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

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Out of the Frio and into Rio

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We’ve been in Rio de Janeiro now for three days and it’s beginning to feel like home and literally will be our home for the next 3 weeks, thanks to our dear and gracious friend who is letting us stay at her spacious apartment in Copacabana. After experiencing the fall like months of June and July in Chile and Uruguay, my body finally gets to experience the summer it expects in July, and ironically, July is one of the coolest months of the year in Rio de Janeiro, with average temperatures of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

If there is a heaven on earth, Rio might be the location – tropical breezes, world class beaches including Copacabana, close to where we are staying, and Ipanema, made famous in a song, that face the fierce Atlantic Ocean surrounded by majestic hills or morros as they are called in Portuguese. The view of the city and the beaches from atop the morros is simply breathtaking, with its main boulevard lined with white and pastel colored hotels and apartments and brown sandy beaches for as far as the eye can see.  The contrast between the white foam and brown beach at certain angles looks like a giant cup of coffee con leche or as the Brazilians say, cafezinho.

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In our first three days, we walked a considerable distance on the famous and clean beaches of Rio and through several neighborhoods in and around Copacabana with its unique and diverse architectural styles, and beautifully landscaped city parks, and walkways. We have encountered pavilions overflowing with music, soccer fans, and general merriment and felt the special spirit and pride of the place that defies description.

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Ribbie on Evolution, Student Loan Debt, Women in Politics and Other Issues

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Ribbie recently appeared on the Joel Hibernia show, a fictional radio broadcast featuring obscure bloggers.

JH: What do you think about income inequality?

Rib: I’m not a fan.  The government should increase the tax rates on the wealthiest, close corporate loopholes, raise the minimum wage, allow the IRS to do the filer’s taxes for free if the filer so pleases and allow people to pay higher taxes if they wish.  Last, I would cut military spending significantly even beyond the scheduled sequester cuts.

JH: Students are drowning in student loan debt.

Rib: This is true. Some of those loans should be forgiven if a student enters the field of public service upon graduation. This would include teachers, social workers, government workers, counselors, librarians, musicologists, ethnographers, anthropologists, bloggers, writers, birders, wine critics, environmentalists and all English majors.

JH: English majors?

Rib: Sure.  They should be drowning in literature, not debt.

JH: Is climate change a hoax?

Rib: Only to those who don’t believe in science. I happen to believe in science.

JH: What are your thoughts on the polar vortex?

Rib: I like it actually.  I have a coat made out of polar vortex and I tell you it’s much warmer than goose down or thinsulate.

JH: On the issue of science and religion, should creationism be taught alongside evolution?

Rib: Creationism is a religious question, so I would say that only evolution should be taught in science class.  I think creationism should be discussed in Sunday school or in an elective course on creation myths.  In high school, I would recommend that the play, “Inherit the Wind” be taught in English class and the questions of religion and science be critically discussed and debated.

JH: Is America ready for a woman to be president?

Rib: Well, we should be.  And I don’t know why it has taken so long.  As we speak, 19 women are presidents or prime ministers of countries, countries such as Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Korea, Norway, Jamaica, Malawi, Denmark and Thailand.  And many more countries in the past have elected or appointed women as heads of state like Panama, England, Iceland, Ireland, Nicaragua, Switzerland, India, Indonesia, and Liberia, to name a few.

JH: What would you do about Vladimir Putin?

Rib: I would broker a deal so that Russia would withdraw from Ukraine in exchange for its pledge not to join NATO.  And Putin would be invited to be a guest host of Saturday Night Live with special musical guests, the band, Pussy Riot.

JH:  That would be a riot.

Rib: And that was a joke.

JH:  Putin doesn’t like jokes.

Rib: True, in his way of thinking, jokes are a sign of weakness and designed to disarm, something he is not likely to do anytime soon.

JH:  What do you think about the world cup?

Rib:  Not much.  A sport in which hands are not permitted strikes me as odd.

JH:  Well, it is called football.

Rib: It is true to its name, except that you can also use your head.

JH: Good point.

New World Cup Rules Proposed

Soccer, Futbol, Football, or whatever you want to call the sport, needs to make some changes, especially in World Cup action.

First, no more ties in Group Play.  Just penalty kicks, that’s it.  I like overtime in the knockout rounds, but it seems just too much for the players.  One thing FIFA ought to look at is how many games are actually decided in overtime. So far in the knockout rounds, two games were tied after 30 minutes of overtime only to be decided by penalty kicks.  This extra time seemed like a waste of time.

Second, I don’t like the fact that if a player gets two yellow cards, or a red, he misses the next match.  FIFA did change the rules for the 2010 World Cup so that a yellow isn’t carried over to the semis.  If the players reach the semi finals, the card slate is wiped clean, but a player could still miss the finals if given a red card or two yellows in the game.  A red, I can understand, but two yellows and you miss the finals – that’s harsh.

Third, I’m tired of the whining, the play acting and the fake injuries.  The referees need to issue more yellows for stalling tactics.  And I don’t think there should be any added time.  It seems the referees just add on 3 minutes to the end no matter.  They should simply stop the clock if there is an injury or some sort of delay.

Fourth, I know this sounds a little crazy, but I’d like to see extra points awarded for difficult goals – a long kick like Ghana’s goal in the Uruguay match should have been worth 2 points.   Headers, maybe 1.5.  A scissors kick, 3 points. A free kick and penalty kick, just 1, because hey, it’s free.  Like a free throw.

Fifth, FIFA should adopt instant replay technology so that a close goal call can be reviewed.  No team should be eliminated due to an officiating error.

Top 5 Reasons Not to Like team Brasil

Top 5 Reasons Not To Like Team Brazil

  1. They go by nicknames or first names.  This has to stop, starting with the coach, Dunga – his name is Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri.  And Kaká, couldn’t they come up with a nicer nickname like Speedy or Hammer or something – by the way his name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.  Why not call him Rich – he no doubt really is that.
  2. Unappealing Jerseys.  Blue, Green and Yellow – I know these are the colors of the Brazilian flag, but must the uniforms contain all the colors of the flag?  In some cases the jerseys actually look like flags – see Paraguay.  Brasil, stick to green and yellow, it looks much better.
  3. Rough Play. Brazil is a physical team that will push folks around.  I’ve seen them commit some nasty and dirty fouls.  This is not rugby.  Their game is far from beautiful.
  4. Bad Acting and Whining.  This play acting and whining is especially popular among latin american teams – see Argentina.  Stop stalling, flopping, and contesting calls.  Just play ball.
  5. Brasil is not known for beer and wine.  Whereas, Germany and Argentina create fine wines and Holland and Germany brew some of the best beer in the world.  I know, I’m running out of material here.

Ok, having said all that, I like Brazil and Brazilians.  They are a nice people and have a wonderful country and many fine traditions, soccer being one of course.  But their soccer team is so good, maybe too good for their own good.  I’d like to see a team that hasn’t won one get a chance like, Uruguay or Ghana.

Down to 8 and So. Am. dominates

Down to 8.  The elite 8.  Africa, South America and Europe, the only continents left standing.  And of the 8 teams, 4 are from South America, a continent with only 5 representatives in the tournament, posting 10 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties in first round group play.  All 5 teams, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina made it to the knockout round, and all but Chile, beaten by Brazil, have advanced to the quarterfinals.

Domination?  Not quite, but if the 4 teams all advance to the semifinals, guaranteeing an all South American final, then we can legitimately talk domination.  And the scenario could happen.  How about Argentina and Brazil in the final.  Of course, the unexpected could happen too – what about Uruguay and Paraguay?  Or Spain and Ghana or the Netherlands and Germany.   Anything can happen and probably will.  My prediction?  Paraguay over Uruguay (PU) 0-0 with Paraguay winning on penalty kicks.  Why, there is something about Paraguay’s clown outfits, those zany stripes that intimidate and distract opponents.  Yes, I’m going with Paraguay.

All South American Final

I was rooting for Chile against Brazil, and thought they might have a chance.  Brazil had shown some vulnerabilities in the tournament.  In the last game of first round action in Group G, Portugal played them to a scoreless tie.  A scoreless tie!  But against Chile, Brasil looked invincible, like a team out to show the world that they are the ones to beat.  Posting a 3-0 win against a tough and talented Chilean team, Brasil looks ready to take on the Dutch and the world.  But they just might not have to take on the world if things roll a certain way.  They may only have to take on their neighbor, Argentina in an all South American final.  I’d like very much to see that happen.

Soccer Needs PA Music

When I saw President Clinton and Mick Jagger at the US Ghana match I got an idea about how to spice up soccer/football/futbol at the World Cup.  By now, everyone is surely tired of blowing on the vuvuzela.  In the last few games I’ve watched, I haven’t heard that frenetic buzzing sound as much.  Maybe ABC has figured out a way to filter out the drone of the plastic Dr. Seuss like trumpets.  What the game needs is a PA system to blast music.  This sounds ridiculous, I know, but HEAR me out.

Seeing President Clinton brought to mind his 1992 campaign song, Don’t Stop, the classic Fleetwood Mac hit from 1977.  I was thinking, a PA system could have blared the song when team USA had the ball in the second half, trying to come back from a 2-1 deficit against the mighty upstart squad from Ghana.

And seeing Mick again in the stands during the knockout match between England and Germany, I’d have liked to have heard the Stones tune, Start Me Up when Germany was up 3-1 to get the Brits back on track.

This would also serve the purpose of drowning at the droning vuvuzelas. So here’s how it would work.  Each team would select about 10 songs that could be played at various stages of any match.  Let’s say a song for when the match is tied, one for when the team is behind, one for when it is way behind, one for when it is ahead and so on.

For example, with a 3 goal lead, Germany could have played something from the Brandenburg Concertos, an airy piece fit for a merry stroll in the park.  When tied, they might chose a Dokken tune (wait, they aren’t German), ok, let’s say a Scorpions’ tune.  And when team Germany wants to rub it in, say it’s near the final seconds and their opponents are 2 or more down, they could play 99 Luftballons.

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.

No Wins for the English Speaking

Did you know that English speaking countries have yet to win a game in the World Cup?  England, team USA, New Zealand and Australia are a combined 0-1-7.   By contrast, South American teams are undefeated going 10-0-2.  Already Uruguay and Argentina have made it to the second round.  Add in Mexico, and 3 of the 4 teams that have advanced so far are from Latin America.