Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Off the Ball Blog [Print without images]

Saturday, July 3, 2010
Europe's big day


Saturday, 5 p.m., Bridgehampton.

Random Thoughts on Saturday's Action: Europe 5, South America 0

So perhaps this isn't the Southern Hemisphere World Cup after all
Germany demolishes Argentina, Spain eeks out a win against Paraguay (which seems like the only way they can be beaten) and to think, just seven days ago we were all talking about South American dominance. And now, only Uruguay, by hook and by crook, have made it to the semifinals. Come on, Europe! Or as Joe Scarborough reminded us yesterday -- come on, NATO!

Ultimately, Don Fabio has had a good week
There's an old adage that a week is a long time in football. And after the backlash to the backlash, the loveable, tempestuous, authoritarian Italian (father issues) has already been retained by the FA, reputation intact, to build a "new England" with an infusion of younger players. Then Germany demolish Argentina 4-0, making even England's spiritless loss to "new Germany" look good by comparison. What if Lampard's goal had counted? At 2-2, anything could have happened. Stand up, Stuart Pearce. Sit down again. Did you sit down before? Then stand up.

Argentina tricked us
We had anointed them as champions. We had praised their free-flowing style. We almost had Maradona coaching in the NBA. But they tricked us, because this was the first time they had to play defense and they looked as slow and outmuscled as England did against the Germans. Chemistry and spirit can only take you so far. They were technically taken apart. And what exactly was Maradona's plan beyond baiting Bastian Schweinsteiger in the build up? The young pig farmer wasn't the least bit nervous. Actually, he and his young German Superfriends, aided by their distant, older relatives from Poland, took you boys apart. Only my partner in blog and pod, The Rog, was not fooled. He's a very old man, and he is very wise.

Messi succumbed to the virus
He still looked good. Even my 5-year-old daughter thought so, immediately asking me the name of the Argentina No. 10 after gasping at a little shimmy which wrongfooted Philipp Lahm on the touchline. But 30 shots in this tournament and not a single goal. We might need to check his chest to see if he's been seeing Wayne Rooney's waxologist.

The Germans are now soccer's top model
And everyone will talk about trying to imitate their training, formation, playing style, unselfishness and individual strength. "Find me a Klose" is being yelled by club chairmen, owners and federation presidents all over the world right now. And while you're at it find me a Muller, a Schweinsteiger and an Ozil. But we can't all be Germans. We do not all have Poland. And they haven't won it yet. But I'm just starting to salivate at the thought of a Germany-Holland final. Is there a combination of words that convey bitter, seething hatred more than 'bitter, seething hatred"? In Dutch, I think they say "Bitteren Seethingen Ccccchhhhhhhatred."

Sometimes you have to really love football
That's if you want to sit through a whole game like Paraguay versus Spain on a beautiful sunny day. Thank God David Villa scored and we avoided 30 more minutes of extra time and another completely, arbitrary shootout. Thank you Ian Darke for making it moderately entertaining, at one point referring to the heroic performance of the Paraguayan defenders as "a lot of stars in stripes."

Penalties are becoming inadequate
And virtually unmakeable, or at least, less skillfully converted, because of the routine unenforcing of the laws of the game. Every goalkeeper moves before the ball is struck -- sideways and off his line. Which means it's often just a matter of luck. If the goalie guesses right, he's got a great chance of stopping even a decently taken penalty. If he doesn't, he won't even stop a horribly taken one.

Davies' Woodwork Inclusive Scoring System (TM pending)
Villa's goal sequence would have scored 1.3 goals under my new World Cup of WhiffleSoccerParity scoring system: 1.0 goal for the goal; .2 goals for the ricochets of both posts; and another .1 for the original strike off the post from Pedro that set up the goal. If we add pinball sound effects this could be a major improvement to the game and would even cut through the vuvuzelas.