Thursday, July 12, 2007

West Coast Shocker

We’re guessing most people reading the page are gearing up for the second half of the season in MLB – we have to start off today with the opening games in the Round of 16 at the FIFA Under-20 World Championships. To use one of my man’s Tilt’s favourite words – yesterday was all about the “shocker”, literally and figuratively.

The North American knock on “football” has always been that it is slow and boring – granted, some (ok, many) games can be like that, but in this particular age bracket you can get some very exciting games and yesterday was proof positive.

The Uruguayans must have felt like they were on the receiving end of the (get ready for it Tilt) the “West Coast Shocker”. In what started out as a chess match between two teams not wanting to make a mistake in a do or die game – the last twenty minutes of regulation and the extra-time were something special. Uruguay got a gift goal in the 73rd minute when American goalkeeper, Brian Perk, mishandled a header (stop laughing Tilt…these are football terms) in the box and spilled it to allow Luis Suarez to score the opening goal.

Uruguay, with less than 15 minutes left in regulation, went into full defensive mode – which included over dramatizing injuries to waste time. They looked to be home and cooled and on their way to the Quarter-Finals when the U.S. introduced them to the shocker – scoring a goal in the 87th minute when a Uruguayan player deflected a cross in the box into his own net; it is not bad as it sounds though, had the defender not put it in his own net, the U.S. would have scored anyways with a striker there to knock it home.

The first half of extra-time was relatively subdued – but the Uruguayans must have felt like they were on the receiving end of the West Coast Shocker when Michael Bradley scored the go-ahead and decisive goal one minute into the second half of extra-time off of a corner kick. Three minutes away from a Quarter-Final date to a long plane ride home wondering what happened. Donations for sending the Uruguayans a lifetime supply of K-Y are now being accepted.

The Samba Boys from Brazil can certainly relate to the Uruguayans pain this morning – they took a 2-0 first half lead, scoring in the 40th and 42nd minutes, and looked to be in control of the game. But (pun intended) Spain scored a controversial (read “cheap”) goal a minute before half time on a goal that should have been disallowed. Spanish defender Pique looked to redirected a cross into the box with his arm for Spain’s first goal – there was no doubt about it, the goal should have been disallowed; the referee may not have been in a position to see what happened, but one of the linesman should have seen it. Three blind mice – ahhhh the beauty of FIFA.

Still though, Brazil had the game in their hands, leading up until the 85th minute when Javier Garcia tied it for Spain. Things unraveled for the usually unflappable Brazilians – a goal by Spain in the 103rd minute and a red-card for Brazil on the same play, and a game ending goal in the last minute of play sends Brazil home wondering what happened – favoured to win the tournament, losses to the U.S. and Poland leaving them in 3rd place after the group stage, and a loss in the Round of 16 – OUCH.

The Japanese face an even longer flight home, asking themselves many of the same questions the South Americans are asking. Japan scored in the 22nd and 47th minute in their game against the Czech Republic – the lead held up the next quarter hour before the Czech managed to draw to penalties in the space of four minutes, converting both penalty kicks to tie the game. The game was not without further drama as a Czech player Jackub Mares was sent off for a second yellow card eight minutes after scoring the game tying goal. The Czechs held the Japanese at bay for the next 35 minutes before winning the game on penalties – fitting since three of the four goals in regulation were scored on penalties.

In the other game, the high flying (read DIVING) Gambians finally got their just desserts, losing by a count of 2-1 to Austria. The Gambians were looked at as one of the feel good stories of the tournament – not here though, they took diving/faking/time wasting to a new level…one the Italians could only hope to reach. Good riddance and goodbye Gambia…you won’t be missed.

Why are we talking about all these shockers? Well, we are hoping for a little bit more of the same (and some Hazel Karma) as Portugal takes on Chile tonight in Edmonton. The tournament to this point as been a disappointment for Portugal, losing to Mexico was bad, losing to Gambia was an embarrassment – but they can erase all that tonight with a win over the favoured Chileans. Portugal goes into this game missing their Captain Bruno Gama (see entry “In Bruno We Trust”) and is going to need the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Pele, and Antunes to really step up. We’re hoping for one more shocker to be delivered to a South American team.

Hazel’s hometown Blue Jays visit Boston for a four-game series at Fenway – the funny thing is that some in the Toronto media are pointing to this series as a “crucial” four gamer that will make or break Toronto’s season. A few of the more delusional members of the media (a former colleague of Hazel’s by the name of Jason Portuondo) have actually talked about how a four-game sweep would put the Jays right back into the thick of things in the A.L East; while others (another one of Hazel’s former colleagues Jim Lang) have suggested that J.P. Ricciardi should entertain the thought of trading OF Alex Rios for a number one pitcher (what about Halladay?). “Clubber” thinks the Jays have to shake things up and trade a future superstar in Rios, to get 15 starts from a pitcher this year. Blue Jays fans…funny.

Argentina Midfielder Lionel Messi scores an absolutely sublime (read SICK) goal against Mexico at the Copa America yesterday.

Austria Striker Erwin “Jimmy” Hoffer comes off the bench to score the winner against Gambia at the Under-20’s yesterday. Again…GOOD RIDDANCE GAMBIA.

Tilt will love this one – we are going outside the world of sports on this one. The North Korean government announced it will ban Karaoke bars – special thanks to Tilt’s “Separated at birth twin” Kim Jong-il.

We’ll get the total tomorrow – it isn’t good, so we can’t blame you for being a little sour on our picks. We’ll get things back in the black today.

Baltimore over Chicago – we like Jeremy Guthrie over Jon Garland who was spanked in his last start; Garland hasn’t pitched particularly well in Baltimore. Lay $75 on the O’s - $125.

Boston over Toronto – Big Papi may need surgery, Roy Halladay may be pitching at less than 100% - what to do? Go with Boston tonight – they’ll get their hits and runs off of Halladay who has been less than stellar over the last month. Lay $100 on the Sox - $140.

New York over Cincinnati – speaking of getting lit up, Bronson Arroyo has been having a terrible season – throw out his last good start, he’s going to get hit early and often tonight as the Mets looking to end a recent bad run. Lay $100 on the Mets with El Duque - $160.

That’s it for today gang – thanks for taking the time to check in. Have a great one peeps. Special thanks to Tilt for posting this.

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world.

I’m Out.


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