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July 10, 2010

Verdict? How has this World Cup Been?

Firstly, do you guys think I post much?

Secondly, how has this world cup been in your eyes?

Points to consider:

1). Jabulani...why does fifa, partnering with adidas, deem it necessary to switch the ball for every world cup. (http://www.goal.com/en/news/3194/video/2010/07/05/2010309/goalcom-video-special-is-the-jabulani-the-worst-world-cup)

2). Vuvuzela. Did this distract the players' onfield communication (e.g. Demichelis's error against South Korea)? Should Fifa have banned it? But this is like taking away part of the experience for the local fans.

3). Long shots which went wayyyy over the crossbar. Is this the ball's fault? Or Ronaldo's? No, seriously, everyone did it and....well.

4). Records were/could be broken for a lot of teams (first European team winning outside the continent - Holland winning/Spain reaching semifinals/Villa becoming his nation's all-time leading scorer/Paul the Octopus/guy betting 500,000 euros on germany beating spain...I'm sure there's more, I just can't think of much now)

5). Attendance in the stadiums.

6). FiFa's organization of security/matches/locations.

7). GOALS!!!!!!!!!!! Quantity and Quality.

8). Drama (Uruguay-Ghana/Netherlands-Brazil)

9). And finally.....your own opinion?

10? Refereeing quality.

guys, please at least write one line...say hi...i feel like a lot of this forum has been me, zamundinho, and occasionally que golazo chipping in...
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July 9, 2010

Germany: The World's Most Powerful Footballing Nation

Ever. Or at least since the inauguration of this great competition in 1930.

Some people measure success by the amount of titles won. Jose Mourinho would agree with this logic as this is how he defines himself. In several verbal jabs at his fellow colleagues (for instance, Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, to name a few), he boasts about his trophy cabinet at home, constantly comparing the range of titles he has to their collection. Yes, I'm sure he would be blinded if sunlight ever touched any of that, but let's be realistic here. With the exception of Porto, wherever he went (Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid), he basically had a blank checkbook to work with. If this standard were used on the national stages, Brazil would be considered the strongest nation with 5 titles. And yes, there is sufficient argument to say that they are. In fact, I am simply proposing an alternate way of looking at success, as soon follows.

Some people measure success in other ways. For instance, the quality of play on the field. Attractiveness on the field might win you fans and support, but it might not win you results. On the club level, the most obvious example is that of Arsenal. It's been 5 years since they won anything, the FA Cup back in 2005. On the international level, many people consider The Dutch team of 1974 composed of Cryuff and Michels to be the greatest ever squad never to have won the world cup. Spain is another nation, never having made it past the quarterfinals until this year's edition. Luckily both countries will have the chance to change that piece on Sunday. And hopefully, there will be attractive football displayed on both ends.

Now, I can't talk about the attractiveness of team's plays before 2000, as I had only been avidly following the sport since then. But I have done a lot of reading over the past 10 years on previous world cup results and I simply cannot believe Germany's results (and this, Que Golazo, might help with why people keep referring to Germany as a machine).

A year ago, I was having a discussion with my friend Sherief about how he thinks the world cup would play out. I had my usual picks in Brazil, England (...forgive me...), and Spain, because of their recent Euro 2008 success. He immediately mentioned Germany. He told me they were always there towards the latter stages of the tournament. I looked this up and what I found shocked me.

Germany have played the most matches in world cups. 98. This takes into account the 1930 world cup, which they did not participate in. This also includes the 1950 world cup, which, for reasons you can guess, Germany (West/East?) could not participate in. Brazil have the advantage of being the only nation in the world to have participated in all 19 editions of this illustrious competition. So that's 17 competitions they participated in. Let's divide 98/17 and you get 5.76. This means they played an average of 5.76 games every tournament. Even though the number of teams have changed since the beginning (in 1982, it increased from 16 to 24, and in 1998, it increased from 24 to 32, where it currently stands), the number of games played for teams reaching the final has been 7 for the majority of the World Cup's history. In the early days, it was less, adding even more weight to Germany's 5.76. That means on average, they reach the semifinal more often than not. Let's see if that works out.

The truth is a lot of what can happen in football is luck. Refereeing decisions infect the game in more ways than you want it to. This world cup has seen its fair share, and let me not get started about the 2002 fiasco. And this is when technology is more advanced, where fans, players, coaches, and other stakeholders have the luxury to rewind, fast forward, and publicly criticize with the benefit of hindsight. I wonder what could happened last century when this wasn't possible. So how does Germany keep itself anchored to success? all the time, from 1934, its first world cup, till now? I don't know.

In 1934, they came in 3rd place. In 1938 was the only time they did not make it past the first round (hmm...maybe they had other things on their plate?). This is considered their worst result in a world cup. There were no world cups in 1942 and 1946 because of the wars. After being banned in 1950, they claimed their first world cup in 1954. In 1958, they came fourth. In 1962, they went out in the quarterfinals against a very strong Yugoslavia side. In 1966, they came 2nd. In 1970, they came third. Truly, no one could really match up with the best team of all time, Brazil 1970s. In 1974, they won it again. In 1978, they lost against Austria in the second round. That game even became known as 'The Miracle of Cordoba'. Naturally, for the German fans, it was considered 'The Disgrace of Cordoba'. The fact that this match is dubbed a miracle serves to show how much of an upset this was. Think Italy and France this year, except worse, because we aren't going to dub any of their performances as miracles or disgraces. In 1982, Germany came second place, with the exploits of Paolo Rossi and co. ensuring Italy got its 3rd world cup title. In 1986, Germany lost in the final to...Maradona's Argentina. This was the greatest player in the world we are talking about. It should be understandable. Then in 1990, they got their revenge by replaying the 1986 final; a 1-0 scoreline in favor of Germany. So from the years 1982 to 1990, they were in three consecutive finals of the World Cup, losing twice and winning once. Okay, Brazil did one better and actually won two of their finals (1994, 2002), and lost in 1998 against Zizou magic. This was a Brazil with Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Dunga, Ronaldinho, and a host of other superstars.

In the 1994 and 98 editions of the world cup, Germany performed poorly by their lofty standards. They went out in the quarterfinals against Bulgaria and Croatia, respectively. This outcome actually made them invest in their youth development to ensure players of the upcoming generation did their country proud. They specifically targeted 10 to 17 year olds and invested close to 500m pounds. Emphasis was placed on technical ability. Another key reason was the country's FA worked alongside the government to ease immigration laws. A number of players (ozil, podolski, boateng, khedira, tasci, aogo, marin, gomez, just to name a few) benefitted from this and became key members of the senior team set-up. Furthermore, Germany won the U-17, U-19, and U-21 championships following these investments.

Oh, and they didn't do too bad right after the 1998 'debacle' of only making the quarterfinals. They made it to the final the following World Cup, made it to the semi-finals in 2006 only to lose to the eventual champions (2 minutes, 2 goals...thank you grosso and del piero), and they look favorites to come third place again for the 2010 edition.

Let's also look at this year's German team with their ages:

GK - Neuer - 24
GK - Wiese - 28
GK - Butt - 36
DF - Badstuber - 21
DF - Mertesacker - 25
DF - Lahm (c) - 26
DF - Boateng - 21
DF - Jansen - 24
DF - Friedrich - 31
DF - Aogo - 23
DF - Tasci - 23
MF - Ozil - 21
MF - Marin - 21
MF - Khedira - 23
MF - Schweinsteiger - 25
MF - Kroos - 20
MF - Trochowski - 26
FW - Gomez - 24
FW - Klose - 32
FW - Podolski - 25
FW - Kiebling - 26
FW - Muller - 20
FW - Cacau - 29

This is the youngest team Germany has sent out since the 1934 world cup. So, not only have they been successful in the past, but Germany have a core foundation with which to build upon for the next two world cups.

One of the reasons I am very impressed with Germany as well as been their commitment to youth development, which I only briefly mentioned. Countries like England and Italy will suffer in the future because of their reluctance to commit to youngsters, both for different reasons though. England's Premier League currently has 68% foreigners. This unfortunately leaves very little room for top young talent to blossom at the highest level. Remember, Theo Walcott was the next big thing when he was selected for England four years ago? Italy, on the other hand, don't allow their talented youngsters to even play until they are 23 or 24. Players like Giovinco, Motta, Santon, and Balotelli hardly got game time for their clubs; yet they are the players whom Italian hopes are resting on for the upcoming world cups.

Germany has gotten things right ever since they sent out their first world cup team. How they have consistently been at the latter stages of the world cup will continue to puzzle me. Not even Brazil can boast of results like Germany. Yes, Brazil do play a more entertaining brand of football. Yes, Italy have won more titles than Germany. But I would still choose Germany, as this German machine shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: More Cape Town Pics 3






beautiful.
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: More Cape Town Pics 2





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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: More Cape Town Pics





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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Underground Gold Mines






so when gold was discovered in south africa late in the 19th century, there was a huge influx of ppl to try and reap all that...many miners were obviously abused and all that good stuff...at its height, early in the 20th century, 27% of worldwide gold was coming from south africa...there were tons of mines like this....this one, went down 3 km...naturally we were only at like 100m-250m below the ground...i can't even imagine going down that deep....way too hot.
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Joburg's Amusement Park - Gold Reef City







hey, so on our last day, we decided to go to an amusement park. i realized i hadn't been to one in 5-6 years, which is kinda crazy...and i forgot how much fun they were...i guess the whole culture of standing in lines for a 30 second joy ride, paying exorbitant prices for food and drinks didn't appeal to me initially...but i'm a baller now, so whatever (actually south africa wiped me clean...but it was definitely worth it).

pics in reverse order this time.

pic 5: of course, have an african tribal dance for the foreigners...typical...but at an amusement park? well, as long as it amuses ppl i guess.

pic 4: they had all sorts of animals wandering around, which was actually really cool...squirrels, peacocks, ducks, dogs, cats,

pic 3: Ok, so i confess i was not a huge fan of roller coasters...it's not that i wasn't a huge fan, but i just told myself i was scared the entire time...mind plays tricks on you...so when my brother said he was too scared to go, naturally, my ego starts to kick in. i make fun of my brother and hype myself up...ok, so there's two sides to that...one where you don't think about your actions and go..like this UFO one, which was a lot of fun..i was just slightly dizzy after i came out...it went all the way vertical and i guess centripetal forces ensure u don't even move, while u are going pretty fast...

Pic 2:...and one where you constantly think about it while standing in the line for arguably the scariest roller coaster in the park...it takes you to quite a height...and then you literally accelerate downwards (straight downwards...like no incline) at a speed you cannot possibly fathom...the entire experience lasts 3 seconds....so this picture is of me stupidly laughing, when in reality i am scared shitless...

pic 1: and this pic, when i am on the roller coaster, is when i am actually shitting my pants....

but seriously, roller coasters are mad fun...i had never been on a loop-di-loop one before and it was the first time, and actually, those aren't even hard...i dont know why i psyched myself out before...all the roller coasters were amazing...in fact, that's all we really did...repeated it as well!!
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Cape Town Pics





haha...i look stylish...that's funny...also, something else for your viewing pleasure

http://i.imgur.com/lKxA3.gif
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Durban Pics





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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Amazing Views from/of Table Mountain






Arguably the most beautiful place on earth.
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July 8, 2010

Where the Goals At?

Yesterday's "Clash of the Titans" between Spain and Germany was perhaps the most anticipated match of the tournament thus far. The German "machine" [footnote: why do commentators keep referring to their squad as a "machine," as if it isn't an obvious allusion to the German "war machine"?] had stormed through the first few rounds with an abundance of ability and goals to boot, while the Spanish "inquisition" (I guess no one calls them that but me) had proven themselves strong and consistent, though perhaps slightly underachieving on the attacking front. David Villa had almost single-handedly carried them through to the semi-finals while Torres struggled to regain his form. Meanwhile, Miroslav Klose was fast approaching the record for most goals in World Cup history [footnote: although it looks like Klose might miss the 3rd-place match anyway, should goals in the 3rd-place playoff really count towards the record?].

The tactics and ability of the teams involved gave this matchup the potential for real excitement and drama. Yet, as we may have come to expect from most "Clasicos" (Madrid - Barca, Chelsea - Man U), the anticipation far outweighed the payoff. The first half was little more than a formality, with (if my memory serves me) only one really threatening strike on goal, and none from the German camp (can we say camp?). Both teams played exceedingly protective, tactical, and (let's be blunt) dull football, with the Spanish side content to kick the ball back and forth through the midfield for about 25 passes before attempting to organize an attack. We can applaud their ability to maintain possession, but that's about the most we can say. Meanwhile, the German side, normally so threatening through quick counter-attacks, were held at bay by the likes of Puyol, Pique, Ramos, and Casillas, and were unable to come up with a way to break through the Spanish defense.

Following what seems to be a trend in this World Cup, the game finally picked up once the first goal was scored. But is this what it takes for teams to open up their play? The only man on the pitch who seemed really hungry for goals was little Pedrito, who seemed to be taking a crack at it every chance he could. Of course, he selfishly sacrificed an amazing chance to get Torres on the board at the end of the game, but I think we should forgive him since was so positive and aggressive for the rest of the match. In the end, the only goal of the game came from the shaggy defender, who put himself in the right place at the right time.

I'm not normally one to complain about a game for lack of goals, but I was truly disappointed by yesterday's tactical confrontation. Albeit without Muller, Germany seemed much too cautious throughout the match, and didn't look at all like the side that dominated Argentina. The Spanish defense is certainly one of the best in the world, but even after going a goal down, Germany failed to find that spark and make those threatening runs into the box. Meanwhile, Spain played a very cagey match, although their patience finally paid off thanks to a free header off a corner kick.

In the end, Germany's tactics proved to be their Downfall (get it?), and I am inclined to think they got what they deserve. But the game simply reinforced the perception that in the most anticipated matches, both sides are so "respectful" of each other that they don't get into top gear until the last 15 minutes of play. Compared this to the prior semifinal between Holland-Uruguay, a match filled with excitement, enthusiasm, defensive AND offensive ability, brilliant strikes at goal, and real drama. There you had two teams that were not quite so "equal", but both sides went out there hungry for a win and ready to take chances, even unlikely ones (a la van Bronckhorst). I think the semifinals have proven that the best matches are usually NOT the ones involving the very best teams, since protective tactics tend to dominate at the expense of real excitement, opportunity, and (fuck it, I mean this is what we tune in for)... GOALS.
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July 6, 2010

LIVE: The Goal Post's Liveblog: Netherlands v Uruguay



This game should have some fireworks... Uruguay are missing their lil' diablo, Luis Suarez, but the Dutch attacking threat remains strong...


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July 5, 2010

FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Hiking up Table Mountain

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My cheeky younger brother took 3 or 4 videos like this. I was really sruggling. There were three routes. We took the hardest (steepest) route up. Recommended time was 2 hours...took me 3 hours. Regardless, the view was amazing. Everytime we (I) stopped to take a break, the view was amazing.
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Maradona: Argentina's savior and spoiler

Maradona: the greatest football player ever. Single-handedly, delivered the 1986 World Cup to Argentina. Single-handedly. No player has ever done that. Not even Pele can boast that as he had his legendary Brazil 1970 squad (although in 1958, as a 17-year old, playing a somewhat starring role is unparalled as well).

Maradona: the worst coach ever. Mocking your opponents before the game is foolish. It simply draws attention to yourself, raises expectations, and gives fire to the opposite number. Went on record, mocking Bastian Schweinsteiger in a German accent asking, "Why, are you nervoush?" Right...Germans being nervous...that makes...sense? All Schweinsteiger had done was to point out that The Germans would have to deal with an Argentinian side, which kept hounding the referee about every decision that went against them, regardless of whether it was the correct decision. And he was right. Did you see the Argentine players swarming the referee, shouting at him, even insulting him during that game? It was unbelievable. The same was true with Brazil against Holland. I guess South American teams are generally fussy when things don't go their way.

Maradona playing players out of their position. When you have Messi and Di Maria constantly coming to defend, you know something is wrong with your tactical set-up (http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2010/07/07/2013947/new-real-madrid-star-angel-di-maria-disappointed-with). Furthermore, Maradona took out Veron from the starting XI, after his stellar season with Estudiantes. He put on Maxi Rodriguez, who sometimes started for Liverpool. Furthermore, Veron was played on the flanks. Everyone knows he is generally slow, but his tactical reading of the game, similar to Pirlo except in a more advanced position, allows him to excel in the center. Why couldn't he play a simple 4-3-3. With Messi, Tevez on the wings and Higuain/Milito in the center. Mascherano was the defensive anchor, but you cannot have Maxi Rodrigues and Di-Maria taking up the midfield positions. Or, and this is what I would have done. Play a traditional 4-4-2 (or 4-2-4, depending on how you look at it). Tevez and Higuain/Milito up front. Messi and Di-Maria flanking the wings. This would allow Mascherano and Veron to occupy central midfield, one attacking and one defending. I know the subtleties and complexities of the opponent require changing tactics once in a while, but how could Maradona get things so wrong with his options?

The reason I am so pissed off is because this year's Argentina attacking line-up is, in my opinion, the best attacking line-up ever. Ever. Ever. Forever. Will never be possible again to see to Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Higuain and Milito, the latter not as technically sound as the first three but coming off stellar club seasons. Gonzalo Higuain scored more than Cristiano Ronaldo last season, unbelievable as that may sound. Diego Milito cemented his position after coming off a treble-winning season at Inter. Also the highest scorer. Also was the only one who scored in the three decisive matches which ensured Inter won the treble. The only side that is comparable to this is that of Brazil 70s, with Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino and co. Please feel free to disagree, and if u do, please let me know who you think was better.

And finally, the phrase defense is the best form of attack is going to haunt Maradona for years to come. Coming off stellar, no, absolutely impeccable club seasons, you have to wonder how Maradona did not pick Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. I know a lot has been written about this glaring omisison. But I need to expand. Zanetti has been the world's best, if not, most consistent full-back in the last 15 years. His tireless running is not only indicative of how he plays his football (from his heart with PASSION), but terrorizes opposition attacks and defenses. I have never seen anyone shut Messi down like he did (granted he had help from a certain Cristian Chivu). Ashley Cole couldn't do it. Patrice Evra couldn't do it. And I doubt many people can with the rate Messi is improving. Zanetti is the symbol of Inter. Maradona did wisely in picking Walter Samuel, the best defender in Serie A last season. And it is unfortunate he had to pick up an injury after only a couple of games. But, seriously, how could someone not need Zanetti. I would pick him instantly in a World-23. Then Cambiasso, which is less inexcusable, but you could see that Argentina only had one world-class defensive midfielder. Why was he not picked? Sure, they are both old, and they will not play in the next world cup because of their ages. Cambiasso didn't even need to start, but why not have him as a back-up?

Argh! Whatever, I guess Argentina don't seem to be too angry about it. The head of the Argentina FA just came out stating Maradona is the only man who can do whatever he wants (http://www.goal.com/en/news/1863/world-cup-2010/2010/07/06/2012432/world-cup-2010-argentina-fa-head-julio-grondona-diego). WTF. Furthermore, some retard proposes to build a statue for him (http://www.goal.com/en/news/1863/world-cup-2010/2010/07/07/2013768/world-cup-2010-argentine-legislator-pushing-to-honour-diego). I guess for a place where they have an official Church for him, this shouldn't be too surprising.
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Live Music at Cape Town Fifa Fan Fest

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there were amazing bands between games everday...South Africa definitely went all out to ensure there was plenty for everyone to do.
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FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Video: Outside Durban Stadium for Holland vs. Slovakia

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this is arguably South Africa's most beautiful stadium, Moses Mabhida Stadium. It is going to host the semifinal between Spain and Germany. The inside was amazing as well. Well planned. I love the arch.
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July 3, 2010

FORZA ITALIA'S Travelblog: Jesus 4 All

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lord, have mercy on his soul. preachers outside the Argentina-Mexico game in Joburg.
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