Saturday, December 26, 2009

Meet the Teams 2-for-1: Argentina and Serbia

With travel and holidays and all other kinds of frooferah, we here at the Montanan Hooligan World Cup Center have been a little distracted (I mean, someone has to play with that new XBox 360). But we will aim to make up for this with a special Meet the Team dealing with two teams heading in different directions: Argentina and Serbia.

At first glance they don't seem to have much in common: Argentina is a glamorous South American country with a history of revolutionary ideologies, musical innovation and gorgeous scenery. Serbia is partially responsible for the Yugo. But both countries have some talented players, and seem like squads to fear in the World Cup. But who is worthy of your adoration and who's little better than a lump of coal? This chart may help you break it down.



Whose life is nice?

Whose life is naughty?

Star Players: Which one? There’s Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Maxi Rodriguez, and half a dozen other guys that nerdy football fans go crazy for.

Star Players: Stand out defenders Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic won’t win any beauty contests {literally} but they defend very well. Scoring goals...well...



Coach: Diego Maradona is Guano level crazy. And would vastly prefer to be the star of the team...but he doesn’t actually play for the team...which makes for awkwardness

Coach: Radomir “Raddy” Antic took a squad loaded with talent but empty on consistency and made them a reliable force.



Legacy: Lots of people stand in awe of Argentina, but their two titles came almost twenty-five years ago. Since then, it’s been a little early success and lot of later let downs.

Legacy: They were supposed to shock the world in 2006--but stank instead. Then they couldn’t find a soul to call them contenders--and won. Now they are once again a darkhorse....maybe.



Contribution to the ranks of sketchy world leaders: Juan Peron--I could claim that this spot belongs to Che, but c’mon...once you’re on a t-shirt the revolution’s over. Peron, meanwhile trampled free speech, protected Nazi war criminals and helped pave the way for a Madonna musical...ass.

Contribution to the ranks of sketchy world leaders: Slobadon Milosevic [“Slobby” to his friends--not that he had any] arguably the biggest whackjob of the late 90s (only competition is Saddam and an aging Castro...but still) xenophobic nationalism, polticial opportunism and the magic words: Ethnic cleansing--CREEPY!!!



Team Nickname: White and Sky Blue”--I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was the world cup of interior design

Team Nickname: “The White Eagles”--Not sure whether it refers to the bird, Quarterbacks like Ron Jaworski or the musicians who play with Don Henley--anyway you slice it though, more bad ass than “white and sky blue”



Draw: Argentina has a low profile group of teams devoid of star opponents. South Korea, Nigeria and Greece don’t instill fear in the hearts of many--and definitely not in Argentina.

Draw: Serbia has the Group of Death’s younger brother, with 2006 knock out participants Germany, Ghana and Australia. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all.



In the end the best case scenario for both teams are very very different. If everything goes according to plan for Argentina: the group stage is a cake walk and their momentum and sterling play carries them all the way to a Cup title. If everything goes to plan for Serbia: they can lock down Ghana and Australia, sneak in to round two, surprise England and arrive at the quarterfinals as the darlings of the tournament.

If you're a bit more cynical, you might expect Serbia to once again collapse in a pile of ineffective goo. Even worse? If Argentina demonstrates a hint of overconfidence and struggles as they have throughout the last year (read: if Diego Maradona acts remotely like the Diego Maradona who grabbed his crotched and told everyone in Argentina's media to "suck it and carry on sucking it"), they may be bounced in the group stage--and then get tarred and feathered upon their return home.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Meet the Team: Denmark

In this special weekly feature we’ll be introducing you to teams around the world, rather than have any kind of rhyme or reason to this we’ll be as hopelessly random in selecting the team we introduce and the way we introduce them.

Today, say “Det” to Denmark (That’s “Hello” in Danish), and to help us understand the team what better way to do it than through an interview with that legendary sports commentator: Hamlet! Prince of Denmark!

BMacK: Hamlet, you’re a legend in your own land, a prince, a scholar, a man for all seasons, and a former striker for Silkeborg IF whose winning goal against Brondby keeper Laertes won your team the Danish Cup. Welcome to the Montanan Hooligan’s World Cup Center

HPoD: “Why look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass”

BMacK: I’m sorry Hamlet, I thought I was giving you an adequate introduction, I-uhh...

HPoD: “Go, Go you question with a wicked tongue”

BMacK: Well...uh, okay, I guess the first real question is what lessons should we take from the Danish qualifying campaign. They finished at the top of their group and picked up a spot over traditional powers Sweden and Portugal with big wins in Lisbon and Solna. By all accounts that was embarrassing for the Portugese.

HPoD: “Their defeat does by their own insinuation grow./Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes/Between the pass and fell incensed points/Of mighty opposites.”

BMacK: Are you saying that Portugal is base and vile Hamlet?

HPoD: “I should have fatted all the region kites/With this slave’s offal. Bloody bawdy villain!/Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!”

BMacK: Ooookay...well, let’s shift gears and talk about Morten Olsen, manager of the Danish national team and the longest tenured coach in the World Cup. He has been instrumental in building up the team and they’re even called Olsen’s Gang in the press. Hamlet, what is Olsen like

HPoD: “The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,/Keeps wassail, and the swagg’ring uprising reels,/And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down, the kettledrum and trumpet thus bray out”

BMacK: Really? I have a hard time believing that Olsen’s a hell raiser, but you’re the Prince. So I’ll buy it. Can you describe the Danish style of play?

HPoD: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king!”

BMacK: What the hell does that mean?

HPoD: “Denmark’s a which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst”

BMacK: Oh you must be talking about the recent shift in Denmark’s play from a more aggressive, 4-3-3 (4 defenders, 3 midfielders, 3-strikers) to a more defensive styled 4-4-2, or even 4-5-1.

HPoD: “Sir, I lack advancement”

BMacK: I don’t know about that Hamlet, sure they’re aging, but you have John Dahl Thomasson and Dennis Rommedahl up top. They both have some skills. and seem to be nurturing younger players like the up and coming Arsenal 21 year old Niklas Bendter. But alright then, thinking about the defense, who do you think is the star of the team?

HPoD: “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”

BMacK: So you’re a fan of Daniel “Angel” Agger (of Liverpool) and Michael “Minster of Grace” Gravgaard (of Nantes)?

HPoD: “These tedious fools”

BMacK: Sorry, it’s just a little hard to follow with you talking all crazy.

HPoD: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

BMacK: Oh, well since you put it that you have anything else to say about the stars Hammy?

HPoD: “There be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, that...have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature’s journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.”

BMacK: Agreed, Christiano Ronaldo’s a tool. Okay, Hamlet, on to the draw, Denmark drew a tough group with the Dutch, the Japanese and Cameroon, what do you make of many claims that Danish Dynamite may not get through the first round at this cup?

HPoD: “Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey birds; that their faces are wrinkled; their eyes purging thick amber and plum tree gum; and that they have plentiful lack of wit.”

BMacK: I agree, they aren’t the sexiest team, but the Danish are a great sleeper team.

HPoD: “To sleep, perchance to dream”

BMacK: Beautifully put Hammy, a close game against the Dutch could give them a mountain of confidence in the last matches against talented but inconsistent Japan and Cameroon, that can get them into the second round, and an over confident Italian squad may be ripe for the pickings sending the Danes to the quarterfinals.

HPoD: “Why, right! You are in the right!/And so, without more circumstance at all,/I hold it fit that we shake hands and part;/You, as your business and desires shall point you,/For every man hath business and desire,/Such as it is; and for my own poor part, Look you, I’ll go pray”

BMacK: While Hamlet prays for the best case scenario, I’ll sign off. For MacKenzie Low Budget Sports and the Montana Hooligan World Cup Center, I’m Ben MacKenzie.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Oliver Reed would be an unkillable zombie.

Just read the obit:

The man was a modern viking.

Plus he was in Condorman as the bad guy, that's him on the walkie-talkie, probably calling out the Prognoviach.

Why yes, this is the best movie ever made. Why do you ask? Isn't it obvious?

So while Fela Kuti was also badass, and his zombie spawn with Charlize Theron would be redoubtable, nobody kills* un-dead Oliver Reed but un-dead Oliver Reed thank you very much.

What does this all mean for the world cup? Well, of course, Oliver Reed was English and if the English National Team can channel his spirit, we're in trouble. Here's a graphic of what that would look like:

Certain doom.

So, here's to you Oliver Reed, you magnificent bastard. Please keep your spirit out of convenient European spirit channels (sprunnels?), if you do, we promise that when you rise from the grave we'll simply direct you to the nearest pub because your un-dead self will hunger not for brains, this much is certain.

/hat tip to the spicy living series at EDSBS:

*Its hard to figure what the verb should be when one terminates a zombie. They are, after all, already dead. So technically one just doesn't kill a zombie, rather one re-kills them. But, kill just sounds better. KILL KILL KILL. Does anyone know if this issue has been addressed definitively?

Friday, December 04, 2009

The World Cup Draw aka a chance to avoid work, talk about Zombies and worry that Joseph Blatter's looking for love in all the wrong places

Matt: Welcome one and all to the MacKenzie Low Budget Sports World Cup Draw Coverage, occurring simultaneously in Chicago, Illinois; Bowling Green, Ohio and Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m Matt MacKenzie...

Ben: And I’m Ben MacKenzie. We've got about two minutes before the soiree begins (though I don't know how quickly they'll get to the drawing We may need to sit through some cultural dances)

Matt: I've got the Fifa website up and it has a countdown clock to the draw, currently at 51 minutes. So yes, definitely some cultural dances

Ben: In that case we have no choice but to blather incessantly about both Soccer and the pomp and circumstance of what is, basically a glorified lotto draw. (And though we are both at work, we’ll both make time for the truly important things in life: international soccer, laws of probability and Charlize Theron.)

Matt: First question: I'm noticing something on fifa's website, can you describe the four pots?

Ben: The four pots are the four sets of teams which will soon be paired up into eight groups. No two teams from the same pot can face each other, and no two teams from the same confederation can face each other. That means that no African teams will face South Africa in the first round, nor will teams from South America have to play Brazil or Argentina in the first round.

Matt: And also that the best teams will only play one another in the more thrilling knock out stage, rather than the grueling group stage. But has this always been what they do?

Ben: I think for the last 4 or 5 tournaments. This is all part of an effort to give each confederation the opportunity to advance more of their confederation members. Our event tonight is being hosted by an attractive woman with a dress that looks like a leopard print tinged with teal and feather earrings, but before she goes to far we have an address from Nelson Mandela. [Awed silence as ...inspiration washes over us...until Matt has a sudden realization]

Matt: INVICTUS isn't about soccer. This has to piss off Clint Eastwood. You're promoting it wrong, Nelson!!!

Ben: HOW DARE THEY IGNORE WHAT CLINT WANTS!! I bet Nelson doesn't even plug the movie (the nerve of him, one little peace prize and it all goes to his head)

Matt: From now on the Group of Death is any dinner table where Clint Eastwood is sitting.

Ben: Well argued. I want to point out here that an important factor to note throughout the draw process is which group a team goes into as well as the groups next to them. For those of you who are fans of College Basketball you can think of this like looking ahead in March Madness...sure it’s great if you’re a number 3 seed, but whose the number 2 you’ll be facing later on? Each team will look ahead to consider not only the teams in their group, but the teams they might face in the round of 16, the quarter finals, and the semis in order to even reach the finals

Matt: Right. In the round of 16 and the quarter finals the top two teams in groups A & B are together, as are C & D, E & F, G & H, it’s only at the semi-finals that the best teams from A, B, C & D face off (or E, F, G & H). But we can guarantee that Argentina will play England before the final, they'll set that up right?

Ben: Oh, of course, they always do. (That was the whole reason for the Faulklands war, just to have a reason for more anger during Argentina-England matches)

Ben: WOAH! And we have our first terribly awkward moment of the world cup, as Joseph Blatter just said to our hostess: "It's easy to fall in love in Africa, when I look at you.......hehehe..."

Matt: Joseph Blatter has jungle fever, good thing he has a room named for him at the Mayo urology. HEY-OH!

Ben: NICELY DONE! And the MacKenzie Post Joke Celebrations are starting early.

Matt: So tell me who the favorites are? Spain & Brasil, that's the consesus right?

Ben: Yeah, but I'll go ahead and say that it's got to be Brasil No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe

Matt: Bah.

Ben: If it's in North America, South America or Asia, it's always been Brazil/Argentina

Matt: double bah, and triple humbug

Ben: Well argued

Matt: That's kind of like the stat that people throw out in the baseball postseason like: The Yankees have never lost a series when up 3-0: different players, different teams, you can’t assume it will hold true.

Ben: That's true, on an unrelated side note, this show is like crack for world music nerds like me, Angelique Kidjo is singing now and if Youssa N'Dour turns up to make this a duet I might pass out from joy.

Matt: I surmised as much. What about Fela Kuti? Is he dead yet?

Ben: Yeah, I think he's actually been dead for a while

Matt: Then it would be super awesome if he showed up. Zombie Fela Kuti would be the baddest Zombie ever. Correction, Zombie Oliver Reed would be badder.

Ben: Of course, zombies make everything better (and in an intriguing side note: Zombie is actually an African word. It referred not only to those raised from the dead by black magic, but collaborators with slave traders) And what’s more one of Fela’s best songs was actually called: Zombie!

Matt: I DID NOT KNOW THAT, thank you Nerd.

Ben: And now Charlize Theron...

Matt: So hot.

Ben: Charlize Theron’s hotness is palpable and it comes from a very special place. Could you telestrate that Matt?

Matt: I can try Ben. Look at this picture of Charlize Theron. Sure there’s a smile, a cheery disposition, and a passion for sports. But there’s also a sense of humor. Don’t forget this woman followed up winning an academy award for playing a serial killer by playing Jason Bateman’s love interest on Arrested Development. Beauty, humor and a fondness for sport. Gentlemen begin your drooling.

Ben: I like that the Fifa World cup draw manages to become a lotto draw with the hottest women in the entire country making the announcements. Also worth noting, is that Theron, during rehearsals yesterday pulled out France's name and said: "Ireland". TAKE THAT THIERRY HENRY!!

Matt: Ha ha ha. Okay Ben, who is your dark horse pick?

Ben: Well, the popular dark horse is Cote D'Ivoire, with the immensely talented Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers. But, as a man whose been there I'll go with Ghana.

Matt: Now, is Ghana a heart pick or is that your real dark horse?

Ben: Mostly the heart, but depending on the draw they can actually make it happen

Matt: Fair enough. I'm pretending that I'm the Predictatron 6000 and am not biased in any way. My dark horse is . . .USA!

Ben: Oh Predictatron 6000 will you ever learn?

Matt: No, I don't really know enough to make any informed opinions. I'm like a babe in the woods here. Like a Blatter at a Sorority sleepover.

Ben: Then you’re just as qualified as 90% of ESPN.

Matt: Now who do you think is due for a run?

Ben: I would say (as everyone says) that England is due. They have the highest quality league in the world and their players are in constant competition with the world's best. They had a stellar qualifying campaign, but they've only made one semi in the past 50 years...I would also very much like the Dutch to win, but they often underperform, and Spain, even though they’re the favorites, they fold faster than a 2-7 off suit. One final note as we’re about ready to begin, (after they finish explaining a draw that’s more complicated than health care legislation) I think that Zombie Charlize Theorn and Zombie Fela Kunti's baby might have be able to kill Zombie Oliver Reed)

Matt: Only if the zombie baby drank four pints an hour.

Ben: He might be able to manage that, I’m sure zombie Charlize would just give the kid some pints o' blood and brains and he's happy.

Matt: So we start by drawing all the names from pot one first, as they’re drawn so shall they be listed from A-H. Interesting. Top half going towards the first semi-final: South Africa, Argentina, England & Germany. In the bottom half: Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

Ben: Dang, I step away for a minute and a lot happens, I think that draw plays out nicely for England and Germany with neither South Africa nor Argentina playing their best right now. Without knowing anything else, they have a road with a potentially easy semi match (if they can get there) Meanwhile the two best teams right now (Brazil and Spain) are bound for (at best) a quarterfinal tussle.

Matt: On to the second pot, that includes North America, Asia, Asian wannabe Australia and New Zealand. And right away we’ve got Mexico in A, and South Korea in B. Mexico is a better team than South Africa, not so sure about Korea and Argentina.

Ben: Bad news for Americans the two easier top seeds are gone which means........SHIT! SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!

Matt: Eeesh.

Ben: DAMMIT!!! Well...we drew England, and we get them first and I think we’re bound for another group of death...

Matt: I think you’re too quick to judge. We could still take 2nd depending on the rest of the draw. Plus, England always has so much freaking pressure, maybe we'll pull the upset. But I have to say, I don't like Australia in Group D either, no easy going for Germany yet.

Ben: You're absolutely right, meanwhile Theron just keeps mocking the French guy. Quoth Frenchie to Charlize: "Did you know US played England in 1950, do you remember that?" The look on Theron’s face is just a priceless “WTF, do I look 70 to you?”)

Matt: I'm calling Group E right now as the Group Of Death.

Ben: With Nederlands and Japan? Makes sense, them or C or D. Italy and Brazil get New Zealand and North Korea which leaves Spain with Honduras. Two minnows not likely to scare the last two champs and favorites Spain should handle Honduras.

Matt: Group E is going to get an african heavyweight: Ghana or Cote D'Ivoire. That's predictotron 6000 logic.

Ben: Well done Predictatron. Meanwhile, we head on to Pot 3 the Africans and South Americans, so the fist two African teams drawn will face Argentina and Brazil respectively, while the first South American team to come up gets South Africa. (Thus avoiding the potential continental conflicts). Remember given the right draw Ivory Coast could have a run to the finals in them (so Argentina would be great) But it’s Nigeria with Argentina and...oh man! much harder run for Ivory Coast going through Brazil (possibly twice) and Spain

Matt: Now Algeria joins group C, and Algeria I'll take, meanwhile Group D is looking awfully Scythe toting (Ghana gets it again).

Ben: Agreed, Australia's the class of the Asian Confederation, Germany is always tough, Ghana's hard too, their title as group of Death depends on the other European. Predictatron may still be right since Cameroon isn't bad in Group E.

Matt: Yeah, but D is just looking monsterous, meanwhile Spain essentially has a bye

Ben: I’m not so sure, Chile has actually done well of late and a lot of people think they could be dangerous. We’re through pot 3 and on to the last set of teams to draw, the Europeans in pot 4, led by the dangerous French and Portuguese (as well as Greeks and Danes), these will be drawn A-H, and I still think that Mexico has a semi-descent shot at a surprise run to the semis...OH HELL NO!

Matt: France gets grouped with Mexico.

Ben: I know that Everybody's saying that France will have something to prove

Matt: Slovenia! Ha! we ducked Greece and got Slovenia

Ben: We’ve got a shot, we just need to not hate ourself after that match against England, and stay positive during those last two matches. A draw and a win after England could be enough to put us in the round of 16.

Matt: The problem is that whoever comes out of Group D: at both spots is going to be a beast

Ben: Dammit, you’re right D's gotta be the scythe toter, I think we might want to hope for the Aussies or Ghana, we can catch either of those teams but a tough physical Serbian team....Not our cup of tea

Matt: And Germany?

Ben: Yeah...I don't even want to think about that...disciplined sides that don't make mistakes, not our favorite

Matt: Well, they still have to actually play the games.

Ben: That's true, there's a looong time to come before then

Matt: In the time we’ve been away, the Danes and Slovaks joined groups E and F, and now PORTUGAL!

Ben: G looks pretty deadly Poor North Korea

Matt: Hey baby, at least they get to leave their godforsaken minestrewn country

Ben: I thought Kim Jong-Il was god? (At least in his own mind). Well, that will have to do it for the Montana Hooligans for now. More analysis will be on the way throughout the six months leading up to our first cup including a concerted effort to post one blog a week analyzing each team, their strengths, their weaknesses and some inane form of blather that amuses me. We’ll hear from a host of other bloggers all soon to arrive on our site, and we will always be happy to welcome you all back, but for now I’m Ben MacKenzie

Matt: And I’m Matt MacKenzie and from all of us here at MacKenzie Low Budget Sports goodnight from Ohio, Chicago and South Africa.