I should label every entry from here on in: WARNING: this post written by someone who thought Cameroon would get to the Final.
Still, it's nice to have a straightforward, easy to understand group. Holland is through as your Group E winner (barring something absolutely ridiculous against Cameroon). Japan and Denmark, root hog or die, Japan owns the tiebreaker. Awesome. Sure, I had been looking forward to a Cameroon-Holland game that meant something, but now that day I only have to watch six hours of soccer instead of eight.
Don't give me this "If you were a REAL fan, you'd watch TEN hours and LIKE it!" pose, either. We're halfway through the first round in the most insanely overstuffed tournament in the world. March Madness is a darts final in comparison. I suppose the Olympics pack more sports in their event, but Beau Dure is the only one who still watches the freaking Olympics.
Hey, speaking of the Olympics. Remember how I thought the England game was going to be the one which captured the attention of the mainstream sports fan in America? And remember how the countervailing premise was that beating Slovenia and Algeria was more important?
We were both wrong. A tie against Slovenia did the trick. Thank you, former international referee. You have galvanized the American public behind the United Snakes (there's been talk of a nickname being imposed upon the Nats, so I wanted to get my suggestions in before some Nike executive ruins the fun). People really were waiting for a reason to get behind the national team, and this was it. The Confederations Cup was no fluke…well, as if nationwide attention on the freaking Confederations Cup was possible to fluke. Americans like the US national team. They want to support them. That hurdle has officially been, er, hurdled. Every four years until the end of civilization, the United States will support the national team in the World Cup.
Um, assuming we don't do something silly like, um, not qualify for the World Cup. Just like the Olympics, America will support you once you're there…but you gotta get there.
And the only thing that Americans embrace more than a winner? An unjust loser. The Olympics do this all the time for the American fan, which is part of the reason why the Olympics are still in business. Some examples:
U.S. Americans EAT THIS CRAP UP. We love it. Give us something to get righteously angry about, and we will never, ever shut up about it. I have no idea who sunk the god-damned Maine, and I don't care. I just know Uncle Sam's gonna make someone pay. That's why we're landing on the moon and you're throwing rocks at our tanks.
And you know what country is immediately north of Mali? That's right. Algeria. Keep messing with us, former French West Africa, and we'll kill two birds with one Predator drone. Or we'll just land the Marines in Algiers and point them south. There don't seem to be a lot of mountains or rivers between Algiers and Bamako, so it should be a pretty easy drive, right?
If I'm honest, though, I have to admit – I don't think it's an anti-American conspiracy. Look at Ghana. Even after a penalty and red card on Tosten Frings, they still couldn't get all three points. There's not a group leader in more trouble right now.
That's just the way it is in this game. We're going to have crummy calls as long as soccer players are petty criminals (i.e., forever), or until we get some help for freaking non-professional referees in the form of extra eyes, professionalism, or technology (i.e., when FIFA comes to its senses) (i.e., forever).
…some of you who support Mexico may have seen my little Tosten Frings jibe up there, and may be temped to bring up John O'Brien as a corrective to the idea that the United States was unusually put upon in 2002. May I remind our Southern friends and sympathizers that Mexico could have had eight penalty kicks that game – Friedel would have saved them all. Just wasn't your day, guys.
Which is kind of the point. Sometimes you get the b'ar, and sometimes, well, the b'ar gets you. (That's some sort of Eastern thing.)
Speaking of domitable Lions – I think this was the first Tweet that hundreds of people on Twitter eventually ripped off. I wanted to give SOME credit to the right person, because, well, you have to laugh:
England does have a lot of hope, though. I heard a rumor that Slovenia's defense might not be QUITE as good as advertised.
I realize we're talking about a team that's been perhaps a tiny bit disappointing, but I think England have to like their chances against a keeper who closes his freaking eyes. Did he hear the voice of Ben Kenobi telling him to use the Force, or something?
It's amazing and a little fun that more teams haven't Camerooned themselves yet. Although France is already on the plane, it seems.
I always get confused by Nicolas Anelka. Because I'm a racist, my instant reaction to his name is "the former Arsenal guy with the heart problem?" Then I realize the former Arsenal guy with the heart problem is Nwankano Kanu. Nicolas Anelka has no heart.
Still, I think before we jump to any conclusions about Nicolas Anelka, we should investigate whether Raymond Domenech is, in fact, a son of a whore.