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Weekly Roundtable: June 3rd Edition

June 2, 2010

From now through the end of the World Cup, there will be a weekly roundtable every Thursday in which this blog’s regular contributors and, if we’re lucky, some special guests will get together to discuss this beautiful game. The first renditions of this weekly roundtable will be introductory (such as this first one) and predictive (such as the next one), but, once the World Cup finally gets rolling, the focus will then shift to the games themselves. This format gives us the pleasure of bantering in real-time and a change of pace from our own individual blog entries. Hope you enjoy.

Question 1: Who is your favorite team (other than the US) in this year’s World Cup?

Hand of God: Besides the US? It has to be Argentina. I almost went with Mexico, but I haven’t followed them in so long I don’t even know who is playing. Messi is pretty amazing to watch and easy to root for. I got to spend 6 months in Argentina had a blast playing and watching soccer. I know Role Player wrote an article about how US kids don’t learn to be creative on the ball, but the other side of the story is how awful and how rarely Argentinian teenagers pass the ball.

Role Player: I’m so glad you went with Argentina. I hate Mexico with all of my heart and…sorry, wrong question. My favorite team is always France outside of the US, which is due in large part to being a francophone and having lived there. Les Bleus, aside from their unspeakable goalless performance at one nameless World Cup, are an exciting group to watch. I hope they perform well and keep the Mexicans from advancing.

Lila Zidane: While there are several teams I like to root for, I honestly don’t have much of a choice. Dating a girl from Spain gives me a convenient and legitimate rooting interest in a true world power that is exciting and fun to watch. What’s funny is that my girlfriend is now a convert. She loved watching the US beat Spain last summer and loved talking shit to her friends in Madrid. Either way, I’ll be rooting for la Furia to take the cup this summer.

Captain Robert Hatch: Like Hand of God said I’m a big fan of wide open, creative style of play, so I obviously like the Dutch and would be ecstatic to see them finally win one of these things, but at the end of the day, my favorite team, other than the U.S., has to be Germany. It’s the only other country I’ve visited and, upon visiting Munich’s Allianz Stadium, I fell in love with the game again. With so many injuries this year, it may be a struggle, but, unlike most European sides and like the American side, the team is valued before the individual, something to be appreciated in my opinion.

In Arsene We Trust: If you haven’t figured it out from my name, I’m an Arsenal supporter. I love the players, the coach, but most importantly I Iove the way we play. So while most of our players will be turning out for France, I will be rooting for Spain. The sheer beauty of their passing, their intelligence on the ball, the strikers I always wished Arsenal had, it is all there. Also there is that hint of self-destructive tendencies, perhaps a left over from the days before Euro 2008 when they always underperformed. But that tension, the feeling that grows minute by minute that maybe this time possession won’t turn into goals, also plays a role in it. I’ve become so used to that feeling from watching Arsenal that I simply can’t watch football without it.

What’s Offsides?: I’m a total noob when it comes to this sort of thing. I’ve gotta pull for the USA; they’re the ones I know the best…. wait, what? Other than the USA? Crap. I don’t really know much about any of the other teams.I think maybe I’ll say South Africa. They’re probably one of the worst, but they’re super excited to be hosting. Who can’t cheer for the underdog home team?

Question 2: Who is your favorite team to hate?

Hand of God: I’m not that into hating entire teams. I hate particular players all the time and by proxy the teams they play for, but entire teams can be redeemed in my eyes by a single player. The perfect example is France. They are tops in teams I love to hate this year, but being a Zidane fan, that was not the case 4 years ago. On the other hand, Snaggletooth Frank Ribery can go impale himself on the corner flag for all I care.

Role Player: I wish I had a comeback for your Snaggletooth dig, but he is ugly, whatever. I hate the Mexicans with all my heart and soul. They throw bags of feces and batteries at our players when the US plays them in Azteca, and growing up playing soccer against many a Mexican team, I know them to be of the dirtiest. I hope they lose every game they play. A relatively close second is the Italians.

Lila Zidane: No question I love to hate the Frenchies. It really has more to do with political and social reasoning than football(though I’ll admit, Sarkozy is making it slightly more difficult to hate on France). There’s no doubt that Zinedine’s headbutt is the greatest World Cup moment for me, and watching Ribery’s problems with an underage prostitute has been a joy. I only hope the follies end in the group stage for the French, though I doubt things will go as poorly as I’d like for them. I look forward to shoving all the French failure in Role Player’s face.

Captain Robert Hatch: One thing that I’ve come to hate is the excessive greasiness of certain players and teams, even with guys that have not even stepped on the pitch. I know you’re thinking I probably hate Argentina, but I really like Messi and their style of play, so they’re not the team I have in mind when I say this. I have in mind the defending World Cup champions, another reason I hate them, Italy. American-born Giuseppe Rossi chose to play for Italy and, although he was recently cut, that’s yet another reason to hate the Azzurri.

In Arsene We Trust: This is a hard question. There are players I like on most teams. But I think in the end it comes out to be the Italians. If one country is synonymous with the professional foul, it is the Italians. When you think of national teams playing anti-football, who do you think of? The Italians. Divers? Didier Drogba, then the Italians. They are simply identified with too many things I hate about the game, including the Calciopoli scandal (good to see that it didn’t affect anybody like, say, Marcello Lippi).

What’s Offsides?: If I can barely pick a favorite team, there’s no way I can pick a favorite team to hate. I think I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and hate Italy, but I’m not such a big fan of France, either. And of course by “France”, I really am only referencing Zidane. I couldn’t name a single other player on the team. He gets +1 point for defending his sister’s honor, but -3 for his lack of self-control. Yes, I know that was 4 years ago, but as a customer of American TV, I don’t have much access to current events in soccer.

Question 3: Who will win the “Zinedine Zidane Trophy for National Disappointment?”

Hand of God: I’m going to go with Maradona. I know hes not a player but I can’t think of anyone who has as much riding on a successful world cup. In fact, I can’t even remember when someone was set up for a fall from grace this large. He has the possibility to go from National Icon, Pele territory, (a few steps above Zidane’s place as National Savior) to being banished from his own country, possibly literally. At least when Zidane was ejected, he was criticized for being ejected. If Maradona loses he’ll be criticized for incompetence and drug use. Big difference. The fact that Maradona has so much riding on the World Cup, and chose to go through with it anyway instead of resting on his laurels, makes Argentina all the more compelling to watch this year, for me.

Role Player: I agree with you for all of the above reasons. In fact, should this happen, the award should be renamed after Maradona. Zidane is still thought of as a national hero. Another potential disgrace to keep an eye on is Ronaldo of Portugal. He has so much potential to be a huge bust, and unfortunately his country’s success rides on his performance.

Lila Zidane: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Maradona’s crazy antics don’t kill his team and they make the semis. While it won’t meet their expectations of winning, it won’t make him a national disappointment either. Instead, I’m gonna go with someone who already has a penchant for disappointment in a World Cup(and he’s only 24), and that’s the volatile Wayne Rooney. First, England always has unrealistic expectations, and this year that is even more so the case with Capello leading the charge. Unfortunately, the scoring load will be really heavy on Rooney’s shoulders and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step on another crotch or something of the like.

Captain Robert Hatch: Both Maradona of Argentina and Raymond Domanech of France, with their perceived incompetence given a wealth of a talent, are well on their way to national disappointment, but I think, at this level, it’s more about the players themselves than the managers. No one player is as singularly responsible for a favored side’s fate than Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo. Drawn into a difficult group and coming off less-than-stellar World Cup qualifying and Euro 2008 campaigns, Portugal is ripe for a group stage departure and that disappointment will rest squarely on Ronaldo’s shoulders, for better or worse.

In Arsene We Trust: While I have ranted and raved about Maradona’s unpredictability and madness, he still has one of the most talented teams in the tournament. I could coach that team to at least the quarterfinals (although let’s be honest, with my tactical acumen it is far more likely I would win the Cup with them). I think in the end it has to be Wayne Rooney. England is far too dependent on his attacking prowess, and he is far too volatile some days for this to end well. I see at least one red card for him this tournament. I know he is older, and more level headed, but on some days, when things aren’t going right, you can see the old Rooney. And I like England, but I think things aren’t going to be going right a fair amount in South Africa.

What’s Offsides?: I’m going to go out on a limb and say none of the above. I think it will be a player for one of the smaller nations. The guy that the country is putting all of their faith in to bring back a miraculous victory. His countrymen know they have no shot at winning, but they’ve let the national media get their hopes up so that maybe… just maybe, it can be done! Perhaps it’s a player for Ghana or Greece; Chile or Serbia. Maybe even South Africa. Do any of you know of any supposed superstars on those teams?

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