Monday, June 26, 2006

The Night After The Day Before

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special "Hey" goes out to Hazel Mae.

For those of you checking in for this week's Hazie awards, its pretty much all about the World Cup this week. We don't know if Hazel is watching the tournament, but as with every week's awards, it is our hope that she would give her trademark smile and thumbs up to say "Ok, I can see that." Speaking of the World Cup - since "the peeps" aren't having any talk of the most watched sporting event in the world, I'll have to ramble on about it here.

This year's tournament has been mired in controversy - even more controversy than the joke that was the Korea/Japan World Cup 2002. This year's World Cup has seen yellow and red cards being handed out more often that Valentine's day cards in a kindergarten class, questionable penalty shot calls, missed offsides calls, and of course...for our American friends, diving that would make Greg Louganis stand up and give a "10". The beautiful game is getting ugly over in Germany, thanks in large part to poor officiating.

At the center of the controversy was yesterday afternoon's game between Portugal and Holland, a game in which fans from both sides came away feeling cheated. If you have followed the World Cup, you have no doubt read match reports about "the farce" that was the round of 16's most intriguing matchup. I'll throw my two cents in...for anyone that cares.

The Russian official set the tone of the game in the first two minutes by not handing a red card to Holland's Khalid Boulahrouz for a vicious ("boots up") challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo. I am by no means an expert on the rules of football, but I have always heard that any challenge in which a player leads with his spikes is an automatic red card - no questions. The game then took on a rougher tone - with questionable tackles and arm throws, the order of the game - but the first half ended without any major incident.

The Dutch came out on the attack in the second half, and were frustrated for the first 15 minutes; and that was when THEY snapped. Boulahrouz, who was already on a yellow card, threw an elbow at Portuguese captain Luis Figo; while not particularly vicious, it is still a card - no questions asked. The game spun out of control in the 73rd minutes - due in large part to the unsportsmanlike behaviour of the Dutch. Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho went down after blocking a shot - the ensuing play saw Deco break threw the Dutch defence for what would have been a break and a certain goal. The official stopped the play and called both teams in for the drop - football etiquette dictated that the Dutch would give Portugal the ball back with a kick into the Portuguese zone. Dutch defender John Heitinga took the ball and attacked the zone with Portuguese players expecting him to give the ball back - an incensed Deco flew back into the zone and brought Heitinga down with a hard (but deserving tackle) - and that's where things completely unravelled. What had started out as a decent and relatively well played game, turn into a farce and an embarrassment. Both sides felt cheated, with the Dutch claiming the referee made a mess of the game, and Portugal who go into the quarter-final game against England minus their field general Deco. Lost in the game was a beautiful goal by Maniche - who can now be considered an "Oranje" killer.

As a fan of the Selecao das Quinas, I am happy they won - but not proud of the way both teams played. All that said, a great deal of credit has to be given to Portugal's coach - Luiz Felipe Scolari. In recent years, Portugal would have blown a game like this, giving into emotion and playing careless football. Scolari dealt with Costinha being sent off before the end of the first half by substituting striker Pauleta - and kept the team focused on the game. He guided them through a second half in which they played all but 15 minutes down a man to the Dutch. Scolari absolutely gets a Hazie for his coaching performance in Sunday's game. On to the rest of this week's Hazie award winners.

Germany's 21 year old forward Lukas Podolski scored two goals against Sweden on Sunday to lead the host Germans to a suprisingly easy 2-0 victory over Sweden. Though neither of his goals were particulary brilliant, he proved to be an opportunist by getting himself into the right place at the right time. Pretty heady stuff for a youngster.

Argentinian midfielder Maxi Rodriguez scored an absolute beauty in extra time to lead his team to a 2-1 victory over Mexico last Friday. Rodriguez took a cross off of his chest, and in one motion, hit a missle that found the top corner of the net. Rodriguez wasn't a major factor for most of the game - but he came up huge when it counted...and I think Hazel would have to appreciate a player that comes through in the clutch.

David Beckham was the toast of England for his goal off of a free kick against Ecuador on Sunday - but if you have read this page know how I feel about him. The Hazie from that game goes to defender Ashley Cole who saved England from certain doom when he slid in to block a shot by Ecuador's striker Tenorio. A goal against England at the juncture (less that 30 minutes in) would have certainly sent the fish and chip eaters home early. Cole was instrumental in not letting Ecuador gain the box. We think Hazel can appreciate good defending.

The Ukrainian National Team gets a Hazie for advancing to the quarter-finals with a shootout win over a very good Swiss team. While most expected the Ukraine to advance out of the group stage - few picked them to advance to the final eight - especially with Shevchenko not getting a goal. Next up for them - Italy...ugh.

The last Hazie goes to Australian defender Lucas Neill. We don't normally give Hazies to players who are on the losing team - but Lucas will be the exception to the rule. Neill was called for a foul on Italy's Fabio Grosso in the box with less than 30 seconds left in regulation time. Replays showed that Neill barely touched him and the call was dubious to say the least. The end result was that Totti potted the penalty and sent the Australians home - some may try to make Neill the scapegoat...but it was a good play. We think Hazel would have some sympathy for Lucas. Honourable mention goes to coach Guus Hiddink, who has guided another team out of the group stage.

We haven't done this in a while - but let's take a moment at those special individuals who have conducted themselves in a manner that we think Hazel wouldn't be down with. It's time for the "Not-So-Heroic".

Nike's biggest mistake, the over-hyped, so-called soccer phenom Freddy Adu - who decided to wade in on the US's exit from the World Cup by hinting he may yet consider playing internationally for Ghana. A word of advice to Freddy - the big boys play in Europe; before you start talking about that stuff, try getting a job in Europe and prove yourself have a long way to go before you can carry Michael Essien's boots. Rumblings from New England are that Hazel isn't going to jump to ESPN...if NESN is good enough for Hazel, team USA should be good enough for Freddy.

Holland's John Heitinga - for charging the Portuguese zone like an escaped mental patient, when he should have given the ball back. He got off easy with Deco's challenge - congratulations John, your 15 seconds of fame leaves you with the legacy of being a jerk. We think Hazel wouldn't be down with players who don't abide by fair play rules...even if the guys at Sportsnet have hinted that Hurricane Hazel used to throw the odd spitball when she pitched for them.

A couple of honourable mentions go to sports figures who aren't involved in the World Cup.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brett Myers who was charged by Boston police with hitting his wife in the face. As our girl Renee so eloquently put it - Another case of an athlete out on the town getting "inebriated" (faced) with his wife and punching her out. The Sox put a hurtin' on Myers the next day. Way to go gotta know Hazel ain't down with hitting girls - something makes me think Hazel would have punched him right back and dropped him.

Maple Leafs General Manager John Ferguson Jr. who is proof that you can't trust a GM of a losing team in the final year of his contract. Ferguson has proven to be a desperate man as he tries to save his job - first with an outrageous contract offer to defenceman Bryan McCabe, then trading his number 1 (1A) goaltending prospect Tuuka Rask to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft (who fell to third on Boston's depth chart), to today talking about trading Tomas Kaberle as part of a package to the Oilers for disgruntled Chris Pronger. This after Kaberle signed "the hometown discount" to stay with the Leafs on a long-term basis. We don't think John has heard about Hazel his actions of the last couple of days, we think he hasn't heard of bad karma.

That's about all for tonight. More news tomorrow from some of the fine upstanding citizens in the National Football League...and an update on the Hazelspeeps Fantasy Baseball Pool - where Hazel Mae's Hackers are making a run at 4th place.

Have a great one peeps...don't worry - no more World Cup talk on yahoo.

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world - if you tuned into the Portugal vs. Holland game yesterday...THANK YOU! England on Saturday (Canada Day) at 11 am, we could use a little more Hazel Karma.

Song of the Night on Hazelspeeps - for the game between Portugal and Holland, where Scolari praised his players for their will, their passion, their guts and their resolve.

Desgarrada - Jorge Ferreira

Somos todos Portugues
ate a hora da morte

Peesth Out...Buh Bye!


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