Sunday, November 28, 2010

Liberal insider blogs about Carole James...

... then deletes the page when he's wrong.

Brian Keiran is a Liberal insider-type that many of you will know more about than I do. He has a blog, writing about BC politics and such.

The other day he posted a piece saying that Carole James was likely done by last Sunday, November 21st. Surprise, surprise, she survived a call for a leadership review, with 84% in support of her. That piece that Keiran wrote is now deleted from his site.


Here's the deleted text:

If James makes it to sundown Sunday I will be amazed


NDP leader Carole James has just endured a public flogging by her ex-whip. And, the only person who does seem to get it is James. Her caucus is in full revolt many hours before this weekend’s Provincial Council blood bath is scheduled to begin.
Today caucus whip Katrine Conroy, flanked by three of her socialist sisters including Jenny Kwan, pulled the pin because of James’ bungling purge of dissident Cariboo MLA Bob Simpson.
Conroy (Kootenay West) announced her resignation saying she does not have the support of her leader. This is pretty damning stuff. Conroy’s job as whip for the past five years has been to ride herd on caucus solidarity.
More damning still ... neither Conroy nor her solidarity sisters would offer reporters even faint praise for the ongoing legitimacy of James’ leadership.
This development has all but overwhelmed the impact of James’ endorsement yesterday by a host of NDP ghosts who came out of retirement to support their beleaguered leader.
And, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, a Mustel Group poll released today is chock full of grim foreboding for James.
The poll taken after Premier Gordon Campbell announced his long goodbye has the Liberals at 37 per cent support (up four points since September) and the NDP ahead at 42 per cent, the same level of support they enjoyed in September and when they lost the 2009 election.
In short the NDP is flat lining and has been unable to capitalize on the very public, messy and embarrassing Liberal implosion. To make matters worse, James approval rating has plummeted from 42 to 33 per cent since September and her disapproval rating has jumped nine points to 45 per cent.
This latest poll confirms what other pollsters have been tracking as well. (In my Wednesday posting below I cited similar trending by Angus Reid.)
The list of 16 prominent retired NDP MLAs supporting James’ leadership includes former premier Mike Harcourt and many members of his 1990s cabinet and caucus who were party moderates.
Sadly, their eleventh hour support matters little in the face Conroy’s resignation and polling numbers that suggest James’ leadership credibility is eroding rapidly just when it should be shooting through the roof.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fun as shit

Here's a phrase that doesn't show up on the Google (but will now):

Kafkaesque as shit

If you haven't already seen xkcd, please go there now and scroll through the comics. The most recent one, referenced above, has given me a new www game: find the adjective phrase ending in "_ as shit" that is more common than the adjective phrase starting with "fucking _" using the same word. On their list, only annoying has more results for "_ as shit". N was confounded, and suggested we find more. So, below are words that are more commonly used on the www before "_ as shit" than after "fucking _":

dumb - 111,000 to 98,700

That's all I found, though I only tried a few other words. Have fun, and let me know.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen

I confirmed this the other day, after telling it to someone then second-guessing myself:


Here he is as Silvio, my favourite character on The Sopranos:


And here he is onstage with Bruce Springsteen:


Possibly the two coolest jobs ever. All due respect.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Language and resistance in the Basque region of Spain

San Sebastian in all its glory.


Last year N. and I spent three weeks in Spain and France, circling the border on trains and sampling food, wine, architecture and sun everywhere we went. It was a gorgeous three weeks, with far too many highlights to mention. It was one gigantic highlight.

After some time in Barcelona, we took the train to San Sebastian, on the Atlantic coast. It's a tourist destination, and the only place we found was a dump of a hostel, but the beach, food and architecture was enough to keep us there for a while.

In the bathroom stall at the public library, I saw this graffiti:

españolitos, go home!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prime Minister's office response to G20 email

I recently sent an email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the police action at the G20 summit in Toronto. Below is the email and the response from his office. Thanks to Jared Ferrie for drafting the email.


Dear Mr. Walters:

On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the conduct of the police forces providing security for the G8 and G20 Summits. Our office has noted your concerns. Our Government takes the allegations which have been raised seriously, and believes that they should be given all due consideration under existing mechanisms for handling complaints regarding police conduct.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,


Susan I. Ross
Assistant to the Prime Minister


>>> From : Brenton Walters brentonwalters@gmail.com Received : 30 Jun 2010 02:26:17 PM >>>

>>> Subject : G20 debacle >>>>

Dear Sirs:

At this point I imagine that I am only one of perhaps millions of Canadians who are shocked and deeply disturbed by reports of possible abuses by police at the G20 summit in Toronto. I would like to add my voice to the growing number of people calling for a public inquiry into police actions during the summit. In particular I am disturbed by:

- The fact that Black Bloc members were allowed to run rampant through the streets of Toronto, smashing windows and even setting fire to police cruisers, despite the presence of police close by.

- The fact that police then apparently allowed Black Bloc members to enter crowds of peaceful protestors, remove their black clothing and blend into the crowds.

- The response by police after the Black Bloc violence to corral peaceful protesters into confined areas where there was no escape.

- The arrests of approximately 900 protestors under the supposed justification of seeking out Black Bloc members (whom police had previously allowed to rampage unhindered and subsequently escape).

- The many testimonies of peaceful protestors who accuse police of abuses, including: unwarranted use of force causing bodily harm; threats of sexual violence; denying medical care to detainees; holding detainees for as many as 13 hours in overcrowded paddy wagons and holding cells; refusing to give detainees access to toilet facilities resulting in some having to urinate where they were being held; turning air conditioning units on high in paddy wagons filled with rain-soaked detainees leading some to experience possible hypothermia; verbal abuse and threats.

- The fact that high ranking police officials and politicians created the impression that there was a law against protestors coming within five metres of the security fence when in fact no such law existed.

In particular, I would like a public inquiry to answer these questions:

- Why did police not prevent members of the Black Bloc from causing property damage? How is it possible that these people were able to cause such damage in downtown Toronto despite a massive police presence?

- Were there undercover police officers involved in Black Bloc activities and if so, how many, and what were they tasked with?

- Were peaceful protestors illigally detained?

- Are police officers guilty of abuse? If so, what penalties will they face?

- Most importantly I would like to know how the money for policing was spent, especially considering the $1 billion set aside for providing security is by far the largest budget of any G20 summit. I am sure I am not alone among Canadians in demanding to know exactly how that extremely high security budget was allocated. And I am sure that most Canadians would like to see their government act responsibly and account for every single dollar of public money that was put towards security at the G20 summit.

Regards,

Brenton Walters
Vancouver, Canada

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stockwell Day, crime rates and the census

Stockwell Day and John Baird: two of the sharpest tools in the shed, I'm sure...
Okay, everyone and their dog is writing about the census kerfuffle. Fair enough. What can I add? Not much, probably, but I'd like to focus on our man in Ottawa, Stockwell Day.

Here's a bit from a CBC story today (try to follow the logic):
Day said the government has received indications that more and more people are not reporting crimes committed against them.
But then his colleague cited census data from 2004 to back up his ridiculous claim:
In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's office cited Statistics Canada's report of its last general social survey conducted in 2004, which found an estimated 34 per cent of Canadians who are victims of crime still aren't reporting the crime to police.

The statement said Day was "correct in his assertion that many crimes go unreported in Canada" and "[t]he amount of unreported victimization can be substantial."
What? So our buddy Stock says they have new information, but it's actually from 2004? Seems odd. Wait there's more:
He also questioned the value of information gathered by the census, suggesting data older than a year is "untenable in today's information age."
and then he says that information isn't reliable anyway? So was he basing anything on anything? Or was he just trying to scare us and move the Harper tough-on-crime agenda along...


UPDATE:

StatsCan is having none of it (from a Vancouver Sun story):
But Statistics Canada quickly shot down Day's assumption, saying that this data [survey data on unreported crime] cannot be compared to police-reported crime statistics, since it only surveyed eight types of crimes as opposed to the hundreds of crimes investigated by police.
And here is some video from the press conference. He really looks like he struggles with "facts" and "ideas" and "numbers":


Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Final: Netherlands v. Spain in a no-holds barred final cage-match of death!!!

We're finally here. Here it is. Here we go. Allons-go, as they say in Frenchville. This is happening right now. Right here, right now. Unbelievable. (No, really, click those links, you'll thank me.)


Netherlands v. Spain, mutha-BLEEP-a!

Dear Arjen Robben: you are too gifted to roll up into a ball when you get lightly fouled. Get the shit up and do what you do best.

Dear Laurel: Robben is a whiny bastard. He doesn't deserve your loyalty.

Dear Spain: Enjoy the World Cup win, Germany will have something to say about it in four years.


On to the real preview, assuming that's what you're here for. Netherlands and Spain face each other tomorrow in a historic final:

Every final since the dawn of time has featured one of the following teams: Argentina, Brazil, Italy or (West) Germany. It's a wild fact I had to double-check; Wikipedia doesn't lie, right? This is the first final without one of those four teams.

Both teams have the chance to win the World Cup for the first time. The Dutch have lost two previous finals, 1974 and 1978, losing first to West Germany then Argentina. Spain have featured in the final four in 1950, but in a vastly different format: rather than play-offs, the four teams played a round-robin, in which Spain drew one and lost two, including a 6-1 loss to Brazil in front of 152,000 Brazilian fans in the legendary Maracanã stadium. They haven't done better than the quarterfinals since then.

Of the current crop of superstars on the Dutch team, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel all come across as dicks. There's something in the Dutch footballing experience that breeds superegos, more so than many other countries. It's often blamed for why the Dutch have only won one major title (Euro 1988) even though they've boasted some of most talented squads in the world over the years. This player doesn't like that player, this coach doesn't like black players, etc.

Spain, on the other hand, and if we believe the pundits, have struggled because of strong regionalism. Catalan players don't like Castilans and vice versa, the Basques don't like anyone, etc. Could be something to that, I suppose, but the current squad show no signs of disharmony, probably because the majority of them play for Barcelona and the other players have to fit in with them and their playing style.

On to the teams:

Both teams are stacked with talent and are well-organized by their respective coaches. They play with similar styles but with quite different approaches. Spain run everything through the middle; they easily have the strongest midfield on the planet, with Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Iniesta all world-class. If the squad has a weakness, it's the lack of width at times and the lack of out-and-out wingers. Only Jesus Navas can be considered a true winger. Forwards Villa, Torres and Pedro are all comfortable working on the wing, and both fullbacks can attack well down the sides, too often Spain look back to the middle when they could go wide.

The Dutch like to move things out to the wings quickly, and with star winger Arjen Robben in top form, one can see why. The hard-working Kuyt also provides good width, and substitutes Elia and Babel are both accomplished wingers. In the middle they have Sneijder supported by two hard men, de Jong and van Bommel; none of these three have shown themselves as great passers this tournament. Sneijder has scored, and both de Jong and van Bommel are tough defensive midfielders; Van Bommel can also score.

Up front each have skilled strikers, but on form you'd have to give the advantage to Spain's David Villa over Robin van Persie. He's created goals and poached some easy ones while van Persie has struggled to show off his vast talent, starved, perhaps, of good service. Torres has had a disappointing tournament, but should see the start after Pedro's selfishness denied the Spanish an insurance goal in the semi. Llorente impressed in the short time he had on the pitch in the quarters, but he's more one for the future. On the bench for Holand, Huntelaar is only decent.

At the back the advantage has to go to Spain. Centre-backs Puyol and Pique are phenomenal together, and while Sergio Ramos struggles defensively at right-back, he's such a threat going forward and is supported well by Pique and Busquets. On the other side Capdevila is solid.

The Dutch backline is good but not great. Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst is a danger on the wing and defends well, while van der Wiel on the right side is young and impressive but irresponsible on occasion. In the centre, Mathijsen, Heitinga, Ooijer and Boulahrouz have struggled for cohesion at times.

van Bronckhorst shows how dangerous he can be.


Between the sticks the Spanish have Iker Casillas. Saint Iker to Real Madrid fans, Casillas has been one of the best keepers in the world for years. Still only 29, he's been the first choice keeper for 8 years, accruing a substantial 110 caps. He hasn't been great this tournament, but he's been good enough and excellent when needed.

Stekelenburg for the Dutch is a lesser-known entity, and while he has mostly done well, even pretty amazing at times, his performance against Uruguay will have left a few fans worried.

The Spanish have Pedro (23 goals last season), Llorente (also 23 goals), Fabregas (19 goals, 19 assists) and David Silva (10 goals, 12 assists) and young playmaker Javi Martinez all sitting on the bench. Their substitute list is stronger than most other teams.

In addition to Huntelaar, Elia and Babel on the bench, the Dutch have Affelay, a young, fast attacking midfielder. Elia and Affelay have impressed this tournament. Babel has struggled at Liverpool.


Advantages I'll give to the Spanish: goalkeeper, defence, playmaking in the midfield, an in-form striker and depth.

Advantages to the Dutch: scoring midfielder, in-form winger, hard-working forwards, defensive midfielders.


So, where does that leave me? With a 2-1 Spanish victory in extra time. It's tempting to go for a 1-0 win. Hmmm, might have to rethink this.




Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Semifinal #2: Germany v. Spain

Not sure why, but I'm not as excited about this one as I thought I would be. Could be because I'll be happy if either team win. And here's why:

Spain are the underachievers, never having gotten past the quarterfinals before, even though they are one of the strongest footballing countries in the world. I'm not that up on Spanish footballing history, so I can't tell you why that is.

I've also been cheering for Spain since before they won Euro 2008, and I love to watch them pass and pass and pass, but only as long as there is some intent, some drive, and that killer final ball that cuts open opposition defences.

In Xavi they have the best midfielder in the world, and he's pretty much my footballing hero.

Germany, on the other hand, are young, cocky, capable, and exciting to watch. Bastian Schweinsteiger has become one of the best midfielders in the world this year, transformed as he has been from a traditional attacking winger to a holding midfielder/playmaker role. He was all over the park against Argentina, in both attack and defence. Look for him to have a good game. Also, Miroslav Klose has the chance to equal or better the record for most goals at World Cup tournaments; he has 14, one behind Ronaldo (the Brazilian original, not the Portuguese pretty-boy).

A Netherlands-Germany final would be a repeat of one of the classic matches of all time, the 1974 final (apologies for the music):

.

I'm not going to go too much into this game, other than to say that yes, the 1974 Dutch team was the greatest never to win the Cup, along with the 1954 Hungarians. World Cup 1974 gave us the Cruyff turn. (Johan Cruyff, one of the best players ever, actually invented this move? So it would seem. Watch the video, it's great.) The Dutch, apparently looking to humiliate their West German opponents, went on to lose after going up 1-0 in the second minute then playing keep-away for the next 20, happy to make the Germans look bad. It didn't work, and Germany went on to win 2-1.

I would love to see the Dutch finally win (unless Robben scores the winning goal; that guy is a whiny bitch, sorry Laurel), but I would also like to see this German team win, fun as they are to watch. I would also be very happy if Spain won tomorrow and then took the Cup, the first team ever to win the Euro then the World Cup.


But who do I think will win? Good question. I am really leaning straight as a post.

The Spanish defence hasn't been airtight, and this German team can and will score. No one has held the ball as much as Spain have though, so Germany's chances will be fewer than against Argentina. And apologies to Heinze and co, but Spain actually have competent defenders, unlike Argentina. Or at least a coach who understands that you have to put some thought into defending.*

Germany did a great job of stifling Messi and Higuain and whoever else Maradona threw on to try and grab a goal. Can they do the same to David Villa, Iniesta and Xavi? Perhaps. Villa seems to be scoring goals at will, so I wouldn't want to count him out. Torres has been crap, other than for 15 minutes against Chile; I imagine del Bosque will start him, as he hasn't varied yet, but at least he took him off earlier last match, and Fabregas added some life to the side when he came on.

I picked Spain to win this match before the tournament started, but I just feel like the Germans have a great thing going and won't let up. They're only the second team to score 4 or more goals three times in a World Cup (un-researched, just repeated). They have defended well against skilled players and they have hit on the counterattack so often and so well that I can just see Puyol and co being pulled apart at the back once or twice, especially if the fullbacks Capdevila and Ramos push ahead too far. Watch for them to be fairly choosey about going forward.

I will say, though, that if Spain can rattle Germany like England did and then keep them rattled, they could just as easily win as lose. After England scored their first, Germany looked a bit shaken, and started to show a bit of nerves. Unfortunately Spain don't play a high-tempo game and could let them back into it if they go ahead.

So with all that rattling around your brain... 2-1 Germany over Spain. Ouch. Could go either way, though (he said, carefully hedging his bet). I just hope it doesn't go to penalties.


* That Javier Zanetti, captain of the Champions League winning Italian side Inter and one of the best right-backs in the world, wasn't picked for the World Cup squad by Maradona is a crime. Guess where all of Germany's goals started? (Yes, all four.) Hey, on Germany's left side, where Zanetti should have been. Fancy that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup Semifinal #1: Uruguay v. Netherlands

Without Suarez, Uruguay will struggle. Robben should own whoever comes in in place of Fucile at left back. Robin van Persie should have more freedom against Lugano's replacement. Uruguay will look to defend well and hit the Dutch on the counter. I don't think they'll have enough.

Netherlands 2-0 Uruguay

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinal picks: all of 'em in one place


But read the individual ones; the first is really, really worth your time.

Game 1 - Netherlands v. Brazil - Friday 7am
Brazil will win 2-0, but it won't be as exciting as everyone thinks. (I'm proud of this preview.)

Game 2 - Uruguay v. Ghana - Friday 11:30am
Uruguay should have enough to win, also 2-0. Could go the other way.

Game 3 - Argentina v. Germany - Saturday 7am
This will be an absolute corker. Wake up early. Germany could win 2-1.

Game 4 - Paraguay v. Spain - Saturday 11:30am
Spain should win, easiest of the round, 3-1.


There you have them, my picks for the quarterfinals. I went 6 and two half points out of 8 in the Round of 16; not bad at all.


World Cup: Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan suspends team

And in batshit-crazy news today

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has suspended the national team from international competition for two years because of their performance at the World Cup. FIFA threatened to take action by... wait for it... banning them from international competition. Well done, FIFA.

In 1994, after the national team lost 3-0 to South Korea, Batshit-Crazy Jong Il suspended the team from international play for six years. That's some good company you're keeping, Mr. Jonathan.

World Cup Quarterfinal 4: Spain v. Paraguay

This looks the easiest pick of the quarters. Spain haven't blown anyone out of the water yet, and you always feel that they could, so this might be it. On the other hand, Paraguay have had a very respectable campaign so far and haven't shipped goals (they've allowed 3 in 4 games).

Quarterfinal Game 4 - Paraguay v. Spain

11:30am on Saturday morning.

I don't have any time to write this, argh. Spain will dominate like they did against Chile and Portugal. They're getting it done, and finally doing it with style and a small amount of ease. Paraguay aren't as good at the back as Portugal but will be more adventurous.

2-0 to Spain.

EDIT: fudge that. I'm going for 3-0 or 3-1.

World Cup Day 19 results: Another day, another call for replay

Day Nineteen

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Japan - "this could be a cracker"
result: Paraguay 0-0 Japan after extra time, Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties

Holy was I wrong. In the early game Paraguay and Japan played to a 0-0 draw, after extra time even, and then Paraguay won on penalties. Say what you will about the unfairness, the this and the that; the penalties were nearly the only instance of tension in the game. This was a dull affair, and if Japan feel aggrieved after going out, they should also feel slightly ashamed of barely ever attacking and boring us to tears. It was not, as I had hoped, a cracker.

What it was was a brilliant example of how to defend well as a team. After an exciting game against Denmark, Japan's coach must have decided that he couldn't risk getting behind a goal and they reverted to their defensive shell. Only a swerving shot and misjudgment by their keeper beat them when they employed this tactic against the Dutch. I'd rather forget this match than continue writing about it. No pictures.


prediction: Spain 1-0 Portugal - "Fewer goals than one might expect"

I really feel like I got this one bang on. Here's what I wrote:

"Will Torres finally score? I don't think so. Luckily for Spain David Villa is on fire and Iniesta is back to good health. Portuguese left-back could expose the spaces Sergio Ramos leaves on the right side of Spain's backline. Ronaldo ... hasn't performed at anywhere near his best."

And this was exactly it. David Villa scored after a nice move (but was he offside?), Iniesta was a key player, even more so than Xavi (the best player in the world, Rob), and most of Portugal's chances came from the attacking play of Coentrão, their left-back (who has been a revelation this tournament). Ronaldo was ineffective as usual, though that's more the fault of the manager, as he barely had any support or service.

Looks close, but he is offside in this shot. Nearly impossible to pick up at speed. And I'm okay with that.

Spain controlled the play for the most part, while Portugal soaked up pressure and looked to hit on the counter. They came close a few times, but Spain deserved a win after dominating possession, shots and chances. Keeper Eduardo kept Portugal in this.

Xavi and Iniesta dominated the midfield as expected, but with Villa out wide left and Torres struggling, at times Spain looked like they lacked options in the box.

Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente looked good coming on for Torres; del Bosque won't consider starting him next match but he should. Torres looked a bit better in the first 20 minutes but then faded.

Well done to Spain. They should beat Paraguay, and will likely face Germany in the Semi-final.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinal 3: Argentina v. Germany

Quarterfinal Game 3 - Argentina v. Germany

7am Saturday morning.

This is the match of the round. Both teams can score; neither will sit back and defend. The big question will be whether Germany can restrict Messi and Co. They've certainly looked very good at the back, and should provide sterner resistance than Argentina have seen thus far. Second, will the Argentine defence hold when faced with a fast, skilled attack? My guess is no.

Now it is entirely possible that Messi and Higuain and DiMaria will overwhelm the German defence. But Neuer has had a good tournament and will provide a solid last line of defence in the net.

(I'm heading out for the long weekend so haven't written much on this game or the Spain . Paraguay match. Or at least not as much as I did for Netherlands v. Brazil. Enjoy this game; it should be a corker.)

2-1 to Germany


World Cup Quarterfinal 2: Uruguay v. Ghana

Expect a South American semi-final on the left half of the bracket

The quarter-finals offer up some mouth-watering matches worthy of the final. See Netherlands v. Brazil for a look at that match.

Uruguay-Ghana isn't exactly a classic, but it should be fun; one of those two will be insanely happy to go through and both teams have been fun to watch. As a relative neutral, I'm cheering for both.

Quarterfinal Game 2 - Uruguay v. Ghana

Uruguay, perhaps more than any other team so far, has shown the ability to play however is needed to win. They can attack with verve, defend well, or maintain possession if needed. I'm not saying they are the best at it, just that they've demonstrated it more than anyone else.

They've shown that they can score, and some really nice goals too. Diego Forlan creates as well as finishes, and in Luis Suarez Uruguay have a clinical striker. (He had 49 goals in 48 games last season for Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Ghana are a bit of a strange team. Their game against the US showed, I think, the good and bad about this team: They are young, quick, good with the ball, and a bit sloppy. Too often against the US they dallied too long on the ball, particularly Ayew, or were too cute in passing. Resolute in defence, but they were exposed by a quick US move and often resorted to fouling the US players.

The speed and invention of Uruguay should be good for a goal or two, and the South Americans will defend better than the US.

2-0 for Uruguay.

World Cup Quarterfinal 1: Netherlands v. Brazil

And then there were eight.

The quarter-finals offer up some mouth-watering matches worthy of the final. Argentina-Germany looks like it will be a corker, and Netherlands-Brazil is huge match-up, if not as exciting. Either game reads like a great final.

Less monumental will be Uruguay-Ghana but it should be fun; one of those two will be insanely happy to go through and both teams have been fun to watch. As a relative neutral, I'm cheering for both.

And then there's Spain v. Paraguay... Yah, it will be interesting tactically but no one is getting too excited about this one. Hopefully Spain score early and force Paraguay to attack with intent.

Games 1 and 2 are this Friday, July 2nd, at 7am and 11:30am.


Quarterfinal Game 1 - Netherlands v. Brazil

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this will be a boring game. Brazil has produced only a handful of flashes of brilliance one expects from Brazilian teams, and against Chile only after they were a goal up. The Netherlands haven't hit top gear yet, and other than a few moments of brilliance (Robben's goal, for instance), have looked a bit disjointed.

This will likely be a midfield battle: Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong will face Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva, each pair looking to release their highly talented attacking players or to spread the ball outside to attacking fullbacks. Maicon and Bastos for Brazil and van Bronckhorst and van der Wiel for the Dutch will all play significant roles, as both teams will look to push them forward and overwhelm their opponents.

Both teams play a variation on a 4-3-3, both with two holding midfielders, though both Melo and van Bommel have the ability to create as well. Melo will play in the place of the impressive Ramires, who picked up a second yellow against Chile.

Luis Fabiano and Robin van Persie play similar roles at the front, both quite mobile, extremely deft, but sometimes ineffective if starved of service. Robinho and Robben, other than sharing a name, are similar as well: creative, skilled with the ball, and eager to run at defenders.

Kaka and Sneijder play in the same position but have such different styles: Kaka smooth, fast yet languid at times, Sneijder quick, combative and technical. Both are under-performing. Yes, Sneijder has scored twice and passed beautifully to set up Robben's goal. But both his goals were fortunate, and he hasn't linked up well with the Dutch attackers, his primary role. Kaka passed well for Fabiano's goal against Chile but other than that has been frustrating.

On the balance, Brazil are a better team, especially at the back. They won't give the Dutch many chances, and they'll put pressure on the weaker Dutch backline. Expect that pressure to produce a goal or two.

2-0 to Brazil.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Day 19 predictions: Will Ronaldo cry when Spain beat Portugal?

I think he will, actually. He's a pretty passionate fellow.

From a relatively easy day to call today we move on to a much harder day, with Spain facing Iberian rivals Portugal and Paraguay hosting Japan. Either could be dynamite matches: Spain-Portugal has the potential to be either wild or dull, depending on Spain's tactics, and Paraguay-Japan should be exciting if a bit sloppy.

World Cup Day 18 results: utterly predictable, and impressive

Day Eighteen

It didn't take a genius to predict these two results. Both the Netherlands and Brazil were heavy favourites; neither needed their best to get past their erstwhile opponents. Brazil were impressive if not inspirational, while the Dutch flirted with danger after going ahead with ease.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Day 18 predictions: What's better than roses on a piano?

Day 18 could be a goalfest, though after today I'm afraid we might have used up our quota. The Dutch face Slovakia in what could be the easiest game to call*, and Brazil matches up with Chile. Let's get right to it.

World Cup Day 17 results: oh, the refs...

Day Seventeen

prediction: Germany 2-0 England - "Germany's attack is fast, dynamic and uses the width of the field"
We'll be hearing about Frank Lampard's disallowed goal forever. Literally, forever. The Brits don't forget football grievances (unless of course they benefit from them); I'm looking forward to the British tabloid headlines (Blitzed by Fritz, maybe?) tomorrow. Fair enough, it was clearly a goal and could have changed the game at 2-1 down.

World Cup Day 16 results: Yanks go home! (as a directive in a chant)

Day Sixteen

prediction: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea - "we should see some fast, attacking football"
Well, that's nice to get one completely right for a change. Uruguay sat back a bit too much in the second half and were punished for it, but generally this was a lively, very watchable match. After conceding the tying goal, Uruguay went back into attack mode and deserved to win. Suarez's second was a piece of perfection:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Day 17: two world wars and one world cup!

Sunday sees a rematch of epic proportions and a game between the English and Germany (see what I did there?), as the matches in the top right quarter of bracket get underway.

The Germans don't really know there's a rivalry between England and them, while the English relish the chance at revenge, and chant such things as "Two world wars and one world cup!", referring to the one cup they won in 1966, beating the Germans in the final. Meanwhile, the Germans are far more focused on their rivalry with the Dutch. It's pretty amusing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Day 16: The knock-out stages are finally here

Well, folks, we're into the knock-out stages. This is where it gets exciting, while actually the games tend to get a little more conservative. There won't be a 7-0 blow-out, is all I'm saying.

The first round, aka the Round of 16, has a few interesting match-ups. The draw is now separated into four groupings, each group sending a semi-finalist. It makes sense visually, so I've included a picture rather than trying to describe it all.

World Cup Day 15 results

Day Fifteen results

prediction: Portugal 1-2 Brazil - "Brazil are resting some players"
What a boring game. Portugal had the most to play for and had the best chances, but this was over before it began.

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Cote d'Ivoire - "It would be nice for Cote d'Ivoire to have a good showing"
result: North Korea 0-3 Cote d'Ivoire (this match review says 1-3, not sure why)
Well done to the Ivorians, but you have to feel for the poor North Koreans. It's entirely possible that they will face punishment back home and might not be allowed to play international matches for a while.

prediction: Chile 1-2 Spain - "Spain need to attack, need to get goals"
Spain looked good, finally, and should be a formidable foe in the next round. Chile were unfortunate to have a player sent off, because they looked likely to score, and indeed managed to early in the second half while a player down. Both teams were going through with the result below, and played out the last ten minutes without any effort.

prediction: Switzerland 1-1 Honduras - "I have a feeling this will be boring"
I thought this might happen, but I was really hoping someone would score to liven things up. First half highlights were a couple of shots. Switzerland go home with a famous win against Spain, Honduras go home without scoring a goal.


World Cup refs

Interested in reading an informed and relatively unbiased opinion on the reffing at the World Cup? On the Referees page of the World Cup blog every game is critiqued, usually with relevant pictures. Do you think Italy's offside goal should have counted? Read here. What about that phantom call in the US-Slovenia match that negated a winning goal for the Yanks? Check this.

It's so much nicer to read this compared to ranting on other blogs. The decisions are treated fairly and the entire game is looked at rather than every call on an individual basis.


World Cup Days 14 (Italy are out!) and 15 (Boring Brazil?)

See ya later, suckas.

A little behind the times over here, so some retroactive predictions:

Day Fourteen

prediction: Italy 1-0 Slovakia
I was so happy to be wrong on this one. Good riddance to boring, crap Italy. How is it that the only time they look good and score is in the last half of their last group game? They still looked old and at times lazy, but at least they showed some passion near the end. On the first of Slovakia's goals, however, the Italian defence looked asleep, and it only got worse, as they didn't react or anticipate the cross on the second goal and completely failed to pick up the runner on the third. Maybe picking the starting Juventus backline (3 of 4, anyway) wasn't the best idea, considering they finished 7th in Serie A and conceded 56 goals over a 38-game season, including 7 in their last 3 matches.

Well done to Slovakia, who were so much better than their last game against Paraguay and could be a spoiler in the Round of 16.

prediction: Paraguay 2-0 New Zealand
New Zealand didn't register a shot all game, and apparently their keeper did very well. Paraguay comfortably go through, while New Zealand had a respectable showing, not losing a game.

prediction: Cameroon 1-2 Netherlands
Netherlands cruised to an easy win in the end; Cameroon attacked and did show some intent, though they never really looked like winning. Robin van Persie finally scored, and Robben came on and set up a goal.

prediction: Denmark 1-1 Japan
Finally Japan show some solid attacking intent. Brilliant goals from two freekicks.

And back up to speed:

Day Fifteen (results posted here)

prediction: Portugal 1-2 Brazil
result: Nothing too exciting so far.
Brazil are resting some players, and Dunga seems happy to have his team be careful and not give up anything at the back. Portugal are solid at the back, as usual, and haven't had much threatening possession. UPDATE: 61st minute, Portugal should have scored.

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Cote d'Ivoire
result:
It would be nice for Cote d'Ivoire to have a good showing; a decent result and the North Korean players may avoid the workfarms. Both team are virtually eliminated, so should have nothing to lose.

prediction: Chile 1-2 Spain
result:
Spain need to win, while Chile are almost assured of going through. Spain need to attack, need to get goals, but Chile will be dangerous hitting them on the counter.

prediction: Switzerland 1-1 Honduras
result:
It should be an exciting match, as Switzerland could go through. But I have a feeling this will be boring. I'm hoping for goals, but this could just as easily be 0-0.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Day 13 predictions

Just in case you thought vuvuzelas were only annoying...

My predictions

Slovenia 1-1 England
I have a feeling one of the US and England will slip up, and the US look more determined. An easier prediction is 0-1 to England, but the turmoil and injuries to the team (specifically in the backline) should take a toll.

USA 2-0 Algeria
See above. Algeria looked okay against England but that's not saying much; the US will see this as a great opportunity to progress and should have a goal or two in them.

Australia 0-1 Serbia
Without Tim Cahill, Australia have struggled to create chances; he's available for this match. However, Serbia are well organized and should play with more purpose. Australia have to win to progress and could leave space at the back.

Ghana 1-2 Germany
Germany can get it done when they need to, and can score goals. Ghana have struggled to score, even though they lead the group. A draw (or even a loss and some luck) sees Ghana through, so they might not be the most adventurous.

World Cup Day 12: France crash, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico impress


Day Twelve... how do you say "ouch" in French? *

prediction: France 1-0 South Africa
Wrong result, half-wrong score. Well, we have our first big casualty, but is anyone surprised? I really thought France would have enough talent to overcome their chaos, but France never looked good all tournament. Well done to South Africa for getting the win. A win and a draw are nothing to be ashamed of, even if they are the first host to not get through the group stage.

Domenech the muppet started Djibril Cisse and Gignac up front... Cisse was good five years ago and plays in the Greek league; Gignac has never impressed outside of France and has only scored against the Faroe Islands and Austria.

prediction: Mexico 1-1 Uruguay
Wrong result, half-wrong score. Mexico should have equalized after Uruguay went ahead. The first half of this was the most attractive bit of football I've seen so far: end-to-end stuff, both teams playing to win, getting chances, stringing passes together. The second half cooled down as Uruguay looked to defend their lead.

prediction: Greece 0-2 Argentina
result: Greece 0-2 Argentina (link to match report pending)
Argentina worked hard to break down a resolute Greek side that could have gone through with a draw. Maybe not the best plan against Argentina, especially given how weak their central defenders looked at times.

prediction: Nigeria 1-2 South Korea
result: Nigeria 2-2 South Korea
Nigerian striker Yakubu missed a sitter from 4 yards out. Really, probably the easiest goal he ever could have scored. He redeemed himself from the penalty spot shortly after, but still...


* According to Babel Fish, it's "aïe".

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup Day 11: Holy goalfest Batman! Portugal turn it on

Day Eleven results

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Portugal - "Portugal are ... quite good"
Right result, wroooonnnnng score. Yep, that's right, seven goals. Three halves of stalwart defending (game v. Brazil plus first half here) is still quite respectable. We'll hear about this loss every time NK and the World Cup are mentioned together, but I don't think North Korea have anything to be ashamed of. Here's hoping the Great Leader agrees.* Portugal turned on the class in the second half and scored in bunches. C-Ron even scored an amusing goal after unknowingly bobbling the ball on his neck, back and head.



prediction: Chile 2-0 Switzerland - "Switzerland can't keep it up forever"
Right result, half-wrong score. I didn't know this, but Switzerland were on course to set the record for the longest time without conceding a goal in World Cup history, and they did it in the first half before Chile finally broke them down. A bit of a fortunate non-call for offside on the goal, but Chile deserved the win, helped on by a soft red card to Switzerland in the first half.

prediction: Honduras 0-2 Spain - "Spain will score goals"
Right result, right score. Spain scored. That was more like it: flowing, attacking football leading to two nice goals. They didn't dominate like they can, and there are some serious questions marks over the head of Fernando Torres. So much for my "Fernando Torres will be the leading striker" prediction. He can't put a shot on net. Watch for a barnstormer against Chile in a few days. Spain need to win, Chile could lose or draw.

And that's 3 for 3 on the day for my predictions. Thank you, thank you. Back to .500 on the tourney.


Did you know?

Did you know that after France won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 they exited the 2002 World Cup after the group stage without scoring a single goal? They famously lost the opening game to Senegal, a former French colony.

Whoops. That wasn't part of the plan for the reigning
world and euro champions.

Contrast that with Switzerland, who didn't allow a single goal at the 2006 World Cup but were still eliminated in the Round of 16, going out on penalties to Ukraine.


* Apparently after a big loss to South Korea in 1994 Kim Jong Il refused to let the team play any international matches until 1999. What a dick.

World Cup Day 11: Will today be the day all the results make sense?


Day Eleven predictions - on my way to a .500 record?

Portugal 1-0 North Korea
North Korea put in a stellar performance against Brazil. Playing Portugal may be a letdown. Portugal aren't Brazil, but they're still quite good.

Chile 2-0 Switzerland
Switzerland can't keep it up forever. Chile deserved more goals in their opener.

Spain 2-0 Honduras
Spain will score goals at the World Cup. Just depends on how soon that happens, and if they change their tactics. Honduras won't be as organized as the Swiss.


I think I'm 13 and 16 on the tournament so far. With these three correct guesses, I'll be back to .500; I've only got all three right once, though, so I don't like my chances.

World Cup: Has the rest of the world caught up to Europe?


The collective record of the best European teams at this World Cup so far is dreadful:

Team - W-D-L
France: 0-1-1
England: 0-2-0
Germany: 1-0-1
Netherlands 2-0-0
Italy: 0-2-0
Portugal: 0-1-0
Spain: 0-0-1

for a combined record of 3 wins, 6 draws and 3 losses. If you consider that neither of the Netherlands' wins have been convincing, you're left with one solid win from 12 matches. This could be seen as a crisis of continental proportions.

What it is is boring. Only Germany in their first match (and maybe the Dutch in theirs) were adventurous and attacked with skill, flair and intent. Other than that it's been boring, boring football from Europe's leading football powers.

I wonder if it hasn't become more about minimizing the damage to a team's reputation than anything else. It is so damaging to lose that teams don't venture forward in numbers, or they try to control the game as much as possible, with possession more important than chances on net.

Most of these teams still have good chances of going through to the Round of 16. France are almost certainly going home and the Dutch are already through. With wins in their next matches England, Italy and Germany will progress. Portugal and Spain have only played one each, so it's harder to judge, but both could struggle.

It would be interesting to compare this to other World Cups. My memory of team records isn't great, so I don't know if this is an anomaly or if it happens every World Cup. What is obvious is that teams like Paraguay, Mexico and Chile seem to have narrowed the distance between themselves and the traditional European footballing powers. Depending on how the next few games go, we might even be talking about how they have been surpassed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup Day Ten results: Paraguay are my new favourite team

Smeltz celebrates his goal for New Zealand. A historic goal and result for football in NZ.

Day Ten results

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia
Right result, half-wrong score. Paraguay pressured Slovakia like Japan pressured the Netherlands, but they attacked with equal intent. They should go through top of the group. Slovakia showed nothing to indicate they should progress. I think their first shot was in extra-time.

prediction: Italy 1-0 New Zealand
The first half saw both goals: Iaquinta converted a penalty to bring Italy level after NZ scored off a set piece early. This was a very poor showing from the Italians. Except for Di Natale (who Lippi refuses to start) and Montolivo (who wouldn't be starting if Pirlo was healthy), the Italians looked devoid of invention. NZ defended well when needed, and even threatened to win late. If Italy go through I'm going to kick someone Italian.

prediction: Brazil 2-1 Cote d'Ivoire
This wasn't as exciting as the score would indicate. I faded in and out of watching it, even. Luis Fabiano's second goal only came after he handled the ball twice, both somehow eluding the ref's attention (though click that link or watch the video of the ref joking with Fabiano, it's weird). (Actually, the video is below; it deserves your attention.) A few instances of brilliance led to Brazil's goals, but other than that they were hardly inspirational. Drogba got a consolation goal late on, heading in nicely from a brilliant pass from rumoured Arsenal target Yaya Toure.





World Cup: Why I don't think Didier Drogba is a bad person anymore


I have really had a hate on for Didier Drogba, Chelsea and Cote d'Ivoire striker and diver/cheater extraordinaire. He's easily the strongest striker in the Premier League yet seems to fall over at the slightest bump and flagrantly dives fairly often. He's a great striker that unfortunately lacks class.

And then I heard today while watching the Brazil-Cote d'Ivoire match that he recently donated 3 million pounds to build a hospital in the capital of Cote d'Ivoire. He just signed a new contract with Pepsi and asked them to donate his entire fee; his club Chelsea will also give their percentage to the project. Wow. Good on ya, fella.

And apparently he also helped broker a peace deal to end the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire. What?

World Cup Day Ten: Italy suck

Day Ten predictions - a little after the fact

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia
result:
Haven't watched this yet, not sure if I'll bother.

prediction: Italy 1-0 New Zealand.
result: Italy 1-1 New Zealand
Guess I got this one wrong. I really, really hope Italy don't make it through the group stages. What a dull team. They were really dreadful, and barely deserved a draw against New Zealand, a team that many had picked as the worst in the tournament. They lack speed, creativity, intent, and motivation. Their backline is old and looks slow.

prediction: Brazil 2-1 Cote d'Ivoire
result:
The game has just started. Nothing to report, except that Drogba is starting. Oh, and the Ivorians are playing in striped shirts, green and white horizontal. Quite nice. UPDATE: It's 3-0, after a handballed goal from Luis Fabiano* and a nice pass by Kaka for an Elano goal.


*After the uproar over the Henry handball, I'm just waiting for all the Irish fans to get super upset about it... wait, most fans are completely self-interested and only care when cheating hurts their team.

World Cup Days Eight, Nine. I'm really slowing down.

Day Eight results - 0 for 3 again.

Germany 0-1 Serbia
me: Germany 2-1 Serbia. Wrong result, half-wrong score. Shit reffing. Nine cards in the first half. Klose should never have been sent off. The Germans looked good in the first half, but Podolski apparently found his club form for country. Well done to Serbia. They are my dark horse candidate, so...

Slovenia 2-2 USA
me: Slovenia 1-2 USA. Wrong result, half-wrong score. What a great game, though the US really should have won, with a ghost call pulling their third goal back. What was so impressive was that neither team stopped attacking. Compared to the next game, this was so refreshing and exciting.

England 0-0 Algeria
me: England 2-0 Algeria. Wrong result, half-wrong score. What a dire game for England. Only the play of keeper David James was any good. Could this finally put to rest the Gerrard-Lampard-midfield debate? Gerrard was England's best player against the US. Out wide against Algeria he was barely in the game, and Lampard was shit. It must be so frustrating for coach Fabio Capello to watch as pass after pass goes astray. Just for fun, compare the forwards for Spain with the England forwards. It's not a pretty sight.


Day Nine results - finally some results in my favour

Netherlands 1-0 Japan
me: Netherlands 3-1 Japan. Right result, wrong score. What a boring game; worst I've seen so far. The Dutch seem to have forgotten how to attack. Full credit to Japan, who swarmed all over the field pressuring the Dutch at every touch, but a better team would have passed or dribbled through the pressure, while the Dutch were happy enough to just pass it back to the keeper time and time again. I can't remember any of the Dutch starting 11 trying to dribble past an opponent. They've got two wins, neither convincing, and I hope they either find their real form or lose their next game. I had such high hopes for their playing style.

Ghana 1-1 Australia
me: Ghana 1-1 Australia. Right result, right score. A good match that Ghana should have won. Winger Harry Kewell was sent off for stopping a goal with his arm; full credit to the Aussies, who needed a win and kept on attacking. Someone had obviously told the Ghanaians to shoot from distance; too often they did when a pass would have been better. This group is bonkers now, and this sets up a barnstormer of a game between Ghana and Germany.

Cameroon - Denmark
me: Cameroon 1-0 Denmark. I haven't watched the whole game yet. It's 1-0 to Cameroon in the 30th minute, so could be good for me. J-pop says it's a great one, so I'm looking forward to finishing later today.

I'll link to match highlights after the games today; I don't want to inadvertently see a result.


And now a seemingly forgotten segment here: Did you know?

Not available in Europe. Get it? Doesn't make as much sense now that he did well while on loan at Everton last season, but it's still funny.

Did you know that Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy golden boy and the face of the US national team, is known as Landycakes? He really is. Even to his fans. I really don't like him, but I can't remember why. This quote might explain it:
“They are jealous of us, the Mexican players, because we've got a life and they have nothing ... Because of that they despise us. ... Who is going to win this game? The best team. And we know good and well who is the best team between the U.S. and Mexico. We know it well.” - Landon Donovan
That's only slightly unfortunate right now, as the US are struggling to get out of the group stages while Mexico are almost guaranteed to go through.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Update on the North Korea at the World Cup #3 UPDATE!!

They're coming fast and furious! This just popped up in my email:

Legea UK Ltd

to me
show details 1:15 AM (3 minutes ago)

Dear Sir,

Due to the lateness of the contract being finalised, we are still awaiting delivery of the first shipment of Replica Shirts, we believe that these will arrive shortly, but do not yet have a confirmed date.

We will keep your details on file and will forward further information as soon as we have it.

Regards

Legea UK Ltd

North Korea at the World Cup #3 UPDATE!!

Well, what could I be updating? You guessed it, the North Korea shirts situation. As pressing an issue as we'll see at this World Cup.

As noted earlier, I emailed as many people as I could about the Legea shirts that the North Korean team is wearing. Here is the briefest of exchanges I was rewarded with:

Time: 12:10pm
Subject: North Korea World Cup shirt

Hello. Is there any way to get ahold of a North Korea World Cup jersey?

Cheers,
Brenton

and the response came a mere 2 hours and 42 minutes later, from peppefalanga@live.com:

Dear Mr. Brenton Walter we close the deal with Korea DPR only a week before the 2010 World Cup and because so the merchandising will be available in one month. If I will get anything before I will let you know. By the way how many jerseys will you need?
Thank you for contacting us.
Best regards

That's is. I've got a contact that can get me North Korean World Cup shirts!

Friday, June 18, 2010

North Korea at the World Cup #3

And returning to our favourite segment here on Brenton writes, it's time for Round 3 of "North Korea at the World Cup". (See numbers one and two.)

Over at the World Cup Blog, they have a page for each team at the World Cup, including North Korea. I assume the other teams have actual fans writing, while they probably had to find someone willing to have a bit of fun with the North Korean page, including posting this supposed photo of the Great Leader (or whatever he's called):

That's nice. Could that really be him? Is this really the guy whose birth was foretold by the appearance of a swallow and marked by a double rainbow?


Jerseys, uniforms, kit, shirts, whatever you want to call them

Interested in showing your support for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? Unfortunately for you, there's been some trouble in getting ahold of the current North Korean kit. This store's link, which looks promising (but doesn't even have the right shirt), leads only to a store offering retro shirts from 1966. And that's it. Here's a shot of the shirt, just to tantalize your senses:


The website of the Italian company Legea that has produced the shirts* acknowledges their sponsorship but doesn't include any links or information. I've emailed as many addresses as I could find in hopes of a response; I'll keep you updated.


* This might be interesting for you Canadian footie fans: Legea also produces the uniforms of the Montreal Impact (but they're not listed on the Legea website... too small?), rivals of our Vancouver Whitecaps. Interesting company they keep.