Category: football (page 1 of 19)

One of the better cold Wednesday nights at Eden Park

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I’m not a regular Phoenix watcher, and I mainly use West Ham for ‘feeder club’ jokes with the inexplicably large contingent of NZ Irons fans on Twitter. But top flight English teams visiting New Zealand happens about as often as we win Rugby World Cups, generally, so I got my credit card out for this one as soon as I was able.

Fair play to the Welnix group – the odd BAU Gareth Morgan brain explosion aside, they’re showing measured ambition and are Trying Things to get their team and football growing sustainably. The official crowd figure was 19,100 odd, which seems a pass mark in Auckland on a freezing cold Wednesday, where people generally won’t go to Eden Park unless it’s the Blues v Crusaders in the Super Rugby final with a ‘three free hot dogs’ promo on.

Auckland gets few chances to get out to support top class football, and the atmosphere was extremely convivial, with a HUGE amount of West Ham  kit on display, among other clubs. There was a noisy West Ham contingent on the old terraces that stood for the duration, and a token Yellow Fever congregation at the other end of the ground (enforced separation?). I took my son for his first trip to Eden Park, and it seemed like many dads and lads were doing the same.

As for the match, from where I was sitting West Ham seemed a foot taller and a metre faster than the home team, they simply looked a level of professional athlete up.  For the first ten minutes I thought the Phoenix would go down four or five nil, but after a while the locals decided to play football, which they did admirably. West Ham obviously missed Andy Carroll – they had good chances, but the Phoenix’s superior finishing was the difference, with a couple of tremendous goals. Winston Reid looked Rio Ferdinand-like to me with his anticipation and time on the ball, he’s the real deal, no doubt. The first half was more entertaining than the second, and any feeling of pre-season low-key-ness was off set by some tasty tackles. It was most entertaining.

Only grumbles – seeing tickets at half the price I’d paid appear on Grab One the day before the match. I understand they needed to reach a number, but discounting like this leaves a sour taste in the mouth for the premium-paying earlybirds. And because it was pay per view there’s no way to go back and watch a replay, save for nefarious internet means. Could this be worked out in the future?

Read a more thorough run down at Fish Head mag via Sports Freak.

Luis Suarez: best bites

All the tournament needed was a villain, and it came from a very predictable source. ‘Overbite’ Suarez is a fantastic footballer, but his decision making ability when faced with a tasty looking opponent has to be questioned. To see the great man going down clutching his teeth will be one of the images of the cup no doubt, and of course Twitter went nuts - like so:

Greatest GIF ever

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There is little doubt Miguel Herrera has been the star of the cup so far.

World Cup Cloud City

South Africa 2010 was a weird-balled-vuvuzala-d-goal-free mess really.
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Luckily Brazil 2014 seems to be the antidote. We’ve had fantastic goals, like Van Persie’s rainbow header and Tim Cahill’s left foot thunderbolt, tremendous discipline-related incidents and some fantasy results.

From the moment the Official FIFA app spoilt the Netherlands v Spain second-half result I was MySkying to Germany cheerfully and efficiently ruining Ronaldo’s plans for himself at this tournament to Chile putting Spain out, it’s been absolutely tremendous.

Except for Spain – I feel sorry for them, after they went to all the trouble of redefining modern football into something that was oh so pretty to watch, they’ve been made to look less clever than a man trying to drive a wheelie bin down the highway. Football moves pretty fast, but I don’t think anyone expected it to go this fast.
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Brazil have looked like, um, the All Blacks trying to negotiate pool play in 2011 as hosts and favourites with all that that entails. I think they’ll be fine, usual ‘never listen to sportreview.net.nz on matters sport’ rules apply.

USA! USA! definitely have the cutest team and fans. When John Brooks’ winner hit the back of the net you knew there was going to be some serious backwards-baseball-hat-wearin’ and back-of-a-pickup-hollerin’. Then their fans, each of whom look like they play in a gnarly blog-rock combo, got a harsh lesson in hopes raised and dreams shattered (see also: England) against Portugal.  Admittedly, I silently think ‘bless’ to myself anytime an American does anything to do with football, but fair play, they have an infectious corn-fed exuberance, and they made a lot of people I follow on Twitter very excited so bless good on them.

England have been England basically. Moments of great promise – check. Awkward actual results – check. Pantomime villain in the opposition – check. Deafening bloodletting when they go out – check. I feel a bit bad for them. This was a team of young promise and bright prospects after Roy Hodgson resisted the temptation of giving the olden generation another wheeling out.

Most importantly they were largely emotional-baggage-free and going out in a fairly dignified fashion (as long as nothing idiotic happens v Costa Rica) means they should stay that way, until qualification for the Euros at least.

The fans have played a blinder too. Who can forget the Ghanaian with the pot on his head with steam coming out of it?
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This isn’t just a Tui Sneak, it’s the full Souls Of Your Vanquished Nemesi Burning For All Eternity In The Pot Of Doom sneak. Top work.
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If ever there was a sporting event the States would send VPOTUS to, it’s the football world cup. Screw them, Joe’s getting heaps better photo ops than the President right now.
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If Apocalypse Now had wanted something truly terrifying at the end of the river, they should have replaced Kurtz with this guy. Those carrots aren’t making it home safe.

The best bits for me have been Germany v Ghana, both the USA’s matches, England v Uraguay and Spain v Netherlands, and some of the comical fouls - Alex Song tried hard to make himself the villain of the tournament so far, but looked more like a poor masseuse to me. My early calls for the title are Netherlands, France and Germany (yes, still) – and Argentina and Brazil, the local teams who’re yet to get underway really. Columbia and Chile and Uruguay are doing their bits too, we’re in for some cracking Clash Of Styles-style matches when we reach the knockout rounds.

Everyone seems to be getting into it most cheerfully according to office chat, bus chat and sidelines-at-the-kids-games chat. The viewing hours are rilly user-friendly (when they’re not clashing with TEST CRICKET *cough*), and local media are giving the World’s Most Fuck-Off Sporting Event due care, attention and coverage.

I’ve slipped so easily into the rhythm of waking, checking the early-morning result on my phone, watching the 7am and 10am matches, tweeting away merrily in a kind of all-day cheerful football party and watching the highlights every night that it’s going to be awfully jarring when this is World Cup Cloud City is over. Enjoy it team. It’s been magic so far, but it’s going to get much better from here.

World in motion

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There’s no doubt there’s the twin whiffs of a deathly unimpressed host nation and murkier-than-usual FIFA corruption hovering over this World Cup. Brazil seems as enthusiastic about hosting the tournament as hosting an attack of boils - watch John Oliver for an entertaining / depressing run down, or  this photo essay gives you an idea. It’s not great, and the folly of building stadiums like the Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus (with a pitch that’s a bit shit) in a country where new hospitals would be handier, seems like, well, folly. 

I’ll leave the pat explanations there. Reality is, once we get underway tomorrow morning, most football fans will be too busy finding ways to manage work, family and responsibility in general to be in front of televisions or posting animated GIFs of tremendous goals and fouls on Twitter to worry.

That’s because, with respect to the other World Cups, this is *the* World Cup. Football, as we’re allowed to call it, brings the whole world together to play a game that’s easy to understand and, when done right, can move you to tears.  I mean Arjen Robben, who plays with hipster-football-fan’s-choice Holland, can dive about like the best, but he can also do this. Let’s face it, hating the villains is as much fun as appreciating the heroes. That’s, well, sport. And life really, innit?

For my sins, I will support England, as per usual. The golden generation is managing, modelling and boring people on the telly these days, so now we have a team that most people haven’t heard of, Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard aside. It could go really well, as the crushing pressure *should* be less. It’ll go right back up again if they get to the knockouts though, of course.

I know this is hipster-football territory, but if I can support a player, it’ll be Pirlo. My soft spot for passing midfielders with time on the ball is deep (one, two), and Pirlo is the current master. Pour a nice chianti and wallow:

Get excited

Steve Braunais has a galaxy of pundits picks – it looks like he’ll write through the tournament

sportsfreak.co.nz has had comprehensive previews of all the groups, and will cover the tournament no doubt

Kiwi freelancer Ben Stanley is over in Rio, he’ll be worth following

Hadyn Green came out of semi-retirement to write a sort of  anti-World Cup World Cup preview

If you’re feeling generous, the Ockers are our closest to taking part – here’s a typically awesome guide to watching the cup in our timezone with @rustyjacko

App wise, just get the official FIFA one, and the strangely mesmerising Score!, for pretending you’re Pirlo on the bog

Grantland has had some cracking articles and videos already – check out this tactics 101 piece. It may be aimed at the supposedly non-football-aware, but I definitely learned a thing or two

FiveThirtyEight says Brazil will win. I think it may be Spain or Argentina, but 538 is much smarter than sportreview, in fairness

For day to day tournament coverage, I tend to go Guardian. I think they’re ace. Here’s their writers’ predictions, and a ‘which world cup team are you?‘ quiz. I am Spain, just FYI

 

Links on Friday

Footballers. They’re generally into Page Three models, Essex nightclubs and flash motors. Innit. But, it turns out that plucky title-challengers-Liverpool are sheltering the EPL’s only hipster footballer Daniel Sturridge, the “Kanye West of the Northwest”. It’s a fair call, and Vice asks valid questions about why footballers are so uncool generally (remember when George Benson was every player’s fav musician in Roy Of The Rovers questionnaires?), but I say Sturridge is number two hipster – doesn’t get more street than Andy Carroll off his tits at a festival wearing a flouro vest, does it?

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Further ‘Scottish football managers are generally angry’ news:

Baseball fandom get the New York Times data journalism treatment. Interesting, nerdy stuff – but it seems sportreview.net.nz-favoured Oakland Athletics have  no fans. Kind of like sportreview. Ahem.

American Football team logos designed as proper football logos. Some of these are awesome.

You won’t believe the number of ex-Tottenham managers in this post!

The newest ex-Tottenham manager, Tim ‘gilet‘ Sherwood was asked to jog on today after taking Andre Villas-Boas’s eye-wateringly expensive squad to sixth in the league.

Tottenham fans can be certain of a few things – our best players will be sold to United or Real Madrid and our managers will be sacked in a seemingly counter-intuitive fashion. Chairman Daniel ‘Step into my office’ Levy has binned no less than TEN managers since 2001. Admittedly the Premier League is hardly the bastion of managerial job security, but students of the game will note that during this period Arsenal had just Eagle look-alike Arsene Wenger, and Man U had just Sir Alex Fergusson (and Fergie Lite for just under one season) and have a shedload more trophies through that period than our two League Cups.

But, because you don’t have enough pointless run-throughs of other people’s misery in your life, here’s a run through Tottenham’s managerial hanging gallery under Levy.

New dawn, same as the old one

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George Graham (1 Oct 1998 to 16 March 2001) belonged in Nick Hornby books, not at Tottenham. There were rumours that the Wembley crowd sang his name when we beat Leicester City one-nil in a depressing final, thanks to an Alan Neilsen scrambled-in-with-his-head goal, but I reckon that was bullshit. Graham’s era was all Alan Sugar scowling, ugly Pony kits and Ruel Fox. When Levy’s group brought Sugar out, sacking George Graham it was classic pandering to the fans by getting the boring football, one-nil, hoof-it-up merchant from Arsenal out of the dugout. Little did we know it was the start of a depressingly familiar pattern.

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Glen Hoddle (2 April 2001 to 21 Sept 2003) as a player is everything Tottenham is about. The unexpected and the sublime. No-one could stand around the centre circle spraying passes with their shirt out and socks around their ankles looking as cool as Goddle. His dedication to football’s aesthetics and un-willingness to tackle made him a hero at the Lane, and a misunderstood nearly-man for his country.

His nasty shooting oneself in the foot habit stopped him being great as a manager. With England, his fine team was knocked out by dastardly Argentina in a fantastic match, but then became embroiled in faith healer and unforgivably crass-comment controversies. At Tottenham there was euphoria and hope that finally we had a smart young manager that would lead us to attractive-passing-glory, etc etc etc. The reality was more mundane and Glenda was moved on six games into the 2003 season with Spurs in the relegation zone.

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Harry Redknapp (25 Oct 2008 to 15 June 2012) - I never really wanted him, but I was wrong. ‘Arry seemed a knee-jerk ‘let’s get a good-old-English-geezer-in’ appointment and too *West Ham* for us, but he soon showed he could match the best tactically and build a fantastic team. In his first season he sealed fourth spot with a squeaky-bum win at Man City. We had a decent run at the Champions League and WASTED Inter Milan  along the way with Luka Modric, an emerging Gareth Bale and, erm, Peter Crouch. Then there was the court case, the rumours he was off to his (probable) dream job with England and that whole missing out on the Champions League because of stupid Chelsea unpleasantness before Harry too was told to sling his hook.

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Andre Villas-Boas (3 July 2012 to 16 Dec 2013) may yet become one of the best managers in the game, just not at Tottenham. His intense, academic, player-alienating moneyball approach had early success, but after spending an un-Tottenham SHITLOAD of cash on players with no Premier League experience between them and seeing them struggle, he was given the support of the board and time needed to put his managerial plan into action, despite the initial hiccups*.

*Just jokes, he was sacked.

The in-betweeners

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If Harry Redknapp felt like a knee-jerk-ingly English appointment, Martin Jol (5 Nov 2004 to 26 Oct 2007), Jaques Santini (3 June 2003 to 5 Nov 2004) and Juande Ramos  (29 Oct 2007 to 25 Oct 2008) felt like knee jerk ‘let’s get one of them Europeans in’ efforts. Santini was a mystery, hardly there really before resigning of his own accord. Ramos won a trophy (the good old League Cup), but was woeful in his first actual season, while Jol managed over 150 games in charge, almost making the Champions League early on (if it wasn’t for a dodgy lasagne). He certainly raised the bar, getting us into the top six or thereabouts consistently. Jol was certainly affable and had a decent amount of time, but was ultimately not the answer we were looking for.

The good old Tottenham boys

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David Pleat, Clive Allen and Tim Sherwood are cannon-fodder. Men with Spurs in their blood lured to the White Hart Lane bench on a hiding to nothing, then binned as soon as something better happens along. Expect to see Steffen Freund in this role in the near future.

And so, we enter another summer, a World Cup one at that with no idea who’ll be in the cockerel blazer at the start of the next season. sportreview.net.nz’s dream appointment remains Jurgen Klinsmann, but as he’s taking the USA to the World Cup, that seems unlikely.

Arsenal are a handy club to compare ourselves with, and even though their fans may grumble about lack of investment etc etc etc, with Wenger their team has out-Tottenham-ed us at the pretty football, they’ve been in the Champions League every year and have many more trophies that count. Maybe all this swap and change is part of the culture. Notoriously fickle Tottenham fans are quick to get on a manager’s back when things aren’t going swimmingly and Levy,  apparently a local lad and fan, is generally quick to give the fans what they want.  As he looks for his 11th Tottenham manger, he may reflect on his own role in overseeing this shambles.  Hopefully some out-of-the-box advisor advises picking someone decent and sticking with him. We’ve given everything else a go – why not have a crack at stability?

Links on Friday

The Guardian’s Word Cup: 25 Stunning Moments series is top class, going long on the great tournament’s best / grubbiest bits. Roy Keane walking out in Ireland is my fav so far, ‘cos it has  sportreview.net.nz fav Keano lore, with the backstory to one of the great sporting quotes: “You can stick it up your bollocks.” Bonus link: Dry Your Eyes Becks.

ESPN’s Rick Reilly with a long list of truths from his sportswriting career:
I would rather cover athletes than any other anything. They show up early. They are accountable. They suffer fools endlessly and punch a very small percentage of them. They’re forced to explain themselves daily and yet do it without bile. They push themselves places you don’t know exist. Exhausted, they perform feats, under pressure, that never fail to give me chicken skin.

Genre-busting ‘freaky basketball trickshot’ here.

The Who Will Punch Steven Adams in the Face Power Rankings has been doing the rounds on Twitter, and with good reason. Not only has Valerie’s brother made it to some Very Important Basketball Matches (my colleagues assure me), he’s a Jedi master at both ‘niggly elbows’ and ‘all-innocence reaction’ that anyone who’s played social indoor football will be immediately familiar with.

Links on Friday

sportreview.net.nz never really bothered getting to know the cavalcade of mustachioed, grimacing, gum chomping Aussies that tormented the Young Guns through the 80s and 90s. Luckily, Russell has all you need to know about top order tormentor David Boon with The Joy Of Six David Boon moments - it’s a sprawling run through the innings, the songs, the short leg magic, packed with links  and clips like the definitive tomb on the 52 cans saga, and the great man doing Talking Heads’ Once in a lifetime, would you believe.

Jon McAfee is best known for designing anti-virus software that ALWAYS needs updating, and going on the run and a bit bat shit crazy in Belize when wanted on a murder charge. Unexpectedly (or expectedly), his interview with a nerdy tech site on the hardware and software he uses to get things done is quotation gold:

“I change phones every two weeks to avoid being tagged by the NSA or some other agency, so I favor hardware systems that allow for quick and easy data transfer between phones.
“I also do my most productive security designs while having extended sex. I apologize if you think I am pulling your legs but, God’s truth, these are the facts.
“My favorite real-time software is the XM153 remote control software that comes standard with the XM153 50 caliber machine gun.”

Long read: It turns out all the credit for the LA Kings being any good and getting Wayne Gretzky and that goes to Alan Thicke. Yes the dad from Growing Pains. He schmoozes, he sings, and winds up best mates with Michael Jordan. 

If you Wikipedia ‘celebrated too soon’ and ‘you look like a tool, mate’, you will find this clip. Kind of like a thriller with a telegraphed twist at the end, but fun all the same.

Links on Friday

If obscure curling and hurling stars, scantily-clad models looking tanned and freezing cold, people dressed as fruit and Giovanni Trappattoni are among your interests, you won’t believe your luck when you visit 68 Examples Showcasing The Absolute Ridiculousness Of Irish Sporting Photo Shoots.

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Judy Murray’s Twitter account has forced sportreview.net.nz to revise labelling her as ‘bite-yer-leg-ambitious tennis mum’ to ‘actually quite funny and self aware’. And she trolls Yoko Ono for larfs. I think everyone can get behind that.

Your teeth are offside, your teeth are offside, Luis Suarez, your teeth are offside.” Top ten funniest football chants.

From the ‘kind of useless but kind of cool’ files, here’s MLB’s newest statto-graphics. Sure would like to see this in cricket for something like Trent Boult’s catches.

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