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WC 2006 Match Chat: Japan vs. Croatia, 6 am PT
2006-06-18 04:00
by Bob Timmermann

Live from Nuremberg!

Both of these teams lost their opening matches in Group F, but in much different ways.

Japan led Australia 1-0, until Tim Cahill burned Japan for two goals after the 84th minute. John Aloisi added a third in stoppage time. And the Japanese press and public declared it open season on national coach Zico. Some people in Japan just wanted the team to come home NOW. However, the Japanese are still in Germany.

Meanwhile, Croatia, with their natty red checkerboard uniforms, picked no doubt because of the coincidence of a large Croatian community in St. Louis and the presence of the Ralston Purina Company there, lost 1-0 to tournament favorite Brazil.

Of all the teams that lost their opening match, Croatia may have been in the best shape as they got their toughest match out of the way. Croatia should be able to beat Japan and Australia. But the Czechs should have beaten Ghana too.

National Anthems:

Japan, Kimigayo. In my book, one of the best melodies for any national anthem. And it's short too!

Croatia, Lijepa naša domovino, which translates to "Dig those checkerboards!"

Please take notice that my grandmother was born with the name Jelena Zuzenak. I think there were supposed to be some diacriticals on her surname.

2006-06-18 06:20:13
1.   Bob Timmermann
ABC decided to show this one and it has announcers who are on site to boot?

That's odd. It's not like these countries have big followings in the US.

2006-06-18 06:21:01
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
This is actually the first game of the tournament I'm watching live, having recorded every match up to this point on TiVo. I've gotten in the habit of starting the early game whenever I get up and running through them in order so as not to spoil the surprise of any of them. Then of course yesterday while I was intently watching Ghana-Czech Republic I received three phone calls and one text message revealing the result of the USA game.

Um, yeah, so the upshot of all this is that I'm up at seven in the morning watching Japan and Croatia. There are added benefits to watching the game live, though. The first of these that I've discovered is the "Emirates Airline MatchCast" which you can reach through the first link above. The descriptions given in this little window are vastly more exciting-seeming than the visual images of the game running on the TV in front of me.

For example: "Four Japan players converge around the ball and win back possession. It falls to Nakamura Shunsuke (JPN) to try and spark the attack into life but it comes to nothing."

On TV, I didn't see the converging or the sparking of attack, but I may not be on the same level of sophistication as a socceer fan as the guy who does the Emirates Airlines MatchCast.

2006-06-18 06:23:11
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Huge save and I believe we're a low 1 for 3 on penalty kicks for the tournament so far.
2006-06-18 06:25:07
4.   Bob Timmermann
I think the guy who is does the MatchCast thingee is not a native speaker of English. I'm wondering if he's a German.

Make your PKs, Croatia.

You're a disgrace to the Tablecloth.

2006-06-18 06:27:03
5.   Bob Timmermann
It's 2 for 4 in PKs. Portugal made one against Iran yesterday.
2006-06-18 06:28:32
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
"Croatia will be ruing that miss. It came after they were just starting to dominate the play."

It does lack a certain economy of modifiers, doesn't it? Of course you could say the same thing about my writing, and I've been speaking English my whole life.

2006-06-18 06:30:12
The Japan-Brazil connection is vastly underestimated. Fighting, immigration, and soccer now too.

Damn, I thought that knuckler was going to find its way in.

2006-06-18 06:32:49
8.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I made an effort to pay attention to that Iran-Portugal game but after being a good sport for the Ghana and USA games my girlfriend's patience began to wear thin when I cued up a third soccer game. Thank god she had somewhere else to be before the hockey started.
2006-06-18 06:33:27
If the guy is German, it would be interesting to know how old he is. I think there is a bit of a generation gap in Germany in terms of English speaking. The older generation speak like the Brits, while the younger generation speak like, well, South Park characters.
2006-06-18 06:36:25
10.   Bob Timmermann
The MatchCasts use British English for the most part although they don't use the distinctly British phrases you would find on the BBC site.
2006-06-18 06:36:37
11.   Mark T.R. Donohue
The Japan essay in The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup is all about how Japanese soccer is an outlet for freedom and artistry in the culture as oppposed to Japanese baseball, which is drill-drill-drill-drill. They let their soccer players grow their hair long, which you don't see much of in Japanese baseball.
2006-06-18 06:38:56
Although I have watched plenty of soccer before, there is something about the World Cup that is addicting. Getting up at 6 to watch Japan-Croatia is not rational especially considering I could not name a player on either team. I truly fear that I will go through a kind of withdrawal after July 9th. I guess I'll just have to go out more.
2006-06-18 06:41:55
13.   Bob Timmermann
This is the first pitch I've noticed that has patterns in the way it was mowed.

I guess they couldn't mow a checkerboard or else the Japanese would have thought it was a "Croatian" field.

I'm betting that Germany doesn't have a Father's Day like Rob Stone mentioned.

2006-06-18 06:42:52
I can not remember that out of bounds of the cornerkick being called as much as it has been this world cup. And if the ball is in the air can you really be sure it was all the way over the line.
2006-06-18 06:45:56
15.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I'm an intense fan of the English Premier League and watch probably five or six games a week during their season, waking up early to catch Liverpool live whenever I can. One reason I've been so angered by the officiating in the Cup thus far is the standards set by the EPL are...somewhat less stringent.

However, colossal upsets in club football are rare and far less meaningful than World Cup surprises. Plus there's the tangible feeling that entire nations' senses of self-worth are resting on (in some cases) a single goal. Remember the expressions on the Swedish fans' faces after they failed to beat Trinidad & Tobago? That was great!

2006-06-18 06:47:25
The US buildup is too over the top. I think people are going to use their sick days for a day at the beach or something.
2006-06-18 06:47:30
17.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I think Croatia will have just been ruing that penalty kick miss.
2006-06-18 06:57:41
The officiating in the EPL is far better. Their referees actually seem to try to avoid the spotlight.

I am much more excited for the FA Cup games than the league games. There is something about knockout games in a low-scoring sport like soccer that is thrilling. Even in the league tournaments, they play home-and-away until the final so there really is no soccer tournament as pressure-packed as the World Cup.

2006-06-18 07:02:10
19.   Bob Timmermann
You really don't need to use a sick day. You just take a long lunch.

Actually, I thought the US was playing at noon, PT, but they're playing a 7 am. That's a tricky time for me since I leave for work at 8, so I'll basically be missing the last half.

2006-06-18 07:08:52
20.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Despite the low scores and the single elimination format, not a lot of countries have ever won the World Cup. That's part of the elegance of it -- upsets abound early on, but in the finals it's always historic power vs. historic power.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for the continuity the rigorous club football schedule lends itself to. When your side (finally) "rounds into form," it's a treat to watch. In the World Cup, teams either have it or they don't -- there's no time, really, for them to develop.

It's an apples-and-oranges comparison. The World Cup is by design ephemeral and hysterical. The club football season is a grind but allows for tactics on a level that the part-time, All-Star international teams don't reach. At the end of the EPL season Chelsea's midfield and Liverpool's defense were machinelike. The most talented teams in the World Cup sometimes play at that level, but it's pure inspiration and not so much coaching that gets them there. Watching Argentina at the moment -- it's like they're playing 8 strikers, but it works!

2006-06-18 07:11:21
21.   Bob Timmermann
In my opinion, there have been only two upsets in the World Cup final. Uruguay beating Brazil in 1950 and Germany beating Hungary in 1954. None of the other finals could really be described as a shock.
2006-06-18 07:17:54
22.   Mark T.R. Donohue
One good example of the difference between the clubs and the international teams is France. France won at home in '98 but they were a disaster in 2002 and have been a disappointment so far this time around. Part of that you can chalk up to Zidane being over the hill but what about Thierry Henry and Claude Makalele? Those guys are GREAT players, but they looked like shells of themselves in the Switzerland game. Both are highly dependent on the systems and teammates they're used to in the EPL. Asked to do something different, they struggle. The same could be said of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley of the US in the game against the Czechs.
2006-06-18 07:31:04
That average height statistic showed only a 3 inch difference. That doesn't seem that much especially if you put in meters.
2006-06-18 07:40:06
24.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Geez, all of the Croatian fans shoulder to shoulder in their checkerboard shirts looks like something out of "Alice in Wonderland."

They have a Croatia jersey on sale at the little soccer shop near my apartment, but I'm holding out for a bright orange Holland jersey...the 1 of my 16 great-great-grandparents who wasn't Irish was Dutch, you know.

2006-06-18 07:51:47
25.   Bob Timmermann
Now all Japan has to do to advance is beat Brazil.

Not a good showing by Team Tablecloth.

2006-06-18 07:55:49
26.   Bob Timmermann
Verizon sends me a text message update, but it comes as a full sentence.

"Copa Mundial de la FIFA. Los resultados de tu equipo en el juego de hoy son: Japon 0, Croacia 0."

2006-06-18 07:59:39
27.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Bring on the canaries!
2006-06-18 08:50:10
28.   xaphor
[15] One reason I've been so angered by the officiating in the Cup thus far is the standards set by the EPL are...somewhat less stringent.

Putting it mildly. England is well known for their tolerance of hard challenges and the resulting drawback of slower paced football. Spain, Italy and France are much stricter opting to enforce their way to the free flowing game of South America. It is to be expected then that officials from the differentiating leagues will have reflective standards despite FIFA regulations. The US midfielder's red in the first half of the Italy game was not a red in England, but a South American would not hesitate sending someone off for a tackle into the legs after the ball had gone.

2006-06-18 08:59:06
29.   xaphor
[22] It's funny that you mention Makalele as many credited his play at Chelsea with making his teammates look good, notably the England internationals Lampard and Terry.

I take no time dwelling on the horror that is France however. I prefer to just enjoy it :)

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