I love soccer. I watch so much and read so many blogs, I actually call it football sometimes. So, to commemorate the start of the World Cup tomorrow, WSBGMs is turning into a football, err, soccer blog for the day. If you like soccer, there is nothing in this post you don't already know. If you don't like soccer, you probably stopped reading already. Basically, this post is just for me, mainly to annoy soccer-hating Carson. But if you are a complete soccer novice but plan on watching a few games anyway, please read my little preview. I'm going to introduce you to a few players from some of the bigger teams in the Cup with a little Phillies tie-in (because Carson won't let me go 100% footie...)
Diego Maradona [Argentina - coach] – One of the greatest players ever. Cokehead. "Hand of God" goalscorer. Current coach of his home country. Fat. Really fat. After narrowly qualifying for the WC, he lambasted reporters who doubted his club and his coaching ability with a screaming tirade, telling them multiple times to “suck it and keep on sucking it.” Last month, he hit a reporter with his Mini and ran over his leg. To literally add insult to injury, he called him an “a$$hole” while doing it and then later asked him, “How can you put your leg there where it can get run over, man?" Now, he’s threatening to run naked down the streets of Buenos Aires if the Argentinians win the cup.
Phillies comparison: The physique of Blanton. The temper of Bowa. The decision making of Wade.
Landon Donovan [USA] – Donovan’s reputation among American soccer fans has been up and down his whole career. He’s been celebrated for his USMNT performances (all-time leader in goals and assists) but multiple failed stints in Europe, sometimes attributed to “mental weakness,” has allowed critics to vilify him. “Landycakes.” “Landon PrimaDonovan.” Whatever you call him, to say he was viewed as soft is an understatement. But in the last year or so, Donovan has turned things around. He was brilliant in the Confederations Cup as the squad beat the mighty Spaniards and took Brazil to the wire. And more importantly for his critics, he then spent a hugely successful three month loan spell at Everton where he showed world class skill and, dare I say, toughness in the best league in the world.
Phillies comparison: Cole Hamels. Do people consider Hamels soft? Do they question his mental makeup/toughness? Does he walk around with a poodle in a backpack? But does he have the ability to become one of the Phillies better players and lead them to many victories? Yes, all around.
Cristiano Ronaldo [Portugal] – Ronaldo became the most expensive player in soccer history when Real Madrid paid like $132 million to get him from Manchester United a year ago. Why? Because he’s awesome. He won every major individual award in 2008 after scoring 31 goals for Man. U. Last year, he scored 26 goals in 29 games for Real. He’s also a straight pimp. Dude bags tail from all over the world. And except for a stint with Paris Hilton, it’s quality tail, too.
Phillies comparison: Pat Burrell. Greatest in the world? Check. Straight pimp? Check. Easiest comparison in this whole piece.
Nicolas Anelka [France] – French striker Anelka was a highly touted youngster when English side Aresenal bought him from his club team in Paris. He started brightly but in his second year things didn’t go well. He was apparently unhappy with his pay and the team and due to a perceived lack of enthusiasm and downtrodden onfield demeanor, he was nicknamed “Le Sulk” by the fans. He was sold to a team in Spain who re-sold him a year later because of similar issues. Then, things turned around for “Le Sulk.” He’s had 10 straight successful seasons scoring well over a hundred professional goals. [Also note, when Anelka scores he does this butterfly thing with his hand. I guess he likes butterflies.]
Phillies comparison: Gavin Floyd. When the highly touted Floyd pitched during his last season in Philadelphia, no nickname would fit more perfectly than “Le Sulk,” as he frequently looked like he was going to cry. Also like Anelka, Floyd has changed his fortunes and for the most part has lived up to former expectations. Floyd also likes butterflies.
David James [England] – The English starting goalkeeper is the oldest man in the World Cup. He’s had a long, successful, yet unspectacular professional career. There are numerous young English keepers (Scott Carson, Robert Green, Paul Robinson, Joe Hart), but none seem to be able to take over for James permanently. Just when you think he’s too old and ready to retire from international play, he captures a starting spot for one of the best teams in the world.
Phillies comparison – Jamie Moyer. Old. Unspectacular. Can’t find anyone better.
Jozy Altidore [USA] – When Brian McBride retired, the USMNT was left without a reliable forward. And if it wasn’t for the 20 year old Altidore, they still would be. If it wasn’t for Altidore, Brian Ching might still be getting a run out. Altidore has at least 2 more World Cups after this one and has the skill to become a goal-scoring international fixture, something that has been in short supply in the history of American soccer players.
Phillies comparison: Domonic Brown. Young. Endless potential. The replacement at a position with an old, unproductive starter. (I’m talking about Raul Ibanez, in case you don’t get the hint…)
Gerard Pique [Spain] – This is picture of the Spanish defender [right] getting all snuggly-wuggly with Barcelona teammate and Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovich. Hmmm. Kind of an odd way of greeting a friend, don’t you think? Of course, they are European…
Phillies comparison: David Bell. Because Bell played good defense and “did all the little things well,” just like Pique. No other reason for the comparison. None.
Joleon Lescott [England] - This defender will only play as a sub. But if you see him, you'll recognize him. Why? Look at that freaking head. When he was 5 years old he was hit by a car and dragged a distance down the road, obviously sustaining some head injuries.
Phillies comparison - Placido Polanco. Jacked-up head shape. That's it.