Off the pitch, USA waffles the Belgians

Manneken-PisIf size matters, the USA will waffle the Belgians in their World Cup knockout round match. Here’s how we stack up against Belgium.

 

POPULATION

USA — 318M

Belgium – 11M, roughly akin to Ohio

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

SIZE

USA — 3.79M square miles, world’s third largest country

Belgium – 11.8K square miles, roughly the size of Maryland, our 42nd largest state

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

FAMOUS PEOPLE

USA – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Edison

Belgium – Adolpe Sax (inventor of the saxophone), Peter Paul Reubens (baroque painter), Leorge Lemaitre (astronomer who invented the Big Bang theory)

ADVANTAGE — USA (although sax and Big Bang are big deals)

 

CULINARY INVENTIONS

USA – BBQ pork and beef, crab cakes, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies.

BELGIUM — Belgian waffles, Brussels sprouts

ADVANTAGE — USA

 

GOVERNMENT

USA – Federal republic

Belgium – Federal monarchy

ADVANTAGE —  Belgium, a king tops a president, King Philippe gets the nod

 

GDP (gross domestic product)

USA – $16.799 trillion

Belgium – $434.503 billion

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

MOTTO

USA – “In God we trust”

Belgium – “Strength through unity”

ADVANTAGE — Tie

 

ATHLETES

USA – Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan

Belgium – Eddy Merckx (five times winner of the Tour de France), Justine Hennin and Kim Clijsters (women’s tennis)

ADVANTAGE – Seriously

 

ACTRESSES

USA – Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall

Belgium – Audrey Hepburn

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

ACTORS

USA – Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks

Belgium – Jean-Claude Van Damme

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

FAMOUS MONUMENTS

USA – Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore

Belgium – Manneken Pis

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

LANGUAGES

USA – English, Spanish

Belgium – Flemish, French

ADVANTAGE — Tie

 

NICKNAME

USA – Land of the Free

BELGIUM – Low Countries (with the Netherlands and Luxembourg)

ADVANTAGE – USA

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World Cup: A tie is a loss, a loss is a win

Strange when a tie feels like a loss…..and a loss feels like a win. But those are the emotions Team USA fans are feeling after the Red, White and Blue advanced out of the “Group of Death” – despite a 1-0 loss to Germany.

Sure, Americans were down after Portugal scored in the waning seconds of extra time to forge a 2-2 draw with the US on Sunday. And for awhile there today it appeared as though Ghana, and not the USA, might advance along with Germany in Group G.

Imagine the uproar if that had happened. The US beat Ghana 2-1 in an earlier match, and yet Ghana could have moved ahead on goal differential. What kind of tiebreaker system is FIFA using when head-to-head is not the first criteria,

Some other random thoughts about soccer and the World Cup.

The clock – It’s nice to see games start on time and end in less than two hours. But timekeeping is so imprecise that with extra time you’re never quite sure when the final whistle will blow. And how about a little more clarity on goals then, rather than just saying the score was in the 54th minute…or whatever.

Fakers – It seems as though an awful lot of players take dives and embellish injuries every time they go down – or is that just me?

There’s no biting in soccer – Well actually there is. Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez (Chewy Luis), taking a page out of Mike Tyson’s book, bite out of the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. The result – a four-month suspension and a fine of $100,000 Swiss francs. That oughta teach him.

Vests — Why do subs wear those ridiculous vestments?

Like ice hockey – Soccer and hockey are cousins. With very few goals being scored in either sport, the thrill is in watching the scoring chance. If you’re waiting for home runs, touchdowns or three-pointers, you’re in the wrong sport.

Home pitch advantage – Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (2006) have all won the World Cup as host team.

Five-time champs  – Brazil has won the most World Cup – five – but none at home.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium – Team USA will face Belgium next Tuesday in the knock-out round. Heck, the Americans win on GNP alone. Suzanne Pleshette will pick the winner.


World Cup Runneth Over for Spain

Well, Spain lived up to the favorite’s role and won its first World Cup, beating The Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

The Spanish had reached five Cup quarterfinals — in 1934, 50, 86, 94 and 2002 — but never advanced beyond that….until this year.

Meanwhile, The Netherlands are now the Brooklyn Dodgers of World Cup soccer. The Dutch made the finals for the third time, but came up empty once again. Previous losses were to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.

Three random thoughts on the World Cup:

No Shootout

1. Thankfully somebody scored in the extra time, thus avoiding a penalty kick shootout for the championship. the way Brazil beat Italy in 1994 and Italy defeated France for the 2006 Cup..

IMHO, elimination games — and especially championship matches — should be not be decided by artificial shootouts. Go to sudden death overtime.

And if there’s a concern that the games might last too long, play the OT with less players and open up the field.

Yes Replay

2. Go to the replay to confirm questionable goals. Hey, I’m not an instant replay freak — it’s overdone in the NFL, for instance. But it’s foolish not to use the technology that’s available today to ensure the right call is made.

Not advocating replay for offsides calls, penalties, etc. Just goals.

Vuvezela Music

3. At first, we wondered what was that sound. The vuvuzalas sounded like a swarm of bees, and they were obnoxious in the beginning. But as the World Cup rolled on, they became the defining sound of the 2010 World Cup.

When in South Africa, do as the South Africans do.


World Cup Report: No .300 Shooters in Soccer

American fans had plenty to cheer about at the World Cup, but at the end the US came up long on heroics but short on glory — and the quarterfinals.

They always say the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball. Watching the World Cup, however, it’s plainly apparent the hardest thing to do in sports is to score a goal in soccer. There are plenty of .300 hitters in baseball, but no .300 shooters in soccer, at least none in the World Cup.

Although the United States had a valiant Cup showing with some memorable rallies to make the round of 16, their inability to avoid the early deficit doomed them in the end. Playing from behind all the time wears on a team, and it seemed like the US was always playing catch-up, even in group play where they beat Algeria 1-0 in overtime on a goal by Landon Donovan, below right, in extra time to avoid elimination.

The US team played 390 minutes of soccer in South Africa — and led for just three of them.

The US had a chance to advance and perhaps gain some world recognition, but once more failed to take that next step. The 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana was disappointing, especially when one considers the USA has nearly 15X the population of that tiny African country.  The same Black Stars that knocked out the US in 2006 — and by the same score.

With so many other team sports in America, it’s no surprise that soccer has never really caught on in this country. Oversaturation will do that, and there are just so many sports Americans can absorb.

At the end of the day, the US team still has work to do in order to reach world class status. The last (and only) time the United States even made it as far as the semifinals was in the first World Cup in 1930. They were beaten 6-1 by eventual champion Argentina and finished third that year, and they haven’t been that close in 80 years.

As the New York Daily News said: “Going, Going, Ghana.”

Play in the World Cup is certainly dramatic, but FIFA must get with the real world and use available technology — at least for goal-scoring plays. Not a big advocate of instant replay for offsides and penalties.

But the whole world saw England score a second goal against Germany — everyone but the officials on the field. At the very least, position a goal judge directly behind the net to make goal calls and avoid controversy.

The Germans would argue the call makes up for 1966, when England’s Geoff Hurst (Sir Geoffrey Charles Hurst) scored a controversial goal in overtime against West Germany at Wembley Stadium to spearhead a 4-2 triumph and Britian’s only World Cup. Hurst remains the only player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

Heck they even had video replay 44 years ago, as this You Tube link attests. You make the call.


Quick Hitters: SportsLifer Observations

Listening to all those annoying vuvuzela horns at the World Cup in South Africa reminds me of a swarm of bees. Commentators have described the sound as “annoying” and compared it with “a stampede of noisy elephants,” “a deafening swarm of locusts,”a goat on the way to slaughter” and “a giant hive full of very angry bees.”Ouch, dammit, just got stung!

Not a big soccer buff, but that gaffe by England’s keeper Robert Green that handed the United States a goal and ultimately a 1-1 draw with the favored Brits brought back memories of Bill Buckner.

BTW, why is England called England in the World Cup and the UK everywhere else?

These college conference shifts are making me dizzy. If this merry-go-round somehow turns into a football playoff system, it’s all good. If not, it’s bookkeeping .

Could’ve made some nice coin betting that Francisco Cervelli would have the same amount of RBIs as Joe Mauer (27) going into play on June 12.

Pete Carroll got out of Dodge just in time, leaving those USC penalties in his wake.

Playoffs make for strange heroes. The endearing image of the NBA Finals so far is little Nate Robinson hugging Glen “Big Baby “Davis aka Donkey and Shrek, shown right.

If we were living in an alternative universe and Butler’s Gordon Hayward had made that half-court heave to beat Duke, would it have gone down as the best shot in history? That’s a tough one, but well, the answer is yes. It beats Christian Laettner’s  buzzer-beater, as well as any of Michael Jordan’s game winners. Jerry West made a 63-foot shot to send a playoff game into overtime in 1970, but the Knicks went on to beat the Lakers that night. Then there was Gene Sarazan’s double eagle at the 1935 Masters. And Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world, that helped the Giants win the pennant in 1951. Would any of those top Hayward? Not in this alternative world.

Speaking of college hoops, why is Jim Calhoun hanging on at UConn.

Is there a better Jack Nicholson than Randle Patrick McMurphy in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”? How about here’s Johnny, Jack Torrance, in Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Or Melvin Udall in “As Good As It Gets.”

Tom Izzo isn’t taking that Cavaliers job unless he knows LeBron is coming back.

Do you think Patrick Kane would trade his name on the Stanley Cup for an Olympic gold medal? Kinda wondered the same thing about Sidney Crosy, but he’s already got both.

Is Brett Favre retired yet?