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Euro 2012 Preview

Did you know the best international soccer tournament on the planet is starting on June 8th? “But Scarecrow,” you’re thinking, “the World Cup isn’t until 2016.” I hate to break it to you, but the 2016 World Cup is being played in Brazil. Do you think, with the fans that they have, that the Brazilian team will win any game by less than 30 goals? I didn’t think so. Like no other time, the 2016 World Cup is a competition where 31 teams are playing for second place.

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No, friends, the tournament in question is Euro 2012. Starting in just over a week, it promises to be a solid month of excellent soccer, played by the world’s best players. Granted, this IS European soccer we are talking about, so the flopping might be out of control (consequently, Mike Smith is SUPER excited for this…not that I’m still bitter or anything), but the tactical skill will be off the charts.

Euro is better than the World Cup because the teams are better. There are no North Korean, South African, or New Zealand teams to kick around. There also won’t be as many beautiful Brazilian and Argentinian women in the stands, but nothing is perfect.

How do I know the teams are better? SImple. Math. I’m a mild mannered data analyst by day, and a devilishly mediocre looking blogger by night, let’s look at some numbers, shall we? The average ranking of the 32 teams in the World Cup two years ago was 26. The average ranking of the Euro 2012 teams? 15. Doesn’t seem like much, but when 14 of the worlds top 18 teams are in the same tournament (with co-hosts Ukraine and Poland thrown in for cordiality), the soccer is going to be off the charts competitive.

Here is each pool, with predictions for each (as with the World Cup, the top 2 move on).

Pool A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

Despite my saying that this tournament is great, this is by FAR the worst group. Poland is in because they are hosting. Russia choked in their World Cup play in games against Slovenia, and has a big history of disappearing in big spots. The Czech Republic is frustratingly inconsistent in international play, despite one of the world’s best goal keepers in Peter Cech, and Greece somehow won this tournament in 2004, but has not done anything remotely as impressive since, or before for that matter.

Russia and Greece are the smart bets here, and I like Greece to advance since they somehow do well in this tournament, but I think the Czechs steal a match, and win the group, with Greece advancing as the runners up.

Pool B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Holy. Shit. This is the definition of a group of death. The Netherlands arguably should have one the World Cup two years ago, and would have if Arjen Robben puts that breakaway home in the chapionship match. Germany is always a juggernaut, and looked like the best team in the last world cup until they ran into Spain in the semi-finals. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who will instantly turn into the Lebron James of international play if he doesn’t carry this strong team home, and Denmark? Oh, poor Denmark. When you are the 7th ranked team in your zone, and the 10th best team in the world, you are not supposed to be the worst team in your own group. These games will be the best of the tournament.

Germany wins the group, Portugal advances over Netherlands based on goal differential, the Danes cry at their fate

Pool C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia

Croatia is the Atlanta Hawks of international soccer. They are always good, they always make it whatever playoff they can, but no one remembers why they are good exactly. Being put into a group with juggernauts Spain and Italy doesn’t help. Ireland is a sentimental favorite because they got SCREWED in 2010 because FIFA wanted France in the World Cup. Qualifying is nice, but Spain wins the group and Italy easily advances here.

Pool D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England

Ukraine is just happy to be at the table. England will follow its usual course of dominating the group stage then completely disappearing in the knockout round. Sweden is a lot better than people care to admit, and France is secretly not very good anymore. England wins the group, and Sweden barely squeak by the French to secure the final spot.

If the above scenarios happen, the knockout matchups would be:

Czech Republic vs. Portugal (Portugal wins)

Spain vs. Sweden (Spain wins)

Germany vs. Greece (Germany wins)

England vs. Italy (England wins)

Spain definitely advances over Portugal, and Germany would be my pick if I had forgiven them for WWII, which I HAVEN’T…so England is the pick.

Everyone and their dad will be picking Spain to win, and they almost certainly will. But my gut is saying England, and 60% of the time, my gut is right every time.

England to win. Wayne Rooney gets knighted, no fewer than 30,000 pub windows will be smashed.

God save the Queen.

 

Editor’s Note: So Podcast Guy sent me a text yesterday saying that he was going to do a Euro 2012 preview blog.  I thought “Hey that’s great.  I love it when other people want to contribute because that means one less blog I have to do“.  Then I read his predictions and I am left right back where I started.  Scarecrow is basically forcing me to do a rebuttal blog because these picks are absurd.  I can’t have the first real soccer post on the blog making the site look like we don’t know shit about soccer.  England?  ENGLAND?!?! Official Windy Citizen Sports Euro 2012 predictions coming later today.–The Chief.

Donaghy’d into Oblivion Part Deux: Celtics vs Heat

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Totally legal to rake a guy across the face.  Biggest spot in the game and the Heat get away with murder…weird.  Not to mention that Lebron is allowed to flat rape guys when playing post defense.  Lebron is allowed to climb all over KG and Pierce after they establish position on the block.  It’s pretty easy to be first team all defense when the rules don’t apply to you and you can stop just short of murder without getting a foul called on you.  It’s a complete joke.  The Celtics earned that game.

Even on the final drive when Wade hit the and-1…did KG foul him…absolutely…did Wade initiate contact by throwing his leg into KG and thus making it an offensive foul…you bet…did it get called…no chance in hell.  Then that little bitch stares down KG like the fake tough little bitch he is.  Now this shit is going back to Boston.  Hopefully that means the refs will only spot Miami 10 points at the start of every game as opposed to the 20 they got in Games 1 and 2.

I don’t even know why I get so emotional about the NBA.  It’s pure fiction.  I am watching “Lost” now on DVD.  Great show, high drama…but I don’t get all bent out of shape every time Ben fucks the island’s world up.  Nope…because it’s fiction.  Same as the NBA.  Pure fiction.  Just David Stern predetermining the outcome before it even starts.  Unbelievable.

Having said that…I am not ready to give up.  This shit is coming back to Boston and the Celtics will be at their best.  If nothing else I think they proved that they can win a game in Miami by their performance tonight.  Now they just need to hold serve at home. The Garden will be rocking and it will be a full on Donnybrook of a bar fight.  No more dunks, no more lay-ups, no more bullshit.  Just going to make these fake tough assholes stand and fight.  Beat the Heat like they’ve stolen something…because they have.  #CelticsForAmerica!!!!

 

Thanks to @chisportsaddicts for sending me the pic

 

 

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Which NBA event will be more rigged tonight: Celtics-Heat Game 2 or the Draft Lottery?

May 30, 2012 2 comments

 

If you asked what would be more rigged, Celtics-Heat or the Draft Lottery before Game 1 I would have taken Draft Lottery 1000% of the time without even thinking about it.  I mean the Draft Lottery is the most notoriously rigged scam in sports.  Knicks need saving…Well here’s Patrick Ewing.  Celtics have been good for too long and are set to draft Tim Duncan…fuck that noise…give him to the Spurs.  Bulls have been TERRIBLE since Jordan retired…well here is hometown superstar Derrick Rose…don’t worry about only have a 1.8% chance of winning the lottery.  Sticky situation in Seattle…well I will just give them Kevin Durant.  Maybe he is great enough to build momentum for a new arena in Seattle, if not Oklahoma City has a superstar to sell tickets in a brand new market.  I mean the lottery couldn’t be more rigged.  It’s all for show, but in the end David Stern picks and chooses which franchises he wants to succeed and which ones he wants to fail.  Then in years where there isn’t a franchising changing number one pick he just lets the Milwaukee Bucks win it and take Andrew Bogut.  That’s how the lottery works.

Having said all of that…I think Game 2 of Celtics-Heat might be more rigged.  The Celtics got absolutely Donaghy’d into oblivion in Game 1.  How do you explain four technical fouls in a game that looked like a Sunday stroll?  You can’t.  Even Stephen A. Smith went on record saying how it was obvious that the NBA told the officials to call technical fouls on the Celtics.  Doc Rivers got a technical foul for saying “C’mon”.  That’s it.  The NBA wanted to make sure the Celtics couldn’t use emotion and heart to beat Miami because that is probably the only area that the Celtics have a distinct advantage in the series.  The Celtics feed off of that energy so by not allowing Boston to play with that emotion they essentially handcuffed them.  The Celtics can’t play with inside voices.  The NBA looks more and more like the WWE every day than actual competition.  Lebron James is the NBA’s biggest star so David Stern wants him to win a championship.  It’s not good for marketing if the best and most recognizable player in the league is a fucking loser who everyone outside of the yuppies on South Beach HATES.  Stern is probably thinking that if he can pave the way for Lebron to win a Championship on his pussy all-star team that he had to form because he couldn’t win on his own that everyone will stop calling him a loser and buy more jerseys or whatever.  Well fuck that noise.  The Heat are bad for America.  If that bunch of fake-tough, selfish, arrogant, prima donna, flopping, hipster, dress-up, douche bags is given a championship by Stern I will never watch the NBA again.  As God as my witness I will watch The Bachelorette or Softball or Guatemalan Women’s badmitten before I watch another second of an NBA game.  YOU CALL THIS GAME FAIR STERN!!!

 

#CelticsForAmerica

 

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Nicklas Lidstrom to Retire

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s probably not fashionable to say in Chicago, but Nicklas Lidstrom is one of my all time favorite hockey players.  The joke about him being the “Perfect Human” isn’t that far-fetched.  Easily the greatest defenseman of this era, although it’s hard to place Lidstrom and his 20-plus years in any particular era.  I literally can’t remember the NHL without Lidstrom as he began his professional career when I was just 5 years-old.  His resume is basically unmatched.  Seven Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups, an Olympic Gold Medal, and a Conn Smythe Trophy.  However, those things barely begin to tell the whole story.  Lidstrom was like a ghost on the ice.  Seemingly appearing out of nowhere to get in a passing lane or take the puck off of an attacking winger.  The game was quiet when Lidstrom was on the ice.  He seldom delivered a big body check, and NEVER received one.  He played the game with an elegance and a vision that was his alone.  He was in many ways the Wayne Gretzky of defensemen.  Class, humility, grace, and intellect describe Lidstrom, but don’t fully define him.  It’s hard to accurately describe a ghost.  I will certainly miss watching #5.  The NHL is a little bit weaker as a league today because of his retirement.

 

Additional Note: Now watch the Red Wings go and throw all this extra money at Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, and Zach Parise.  Not out of the question that they get two of the three.  Don’t worry though Hawks fans, we have Oduya and Montador….

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IL State Representative Mike Bost punching Bills in their God Damn faces!!!

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

 

I don’t know what this guy’s politics are, but I think we just found the next guy to go from IL House of Representatives straight to the White House.  Like seriously…just drop the “t” on the end of your name there Boss.  Yelling, screaming, rabble rousing, punching bills in their god damn faces.  LET HIS PEOPLE GO!!! LET ME GO!!! I’ll follow Mike Bost to the ends of the earth.  I’ll follow him anywhere as long as it’s not a bordering state because Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee(yeah we border TN, look it up) all suck.  I mean this speech is as inspirational as it gets.  Literally woke up the row behind him.  DO IT MIKE BOST!!! DO IT YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!!! IN YOUR FACE MADIGAN!!! IN YOUR FACE!!!

 

 

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Stanley Cup Finals TONIGHT: Nothing better in sports

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

 

 

I know I have posted some of these videos before, but I don’t care.  Gretzky once described the NHL season as having three distinct parts and three distinct levels of intensity. There is the regular season, the playoffs, and then the Stanley Cup Finals.  After almost two months of grinding, stitches, bruises, blood, athleticism, and brilliance the Kings and Devils will have to find a way to elevate their game even further.  It starts tonight and I can’t wait.  Truly the best tournament in all of sports.

 

PS: Kings in 6

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Stan Bowman wrecking a dynasty right in our face

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

(Chicago Tribune)–The Blackhawks’ first significant roster moves of the summer involved dealing but little in the way of wheeling, which is what happens when all parties decide that things are generally just fine the way they are. So defenseman Johnny Oduya eschewed free agency for a three-year deal and forward Jamal Mayers re-upped for one year in pacts officially announced Tuesday, basically because both veterans believed there was no place like their current home and the Hawks agreed. Bowman labeled Oduya one of the team’s “top priorities” in the offseason after three assists in six games in the first-round postseason ouster against the Coyotes followed a plus-3 rating in 18 games after being acquired from the Jets. Oduya’s deal averages $3.375 million per year, according to TSN,

 

It seems like at every turn Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman is making a move to further decimate the future of the organization.  This Johnny Oduya extension is just the latest in a long line of head-scratching moves that seem to weaken a team that only 30 short months ago appeared to be on the verge of a dynasty.  A Stanley Cup is woefully out of reach, and the blame has to fall on Stan Bowman, the “Salary Cap Genius”.

I’ll admit that Johnny Oduya’s presence helped the Blackhawks immensely last season.  They were pitiful defensively last year and improved markedly after the trade.  Having said that…I didn’t like the trade then, and I like it even less now.  At the dead line I said:

Johnny Oduya is not a star player.  He is not a piece that will fix all of the Blackhawks defensive woes. He is a third pair defenseman with 13 points and is a -9.  If everything comes together down the stretch for the Blackhawks, maybe Oduya’s presence is enough to get the Blackhawks out of the first round…maybe.

Turns out Oduya’s presence was not enough to get the Blackhawks out of the first round.  I felt at the time that Stan Bowman vastly overpaid for Oduya.  Draft picks and prospects are the life-force of any organization and are an extremely valuable asset.  Stan Bowman pissed away a 2nd and a 3rd round pick for role player.  I was angry when I thought Oduya was a rental.  If I knew Stan was going to commit the team to 3 more seasons at $3.375m then I would have probably had an aneurism.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but contract is worse than the Brian Campbell contract.  Campbell at $7.14m provides more value than Oduya at $3.375, and Campbell certainly provides more value by himself than the $8.45m combined cap hit Stan has committed to Frolik, Oduya, and Steve Montador over the next two seasons.

Cap hit aside, Oduya doesn’t really solve some of the problems the Blackhawks have on the back-end.  They notably needed size and shot blocking, neither of which Oduya does particularly well.  The Blackhawks still have many holes to address and now they only have $2,809,872 in cap space heading into the summer(according to Cap Geek).  Stan Bowman has the Blackhawks in an all too familiar and perilous position…right at the cap ceiling.

The Blackhawks are now in a position where they will likely have to further deconstruct their dynasty team from 2010.  The Hawks have several players who are overpaid, but the two who actually have value are Dave Bolland(2 years $3.375m) and Nik Hjalmarsson(2 years $3.5m).  Even though the Blackhawks can’t afford Hjalmarsson, they can’t afford to trade him either so I won’t theorize potential trades involving #4. I like Bolland, but I have been advocating a trade of “The Rat” for probably a year.  The Blackhawks suddenly have plenty of depth at center in the organization.  Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri, and Mark McNeil are young, cheap, and talented.  None of those three are ready for a top 6 role on the varsity, but neither is Dave Bolland.  Kruger has proven reliable in a checking role and could slide into that spot as the Blackhawks try to trade Bolland for more blueline depth.  So while this is an unfortunate possibility, it’s a move that needs to be made.  However, do you really trust Stan Bowman to orchestrate another roster move that removes a piece to the former championship puzzle?

The Blackhawks still have talent of which the majority of the NHL would be jealous, but it’s still frustrating to be a Blackhawks fan.  Toews is a generational type of talent and his prime is being wasted.  Stan Bowman’s ineptitude is closing the championship window on Jonathan Toews.  This is like the equivalent of Tom Brady playing his career with the Lions.  Hopefully this is the last year of the Bowman era and Rocky Wirtz pulls the plug before it is too late.  If things continue on this path, the Blackhawks’ run as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender will not end with a bang, but with a whimper.

 

 

PS: I am glad Jamal Mayers has re-signed. He was by far Stan’s best acquisition last summer.  Although Coach Q probably pushed hard to get Mayers because he is one of Q’s guys.

 

 

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