Odds and Ends: Italy 8:11 favorites to win the World Cup

Ladbrokes has set the Italians as a slight favorite to win the World Cup Finals at 8/11. The Italians haven’t given up a goal in a game for the entire World Cup except an own goal to the United States. However, after watching the old French team run through the tournament, is it really smart to bet against Zidane and the boys?

In other news…

[China Daily]: 100 arrested in Pakistan for World Cup betting

[Reuters]: Pranksters fill soccer balls with concrete

[Reuters]:FIFA to fly Shaolin temple abbot to final

[AZ Central]: Landon Donovan proves he’s a good player against mediocre opposition

[Detroit Free Press]: Boy, 8, gets once in (early) lifetime ace

[Border Battle]: Eddie Griffin: Multi-Tasker Extraordinaire


Chinese commentator out-Theismans Theisman

During a Redskins game in 2004, Joe Theisman said of the Washington Redskins, “we have to score here.” We thought that was the most biased anyone on national TV could get until we heard about Huang Jianxiang, the soccer commentator for Chinese state-run network CCTV. At least Theisman played for the Redskins — Huang, in case you haven’t figured it out, is not Italian.

During the Italy-Australia game, Huang had these comments as the game reached it’s crescendo.

Penalty! Penalty! Penalty! Grosso’s done it, Grosso’s done it!

The great Italian left back! He succeeded in the glorious traditions of Italy! Facchetti, Cabrini and Maldini, their souls are infused in him at this moment!

Grosso represents the long history and traditions of Italian soccer, he’s not fighting alone at this moment! He’s not alone!

Hiddink (Australia’s coach) lost all his courage faced with Italian history and traditions … He finally reaped fruits which he had sown! They should go home. They don’t need to go as far away as Australia as most of them are living in Europe. Farewell!

Huang afterward wrote a letter of apology for his biased commentary on the game and said he preferred Italy because he had commentated on Serie A for years.

[Sydney Morning Herald]: Chinese commentator sorry over anti-Socceroo rant


Odds and Ends: Ronaldo ties all time World Cup goal lead

It wasn’t against the most stellar of defenses but Ronaldo is back! Criticized the entire tournament for being fat and ineffective, Ronaldo notched his first two goals today to jump ahead of Pele and tie Gerd Muller atop the all time Total Goals list with 14. Ronaldo scored in the 46th and 81st minute against Japan. Perhaps his model girlfriend gave him a pep talk…

In other news…

[Pravda]: Nostradamus predicts Spain as the winner of World Cup 2006

[Yahoo]: Four clubs indicted in Italian soccer scandal, opening way for possible demotion

[USA Today]: Former Red Sox starter admits steroid use

[MSNBC]: Ozzie Guillen fined for homosexual slur, suspended for beanball

[Royales with cheese]: Dayton “Thug Life” Moore


June 22 in Sports History: The Hand of God

In 1986: Diego Maradona of Argentina scored the most controversial goal in World Cup history. Playing against England in the quarterfinals in Mexico City, Maradona knocked an errant back pass into the net for a 1-0 Argentina lead. It was obvious to everybody: The 115,000 in attendance, English goalie Peter Shilton and even Maradona himself that the ball was punched into the net. Only referee Ben Naceur missed the illegal handball. Maradona scored again (this one with his feet, and it was voted the Goal of the Century) to lead Argentina to a 2-1 victory and eventually the World Cup title. Maradona didn’t even try to cover up the fact the goal was bogus afterward, saying that it was the “Hand of God” that guided Argentina.

In 1994: Host United States won its first World Cup soccer game since 1950 with a shocking, 2-1 upset of heavily favored Colombia before 93,000 at the Rose Bowl. Andres Escobar of Colombia scored an own goal into his team’s net for what proved to be the game-winner. The United States also got a goal from Ernie Stewart and held off a late rally to send the huge crowd into a frenzy of U.S.A! U.S.A! chants. The Americans would advance past the first round for the first time since 1934. It would turn tragic 10 days later, however. Outside a night club in Colombia, Escobar was murdered by an unknown assailant.

Chicago White Sox

Odds and Ends (06.21.06): Ozzie Guillen calls Jay Mariotti a fag

Ozzie Guillen is a sports blogger’s dream. Yesterday, Ozzie called Jay Mariotti a “stupid idiot” and a fag. “What a piece of (expletive) he is, (expletive) fag.” Stealing a page from the Sammy Sosa language barrier book, Guillen explained his use of the term.

I don’t have anything against those people. In my country, you call someone something like that and it is not the same as it is in this country.

Nice try Ozzie, but last August, Ozzie jokingly yelled out at a friend during a press conference, “Hey, everybody, this guy’s a homosexual! He’s a child molester!”

In other news…

[SBS]: The San Jose A’s of Fremont?

[DOSE]: Obligatory article on terrible NHL ratings for Stanley Cup Finals

[Fox ports]: Northwestern women’s soccer coach resigns

[Some dutch site]: We can’t read it but plenty of pics of footballer’s wives and girlfriends

[Carson Palmer Blog]: Palmer says he’ll be “completely ready” for the 2006 season


Why Americans Hate Soccer

A few months ago, Dave Eggers postulated that the main reason Americans hate soccer was because of the element of diving.

The second and greatest, by far, obstacle to the popularity of the World Cup, and of professional soccer in general, is the element of diving. Americans may generally be arrogant, but there is one stance I stand behind, and that is the intense loathing of penalty-fakers. There are few examples of American sports where diving is part of the game, much less accepted as such.

But diving in soccer is a problem. It is essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging and cheating, an unappealing mix. The theatricality of diving is distasteful, as is the slow-motion way the chicanery unfolds… American sports are, for better or worse, built upon transparency, or the appearance of transparency, and on the grind-it-out work ethic.

Nowhere was this more evident than a play in a relatively uneventful 2-0 victory by Italy over Ghana. An Italian player was fouled from behind by a Ghana player and by the look of it, someone had shot him in the achilles. He laid on the field moaning like someone killed his dog and then stopped briefly to open his eyes to see if he got the foul, then immediately closed them again and resumed moaning. After a few moments, the Docs came on the field and carried him off on a stretcher. About a minute goes by and he’s jogging back on the field and proceeds to play at full speed. It was the worst faking since Ricky Williams told us he loved the game of football / since Stu Scott pretended he was street / since Jeff Garcia dated the playboy model… hell, just insert your own joke here.


The Dutch need a lesson on trash talking

It’s not that the Dutch aren’t good at trash talking, they don’t want to do anything that resembles boasting. They’re like the Amish of World Cup teams. (Dutch… Pennsylvania Dutch… a-ha!)

A coach from the Dutch team is not happy with the slogan that’s painted on the side of the Dutch bus, “Orange on the way to gold”.

We don’t like it because we try to keep everything calm and this might be seen as a provocation. It is a screaming line and we contacted FIFA in an attempt to change it but without any result. We have to settle with this line.

They could use some of the hubris of the Brazilian team, whose slogan is “Three-peat in 2010!” Or something like that… we can’t read Portugese. Meanwhile, the sad lonely U.S.A. bus has no slogan or flag because of security precautions. But if it did, it would probably say “We own you bitches in everything else (except hockey and baseball).

[World Cup Blog]: Lame Bus Slogan Has Dutch Coach Seeing Orange
[Reuters]: Van Basten annoyed about Dutch bus slogan


Welcome to Germany!

The World Cup is coming! The World Cup is coming! If Sportscolumn isn’t exactly World Cup Central, consider it World Cup Penn Station. Or perhaps World Cup Hoboken is more apt. In any case, we’ll be covering a lot of the “other” football in the next month.

A column on ESPN Soccernet today detailed the security precautions (metal detectors at the hotel, security details, team bus without a flag on the side) and the hatred facing the U.S. team throughout the tournament. Players are subjected to chants of “Osama bin Laden!” and get rocks, bottles, and batteries thrown at them. The threat of violence is one thing but getting disgusting bodily fluids thrown at you is another. Buried in the last few paragraphs is this little gem:

Over the last decade, at matches in Latin American countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica, U.S. players have been pelted with everything from batteries and coins to screws and saliva. In one match, former coach Steve Sampson said his players were bombed with bags of urine and animal blood.

Holy crap! That’s taking things a little too far. No matter what they say about football fans in Philly, Oakland or Cleveland, at least they’ve never thrown bags of urine at anyone. (Unless of course, someone used a beer bottle in Cleveland instead of walking to the john.)

We are humbled by soccer fans’ ingenuity for hate mongering.

[ESPN]: U.S. national team prepared for the hate

All Other Sports

Odds and Ends (6/6/06): The naked news

Anna: Yes. McEnroe: No.

At an exhibition match against Jim Courier on the senior circuit, John McEnroe got upset about a call and dropped his pants and mooned everyone. Page Six also reported that tennis starlet Anna Kournikova was in the audience and witnessed the bare ass. Now, this is why Page Six shouldn’t report on sports news. Nobody has uttered the term tennis and Anna Kournikova together in a long long time.

Why is it that the people we don’t want to see naked always end up dropping their pants?

[MSNBC]: If America promises to watch the World Cup, will she pose nude?

[Yahoo]: Did Mike Vanderjagt really just put himself in the same sentence with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods? Damn idiot kicker.

[News and Observer]: Duke lacrosse team reinstated with new rules and tighter (i.e. any) oversight.

[NY Daily News]: Milledge doesn’t regret high-fiving fans after his first HR

[Off Wing Opinion]: The Oilers are so screwed

[]: Former umpire Gregg, 55, dies after stroke


Do you know who Ronaldo is?

The World Cup is almost here folks and we’re trying to figure out how Brazil could possibly lose this thing. Last week we highlighted Ronaldinho, considered the best player in the world if not in history. But Brazil also has the previous best player in the world and hero of the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo. (Not to be confused with Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugese soccer player.) Watching Ronaldo and Ronaldinho carve up defenses will be the major draw of soccer for the Americans this year if the US team don’t advance deep into the tournament. Here are some highlights of Ronaldo aka The Phenomenon.