Alcohol, America, FIFA World Cup, Football, Lame, My sense of Humour, Rant, Satire

Americans to become Soccer fans for Exact Duration of Team USA Matches

With the start of the soccer world cup, the small fraction of the American population who are even remotely aware of the sport’s existence, appear to be showing a passing interest in the proceedings. Most of them have decided to become soccer fans and to actually give a shit about the sport for the exact duration of Team USA matches.

Sport Bars to be crowded from Kick-off to Final Whistle of Team USA matches only

Sport bars across the country have subscribed to the Team USA World Cup Special on their respective Cable TV providers. The special package allows the bars to show the broadcast of Team USA matches only. The broadcast starts exactly at kick-off and ends exactly at the final whistle. The advertisement for that special package explained that the time between kickoff and final whistle in Team USA matches is pretty much the exact duration when any American would even give a shit about the sport. It also said that it would cover the final celebrations only if USA won the World cup.

“Apparently this is something big. I think USA is playing. So I guess I will watch our matches,” said Tim, who learnt about the existence of this sport last year when his European college roommate was playing FIFA on his computer. When asked about other countries’ matches, he replied, “Oh I was not aware that there were other teams playing in this tournament. Maybe I will read up on the teams and the results online after the World cup.”

There appears to be no shortage of support for Team USA. There were reports that people who ‘would rather watch reruns of College football from 10 years ago’ were also supporting the USMNT.

“Go Team USA! We are the best! Wait…does it mean I have to actually watch this match? What sport is this? Why is this called football? Why is he playing the ball with his foot all the time?” wondered Bob, a truck driver from Wisconsin.

But what would happen if USA were to win the World Cup? To this, Pete, a NY Yankees fan replied, “First of all I do not understand this tournament. If this is a World Cup, why do they have different countries playing each other? Is this the Olympics? Why can’t they just have a bunch of city based teams in a country play other city teams in their own country and the winners crown themselves World Champions? That’s the way it is in the US of A! This World Cup is just a waste of time.”


FIFA World Cup, Football, Serious Writing, Thoughts

What makes a winning Football Team? Part I: The Circumstances

I am not talking about ‘winning mentality’ or ‘winning tactics’ or ‘hard work’ or ‘discipline’ or ‘sacrifice for the team’ or ‘work ethics’. I am simply asking what makes a winning football team? More specifically put, I am asking what makes aconsistently winning team? What was so special about Johan Cryuff’s ‘Dream Team’,  Real Madrid’s ‘Second Galacticos’, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team, the current Bayern Munich team, AC Milan in the mid 2000’s, Spain’s impressive run of 3 major international titles or Manchester United’s hugely successful team in the mid to late 2000’s?

A hugely successful period for the Spanish national team

All those above mentioned examples were teams that won or are winning titles in a specific period of time – usually between 3 and 5 years. During these years, the team wins the domestic leagues and cups and reaches the finals or semi finals of the Champions League almost always, and winning it at least once. If a team is able to do this for 3-5 years, then it can be considered a successful team by any standards. The teams mentioned in the list above have all done it. So, the question is if there is a pattern here at all. If so, then whatdoes it take to build such a consistently winning team?

The answer to the first question is ‘Yes.’

Every football player goes through a normal distribution curve (bell shaped curve) when his performance is plotted against time. (I am not going to take into account uncertainties such as injuries, fallouts with managers, attitude problems, etc.) The peak of a player’s career lasts for a certain period of time. Here the ‘peak’ should not be construed as the absolute pinnacle in a player’s career. Instead it should be looked at as the period during which a player has been the most productive as compared to the rest of his career. How high the peak goes is largely left to the player and his inherent talent, guidance and work ethic. Its timing and how long the peak lasts for is usually a function of the player’s position. For strikers, the peak period usually lasts between the ages of 25 and 31. For attacking midfielders, that range holds true as well with perhaps a couple of years thrown in there to widen that range in some cases. Central midfielders and defenders have the largest peak period with a generally observed age range of 23 to 32. Needless to say, an argument can be made that within that large range, a central midfielder or defender has an even higher peak period generally found between the ages of 26 and 31. Goalkeepers on the other hand can last forever. You can really take any example: Buffon, Van der Saar, Valdes, Howard, etc.

There are of course exceptions with early bloomers and some exceptional talents. Pep Guardiola (player), Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Wayne Rooney, are good examples for early bloomers and exceptional talents. You only need to look at Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo or Claude Makelele for examples of players with exceptional talent who were/are practically still playing in their prime even past the age of 33 or so.

So if a striker is playing during his peak period and banging in goals regularly, what the manager wants is a set of attacking mid-fielders who are also playing in their peak period feeding him the ball and creating chances. Behind them, he wants the central mid-fielders also playing at their peak, holding up play, dictating the pace and distributing the balls as needed. And finally behind them, he wants the defenders and the goal keeper to also be playing at their peaks.

Now imagine if the manager gets his wish. Imagine a team that has been playing with the same set of players for 2-3 years and all the players have started or just about to start their peak periods in their careers. Imagine all the players in the team have been playing a single style of football under one single manager who has created a specific role for each player to play in the team. Imagine this manager stays on for a few more years. And now, finally, imagine this team playing under these set of circumstances for the next 3-5 years.

What do you think is going to happen?

Now it becomes obvious. Every single team I mentioned at the beginning went through such a phase that resulted – not just coincided – in their most successful periods – winning consistently and amassing trophies all the while. Maybe there was one or two factors missing such as a constant manager. But for the most part, a consistently winning team essentially consists of a set of players – most, if not all, of whom are playing at their peaks and have played with each other for a while.

This is the pattern that is there among all the successful ‘teams’ during their most illustrious periods. In the next post, I will be discussing the current situation with respect to most of the big clubs and what is happening with them as it concerns the ‘peak period production’ of their players.

And as far as this year’s World Cup goes, there is mostly one team (and perhaps two) that is playing in such a set of circumstances and it is also the team I would bet on to win the tournament.

It starts with a ‘G’.

FIFA World Cup, Football, Lame, My sense of Humour, Nonsense, Rant, WTF?

Report Card for FIFA World Cup 2010: Last 16

Ok Ok. The World Cup has improved drastically in both quality and entertainment value in the past one week in strong contrast to what we had witnessed in the Group Phases. There has been some free flowing football, some close finishes, some good scorelines, entertaining football, and of course then there are the Dutch. But more about them later. First up, lets get fully judgmental and talk about the matches that took place.

URUGUAY 2:1 KOREA: Ah well, though I didn’t expect too much of quality in this, I have to say, just watching Luis Suarez play around with the ball and especially with that sweet sweet finish that was the second goal, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he makes a move to a UCL playing team in the transfer window. Having said that, failure to utilize clear cut chances (including a couple of one on ones) on part of Korea just made them to deserve the result.

USA 1:2 GHANA: Ah! How I was rooting for Ghana in this match! This was one captivating game with either side playing some free flowing attacking football! Oh wait sorry! The USA ended up playing Soccer in a Football World Cup! No wonder they lost! Also, Ghana’s Goalie- the Kingson dude- was very easily the most awesome guy in the entire stadium that day. Save after save after save was the only reason why Ghana still remains in the World Cup. He was such an awesome keeper that the fact that he is also the 4th choice goalie for Wigan Athletic doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

GERMANY 4:1 ENGLAND: Most entertaining game of the Knock out phase and The less said about this the better. So many things have been said about goal line technology and how that goal could have prevented the German counter attack etc etc. But none of that is going to change the fact that England played crappy football all through the World Cup and simply deserved to go home. Having said that, I shall, without any hesitation, concede that Miroslav Klose was simply a different footballer that day and made some really useful plays (in contrast to my earlier opinion on how badly he played in the Group Stage).

ARGENTINA 3:1 MEXICO: Argentina again show why they are the team to beat and still continuing to prove why they are the most entertaining team to watch. I have nothing new to add here except that I had wished to see more of Kun Aguero that day.

PARAGUAY 5:3 JAPAN: Boring game with some pathetic finishing and settled fast with penalties. Wish I could have just seen the penalties and saved myself some quality time.

SPAIN 1:0 PORTUGAL: That is what you get for just relying on counter attack and let the Spanish pass the ball to death. There is  bound to be a goal somewhere there. And I have to say that Spain won against Portugal INSPITE OF  Fernando Torres. As per my earlier opinion, Fernando Torres continued his journey towards becoming the Emile Heskey of Spain and I believe has become successful to a large extent. But thanks to people like David Villa and Iniesta and Xavi who actually make that extra effort to score goals, Spain still stay on and play.

NETHERLANDS 2:1 SLOVAKIA: And of course there are the Dutch. Grinding out cheap wins consistently via producing some totally retarded football is an art and the Dutch seem to have mastered that. Get a load of this: With the exception of 5 times, the Dutch NEVER passed the ball FRONT in the opponent’s half of the pitch in the first half! (It was 12 in the 2nd half). It was as if they were playing with normal football rules in their half and with Rugby rules in the opponent’s half-( you know that rule which states that you cannot pass the ball FRONT and can only pass BACK or SIDEWAYS?) Not that they didn’t try. Its just that the pass mostly ended up being either intercepted or going out of bounds. If you think I am exaggerating, just watch the replay of that match and COUNT for yourself. THAT is how fucking lame the Dutch are playing!

BRAZIL 3:0 CHILE: And that is why I am so looking forward to Brazil belting the Dutch ass! Brazil, on the other hand, played football which actually involved completed front passes in the opponent’s half as well. And contrary to popular belief, the boys from Brazil do NOT seem to have abandoned the Sambha style of play. At this point however let it be made known that I am NOT a fan of Brazil and do not intend to see them lift the World Cup.

On a side note, I want to make a comment about how the English FA are reacting to the lame performance of their team in the World Cup. With regard to the decision on whether to keep Capello or to fire him, the FA seem to be toeing the we-need-to-fix-the-real-problem-not-the-symptoms line of reasoning while favoring to keep Capello. They imply that developing a good youth system is the answer to the problems etc etc. There is a fundamental flaw in this line of reasoning. I believe that the intended consequence of this youth system development is the production of really good players as such. My question is this: When you already have players with the capacity of Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, Cole (J and A), etc, what are the odds that the youth system will churn out players who are even better than this crop? If the manager cannot get this bunch of world class players to produce good results, what makes the FA think he can do any better with a different bunch of players? A change of tactics (if not manager) is of the essence. There is no freakin way somebody like Wayne Rooney can just randomly decide to lose form. If he doesn’t get the ball, WTF is he going to do just running around?

Arbit, FIFA World Cup, Football, Lame, My sense of Humour, Nonsense, Rant, Satire

Report Card for FIFA WORLD CUP 2010-Group Phase

This post had to be done before it was too late, (where too late = end of FIFA World Cup). So I will get right to the point. This is a not-so-SHORT REPORT CARD on the Group Phase of FIFA World Cup 2010. Also, this is an extremely judgmental post. If you don’t like to see your favorite players or teams being mocked, ridiculed or judged, then feel free to skip this post and browse the rest of the blog. But if you are one of those people who wants to have a look at a very unforgiving, yet fair judgment of the quality, flair and entertainment (or the lack thereof) in the matches that we have witnessed, then by all means please read ahead.

First up, make no mistake. This World Cup has sucked balls so far! Any of you nimrods who think otherwise have, I can guarantee, never followed any of the European Football leagues. You know- the ones in which all the Football players play week in week out all through the year? Not like just showing up once in 4 years to play a bunch of matches in a month and hope to be declared World Champions! There has been a total and glaring lack of quality in the football that has been played in almost all of the Group phase matches. Apart from the clear lack of goals, most of the games involved just dull passing and hopeful long balls into the box. And most of the intended shots on goal ended up as just that- intended shots on goal. I literally lost count of how many times the players tried to take a shot on goal from outside the box and the ball just ended up either hitting a defender who was like 3 feet away or went sailing comfortably some 10-20 feet above or away from the goal posts.

And screw that Jabulani football! If I am not mistaken, out of the 48 matches that took place in the Group phase, just 1 match (that’s right just one!) produced goals from a direct free kick! And that too it was one of the last matches where the Jap dudes Honda and Endo sent one free kick each curling past the goal keeper and actually INTO the net. This is in contrast with literally all of the other free kicks being perfectly aimed at the row of people in the stands who are at least 20 rows above the cross bar. I am convinced that the blame lies mostly with the ball as practically all the best free kick takers have been unable to keep the ball down. (Or maybe they should take a lesson or two from the Japs.)

Now lets get a bit more specific and talk about teams. Spain and Brazil started off as favorites and it took all of 1 match to played by each of them for them to be stripped off that spot. Spain, I strongly believe, expected to be awarded 3 points against Switzerland just for showing up and passing the ball around. Brazil, having consciously renounced the Sambha football, I suspect, forgot that they still needed to score goals to win a football match. England, on the other hand, were still trying to figure out how to make use of World class players such as Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Terry and Cole (both J & A) to muster an actual shot on target ever since Gerrard scored that opening goal against the USA in the 5th minute. Germany promised some real entertainment after that opening display against Australia and then quickly decided that they were giving all their fans and viewers too much to be to be happy about. And those of you who are firmly behind the Oranje Netherlands better admit the fact that the Dutch have played some of the most boring and dull football among all the teams. The fact that they have produced results from all their games better not be mistaken for some kind of a strong showing in the football sense. After all, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon are not countries you pride winning 2-0, 1-0 and 2-1 against if you are aiming for the title.

Italy, on the other hand, had apparently forgotten that they were playing in the World Cup Finals and instead continued to play each match as some kind of a practice match! They realized their mistake somewhere half way through their match against Slovakia, after which they produced what turned out to be BY FAR the most entertaining and gripping match of the entire Group Stage! If it meant that Italy had to go out in order to produce that awesome match, then so be it! Which now brings us to France! I just have two words: IRELAND Schadenfreude. And as far as Portugal is concerned, well, apart from that 7-0 drubbing of North Korea (which really doesn’t count btw), they haven’t really scored a single goal have they? Sparing a thought for the USA, who eventually ended up playing the wrong sport (Soccer) against Ghana (which played football) in the Last 16, I have to say I felt awesome to see them getting knocked out by an African team! Which finally brings me to Argentina. And simply put, this is the only team that seems to make any effort to play football in ALL the matches. And I sincerely hope they go on to win the World Cup.

Getting a little more specific, lets talk about the players who have made any or no difference to the matches played so far. For a long time now, I have strongly been against the continued presence of totally redundant football players, most of them in a forward role. And this World Cup, if anything, has only proven me totally right! I shall start with the most redundant of them all, namely an Englishman named Emile Heskey. He is simply put the most worthless, useless, unproductive and shameless football player in the entire World Cup. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if he starts for his club (whichever that is). Next comes any Italian striker you can think of. Less said about them the better. Then come the likes of Klose and Anelka. Though I am strong Chelsea supporter, I still don’t approve of Anelka’s inclusion in ANY team! And also, one good kick or one headed goal doesn’t absolve any of the above mentioned players’ inability to perform consistently. Also, it seems to me that Fernando Torres is making every effort to jump in to the bandwagon of unproductive strikers.

On the other hand, we have had some real scintillating displays of football by the likes of Messi and the rest of Argentina. On the same plane comes David Villa and Luis Suarez. But I have to say, among all the people who have stood out, the one that really caught my eye was the Argentine Sergio Kun Aguero. The Athletico Madrid playmaker created some of the best moves for Argentina in the last two group matches. He is being strongly linked with Chelsea and Juventus and he ending up in either place will be pretty awesome as far as I am concerned!

So now lets choose the best and the worst of what the FIFA World Cup 2010 has had to offer in the group stages:

Most Entertaining Team: ARGENTINA. By far the only team which made a sincere effort to play attractive football without yielding to the temptation of defending deep and wasting time when in the lead.

Most Boring Team: NETHERLANDS. Anyone disagreeing has some really really low standards regarding Football entertainment.

Most Entertaining & Gripping Match: ITALY vs SLOVAKIA. The 5 goal thriller went right down to the last second corner when Pepe could have still put Italy through to the next round but used the wrong foot to put in the corner kick.

Most Entertaining Player: SERGIO AGUERO. The Argentine playmaker played less than 2 matches but if his skill and pace are anything to go by, he is pretty much the next big thing in Football history for sure.

Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella’s goal for ITALY against SLOVAKIA. The Napoli frontman’s shot on goal from outside the box is the stuff of Champions. Keeping his cool at such a high pressure situation and taking the shot with a “Screw-all-you-Italian-losers-I-will-do-this-shit-myself” body language, he saw the ball sweetly sail just under the crossbar and into the back of the net.

Best Howler: Quite a few contenders with Serbians Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Vidic’s awesome handballs along with Mark Schwarzer’s fumble against Serbia (Last I heard, Arsene Wenger was already looking to bring Schwarzer to Arsenal! :P) but the winner is clearly  ROBERT GREEN of England because of which they finished 2nd in the group and ended up facing Germany and then get raped 4-1.

Most Disappointing Team: ENGLAND. As I write this, England just got raped 4-1 by Germany. But even before this, England hardly looked like a team that was going to pose any threat. Rooney hardly got a worthwhile touch, thanks to some archaic strategy that only Don Capello seemed to understand. Scoring 2 goals in 3 matches against 3rd rate teams and claiming to be Title contenders is the same as India narrowly beating teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and then getting royally humped by the Aussies in Cricket.

Most Disappointing Player: FERNANDO TORRES. It takes real effort and skill to consistently mess up every single clear cut chance created regularly by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Villa. And Torres seems to have mastered that art.

Most Disappointing Match: PORTUGAL vs BRAZIL. Yes I know Kaka wasn’t there nor was Robinho and a draw would see both teams through. But this was still the lamest, most retarded match in the entire group phase. CR7 could have done better to show he can actually score some goals but alas not to be.

So there you have it. My not-so-short assessment of the Group Stages of the FIFA World Cup 2010. My judgment of players and teams is based solely on their performances in the Group stage. It should not come as a surprise if it turns out to be the complete opposite in the Knock out stages. I will be making a separate report card for the Knock out stages. So if you strongly feel the urge to comment on this post by saying how I will be proven wrong about the players and the teams,  then first realize that I have spoken about that possibility myself. Then feel free to comment. Till then, keep watching FOOTBALL (not Soccer)!!!