Tuesday, June 20, 2006

English Boys and Swedish Meatballs

Before reading this post, you must sing its title to the tune of the chorus of the Arctic Monkeys' "Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts" and if you haven't heard the Arctic Monkeys go patronize iTunes or steal it off Limewire if you feel contrarian or cheap at the moment. Note: if you feel both contrarian AND cheap that means that you feel Scottish.

So disappointing to see the Soca Warriors fail to make the second round today, but finally England looked like they should have looked from the start of the tournament. At least until Gerrard came in. Can we finally say with certainty that Lampard and Gerrard cannot be on the same field for the same team at the same time? No matter what any manager tells them they both want to play the attacking midfield position, creating chances and missing 40-yard shots by three feet. Both play that attacking midfield role expertly with their club sides and create some of the most breathtaking goals in the world. They are enabled to create via the confidence they have in their defensive center midfielders Xabi Alanso (with Gerrard at Liverpool) and Claude Makalele (who wrote the treatise on playing defensive center midfielder with Lampard at Chelsea). Gerrard is too good to be on the bench, but so are Juninho, Lionel Messi, Robinho and Eddie Johnson. With Hargreaves playing a very solid D-Mid, Gerrard and Lampard should platoon as attacking center mids. If one plays 70 minutes of their next game and the other plays the last 20 and they switch back and forth, can you find a downside? Less confusion and an immediate infusion of skill, creativity, heart and speed. Soccer always runs through the Center Midfield, if that Center is confused about its role, unsure of itself, or simply overmatched it (and its team) will probably loose the match. Lampard for 70 minutes, Gerrard for the last 20: killer. Either that or bench Golden Balls (that's what they call Beckham in the UK) and put Gerrard on the wing, but since Sven will never do that, the platoon idea is the best one to go to.

Also, after that bizzare injury to Michael Owen in the opening moments of the match, we should be able to see what's so special about Theo Wolcott. At least we would if England's manager weren't so wedded to the idea of Frankenstien playing alongside Wayne Rooney (who looked fantastic today, along with Man of the Match Joe Cole). Not only is Peter Crouch ineffective, he's only been effective by cheating. Check this out:

In German with handy spotshadow:

In Marcello Balboian with the aftereffect:

the best part about what Balboa says is that the defender isn't even looking for the ball, which is hard to do when Isaac Asimov's wet dream is attempting to wrench your head off, with its titanium claws clutching your dreads. I found this thanks to the NYTimes World Cup Blog which has been excellent all tournament.

So now imagine Gerrard and Theo Wolcott, readying to be subbed in in the 65th minute of England's match against Ecuador which at that point is tied 1-1, that's a pretty dynamite combo. Throw in Aaron Lennon for Beckham and that's a killer sub pattern for the rest of the tournament.

So who's the Swedish Meatball? The England Coach. He won't do it. I wish he would, but he won't. If by some miracle he reads obscure soccer blogs he will have downloaded the Arctic Monkeys and stopped caring. Oh well.

I think that if they play as a team, Sweden can beat Germany. As long as their 6'6" Keeper stays in position, their defense is solid, their team can play coheasively and in Ljunberg, Laarson and Ibrahimovic they have three of the best players in the world. That might also be the reason that they don't beat Germany. Read this excellent article in the English version of Der Spiegel if you want to know more about three more possible Swedish Meatballs:


Finally, a limited rant at the low expectations our broadcasters have for us.

Is it just me or did Melberg score the second goal for Sweden? Laarson did the Airplane and he's recognizable, so Dave O'Brien called it Laarson's goal, but it seemed on the fourth replay that the guys manning the replay machine tried to make it as obvious as possible, slowing the replay down dramatically as Melberg's white Nike touched the ball as Laarson's gold Adidas missed it. Of course it was never mentioned because Marcello was breathlessly mentioning that England's streak of not beating Sweeden since 1968 would continue. That is the second or third time I've seen the reply guys lob a softball to the guys in the booth that could have resulted in some much closer analysis only to have them wiff it. What is going on here? Are you telling me that there's no meeting after the game where the replay guys have their say? Can't ESPN fix this? It's clear that the only commentator who would have caught that would have been The Big Y. Tommy Smyth, too bad the others aren't taking his example.

Regarding that useless stat about England not beating Sweden since 1968, I think it satisfied the only three people who care about stats like that: a guy I go to law school with named Hallerz, Joe Buck and the American producer of the World Cup coverage who is in charge of feeding the broadcast team stats that are meant to have historical weight to make the game more accessable for casual American fans.

My problem is this: there's no connection between that stat and the current teams. Did the England players lay their hearts on the line to beat Sweden for the first time in 38 years? Did Sweeden say before the game, "Ok we win or we draw, there's no way were letting them beat us, ya?" Did either of them even know about that stat? I'm going to guess that even the casual American fan demographic doesn't care about historical stats becasue for the same reason.

I'm a casual hockey and NBA fan and I can't stand stats like: "the Carolina Hurricanes' coach has coached two game 7's, won one and lost one" (With DIFFERENT TEAMS). Or: "no Eastern conference team has given up a 3 games to 2 lead over a Western Conference team in the NBA finals after loosing the first two and then winning three straight." I'm guessing this all stems from stats like "The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series since JP Dellacamra was just a twinkle in the eye of Satan and a Circus Acrobat named Venta the Voluptous."

But, a franchise's history has no bearing or relevance for current players. It does for long-standing fans, but for the most part these stats are negative and only cause those long standing fans more pain. Meatballs at ESPN, I'm watching...and I'm hungry.

On a side note, since I'm in Chicago I figured I'd just throw in the fact that the Cubs haven't won a world series because they suck. The team owners know that they don't need to field a competitive team because wrigley is enough of a draw in itself that at this point they could field the entire cast and crew of Two and Half Men (including the little kid), and still sell out the season to their Big-Ten frat and sorority based drunken bufoon fan-base:


Freakin' Meatballs.

Eating Edamae while wearing Pajamas,

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