Wednesday, June 16, 2010


World Cup: First Half Fit To Be Tied

by Wayne Robins

Another World Cup match, another first half, 45 minutes of mostly inaction, with the score tied at 0-0. That's the Wednesday morning score of Spain vs Switzerland. And that's been the halftime score of 9 of the 16 matches played in South Africa so far in the FIFA World Cup 2010.

Though knowledgeable soccer fans can appreciate the often tense attrition of a hard fought nil-nil match, there has been little this year to persuade skeptical Americans that low scoring soccer is worth their time or attention. The problem is that too many teams in the first round are playing to avoid defeat rather than to win. That is a sound strategy for a heavy underdog to linger in the competition: While there may be no crying (or ties) in baseball, or moral victories in American football, tying a superior team is often as good as a win in World Cup soccer. (A team gets three points for a win, one point for a tie, so it is possible to move forward in the tournament without actually winning, as long as one doesn't lose too much.)

But some 0-0 first halves can be dramatic: Witness Tuesday's intense battle between Brazil (ranked No. 1 in the world) and North Korea (ranked 105). The 0-0 halftime score stunned Brazil and most onlookers, and up-ended the predictable emotional/geopolitical equilibrium, for those of us who identify with Brazilian culture, and North Korea, not so much: As the second half began, one who enjoys epic upsets might have instinctively cheered on the North Koreans. As soon as Brazil scored one goal, the pendulum swung back, and the hedonistic party boys from South America began sweeping their fans, and the North Koreans, off their feet. When Brazil scored a second goal, the lead seemed insurmountable. But in the 88th minute, Ji Yun Nam of North Korea broke through the overconfident Brazilian defense and nailed the ball past some-say-best-in-the-world goalkeeper Julio Cesar. It was 2-1, and with about four minutes left, it was hard to deny rooting for North Korea to do it again and leave the festival favorites with a tie: It would have been ashes for Brazil, champagne for North Korea.

As this is being posted, Switzerland has taken a 1-0 lead over Spain: Watch for Switzerland to go into a defensive crouch and Spain to finally, play for keeps the last 28 minutes. If Spain scores, expect Switzerland to play for the tie.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010


"Metal Machine Music" Is Official Theme of 2010 World Cup

by Wayne Robins

Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" has been named the official theme of the 2010 World Cup. The intentionally monotonous, droning, two-LP loop of electronic feedback has been played consistently throughout each televised game of the cup. Sunday, its volume drowned out the voices of the ESPN/ABC announcers during the Germany-Australia match, which is why this fan turned the game off with Germany comfortably ahead two-nil in the first half.

Noted Reed scholar and sparring partner, the late Lester Bangs, had many descriptions for "MMM," but he nailed it in a Creem article in September, 1975, writing: "You know when you get so tense and anxiety-ridden that all the nerves at the back of your neck snarl up into one burning ball? Well, if that gland could make music, it would sound like this album."

And that's what it sounds like listening to the games. According to sources ranging from the Guardian in the U.K. to the Tehran Times in Iran, international soccer governing board FIFA is considering a ban on the vuvuzela, the iconic but terminally irritating plastic South African air horn, on which World Cup spectators have been doing unprecedented live performances of "Metal Machine Music" from first kick to final whistle.

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