sportreview.net.nz 2014, um, review

As has been pointed out, this blog’s tenth year has not been an especially productive if you measure these things in terms of *posting* on the blog. Let’s up the word count with a mazy dribble through 2014.

Football
That was a Great world cup. Not only did we get pretty football and amazing goals, but it all seemed to be played in front of big, noisy crowds (not that noisy) in decent spirit, apart from the biting and that. It’s a shame FIFA lets us down again and again as an organisation, but somehow, they’re still running this game.

Game of the tournament was Brazil v Germany, for wonderful goals and the other-worldliness of it all, it was like seeing the fall of Rome in two 45 minutes halves. Goal of the tournament was the little Aussie battler Tim Cahill’s, what a strike. Performance of the tournament was any time Miguel Herrera was on the camera.

I don’t want to talk about Tottenham. Expecting a Tottenham manager with mixed results in the first season to be there for any length of time is like expecting loyalty from a domestic house cat. I’ve been hurt too many times before.

Oh, and this was the greatest thing to happen on the field in 2014:

Rugby
New Zealand is in the middle of another, yinnow, very special era. We’re kind of getting used to them. But are we happy? I have to say I didn’t watch as much rugby as in recent years, mainly kept it to the big Tests v South Africa and the Ockers and catching some of my Chiefs in the super rugby (I am extremely confident that next year is going to be our year again). Malaise? Laziness? I don’t know. There is nothing wrong with the game the national team is playing, we have more depth than seems fair to other nations, and are expertly coached.

Maybe it’s because you can’t hold a conversation about rugby in this country without WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD CUP hovering over you like a grim reaper. Enjoying rugby outside world cups seems pointless. Can we have more proper tours with three test series and matches against provinces please? Taking the game to the Chicago did not do it for me.

Maybe I should just relax and enjoy it. We really are spoiled in this country.

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I got down to Dunedin to see the Chiefs crap out to the Highlanders with a bunch of (fellow) idiots from Hamilton. This is a world class stadium that had a lot of atmosphere when half full, it must be amazing when packed. You’re so close you think someone is going to put liniment on you.

Cricket
How bonkers was 2014? From Corey Anderson knocking up a world’s fastest ODI ton on new year’s day to the prospect of the BLACKCAPS reaching all kinds of records and just quietly having the most successful-ever Test calendar year ever, it’s been one we’ll remember for a long time. Highlights:

Being at Eden Park for the ODI v India with 28,000 people, thanks to Auckland’s Indian community, who were amazing. Great taste of what a packed cricket stadium feels like ahead of the Big Tournament next year.

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The Test win at Eden Park, with Brendon McCullum’s double ton and an absolute rip snorter from Neil Wagner to get us over the line. Eden Park can feel AMAZING with a few thousand in too.

Seeing half of Wellington come in on that murky Tuesday morning to cheer the skipper on to 302. Privilege to be there.

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Just quietly, while the grassy banks of Seddon Park are still home for me, I am coming around to the charms of the Basin big time as New Zealand’s best Test ground. From the old-school main stand to the lovingly-and-expertly run museum (check out that book sale) to the fact so many of NZ’s most passionate cricket fans are Wellingtonians who are loud on the Twitter and turn up to see their teams. My head has been turned. See you on the third.

Again, I’d never expected to go to Bangladesh in my life, let alone twice, but that happened. It’s not for everyone, and living the sheltered life with the team meant you don’t really see the real city, but I loved it. That Chittagong storm was something to see with chest-rattling thunder and blinding lightning moving slowly and inevitably through the muggy night air to the ground before the rainstorm came. Biblical stuff.
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Winning a rare away Test series in the West Indies by coming back from a loss in the second and being deep in the crap in the third was remarkable, many players cite that series win as their highlight of the year.

The third Test v Pakistan in Sharjah will be remembered for the way the team paid tribute to Phil Hughes and then performed one of the most remarkable turnarounds you’ll ever see. You kind of want to wax lyrical but it doesn’t seem appropriate. It was nuts and made me very proud.

Elsewhere, the cricket from Australia has been compelling, with Mitch and his moustache, and this series against India shaping up nicely. And the tributes to Phil Hughes were moving and appropriate. This clip from his 50-over double hundred for Australia A shows you what an outrageous batsman he was, have a look at what we’ve lost:

The internet and that
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be able to sit at work and do*ahem* work on one screen and have SKY Go and Tweetbot going on the other. I watched a lot of the football world cup like this, as well as some of the West Indies Test series, the Ashes and the current Australia v India series.

I loved #putoutyourbats, ’twas a very cricket way to pay tribute to Phil Hughes.

The Alternative Commentary Collective was funny and brilliant, and an example of using the internet to do new things, of which I approve. Will be great to see them back this year.

Watching sport with Twitter is kind of cool but kind of weird, you miss a lot when you’re trying to keep up with the conversation. That said, out of my cold, dead hands, etc. What’s the answer team?

sportreview.net.nz 2014, um, review

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Like many New Zealanders of a certain age, my memories of the Benson and Hedges Series are nothing but golden. The moustaches, the Beige, us having a great team and doing pretty well, all enjoyed at fantastic viewing times during long, humid summer nights on the couch. Even The Underarm, it warms the cockles of my heart how angry we all were (are?) together. Russell Jackson looks back:

We should always remember the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup – fondly glorifying it, misremembering how slow the net run rates actually were, perennially overrating some of the ropey touring sides who made up the numbers against Australia and the West Indies and convincing the generations below us that it was cricket nirvana because occasionally, it truly was.

This is the great man Dimitar Berbatov with a ‘did I leave the oven on’ touch, before immediately ordering those not fit to be on the same pitch as him about. Read the full list of first touches you can only dream of.

sportreview.net.nz wholeheartedly endorses skipping stones as a legitimate sport.

Neville

Manchester United’s Gary Neville asked Manchester City fan and dad rocker wag Noel Gallagher to sign what looks to be a very nice guitar. Hilarity ensues.

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sportreview.net.nz had a floppy-fringe-and-cardigan-and-moody-guitar-band- enabled stormer in the 90s. The football was GREAT too, with Tottenham’s ‘famous five’ of Teddy Sheringham, Jurgen Klinsmannn, Darren Anderton etc forever holding a special place in my heart – but was football in general actually *better*? Vice UK investigates.  Seriously, this page is worth it just for the Matt Le Tissier goal compilation alone, fantastic stuff.

This guy went to the Tour De France and didn’t enjoy it. Surely the ideal scenario for watching TDF in the flesh would be picking a little mountainside bar, spend the day there drinking cheap red wine and eating bread and cheese and watching it on the telly while bantering with adorable old geezers wearing berets and bags of onions and garlic, pausing only to saunter outside to watch the riders go past? He’s done it all wrong.

If sportreview.net.nz was in the market to get rad / gleam the cube etc, it would opt for a VHS-inspired deck, like so:

Skate

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Tottenham 2014/15 – the big preview

Graeme at sportsfreak.co.nz got me off the bench to do the Tottenham Hotspur season preview this year:

“My dream scenario for 2014/15 would be selling some players we don’t need, signing a ‘stick the ball in the net’ striker, sorting out who our first team is, performing competently against the top four, thrashing Arsenal at least twice, having the same manager at the end of the season as we do now and qualifying for the Champions League. Not too much to ask.”

Go read the whole thing, and all the other teams, there’s some great stuff there.

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Tottenham 2014/15 – the big preview

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Get behind the scenes with the All Blacks – in the 80s! At the time, The Good, The Bad And The Rugby was a revelation, for presenting ‘All Blacks as people,’ at a time when they usually appeared in our living rooms either smashing Frenchmen in the face or advertising Jockeys. It was a simpler time of mullets n larfs n guitars and a bloody joy to watch.

In-depth analysis of world cup arm-folding better than it  sounds. Like a night out with John Terry, there’s a lot that can go wrong. GIF3b

And if you’re missing the world cup, here’s the New Yorker’s most memorable moments, complete with video.  And this is why Germany won.

I’m not entirely sure who Tom Brady is, but the bloke cannot get a high five from, well, anyone. Think he’s like an American Jimmy Cowan.

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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.

One of the better cold Wednesday nights at Eden Park

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 Cup Cloud City

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

 

World in motion

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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.

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