Monday, June 30, 2008

Saluda el campeóns (I'm no good at Spanish grammar...)

This tournament was fantastic... unfortunately the final did not fall into the same category. There were spells where the game was superb, but in my mind it was overshadowed by the absolute mediocrity of Germany.

Mertesacker was, for me, the absolute worst man on the pitch yesterday. I've never before seen such wayward passing, careless fouling, poor coverage and overall terrible defending from any center-back at the international level. His give-away at the end of the game almost definitively crushed any German hopes for a comeback. He was a morale-killer, and not much use otherwise.

That said, the rest of Germany was horrible too. There was nothing in the way of sight or vision in the passing, Spain didn't have to defend all that much because Germany's attacks petered themselves out. Ballack and Klose showed real bottle in continuing to play after recieving some pretty nasty whacks in the course of play (whoever the Spanish fella who put his foot into Klose's groin should have been sent off). Lehmann showed his skills, he was brilliant in the final. The Spanish could easily have had three or four goals, but for Lehmann.

I've had enough of people slagging off Torres' goal. The fact that he managed to get gump side of Lahm was nothing short of brilliant attacking football. His rise from the youth side at Atletico Madrid has been remarkable, and he is beginning to use his size and strength to top off his skill. That goal was the perfect example of all three put into harmony. Wonderful stuff.

Now, on to a more positive note than this post's direction has been.

The tournament - beyond comparison. This was, hands down, the best international football tournament I have ever seen. Now, it might have something to do with the fact that I was a "neutral spectator" for the first time in my life, and cast equal and unbiased attention on what was happening.

The entertainment level was incredibly high. As much as I disliked the Turks, I have to rescind my argument that they reduced the tournament's entertainment. They may have been rubbish, but they kept your attention right up to the final whistle. Most teams opted for fast, attacking football and it really reflected well on the entire affair. All the games were played in very good spirits, very competitive, but the players held a certain level of respect for one-another that you don't see very often in modern sports. It was refreshing!

Good on the Spanish for finally winning something! They put us all right off of our predictions (as did most of the tournament). 2007 may have been Year of the Dog, but I dub 2008 Year of the Underdog.

What gives me further hope: it took 44 years for Spain to win their second tournament. Therefore, by this logic, England will win the next World Cup. You heard it here first, folks.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Too much bloody rain. Can anyone remember a tournament with so much rain!?!?! Ah well.

Yesterday's match was... interesting. Not exactly what I was expecting, mind you, but it was interesting.

The Spanish seemed to have shaken off their 44 year success drought, playing some fantastic stuff. They finally worked out how to play defense, or at least they seemed to have. The game wasn't so much won by Spanish brilliance as it was Russian collapse.

It really did come down to defense in the end. By the end of the first half, I had to remind myself it was still 0-0, I don't think I've seen such an exciting scoreless half. The Spanish were absolutely merciless on the attack, but the Russians seemed to be coping, and mounting an attack or two of their own. Both keepers were on top of their game, the Spanish defense was solid, but you could see the cracks in the Russians.

Then came the second half. Then came the goals.

All three goals were pretty fantastic, well thought out and beautifully executed. Fabregas really is ahead of his age, and played with the maturity of an old war horse, but the speed and creativity of a league fresher.

Two did piss me off a little though, not because of a lack of flair, but terrible, terrible defending from the Russians. The second goal, the scorer (Guiza) was clearly offside, yes, but it wasn't called, so get on with it. (Don Cherry moment) All you kids out there, whenever you're in a situation where you know the striker is offside, track back with him anyways - if it's not called you're giving the striker a free run at your goal.

The other one reminded me of a comment I'd made when Spain played Russia in the group stage. Basically, two Spanish attackers broke into the attacking zone, with multiple Russians trailing. I quote from my June 11th article entitled "Round One? All Done!"

"The defense was baffled and slow on the get-go, at least the second goal could have been stopped if one defender didn't decide to stop tracking back at the top of the 18-yard box, setting up an open low cross to Villa."

Substitute the name "Villa" for "Silva" and you have Spain's third goal. The defender stropped tracking back, Fabregas had an open pass, put it right through the 18-yard box and it was a simple tap-in. Terrible.

Not to take anything away from Russian keeper Akinfeev though. Three goals allowed isn't so terrible, considering he faced 12 shots on target and eight off-target. The boy's got a bright future in front of him.

Maybe after his performance today the Arshavin circus will quiet down. He seems to play really well in situations where his team are impressive around him, but he does not lift the rest of the team to play at a higher-level during the shitty times. In fact, he was quite the let-down yesterday, wasting a lot of potential chances with bad passes.

The weather clearly made an impact on the game - but it's all over. End result was probably the right one, Spain are through to the final.

This sets up an interesting run in with ze Germans. I have absolutely no idea how this is going to go - that said my predictions haven't been all that spectacular since the knock-out stages began. I'd like to see the Spanish win, but in the immortal words of Gary Linekar (said after being knocked out of World Cup '90 semifinals via penalties):

"Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."

We'll see how right he is come Sunday.

By the way - I am going to be barbecuing for most of Sunday, those of you who can get in direct contact with me though telephonular methods, I beg of you - don't do anything to tell me who won, I'll be watching the game (as I have been with all the rest) at night.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Germany marches on


Just. Wow.

That was an absolute thriller. Germany manning it's entire first squad, Turkey so dilapidated that it's manager suggesting 'jokingly' that he might have to play his third-string keeper in the outfield, the result should have been more than obvious.

But wow.

Turkey finally showed their metal. Fast, attacking football that had the Germans over the burner all night. Absolutely thrilling football. The stuff Turkey is capable of playing. By the 30th minute or so, they'd had eight shots on target. Eight!! They gave up that "defend until the end of the match" bullshit and I'll finally give them a little respect for their performance. Mind you - their first goal should be credited to German keeper Lehmann, a seven-year-old could have kept that out.

Germany decided to show up for the match right after Turkey scored (taking a page out of the Turkish playbook, perhaps?) and really turned up the pressure. But once they got their second goal, it was all Turkey again. There was a 4-5 minute period where Turkey had absolute possession of the ball, no German could touch it, it almost seemed like they couldn't be bothered.

Turkey managed to draw level (taking their playbook back) in the 86th minute, and beer was spilled in beer-halls and German wannabe pubs across the world. Were we watching another bloody last minute demolition of a European favourite, courtesy the Turks? No. No we weren't. Philipp Lahm scored a gorgeous 90th minute winner, and the Germans progress.

While I think this is the Turks getting their kamuffins for such a shitty overall performance, you can't help but think that they should be coming out of this match with something. So here it is. An award usually reserved for England after they go out on penalties: the coveted You Maybe Should Have Won If You Didn't Waste So Many Chances You Wankers award. Congrats Turkey!

Roll on Spain v Russia, that should be fantastic.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whiiiiiiiistle BOOM

Think of a bomb dropping. That's more or less what happened to the logical answers to the quarterfinals.

My quarterfinal picks were, for all intents and purposes, spot on. But semifinal picks...Jesus Murphy!

I got Germany right, I'm happy about that. The Turkey result, well, I've already given my opinion on that. Now for a brief rundown of the other two matches.

Netherlands v Russia

Netherlands got bowled out by an absolutely superb Russian side. The basics of football, mixed with just the right amount of skill and speed, are showing their worth. That said, the Dutch were way off their game. Whether it was because of a lack of chemistry, or a lack of heart, I don't know, but something was very different between that team and the side that dismantled France and Italy.

Russia...well what more can you say about that? Fast, skilled, more impressive football than I've seen in a while. Guus Hiddink took a team who got bowled over 7-1 by Poland, and turned them into a world class bunch. Concentrating on fitness and basic tactics, not to mention getting the players to leave their egos at the door, was all they needed to realize their potential. Russia is fantastic, I'm looking forward to their next few matches. Downside - they knocked out the team I called to win it. Shit.

Spain v Italy

What a boring game. This one was entirely up in the the air, defense vs attack. It was a snoozer to watch. Both teams seemed more than happy to play for penalties...unfortunately. I don't really know what else I can say about it. Torres was completely uninspired, his replacement was more than worse. Toni should be given a PhD in wasting chances. Di Natale was Italy's attacking saving grace, it was more than obvious that they were missing Pirlo. There were a few freekicks around the box they desperately needed to do convert, or at least create something, with.

Semifinal - Spain v Russia

The Spanish defense is showed a lot of holes against Italy, and they can't continue to rely on Puyol and Casillas to save their asses, especially against the talent posed by the invigorated Russian side.

The attack also needs to wake up, the Spanish can exploit the Russian counterattack for chances of their own. The Russians have a terrible habit of bringing everyone forward on the attack...which is great unless it doesn't work.

Russia has a lot of space to work in against Spain, I'm more than excited to watch two inspired, attacking sides face one-another. Hopefully they both bring their A-game!

As for a winner? Who the hell knows. Fuck it. Russia. Come on you (former) Reds!

Semifinal - Germany v Turkey

Well, I hate the Turks. I seem to be the only person who doesn't think they deserve to be where their are. The Germans have too much class for this ragtag bunch of non-deservants (is that a word?). Come on Germany.

To be featured later in this blog

All kinds of stuff in the world of sports making me scratch my noodle lately. Upcoming articles: Chelsea's everlong pursuit of buying the title through theft of Arshavin (sp?). Christiano Ronaldo's never-ending run to become the most dissapointing, annoying, godforsaken waste of talent the world has ever seen. Hell, who knows, maybe a little delving into the world of hockey too. Stay posted!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dark Horse made into glue, Turkey avoids Thanksgiving

Corny headline? Yes. Unjust conclusion to the second quarterfinal at Euro 2008? Yes.

Turkey has no business being in this tournament as it is, let alone being in the semi-final. They play dirty football, and don't deserve to carry on. They basically sit 10-behind-the-ball all match, then go behind, wait until the end to attack and score. Not to mention the Referee crowding, the whining and all the other bullshit that goes along with a side who don't belong in a tournament. That doesn't annoy me so much, when they attack they play beautiful stuff... what annoys me is waiting for the "when". This is a team capable of playing good football, yet they choose not to. And I have absolutely no idea as to why.

A bit of a game summary then? No. Croatia pulled ahead with about two minutes remaining in extra time, then decided not to waste away the rest of the match, and continue with open play. Probably not the best idea in the world. Turkey then scored a tying goal two minutes into injury time of extra time (when only one minute was given by the referee), then won on penalties.

We're not going to get into how much I hate the idea of finishing a team game on individual heroics, because there's a much less talked about controversy. Croatia wanted to bring on a substitute, a defensive midfielder, after their goal. The referee fourth official didn't allow him on. There was a stoppage in play before Turkey's goal, the fourth official didn't let him on. Then Turkey scored. It's impossible to argue that having the defensive midfielder on the pitch would have stopped the Turk's goal, but it's also impossible to argue that they absolutely would have scored had he been there. As a defensive midfielder, he would have been aware of the possibility of counter-attack on the goal kick after Croatia's attack, and could have tracked back and stopped the play to score.

Not to mention that Turkey's goal came two minutes into a one minute extra time.

The referees effectively won the game for Turkey, so good on them. I was amazed to see Slaven Bilic almost lose his cool and knock out the fourth official, but I would say he was entirely in the right to do it.

Croatia played as good football as they could against a dour and talentless Turkish side. The Turks are bringing down the tournament's entertainment, and legitimacy, factor.

Maybe UEFA should reconsider allowing countries whose populations don't exist in the physical continient of Europe into tournaments like this (Israel and Turkey).

At any rate, the semi final is now Germany v Turkey. You all know how I think that's going to go. Come on you Germans!!!

Netherlands v Russia today, I hope I can watch it as I'm at the Journal right now, we'll see what happens. If you do watch it though, it should be an incredibly exciting, fast, attacking game. Enjoy!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Germany progresses!

Quarterfinal one is finito. Given the ridiculous size of my past full summaries, I'm going to try to do these on a game-to-game basis from now on.

Germany was dominant, Portugal was crap - and I was right yet again (please note my bit on Germany). I need to stop listening to doubters (*ahem* Phil and Mike *ahem*). I had to clear my throat (lemme cleear my throooooat).

But yeah. They brought back the Schwein - first goal scored, set up the second and third. Absolutely and infinately more useful than that rubbish import Gomez was ever going to be, I'm pleased he had such a triumphant return (there was fanfare in my head).

The Portuguese played very dissapointing football, which continues to make me believe that the only way they can get through a quarter-final is by diving about the pitch, then beating England on penalties. Which leads me to hate them even more. Those who know me well recognize that "hate" is a very watered down word for my describing my emotions held towards the Portuguese national "football" side. They played really, really well through the group stages (at least the first and second match), but by switching 8 starters for the third match (and subsequently losing), new Chelsea manager Big Phil Scolari must have thrown his side off a touch.

Ah well, no worries. The good guys won (when did you think you'd hear an Englishman calling the Germans 'the good guys'?). Ah I kid, I kid. This sets up a wonderful semifinal (and something of a replay) between Germany and Croatia. Yes, that's a tad presumptuous, but I'm putting my balls on the line and making the statement.

What is absolutely certain, though, is that this Euro is head-and-shoulders above past tournaments. Really entertaining, very attacking (partially because no one's defense has been particularily good...), absolutely wonderful to watch.

Oh - and just in case German egos inflate themselves too much, allow me to sing you a song *clears throat*.

One nil down!
Five one up!
Two World Wars and One World Cup!!!
Meat pie sausage roll come on England give's a goal!!!

Hmm...maybe it's better the English fans stayed away from this tournament, come to think of it. It's certainly been a different experience to hear other nationalities sing their teams' songs.

By the way - the football analysis won't end after this tournament, I'll give my verdict on English football once the Netherlands win (another bold statement, yes).


Round Three - And Then There Were Eight

Well, wasn't that exciting! But for the lack of England. That said, part of me is happy they weren't in the tournament - I'm not living and dying by every scoreline and praying for the health of million-pound metatarsals. So here we go, a final wrap-up of the EURO Round Robins before we get into the serious business of knockouts. The round robins this year were spectacular, dramatic and above all, extremely entertaining. The teams that played crap football were shown the exit, the teams that played the good stuff found their way through (for the most part). Everyone deserved their place, Austria and Switzerland included, and showed their worth on the big stage. Well in!

GROUP A: Portugal winners, Turkey runners-up

See my last post, I summarized Group A's second and third matches given the time when the article was written.

GROUP B: Croatia winners, Italy runners-up

Croatia - Lovely performance. The dark horse struck Group A by storm, and led them to the winner's spot, to face Turkey in Friday's Quarterfinal. The Croatian subs and reserves proved their grit against a physical and defensive Polish side, coming out with the win. Their match against Turkey shouldn't be overly difficult, but they will have to play the same flowing and attacking football they displayed themselves capable of against Germany last week.

Germany - The Germans need to sort themselves out, schnell (I think that means quickly?). After playing beautiful stuff against Poland in their opening match, the German footballing machine has left a lot to be desired. They beat the Austrians by the skin of their teeth, with Ballack's booming freekick, but no other goals. The Austrians kept the Germans on their toes all match, Gomez continued to be a waste of space in a white kit...get rid of him and bring Schwiensteiger into the starting XI. There's no obvious reason for their apparent downfall, and with a quarterfinal date with the Portuguese today, Germany needs to take stock and reorganize.

Poland - They tried, they failed. Turns out their brand of defensive, physical football is fooling nobody. I saw dirtier play from the Poles than I've seen out of anyone in a really long time. They showed they could attack once the Croats could score, and led me to wonder why they didn't pressure in that way for the whole match. Ah well, something to think about when the World Cup qualifiers start in September.

Austria - I'm impressed. After everyone wrote them off, they gave all three teams they played a serious run for their money. Heavily pressuring opposition defenses, causing all types of trouble for opposition attacks, and all 3 goals scored against them this tournament were extremely preventable (a penalty, a free kick, and an offside goal). The Austrians had very little luck going their way, but showed real signs of a team that could succeed. I'm looking forward to watching their qualifying run.

GROUP C: Netherlands winners, Italy runners-up (HAHAHAHA I CALLED IT PERFECTLY! Group of Death my foot!)

Netherlands - HUP ORANJE! Love it. The subs and reserves ran rings around a defensively minded, boring Romanian side. Total Football is back, and, though I'm afraid to get too optimistic, I see great things on the horizon. Not to mention, Dutch qualification wins me two pints through a great things on the horizon I could mean beer. I like beer. Cheers Phil!

Italy - Before I start - Fratelli d'Italia is one of the coolest national anthems out there. Just saying. As for the predictions, I got it right but I'm regretting their progress. Romania deserved to progress out of their group, not because they were good, but because they weren't as bad as Italy or France. Against a 10-man, tired and depressed French squad, for 80 minutes, Italy only scored off a penalty and a free-kick which was going well wide but for Thierry Henry's deflection. Italy will face major challenges in the quarterfinal against Spain unless they get their act together. Di Natale needs to partner Toni up front, attacking midfielders must be brought in, and the Italian defense needs to tighten the hell up.

France - Les Bleus sont bleu (I don't know if that made sense in French - The Blues are blue...sad. Bad team, bad pun). Domenech made some horrible team selections coming into this tournament, counting on an aging squad and tactics that relied on Zidane to provide midfield brilliance when Zidane wasn't around, while leaving out various French footballing icons (Gael Clichy, Mathieu Flamini, David Trezeguet, and Phili Mexes) who could well have proved to be the difference in this tournament. The Italian match was proof that the gods of football punish stupid managers - Ribery injured in 10 minutes, Nasri came on, Abidal sent off very early, Nasri came off (poor bugger), and the second Italian goal being scored by Thierry Henry's deflection. There was no flair, no passion and no energy from the French, and Zurich was their Waterloo.

Romania - Boring as all hell, but they deserved to go through more than Italy. They caused problems to some of the world's biggest footballing names, and turned many heads in the process. Another team that was written off right from the get-go, the Romanians had something to prove. Even though they got run over by the Dutch, they shook serious doubts into Italy and France, and showed that even the biggest names can be bested.

GROUP D: Spain winners, Russia runners-up

Spain - The Greeks were facing elimination, the Spanish were guaranteed a quarterfinal berth, so they played their subs and reserves. Not a bad idea, though the Greeks caused an early scare by scoring the first goal. The Spanish came back and scored two. There's not much analysis left to be done on this team, they're very, very good. The question becomes whether they have the bottle to win when it counts. We'll see as they carry on, but, judging by history, I'm wary of their carrying on.

Russia - THIS was what I was talking about. Absolutely lovely. This performance, mixed with Croatia's owning Group B makes me feel far less embarrassed at England's no qualifying. The Russians showed that getting back to basics leads to beautiful football, and mixed with the right amount of speed, can be deadly. They played a phenomenal closer to guarantee their berth in the quarterfinals, and I couldn't be more excited to watch them and the Dutch kick-off, should be a spectacular affair.

Sweden - Not at full fitness, playing against Russia-avec-captain was never going to be easy. The fact that their qualification depended on getting at least a point out was dangerous too. The Swedes threw real doubt into the abilities of the Spanish side, but they couldn't get it together for the Russia match. That said, their performance at EURO should give them a great boost for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Look out for a new and improved Sweden in two years!

Greece - Na na naa naa, na na naaa naa, hey hey hey, goo-ood byyyyye. I'll say it again, good riddance to bad rubbish. They came into the tournament expecting that, if they played the same way they did four years ago, they'd win. Trouble was this; everyone was expecting it this time around. You can't show off your playbook then expect to win. I feel really bad for the Greek fans who spent huge amounts of money to travel and watch their home-side disappoint.

Okay - so, how were my predictions, and what are my predictions?

Round 1: 6-2
Round 2: 3-5
Round 3: 5-3

My predictions for the Quarterfinals, you may ask? These were, of course, all made before the tournament, I'm presently worried about my Germany and Italy prediction, but we'll see how it goes.

Portugal - Germany
Croatia - Turkey
Netherlands - Russia
Spain - Italy

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Round Two - Home Sides Feelin' Blue

Well, that's it for the home teams. The second round saw Austria's and Switzerland's exit from EURO 2008 - Austria and Switzerland.

I'm sitting here watching Czech Republic v Turkey right now (I love PVRs)...what a crazy game!!! Into extra time now. This game is just showing the importance of taking your chances when they come...Czech Republic had multiple chances to put this game away, then gave up 2 goals in short order. THE KEEPER JUST GOT A RED CARD!!! Milan Baros just got cautioned without even playing! This game is crazy - I'll finish watching, then post my team performance summaries. I'll put Group A's third-round performance into my discussions. Be excited.

Alright - here we go.


Portugal - Brilliant football against the Czechs - stunning stuff. Expect good stuff from them in the Quarter-finals! Christiano Ronaldo is finally starting to live up to his pedigree (in my eyes), playing unselfishly, staying on his feet (mostly), and running over opposition defenses. Against the Swiss, well, 8 new players in the lineup as they'd already qualified, there was no chemistry and it showed. Goalless first half followed up by some downright terrible defensive work. I have high expectations for this side in the latter stages though, as long as they keep their 'first-string' together.

Switzerland - They underachieved in this tournament like nobody's business. They played so well, given the terrible conditions, against the Turks. None of the goals came by any skill, and they lost in stoppage time thanks to a deflection off Muller. Against the Portuguese, they showed real stuff. Good for them to get a win in front of home fans, and raise some concerns for the Portuguese going into the next round. Like I say, they played well, and I look forward to watching them in future tournaments - with Alexander Frei fit they could turn a few heads.

Czech Republic - This is a team that needs to look at their offense. They play one man up alone, but he gets very little support from his five midfielders. It showed against Portugal, and it certainly showed against Turkey this afternoon! Lots of chances wasted and not taken due to a distinct lack of Czech kits up front, leading to their dismissal from the tournament. Obvious point for World Cup and qualifiers - concentration on offense is key. The Czech Republic carries a lot of offensive firepower, but they didn't use it this tournament and paid the price. Playing two strikers in the future wouldn't be such a bad idea, especially if Rosicky is out of the line-up.

Turkey - Two last minute wins saw the undeserving Turks through to the new round. They've played some awful stuff, pressure ending without a shot, miserable defense, and a lot of referee-crowding. Only positive point to them going through - their keeper is suspended for the next match and will be run over by whoever they meet in the first round of quarter-finals (probably Croatia). Looking forward to that.


Germany - Uh oh. Well, that wasn't the football I was describing for you last week. The Germans, who looked absolutely unstoppable, couldn't find their rhythm in this match. Their passes were slow and inaccurate, their runs weren't read by each other, it was a team performance entirely lacking in chemistry. They'll be hoping to use the Austria match as a confidence-booster for their likely trip to the quarterfinals (that said - the Swiss beat the Portuguese...who knows? Maybe the Austrians will play spoiler! That would seriously fuck up my EURO pool though.)

Croatia - Lovely stuff. What more can you say? The team that was, for all intents and purposes, held by the Austrians, created more problems for the Germans than a 3-front war (I expect to get in some trouble for that comment). Perennial dark-horse indeed - their match with Poland should be a lot of fun to watch.

Poland - Meh. Maybe they should have won, but their goal was offside and Austria's penalty shouldn't have happened, so a 1-1 draw is better than goalless. That said, this is a team showing no conviction, no effort, and no heart. Maybe they'll step it up against Croatia, now that they're staring elimination in the face, but if they hope to beat the Croats they're going to have to find a new set of legs than those they showed against Austria.

Austria - Too bad Austria's been knocked out, they impressed me. I'd expect their World Ranking to rise quite a bit after this tournament. They, like the Swiss, played great football, stifled opposition attacks and created more chances than can be counted, just no finish. Who knows, maybe we'll see them qualify on merit for future tournaments? Here's hoping!


Netherlands - Don't you love it when I'm right. I know, I know, it happens too much. Actually, most of my predictions for this round got absolutely shat on, but my big prediction is holding firm. Total Football is proving too much for anyone to handle, and I'm loving the Oranje. France was absolutely baffled, they could barely leave their own half. The defense certainly improved since the Italy match, and the offense was flying all game. It was nice to see van Persie back in action. They just beat the World Cup finalists by an aggregate of 7-1. Bring it on, the Dutch are here.

France - Le oops. Sorry, my grammar was bad there: l'oops. France had Henry in the lineup, but still couldn't find any offense. This team is in big trouble now, scoring a grand total of one goal in the past 2 matches. Of course, that one goal was returned almost immediately by the Dutch. Coupet (the French keeper) needs to take serious stock of his play against the Dutch, and pull a rabbit out of his beret against Italy to keep French hopes alive - it seems to be coming down to him.

Italy - Here was another missed prediction. Not only did they not win, but were it not for an extremely lucky kick-save by Buffon on a late penalty - the Romanians would have found victory. They tried bringing more offensive midfielders on, but couldn't find goal. And it will likely cost them. I don't know why di Natale wasn't played for the Romania match, he and Toni played wonderfully well together, and Del Piero is far more effective as a 60th minute substitute than he is a starter - he injects pace, skill and spirit when the team is tired, but he's not entirely spectacular for 90 minutes. I have absolutely no suggestions for their match against France...I hope they're not buggered but it's certainly looking that way.

Romania - They almost played the same way they did against France, but this time they created blazing offense too. It threw the Italians for a loop, and made the match very interesting to watch. Best part is - the Romanians now have more points than both France and Italy. A spoiler qualification? Who knows. This group's second spot is completely up in the air - Tuesday is going to be a wild day.


Spain - Impressive performance by the Spanish against a formidable opponent in the Swedes. They need to be sharper on the counter-attack, as Puyol, again, was bearing the brunt of the Spanish defensive duties. Offensively, this team is obviously very gifted, there's not much room for improvement there, but defensively the Spaniards will need to sharpen up if they hope to push on in the knock-out rounds.

Sweden - Zlatan has arrived on the international stage - good news for Sweden. They need him at his best this tournament, and he needs to take care of his knee in order to see the Swedes advance. Larsson was finally beginning to show his age against the Spanish, but he still managed to play 84 minutes of decent-to-good football. There's very little wrong with this side at the moment, if not a little slow at times, they're playing exciting stuff, reading eachother's moves very well, they just got outclassed by the Spaniards on the day.

Russia - Finally, Russia shows it's stuff. Although, being pitted against the Spanish in your first match will always make it difficult to find a groove. The 1-0 scoreline is flattering for the Greeks, they were mostly outplayed by the Russians, they were solid defensively and got back to basics in the attack. Qualification for the knock-out stage will be decided in the next match against Sweden, who are also playing well, and it will be quite the show to end the round-robin stage.

Greece - Bye. The former (accidental) champions showed some offensive merit against the Russians, but continued to play they're rubbish "sit-back-and-wait" crap, and paid for it. Good riddance to bad rubbish, enjoy the rest of your summer.

Well, there's round 2 (and some of 3). I don't have my predictions with me at the moment (they're at work), so I'll put them up tomorrow morning before the matches to ensure some degree of "really I'm not lying!".

Results thus far for my predictions (I'm almost afraid to post this):
Round 1: 6-2
Round 2: 3-5
Round 3 (thus far): 0-2

Edit - My predictions for Round 3

Group A
Switzerland v Portugal - Portugal win
Turkey v Czech Republic - Czech Republic win

Group B
Austria v Germany - Germany win
Poland v Croatia - Croatia win

Group C
Netherlands v Romania - Netherlands win
France v Italy - (I regret this given how they've been playing) Italy win

Group D
Greece v Spain - Spain win
Russia v Sweden - draw

Detailed match predictions can be found at Andrew's blog, Sporting Madness
Mike's done a small piece on Spain's chances, and about diving, at View from the Woods - a small amount of scrolling is required!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hartsburg to Ottawa!

Well, it looks like my two favourite (non-international...see profile) hockey teams are about to be connected in the strangest (and potentially, most harmful) of ways...Craig Hartsburg, coach of the Soo Greyhounds (OHL team out of Sault Ste Marie) is apparently on his way to Ottawa.

A little background on Hartsburg. From 1979 to 1989, he played defense for the Minnesota North Stars (he was their first pick), and captained them from 1982 till his playing retirement. From 1995-1998, he coached the Chicago Blackhawks, then moved on to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (as they were still known) and coached there from 1998 till 2000. Since 2001 he's been coaching the Greyhounds (in separated stints), and served as head coach for the Canadian Juniors over the past two years.

He hasn't had much success coaching in the NHL thus far, but his OHL and Junior record is pretty fantastic (141-91-8-23 with the Hounds, not to mention Coach of the Year in 1995 with the Guelph Storm). The Greyhounds won in their West division this year, came second in the conference and made it to the conference finals in the playoffs, to be bumped by the Kitchener Rangers. Last year, they made it to the conference semi finals and lost 4-3 in a thrilling series against the London Knights (3-0 down, got it to 3-3 and forced a game 7 in London).

His Juniors record ain't too shabby either. He was assistant coach to Brent Sutter at the 2006 championships, before becoming head coach in 2007. His boys destroyed the Russians in the Super Series, and they've won gold the past three years at the IIHF World U20 Championship under Hartsburg (as head and ass't coach).

I guess the biggest positive point to him coming to Ottawa - jeez I don't really know. Fresh face I suppose, and he's certainly proved himself at the junior level - but look what happened with John Paddock. Failed former NHL coach, went junior, did really well, came back to the NHL and crashed again. Hartsburg has achieved substantially more at the junior level, mind you, but his NHL record is still a little worrying. He's also rumoured to be quite the badass, doesn't take any crap from his players - but then...neither did Paddock(?)

That said, having watched Greyhounds hockey for the past few years, it gives me confidence that Hartsburg is the man for the job in Ottawa.

Problem becomes - new coach needed for the Hounds! And the Canadian juniors...but I'm pretty sure they could still win everything with a mule behind the bench.

Mike has (and apparently will continue to do) a little coverage of the move, ici

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Round One? All Done!

Alright, so, time to throw my opinions into the ring on the first round of matches at this year's European Championship. Let me start off my saying how happy I am that England didn't make it. Now, don't get me wrong, England is my second (after Spurs) and greatest love in football, but they didn't deserve EURO this year. Their qualifiers were dissapointing, and Croatia and Russia need the chance to shine. Besides, we got the opportunity to wreak havoc on Trinidad & Tobago and the United States, so bully for us!

Anyways, here we go. By the bye - all predictions were made for a EURO pool before the tournament started. Although I won't put my predictions for the first round (even though most were right, I got Group C all wrong though) as it's now over, I will continue with my round 2 predictions.


Czech Republic - Lots of room for improvement. It took 71 minutes for them to find a goal, and it wasn't exactly gorgeous. They spent a lot of this game trying to get a feel of Switzerland's style, and couldn't seem to get into any rhythm. The Swiss (half the time without Frei) caused all kinds of trouble for their defense, and Koller seems to have forgotten he possesses a low game. Petr Cech was the reason they won. We'll see what happens against Portugal.

Switzerland - Strong start. Having Senderos in center-back isn't the best idea there's ever been, but when you have no other options, you go with it. They wreaked havoc on the Czech defense and midfield, and forced Petr Cech to be absolutely brilliant. Expect good things in the next match out of the Swiss against Turkey.

Portugal - Brilliant football? Yes. Strong opponent? No. It was men (this may be the first time I've referred to the Portuguese as men) versus boys, and they took full advantage. Positive points - they passed the ball around beautifully, got strong defending, and made some lovely runs. They also got disturbingly strong offense from their defenders, Pepe striking first. This will be a tough side for anyone to beat, the Portuguese have learnt a lot in the past four years.

Turkey - Disappointing. Very disappointing. We'll see how they play against a weaker team in Switzerland, as their first match against Portugal was never going to be a walk in the park. The Turks looked absolutely baffled, unprepared, and wound up getting frustrated and disheartened by the skill of Portugal.

Predictions for the next 2 matches (without specific scores :D)
Portugal v Czech Rep - draw
Turkey v Switzerland - draw


Austria - Did they ever surprise me! Solid defense, and created chances! Who saw that coming? Hell, the Austrian fans were petitioning for their own side to pull out to avoid embarrassment, and no matter what happens for the rest of the tournament they staked their right to be in EURO after their performance. Lovely stuff from the Austrians.

Croatia - Mine (and everyone else's) dark horse...needs work. I'm pleased Spurs' boy Modric got the goal...but don't read too much into it as it was a very early (4th minute) penalty. They were held by an (on paper) weaker side for 86 minutes, and wound up playing for the 1-0 win after half time, with needless possession and 10-behind-the-ball football. Croatia needs to step into the boots they were expected to have, and show their bottle against the Germans. If they play like they did against Austria, they will find themselves in trouble.

Germany - Almost the same argument as the Portuguese...except better. Much, much better. They were absolutely brilliant, took advantage of the old workhorses the Poles had in center-back and played lovely, flowing stuff. Every through-ball was perfect, every run was brilliantly timed, the German footballing machine could do no wrong against the Poles. Podolski and Klose are a fearsome strike partnership, who both had something to prove against their native land (they're both nationalized Germans from Poland). Lehmann surprised me, after a year riding pine I thought he would be rusty but he put an end to the few chances the Poles could muster. Bring on Croatia, say the Germans!

Poland - Lots of work needed. The center backs need to be faster, or else the wing-backs are going to have to be constantly aware of track-backs. No team should ever be able to make short passes across the 18-yard box when inside the 18-yard box. As a defender, this team broke my heart. They were absolutely brutal in the back (that sounds naughty...get your minds out of the gutter!!!). Offensively, they showed promise, but could make no headway against the German backline, and their few chances were pretty weak. Lots of work needed, and very little time to do it in.

Predictions for the next two matches:
Austria v Poland - Poland win
Croatia v Germany - Germany win

GROUP C (The Group of Death [cue scary music])

Romania - Go home. You were rubbish. 10-behind-the-ball all game, no flair, forget offensive talent, you don't even seem to have offensive want. Romania seems quite happy to pack the box and absorb-and-clear every attack. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with a huge defensive force keeping possession and scoring on quick counterattacks, but they didn't even have anyone to clear it to most of the time. They just defended, then popped it back out of the box and sat back waiting for the next attack. Rubbish!!

France - You had a go, but couldn't pull it off. Henry and Viera are out, which is never a good thing for a French side lacking offense. Ribéry had a great game (under the circumstances), but everyone else was crap. Benzama was dissapointing, Anelka was rubbish. They need to play much better to get out of this group.

Italy - Now, now. Yes, the Azzuri just got their asses handed to them on an Oranje platter. But they showed a lot of promise. Their defense absolutely needs to tighten up and not count on the ref to make the calls they want (the van Nistelrooy goal was onside, stop whining, Buffon laid a good foul on his own boy). The loss of Cannavaro was a big one, but they have the talent to fill the hole. Materazzi was not the answer in this game, as much as I love him. Chiellini and Panucci should take CB roles, they can both play, and play well. Toni created a lot of chances, but he can only do so much. He should have scored on that volley he was alone far, just a tad over the bar. That said, on most attacks, he was in alone with di Natale. The midfield needs to squeeze up to provide real pressure, otherwise they'll lose themselves everytime they move within 25 yards.

Netherlands - Hup Oranje!! I called them to win the tournament and this opening match has given me all kinds of confidence (even though I predicted they'd draw their first...oops!). Absolutely wonderful ball movement, tireless play from van Bronkhorst and Kuyt (again, who saw that coming??). But, rather than talk about how well they did like everyone else, allow me to point out the flaws - WEAK defense. Van der Saar was left alone far more than he should have, and had to be right on top of everything. There were some vicious chances create by the Italians that required the bean-pole (van der Saar) or the goalpost to stop. Mathijsen and Ooijer (could you guess they were Dutch?) need to play MUCH better, like they did during qualifiers, or else poor defending could prove their undoing.

Predictions for the next two matches:
Netherlands vs France - Netherlands win
Italy vs Romania - Italy win


Spain - Well what more can you say about that? They put everything on the field, did all their talking through their play, and looked really sharp. David Villa and Fernando Torres were both right on top, causing more problems for the Russians than (cue end-of-Cold-War joke). Puyol had more work than he should ever have, again, the defense need to play better, but all-in-all, very good performance. Fast, pretty, brilliant, high-scoring - Spanish football and the ideal woman are one-in-the-same!

Russia - You beat England?? Really?? With play like that, it's a little embarrasing. That said, having how they played in qualifiers, and how they played yesterday, it was two different teams. Granted, they've lost their captain, but one man shouldn't have that kind of effect on 11. A lot of those boys just got back from winning the UEFA Cup against Rangers, they're winners and need to play as such. The defense was baffled and slow on the get-go, at least the second goal could have been stopped if one defender didn't decide to stop tracking back at the top of the 18-yard box, setting up an open low cross to Villa. The offense needs to get back to basic, hard runs up the wings, passing into the center, and a little ball control would be nice.

Sweden - I'm glad Ibrahimovic found his feet. Lovely goal from him against a dour Greek side. The Swedes refused to give up the attack against the Greeks, played wonderful in defense to set up attacks, beautiful give-and-gos from the midfield to the forwards, the entire team jelled and played very well. And how about that goal from Hansson? I haven't seen an uglier one in a long time, but good for him to score it, strength and movement from the center-back to score a goal should be inspriring for the whole team. Larsson's playing like a 20-year old, seems incredibly fresh. Isaksson did well after a year on the bench at the City of Manchester Stadium. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Greece - It was cute last time, it's annoying now. Piss off back to Athens if you're going to do that again. Same as Romania. Once Sweden scored they showed that they are capable of playing wonderful attacking football with strong defense, so I don't know why they don't keep doing that? Ah well, I doubt we'll see a change from the Greeks until they crash out of the group stages.

Predictions for the next 2 matches:
Greece v Russia - Russia win
Sweden v Spain - Spain win

At any rate, let's see what happens. With a few exceptions, a wonderful display of football. The lack of scoring from losing teams is a little worrying - both draws were goalless, and except for Russia, every team that's lost has lost without scoring. So come on you underdogs, and bring on more EURO, I'm loving it!

Detailed game reviews thus far have been written up by Andrew at his Blog - Sporting Madness
Round 1 Group A review
Round 1 Group B review
Round 1 Group C review
Round 1 Group D review

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Update - CTV Buys the Hockey Night in Canada Theme

CBC drops the ball, and CTV picks it right up. Given, the CBC is not a dedicated sports network like TSN and RDS (owned by CTV), but I thought it had hockey wrapped up. Apparently taking care of hockey fans is not Canadian enough to warrant a little splurging. Too bad.

By the by - can I point out how much I love this paragraph, found at the end of the article linked above: "CTV, together with TSN and RDS, boast the most powerful and prestigious sports programming lineup in the country featuring the NHL and Stanley Cup Playoffs, NFL games and the Super Bowl, every CFL game including the Grey Cup, International Hockey including the World Juniors, NBA, Blue Jays Baseball, all four golf Majors, all four tennis Grand Slam events, Season of Champions Curling, NASCAR and F1, and this month's NBA Finals and UEFA EURO® 2008." A little self love?

Okay, back to the matter at hand. The CBC is very quickly losing its hold on the hockey market, and I for one am pretty dissapointed by that. TSN already has (as read above) the IIHF and World Juniors, not to mention (at least) the hockey events at the 2010 Olympics. Now, the question becomes, who gives a shit? Well, TSN is a premium channel, while CBC is basic cable which everyone has access to, as it is funded by your tax money. This is important for the large group of people who don't want to splash extra money for a couple of sports channels.

Why does this matter? Well, I go back to my earlier post - CBC's mandate, I will re-copy it.

  • be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
  • reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
  • actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
  • contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,"
I'll say it again - hockey falls into all these catagories. And by not buying up the HNiC song, the CBC is displaying it's lack of interest in maintaining the station's relations (haha rhyme) with hockey fans. Hockey fans, believe it or not, make up a large portion of Canadian society. By alienating this group of the population, the CBC is just further boasting their absolute ignorance Canadian wants and interests. So rather than using my tax money for something I want to watch, my tax dollars are being spent on shit like Little Mosque on the Prairie (for the sake of diversity? Bollocks! It's a horrible show!).

The CBC has, of course made some really good mini-series (Trudeau anyone? Canada-Russia 72?) and did well to lock up Ron and Don, but they seem to be in the process of washing their hands of the Canadian sports-following population. Normally, I would say good riddance, beyond Coach's Corner (and other Ron&Don moments) there's not much advantage to watching hockey on CBC other than the Canadiana of it. But then it comes back to - why are you wasting my tax dollars on something I don't want to watch, when I have to pay extra to watch what I do want to watch?

I say the CBC becomes an opt-outable fee. They've made the mini-series I want to watch, the only other reason I watch CBC is The Simpsons at 5 and hockey. I can watch The Simpsons on pretty much every other channel, and hockey's found a new home, so I say to you, CBC, you can fuck right off.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wanted: Coach. Expected Length of Employment: Not Bloody Long.

I was reading the Citizen this morning when I came across an article about Ron Wilson becoming the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, when I came across a line which really made me think. "If Wilson accepts the offer, he would become the 27th coach in the history of the franchise and the third in the past four years." Third coach in four years?? Good Lord.

The lifespan of coaches is becoming increasingly shorter, as more money is pumped into teams and expectations become absurdly high. What many owners, trustees and GMs forget is that only one team can win. In any sport.

Let's look across my two favourite leagues, the NHL and the Premier League, at the treatment of coaches.

1. Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted former leader of Thailand, owner of Manchester City FC and grade-A jackass fired former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson after just one year. In this year, Eriksson took a team in shambles, spent some money, and achieved the goal he set with Shinawatra at the start of the year of finishing in the top-10 (9th). This is better than anyone could have expected from Manchester City, but the first half of the season was too good, and expectations were (unilaterally) altered to be too high, so when City slid in the second half of the season, Thaksin decided Eriksson had to go.

2. Avram Grant was brought in at the start of the year to replace manager extrodinaire José Mourinho. Mourinho had, in three seasons, led Chelsea to two Premier League titles, two Carling Cups and one FA Cup (and a partridge in a pear tree). When Grant took over, he was met with indifference and opposition from Chelsea's supporters and players alike. But even with all the crap flying around him, Grant led Chelsea to a Carling Cup final, Champion's League final, and second place in the Premier League. It is impossible to qualify this as a failed season (unless you're a Russian with too much time and money, or a Portuguese manager who has it out for his old team). For this "failure" of a season, Grant was booted out of Chelsea. Why?

3. Martin Jol from my club Tottenham. Though I have to say, now I'm pleased about Ramos being at the helm, the firing of Martin Jol was unwarranted and the management of the side set him up to fail. The season started shakily, after the players brought in from summer spending failed to make an impact. This was cited as one of the reasons Jol was given the boot - but most of these signings were made by Director of Football (and grade-B jackass) Damian Comolli. In fact, Jol's choices for signings were successes, most notably Berbatov and Bale. During the summer before the season had started - after two seasons in which Spurs finished 5th, and finishing 9th in his first year after being unexpectedly thrust into the position of manager after a mere 13 matches - Jol's job was in question, with sources citing Juande Ramos as a replacement. Again, this is before the 2007/08 season had began, after 3 incredibly successful seasons!!! And so, only about a month into the season, on October 25, 2007, Martin Jol was booted during a UEFA Cup match. How did he find out? The crowd's singing, followed by a text message from a family member. Shame.

4. John Tortorella, Jack Adams and Stanley Cup winner in 2004 was fired about a week ago. Let's look at his career in Tampa. In his first year, (2001/02) the Lightning finished 3rd in Southeast, and the missed playoffs by quite a bit. Of course, only one member of the Southeast actually made the playoffs that year. In his next season, the Lightning topped the Southeast, and were bumped out of the playoffs in the second round. After that, they finished first in the Southeast and won the Cup. This was followed up by two years of finishing 2nd in the Southeast and going out of the playoffs in the first, and finally, this year, where they missed the playoffs altogether, for only the second time in Tortorella's six years at the helm of the team. What warranted firing there? I'd peg that as a pretty successful run for a team like Tampa Bay.

These are the only coaches I'm going to go into much detail with, but numerous coaches across the board lost their job this year for perceived "unsuccessfulness". But you have to ask yourself, what are the expectations, and what is possible? Does Abramovich expect to win everything, always? Because that's an unacceptable expectation, and Grant had a season in which Chelsea finished runners up for 3 trophies when he didn't expect to be manager, I'd say he overperformed by quite a margin! There was absolutely no reason for Eriksson to lose his job, hell, he was in Manchester for such a short period that he'd been living in a hotel the whole time (the article's somewhere in the BBC, I'm too lazy to find it)! The firing of Jol was absolutely ridiculous, when you start a season with your job in question after 3 successful seasons, you can't be expected to perform at full capacity.

The problem becomes expectations. Owners nowadays want to win. Now. The reality of sport is that it's a building process. To take a team and make them win immediately is silly. Coaches need time to build an understanding of the team, the team needs time to understand the workings of the coach. This process is in no way immediate, and it is irresponsible to assume it will be. If we look at that line that started this whole train of thought: "If Wilson accepts the offer, he would become the 27th coach in the history of the franchise and the third in the past four years." We'll assume they mean the history of the franchise starting at the NHL's inception, which means: since 1917, in 91 years, Toronto has had 27 coaches and only 13 Stanley Cups to show for it. 13!!!. If you look back, the average coach of the Leafs has had about 3 years at the helm. Their most successful run was 4 cups between '61 and '67. All these were won under Punch Imlach, who was coach between 1959-1967. It took him 2 years to get his team together, then reaped the benefits and led the Leafs to an outstanding decade of winningness. They haven't won since, and the average coach life has been about 2 years. TWO! How can you build up an unsuccessful and confidence-lacking team in two years?

Now, obviously, there are some coaches who are just not suited to a team, or who shouldn't have been put in charge in the first place (*ahem* Steve McLaren in England *ahem*). But more often than not, it's a case of not having time to get settled with a team, and too much expectation from the powers that be.

Manchester United has had Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm since 1986, and it's working out pretty well for them. A bit of a shaky start, his first cups came in 1992/1993 and, after years finishing outside the top 10, they finished second. There's been no looking back since. Bar a few years, Manchester United is arguably the most consistently successful side in English football, and that comes back to a consistent manager and style. The same could be argued for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, who became manager of Arsenal in 1996. After 3 years of relative mediocrity, Arsenal has (unfortunately) become one of the most feared sides in the Premier League which can, again, be traced back to a consistent manager.

The revolving door for coaches is not the answer for mid-league or unsuccessful teams. What they need is a consistent coach who has time and opportunity to build a team for an eventual climb. Like I say, only one team can win at any given time, and when taking on the management of a team in trouble, only so much can be expected of coaches.

Or, I guess you could hire some guy from Portugal, give him a transfer budget amounting to the combined GDP of the Pacific Islands and let him go nuts. Wait...that wouldn't work in the new NHL. The salary cap strikes again!!!

A list of 2007/2008 coaching changes in the NHL can be found here

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Biggest Non-Sports News News in History

Hockey. Canada. What images and sounds are brought to mind? Whitby Dunlops in the '50s? Henderson scoring in '72 (quoth the Hip: "If there's a goal that everyone remembers, it was back in '72/We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger" (then it turns into lovey-dovey drivel - I love the Hip though)). The Salt Lake City double in 2002 with a Loonie under center-ice? All generations have their own, definitive Canadian hockey moment. All hockey generations in Canada, though, are united by a single jingle, introduced in 1968, commonly known as Canada's second national anthem, beloved by all. Dada da daaa da daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa - oh yes, it's the Hockey Night in Canada song.

You all know the story - the license has run out, and now the composer of the epic tune, Vancouver's own Dolores Claman, wants a bit of a raise. $500/play was the norm, and she wants "an industry standard" increase of 15% in fees. And the CBC doesn't like that, not one bit.

Now, we could get into math about how, in TV terms, that's really not a whole hell of a lot. In fact, I'm pretty sure it costs more to produce another shitty episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie (great premise, crappy undertaking) than it would to pay for an entire season of playing the HNiC theme, but I'm no good at math, and am very lazy. So we'll get into he morals of the thing.

What is the CBC around for? Why is it a crown corportation? Why is it Canada's "national public radio and television broadcaster"? Canadian Broadcasting Corporation indeed. Well, we find various excerpts from quote it's mandate, found easily here, but probably more difficult-ly on the CBC website, so I'm sticking with the Wiki.

  • be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
  • reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
  • actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
  • contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,"
How could anyone argue that splurging a little doesn't fulfill these mandates? And please note, a little. Canada's culture is hockey. We are a very multicultural country (take it from me, I know), but there's one thing shared between the thousands of races and creeds we find here, it's (again, trust me on this one) hockey!! Ever wanted to find Canadians whilst traveling in other countries, but forgot your Timmy's travel mug back home? Start singing the HNiC song, our second national anthem. I'm willing to bet, as are many others (judging by the comments found on the story on the CBC), that more Canadians could sing you the Hockey Night in Canada song than the real national anthem (it's called O Canada, those of you who don't know).

Now, you might say "but it's time for change! This song is 40 year old!". Or, you might be your run-of-the-mill internet blog-flamer, in which case you might say "WTF STFU YOU n00b!!". If you are the second case, I would kindly ask you not to comment, as you are, for all intents and purposes, the people primary education left behind. If, on the other hand, you are in the first group, this is a good point. Hockey's changing. The nature of the game, right down to the rules, keeps changing. So why not change the song many of us have come to relate to the game? Because this song is a bit like an old blanket - comforting. Certainly to me. All memories of NHL and Olympic hockey, good or bad, can be flushed back from hearing the song. Horrible, heart-in-mouth memories of the playoff exits against the Leafs, memories of epic regular-season thrashings of the Leafs, and all things in between, come back to that song. It's a historic little bit of Canadiana, it comes back to our roots as a people united. I say again, ever want to find Canadians in other countries, start singing the HNiC theme (tried, tested and true! Canadians in Punjab, who would've thought?).

The justification from the CBC, the money issue, is ridiculous. It is part of their mandate to "reflect Canada", to be "predominantly and distinctively Canadian", to "contribute to shared national consciousness and identity". So live up to that. Hockey Night in Canada fans are a passionate bunch, we like our old standards, we love Don, and we'd like for things to remain. Oh, and also, find a better pre-game song artist than Nickelback or Kid Rock, for goodness sake. How about some Hip? Or The Guess Who? BTO? You know - good Canadian music. You boys up in the Seeb (if the BBC is the Beeb, the CBC is the Seeb) need to get your heads out.

Here we go, on the road again!!

Well folks, it seems I've found a new home in the internet thought-placing world.

There was the pained highschool kid, I started this whole thought blast off on Xanga (SHAME! Well, not too shameful, I never bought into the Emo thing, the music playing on my Xanga blog was "Block Lockdown" by Ludacris - boo yeah). That was followed by LiveJournal. Then came MSN Spaces. Then back to LiveJournal. My travels stopped for a while, then Facebook came along and my musings went into Note form there. Then BBC's 606 (the URL was ridiculous to remember! Now I'm here. Wow. Looking back, I'm kind of a loser. That's okay, my mommy says I'm cool and that's all that matters - all three of my readers are too judgmental anyways. Jerks.

At any rate, I'm here, and as the title suggests, I can't think up much of a name for anything. Hell, this is a guy whose team name in the 2008 playoff pool (should have been crash-and-burn) was "Original Team Name #6", then at the end turned into "Team Better-Than-Eric's-Team" (guess who the crash-and-burn award went to?).

I tend to write blogs as I speak, but I'm okay with that. I'm my own editor here. Other downside of the BBC blog - 1000 (I think) character maximum - very stifling. At any rate - this blog will mainly concentrate on professional (internationals and club level) football (get used to "soccer" being referred to as football), and hockey. Given my position in the sports world at Queen's University at Kingston, Canadian university sport may well find its way in here. Other sports by mood - I'd guess that the concentration will be around hockey and footie though (also, get used to it being called footie).

Anyways, first real post will probably appear at some point later today, I have to save up my musings. Be excited!