Thursday, June 28, 2012

Goodbye to the Beachy Life?

Apparently, LD is selling out. Or at least, he's listed his residence in Manhattan Beach. This could presage a move to England, or elsewhere across the pond. 

If the choice was yours to make, which team abroad would take LD?


Germany - Italy - Euro Semis

Hey, hey, I'm on time for the whole match today and I'm ready to see some goals in regulation! 

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France) 

Italy,: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo, De Rossi, Balotelli, Cassano. Subs: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Thiago Motta, Abate, Di Natale, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis. 

 Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski, Gomez. Subs: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Klose, Muller, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Reus, Zieler

Apparently both coaches have promised an open, attacking game. Props to the honest coach who says he plans his squad to play defensively and carefully to win.

Time for anthems. For a country who gave the world some of the greatest opera tunes, Italy's anthem is strangely one-note. The players sing it enthusiastically, though.

I have to say, I'll generally root for Germany as long as they have Lahm playing for them.  The little dude is just such a solid player.

Lahm and Buffon read the anti-racist statements before the players all shake hands. At the coin toss, Buffon affectionately cuffs Lahm across the face. Joji Low, the German coach, looks far more casual than Cesare Prandelli, who still has his suit
 jacket on. 

1 - Kickoff! Italy gets first play.Germany breaks it up just as the ball heads into the box. x.
2 - Kroos sends a cross too far into the Germany box.
3 - Germany is less precise than Italy, a Khedira header drops right to Italy, and the linkup almost finds Ballotelli in the box. 
5 - Podolski is fouled, then Germany get the ball in the box and Buffon makes a hash of it, letting the ball go by. Pirlo clears the ball off the line with his knee. 
7 - There's already more going on in this match than in the 100-plus minutes of the semifinal yesterday. 
9 - There's  a long pass that Podolski starts to run for, but thinks better of it, letting Buffon collect.  
10 -  Ozil gets the ball into the box, but then Buffon boots it to safety. 
11 - Khedira with a random shot - might have meant it to be a pass - Buffon collects.  
12 - Sheesh! Buffon dings a cross out of  the way for a corner, but why didn't he grab it? Nervy stuff. 
14 - Germany bearing down on the Italian goal again, keeping the pressure on.  
15 -  Hummels brings down Ballotelli for a FK. 
17 - Italy dig in, and eventually mount an attack of their own, with an outside shot that Neuer dives for.
18 - Cassano tries his luck from there as well. Not really hard shots to save, but they do test the keeper at least slightly.
20 - Ballotelli scores! 1-0 Italy
21 - Cassano with a slick move on the left side of the box centers well. Ballotelli spots the rise and moves behind Badstuber, who doesn't cut the ball off, perhaps worried too much about SuperMario, who has the height on his jump to head the ball in perfectly past a helpless Neuer. Nicely done.
23 - Germany controlling play again, but seem befuddled as to how exactly to create a chance.
25 - Boateng strikes a pass that's too fast for Gomez to control with a header.
27 - Ozil with a low shot that Buffon gets down for. Not too  tough.
28 - Montilivo is all hustle, but there he gets whistled for infringement.
29 - Ozil gets creative again, but a deflection makes the final pass to Gomez go awry.
30 - Kroos shoots wide, but at least he's trying.
31 - Another one really trying is Montilivo, chasing every contestable ball, but he gets whistled again.
32 - Lahm with a poor pass seems to reveal Germany's nerves in this game.  
34 - Then Boateng with a sublime cross, but Barzarelli clears it wonderfully.
35 - Badstuber with defensive heroics in the box as well to deny Montilivo a shot.
36 - Khedira with a sizzling shot, but Buffon dives well to double-palm it away.
36 - Buffon then punches out the corner that follows. 
GOAL! Ballotelli again! A great through ball splits the defense and Ballotelli settles and shoots quickly, pounding the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 Italy.
39 - Did Ballotelli get a yellow card? He clearly took off his shirt to celebrate. Has FIFA rescinded that rule? Ah, no he did get booked.
41 - It's Italy's silky passing, combined with possession dribble moves, that throws Germany off. The Germans are more practical and geometric with their passing. It works well against other teams, but not so much the Italians, who delight in cutting off the angles of Germany's passes.
43 - Cassano is down and looks to be in some pain.
44 - Germany are pushing to pull at least one goal back before the half.
45 - A soft cross caught by Buffon isn't going to do it, though.  Italy pull back and leave Germany wandering around the perimeter of the defenders, unsure of how to attack the crowded area.

Well, well, let's see what Germany are really made of in this next half. Right now, they are made of brittle sugarglass, and they seem a bit shattered by the two goals. They need to be more like marshmallow and bounce back.

46 - Ruess tries his luck, but Buffon controls the low bouncer well.
49 - Lahm going for heroics now, but he's denied as well.
51 - Back and forth for both teams, with Italy creating a half-chance, but no shot.
54 - Ozil's frustration at being unable to keep a ball in bounds seems to capture the mood of Germany right now.
55 - Ozil then puts on a burst of speed, gets into the box, cuts back beautifully, but his team lets him down. There's no shot and Italy recover.
57 - Klose and Bonnucci battle - Klose fails to get a shot off - good defending by Italy.
58 - Cassano comes off, still limping slightly. He gets lots of applause. Diamante is in.
59 - Ballotelli threatens in the box again, forcing Neuer to save.
62 - Reus with a sizzling FK - Buffon knocks it over the bar.  Italy then clear the corner kick.
66 - Diamante tries from way outside, mostly as a reminder to Neuer to not leave his line so much.
67 - Marchisio gets a great through ball into the box, but sends his close shot wide.
69 - Ballotelli is getting boos from the crowd for taking his time getting up after a knock. It is a bit early to be wasting game time.
73 - Muller is in the game now for Boateng, and trying to make an impact.
75 - Marchisio in the box, can pick his spot - and he shoots wide.
77 - The reaction Ballotelli to Marchisio's miss is classic - like he'd never missed before.
80 - There's a lack of ideas for Germany - and now the players are just flailing at shots, like Kroos just now sending one to the heavens.
81 - It's not Italy beating Germany that is surprising. It's that it's looking so easy. 
82 - And DiNatale is free in the box - and he shoots wide. Painful, but it won't change the outcome, likely.
84 - Lahm earns a corner, then gives Buffon a freebie catch with a poor kick.
85 - The announcers are going on and on about how upset the Germany players must be, rather than focusing on what Italy have done well to gain the victory few expected.
86 - Kroos with another desperate shot, but this one also flies over the bar, though it's a bit closer.
88 - Again with the, "This loss by Germany is a big surprise" Well, clearly, Italy were expected to be the chumps here. Which is silly, given their history in the game.
90 - With all the Germans pushed forward, Hummel punts a shot right to Gigi. Would have been a goal if he'd put it anywhere else.  Ozil then goes wide with another shot.
PK! Barzelli hit the ball with his elbow in the box.
Ozil takes, makes! 2-1 Italy.
Neuer is out of the box, at centerfield, heading the ball forward to try to keep German possession. But a Hummels foul turns the ball back to Italy with only seconds left.
Final Freekick. Final whistle.
Italy wins! They will play Spain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spain - Portugal Euro Semis Blog

Ok, so I'm late to the party - it's about 25 minutes in. But nothing much has happened yet, with Spain controlling possession, but with only one real chance. Portugal has been tough defending, with Nani sparking here and  there. CRo is lurking, waiting for a chance. 

26 - Herrera and Nani team up for a nice run that puts Portugal in a semi-circle around the goal until Casillas catches a lofted poor cross. 

27 - Handball by Ramos? Might have been, but we're shown no replay - ooh, there it is. Yes, initial ball was taken on his chest, but the bounce does seem to hit his arm slightly. Hmmm. 

28 - Poor clearance by Portugal leads to an Iniesta curling shot - too high, but the game and chances are opening up. 

29 - Interesting that Spain don't have a great record versus Portugal. Some teams are just bogeys for others. 

30 - CR with a shot - wide, but that was the first flash of brilliance. His touch and control set up the chance, even with a defender tight to him.

32 - Spain seem a little sleepy. It's their great possession game that makes them seem a little boring, but it's also a slight tendency to get into a passing rut instead of creating chances. For example, the last chance from Iniesta was really a Portugal mistake. 

35 - Does anyone else think Iniesta should just pull a Jason Statham and shave his head clean? Or does the accountant look that hides a superstar athlete work for him? 

37 - Casillas isn't great with the ball at his feet. Of course, a keeper doesn't have to be, but sometimes there's so little to criticize about the Spanish team . . .

39 - Is anyone feeling less interested in supporting Spain given the reports and fines over racist chants? Just wondered.

43 - I checked out another commentary (the Guardian's, if you must know) and Paul Doyle over there seems to think Portugal is dominating the match and Spain are shaken. Eh, Portugal have looked lively at times, but the possession stats don't lie about who has controlled the ball. 

45 - I'll throw in that the English commentary on this match is dire. Macca has nothing insightful or interesting to offer. "Portugal are definitely in this." I'd switch to  ESPNDeportes, but my cable package doesn't have that. Ian Darke offers this as the game goes to the break at the half - "Bit of a standoff, really."  Well, it's 0-0, so, no kidding, Sherlock.
Halftime - I love how Ballack sounds like the SoccerTerminator. Twellman points out the obvious  - boring Spain is still controlling the match. This goes against the line Bob Ley is trying to sell, which is that Portugal is successfully scaring the scarlet jerseys off Spain. Eh, that's actually a nice image, but I'll save it for when Cesc gets on the field. 

47 - And we're back! Will Portugal's extra rest beat out Spain's deeper bench? 

49 - Portugal with a half-chance, but the cross is cut off, and then CRo can't get a shot off.

50 - Spain with a nice build up, gets and Arbeloa cross, which is out for a corner. That doesn't lead to much, though, as Portugal clear.  

53 - Now Portugal have a corner - they do poorly with it. Subs are warming up for both teams. 

55 - I'll venture to say that the rest deprivation of Spain is overrated. Frankly, with their passing game, they don't run as much as other teams, so their players consequently don't get as tired. 

57 - Another corner for Portugal - Nani is on it. It's still not great.  On the ensuing play, Almeida takes a crack from outside - too high. 

59 - CRo works the one-two with Almeida to get him into the box, but the angle is too severe and Almeida's shot hits side netting.  

60 - Ramos bumps CRo, who goes down in the box. It's not judged a foul, which is fair, but then Busquets gets a yellow for apparently arguing that CRo deserves a yellow for simulation. Eh. I'd be more worked up about the injustice if Busquets didn't have the tendency to be be whiny. 

61 - Jesus Navas is in for Silva.  

63 - Minutes later, a replay of the Ramos-CRo incident.  Eh, slight contact. No biggie. 

64 - Cesc down inside the box, but it's judged a FK outside. Leads to a corner for Spain. 

65 - Portugal defends it stoutly. Spain keep their composure and keep some pressure on the goal. 

67 - I love it when players clean the ball with their jerseys. With shirtless celebrations banned, it's the only chance for a glimpse of the abs.

68 - Xavi with a shot - easy save for the keep. Going the other way, Almeida with a shot - high again. Casillas didn't even have to move.

70 - J. Alba is getting lectured by Portugal players for going to ground after he was kicked - and though the contact was incidental, it's not like it didn't happen at all.

71 - Rui Patricio is spreading the team out before kicking the ball out of the box - the strategy works, CRo gets the ball and earns a FK as Arbeloa clangs into  him in his eagerness to get the ball away. Promising position for CRo.
73 - CRo rifles the shot over the bar. 

74 - Cesc and half the Spanish team seem to be playing up the "we've got no rest or sleep" angle by sporting unshaven scruff.

75. This whole Spain-isBarca-without-Messi line doesn't wash when it comes to Xabi, Casillas, Arbeloa, etc. It's a lazy spin on the game. 

76 - Portugal on the attack, but Nani is trying too hard not to be Almeida, and doesn't go for the goal when he gets the ball. His hesitation and attempt to get the ball to CRo costs the team the chance. Sometimes greed is good (TM Team Gekko).

78 - Darke is trying to play up the drama of a possible shootout. 

79 - Nani and Ramos clash over a header and Nani falls, but takes exception to Ramos' cleats coming to rest on his hip.   .

80 - Nelson Oliviera is in for Almeida.

82 - Navas had the ball for a bit and couldn't seem to decide what to do with it - even in the box. Finally, he tufts a little popped cross right to the grateful Portugal defenders. Rookie nerves, clearly.

83 - CRo earns a freekick. Then there's a handball, so he's even closer to goal now.

84 - CRo stands like B.Bradley, the A-frame intimidation and focus stance. It doesn't work. He kicks his freekick over the bar.

86 - Cesc gets kicked from behind. Yellow on Portugal.

87 - Pedro Rodriguez is on for Xavi.

88 - Iniesta on a run, but he can't read Cesc's mind like he does Messi, and so when he zigs right and passes left, Cesc has gone the other way and the ball blips out to empty grass. Portugal collect and go the other way.

90 - Spain have a FK in the final minute, but Portugal clear and head off quickly, CRo has the ball in the box and HE SHOOTS OVER. The ghost of Almeida is still on the field, clearly. Casillas didn't have to save.

92 - Spain have a corner. It's poor, finds no one, gets sent back to Casillas.

93 - A final yellow comes to Veloso for a late tackle on Alba. Macca yammers on about how he got the ball - and I'm confused, because Veloso didn't touch the ball - he slid into Alba after Alba already poked the ball away. Anyway, that's the end of regulation.

Extra, Extra Time! I want to say that Spain will win, but that would mean I agree with Macca, so I'll call the match for Portugal by default. Nani will win it, if he ever works his way out of CRo's shadow.

93 - I will give credit to Portugal for playing the match on their terms and forcing Spain to be more athletic, which isn't their style. Just now, for the past couple of minutes, they keep getting beaten on headers.

94 - Macca is now grousing about the quiet fans - who might actually just be intently watching the game.

95 - Iniesta is brought down by Moutinho. It's not too threatening, as freekicks go. Then it doesn't help that Alonso kicks it poorly.

95 - Spain with a couple of half-chances, but the pair of shots are cleared or blocked.

97 - Pique with a precise challenge to stop CRo. That was a gamble, going low to block the ball out, but it paid off.

99 - Pepe has been playing like a beast. Portugal have him to thank more than CRo, in this match, at least.

101 - Navas works the give-go with Arbeloa - gets a corner.

102 - Navas tries a shot - gets another corner.

103 - Iniesta tries to be heroic - put the ball through a wall of players. Nothing doing, and he sets up a counter for Portugal.

105 - Spain's young guns, Pedro and Navas, set up a play with some tricky dribbling and Iniesta benefits, but his soft, quick shot is saved by Patricio. Well done, Pat.

106 - Spain have  FK - Ramos lines it up and bullets it - so close, but no net.

108 - 2nd Extra Tiempo. Cesc miffs a pass and is left chasing the Portugal counter. Ramos saves the day by cutting off the cross to CRo.

109 - Cesc, looking for redemption, fires an outside shot. Ball pings off a defender, leaving an easy save for Patricio.

110 - Navas and Arbeloa combine well again - Navas shoots, Patricio saves, but the ball bounces free and Pepe herds it back into Patricio's arms. A few call for backpass violation, but the ref waves play on.

112 - Varela is coming on for Meireles.

114 - Alonso is booked for a late tackle on CRo.  Cesc frees Pedro with a great little pass, but the Portugal defenders swarm him before he can shoot. Corner. Comes to nada.

116 - Darke is on the "Spain will score" express now.

117 - Varela meanwhile, creates a bit of a threat for Portugal going the other way, but the Spanish defenders coolly pass their way out of danger. Then Spain ruin a nice chance of their own with a foolish offside.

118 - Spain earn another corner, courtesty of a hard-working Alba. It's taken short, though, and doesn't threaten.

119 - Pedro charging in the box, doing a nice little Messi imitation with tricky dribbling, until he's down and the ghost of Messi is poof - gone.

120 - Random shot of Fernando Torres looking anxious, but otherwise not affecting the game in any way from the sidelines.

Time is up! Penalties.

Ballack earns my heart forever by somehow getting in the line, something like, "with the nerves, the players are playing with themselves"  into his commentary.

I also love that Darke calls out Macca on PKs, "You didn't take too many of them, did you?"

CRo bumps fists with Casillas as the captains call who goes first. Spain will shoot.

Alonso versus Patricio. It's low to the right - and Patricio saves, diving to his left. 0-0

Casillas saves - going to his right! 0-0.

Iniesta fakes left, shoots right, scores! 1-0

Pepe the Beast is next. He lines far back, but  dinks the shot under the arm of Casillas. 1-1

Pique up now - it's a little weak, but well-placed to the left. 2-1

Wow - a switch, Alves started forward, but then gets called back. Nani comes up - nails it - high to the left corner. 2-2.

Ramos with a fake hard run gets Patricio diving. 3-2. 

Oh, man. Alves. Off the crossbar for Portugal! 3-2

Cesc wins it! Off the post and in. 4-2

CRo never got to shoot.

Oh, well, I guess Macca was right about something. Spain marches on to the Euro final. Clearly, rumors of their demise as a great team have been greatly exagerrated. Ballack goes off on CRo for not shooting earlier. Ley reminds the panel that Spain won. No one seems more suprised than he. Twellman gets in a little snide, "Yeah." all but biting back the "Just like I was saying, they were controlling the game."

The play of the day is Cesc's penalty - which I frankly don't think he intended to cut that close. Nice montage of past Euros show the current USA coach, Klinsmann, holding the trophy high. On PTI, Wilbon is tearing the coach apart for not putting CRo sooner in on the PKs. Kornheiser couldn't care less, and soon, they're on to baseball.