Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Euro 2012: Part 1 of a 3 part preview

Originally posted at The Roar

We’re less than two weeks away from Euro 2012 Polkraine (Poland & Ukraine), and I am absolutely psyched. This is far and away the best tournament in the sports calendar.

A bit overstated? Just hear me out...

The World Cup is too big, too hyped and the quality is too diluted. I’m not dissing the importance of the Cup. I’m just saying it’s like playing Russian roulette with a Star Wars box set. Sometimes you’re lucky and you’re enjoying The Empire Strikes Back (Mexico ’86). Other times you’re stabbing yourself in the eye sitting through two painful hours of Jar Jar Binks and ‘Gooberfish’. Like 2010, where Argentina, Brazil, Italy, England, France and Portugal conspired to drop a steaming pile of crap on South Africa.

The Olympics are great, but there’s just far too much going on. Athletes you don’t know, playing sports you’re not familiar with, from countries you’ve never heard of. It’s sensory overload. Like getting pleasured by Paul the octopus, it sounds exciting, but between all eight arms trying to do their thing, you just can’t relax and enjoy the experience.

The Rugby World Cup is too small, the Cricket World Cup is too niche and the less said about the Rugby League World Cup the better. Unfortunately for me the International Dwarf Tossing Championships can’t be considered, having been controversially outlawed by the Dwarf Tossing Ban Act (2003) and opposed by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

So the Euro stands head and shoulders above its rivals.

Most sporting competitions are like beauty contests featuring Kim and Khloe Kardashian. Under the influence of far too many jaegers you might be tempted to give Khloe the high score. But nine times out of ten Kim’s getting the thumbs up. It’s usually fairly easy to pick the winner.

The Euros are different. The level of quality is far more even, so while there might not be as many Kim’s around, there are definitely far fewer Khloe’s. And every man will tell you, the less Khloe Kardashian the better.

Just look at the opening stage groups:

Group A
Czech Rep.      
Group B
Group C
Rep. of Ireland
Group D

All teams are evenly matched, every game is important, every result matters. Anyone who claims with confidence they know which teams will progress, much less who’ll win the tournament, has been taking honesty lessons from Craig Thomson.

Consider the pedigree of the participating teams:

Spain: European, world and intergalactic champions, having just defeated the mighty Vulcan’s. They’ve won just about everything available. Everyone’s favourite
Germany: Like Jason Vorhees, they keep coming and coming, even after being killed for the eleventh time
France: Sacre Bleu! What a turnaround after dumping a massive team turd in the World Cup. Currently the hottest team on the planet
Italy: See France...just not as hot. With strong Juve representation, always a threat to ‘influence’ the officials
Portugal: Ronaldo scored a thousand goals to lead Real to La Liga. Plus he’s got the best hair and abs in world football. That has to count for something right?
Polkraine: Host nations are always a threat to be carried on the wings of home town expectations. Especially when you factor in the copious amounts of shonky vodka and home cooked pork available to their players
Denmark, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece: All previous Euro champions. Two during the Cold War (Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia), one (Denmark) who didn’t even qualify, and Greece...the flukiest bastards in the history of world sport
Sweden, Croatia and the Irish: A Swede, a Croat and an Irishman walk into a bar...if anyone knows a good punch-line tweet me @aco226
England: Familiar with wrestling? Remember the lesser half of the British Bulldogs, the Dynamite Kid? All bark and no bite. A real fan favourite who brought high energy into the ring, until he got tossed out on his arse. That’s England  

England aside that’s a murderer’s row of teams.

Realistically all that’s missing is the colour usually provided by Brazil ( and Argentina (

I’m sure the Swedes and Portuguese will do their best to compensate in their absence. But the dark moustached Greek girls, together with those sunburned Essex girls, missing teeth and all, will conspire to ruin it for everyone.

Bring on the Euros!!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

South Park, Liverpool and the demise of King Kenny

As I battled post-EPL season finale trauma, with my mood too dark to enjoy any sports, and my integrity preventing me from watching reality rubbish on the commercial networks, I reverted to SBS for some stimulation. 

The latest episode of South Park was showing.

To be honest I’m not a huge fan of South Park. While I really enjoy animation, and think some of the gags very clever, I’ve never been a real devotee. 

That is until I sat through this brilliant episode.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Now that was Infarkt

In the end football was the real winner.

That's what losers say to justify the fact they've been a part of something really special but have not actually won the game. 

But my goodness, it was special.

Congratulations to Manchester City. Even the most one-eyed United supporter (ME!) has to acknowledge that they've been the best team throughout the course of this season. As mentioned in my previous blog, the fact that United pushed you all the way to the brink is a minor miracle unto itself, when you consider the talent and depth in the City squad, and some of the breathtaking football played this season. I know City had the wobbles in March, allowing United to take (at the time a seeming unassailable) lead at the top of the table. But when you consider that City tore United to shreds in the two head to head match-ups, the end result is fitting. Manchester City are the best team in England in 2012.

(Excuse me while I throw up in the second draw of my desk)

Honestly though, regardless whether you wear red or blue, or have any affinity with a Manchester team at all, if you took two hours out of your life to watch the spectacle that unfolded you're a better person for it. It couldn't have been scripted. Replay those games 100 more times, heck give me a thousand, you'll never replicate that drama. It was nerve wrecking, spine tingling, nauseating, exciting, exhilarating, and ultimately for me, devastating. But I'm still happy I stayed up after midnight to witness the most memorable climax to the English premiership in history.

So close yet so far for United. It's fitting that it took a United-esque performance to shift the balance of power in Northern England. How many times have I celebrated as the Red Devils conjured magic from their seemingly endless back of tricks? The two injury time goals versus Barcelona. The penalty save versus Bergkamp in the FA Cup final the same year. The Great Dane saving everything the city of Newcastle threw at him in the mid 90's. The John Terry missed penalty in Moscow. Last minute winners and equalisers have been United's trademark and bedrock for the best part of two decades. Now the shoe is on the other foot. And it f#cken sucks.

I still haven't thoughts are a jigsaw puzzle, with some pieces missing and others that just don't fit. I followed both matches last night with relative composure, certain that City would eventual breakdown Rangers gallant soldiers and win comfortable. But as the seconds ticked away, and the possibility of the biggest last day choke job beckoning, my thoughts wandered into fantasy. Is this actually happening? Are we actually going to be crowned champions against all odds?

The final ten minutes were simply excruciating,  with City pouring men forward and driving cross after cross into the heart of Rangers defense. At the Stadium of Light United were desperately trying to hold onto possession and not lose their slender one goal advantage. After racing out of the blocks and creating numerous chances early on, the Reds retracted into safe mode, willing time to pass in an instant.

With five minutes of stoppage time on the clock I honestly thought it was over. The Sporting Gods had thrown the dice and decided that the petro-dollars of City would have to be invested further in a vain attempt to grasp the crown from the rightful Kings. I mean, what were the odds that City would score two injury time goals right???

The Sporting Gods had other plans. First Dzeko equalised, then Kun grabbed the winner (thank f#ck it wasn't that shite Tevez). The images from Sunderland, with the look of disbelief on the faces of the United faithful, was heartbreaking. The trophy wasn't only in touching distance. We had both hands on it and were booking the after party. 

To be fair though, the trophy wasn't lost last night. It was lost in the two derbies, during the pathetic performance at home to Blackburn, the thrashing at St James' Park, the brain explosion against Everton and the incompetence versus Wigan.

As soon as the final whistle was blown at the Etihad I stumbled into bed. I felt paralysed, sick to my stomach. My blood pressure was soaring, heartbeat racing. I wanted to scream, but the family was sleeping. I wanted to break something. I wanted to open a bottle of plum brandy and drink myself into a stupor. So much blood had rushed to my head that my thoughts were a jumbled mess (they still are). I lay listening to the silence, trying to comprehend what had just taken place. Seconds turned into minutes, turned into an hour. And I was still awake. Still replaying those images in my mind, silently cursing the Gods and their warped sense of humour. 

Why do they make it so hard? City could have won easily. Been up three at half time and I would have gone to bed disappointed, but not rocked to the core. 

But it's precisely that feeling that makes these events special. Sports, but especially football, offer up moments in time that you'll never forget. It's not the winning or the losing. It's the magic. It's the sensation that you've been part of something that, for the briefest moment in time, exists outside the boundaries of reality. 

Last night was one of those moments. Whilst I'm devastated that we're not the champions of England, I'm not disappointed one iota at sitting on the couch at two o'clock in the morning, heater on, laptop streaming the two games, shooting tweets from the phone, drinking warm milk, scaling the mountain of elation and subsequently falling into the valley of depression in mere seconds. 

And being part of something magical.

An open letter to Fergie

I've been meaning to write an open letter to Sir Alex Ferguson ever since the appalling performance during the Manchester derby that basically ruined 2012. To be perfectly honest, when I was previewing United's chances before the season began, I felt a sense of impending doom. I thought that without serious investment the premiership would be beyond us. City and Chelsea were my pick for top two, with United grouped together with Arsenal and Tottenham for the remaining Champions League positions. Who could have predicted Newcastle's stunning rise. Liverpool's demise was much easier to pick. 

When I consider that United have toiled for the bulk of the season without Vidic, Fletcher, Cleverly and Anderson, and have had to draft in a retired asthmatic to inspire our performances, it's a minor miracle that on the last day of the season we're on equal points with the leaders. That being the case, I still cannot forgive Fergie for throwing away the derby by starting Scholes, Giggs, Carrick and Park together in midfield. Watching Park take his place in the starting line-up was reminiscent of seeing Savo Milosevic in the first eleven for Serbia in the opening game of the 2006 World Cup against the Netherlands...I just knew it would lead to a pathetic, painful defeat.

NEWSFLASH: Pastor Maldenado just won the Spanish F1 GP for Williams, their first win since 2004. Amazingly yet another first time victor this season, and the fifth race featuring a different winner. Classic season in F1. Loving it!

Where was I...oh yeah...Park. F#cken Park. What the f#ck Fergie??? Park hasn't made a meaningful contribution all season. Thinking about that again just makes me physically sick. I want to grab for the bluntest object within my reach and ram in into my eye socket. 

To be realistic though, that performance didn't lose us the championship. Drawing with Everton when leading 4-2 after 80 minutes didn't help. I doubt we'd have such a defensive brainfart if Vidic was on the field. The loss to Wigan was atrocious. The back to back defeats against Blackburn and Newcastle at the turn of the New Year, unforgivable. Just one point from those two games and I wouldn't even bother staying up to watch the game tonight. I'd go to bed safe in the knowledge that we'd get a nervy win against Sunderland and be crowned the Best in Britain yet again. 

Instead I'm sitting in front of the heater, watching a live stream from most likely an illegal source, knowing with every fiber of my being that Man City will demolish QPR, yet still holding onto the faintest glimmer of completely delusional hope that Sparky Hughes can score another cracker for the red half of Manchester and deliver the unlikeliest finish in EPL history. Just a pathetic sight to tell you the truth. I know my better half agrees wholeheartedly with that sentiment.

Rather than continue with my anti-Fergie rant, where I question his sanity, balls, capacity to continue has manager and his views on just about everything, I'm going to sit here and take it like a man. I'll report live whenever something of interest happens at either the Etihad Stadium or the Stadium of Light, and pass on my hearty congratulations to City, worthy winners of the 2011/12 English Premier League, in about 90 minutes time.

UPDATE: No news from either Manchester game, but a flurry of activity from the rest of the league. A total of nine goals in the first 16 minutes. As it stands, Spurs jump to third, Newcastle miss out and Bolton get relegated.

NEWSFLASH: Rooney!!! Man U 1 - Sunderland 0. Dare to dream???

SIDE NOTE: I'm ten points up in my EPL Fantasy Football League, and I've got two goals in the bag already with Rooney and Holt scoring. If Van Persie gets on the scoresheet I'm definitely fantasy champion!!!

FLASH: Rooney hits the crossbar from a free kick. John Terry scores for Chelsea (he's in my fantasy team...even if he is a c#nt)

NEWSFLASH: Zabaleta scores for City. The dream dies. Should I just pack it in and go to bed??? Or man up?

As we head into half time City are still ahead on goal difference. United could have easily scored four goals in the first half, with Rooney hitting the bar, missing a sitter and Giggs drawing a great save from the keeper. If we converted that would have made things interesting.

NEWSFLASH: Just before halftime Bolton score and take the lead. QPR have to get a result now. Come on Sparky!

NEWSFLASH: Start of second half and QPR equalise. OMG!

NEWSFLASH: Shit. Barton sent off. QPR down to ten men and my battery waning