Asian Cup Group Stage Roundup (And Other News)

I was mostly correct about my Asian Cup predictions.  I was right about all eight quarterfinalists, although I did get wrong the seedings of South Korea and Australia.  Because Sunil Chhetri of India scored a goal against South Korea, and the score was 4-1 instead of 4-0, Australia sported a better goal differential and the Group C top seed.  So take what I said in this post, change Australia and South Korea around, and that is the quarterfinals.  I’d pat myself on the back, but figuring this out after two rounds were completed was not the most difficult thing in the world.

I predict that the semifinals are going to be: Jordan v. Australia and Japan v. South Korea.  Now I put myself out on a limb.

What will be lost in the shuffle of quarterfinalists is how well India did at this tournament.  Which is not to say that they were good; they weren’t.  They lost their matches by scores of 4-0, 5-2, and 4-1.  Nevertheless, everyone expected India to bomb in a major way, and the fact that they scored three goals (against some decent opponents) shows tremendous improvement and potential in the distant future.  I am sure that everyone will overlook India’s three goals, but keep in mind that despite being the whipping boys of the Group of Death, Sunil Chhetri alone scored more goals than Saudi Arabia, North Korea, the UAE, or Kuwait.  In fact Chhetri’s goal total equalled all four of those nations’ combined goals.  So no, India did not humiliate itself.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, did humiliate itself.  In fact, all other underachievers (North Korea, UAE, Kuwait, Syria, Bahrain) can thank the Saudis for making them look good.  It wasn’t just that the Saudis lost all three matches, nor was it that Japan (their perennial Asian Cup rival) drubbed them 5-0 in the worst rout of the tournament thus far.  It was that the Saudi FA fired not one, but two coaches in the course of this tournament.  And there were only three matches.  Do you remember when the Saudis used to make World Cups?  There is a top-to-bottom rot in that federation that needs to be cleared out before they will make another World Cup.  Otherwise, it’s just entertaining.

Random question: after a campaign that was only slightly less disappointing than the World Cup, do you think North Korea will even have a football squad anymore?

Iran was the only squad to take 9 points out of 9 in the group stages.  It is hard to bet against them, but their next opponent is South Korea.  The East Asian powerhouses, Japan, South Korea, and Australia(?), have been steadily dominating the AFC.  Therefore, despite Iran’s perfect group record, South Korea still has an edge.  I believe we should all hope for a Japan/South Korea semifinal because that will be an intense match full of animosity and decades-long grudges.  That, my friends, is the true spirit of football.

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In South America, the U-20 South American Championship (i.e. the Neymar Tournament) has begun.  All eyes, especially those of the European superclubs, are on Brazil’s newest wunderkind Neymar.  He knows it, we know he knows it, he knows we know he knows it.  All his opponents know it.  All his teammates know it.  Neymar’s club (Santos) know it.  And Pelé knows it too, which means he most likely has already made a Neymar voodoo doll to stick pins into.

Neymar scored all 4 goals in Brazil’s 4-2 victory over Paraguay, which is definitely a good start.  I’ll recommend you to a comments discussion I have been having with Tyler of Tyler’s World Football for both our takes on the pros and cons of Neymar.

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Do you like football and schadenfreude?  (My guess is yes–the two seem to go hand-in-hand.)  If so, you will love this reading from the Book of Kopites–unless of course you are a Liverpool FC fan.  I heard Steven and Kenny reading it on World Football Daily today.  Brilliant stuff.  Seriously folks, when did Liverpool becomes Newcastle United?

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And finally in non-sports related news, Joe Lieberman officially recognized the obvious today.  Everyone hates him, and he wasn’t going to win reelection.  So, he did the quasi-honorable thing (this time) and dropped out of the race before he could screw everything up.

While his stand of climate change was admirable if ultimately futile, and his leadership on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and other LGBT rights issues was worthy of applause, a majority of Connecticut voters, most Democrats, and all liberals around the country–including me–will never forgive the Senator from Aetna for the way he drew out and then neutered health care reform.  His baffling and self-centered opposition to a public option (or any kind of government-sponsored alternative) helped turn the debate into a tortuously long process which in turn severely harmed the Democrats (and the country) in November 2010.  Lieberman’s actions were the classic example of “cut your nose to spite your face.”  He was angry at Democrats and liberals for turning away from him first in 2004 in his aborted Presidential campaign and then in 2006 in his ultimately successful Senate race.  This was his way of getting back at them–sabotaging that which they held most dear (this being after campaigning for John McCain in 2008 and still being allowed to keep his committee chair.)

The repercussions were more than Lieberman bargained for though.  He severely underestimated exactly how much he was loathed and how important health care reform was.  Nothing he could do would ever get him back into good graces with the voters, and quitting now is the only way to avoid humiliation in 2012.

So goodbye, Joe.  Thanks for DADT repeal, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Music I listened to while writing this post: The Barry Sisters “Zug Es Meir Noch Amool”; Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley “Sisters”, “Ohio”.

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