Saturday, June 28, 2008

Are you having a laugh?

It's been raining the last few days, and I was royally soaked riding my bike during a downpour yesterday. If you're like me, you could use a laugh. Here's a good one:

Google search string that pointed somebody to this blog: "costa rica, el salvador, haiti and suriname compete in tricky group c"

Somebody is playing fast and loose with the definition of 'tricky'.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Canada - St. Vincent player ratings

Allow me to explain why I've chosen to wait 3 days since the Canada - St. Vincent match to give my thoughts about player performances:
  1. I didn't get to see the match on Friday.
  2. I wasn't able to download it until Saturday.
  3. After the shocking performance by the Dutch (although given their history in big moments, it shouldn't have come as a surprise) on Saturday, I wasn't in the mood for soccer.
  4. With almost 60 days until our next match, I felt the need to pace myself.
The last thing I want to do is read too much into one televised performance against a Caribbean minnow. The Brazil match probably showed more about who in this team can deliver the goods against quality competition. But like I said, with almost two months until the next clash, I need something to talk about.

Rating scale: 0 - absolutely wretched to 10 - godlike

Pat Onstad - 6: Goalkeeper is probably the hardest position to judge in a match like this. On the Vincy Heat goal (that nickname is really growing on me) I felt he got caught in between positions, but there were a heap of things that went wrong on that play. He organizes the team well, but I don't have the same confidence in him as a shot-stopper that I would with Lars Hirschfeld.

Paul Stalteri - 6.5: I recall at least one play where Paul was beaten one-on-one, similar to how Robinho juked him in Seattle. But St. Vincent isn't Brazil, and that shouldn't happen. On the other hand, if they counted secondary assists like they do in hockey, Stalteri would have two (the first De Rosario goal and the second from Gerba).

Adrian Serioux - 7: Adrian #1 was given the job of man-marking St. Vincent's only decent player, Marlon James, and most of the time came out on top. He also has confidence bringing up the ball from the back which we haven't always seen from Canadian centre-halfs.

Adrian Cann - 5.5: Maybe I'm being too harsh, but Adrian #2 showed his inexperience on the goal. He underestimated how poor CONCACAF officiating really can be and then was slow on the re-start. He's a strong defender for the USL, but at age 27, it's unlikely he'll ever be as good as some of the other options. Which begs the question: Why didn't Hainault play?

Mike Klukowski - 8: My man-crush on this guy from the Brazil match hasn't entirely worn off. He seemed to do less attacking in this match, but maybe it only seemed that way because he played only the first half. His tackling was sure, and his marking excellent, and I feel like the left back job is his if he's healthy.

Jim Brennan - 6: The only sub to get a grade, because he also played 45 minutes. He lacks a certain "Klukowski"-ness, but he's serviceable. I actually liked him better in the final minutes when De Jong came on and took over the left back spot and Jim pushed up into midfield. That kind of versatility is what makes Brennan handy to have around.


Issey Nakajima-Farran - 7: I initially thought INF had a pretty poor match, but on further reflection it wasn't so bad. He scored a legit goal that was called back for offside, and made some other nice plays, working the counter-attack nicely on the final Gerba goal.

Atiba Hutchinson - 8: I remember a few years ago reading about any number of Canadian matches at the forum and noting the wildly divergent opinions about the performance of Daniel Imhof. Atiba's role in this match was similar to that of Daniel Imhof in those days, and he performed admirably. He blunted a lot of attacks, and was instrumental in starting the counter-attack, over and over. And his first half blast where Nakajima-Farran put home the rebound was nice as well.

Julian de Guzman - 8: Julian showed his class in this match without pushing it too much. It may be that he's still carrying an injury, or merely that he was in cruise control because he has so much quality, but he looked relaxed and supremely confident. He is the leader of this team and for good reason.

Dwayne de Rosario - 8.5: If they were counting goals and assists like they do in MLS, this would have been a 4-point night for Dwayne. The reason for his success in MLS, I feel, is that defenders give a lot of space to attacking players in that league, as did St. Vincent. He might not get that kind of space against Honduras or Mexico, but if either of those sides are pressing, he can be lethal on the counter.

Tomasz Radzinski - 6: He "assisted" on the De Rosario goals, but his tantrum that led to his yellow card was rather distressing sign of immaturity for one of the oldest players on the team. This is CONCACAF and calls won't go your way very often. I'll admit that his fit was likely the result of rough treatment the whole game that went unpunished. Our midfield is clearly the strength of this team, but there is room for improvement on the wings with Issey and Radzinski (Josh Simpson is an option).

Ali Gerba - 7.5: Scored two goals, missed plenty of other chances. Rob Friend is clearly my first choice, but I'm comfortable with Ali as a second option.

As you can see, the numbers get higher as you move from back to front on the pitch. I think Canada can have a solid back line in the next round of qualifying, but Stalteri may need to pull up his socks a bit, and Cann clearly isn't the answer alongside Serioux.

The pitch at Stade Saputo - 10: I can understand why the players all have boners for this surface. It was great, and looked a heck of a lot better than the trucked in surface Holland and Russia played on, or the patched-up field for Spain-Italy.

* * * *

By the by, take note of the new poll. Voting starts now and continues indefinitely.

The Dirty Dozen

The 12 teams that will make up the three groups in CONCACAF's semi-final round of World Cup Qualifying are now set. There were upsets in the knockout stages, but not the one we wanted to see.

Group C, which already was more Robin than Batman, can now certainly be termed the "Group of Life", in contrast to the "Group of Death" that is Group B. Guyana (ranked 108) was knocked off by Suriname (145). And Panama (60), who I had pegged to win the group, was beaten by El Salvador (120). Imagine the good fortune of Costa Rica, who need only finish better than two of the following countries: El Salvador, Suriname and Haiti (113).

I'll save a more detailed look at just exactly how unjust these groups are until the next ranking period, but here's a quick rundown.

Group A: USA, Guatemala, T&T, Cuba
Average FIFA rank: 75.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Costa Rica (75)

Group B: Mexico, Honduras, Canada, Jamaica
Average FIFA rank: 52.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Hungary (52)

Group C: Costa Rica, Suriname, El Salvador, Haiti
Average FIFA rank: 113.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Haiti (113)

The argument that Canada needs to beat these teams anyway, whether it happens in the semi-final round or in the hex, had me persuaded for a while. But no longer. Imagine if Canada was in Costa Rica's place, with essentially a free pass to the hex. Then in that round, in order to earn a playoff spot (4th), we'd need only to finish ahead of, say, Haiti, and Guatemala.

In other words, we could be a pair of matches (admittedly, a difficult set of matches against a tough South American opponent) away from the World Cup by beating only one team ranked in the top 100 during the entire qualifying cycle!

That said, I'm full of confidence that this Canada team is the one to do it, Group of Death and all.


More WCQ bloggage, but not by me:

And a sobering thought: after a flurry of activity in late May and June (4 matches, including the awesome Brazil friendly), it's almost certain that the Canadian team won't play another match until the August 20th home qualifier against Jamaica.

Friday, June 20, 2008

WCQ 2010 by the numbers: 2nd edition

I haven't yet had occasion to view more than the last 15 minutes of the Canada - St. Vincent match played this evening in Montreal. In fact, the minute I turned on the match, the Vincy Heat notched their only goal on some boneheadedness from Adrian Cann. Canada won though, 4-1, and advance 7-1 on aggregate.

This doesn't stop me from reading the match reports and playing my numbers games.

Stats from WCQ, to date:
Player Start Sub Mins Goals Yellow Red
Dwayne De Rosario 2
180 2

Atiba Hutchinson 2
180


Paul Stalteri 2
180


Adrian Serioux 2
180


Pat Onstad 2
180


Ali Gerba 1 1 173 4

Issey Nakajima-Farran 2
172 1

Tomasz Radzinski 2
165
1
Julian de Guzman 2
137
1
Mike Klukowski 2
135


Adrian Cann 1
90


Richard Hastings 1
90


Jim Brennan
2 60


Patrice Bernier
2 43


Marcel de Jong
1 8


Rob Friend 1
7



And the updates minutes under Dale Mitchell:
Player Starter Sub Minutes
Stalteri, Paul 8
684
Nakajima-Farran, Issey 7 1 617
Klukowski, Mike 7
585
de Guzman, Julian 7
575
Hutchinson, Atiba 7
560
Radzinski, Tomasz 8
534
De Rosario, Dwayne 6
530
Serioux, Adrian 6
495
Onstad, Pat 5
450
Gerba, Ali 4 2 414
Hastings, Richard 5
405
Bernier, Patrice 4 4 394
Hainault, Andre 3 1 299
Hirschfeld, Lars 3
270
Cann, Adrian 2 1 225
Friend, Rob 3 2 216
Brennan, Jim 1 3 195
Hume, Iain 2 1 154
Imhof, Daniel 1 2 152
Peters, Jaime
2 91
Nash, Martin 1
90
Reda, Marco 1
90
Williams, Chris 1
90
McKenna, Kevin 1
90
Harmse, Kevin 1
90
Sutton, Greg 1
90
Gbeke, Charles 1
80
De Jong, Marcel 1 3 75
Occean, Olivier
3 75
Pozniak, Chris 1
65
Simpson, Josh 1 1 62
Jazic, Ante
1 45
Nsaliwa, Tam
2 37
Jakovic, Dejan
1 25
Ledgerwood, Nik
1 18
Johnson, Will
1 17
Simpson, Dave
1 10
Ribeiro, Antonio
1 5
Totals 99 34 8899

Other numerical items of interest:
  • With Ali Gerba and Dwayne De Rosario each scoring twice tonight, the two players are featuring even more prominently in the all-time goal scoring table, sitting 8th and 4th respectively.
  • I nearly nailed the prediction I made earlier today (I went with a 4-0 Canada win, with DDR, Gerba (x2) and Hutchinson scoring)
  • A nice crowd of around 11,500 showed up for the match, and looked good on TV (though not nearly as good as that pitch!)
  • The starting central defensive pairing of Cann and Serioux likely represents the most Adrians ever to suit up for Canada in a single game.
More in-depth analysis of the game may be forthcoming if I can find time to download and watch a torrent tomorrow, although another match will require most of my attention (and drinking will occupy the rest of it).

See also: WCQ 2010 by the numbers: 1st edition

Canada - St. Vincent part deux: Viewing options

Unless all the stars align tonight, work will prevent me from offering my trademark live blog of events this evening. And unless stars have aligned for you and you are lucky enough to get Sportsnet West or better yet, to attend the match in Montreal, you may be prevented from watching it live yourself on television.

Take note of these details:

CANADA VS ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

Stade Saputo, Montreal, Quebec
7:30 pm ET / 6:30 CT / 5:30 MT / 4:30 PT

TV: Sportsnet West, 7:30 pm ET / Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific, tape delay at 11 pm ET
Radio: The Team 990
Internet streaming options: channelsurfing.net (one option currently listed)


You might want to check the same St. Vincent radio stations as last time if you were into that way of following things, although I'm not sure that country would send radio men up to Canada for this.

Vincy Heat Waves Goodbye?

Are you guys loving my Wheel of Fortune Before & After style title? Anyone?

I'm finally emerging to break the bloggerly silence that descended on this space over the last 5 days. The long and short of it is that work has been kicking my ass for the last 3 days (2 jobs, and about 4 waking hours at home total during that span), and I have been neglectful of my faithful readers (which, much to my surprise, have been increasing lately in number).

I can't offer much insight or analysis that you couldn't find in greater quantity and quality over at the Voyageurs forums.

So I'll pull a lazy blogger's trick and give a one sentence summary of news articles in the leadup to tonight's match:
  • Canadian players fall in love with Montreal pitch: A possibly contentious stand-off by players who are digging Montreal's new digs, making a pitch for their pitch, and are taking digs at the artifical surface at the digs in Toronto.
  • Canada looks to match 1986 team by qualifying for 2010 World Cup: A preview of qualifying generally, with reference to stadium issues, injuries to Richard Hastings and Rob Friend, and sense of optimism surrounding the squad. Julian de Guzman provides the money quote: "Right now, the quality is totally different from what Canada's used to. . . We're more attacking, more confident on the ball and those are the qualities you need to qualify for a World Cup."
OK, so I ran out of steam after two articles, and wasn't able to hold to my one sentence guideline anyway.

The relatively interesting news for the short term is that Hastings and Friend are both out and that nobody has been called in to replace them. That Canada is entering the match with a 16 man squad is regrettable, but it is also likely that any last minute replacements wouldn't see the pitch in any case, so why bring them in? It's not like Canada is playing Mexico or the Yanks; they should be just fine with what they have against Randolph "Sticky" Williams and the Vincy Heat.

There will obviously be changes to the starting lineup from Sunday's edition. One assumes Gerba will replace Friend, just as he did in the early stages in Kingstown. I'd guess that hometown boy Andre Hainault will step in for Hastings at CB, although Jim Brennan would be a (less-attractive) option in that space. I wouldn't be surprised by a goaltending swap, though I see no reason for it.

What this all means is that Ali Gerba has a very good chance to improve upon his already impressive strike rate for Canada. Hopefully he does so; it will be a good chance to ease the pain of being cut by his professional side, FC Ingolstadt. Gerba seems to have little luck professionally, and I hope he lands somewhere decent soon, or he will be forced to slide out of the MNT picture, strike tally notwithstanding.

Ali Gerba (#10): 10th all time goal scorer for Canada, unemployed.

Predictions are the lazy man's form of prognostication, which means it's right up my alley. You'll notice the poll in the top right corner of this page (if you're not reading the RSS feed) is nearing its best before date. For those of you who aren't clicking through to increase my immense AdSense revenue, the question reads: "How many goals will Canada score in their [sic] 2-legged series against St. Vincent and the Grenadines?"

I don't know if I originally voted for 8-10 or 5-7, but eventually I settled on the latter. Current results echo a similar sentiment. And I foresee a scoreline tonight that makes geniuses of us all:

PREDICTION: Canada 4 (De Rosario, Gerba x 2, Hutchinson), Vincy Heat 0

Another prediction I have is that the supporters section at the one end of Stade Saputo that has seats will be raucous, and somewhere I'd rather be than at work, which is where I will be tonight. Certain Voyageurs have been working hard at making sure the section behind the net is packed with die hard Canadian support, and I'm looking forward to the results.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

WCQ 2010 by the numbers: 1st edition

I haven't forgotten how much I love numbers and stats. The beginning of a (hopefully long-running) regular feature:

Player Start Sub Mins Goals Yellow Red
Adrian Serioux 1
90


Atiba Hutchinson 1
90


Dwayne De Rosario 1
90


Issey Nakajima-Farran 1
90 1

Mike Klukowski 1
90


Pat Onstad 1
90


Paul Stalteri 1
90


Richard Hastings 1
90


Ali Gerba
1 83 2

Tomasz Radzinski 1
75


Julian de Guzman 1
70


Patrice Bernier
1 20


Jim Brennan
1 15


Rob Friend 1
7



Also, tonight I got around to adding the Panama, Brazil and first St. V&G matches to the Minutes Under Mitchell tabulation. After 8 games with Mitchell as coach, it makes for some interesting reading:

Player Starter Sub Minutes
Stalteri, Paul 7
594
Klukowski, Mike 6
540
Nakajima-Farran, Issey 6 1 535
de Guzman, Julian 6
508
Hutchinson, Atiba 6
470
Radzinski, Tomasz 7
444
De Rosario, Dwayne 5
440
Hastings, Richard 5
405
Serioux, Adrian 5
405
Bernier, Patrice 4 3 371
Onstad, Pat 4
360
Gerba, Ali 3 2 324
Hainault, Andre 3 1 299
Hirschfeld, Lars 3
270
Friend, Rob 3 2 216
Hume, Iain 2 1 154
Imhof, Daniel 1 2 152
Brennan, Jim 1 2 150
Cann, Adrian 1 1 135
Peters, Jaime
2 91
McKenna, Kevin 1
90
Sutton, Greg 1
90
Harmse, Kevin 1
90
Nash, Martin 1
90
Reda, Marco 1
90
Williams, Chris 1
90
Gbeke, Charles 1
80
Occean, Olivier
3 75
De Jong, Marcel 1 2 67
Pozniak, Chris 1
65
Simpson, Josh 1 1 62
Jazic, Ante
1 45
Nsaliwa, Tam
2 37
Jakovic, Dejan
1 25
Ledgerwood, Nik
1 18
Johnson, Will
1 17
Simpson, Dave
1 10
Ribeiro, Antonio
1 5
Totals 88 31 7909

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that Nakajima-Farran has played more minutes than any other midfielder. To be fair, though, none of the "big name" midfielders were called to the Martinique friendly, where Issey played 90 minutes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Canada - SVG: live blog

CANADA VS ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

Kingstown, St. Vincent
3:00 pm local / 3:00 pm ET / 2:00 pm CT

No live TV coverage
Live radio coverage: NBC / STAR Radio / NICE Radio

I'm just throwing some details up for now. Party tonight, church tomorrow morning, and then Father's Day obligations (I'm not a father but I've got one) threaten to intrude on some of my bloggerly duties, but I'll be sure to chime in a few times during the game.

Some previews:

CSA: Canadian men on eve of big Kingstown match
CBC: Caribbean Heat
Ottawa Citizen: Canada can throw caution to wind for qualifiers

My prediction, just to be clear, is for Canada to win by 6 goals on aggregate, but only 2-0 in this leg. Friend and De Rosario will score for Canada.

2 hours to game time . . . and what's this? A potential TV stream? I'm skeptical, but it's worth checking out come kickoff time.

Kickoff approaches: The video stream above seems to be out of the question (it's playing Spanish language music videos at the moment) but the radio stations are in working order (anthems right now).

Canada's lineup: Onstad, Stalteri, Serioux, Hastings, Klukowski, Radzinski, De Guzman, Hutchinson, Nakajima-Farran, De Rosario, Friend.

I could give you the St. Vinny names, but you don't care. One thing you should care about: their anthem sucks!

1st minute: We were getting players by number for a while, and then my NBC feed died. I've switched to Star FM.

10th: I'm guessing with the time here, but bad news for Canada: Rob Friend is out injured (back), and Ali Gerba is in. As I type, the announcers got excited, meaning a chance for VAG, which I don't like to hear.

I must admit, as awesome as it is for Canada to be playing important matches, it kind of fucking sucks to be sitting and listening to some shitty audio stream.

By the way, Ugo Ihemelu isn't in the 18 man roster for this match, which is probably a case of "better safe than sorry".

16:28: The Vincy announcers reliably inform me of the time before taking a commercial break!

It's hard to judge given the source of my information, but it seems Canada isn't dominating like they should. By the way, what are your feelings on Carib accents?

Some of the Voyageurs have set up a chat. That might be a better place to share your frustrations.

25th: We should be around 25 minutes now, but I couldn't tell you for sure, as the feed has cut out. The joys of being a Canadian fan.

Here are some facts about about good ol' St. V & G:

  • 389 sq km (344 of those are the main island)
  • 118,432 people
  • life expectancy of 74.34 years

And so on . . .

32nd: I lost touch for a while checking those facts, and while I was doing so Canada scored! Nakajima-Farran with his first for Canada. Track it with FIFA.

Around 38 minutes, we took a break from the broadcast for booze commercials.

40th: GOAL! Eat that islanders! Ali Gerba (or "Jerba"); he now has 6 goals for Canada, with almost a 50% strike rate.

We're getting near HT and I'm more relaxed now. The Vincy Heat doesn't seem so oppressive anymore.

It's halftime and I'm taking a commercial break.

My hope for the second half is that Canada grabs a goal or two, and tightens up a bit. I don't want to hear these announcers excited at all, it doesn't bode well for when the boys play a real squad like Honduras or Mexico.

I'm not sure, but I think one of the announcers (not Dexter) used the phrase "spurts and squirts". Sign him up, CBC, he'd go great with Mark Lee.

The announcers, with (mock) surprise, state that Canada has 18 professional players. Shock! And apparently, the correct designation is "Vincentians".

The Vincentians substitute their goalkeeper at half. By the way, the players for VAG all seems to have nicknames. Case in point: Randolph "Sticky" Williams. Too many spurts and squirts, perhaps.

47th: Trouble with facts: Brugge in the Bundesliga? Nakajima-Farran plays for Kaiserslautern? All that before Canada forces a save from the new keeper, and some excitement from the announcers.

"Canadian team is not satisfied with the 2-nil". That's what I like to hear.

58th: It sounds like Ali Gerba just failed to score on a breakaway. And minutes later, a missed "tap in", over the crossbar.

We must be nearing 65 minutes or so. This is a match where Canada could probably stand to use its full complement of substitutes, and not just in the last 5 minutes. In particular, I'd like to see (or hear, rather) De Jong and Hainault get some time on the pitch.

Words that I'm hearing more today than on a regular day: "definitely", "infringment", "sticky".

A crowd of about 3,000 is in attendance. If you're scoring at home, that's almost 3% of the country's population, like if 1 million people turned out for a Canada match. But I guess it doesn't work that way.

68th: Gerba heads down and Serioux has a shot that is saved. For all of his missed chances, Gerba also does seem to be causing some havoc among the Vincy Heat defenders.

Marlon James, who by the sounds of it is St. Vincent's only good player, shoots over from close range. Canada really needs a third to put this match to bed. And it sounds like this backup keeper is having a great second half.

78th: De Guzman off ... the announcers don't know who is on, but I'm guessing Bernier.

Another goal for Canada (Gerba), but it's whistled for offside.

I'm rapidly losing interest. If there's not another goal in this match, I'm not sure I'll have much to say. Before I give up, I should mention that Phillips Bakery is pretty much the best place in Kingstown to get bread, hot dog buns, etc. It's on Lower Middle Street, you can't miss it.

The announcers claim Canada's #2 has come on for Radzinski; James Brennan is now in midfield.

GOAL! Ali Gerba with a 2nd (finally) after some fine work from De Rosario. And he might have had a 3rd if it wasn't for some solid defending from Wesley 'Bootin' Charles. 3-0 Canada. I overshot on Gerba's strike rate earlier; he now has 7 in 17 caps (41%).

FINAL: Canada 3 - 0 St. Vincent

The announcers are now trying to claim that Canada didn't deserve the victory, calling it an even game, but I'm not buying it. Canada will get at least 3 more next Friday in Montreal.

That's all for now, I'll wrap up with some final thoughts in a few hours.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Canada roster for SVG part 1

The final roster for the first leg of the St. Vincent and Grenadines series was released yesterday, and only one player, third-string keeper Josh Wagenaar, was dropped from the 20 named earlier in the week. That means there are 19 Canadian players now on the island and only 18 can dress, but given our luck, it would be nice to have some injury cover.

The CBC has an article with the headline "Canada names roster for World Cup qualifier", which is nice, but there are several problems:
  • An article about a 19-man roster only lists 7 players (Brennan, Sutton, De Rosario, Stalteri, Friend, de Guzman and de Jong)
  • Brennan and Sutton are included among the "big names". These are players who aren't in my first 11, and probably not my first 18 if everybody is healthy
  • The article fails to mention the surprise inclusion of Ugo Ihemelu
  • That's it, I guess. At least some of the readers, in the comments section, have added some balance to the thing.
A better look at the upcoming match is provided by the excellent MLS/American soccer blog Climbing the Ladder. It can be difficult to find information about CONCACAF matchups at the best of times, but in these early stages where island minnows abound, his analysis is damn-near remarkable. For example, in part 1 of the two part series, he explains that Antigua and Barbuda will be missing their starting keeper because he injured his eye with a weed-whacker doing his full-time gardening gig.

He previews Canada-SVG in part 2:
Canada - Saint Vincent & the Grenadines

6/15-St. Vincent / Grenadines vs. Canada - Kingstown - 3 p.m.
6/20-Canada vs. St. Vincent / Grenadines - Montreal - 8:30 p.m.

I was pretty surprised to see Canada's roster for the series, and not because for once all their top European stars are going to be in the same place at the same time. No, the surprise is because Colorado Rapids defender Ugo Ihemelu is there. Yes, the same Ihemelu who was capped by the United States against Norway in January 2006. Friendlies apparently don't cap tie players, or else Jeff Cunningham wouldn't have been able to play for the US (he made one appearance in a friendly for Jamaica before becoming a citizen). Interesting quotes from coach Dale Mitchell here.

That article is also notable for mentioning something that I've noticed recently. This time, Canada does have expectations. After reaching the semifinals in last year's Gold Cup, hosting the U-20 World Cup, and the off the field mania over Toronto FC, Canadian soccer is coming alive and results are now expected. Especially after the firepower shown in the recent loss to Brazil, where they showed no fear and should've earned a draw. The tough thing is, they've received a brutal semifinal draw for the second straight cycle and will likely compete with Honduras and Jamaica for second place behind Mexico. But that's in the future; St. Vincent is on the menu now.

"Vincy Heat" no longer features Ezra Hendrickson; he retired from international soccer earlier this year. Wouldn't have mattered, since he's injured anyway. They don't really have any notable players, though many of them play for professional teams all over the world. Definitely not pushovers, but they're not going to get destroyed either. They just lack the game changing players that the top Caribbean teams feature. The warmups have resulted in two away losses: 5-1 in Jamaica and 1-0 in Cuba. They actually haven't won in any of their last 8 matches going back to January of 2007. Canada shouldn't break too much of a sweat. Sorry Wesley John, you're not "that good."
I think he pretty much nails it. Bonus marks for mentioning Ihemelu, the ridiculous semi-final group, and SVG's "Vincy Heat" moniker (I can't wait to unleash a "Canada beats Vincy Heat" title on Sunday evening). From the sounds of it, he may even have watched the Canada - Brazil friendly, which was darn near impossible to do for most Canadian fans.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

St. VAG-initis

The Canadian squad that will play this Sunday in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been practicing in Florida since Sunday. The CSA finally got around to releasing the names of these 20 players (to be cut down to 18 by Wednesday - hey, that's today!) on Tuesday:
CANADA
1 Greg Sutton | G | Hamilton, ON | CAN / Toronto FC
2 Jim Brennan | D | East York, ON | CAN / Toronto FC
3 Mike Klukowski | D | Oshawa, ON | BEL / Club Brugge KV
4 André Hainault | D | Hudson, QC | CZE / Sparta Praha (on loan from FK SIAD Most)
5 Adrian Serioux | D/M| Scarborough, ON | USA / FC Dallas
6 Julian de Guzman | M | Scarborough, ON | ESP / Deportivo La Coruna
7 Paul Stalteri | D/M | Brampton, ON | ENG / Fulham FC (on loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
8 Marcel de Jong | D/M | Newmarket, ON | NED / Roda JC
9 Tomasz Radzinski | M/F | Toronto, ON | GRE / Skoda Xanthi
10 Ali Gerba | F | Montréal, QC | GER / FC Ingolstadt
11 Richard Hastings | D | Vancouver, BC | SCO / Inverness CT
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran | M | Calgary, AB | DEN / FC Nordsjælland
13 Atiba Hutchinson | M | Brampton, ON | DEN / F.C. København
14 Dwayne De Rosario | M/F | Scarborough, ON | USA / Houston Dynamo
15 Patrice Bernier | M | Brossard, QC | GER / FC Kaiserslautern
16 Rob Friend | F | Kelowna, BC | GER / Borussia Mönchengladbach
17 Ugo Ihemelu | D | USA / Colorado Rapids
19 Adrian Cann | D | Thornhill, ON | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps
18 Pat Onstad | G | Vancouver, BC | USA / Houston Dynamo
22 Joshua Wagenaar | G | Grimsby, ON | unattached
There are a few omissions from the larger group of players that took part in either the Brazil or Panama friendlies, or were originally called: Ante Jazic, Jaime Peters and Tam Nsaliwa didn't get the call back (Tam likely still has eligibility issues) while Lars Hirschfeld is still injured.

The big surprise inclusion in this latest roster is Ugo Ihemelu. It's surprising to bring anybody in for the first time on the eve of WCQ, although admittedly the centre back position is unsettled. But the main reason it's surprising as I thought he was American.

Wikipedia appears to have recently been updates
:
Ihemelu got his first cap for the United States on January 29, 2006, against Norway. He has now indicated his preference to play for Canada and will likely be first capped on 15 June 2008.
I can't claim to understand the inscrutable FIFA laws as they pertain to the difference between being "capped" and "cap-tied", but I hope our association has done their homework, because it would be a real kick in the dick (I couldn't find a video of Zlatan getting it in the junk from a Greek player to link here) if we lost to some Caribbean tin-pot shit pile because of an ineligible player.

His citizenship issues were discussed a few years ago on the Voyageurs board. An important bit, from an Ugo interview:
“I was born in Nigeria, then my parents moved to Canada. They had lived there before. That’s where they went to university and had my older brother and sister. So we moved back to Canada and lived there a while. I got Canadian citizenship, the whole passport thing. Then we moved to the States. I’ve been here for a while and then I got U.S. citizenship.”

Despite his trifecta of choices, Ihemelu was pleased with the outcome.

“I’m happy to be where I am right now [with the U.S.]. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.”
So at least his connection to Canada is legit.

Dale Mitchell needs to drop 2 players from those listed above. We can assume that Wagenaar, as the third keeper, will be one, unless Sutton or Onstad has been injured in training. I'd bet that Ihemelu or Adrian Cann will be the other.

Given his position and appearance, I can guarantee Gerry Dobson will call him Adrian Serioux if they're ever on the pitch at the same time for Canada.

The other news is that I can more or less confirm that Canada's match this Sunday will be broadcast live on NBC St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and therefore liveblogged in this space. I gave the stream a dry run this morning and it held out just fine, although we'll see how it goes when hundreds of Canadian supporters jump on board. The broadcast is at 3:00 pm local time. Kingstown time is the same as Toronto time, so we non-eastern-time Canadians should have no trouble doing the math.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Euro '08: Netherlands - Italy live blog


Normally, I'm pretty hard on Canadians who pretend to care about soccer every 2 or 4 years so they can drive up and down trendy streets hanging out of their cars with Portugal or Italy flags. Especially since these are the same folks who get excited about Canada winning a meaningless hockey tournament like the world juniors.

But grand larceny aside, I do like the Oranje (the Dutch national team). I come by it somewhat honestly, with some Dutch blood in my lineage way back down the line, and having spent a year living in Amsterdam and surrounding area recently.

So I'll provide a live blog interspersed with some Canadian context this afternoon. The match starts in an hour.

Details:

NETHERLANDS vs ITALY
Bern, Switzerland

TV: TSN - 1:45 CT / 2:45 ET

If you won't be near a TV this afternoon, there are some P2P streams available. I placed a bet on the Dutch, which doesn't seem all that wise to me, but at better than 3 to 1, it's worth risking a handful of euros.

The lineup for the Dutch has some injuries (Robben, of course), but here are the starters:
Opstelling Oranje:
Van der Sar; Boulahrouz, Mathijsen, Ooijer, Van Bronckhorst; De Jong, Engelaar; Kuyt, Van der Vaart, Sneijder; Van Nistelrooy.
Part of my connection to the team is that I've seen a bunch of these players live with Ajax. Namely, Van der Vaart, Sneijder, and de Jong, as well as substitutes Babel, Stekelenburg and Heitinga in a pair of matches I saw in 2005. Kuyt and van Bronckhorst are Feyenoorders and therefore complete scum (I'm not a big fan of Ajax either), but I'll forgive them for today.

A picture from one of the matches: Koeman rot op!


We're not too far away now.

5th: It's afternoon here on the prairies, so there is no way I can justify bringing some colour to this commentary by drinking along with the match.

I know Italy are world champions, but I don't really get it. There's nobody on the squad that strikes me as particularly dangerous. And they won on penalties, which is like tying for the World Cup.

France drew Romania 0-0 earlier, a match both teams would have very much liked to win.

8th: The pale blue socks with white shorts make the Dutch look een kleine beetje gay. Also on the fashion side, the shirts look a lot better than the old-school collars they wore at the last WC. The numbers, though, looked like they've been put on with hockey tape.

10th: Dangerous position for a Dutch free kick as Mr. Ed (Ruud) goes down. Sneijder to take it, but nothing comes of it.

Drifting off topic for a bit, one option for tracking Canada - St. Vincent live this Sunday, is that country's National Broadcasting Corportation. A radio broadcast is likely.

17th: Some good offense from the Dutch after Sneijder (or maybe it was van der Vaart) put Mr. Ed through. There was enough contact for a poor ref to call a penalty, but this Swede got it right.

24th: Good chance from a Sneijder free kick. Van Nistelrooy was close to it. The subsequent corner is cleared. Materazzi looks like a real asshole.

26th: Treffer! Van Nistelrooy scores, even though he was clearly offside. Hup! My friend just called and pointed out that an Italian player was behind the end line on the play, playing everyone onside. Will need to see another replay to confirm.

Mathijsen gets away with some grabbing on Toni in the area a bit later.

30th: Een tweede for Nederland!!! Gio clears off the line from an Italy corner, then works the counter with Kuijt and Sneijder finsihes! A brilliant shot from Wesley.

33rd: Van der Sar makes his first good save from di Natale. This is the type of situation where the Oranje could easily let their foot of the gas and choke away the rest of the match.

On the Canada front, I seem to recall from an article I read last week that the MNT would be opening camp on the island today, so an 18-man roster shouldn't be far away. But it could be.

Gattuso has the exact same goatee that Jon Favreau had when he played Monica's boyfriend on Friends.

43rd: The Dutch are on! Van der Vaart puts it on a platter for Ruud, but Buffon came out to close the angle and deflected the shot over.

HT: My friend was right about the Italian player out the back on the van Nistelrooy goal. The TSN panel will now engage in some under-informed discussion of the offside rule. "Not on the field of play" - does that matter? Seems like it shouldn't, since he wasn't pushed out by an orange shirt. Fill me in.

70th: The second half hasn't been half as interesting as the first. Neither team seems to be able to string together more than a handful of passes, and the one time the Dutch tried they ended up playing it into their own end, giving up the ball, and earning a yellow card (de Jong). Italy is piling on the pressure but haven't seriously threatened van der Sar.

Van Persie is on now for the Horseface Killah.

76th: Luca Toni totally botches a wide open chance one-on-one with van der Sar. Heitinga is on now for Bouhlarouz.

79th: Van der Sar pWNz, as the kids would say, Pirlo on a great free kick, and the Dutch hit back on the counter attack. Buffon saves a Kuijt shot, but Dirk crosses it back in and van Bronckhorst finishes. 3-0!!

FINAL: It's 3-0. I'd give my left nut to be on the Leidseplein right now, living it up. There might be some argument about a possible cockup by the linesman on the first goal, a veritable soccer boner if you will, but I don't care.

Looks like the officials got it right. The relevant FIFA law:
11.11 DEFENDER LEGALLY OFF THE FIELD OF PLAY
A defender who leaves the field during the course of play and does not immediately return must still be considered in determining where the second to last defender is for the purpose of judging which attackers are in an offside position. Such a defender is considered to be on the touch line or goal line closest to his off-field position. A defender who leaves the field with the referee's permission (and who thus requires the referee's permission to return) is not included in determining offside position.

The next live blog will be Sunday: Canada at St. Vincent and Grenadines. I don't know what kind of sources I'll have but I'll provide some kind of commentary, even if I have to make it up. Expect some more non-live posts before then.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

FIFA rankings: June

Let's have a gander at the ol' FIFA rankings for this month. They're out early so the Euro Cup doesn't straddle a ranking period.

Argentina is #1, but I don't care. What's shaking in CONCACAF?

Expected Groups





Country Pts Zonal Overall
Group 1
USA 874 2 21
Trinidad and Tobago 365 7 87
Guatemala 350 8 89
Cuba 302 10 104
Total 1891 27 301
Average 472.75 6.75 75.25




Group 2
Mexico 1020 1 14
Honduras 696 3 37
Canada 524 4 60
Jamaica 326 9 98
Total 2566 17 209
Average 641.5 4.25 52.25




Group 3
Panama 524 4 60
Costa Rica 413 6 75
Guyana 289 11 108
Haiti 262 12 113
Total 1488 33 356
Average 372 8.25 89

By any measure, Canada's group is the toughest. And it's not even close.

That said, I couldn't be more excited. The first St. Vincent match may well be taking place within the vortex of uninformation, but the second leg, in Montreal, should be a party, and fun to watch.