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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 11/21/14: Zhane feat Fam - Hey Mr. D.J (1993)

This is probably the kindest DJ request song without cursing out the said DJ. This 1993 classic from Queen Latifah's once lead duo Zhane has served as a smooth party groove song that still is top class to this day.

Although this was the highest point the duo reached, the Naughty by Nature produced track featured an energetic verse from Rottin Razkals rapper Fam that added to this song's greatness. It deserving reached #6 on the Billboard charts and is a fitting choice for today's first flashback Friday video selection.

More to come in The Flashback Fridays in a bit. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Music Wakeup Call For 11/18/14: Sluggah Jells - Clutch (2014)

First main song I'm promoting from me, and it serves as your wakeup call for today. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Election Day 2014 Thread #1 For 11/4/14: More Ballot Initiative Talk (First Version)

To continue off from yesterday, Colorado was left off the list with North Dakota and Tennessee on placing pro-choice under the microscope. The personhood amendment, labeling unborn human beings under the definition of "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code, looks set to be sensibly slapped down as polling shows a majority in opposition against it.

Marijuana decriminalization is on the line in Alaska and Oregon, with Florida having "medical marijuana" on the ballot.

On the vital tax ballot measures, Georgia's right wing group is trying to be slick and see that the maximum state income rate is not increased. Unfortunately, many idiots in the middle class are being willing doped and look set to help the rich men keep most of their money as the polls indicate. Also trying to pull a fast one on their middle class and poor is Michigan, as they try to get rid of the personal property tax and likely give a whole corporate giveaway to Rick Snyder and the powerful. And Tennessee Republicans are hell bent on seeing their government be denied the ability to place a tax on earned personal income.

Also of note, Louisiana wants to make tax collectors even more scary, bullying, and annoying by allowing agents to assist in the tax sale process or recovery of tax costs.

Criminal justice measures also warrant key ballot measure attention today. North Carolina has a measure that will or will not allow criminal defendants to waive a jury trial, while New Jersey potentially could place a harsh measure on criminal defendants by placing them in jail for good before their trial. California could take a key step in showing common sense by lowering nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Protecting voting rights are key, with Connecticut, Missouri and Montana seeking to expand early voting. Illinois, again, looks to protect the right of anyone to vote in midst of a voter ID law being floated in the state.

Missouri holds the one initiative across the country attacking teachers, with a ballot measure that will determine teacher's pay and raises to their "performance evaluations."

Washington has two ballot measures on the gun issue, with the anti-NRA one requiring background checks for all gun purchases, and the half pro-NRA/anti-NRA one preventing confiscation of firearms without due process and implementation of more extensive background checks than those at the federal level. Washington is also seeking to reduce the students' class size with their school measure helping teachers.

Oregon is seeking to hit at the food giants who don't want them to know what's in their food, with labeling of GMO's on the line today.

(More to add in a bit on these key ballot measures here at TWD). 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Election Day 2014 Thread #1 For 11/3/14: The Key Ballot Initiatives (Multiple Versions)

Photo from The Olympia Report 

Though the story of the Senate likely falling in the hands of the insane party is getting the top attention, not to be lost in the crucial details of the American nation is Election Day 2014's key ballot measures. With many states once again asking important questions from their citizens, the shape of policies for the next few years across the country will get key answers regarding their future.

The fight for an increase in minimum wage for workers has reached a zenith, with five states placing the future of working class wages on their ballot for a vote. Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota will hopefully see their states make improvements on their workers' wages. Although Arkansas raise is quite pathetic (from $6.25 to $8.50, and only implemented by 2017), all five states look set to pass that common sense measure.

Unfortunately for those on the right and common sensical side of the "women's right to choose" issue (pro-choice for abortion), right wing agendas in North Dakota and Tennessee place it under the microscope once more.

North Dakota will asks its citizens the tired question of whether "life begins at conception," with it seemingly in favor of the anti-choicers. Tennessee is also giving the power to those who want to meddle into a women's personal decision with their measure allowing their legislature the extreme power to strip away from Roe v Wade, including even in cases of rape. The polling is all over the place on Tennessee with the decision firmly in the balance come Tuesday night.

Second Version 

Illinois is the only state where all ballots truly have a defining impact on its state citizens in my mind. Besides minimum wage, a right to vote measure, a crime victim's rights, requiring birth control in all prescription plans, and increasing taxes on millionaires to help fund Illinois' public schools are all important votes that hopefully the states' voters will make the right choices in all of them.

(More to come in this thread about the key ballot initiatives on Election Day 2014, unofficially sponsored by the good folks at Ballotpedia.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Flashback Fridays Halloween Edition #1 For 10/31/14: Whodini - Freaks Come Out At Night (1984)

The Halloween classic for us all every year. The "Freaks Come Out At Night" from the legendary Whodini. Now 30 years on, this classic is cherished forever.

Happy Halloween from TWD, and more to come. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Flashback Fridays For 10/24/14: Missy Elliott feat Ludacris - Gossip Folks (2003)

Right in the middle of the great Missy creative wave to her earned mainstream credentials, "Gossip Folks" proved as another installment to the Virginia rap star's tremendous originality. With Ludacris adding his enormous wit and top form at that time, Missy was guaranteed to provide another outstanding video to compliment her latest electric track.

With Timbaland and her jointed to the hip as always, "Gossip Folks" may have never have gotten as much love as "Get Your Freak On" or "Work It," but it was still nevertheless as brilliant as those two mega hits.

Your flashback music choice for the day, it's Missy Elliott featuring Ludacris with "Gossip Folks."

More to come from TWD, stay tuned.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Music Wakeup Call For 10/23/14: Mary J Blige feat Ja Rule - Rainy Dayz (2002)

No matter if it's a sunny day wherever I'm at, I have no hesitation playing this terrific song at anytime. It's just an underrated, deep effort from both Mary J and Ja Rule that will always resonate with anyone having an inking of a soul. 

But with it raining in New York and the Northeast area of the United States the past two days, it certainly made playing this mandatory. 

You know a song and video are deep when Youtube/Vevo doesn't have the common decency to even have the video be allowed on there by anyone despite not having the video up themselves. So pathetic as always, and why I had to go the Daily Motion route. 

So a rare Music Wakeup Call as of late, it's the classic from 2002, "Rainy Dayz" from Mary J and Ja. 

Mary J. Blige Feat. Ja Rule - Rainy Days by erwan951

More to come at The Whole Delivery, stay tuned. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 10/17/14: Master P - "Make'em Say UGH" feat Fiend, Silk The Shocker, Mia X & Mystikal (1997/1998)

The song that officially put Master P and No Limit on the national map for good and truly established Percy Miller as a New Orleans legend.

Something historic was about to happen the minute he rolled up on the basketball court with a "golden platinum tank," and cemented how he would make an indelible impact at the end of the 90s and beginning of the 00's.

But the energy Silk, Mia, and Mystikal brought on this track certified it as a hip-hop classic not only for the South, but also the rest of the industry.

So, serving as your first Flashback Friday track this week, it's the No Limit Soldiers with the timeless "Make'em Say UGH."

More to come from TWD today, stay tuned. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Flashback Fridays For 10/10/14: Harlem World - I Really Like It (1999)

The short lived Harlem World, Mase's group, made one notable impression on the game at least with their debut single on their only album, which went gold. "I Really Like It" off "The Movement" was a good start to what could have been a group with multiple albums created.

Instead, Harlem World disbanded the following year in 2000, never to form again. They all went their separate ways in life (which sadly included the car accident death of Huddy in 2010) and just had this one standout track in their short lived tenure.

With the superb production effort of the legendary Just Blaze, Supa Sam, and Mase himself, it's "I Really Like It," your Flashback Friday choice of the week.

More to come at TWD, stay tune. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Fun Thread For 10/7/14 (First Version): Ain't No Party Like a Viola Davis-Elmo Party

Without these two, any party you have had this year is really just average at best.

More to come on the return to the Fun Thread, later here on TWD. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 9/26/14: Mase- Breathe, Stretch, Shake (2004)

During the Mase comeback trail a decade ago, this second single off "Welcome Back" after the same titled single added to one of the underrated albums of the decade in terms of how positive it was. Still an untempo hit to this date, "Breathe, Stretch, Shake" represented how Mase could have still been relevant in the 2000s had he not made the disastrous decision to join G-Unit.

Anyway, here is the 2004 hit as your first Flashback Friday choice of the day:

More to come at TWD, stay tuned.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 9/19/14: Method Man & Redman - Da Rockwilder (1999)

In 1999, the only duo who could really challenge Outkast's top spot was certainly the timeless combination that was the Wu Tang star and Def squad standout. Before "Idlewild" was even thought of, Meth and Red had their movie out as well as their Fox's sitcom. No matter what you thought of those productions, they served as a sign of how dominate and legendary their run was during that time period.

So in today's return of The Flashback Friday, it always is a full honor to feature the up tempo classic from 15 years ago. It's the Meth and Red show in full glory, with "Da Rockwilder."

More from TWD to come, stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ferguson Watch Thread Overnight For 8/19/14: Tense Evening Produces Gun Shots, Multiple Arrests

Tear gas, flash grenades, arrests.

Those three elements have been a constant the last few nights in the Ferguson protests for the death of Michael Brown. But Monday evening added its own dramatic characteristic, as gun shots were fired towards several protestors. The only difference however was the source of were those shots arise, as other members of the public allegedly fired bullets amongst a relatively peaceful crowd.

Two people were wounded as tense times surfaced again in the small town outside of St. Louis, hours after President Obama made a second public statement on Ferguson. It appeared that it would be a relatively calm evening in wake of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifting Sunday's midnight curfew. Most protestors marched through their community from late afternoon into sunset without any major controversy, trying to avoid being arrested at the hands of a police's edict barring marchers from stopping in the middle of the street. But as the hours passed, certain individuals within the large crowd began to challenge police rules and prompt more aggressive action from authorities.

Water bottles were among the items allegedly thrown at police, as well as Molotov cocktails. However, multiple gun shots prompted intense police action as flash grenades and tear gas bombarded the street. Some protestors and media members were struck by those items, including one photojournalist from New Mexico whose injury was documented on CNN. "Thank you people of Ferguson," he said, indicating that local citizens poured water & magnesium into his eyes to halt his distress. "You have been great to me the whole time."

31 people were arrested, including Intercept journalist Ryan Devereaux. When asked if any journalists were in police custody, Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson inaccurately stated that was not the case.  Johnson also indicated that some journalists not from a major media outlet could be handcuffed due to police being unable to distinguish "who is a journalist or not."

"In the midst of chaos and trying to move people on, we have to be safe," he said. "And we are providing protection for journalists. We had a journalist who was trapped in the midst of that gunfire, in the midst of that chaos.  And we're providing protection for them. We took journalists back to their trucks."

Earlier in the day, Getty photojournalist Scott Olson was wrongly arrested by authorities and released during the evening.

President Obama said in his press conference Monday afternoon that Attorney General Eric Holder would travel to Ferguson on Wednesday, as some rumors have noted that St.Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch could bring charges on Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown to death on August 9, this week.

Update: NBC News reported that over double the number of people from the police's total were arrested last night. 78 people were taken into custody based on a list at the St. Louis County jail, with all but three arrested for refusing to disperse. Two people were arrested for use of an unlawful weapon, while the other was arrested for interfering with an officer. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ferguson Watch Thread #1 For 8/18/14: The Consistent Ways of The Status Quo Centrist (Final Version)

Recap: Those Hoping For Firm Criticism of Ferguson Police Forget The Middle Road Ways of Obama

From from CBS's Mark Knoller 

As is often the case when it comes to Obama's actions or speeches, the latest installment just now on   Ferguson (and Iraq) followed the usual centrist philosophy that maintains status quo elements and prevents the reform those institutions require. 

Unsurprisingly many in the liberal world, especially in the black community, are disappointed by that. There was never going to be a full castigation of the insane Ferguson police's actions, just a nibble at making sure the nation's "First Amendment" rights were protected. And there was always going to be a reprimand of any looters to make certain the authorities had comfort in their general jobs. 

It did a disservice to both Ferguson and Iraq to have both of them share the focus when each required their own special time. To say that Ferguson is not on his radar is obviously foolish, as he wouldn't have spoken about it for a second time nor send Eric Holder there later this week. But adjoining "the fight against ISIL" with the plight of this Missouri town's black people was completely clumsy and unnecessary. 

There wouldn't have been a problem with this press conference for Ferguson's distress population if his "My Brother's Keeper" pronouncements and finger waging at those alleged "Molotov cocktail" throwers was offset with a gentle version of how much of a moron Thomas Jackson and his authorities are. At least that element of condemining continued police racial bias (and/or racism) would be included. It was the bare minimum, however, mentioned. "No excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully," he said. He wasn't going to touch the dispersion of the store video or the fact that Darren Wilson may have even watched his press conference at his house.  

It's the consistent ways of the centrist: Not do anything but never go above the minimum. 

Original Version

Soon forthcoming will be President Obama's second public statement on the disheartening but expected instability going on in Ferguson.

There was of course the audience who felt that it was a waste for Obama to do anything, and couldn't comprehend the other side demanding any action other than his initial statement last week. Those constant "Obama is truly powerless" sentiments are always myopic, and no one rational was demanding he magically change everything by himself.

The decision by Gov. Jay Nixon to bring in the National Guard without, reportedly, informing the White House of that move further enhances how shambolic his judgement has been in this ordeal. Sunday night officially ended any progress made on Friday evening, making it a requirement to not stand idle behind the scenes.

It's another topic altogether on what type of response is required from Obama on this, whether to have Nixon pull the national guard or see Holder release a statement expressing his concern about Bob McColloch being the one to determine Darren Wilson's fate.

But it would have been just silly without even a whisker of public optical significance from the President on this. And anyone slamming people for demanding that need to look into themselves to see if they are making any sense in what they're saying. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Thread For 8/14/14: How Ferguson's Racial Disaster Is The Real "Leading From Behind"

Screenshot from MSNBC

In modern day neoconservative and centrist talk, the phrase constantly used for their perspective of President Obama's foreign policy is "leading from behind." Anyone with any barring of facts, common sense and general rationality knows how unhinged the usage of that phrase is. It speaks more to how unstable those people are and how that phrase surely needs a proper example to represent it accurately.

That example has arrived in emphatic and unfortunate fashion with the latest American racial horror show in Ferguson, Missouri, thanks to its mayor exhibiting traits that would make Waldo look visible and a police chief whose behavior gives Clancy Wiggum of The Simpsons a sense of competence.

Mayor James Knowles hopefully isn't harboring any ideas on running for higher positions in the future, as he has acted like he doesn't know where his town is located on the map since the early aftermath of Michael Brown joining a list of murdered black American men.

Knowles doesn't have a Twitter account, looks to not even have a public Facebook page, and features a town website ill-equipped to handle even the slightest bumps in traffic. It's the combination of all the elements that give small towns and their mayors the terrible labels given to them from the big cities. And Knowles has played right into that image with his late public appearances days after his town's force brought in military tanks on protestors, reporters and the occasional looters like they were some American chapter of ISIS.

"That's why we have to be vigilant and I can't second-guess these officers," Ferguson said earlier on Thursday to defend the wannabe Army/Marines nature of his cops and how his police chief Thomas Jackson thinks his unit is doing a swell job.

With no leadership from Knowles, it has allowed Jackson to persist in "Operation: Protestor Unfreedom" and have the gumption to label the protest as town outsiders "causing unrest." He chose to make those comments on Hannity Wednesday night, picking the perfect outlet that would fully agree with that idiotic logic.

Jackson further showed how out of control he is of the situation, with mixed messages on his department enforcing a curfew surfacing and his unawareness that St. Louis police would be pulled out of the area today. How a police chief in a local town such as this not be cognizant of those details shows the unflappable mess that he has been placed in thanks to Knowles lack of sagacity (Oh, and did I forget to mention that Knowles posted on his private Facebook page last year that he didn't believe white flight existed in Ferguson's history, which it has).

If neither of these men in their local area can't provide a sense of direction for this aggrieved town, then where was Governor Jay Nixon or Senators Claire McCaskill or Roy Blunt before today? Rep. Lacy Clay can't be the only prominent elected official to speak out before reporters get arrested for being in a McDonalds. The minute Attorney General Eric Holder announced that an investigation would be placed on Brown's death, it should have been full carte blanche for these figures to be active instead of the dormancy they displayed, from local to state wide.

Real modern leaders would have daily press conferences from the inception of this tragedy. Real modern leaders would be active on social media in offering ways to facilitate and ameliorate the tense situation. Real modern leaders wouldn't be as invisible as carbon dioxide to the place it is suppose to serve in major moments like this.

How can the people of Ferguson, Missouri have any confidence in their leaders (if there was any to begin with in the first place) after this week? And how can those same people, especially Mayor Knowles and his clueless police chief Jackson, look themselves in the mirror and think that they can still be leaders for Ferguson, Missouri?

The real "leading from behind" tactic isn't having the sensible idea to not invade another country. The real "leading from behind" is when you leave your town in its most distress behind.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Music Midday Energy Boost For 8/12/14: Rich Homie Quan ft. Problem - Walk Thru (2014)

(Viewer and Reader Discretion is Advised, especially if you aren't black)

Another one of those rising upstars whose has the production outshine his words. Nevertheless, Rich Homie Quan has been taking stepping stones to prominence since "Some Type of Way" last summer.

Noted fact about this video is what happened when Quan shot it in early May. He reportedly was taken to the hospital, falling victim to two seizures and cracking his head open. Considering that he was locked up before, that latest alarming incident added on to the many bouts with adversity he has dealt with.

Despite all of that, the production work by Dupri and Shadow, well, overshadows Quan.

Anyway, return of the Music Midday Energy Boost, it's RHQ with the smooth "Walk Thru."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Thread For 8/6/14: Missouri Votes To Ban Warrantless Seizures of Electrical Devices

Missouri voters resoundingly ensured Tuesday evening that they would not be subjected to warrantless seizures and searches of their electronic devices by their state authorities, based on a primary ballot amendment inspired by the actions of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

Seventy-five percent of voters (almost 729,000 people) in the Show Me State chose “Yes” to add Amendment 9 to Missouri’s Constitution, with only 25% casting for the other way. Amendment 9’s passing, which would ensure cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices receive the same Fourth Amendment protections granted to people, their homes, and their other personal belongings, had gain steady bipartisan momentum in the state for months. Although the amendment  does not affect the federal level, it does place a block on Missouri state departments from obtaining digital data without a warrant.  

The amendment was sponsored by State Senator Rob Schaaf (R) and co-sponsored by State Senator Bob Dixon (R), and passed in the Missouri House and Senate earlier this year with little to no contention. The ACLU of Missouri and the controversial conservative group American Legislative Exchange Council were among the main supporters of the bill.

“The overwhelming support for Amendment 9 simply reflects the emotion that Missourians have for their privacy rights,” Schaaf told me on Wednesday. “People are upset and they spoke very loudly. They want the government’s snooping to stop.” 

Tuesday’s vote comes weeks after a Supreme Court case in June, Riley v California, that said police cannot search a cell phone without a warrantSen. Schaaf felt that his bill would go one step beyond the Roberts Court’s ruling. “Amendment 9 would cover things other than cellphones, laptops, and communications,” he said after that ruling.  “It (the high court ruling) only covers cellphones.” 

When asked Wednesday by me if he thought the Court would revisit the issue one day, Schaaf added that “The United States needs to incorporate this into its own constitution, and that will eventually happen.” 

Amendment 9 could serve as a concerning sign for the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), a national group created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004. ISE has allowed local and state officials to collaborate and trade information with authorities ranging from departments such as homeland security, foreign affairs, and intelligence, including the NSA. Some of that information, however, has been revealed to not have anything to do with combating terrorism.   Amendment 9 in Missouri could prevent any meaningful impact from those gatherings with other states’ possibly taking similar actions. 

Minnesota and New Hampshire have been doing just that, trying to ban warrantless data collection like Missouri has now accomplished. Utah and Minnesota earlier this year saw their governors signed laws banning cell phones tracking in their states. 

“I think that other states will follow Missouri’s lead,” Schaaf said. “And hopefully Missouri voters will set a nation trend.”  

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 7/25/14: Terror Squad - Lean Black (2004)

The Flashback Fridays return with the group hit from 10 summers ago. It's the "Fat Man's Dance" and served as the beat that really got Scott Storch that legit appeal before his inevitable cocaine fall off.

People can't rationally deny how quality Joe's skill is and how he did well to keep the Terror Squad movement afloat well after Pun's passing. And this was clearly the climax of their run.

Also, one of the few notable things about this video is the fact that a young Kevin Hart made his appearance at the 2:40 mark.

So without further ado, here's Terror Squad with "Lean Back,"in the return of The Flashback Fridays.

More to come at TWD today, stay tuned.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Final's Halftime and Postgame Thread For 7/13/14: Super Mario Golden Gotze Gives Germany A 4th Title (Postgame Version)

FT (aet) Argentina 0-1 Germany (Gotze 113')

Photo from Getty Images

Though injuries and pressure, Germany have deservedly and rightly won a fourth world championship.

It is already a terrific great scene in Berlin, and Mario Gotze scored a world class winner to break the deadlock. It's fitting that Gotze scored, considering that he has been called the "German Messi" for several years now and featured a touch that the glorious Argentine just did not have today.

All match long, Martin Demichelis was outstanding with Ezequiel Garay. Demichelis, much maligned at Manchester City, had a tournament that showed why he was good enough to not only go to City but also be apart of Bayern Munich. But with fatigue setting in, the "bad Demichelis" reared its head at the worst time for the Albiceleste by not monitoring Gotze on that final ball.

Still for Argentina, Demichelis' moment of negligence on Gotze wasn't the moment that cost them. It was the messed chances, from Higuain to Messi and Palacio that cost them the match. It was Alejandro Sabella who had the right game plan fulfilled by his dogged side, a team that only fell behind this World Cup at its last minutes.

A last few minutes that represented how mentally strong this German side were to win this World Cup, from its manager's tactical thoughts to all 23 men being called upon whenever and determined to make that final progression that started in 2006.

Captain Philip Lahm, the real captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski saw the completion of their youthful exuberance of 2006 and heartbreaking misses of 2008, 2010, and 2012 be the stepping stone for their ultimate moment. A moment that saw their nation return to the top of the football world as a unified nation for the first time.

Halftime: Argentina 0, Germany 0 

An enthralling first half that started as a cagey tactical battle.  Both sides ran the channels properly and got into any space their stringy opposition allowed.

The game plan worked for Sabella as best as it could, as Higuain blew a golden opportunity after a rare mistake from Kroos, and was impatiently offside on that chance he could have finished.

Biglia and Mascherano did they jobs as a whole, but Mascherano had his worst pass of the tournament (though not as bad as Kroos) and it lead to another chance for Germany. Those two will have to hold firm in the middle with Perez has to give Rojo a bit more on the outside whenever Lahm ventures forward. It would be better for Sabella to switch Lavezzi and Perez to make Lahm defend more.

For Low, Hummels is getting beaten far too easily by a heavy legged Messi and Boateng made to stay back more, while Hummels takes on Higuain or Lavezzi crashing in behind him. Schweinsteiger has been superb handling Messi, but the loss of Khedira has certainly messed up their final ball in the middle rhythm. They have gotten more of their best moments from the outside, but that will always be tough for the Germans with Klose as the only one consistently in the box.

A great second half awaits... 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final's Thread #2 For 7/13/14: High on Low

Focus: Whether His Team Wins A 4th World Cup For Germany, Joachim Low Has Proven His Greatness

Photo from Getty Images

Two years ago, Joachim Low faced intense criticism for his German side falling to a less talented Italian side in the Euro 2012 semifinals. That skepticism on whether he was truly the man who could lead this latest golden generation of the German nation, the first as a unified collective, further popped up despite a near flawless World Cup qualifying campaign. Blowing a 4-0 lead at home against Sweden and the long drawn out feud he and Leverkusen forward Stefan Kiessling had added to the immense pressure on the 54-year-old manager.

Low could have easily folded the minute a number of his key talents started to be stricken with injuries. Ilkay Gundogan's long term back issues have ruled him out for a while. Marco Reus suffered a devastating blow knee injury right before the tournament. Mario Gomez couldn't get back to full fitness in time to make the journey. Both the Bender twins were snake bitten as well. And long forgotten leftback Dennis Aogo was the early sign of this injury onslaught with his ACL injury way back at the beginning of last season.

And those injuries continued right at the start of Brazil. Benedikt Howedes and Julian Draxler escaped a significant car injury, while Bastian Schweinsteiger had a late scare in the preparation to the opener against Portugal with his knee. Add on the concerns of Sami Khedira still trying to get back from his ACL injury, Mats Hummels dealing with his own knee injury suffered during the 4-0 win over Portugal and Shkodran Mustafi tearing his left muscle fibres against Algeria and Low (along with his players) could have easily thought that it wasn't meant to be.

All those adversities speak to how great a job Low has done, and how it is an embarrassing mistake if he is to be criticized for his team not winning a 4th World Cup. Yes, it would be a bitter disappointment, especially after their famous 7-1 victory over the host nation Brazil.  But Low's job is no less impressive or commendable for getting this Germany side through all of those physical and mental challenges to another global ultimate match.

May that not be forgotten if Germany falls short as it will be cherished if they do win their first world title as a unified nation.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final's Thread #1 For 7/13/14: A Legacy Already Fulfilled

Focus: How Lionel Messi Already Merits Being Right Next To Maradona And Pele, Even Without A World Cup Title 

Photo from Getty Images 

He posted a final message on Facebook, enthralled by what is to come forth. He wasn’t born the last time his nation won a World Cup, barely born the last time they were in a World Cup final.

It’s another step taken on the legacy of a 27-year-old from the town of Rosario, a legacy that has featured a tournament where he has answered all of the questions from any of his rational critics looking for that one incompletion on a glorious resume.

Yes, even before the final that could give him the one trophy missing from his glorious cabinet, Lionel Messi has answered any of the final doubts about his claims to be the greatest footballer in history with his monthly display in the rival nation of Brazil.

“Tomorrow we will play the most important match of our lives with this t-shirt,” Messi wrote on his Facebook page. “My dreams and my dreams are being fulfilled thanks to the work and the sacrifice of all staff that it has given everything from the first day and who has believed that it could be.”

Of course, anything short of winning that third world championship for Argentina would be a disappointment that will sit forever for him, especially if it is at the hands of the Germans once more. Deutschland has been a prominent reason in all of the ridiculous and myopic pieces written about the 5’7’ man supposedly never performing at his highest level at a World Cup, focusing on that fallacy and centering in on it as a trendy pre-tournament story.

The 19-year-old version of Messi inexplicably never got off the bench against the 2006 hosts in that quarterfinal that saw the Albiceleste bow out in penalties. A (then) overly too cautious Argentine manager Jose Pekerman wasted a chance to bring on the precocious teenager as a difference maker, as Messi had to watch Jens Lehmann become the match hero he could have easily been.

No one in a right mental state could blame him as a rising star overshadowed by the Juan Riquelme’s, Esteban Cambiasso’s, and Carlos Tevezs of the world, but criticism would come in South Africa four years ago. Criticism that still to this day is totally misguided.

One of the more annoying aspects of Messi criticism comes from those who look at his “0 goals scored” tally in 2010 and assume that Messi was a massive disappointment on the biggest stage. Either those people did not watch those matches closely, or simply didn’t watch the matches at all. Messi did the primary job labeled of any #10, be an immense creative force. He set up the goals or chances for Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, and Sergio Aguero, while being unlucky to score himself thanks the brilliance of Nigerian goalkeeping ace Vincent Enyeama. And surely it wasn’t Messi’s fault that the Diego Maradona led team had no sense of any defensive principle, as evidence by the 4-0 thrashing that Joachim Low’s side gave them in that infamous quarterfinal.

This time around, it’s not a quarterfinal that Messi’s Argentina with face Germany in. And this time around, there can be no level headed dispute of how valuable he has been to his nation. Some like Gary Lineker and a few others have the absurd feeling that he has “marginally disappointed” them, like he needed to have 10 goals by now or something. They’ve felt that his last three games just didn’t see him at his highest.

They clearly overlook his set up for Angel de Maria's dramatic winner against the Swiss, his valuable two-way play led to Higuain’s class winner against Belgium and his constant threat against the multiple defenders Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands side place on him. The man simply can’t have his energetic displays he showed for the last six years before this injury plagued long season he endured at Barcelona and dominate every match. But to be disappointed by him, when he has been conspicuous whenever Alejandro Sabella's side required his services, is mysteriously bizarre.

It’s not about whether Messi was great with or without this tournament. Even casual fans who still only watch this sport closely every four years should know that. But it’s the 100% correct message that is sent to them, where this isn’t the only time he has made the clutch plays for Argentina and that his club legacy isn’t a secondary part of his career, that matters the most.

What if Messi does have a great final by scoring a brace or a hat trick, or setting up multiple goals for his side, only for Germany to score more and win? Does that automatically rule him out of being at least next to Pele or Maradona for at least four more years? Only a fool would be simple to think that. And in fairness to his collective body of work already amassed (a 4-time Player of the Year, three times Champions League winner, and possibly future Barcelona’s, La Liga and European club competition all-time leading scorer), he truly deserves to be in that discussion right now.

A World Cup title in the rival nation of Brazil would silence any doubters to that discussion, but there shouldn’t even be doubters in the first place. And if Lionel Messi has to still prove something else to you or anyone else right now, then those are standards that even Pele or Maradona would fail to amass.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 2014 World Cup Semifinal #2 Kickaround, Halftime and Runthrough For 7/9/14: Romero Celebrates Argentine Independence Day By Sending Them Into The Final

FT (aet): Argentina 0-0 Netherlands (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties) 

Photo from Getty Images

The reaction from the two sides towards Maxi Rodriguez's clinching penalty. 

It was that close of a match, that type of a tactical encounter that may not ever be in the highlight of reel like yesterday's semifinal, but was enthralling from a pure cagey perspective. 

Alejandro Sabella has just nicked Louis van Gaal in the "outfoxed department," as it came down to a simple overplay on penalties. 

Ron Vlaar, basting in the glow of a career afternoon, was wrongly chosen as the first penalty taker. It prove to be the first blink in a match where both sides were in an intense two hour starring contest. 

This is how a World Cup semifinal is suppose to look, not the debacle that was "The Beatdown in Belo." Chances are suppose to be few and far in between. Outstanding defending is suppose to be a constant, not an aberration. And managing the formation adjustments and the substitutions require the utmost shrewd thought. 

For all the praise he had received from the start of the tournament in the Salvador Slaughter of Spain to throughout the group stages, van Gaal had finally made his most glaring mistake. It was a rare lack of sagacity that he was apoplectic about towards the media, setting the stage for how he will deal with the persistent English press at Manchester United. 

But it was the deciding moment in a day of tremendous individual defensive plays led by Vlaar and Javier Mascherano. 

And it also was a memorable day for Sergio Romero, a man who was relegated to the bench at Monaco this season and thought to be the weakness of this Argentine side. Instead, Romero has become an integral part of a squad who could win a third world championship for their nation.  

And to do it on Argentine Independence Day is more incredible. 

Halftime: Netherlands 0, Argentina 0 

After the utter collapse of the Brazilian defense yesterday, a real World Cup semifinal first half has taken place today. 

It was a cagey opening 45 minutes that featured really good play by the centerbacks, particularly Louis Van Gaal's men. Ron Vlaar is looking like the opposite of the defender he was this past season in Aston Villa, while Stefan De Vrij has improved this tournament. De Vrij is still susceptible to mistakes however, with his passing and judgement. But so far has not had to pay for them. 

There has been moments when Dirk Kuyt and especially Bruno Martins Indi have shown their deficiencies in the full back spot, getting bypassed a few times by Enzo Perez and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Fortunately for the Dutch and unfortunately for Argentina, this is where Angel Di Maria has been sorely missed, as you got to believe the Real Madrid man would have benefit from such moments. Perez has been solid, but his play still hasn't produce the moment to really bring him the benefits of a controlled Argentine first half. 

With injury concerns for Mascherano and Sneijder to start this second half, Gago, Depay, and De Guzman will have to be on watch. And Van Gaal has to get more out of Wijnaldum. He just has to. 

Pre-game Version

Robben, Messi, Higuain, and an ill Van Persie get all the publication and attention for this game today. But the two key players of this game will be unsung midfielders Lucas Biglia and Giorgio Wijnaldum. 

Wijnaldum normally plays as a #10 for PSV, but has to show some of that offensive threat today to help Wesley Sneijder. Although his sacrifice the last few matches to take a deeper defensive role has been commendable, the 23-year-old has to become a true two way man today and make Javier Mascherano and the fullbacks pay for any obsessive focus on Robben. He will be given that chance with Nigel De Jong seemingly past fit now, and has to take advantage of the space given to him. 

Meanwhile, Biglia will look to continue how he provided much needed bite alongside Mascherano against Belgium for Alejandro Sabella. Biglia will look to provide that final passing and aggressive play in the midfield, allowing Mascherano to focus on containing Robben at all times. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread For 7/8/14: The Beatdown in Belo (Final Version)

Well, that question was firmly answered below. 

He didn't, and his teammate didn't. 

Pre-Match Thread 

For the last four years, David Luiz has been mostly an adventure at centerback whenever Thiago Silva was not with him.

Now without the services of his new club teammate at PSG and long time buddy, David Luiz's stability as a central defender will be defined today.

With Dante as his partner, he will need to showcase that he can truly be a force in front of Julio Cesar regardless of who is partnering with him. It said something immensely when Jose Mourinho had to concede that one of his bitter adversaries, Rafa Benitez, was right about the former Chelsea man being elite only as a holding midfielder. The fact that Luiz was played predominantly in front of Gary Cahill and John Terry for the second half of the season speaks to how Mourinho knew that Luiz wasn't stable at the back.

Luiz has been terrific thus far in this tournament, with key tackles and recoveries before his two goals scored in the last two games. Can he repeat that without Silva though, the partner who makes him look like a world class centerback? We shall see. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime And Postgame #2 For 7/5/14: Krul Blow For Los Ticos As Backup Tim Sends Orange To Semis

FT (AET): Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (Netherlands advance on penalties 4-3) 

Survival is the only thing that matters, as the Dutch did just that. Keylor Navas got all the (deserved) attention, but Tim Krul was the goalkeeper who got the final say. 

But despite the rough exit for Costa Rica, it was a valiant close to the greatest World Cup in their country's history. 

Navas and Giancarlo Gonzalez made themselves massive commodities in this tournament (and Navas arguably already made himself one with this season at Levante), while Michael Umaña did not at all resemble the player who just wasn't good in MLS. Johnny Acosta did a great job coming in for the suspended Oscar Duarte, and Cristian Gamboa could easily see himself be apart of three World Cups. 

It was terrific all around spirit from Los Ticos that was crafted by manager Jorge Luis Pinto. They went as far as it could go, but that time had to run out at some time. 

Van Gaal's pick of Krul made sense with how Cillessen was mostly inactive outside of the end. And the Newcastle keeper denials of Ruiz and Umaña sent them into a second straight semifinals. 

Halftime: Costa Rica 0, The Netherlands 0 

Photo from Getty Images

Missing Oscar Duarte was a big blow for this Costa Rican side, as they made more simple mistakes in the back than before. Johnny Acosta hasn't been one of them, doing the best of the backline so far. 

For the Dutch, Wesley Sneijder has just got to get involved in this game and provide so midfield drive instead of deep lying playmaking and letting Robben, Depay, and Kuyt do all the creativity. 

For Costa Rica, Pinto will need to move Gamboa in a bit more while Borges will have to comeback more on Diaz's side whenever Robben tries to come at the Mainz 05 product. Also, Tejada has to try and provide more of an offensive threat display all of his running. 

(We'll be back for the second half, after this). 

Pre-game Thread 

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #1 For 7/5/14: Gonzalo's Golzaooo Sends The Albiceleste Into The Semis

FT: Argentina 1-0 Belgium 

Photo from Getty Images

Four years ago, the Argentina defense was pure shambles at the back under Diego Maradona. But under Alejandro Sabella, their defensive shape has returned to their side and it was exhibited in full detail today. 

It has to be said that Belgian manager Marc Wilmots helped in that aspect, with poor tactics throughout today. Not one time did Jose Basanta get challenged 1-on-1 by Kevin Mirallas, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, and whenever Eden Hazard thought about overlapping. Also, starting Divock Origi after Romelu Lukaku got on track against the US also proved to be the wrong move. 

It was a sign of a team who needed that bit more experience to make headway at a major tournament, but questions will be asked if Wilmots now is the man who can make those big choices in a tournament. Hazard should have came off for Mertens, but again it was either the Napoli man or Mirallas being subbed out first instead of the disappointing Chelsea man. 

But praise will be bestowed to Sabella. He was forced to put Basanta in for the suspended Rojo, but his inclusion of Martin Demichelis and Lucas Biglia proved to be a pure masterstroke. The Manchester City man formed a fine partnership with Ezequiel Garay, while Biglia a bit more bite in the midfield on both sides that Fernando Gago just hasn't been able to.  

And how Sabella's team responded after Angel Di Maria's injury showed the value of playing close to home, as the massive Argentine crowd support spurred their side to their first semifinal at a World Cup in 24 long years. 

Halftime: Argentina 1, Belgium 0

On the fine first goal, Kompany made the mistake of dribbling in the midfield with Messi always there to track back and harass, and that lead to Messi starting the buildup that lead to Di Maria's defection and Higuain's goal. 

Marc Wilmots made a mistake for me by playing Origi after Lukaku has had confidence, but the teenage has not been helped by his teammates not staying in the same spot. You have De Bruyne, Mirallas, Hazard, and Fellaini moving all over the place. Despite a threat always being there and trying to confuse Argentina as much as possible, it hasn't led to any continuity in the final ball pass with Vertonghen providing the only real final ball of quality on Mirallas missed header. 

Before Lukaku comes in for Origi, Wilmots must tell his attacking three underneath the forward to stop moving around all over the place and establish themselves in original places. 

With Di Maria off, the chances for Belgium grow here. 

Pre-Match Thoughts

Marc Wilmots has still given the start to Divock Oirgi over Romelu Lukaku, and I think that let Argentina slightly off the hook. Origi won't get many clear positive moments today vs Argentina as he did against the United States.

Sabella has given Demichelis the start, while he had to give Basanta the nod with Marcos Rojo's big suspension. You'll see Toby Alderweireld try to get forward enough to take advantage of that huge absence. How Biglia performs also will be vital, but Basanta will need a career day taking on the exciting Kevin Mirallas.

Of course, will Witsel be able to stay on Messi tight enough today is the major question. Witsel is not an intimidator at the holding spot, more of a deep lying passer than destroyer.. He must embrace that destroyer's mentality today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread For 7/4/14: Centerbacks Back Brazil's Place Into The Semis

FT: Brazil 2-1 Colombia 

It was a team performance led by the centerbacks on both ends of the field to see the host nation progress. 

David Luiz had his strongest game for his nation, while Thiago Silva displayed why he is the best in the world at his position. Silva unfortunately got the stupidest yellow card of the tournament, as he will not be out of the semifinal against Germany. 

But Silva (and Neymar's possible absences) will be analyzed for days to come. Right now, Luis Scolari's team containing James Rodriguez for most of the evening was very good for the evening. Juan Cuadrado couldn't get things going on, and Teo Gutierrez showed once more how big the gap is when he has to replace Radamel Falcao. 

The front four (along with Victor Ibrabo) for Colombia failed to do enough as they struggled throughout to get clear chances on a Brazilian defense that had its best performance this tournament. Helping in that was the great play from Fernandinho, and even an unselfish display from Oscar. Even if the Chelsea man still hasn't looked like the force he was against Croatia, he still added to the team effort. 

Questions will be placed on Pekerman with him going with Adrian Ramos, who has barely played this tournament, instead of Jackson Martinez at the start of the second half for Ibarbo. Another question for the Argentina tactician is why he gave the start to Fredy Guarin instead of keeping Abel Aguilar in the lineup.  

Still it was a great run for the Colombian nation, finally getting to a World Cup quarterfinals. But the loss of their tailsman forward was finally felt today. 

Halftime: Brazil 1, Colombia 0 

So far, Fernandinho has been truly sensational, along with the goalscorer Thiago Silva and even David Luiz. James Rodriguez has badly gotten free from the clutches of the Manchester City man, where Victor Ibarbo has to help him like Juan Cuadrado is doing on the other side. 

Jose Pekerman took a risk bring in Fredy Guarin for Abel Aguilar. Guarin has been more in his own box than in Brazil's box this half as a last ditch defender even beyond Zapata, Yepes, and midfield partner Sanchez. 

Gutierrez will have to drop back to help his midfield, whether he stays up front by himself or has Jackson Martinez join him in the second half. 

For Brazil, Paulinho and Oscar will need to be active on both ends of the field. Oscar has done a great job helping Fernandinho on Rodriguez, while Paulinho has shown fine drive in his return to the lineup. 


Pregame Thoughts 

How Marcelo will defend against Cuadrado, while Fernandinho mans Rodriguez, is the key on that end of the field. Meanwhile, will this be the day when Zapata and Yepes become the shaky, leaky pair that they have previously been before this tournament? Will they be bothered by anybit by Fred, or will Sanchez provide enough protection for them.

Finally, will the inclusion of both Fredy Guarin and Maicon to these sides be the one blip in chemistry for both these CONMEBOL sides. 

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround Thread For 7/4/14: A Mondragon's Tale

Photo from Getty Images and FIFA.com

Faryd Mondragon has the unique distinction of being the only player in the entire 2014 World Cup who was a squad member in the 1994 installment in the United States.

At the time, Mondragon was a soon to be 23-year-old keeper who saw first hand how his Colombian nation came into the tournament as destined for greatness, picked by some to even be world champions. Of course, it turned out to be the opposite of that, as a 3-1 loss to Romania, followed by the more infamous 2-1 defeat at the hands of the host Yanks proved to be the start of a long painful demise on the global stage for Los Cafeteros.

The shock exit out of World Cup ’94. The tragic death of Andres Escobar. The quick departure out of the group stage of the following World Cup in France. The three consecutive cycles of failing to qualify for the 2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cup.

Mondragon has seen his country endure its pinnacle and a pitfall, its apex and its vortex, its crowing and its collapse. And yet, despite all of those events and the myriad of countries he has played in, the Deportivo Cali goalkeeper has a front row glance at his country’s grand revival and represents its great perseverance.

The 43-year-old’s ability and dedication to still remain apart of his country’s national team is part of an inspiring wave of flair and fire that has made Colombia a legit title contender. The loss of a superstar like Falcao would have derailed most country’s prospects at World Cup glory, and could have easily summoned the ghosts of 1994 back to the forefront. But this nation has been through so much in its recent football history that the loss of their “Tigre” would not silence the lion spirit and drive of the current crop.

This strength in long term adversity has been crafted by Mondragon, who fittingly earned the distinction of becoming the oldest player to ever play in a World Cup game in their 4-1 group closing win over Japan.

It was quite the contrast from the last time Mondragon participated in the global tournament, as tears trimmed down his face as Colombia suffered their second consecutive World Cup “three & out” after handily losing to England. David Seaman had to console him back in 2008, as Mondragon was fully cognizant of how this could have been the last time for him at a World Cup. In 2014, another goalkeeping David, Ospina, came and embraced him in a joyous moment when the Nice shotstopper was subbed out for the venerable figure. A poignant moment that Colombian and natural football fans around the world celebrated, fully aware of the history Mondragon was making.

“It’s a great moment, at the end of a long journey, to play at the age of 43 at the World Cup,” Mondragon said. “Thanks to all my colleagues.”

Cameroon legend Roger Milla had now been surpassed by the venerable netminder, who just isn’t along for a last swan song ride. After their 2-0 victory over Uruguay to secure his nation’s first quarterfinal appearance, Mondragon posted a video of his teammate happily singing at dinner. It was only fitting that he sat at the head of the table.

A table filled with players who were all born when they footballing nation began to endure their turmoil, even 21-year-old wonders Juan Quintero and Eder Balanta. And a table filled of players desperate to fulfill the expectations and hopes that their countrymen were unable fulfill 20 years ago.

It was a painful time that Faryd Mondragon has forever placed deep in his heart, just like the countrymen who watched that fatal World Cup. And he has been able to translate in through to a new golden generation of players emphatically placing a new, great one besides it.

(World Cup kickaround thread for Brazil vs Colombia comes in a bit). 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #1 For 7/4/14: Hummels Humbles France (Postgame Wrap)

FT: France 0-1 Germany 

Photo from Getty Images

One experience class centerback over an talented but young one made the difference in Germany advancing to a record 4th semifinal. Whether their trip in the last four this time will come back with a title is another story. 

Nevertheless, despite France controlling most of the second half, it was still the brilliance of both Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer who preserved the lead for another big win for their nation. 

There will still be concerns in attack for Low. Miro Klose's movement did not cause the French any trouble, while the still lethargic Mesut Ozil was poor. Thomas Muller couldn't get himself into real dangerous spots because of Klose, but still is a constant threat instead of Ozil. 

Didier Deschamps honestly did the best he could on the day, as he had to allow Benzema to have Grizemann and Valbuena on with him for as long as possible. Giroud just could not join him earlier in that half. 

Another survival for Deutschland, but they will need to improve in order to not be a "2nd place" side for another tournament.    

Halftime: Germany 1, France 0 

Photo from GettyImages 

Some wonder if Raphael Varane's inclusion in the starting lineup over Laurent Koscielny would come back to haunt Didider Deschamps. It did in that first half in the defining moment of the opening 45, as Hummels out strengthen the young defender for the goal. 

Otherwise, it was a good enough first half for France. Even with Lahm and Hummels returning to the backline, the highline is still susceptible to Griezmann and Valbuena runs from the back. It will be interesting to see if one time Matuidi or Pogba making a deep run from centerhalf if Cabaye has the ball to pick out a pass. That could free up Benzema or the wingers for a chance into the box from the center midfielder's forays forward. 

Low will look to get a bit more from his midfield though, as Schweinsteiger had just one significant offensive moment in the half, while the same could be said of Kroos (the man who provided the set piece assist to Hummels). Khedira needs to be the one to stay in front of Boateng and Hummels, but it would be a wiser decision by the German manager to have his backline at some point play a little bit deeper. 

(We'll be back for the postgame wrap for sure.) 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The 2014 World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #2 For 7/1/14: Belgium-USA (Halftime Version)

Halftime: Belgium 0, USA 0 

Simply put, Bedoya and Zusi have to improve. Zusi has struggled mightily with his touches that has either gave away possession or not produce a firm shot at Courtois. Bedoya just hasn't gotten into the game and provided a firm option for Bradley to pass to.

With Johnson for Yeldin taking him down to one sub, Klinsmann may have to ponder what his final sub will be after Beckerman. Does he bring on Davis in a game like this, or tries to implement either Johannsson or even Altidore and allow Dempsey to play behind one of them?

For Belgium, a frustrating first half where the chances were there but also featured a lot of wasted balls from their wide men. Another lethargic first half for Eden Hazard, and he is lucky he has clout since Mertens looks always the first off for Mirallas instead of him. They will also need a bit more from Axel Witsel as well.

Origi will need to comeback here a bit more and produce better decisions in the final ball. 

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread For 7/1/14: Argentina-Switzerland (Halftime Version)

Halftime: Switzerland 0, Argentina 0

It was a good tactical first half from Hitzfeld, who got the two best moments in the first half. Romero denying Xhaka after Shaqiri's great play, while Drmic (created by fine counter play from Schar and Shaqiri) tamely finished a great chance that went right into Romero's hands. 

Honestly, I can't see neither side making changes as they are playing the formations and players they need thus far. However, for Argentina, they will need Zabaleta to step up his offensive quality, as well as for Higuain to drop in between Behrami/Inler and Schar/Djourou to hold up the ball and allow Messi, Lavezzi, and even Di Maria to crash in. They also will need a bit more from Gago in the final third to be that deep lying playmaker to Messi/Di Maria's directness. 

A captivating second half is in store. 

Pre-Game Thread

Photos from Getty Images and FIFA.com

Fascinating match ups in this one, as Argentina maybe are relieved that they don’t have to go up against France but will be dealing with a talented Swiss side capable of hurting them more than even Nigeria. 

Can Shaqiri and Mehmedi give massive problems to Zabaleta and Rojo? That Rojo-Shaqiri matchup will be vital with Mascherano needing to help out whenever the Bayern Munich man comes inside.

But Zabaleta desires to go forward and make Mehmedi, a natural forward, look to defend as much as possible. Valentin Stocker just did not impress for Ottmar Hitzfeld, so one-half of the former FC Zurich prodigies (Josip Drmic the other) attempts to be a secure man on the Swiss left. Also, how will Zabaleta deal with Drmic when he is stretched outside and tries to find Shaqiri and even Xhaka crashing the box? It’s important for Fernandez and even Garay to not be led out and let their fullbacks do that responsibility.

Litchsteiner will try and push Di Maria on the back foot whenever he has the chance to, while both Gago and Behrami have to step up their play today. The Boca Juniors man has been so-so while Behrami, outside of the legendary late scramble for Sefervoic’s winner against Ecuador, was a disaster in his first two matches. Behrami likely will be the main man assigned on Messi as Rodriguez will look to help Mehmedi if Zabaleta does his usual aggressive forward play.

Litchsteiner has not been at his best this tournament and will need to be against the energy of the Real madrid winger on both ends. The Juventus right back has to consistently add in the Swiss attack and make Rojo’s day a major struggle.

Finally, will Gonzalo Higuain get off the snide today. He maybe dealing with a future star in Fabian Schar watching him for most of the day, so Higuain will look to go at Johann Djourou off his shoulder whenever possible. Both he and Lavezzi have got to cause confusion between Litchsteiner, Djourou, and 22-year-old Schar.

 (Will be back for the post game thoughts)

Monday, June 30, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #2 For 6/30/14: De Survival

FT (aet): Germany 2-1 Algeria - (Schurrle 92', Ozil 120'; Djabou 120+) 

Photos from FIFA.com & Getty Images

The greatest Algerian effort ever, one of the most nervy and listless performances from Germany ever. And yet, it still wasn't enough for the massive upset.

In between Manuel Neuer's amazing half-goalkeeper, half-centerback performance and Andre Schurrle's arrival, it was enough for Joachim Low and his side to breathe a sigh of relief with their countrymen and women. 

Valid Halilhodzic, slammed in 2010 for not getting the most of an Ivory Coast side, was terrific on the day with his tactics after a curious 5 changes made. His moves were just purely sensational, as the inclusion of Lacen, Taider, and Mostefa were excellent against a somewhat lethargic duo of Lahm and Kroos. Ghoulam was having his way with Mustafi on the left, and Feghouli with Howedes and Boateng on the right. And Soudani beat the speed challenged Mertesacker on many occasions. 

It was all the weak moments for a German side rearing their ugly heads, especially with Mats Hummels being the latest man snakebitten by something. Now you can add Mustafi to the list, as Low looks like he will have to play Philip Lam at right back if Hummels doesn't recover against France. 

Mario Gotze surely will be dropped for Schurrle after another undistinguishable performance. But even Gotze would take that over a shock elimination that would have seen a remarkable 15 straight quarterfinals streak snapped. 

Instead it's a valiant effort foiled by Detuschland and a 16th consecutive appearance in the last eight for them.  

HT: Germany 0, Algeria 0

Well, Halilhodzic's changes have worked thus far, as Mostefa has had a great first half preventing Kroos and Schweinsteiger from getting into the final third outside the box, while after a shaky first pass, Lacen has been effective staying in defense positions. Plus Ghoulam and Soudani are causing big problems on the left for Germany, as is Feghouli whenever he gets forward. 

Low will need instant energy from his side, with more drive from Kroos and Lahm in the second half. This is where the absence of a Gundogan hurts. And now with Hummles absent, this Algeria side will firmly fill confident unless Gotze and Ozil become true presences in the box. 

For Halilhodzic, a perfect first half for him made more by getting it right. 

Pre-game Tactical Thoughts 

Halilhodzic with a few too many changes in my mind for this side. Especially with Hummels out, Mustafi is there for the taking.

Bringing in Lacen and Soudani, and having Slimani lined up not leading the line is very bizarre. It's a shame because Brahimi and Djabou have deserve there stars. There isn't much of a problem starting Taider over Bentaleb in my mind, but it's unnecessary to make all these changes that will make the Bosnian manager's already strained relation with the Algerian FA a bit more tenuous.

It will be important for Ghoulam to deal with not only Boateng coming in, but Ozil, Muller and even Gotze's movement as well whenever they come to his side. Halliche and Belkalem will need to be firm in keep all of those players in front of them and not risk any signs of highline play.

How Lacen will deal with Kroos in the midfield with the inactivity the Getafe man has had in this tournament is a whole another matter. Taider will have to take Lahm and be wary of whenever he likes to streak in, while Mostefa will have to monitor Schweinsteiger all around the field. 

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