Dismantled Brazil Could Still Finish 3rd

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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?

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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

USA, Russia, Norway AHEAD in Medals Count but which Countires REALLY Dominated?

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Ok, I had planned to provide daily Winter Olympic commentary, but I’ve fallen a little behind – a lot behind.  In fact, I sort of stopped watching the Sochi Games – well I tune in here and there and have lately wondered when it will all end.  Will the Games last the entire Winter which would take us to March 19th? They are the Winter Games after all. But they’ve run out of events or at least I thought so until I tuned in this morning and saw snowboard parallel slalom. Wow!  Kind of neat actually.  It’s parallel in the sense that 2 snowboarders zigzag down parallel (in different lanes) weaving in and out of flags trying to “carve” clean and fast lines to best the other rider.  And they are riders in a sense.  You ride, not race a snowboard, right? Anyway, it’s all a little silly really, but fun to watch and it’s over in a flash – it’s like the the twitter version of blogging.  Speaking of boards, what if the snowboarders skied on surfboards.  I’d like to see surfboards on the half-pipe. Imagine if you slipped up at a restaurant and ordered oysters on the half-pipe. But what I actually want to write about are patterns – patterns to the medals.  So if you haven’t been watching the Olympics and just want to know which countries are doing well in what and want to know how los Americanos are doing by comparison, this service is for you.

Let me preface the results reported below by saying that this might be a spoiler alert, or might not be. I’m not sure what you know or have or have not seen or what has been aired or what has yet to be aired tonight.  All I know is that the Games are nearly done.  Maybe some exhibition stuff, a Hockey match or two and perhaps a parade of champions or whatever they do left to go. You know what I think would be neat is for the athletes to compete in sports they don’t do for the last few days.  Bobsledders do Luge.  Lugers do Skeleton.  Sliders do Bobsled and so on (are Bobsledders sliders or just bobbers?) Figures skaters could do Freestyle Skiing; Snowboarders the Giant Slalom (on their snowboards if they like). Freestylers could do Ski Jumping. Hockey players could try the Half-Pipe on skates, Curling or Figure Skating. Short-Trackers could do Speed Skating and so on.

Final Spoiler Alert……What I find interesting is how some countries dominate in certain events. The Dutch completely dominated the world in Speed Skating.  Norway showed us all how to do the Biathlon, Cross Country and Nordic Combined.  Canada, with it’s tradition of Monarchs showed it reigns supreme in Curling and Hockey, it appears.  The Canadians also showed us how to Free Style with style.  The Chinese simply shredded up the Short-Track.  The host Russians danced their way to glory in the opening ceremony and on the figure skating ice, much to the delight of Vladimir Putin, no doubt.  Actually, Putin could be nicknamed Poutin over the Russians poor performance in Hockey. The Americans had the upper hand or perhaps lower leg with respect to Snowboarding events.  The Germans Lugers slid down the track with speed and precision and literally jumped off the charts on the hills of Sochi, normal and long along with Poland.   So, here are the medal results for each event by country of dominance compared to the USA for all you competitive American readers out there.

Figures Skating – Russia.  5 medals, 3 Gold.  USA – 2 medals, 1 Gold

Alpine Skiing – Austria 7 medals, 2 Gold.  USA 5 medals, 2 Gold

Snowboarding – USA 5 medals, 3 Gold. Russia 4 medals, 2 Gold

Freestyle Skiing – Canada 9 medals, 4 Gold. USA 7 medals, 3 Gold

Hockey – Canada 1 medal,1 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Cross-Country – Norway 11 medals, 5 Gold. USA 0

Nordic Combined – Norway 4 medals, 2 Gold. USA 0

Biathlon – Norway 6 medals, 3 Gold. USA 0

Ski Jumping – Germany and Poland 2 medals, 2 Gold (each). USA 0

Bobsled – USA 3 medals, 1 Gold.  Canada and Russia 1 medal, 1 Gold (each)

Luge – Germany 5 medals, 4 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Skeleton – Russia 2 medals, 1 Gold. USA 2 medals, 0 Gold

Curling – Canada 2 medals, 2 Gold.  USA 0

Short Track – China 6 medals, 2 Gold. Russia 5 medals 3 Gold. USA 1 medal, 0 Gold

Speed Skating – Holland 21 medals, 6 Gold. USA 0

3 of 4 Europe Knocking on the Door

When I last posted, South America had 4 of the teams in the round of 8; 3 from Europe, and the black stars of Ghana.  Now Ghana is gone and so are 3 of the 4 South American teams, and 1, Argentina, fell to Germany 0-4.  Europe dominated in the quarters, winning all 3 matches.  I expected the Germany Argentina match to be close, but never imagined it would be a blowout.  Like Chile and Brasil in their elimination contests, Argentina unaccustomed to being behind, fell apart in the second half.

With Chile, Brasil, Paraguay and now Argentina out, South America’s only hope rests with Uruguay, who are the clear underdogs to win the Cup, at 14/1, but have slightly better odds of winning their match against the Netherlands at 6/1.

Of the European powers left, Spain, the favorite to win the Cup, had maybe the most difficult quarterfinal match, eking out a 1-0 win over Paraguay.  I’d say Germany is the team to beat, based on how well they’ve played in the tournament thus far, scoring 4 goals in three of their games, two of those wins against powerhouses – Argentina and England.

As an inhabitant of the “New World”, I’d like to see Uruguay, the last team from the Americas left standing, in the finals against Spain.  I think this matchup might favor Uruguay.  First, though, they have to take down the Netherlands, no small task.

Moribund World Cup Broadcast in English

The English speaking broadcast of the World Cup match between England and Germany was like listening to a golf match.  They whispered.  It was Ian something or other, a monotone, crestfallen Brit, who sounded suicidal after Germany’s 4th goal.   I had no particular interest in the outcome, but I myself was becoming disturbingly depressed and nearly fell asleep at the 60 minute mark so I had to find the Spanish speaking broadcast to wake me up so that I could really fully appreciate the spirit of the game.   GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

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.