Congrats to our good friend Josh Holland (or at least my good friend) who narrowly emerged victorious at the inaugural Desai Invitational. We'll do it again in 4 years!
Updated standings: I'm now tied for last. An Argentina win over Germany will make it impossible for me to finish in last place - although a Germany win makes it nearly impossible not to.
Also, here's a link to the spreadsheet I've been using. feel free to plug in some potential numbers and see how you would fare.
Forget Dempsey's goal against England. Forget whatever happened in Concord in 1775. THIS was the shot heard 'round the world.
After an unbelievable 90 minutes, Landon Donovan scored his record 44th goal for the US National Team. His scoring line reads:
Shots on Goal: 1
What else could possibly be today's World Cup Indicator?
Is where we finish in our group. Is the number of minutes of stoppage time we spent wishing we were somewhere else. Is our goal differential for the group stage. 1 is the number of goals scored in today's game, the margin of victory for our team. I've heard it's the loneliest number, but today it's got more friends than it can count.
For that matter, so does the number 10
We were fortunate to get an interview with "The General", Brian Young. On today's podcast, we talk about France's meltdown, America's resilience, and suntanning. The interview can be downloaded here, so you can put it on your ipod, otherwise you can listen to the embedded version below.
Today's World Cup Indicator is:
In the USA's last 12 World Cup-related matches (the final qualification round, and the two recent group stage fixtures) they have allowed their opponent to score first 8 times (or 66% of their matches). In those 12 games, they went 6-2-4.
What does this mean for our beloved Yanks? One viewpoint is that it shows our grit and determination. Our "never-say-die" attitude qualified us for the World Cup, and has brought us from the brink of elimination (half-time against Slovenia) to the verge of knockout-round qualification.
As you'll hear Brian Young profess in tomorrow morning's podcast, this team is undoubtedly more lovable because of this. We love being the underdog, we love picking ourselves up off the mat, and we love snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Example: Clint Dempsey's wonder-goal against Juventus capping an incredible comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Read the full story.
In the last 45 minutes we played against Slovenia, we saw an American team that was firing on all cylinders, playing with a passion and drive envied by teams around the world (Frenchmen Zinedine Zidane and Arsene Wenger certainly think so).
This knack for spectacle hides an unfortunate truth: that we are uncomfortable with our position in International football. We languish somewhere between being the best of the world's worst teams, and the worst of the world's best teams. Pundits tell us that we are good enough to compete, but not good enough to win. When we play the Brazils and Englands of the world, we are too intimidated to play aggressively when the scoreline is 0-0. Our team ends up so afraid of letting in an early goal, that we spend the opening minutes of every match trying to find our rhythm instead of the back of the net. We're like someone's kid brother at a party: desperately wanting to be cool, and consequently doomed to be anything but. We're nervous and tentative until the game sees a goal (whichever side scores it). When we have an objective (chasing a lead or protecting one), we loosen up, our passes connect, we push the tempo, and we start creating scoring chances.
When we find ourselves the favorites, we again don't know how to behave. Now we act like we're meeting our girlfriend's family. "They're going to love you" we're told, "just be yourself." Our play is tentative, our attacking uncreative. When an underdog scores, it's exciting. So we try to be bland. We figure that if the game is ordinary, our latent skill will allow us to end up on top.
This is not going to work. We can't keep coming from behind. Everyone at the party thinks you're awkward. Your girlfriend's parents think you're boring. Loosen up.
If we are going to beat Algeria, and if our national team wants to be successful, we need to come out swinging. We should hit on older girls and do the worm when the dance floor clears. We should make fun of our future in-laws and have an extra glass of wine. And even if coming out swinging means we go down - then we'll go down swinging too. What's more American than that?
Hey folks, those of you who woke up bright and early to check out the blog are going to be wonderfully rewarded! Yesterday evening, the team here at the Desai Invitational were fortunate enough to get an interview with the esteemed Michael Schreck, son of Jim Schreck, former coach of the Cross Lanes Darts. We spoke about the USA's first match, the performances from some of the tournament's favorites, and Rick Barry.
You can download the mp3 directly here, or listen to the embedded version below.
World Cup Interview with Michael Schreck
by Rishi Desai
The World Cup brings together two of my favorite things: sport and international politics. How many great World Cup rivals are deeply rooted in historical strife? Drawing England ignited a slew of antagonism stemming from the revolutionary war.
Mexico-USA, Portugal-Spain, England-Argentina, England-Germany, Argentina-Brazil, France-Italy, all brilliant rivalries made more perfect by historical conflict.
As I was receiving everyone's picks for the World Cup, I chuckled as no one was picking North Korea (eventually two people did, one by mistake). Who could root for one of the most ruthless dictatorships in the world? It was a matter of national pride to avoid wishing anything good upon North Korea.
As the World Cup approached, the madness started flooding in. Kim Jong-Il was supposedly constantly talking to the North Korean coach using invisible phones so small that they can't be seen by the naked eye. We don't have this technology because it was invented by the Dear Leader himself. We soon found out that North Korea's fans were actually hired Chinese actors. We witnessed the bizarre press conference in which North Korea dodged every question. As North Korea does not recognize the existence of South Korea, they told reporters that there is no such country as North Korea, and they would only respond if addressed as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea's team looked like they would merely be a wonderfully entertaining sideshow.
Then they played Brazil. I was looking forward to seeing the Brazilians light up the scoreboard. My main concern was that Brazil would be playing tough competition for the rest of the tournament and this would be our only chance to taste our beloved joga bonito before Coach Dunga put his defensive-minded shackles back on the team.
Joga bonito we saw - but it was from both teams. Yes, North Korea largely played a defensive game, but they played with a level of intensity and panache that every other underdog in the tournament has been too timid to pursue. They chased down every ball, ran out every play, and took every chance they could. Their shot selection was bold - often bordering on absurd. They showed a complete disregard for the fact that they were playing the best team on the planet. Above all, they were inspiring.
It's easy to hate European teams rostered by international superstars with multi-million dollar contracts. It isn't easy to hate a group of players living under an oppressive dictatorship that barely allows the world to see them play. In fact, anyone who loves soccer, anyone who has seen the beauty of sport transform a person, a team, or a town, might find it impossible not to love this team.
I don't know the personal stories of the North Korean team - we'd be hard-pressed to find someone who does. But I've seen and played soccer in countries torn apart by civil war, famine, and oppression. Between whistles, the Beautiful Game is your life. It's 90 minute respite from the chaos and madness that might surround you. And from the shores of Somalia, to the prison of Robben Island, to the heart of North Korea, soccer peppers the bleakest of landscapes with heroes and kings and triumph and glory, if only for short while.
Shame on teams who fill their box with defenders and cross their fingers for a draw. Soccer should not be about posturing, it should be about passion, and the rest of the World Cup field would do well not to forget that. The players of North Korea certainly haven't.
Hey folks, I've updated the current scores. Guess who is in dead last? If you're enjoying the blog, help me find consolation by commenting on the various posts. Also, check out the new 'Trash Talk' tab, where you can tell me how poorly I'm doing.
France up to its usual tricks of flopping, a bit of a dirty play late in the first half
here we are in the 66th minute. Mexico goes one up as I wrastle with my 6 year old Power PC dinosaur. My connection is choppy as people from around the world are attempting to stream the game over their work's internet connection.
Mexico seems to be a full power playing an aggressive game. stealing the ball from France many times in a row now with scrappy heads up defense. Mexico playing a defensive game as they are one up, keeping the pressure on France to produce a good opportunity. Proving difficult. France with a perimeter kick over the goal. Do they have it in them to take the win from Mexico?
getting more choppy here into the ... I cant read the pixelated clock.
France with some perimeter shots. Mexico produces 3 more fast breaks and a corner kick.
PK FOR MEXICO! unbelievable! Mexico is swiped by a French defender as another legitemate fast break move challenges the French defense (Typical?). The french can't believe it. Mexico chalks up another score with a well executed sub marine shot!
France shut down by mexico's ace defence as they attempt to put up a mark. France cannot come up with a good offencive play. Approx 10 minutes for france to surrender I mean make something happen. It seems that if you are french, a Mexican footballer will take your stuff and deliver it back to your house. Whistle as france pulls some cheap move, Mexico with a good fee kick that is kaibashed with a slider from france's goalie. France counters by sending the ball over their opponents goal. 3 minutes to play. France turns it over as the game ends with some ridiculous bicycle kick. Mexico comes up with the huge win! I wish I had picked them! This is George reporting live from the field.