Fresh baked “Fong Bao” from the oven – 方包出爐

Random musings & meditations straight from the oven. Hopefully some food for thought as well…

Archive for June, 2010

The goal that never was

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the past 24 hours, you must have heard about the goal that never was. It’s a “goal” that has generated countless chatter on the internet and will no doubt be the most talked about news item around the world.

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. England deserved to lose this match based on their dismal defensive display and a lack of conviction in their play. They were simply not good enough to deal with the pace and precision of the German counter attack.

That being said, there’s no doubt in my mind the Frank Lampard “non-goal” would have changed the complexion of the match. So it begs the question that everyone’s been asking at the moment: Why wouldn’t FIFA institute goal line technology?

Sometimes in life, the most obvious, simple and logic solution to a problem can be dismissed for many reasons, justifiable or not. I really don’t have time to go on a rant about how I feel about the issue. But if FIFA and all those traditionalists out there are reluctant to goal line technology, there is another option they can consider.

Put a goal judge at both ends of the field.

It was obvious none of the officials at the England – Germany match were in a position to make the correct call. If there is a need for a forth official at matches then why not introduce two more to make sure you get these critical calls right?

Surely that’s not too much to ask…….

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World Cup Chop Suey – End of group stage edition

A lot has happened since my last loaf over a week ago: The downfall of Italy and the resurrection of Spain; The belated demolition of North Korea and the self destruction of France; The momentous achievement of the Kiwis and the much admired resilience of the Americans; The disappointment of multiple exits from African nations and the surprise uprising of countries from both Americas. Not to mention how tired I’ve been trying to keep up. Thank goodness there are no more 4:30am matches…….

This has truly been a wildly unpredictable World Cup.

Some quick thoughts as we head into the round of 16:

Weaknesses are starting to show on the two teams I’ve tipped to meet in the final, Brazil and Spain. They may be temporary but both teams do not looked as unbeatable as before. Spain, with their lack of variety in offense without a fit Fernando Torres, and Brazils’ somewhat overrated defense are cause for concern.

On the other hand, the mad scientist otherwise known as Maradona has managed to concoct a team that looks to be the bookie’s current favorite to win it all. Leo Messi has looked sensational in the group stage despite a lack of goals to show for his efforts. Imagine when he starts converting some of the chances he creates. That’s a scary thought. But then everything could go pear shaped should a team managed to exploit the Argentine defense and test an unproven keeper in Romero. Unlike most teams, the Albicelestes have yet to face adversity. The knock out stage may not be the best time to test their resolve.

If you are looking for a dark horse that’s lurking in the weeds, look no further than the Dutch. Quietly, they’ve managed a perfect record through the group stage without any fanfare and, more importantly, without any internal strife that has been the cause of past World Cup and Euro failures.

As much as we like to bash the Americans whenever possible, I find it difficult to hate this edition of the U.S. national team. Sure. They’ve enjoyed some good fortunes along the way (Hello, Robert Green.) as they topped group C but it was their heart, grit and determination that created that. Luck has always been an essential ingredient in any successful championship run. While I do not believe they can win it – the team must find a way to address their weakness at centre back and their habit of bad starts in matches – the Americans could go deep into the tournament based on their side of the bracket.

Kudos to South Korea and Japan for exceeding everyone’s expectations and breaking into the round of 16. Their fitness level has been outstanding and the will to compete is always evident. It would not surprise me if one or both of them reach the quarter finals.

As for England and Germany…….

As the plot thickens…….

A few people have wondered why anyone would bother waking up at four in the morning to watch minnows such as New Zealand and Slovakia if one has no vested interest in either country. I suppose the following is the best analogy I can come up with.

A tournament like the World Cup or the European Championship is like an epic made up of  a series of short stories (groups) and for each story there are four characters (national teams) within it. Even though these short stories may not connect with every other one within the epic, some of the characters will eventually converge and intertwine as the larger story unfolds. So to gain a full appreciation for the epic itself, it is best to understand all the characters and short stories as much as possible. While not all the characters are interesting, circumstances may create tension and/or unexpected outcomes between them. And today was a perfect example of that.

Everybody assumed Germany will ride off to the sunset after steam-rolling Australia last Sunday. By the same token Serbia was condemned to a quick and certain exit. What both countries didn’t expect was a deus ex machina in the form of Spanish referee Alberto Undiano. 9 yellow cards and a harsh send off of Miroslav Klose later, the Serbs were given a new lease on life while the Germans lost their invisibility.

As the underdog in the battle against Ingerland, the colonies know as the US of A managed to share the spoils with the Empire through a stroke of luck. 6 days later the role was reversed as the U.S. were fancied to defeat Slovenia. What ensued was the best match of the tournament to date. The favorites, unable to cope with the pressure, were down 2 nil before they realized what hit them. Just when you thought the match was over and done with, the U.S. managed to summon enough grit and determination to level the score. Only a questionable foul prevented a deserved victory for the Americans.

Then came the utter rubbish served up by the team now known as the stinking Three Lions. Back in World Cup 2006 in Germany, despite similar pathetic efforts, England were still able to grind out results and eventually reached the quarter finals. What transpired today was a shocking display of a team that lacked spirit, passion, urgency, purpose and self belief. They can’t run, pass, shoot nor maintain possession against a team, in theory, that’s inferior and one that started its third choice goal keeper. It was a tragedy and a horror show all wrapped up in one. The eventual ending is likely to be pretty gruesome.

So what we are left with today are two mysteries that – with the fate of all the characters still unknown – offered no clues as to how they will conclude and how they will fit in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes the mark of a great epic is the unpredictability of its plot. And what’s being presented is one that thickens by the day.

Item du jour

An interesting observation posted by a friend on Facebook:

“If Beckham was available, he would have offered 3 types of threats: cross from the right side; corner from the left side and free kicks.”

World Cup Chop Suey – Round 1 Edition

As much as I would like to wake up early to watch as many matches as possible, I had to draw the line somewhere in fear of sleep deprivation. So Sunday’s game between Algeria and Slovenia was the perfect excuse to stay in bed. And since Pie Pie Lo is out on a business trip for most of the week, I can adjust my schedule accordingly to maximize my viewing enjoyment.

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If there’s a lesson to be learned, always follow your instincts. I had tipped Ghana to be one of the African nations to play well in the tournament. But after the Michael Essien injury, my belief started to waver while reading more and more positive analysis on Serbia. So much for changing one of my dark horse picks as the Serbs self destructed and gifted an important victory to the Black Stars.

******* 

Despite fielding the youngest squad of the tournament, the Germans were absolutely clinical in their 4-0 demolition of the Aussies.  All the players knew where they were suppose to be so when the ball carrier enters the final third, it’s never a case of, “Oh geez! What the hell am I suppose to do with the ball now?” German football has been known as being efficient – or boring depending on your views. This edition may very well be the exception.

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What can I say? I was wrong to doubt South Korea and wrong to doubt Japan, even though the Cameroon defense, or lack thereof, basically gifted the winner. Given the positive results, I’d be interested to see if they can maintain the momentum.

As a sports fan you live for moments of greatness or the unexpected. So much better if you’re able to witness either live. What happened between New Zealand and Slovakia was one of those seminal moments for me. Why is it so meaningful, you may ask? Well, technically I’m half Kiwi – reason I shall explain down the road – thus I do feel a certain affinity towards the All Whites.  Even though I tipped them to do basically nothing in this tournament, the hope is for them to perform credibly and make New Zealand proud. Given the context and the timing, a sense of joy rushed through my body when Winston Reid headed in the equalizer. It was a reminder that in sports, or in life, anything is possible as long as you compete and never lose faith.

 

I’ll be honest. When the match started, like many, I was cracking a few jokes about Kim Jong-Il and the players being robots or secret agents. I ended up eating some crow as the North Koreans played an unbelievably organized and tidy match against the number one ranked team in the world. Heck! They even scored a nice goal against the Samba boys. At the end though, that extra bit of quality from players like Maicon and Elano was the difference.

 

After the draw between Ivory Coast and Portugal I tweeted that second place in that group will be determined by who can score more goals against North Korea. That might not be the case anymore.

Watched the Spain – Switzerland match just near my office on The Drive but was surprised by the lack of people. There were some Chileans in the bistro when I arrived, basking in the glow of their country’s victory over Honduras earlier in the morning. When the Swiss opened the scoring in the second half the Chileans were all cheering and getting excited. I figured that’s pretty normal for South Americans to dislike the Spaniards.  Soon after, Spain was pressing for the equalizer and the Chileans started cheering them on. It was a classic case of wanting a draw so Chile can be alone in first place. A Scot – I think – was sitting behind us and he started chirping at the Chileans. Of course I couldn’t make out half of what he said but essentially he couldn’t figure out why the group was cheering for both sides. At the end I’m not sure if the Scot ‘bought” the explanation as he mumbled to himself.

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I think it’s safe to say that so far World Cup 2010 has yet to take off given the lack of quality and entertainment value. Most teams adopted a cautious approach, flooded the midfield and played not-to-lose.  Now that 16 first round matches have been completed, things should open up as teams will need to fight for 3 points. And if the score lines so far are any indication, I think we’re in for an exciting and unpredictable tournament.

Item du jour

World Cup Viewing Rules

The Empire v The Colonies

Got to admit I surprised myself by getting up at four this morning to watch South Korea v Greece.  I’ve said I wanted to be “all-in” during this World Cup (well, almost) so this is good prep for the upcoming week with two Holland games at 4:30am.

And I’m glad to say the South Koreans made it worth my while to be up so early as I was treated with some fantastic footy. Hiring Guus Hiddink back in the turn of the century was probably the best decision South Korea made because his legacy was there for all to see: A highly effective possession game played at a high tempo with energy, industry and intelligence. They were like Holland of Asia. Granted their opponent was not the 2004 version of Greece but I was shocked by how disorganized the Greeks looked. Their campaign may have ended today.

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Say what you want about Maradona being the manager of his country – count me as one of the critics of his hire – the man does not lack passion. His claim to run around naked if Argentina wins the World Cup is proof of that. I’m sure most people DO NOT want to see that happen but when you have someone like Leo Messi on your team, anything is possible. He was mesmerizing throughout and definitely the Man of the Match for me despite missing some glorious opportunities to get on the score sheet. That being said, the Nigerian keeper was excellent today and the only reason a single goal separated the two teams. Maybe I’m wrong to dismiss the Albicelestes because of Maradona. We shall find out.

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Today was day two of Slash’s stag and whole bunch of us went to the neighborhood watering hole to watch the match near and dear to a lot of our hearts. I was all dressed up with the top hat, the England shirt and the St. George flag as a cape. It was fun to be with the lads but I found the rest of the pub a bit subdued. Maybe a trip to the British Ex-Servicemen Association is in order.

I was disappointed but not surprised by the end result. Ever since WC 2002, England has never looked convincing in first round matches and that trend is about to continue. But that Robert Green howler was just inexcusable and I’m quite interested to find out how the English press will react to this latest debacle. Ultimately, I believe goal differentials will decide the group so Capello must find a way to get Rooney and Gerrard playing closer together and further up the pitch. Otherwise it’s three and out for the three lions.

Item du jour

Bafana Bafana and Les Bleus

Two nights ago, myself and drumstick’s dad had a discussion about the merits of North Korea and how they will fare in South Africa. Our opinions varied but we both agreed the certain raiser between the host and Mexico will be an interesting match-up.

And it delivered in spades as Mexico dominated possession early but couldn’t convert numerous excellent scoring chances. Then against the flow of play, South Africa got the first goal and grew steadily in confidence. At the end, the Mexicans got a deserved equalizer but really should have won the match. I suppose that’s why you play the game because you just never know what could happen on any given day. It was a very good start to the tournament and Bafana Bafana will be very happy with the draw even though the opportunities were there for an upset.

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On the other hand, the France – Uruguay match was so dull that I really don’t have anything to say about it, partly because I felt asleep for a little bit. (I stayed home because my stomach was not feeling well.) Chances were few and far in between and the pace was absolutely dreadful. I have my doubts about Les Bleu and this performance simply reinforced it. Group A is now wide open and it’s a matter of who wants it more.

Although I did find a couple of amusing nuggets in the two plus hours that I’ll never get back:

Diego Forlan and Jeremy Roenick. Surly they must be related somehow, some way.

A new definition for the word “Irony”: Thierry Henry appealing for a hand ball.

So now it’s time to look ahead to tomorrow and the marquee match of the day: The Empire v The Colonies. Even though I’m not feeling well at the moment, there’s no way I’m going to miss the opportunity to watch England v USA with a bunch of lads in the local watering hole.

Until then……. 

Twitter:  @fongbao

 

Time to hang ’em up?

Last Sunday I went out and play some footy with the lads. Can’t remember the last time I kicked the ball around but it must have been at least 2 years. A few hours before we played, I was joking with someone that I would needed to load up on carbs, bananas, V-8 and at least 30 minutes of warm-up to ensure I don’t cramp up after 15 minutes. (Once I had to leave a game because BOTH of my legs cramped up at the same time after contesting a 50/50 ball with someone…….) At the end I didn’t have a V-8 nor did I warm up for more than 5 minutes. I murmured to myself that things could end very badly in a hurry.

Surprisingly I played for over an hour, in constant rain, without incident and just when I thought I would survive the session, something freakish happened. I intercepted a ball and proceeded to run at the last defender that’s between me and the goal. As I was doing a poor imitation of C. Ronaldo’s signature step-over move, the ball shifted slightly on the wet turf and my left foot stepped onto it. I slipped, lost my balance and the back of my head hit the field turf as I landed on my back.

With all the recent increase in awareness on head traumas, I was a bit worried that I may have suffered a concussion since the lads told me that my fall, apparently, looked kind of bad. The fact that I was able to remember everything right before and after the incident tells me I was very fortunate to escape serious injuries. In hindsight I have to thank those little black plastic pellets underneath the field turf which cushioned my fall some what. Nonetheless I wasn’t myself as I moved around gingerly the rest of the evening. Then Monday morning came and I paid dearly for not warming up sufficiently as my neck, shoulders and abs were really sore. I had a hard time just getting out of bed and I could barely turn my head the entire day.

As of today I think I’m pretty much back to normal but now the question is on the back of my mind:

What if I fall on my head again in the near future?