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Archive for June, 2009

It seemed to shock everyone with whom I watched the match, though.  This just in: at any given time, Brazil is probably better at soccer than the United States.  I know!  Ground-breaking!

There are any number of reasons that the Unites States blew a 2-0 lead.  Tim Howard had a great first half.  Not so much with the second.  It happens.  The States probably got a little over-confident, because being 2-0 up to Brazil is not a place they’ve ever been and it’s confusing.  Conversely, Brazil apparently realized that it would be at least a little embarrassing to lose, and turned on the gas.

We should be proud of the US team.  The stakes were pretty high for them and they were runners-up, ahead of a generally, if not empirically, superior Spanish team.  They scored first and second against the historically greatest team in the world–Brazil has won five World Cups, remember, and this is their third Confederations Cup (the former partly causes the latter, but, you know, whatever).  It was a good run, especially when you consider the club careers and relative fame levels.  There was nothing shaming about today’s defeat, and much that was laudable.

But it would also not be shaming had the US not advanced this far, even if I would like to have a US team that truly competed in real FIFA tournaments.  They’d be on television more, it would be nice to win world titles in sports we didn’t invent ourselves, we would look less jingoistic and weird and padded up.

And that’s just it.  The US plays other sports.  Soccer is not remotely the primary sport in the States.  In a bar, watching a match, you will find men who do not understand the offside rule.  That we have, at any point, produced a squad that could managed not to be embarrassed by the Brazilian national squad for a consecutive set of ninety minutes is astounding.

And, hey!  The US team is cuter than the Brazilian side.  They’re not cuter than many (maybe France on a day when Thierry Henry has flu?), so we should really lap this up.  Here’s a mildly antique photo of Oguchi Onyewu, looking rather more pleased than he does right now….

Way cuter than Fabiano, if less with the goals.

Way cuter than Fabiano, if less with the goals.

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Well, that result was surprising.

We interrupt our coverage of the Championships to mention that most irritating of soccer tournaments, the Confederations Cup.  You will never convince me that it is not pointless, no matter how many times you bring up that Spain and some other countries fielded mostly full-strength sides.  The Confederations Cup is still chiefly remarkable for being the only tournament to have offered a match during which I fell asleep (Argentina vs Japan in 2005, if I remember correctly).

So!  The United States beat Spain.  2-0, even.  I am not making this up at all.  And I know what you’re saying: “How could a side that boasts some schmuck and some other schmuck whose names I do not know in the attack and whose best-known player is Landon “Baldy” Donovan beat a side that has Torres and Villa up front and Xabi Alonso holding down midfield?”  And I will say, “I don’t know, but I bet Iker Casillas is sobbing into his sangria while Pepe Reina sits in the corner tapping his foot and trying not to look angry.”

I would just like to caution fans in the United States at this time that this means nothing.  The Confederations Cup is a largely fake tournament.  Do you remember who won the last one?  Because I don’t.  And I watched part of it.  Possibly I even watched the final.  The US might win this one.  This does not mean that they will win or even do respectably in the World Cup next summer.  Do not get your hopes up.

Fair play to the States: Landon Donovan’s booking was ludicrous (I don’t think even Xabi expected it), and Michael Bradley’s sending off was totally unwarranted.  Good on them for not conceding a late goal or two when a man down.  But also?  If you tear your shirt off in celebrating a goal, you look really dumb when you have a shirt on underneath it, and I bet being booked feels even more lame.

Yes, I too would rather look at Fernando Torres.

Yes, I too would rather look at Fernando Torres.

Finally, the US team is exponentially less attractive than the Spanish, but for reasons of patriotism and lingering disdain for the Spanish for having lost, we’ll feature an American player.  Here’s Jonathan Spector.  He is one of about four US footballers who knows the words to the national anthem (Go, Tim Howard!).  He was at Manchester United for a while (as a scrub), and, if I’m not mistaken I’ve actually seen him play, so that’s sort of fun!  He’s at West Ham now.  And that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the US team.

Congratulations, lads.  We’re all very proud of you, honest.

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So, Tommy Haas was playing Michael Llodra this afternoon, but Mr. Llodra had the misfortune to run into a ball girl and the umpire’s chair and injure himself badly enough to have to retire.  It’s quite sad and I hope everyone will be able to refrain from mocking him too much.

Mr. Haas was apparently not ready to stop playing tennis, so his solution (obviously) was to have a hit-around with at least three of the ball girls and boys.  At one point he even had them playing each other and was ball boy himself.  It was improbably cute.

Mr. Haas is not quite improbably cute, but he’s quite cute all the same, so we’ll treat you to a photo.

AND a sense of humor.

AND a sense of humor.

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Apparently mirrors are very expensive in Scotland.

Apparently mirrors are very expensive in Scotland.

So that’s what he looked like, not too many years ago.  Incipiently ginger, quite disshevelled, bony, and lame.  Also about eleven, so I guess there’s an excuse.  He was then the Next Great Hope for Britain.

Now he’s the Actual Great Hope, since Tim Henman has retired and now does commentary (An aside: Mr. Henman is incidentally great and adorable at color, and I have not once wanted to smack him this tournament, which is impressive as he would have every reason to be a total snotface about a) Wimbledon and b) Andy Murray, especially when people keep bringing them up in mildly tactless ways), and he appears to be taking this responsibility seriously.

Yes, it is the same person, I promise.

Yes, it is the same person, I promise.

No , really.  He looks like this now, at least on the Wimbledon website and in the match I watched today.  This is a young man at whom I would not laugh on the train, which is a big step for Mr. Murray.

He does look mildly more sneery.  But I submit that if everyone kept asking you how it felt to have the weight of all Britain on your shoulders and that the whole world thinks you’ll never win anything because British players never do, you’d sneer a lot too.

In other news from the Championships, the French appear to be growing a huge crop of cute young players who make life miserable for Novak Djokovic, but I’ll hold off on posting Julien Benneteau until he does me a real solid.

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Really there are a few things I’m not sure about.  I’m not sure Clayton Kershaw can pitch.  I’m not sure the name “Clayton Kershaw” doesn’t sound like a farmer.  I’m not sure Clayton Kershaw is cute.

I'm not sure Clayton Kershaw is over fourteen years old.

I'm not sure Clayton Kershaw is over fourteen years old.

But now he’s growing some kind of facial thing.  In some pictures, it looks like a chin strap, and that’s just not okay, unless maybe you’re David Ortiz.  In others, it just looks like a fuzzy mess.  But watching the Dodgers game last night (in which he shut out the Angels), from certain angles, it might be good.  Possibly makes him look older?  Better?  Hotter?  I’m just not sure.

The sun's in his eyes.

Kind of funny-looking...

See, it could be the scruff.  But maybe the scruff is good, and he just looks funny because the sun’s in his eyes.  Or maybe he just looks funny because he’s funny-looking.  Jury’s still out.

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Ugliest man alive.

Ugliest man alive.

So Carlos Tevez is leaving Manchester United.   I have to admit I did not cry about this one, though he is reported to be a fan favorite.  He’s pretty good at what he does, although not the meteoric star we all expected when he arrived at United.  That’s fine; very few people are.

And he’s leaving.  Again, fine.  Most people do, eventually.  The frontrunners appear to be Manchester City and Chelsea.  I’m not convinced he’ll look any less heinous in blue, but allow him to try, certainly.

Here’s the kicker: he doesn’t want to go to Liverpool “because of their intense rivalry with United.”

Okay, with you so far.  United hates Merseyside.  You know what else United hates?  City.  It’s not quite the same, as City are terrible and Liverpool are competition, but City won at Old Trafford recently, and I believe that has opened some old wounds and the derby day rage might be coming back.

So, in conclusion, I feel kind of bad for City because no one cares about their feelings, only their wads and wads of cash.

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Here he is talking about the Ronaldo transfer. His main complaint is its vulgarity.  No joke.

Go get ’em, Sir Bobby!

In other news, we hear about Rafael Nadal’s fitness for Wimbledon tomorrow.  Anyone notice how that deadline keeps getting pushed back?  On the one hand, this is driving me crazy, because, even though I will watch the final anyway and get plastered on Pimm’s, and even though it’s not guaranteed that he would make it even at full fitness, I just want to know.

On the other, I think it makes him still more appealing, since it’s so clear that he desperately wants to play, and is doing everything humanly possible to make that happen.  Also possibly some things that are not humanly possible.

Bring on The Championships!

¿Donde están los guns?

¿Donde están los guns?

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