Dismantled Brazil Could Still Finish 3rd


Well, I didn’t predict the winner – I had Brazil.  But I did predict that the losing team would score 1 goal.  You see, I had Brazil beating Germany 2-1.  I never imagined that in a semi-final World Cup game a team would/could score 7 goals. 7 goals! Germany completely dismantled Brazil with seemingly little effort, scoring 3 goals in 3 minutes and 5 goals total in the first 29 minutes.

I happened to be watching the game in Rio in the comfort of a friend’s apartment drinking sangrias (fittingly so it turns out). And good thing, because if I had been down by the beach drinking caipirinhas watching the game on one of the Jumbotrons set up on Copacabana beach, just down the street, who knows what might have happened to me.  I’m not saying I would have been attacked or anything, but I do look more German than Brazilian and don’t speak Portuguese. And trust me, the vendors make a beeline for me at the beach, marking me as both a tourist and a probable gringo with dollars. No one has yet to ask me, “Alemao? or “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

The game was an embarrassment to watch and I am sure an embarrassment and shock to all in the soccer community, Brazilians and Germans alike.  A 6 goal differential is the largest defeat a host country has ever suffered in a World Cup game and 7 is the most goals ever scored in a semi-final game.  And it’s too bad it happened in the way that it did.  Brazil had two men down essentially – star Neymar and captain Silva…but they did have the home field advantage with the support of the entire soccer crazy nation.  Soccer is a religion here.  An addictive drug one could say that keeps the masses distracted from the many problems Brazilians face from wealth inequality to corruption.

Whether Brazilians will forgive their team for their pitiful performance remains to be seen.  Many left the stadium before the first half even ended.  After the game, some of the players and the coach apologized to the fans and the country.  Players were praying on the field as if asking god for forgiveness for their sporting sins. The Brazilian team can only hope for a victory against the loser of the Holland and Argentina match – certainly no small feat.  It would be a consolation prize that could help heal the damage that Germany inflicted and restore the people’s pride and faith in their national team.

Brazil Can’t Possibly Lose, Can They?


Futbol reigns supreme in Brazil. The national team known for its jogo bonito (beautiful game) has advanced to the semi-finals to play Germany, a team they last played and lost to in an international match in 2011.  They are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and have won 42 straight home games since 1992.  Germany on the other hand has a record of 7-0-3 in their last 10 games and has the distinction of being the first country to reach 4 World Cup semi-finals in a row. But can they win? The last time they made it to the finals in 2002, they played Brazil and lost.  They last won the World Cup in 1990, defeating Argentina, a rematch that is theoretically possible.

Notwithstanding the history, the European, Latin American showdown should be close. Germany remains reasonably healthy, having lost only one player to injury, defender Shkodran Mustafi. Brazil on the other hand will be playing without two of its starting players, Neymar, who fractured a vertebra in the game against Colombia and Silva who was served a one game suspension in the same match. The fact that two of Brazil’s most important players are out may neutralize Brazil’s home field advantage in today’s match in Bello Horizonte, Brasil. May, but will it?

One cannot underestimate the power of the home country advantage and I certainly won’t. In the 19 previous World Cups played, the host country has won 6 times.  And that kind of advantage for a powerhouse may be very difficult for Germany to overcome. France was the last host country to win the World Cup back in 1998.

On a personal note, I have the good fortune to be in Rio and to have the option of watching the game where I am staying with family and friends or to go the beach just down the street and watch it with fans who worship soccer as if it were religion. Watching it on the beach would be nice, especially if Brazil wins, but I prefer the comfort of a couch and a big screen TV, as opposed to the sand and a jumbotron screen.  To be honest, being more of an introvert, I don’t much like crowds, especially ones where alcohol and fireworks are combined.  And I am a bit of a wimp too when it comes to celebratory cannon booms and displays of fireworks that have loud reports.  It all reminds me too much of war and suffering. Of course, soccer is a kind of war, and teams in this tournament have used violent physical contact as a weapon to weaken the opposing team, as Brazil knows all too well.  And like war, the losers will suffer.

My prediction:

Brazil 2 Germany 1

Names – First Last Nick

Why do composers go by their last names?  Beethoven, Chopin, Prokofiev, Copeland, Gershwin, Bach, Mahler.  Who even knows their first names?  Ok, I do, for most of them anyway but I do get the Gershwins mixed up – was it Ira or George?

Rock Stars go by nicknames.  Sting.  I keep forgetting his real name – Gordon something. And the Edge, the quiet U2 guitarist with a big rolling melodic sound has an actual name but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what it is without googling it and who has time for that?  And then there’s U2’s band leader Bono Vox, who goes by Bono which might actually be his name.    Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish is another one off the top of my head. That can’t possibly be his real name.  And of course there’s Iggy Pop, whose real name is Jim I believe.

Like the composers, some do go by their last names – Morrissey and Daughtry, not Roger, but Chris, former American Idol contestant, (a show I’ve never watched) who goes by his band’s name, Daughtry. John Coltrane was generally known as Coltrane.

Brazilian Soccer or futbol players often go by one name, first, last or nick – Pele, Ronaldo, Kaka, Marta and the like.  In jazz, Miles Davis was simply Miles.  Duke Ellington the Duke and Count Basie the Count.  In folk music, Dylan and Donovan come to mind. The old guys in American football players had nicknames, but those didn’t end up on their jerseys – Mean Joe Greene, LT, Broadway Joe, Johnny U and so on.  Rappers are famous for this too: Jay Z, LL Cool J, 2Pac, Biggie, 50 cent.  And some folks have the same first and last name.  Jose Jose.  Victor Victor.  And others have first and last names that are interchangeable – Dean Martin, George Harrison, or two first names – Steven Tyler and Ricky Martin.

When I was in fourth grade, this kid, Hank Lee, gave everybody nicknames.  Mine was Robbie del Hobbie.  I was intrigued by the word play and took it upon myself to be the giver of nicknames when Hank Lee moved away in the 5th grade.  I was kind of small and easy prey for bullies so giving nicknames and running fast were my weapons that earned me respect and quite a few nicknames of my own.  Rib, Hib, Ribbie, Wribbie (British spelling), Orb – I won a spot on my high school student council with a campaign of brightly colored sticker dots.   Nicknames do have their advantages, though I have yet to land a multi-billion dollar record deal.

Team USA Ran Out of Gas

It’s all over for team USA in the 2010 World Cup.  They had a good run, playing England to a tie, winning their group and advancing to the knockout round, where they fell to a young Ghanian team…again, 2-1.  The match was statistically close, but Ghana seemed to play with confidence, especially after the German born midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng scored right off the bat in the 5th minute.  That goal came on a mistake, akin to an interception in American football where the defensive back runs it back for a score.   The U.S. eventually tied the game to send it into overtime, but were burned again early after another miscue and just didn’t have the energy or the legs left to answer.

The U.S. may have had the better team.  They had the experience, lots of momentum and confidence, the best goal keeper and a prolific scorer in Landon Donovan, but they played sloppily with heavy legs.  Ghana on the other hand looked fresh, controlled the ball with crisp and precise passing and used their speed and keen anticipation to take advantage of every U.S. miscue.  And they had the home field advantage, and will have it from here on in as the last African team standing.  There was a lot riding on the game for Ghana and they rose to the occasion.  They will face Uruguay in the Quarterfinals.  If I were an Uruguayan player,  I’d be worried.

Latin America on a roll in the World Cup

I don’t like ties in soccer, or in the official lingo, draws.  I’ve been an advocate of sudden death or penalty kicks to decide a winner.  I’ve waged a tireless campaign to promote a new scoring system for soccer.  Ok, maybe not a tireless campaign, but I’ve devoted a paragraph in a previous post to the idea.  In first round World Cup play, I know ties, sorry, DRAWS, count as 1 point, but a draw means nothing to me as a sports fan.  To quote from my previous post, “…it’s as if the game had never been played.”

After looking at some of the results, I was curious to know which continent has posted the best winning percentage.  The result is probably not surprising, but perhaps sobering to European and African fans.  The prize goes to South America, which I am just going to call Latin America (LA) and include Mexico and Honduras.  With 6 teams, LA has posted 6 wins 1 loss and 3 draws.  Of the 10 results, 60% resulted in a team winning.  Europe, with 13 teams is 6-6-7 for a 32% winning percentage.  African teams have only posted 1 win so far.  The three Asian teams are 2-2.  No draws.  They play to win.  By contrast, the 3 English speaking New World teams – USA, Australia and New Zealand are 0-1-3.  The only delegation yet to post a win.

I have enjoyed watching some of the matches.   Team USA launched one of the most impressive comebacks I’ve ever seen in a soccer match against a tough team from Slovenia in first round play.   Chile’s victory over Honduras delighted the legions of fans in the Andean nation.  And Argentina with two wins in its first two matches may be the most dangerous team in the competition.   I’m watching the Netherlands v. Japan at this very moment.  Naturally, it’s nil – nil.

Soccer Needs a New Scoring System

I confess.  I’m not a big soccer fan.  I didn’t grow up playing the game as a kid. I do remember playing a variant of the game as a 6th grader on an outdoor basketball court with a kickball, but that’s the extent of my experience.

I began following the sport a little bit in 1990 when I watched the 1990 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.  I was in Venezuela at the time and ended up watching the game with some Venezuelan fans who were cheering on Argentina.   They thought I was a soccer player because I had on a pair of Addidas Samba.  And one guy was convinced that I was a fan of Germany because I looked like Jurgen Klinsmann, which, by the way is not true. I told them I didn’t play, didn’t know how to play, but they couldn’t comprehend that, or maybe they thought that my Spanish was bad.  Interestingly, Venezuela is not a competitive soccer playing country, but Venezuelans do love soccer.  I guess this is due in part to Latin American pride in the success the continent has had in the sport and the fact that there are so many families of European decent living there.

I do like watching World Cup soccer, but I’m not wild about ties, especially scoreless ties such as occurred between Uruguay and France in Group A competition yesterday.  Can’t they do penalty kicks at all stages?  Or sudden death? Why not have the players essentially play until they drop?  A tie is like the game was never played.  No winner.  No loser.  And yet each gain a point.  I wonder if teams play to tie.  And why not adopt defensive tactics to preserve a scoreless tie.  Conserve energy.  Win a point.  A win win.  There’s something wrong with that mentality.

Soccer still hasn’t caught on in the States, and I think it never will, precisely because a game can end in a draw.  There’s not enough scoring for the American appetite.  Where’s the equivalent of the three pointer in basketball, a touchdown in football or the home run in baseball?  In these American sports, there are multiple ways to score and various point values assigned to the scoring.  Couldn’t soccer adopt something similar? Let’s say 3 points for a scissors kick goal and 2 points each for a goal as a result of a header or a kick that hits the net in the air.

I’m half kidding of course, but I might be on to something.