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Friday, June 11, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010


We're under way!

A friend sent me the "photo of the year" on the left...

65 comments:

Ulrich said...

It's late here--just a few impressions of the first day of competition.

The opening match (S. Africa vs. Mexico) was quite watchable and suspenseful--the 1:1 tie appeared justified. But if you're not a Mexico fan, you have to admit that if S. Africa would have hit the net instead of the goal post in the last minute of play and thus won the match, we would have had a start with a real bang and a tremendous morale builder for the host.

In any case, the second match (France vs. Uruguay) was a let-down and did in no way dispel the doubts that accompany this French side.

Ulrich said...

Forgot to mention that the first goal of the day and competition, scored by S. Africa, was a beauty. It started with what's called in German a Traumpass, a "dream pass" down the field behind the defense, feeding a streaking attacker (with the great name Tshabalala) who took it and released an absolutely perfect shot high into the far corner of the goal--a hot candidate for "goal of the tournament".

mac said...

Thank you, Ulrich! I was walking around the West Village and in every bistro, pub, cafe and bodega there were crowds watching the game on big flat screen tv's! Lots of screaming going on. It was a good time.
Hope you had a nice German dinner inbetween matches!

Ulrich said...

@mac: I didn't expect to see something like this in the US in my lifetime--imagine what's going to happen later today when the US will be playing England!

Right now, it's halftime between Greece and S. Korea, with S. Korea clearly being the better team and leading 1:0. I saw them live 4 years ago and am impressed with their improvement, especially w.r.t ball control, which was deficient then.

Ulrich said...

England:USA 1:1. Congrats to all my American friends--the US side gained a point against all odds...

...and the saga of England's traditional problem in goal continues--they did not qualify for the European Cup 2 years ago because of bloopers by their goalie in the last and decisive qualifying match, and today's 'howler' (BBC) may also prove costly in the end. This type of hex is really puzzling, given the long soccer rradition of England--I'm not enough of an expert to volunteer explanations.

Georg said...

I have yet to see a full game. It's too early to tell, but England still has a goalkeeper problem...

Here is an interesting observation about Messi (how can he prefer order?) and Maradona (translated from German):

"When Messi was fun, we all have fun," said Maradona. This system has always worked for him. But Messi is different. He needs order, he needs structure in order to be brilliant. Maradona but creates chaos. Since then, he is coach, Maradona called one hundred players on the team. The Spanish sports daily As wrote "the other day: The only way to stop Messi is to make Maradona his coach".

The full article is here
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,699087,00.html

Ulrich said...

@George: Welcome to the discussion!

The problem England has with goal-keeping is almost comical, déjà vu all over again!--I really laughed out loud when I saw the blooper last night. Well, there was also a little Schadenfreude involved--I mean, if you declare yourself world champion before the competition even started, you ask for it.

As to Messi or, rather, Maradonna, I'm really anxious to see how this will play out--Maradonna's tactic seems to be "leave everything to Messi", which is to say, if a team takes Messi out, there is no plan B. Not that it is easy to take him out--to do this completely may be impossible, but he can be neutralized for major portions of a match, as Inter Milan demonstrated in the Champion's Cup semis.

The Germans may have to try this eventually--if they and Argentina win their resp. group and survive the next round, they will meet in the quarter finals, just like last time--scary...

Ulrich said...

The craze among kids here is to collect soccer cards issued on the occasion of the Cup--the players on all participating sides plus assorted other images pertinent to the competition--638 cards altogether. They have to be bought blindly in packs. The trick to complete a collection, of course, is to swap duplicates, and I'm just returning from a pub with the suggestive name "God's Green Meadow", which functions as an 'official' exchange site--when I got there with my niece and nephew with our duplicates, we found a remarkable scene: The entire sidewalk in front of the pub was occupied by kids accompanied by assorted adults clustered in small groups that went about the business of swapping cards in a friendly, if serious, manner, with the current match (Serbia vs. Ghana) projected on an outside screen.

mac said...

Congratulations on Germany's win, Ulrich! Didn't see it myself, but Charlie said they were awesome. Got to get up early tomorrow to see my team!

Ulrich said...

@mac: It was a perfect Sunday evening here: Dinner composed around asparagus and strawberries harvested in the morning on a farm 10min. from here and then a performance by the German side that surprised everyone--they probably surprised themselves.

The strawberries were the best I've had all year, and I can't remember a German team that attacked with this kind of speed and precision passing.

I, too, am looking forward to the Netherlands/Denmark match--it will be a more civilized time here.

mac said...

I remember that well, the Spargel time. I just had some Dutch maatjesharing, it's Herring Fest at the Oyster Bar in NY.

Ulrich said...

@mac: Congratulations! Yours was the better team, clearly--we're on our way to a Netherlands/Germany final!!!!

saa said...
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mac said...

Yes, this was a good soccer day. I hope the teams have had a chance to settle down (except for your German team, they are doing just fine) and get used to playing with other prima donnas.

Ulrich said...

The Germans are just too young to be prima donnas, yet--it's the second youngest team in the entire tournament. The downside: They definitely do not have the experience of other teams with this level of competition.

The big question is: Can they make up for this with youthful enthusiasm? Nobody knows--everybody here is waiting for the next match, against Serbia, to see if the show they were able to put up in their first outing was a fluke or a harbinger of things to come.

The country, meanwhile, is in a strange funk: It's doing fine economically, considering the circumstances, even amazingly so*, but the dissatisfaction with the government, and politicians in general, is so great that it dampens the mood to a considerable degree.

Of course, winning the World Cup would change all that (just kidding--it won't happen--the team IS too inexperienced for that)!!

_____________
*Gleeful reports in the US about the slide of the Euro overlook the boost it has given to German exports!

Ulrich said...

Proviso: The following musings are based on reports in the German media, which may have their own bias--I would welcome comments expressing diverging views.

A good indicator of the self-confidence of a team is the way in which it deals with a sub-par performance. Confident teams admit their shortcomings and promise to do better next time. As a variant, they may simply deny that they played poorly--Italy's manager Lippi chose this option after the lack-luster performance of the Italians in their first match.

Teams that are rattled and have their self-confidence diminished blame others or circumstances out of their control--the Argentinians and English appear to be falling under this category right now after their first outings.

For the Argentinians, it was the constant noise of the Vuvuzelas that prevented the players from communicating effectively during their opening match and thus prevented them from passing effectively. Now, it appears that the din produced by those infernal 'instruments' can be an obstacle: I remember a moment during the Germany/Australia match when a German defender headed the ball out of the danger zone for a corner kick, while the goalie was standing right behind him, ready to catch the ball. I cursed one or the other--the goalie for not yelling to make his presence known or the defender for not listening. It turns out, the goalie did yell, but the defender could not hear him b/c of the noise. But the din did not prevent the Germans from passing exceptionally well--they had practiced this endlessly in the preceding month and knew where everyone was supposed be--no need for verbal communication. Which is to say that no amount of communication during a match can make up for a lack of preparation and coaching, and that's where the Argentinians' problems seem to be.

The English, meanwhile, blame the ball for their weak performance. Moreover, they have the Frechheit to claim it gives the Germans and unfair advantage since the ball was developed by a German firm after all. The truth is, the ball has been available to everyone for half a year before the tournament--the Germans and the Swiss, e.g., took advantage of this and practiced with it, the English decided to ignore it.

The upshot is that I look forward to a possible England/Germany match in the round of 16 or a likely quarterfinal Argentina/Germany with greater hope than I had before.

But, of course, things may look quite differently two weeks from now--tournaments are notoriously unpredictable, and this one has just gotten under way.

Ulrich said...

@George: Congratulations! Leave it to the Swiss to produce the biggest upset of the tournament so far! What do you think about their prospects now?

mac said...

How amazing, the Swiss upset! You just never can count on anything or any team in a big tournament like this. Wish I was in that time-zone as well... Don't always feel like opening my eyes in the morning to soccer match.

mac said...

After today, I have to say I've never seen a crazier World Cup! Let's just go with the flow, I guess.....

Ulrich said...

Maradonna certainly adds to the craziness factor.

On the upside: The quality of the matches picked up noticeably yesterday, I think.

Everyone here, of course, is holding her/his breath to see how the Germans will do, in a few hrs, against Serbia, a stronger team that, in addition, has its back against he wall...stay tuned!

Ulrich said...

What a frustrating day for the Germans--after having a player red-carted and falling behind 0:1, they missed a ton of chances, including a missed penalty shot, to equalize. On the positive side, they played with a lot of heart after these mishaps--however, the missed penalty was a downer from which they did not really recover, mentally--everyone knows that this kind of opportunity cannot be missed if you are a man short. They now have to win the next match if they want to stay in the tournament and advance to the next round.

The Americans also showed a lot of heart, coming back after falling behind 0:2: They equalized and then scored a winning goal, which was denied for reasons nobody has explained yet.

mac said...

I didn't see the first half of the Germany-Serbia match, did you think the red card was deserved?
You are right, the Germans looked solid but were very unlucky. That's socker..... I remember a match where the Dutch top scorer had lots and lots of chances and just never got it into the net.

We need to remember that all these players are outstanding, no matter where they come from. Players from the tiniest country play for big-time clubs in other countries. England may have a very different problem, their players almost all play for English clubs, and those teams may just not be as good as some of the Italian, Spanish, German and Dutch clubs.

Anyway, there's another chance next week. Now I have to get a little sleep before my team goes at it! Wish me luck. I can only imagine how excited the people are in Holland!

mac said...

Socker! That's good.

Marlene said...

Does anyone know yet why the goal was denied? I can't believe the Americans are doing as well as they are. Very exciting.

Ulrich said...

@mac: I do wish you luck! I'm still hoping for a Holland/Germany final, but the Germans made it a little more difficult for themselves yesterday--they have to win their next match against Ghana, which incidentally has the player that injured the designated German captain, Michael Ballack, so severely before the tournament that he cannot play. The loss yesterday turns this 'grudge' match into a must-win for Germany.

About the red card: The consensus here is that (a) the first yellow card against Klose was not justified, but consistent with an extremely literal--and misplaced--interpretation of the rules by the referee; and (b) the second yellow card was more justified, and given the first one, the subsequent red card was automatic. So, we have an overall result that appears unfair b/c it's the result of an initial doubtful decision--but, as you say, it's socker:-)

But among fans and the media here, the blame is put much more on Klose, who, given his experience, should not have committed the second foul--there was really no need for it, i.e. no emergency situation--and on the coach, Jogi Löw, for not substituting for Klose before it was too late--it was clear by then from where the wind was blowing. But the real goat is Podolski (best player in the first match!) for missing half a dozen excellent scoring opportunities, including a penalty.

@Marlene: All I read is that the referee saw a foul by an American forward--he seems to be the only person in the world who saw it.

The English are at the brink of elimination: If they cannot beat Slowenia in the next match and the Americans beat Algeria, outcomes which are decidedly possible, they will not survive the group phase. I know it's gauche to root AGAINST a team, but I must say the bragging and trash talk of the English players off the field combined with their poor performance on the field (it's called unterirdisch ("subterranean") in the media here) almost makes me wish for it.

Georg said...

Thanks Ulrich! I didn't know that Switzerland hadn't beaten Spain for more than 100 years - that's worse than Federer's record

against Nadal. Being a realist, I predict that the Swiss will be eliminated in the round of 16. I think you're right that the

German team is a bit too inexperienced. They played very well in the first game but seem to lack consistency. The biggest disappointments so far are the French and English teams. No coordination whatsoever and embarrassingly static game! A commentator mentioned that the counter attacks in the Premier League are carried out switftly - by foreign players, that is. Generally the level of play seems lower than in the Champions League. Players need to know each other well and find their roles, which is impossible to achieve in the national team from the beginning. As the tournament proceeds, level of play hopefully improves!


[For some reason, an earlier comment wasn't posted]

Ulrich said...

@George: I definitely feel that occasionally, a comment disappears on a google-powered blog after it has been published. What happens to me more often, though, is that after previewing, I forget to hit Publish before I close the window.

As to foreigners on club teams: I think you make a point that applies to European teams generally: To the degree that foreign players are employed, national players do not get that experience. A very interesting case is the current German side: All German players who are starters for Bayern München are starters also for the national team--they form the "Bayern-Block". The rest of the National team consists of Germans that replace foreign players in Bayern's starting lineup. This works b/c Bayern's Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, plays a system that is identical to that preferred the German coach, Jogi Löw, or, as a Bayern player said, we play (on the German team) the "system Louis van Löw".

Marlene said...

I swear the Germans have the perfect word for everything. I love that label "unterirdisch," and it fits the less than "above board" behavior you describe. Since that kind of whining is considered unsportly, I wonder what has gotten into the Brits. I think I'm going to be gauche and root against them.

Ulrich said...

@mac: Congratulations! The Dutch are the first team to qualify for the next round with certainty. They will probably also win their division, but that will be decided on the last day of group play.

The Argentinians also have qualified for all practical purposes, even if not with mathematical certainty.

Ulrich said...

Meanwhile, American blogs and commenters are engaging in a ritual we are familiar with from past World Cups: Diatribes describing how boring, silly, and generally not worth watching soccer is. I'm fascinated by the complete predictability of these musings. To me, they indicate that many Americans must be profoundly uncomfortable with the idea that the whole world, except for them, is mesmerized by an event they do not understand. And so, they have to assure each other that the whole thing is silly anyway.

If they were really sure of themselves, they would be perfectly happy ignoring the event--the fact that they compulsively cannot leave it alone is revealing to me. I, for one, find baseball the most boring sport in the world, but I do not feel compelled to extoll its deficiencies every time the so-called World Series start--I'm perfectly happy ignoring it.

Ulrich said...

@marlene: Wait for the next Word-of-the-Month, which will be soccer-related!

BTW I don't know if you know this: The United Kingdom is the only country in the world that is allowed to maintain 4 national teams, one for each of the constituent parts that make up exactly that United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. So, when we speak of the English in the context of soccer, we really mean the English in the narrow, literal sense, not as a shortcut for Great Britain. This explains also why you will not see the Union Jack among the flags of the countries that participate in international competitions; you will only see the flags of England, Scotland, Wales or N. Ireland.(The English flag is a red cross on a white background)

mac said...

@Ulrich: I find your description of the German team, All German players who are starters for Bayern München are starters also for the national team--they form the "Bayern-Block". The rest of the National team consists of Germans that replace foreign players in Bayern's starting lineup, shocking! How could the rest of the country's Liga let that happen! I thing the Louis van Loewe title is funny.

I'm happy that Holland is doing well but there is no hype, like at other tournaments. Slow and steady may be the ticket for once!

Ulrich said...

@mac: If it's any consolation, I overlooked the goalie: The starting goalie for Bayern is not the starting goalie for the German side--Neuer plays for Schalke. Butt (yes, that's his name), Bayern's goalie, is #3 in S. Africa and slipped into that position only b/c of the events I described in my earlier blog.

Bayern is simply the best-led club in Germany, with the result it is also the best and richest club. The most astonishing fact: It's debt-free, whereas all other top European clubs have huge depts. Look at the foreign players they can afford--they are all starters in S. Africa on their resp. national teams (or would be if their team had qualified): van Bommel, Robben (Holland); Ribery (France); Demichelis (Argentina); van Buyten (Belgium); Olic (Croatia). Yes, they push out Germans on the Bayern team, but Bayern more than offsets that through its exceptional youth divisions: The players in the Bayern-Block, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Badstuber, Müller come out of that system, which is to say, Bayern makes a huge contribution to German soccer. One cannot really hate them, as much as one wants to...

Ulrich said...

These are the top stories that emerge from the first two rounds of group play in the German media:

(a) The extreme uneveness in the quality of refereeing across matches. This distorts competition in an unpredictable, and, I believe, unacceptable way. Things are not helped by the the pronouncements of the FIFA officials who simply deny that there is a problem ("Refereeing is of high quality and consistent") or stonewall discussions of particular calls ("We do not comment on individual decisions"). The referees themselves are forbidden to answer questions (unlike, for example, in the German Bundesliga, where they are allowed to explain their reasoning and sometimes admit mistakes). The officials in S. Africa try to summarily protect referees by stone-walling--the effect, of course, is that the reputation of the whole profession is diminished b/c the discussion is one-sided and kept alive by replays of egregious calls repeated endlessly on TV.

(b) the unexpectedly strong showing of the teams from S. America and the corresponding struggle of some of the strongest European teams: Each of the five teams from S. America leads its group after two matches and has already qualified for the next round or is in a good position to do so. On the other hand, traditional European powerhouses like France, England, Germany, Italy and Spain are all in danger of being eliminated at the end of group play. Only the Netherlands and Portugal are (almost) sure to advance. More on this in my next comment.

Ulrich said...

Over the next four days, the final 2 matches will be played simultaneously in each group.

To start with the group closets to my heart, Group D: If Germany beats Ghana, it not only advances, but in all likelihood wins its group; if it loses, it's out. The same is true for Serbia: If it beats Australia, it advances, if it loses, it's out--in other words, we have 2 "end games" in this group.

From a statistical point of view, Germany and Serbia should make it, but upsets are the norm in World Cup competitions. And I must confess, I have a very bad feeling about the German prospects, which are shared by my brother, who knows more about soccer than I do. It's not so much the fact that the Germans must win their match--they have been in this position in any world cup they competed in--it's the way in which they lost their last match: With 1 man down, they were still the dominating team over at least an hr and had a handful of excellent chances to at least tie, if not win, the game, but couldn't convert a single one. Plus, Ghana knows that it doesn't have to win--a tie would guarantee their advancement; in other words, it can concentrate on defense from the start, and it is extremely difficult to score against such a team (cf the recent Barcelona/Inter Milan match). I don't know if the Germans have the patience, experience, or sang froid to deal successfully with this situation. If they score early on, the complexion of the game will change dramatically, but if they don't, all bets are off. In any case, I will not predict an outcome.

Now, brief round-ups of the remaining groups:

In Group A, France is as good as eliminated: To advance, it must beat S. Africa by a margin of 4 or more and hope that the Mexico/Uruguay match does not end in a tie. Most likely outcome: Mexico and Uruguay play for the #1 and #2 spot.

Group B: Argentina needs only a tie against Greece to win its group. Should it lose (extremely unlikely) and S. Korea beats Nigeria (very possible), we would have three teams with 6 points each; i.e. the tie-breaking rules would have to be applied. Most likely outcome: Argentina #1, S. Korea #2.

Group C: No team has been eliminated yet. The current #1, Slovenia, will advance if it at least ties England, but will be eliminated if it loses to England and the USA beat Algeria. If Algeria wins, on the other hand, it has a chance. In other words, every team, except for Slovenia, must try to win its match--it's as simple as that. Most likely outcome: Very hard to predict b/c of the number of possibilities. Here I stick my neck out: USA #1, Slovenia #2.

Group E: Most likely outcome: The Netherlands win the group, Denmark and Japan play for the #2 spot--Japan needs only a tie.

Group F: No team has been eliminated yet, and the no.of possible outcomes is too large to enumerate here. All eyes are on Italy: Can it beat Slovakia to advance ? and on Paraguay: Can it hold on to the #1 spot against New Zealand? Most likely outcome: Yes in both cases.

Group G: Almost certain outcome: Portugal and Brazil play for the #1 and #2 spots, with Brazil in the driver's seat, i.e. a tie would be sufficient to finish at the top.

Group H: The thriller group--Chile needs only a tie against Spain to remain in the #1 spot. So, Spain should do its utmost to win. The same is true for Switzerland against Honduras--win if you can. If both win, we will have 3 teams with 6 points each, which is the most likely outcome, to me. In that case, the tie-breaking rules should favor Spain over Chile and Switzerland over Chile if it beats Honduras decisively. But there are so many ifs involved that I consider the whole group too close to call.

Ulrich said...

@marlene (this is an answer to your comment on the "one more week" thread re. a possible match Germany/USA--I think you intended to post it here):
"I was wondering, who will you be rooting for, given your dual citizenship so to speak? Or will you be happy whichever side wins?"

Well, this is a no-brainer for me: The rare opportunity when either outcome favors a team I'm rooting for.

BTW I'm less certain now that we'll see such a match-up. As I said in the preceding comment, I now expect the US to win their group, whereas Germany may not survive the group phase, but if it does, it wins its group. If both teams win their group, they will continue in different halves of the bracket and can meet only in the final. But I am convinced that neither team will get that far.

mac said...

But Germany did! What an amazing soccer day this was. Cantt believe the US ended up at the top of their group! I have a Dutch coffee/lunch tomorrow, then home to watch the Holland game with Charlie.
Don't count anyone out. Soccer is such a complicated game, where finesse is almost as important as luck. That's what makes it so exciting, even when there is no score!

Ulrich said...
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Ulrich said...

@mac: Oh yes. The sigh of relief breathed by a whole nation must have been heard beyond the borders. I do not remember a match by a German team that made me so nervous, before and during...In any case, I wish you a most enjoyable lunch and a Dutch win tonight--we're still on course for a Germany/Netherlands final:-)

Congratulations to my American friends! It looked for the longest time as if the US team would be eliminated by yet another bad call by a referee (this one less egregious, though--offside calls are notoriously hard to judge with the naked eye), but the soccer gods had mercy with the US. Plus, by winning their group, they avoid playing Germany next.

This honor now goes to England; i.e. we'll see on Sunday another installment of the classic England/Germany, preceded, no doubt, by yet another rehash in the British press of their victories in 1945 and 1966 over the German "Panzer".

In Germany, meanwhile, it didn't go unnoticed that in each of the three matches its team has played, it played less well than in the preceding one. This, of course, plays right into the German predilection for finding reasons in every situation for being unhappy. But this time, I will NOT get nervous--being eliminated by England is nothing to be ashamed of (although I still find the current English team less than appealing) and the young and inexperienced German team has tremendous potential for the future...and with any luck (as mac said)...

Georg said...

@Ulrich: it's hard for me to keep track of all the comments...

You mention that Bayern is the best managed club in Germany (perhaps even in Europe). It may well be true, but it reminded me of this hilarious video featuring their manager, Uli Hoeness, ranting against some fans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErBT1zWG8mQ

I was impressed with Chile last night. Switerland's exit is well-deserved. The goal keeper is about their only good player. He could be a candidate for an all-star team, because goalie performance has been quite awful.

My favourite matches so far (I haven't seen that many...): Denmark-Cameroon and Denmark - Ivory Coast.

Can't wait for England to join Italy and France tomorrow!

Ulrich said...

@Georg: I couldn't watch any matches last night--had an invitation, and against expectations, my hosts did not have the TV on--there are Germans not bitten by the soccer bug. So, I didn't see the Swiss, but I did see the Danes against Japan on Thursday and was surprised that they did not make a stronger effort to win and thus advance to the next round--they join the Swiss in that sense, it seems.

I appreciate your comment re. the upcoming England/Germany match. It's interesting to compare the differences in their respective pre-game statements: The English go out of their way to paint themselves into the we-have-everything-to-lose corner by predicting victory, while the Germans go out of their way to paint themselves into the we-have-nothing-to-lose corner by repeating endlessly how strong the English are. This is BTW the same strategy they employed before the semi-final against Portugal during the Euro Cup 2 years ago, when Portugal was the clear favorite, only to lose decisively against the Germans. We have to see if it works again...personally, I give them a 50-50 chance, less if Schweinsteiger cannot play. Should they win, they will face Argentina in the quarters in all likelihood, and then the odds will be the overwhelmingly against them, w/o false modesty.

In any case, we should see more exciting matches now since it's "win or lose" for everybody.

哲維維 said...
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mac said...

Congratulations, Ulrich and friends and family!! What an enjoyable match, and I was so happy that the Germans confirmed their stronger play after the bad call about the second English goal.
Hope you are celebrating this evening!

Ulrich said...

@mac: Thx! Too bad we will not be able to watch the Netherlands/Germany final together!!!

It's really fascinating--here's the coach of the English side declaring "the Germans are afraid of us", i.e. falling exactly into the same trap the Portuguese fell into two years ago by taking the pronouncements of the Germans at face value. Löw, on the other hand, prepared his team to overwhelm the English defense with counter attacks at lightning speed, while publicly complimenting the English...it worked.

But I must also compliment the English players--they played fair to the end, and when I watched the interactions between them and the German players after the match, I saw no meanness--just mutual respect...
more tomorrow--I'm at the end of a bottle of red wine.

Pedro said...

Congratulations for the German team victory yesterday! Germany played very fast on the front.

Tomorrow Portugal will play against Spain - The all time classic between neighbours. And from our side, there is hope!

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: Good luck tomorrow! If Germany survives the quarterfinal (big if!), they may meet Portugal in the semis!!

To continue with a theme I started in earlier comments: The word that has been used frequently in the German press in connection with the English team before yesterday is Selbstüberschätzung (literally "self-over-estimation"), an inflated notion of one's worth or abilities--they declared themselves winners before the cup even started and their coach claimed "the Germans are afraid of us"--the Germans loved it.

Apparently, even after yesterday's drubbing, old habits die hard: My favorite comment in one of the British blogs today is by someone who proves statistically that England was, in fact, the better team--more time of possession, more shots, more corners, fewer fouls--that sort of thing...it's all very encouraging when I think of future match-ups between England and Germany.

mac said...

I'm wearing orange today, Ulrich, and it helped. Very poor ref, though. This one even has a bad reputation, I wonder why Spain sent him!

Ulrich said...

@mac: I think it was the same ref. who made hash of the Germany/Serbia match--congratulations, anyway!

I'm really looking forward to the Netherlands/Brazil game. It seems to me that neither side has been forced, so far, to play their best--this is the occasion to really show what they're made of...

Ulrich said...

A look at the quarterfinal match-ups:
Netherlands-Brazil; Uruguay-Ghana; Argentina-Germany; Paraguay-Spain.

Some observations: The teams that won their group survived the round of 16 except for the USA; i.e. group C (with England and the US) sent no team to the quarters, and group D (with Germany and Ghana) sent 2--it proved a much stronger group than the Germans initially thought.

3 of the 4 matches pit a European against a S. American team--we'll see if the dominance of S. America so far will continue (3 teams are still alive from Europe and S. America alike, but Europe started with 13 and S. America with 5!)

瑞尹 said...
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Ulrich said...

Thank God three soccer-free days have come to an end!

@mac: Good luck for your team today!

Ulrich said...

...and you had it!!!!! Congratulations!!!! And the semi-final in that bracket will be easier, I think. So, we can safely expect the Netherlands in the final.

mac said...

You can never be sure of anything in soccer, Ulrich! I'm rooting for Germany tomorrow, those young guys have nothing to lose!
I'll be in Holland as from Thursday, so I will see the Saturday and Monday games. It would be great if you were right.....

mac said...

Congratulations! Karsten and Charlie are still watching it although they have figured out from my good mood that Germany won!
Charlie is reaaaaally on their side, his mother was German, after all. It must be so much fun to be in Germany today; yesterday the Amsterdammers jumped into the canals after Oranje won!

Ulrich said...

Thank you!

The Germans are in a "pinch-me" mood. Even if they considered it possible that their untried and inexperienced team would get this far, they never imagined that it would do it in such an exciting fashion. The difference with the Argentinians: They said "we WILL win", while the Germans said "we CAN win".

The Spaniards will be a different kettle of fish on Wednesday, though--for one, they will respect the Germans and refrain from bragging beforehand. But for the first time, I'm considering a Netherlands-Germany final a realistic possibility instead of a pipe dream.

Georg said...

Congratulations Germany! Now they should win it. I must admit that the Netherlands are traditionally my favourite team. The problem is that the Bayern block knows all of Robben's tricks... Spain was disappointing but they managed to muddle through like future champions. Torres is completely out of shape and I don't understand why the Spanish coach doesn't bench him?!

It's fascinating how Loew managed to form this team. He must be a great motivator and tactician. Messi and his team mates had defeat written all over them. You could sense that they would not recover from Mueller's early goal.

@Ulrich: your Unschuldslamm hits the nail on the head. The brutality of some fouls has been shocking. BTW, what is your opinion on the German version of 'Public viewing'?

Ulrich said...

@Georg: One of the ingredients of the success of the German team is meticulous preparation, based on scouting reports. The German media were shocked (delighted, too!!) when the Argentinian goalie confessed a few days before the match that he didn't know any German player by name--this kind of thing would be unthinkable in the German camp. And when Maradonna (the "gelled Rumpelstiltzkin" according to some media here) claimed afterwards that they had prepared meticulously for the German, I've no idea what he was talking about.

Still, I remember the Euro-Cup final 2008 against Spain too well to be in any way sanguine about the up-coming semi-final against them. I did upgrade my expectations a little, though--from "we have no chance" to "we may win". One thing we can be sure of: The Spaniards will not underestimate the Germans.

As to public viewing, I have never been to one. Compared to my brother's living room and HD TV, it looks, to me, like a very uncomfortable way of watching a game. I guess many people go there to bond with like-minded fans, but I don't feel that need.

Pedro said...

Congratulations for the German Victory! 4-0 against Argentina : What a score!

Unfortunately Portugal is out of the competition.

Although Spain was a strong opponent, I believe with some more effort they could have made it. Quite honestly I believe Portugal could have won with more effort and above all, self-confidence. It lacked a certain will of winning, unfortunately....

Good luck for the match against Spain. I will be supporting Germany (of course...:)

mac said...

Can you believe this! I hope Germany wins as well, tomorrow. I am so looking forward to seeing the final with friends and family in Holland.....

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: Thank you!

@mac: Congratulations! The Dutch have done their share. Let's see if the Germans will be able to follow suit.

When I looked at the draw at the beginning of the tournament, with Argentina looming at the quarters and Spain at the semis for the Germans, I was convinced that one of these would be the end for the too-young German team. But as I said before, I've upgraded my expectations somewhat and I'm giving them now at least a fighting chance. In any case, this will be a very interesting match tonight--it may turn on a handful of key scenes...

mac said...

It's blistering hot in NY, so it's a good time to watch an exciting soccer match in my cool apartment! Good luck to you!

Georg said...

I feel (sincerely) sorry for the German team because they had a fantastic tournament and couldn't quite deliver today. Of course this was also because Spain was the better team today. The game reminded me a little bit of the Euro finals 2 years ago, which also ended 1-0 but the result didn't reflect how uneven the match was.

@Ulrich: the German commentators have been talking a lot about 'Führungsspieler' lately. Lahm and Schweinsteiger are examples. Seems like a new term and I don't quite understand what they exactly mean by it!

mac said...

I'm in sweltering Holland getting ready for the match this evening! People are decorating their houses and streets! I'm on my way to buy some orange flowers for my hostess this evening!

We watched last night's match and were very happy for Germany!

Ulrich said...

I'm back from a wonderful 2-day sailing trip in Croatia--from Pula in Istria to the island of Cres and back. I tried to announce my brief absence from this blog before I left, but the Internet connection went down that morning and I couldn't post. Both I and the IN are back... I will read the comments I missed and post some thoughts of my own soon. This is just to assure everyone that I survived Germany's loss against Spain more or less unharmed.

I'm really looking forward to tonight's match and hope it will be the treat the Germany/Spain match wasn't. Needless to say, I will root for mac's team!

Ulrich said...

@Georg: I agree with you about the Spain/Germany semi in that Spain was the better team. I and many other Germans are not disappointed by the loss, but by the way it happened: The Germans couldn't execute their counter-attacks with the daring and precision they exhibited in previous matches--they appeared timid and too much in awe of their opponents--I think their youth and lack of experience finally caught up with them. [The absence of Müller may have been another factor.] Anyway, yes, this team shows great promise--the match against Uruguay demonstrated that yet again.

Re. Führungsspieler: This is a player who has the prima facie experience and standing with his teammates to act as the "extended arm of the coach"; i.e. to take matters into his own hands when things do not go or someone doesn't perform as expected; someone who has a clear idea of how the game is/should be progressing and directs his teammates accordingly; someone who talks to them constantly, keeps them focused, and, most importantly, is always ready to receive the ball and do something creative with it. The Germans were worried that because of the absence of Ballack, the youth of the team, and the fact that they hadn't really played together before, let alone in high pressure situations, no Führungsspieler would emerge when needed. To everybody's delight, Schweinsteiger stepped into this role and filled it splendidly--at least that's what the Germans, including me, think. The other side of the coin: It created a debate about the future role of Ballack--is there still a place for him, or should the focus be on younger players?

@mac: We were so close to a Netherlands/Germany final, much closer than I had initially thought possible! Let's look forward to the European Cup in two years and hope that Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany all will qualify and meet again...I would like to see how a matured German side would perform against either of the other two, preferably again in a semifinal or final.