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World Cup Opens With Blunders

In only three days of action, the 2010 World Cup has provided no shortage of embarrassing, game changing blunders. By now, we are all familiar with English goalkeeper Robert Green, who was affectionately dubbed by The Sunday Times as “Greenfingers” for his slip up on a routine shot that left British soccer fans who drowned the 1-1 tie with the US nursing a worse than usual hang over this morning.

Today’s historic gaffe was provided by Serbian midfield Zdravko Kuzmanovic, who needlessly handed the ball in the 85th minute, resulting in a Ghana penalty kick by Asamoah Gyan to seal the game with a 1-0 victory. The upside to this one, of course, is that it provided the nation of Ghana with the first ever World Cup victory by an African team playing a World Cup match on African soil.

Personally, I enjoy seeing some opening round jitters at the world’s greatest celebration of soccer, and it’s even better when those mishaps result in a little embarrassment for the English national team at the hand of Team USA, as well as a wonderful landmark victory in for Ghana in World Cup history. Maybe it’s just the jabulani ball, but those heartbreaking moments in sports never seem to get old.

Sources:
Ghana’s Gyan converts penalty kick near end to edge Serbia [ESPN]
US works as a team to draw England [FOXSports]
Photo Credit: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

US vs. England Officials Doing Homework in Preparation of Swearing

World Cup official Carlos Simon has been under fire as of late due to his history of questionable calls and behavior during soccer matches.  Although he has officiated the past two World Cups, he was recently suspended by the Brazilian football confederation for what they called a “build-up of perceived errors.” Here’s what the president of Brazilian club Palmeiras had to say about Simon:

He’s a crook, a scoundrel … just a shameless bastard. He must be in someone’s pocket. If I met him in the street, I would slap him. What he did was unbelievable and he was helping Fluminense. He should be driven out of football.”

That “crook” happens to be the lead official for the upcoming match between the U.S. and England this Saturday.  In response to England’s Wayne Rooney saying “f— you” to an official in England’s warm-up game on Monday, Simon has warned the English team to watch their cursing in their opening round match against the U.S.  In fact, he has told the teams that he and his assistants are familiarizing themselves with a list of English obscenities, so they know when they are being verbally abused by the players.

Couple Wayne Rooney’s reputation for having a short temper with Carlos Simon’s background of controversial calls and criticism from team owners and we may have a storyline that’s worth keeping an eye on during Saturday’s match.  I’m never one to root for a game that’s decided by officiating, but if the U.S. is to stand a chance against England they might need all the help they can get.

Sources:
Referee for USA-England World Cup Match is “A Crook, A Scoundrel” [The Sporting Blog]
World Cup Referee Learning English Curse Words To Better Understand Impending Abuse [The Sporting Blog]

New World Cup Ball Is Terrible, Again?

FIFA might consider including players voicing complaints about the new World Cup competition ball as part of the official festivities leading up to the quadrennial international soccer competition. This year, Adidas introduced the Jabulani, meaning “to celebrate” in isiZulu, for the South African hosted World Cup which kicks off on June 11th. Reactions have been negative at best, with Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar taking a page out of Shaquille O’Neal’s book of witty criticisms by comparing the ball to a plastic toy you might find at a supermarket. Here is what his teammate, Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, had to say:

“It’s very weird. All of a sudden it changes trajectory on you. It’s like it doesn’t want to be kicked. It’s incredible, it’s like someone is guiding it. You are going to kick it and it moves out of the way. I think it’s supernatural, it’s very bad. I hope to adapt to it as soon as possible, but it’s going to be hard.”

In the interest of honest, even-handed reporting, we should also mention that some players such as Kaka, Michael Ballack, and Frank Lampard — all under contract with Adidas — have praised the ball. I’m going have to take a wait and see stance on this one, though. Because we see these complaints every time the new ball is introduced, it really comes down to how the players react once they are out on the pitch and if the fans can notice a significant disparity from the expected level of play.

Sources:
Players not happy with ‘supermarket’ WCup ball [AP]

Who Wants to See Maradona Naked?

Here’s a little taste of 2010 World Cup fever for you: Argentinean soccer legend and current national team manager Diego Maradona promised an Argentinean radio show that if his squad wins the World Cup he will run naked through downtown Buenos Aires. Some coaching strategies are beyond me.

The 49-year-old well known for the infamous “Hand of God” goal made the statement a day after Argentina defeated Canada 5-0 in a pre-World Cup warm-up match. The reporter asked Maradona what he would do if Argentina won its third World Cup title, to which Maradona pointedly replied, “If we win the World Cup, I will get naked and run around the Obelisk.”

For the non-geography students out there, the Obelisk is a tall, four sided landmark in Buenos Aires that was constructed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city. Maradona also took the interview opportunity to explain why he opted not to play reigning FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi against Canada: “If something were to have happened to [Messi] in that match, I’d have been kicked – you can imagine where.”

So for those of you sports fans that follow soccer one summer out of every four years looking for a club to support, consider this Maradona’s bid for your allegiance.

Sources:
Maradona will run naked if Argenita wins Cup [FOX Sports]