Monday, October 15, 2012

OFC WIBD Solomon Islands

It's time for another edition of my occasionally recurring series, honoring the minnow to watch in the next round of qualifying...even if the qualifying has already started and I'm actually way behind in making these posts.

This time around, we're honoring the Solomon Islands the "Well I'll Be Darned" candidate from Oceania's OFC. That oft overlooked corner of the FIFA globe that consists of New Zealand and....everybody else.

And yet, everybody else has done alright of late. Heck, Tahiti managed to win the regional cup this summer to book their spot at the Confederations Cup next year in Brazil (where they will face Spain, Brazil and a host of other countries poised to beat them up and take their lunch money). So what does it take to come out of a pack of disrespected, underanalyzed nations as the most disrespected and the least analyzed?

File:Sarda sarda.jpg
Fear the Fish
Well consider that in all recent FIFA rankings the Bonitos have ranked fourth out of the four remaining OFC candidates, and that when the final round began they were 174th in the world, behind already eliminated Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga.

But there's hope afoot for the team named after predatory tuna*! (*Yes there's a predatory tuna, so remember that the next time you open a can of cheap fish-type substance, you may be eating a ravenous beast!) With three points in the bag, and three matches left (starting tomorrow at New Caldonia). The Solomon Islands can still make a come back. First they need to win against New Cali, a team in only its third world cup campaign. Then they take on bottom feeding Tahiti (still basking in the glow of their imminent destruction in Brazil next summer). Wins in both of those matches could set up an all important final fight against the Kiwis IN the Solomons.
The one and only
Henry Fa'arodo

Sure, the local press has relegated the national team to the back pages of the sports section. (The futsal team gets all the coverage...stupid futsal.) But that doesn't mean that the Solomon's don't have a shot, it just means that it will be even more surprising when they triumph!

What's more, with the well-capped and beautifully coiffed Henry Fa'arodo in midfield, the island nation's attack has plenty of promise whenever it heads down the pitch. And while Fa'arodo may be in the twilight of his international career he has certainly paved the way for a new generation to continue the Solomon's slow rise to regional prominence. Fa'arodo may still be the only Solomonder to make it to Australia's A-League, but others like Benjamin Totori and Nelson Kilifa have joined him overseas, or rather, over a sea. And with 20-year-old striker Gagame Feni starting his career in New Zealand, the next level may well be just around the corner for all of the Solomons.

We'll have to wait and see if the next level comes to them even sooner in the World Cup.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Literature + Futbol = Nerdery Personified

Okay, so I love football, I even call it football even though my fellow Americans prefer to call that thing where you throw/carry the ball with your hands "football". But I also love books, and I love combining the two whenever possible.

With another round of World Cup matches right around the corner I thought I'd break down the favorites in the nerdiest way possible: through the odds on favorites to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (according to ladbrokes betting house...which places bets on everything from intellectual achievement to whether or not anyone ever reads this post....oooh, 9 Zillion to 1...I LIKE THOSE ODDS!!)

Rather than look at everyone on the list I'll suggest that the top 10 favorites may well inspire their teams to victories in the near future. (Even though #3 Mo Yan of China and #10 Adonis of Syria can't inspire their local sides to Cup qualification...what with those teams already losing and everything)

Does he wanna talk about Japan's
chances against France or Brazil
Most of the top 10 writers can already claim to support powerful teams. Top of the list is Haruki Murakami, he of the wild and stylistically invigorating 1Q84...though the Tengu Warriors have friendlies against titans France and Brazil but don't play another cup qualifier until November, you've got to like their odds against Oman as they look to move on to the Mundial.

Similar good fortune may be in the offing for Ladbrokes' other Goliath writers: #4 Alice Munro (Canada v. Cuba); #6 Bob Dylan...yes that Bob Dylan... (USA V. Antigua & Barbuda) #7 Cees Noteboom (Netherlands v. Andorra).  Heck, even #5 Peter Nadas, has to feel pretty good as his Hungary takes on Estonia...come on Estonia, you call that a couplet?

#8 Ngugi wa Thiong'o won't get to push the Harambee Stars through a qualifier (they wait 'til March to play top of their table Nigeria)...still! Kenya does have a friendly against South Africa next week. And if Thiong'o's got the momentum his team might upend the most recent African winner, J.M. Coetzee.

Pop-Quiz: is this Albanian author Ismail Kadare,
or Albanian captain Lorik Cana...I really don't know
And who knows what to expect when #9 Ismail Kadare of Albania has his nation face off with Iceland. Seriously, I don't know about Ismail Kadare or any players on either of those teams...I'm stumped.

But perhaps the biggest upset has already been prognosticated by looking at the 2nd favorite in the Ladbrokes odds: Irish poet William Trevor. Does this mean that the Irish will spring an upset on Germany in Dublin this Friday? (Especially since the Germans don't have anybody on Ladbrokes list?) Probably not...but hey! If I can't make wild conjectures here, where can I make them? Put it down! Ireland over Gemrany this Friday.

Blame it on the Grey
Perhaps most importantly...Ladbrokes longest of longshots this year is Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James whose English heritage may destroy the Three Lions if she wins and thereby uses up all their momentum against San Marino...yes. I hereby proclaim that if EL James wins the Nobel Prize in Literature (against 500/1 odds), then San Marino should definitely take the win against England (they're currently 400/1 according to Ladbrokes).