Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The World Cup, Last Name Ever, First Name The Greatest

"Nobody will sleep tonight in Montevideo... They eat soccer, sleep soccer and they will wait no more."

That's a quote from the one-man crew and regular voice of Uruguayan soccer last night as the worst of all kinds of sporting droughts came to a cathartic end. This is Odysseus finding his way home, and make no mistake, it's been a long journey.

June 11, 2002
Uruguay's most recent world cup game. Ouch. That hurt to type. La Celeste entered the day needing a win over Senegal and a France loss (or win by less goals than our win). I was seventeen years old. Uruguay ended the first half against Senegal down 3-0. We had 45 minutes to get four. Four. Obviously it didn't happen. I hate Wikipedia with a passion but it does a nice job with the World Cups in case you're interested in re-living one of the strangest World Cups in modern history. In retrospect, this was the United State's best chance to make the finals but an even better chance for Uruguay had they emerged 2nd from their group. Sounds crazy but it's true, I could write for hours about that World Cup but I digress.

The bottom-line is that Uruguay choked when they got to the big stage. A 23 year-old Diego Forlan, a healthy Alvaro Recoba, an experienced back four, it all led to an abysmal showing and only until the last 45 minutes of the third game did Uruguay look like the squad everyone had anticipated. It's a shame really because if somehow we're forgiven for our pathetic 225 minutes prior, we would have been hot at the right time.

That's not how the World Cup works though. Heroes are carved into stone and goats sometimes shot when they come home. I can't think of an instance when the best team didn't win it. Sure there are upsets - Korea over Spain - but only seven countries have ever won, and five of them have repeated. That is to say, the great countries inevitably shine and the good countries eventually flame out. Here are the winners; Uruguay, Italy, Italy, Uruguay, Germany, Brasil, Brasil, England, Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Brasil, France, Brasil, Italy.

The French team that won in '98 is arguably the best team ever assembled and the Brasil '02 team featured 5 players that are ranked in the top 50 players ever. The '86 Argentina squad had the best player ever to play the game who took the torch from the '70 Brasil team that had Pele. Uruguay won when it hosted in 1930, Italy when it hosted after that, England when it hosted after that, and Argentina when it hosted after that.

It's why Brasil will win the World Cup in 2014 (book it) and we'll never see the United States win one in our lifetime. And they are not the only ones on the list.

November 16, 2005

Uruguay loses to the Socceroos, coached by Guus Hiddink, by way of penalty shoot-out after splitting the home and home, 1-0 both games. I didn't watch the match, I watched only a few qualifying games. I, like just about every Uruguayan, assumed we'd be in.

Their absence didn't register with me until the World Cup had begun and my squad was nowhere to be seen. It felt like I had left the gate open and my dog had gotten out. You just assume you'll find the dog. Well, not this time. This time the dog is somewhere in Australia having been dismembered like a third trimester abortion.

I watched every game of the 2006 WC, every minute in fact except for 45 - the 2nd half of the Trinidad vs Sweden game when I actually fell asleep it was so boring. It changed my sports life. I started watching the English Premier League, then the Serie A, then La Liga. I even co-started a soccer blog*. I can tell you where Arsene Wenger was born, what David Trezeguet's mother looks like, and what Luca Toni's hand-rotation-near-side-of-head goal celebration means. The obsession had firmly cemented itself.

October 13, 2007
World Cup Qualfying for 2010, THREE years from now begins. What a terrible idea. Two and half, but still. Uruguay opens the campaign at home against Bolivia. I am watching the game, no joke, on a three inch by four inch online feed with a picture that looks something like this. Louis Suarez opens the onslaught and Carlos Bueno caps off a boisterous, fun, dick-shaking display of soccer, 5-0. Three days later we lose a horrendous and uninspiring game to Paraguay, 1-0. I probably should have gotten out then, while I still could.

November 21, 2007
It's gut-check time as Uruguay travels to Brasil. I wrote about it in a previous post. Here's the goal I'm referring to since youtube sucks now. If you don't feel like re-living all the hurt, in summary, we lost.

March 28, 2009
After the Brasil fiasco we earn 6 points in 6 games, including, The Point. We're at home against Paraguay, they're top of the table, and qualification is becoming a serious doubt. We win in dominating fashion, 2-0, but that match turns out to be just an up-draft in the free-fall we're in.

September 5, 2009
Three more games pass by and only 2 points come from them. If you're keeping track at home that's 14 points in 11 games. That's not gonna do it. It just isn't. The free-fall continues and the only positive spin available for the loss at Peru is that Uruguay finally hits the ground. To be fair the loss against last-place Peru was coming from fifty miles away. I intentionally didn't watch this game it was so obvious. I actually told my parents and family that I wasn't going to watch because I knew how angry it would make me. Best decision I ever made. 14 points in 12 games.

There are three games left and mathematically Uruguay cannot lose any of them.

September 9, 2009
Uruguay vs. Colombia. El Pais, Uruguay's CNN, writes a story essentially outlining how the Uruguayan players are so nervous they can't imagine performing well. Quotes from the players translate without ambiguity, "I'm so F*&^ING NERVOUS!" Emails fly back and forth between family members and the consensus is that we need a goal quick, because if it's 0-0 at halftime we'll crumble under the pressure. Sure enough, Luis Suarez scores 6 minutes in. It's one of those goals that's so important but gets lost in the box score and disappears. But don't be fooled, it's as important as any in the next 5 games. Uruguay 3, Colombia 1.

October 10, 2009
Uruguay at Ecuador. Mathematically we must win. You already know how this story ends but I am obligated to mention the through-ball that stopped time. Here it is, skip to the 3:45 mark. By the way, the other person screaming, "VAMOS! VAMOS! (4:02)" is not an announcer, it's just some guy in the booth.

Here's the translation, starting at 4:06, I would put it in all caps to emphasize but just assume it's all caps.

It's nowornever! Nowornever! Noworneverrrrrrrrrrrrr. Penalty!! Penalty!! Penalty at the death. Penalty at the death! It's red for the keeper! (shown yellow) To me it should be red for the keeper but that doesn't matter. I WANT TO KILL MYSELF! Penalty for Uruguay!! I need to calm down first!! 47th minute and 20 seconds! ... Here is the replay! (4:26)

Let's end on that.

*The 2006 WC didn't always lead to good things


Jim said...

My God, Forlan smashes that. That's one of the most emphatic penalties I've ever seen.

Jim said...

That summer was indeed formative.

Ben said...

yes, yes it was (to the summer).

And now this summer will be complete. We need the beautiful blue jerseys in la copa to be complete.

Jim said...

Also, I love that France 98 team, but I'll bet the historians would argue it's Brasil 1970 (Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto, and Tostao), especially for attacking. But top to bottom, that France team was indeed stacked - and so tactically strong. They romped through that cup, and the only game they didn't win outright was that penalty scare against Italy (which got its revenge eight years later).

I agree with Ben, though. Despite the abundance of blue, Uruguay have such nice distinct uniforms, it just doesn't seem right not to have them involved.

Also, I like it when all the previous champions have qualified.