A different view of sports
Clearing my mind and notebook while wishing all the soccer haters would convene in Hawaii next week for a therapeutic hot lava bath:
I’m not ready to declare, as some have suggested, that this is the greatest World Cup of our lives. But it has been an entertaining fortnight of soccer with more drama coming from the group stages than I can recall.
Usually the focus for those of us in the United States is whether Team USA will advance to the knockout stages. Sadly, this time around as legit global sporting citizens, we didn’t even have that to capture our imagination.
All the good American players are battling it out on Major League Soccer fields, not the world stage in Russia.
As an old soccer soul who lives for these matches every four years, including that meaningless tussle between England and Belgium on Thursday in which both teams had the luxury of resting their starters, you have to cherish every moment.
I’ve played, coached and covered the game, so I think I know what I’m talking about (operative word, think). So yeah, I’ve got a few thoughts about what we’ve seen so far. And if you hit me up on Twitter, you can get more of my insights when games resume Saturday (@Randy_Beard11).
The fact that 83 goals have been scored is good but hardly the best. In 2002 when South Korea and Japan co-hosted, 91 goals were tallied in the group games. And four years ago, Brazil treated us to 90.
A record 24 – half of the 48 matches – were decided by one goal, so there was plenty of drama to keep us interested throughout stoppage time every game. Only nine matches ended in a draw and only one of those was a nil-nil result.
The best of those ties came on the second day when Ronaldo completed a hat trick with a brilliant free kick in the final minutes to give Portugal a 3-3 result with rival Spain. That makes it the early contender for game of the tournament.
Alas, when group play was over, Germany became the third straight defending champion and fourth in last five tournaments to be eliminated before the round of 16. Jogi Low’s team only won one game and scored two goals to finish at the bottom of Group F.
- Most meaningless hat trick: England’s Harry Kane with two penalties and a late first half goal as the Three Lions blasted Panama, 6-1.
- Best late-game heroics: Germany’s Toni Kroos with free kick goal in fifth minute of stoppage time for 2-1 win over Sweden.
- Most valuable goal: Marcos Rojo’s game-winner in the 86th minute for 2-1 Argentina result over Nigeria, punching Lionel Messi’s ticket to the next round
- Most efficient stoppage time: South Korea with pair of goals to beat Germany to officially eliminate the defending champions.
- Round of 16 expectations: France 2, Argentina 1; Uruguay 3, Portugal 2; Spain 2, Russia 1; Croatia 1, Denmark 0; Brazil 2, Mexico 0; Belgium 4, Japan 2; Sweden 1, Switzerland 0; England 2, Colombia 1.
- Favored Nation Status: Brazil.
Diego strikes again
Diego Maradona was caught using his hands again.
OK, technically, it was only his middle fingers.
After Marcos Rojo’s goal in the 86th minute against Nigeria secured Argentina’s Round of 16 matchup with France on Saturday, Maradona was caught on camera flipping off Nigerian fans.
If the game had finished in a 1-1 draw, Argentina would have been eliminated.
Read one newspaper headline in Argentina: “From the hands of God, to the fingers of shame.” Maradona scored a goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, getting away with punching the ball into the net. It’s been called the “Hand of God” goal, and shenanigans like that would never stand if video replay existed then.
They said it
Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe after ex-Stanford basketball star Reid Travis said he wanted to align both my academic and my athletic interests” in explaining his graduate transfer to play at Kentucky: “And he said the first part of that sentence with a straight face.”
RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Scientists say in a maximum of 10 years they’ll be able to recreate dinosaurs. At which time, experts predict, they’ll join the few other beings on earth still watching MLB baseball.
Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Those shirtless Arkansas fans with H O G S written across their bare chests still met the dress code at Applebee’s after the game.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Milwaukee Brewers have secured new sponsorship with Johnsonville, ensuring that their famous racing sausages will continue beyond this season. To appease the kid demographic, how about adding a couple of little brats?”
Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Why aren’t there more Triple Crown winners? Imagine Usain Bolt wins a 100-metre dash race. Then, a few weeks later, he wins a 200-metre dash. Then, you take him and stick him in a 5,000 metre race. That’s why.”
Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: How long until the chants change from “Let’s Go Mets” to “Please Go Mets?” #Mets.”
Syndicated columnist Norman Chad on the United States not being able to qualify for the World Cup: “If it is any consolation, we also stink in math, civil rights, education, gun control, supporting the arts, climate-change awareness, electoral security and cable news.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again; Phil Mickelson incurred a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball at the U.S. Open. “You can hit a moving ball?” asked a Baltimore Oriole.
Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson, saying he will step down if team doesn’t sign a max star free agent within two years, like Lebron James or Paul George: “We don’t know what people are going to decide, and we can’t control that. So if guys decide not to come here, it’s not a failure — we turn to next summer. Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous.”
The Athletic’s Kirk Penton on Twitter: “That’s some stellar concussion protocol in this World Cup game. Dude got knocked out. His trainer is now slapping him in an attempt to eliminate the cobwebs.”
Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, after a jockey in New Zealand was knocked from his horse, got back on and won the race: “The name of the horse was Don’t Wanna Be Glue.”
Best of SportsPickle.com’s headlines you’ll see in a nuclear war:
- How does the entire NFL West being destroyed by flame impact your fantasy football lineup.”
- “Kevin Durant announces he plans to fight for the United States: ‘They have the best chance to win a World War.’”
- Study: NFL ratings down because millions of viewers have been killed and also Colin Kaepernick kneeling.”
- Minor League baseball team holds Apocalypse Night, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.”
- Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
- Does baseball need to improve its pace of play so games end before the world does?”
- “Nick Saban ignores mushroom cloud outside his office window: ‘Champions don’t give in to distractions.’”
- “Washington Capitals knocked out in 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
- “Jerry Jones unveils plans for $15 million, tax-payer funded Cowboys Stadium/nuclear fallout shelter.”
- “Gen. Tebow defies critics, leads late comeback victory over North Korea at the Battle of Denver.”
TheOnion.com: “Child at baseball game lost in forest of cargo shorts, milky white calves.”
Fark.com: “Having started only seven games in his career, some NFL players think it might have been a bit early to include Jimmy Garoppolo in the Top 100 Players.”
TheOnion.com: “Every bar patron watching World Cup has different, incorrect definition of offside rule.”
SportsPickle.com: “ESPN promoting 6 p.m. SportsCenter ratings lift was self-inflicted PR wound that furthers ‘ESPN is too liberal narrative.’”
Fark.com: “They’re is definitely something wrong with you when Keyshawn Johnson says you have mental issues.”
TheOnion.com: “Co-worker following World Cup goes all-in on tenuous family connection to Portugal.”
Fark.com: “Diego Maradona tells Nigeria they’re No. 2.”
TheOnion.com: “TBS to revive 1990s Atlanta Braves.”
Fark.com: “Magic Johnson to retire in two years.”
Tweets of Week
Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week @Randy_Beard11:
- So he first denied, now accepts punishment and apologizes. This ain’t kneeling. Kick his butt out of NFL: Jameis Winston suspended for three games, apologizes for Uber incident.
- Way to not represent Arkansas. You were one out from winning it all. You hadn’t been blanked all season. But after letting Oregon State off hook Wednesday, you rolled over in surrender tonight. Here piggie, piggie, we got a Omaha barbecue to go to.
- Indiana University swimmer Lilly King was named the 2017-18 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Thursday. The Evansville native becomes just third person – man or woman – to win the award in back-to-back seasons.
- Wow! World Cup, you never cease to amaze me.
- South Korea has obtained nukes, devastating Germany. Twice. And saving Mexico.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is now the proud owner of an $18 million watch. More proof he may be hearing cuckoo birds in his head despite being considered the best pound-for-pound boxer.
Sure, he’s worth many more millions – at least $700 million – but does anyone really need a time piece with 260 carats of diamonds set on a white gold base that can’t tell time any better than a Mickey Mouse watch?
But it you want one, its made by Jacob & Company.