Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Full 90: 2010/2011

Since we missed a chance to do a year in review, or a year in preview...how about we do both? With two halves covering 45 people, teams, places and moments that turned our heads in 2010, and 45 things to keep an eye on in 2011.

1st Half--2010
At the start of the year Egypt (1) showed us what we would all be missing in June by winning the African Cup of Nations (2). And while the Pharaohs would indeed be missed, you'd be hard pressed to say that The World Cup (3) was a failure without them. To be sure we might have been better served with them than with the whipping boys from Honduras (4) or North Korea (5). Speaking of the Red Robot (The coolest national team nickname of the year) (6) bad news for Kim Jong Il (7) and all fans of a free and independent press; the first live television event in decades, or maybe ever (8) ended with a 7-0 loss to Portugal (9) and professional tabloid headline/underwear model Cristiano Ronaldo (10).
Despite the triumph over the forces of evil on the pitch, Ronaldo lost a much bigger trophy--that of biggest goober in professional football to Wayne Rooney (11). You might recognize Rooney from his starring role in the Very cool Nike World Cup commercials (12) or, possibly, the bizarre Tiwanese computer animated recreations of his sexual exploits (13). Despite the monastic diligence demands of coach Fabio Capello (14) the Three Lions of England (15) were so distracted by injuries, Rooney and fellow horn dog John Terry (16) managed to barely scrape into the second round before getting positively throttled by Germany (16).
But protestations of English incompetence have nothing on France (17) and Italy (18). Les Blus quit on coach Raymond Domenench (19) not only mentally, but LITERALLY quitting and refusing to practice before playing South Africa (20) in their final (pointless) group match, the only Bafana Bafana win of the cup. Meanwhile, the Azzuri sleepwalked their way through two draws against Paraguay (21) and New Zealand (22) before losing to titans Slovakia (23). Point and laugh everyone point and laugh.
Okay, lets cease our focus on the idiots who lost, instead, lets remember those brave fools who managed to win in spite of everything else. Starting with Landon Donavan (24) whose last minute goal over Algeria (25) gave the USA (26) an epic win and begat the reactions that begat the Youtube clip that shut up the nation's soccer haters. Of course one could argue that Ghana's (27) win over us in the next round shut down the love affair, but I think it's probably still got some life left. Besides, as someone who was in Ghana at the time, I know it meant a lot to them (and this might just be my personal fandom highlight of the year (28) ):

video
While I learned to love Kevin Prince Boateng (29) and Andre "Dede" Ayew (30) I've got to feel for the truly impassioned (though slightly stubborn) Asamoah Gyan (31) who had the semi-finals in his fingers only to see them slip away. Of course, my personal tournament villain, Luis Suarez (32) helped with that. But no matter how much we may want to curse Uruguay (33) you've got to love Diego Forlan's (34) hair. Forlan led the way for exciting players captivating a world wide audience, and the raft of others including Mesut Oezil (35), Bastian Schwienstager (36), Wesley Snejieder (37), Keisuke Honda (38), Robert Koren (39) and David Villa (40).
Of course it was Villa who won in the end as the boys of La Furia Roja in Spain (41) finally lifted the World Cup over the perennial bridesmaids from The Netherlands (42). And while their party has lasted well into the new year, and the specter of insulting insinuations of corruption have faded in South Africa, Sepp Blatter (43) has gotten to appreciate scandal and innuendo anew with the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia (44) and the 2022 event to Qatar (45).

2nd Half--2011
The awarding of more cups to future hosts gives us the opportunity to start looking forward into the year 2011 and the tonnage of events that will effect future world cup activities.
Start with the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff (46) the new president of Brazil (47). As the successor to the politician who brought back facial hair: Luiz Inacio "Lula" DeSilva (48). The good news for futbol fans is that Rousseff will likely continue most of DeSilva's policies. The bad news is that she's not quite as popular as DeSilva and might struggle to keep the construction/renovation of the 12 stadiums on track. Hey, why does that sound familiar?
But to start things off nice and easy we've got the Ballon D'Or Awards Spectacle on January 10th (49). Inside the labyrinthine secret lair of FIFA in Switzerland (50) the votes have been tabulated and soon we'll know who has pulled down the big fat trophies. The big prize is down to a race between Andres Iniesta (51), Xavi (52) and Lionel Messi (53). If you're noticing a certain Spanish flavor to that you're not alone. The world game is distinctly connected to the joys of paella and if you aren't part of La Liga (54) you're really just an after thought now (as evidenced by the fact that the three coaches nominated for Coach of the Year (55) all work in Spain). The equally enticing World XI (55) will be announced the same day: but only 3 players on the 55 name shortlist hail from somewhere other than Europe or South America. (Those 3 would be Didier Drogba (56), Samuel Eto'o (57) and, my favorite,
Michael "The Bison" Essien (58).) C'mon FIFA, no token rep for North America? or Asia? Sigh...
Well, Asia will just have to try and find a stand out starting with the Asian Cup (59). Kicking off in just 5 days on January 7th in the arab nation of Qatar (remember them? They're gonna host the World Cup in 12 years?). The 16 teams gearing up include relative minnows Syria (60), Jordan (61) and (even though I love them) India (61). But as the tournament unfolds keep an eye on the dogfight in Group C between South Korea (62) and Australia (63) (two World Cup teams will keep it interesting) and rising power Uzbekistan (64) (drawn into a weak Group A).
That final will kick off a year worth of confederation competitions building to the 2013 Confederations Cup (65). First Panama (66) hosts the Central American Cup (67) to pick up 5 teams to fill out the big dance: the CONCACAF Gold Cup (68) in June, where Mexico (69) will try to re-establish its dominance of the confederation. El Tricolor will follow that up with a trip down to Argentina (70) for the Copa America (71). Oddly, they'll also be with Japan (72)...why precisely Japan is competing for the title of best team in South America...well...uhh...I've got no clue. Just trust that one of the big powers will knock them out, with Chile (73) looking to be the feel good story of the year.
Throughout the summer there will be qualifiers aplenty for the 2012 African Cup of Nations (74) (to be held in Equatorial Guinea (75) and Gabon (76)) and the 2012 Euro Tournament (77) (in Poland (78) and the Ukraine (79)). But just in case you aren't in the mood for Mozambique V. Comoros on October 7th (80) or Luxembourg V. Albania on September 6th (81) don't worry there's plenty of other action to enjoy. Including the Women's World Cup in Germany (82), the U-17 World Cup in Mexico (83) and the U-20 World Cup in Columbia (84). Whether you want to try and spot up-and-coming talents (Alex Nimley (85) anyone?)or a host of women with enough talent and toughness to crush you between their little fingers (I'm looking at you Abby Wambach (86))
there's plenty of futbol to be enjoyed.
Kick back and enjoy the matches wherever you are in the world. Appreciate the patience and consistency of Ji-Su Park (87), the fine touch and goal scoring acumen of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (88) and the eternally entertaining Diego Maradona (89). Best of all...there's the Qualification Draw for the 2014 World Cup, on July 30th in Brazil (90)

Extra Time Predictions:
1: Argentina wins the Copa America at home...Diego Maradona pouts, Brazil goes crazy with the fear that they're in dire straits for futbol matches 3 years away.
2: The qualifying draw for the 2014 World Cup creates one very difficult qualifying group including both New Zealand and New Caldonia...the world press corps does not notice.
3: I won't write another post like this for at least a year.

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