Sunday, 20 June 2010

Agent Orange: Rooting For The Enemy

It's been a long time since we chatted last. The Nabisco Cup is thankfully and mercifully over for us, the World Cup is in full swing and I am excited. Far more excited than I imagined I could be. This World Cup has been historic for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is Africa being the main stage for the World Game. I used to laugh at the grandiose title, but personally I have watched games with Japanese, Korean, Swedish, French, Chinese, Canadian and Ghanaian people, while chatting online with British and Australian friends. I don't know of any other event where I would do that. This truly has, on a personal level, brought people together.

There have been great moments and moments of great controversy. The opening game between South Africa and Mexico was tense and spectacular. The matches involving the US have been exciting and even minnows like New Zeaaland and Honduras have put up creditable performances. Until this weekend started, we had relatively good officiating (Australia would disagree). Then Friday night hit and Germany lost their best offensive threat early to a fussy Spanish card conquistador, the USA saw a historic comeback ruined by a really awful call late (to be fair, Jozy Altidore did kind of dive on the foul that earned the US a free kick, but Slovenia was feasting on those dives all game) and a baffling yellow call on a straight red pulldown of Altidore with nobody between him and the keeper.

In the Dumb Statement Department, Slovenian centerback Boštjan Cesar said afterwards that he thought some of the tackles by the US were rough and that his team had been hard done by by the ref. Sure, and FC Tokyo was right to be angry after they got a two-man advantage against us in April because of fussy reffing (I'm still not over that, by the way). Finally we saw Harry Kewell get an awful red card against him for a handball that was inadvertent to say the least. Australia did well to keep the draw.

Closer to home came the debut of our first Omiya player at a World Cup. An Yong Hak suited up against world superpower Brazil and played a very solid ninety minutes in a 2-1 loss. He did the Squirrel Republic proud and will be rewarded for it next with a game against Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal side. I'm proud of him and glad he's there; however, there is a giant elephant in the room that we have not touched on.

North Korea.

It's difficult to root for that team, knowing that any success they achieve helps to prop up a guy that (to understate the point grossly) isn't a very nice man. I'm not going to get into the whole political grocery list of atrocities and other malfeasances allegedly committed by the Kim Jong Il regime. I will say, however, it would be a lot easier to support any one of the other 31 teams in attendance if An was a member. Well, except Italy. And France. And Mexico. I guess Algeria, too, because the US is playing them next. And Slovenia really pissed me off (hmm, I guess poorly written Anonymous blog comments aren't the only thing they specialize in...*cough*DIVE*cough*).

Okay, maybe it's not too hard to root for them. Go North Korea!!! Only in Omiya could a situation like this happen.

The other "enemy" I refer to is "our" own Japanese National Squad. I'm kind of torn between wanting them to do well, while hoping certain players fall flat on their faces...

Let's Look At The Squad

Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi - old keeper who plays for Jubilo Iwata, a team that tends to get the best of us. I think our very own Takashi Kitano is better than him right now, so I don't like him.

Seigo Narazaki - Nagoya Grampus always humiliates us and he is a former Flugel. We still have fewer members on the national team than the Flugels. Don't like him.

Eiji Kawashima - I didn't like him because he was a former Omiya guy who left to go be a backup at Grampus and I didn't think he was that good. I was wrong. We face him in the first game back. So I like him, but I don't like him.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka - Do I really have to explain?

Atsuto Uchida - My God is he a fragile flower or what. When he played against us in April, he went down easier than a Slovenian forward.

Yuto Nagatomo - Good player but he's an FC Tokyo guy, so he's on my list.

Yasuyuki Konno - Ditto except for the good player part.

Yuji Nakazawa - One of three players on the National Team to reject offers from Omiya. There's a special place in J-League hell for this guy, Junichi Inamoto and Keiji Tamada (who also plays for Nagoya and dives like a porpoise).

Yuki Abe - Red.

Makoto Hasebe - Former Red.

Kisho Yano - Hahahahahaha.

Yasuhito Endo and Shunsuke Nakamura are old, Yoshito Okubo is crazy, Keisuke Honda is the next incarnation of Hidetoshi Nakata, who I hate. I don't know who else is on the team but I'm sure there is a reason to hate them too (just kidding, I know the rest of the squad - and exactly why I hate them).

However, this squad, this unpopular, much-criticized squad, has played efficient and organized soccer. And they're starting to pull me in a little bit. A hard-fought win followed by a respectable loss to a European power assisted on a handball non-call is something to be proud of. And they control their own destiny in a match against a very beatable Danish squad. So, go Samurai Blue! Unless of course you are playing North Korea!

I haven't seen all of the games, but I'll put up...

My List Of Best Ofs

Best Goal - Valter Birsa for Slovenia against the US. Rocket shot, great goal.

Best Performance - Germany dismantling Australia 4-0.

Best Keeper - Eiji Kawashima. Kept a clean sheet in the Cameroon game and kept Japan in the Netherlands match.

Most Disappointing Team - France. Why bother cheating to get here when you don't try on the main stage?

Most Disappointing Player - Wayne Rooney of England. Probably not match fit but he's been the biggest problem for the Three Lions, Robert Green notwithstanding.

Best Interview - Ron Artest of the LA Lakers. I know it's basketball but he thanked his Chinese rap star wife and his psychiatrist after the Lakers won the NBA championships. France's Nicolas Anelka is a close second.

Best Comeback Game - Australia. Hard done by not to get all three points in their game against Ghana.

Best Comeback In A Game - USA against Slovenia. Good adjustments after a flat first half.

Worst Media Coverage - TV Asahi. I'm sick of the faux dramatics of Jon Kabira, the fawning over Hide Nakata, and SMAP star Shingo. Tsuneyasu Miyamoto's hair is also frightening.

Best Performance By An Omiya Player - An Yong Hak in Brazil's 2-1 victory over North Korea.

Best Commercial - The Coca Cola animation with the robber hugging the guy in bed with his wife after a goal... it's complicated.

Adjusted Last Four - Brazil v Argentina, Netherlands v Germany.

Winner - Brazil
Runner-up - Netherlands
Third - Argentina
Fourth - Germany


Everyone is alive except Cameroon... Superunknown

Orange! Happy!! Football (not Dutch Orange either)!!!



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