Friday, June 30, 2006

World Cup Quarterfinal Thoughts

I've actually been kind of lost the last couple of days without any matches to follow. Thankfully, four teams take the pitch today for the quarterfinals. Since my initial predictions are now shown to be full of bunk, I thought I'd call a "do-over" and pick this weekend's games.

Argentina vs. Germany
Argentina (please please please) in a classic for the ages. I have never seen a Germany team attack like this one. I still feel like their defense could be prone to a couple of errors on offside traps. I think the Argentines take the day 3-2.

Italy vs. Ukraine
After the most boring football displayed in this tournament thus far in their win over Switzerland, I don't see Ukraine scoring again, despite their great striker Schevchenko. Italy wins 2-0.

England vs. Portugal
This one is tough. My heart wants to pick England (mostly because I am so familiar with the players from following the EPL), but my head says that Scolari is in their head so to speak. Portugal is a weakened side though due to suspensions from the card fest against Holland (I don't get that many cards at Christmas). Going with my heart. England 2 - 0 Portugal.

Brazil vs. France
The other monster mash-up of the quarters. Brazil is the trendy pick to win it all, but for some reason, I don't think they'll do it. A newly revitalized French squad may be their undoing. Viera was huge against Spain. He remembers what it was like to be dominating. France 3 - 2 Brazil.

Remember, all picks guaranteed to be wrong or your money back.

Friday Music Report

Well you see, it's like this. There isn't one. Last week was devoted to listening to or watching the World Cup, so there's only three bands that even cracked more than one listen, so any report wouldn't be representative of what I'm hearing on a daily basis.

NP: "Eanie Meany" - Jim Noir (the song from the Adidas soccer commericial)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Jeff Mangum Making Music Again?

I really hope this is not a hoax. In any case, someone posted the following in the Neutral Milk Hotel section of the E6 Townhall.

hello again.

for the past few months ive been putting together the pieces of everything ive written in the past three years and its been a revelation. whenever i had the time ive been writing melodies and keeping them in my head for later, and songs just accumulate, im not waiting as some have said. i still dont know how we’re going to put it all together, the songs will have more noises and collages in them. because of that we dont know whether this will be korena pang or neutral milk hotel or michael bolton but that doesnt really matter. names are just a box we put things in to separate them, and we’re figuring out what box these songs go in.

we dont have a timetable for releasing the album yet, so dont get your hopes up for new songs now. if you want more “aeroplane” just ignore all of this, the songs are songs but they’re longer and more free. when jeremy came down after his tour we just spent days playing noise while screaming and it was incredibly liberating.

it has been so much fun that we will for sure be playing a show or two, probably more. freedom is a wonderful thing but at a certain point you need the routines of normal life. ive had that for a while but i realized last year at the show with the livys that the best sort of normal ive ever had was on the road with my friends. getting to gigs late with cars coughing and trombones smacking on doors, the giant egg leaks over the masses, the yolk sustains us, we eat whites for days. it can never be the same but i need to get as close as i can to that again.

so thats all. everything is happening soon, this is the year.
thanks for listening. jeff.

UPDATE: Sadly, You Ain't No Picasso has discoverd that this is hoax. At least I wasn't the only one fooled.

NP: Ukraine vs. Switzerland

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Music Report

Back on schedule again! According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week:
  1. Echo & the Bunnymen
  2. Joy Division
  3. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
  4. Rilo Kiley
  5. Swervedriver
  6. The Wedding Present
  7. Cranes
  8. Mogwai
  9. The Cure
  10. Pulp
Quite the mixed bag there. I haven't been listening to music during the day as much since the beginning of the World Cup, which could explain some of the new names.

NP: World Cup - Spain versus Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Prefab Sprout

I am indeed with Krista on this one! [Ed. Note: clicky linky for explanation]

NP: "Conjure Me" - Afghan Whigs

World Cup Predictions Revisited

It's been an interesting World Cup thus far--not at all what I expected. With the first round almost over, I thought I would revisit my picks and assess things a bit further. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a group by group basis.

Group A
So I was right that Germany would cruise through this group, and apart from a first half scare from Costa Rica, they did just that. Scarily, they are looking better and better as each game, and home field advantage never hurts. I was right in thinking that Poland was not as good as many of the pundits were giving them credit for. On the other hand, I was totally wrong about Costa Rica--I picked the wrong latin team, since Ecuador looked pretty impressive until they met Germany yesterday (and they looked fairly disinterested in the game).

Group B
I was almost spot on in my assessment of this group, with England winning it outright, despite some shocking defending against Sweden, and Sweden finishing second. So I had the order reversed, but a lot of that comes down to Trinidad and Tobago holding Sweden to draw in what has been one of the more entertaining matches from a rooting perspective thus far.

Group C
My picks are getting better as we progress. I picked Holland and Argentina to advance, and advance they will. Of course, match this afternoon will decide who wins this group. Both teams have looked very dangerous and I think either of them could do a lot of damage in the knockout stages. In retrospect, this wasn't as difficult a group as everyone thought since Serbia and Montenegro, who had cruised through qualifying without giving up a goal in a long time, totally rolled over, especially when Argentina crushed them 6-0.

Group D
And my streak ends here. I was totally wrong against Mexico. They will advance along with Portugal, with the result of this game determining who finishes first. Iran had their moments, but late substitutions from Mexico made the difference. Iran had to have points in that first match to advance. I'm thinking Portugal will still end up winning the group.

Group E
This has proven to be the real group of death, and any of the four teams could advance, and all four could still go home. This group will be decided tomorrow. Italy advances with a win, and even after Saturday's contentious game, the U.S. has to hope for that. If Italy wins and the U.S. defeats Ghana, the U.S. moves on.

I'm feeling better after Saturday's heroic effort by the U.S. against Italy. We'll see how correct I was about the Czech's age problem, especially after losing Jan Koller. I think the U.S. takes care of business, barely, against Ghana. The other game is up in the air. If there's a draw, the U.S. is likely out due to the 3 goals scored by the Czechs against them. I'll predict Italy wins 2-1 and Italy and the U.S. advance.

Group F
Brazil wins group. Yawn. (Even though they've not looked very Brazil-like at times.) The last spot is up in the air. Based on how the teams have played thus far, I'm changing my pick to Australia.

Group G
I was totally off base with this group as well. France hasn't looked particularly good with two draws, but I still think they win on Friday and win the group. As for second place, its a total toss up between Switzerland and South Korea. I picked Togo, who are going home, so I'll have to change to South Korea just because they have such delightful fans.

Group H
Wrong again. Spain have looked like world beaters and will win this one handily. This may finally be their year. For second, Ukraine have absorbed the 4-0 body blow from Spain and should advance in second place.

Once the group stage is totally complete, I'll chime in with the rest of my predictions.

In other news, I'm in last place in my World Cup pool. I'm doing a bit better with my fantasy league though.

NP: "Crazy World" - Richard Ashcroft

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Weekly Music Report

I'm off to Chicago this evening, so I'll be away from all computers all weekend. With that in mind, I'm bringing you the Friday Music Report one day early (again). According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following music the most last week:
  1. Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros
  2. Sigur Rós
  3. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
  4. Pavement
  5. Death Cab for Cutie
  6. The White Stripes
  7. Blur
  8. Interpol
  9. Prefab Sprout
  10. Pulp
In other news, Mexico's manager in the World Cup has been ordered to stop smoking in the dugout. I don't know why I find this funny.

NP: "World Cup Show" - Guardian Unlimited

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Now What?

The U.S. team was totally outclassed, and more disturbingly, quit on the pitch in the second half (I won't get into the gory details, since everyone else seems to be doing that). The question is, with such an uphill (nearly impossible road), what do you do. Attack. That's the only hope. Arena needs to totally shake up the lineup.

With that in mind, I'd humbly suggest the following lineup (a 3-5-2).

GK: Howard.
Sorry Kasey. You couldn't have done anything about any of those goals, but your distribution was horrible.

D: Pope. Onyewyu. Bocanegra.
Cherundolo and Lewis were worse than useless.

M: Mastroeni. Reyna. Dempsey. Donovan. Convey.
Beasley needs to learn how to settle the ball. This will be the best attacking lineup in midfield, allowing Donovan to do what he can. Reyna and Mastro play holding roles.

F: Johnson. Twellman (oh wait, crap, he's at home... McBride then)
Johnson was the only one other than Reyna who looked like he cared yesterday.

Manager: Someone other than Bruce Arena as soon as his contract expires.
Even though he's been hailed as a wizard at preparation, the team had no plan B yesterday. His only tactic seems to be get an early lead and hold on for dear life.

Will this team be able to beat Italy. Who knows, but I guarantee they won't quit on the field (or Dempsey will punch them in the face).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm profile, I listened to the following artists the most last week:
  1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  2. The Wedding Present
  3. Echo & the Bunnymen
  4. Blur
  5. Lush
  6. X
  7. Pavement
  8. Pulp
  9. The Charlatans UK
  10. Swervedriver
NP: "Motorcrash" - The Sugarcubes

Thursday, June 08, 2006

World Cup Predictions

Jules Rimet trophyNow that the preliminaries are out of the way, here come the predictions. Since I'm from the U.S., I suppose I'll start with their chances and get it out of the way. Many of the guys I play soccer with on Saturdays laughed at me in 2002 when I predicted the U.S. would advance to the second round. 16 bets of one beer each, and I had a couple of cheap Saturday afternoons after my prediction turned out to be correct.

So how do they do in 2006? This time they have a much harder draw, though not the true group of death that many are calling it (maybe the group of almost fatal injury is more appropriate).

They open against the Czech Republic, an aging but very high-scoring team. As of this morning, however, the Czechs have doubts about two of their main scoring threats, Pavel Nedved and Milan Baros. If either of them are absent, U.S. chances improve. I like them to win this game outright by taking it right to the Czechs as they did against Portugal four years ago.

Next up, they'll face an Italy team that will have cruised to victory over Ghana. I predict a 2-2 draw. Finally, they face Ghana, and I have no idea what will happen here, but I think a draw is likely. Even though I'm not as sure as I was in 2002, I still think the U.S. will capture second place in their group and advance, where they'll likely face Brazil, at which point they're bounced. It will still be a successful cup for the U.S. though.

Either Italy or the Czech Republic is capable of topping group E, but I'll go out on a limb and say that the Czech's age and injury woes continue to mount allowing Italy to win the group. Here are the rest of my predictions for the group stage:
  • Group A: The hosts got a pretty easy draw here. Germany should have no problem winning this group. The runner up isn't as clear. Most people give Poland the best shot, but I think Costa Rica uses its speed to run around the Poles and move on to the next round.
  • Group B: Rooney's metatarsal seems to have healed in time for him to play, as English fans rejoice the world over. His return should boost England to 2nd place in the group. I think Sweden continues their recent dominance over the Swedish coached English team to win the group.
  • Group C: The real group of death. All four teams realistically have a shot at advancing. If Ivory Coast were in any other group, I'd pick them to move on, but unfortunately, they have Holland and Argentina. I think Holland finishes first and Argentina follows at second. Serbia and Montengro, playing their last competition as a single team, flames out completely.
  • Group D: Now for my first shocker. Mexico goes home after the group stage. Iran shocks everyone with their form and ends up as runner up in the group to Portugal.
  • Group E: Italy, U.S.A. (see above)
  • Group F: Brazil has the best team in the world. They win this group, end of story. Until recently, I would have picked Japan to advance based on experience alone. Their form lately has been awful, barely beating Malta over the weekend. I think Australia are too inexperienced to advance, but they'll look pretty good. That leaves Croatia as the runner up.
  • Group G: France got a gift with this group. Thierry Henry shines as they romp to win the group. The other three teams are a toss up for second though. Here is where Africa has a team advance, as Henry's teammate at Arsenal Emmanuel Adebayor finds the net multiple times and they end up shocking South Korea and Switzerland to advance.
  • Group H: See Group G, replace France with Spain--only they'll manage to mess it up somehow and come in second behind Ukraine. Shevchenko sets the pace for the Golden Boot starting in this group.
The Knockout Stages

16 teams are left, and if my predictions above ring true, this round has some intriguing games. First up, Germany renew they old World Cup acquaintance with England, only this time England should prevail. Holland easily dispatch Iran, and Sweden and Argentina defeat Costa Rica and Portugal, respectively.

On the other side of the bracket, Italy hold off Croatia in a very tough match, while Thierry Henry gets his Champion's League revenge on Puyol, leading Les Bleus to victory. Brazil ends the U.S. run in a game that's closer than anyone expected, and Shevchenko continues his torrid goalscoring pace as they oust Togo.

On to the Quarterfinals! This is where the great matches really start to line up. Holland versus England. What's not to like? I like Holland in this one. Argentina beats Sweden, France beats Italy, and Brazil gets by Ukrain. This leaves a final four of Holland and Argentina on one side of the bracket and Brazil and France on the other. Holland advances to the final where they defeat Brazil in one of the most entertaining finals in history.

Of course, all predictions guaranteed to be wrong or your money back!

NP: "Whatever's Cool with Me" - Dinosaur Jr

World Cup Resources

The biggest sporting event the world kicks off tomorrow, so I thought I post a round up of links that will let casual fans, first time followers, or the curious get their World Cup Groove on.
  • The official World Cup site - This will be a great resource for photos and scores.
  • The Guardian - This English paper has some of the best all around soccer coverage out their. I especially endorse their minute-by-minute match reports for those of you who will be stuck at your desk during some of the games (like me); they're equally informative and snarky at the same time
  • The BBC and Sports Illustrated also have extensive coverage, which I prefer to ESPN's Soccernet.
  • For those looking for more coverage of particular teams, check out the World Cup blog, which has blogger/supporters for every nation.
  • If you want to do some trash talking over the Interweb, head on over to BigSoccer.com.
  • Kasey Keller, the U.S. keeper, has been providing regular articles at Sportsline.com.
  • Clint Dempsey, a U.S. player that many think will have a breakout month, also has his own website.
NP: "Undertow" - Lush

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6.6.6

In honor of today's nefarious date, I thought I'd point you to a list of the numbers of the beast.

I wonder what Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are thinking today. Perhaps they are checking the rapture index to see if they need to start looking skyward.

Maybe everyone should just step back and realize that the way we abbreviate our dates have nothing to do with John of Patmos. June 6, 2006 doesn't look nearly nefarious now does it. Heck, if it weren't for calendar reform, it would be June 20 anyway.

Of course, rational thought and religious fundametalists in the pre-millenial dispensational mode don't really go together now do they.

UPDATE: Of course, it's actually National Yo-Yo Day... what could be satanic about that I ask you.

NP: "99th Dream" - Swervedriver

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Music Report

Despite being very busy at work, the blog must go on. Or at least the Friday Music Report must. According to the fine folks over at Last.fm, I listened to the following artists the most last week:
  1. We Are Scientists
  2. The Clash
  3. Blur
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. Echo & the Bunnymen
  6. Wilco
  7. Joy Division
  8. Sigur Rós
  9. The Charlatans U.K.
  10. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
I'm bummed that I'll be missing We Are Scientists when they come to town, but they are opening for Arctic Monkeys, so the show sold out rather quickly. At least I'll be seeing Echo & the Bunnymen on the 20th.

And in another side note, the only time I turned on the TV at my parents house last weekend, Westway to the World was on the Documentary channel. Serendipity defined.

NP: "Blue You" - The Magnetic Fields