite score is 1-0) with a lucky shot in 95 minute; ball bounces off a goalkeeper's ass and goes straight in; a referee cannot see a ball crossing the goal line even though it does by a MILE! How come does one team have so much luck?! It makes me sick all the way to my toes!

No! Argentina must beat them! They ARE better, stronger, faster with great soccer skills. That's usually enough, right?... Wait a minute! Could it be?!...Nah, that's just a bad dream. They reached their quota already.


A classic game between Brazil and Holland deserves as much attention as Argentina gegen Deutschland. Holland, led by Wesley Snijder brilliant playmaking abilities and superb form of Arjen Robben with a deadly van Persie up front, will be more than enough to see another quarterfinal exit by Brazil (1-0 loss to France in 2006 with a memorable Zidane's pass to Henry). Brazil does have a great talent on the team (when didn't they have it?) but all signs point to triumph of the Dutch cold tactic combined with an offensive brilliance. Kaka has not been the same this year, Robinho and Fabiano are more than capable of taking over a game but it takes a team to beat a great opponent. Brazil has not shown it in this WC unlike Argentina with a genius Messi having a great supportive cast. Holland is better, Holland will win and secure its first WC final since 1978.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quarterfinals here we come!

July 2: Holland vs. Brazil; Uruguay vs. Ghana
July 3: Argentina vs. Germany; Spain vs. Paraguay

Two Galactic quarterfinals! Holland, always one of the favorites, has had a rather quiet World Cup. For a change! No internal quarrels but also no great expectations. This seems to be a magic formula to bring Holland back to its WC glory days of 1970s when they lost the championship games in 1974 and 1978 to Germany and Argentina, respectively (interestingly, both times to host nations). Great news! South Africa is out of the way already! Holland has a fantastic group with Sneijder, Van Persie and Robben as its leaders. Brazil is strong as usual but will not be able to stop them. I take Holland with a strong performance against them.

Uruguay, my dark horse, has not disappointed me. Great defense, dangerous offense. However, if Ghana plays to its full potential (it reminds me of Senegal in 2002 WC, which was a fantastic team playing Brazilian-like soccer!) it can reach semis as the first African nation in WC history. This will be a great game no matter who wins!

Spain looked superbly strong and dominant against Portugal that focused mainly on defense. It was disappointing to see players very capable of instant attack so stagnant. And after finally breaking through a very good Portugese defense Spain did not turn to defense-only strategy! That was a relief to see a team that came out to win without a minimalist mindset! Well deserved victory. Paraguay has no chance.

Argentina, Holland and Spain are the best teams of this WC. Unfortunately only two teams can make the final and I pick the first two. I cast my vote for Spain before the start of WC mainly because I did not know how Diego can screw his time up. He hasn't! Good for us! As for the opponent, once again, England was THAT bad so even 10-1 victory for Germany would not change anything. They are a bump on the road for Argentina. There was no stopping Diego in 1986 as Germans experienced a painful way. There is no stopping them now, either. And Messi hasn't even scored yet!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Halfway through the 2nd round

Disgrace! D I S G R A C E! Well, I innocently brought up 1966 WC final but now it seems as if I were onto something! My goodness! Ghost of 1966 comes to haunt England this time. Its third goal in 1966 never, very likely, fully crossed the line and after 44 years a clearly good one, seen by the entire world, was ignored by the refs. Germany would have won anyway but that's not the point of course. Starting 2nd half with 1-2 is completely different than being tied at 2. Disgrace.

There's more (huge mistakes)! Refs did discuss, not immediately but did have their mini conference, about first goal by Argentina playing very impressive Mexico team till this point (and throughout the entire game in fact). The offside was even clearer than England's 2nd goal!! NO GOAL for Argentina. Ultimately, Argentina would have beaten Mexico but that is obviously beyond the point. Mexican players were cheated and nothing will change it. (The future looks very bright for them, though. They might shock the world in 2014 as their team based on 2005 Under-17 FIFA World Champions will be in the best age for soccer players (25-28)).

THE CHANGE must come from FIFA! Mr. Sepp Blatter, it is YOUR FAULT! Time and again, you say technology and football cannot mix. What do you call that thing the refs have in their ears?! That is technology! They can communicate! Zidane received red card in 2006 WC final because linesman saw his headbut and he informed the main ref. The final outcome was changed dramatically! Italy won; likely with Zidane staying in France would have been the World Champion for the 2nd time. Two main referees, two refs covering both goal lines, the technical ref checking the video and quickly informing the main ref in controversial situations - just pick one Mr. Blatter! Shame on you!

Having said that, I can't wait to see Argentina kick German's butt! You can't be fooled by 4-1 pounding of England because it is a very weak team. Horrible defense, no offense. Germany played well enough to easily win. However, after first goal by England, Germans stopped playing. That's why the second goal for England was so important. I believe Germany would have prevailed 3-2 or on penalty kicks but the game was changed in its favor. Argentina, however, is on a different level, which Germany cannot reach by next Saturday. Auf wiedersehen und Gute Reise!

Friday, June 25, 2010

2nd round of WC - analysis

6/26 Uruguay-SKorea, USA-Ghana
6/27 Germany-England, Argentina-Mexico
6/28 Holland-Slovakia, Brazil-Chile
6/29 Paraguay-Japan, Spain-Portugal

Two classics: Germany vs. England and Spain vs. Portugal. Two forgetable games (involving Slovakia and Japan; sorry but those teams do not bring me to my knees screaming "yes! i want to see more of you guys!") and the rest that could make us wonder hmmm not bad, not bad at all!

Before the WC I picked Uruguay as my dark horse and it's looking pretty good right now. I saw them making semis, which is reasonable with Ghana, not England (though we all know now how weak Capello's team is), on its path. Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay's coach (nicknamed Maestro) has a collective destined to make the final four. When they needed to play tough defense, France could not score even when playing with an extra man (only for 10 minutes but still, good job La Celeste!). Then South Africa experienced more offensive Uruguay and lost badly 0-3. Needing only a draw against Mexico in its final group game, Uruguay did not calculate winning 1-0. Nice job!

They are focused, play well together and believe that they can surprise non-believers again and again. And they are, along with Portugal, the only team that have yet to concede a goal! (Great) defense wins championship. Well, perhaps it's not the case here but it will take them far into the tournament.

Oh, yeah, the next opponent. It's South Korea. Nice try but the truth is that Nigeria failed to beat them in the final group game. Not taking anything from its surprising qualification but they are fortunate to be here. No, they do not have a chance against Uruguay so please pack your bags. Overall, not a bad performance.

Ghana-USA. Americans have a lot in common with SKoreans. They don't belong here, either and as much as American media is trying to overblow its "amazing" run it ends at Accra station. Thanks, see ya in 4 years (since they still play against "world powers" such as Canada, Costarica, and Honduras somebody has to make it. I bet it's USA. Again). Ghana, the last hope of Africa, playing without its star Michael Essien has done well and its quarterfinal matchup with Uruguay should be very interesting.

1966. England. WC final at the famous Wembley Stadium. 98,000 people watching live. 400 milion in front of TV. England-Germany 4-2 after overtime. That's one for the ages. To this day it is unknown whether England's third goal, giving them 3-2 lead in overtime, should have been allowed. Did the ball cross the line? The Swiss referee was uncertain. He asked the Soviet linesman (key word "Soviet"), Tofik Bakhramov, who said "good goal!" How did he know? He could not but he did have an extra "motive to cheer" for England: Germany just defeated his Soviet Union in semis. (Remember, it was 1966). Having said that there is an amusing anectode: when Bakhramov was asked on his deathbed how could he be sure the third goal had crossed the line, he was alleged to have replied: Stalingrad! ... Ouch! Revenge is best served cold! It's sad that some people never forget and never forgive.

On Sunday, Germany will prevail being a slightly better of the two mediocre teams and England must begin making major changes since its football clubs have more foreigners than America leaving native English players mere spectators.

Argentina is such a huge favorite that it's unthinkable to see them lose against Mexico. And everyone wants to see a monstrous quarterfinal between Argentina and Germany. 1986 & 1990 WC finalists will battle on a South African soil till the very end. Argentina! (Naturally, it would also be quite a story if England were to play Diego's team again after the most (in)famous match of 1986 WC, which included both the best goal ever in the world cup history and the "hand of God" by Diego Armando Maradona. What a sweet revenge for the Englishmen, if only they had a good team to face Diego). Moreover, Mexico is used to losing in WC 2nd rounds. Harsh but true!

Holland will demolish Slovakia. It's not even close!

Chile will challenge not-so-magical Brazil but it's not good enough to upset the 5-time champs.

Paraguay-Japan. How can I say this politely? Ok, they do have to go out and actually play on the soccer field so that there is a winner (Paraguay) that will face Spain. (Flipping a coin for "the-most-interesting-match" of 2nd round might be a better idea, though).

Euro champs Spain will face plenty of problems against Portugal. They were my favorites, perhaps still are, to win it all however, there is something wrong. Something is not clicking with Spaniards. Nonetheless, they do have time to find their magic. If they make it on time, they will be crowned WC Champs! Otherwise it's Argentina for the 3rd time and the entire world will see Diego's butt running around the center of Buenos Aires! That is his promise should they win! I bet some people cheer for Argentina just to experience that!

Last but not least

Teams from group G & H are finishing the first phase of the rather disappointing World Cup thus far. No great games, spectacular plays, unforgettable goals. Indeed, history was made with both Italy and France going home early (and BOTH finishing last in their groups) but it was not a huge surprise. They were weak, not resembling 2006 teams that met in the WC final. The new (beach)ball jabulani, winter conditions, the curious case of vuvuzuela have all contributed to this poor WC. Hopefully it will get better, more interesting unlike the WC in Italy in 1990, believed to be the worst championship ever.

So, Brazil and Portugal should both advance with Spain topping its group and sending very unlucky Chile team (with 6 points!) home since Switzerland will beat Honduras. Cruel but somebody has to lose.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some scores! Group E & F

I hoped not to see another traditional, horribly boring 1-0 wins for both england and germany but both teams could not resist it! now the punishment: they face each other! I'm glad Argentina will teach one of them (likely germans) a lesson in quartefinal. Now, Japan joins south korea in 2nd round by beating Denmark 3-1! No way! what happened?! Holland, my favorite to reach the final and, unfortunately, lose it again to Argentina (or Spain) beat Cameroon 2-1. No surprise there. But what do you call Slovakia beating defending world champs Italy 3-2?!?! i knew they were weak but to lose to Slovakia?! no disrespect but that is too much! Having said that, good job Slovaks taking full advantage of the weak opponent. thats how it should be.

Tomorrow, the last unknown 2nd rounders will join quite a unique group. Who will progress to quarters? Let's hope that it would be a stronger team thats advances.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WC: Group C and D final group games

Group C is done with US and England barely going through. some luck! But you need it, too! Heartbreak for Algeria losing a goal to US in 91 minute! England, well, had its traditional boring 1-0 win.
Teams from Group D in 20 minutes will play for their lives! Serbia faces Australia and should win placing her 2nd in the group behind...Ghana! Germany is about to do something they are not familiar with: not qualify! they must beat Ghana to face England in the 2nd round. This would be a classic (even though the level of play for both teams is, to say it nicely, low). Sorry, not this time. This do-or-die game has an extra spicyness: two brothers will face each other! Jerome Boateng represents Germany; his half-brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng, plays for his father's native Ghana. And he is the one who eliminated Michael Ballack by breaking his ankle in the English Cup final last May . Let's play!