I have no explanation at all why it takes the perils and traumas and suffering and failures of England at the 2014 World Cup to propel a take on USA! USA!! USA!!!’s 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday night. I cannot explain that.
But funny and and hah hah and all that as I’ll get to in a minute.
My little conceit for today is that I’ve not only changed boats, I’ve also changed rivers. I’ve traded Fitcarraldo’s steamboat for one more in line with what Mark Twain drove around in his wild wistful youth. And I’ve traded the Amazon for the mighty Mississippi. In this new little conceit, I’m on the riverboat BANJO SAFARI owned by noted artistic eccentric, Aldo Grapeshot. As a guest of Mr. Grapeshot, I’ve got not much to do besides wander around the deck, drink, and enjoy the scenery—which if you’ve ever been on or near the Mississippi River between Alma and Fountain City, Wisconsin, is quite an uplifting joy to behold.
That, and watch the 2014 World Cup on a hybrid analog/digital tube-powered ((is powered the right word here??)) television which picks up all sorts of television stations without any obvious connectivity other that it’s own inner workings.
I’ve left Manaus and the Amazon behind because my thought ((one of)) was to not be near where team USA is playing their matches. I stayed away from Natal when USA beat Ghana. Instead I made for Manaus so I could jinx England. Mission accomplished there. So now I’ve left Manaus with echoes of Enrico Caruso operatic tenor haunting the dreams of England.
I will watch USA USA USA vs Portugal from a riverboat on the Mississippi. I could, of course, watch it down at THE MONARCH in Fountain City. But the only problem with that is people…there will be people there. And you know what I say about people…..I hate people; They’re no damn good….
As for our match with Ghana, I was not surprised that we won. I knew we would break the Ghana jinx. And we did.
Clint Dempsey’s opening goal on 29 seconds ((yes, I said SECONDS! You did not read that wrong)), was a thriller and put Ghana on their back foot.
Ghana, however recovered their composure, and their physicality gave us a lot of trouble at times. Also, we made a tactical mistake in my view in that we should have kept up the attack in the first half and built a bigger lead. We would have had that second goal around the 22nd minute if not for Jozy Altidore pulling up lame with a twinged hammie.
Instead, we parked the bus and absorbed as much pressure from Ghana as we could. But at the 82nd minute, Andre Ayew, who plies his professional trade for Olympique Marseilles, smacked home the equalizer.
Fortunately, even though we parked the bus, we left the motor running. We are, after all, the focking USA!! We don’t quit, ever.
So at the 87 minute mark, off a beautiful corner delivery from Graham Zusi, John Brooks,of of our German-born rookies, headed it home for the win!!
All three points. The Ghana jinx off our back.
And on Sunday, we rumble in the jungle with Portugal.
The key to us winning that is that Michael Bradley has to step his game up BIG time from the way he played Monday against Ghana. Bradley has to lead the charge, and control the ball, and not give it away so easily like he did against Ghana. He does that and we will win.
Italy 0 Costa Rica 1
Just like that. And just as I predicted. England is out the 2014 World Cup on two straight losses. Italy’s upset loss today to Costa Rica sealed the deal.
A little bit about that Italy/Costa Rica tilt. There was a small slight wee little chance in Hell that if Italy won, and 113 other impossible things happened, that England could sneak through into the knockout rounds. It was such an impossibility that Mario Balotelli, who ripped the heart out of England’s chest in Manaus, roared wildly that he would graciously love a kiss from Queen Elizabeth if Italy, by beating Costa Rica and 112 other impossible things, helped England advance to be knocked out by whoever they’d have faced in the knockout rounds.
But….no one gets a kiss from the Queen now. Certain no one from The Three Lions. And definitely not Mario Balotelli as Italy was conched today by Costa Rica. And as we all know, England was was drop-kicked in their so-called stones by Uruguay who rebounded from their beat down by Costa Rica with verve and determination.
So Mario Balotelli will not get a kiss from the Queen. He’ll just have to don a rooster hat and sneak into a women’s prison or something. And he’ll have to cowboy-up ((but…..no….scratch that, let’s not give Mario any more bright ideas….)) and score the second hat-trick of the 2014 World Cup if Italy has any hope of joining Costa Rica in the round of 16. That, and Buffon has to keep a clean sheet. And….111 other impossible things.
And the media and the pundits and the fans also love dishing them out with all the hand-wringing, alacrity, sarcasm and despair known to man. In other words, The Three Lions are gong to take the piss for everything that has gone on since 1966.
Meanwhilst, England has to play out the string with what they brought, then step off the pitch in Belo Horizonte and onto a waiting plane. They will get no kiss from the Queen.
It’s not that they didn’t perform badly or didn’t try. This was nothing like strife-torn team they brought to South Africa 4 years ago. Roy Hodgson, for all his faults, really tried to make this a good team and transition it towards youth. There is promise for the future with the speed and attack of Raheem Sterling, Danny (errr….Daniel…my apologies…) Sturridge.
But everyone is attacking the defense….the lack thereof to be exact. Starters Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka are getting most of the stick…..and to a lesser extent Gary Cahill. They’re bemoaning the fact that Ashley Cole was left off the team, forgetting that Cole was injured and out of form for most of this past season….replaced in the Chelsea lineup by Cesar Azpilicueta, who was the starting let back for Spain. They feel that John Terry and Rio Ferdinand should have been cajoled out of retirement, and so on and so on. These are same lot who have been clamouring for more youth in the squad.
What they seem to forget is that there is limited pool of defensive players for The Three lions to choose from. Unlike most other National Teams in the world, England’s top player don’t play in other countries. England’s best players play in the Premier League. Then, again, so do a lot of the best players for other national teams. Many of the EPL teams best defensive players are foreign players.
Take 2014 champions Manchester City for example. The only English defensive players on their squad are Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards (who’s disappeared from the face of the football Earth). Neither makes the City starting lineup. When all are healthy, City starts Vincent Kompany (Belgium), Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina), Michael DeMicheles (Argentina) and Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia).
Chelsea is represented by stalwart Gary Cahill. But he has come in for critique as well. Some contend that he really doesn’t play as well without John Terry (who is retired from International football after being essentially drummed out by the FA). He needs Terry to tell him where to stand, they say. Obviously Phil Jagielka can’t do that, as Cahill is the better centerback. But the critique holds some truth as Cahill has yet to learn and adsorb all the knowledge of the game from Terry (and possibly he never will, though playing alongside Terry has vastly improved his game)….and unlike Terry, Cahill is not the leader type….he’s more Scotty Pippin to Terry’s Michael Jordan if you don’t mind the metaphor. I think it’s apt. As for Ashley Cole, he didn’t play much this past season and was released by Chelsea at the close of the season. He has since retired from international football. The other two Chelsea starters are Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain) and Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia).
Arsenal’s defense was also mostly foreign. Anchored by Laurent Koscielny (France) and Bacary Sagna (France) and usually Thomas Vermeilen (Belgium). The only regular English starter is Kieran Gibbs. Why didn’t Roy pick him for the team instead of Phil Jones? Discuss amongst yourselves.
I’m going to explore this defensive conundrum in a bit more detail once the World Cup is done, or close to being done. For now, England has to run with what it brung. Thankfully for them, there is only one more game. Roy should say “Fuck all” and start Luke Shaw for their final game. Though I can’t imagine Roy ever saying Fuck All…can you?
In addition to the aforementioned tube-powered television, the BANJO SAFARI also has a beer dispensary device that somehow has whatever beer you’d care to have, and in whatever quantity you’d care to consume. Budweiser, of course, is the sponsor of the 2014 World Cup, but who in their right mind would go for that?? I mean, if you want a World Cup related beer that is produced by the same company, then why not opt for a Brahma Chopp? Well…I suppose I’m begging the question.
I’m not sure how Mr. Grapeshot accomplished this wonderous piece of technology. I tried to engage Captain George, who pilots this boat about how it works, but his response was some garbled mumbling in the Menomonee language ((I think it’s Menomonee)).
So perhaps, like the television, it’s best not to think too much about it.
We are now sailing upriver to Alma. Evidently Mr. Grapeshot is hosting some sort of art gallery event up in Gilmanton. At least that’s my understanding. And there will be a reception at Dot’s Dam View in Alma right across from Lock & Dam #4, followed by a picnic/bonfire up at Buena Vista Park.
So we’re on the move. The Beer Dispenser has a random beer selector that can, if you so desire, choose a beer for you based upon your answers to six music related questions. One of the questions involved Charles Aznevour. The others were about obscure power-pop bands from the 80’s. Based on my responses, the beer it selected for me was DINKEL ACKER CD-Pils.
Fair enough. I’ll drink to that. Yes I will. And a toast to Mr. Grapeshot, wherever or whoever he is.
The World Cup has made me forget about NASCAR, Baseball, Hockey, & Formula 1, at times. But not to worry, I will be watching (Danica Patrick win) the Save Mart 350(k) from Sonoma tomorrow. And after that, the rumble in the jungle.