Sports Outside the Beltway

North Korea beats Saudi Arabia 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

They stand a pretty good chance of playing in South Africa next year.

Mun In Guk scored the only goal Wednesday to help North Korea move a step closer to a 2010 World Cup berth with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Asian qualifying.

It was a deserved victory for the nation that made its only appearance at the World Cup in 1966. The three points gives North Korea seven from four games to share the Group 2 lead with rival South Korea, which plays third-place Iran later Wednesday.

With the top two teams from the group to qualify directly for South Africa 2010, Saudi Arabia is fourth with four points and in danger of missing out on the Cup for the first time since 1990. The United Arab Emirates trails in the standings.


North Korea next hosts the United Arab Emirates on March 28, when Saudi Arabia travels to Iran.- Associated Press

It is good North Koreans are getting better at soccer. A few years ago they tried to kick a referee after a game and missed.


Mexico, The Most Popular Team In America

Atleast when it comes to soccer.

A frenzied crowd of nearly 50,000 soccer fans, the largest ever to watch a non-World Cup game in Northern California, will gather in Oakland tonight to watch an exhibition game between two national teams from foreign countries — Mexico and Ecuador.

The Mexican national team is the most popular soccer team in the United States and consistently outdraws America’s team, or any other soccer club for that matter.

And any game in California is like a home game for the Mexicans.

The Oakland Coliseum will be filled with thousands of screaming fans wearing “El Tricolor” — the green, red and white of the Mexican national flag. The game sold out nearly a month ago. Tickets originally priced at $60 were being resold on Craigslist for $150 on Tuesday.

“We in Mexi-fornia consider this a home game,” said Roger Fernandez, owner of ChivaMex, a store in Oakland’s Fruitvale District that specializes in Mexican League and other international soccer apparel. “I mean Ecuador is coming to our house, so we got to represent for Mexico.”

Its really not suprising story to read because despite America’s size soccer’s popularity ranks somewhere between the NHL and hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Beyond that its really not suprising that Mexican immigrants maintain a close tie to the team the respresents their home country, especially given the large amount of spanish media outlets that can provide an up to the second link to their childhood teams. Of course with everything there are problems because many of the fans still act like they are in Mexico for the game, which is why I aviod any game in which a Latin American Team is involved. At any given game played in Southern California its not uncommon for the US National Anthem to be booed, objects thrown at non-Mexican fan, threats of violence, and so on. Its great to support your team, even I pull for teams that represent countries where my family comes from (when they aren’t playing the US), but you don’t need to be a soccer hooligan to do it.


Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame

The former World Cup winning and Gold medal Olympic teammates were will be officially inducted later this year.

CARSON, Calif. – Former teammates Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, who shared two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles, were both elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Hamm was chosen in a landslide, named on 137 of 141 ballots for 97.16 percent of the vote — both records. The previous highest percentage belonged to Michelle Akers, who was elected with 95.77 percent in 2005.

Foudy was selected on 118 ballots for 83.69 percent. The voting was announced at Home Depot Center in Carson.

“What a blessed career that Julie and I have been able to have with such a wonderful group of women,” Hamm said. “To top it off with this nomination is truly exciting for both of us. It’s going to be a weekend that we never forget.”

Hamm and Foudy, each in their first year of eligibility, comprise the first all-women class elected to the Oneonta, N.Y.-based hall. They will be inducted Aug. 26.

The duo will join the five women who have been inducted since the hall began in 1950.

Congrats to both Mia and Julie. They are deserving inductees. There is still more news.

Foudy became a first-time mother on Jan. 1, when she gave birth to daughter Isabel.

Hamm is expecting twins in April with husband Nomar Garciaparra, who is at spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Congratulations again and good luck Mia with the birth.


Steroid Tall Tales

I am always amazed at the stories athletes come up with when they fail drug tests. From throwing a teammate under the bus to claiming they just eat things mailed to them. Well we have a case of a girlfriend throwing herself under the bus around it in one of the most bizarre “sex made me fail my steroid test” excuses yet.

AC Milan soccer star Marco Borriello failed a drug test in November when he tested positive for cortisone and has since blamed it on an ointment he rubbed on his willy. Beyond that his Argentine model girlfriend Belen Rodriguez took responsibility stating she had given him the cream after she had passed an infection to Borriello by making love. Unfortunately for the couple, Italian doctors claim that quantities found in Borriello’s samples are high enough to suggest that he ingested a substance, as opposed to using an external cream or spray. Well rumor has it they have come up with a new version of the excuse involving the ingesting of said ointment cream.


‘Hand of God’ No Goal, 20 Years Too Late

While Diego Maradona admitted cheating in 2002 in his autobiography over the ‘Hand of God’goal in the 1986 World Cup (and later justified it as a response to England’s victory in the Falklands War) has gone one lately to lay the blame on the referees. Rightly so too, granted Maradona shouldn’t have cheated, but the referees should of done their job and called him on it. Well the linesman in that game has finally stepped up to the task of throwing the referee under the bus:

THE linesman when Maradona scored his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 has claimed it should NEVER have been allowed.

Bulgarian Bogdan Dotchev also launched an attack on the Tunisian referee, branding him “an idiot more fit to herd camels in the desert than take charge of a World Cup game”.

Dotchev broke his 20-year silence after ref Ali Bin Nasser last week blamed him for not signalling the handball. But Dotchev insisted: “A European referee would never recognise the validity of such a goal.

“European refs take charge of at least one or two important games per month and are used to big-match pressure. “What is there for Bin Nasser to referee in the desert where there is nothing but camels?”

Of course he shifts blame from himself when he was equally incompetent, but hey he got to the press first. I’m sure calling the guy a camel herder will go over real well too.


Bruce Arena Out as U.S. Soccer Coach (Video)

Bruce Arena was essentially fired as coach of Team USA today.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced Friday that U.S. Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena, the longest-tenured national team coach at the World Cup, will not return to the U.S. team after his contract expires at the end of the year. Arena met with Gulati and U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn for five hours Thursday at LaGuardia Airport, and a decision was finalized Friday morning.


Arena out as U.S. coach

Gulati said a worldwide search to find a replacement will begin immediately. Speculation will center on Jürgen Klinsmann, who coached the German national team to a third-place finish in this month’s World Cup. Klinsmann, who lives in California with his family, stepped down from the German post earlier this week, saying he felt, “burnt out.”

“Bruce expressed a desire to continue,” Gulati said. “I’m sure he’ll have opportunities. He had a great opportunity before the World Cup, but he didn’t want to be distracted. No doubt there will be multiple opportunities in the soccer world in the U.S. and outside if he wants them.”

Arena, hired in October 1998, will leave the national team as the winningest coach in its history. He coached the 2002 U.S. men’s team to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the Americans’ best World Cup showing more than 70 years. But Arena’s squad disappointed at this year’s World Cup, failing to advance out of group play as it lost to the Czech Republic and Ghana and tied eventual World Cup champion Italy. “It comes down primarily to eight years being a long period,” Gulati said. “I’m not going to say we felt the need to change directions. The direction Bruce has set is very, very positive. We didn’t get the results we wanted in the World Cup, but Bruce didn’t become a bad coach in three games with a few bad bounces of the ball.”

Indeed not. Still, given the vast size and resources of the United States, it’s simply inexcusable that the team is not competitive for a world title in any sport it sets its mind to winning. The team’s performance at the 2006 World Cup was nothing short of a national humiliation.

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Zidane a Son of a Terrorist Whore?

The Times of London has hired a lip reader to devine what insult was hurled at French soccer legend Zinédine Zidane that made him go postal during the World Cup final, dooming his team’s chances of winning the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.

WITH his monkish mien backed by a sense of brooding menace, Zinédine Zidane has always been something of an enigma, so it is perhaps fitting that the final act of his career should be the source of such mystery. Just why did a man blessed with complete control of a football lose his head in such a violent manner at such a crucial moment, boring it into the chest of Marco Materazzi?

As L’Equipe summed up the moment of madness with a headline of “Regrets Éternels”, a day of endless questioning began. With many conflicting versions of events circling on the internet and in the world’s media, The Times enlisted the help of an expert lip reader, Jessica Rees, to determine the precise nature of the dialogue that caused Zidane to react in such a manner.

After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted. As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

When asked about the allegations on his return to Rome, Materazzi issued a vehement denial, while sources close to the player emphasised that he had not been accused of racism before, pointing to his close friendship with Obafemi Martins, the Nigeria and Inter Milan striker. “It is absolutely not true,” Materazzi said. “I did not call him a terrorist. I’m ignorant. I don’t even know what the word means. The whole world saw what happened on live TV.”

As legendary former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson noted on his radio program yesterday evening, there’s simply no excuse for Zidane’s actions because no one gets to be a star athlete without his teammates making big sacrifices. Essentially, the others feed him the ball, passing up their own shots, for the good of the team trusting that the star will come through. Zidane’s selfishness would be inexcusable even if his opponent said what the lip reader claims he said.


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Italy Beats France for 4th World Cup – Video Highlights

The Italian team that managed only a tie against hapless Team USA in the first round beat France in overtime to win the 2006 World Cup, the team’s fourth.

The beautiful game turned vicious, even venomous Sunday. It was all still beautiful to Italy. The Azzurri outlasted France to win their fourth World Cup 5-3 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw marred by French captain Zinedine Zidane’s ejection in the 110th minute of his farewell game for a nasty head butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi.

Italy Beats France for 2006 World Cup Title Photo taly's Marco Materazzi puts on a hat on the trophy as Fabio Grosso, second from right, and Francesco Totti, right, look on at the end of the final of the soccer World Cup match between Italy and France in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Sunday, July 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle) Never masters of the penalty kick, the Italians made all five, setting off an hour of hugging, dancing and fist-pumping celebrations. “This squad showed great heart,” Genaro Gattuso said. “Maybe it wasn’t pretty, but we were hard to beat.”

They were impossible to beat and gave up only one goal actually scored by an opponent. And no, it was not pretty. Outplayed for an hour and into extra time, the Italians won it after Zidane committed the ugliest act of a tournament that set records for yellow and red cards, diving and, at times, outright brutality.

And it was the last move for Zidane, who is retiring. Asked if French soccer would miss Zidane, coach Raymond Domenech said: “Yes, well, he was missed in the last 20 minutes tonight. It weighed heavily in the outcome.” Without their leader for the shootout, the French only missed once. But Italy, rarely strong in such situations, was perfect. Fabio Grosso clinched the Azzurri’s fourth championship, and his teammates had to chase him halfway across the pitch to celebrate.

“It’s incredibly emotional, words can hardly describe it,” Grosso said. “Maybe we still don’t realize what we have achieved. We really wanted to win and in the end we made it.”

Only Brazil has more World Cups, five.

Quite impressive.

Video links:


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Pranksters play hard ball with soccer fans

Whomever did this certainly has balls.

BERLIN (Reuters) – World Cup pranksters in Berlin injured at least two soccer fans by inviting them to kick soccer balls that they had secretly filled with concrete, authorities said Tuesday.

At least six concrete filled soccer balls were found chained to lampposts, trees and handrails across the city next to the spray-painted message “Can you kick it?,” Berlin police said.

“Two young men kicked the balls and suffered bad bruising on their feet,” a police spokeswoman said. “We still don’t have any leads in the case.”

Hat tip- Bullwinkle Blog


USA Plays Italy to a 1-1 Draw

Man, we were lucky to get away with that one.

I know nothing about soccer. So it was with some surprise that I found myself watching the USA vs. Italy today. However, it was a good match – the USA played EXTREMELY well compared to their effort before, and certainly rose to the challenge that faced us in this game.

The referees were much too eager to bring out the cards in this one. Very quickly in the second half, the US found themselves going from one man up to one man down thanks to two very quick uses of the red card (well, Eddie Pope was a quick use of a second yellow card). Playing almost the entire second half one man down, we were extremely fortunate to keep the Italians from scoring – no team with 9 men has ever scored in World Cup history, and we didn’t buck that trend. But the fact that we didn’t let Italy score either was an amazing effort on defense by our side.

In order to advance, the USA needs to beat Ghana (which may be tougher than it looks) and also needs to root for Italy when they play the Czechs. That would put Italy up on top with 7 points, the USA in second with 4, and the other two teams would have 3. We can’t tie with our current horrid goal differential, as we will probably lose that without scoring a huge number of goals against Ghana.

We have to wait until Thursday to discover our World Cup fate.


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