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Happy post

I have not post­ed in a few days, be­cause I have been very busy.

I have not even been able to see all match­es (I missed US­A/Czech, Italy/Ghana).

But man, did watch­ing Ar­genti­na/S&M pay of­f! :-)

A very good match by Ar­genti­na, which of course brings up the ob­vi­ous ques­tion­s...

  • Is the S&M de­fense made of be­­head­­ed chick­­en­s?

Al­leged­ly it's one of the best de­fens­es in Eu­rope, but their best play­er was out. So it's not con­clu­sive. My bet is that they are not be­head­ed chick­en­s, and that Ar­genti­na made them look bad. Or rather: 25% be­head­ed chick­en­s, 75% Ar­genti­na's mer­it.

On the oth­er hand, the play­er that said they should have at­tacked against the dutch was wrong. It's not called be­ing a cow­ard, it's called know­ing you can't score.

  • Was the good Dutch per­­for­­mance against S&M re­al?

Who knows. We will fig­ure it out for sure af­ter they play Ivory Coast. My bet? Tough match for the dutch, pos­si­bly a tie.

Now for the oth­er team­s:

Eng­land has noth­ing. They suck much more than you think now. Wait un­til they play a team that ac­tu­al­ly has a for­ward who can score (and is not play­ing 5 like Yorke). Set pieces for Beck­ham at mid­field and Crouch try­ing to head it in is not some­thing that's go­ing to work a lot. For their sakes, Owen and Rooney bet­ter start show­ing some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than against T&T. Which still has a chance. I would pre­fer them and not Swe­den to stay in the cup!

Ger­many has some­thing. The de­fense was im­proved (although Poland has a lame at­tack­), and their for­wards are not bad.

Spain has a lot. Spe­cial­ly go­ing for­ward, and they made Ukrayne look like am­a­teurs. We'll see if that was Ukrayne's fault of Spain's mer­it lat­er on.

Brazil has some­thing big. His name is Ronal­do. Re­move him and they are go­ing to kick as­s.


Poland is... enough about Poland.

Ecuador played ok, they tried to stay sim­ple, do their thing, make the oth­er team beat them. Which Poland had no in­ter­est in, so Ecuador scored a cou­ple of goals just in case, and hey, they won! Poland is per­haps the worse team so far, and that in­cludes Trinidad and To­ba­go. And Cos­ta Ri­ca.

Eng­land, I have heard, are slow starter­s. I hope for their sake that's the case. Ash­ley Cole has a se­ri­ous case of be­liev­ing he is way more skilled than he needs to be ( I thought Rio Fer­di­nand was the one with that prob­lem?) And any­way, Paraguay start­ed weak, and had huge trou­ble at­tack­ing. So, good win for Eng­land, hope­ful­ly Paraguay was just ner­vous. Gamar­ra is a re­al­ly un­lucky guy.

Swe­den... what a frus­trat­ing match. T&T was play­ing on guts alone, their best for­ward played as a de­fen­sive mid­field­er, and still they had the clear­est shot at goal, out of a pass by the goal­keep­er! Swe­den was just in­cred­i­bly un­luck­y, or their for­wards were blind­fold­ed.

Ivory Coast is a pret­ty good at­tack­ing team. They are a be­low av­er­age de­fense, though, which ex­plains why Ar­genti­na scored twice on three chances, and the oth­er one was saved 90% be­hind the goal.

Savi­o­la played well, Riquelme did­n't. The de­fense... they played waaaay back, and Ab­bon­danzieri sim­ply gave away ev­ery ball he touched with a long kick to an ivo­rian.

But hey, it's a win... no ob­vi­ous trou­ble... need to play with some con­fi­dence... ok, we suck a lit­tle. But it can get bet­ter.

Pala­cio for some rea­son could­n't stand up in the field, was fall­ing when­ev­er he tried to run.

But I think ev­ery­one agrees: the Ivory Coast is a scary team. They are skilled, they are ath­let­ic, they are not too bad­ly or­ga­nized... they can be a chore for any team.

So far, of the "good" team­s... none has looked very good. No can­di­dates to win yet, IMVHO.

The mathematics of offside

I will start by as­sum­ing the fol­low­ing:

  1. Ev­ery­one un­der­­s­tands the of­f­­side rule.

  2. Ev­ery­one saw the first Cos­­ta Ri­­ca goal in to­­day's Cos­­ta Ri­­ca - Ger­­many match

One ba­sic rule of eco­nom­ics is that peo­ple, all things be­ing equal, will ra­tio­nal­ly choose the course of ac­tion that gives the great­est re­ward.

Know­ing that, why do team­s, even teams in the high­est lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion, in­sist on such plays as Ger­many at­tempt­ed?

The idea, ob­vi­ous­ly, is that the de­fend­ers play in a line, and move for­ward a frac­tion of a sec­ond be­fore the at­tack­ing for­ward starts the pass, thus leav­ing the re­ceiv­er of the pass in off­side. You do that, you get the bal­l. Sim­ple.

The bad news are, of course, that such plays work about 50% of the time. If that.

It re­quires the de­fend­ers to move for­ward in the ex­act same frac­tion of a sec­ond. If one stays late: it does­n't work.

It re­quires them to syn­chro­nize that way by an au­di­ble cal­l, be­cause it's very hard for them to see their whole line: they are stad­ing side­ways al­most ev­ery time.

If the pass­er is smart, he will sim­ply avoid the pass and run a di­ag­o­nal.

It the re­ceiv­er is smart, he will fall back, avoid­ing off­side, and re­ly on a team­mate to sprint for the pass.

And all these prob­lems can hap­pen ev­ery time the play is at­tempt­ed.

The risk is huge. In fac­t, nowa­days, in or­der to lure the at­tack­ing team in­to this trap, you need to play it with all your 4 de­fend­er­s! Each ex­tra de­fend­er prob­a­bly dou­bles the chance of er­ror.

And what do you avoid? ...a low prob­a­bil­i­ty long pass. Re­mem­ber, in foot­bal­l, ev­ery at­tack is low prob­a­bil­i­ty. A penal­ty is on­ly about 80%!

So, the ger­man coach is in­com­pe­ten­t. He may do some things well, but Ger­many's de­fense is atro­cious. They will not win the cup.

The world cup and I

To­day is the first day of the world cup. While I ful­ly ex­pect the verbe and savoir faire of Paulo Wan­chope to whip those ger­man an­i­ma­tron­ic fig­ures in­to sub­mis­sion [1] I start­ed think­ing...

The first cup I re­mem­ber is Ar­genti­na 1978. Which, of course, we won. Thanks maybe to a shady grain ship­ment to Pe­ru, maybe be­cause Cruyff re­fused to come to the coun­try, maybe be­cause we had the world's strong­est guy play­ing [2], maybe be­cause the host na­tion had won like 60% of the time so far, but we did win.

I saw Ar­genti­na-Hun­gary in a movie the­ater with the screen dec­o­rat­ed as a huge TV one day af­ter it was played. Since we lived un­der a bloody dic­ta­tor­ship, ev­ery­one had to standup while we saw the taped an­them-sing­ing, and there was a sort of des­per­ate manda­to­ry pa­tri­o­tism. But any­way, I was 7, it was fun.

Then came Spain 82. I was in school dur­ing most match­es, so I did­n't ac­tu­al­ly see al­most any of them. We had a rather nice team, with Maradona and Ra­mon Di­az, but we met Brazil, which had a mar­velous team. Then the fi­nal was the av­er­age ver­sus the de­press­ing, and the de­press­ing won. Italy won with goals by an ac­tu­al, proven game-­fix­er. And some­how noone re­mem­bers that.

Mex­i­co 86. The first cup where I saw ev­ery damn match. And of course, one of the most mem­o­rable cups ev­er, since, again, we won. And we had the best play­er in the cup by some mar­gin.

Of course, not ev­ery­thing could be flaw­less, and a deeply medi­ocre eng­lish team feels that they would have won ex­cept for the "Hand of God" goal. Well, here's the thing. If the eng­lish had won, it would have been in­jus­tice of such a mind-bend­ing size, ar­maged­don would have hap­pened right there, 21 years too ear­ly.

Not to men­tion that the bit­ter dudes sim­ply can't en­joy be­ing beat­en by the sec­ond goal [3].

Sure, we had to play on­ly Eng­land, Bel­gium and Box­car Willy [4] but then again, we have been on the "Group of Death" for 8 years in a row.

When you play in a park or school­ground, if there is a play­er that's in­cred­i­bly good (or ev­ery­one else is in­cred­i­bly bad) we say "with that gay, it's steal­ing". Well, in 86, with that guy, it was freak­ing armed rob­bery.

Italy 90. I have high blood pres­sure. I blame Italy 90. We start­ed by be­ing the first cham­pi­on ev­er to lose the open­ing match, against Cameroon, be­cause we did­n't play Canig­gia un­til minute 70. In the fol­low­ing ten min­utes, two Cameroon [5] play­ers got red­card­ed. If he had played from the start, we would have won by de­fault be­cause Cameroon would have end­ed with 5 play­ers on the field.

Maradona had his left an­kle the size of a grape­fruit, and the col­or of Mer­lot. He could bare­ly walk.

Our goalie was in­jured in the most grue­some ac­ci­dent I ev­er saw in a foot­ball field. On the slow mo­tion re­ply you can see his leg turn in­to a Z in a very wrong way.

Then we played Rus­sia where Maradona com­mit­ted a clear penal­ty and was­n't called [6]

We seemed to ad­vance in ev­ery round by penalties, and were pret­ty much un­able to score at al­l.

In the match against Brazil, we were so over­matched it was kin­da fun­ny. And then we had two chances. One went in, the oth­er hit the cross­bar. Brazil had about 400 shots on goal, and we had the luck­i­est guy on earth on goal, so...

We played Italy. We had one chance to score. It went in. They tied.

We won on penalties, thanks to the most in­com­pe­tent penal­ty kick­er I ev­er saw [7]. Ser­e­na, wher­ev­er you are, if you ev­er need a drink, I'll buy you one, round-­foot­ed-­won­der!

The fi­nal­s. We were with­out the on­ly guy that could score in the team. With­out our best de­fend­er. Our best play­er was so ban­daged he could­n't use shin­guard­s. Ev­ery­one was way too old. Batista was play­ing like Boris Karlof­f's Franken­stein. We had ran out of play­er­s, out of ideas, out of time.

And we lost. Be­cause of a penal­ty. Which was not a penal­ty (see the re­plays, re­al­ly).

There have on­ly been two play­ers eject­ed on a cup fi­nal ev­er. Guess who they were?

But you know what? The guys played like god damn li­on­s. If you are great, then you are sup­posed to win. We were not great. We were not even av­er­age. That team was a lot of se­nior cit­i­zen­s, one fast guy, a crip­pled won­der and duct tape. And they got to the fi­nal­s. It was as if a smart, poor fat guy with ac­ne and bad breath picks up Nicole Kid­man, but does­n't get to have sex with her. He is still to be ad­mired.

Then came the re­al heart­break. USA 94. That cup nev­er hap­pened. I refuse to think about it.

France 98... so so. We got to quar­ter fi­nal­s, which was about right. We could have gone fur­ther, but Or­te­ga is the dumb­est play­er in the uni­verse, and he de­cid­ed to head­butt a dutch in front of the ref­er­ee.

Japan-Ko­rea 2002. We were favourites. We were the best thing since sliced bread. Our coach was a mad ge­nius. A tor­tured soul. We had the last chance to play one of the most im­pla­ca­ble scor­ers of all time. We had a daz­zling mid­field. A sol­id de­fense. We had beat­en Brazil in Mara­cana a lit­tle ear­li­er. We were kick­ass.

We had a hard group. It was tight. We lost a close match to Eng­land. We had to play Swe­den and we had to win. But we did­n't.

I was liv­ing in Buenos Aires and did­n't have a TV, so I had to go to bars to see the match­es. Ar­genti­na-Swe­den was played at some un­god­ly hour, like 3AM, and I went down­town to see it.

Of course, we were one goal short. And we were out of the cup. I had nev­er seen Ar­genti­na fail to ex­it the group stage. And I was at 5AM in the street, in mid-win­ter, feel­ing re­al­ly, re­al­ly, re­al­ly bad. Which means that of the last three cup­s, two have been hor­ri­ble, one half-de­cen­t.

Since Maradona re­tired, that's our har­vest. This time... this time we had a de­cent team, coached by a nice guy. We have a proabable su­per­star, but he's too young and a lit­tle in­jured. We have a ter­ri­ble goalie, an ag­ing de­fense, a lot of above av­er­age for­ward­s... I say semis, or quar­ter­s. If we get any fur­ther, it will be in the Italy way, not the Mex­i­co way.

But dammit, I will be watch­ing.

Eating like a Python, for Python, and other stuff

I am now al­most re­cov­ered from the trip to San­ta Fe for the Jor­na­da Python and I have reached a few con­clus­sion­s.

  1. I do kin­­da miss my old city.

  2. It does take slight­­ly longer than 15 min­utes to show it ;-)

  3. This kind of events is cool

  4. I am old, and can no longer take a 6-hour bus ride and then go to work.

On more de­tail:

The city is much pret­ti­er than it was when I left 5 years ago. Lots of con­struc­tion go­ing on, ev­ery­thing is clean­er, nicer, and more or­ga­nized, it seem­s.

Man, I had for­got­ten how great you can eat there. And how cheap­ly. Re­mem­ber I men­tioned that fish-eat­ing place? Well, it's on­ly $22. That's pe­sos. So, it's about 7 dol­lars for all the de­li­cious fish you can eat, and all the cold beer you can drink.

Which in my case is quite a lot. Al­though I am get­ting slow on the beer, too.

The on­ly bad thing about it is that the guys that went on Sun­day got Pacú and we did­n't. Dammit!

Then there is the So­ciedad Ale­m­ana. The ugli­est place ev­er. The best pi­ca­da [1] ev­er. It's a club­house found­ed by a for­mer Graf Spee crew­man. If they eat like that on the ger­man navy, I would con­sid­er join­ing. And I get sea­sick.

Oh, and the lebanese restau­ran­t. I was for­get­ting that.

Of course all this eat­ing and im­bib­ing al­so meant I missed half the even­t, but the morn­ing con­fer­ences were in­tro­duc­to­ry, so I got the good bits any­way.

Spe­cial­ly: I now un­der­stand meta­class­es! and dec­o­ra­tors! Yipee!

We had a good time with Rosar­i­o, she got to know bet­ter some of my friend­s, spe­cial­ly Javier and César [a­ka Ned Flan­der­s] (and Ce­sar's fam­i­ly, Nor­ma, Flo­ren­cia and Ju­lian).

We took a ride over the costan­era (a river­walk), pep­pered with com­ments like this (all dates are wrong):

Here was the Piedras Blan­cas beach, un­til the flood of 87.

That's where the old train bridge was un­til the flood of 69, then there was a liftchair, un­til the flood of 82.

That sus­pen­sion bridge is not the orig­i­nal, which was washed off in 83 (and then stolen)

This piece of the costan­era is new, the old one was gone in 78

And so on. You see, this place is... kin­da flood­y. Ar­chi­tec­ture is not a per­ma­nent thing.

On yet an­oth­er an­gle, I am go­ing back to school next year. I don't in­tend to fin­ish my Maths de­gree, but will go for Sys­tem En­gi­neer­ing in­stead. We'll see what hap­pen­s.

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