Okay, People, Group Play Is Over
On the 12th anniversary of the Great Soccer Scam, the World Cup ended Group Play, which sounds like something in kindergarten.
However, FIFA ain’t no child’s play.
The reason this World Cup is in Qatar (and was based in Russia in 2018) is because Sepp Blatter, the head goniff of the time, presided over a fixed election – based on packets of $100 bills being distributed to delegates-on-the-take, on Dec. 2, 2010.
As a result, we have just had two weeks of group play in stadiums plopped up all over Qatar—not exactly a scenic and historic World Cup where stadiums are based in, let’s say, Rome-Florence-Milan-Turin-Naples-Cagliari-Genoa-Bari-Udine-Verona-Bologna-Palermo, as in 1990.
One match Friday was held in Stadium 974 –sounds like some ticking desert once used for atomic testing.
That said, Group Play in Qatar had its moments, and now the U.S, is playing the Netherlands at 10 AM Saturday in some stadium. The Yanks have a chance to win, according to Jaap DeGroot, famous Dutch sports columnist. (Jaap once fixed me up with an interview in Genoa with Ruud Gullit, magical Dutch player, so I say he knows his stuff.)
The hopes of the U.S. depend on Christian Pulisic recovering from a pelvic bone bruise (this hurts even to type) suffered Tuesday in a goal-line collision after he had nudged in a crucial goal.
The progress of the U.S. might be one of the major themes of change in the World Cup, even though the U.S. has not been overly impressive – Eleven Players in Search of a Striker.
One of the best results in Group Play is the total of seven victories by African teams; the previous total was four. Senegal and Morocco made it into group play and Cameroon, Tunisia and Ghana all had their moments. Cameroon beat Brazil, 1-0, on a late goal Friday but it was not enough to move into the knockout round.
Overall, African fans made this World Cup buzz with their upbeat rooting and bright costumes.
I loved every view of Senegal’s coach, Aliou Cisse, (he’s got Richard Pryor eyes), the star of the 2002 surprise team, and Cameroon’s coach, Rigobert Song, with his long black sport coat on the sidelines, looked like a latter-day Johnny Cash (“The Man in Black.”)
Another high point has been the pair of JP Dellacamera, longtime American broadcaster, and Cobi Jones, the all-time American leader in caps (international matches). Other pairs talked too loud and too much, with overkill of professorial intonations – TMI -- but JP and Cobi maintained conversational level and did not overload with details.
Cobi never, never, brought up his 164 caps, but he could pick up subtle changes on the field – how Luka Modric, field leader of Croatia, shifted gears, moved the ball around, played offense and defense.
One favorite moment: Among the cast of thousands in the Fox broadcast team was Carli Lloyd, recently retired star of Women’s World Cups and Olympic Games. In a halftime blather-fest, the screen showed a player totally missing a wide-open goal, and Lloyd blurted, “I’d knock that in.” Her male counterparts howled at her proud-jock comment, but nobody disputed her.
After a while, the games tended to blur. Germany and Belgium both seemed to be running in quicksand, and are gone. Japan and South Korea showed game poise and heart. Our esteemed regional neighbors, Mexico and Costa Rica, were way past it, and Canada did not look anything like the squad that cuffed the U.S. around during qualifying.
Brazil and Argentina, France and Spain are still around.
I miss the Azzurri and the Italian anthem. Is it really a World Cup without Italy?
Then again, maybe they’ll qualify in four more years. Heck, everybody qualifies. The current boss of FIFA, the shifty Gianni Infantino, has engineered a change from 32 qualifying teams to 48 teams in North America in 2026. Y’all come.
As I type this, 16 hours before match time, the United States is still in the World Cup.
12/2/2022 07:57:34 pm
Dear George: I wish luck to the U.S. soccer team. The Netherlands now, and probably Argentina later. Cameroon beat Brazil, and nobody got sad. The Brazilians are happy because of Lula. Soccer is just a passion, without politics. As Pele said, "soccer is a ball at the foot."
12/3/2022 09:12:54 am
Altenir: I am happy because enough Brazilians realized they were voting for a platform that including saving the rain forest. Better than football! GV
Mike From NW Queens
12/2/2022 09:45:35 pm
Thank you, as always GV! Like usual, your soccer prowess....like Cliffs Notes for me! You know some of my soccer amigos (African and Latino), now I can chat it up!! Seriously, as always, I love your work.
12/3/2022 09:14:18 am
Mike, I've met some of your co-workers of African and Latino heritage. Their love of futbol rubs off...I could see your eyes opening when they raved about their home-country stars....Hope you have time to watch the match in 45 mins. GV
12/2/2022 10:10:12 pm
My final 4:
12/3/2022 09:18:30 am
Michael, we did not lack for goniffs in Queens. There was one about 10 blocks from my family house. He would keep the ball from the kid next store. I've often wondered what became of him
12/3/2022 02:05:54 am
There are few people as knowlegeable, in the small fraternity of media people who are really, really knowledgeable, as our friend Jaap DeGroot. If he says the USA can beat Holland you can believe it. You can bet Louis Van Gaal does. Jaap is not only a soccer expert but is also a baseball fan(the Dutch do play baseball). Not too much of a surprise for the son of a Dutch air force officer and an American mother from Arizona. As a longtime fan of African soccer I really enjoyed the growing success of those teams in Qatar, as well as the energy of the African fans who really bring something special. Too bad we won’t see Cameroon again in this tournament after they humbled-and probably shocked-mighty Brazil. No Italy, no Begium, no Germany. After today maybe no Holland. Can it really be a genuine World Cup without such traditional big names taking part? You bet it can. Japan, USA, Croatia, the remaining Africans. The differences are getting smaller, the margins narrower and it’s time for a non-traditional winner. But for me 32 teams is the limit. 48 teams will only be there for one reason-greed. And the diluted tournament will definitely lose some of its character and appeal.
12/3/2022 09:23:38 am
John: watching Germany and Belgium go out has been instructive.
12/3/2022 11:54:02 am
Not a great game. USA were arguably better than the Dutch for much of the time but suffered their usual difficulties finishing in front of the goal. Two serious defensive lapses by the USA(0ne by Tyler Adams, the other by Antonee Robinson, two of the best American players at the World Cup)allowed the Dutch to score goals they probably didn't really deserve. Their other goal was really nice. The USA goal was deserved...but also lucky. Gio Reyna finally played but I can't really recall anything significant that he did. Maybe Berhalter knew something we didn't? In any case, the basis is there for a strong USA team in the next WC cycle.
12/3/2022 12:01:01 pm
Lets see, “What should a US fan say?”
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.