Friday, January 29, 2010

Meet the Teams: New Zealand

As Matt takes us group by group through the World Cup teams, I thought I'd jump about in my usual scattershot way and take a peek at one of the cups tiniest minnows: New Zealand.

The All-Whites (as opposed to the All-Blacks, the national Rugby team) are not a discriminatory club, but they aren't exactly expected to do much of anything at the World Cup. In 12 games over four international tournaments (World Cup/Confederations Cups) they've scored four goals and won zero times. With Captain and Defender Ryan Nelsen (of the Blackburn Rovers) and a pair of young Premiership forwards, their best may be able to keep up--for about 15 minutes of their first match...then it's nothing but Italy, Paraguay and a long sad silence.

But rather than focus on the sadness, we Montanan Hooligans want to offer a solution. Instead of their standard team of tired, localized vets, and raw new comers, let's make use of what New Zealand has, through the least amount of wikipedia research possible

Every team should have a cunning and ruthless manager:
A dynamite attacking striker:
A set of creative and surprising midfielders
C couple intimidating defenders:
And an agile, frightening keeper
And we've got a team that could threaten box office records...and probably fare just as well as the actual New Zealand team. So, let's not worry about any of the factual validity of this post and just agree that New Zealand is a land of contrasts.

For MacKenzie Low Budget Sports, I'm Ben MacKenzie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meet the Teams: Nigeria

Here we are at the World Cup Cocktail party, hosted this year at the Tacoma Radisson of cyberspace: Google Blogger. You, my friend, are interested in meeting and greeting the teams vying for the World Cup in South Africa this summer. Having already accepted my sage crudite' advice (stay away from the raw broccoli, you will avoid embarrasing burp smells later), now please let me offer you a brief introduction to the most interesting teams in the room. I'll share with you the following elements: Pre-emptory Tomfoolery (a few jokes to get us started), Political History, Culinary Assets, a Sporting Preview (don't expect much, that isn't what this is about), and finally Recent Cultural Contributions. This way you'll have something interesting to talk about until the booze hits.

Now, back to the lecture at hand . . .

From Group B: NIGERIA

Pre-emptory Tomfoolery
This email is already making its way around the intertubes:

From the Desk of Nigerian Prince Johnothan Okoye, Your Assistance is Needed!!

Dear Sir,

I am Prince Johnothan Okoye of the Taraba People of Nigeria. My father, King Okoye, was deposed in 2006, and died tragically last year in a lawn mower accident. I am his sole heir. My father amassed a fortune while he was king and, in order to avoid the corrupt banking practices of our country, deposited it in several Romulan bank accounts. My family fortune, which stands currently at the sum of US $27M. (Twenty-seven Million Dollars) is currently being held at two separate banks in Romulus. I require your assistance in the retrieval of this sum. I need merely $5,234 US Dollars to pay various Romulan transaction fees. 40% of my fortune will go to you once it is retrieved ($8.1M), in thanks for your assistance to me. Further, As you know, the Nigerian Football team will be competing in this Year’s World Cup tournament. I am the spiritual and cultural advisor to this team, but am unable to travel with the team to this years tournament due to lack of funds. With your help not only will you and I enjoy a substantial monetary windfall, but I will be able to aid the team and the glory of a Nigerian World Cup victory will be assured. You will have your name inscribed upon the trophy in permanent marker for all to see and know of your goodness.

A friend who is a Staff of World Trading Center (WTC) here in Lagos made your contact available, knowing you to be a very savvy investor, with many brilliant acquisitions to your name. Please notify me of your acceptance to carry out this transaction through the above E-mail address or fax number. You should also note that the transaction would only take (14) fourteen working days.

You can also reply me to my private email

Warmest Regards,

Prince Jonothan.

American Suckers with ESPN (Also known as "the guys who still think Berman is funny" and "Wyoming") are already cheering for a Nigerian victory in South Africa. "Score that goal! Prince Jonothan is gonna make me rich! Ooops! Time to take my penis enlargement pills!"

Political History
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa (conservative estimates are 150 million) and is also one of the most ethnically diverse. It gained its independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1960. The extremely oil-rich Nigerian delta is Nigeria's principal natural resource, and for years the state controlled the oil industry skimming profits and hindering growth while the military ran the government. In the 1990s Nigeria transitioned into a representative Federal Democracy closely resembling that of the United States, with a bicameral legislature and a president elected to four year terms. Recently, Nigeria has modernized its economy, privatizing four major refineries and emerging as one of Africa's major economies. Of course, the Christmas-day Undiewear-Bomber was also from Nigeria. So . . . lets talk about food.

Culinary Assets
Since Nigeria doesn't have a lot of livestock, Nigerian cuisine typically focuses heavily on staple vegetables and starches: yams, cassava, okra, beans, lentils and rice. The coastal areas also specialize in seafood stews. One staple common throughout the country is the snack-food Chinchin, deliciously sweetened fried bits of dough:

A Sporting Preview
Group B fixtures: Argentina (6/12), Greece (6/17), South Korea (6/22)
Nickname: The Super Eagles (Yes, best team nickname so far).
The Super Eagles burst onto the world's stage and into the imaginations of two young boys in Montana when they dismantled a Bulgarian side led by the legendary Hristo Stoichkov 3-0 in the group stage of the 1994 world cup. Nigeria has boasted exceptional talent for years, winning the 1985, 1993 and 2007 U-17 World Cups, but have been unable to put it all together at the main-stage, emerging from group stage play in 1994 and 1998 only to lose their first games in the knock-out stages. The Super Eagles could not escape the group of Death in 2002 (Sweden, England, Argentina, YIKES!), and did not qualify for Germany 2006. Their qualifying campaign for South Africa was a microcosm of the team: an unfocused and lackadaisical start, followed by nail-biting tension as they managed to stay in the game, capped by a flourish of talent that made you wonder what they'd look like if they played that way all the time. The Super Eagles earned a spot in the semi-final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations against Ghana (That's this Thursday at 1/28) by defeating Zambia on penalty kicks. Nigeria made all 5 kicks, and keeper Victor Enyeama shot and scored the final PK and then stopped Zambia's final shooter to secure the win. Strikers Obefemi Michaels (Wolfsburg), Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton - possessor of the best nickname in the tournament: "The Yak"), Center Mid Mikel John Obi (Chelsea, also known as John Obi Mikel, maybe also known as Obi Wan Kanobi), and Center Back Joseph Yobo (Everton-captain) are the stars. Ancient striker Kanu will also make the trip.

Recent Cultural Contributions
Nigeria has the third highest revenue producing film industry in the world behind Hollywood and Bollywood. "Nollywood" releases an estimated 25,000 new films per year, second only to the industry in India. Nollywood films are typically produced and distributed direct to DVD and have a distinctly DIY flavor. The movies are created on location, without sets, using digital video cameras and off the shelf film editing software. The subject matter ranges from pulp fiction to soap-opera style melodrama. Also, the trailers are hilarious, for example:

There is also a significant evangelical Christian portion of the industry, which has produced some unintentionally uh . . . results:

Hang on to your eyes, and go Super Eagles!

Next up from Group C: Slovenia

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meet the Teams: Uruguay

This is my first team profile. Here's what to expect:

-Pre-emptory Tomfoolery
-Political History
-Culinary Assets
-Sporting Preview
-Recent Cultural Contribution

Any on-field analysis will be kept to a bare minimum.

First up, from Group A: Uruguay

Pre-Emptory Tomfoolery
Uruguay will likely be the favorite in Group A for two sub-sets of the world's population: (1) Uruguayans; (2) American males age 13-29 accidentally tuning in to Uruguay's matches expecting to see "World's Strongest Man":

"Oh brah, I'm so gonna crush my deadlifts after we watch this."
"You won't crush shit, you homo. You R drinkin' Heinekien! Hey, what's this gay shit?"
"I dunno brah, looks like soccer."
"Who's playin'?"
"Uruguay and Mexico!"

/contemplative silence as all the bros watch the beautiful game for a few moments:

"LOL Dude, Uruguay looks like U R Gay!!"
"No brah, even better: Hey U! R U Gay? You are if you play for Uru-gay!!!"
"Change that shit to MTV, check to see if Jersey Shore is on."

Political History
Perhaps due to the potential for rapid word-play with its name, in 2007 Uruguay became the first South American country to legalize same sex civil unions.* Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America with one of the region's most stable economies and governments. Which is sort of like saying "Uruguay is one of the brightest students in remedial math." Actually, they're doing fine, and have the 47th highest standard of living in the world. After gaining independence from Spain, Brazil, and Argentina in a military Royal Rumble reffered to as the "Guerra Grande" (Razor Ramon was eliminated by a flying Uruguayan Drop-Kick) a large number of Spanish and Italian immigrants came to the country. Current estimates put the percentage of the population tracing their roots to Europe at around 80%.

Culinary Assets
Uruguay has earned a reputation for fantastic Asado:
Yes please, four of those.
I think we can all agree that Uruguay's elevation of barbecue to art-form status is a Culinary Asset. Also, they are big on Dulce de Lece which, literally translated, means "Caramel Crack".

Sporting Preview
Group A opponents: France (6/11), RSA (6/16), Mexico (6/22).
Nicknames: La Celeste ("The sky blues") and Los CharrĂșas ("The indigenous people of Uruguay"). I know which one I'm using.

Uruguay hosted and won the first ever world cup, in 1930. They won again in 1950. Two wins puts them in pretty rarefied air, but Uruguay's dominance was of a sport that doesn't much resemble the game played today. To put it another way, if Uruguay was an NCAA football team, they'd be Army.

Nevertheless, for a nation of only 3.3 million (500k less than Los Angeles) to even make the big dance out of the extremely competitive Conembol confederation is impressive in this day and age. Uruguay finished fifth in Conembol and had to beat Costa Rica of the Concacaf Confederation, in a home and away play-in series to earn their spot. Barring a surprising upset of France, or a classic home-cookin' loss to the RSA, to advance they will need to beat Mexico in what will likely be one of the most competitive final group games in the first stage. Of course, with a pair of strikers in Diego Forlan (Atl. Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) finishing likely won't be a problem. Do they play good defense? I don't know, they make mean barbecue, so they must be patient. That's probably a good sign.

Recent Cultural Contribution
Uruguay has given the world two prominent musicians recently: Jorge Drexler and Natalia Oriero. One seems to be a Latin American Jessica Simpson and the other is an Oscar-winning otolaryngologist who speaks fluent hebrew. You are free to guess which is which and to debate their artistic merits in the comments:

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:
Thoughtfully composed after watching The Pianist!

So, that's Uruguay.

Next up, from Group B: Nigeria.