It’s World Cup qualifying day, and U.S.-Mexico has finally arrived. I don’t even know where to begin to round-up all the articles out there on this game, and I’m not sure I could read another one, but I am counting down the hours to the game, despite the fact I’m hardly a wild partisan for either team.
The U.S. will enter the Azteca cauldron, where they have famously never won (not that anyone else ever wins there either in a meaningful game, barring Costa Rica in 2001), in front of 107,000 intense but very nervous fans: despite Mexico’s 5-0 stroll over the U.S. in the battle of the B teams at the Gold Cup final last month, it’s pretty clear which team is in-form and which isn’t, and who the pressure is really on given the state of the qualifying group.
An interesting question for U.S. fans was raised by SF at the Offside Rules: would there be a loss for American soccer if the U.S. does conquer this boogeyman and finally win in the smog, heat and hostility of the Azteca? “Deep inside there is some sick, self-hating part of me that wants it to continue just to have something to complain about. I have a couple of friends who are Boston Red Sox fans that swear that now that the Curse of the Bambino has been lifted it’s just not as fun anymore.”
Of couse, that wouldn’t stop the celebrations for US fans today (presuming they can find the channel the game is on!), but it’s true a dash of the spice would be gone from what has become an absolutely crucial rival for both countries, both culturally and financially. It’ll be fascinating to see how the next chapter unfolds.
- When I wrote a piece on DC United’s clever We Win Trophies marketing campaign a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that the site was asking for parodic adaptation. www.wesellenergydrinks.com certainly delivers, ripping into Red Bull New York with glee.
- Expect to see plenty more of Barcelona in the U.S. going forward, as their president gleefully revealed they had made almost EUR 6 million for 12 days “work” in North America. Easy money.
- Kristian Dyer has an excellent piece on ESPN Soccernet that digs into Ty Harden’s motivation for quitting MLS last year to spend the year in college and doing volunteer work in Kenya. “It was a long and hard decision. I knew that I wanted to go back to school and get my degree,” Harden told Dyer. “But I also wanted to do more with my life than simply kick a ball.”
- John Terry says perhaps the most banal statement ever — “we can’t rule out England winning the World Cup” — and the English press goes nuts, with half the press critcising Terry’s hubris and the other half claiming he’d pledged victory. When all he really said was what anyone would have to agree with, since it’d seem silly to rule-out one of the best ten or so teams in the world winning a tournament based on seven games.
- The ongoing saga of Sulaiman al-Fahim’s stalled takeover of Portsmouth is well-explained in this somewhat depressing team preview by David Hytner in the Guardian. Depressing because it’s a season preview that’s far more about the off the field crisis engulfing the club and very little about the team itself, which has been gutted by sales to repay loans.
- Another huge World Cup qualifier today is Scotland vs. Norway, but as SPAOTP points out, the Scots have been in full self-destruct mode with the fallout over the ban on Barry Ferguson after a disreputable night-out last year refusing to go away.
- Carseon Yeung was last seen “scrounging for loose coins in the St. Andrews car park” when his takeover of Birmingham failed in 2007, but he’s back again beating the same drum.
- The dispute that delayed the start of Argentina’s season appears to be over, with games now scheduled to begin on August 21st. The government is set to step in and double the league’s TV rights deal this season. Richard explained the ins and outs of this well here on Sunday.
- The way forward for Italy? “Back to the past,” according to Sergio Campana, the head of the nation’s professional footballers association (AIC). Campana wants restrictions on foreigners in Serie A as in the league’s glory days of two decades ago, claiming it’s “legally possible both for non-European Union and EU citizens,” but it’s very hard to see how this could be true within the European Union and it’s a short-sighted solution to deeper seated problems in Italian football.
- Four Four Two has a piece on Parma, back in the big-time (remember the days of Crespo et al?), but with a tough road ahead if they’re to stay in Serie A.
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