I have been told that some folks (which can only mean, like, 3 people I don’t live with) miss my postings. I have been remiss — blame poor educational services in US urban areas — and plan to make this up with more than quick hit videos. Therefore, beginning this very moment, and continuing every workday (various deities permitting) through next week, you’ll get a short post on one of the groups in the upcoming World Cup.*
I’ll try to talk about every team, but I’ll admit, I don’t know much about half these squads. If they don’t have a bunch of guys who play in England, Spain, Germany or (guh) Italy, I’m not going to have much to say. There are some dire outfits coming to South Africa and your teevee, and that’s both their uniforms (herein: kits) and their teams (herein: squads). Consider this my mea copa: because punning is the tits.
Some will win. Some will lose. I will get hilariously drunk through the knockout rounds because my summer vacation is perfectly (and unintentionally) co-ordinated with the schedule.
Today: Why the World Cup kicks ass/Group AI wrote a post on my old Tumblr about soccer and baseball, growing up on the latter only to find so much solace in the former as an adult. The slow rhythms of ball and glove giving way to the short tap of ball on boot; the elegance of a late-dropping slider comparing (as a summer’s day, favorably) to a deft back-heel into space; the 5-4-3 double play turning into the LB-CAM-LW triangle.
The games are different as many ways as they are similar. This is hyperbole, but still true. Detractors of both call it arcane, dull, uneventful — or at least only punctuationally eventful.** Its lovers call it complex, elegant (see above), and, perhaps above all, beautiful. I come from a different angle. The games are born from failure.
At least from an offensive point of view, baseball and soccer are games in which failure is the norm. To score is to overcome the overwhelming odds before one’s self, to defy the established order, to outwit even fortune herself. In scoring, it’s not simply that work has been done, a job accomplished, but that the very nature of existence has been, briefly, momentarily, beautifully, transcended. A long-arching fly off of a sharp-breaking curve that clears the fence bends toward justice. A free kick that rises over an implacable wall and then dips suddenly to the low corner runs to freedom.
These are, again, hyperbole of the highest sort, but in a world rife with failure, why celebrate games in which success is so easily attained? When success eludes so many of us in real life, why not relish an event that so closely mimics it? Goals and runs come along, indeed. We get the job. We get the girl/guy. We win at trivia. But the truly beautiful. The absolutely remarkable. When they happen — we scream, we shout, we run to the ends of the earth, even if only in our own hearts — pleased with not just our effort but with the beauty and fragility that success holds in simultaneity.
Life is a series of failures, moved past as soon as they are done with, punctuated by — if we are lucky — infrequent successes that make moving beyond every failure possible.
Watch soccer. It can be boring. It can be dull. It can be stubborn. Creativity will be stifled by brutality. Art will be brought low by machinery. The moment that seems rightfully earned will be snuffed by the carelessness of someone seemingly uninvolved. It is just like life. And it is also like life because these paradigms too will be turned on their heads, fleetingly, dazzlingly. For a moment, you’ll believe success is the only possible outcome of life.
Enough sermonizing: onto the nitty-grits.
Group A, June 11, 16/17, 22:
South Africa – Hosts, so they’re the only actual home team, which is the only reason they qualified. Left their all-time leading scorer at home (which, to be fair, is like 100 miles or less, but that makes the pain so much worse). Fucking atrocious. Seriously awful. Lucky to score a goal, let alone earn a point. As the Brits would say: Shite.
Mexico – Oh, El Tri. Had an awful start to qualifying before sacking (Queen’s English!) former and disgraced England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, who is neither English nor, it appears, a capable manager. They have players to compete and under new/old management, they recovered their form, finishing 2nd in CONCACAF, which is everything north of Colombia including all the floaty bits in the Caribbean. Definitely into the next round.
France – If you’ll give me a moment to air both my Irish and Spurs hatreds: Fuck Thierry Fucking Henry and fuck his fucking hand-fucking-ball. France needed a miracle (blindness by two officials in their play-in match on an obvious fucking handball against Ireland by that Arsenal scumbag Henry) to get into the final 32. They have a supremely talented squad that many Frenchmen (I can read their local papers in the language!) believe is held back by its manager, the flaky/mercurial/batshit Raymond Domenech. Definitely into the next round.
Uruguay – They won the World Cup twice before anyone reading this was born and before either of my parents were born (the second 4 days before my father was born). Years passed. They have Diego Forlan who alone is worth watching, especially seeing as how he’s won the Golden Boot twice in Spain, where they have tons of guys who like scoring and few who like preventing same. They might be able to squeeze second but it would take a major misstep from the two favorites.
So, that’s that. South Africa will be the first host in World Cup history not to make it out of the group stages. Uruguay will battle gamely against two teams who are considerably more talented but lack the same cohesion; talent, it seems, is destined to win out here. France (the fuckers) will progress to the next round. Mexico, and it pains me to write this, will win the group on goal differential over France because it will refuse to remove the boot from South Africa in the VERY FIRST MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT because they are some cold-blooded motherfuckers who care nothing for mercy or sportsmanship. Look out El Paso, Ciudad Juarez will be partying til the break of dawn on June 11. Hope you’ve got a fence up.
Tomorrow: Group B
*And on Fridays … nation-appropriate drinking! And if drinking isn’t your thing, go here for food for every single country.
**Punctuationally? That’s a word now.