Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Greece 1-0 Canada: Reaction

Based on my past two entries, it seems I'll only be blogging when soccer teams I like lose 1-0.

Canada's first competitive match of 2011 was indeed a loss, but not a disappointing one. The Canucks certainly didn't play like they were 70 places below Greece in the FIFA rankings. I might add it's ridiculous that Greece are ranked 10th in the world, and I don't think Canada should be buried down at 80th. I could go on, but I think everyone agrees that the FIFA rankings are, for lack of a better word, just dumb to begin with.

Before I get to the positives, lets get the negatives out of the way. Adam Straith is to blame for the goal against, his horrible attempted clearance gifted a guy with a great Greek name in Ioannis Fetfatzidis all the space in the world to fire home.

My man of the match was Josh Simpson, the Turkish-based midfielder who played with flair and passion that I rarely see when watching Canada play.

Atiba Hutchinson was a worthy choice for the captain's armband and he played a solid role, often coming back to help out defensively. He's Canada's best player at the moment.

For our MLS boys, Will Johnson played a fierce game and though that resulted in a bunch of fouls, I must give him credit for his tenacity. Dwayne De Rosario wasn't prolific but he had Canada's best chance off a free-kick that came close to leveling the match. Now hopefully he doesn't hold out on TFC as the MLS season approaches. I have a feeling I may be blogging about some 1-0 TFC losses a little later this year. Dejan Jakovic and Adrian Cann were generally solid on the back line too.

With the Gold Cup coming up later this year I'm looking forward to seeing Canada's more youthful squad get some more matches in together. I'm happy to be optimistic about the team again! I just hope Junior Hoilett decides to get involved at some point.

Finally, the new Umbro kits have taken some flack but I think they looked pretty good out there. It didn't seem all that Manchester United-ish as some have feared. The white shirt might be like that, but I'll reserve judgement until I see it in action.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chelsea 0 - 1 Liverpool: Reaction

Though I wasn't able to catch every second of this match since the feed I was watching wasn't exactly the most reliable, I saw enough to be disappointed in what was the extremely hyped-up debut of Fernando Torres against his old club.

El Nino didn't play a terrible game, but he sure didn't live up to his £50 million price tag. Unfortunately for him the critics will be after him no matter what unless he puts up massive numbers. However, the rest of the team wasn't playing well either. There were too many punchless crosses into the area and not enough confidence to beat a man one-on-one. It seems to me that the nerves and excitement of Torres and his debut got to them. There were a couple legitimate penalty claims in the second half, but I'm going to dismiss those as Liverpool really should have been up by two as Maxi Rodriguez missed an absolute sitter in the first half.

I was surprised that Carlo Ancelotti started John Obi Mikel over Florent Malouda in the midfield. I think Mikel is pretty much the exact same player as Michael Essien, so I don't think they need to be on together. Malouda's creativity would have benefited the attacking game much more than what we saw out there. I suppose that move was made because Ancelotti went with three attackers in Anelka, Drogba and Torres, but I still think Malouda would have been a good fit and wouldn't have taken too much away from the defensive game.

Keeping David Luiz on the bench, however, was a move I agreed with. Without any Premier League experience, Chelsea can afford to ease him into the English game whereas Torres is expected to start producing right away. Luiz did look pretty solid in his short appearance towards the end of the match, and I'm expecting him to become a big part of the back four in the months and years to come.

However it was all very disappointing as Chelsea missed out on a big (and very rare) opportunity to gain some ground on Manchester United. The way things are going with them, their loss to Wolves on Saturday might be their only loss of the season!

While this loss stings, it's not the end of the world. The league title seems all but out of reach this year, but I expect them to finish in the top four.

The real focus is Europe. With the Champions League knockout stages starting up this month, the big elusive prize is back in sight for the Blues, and really that's all that matters to me!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back from the abyss: Five-Tool Friday

There are many possible reasons for such a long delay between blog entries here at Five-Tool Farq. Perhaps my blogging mindset has failed miserably. But nevertheless, I still have some thoughts on the sports landscape today.

I never did stop having those thoughts mind you, I just haven't typed them out here in a very, very long time.


The sport that never stops is in full swing as it always is. Club seasons are back in Europe, Euro qualifiers under way, Champions League group stages under way, and the end of the season is near in MLS.

My thought today focuses on the recent announcement that MLS will be expanding it's regular season from 30 games to 34.

It's a smart move with new franchises entering the league every year, but what really grinds my gears is that the league won't halt play during the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year. Much like the international break for the Euro Qualifiers a couple weeks ago, the MLS doesn't halt its schedule when the best leagues in the world close up shop for a weekend to allow for international play.

I thought they were starting to get the idea when they took a break during the group stage of the World Cup this summer, but apparently not. They're going back to their old ways, and teams will suffer when they lose their top international stars once again.


How fascinating will it be for the football world when Michael Vick steps up behind centre on Sunday for his first start in four seasons? Let me answer that for you. It'll be very fascinating.

The guy has paid the price for his crimes, taken the time to get back into the game he was made famous for, and now has a tremendous opportunity for himself to win back a permanent starter's role.

The story has written itself once Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington, leaving Kevin Kolb as the only obstacle in Vick's way.

After his performance in Week 1 replacing Kolb, he gets the Lions in his first start for the Eagles. As improved (and cheated) as the Lions feel they may be so far in this young season, they're still the Lions. And I'm thinking Vick will run wild in Detroit.


Once September hits and the summer weather starts fading, the thought of playoff baseball approaching always brings a warm feeling.

The Blue Jays futility and horrible luck of being in the AL East has increasingly dulled that over the years, but it's still a time of year I always look forward to.

That being said, the stretch run this season is rather dull. The wildly unpredictable NL West is once again a mess, and the NL East and NL Wild Card will provide some exciting finishes, but I'm an AL guy. With everything wrapped up other than the Rays and Yankees battling it out over the division, it's a bit of a snooze until the postseason begins.

The fantasy baseball stretch run and Jose Bautista's home run chase will have to do until October baseball begins.


With baseball season winding down, that can only mean one thing. Hockey is back! Another season for my Toronto Maple Leafs starts and everyone is thinking once again: "Is this the year?"

Of course I say that sarcastically given the Leafs' current streak of futility, but with my blue and white shades on, I'm cautiously optimistic about the Leafs new acquisitions.

I will once again waste some of my hard earned money on a couple Leafs games and upgrade my cable package so I can actually watch the rest of the games, but in my mind there is no greater passion in my sports universe than cheering on the Leafs. The Jays come a close second, but I have seen them win in my lifetime (I was 6 when Joe Carter hit the home run, but I still remember it as if it were yesterday). The Leafs winning the Cup would be my "Now I can die happy" moment in sports.

But too bad it will probably never happen...


And with hockey season approaching, it's a given that basketball will soon follow suit. I've written before about my reluctance to fully invest myself into this sport, citing the Raptors lack of success as the main reason.

Well, the build up to this season really won't help. This year might just be the worst season in Raptors history in terms of pre-season hype, and while I'll tune in and hope for a miracle, all I'm really interested in at this juncture is seeing how good the Miami Heat will do with LeBron, Wade and Bosh.

I will be cheering for them to do something stupid like go 82-0, mainly because I'm sick of the Lakers and Celtics and other predictable outcomes that we've seen lately.

But I don't like to be negative, and in due time I'll catch up to everything that has gone on this off-season other than the obvious. But the biggest news that I can relate to now is that the Raptors signed Ronald Dupree. And that speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One week later: The end of the World Cup

A week has passed since Spain defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup final and each day I'm missing the thrills of the tournament.

Of course, it is one of the slowest weeks of the year in sports right now. The height of NBA and NHL free agency has passed and the MLB All-Star game took away baseball for a few days. There's the British Open, but that just reminded me of the World Cup since a South African won it. He was probably inspired by the same talk of being the hope of a continent the same way Ghana was in the World Cup quarter-finals. I can't ignore the CFL, but with all due respect that doesn't interest me greatly. I was pleased to see a Toronto Argonauts home victory over the Stampeders a couple days ago, but that's as far as my fandom goes at this particular juncture in time.

The remedy is on its way. The big European soccer leagues are fast approaching, as is the NFL, and everything else that can take my mind away from the World Cup.

But for now, even as I hear the roar of the Indy cars down by Toronto's Exhibition Place, I am still stuck in World Cup hangover mode.

The beauty of the game of soccer, though, is that it never stops. All the players that have made names for themselves will be back in action in the next month or so. Following club teams, national teams and particular individuals of interest will be much more intriguing than after any old off-season, since they were just in action on the world's biggest stage.

And in roughly two months time, all of Europe will be back at it again when Euro 2012 qualifying begins. There's never a dull moment.

So on second thought, I shouldn't feel too down about this World Cup hangover. I should cherish it. In a month's time, I'll be able to get my daily fix, and then some!

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups E, F, G and H!

Since I'm living at work for the duration of the G20 summit, I wasn't around to blog last night. Therefore, before the knockout stage starts tomorrow, let's knock off the remaining 16 teams while I eat my Swiss Chalet dinner.

Group E

Netherlands: I'm not surprised with the Dutch sweeping their way through the group. But now the pressure is on for L'Oranje not to screw it all up again in the knockouts. They've got Arjen Robben back which is a bad sign for every other team. He made an impact immediately upon subbing in, smashing a shot off the post leading to the winner against Cameroon.

Japan: The Blue Samurai's progression is something I didn't expect at all. I was fully expecting a last-place finish for the boys from the far east, but they have certainly impressed, culminating in their 3-1 win over Denmark in a match they just had to draw. With samurai-like precision, two great free-kick goals buried the Danes in the final group match and sent Japan through with two wins. Their one loss came to the Netherlands, but it was a tight 1-0 affair that the Japanese were happy with considering the stature of their opponent.

Denmark: Not without talent, the Danish mix of youth and veterans bounced back well from their 2-0 loss to the Dutch with an impressive comeback victory over Cameroon. That set them up for a do-or-die encounter with Japan they were expected to win, but they got crushed by the set piece and couldn't overcome that. The red and white football aces certainly aren't the worst team to be eliminated, but that's the luck of the draw in the cruel World Cup group stages.

Cameroon: The poor Indomitable Lions and my boy Rigobert Song disappointed in South Africa to be sure with three losses. A 1-0 loss to Japan highlighted the team's inexperience, and that led to a bit of a revolt within the ranks. Senior players demanded Paul le Guen play the more experienced campaigners over the youngsters, and they responded by taking a 1-0 lead over Denmark. But that lead was lost, and was their final match after they'd been eliminated. Without surprise, le Guen is gone now.

Group F

Paraguay: As a South American team playing alongside the world class talents from Brazil, Argentina, etc, the Paraguayans are often overlooked. They've never made a serious run at the World Cup, but these guys are still pretty good. That being said, this group was a complete mess, and they were held to a draw by New Zealand. They play Japan next in a knockout tie that could go any which way, but I can't see them making it much further than the quarters.

Slovakia: For a team that played so poorly over their first two matches, the Slovaks must be in seventh-heaven over their insane 3-2 win over Italy to make it out of the group. They're in unprecented territory and play the Dutch next, so good luck Slovakia, you're gonna need it!

New Zealand: Three matches, three draws, two goals for, two goals against. For a team with semi-professional players and no big names, the Kiwis played a great tournament and should leave South Africa with nothing but absolute pride in themselves.

Italy: Ouch. Time to blow it up, Azzurri.

Group G

Brazil: Never a doubt to top the group, Dunga's side wasn't showing 100% Brazil in the group stage. Sure, there's the fact that Dunga has implemented a more defensive style, but conceding goals to North Korea and Ivory Coast isn't a great sign. The 0-0 draw to Portugal was absolutely boring albeit heated, though both the Portuguese-speaking teams knew they were going to go through with a draw, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Look for them to start turning it on now that they're in the Round of 16.

Portugal: We just wouldn't shut up about Portugal's qualifying troubles in Europe, but let's not forget that these guys are ranked third in the world. As dumb as the FIFA rankings are, I think they've got the top 10 pretty accurate. They just love 0-0 against African teams (they drew Cape Verde Islands 0-0 in a friendly before drawing Ivory Coast 0-0), but a 7-0 destruction of North Korea sealed their ticket to the next stage where they'll be in tough.

Ivory Coast: There was a glimmer of hope for the Ivorians, and following Drogba's journey through his broken arm was captivating for African fans (and Chelsea fans alike). But in the end, it was the nasty 3-1 loss to Brazil that did the Elephants in and killed their hopes. The Group of Death has struck, and it's the Africans that are done.

North Korea: A great first half against Brazil had everyone buying into the hype of a shutdown defence, and then they allowed 12 goals over the rest of the tournament. Of course, in North Korea they all believe they've just won the World Cup, Stanley Cup and FedEx Cup combined.

Group H

Spain: Great reslience from the Spaniards to bounce back from that shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland to win two straight and take the group outright. They've got Portugal next, which hardly seems like a reward for winning your group, but it will be a stern test for the European Champs that might harden them enough to go on a deep run.

Chile: Chi-chi, eh-eh-eh, Viva Chile! They faced the prospect of winning their first two matches and still not making it out of the group, but a gutsy performance in the 2nd half when down a man and 2-0 to Spain helped seal their passage when they scored to improve their goal differential over Switzerland (even if that never ended up coming into play). Next up is Brazil, who beat them both times in qualifying, so the run might end early.

Switzerland: Hopp Schwiiz no more. It's a cruel exit for the Swiss after a memorable opening win over Spain, but it was their lack of depth up front that knocked them out. The one goal against the Spaniards was the only one they managed in three matches. They really should have done better against Honduras in their finale, but they couldn't rise up to the occasion, and are now home to get ready to lose to England in Euro 2012 qualifying.

Honduras: These guys were brutal, though now I'm intrigued to see all the guys who play for Honduran side Motagua absolutely rip apart Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups C and D

I made it through the day, so you know England didn't lose. But there is quite a bit of intrigue heading into the next set of matches on Saturday and Sunday. Let's start with Group C.

Group C

USA: I was really hoping to start off this group with England, but the States played some thrilling soccer through their three matches. They got some fortunate breaks (Robert Green's howler), and more unfortunate breaks (Mo Edu's non-goal, and Clint Dempsey's non-offside goal), but in the end they got a great story in Landon Donovan's stoppage time winner over Algeria that saved them from certain elimination and vaulted them past England atop the group. They're lined up for a potentially great run.

England: Ah, let's try to keep this short. If I start to ramble, this would be the longest blog of all time. England were supposed to cruise through the group, but they certainly didn't make it easy. Beating Slovenia was huge, and squeaking by with a 1-0 victory doesn't inspire the greatest of confidence heading forward. If only Wayne Rooney scored then the group would be England's. Instead, he hit his shot off the post (credit to keeper Samir Handanovic for getting a hand on it - no pun intended). England have the toughest of possible roads to the World Cup final, but I say bring it on. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Let's avoid penalties, and maybe they can advance a round or two.

Slovenia: If not for Donovan's last second goal over Algeria, the little Eastern European nation would be off to the knockout stage. Lots of credit to them for pulling their weight, especially after beating out Russia to get to South Africa in the first place. It's too bad they couldn't hold on to their two-goal lead over the States in game number two, or else the group would have surely been theirs!

Algeria: The Desert Foxes gave up an ugly loss to Slovenia, were lucky England played the worst of worst games against them, and held the US quite honourably until the 91st minute. They certainly had lots to play for in the last match, as a win over the US would give them a fighting chance, but it wasn't to be. Yet another African nation on the outs.

Group D

Germany: The Germans certainly have had an up and down group stage. First, they systematically destroyed the Aussies, before losing to Serbia (Miroslav Klose's red card and Lukas Podolski's penalty miss are big factors in that). They finished off with a 1-0 win over Ghana which could have gone either way, so what to expect next? A date with England. Certainly one of the most juicy of Round of 16 matchups.

Ghana: As good as they've been, the Black Stars are simply lucky to be moving through, and will be the only African team to do so. They play USA next, but I don't see them beating the Americans. Ghana only scored two goals in three matches, and both via the penalty kick. They are flashy enough to create chances but can't finish at all up front. They're Africa's only hope, but I can't see them making it too much further.

Australia: It was quite the turbulent ride for the Aussies, and in the end they're out on goal differential thanks to the spanking they received from Germany in their opener. It's too bad they lost their talisman Tim Cahill to a questionable red card in that opener. The Everton man - who scored a typical Cahillian goal against Serbia - was sorely missed in the Aussie's 1-1 draw with Ghana. If he had played, the Socceroos could have been moving on. Instead, the dream is over.

Serbia: The Serbian team has always been built around a stymieing defence, and that was their downfall in South Africa, because they couldn't get anything going up front. They can boast a victory over Germany, but that required some luck. That win was sandwiched between two losses. Losing to Australia was especially tough, since they had a good shot to make it out of the group. Instead, they couldn't find another goal and end up last. Disappointing, to say the least.

Back tomorrow with Group E and F! Just who the heck is going to make it out of Group E? What's Italy going to do? We'll find out soon enough...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups A and B

Recently, I get a praising comment from friend, hockey rumour expert, and fellow blogger Mark Boffo. He said I was pulling my weight with this blog. An enjoyable comment, no doubt. I followed that up by not blogging for 12 days. Oops. It's the World Cup's fault, I promise.

However, I shall redeem myself. The next four days present a good opportunity to pass along some thoughts. With the group stage wrapping up in South Africa, here are some brief thoughts on each team as they finish their three-game round robin.

Group A

Uruguay: The first of what should be five out of five South American teams to make it out of their group, Uruguay have impressed after years of failure on the world stage. Though their opening draw with France may well be the most boring of the 36 matches played so far, they bounced back with an emphatic 3-0 win over South Africa and capped it off with a 1-0 win over Mexico in an exciting affair. They are set to face South Korea in the Round of 16, and I expect them to handle the Asian squad with relative ease.

Mexico: Mexico is one of those in-between teams in comparison to the rest of the world, but they always find a way to make it out of their group. This is the fifth straight World Cup that Mexico has safely made it to the knockout stage. They've got some talent, but I think their defence is too unpredictable, especially keeper Oscar Perez. They get Argentina next, so I fully expect them to get eliminated at the Round of 16 for the fifth straight time.

South Africa: I don't think anyone should be ashamed at how South Africa finished. They only lost out on the group stage on goal differential, and it was really a lot closer than the scorelines suggest. If not for a hit post in the South Africa-France game, and a big save in the Mexico-Uruguay game, the goal diff. could have very well been even. So the South Africans are the first host team not to make it out of their group, but they are also the weakest host team ever. Good for them to get a win over an historically good team in France in their last game, even if France are a shell of their former glory. Read on for more.

France: Les Bleus overshadowed everything good in this group - and the whole tournament so far - with their embarrassing performances on and off the field. Firstly, the team never deserved to be there in the first place. Secondly, my boy from Chelsea Nic Anelka called outgoing coach Raymond Domenech a bunch of really bad names, and got himself sent home. Thirdly, led by team captain Patrice Evra, the squad refused to train in protest of Anelka's dismissal. Finally, they exit the tournament with no wins, a draw and two crappy losses. Ouch.

Group B

Argentina: Of all the World Cup favourites, Argentina are in the best shape so far. You'll find no shock losses, draws, or bust-ups here. Only wins and goals under the crazy Diego Maradona, who is actually turning into a likable figure which is absolutely terrifying. Three matches, three wins, and an absolutely stacked lineup. All of that, and Leo Messi hasn't even scored yet. The best is yet to come.

South Korea: Can't say I picked this team to make it through, but they lucked their way through to an improbable spot in the Round of 16. If Nigeria had converted one more goal in their 2-2 draw, then it would be the Africans going through. Instead, Yakubu missed the sitter of all sitters, and the rest is history. I like the tactical approach from Asian sides like South Korea, but I don't see them beating Uruguay in the next round.

Greece: Things looked grim for Greece after their opening 2-0 loss to South Korea. Sure, they could always stake claim to being the 2004 European Champs, but they've never had any success in the World Cup. But they bounced back nicely with a 2-1 win over Nigeria, giving them a fighting chance against Argentina to sneak into the knockout stage. They had their opportunities, and held the Argentines off the board for most of the match, but in the end Maradona's side was too good. A valiant effort for the Greeks, though their tourney is over.

Nigeria: Another African nation on the outs, Nigeria were so close to getting through as I just mentioned, but it wasn't to be. The loss to Argentina was expected, and at only 1-0 that was fine. But the turning point was Sani Kaita's stupid retaliatory red card in the 2-1 loss to Greece; the guy is now getting thousands of death threats back home. I guess they really did need my injured Chelsea boy John Obi Mikel, eh! (I'll try to avoid mentioning every Chelsea player involved in the World Cup... but it won't be easy).

I'll be back tomorrow with final thoughts on Group C and D, provided I survive the day.