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Aug 21, 2016

Top 10 Takeaways from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

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The flame has been extinguished (and what a cool flame holder it was) on the XXXI Olympiad and man is my sofa worn out. There were plenty of memorable moments, and some that we’d rather all forget. If watching the Olympics was an Olympic sport, I’d be in the hunt for Gold (see photo at bottom). Let’s just say I watched or fast forwarded through almost every moment of broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, USA, MSNBC, and CNBC over the last two weeks. To put a nice bow on it, I’ve collected my thoughts in these Top 10 Takeaways from these Olympic Games.

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10. Goodbye Hope Solo

The US Women’s National Team’s quarterfinal defeat at the hands of eventual Silver-winning Sweden was one of the lowest moments of the games (and biggest upsets as well). That the already controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo immediately called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” and complained that the best team didn’t win is the worst part of the whole debacle. As if allegedly beating up your family members and picking fights with former USWNT stars wasn’t enough, Solo was booed every single time she touched the ball after posting a photo of herself kitted out in anti-Zika gear before the games. This had to be a distraction for the team. The “Zi-ka!” chant was so popular the Brazilian fans started doing it to other teams and even other sports like beach volleyball.

This is a rebuilding period for the USWNT after many of their stars retired post-World Cup victory last summer. That said, this is still the best team in the game and the new talent coming up is even more exciting than the women who left. One of those new talents must be good at tending goal because it’s time that Hope Solo steps aside as well.

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9. Modern Pentathlon is the perfect sport (…for 19th century aristocrats)

So pretend you’re a 19th century sportsman for a moment. Here is your path to victory. This two-day competition starts with 35 fencing matches. The eventual winner, Russia’s Aleksander Lesun went 28 and 7 (an Olympic Record) that netted him 268 points. The worst fencers (there were three) went 9 and 26 and only scored 154 points for it. You then take to the pool for 4 lengths (200m). Britain’s James Cooke won this event with an Olympic Record time of 1:55.60 – good for 354 points. Lesun was in 22nd at 2:05:58. Cuba’s Jose Ricardo Figueroa was slowest at 2:15.39 which still got him 294 points. By contrast, the men’s 200m Free was won in Rio by China’s Sun Yang with a time of 1:44.65. There were only two swimmers that swam their heat times slower than Cooke. The slowest 200m Free swimmer Ahmed Gebrel of Palestine’s 1:59:71 would have put him in 4th in the Modern Pentathlon.

Day two begins with the bonus round of fencing (not sure how this works). Then they move on to horse jumping. Now I’m not usually a big fan of the Olympic equestrian events but here it’s awesome. What good 19th century sportsman can’t jump a horse? Well some of these guys. The best part is when a horse refuses to jump and it derails an entire pentathlon. Four of the 36 riders recorded a zero score because they fell off their horses or the horses just refused to jump. Our pal Figueroa from Cuba made it in under the time limit but scored a measly 233. Six riders scored a perfect 300. Lesun scored 279. Oh and the other great part about the equestrian event is that all the riders wear the traditional uniforms of their home countries. Hungary’s is particularly WWI-esque.

Finally, we end the second day with the main event: combined running and shooting. The points are added up from the previous events and you get a head start based on your time. You start with shooting (it’s a laser pistol, not particularly 19th century, I know). You run a kilometer. Shoot again, run, shoot, and run. 3KM and 3 times at the range. Lesun started first and carried the lead all the way through, proving that he is indeed, the best 19th century sportsman alive in 2016.

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8. Neymar is now a God, but it doesn’t erase 7-1

The Men’s Soccer final was undoubtedly the highlight for Brazilian fans. Tied 1-1 through both regular and added time, the match went to a penalty shootout. It came down to the final kick after Germany’s fifth kick was saved by Brazil. It just happens young star and captain Neymar had insisted to go last (not the smartest move but certainly the most dramatic) and he stepped up and buried the shot to win gold. This is great for Brazil but it’s important to remember this was a U23 tournament and while it points to better things in the future for the flailing Brazilian National Team, it doesn’t erase the problems in the senior team best exemplified by two summers ago’s 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat at the hands of the Germans in Brazil and the two subsequent early exits from the Copa America. Neymar’s great (he scored the goal in the final as well) and the fact they didn’t give up a single goal in the tourney until the final are both good things for Brazil, but it also might be that Brazil was just taking this tournament on home soil way more seriously than everyone else.

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7. Boys will be boys

Taken in isolation, everything that dumbass Ryan Lochte did in his drunken vandalism/cover-up was kinda understandable. I mean, idiotic, but understandable. Who hasn’t taken a whiz outside when the bathroom door was locked or done some dumb drunken action they aren’t proud of the next day. Even the initial lie that set this in motion wasn’t that crazy. He did have a gun pulled on him. They did take his money. This whole thing was of course avoidable, but he’s a knucklehead. It just happens he’s a super famous knucklehead and this got so crazy blown out of proportion. Let’s all move on, please.

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6. Golf was a hit, even if 4 of the top 5 golfers were bozos for not coming

The Zika excuse was quickly pointed to when Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy all decided to sit out Golf’s reentry into the Olympics after 100+ years. As it was widely reported, no one even saw mosquitos in Rio! So that flimsy excuse didn’t hold up. What’s much more likely is that they just didn’t want to travel all the way to Brazil for a tournament without a real purse. Too bad because it was quickly evident that the guys who showed up came to play. This was one of the most exciting tournaments of the year with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson battling it out even rivaling Henrik and Phil Mickelson a few weeks ago at Troon. Regardless, it was super cool to have this game in the Olympics and I think it will be taken much more seriously in Tokyo in 2020. My only advice would be to come up with some sort of matchplay-esque scoring system. It doesn’t have to be a Ryder Cup, but it would be cool if there were some rule changes that made the scoring slightly different than a regular tournament to make it a bit more based on country strength and not just individual skill. Anyway, we have 4 years to figure that out.

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5. Interviews with athletes are the worst

Mike Tirico is sitting down with the bronze medalist form the steeple chase? Fast forward! It’s always the same with these athletes. They’re taking it one day/game/year at a time. They are still in shock. They are super thankful that Jesus made this happen to them. At least the “Final Five” gymnasts were entertaining because, Gawd is that how teenage girls talk LOL? But man, by the second week of coverage I really couldn’t stand to watch another random athlete blabber.

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4. Equestrian, Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics needs to go.

The Summer games are way too packed and they just keep adding more sports, so something has got to give. I could probably give the axe to about eight events (see below) but these three are certainly ripest for the pickin. The face that NBC chose to highlight so much Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics on their network broadcasting is mind boggling. Did anyone watch these?

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3. Badminton, Boxing, Flat Water Rowing/Canoeing, Taekwondo and Table Tennis are pretty boring without someone to root for

These were the events I just couldn’t get into unless there was an American in medal position (and that didn’t happen often). However, this is in pretty stark contrast to Archery, Judo, Shooting, Weight Lifting, and the White Water events, all of which are very entertaining regardless of who is competing.

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2. Track Cycling is far better than expected

As most people know, I am a huge road cycling fan (listen to episode 38 of the PeloTonOfFun to hear my reaction to the action-packed road events). But I had little experience with the track events. They are great! Keirin involves cyclists following a motorbike and then sprinting for the win. Team Pursuit pits two teams of cyclists against each other on the same track, which is awesome (especially when they catch each other). But the Omnium is where it’s really at.

Think of Omnium as the Modern Pentathlon of cycling. Six events over two days with 18 riders, all from different countries. It starts with a 15km all out race (called the Scratch Race). Next is a 4km Individual Pursuit (like the Team Pursuit but one on one). Then the amazing Elimination Race where every two laps the last place rider is eliminated until it’s down to a winner.

Day two starts with two Time Trial sprint events of a 1km and 250m (with a flying start). It ends with the Points Race which is a 40km race with all of the racers sprinting for 1st (5 points), 2nd (3 points), 3rd (2 points), and 4th (1 point). If you lap the field you get 20 points(!) meaning someone who was way behind from the previous five events still had a chance if they were aggressive in the Points Race.

Though he only took 1st in one event (the Elimination Race), Italy’s (and Team Sky’s) Elia Viviani won Omnium by 13 points over GB’s Mark Cavendish. In turn Cav was only 2 points ahead of London 2012’s winner Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark who took the Bronze. This was so much fun to watch and I’m sure I’ll be tuning more than just once every four years (especially as more sprinters from the peloton start to jump in).

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1. Rugby Sevens is the best

Without a doubt my favorite new sport of the Summer Games is Rugby! I’ve watched a bit here and there but never a full Sevens match. And don’t blink because the games are super short, taking only about 20 minutes for a full match. What other big sport is that quick? It’s action packed and full speed, plus the athletes are big time characters. Not to mention it is ridiculously popular in parts of the world. The entire country of Fiji stopped to watch their men’s team win the country’s first ever medal (had Rugby been in past Olympics, I have a feeling this wouldn’t have been their first). I watched every second of both men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens tourneys and was left just wanting more. The fact that the English Premiership is going to be on NBCSN this year is awesome but these tourneys are the way to go. What’s that you say? The Sevens World Series starts in Dubai this December? Sign. Me. Up.

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What’d y’all think? There’s a comments section right down there. Lemme hear ya!

Posted by enderzero at 11:49pm on Aug. 21, 2016    
Jul 15, 2014

World Cup 2014: Best XI

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The 2014 Brazil World Cup will go down as one of the best of all time. It was a pleasure to watch each and every moment. As a way of wrapping it all up, I’ve named my Best XI for the tourney with the restriction of no more than two players from any one squad. There were some tough decisions, but I feel good about the image above. Notable runners up include Messi, Mueller, Neymar, Schuerrle, Alexis Sanchez, Schweinsteiger, Shaqiri, Valbuena, Pogba, De Bruyne, Varane, Rojo, Navas, and Neuer. But hey, you can only pick 11. So… what do you think?

Posted by enderzero at 4:05pm on Jul. 15, 2014    
Jul 3, 2014

World Cup 2014: Final 8 Power Ratings

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It was an incredible Round of 16 that saw for the first time, all eight group winners advance. What was most fascinating is that in seven of those eight matches, the underdog looked poised to bite the favorite in the tail, only to see the group winner take the match in the end. Alas, our brave men of the USA fell victim as well. But heads high USMNT fans, it was a hell of a ride.

With only eight teams left, this will be the last Power Rankings of the Cup. It’s also the least confident I’ve been. Two of the four Quarters are a complete toss up, leaving the left side of the brackets as anyone’s game. That’s bound to lead to plenty of intrigue and some very entertaining soccer.

1. Colombia (6) Wait seriously…? Why not? Of the eight Round of 16 matches, it was only Colombia’s defeat of Uruguay that looked decisive. James Rodriguez is a bonafide star. But they’ve got a tough road ahead – and this is far from a confident pick.

2. Argentina (1) It took them 118 minutes to do it, but Argentina was eventually able to dispatch a very difficult Switzerland. Was it a confident victory? Far from it. But this Argentina team has the look of winners, and nothing would make them happier than to do it on Brazilian soil.

3. France (3) While France looked a bit lost for the better part of their match against a resurgent but still inferior Nigeria, they eventually figured it out and took the victory in one of only three matches to finish in 90 minutes. Their next opponents, Germany, will prove a much tougher test.

4. Brazil (2) Brazil can most certainly beat Colombia. They can still win the entire World Cup. But their team is yet to start clicking and they were pretty lucky to take out the ridiculously talented Chile. It’s far from over for Brazil but it’s getting more and more difficult to call them the favorites.

5. Holland (5) With the easiest of the Quarter Finals match ups, the Dutch should be able to take it to the Costa Ricans without much trouble. And if we learned anything from their match with Mexico, it’s that Louis van Gaal is one hell of a tactician (good news for Man Utd fans). A Semi Final showdown with Argentina looks pretty likely on the right side of the bracket.

6. Germany (4) The German defeat of Algeria was again a narrow victory over a very good team (and how I would have loved to see a France vs Algeria Qtr). But don’t count the Germans out. The talent and organization are both there. However a free scoring France will likely have the key to unlock this pretty shaky looking German defense.

7. Belgium (7) No need to dwell on the Belgian defeat of the USA too much, but they should probably look to start Lukaku, the one player on the pitch that seemed to have the extra spark necessary to take ahold of a big game. Unfortunately for the Belgians, they’re headed up against Argentina.

8. Costa Rica (10) They have to fit in somewhere right? Yes they’ve had a great run, but even if they manage to somehow pull off an upset over Holland, Costa Rica will still be the bottom team on my Power Rankings come the next go around (note: this is likely the last go around).

Posted by enderzero at 7:01pm on Jul. 3, 2014    
Jun 30, 2014

World Cup 2014: An Alternate USA Narrative

Ghana v USA: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

A casual observer might notice the general American attitude ahead of USA’s Round of 16 match versus Belgium has seemed a little negative. There’s no doubt the buzz was pretty mixed after the USA vs Portugal and USA vs Germany matches. Yes a bad mistake erased a brilliant chance to defeat Portugal. Yes the match versus Germany was technically a loss. But long time USMNT fans will know that these two matches were in fact huge successes and the great escape our boys pulled off advancing from the ‘Group of Death’ is probably the biggest moment for US soccer since Joe Gaetjens goal versus England in 1950.

So as a little exercise, let’s pretend the USA’s three group stage matches were played in reverse order, with the exact same results. Perhaps it’s a bit silly, but remember, this is the same end result either way, and the narrative is really what people get attached to.
Read on

Posted by enderzero at 5:19pm on Jun. 30, 2014    
Jun 28, 2014

World Cup 2014: Power Rankings – On To the Knockouts!

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It’s kind of like that moment on Christmas morning where you look around and find out you’ve opened almost all your presents. Yes, there are still those one or two big ones you’ve been saving for last, but the feeling of the end approaching is starting to creep in.

The World Cup has reached its midpoint with half of the teams now eliminated. But with only 16 matches left to be played, the heartaches are going to come fast and furious. Here’s my take on the chances of the teams that are left in the hunt.

1. Argentina (1) – There was nothing unconvincing about Arg’s 3-2 defeat of Nigeria, even though the Super Eagles looked pretty good. But the Argentina open wheel racer is only in about 2nd gear right now and they’re just starting to push down on the pedal.

2. Brazil (4) – The hosts’ best match so far was their 4-1 defeat of Cameroon, and you want your best match going into the knockouts (sorry USA). Of course that was against a destitute Cameroon — but I think Brazil will beat Chile and that’s going to put them back in the driver’s seat in the top left quadrant.

3. France (2) – While not technically qualified after two matches, Le Bleu’s chances of going through looked pretty assured — and they showed it with a rather uninspired draw with Ecuador. But it was a B-squad and they should be able to turn it around vs Nigeria. But will they have Germany’s number in the Quarters?

4. Germany (6) – I don’t have any trouble picking Germany over Algeria, but I’m having night sweats thinking about how great a France-Germany Quarter could be. The way France is playing, I still give them the slightest of nods.

5. Holland (5) – The Dutch have the relatively easy CONCACAF quadrant with a match against Mexico and then likely Costa Rica. Can they finish off our rivals? Yeah, I think so.

6. Colombia (8) – It might be rather unpopular to put everyone’s favorite dark horses way down in sixth. I like Colombia. I LOVE James “Don’t-Call-Me-James” Rodriguez. But after a likely tough victory over Uruguay, they ain’t gonna like playing Brazil.

7. Belgium (7) – There are huge question marks over this USAvBEL game — but interestingly enough, they aren’t over the USA. I pretty much know how we are going to play. But no one is sure which Belgium team will show up. If Belgium at their best gets off the bus, the USA is in big trouble.

8. USA (9) – We did what we needed to do, now we need to keep on doing what we can. Regardless, this is house money from here on out.

9. Chile (3) – Chile is worse than USA??? No, probably not. But USA’s chances of beating Belgium are better than Chile’s over Brazil.

10. Costa Rica (10) – I’m picking CR to beat Greece, but I have them down in 10 because I still don’t believe.

11. Mexico (12) – Sorry compadres. You’ve had a great tourney, but you aren’t beating the Dutch. We’ll miss you Wet Herrera.

12. Switzerland (13) – You gotta like the creative goal scoring by Schaqiri. But does anyone really think it will be enough to get past Argentina? Although remember, Switzerland upset Spain in the first round of 2010.

13. Algeria (19) – One of the more impressive sides of the B-qualifiers was the athletic showing by the France B-Side of Algeria. But the German train will likely mow them down.

14. Uruguay (11) – How does a team with Edinson Cavani seem so destitute? You’d think they have a shot of beating Colombia – it all depends if they’re hungry enough…

15. Nigeria (21) – France fodder.

16. Greece (23) – Costa Rica is so lucky.

Posted by enderzero at 9:21am on Jun. 28, 2014    
Jun 23, 2014

World Cup 2014: Round 2 Power Rankings

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This has been a ridiculously entertaining tournament so far and round 2 of the group stage did NOT disappoint. As I prepare to reveal my power rankings after round 2, it occurs to me how many of the high ranked teams have yet to truly impress. There are 7 teams that have won both of their games. Of those, perhaps the most impressive, France, still has a chance to be knocked out. This could all change a lot in the next few days, but for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on where teams rank right now. (The numbers in parenthesis this time are my ranking from round 1).

1. Argentina (2) – Are they the most convincing team of the tournament? Probably not — and until that wonder goal by Messi they were dropping way down on this list. Frankly they need to start playing as more of a team. But with 6 points in the bank and the best player in the world heating up, Argentina is now the team to beat.

2. France (5) – France has been perhaps the most convincing team of the tourney with their dismantling of an awful Honduras and a much better Switzerland. While they haven’t technically qualified, they’d need to lose huge to Ecuador in order to be eliminated and with the way Benzema is playing, I don’t think it’s about to happen.

3. Chile (10) – The big mover in the rankings is the rampant Chile who are looking very convincing. Suddenly it isn’t who is going to go through in 2nd of Group B and play Brazil, but who is going to go through from Group A and have to play Chile.

4. Brazil (3) – Convincing? No. But this is still their World Cup to lose and as things get more serious, I have a feeling these guys are going to get busy.

5. Holland(4) – Well Australia is a pretty tough team. Not tough enough to win, but tough enough to expose a few chinks in the orange Dutch armor.

6. Germany (1) – The second half of the Ghana-Germany match was a real cracker and while it ended with a point apiece, Germany still has it in them to go very far at this tournament.

7. Belgium (8) – Yet another victory snatched from the jaws of a draw. No one wants to play this Belgium side who definitely knows how to win. No one except American fans who would be ecstatic to give them a try.

8. Colombia (7) – Colombia dropping a spot isn’t so much a reflection on their performance against a pretty unconvincing Ivory Coast, as it is a comment on the better teams who have slid in above them.

9. USA (13) – A victory versus Ghana and draw versus Portugal? Fuck yeah I’ll take it. But more importantly, USA is playing the most convincing soccer we USA fans have EVER seen. This is a good team and it is an exciting time to be a USMNT fan!

10. Costa Rica (14) – Victories over a Suarez-less Uruguay and Italy are impressive, no doubt, but the USA could still beat them.

11. Uruguay (21) – Right, I can’t put them above a rampant Costa Rica, but would Cost Rica have beat the Suarez-infused Uruguay that beat England? I doubt it. And I doubt many other teams on this list could beat them either.

12. Mexico (15) – Brazil’s bogey man, Mexico likes to give the Brazilians a hard time and look in the driver seat to go through in Group A, perhaps even in first. But is Mexico a team built to go far in the knockout rounds?

More teams with a real chance:
13. Switzerland, 14. Ghana, 15. Croatia, 16. Italy, 17. Ivory Coast,

Unimpressive teams with a small chance:
18. Portugal, 19. Algeria, 20. Russia, 21. Nigeria 22. Ecuador

Just barely in:
23. Greece, 24. Iran, 25. South Korea

Essentially out:
26. Japan, 27. Honduras

Officially out:
28. Bosnia, 29. Spain, 30. England, 31. Australia, 32. Cameroon

Posted by enderzero at 12:38am on Jun. 23, 2014    
Jun 21, 2014

World Cup 2014: All The Permutations for USA’s Match Versus Portugal

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After Germany’s draw with Ghana today, many questions are swirling around about if this was really a good result for the USA. The short answer is “maybe.” It’s great if we win tomorrow, okay if we draw, and not very good at all if we lose. I’ve worked out all the permutations (on facebook no less) and reposted them here. Let me know if you have any questions.

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USAvPOR DRAW TOMORROW:
+ We go into GER match level on 4 points with them, but they would have a superior goal dif.
+ USA win vs GER and we go through in 1st.
+ USAvGER draw and GER goes through in 1st, we go through in 2nd.
+ Both GHA and POR go into their final match looking to win big enough to overturn their -1 (GHA) and -4 (POR) goal difs and steal the 2nd place spot from us.
+ If we end up tied on goal difference and points with GHA (i.e. we lose to GER by 1 and GHA beats POR by 1) or POR, then it goes to GOALS SCORED. That one is a little hard to calculate because anything can happen tomorrow and in the upcoming matches, but right now we have 2, GHA has 3, and POR has 0 – but to overturn those goal differentials, they would obviously have to score goals.

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USA LOSS TO POR TOMORROW:
+ USA beats GER and we advance.
+ USA would advance in 1st with a win over GER unless POR beats GHA and overturns goal dif with USA.
+ USA draws GER and POR draws GHA, USA advances (unless our round 2 loss to POR is by 3 or more goals, then POR advances).
+ USA draws GER and GHA beats POR, USA and GHA are tied on 4 and it goes to goal dif (a 1 goal loss to POR by USA and a 1 goal win by GHA would mean it would go to goals scored, anything else and GHA advances).
+ USA draws GER and POR beats GHA, USA is eliminated (and POR goes through in 1st).
+ USA loses to GER, USA is eliminated

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USA VICTORY OVER POR TOMORROW:
+ USA goes to the Round of 16 muthafuckahs!!!! (and in 1st place with a draw or win vs GER).

Posted by enderzero at 7:53pm on Jun. 21, 2014    
Jun 17, 2014

World Cup 2014: Round 1 Power Rankings & Top 5 Fixtures of Round 2

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It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to order the teams at major soccer tournaments with my Power Rankings. Now that we are one round into the Group Stages of the Brazil World Cup, it seems a good time to give it another go. These completely subjective rankings are based mostly on performance in the first match and to a lesser degree on group difficulty/chances of advancing. Numbers in parenthesis are the FIFA World Rankings from before the tourney.

1. Germany (2) – The team that topped my list after one round in 2010 makes it back to the top to start things out in 2014 after their handy 4-nil dismantling of a FIFA 4th ranked Portugal team. Even with their only true striker being the unfielded Klose, the potent midfield play and attacking threat of Mueller, Ozil, and Gotze look like they will prove more than a match for any of the less-than-impressive defenses we’ve seen on display so far.

2. Argentina (5) – In a tournament with way more goals than we’ve seen in past years, it might make sense to tip the squad with the most attacking threat to go the furthest. In that case, you’d be hard pressed not to bet on Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and co., even if they did only score 2 against a pretty decent Bosnian squad. If it comes down to a shootout, it’s hard not to see this team going home the victors.

3. Brazil (3) – While Oscar has looked fantastic and Neymar quite dangerous, the vaunted “most expensive center-back pairing ever” of David Luiz and Thiago Silva have been less than convincing. Still, this is a strong Brazil playing at the Brazil World Cup and you have to think if they start firing on all cylinders, they’re going to be very hard to stop.

4. Holland (15) – The shocker of the tourney so far was the 5-1 thrashing The Netherlands put down on cup-holders Spain. But let’s be honest, many predicted a Spain-in-decline at this World Cup – they just perhaps didn’t think it would be such a complete collapse. There is no doubt that the Dutch have a great squad buoyed by a young back line that mostly plays together in Holland and the potent tandem of Robben and van Persie up front, but it remains to be seen if this team with a long history of falling apart on the big stage can keep it together down the road.

5. France (17) – Quite possibly the most surprised I’ve been by the form of any of the big teams was the all-around play of France in their 3-0 defeat of Honduras. Granted Honduras is one of the worst teams of the tourney and came out with the perceived game plan of just kicking France until they give up. Nonetheless, Benzema is looking like a would-be Golden Boot wearer and France has a tendency to win big when they play well.

6. Italy (9) – The Azzurri’s talisman Andrea Pirlo might be getting a bit slow at age 35, but their new look with the young 21-year-old Marco Verratti at his side proved a great decision and propelled Italy to a narrow victory over a talented England side.

7. Colombia (8) – No Falcao, no problem. A rampant Colombia made short order of Greece with dominant forward play from Teo Gutierrez and J.Rod. A relatively easy group should see them advance in first where they’ll likely come up against England or Uruguay in the Round of 16.

8. Belgium (11) – While their performance in the first hour of play versus Algeria was less than impressive, the Belgian team figured it out with a few key substitutes and were able to find 3 points. This squad has so much talent that as they continue to play together, they should continue to improve, and could be a force to be reckoned with in the knockout stages.

9. Switzerland (6) – Spots 9 and 10 were a bit of a toss up for me but I give the slight edge to the Swiss who are my pick to come out in the second spot of Group E. Based on Honduras’s performance against the French, the Swiss should make short work of them in their final match (though I think they’ll fall short when up against France). The fact they’ll likely play Argentina in the first knockout round is probably bad news, however.

10. Chile (14) – Chile are a good team, no doubt, but the 3-1 score line over Australia makes the game sound a bit more one-sided than it actually was. It seems Chile’s hopes to advance really come down to tomorrow’s match versus Spain, the winner of which will likely get the second spot in Group B and the prize of facing Brazil.

11. England (10) – The first team without points to make the list, the England squad showed plenty of talent in the first hour of the match before turning to jello in the Manaus heat. Hodgson still seems to be doing some experimenting with his mostly Liverpool side, but there was nothing I saw versus Italy that made me think they couldn’t handily beat Uruguay and Costa Rica.

12. Spain (1) – The reigning World Cup and Euro Cup champs looked like shit for all but the first 30 minutes or so of their embarrassment against Holland. Their back line is in shambles and they simply don’t have the scoring threat that made them so unstoppable in tournaments past. Spain fans will remind you that they lost their first match in South Africa to Switzerland (and we know how that ended), and perhaps the big loss will snap them out of their malaise. But if I was a betting man (and I am), I would not be putting money on Spain to advance.

13. USA (13) – Coincidentally matching their FIFA world rank, I’ve put USA at 13 because there is still a very tough road ahead and frankly, we are a bit beat up. But the emotion involved in yesterday’s win versus Ghana might just be enough to carry us to a result against a very questionable Portugal side. I doubt many USA fans look at our Round of 16 run in South Africa as anything but a success. That was a much easier group, but the emotion of the Algeria match made it seem all the more epic. Getting out of this year’s group of death would be an incredible feat by any standards and big improvement on four years ago.

14. Costa Rica (28) – Punching well above their weight, Costa Rica looked very good against a Suarez-less Uruguay. They’ve got a couple big matches coming versus Italy and England, but if their form keeps up, who knows what might happen.

15. Mexico (20) – Pundits seemed to make a lot about the 1-0 win versus Cameroon, but I wasn’t too impressed. Still, Miguel Herrera has no doubt turned El Tri around and they certainly have a shot at advancing if they can get a result in their last match versus Croatia.

16. Ivory Coast (23) – What a difference a Drogba can make. Even though he wasn’t directly involved in the goals, Drogba’s presence on the pitch in the 60th minute seemed to simultaneously vitalize Cote d’Ivoire and terrify Japan whose 1-0 victory turned to a 2-1 defeat in 100 seconds. A result against Greece and it should be enough to see Ivory Coast finally make the knockout stage of the World Cup.

17. Bosnia (21) – While Dzeko failed to make much of an impact, Bosnia put up a respectable fight against Argentina in their 2-1 defeat. Given they only have Iran and Nigeria to deal with in Group F, they should be in decent shape to advance in their first ever World Cup.

18. Portugal (4) – Yikes. Portugal’s performance versus Germany was pretty much the worst case scenario for the Iberians save a CR7 injury. The Pepe red card was idiotic and injuries to Coentrao and Almeida are very bad news for the squad’s chance to advance. Still, Portugal is ranked 4 by FIFA for a reason and if Ronaldo turns it on in Manaus, the USA could still be in plenty of trouble.

19. Russia (19) – They couldn’t quite get firing on all cylinders versus S. Korea, but there is talent on Russia no doubt, as evidenced by the quick answering goal by Kherzikov. But the silly mistake by goalkeeper Akinfeev means there is plenty of growing to do in the team as they look towards hosting the Cup in 2018.

20. Croatia (18) – Like their brothers in Bosnia, the Croatians also took a loss to a tourney fave in Brazil. Unlike the Bosnians, Croatia has a tougher final game in Mexico. With no points in the bank yet, it’s hard to get too excited about their chances.

21. Uruguay (7) – This could prove to be a very silly decision to put Uruguay all the way down at 21 if Luis Suarez comes back and starts burying goals like when he wears red. But based on the gutless performance versus Costa Rica, there is nothing to be optimistic about for Uruguay fans if that doesn’t happen.

22. Algeria (22) – I was actually pretty impressed by the Algeria team in their match versus Belgium. Some have called them the France B-team and they showed speed and ingenuity on the pitch. That said, I still haven’t seen enough of their play to tell if they have a chance to advance. A big win against Korea could see them shoot up in the Power Rankings.

23. Ecuador (26) – It certainly isn’t over for Ecuador, but the common reprise that Ecuador only wins at elevation seems to hold some water as the loss to Switzerland with France still to play could mean their time in Brazil will be rather short lived.

24. Japan (46) – The Japanese team looked pretty good for the first hour of the match versus Ivory Coast. But the squad just ran out of ideas and certainly couldn’t come back once they went down to the far more physical Elephants. Might they find some points against Greece? Sure. But chances of doing the same against Colombia are far less likely.

25. Ghana (37) – Just like the USA, Ghana had to win their first match in order to have any hope of advance. Well… they didn’t. Heh.

26. South Korea (57) – Korea might have managed to get a point out of their match with Russia, but I think it’s going to be their only point of the tourney with a talented Algeria next and Belgium to follow.

27. Australia (62) – There is a whole World Cup worth of teams that didn’t make the World Cup ranked higher than Australia in the FIFA world rankings but the Socceroos looked pretty decent against Chile. Do they have a chance of advancing from Group B which also includes Holland and Spain? Frankly, no.

28. Greece (12) – FIFA’s ranking of Greece as 12 seems like the most egregious error of the table after watching their anemic performance versus Colombia.

29. Iran (43) – While they looked rather athletic running around out there, the Iranians are just not in the same league as the rest of the teams in Brazil (and obviously neither are the Nigerians).

30. Cameroon (56) – Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Cameroon but it’s pretty clear that Eto’o is old and this team looks like they are going nowhere in the very tough Group A.

31. Nigeria (44) – While Klinsmann scheduled the USA’s final warm up match versus Nigeria because of their similar style to Ghana, it was very clear from the match against Iran that Nigeria is no Ghana.

32. Honduras (33) – Somehow over the years, Honduras has become the CONCACAF team it is okay for USA fans to like. Well sorry Honduras, but you looked like amateurs against France and I don’t really like you that much.

My 2nd Round Top 5 Matches:
5. Colombia vs. Ivory Coast (Thurs.)
4. Spain vs. Chile (Weds.)
3. Italy vs. Costa Rica (Fri.) or Uruguay vs. England (Thurs.)
2. Switzerland vs France (Fri.)
1. USA vs. Portugal (Sun.)

I’ll try to follow up with more power ranking in a few days after the second round has wrapped up.

Posted by enderzero at 6:15pm on Jun. 17, 2014    
Feb 23, 2014

Top 10 Highs & Lows from Sochi 2014

sochi2014collage-close

The last two weeks have absolutely flown by (hmm, that might be an exaggeration) but the Sochi 2014 flame has been extinguished and all eyes now turn to Rio 2016 and the next Summer Games. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here is a look back at my Top 10 moments of the Sochi Winter Games — both the hits and the misses.

See the list

Posted by enderzero at 5:58pm on Feb. 23, 2014    
Feb 7, 2014

Sochi 2014 Olympics – Ryland’s TV & Streaming Highlights

sochi2014collage

It’s Winter Olympics time again and anyone who was around four years ago will remember just how damned excited I get for the Games. USA won the total medal count last games with 37 with host country Canada winning the most Golds (14 to USA’s 9). Russia finished way back in the pack with only 3 gold medals and 15 medals total. That was good enough for sixth place (behind Austria). You can bet the Ruskies are going to be looking for some redemption.

UPDATE: I’ve created a Public Google Calendar with all of the event discussed in this post. See the Calendar below.

Click here for all the fun

Posted by enderzero at 7:03pm on Feb. 7, 2014    
Feb 3, 2013

Manchester City v. Liverpool (2/3/2012) – 3 Quick Thoughts

city-v-liverpool

Billed by Fox as the GB4G (Game Before the Game), it’s going to be hard for this afternoon’s big handegg competition to match the athleticism on display in this morning’s Manchester City versus Liverpool Premier League match. Here are my three quick thoughts from the match:

Let them play – Referee Anthony Taylor issued six yellow cards in the match. Fouls by Henderson and Carragher, in particular, were in the run of a fast paced game that were arguable fouls and definitely not dangerous enough to see yellow cards. It’s the pace of the English game that makes it so enjoyable and breaking it up with questionable stoppages is a frustrating exercise.

Steven Gerrard’s goal was brilliant, but he’s looking old – Yes, Stevie G’s strike from 30 yards out was a beaut, but it was his only impressive moment of the match. Questionable passes and a lack of pace make Gerrard look like he’s playing in a different era. With the form of Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen waiting in the wings, might we soon see Gerrard starting more matches from the bench?

Glen Johnson is phenomenal – While he has long been a great example of the modern attacking defender, Glen Johnson has developed into one of the most formidable defenders, period. His sense of right-place, right-time was the very best on the pitch whether in an offensive or defensive capacity. With his incredible skills in the air and on the ground on their best display, I’m considering Johnson my man of the match.

Posted by enderzero at 12:02pm on Feb. 3, 2013    
Jul 27, 2012

XXX Olympics Men’s Soccer Tournament Power Rankings

With one round of games in the book before the Opening Ceremonies even air (tape delayed in the USA, of course), the XXX Olympic Games have officially begun. We all know who the favorites are in the Women’s Tournament (USA have never missed a final and won 3 of 4), but I’m going to spend a bit of time talking about what to look forward to in the Men’s Tournament.

The Beijing Olympics four years ago were, along with that summer’s Euro Cup Tournament, a big part of the soccer bug that bit me (we’ll call them the thorax) and turned me into the raving soccer maniac I am today. Having watched all 16 teams play their first games, one thing is plainly evident: these 23 years and younger (plus 3 exceptions) teams are definitely not the senior teams that I’ve become accustomed to watching duke it out on the world stage. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of familiar names and faces, but the quality (mostly) on display yesterday was much closer to MLS than EPL. I’ve broken the 16 teams into an unscientific and quite biased ranking with a few words about the performance and chances of each squad.

1. Brazil – There is really no doubt that a Brazil team that contains Neymar, Marcelo, Pato, Thiago Silva, Rafael, Sandro, Hulk, and Oscar are the runaway favorites to go all the way. Add to that a hunger based on the fact and they’ve never won an Olympic Gold and it seems a done deal. And that’s exactly how Brazil looked in the first half of their match versus Egypt going up 3-0 in the first 30 minutes. However, that wasn’t the story in the second half when a resurgent Egypt buried two past shaky looking 19 year-old goalkeeper Neto who was supposed to be their backup. A frustrated looking Brazil was able to regroup and maintain enough possession for the win, but it shows this dream team may have some vulnerabilities.

2. Uruguay – They’ve been the sweethearts of South America since their semifinal run in South Africa and haven’t shown a lot to give fans doubt until UAE slotted a goal against them in the 23rd minute of their first Olympic match since 1928. But the uber-talented team was able to regroup behind their no less histrionical captain Luis Suarez and come back to win 2-1. They certainly have the skill and if they keep showing this kind of fortitude, La Celeste should top a very tough Group A.

3. Japan – Looking to put the business class controversy behind them (along with the women’s team), a vibrant, talented, and disciplined looking Japanese team came storming out of the gates in their first match and took control of Group D with a victory over group faves Spain. Some may wonder if this upset was more Spain’s poor play but Japan had opportunity after opportunity and the 1-0 score line belies a commanding performance that could have ended 4-0 to the Japanese. Of course, it always helps to be up a man for 49 minutes of play. We’ll see if they are the real deal in Sunday’s match against Morocco that could see the team put a thumping on the speedy North African youngsters.

4. Great Britain – Coming in as such favorites, a sorta-united Great Britain team (Scotland and Northern Ireland banned their players from joining due to FIFA fears of losing their autonomous status) was bound to stumble out of the gates. Playing a stupidly zealous Senegal, the Brits couldn’t find a second goal to seal things up and let the Senegalese draw level with minutes to play. There is a ton of talent on this team, even having left so many big names watching from home, but you can’t help but wonder if the pressure is just too much for this choke-happy home nation.

5. Spain – Yes they lost their first match but let’s all remember the eventual World Cup champions lost their first match in South Africa to Switzerland as well. Still, this obviously-not-senior Spanish squad is really going to have to get organized behind 24 year-old Juan Mata if they are going to fulfill the expectations set forward by their big brothers.

6. South Korea – While South Korea failed to find the back of the net, they also kept a clean sheet against a usually rampant scoring Mexico. This might be more Mexico’s fault but South Korea certainly looked fast and very fit. With Group B being weakest group, look for South Korea to definitely advance (but that could be about it).

7. Honduras – Yes I’m sore that the Hondurans are in London and not the Americans but the CONCACAF runners up looked pretty solid in their 2-2 draw with Morocco, which was undoubtedly the most entertaining of the first day of play. They’ve got a very tough game coming up against Spain on Sunday. But if the Spanish can’t get their shit together, look for Honduras to make a knockout stage run.

8. Egypt – It has been a rough going for Egyptian soccer (really Egyptian society) with live sports being banned after recent riots. But the squad played their hearts out versus Brazil and managed to score two goals against the obvious faves. There were only four other teams with at least two goals out of the 16 and none of them didn’t walk away with at least one point. Tough luck for Egypt but it bodes well for them in a Group C in which they have a very good chance of nabbing the runner up spot.

9. Belarus – One of only four teams to manage all three points in their first game, Belarus should be congratulated for their performance but it isn’t worth getting too worked up about. In their first major tournament since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, any run will be good for the nation, but it would be a huge surprise if they managed points off of either Brazil or Egypt in the next two matches.

10. Mexico – It warms my heart to report that this is quite possibly the weakest Mexican team I’ve ever watched compete in a major tournament. They have plenty of talent but looked completely disorganized against South Korea Thursday and were barely able to hold on for the 0-0 draw. Usually an extremely offensive team, Mexico managed only two shots on goal. Things could pick up for El Tri if/when Giovani Dos Santo starts in Sunday’s match versus group minnows Gabon. Plus, let’s not get too excited and forget Mexico has a huge advantage as the most experienced team in a very weak group.

11. Morocco – The Moroccans looked like a young, hungry, and most importantly, energetic team in their 2-2 draw with Honduras. This team is packed with speed and showed they can score goals, but have a tough challenge ahead of them if they are to advance from the very difficult Group D.

12. United Arab Emirates – The UAE squad showed they have a good amount of young talent to jump ahead to a 1-0 lead versus Uruguay. But their lack of experience proved their downfall as they eventually lost their lead and then gave up all three points to the much tougher side. In an easier group, they may have a chance to advance, but things don’t look so rosy with no points and Great Britain still to play.

13. Senegal – A rambunctious team, to say the least, Senegal probably would have finished with only eight or nine men on the field had their match referee not been so ridiculously lenient. Their play versus Great Britain was downright dangerous but they do have plenty of speed and they did find the net to earn the late point. Don’t count them completely out, but do be sure to get out of the way when you see them charging in.

14. Switzerland – The weird thing about power rankings is that while the Switzerland that took the field Thursday would likely lose to my 11th – 13th ranked teams, they have a better chance to advance than any of them due to their fortunate placement in Group B. Though they’ve shown very good results for their youth squads in recent memory, Switzerland looked flat footed against an even less impressive Gabon in their first match. We’ll see if they can turn it on versus a more robust South Korea on Sunday.

15. New Zealand – The All Whites had nothing going for them in their first match versus Belarus managing just four shots on goal. The good news is that goalkeeper Michael O’Keefe had a decent game with seven saves and just the one losing goal allowed.

16. Gabon – In the first 15 minutes of their match against Switzerland, Gabon looked like they had no idea what sport they were playing. It’s rare you see a team so out of sorts but leave it to Switzerland to blow their 1-0 5th minute penalty lead by allowing Gabon back into the game. It wasn’t pretty, but who knows what’s in store for this tiny nation who did make it to the Quarterfinals in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations last winter.

Posted by enderzero at 6:29pm on Jul. 27, 2012    
Jul 16, 2012

Get Yer NBC Olympics (Soccer) Calendar On

Yeah, they’re coming. The London Olympics Opening Ceremonies are on Friday, July 27th… that’s a week from FRIDAY!! But wait, because the games actually start before the opening ceremonies. In fact, the women’s soccer tournament, where USA looks to win its 4th Gold Medal, actually kicks off next Wednesday July 25th. Did you know that there have only been 4 Gold Medals ever in women’s soccer and USA has 3 of them (we took the Silver in Sydney, losing to Norway)? That means the USA has never failed to make a Women’s final!

Oh, and don’t forget there is a men’s tournament taking place as well. Remember the Euro Cup last month? Yeah, this is a-whole-nother 16 team tourney, the same size as that one (actually there is one more game in the Olympics as the 2012 Euro Cup did away with the 3rd place – aka Bronze Medal match). Unfortunately there is no USA for the men’s tourney. Moving on.

So NBC has put together a pretty substantial website that let’s you sort listings by sport, time, network, etc. I’ve decided to take it a step further and have created a public Google calendar that I’ll be using to keep track of all the big events and when they are being televised. To start things off, I’ve added all the air times for every game in both the Men’s and the Women’s soccer tournaments. It’s live now and you can add it to your own Google calendars or use it all on its own. Check it out:

You can also access it via this link or at http://tinyurl.com/nbcolympicscal or probably by searching the “other calendars” for my email address.

I’ll likely put some of the other big events in as the Games draw nearer, but for now, you’ve at least got what really counts. I hope you find it useful!

Posted by enderzero at 8:56pm on Jul. 16, 2012    
Jun 11, 2012

Euro 2012: Power Rankings – One Round In

We have one full round of matches behind us and it seems like a good time to weigh in on who has the best chances in world soccer’s second biggest tournament. Regardless of whether a team was able to get the big three points in the round, no one’s fate is sealed yet. But we do now have a clearer picture of what is and what isn’t working. Here are my thoughts:

1. Germany – The odds-off favorite going into the tourney, Germany was the pick by many, even if Spain was technically the odds-on fave. While the Germans didn’t look as sharp as they should have in their lead up friendlies (losing to both the French and Swiss), they did what they needed to beat a very aggressive Portugal side, and more importantly, keep them scoreless. With tough matches coming against Holland Wednesday and Denmark Sunday, if the Germans’ form keeps up and they’re able to find wins in both, it isn’t difficult to see the young team march all the way to the final. (FIFA World Rank: 3)

2. Spain – You won’t make much money betting on Spain, but with the challenge of winning three consecutive major tournaments looming large, not a lot of pundits have pegged La Furia Roja to lift the Cup this time. Who cares. This is Spain. This is the most talented soccer team ever assembled. Fernando Torres still knows how to score goals, I assure you, but he is going to need to start a match. Of the six midfielders that started in their draw with Italy Sunday, it was Andres Iniesta that showed the most spark. Look for him to get hot and catapult his team to easy wins against Croatia and Ireland. (FIFA World Rank: 1)

3. Italy – Not a lot of people had the 2006 World Champs picked to make much of a stir in this tourney, but with an inspired performance against Spain, the Azzurri are out to prove they’re not just a bunch of old guys struggling to keep up. The early second half switch bringing on Antonio Di Natale for Mario Balotelli proved inspired as Di Natale went on to score a wonderful goal with what was basically his first involvement. Count on Di Natale to get the start Thursday versus Croatia, though we certainly haven’t seen the last of Balotelli in this tournament. (FIFA World Rank: 12)

4. Holland – Oh the poor Dutch with their history of infighting and disappointing tournament record. This loss to Group of Death minnows Denmark would seem to give unlimited fodder to the pundits who have called the World Cup runners-up from two years ago overrated. I don’t buy it. Tactical changes should have been made and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart should have come on earlier. A reworked lineup could see the team click into place and let Robin van Persie start knocking in the goals we all know he is capable of. Don’t forget, Spain lost their first match of the tourney back in South Africa, too. (FIFA World Rank: 4)

5. France – Much credit is due to England for holding my dark horse pick to a draw in Monday’s match. But France dominated possession and looked much the stronger team throughout. This team just has so much creative talent as evidenced by Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery, and Yohan Cabaye in the match. Unfortunately, their center back pairing of Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami does a bit less than inspire confidence. Still, if they put together a good showing in the tourney and coach Laurent Blanc keeps the squad playing like a team, France could be a major contender in Brazil 2014. (FIFA World Rank: 14)

6. Russia – With their dominating performance versus the Czechs on Friday, you’d be excused for thinking Russia are genuine contenders in this tournament. I don’t think they are quite there, though they should march quite easily to a first place seed out of Group A. But with a Quarterfinal matchup with the Group of Death’s second place team, any betting man would expect the fun to end there for the Russkies. (FIFA World Rank: 13)

7. Denmark – It is hard to take much away from the Danes after their victory over Holland on the weekend. This is a great example of a hard working team, made up of talented but mid-level players, who play together very well. With a big three points on the board, they certainly have a shot of advancing. But with matches versus Portugal and then Germany to come, those three could very well be the only points they see. (FIFA World Rank: 9)

8. England – No one seems to think England has any chance of advancing past the semis in this tournament, and that’s probably true. But these lowered expectations might be just what the Three Lions need to show a particularly positive performance for once. The squad looked very well organized versus France and exhibited just how dangerous they can be off set plays. Danny Wellbeck was less than impressive and it will certainly help when Wayne Rooney comes back to the side in their final group match versus Ukraine. (FIFA World Rank: 6)

9. Portugal – No one is doubting that Portugal has some incredibly talented players with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both showing flashes of brilliance in the match against Germany. But with the Danes stealing three from Holland, it is pretty tough to see how Portugal makes it out of the group unless the Dutch completely fall apart when the two face off next Sunday. (FIFA World Rank: 10)

10. Croatia Scoring three goals versus Ireland made the Croatian squad look a bit better than they probably are. With matches against Italy and then Spain yet to come, you gotta think the fun for the Croats is just about over. (FIFA World Rank: 8)

11. Poland – If Poland didn’t have automatic qualification for the tournament as the co-host, there’s pretty much no chance they would be here. That being said, it looks like they’ll be able to hold their own in a rather underpowered Group A. If their very impressive young striker Robert Lewandowski can continue to find the back of the net against Russia and, more importantly, versus the Czechs, the Polish could find themselves advancing. (FIFA World Rank: 62)

12. Ukraine – This might be their first major tournament, but with home field advantage and a talent (and now national hero) like Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine will at least be a lot of fun to watch in the tourney. (FIFA World Rank: 52)

13. Sweden – One can’t help but wonder just how big of a star Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be on the world stage if he was part of a more powerful squad. As it is, it just doesn’t seem likely this Swedish team will make much of a foe for either France or England in the coming matches if they couldn’t even find a winner against Ukraine. (FIFA World Rank: 17)

14. Czech Republic – You get the sense that this Czech team’s best days are behind them as even Tomas Rosicky looked like an old man out there against the Russians. Still, the Czechs have a weak Group A placement going for them and could advance if they find form. (FIFA World Rank: 27)

15. Ireland – Things aren’t looking too good for the Irish after their thumping at the hands of Croatia. The team had plenty of chances but just couldn’t get much to go their way. With matches against Spain and Italy to come, it could very easily be a zero point tourney for the Irish. (FIFA World Rank: 18)

16. Greece – So what if the Greeks stole a point in their ugly match with Poland to open the tournament. This team looked completely out of sorts throughout the match, unable to even score a penalty against a cold backup GK. If you ask me, they’re better off heading home to start earning money to pay off their loans than to hang around as best-case-scenario fodder for a Group B runner up. (FIFA World Rank: 15)

Posted by enderzero at 3:55pm on Jun. 11, 2012    
May 6, 2012

Incredible Phantom Miro 120 Footage



 
Action sports filmmaker Jim Geduldick was the first to get his hands on Vision Resesarch’s new Phantom cam, the Miro 120. This tiny super slo-mo cam is capable of 730fps at 1920×1080 or up to a staggering 200,000fps at lower resolutions.

 
Geduldick put the camera through its paces at Camp Woodward and came up with this pretty awesome demo reel. Check it out above.

 
via Engadget

 

 

Posted by enderzero at 11:59am on May. 6, 2012    
Aug 23, 2010

Summertime 2010 Flickr photoset

Just threw some pics up on flickr from some of my summer activities. A lot seem to be sports related – like this shot from the Sounders vs. Chivas USA game above.

Lemme know what you think.

Link

Posted by enderzero at 3:50pm on Aug. 23, 2010    
Jul 28, 2010

RIDE – a skate thing

Props to Garth Davis for this very creative skate vid starring Steve Berra and his crew on the streets of Mexico City. Even with out the ill effects, this is some pretty incredible stuff.

Rolled from GT (a la Joel)

Posted by enderzero at 12:57pm on Jul. 28, 2010    
Jul 1, 2010

World Cup: Into the Quarters, where is the EPL?

As we launch into the final 8 games and final 8 teams of the African World Cup, there probably isn’t quite as much to be gained from ranking the remaining squads. There are at least 5 teams with a realistic chance of winning it all – and after this weekend there will be 4 teams with a chance, no matter who comes through. Instead I want to take a quick look at an odd phenomenon that maybe isn’t as random as it seems.

The English Premier League is without a doubt the biggest professional soccer league. The best players for the majority of teams competing in the Copa ply their trade in the EPL. Yet out of 105 EPL players who started this tournament, only 13 are left. For you number lovers, 14.2% of the players in the Cup play in the EPL, 25% of the total players are left, but only 7% of the remaining players play there. To top it all off, the biggest star left in the Cup, Liverpool’s Spanish star Fernando Torres, is having an awful tournament. Arsenal’s Dutch goal machine Robin Van Persie isn’t doing much better and their Spanish play maker Cesc Fabregas can’t even get spot in the starting XI. With big guns like Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Drogba, Anelka, and Vidic all eliminated, that leaves just one bonafied EPL star alive and doing well in the World Cup. That man is Manchester City striker and Argentine star Carlos Tevez – who scored 2 key goals in Argentina’s Round of 16 win over Mexico.

So what is going on? Everyone knows that the England National Team couldn’t get their shiz together – and I think we need to start by looking there. The EPL being such a big and important league with so much money at stake, it seems that the EPL stars have allowed their priorities to switch to their clubs’ success. Even in a world cup year, any given star might only play some 10-15 games in their national jersey. By contrast, a successful club team will expect upwards of 50+ appearances from a healthy star, not to mention all that additional time in training. With annual competitions like the EPL title, FA Cup, and especially the Champions League, the world of soccer has created an extremely competitive and exciting landscape. But the downside is that the world’s biggest players are quite simply distracted when it comes to performing for their countries. Want more proof? Just look at the what is quite possibly the second biggest league in the World: Italy’s Serie A. No surprise that every single player from Italy’s anemic 2010 National Squad call Serie A home.

My picks for the Quarters:

Brazil over Holland. Can the Dutch potentially win? Absolutely. Will they? I just don’t think so. Robben might have a shot at scoring one of his magical goals from outside, but apart from that I just don’t see the Dutch penetrating the Brazilian back line.

Uruguay over Ghana. Ghana might put up a fight but I don’t think they will find the net. Uruguay’s Suarez and Forlan are simply dynamite together.

Argentina over Germany. We are getting an early final here with arguably the two teams in the best form matching up in the quarters. Will Messi finally find the score card? It doesn’t really matter with both Tevez and Higuain playing next to him. I just don’t see them giving in.

Spain over Paraguay. There is a bit of an upset chance here unless Spain starts to turn it on. I think they will do what they need to do to beat P.guay – but with Argentina awaiting them in the Semis, the fun might not last for la Furia Roja.

Posted by enderzero at 9:10pm on Jul. 1, 2010    
Jun 25, 2010

World Cup: Power Rankings After the Groups

What a wild group stage of the World Cup it has been! Two huge power houses have gone home in France and Italy. Spain was facing an early exit today as well (which would have been a much bigger upset), but did what they needed to and move on as a still heavy fave. But of course the big story of the the final group games was the incredible USA finish! It may all be house money now, but we have a real chance to beat Ghana and keep the train rolling.

The power rankings for the final 16 were a bit harder, especially down towards the bottom. But I had to look at match ups and who was likely to advance. I’ll break it down after the list. Again, numbers are my rankings from the last go around.

1. Argentina (1)
2. Netherlands (3)
3. Spain (4)
4. Brazil (2)
5. Uruguay (7)
6. Germany (6)
7. USA (8)
8. Japan (15)
9. Portugal (6)
10. Mexico (17)
11. England (13)
12. Paraguay (10)
13. Chile (9)
14. South Korea (18)
15. Ghana (16)
16. Slovakia (28)

Uruguay vs. South Korea – Uruguay is one of only 2 teams to not allow a single goal in the group stage (Portugal being the other). The South American teams are rolling and I see Uruguay continuing the trend with their great defense and goal scoring duo of Forlan and Suarez just starting to heat up. South Korea is a well organized team but they looked less than dominant in their 2-2 draw with Nigeria. I don’t think they have what it will take to beat Uruguay – but I’d rather have USA face them than Uruguay in the Quarters, so go South Korea!

USA vs. Ghana – Who would have thought the USA would win our group and avoid Germany? Ghana is fast but they are young and I think our experience will get us through the round. But Ghana has the x-factor of having all of Africa behind them (lotta good that did the African teams in the group stage). Anything can happen, but USA wants it every bit as much if not more than Ghana.

Germany vs. England – Germany looked so dominant in their first game but then fell way off. They barely beat Ghana on the strength of my new favorite German Mesut Özil. Lucky for them, England has been less than stellar as well. All either team needs is one of their incredible super stars to heat up and it will be lights out. Will it be Rooney, Gerard, Lampard or Klose, Podolski, or Muller? I’m giving the nod to Germany but it could be in PKs.

Argentina vs. Mexico – Mexico is playing well and I can’t wait to see Javi Hernandez playing for Manchester United, but they have the unfortunate task of facing Argentina who tops my power rankings for a second time after another dominant performance over Greece. It makes me happy that new guns like Hernandez and Vela are bringing a positive face to our southern border rivals (Blanco can choke on a Tecate can and die) but I won’t be too sad to see them exit at the hands of the Albiceleste. But come on Messi, let’s see some knockout round magic!

Netherlands vs. Slovakia – I didn’t give Slovakia any credit (had them at 28) but their showing against Italy was awesome. Vittek is playing lights out. However they are going up against The Netherlands who are the only team other than Argentina to finish the group stage with a perfect 9. Guess what, they didn’t drop a point in qualification either. The Dutch ain’t losing – especially to Slovakia. Robben even saw the pitch Thursday which means only good things for the Oranje as they look toward a tough Quarter final against Brazil.

Brazil vs. Chile Question… What happened to that beautiful samba football? I couldn’t even stay awake during that snorefest versus Portugal. Maybe Dunga is a brilliant tactician but the boys gotta play if they are going to win. Chile was just as unimpressive in their draw with Spain – wait they lost..? whatever – no one even tried in the last half hour. Chile came in second in CONMEBOL qualifying but lost both their matches with Brazil. I imagine they’ll lose this one too unless they get some serious inspiration before Monday.

Paraguay vs. Japan Wow! Hello Japan! The Blue Samurai are playing incredible football right now and Keisuke Honda might be the hottest player in the tourney. All three of their goals against Denmark were great but that Honda free kick was something else. Paraguay looked great in their first 2 games, but the 0-0 draw with New Zealand was unimpressive. If Japan plays the way they did yesterday, then P.guay doesn’t stand a chance.

Spain vs. Portugal A Round of 16 Iberian derby is an exciting prospect but neither team has been playing to their full potential. Yes I know Portugal put in 7 against North Korea but their draw with Brazil was lackluster and Ronaldo seems to be out to lunch. Spain has so many good players that they should win every match 6-0. Even with Torres cold as ice (I say bench him… and then sell him to Chelsea for half their squad), they should be able to easily put down the pretty boys.

Posted by enderzero at 3:49pm on Jun. 25, 2010    
Jun 21, 2010

World Cup: Round 2 Power Rankings

The Copa really heated up with the second round of group play this week. There are some pretty exciting story lines (success of the Americas) and some pretty pathetic ones as well (ahem, France). Probably the most disappointing trend is how poorly the African nations are performing. Not only does it look like this will be the first knockout stage without a host country, it is very possible this will be the first knockout stage with out a country from the host continent. I’ll break it all down group by group – but first here are my updated power rankings. Two teams have been eliminated (Cameroon and North Korea), so the list is down to 30. The numbers after the team are their rank in my last go around.

1. Argentina (3)
2. Brazil (4)
3. Netherlands (2)
4. Spain (8)
5. Germany (1)
6. Portugal (17)
7. Uruguay (14)
8. USA (12)
9. Chile (11)
10. Paraguay (9)
11. Serbia (20)
12. Italy (6)
13. England (5)
14. Switzerland (15)
15. Japan (13)
16. Ghana (7)
17. Mexico (21)
18. South Korea (10)
19. Denmark (23)
20. Slovenia (22)
21. New Zealand (26)
22. Ivory Coast (18)
23. South Africa (19)
24. Greece (31)
25. Australia (30)
26. Algeria (32)
27. France (16)
28. Slovakia (24)
29. Honduras (29)
30. Nigeria (28)

Group A – Everyone was saying that France had scored an easy draw when they found themselves in South Africa’s group. Well, they have managed to blow it. Weak leadership has found les Bleus in complete meltdown mode scoring zero goals in the first two matches and earning themselves a #27 ranking. Although they aren’t completely out of it, they need a win with a blow out margin, which just doesn’t seem possible from this squad. While it is just as much of a long shot, South Africa still has a chance to go through. If they manage to defeat France and can pull a combined goal differential of 5 (goals they score minus goals France score plus the goal differential of whoever wins the other game), they will be through. It is a long shot, but I am pulling for them. What seems far more likely is that Uruguay and Mexico will go through with a draw or with one team winning by a close margin. I’m picking Uruguay who made short work of the South African team that Mexico struggled against.

Group B – As evidenced by my ranking, this group is all about Argentina. The big fear coming in was Maradona – but things seem to be going superbly between the players and him and his tactics have been sound. They should defeat Greece easily and advance through on 9 points. Just think, Messi hasn’t even started to score yet. I’m giving the second place nod to South Korea who didn’t look completely awful against Argentina. I don’t see them beating Uruguay in the Round of 16, but they can surely handle Nigeria who just needs to go home.

Group CUSA! USA! If you had given me this scenario at the beginning of the Cup, I would have taken it in a second. Yeah I know we should be on 4 pts but I’ll take controlling our own destiny (forgive) against Algeria any day. We just need to win – and we can win – and we will win. The craziest part of this group is the England story. Who would have thought they would find themselves on 2 pts with a measly 1 goal scored? I am predicting a draw against Slovenia, which would see England exit. If that happens – or even in the more likely event England beats Slovenia – and we beat Algeria, the USA would advance as winner of our group. The irony is that we still might have to play Germany if they come in second in Group D. Don’t count out Slovenia, though. They advance with a win or a draw – and if they draw and we draw, then so do we!

Group D – There is no doubt that Germany was the big scary team after round 1, but Serbia (with the help of an over zealous referee) made das Hermans look not so tough. Still, all the Germans have to do to advance as group winners is beat Ghana and hope Serbia doesn’t make up a 3 pt goal dif. Seems quite likely. Ghana might be the highest ranked African squad, but I’m afraid that just isn’t going to be enough to beat the Germans. That means Ghana needs to pray to the Soccer Gods that Australia holds Serbia to a draw (or defeat). It is possible but not likely. I see Serbia advancing in 2nd and the Socceroos heading home.

Group EThe Dutch have not been the most convincing team on the pitch, but they have gotten it done and are the first team to clinch a berth in the Round of 16. Sorry Cameroon. Eto’o got his goal but no one else showed up. We’ll see if they have a little African pride on show in their final game. The big game of the group is Japan vs. Denmark in a battle for 2nd (or a possible but very unlikely 1st). Denmark has the momentum but Japan advances on the draw with a point better goal dif – which they might need as these two squads could be pretty evenly matched.

Group F – No South American team has lost a game in this Southern Hemisphere Copa and Paraguay is another team playing very well. With their final game against New Zealand, they look very likely to take their group. The Kiwis played valiantly against Italy (and Slovakia), but the fun stops here for the rugby nation. While Italy has looked far from superior as cup holders, they are certain to get their shit together to beat the very disappointing Slovakia and advance from the group as runners-up – setting them up for an exciting showdown with The Netherlands.

Group G – Not quite the “group of death” many had hoped for, the group has at least provided some very entertaining matches. North Korea played 135 minutes of very admirable football, but it all came crashing down in the second half against Portugal. I can’t wait to see the news reports that the feed cut out in the middle of the match back in Pyongyang and the newspapers the next day reported a win. It would take a complete miracle for Ivory Coast to make up the 9 pt goal differential with Portugal, so it is pretty much curtains for them as well. What a shame. That leaves a huge final match between Brazil and Portugal. They aren’t just playing for pride either as the loser (or Portugal in the event of a draw) will likely face Spain in the Round of 16. Who knows, maybe Portugal will come out with the guns still blazing. Regardless, this should be a great match.

Group H – The final group presents the most interesting scenarios. Chile holds the pole position and is the only team to “control their own destiny” – but they have to play Spain. Where it gets confusing is if Spain beats Chile and Switzerland beats Honduras. That puts all three teams on 6 points and it comes down to the margins of victory for Switzerland and Spain. Suddenly Chile’s position doesn’t look so good if they lose and either of those margins is more than a point. In one scenario it would even come down to a coin toss! If Spain does lose or draw, then they are likely out – which would be an even bigger shocker than England or France. Honduras needs to win by a big margin and hope Spain do as well if they have a shot to advance. I see Switzerland beating Honduras – but who knows by how much. This group will come down to the wire.

Posted by enderzero at 4:50pm on Jun. 21, 2010