The Tuesday 10: Silly Season Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of year: transfer season! Here at The Other 87, we don’t peddle in rumors or speculation. If we say it’s going to happen in the two and a half weeks before the window closes, then you know it will come to pass, and if it doesn’t then it’s the real world that’s to blame. Like another famous publication I can think of, The Other 87 is definitive, it’s reality that’s frequently inaccurate. Here are ten definitive pronouncements as to how the transfer market will play out.

There’s a center back I really want but he’s under the Powerpuff Girl.

1. After wasting $1.50 in quarters, Eintracht Frankfurt finally get a solid grip on Carlos Bocanegra with the coin-op claw machine and get him all the way to the prize chute.

2. After offloading Jack Rodwell for a cool 15 million to Manchester City, Everton sells Leighton Baines to United for 75 pounds of food, 15 boxes of bullets, and a spare wagon tongue, thus ensuring their continued financial survival for at least another month, as long as the hunting is good.

3. Chelsea calls dibs on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in two years, narrowly beating City to the mark.

4. Sotiris Ninis leaves Parma for whichever team I happen to be running in Football Manager at that time, where he finally lives up to expectations.

5.  Real Madrid puts up posters offering Nuri Sahin and Kaka to anyone who captures and brings them known fugitive Luka Modric alive, no questions asked. The reward is collected by a black-hatted, grizzled campaigner who asks to be known only as “Big Sam.”

6. Robin van Persie is sold to United, where in his first game he accidentally tries to occupy the same space as Wayne Rooney, leading to a violent collision and knocking them both out for the season.

Clint boldly makes a break from Craven Cottage.

7. Despite a major setback earlier in the summer when his first attempt was discovered on the Fourth of July, Clint Dempsey manages to tunnel his way out of Fulham. He escapes into the surrounding forests, but Moussa Dembele’s steamer trunk trips up the Belgian and brings the guards down before anyone else can escape.

8. Paris Saint Germain call up David Bowie to ask for the number of the man who sold the world, and whether he’s got another he’d be willing to part with.

9. The Houston Dynamo nearly capture Peter Crouch in their exchange for Geoff Cameron, but unfortunately L.A. already had discovery rights on his wife and a deal couldn’t be worked out.

10. Lionel Messi holds a press conference to announce that he’s actually quite happy at Barcelona and won’t be looking to move anytime soon, thanks for asking.

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The Tuesday XI: Olympic Edition

In honor of that other worldwide sporting event, (The Winter Olympics don’t count. Just don’t get me started on it.) here’s a squad made up of athletes who have left their mark on the 2012 Olympics.

(We’ve left off actual soccer players; in fact, we only took one person from any sort of ball sport.)

GK – Missy Franklin – One word: Wingspan.

SW – Usain Bolt – I’m pretty sure Bolt fancies himself a forward when he trains with Manchester United, but this isn’t a team of “What if these guys had grown up playing soccer?” If they’re going to compete against their imaginary opposition, it’ll help to have the ultimate safety net to clean up our defensive mistakes: tall and literally faster than everyone ever. As you can see below, Bolt’s got some skills, so if he proves he can pass decently, we’ll let him step forward into midifield too.

LB – Jason Kenny – The British cyclist flies up and down the left flank, and when we’re clinging to a late lead at least he brought some kind of vehicle to park in front of goal.

CB – Dong Dong – Not just here for his name (I swear), the Chinese trampolinist stands only 5’6”, but still manages to win nearly every aerial battle he’s put into.

RB – Elisa di Francisca – The Italian fencer and her two gold medals parry opposing thrusts down our right flank then riposte with uncanny accuracy.

Come on, ref. That was definitely a dive.

LM – German Sanchez – Won a silver for Mexico along with his partner in the 10 meter synchronized platform, but he’s unfortunately developing something of a reputation on the soccer field.

LCM – Kayla Harrison – Harrison won the USA’s first-ever gold medal in judo last week, and will put her martial art to use pushing opponents around in the midfield.

RCM – Jessica Ennis – Strong, fast and famous, she narrowly beats out 10,000 meter champion Mo Farah for our box-to-box role. After seven events in two days, I don’t reckon a 90 minute game will be too tough for her.

She’s stretching to get a touch on the ball, no doubt.

RM – Gabby Douglas – Her explosive acceleration and endless arsenal of moves will help the gymnastics champion terrorize opposing left backs.

CF – Im Dong-hyunThe legally blind South Korean archer couldn’t lead his team to gold, but still set a world record in qualifying by relying not on sight but a finely tuned muscle memory.  Imagine what he could do shooting at a target that’s a bit bigger.

CF – Phil Dalhausser – Dalhausser may have already been eliminated from medal contention after his beach volleyball partner picked up a knock, but his 6’9” frame and emphatic finishing ability will still be of use to this squad.

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Tuesday Ten: Opening Ceremonies Edition

If you were anywhere near a TV Friday afternoon/evening, then you likely already know that the World Cup is in danger of falling behind in the all-important opening ceremonies arms race. The Busby Berkeley song and dance numbers are nice, but now they’re competing with pyrotechnics, stunt and wirework and the complete history of Western Civilization (minus all the bad parts). It’s time for the World Cup to up its game. Here are ten suggestions for how to do that in 2014 and beyond.

1. Borrow from the Olympics and start the 2014 tournament by telling the history of association football. Build a replica of London’s Freemason’s Tavern, where the Laws were codified, then have half of the participants leave in a huff to walk the Earth in exile until they arrive in England in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

2. As the host nation, the arrival of the game in Brazil will get its own special segment. As soon as Charles Miller steps off the steamship, the whole stadium will explode into a recreation of Carnival.

3. After the dancers are gone, one-up them by bringing on 800 freestyle jugglers to perform at the same time. These should be relatively easy to find in any given block of Rio de Janeiro.

4. Have a group of flying Pep Guardiolas defeat a giant inflatable Sepp Blatter.

5. Like all FIFA sponsored events, there will be a nod to the youth: a giant soccer ball will be rolled onto the center of the pitch, and after a pause, the soccer ball will begin to move, and it will be revealed that it is actually 500 child gymnasts who had linked together to create the ball.

6. Play up the fact that your tournament is the world’s greatest sporting event with tasteful montages from World Cups past. Highlight the game’s wonderful moments, the skill (Zidane’s headbutt in 2006), the beauty (highlights from the 1990 final), and the poetic (juxtaposing moments such as when the West Germans had their goal denied in the 1966 final with Lampard’s non-goal in 2010.)

7. A group of French actors will recreate, step-by-step, the final of the 1970 Final. When Carlos Alberto scores that famous goal, the entire 1970 Brazilian team will emerge to celebrate the goal.

8. An Oscars-style remembrance montage, featuring every famous Brazilian player who has passed on. Fat Ronaldo will be mistakenly put onto the montage.

9. Performance by U2.

10. Pele obviously gets to light the World Cup torch for the tournament in Brazil. In 2018, he and Diego Maradona will (finally) fight to the death to see who gets to do it. I’m thinking Kalashnikov’s at ten paces, in tribute to the host nation.

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From the Archives: The Premier League All-Star Game: A Minute-by-Minute Report

I feel roughly the same about this All-Star.

Earlier this year we posted our MBM report of what a hypothetical Premier League All-Star game would look like. We’re breaking it out again today before the MLS All-Star game tonight. 

Preamble: Managers hate it, with Arsene Wenger, who you’ll recall has some pretty strong negative feelings towards international friendlies as well, calling it last year, “the worst idea in 120 years of league football,” and refusing to allow his Arsenal players to take part, a decision which saw him receive a four-game touchline ban, one for each player he kept out. Fans loathe it as a sign of the increasing intrusion of the new class of American owners into the game, a valid point, since it certainly seems like they’re taking the worst ideas from  The players…well, if Twitter is anything to go by, the players are just really excited about all the tech bobbles and jewelry bits in the gift bags they’re receiving for playing in the game.

So at least one group is happy about the Barclays Premier League all-star game. I, on the other hand certainly am not, as I’ve drawn the short straw to do the MBM on this travesty, despite my best efforts at pointing out that the fewer people watch it/follow it/pretend to care about it, the sooner it will go away. Ohh well. Your teams, which were selected nearly a month ago, are coming up, but first a quick geography lesson.

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The Tuesday XI: All-Star Edition


In honor of tomorrow’s MLS All-Star Game, we bring you perhaps our most star-laden team yet:

GK – Ringo Starr – Sets the rhythm in the back, allowing our creative geniuses to take the credit further forward.

LB – Starman – This alien life form may look like Jeff Bridges, but he can work miracles on the pitch.

SW– Starman – This otherworldly creature blows the minds of friends and foes alike with his defensive abilities, just like David Bowie said.

RB – Starman – The DC hero’s ability to control gravity helps him rise above attackers to make clearances, or bring hard shots suddenly crashing down to earth.

Regista – Bart Starr – This on-field quarterback delivers pinpoint long-range passes right to the feet of our forwards.

LCM – Patrick Star – SpongeBob’s starfish pal makes up for his lack of soccer intelligence – he doesn’t have a brain, after all – with his energy and enthusiasm.

RCM – Mary Katherine Gallagher – After a couple of false starts in the worlds of music and dance, the former Catholic schoolgirl finally found a venue in which she could be a…wait for it…Superstar!

CAM – Clarice Starling – Uses her wits and bravery to pursue chances that might grant her and her team a lead.

LW – Ziggy Stardust – Plays it left-hand, and while he may occasionally take it too far, this special man is still the nazz.

CF – Lone Starr – His career may have faltered when the referees wouldn’t allow him to play with his power ring, but he got back on track once he realized that his Schwartz was inside of him all along.

RW – Star Fox – Does a barrel roll.

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The Tuesday XI: Mr. and Mrs. Edition

Summertime means wedding season, and so to commemorate we’ve brought you a pair of teams representing the Misters and Missuses (and Misses. And you’re spending all your vacation days to go celebrate with:

GK – Mr. Clean – Keeps the scoreboard spic and span with his tidy performances.

LB – Mr. Bean – Our bumbling left back tends to save goals without knowing much about them.

LCB – Mr. T – Pity the forwards who have to face the pain inflicted by the baddest man in the world.

RCB – Mr. Rogers – May appear to be a more gentle, cerebral type of player than his counterpart, but if you cross him, he’ll cut you down so fast you’ll think you’re in Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.

RB – Mr. Roboto – Crosses with uncanny, nearly mechanical accuracy. Our forward players make sure to thank him profusely each time he provides them with an assist.

CDM – Mr. Hyde – Normal rules of the game and human decency don’t apply to this brutal hardman in the center of the pitch.

LCM – Mr. Sandman – His rhythmic passing lulls opponents into a false sense of security, allowing him to catch them napping with his sudden forays into the attack.

RCM – Mr. Spock – Carefully and logically choose the correct passing option, and cuts down streaking attackers with the slightest pinch of his hand.

LW – Mr. Wizard – He’s got his position down to a science, constantly inventing chances for himself and others.

RW – Mr. Mxyzptlk – With his god-like powers, Superman’s fifth-dimensional foe could score each time down the pitch, but he much prefers using them to make his opponents look ridiculous.

CF – Mr. Incredible – He may be playing himself back into shape through the course of the season, but his physical power up top complements the brains sitting behind him and on either flank.

And now the ladies:

GK – Mrs. Claus – Holds down the fort at home while the others are off trying to deliver the ball into the back of the net.

LB – Mrs. O’Leary – We signed her to the team before we realized it was her cow that had the barn-burner of a leg.

CB – Miss Piggy – Brings steel and kung fu moves to the center of the defense.

CB – Little Miss Muffet – Grew up to be big and strong thanks to all that curds and whey, and performs admirably on the field as long as she doesn’t run into any spiders.

RB – Ms. Marvel – Reduced to a supporting role on this team too just as in the Marvel Universe, despite the fact that she’s basically Superman-lite.

LCDM – Ms. Jackson – As a midfield enforcer, she is for real, and only rarely has to resort to doing things like having the boys come from her neighborhood to the studio trying to fight the other team.

CDM – Mrs. Doubtfire – “She” provides a physical, if somewhat manic, presence in midfield.

RCDM – Miss America – Comes out of the tunnel like this, every single time:

Trequartista – Mrs. Robinson – Strolls around the grounds feeling completely at home, tempting opposing players with and drawing them to her before helping her teammates help themselves with sumptuous set-up passes.

LCF – Little Miss Sunshine – She may be a little young, and we know she didn’t actually win the contest, but she’s got the moves to put defenders on their asses, or at least laughing them off.

RCF – Miss Manners – Always in the right place at the right time, with the right touches for the right situations to get the ball on goal.

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By the Numbers: 9

Soccer lists are ubiquitous and come in all shapes and sizes, types and varieties. We at O87 never settle for just doing another list. “Just another list” isn’t even in our vocabulary. So, when one of us decided that it would behoove our blog to have it’s own take on the “Best Of” phenomenon of modern sports, we decided that we couldn’t just list the best players in order of their relative merits, by their decades or eras, or even by their positions. We would try something marginally novel (we won’t be so bold as to claim to be the first to come up with this idea): let’s rank players by the number they wore, not by their position. Now obviously, this throws in some wrinkles. Players who might not normally be compared to each other will needs be. For example, Makelele, Hargreaves, Koeman, Zanetti, and Fabregas have all iconically worn number 4. Who to choose? It doesn’t matter! We’re trying to approach this question from a different perspective. We hope you enjoy it.

Picking the best #9 is like picking the best Hitchcock film. They’ve all got their own charm, and the best are scary good. The list contains the likes of Ronaldo, Romario, van Basten, Hugo Sanchez, and Alan Shearer. When deciding who wins the superlative, logic wasn’t to be enough. So I unpacked my tarot cards, ingested some illicit narcotics, and watched A Beautiful Mind with Italian dubs. Through the beauty of hidden codes, I’ve discovered that Die Bomber, Gerd Muller, was the greatest of them all.

To begin, we reflect on Muller’s international success with an acrostic of his name.

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The Tuesday Ten: Olympic Squads Edition

On the eve (not literally) of the Olympics, we know you are all thrilled. How often does one team have the opportunity to win every major trophy in a row (we’re not counting the Confederations Cup, to be sure)? Steffi Graf is the only athlete to complete something of this nature (the Golden Slam of 1988, all four majors plus the Olympics). If they just imported the entire Miami Heat squad and allowed them to represent the US in basketball, well, you see what I mean. So, despite the Olympic soccer competition normally being nothing more than a ballyhooed set of U-23 exhibitions, at least one team has something more significant in mind. For today, we give you, in reverse order, the ten best teams competing at the London Olympics. Keep in mind that when this list was compiled, the final line-ups were not out.

10) Senegal, FIFA Ranking 61*. A new-comer to most major tournaments, Senegal will be participating in the Olympics for the first time. Their U-23 team boasts a relatively small number of prospects, bolstered by the likes of elders Mohamad Diame (West Ham) and Dame N’Doye (Copenhagen). Drawn into a tough group (with Uruguay and Great Britain), any qualification into the knock-out stages would be a surprise. Although, with the massive amount of expectations placed on the shoulders of GB, you never know what bizarre iteration of team dynamic will play out.

9) Egypt, FIFA Ranking 36. This is it folks. Bob Bradley’s MAJOR TOURNAMENT DEBUT. Wow, I’m just so excited to see what team he runs out with… Wait, you mean Bob has nothing to do with the U-23 squad? It’s a different guy? Nevermind.

8) Japan, FIFA Ranking 19.The Japanese U-23s are scattered in clubs throughout Japan and Germany, mainly. The top cap winners have about 20 or so. Generally speaking, I might be inclined to leave them off this list. But the Japanese always seem to come to a tournament prepared and drilled, so I won’t count them out.

7) Switzerland, FIFA Ranking 16. According to Wikipedia (a notoriously reliable source), none of any of the call-ups for the Swiss U-23 team have any caps. I doubt that somehow. Unfortunately, other than Ben Siegrist, a back-up keeper for Aston Villa, I don’t have any knowledge of anyone on their team. That said, I’m ranking them 7th because, let’s face it, their gonna get two 0-0 draws and a 1-0 win, qualify, and then be knocked out by a significantly better team.

6) South Korea, FIFA Ranking 30. By the Wes Pickard Metric for Ranking Teams I Don’t Know Much About, South Korea comes in higher than the previous four on the basis of actually recognizing a few players on their squad, be it Park Chu-Young of Arsenal or Ji-Dong Wan of Sunderland (as well as a strong shout for name of the tournament, Oh Jae Suk). Also, there are a higher average number of caps per player on this team than any of the previous one, leading me to make the somewhat unsupported conjecture that they are a more tournament ready team. South Korea have been a huge ball of potential energy since the 2002 World Cup. Why shouldn’t this be the tournament where they break through?

5) Mexico, FIFA Ranking 21. Everyone on this team, with one exception (Gio Dos Santon, who is unbelievably still of age to participate in this tournament) plays in Mexico. Invoking the Barcelona-Spain theory of international team sports, this has to give Mexico an edge over a team like Switzerland, where players are sprinkled through Europe like cherry cordials in a box of chocolates. That, an ancient Carlos Salcido giving the team veteran leadership, and being placed in the weakest possible group makes Mexico a relatively mortal lock for qualification through to the knock-out rounds.

4) Uruguay, FIFA Ranking 4. You mean to tell me that two of the world’s best strikers (Cavani and Suarez), two pillars of a hugely successful Copa America run, two guys that undoubtedly strike fear into the heart of 98% of all centerbacks will be playing on a U-23 team in a weak(ish) competition for a (somewhat) symbolic soccer trophy? Yikes. Watch out world. The only reason they are this low is…

3) Brazil, FIFA Ranking 6. Brazil’s been a mess for a long time now. They’ve disappointed in every tournament since 2002. That’s ten long years of suffering an Austin Powers-style mojo. Why are they favored over Uruguay? They have an absolutely STACKED line-up: Hulk, Neymar, Pato (if he can, you know, keep himself intact), Thiago Silva, Rafael Da Silva, and Marcelo. On top of a lot of other (probably awesome) young talent. The X factor: Brazil have got to get themselves together before 2014. Why not start now? More like, they NEED to start now or … else?

2) Great Britain, FIFA Ranking N/A. OK, so, if a thousand people read our blog, about 600 would give me grief over ranking GB so high. Hear me out. 1) One of the stronger lineups in the tournament, between Bellamy, Giggs, Ramsey, Cleverley, and Micah Richards; 2) They are playing on home soil in a weakened tournament. Normally, I’d say absolutely not to a 2) seeding for GB in any tournament. But a weakened tournament on home soil? Gotta go for the Britishers (specially now that Andy Murray has the whole country collectively in tears).

1) Spain, FIFA Ranking 1. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The obvious pick. I pretty much explained this in the opener. Wise gamblers have learned not to bet against the Roja in recent years. That said, we’ll have to see if the Spanish can get it done once again without the majority of the core (Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos, Casillas, Fabregas, and Busquets) which has won them so many trophies.

*We know that a) FIFA Rankings are a terrible metric, and b) they are for the national team, not the U-23 team, but isn’t it somewhat fair that a nation’s FIFA ranking might somewhat indirectly hint at the overall footballing ability of that nation? No? Screw it, we’re including it anyway.

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By the Numbers: 8

Soccer lists are ubiquitous and come in all shapes and sizes, types and varieties. We at O87 never settle for just doing another list. “Just another list” isn’t even in our vocabulary. So, when one of us decided that it would behoove our blog to have it’s own take on the “Best Of” phenomenon of modern sports, we decided that we couldn’t just list the best players in order of their relative merits, by their decades or eras, or even by their positions. We would try something marginally novel (we won’t be so bold as to claim to be the first to come up with this idea): let’s rank players by the number they wore, not by their position. Now obviously, this throws in some wrinkles. Players who might not normally be compared to each other will needs be. For example, Makelele, Hargreaves, Koeman, Zanetti, and Fabregas have all iconically worn number 4. Who to choose? It doesn’t matter! We’re trying to approach this question from a different perspective. We hope you enjoy it.

Definitely not.

The first thing we’re all going to have to accept when choosing the greatest number 8 of all-time is that the correct answer is neither Steven Gerrard nor Frank Lampard. I knowI’m preaching to the choir here, and that anyone crazy enough to honestly believe that isn’t going to be convinced by this, but it’s important for me to get it out there so we’re clear on that. Are we good? Good.

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The Friday Morning TV Club

Back in the fall, we wrote a two-part breakdown of the art of the soccer commercial. We looked at ten notable ads, from Carlsburg’s Pub Team to Write the Future and the Secret Tournament, searching for the secrets of the genre, what it was that made particular commercials truly great.

As part of this Friday feature, we’re going to run some new, or at least new to us, commercials through our criteria, to see how they pan out and where they’d rank among the ten original ones we surveyed.

Today’s ad: A final look at the most ubiquitous soccer-related Euro 2012 ad, at least during ESPN’s coverage, Pepsi’s Kick in the Mix.

The ad actually launched in March, but since it played at least once a game throughout the tournament, we’re counting it as a Euro 2012 ad.

We’re also throwing the normal criteria out the window here. As anyone who watched the tournament and saw it roughly 64,000 times can tell you, it’s a putrid mess of a production, and getting players of this caliber and having them do this is akin to having a squad of fighter jets pull your sign for Roscoe Motors up and down the crowded shoreline.

So instead of assigning points, we’re going to do a quick running diary of our thoughts through this. Try to bite down on a piece of leather or whatever it takes to get through the whole thing.

0:03 – There is not a single crazy beach dance rave in the world that all six of these people would be present at, but that’s maybe just because Sergio Aguero prefers line dancing.

0:07 – Fun Fact: Exactly one of these players participated in Euro 2012, the tournament this commercial was theoretically shot to coincide with, or at least during which it hit its most heavy period of rotation. Granted, the one who did won the Golden Boot, but only because he got to play against Ireland. I could have scored two goals against Ireland.

0:15 – I like that this crowd of people is treated like it’s the Great Wall, obviously because all soccer players are short.

0:16 – Crowd-surfing? Sergio Aguero has the worst ideas.

0:20 – Let’s be honest, the crowd would drop Fernando Torres. He’s the Daffy Duck of this production.

0:26 – Frank Lampard and his stunt double/digital copy look like the difference between Keanu Reeves fighting in the Matrix sequels and computer-generated Keanu Reeves fighting in the Matrix sequels. Except the real Frank Lampard looks computer generated.

0:29 – This commercial wisely avoids accusations that it loses the plot once all these guys start kicking around their magical glowing soccer ball that has appeared out of nowhere while running on a crowd of people who otherwise are enjoying their secret crazy beach dance rave by never having a plot to begin with. It’s like George Lucas directed it.

0:32 – How is the compromise solution to the fact that they’re not wearing uniforms or dressed up at all as soccer players having their names appear in blue lasers? If I don’t recognize them by face, is having their last name going to help. More importantly, if I don’t recognize them by face, wouldn’t I have changed the channel by now?

0:37 – Sidenote: Who the hell is Calvin Harris? And why is he so bad?

0:38 – All soccer commercial all-star squads are coached by Norman Dale or Xavi. It’s the only way to explain why every single one of them has to touch the ball each time before they’re allowed to shoot.

0:41 – Drogba’s hero shot here looks like a woodcut illustration out of a paperback version of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.

0:42 – Cool guys don’t blink during headers.

0:43 – But they do fall back to Earth while doing grand, messianic poses. Who does he think he is, Superman?

0:49 – All they have to do is hit the machine?! What is the point of this madness?

0:54 – I bet Xavi and Iniesta arranged for the lifting and transport of that Pepsi Max machine so that all Messi had to do is climb on it.

0:57 – The moral, as always, Lionel Messi is better than you. And kind of a douche.

Final verdict: I don’t care what the criteria say. I award it no points, and may God have mercy on its soul.

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