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From 2nd Place to 3rd Place to No Place

Total Football’s total mess is over…but only briefly.

The Dutch blanked Sweden 2-nil in Amsterdam ArenA today in the final game of World Cup qualifying. However, as a consequence of a massive goal differential shortage entering the match, the Oranje finished tied for second in points. But because goal differential is the first tie-breaker, the Dutch technically finished in the non-qualifying position of third place in their group behind Sweden and France. Therefore, the Dutch will miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

As a lifelong fan of the Netherlands, it’s tough to see this team not playing in a World Cup. Without diving too deep into the weeds right now (failure of a youthful, next generation of footballers to develop at a world-class level), what’s even more depressing is what was said after the final whistle blew.

Arjen Robben (33), my favorite soccer player, declared he is retiring from international competitions with the Dutch National Team.

This move was predictable, as it was either going to be announced this year or after the World Cup next summer had the Dutch qualified. Still, to know that Robben won’t put on a national team jersey again is jarring. One of the leaders of a golden generation of players for the men in orange (Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie) was excruciatingly close to winning his country’s first-ever World Cup on multiple occasions. The Dutch finished second in 2010 and finished third in 2014.

Now, as this disastrous World Cup cycle has proven, the Dutch will not be serious contenders for a long, long time. There is a very concerning talent gap for such a historically influential and talent-rich soccer nation.

Returning back to Robben’s breaking news, three pieces of immediate solace are:

  • He will continue to play for Bayern Munich.
  • His two goals today (especially his second) were classic Arjen Robben moments.
  • He retired from the Dutch National Team in front of his home fans.

Speaking of his classic second goal today against Sweden…

Ironically enough, the Netherlands won today’s game with the worst lead in soccer. And 2-nil proved, once again, to be the worst lead because they needed a much higher goal differential to miraculously qualify for next summer’s World Cup. It was a loss disguised as a win.

As opposed to Arjen Robben’s legacy with the Netherlands, which was always a win-win situation.

Thank you for all the memories playing for the Oranje! 

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Starry Sight

Vincent van Gogh was a genius.

That esteemed term, typically reserved for the few, is far too often granted to the many. However, in the case of the Dutch painter born March 30, 1853, it’s appropriate. Despite only reaching 37 years of age and painted portraits with an expression that balances between indifference and scowling, his legacy is surprisingly inspiring and long-lasting. The way that van Gogh conceptualized the world in colorfully wavy, yet defined spaces screams (sorry, wrong artist) a visionary that captivates people and admirers alike 125 years after he passed away.

Remarkable.

His masterpiece is “Starry Night.” As a matter of fact, it’s my personal favorite. On April 12, 2013 at 6:03 p.m. (iPhone picture info.), I was a mere three-feet from this chef-d’oeuvre!

(Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh)

(“Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh, MoMA)

There are many tributes to Vincent van Gogh and to “Starry Night” in particular. The following use of dominoes is truly something else.

“FlippyCat—easily the most patient YouTube celebrity—spent around 11 hours recreating Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night using 7,067 carefully stacked dominoes that were then sent tumbling in a glorious chain reaction.”
–Andrew Liszewski, Gizmodo 

Creativity has a tendency to reveal new, unseen dimensions.

It’s like discovering a new constellation.

Mês de Ouro do Futebol!

(The Title is, “Soccer’s Golden Month!” in Portuguese)

90+ minutes, 32 national teams, 22 players on the pitch, 3 misguided referees (depending on who you’re cheering for) and one ultimate winner.

The beautiful game, for which it’s known universally across all cultures and languages, will once again step onto the world’s stage starting today at 4:00 p.m. ET for its biggest tournament: The World Cup. Having visited Los Angles in the summer of 1994 for my birthday when the United States hosted this magnificent sporting spectacle, I was fortunate enough to visit the Soccer Fest at the LA Convention Center. There, I saw something I’ll never forget. Despite being protected by thick transparent glass, its shining glory could not be contained. Golden in every way stood The FIFA World Cup ™ Trophy. Gazing in a moment of surrealism and, ironically, clarity, I had but one goal in life: to hoist that trophy above my head as a champion of the world wearing the red, white and blue.

20 years later (and one month from now) and one national team (which, sadly will not include me) will have the honor of fulfilling that very exercise. It will be historic, powerful and rewarding in every way imaginable. Fans will remember this moment forever. Stories will be told and, if one’s lucky, will be given the permanent tag of a national legend in his country.

So, what teams should we be watching a little more closely than others? What players will stand-out with stellar performances?

I’m glad you asked.

Teams to Watch (in no particular order):

Brazil – They’re the hosts in a futebol-rich culture with a young superstar in Neymar (22) who is looking to provide his fellow Brazilians with a few Pelé flashbacks/comparisons. Are they the best team? Debatable. But expect them to make some noise well beyond the group stage, both on the pitch and in the streets with a party or two…

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, and Nani are three of the players on a team that finally shined for a few games internationally at the 2012 UEFA Euro 2012 tournament. They’re fast, athletic and dangerous. Plus, Ronaldo is at the top of his game right now. As mentioned before on this blog, the slogan this team should have on the side of their bus is: “We Have a Star Player Named Ronaldo Who Speaks Portuguese Playing at the World Cup in Brazil…I Mean, C’mon.”

France – Franck Ribéry  With Ribéry ruled out of the competition with an injury, so go France’s chances to advance far in the tournament. Unfortunate for them, but likely true.

Argentina – There are infinite discussions about Neymar and Brazil’s chances for a return to World Cup glory. However, recall that Lionel Messi is still searching to cement his legacy as an elite footballer beyond his ridiculous club statistics and silly awesome performances at Barcelona. A World Cup hosted by a neighboring South American nation…It’s almost a perfect situation.

Germany – Neuer, Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Kroos, Götze, Podolski and Klose. Elite, veteran leadership coupled with a dynamite youth movement. Damn (or Verdammt). Enough said.

Belgium – This team could very well become the trendy pick/fun team to follow at the 2014 World Cup. Think Uruguay in South Africa four years ago…

Uruguay – Two names: Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán.

Holland – They will have (arguably) the best offensive/attacking set of players in Brazil in Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Conversely, their defense will be young without a tremendous amount of experience (beyond a few of the defenders from Feyenoord). Still, Louis Van Gaal is their manager, so this orange Lion may roar with surprising purpose and confidence in the jungles of Brazil…

Spain – Yeah, they only won the World Cup in 2010 with a squad that features many of the same players who stood before the globe as soccer’s biggest champions in South Africa. How soon people forget as Spain has garnered very little fanfare going into Brazil. Their first game versus the Dutch (FYI- a 2010 Final rematch) will be telling in terms of the team’s initial momentum in trying to reach peak form again.

Players to Watch (in no particular order):

Arjen Robben (Holland)

Diego Forlán (Uruguay)

Fernando Torres (Spain)

Eden Hazard (Belgium)

Philipp Lahm (Germany)

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Wesley Sneijder (Holland)

Neymar (Brazil)

Mario Götze (Germany)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina)

Michael Bradley (United States of America)

Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Manuel Neuer (Germany)

Mix Diskerud (United States of America)

Before any kickoffs, what teams will likely make the final?

Again. I’m glad you asked!

A Projected 2014 World Cup Final:

Germany versus Argentina

And (as of right now) it’s looking like the 2014 World Cup Champion will be…

Argentina

In picking the winner of the 2014 World Cup, a meeting with a marketing professional yesterday provided me with a unique perspective to use for this prediction. It stemmed from a phrase she used repeatedly, “leadership through guidance.” Regarding soccer, it’s not necessarily just about star power, but evaluating what team has the players and coaching staff to translate their vision into beautiful soccer on the Brazilian pitch in moments of chaos, clarity and some unexpected confusion.

Bottom line: It’s going to be a fun, wild and all-around b-e-a-utiful month of world-class soccer and partying in Brazil.

É Kickoff Time!

Got Slogans?

A recent article on CNN revealed the winning slogans for all the teams that will be playing at the World Cup in Brazil this summer. The winning slogans, written by fans from each country, will be displayed on the team buses for all to see during the tournament. A few are good, but most of them are bad.

Solution?

Here is Jimmy’s Daily Planet’s list of better, more realistic team mottoes for some of the 32 teams that will compete in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:

Algeria: “Yes, We’ll Keep Track of Landon Donovan This Time”

Argentina: “We Have Lionel Messi, So Yeah”

Australia: “Forget Kangaroos, We’re Bringing Our Damn Crocodiles!”

Belgium: “At the End of This, You’ll All Be Eating Waffles”

Bosnia and Herzegovina: “If You Lose to Us, Everybody Will Know”

Brazil: “Win or Lose, We’ll Be in the Final!”

Colombia: “We Brought Our Own White Powder to Line the Fields With…”

England: “Excited For Our 10-Day Vacation Every 4 Years!”

Ghana: “Time to Beat the U.S. Again”

Honduras: “Just Happy to Be Here”

Italy: “And You Thought a Flower Blew Over Easily”

Japan: “We Have the Sudoku of Defenses”

Mexico: “We Have No Idea How We Got Such an Easy Group Again (Ju$t Kidding, We Know)”

Holland: “Real Men Wear Orange” (It’s the real one, but it’s so awesome & true!)

Portugal: “We Have a Star Player Named Ronaldo Who Speaks Portuguese Playing at the World Cup in Brazil…I Mean, C’mon”

Russia: “What’s This Rule About Wearing Jerseys?”

Spain: “Hey, Does Anybody Care or Want to See the World Cup Right Now!?”

Switzerland: “We Don’t Want to Offend or Defend Anyone”

Uruguay: “South America’s ‘Middle Child’ Will Be Kicking Butts & Taking Names!”

The United States of America: “One Nation, Under God, We’re Praying”

A little truth in advertising doesn’t hurt. It definitely revealed how Spain would fare 4 years ago with their simple slogan:

Spain in 2010: “We’re Going to Win”

P.S. You have no idea how painful it was for me to write that as a longtime and dedicated Dutch fan…just one delicate foot deflection away!

Damn, it still hurts.