Alexi Lalas: A coming of age tale. (sort of)

I’ve watched a lot of ESPN over the past two weeks and I’ve come away with some insights; first and foremost, as shocking as it is, Alexi Lalas isn’t that bad. Yes, he’s American and tries to work MLS organically into any conversation, yes he’s a pretentious ginger, yes he formed a rock band called the Gypsies and produced the “hit” single titled “Kicking Balls” for the movie “The Big Green”, but compared to anything else the U.S. has to offer…I’ll take it.

A face made for radio.

When the Euro kicked off roughly two weeks ago and I found myself sitting on the couch tuning into the pre-match analysis for the Greece-Poland match. I moaned and grumbled at the thought of putting up with Lalas for a whole 16 days; that was before I saw what else ESPN had to offer. Before I get into the plethora of analysts ESPN dug up from the bowels of hell I want to give out three gold stars.

Gold Star #1Alexi Lalas. Reason-You didn’t completely suck. Between the fact that he cut back on the MLS talk and his witty banter with Michael Ballack, Lalas didn’t necessarily impress but not once did I throw something at the TV. To be honest, the guy’s come a long way. He states his opinion and isn’t scared to be challenged by another analyst, he’s gotten off the England-bashing bandwagon and knows that Lionel Messi will not be playing in this tournament. (fast forward to 1:05)

Gold Star #2Michael Ballack. Reason-You didn’t kill another analyst. I thought for sure the our boy Michael here was either going to head-butt Alexi for a stupid comment/mention of Phillipp Lahm or storm off stage in a fit. The ex-captain of Deutschland didn’t disappoint; the witty repartee between him and Lalas was incredible. You could cut the tension between the two with a warm stick of butter. I for one hope they pair these two together again in Brazil.

Gold Star #3Roberto Martinez. Reason-You were just…great. We didn’t get enough of the Wigan manager this summer, especially seeing as though he made more insightful comments than anyone. His commentary in Poland/Ukraine has been top notch especially when he gives insight into the managerial decision making including the Spanish front/false line.

Three guys go home with gold stars, another three go home with F’s that need to be signed by their parents.

F #1Giuseppe Rossi. I’m not even going to get into the dual-nationality irony here. The guy looked like paranoid schizophrenic in a mental hospital. Did he not know where the cameras were? Did he not know where the analyst’s were?

F #2Tyler Twellman. Tyler who-now? (I know who he is, but for the purpose of this post who cares). He literally sat there and agreed with whichever analyst looked back at him the most when he spoke (90% Lalas).

F #3Casey Keller. C’mon. It’s Casey fucking Keller.

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Group Play Best and Worst – Round 2

Group Play Best and Worst – Round 2

BEST: GOMEZ

WORST: RONALDO

BEST

Mario Gomez –  has three goals in two matches over the first two games this tournament. Two of those goals came against the second best team in the world.  In Germany’s qualifying campaign Gomez largely held the position of second choice striker giving him something to prove once the Euro began. And something to prove he has; both goals against the Dutch had great first touches and equally clinical finishes. With Klose on the bench, Gomez is going to be the focal point of this team’s attack and will be relied heavily on if they want to make a deep run this summer. If Gomez keeps this form up he might well find himself bringing home the cup to Deutschland and wearing a pair of golden boots to match.

Honorable Mention

Fernando Torres – El Niño was granted a starting spot for the Spaniards against Ireland this week and the red-turned-blue striker didn’t disappoint. After a forgettable performance against the Azzurri he silenced critics with two goals in his next match leaving Spain with the decision of false vs. true nine for the next game.

Bastian Schweinsteiger – Now while Gomez receives top honors for Matchday 2; none of it would possible without the midfield maestro. Both of Gomez’s goals were only made possible by the equally, if not more, brilliant passes from Schweinsteiger. The combination of Gomez’s ability to run into space and Bastian’s unbelievable eye for those spaces make this pairing lethal in games to come.

WORST

Cristiano Ronaldo – Now if you’re confused why I’m putting the worlds arguably second best player in this spot for round 2, I can see why you would be confused for one of two reasons.  A) Even if he hasn’t done anything it doesn’t make him the worst player or B) He’s been so non-existent that you didn’t realize he was even in the tournament at all. Portugal has a total of 3 points in the last two matches and need both a win vs. the Netherlands tomorrow and a German win/draw. If that is to happen this team needs their superstar to drastically change his mentality as well as his team’s. Ronaldo has been virtually a non-issue for defenses in the Euro; the Portuguese winger has a total of 10 shots and only 4 of them on target this summer. In the game against Denmark, the Danish fans were heard chanting “Messi, Messi, Messi” throughout the game, an obvious slight/reminder to Ronaldo that for all his accomplishments in club football he is still second fiddle to “la pulga”. Ronaldo in retaliation showed his maturity in an interview stating “You know where (Messi) was at this time (last year)? Do you know?” Ronaldo said. “He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country? “I think that’s worse, no?

Honorable Mention

Robin Van Persie – The Dutch Striker falls in the same boat as Cristiano. Both players came into this tournament with the prospect of carrying their nation to the championship, except in all honesty, the Netherlands has a lot more talent which takes some of the pressure off RVP. In an epic showdown tomorrow it will be two of the best players in the world squaring off to try and lift their team into the knockout phase. In order for Netherlands to advance, they need a German win and to beat Portugal by 2 or more goals; lets hope Van Persie brings his game.

John Terry is burning.

There are players I hate in football and then there’s John Terry. Sure he plays for Chelsea, one of Manchester’s bigger rivals but that has nothing to do with my displeasure with the Three Lions center back. On a national team level he doesn’t deserve to be on the squad let alone be in the starting 11.

Where to begin? Adultery or Racism? We’ll go alphabetical. In January 2010 Mr. Terry was revealed to having a four month long affair with another woman other than his wife. The woman in question was going out with/had a son with another football player. The other football player,WayneBridge, plays forEnglandalongside John Terry. Subsequently, after the story broke,WayneBridge“dropped off” theEnglandsquad shortly before the 2010 World Cup. Fabio Capello, rightly took away Terry’s captaincy and gave it to long time defenseman Rio Ferdinand. A year later, captaincy was given back to John Terry. I can only assume it was a reward for not sleeping outside of his marriage for a whole year, a lofty task by any means.

Fast forward to November 2011, Chelsea playing QPR. Terry decided to voice his opinion about Anton Ferdinand,Rio’s brother calling him a “f***ing black c***.” Rio in turn used to the media to voice his displeasure with Terry and his tasteful choice of vocabulary. In December Terry was charged with using racist language and was stripped of his captaincy forEnglandfor a second time. On top of that, instead of banning him for games in the spring/early summer (which would include EPL, Champions League and Euro matches), the FA decided to postpone the ban until after the Euro finishes. As the icing on the cake, Rio Ferdinand was dropped from the English national squad due to the riff that could be created. Defending your brother against racism is an obvious reason not to be allowed to represent your country.

As much of anEnglandfan as I am and as much as I admit that Terry certainly helps their cause in pursuit of a European championship, I’m seriously confused at the lack of principle that out friends in theUKare showing. Twice Terry screwed someone else over and twice the ‘screwee was further penalized because Terry was too important to be punished. Terry should have had his armband taken away for good two years ago, and after this latest row of racist remarks he should be dropped from the team. Sure we have a better chance with him on the back line but I’d rather the FA stand up for certain ideals than throw dignity to the wind for the chance at a piece of silverware.

While Terry continues to start for the Three Lions football must go on, regardless of my bitching. With Englandsettling for a tie against the coq gaulois and Ukraine beating Sweden, this group is still completely up for grabs and as my counterpart Arizonasecrets stated it’s going to get “bat shit crazy”.

The World Cup’s pretentious best friend.

For someone who follows European football almost exclusively, the Euro is more like pretentious-best-friend to the World Cup rather than its younger brother. Outside of a few non-European teams and players, this year’s tourney brings to the table on a national scale a showcase displaying probably 90% of the world’s best players. (Until the day Messi somehow attains Spanish citizenship sheerly by his accomplishments for the Blaugrana, we’re confined to watch this event without him.) Now call me biased, but 2008 was a shyte tournament. Could it have been because England didn’t qualify? Maybe. Could have been because Barcelo…I mean Spain dominated going undefeated? Perhaps. Could it be due to the fact that the theme song was sung by Enrique Iglesias? Absolutely.

Coming into UEFA’s quadrennial event I can only hope for a better outcome. Sure I could be bitter about Spain’s national and club dominance over the past 4 years and maybe even mention that the image of Xavi lifting any kind of shiny object into the air is growing rather tiresome, but I’m past that. In the past year I’ve dealt with some serious highs and lows as a football aficionado. I experienced the lowest moment in my life as a sports fan within 3 minutes of extra time and 2 goals. I watched the 3 lions from the background succeed when the expectations were non-existent. Bloody hell, an American made his way onto the top 5 top goal scorer list in the EPL. Now while a strange year in club football doesn’t guarantee similar outcomes on a national scale, I have an inkling this tournament won’t disappoint.

Poland and Ukraine? What do these places have other than pierogies and a currency called Hryvnia? After much investigation I came to grips with my previous qualms about the locale decision, for good reasons. Pizza in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. The waiters bring sauce to the table in a pitcher, and you pour it on top. Sometimes the sauce is just ketchup. In Europe, the police solve 30-40% of crimes, in Ukraine – 90%. This unnaturally good statistic is the result of the reluctance of the Ukrainian policemen to record “hopeless” cases (like thefts of mobile phones) and knock confessions out of suspects – in fact, the entire Ukrainian police force will be on hand for each and every Italy game to prevent match fixing as well hate crimes against Polish pizza vendors.

In the next 3 weeks, all of Europe’s eyes will be on Poland and Ukraine. While I admit I am biased towards England, I can’t wait to see what this month has in store. As for the fact I’m one of four people and two separate couples covering it, I think it’ll be interesting. Enjoy.

Welcome to Our Euro 2012 Blog!

Thanks for frequenting our UEFA European Championship 2012 blog! The idea behind this blog is to give you only the most vital information that will help you enjoy the games taking place in Poland and Ukraine this summer. We’ll be posting match previews, predictions, recaps, general commentary, analysis and anything else that make this world class soccer experience more enjoyable.

Considering that the matches of the Euro are being held in two different countries, we thought it be a novel idea to share the blogging responsibilities between two couples! A bitter rivalry is sure to ensue, vis-à-vis Germany and Holland in recent tournaments, as each couple tries to outperform the other with their match predications. However, one can only help that infighting will come to a head, much like France in WC 2010, when differences in opinions cost the couple a consensus correct answer bonuses.

We’ll get into the brass tacks of how predictions and scoring will work in due time, but first we’d like to conclude this post with an introduction of our authors:

Cáit & Brendan – While Brendan’s soccer enthusiasm has naught but increased in the past 5 and half years his other half has slowly let slip her siren-song of mancunian knowledge that lured him to her. Captivated by the red jersey and her right foot, they met on the pitch at a boy vs. girl game and have been together since.  Spurred by this year’s tournament, Cáit plans to rekindle her affair with the world’s game, while Brendan is content to be frustrated by England’s performance yet again.

Amanda & David – Amanda and David have been dating for over four years and although the beautiful game has been a passion of David’s his entire life, it is only recently that he’s tried to push his love of the game onto his girlfriend. Amanda seems content enough to regularly watch FC Barcelona games with her boyfriend, but is visibly displeased when his fanaticism meanders down a path of downright fanboy-ism in his fawning over Fernando Llorente’s body build.

So, Gdańsk with us here on wordpress or over on Twitter: @GdanskIfUWant2