Tuesday’s Column: World Cup losers abound

i-8c02523e6ec7e2b3393a2ce3a5ea8ae3-africafootball.jpgNo more baby steps: the final group games began today in South Africa (AP Photo).

Read my summary of the tournament so far that sets the stage for the games ahead here.

Updated:

Incidentally, great piece on the Koreatown atmosphere here by press box colleague Scott French. Korea, of course, play at 11:30 a.m. today against Nigeria with a place in the final 16 on the line. Should be wild.

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Mexico-Uruguay Preview (and other Tuesday games)

i-ebc563b5d7c373a4a1c11002a9779746-mexur0001.jpgLooks like the San Pedro Fish Market at Ports O Call Village, 1190 Nagoya Way is going all out for the Tuesday game. World Cup soccer overlooking LA Harbor – it’s where I intend to view the game.

Other SoCal viewing spots are at top right.

Here’s a preview of Tuesday’s games:

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Moving Day arrives Tuesday at the World Cup, and it could be a Latin American fiesta.

Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay need only draws in their final opening-round matches to advance. The Mexicans and Uruguayans meet in Rustenberg (7 a.m., ESPN), so a tie will get both teams through from Group A. Argentina, which is on top of Group B, faces Greece at Polokwane (11:30 a.m., ESPN). (Also playing in Group B, Nigeria-South Korea ESPN2).

Most intriguing is the Mexico-Uruguay game. Neither team is enamored of the prospect of playing powerful Argentina in the knockout round, making a draw almost as bad as a loss. If either team wins, it wins the group and will face a lesser opponent next.

“Mexico plays good football, but we have the weapons to destroy their game,” Uruguay defender Diego Godin said. “We know how to cause them damage.”

i-e1bdf0d1e70abceb97fc68234db9094b-mextrains.jpgMexico trains Monday at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg (AP Photo).

El Tri will be without striker Carlos Vela (right leg injury), but Pablo Barrera is an able replacement up front and did well against France.

French farce

The soap opera swirling around France took another bizarre turn — if that’s even possible — when coach Raymond Domenech appeared alone at a news conference Monday to say some of his players may not want to play in Tuesday’s Group A finale against the host South Africans (7 a.m. ESPN2).

“We will have to take that into account when I compose the lineup with my staff,” said Domenech, who has faced a player rebellion over the last 48 hours because of criticism of his tactics and the expulsion of star striker Nicolas Anelka for insubordination. “They have expended a lot of energy complaining.”

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Monday World Cup Kicks: Ronaldo, vuvuzelas & more

i-9f1a41671bdd78e6d1e0dde88a806cb1-ronaldomagic.jpgAbracadabra: Even Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was unsure where the ball had gone before scoring the sixth goal today in a 7-0 rout of North Korea that sent the Asian nation crashing out of the competition (AGP Photo).

*It seems pretty clear what you think of the sound of the vuvuzelas judging by the results of our poll here, but there’s still time to vote.

By the way, on Saturday the things showed up at a Florida Marlins-Tampa Bay Rays game, prompting this comment from ear plug-wearing second baseman Dan Uggla, who told MLB.com:

“This isn’t soccer. I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball. We don’t want to hear horns or anything like that. We want to hear the crowd cheering. We want to hear the crowd getting behind us, not horns.”

Most soccer fans would agree with that sentiment; personally I’ve missed the chanting, drumming (this is an African World Cup, right?) and other sounds of soccer that are being drowned out by the low-grade vuvuzela buzz.

*Nevertheless, the (ahem) World Cup buzz in the U.S. is also louder than ever before. Friday morning’s United States-Slovenia game on ESPN – in which the Americans overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit to earn a 2-2 draw – was the most-watched soccer game among households in the history of ESPN. More than 3.9 million watched ranking game behind the 2006 Germany-Italy semifinal (5.8 million) and the 2002 U.S.-Germany quarterfinal (5.3 million).

In general, viewership is up 60 percent from the tournament four years ago, when games were played at essentially the same times as this one.

*That’s remarkable in part because there are more ways to watch then ever. Case in point: As of Friday DirecTV started airing replays on channel 400 of all the Spanish language World Cup matches the day after they air live on Univision. A schedule is at the channel.

*Incidentally, for those of you planning ahead the 100 Percent Soccer map of bars and restaurants opening early or hosting special events in conjunction with the World Cup has been updated. If you know of others let me know.

*With the second group games now completed the third round of our World Cup contest is upon us beginning Tuesday. If you haven’t yet signed up, click here.

*In local news, AYSO officials are losing their lease in Hawthorne and fret that they may be forced to leave the South Bay, where the nonprofit was founded in the mid-1960s.

*Finally, in other non-World Cup related news Chivas USA has announced the club will play its third round U.S. Open Cup match at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 29 against the winner of the second round match between the Austin Aztex and Arizona Sahuaros that’s set for Tuesday. Tickets start at $10.

I’ll have more on the World Cup in Tuesday’s column, which will set the stage for the third and final round of group games that begin at 7 a.m. tomorrow with contests between Mexico-Uruguay and France-South Africa; the latter two teams face elimination and both Latin American teams can advance with a draw.

All the latest World Cup news is here.

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SoCal’s “other” team upsets Italy at World Cup

Italy 1 New Zealand 1

i-a3413aa45ae65b32082fe901cc6cbb4c-allwhitescelebrate.jpgKiwi fans celebrate the biggest upset in the nation’s soccer history (AP Photos).

Game story here.

I have officially climbed aboard the New Zealand bandwagon.

On what basis?

Well, if it wasn’t enough that the plucky (it’s a mandatory adjective) Kiwis aptly shocked the cynical Italians and their “pathetic” (as the commentary team accurately observed) play-acting that won the Europeans an undeserved penalty, their own suspiciously offside goal notwithstanding, the New Zealand team has connections to Southern California.

i-e9771f03c2789dc5bcdb5240f1a0e783-elliotcelebrates.jpgMidfielder Simon Elliott, gesticulating to the crowd after the game above, was the workhorse of the Galaxy midfield for five seasons during the Sigi Schmid era until his legs began to give out. Elliott rejoined Schmid in Columbus after the Galaxy fired him until somehow managing to turn a knee injury into a transfer to Fulham (that left Schmid fuming at the time if I recall correctly) in 2005 where he barely played, yet somehow stuck around for several lucrative seasons before returning to MLS this year with Frank Yallop’s San Jose Earthquakes. Elliott , who turned 36 the day before the World Cup began, is currently without a club after being released by the Earthquakes earlier this year, by the way.

Another “local” on the Kiwis: Tony Lochhead, a product of UC Santa Barbara, who started nine games with the New England Revolution and also played for the PDL Orange County Blue Star.

And, of course, central defender Ryan Nelson Nelsen was a dominant force for D.C. United in MLS before walking onto the Blackburn Rovers first team in England.

He played a massive role in frustrating the Italians today, as did goalkeeper Mark Paston, below, in making several crucial saves (and giving himself a shot at a lucrative overseas contract for a season or two with that display one would think).

i-0385fcd3c347faa0829c8e755e00ed09-markpaston.jpg

It’s onto Paraguay Thursday for the Kiwis, who incredibly have a chance to qualify for the second round.

It’s been a great day of soccer so far at the World Cup and we’re not done yet.

Incidentally, loved the French journalist dropping the f-bomb on ESPN as he accurately quoted Nicolas Anelka’s comment to the French coach at the half of its loss to Mexico before he was thrown off the team. That has apparently precipitated an on-going meltdown in their camp. The strength and fitness coach, as well as the team spokesman, have walked out on the squad today after the French stormed off the practice field following an altercation between said coach and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, according to ESPN.

Want more drama?

Don’t forget, it’s Brazil-Ivory Coast at 11:30 a.m. today on ABC.

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World Cup Day 9 in the South Bay: Japan-Netherlands viewing party

In my on-going quest to sample the full range of multinational, multicultural World Cup experiences in the Los Angles area I set off in the morning darkness to Torrance’s sleek new Miyako Hybrid Hotel (within easy walking distance of my home) where the upscale Gonpachi Restaurant opened at 3 a.m. today for the Japan-Netherlands game.

i-b58df12e423e61db7d8084c455cfacea-Gonpachi1.JPG Blue-clad fans of Japan found something to smile about at Gonpachi Restaurant early this morning despite the final result.

Between 150 and 200 predominantly Japanese fans gathered to watch on a lone large HD TV in the restaurant bar, which made actually seeing the game a little difficult from some vantage points (I skipped out at halftime so I could get a better view at home) so hopefully they’ll invest in a couple more screens before the next World Cup.

Assistant Manager Daisuke Muraoka told me the hotel had ensured its second floor was vacant for the game to provide a buffer between the bar and slumbering guests, some of whom had complained about being awakened by cheering fans at previous games.

Coffee and tea (but not breakfast) was served prompting Muraoka to wonder whether he should have charged a cover charge since few fans were ponying up the $3 (plus tax) for a bottomless cup of coffee and the restaurant was actually likely to make less money than a typical morning, despite the big crowd.

The game wasn’t one of the better ones in the tournament and Japan eventually lost 1-0 to the Dutch.

But fans came from as far as Glendale to watch the game that also boasted a few Anglo faces (including a couple of guys from West LA – one wearing an orange shirt just for the hell of it, he told me) who were there to soak up Japanese football culture, they said.
This wasn’t a rowdy beer-swilling English pub crowd, but a generally quiet family-oriented group that included kids sitting quietly on the floor and a few young parents with babies.

And one, I got the impression, grateful for the opportunity to watch with fellow fans.

i-3298d96975f97f3fdfa3f4a9af057ae7-Gonpachi2.JPGLet’s play spot the Dutch fan.

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English anguish: The reaction to the England performance the day after the night before

i-b0ff937b7498e1b93bea5aac93c11440-capellopoints.jpgFabio Capello: “You, yes you, you’re rubbish you are.” (AP Photos)

The main challenge appeared to be finding suitable synonyms for “unbelievably atrocious:”

* The Sun said:

“Never in the field of World Cup conflict has so little been offered by so few to say many (with apologies to Winston Churchill).”

i-5bc761d6d2fde00772f87ff312c93357-princes.jpgPrince William: “Harry old bean, do we really want to rule over this shambles?”

*Said the Daily Record:

“After the most tedious 90 minutes of the tournament it might be best for the beautiful game if England are put out of their misery as soon as possible.”

*Quoth The Independent:

“Last night England were the nation’s collective worst nightmare, a sleepwalking shambles who are now third in group C and must face up to the prospect of World Cup elimination.”

*Chimed in the BBC:

“The fact that a bird flew into the middle of the action and landed on the top of Algeria’s net, then perched blissfully undisturbed, was a fitting symbol of England’s impotence.”

I’m just glad it didn’t start building a nest.

You can listen to me – exhausted, emotionally spent and pissed off as I was – on “The People’s Game” podcast on KPFK.

And here are a few words from England’s long-suffering fans:

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The vuvuzela poll

i-df1ac4dbbf03d354aecd33dea012cc99-usvuvuzela.jpg(AP Photos)

We had to ask.

The vuvuzela is:
Part of the soundtrack of South Africa, an enriching cultural experience
Something I can live with
They’re irritating, but don’t ban them
Damn annoying! Ban them
What’s a vuvuzela?
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

By the way, couldn’t resist:

*Meet the Vuvuzela Symphony.

And also here’s who to blame/thank for the thing:

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — If only defender Neil Van Schalkwyk had not scored a tying goal for the Santos Cape Town youth team against Battswood 15 years ago, the whole noisy brouhaha over vuvuzelas might never have come to dominate the World Cup.

Amid the crowd’s celebrations that day, Van Schalkwyk saw a long, homemade, tin
trump et being blown — and an idea was born.

“That is the moment that stuck,” said Van Schalkwyk, who is credited as the inventor of the instrument that is loved by South Africans but has drawn a deluge of complaints from TV viewers around the world.

i-2b093dce21c4906ecf3a25901450e137-yellowvuvuzela.jpgWorking in a plastics factory, Van Schalkwyk figured there had to be some way to produce a horn with a similarly blaring sound.

“I lost a lot of sleep,” the 37-year old Van Schalkwyk said. “Now, my apologies to those who are visiting that they are losing a bit of sleep,” from vuvuzelas, which can be heard deep in the Cape Town nights. Some are even sold with earplugs included.

Van Schalkwyk began with 500 trump in 2001. A year later, he caught a break when
a company bought 20,000 as a promotion.

“It was, ‘Wow, this is the ultimate achievement,’” he said.

It was only a beginning.

He could not trademark the horn itself, “because a trumpet is a trumpet and has been around for centuries,” he said. So his company, Masincedane Sport, trademark protected the name “vuvuzela” instead. He defines the term as “to sprinkle you, to shower you with noise.”

Now Russians are knocking on the company’s door, as are Brazilians, for cooperation deals to get the authentic vuvuzelas there, too. Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup.

“It happened in the past few days,” he said. “It looks like the vuvuzela is going to Russia.”

Through the German company Urbas-Kehrberg, Van Schalkwyk already gets a percentage on European Union sales.

The craze is global. A vuvuzela was confiscated at Yankee Stadium in New York this week. In Britain, grocery store chain Sainsbury’s said it had sold 43,000 vuvuzelas at a cost of 2 pounds each — at a rate of one every two minutes.

Of course, far from everyone is a fan.

In France, they dislike the beehive din so much that a cable TV channel offers vuvuzela-free broadcasts for all World Cup matches, with the trumpZZTOets digitally tuned out.

Players have been criticizing the noise because they cannot take advice from the bench, and visiting fans have no chance for community singing amid the noise.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been leading the defense, though, much to Van Schalkwyk’s pleasure, calling it essentially African and refusing to ban it.

“We got 11 different languages (in South Africa) and certain songs are not understood by everyone,” Van Schalkwyk said. “There is one language they do understand and it is the vuvuzela.”

Even Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has come out in defense of the sound that’sbeen ubiquitous at this World Cup.

“It is amazing to see how it has transcended all levels of society,” Van Schalkwyk said. “I mean, that Archbishop Desmond Tutu can actually come out and defend it, considering all the criticism. Out of respect for the way that we celebrate football, people should also take that into consideration.”

i-f81f27d515cc57933cb91af838307ee5-kidvuvuzela.jpgIn the meantime, his company is putting 100 people to work during the World Cup.

With souvenir vuvuzelas selling for as little as $5, tens of thousands of fans are expected to return home from South Africa with a couple in their luggage. Van Schalkwyk thinks about a quarter of the estimated 2 million horns in the country are certified vuvuzelas.

He dismisses the players’ complaints about the noise, saying that after Spain exited last years Confederations Cup, where the world at large first got to know the vuvuzelas, the players still took many home in their luggage.

“After Argentina’s performance,” he said, “Lionel Messi will not be complaining about the vuvuzela bothering him.”

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