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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

6/27 World Cup of Coffee

I'm back from Puerto Rico--a lovely time, btw--and ready to roll on with the World Cup of Coffee. It's been a long and surreal day of travel compliments of the Pan Am Clipper Connection. Yep, there still are Pan Am flights, sort of...but back to the games.
This weekend we saw an electric match between Argentina-Mexico. Mexico can be proud of their effort while Argentina showed that touch of class that makes them elite. We saw an absurd, card-filled Portugal-Netherlands match that leaves Portugal lacking key players when facing England. Speaking of, England again demonstrates how to have considerably more talent while barely getting a result. I'd say they're due for a crash-out if they weren't facing a Portugal team missing key players. Even then, who's to say they win? Germany continue to impress. What a match-up with Argentina in the quarters. The Swiss sure know how to spice up a game, don't they? Dreary 0-0 draw followed by failing to convert a single penalty kick against the Ukraine. They give up no goals this World Cup and go home. What an amazing feat. My good fortune was to miss that match while in the air today.
I did, however, watch the last 20 minutes of Italy-Australia. What a brutal, brutal way to go out of the Cup. Australia clearly had the better run of play, particularly with a one-man advantage. They will lament their inability to break through, but wow, in the final seconds of extra time to have that penalty called was devastating. So was it a penalty? Technically, I suppose it was. Should the ref have called a light penalty at that point, when it decided the outcome? Tough to say, but I think so. It was a foul, even if the contact was light, because Lucas Neill put himself in a bad position by sliding early. Grosso did milk it--it's the Italian way! Just a harsh outcome for an impressive Australia team.
On to tomorrow's matches:

Ghana demonstrated against the Czech Republic that they are dangerous in attack and play with a fearlessness that will serve them well against Brazil. What will not serve them well is the absence of midfielder Michael Essien, who is out on cards. This is a devastating blow for Ghana, as he would have been a vital component to offsetting Brazil's explosive midfield. Ghana will play with passion, but Brazil may be starting to roll after that second half against Japan. Brazil 3 Ghana 1.

What evidence is there that France can overturn a months-long funk in a huge Rd.-of-16 match with a dangerous, talented Spain team? Consider: France is playing past-their-prime veterans, they insist on running everything through one of those veterans (Zidane) instead of one building around Thierry Henry, and they change line-ups and configurations every match. Meanwhile Spain has looked explosive in attack with the likes of Torres and Villa leading the charge. This is surely set up for a French flame-out, no? I feel my contrarian impulses wanting to make a case for the implausible--that the old French lions will roar one last time, that Henry will get service up front and punish the Spanish defense, that Crazy Fabien will make save after near-catastrophic save--but I can't. Coaching matters. Aragones of Spain has boldly sat veterans and played young players. He has control of the team. Domenech does the opposite and thus Zidane will still be the center of the attack, slowing it up and setting up the Spanish midfield for rampant attacking. Au revoir, France. But it didn't have to be this way...Spain 2 France 0.

Sorry, too tired for a daily digest this evening, er, morning...

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