Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bulletins From BA #33

Bulletins From BA #33
10 julio 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

World Cup Report #6 - The Final


As I watched the Germans unimaginably annihilate Brazil 7-1 in the Semi-Finals, I felt a profound sense of sadness. It is a fact that A Seleção helped bring this catastrophe upon themselves as a result of their Phyrric win over Colombia. But no team, no nation, deserves this level of humiliation, not in the World Cup. When it comes to fútbol, I have neither particular regard for nor animus toward Brazil, and I did pick Die Mannschaft to win. But this was astonishingly painful.

[Sidebar - The tragedy is so epic that this particular match has been given its own moniker: “Mineiraço,” from the name of the stadium where it took place, the Mineirão. It translates, más o menos, as “The bad thing from Mineirão.” In Brazil, Mineiraço has seemingly precipitated a national crisis, the repercussions of which could be of actual consequence.]

When the beat down was complete, I heard scattered cheering on the street below our Buenos Aires apartment. Understandable, since Brazil is Argentina’s historically despised South American fútbol rival. But such schadenfreude is seriously shortsighted. (Sorry.) Brazil was always going to be vulnerable in this World Cup and, in my opinion, no one in their right mind would rather play against an awesome German team in the Final.


Yet another night of high drama. After 120+ scoreless minutes in which two comparably talented teams played strong defense and elected to spend a significant quantity of their time on offense chewing up the middle of the field (with an occasional flurry of activity somewhere in the vicinity of a net), it all came down to penalty kicks. Now, I loathe the whole idea of penalty kicks being the final determinant at this stage of competition, but them’s the rules. So, Argentina prevailed over The Netherlands and is headed to their first Final in 24 years.

Naturally, the whole country is going bonkers, with noisy celebrations in the streets. (Some of us even have vuvuzelas.) And Buenos Aires is currently the best city in which to live in the whole wide world. At least until Sunday.

Preference: ¿Tienes que preguntar? ¡Viva Argentina!

Prediction: We had the good fortune to live in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup and when it concluded, I predicted that Germany would win in 2014. Really. It will be difficult, though not impossible, for La Albiceleste to win this thing, but they have to play to their utmost if they are to stand a chance. If, however, the Germans are anything like as sharp against Argentina as they were against Brazil, they should hoist the Cup for the 4th time.

2014 World Cup Champion: Germany

But I could be wrong, and that would be just dandy.

[Sidebar - Brazil will take on The Netherlands in the Consolation Match and I hope they win. This is a decent shot at a measure of redemption and an opportunity to salvage something from the wreckage of Mineiraço.]



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bulletins From BA #32

Bulletins From BA #32
06 julio 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

World Cup Report #5 - Más Conjetura: Semi-Finals Edition

- Brazil vs. Germany

Preference: The Brazil-Colombia match devolved into a horror show (54 fouls) thanks to an apparent Brazilian decision to abandon any pretense of “O Jogo Bonito” (“The Beautiful Game”) in favor of a hyper-aggressive game plan. This, predictably, resulted in an escalation of violence, exacerbated in no small measure by the referee’s unbelievable lack of control of the match. Germany is tough, but they generally avoid viciousness. I prefer their game.

Prediction: The Brazil side, “A Seleção” (”The Selection”), face the Semi-Finals without their captain (two yellow cards) and their star striker (broken vertebra; the result of a challenge that bordered on assault). Home team or not, the odds that they will prevail are now pretty long. Germany should move on to the Finals.

- Argentina vs. The Netherlands

Preference: Lionel Messi was double-teamed and mortal, but Argentina did manage one goal (although they should have had two) against Belgium. So, La Albiceleste continue to underachieve their way through the tournament, with high drama being the order of the day, as seems congruous with the Argentine temperament. Buenos Aires is a great place to be a sports fan these days.

Prediction: Having failed to score a goal in 120 minutes against prohibitive underdog Costa Rica (despite being on offense most of the game), the Netherlands needed penalty kicks for the win. “Clockwork Orange” is definitely beatable, and if Argentina brings it’s A game, we can reach the Finals. Sí se puede.

Predicted Finals Matchup
Germany vs. Argentina



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bulletins From BA #31

Bulletins From BA #31
03 julio 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

World Cup Report #4 - Más half-baked opinions and debatable observations.

Helpful Suggestions to Improve the Sport - Is it possible to do something about players who habitually flop? It’s not like they’re always stealthy about it. Hell, the powers that be know the identities of recidivists whose default mode is to chew up the scenery whenever they feel a passing breeze. True, a yellow card is occasionally given; but refs still continue to be taken in, often with catastrophic results. Just ask Mexico.

Fútbol is played on something like 2.5 acres of real estate, with only a single referee. Purists will howl in disagreement (as they should), but I think the game, especially as played at the highest levels, is often just too fast-paced for one referee to manage. (Case in point, the ref in the Uruguay/Italy game totally missed “The Bite.”) In my opinion, adding a second “zebra” (as they’re known in the States) merits consideration.

Speaking of aiding referees, it is worth noting that new goal-line technology being employed for the first time in World Cup competition seems to be working well. I have one further suggestion. If a player uses his hands to block an opponent’s goal, treat it like goaltending in basketball: The shot automatically counts, with no ensuing penalty kick. In addition, the defender is issued a red card, with all attendant bad mojo. I call this “The Hand of Suárez Rule.”

Do I Have To Say His Name? - Sí, sí, Lionel Messi, aka “La Pulga” (“The Flea”). The best passer in the world and our next Argentine candidate for sainthood.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S… Oh. - “The Yanks” (unofficial nickname) gave it their best, but fell victim to one of the immutable truths of fútbol: No goalie, no matter how good (and Tim Howard is brilliant), can compensate indefinitely for lack of offense.

International Relations - An Argentine friend asked me to explain what’s with FOX News and assorted right-wing idiots (Sí, redundante), and their fatuous blather about how fútbol and the World Cup are “un-American.” I posited that this phenomenon was simply an example of bad - make that pathetic - performance art, designed to troll for attention and gull any rubes stupid enough to buy into it. That clarified the matter to his satisfaction.

Unsolicited Conjecture - Fun Fact: For the first time ever, all eight group winners have made it through to the Quarter-Finals. Alrighty, here we go.

- France vs. Germany
Preference: I find myself agnostic about this match. I like the way the Germans play, but have no particular animus toward “Les Bleus.”
Prediction: Sticking with Germany, aka “Die Mannschaft.”

- Brazil vs. Columbia
Preference: The Columbians are called “Los Cafeteros,” which means, más o menos, “one who makes or drinks coffee.” How cool is that.
Prediction: Although Brazil has the host country edge, I rate this match a toss-up (like I know what I’m talking about) and pick Columbia for the upset.

- Argentina vs. Belgium
Preference: I quite like the Belgians, but I have to root for Messi and the home boyz.
Prediction: Close, but Argentina should win. They had better.

- Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
Preference: Costa Rica is everyone’s Cinderella team, including mine.
Prediction: The Netherlands “Oranje” are big, bad, and prone to engage in thuggish behavior. And I am seriously considering transferring my curse from the head of Luis Suárez to that of Dutch winger and überflopmeister Arjen Robben. But even that probably wouldn’t be enough.

Predicted Semi-Finals Matchups
Columbia vs. Germany
Argentina vs. The Netherlands

Vamos a ver. ¡Adelante!