Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category

World Cup History: Bora Bora Bora … What Could Have Been?

June 6, 2010

My favorite World Cup moment just so happens to be my most disappointing moment as well. I’m purposely not doing any research or corroboration of this article to see just how accurate my recollection is after 16 years.

Let me set the stage:

  • Date: July 4, 1994.
  • Place: Sold out Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA.
  • Weather: Sunny, high 80s at game time.
  • Game: U.S. vs. Brazil; 2nd round of the 1994 World Cup.
  • Seats: My group was sitting right behind the north goal about halfway up.

All I could think to myself that day was what if the U.S. actually beat Brazil. Sure it was a tall order but the feeling was that given the date and conditions, it could happen.

Then things got interesting. Near the end of the first half, Brazil’s Leonardo intentionally elbowed Tab Ramos in the head, earning an immediate red card. The halftime score was still 0-0! Sure the U.S. had been completely outplayed but now being a man up, an upset definitely seemed possible. I could not believe my good fortune. I was going to be witness to one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. Incredible!

What happened next (or shall I say what did not happen next) resulted in my greatest World Cup disappointment.

Instead of taking advantage of this good fortune, Bora Mulitinovic, the U.S. head coach, was content to continue playing a defense-oriented game and hope for either a counter-attack or for the game to go to penalty kicks. Eventually, this strategy failed when Bebeto scored with about 15 minutes to go in the game (at our end of the field). By this time, the U.S. was incapable of attacking and the game ended in a disappointing 1-0 loss.

It did not help that Ramos, arguably America’s best player, broke his jaw from Leonardo’s elbow and was not able to play. Had he, the U.S. may have been able to control the game more than it did. Unfortunately, and perhaps because it was daytime, Bora did not see that all the planets were perfectly aligned as well. Had he, and had he changed his strategy and just ‘Gone For Broke’, who knows what would have happened.

All I can say is, “Bora, Bora, Bora!?”

World Cup ‘Towers’ Worth Watching: Fernando and José Torres

June 2, 2010

Had you asked me two years ago who my favorite player was, it would have been Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Spain. Similar to Italy’s Luca Toni in height, size, and a nose for the goal, every time Fernando touched the ball inside the opponent’s penalty area, he seemed to give himself a chance to score.

Injuries slowed him down this season and with it, Liverpool’s season. The good news (bad news for opponents) is that it looks like he is recovered and rested and will be ready to play for Spain in South Africa. How affective he will be is anyone’s guess. But if he is near 100%, it may be the year of “El Niño.”

But this year’s World Cup may also be the year of “El Gringo!” American José Francisco Torres who plays for Pachuca in the Mexican professional league (that’s how he got his nickname) may also be poised to do great things in South Africa. Unlike Spain’s Torres, José Torres is a midfielder and a very good one at that. A midfielder is a team’s quarterback and normally dictates the action on the field.

I have not seen José Torres play much but what I saw in the U.S. game against Turkey was impressive.

  • He has great ball control. His dribbling in tight quarters is superb.
  • He receives the ball so well. The ball settles so softly onto his feet.
  • He is always running to the open space and asking for the ball. This is the telltale signs of a natural midfielder.
  • Though it appears he favors his left foot, he is equally adept with both feet.
  • His head is always up. He is constantly surveying the field, looking for his teammates, knows where the nearest opponents are, and you can tell he is always thinking two or three moves ahead.

This year’s World Cup is going to be exciting. Hopefully both Torres’ do well. If “El Gringo” does well, look for the U.S. to be very successful.

U.S. Men’s International Soccer Has Come a Long Way

May 30, 2010

My first World Cup memory was in 1974 when my family lived in West Germany (West Germany not only hosted but also won the 1974 World Cup). To this day, I recall that Zaire and Haiti were two teams in that World Cup.

To nobody’s surprise, both teams lost big. Zaire, which is today called Congo, lost 2-0 to Scotland, 9-0 to Yugoslavia, and 3-0 to Brazil. (I did not realize until now that Zaire was the first African country ever to participate in a World Cup.) Haiti lost 3-1 to Italy, 7-0 to Poland, and 4-1 to Argentina. At least Haiti scored two goals!

Only much later did I learn that Haiti was part of CONCACAF and was the only country from the North or Central American region to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Not bad for a small island country that had to compete against the U.S. and Mexico to qualify.

The U.S. had competed in past World Cups and actually came in third place in the 1930 World Cup. However, back then there was not the rigorous qualifying process that exists today and many teams were invited simply if they could afford the trip (the 1930 World Cup was held in Uruguay). However, it was not until Paul Caligiuri’s miracle goal against Trinidad & Tobago that qualified the U.S. for the 1990 World Cup that the U.S. started to establish itself as a regular on the World Cup scene.

The United States’ best World Cup performance was in 2002 when it beat Portugal and Poland and tied host South Korea in the group stage. Then they beat Mexico 2-0 in the second round but lost 1-0 to eventual runner-up Germany in the quarterfinal match.

The biggest disappointment was in 2006 when five minutes into their first game against the Czech Republic, the U.S. gave up the first of three goals, essentially ending their World Cup before it ever started. They did, however, manage a 1-1 tie against eventual-champions Italy in a game they really should have won. It was also the only game the Italians failed to win that year.

Who knows what 2010 will have in store for the U.S. team? The chances are good that they will advance out of Group C despite having to play England in its first match. If they don’t advance, 2010 will be considered a huge disappointment. Should they advance, the best potential second-round opponent–Germany–will be without their captain, Michael Ballack. If last year’s Confederation Cup is any indication, when the U.S. beat Spain and lost in the finals to Brazil 3-2 after being up 2-0 at halftime, the U.S. will do very good.

Good luck. U-S-A! U-S-A!

World Cup Flags

May 26, 2010

I’m not sure if this article falls under ‘Improving Soccer in the United States’. However, it definitely falls under ‘Improving Geography in the United States’. The way I see it, any type of improvement is a good thing.

With that said, what is going on with the Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovenian flags? They all look the same. When I first started collecting flag images for the 32 countries in this year’s World Cup for my World Cup East Bay 2010 event, I wasted a good deal of time because I kept thinking I had used some flags twice. But when I deleted one of the ‘duplicates’, I only had 31 flags. Finally I figured out that these countries’ flags do look very similar. See for yourself.

Serbia

Slovakia

Slovenia

Good thing Russia did not make this year’s World Cup. That really would have made things confusing.

Russia

Then there is Australia and New Zealand. Can you tell the difference?

Australia

New Zealand

Check out how similar the flags are for the two African countries of Cameroon and Ghana.

Cameroon

Ghana

The Dutch (Netherlands) and Paraguayan flags are also very similar.

Netherlands

Paraguay

Though they did not make this year’s World Cup, I want to thank Nepal for their flag. Its design will never be mistaken for another country.

Nepal

World Cup East Bay 2010

May 23, 2010

I am pleased to announce that I am partnering with the owner of an Indoor Sports Center in Antioch, CA to bring this year’s World Cup to San Francisco’s East Bay. The event is called World Cup East Bay 2010 (WCEB2010).

The theme of the event is, “Watch, Play, Experience, Enjoy!” Soccer fans of all ages will have the opportunity to:

  • Watch all 64 World Cup matches.
  • Play in youth and adult World Cup tournament games.
  • Experience the excitement, culture, and fervor of the World Cup.
  • Enjoy the World Cup with other soccer fans under one roof.

I am always looking for help. If you would like to or if you know of someone who would be interested in being a corporate sponsor, a team sponsor to help those families in need of financial aid, a product/service sponsor, or can donate items for daily raffles, I would certainly appreciate it.

If you live in the Bay Area, I hope to see you this summer. Any promotion of this event on your part would be fantastic. Enjoy the World Cup wherever you will be. Go U-S-A!

Fun Practice Games: World Cup Tournament

April 11, 2010

At a recent 360 Soccer Training camp where I was a trainer, each daily session ended with a World Cup Tournament. The tournament pitted four teams of four playing a round-robin tournament. A team received 3 points for a win, 2 for a tie, and 1 for a loss (after all, no one or no team ever likes to receive zero points). The team with the most points each day was declared World Cup Champs.

Like many other trainers, I strongly recommend that each session or practice end with some sort of scrimmage, preferably small-sided to maximize touches. Besides having an opportunity to apply and reinforce new skills that were learned that day in a game-like setting, the players will feel rewarded for their hard work and strong effort they had put in earlier.

Each World Cup team received a different colored pinnie. Each team then had to choose a country to represent. The caveat was that the selected country had to have the same color in their uniform as the pinnie that was assigned to the team. For example, the green-pinnied team chose Mexico one day and Nigeria the next day and the red-pinnied team chose the United States and Japan.

I recommend taking the World Cup Tournament concept one step further. Players should also assume the identity of the professional players that represent each of the countries selected. For example, the United States team of Bornstein, Donovan, Bradley, and Dempsey could play against Mexico and Israel Castro, Gerardo Torrado, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Carlos Vela.

If you are like me, you will quickly run out of teams and players. In this case, assign a different player each week the task of coming up with team names and players for each pinnie. Team and player names can also come from the WPS, MLS, EPL, Bundesliga, and La Liga leagues. If you decide to incorporate the use of professional names, make sure teammates call each other by their new names. This will force players to concentrate more and play with their heads up.

Players should enjoy their own version of the World Cup Tournament. In the process, they will learn more about the game of soccer and some geography. Who knows, maybe a nickname or two will stick as well.

MLS Strike Averted: Now Watch and Learn

March 21, 2010

Now that the Major League Soccer (MLS) season will start March 26, the U.S. men’s chances of doing well in the upcoming 2010 World Cup have dramatically improved. A number of U.S. national players play in the MLS. Any work stoppage and subsequent lack of playing time would have negatively impacted these players and the U.S. national team. Now I really can’t wait for the June 12 game against England.

Along with the women’s professional league (WPS) getting underway April 10, it is important for youth soccer players to watch and see professional players in action. Youth players who happen to live near a professional soccer team should be encouraged to attend a live match. If there is no professional team close by, players should watch a game on TV. A lot can be learned by watching professional players. In fact, watching any older team play, from high school on up, is an excellent learning opportunity for youth players. If youth players are only exposed to soccer at a peer level and coaches (no offense) who themselves have never played soccer, they will never know or see how soccer can and should be played.

One of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time was the, “I Want to be Like Mike” Gatorade campaign. Which child doesn’t want to be someone famous or someone they see as larger-than-life? Who doesn’t want to be a princess, a Marine, Julia Roberts, or Michael Jordan? By exposing youth players to professional soccer, they will soon start learning from and emulating Abby Wambach and Landon Donovan. In turn, they will improve as soccer players.

Besides encouraging and exposing youth players to professional soccer matches, the following activities will also get players more excited about soccer.

  • During practice, have the small-sides games between the FC Gold Pride and Atlanta Beat.
  • Give each player a nickname based on a name of a professional player who plays his/her position(s).
  • Name the team after an MLS or WPS team (Sky Blue is pretty cool).
  • Have a team party on June 12 when the U.S. men’s national team takes on and (fingers crossed) beats England. Should that happen, the win will become this generation’s do-you-remember-where-you-were sporting moment just like the ‘Miracle-On-Ice’ was my generation’s moment.

Penalty Kicks Decide U20 World Cup

October 16, 2009

Congratulations Ghana! To beat powerhouse Brazil playing a majority of the game down 1 man … well deserved. With Ghana having qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, July 2010 can’t come soon enough for the entire African continent.

The game came down to penalties. Brazil had an opportunity to win but could not convert when it counted. The result of this game reinforces an earlier post about penalties. They have to be kicked on the ground, with decent force, and hit the side netting. Otherwise, a player and team is asking for trouble.

I have embedded a video clip below and below it, I have added my commentary along with the time the kicks appear in the video and a score for each kick. There is no video with all the kicks but the video I have shows all the misses.

Alan Kardec (Brazil)
Best Brazilian penalty in the shootout … hard, on the ground, and hit the side netting. The goalie guessed correctly but never could have saved the kick (Score–10).

Ayew (Ghana)
The kick was high. The Brazilian goalie guessed correctly and actually got his fingers on the ball. Because kicking the ball high into the net has the danger of going over, the score is lower (7).

Guiliano (Brazil)
Same comments as the previous kick (7).

Inkoom (Ghana)
The kick was once again high but had the goalie guessed correctly, the kick could not have been saved. (8).

D. Costa (Brazil)
Same comments as the previous kick (8).

4:40–Mensah (Ghana)
Terrible kick. It was 1 foot off the ground and worse, only 4 feet in from the center of the goal. My 94-year old grandmother would have saved that kick (1).

5:00–Souza (Brazil)
Just an average kick that was saved. Once again, it was 1 foot off the ground but not close enough to the side netting. The Ghanaian keeper started to employ a clever tactic because his team was down and he needed to make a save. Just before the kick, he took a big step to his right. By guessing correctly, he was able to make the easy save (4).

5:16–Addae (Ghana)
Another poor kick. It was slightly better than the previous Ghanaian kick because it was on the ground and a little further toward the corner. But there was not much force behind the kick. My 94-year old grandmother would have had trouble with this kick but my 10-year old would have saved it (3).

5:45–Maicon (Brazil)
This one was for the Championship but the Brazilian kicked it over the goal.  As I have posted before, you can’t kick the ball over the goal if the ball is kicked on the ground. I’m willing to bet that Maicon was worried that the goalkeeper was going to take that same big step before the kick and therefore felt it necessary to kick the ball higher. Once a player changes how he/she is going to take the penalty, the odds of a miss increase dramatically. In this case, had the penalty been a kick on the ground and into the side netting, Brazil would have been the Champs (3).

6:03–Adiyiah (Ghana)
With all the pressure on Adiyiah, he scores. The penalty was similar to Ghana’s first kick but because of the pressure, I’m giving it an extra point (8).

6:35–Teixeira (Brazil)
Brazil’s third miss in a row. The kick was about 2 feet off the ground and halfway between the center of the goal and the post. Once again the goalie took 1 big step in the correct direction and saved the penalty easily (3).

6:57–A. Badu (Ghana)
Badu saved the best Ghanaian penalty kick for last … low, hard, and in the corner. Even if the Brazilian keeper had guessed correctly, he never would have saved the kick (10).

Congratulations Ghana and Brazil for making it to the finals. See you in about 9 months.


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