Newly-minted Italian national team coach Antonio Conte made headlines when he selected his first official squad for a friendly against the Netherlands and the Azzurri’s first Euro 2016 qualifying match against Norway. Those headlines were made based on who he did, and more importantly didn’t, call up. Or in other words, Conte made headlines for not calling up Mario Balotelli.
The coach insists that he is not sending a message with the omission, and it shouldn’t be looked at as such. First off, no player is entitled to a call up every time around. Yes, Balotelli is clearly the most talented striker at Conte’s disposal, but that alone doesn’t merit a call up. It should also be remembered that the last international matches for Italy were at the World Cup—a competition where the Italians struggled. There were few Italian bright spots in Brazil and the former AC Milan striker wasn’t one of them.
Based on Brazil, the only Azzurri members who would have been locks for inclusion in these two games would have been Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo, Lazio’s Antonio Candreva, Torino defender Matteo Darmian and PSG duo Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti. Balotelli obviously is not one of those players.
The newest Liverpool signing is mercurial. In fact, if you look the word “mercurial” in the dictionary, you probably get a picture of Mario Balotelli. Not only that, he picks up his fair share of cards. Among those cards included were two yellows compiled in Brazil including one in Italy’s final game. Because the Italians didn’t progress in the tournament, their star striker will have to sit out the next competitive game on the international calendar. That game is the first Euro qualifier against Norway.
Most will point to the fact of Claudio Marchisio’s inclusion in the team as one of the key reasons why Conte is sending a message by leaving out Balotelli. Marchisio picked up a red card in the Italy/Uruguay game, and like Balotelli will miss the Norway match through suspension. However, this is Conte’s first camp in charge of the Azzurri. He will be implementing his system, his style of play and things of that nature. Not only does Marchisio understand Conte and his tactics from their time together at Juve, he also provides leadership and experience in the midfield. Conte has also been forced to call up a relatively inexperienced group due to injuries. Usual call ups Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo and Thiago Motta are all out with injuries. Because of this, the likes of Marco Parolo, Alessandro Florenzi and Andrea Poli all been brought in. All have fewer than six caps.
As odd as it sounds, leaving out Balotelli may let Conte evaluate his options in a more comprehensive manner. If Balotelli is in the team, he’s starting. Leaving him at home gives Conte the chance to experiment with and give more minutes to the likes of Mattia Destro, Ciro Immobile, Simone Zaza and Stephan El Shaarawy up front. Doing so will be crucial as all four are under the age of 24 and will play vital roles for the Azzurri leading up to Euro 2016 and Russia 2018.
Antonio Conte’s decision to leave Mario Balotelli off his first Italy roster didn’t sit well with some fans. However, when you consider Balotelli’s mercurial play, suspension and other factors, it makes sense why Liverpool’s newest player was left off the Azzurri team.
Since Antonio Conte’s departure from Juventus, the club has made an equally shocking move by hiring Massimiliano Allegri – one of the architects of AC Milan’s descent from continental power to borderline mid-table Serie A team.
Allegri inherited a talented Milan squad, one that finished third in Serie A. he took that talent and infused it with a wealth of attacking options. In came the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Robinho and Antonio Cassano. All four players helped the coach claim the Scudetto in his first season on the job. After that, however, it was a steady diet of decline for the Milan club. The following year they slipped to second, after that third and after that an uncharacteristic eighth.
Some of this had to do with personnel. For one reason or another, players left Milan at a somewhat alarming rate over the course of Allegri’s tenure. Now to be fair, player movement is anything but uncommon, but at a winning club, you would think it wouldn’t be as pronounced as in a weaker team.
One of the coach’s most common lineups in his Scudetto winning tenure featured Christian Abbiati in goal with a four man defense of Ignazio Abate, Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva and Luca Antonini protecting him. Sitting in front of them was the midfield diamond of Mark van Bommel, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Boateng supporting Robinho and Ibrahimovic in attack.
Allegri showed a strange resolve not to use Pirlo as much as he could. I don’t care who you have on your team, if you are a manager, you should start Pirlo. If it’s a three-man midfield and the likes of Pirlo, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger are at your disposal, you should sit one of them in favor of the bearded wonder.
This is what Allegri did, preferring to use Gattuso, Seedorf, van Bommel (upon his arrival) instead of Pirlo. To be fair, Milan did have an embarrassment of riches in central midfield with the aforementioned trio, Pirlo and club legend Massimo Ambrosini. All five were some of the finer midfield players of their generation, but there is absolutely no way you leave arguably the best passer of the last 15 years on the bench.
Ok, if he doesn’t start, at least give him a “super-sub” role. That sounds like the smart thing to do in the situation. Is that what Allegri did? Eh, not really. The coach handed Mathieu Flamini more appearances in terms of players who weren’t established starters.
It’s a little more acceptable to sit Pirlo behind legends like Seedorf and Gattuso as opposed to Flamini. Don’t get me wrong, Flamini is a fine player who has enjoyed an extremely successful career, but Pirlo should be playing ahead of him 98 times out of 100.
This led to Pirlo ultimately leaving and signing with Juventus, where he has since gone on to beat Milan to three straight Scudettos.
Pirlo wasn’t the only face to leave the northern club throughout Allegri’s tenure. Of his starting XI that claimed the title in his first season – Abbiati, Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini, Gattuso, van Bommel, Seedorf, Boateng, Ibrahimovic and Robinho – only Abbiati, Abate, Antonini, Boateng and Robinho remained on the team two years later. Four years later and the list shrinks to Abbiati, Abate and Robinho with only the former as a starter on a weekly basis.
Ok, so maybe some of the players like Nesta and Gattuso were close to retirement and it isn’t that surprising that they left, but players still left in hoards. Of the 23 players to make ten or more appearances across all competitions in the championship winning season, only four remain with the team. Of those 23, 18 of them were gone by the beginning of last season.
The lack of stars like of Pirlo, Ibrahimovic and Silva, left a massive void in the Milan team. They were never quite able to recover after the latter two left. These weren’t the only names to leave northern Italy during Allegri’s spell. Slipping through the cracks was then young and up-and-coming players like Matteo Darmian and current Dortmund pair Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Despite the departures, some Allegri did make a few smart signings as replacements. Riccardo Montolivo was a fantastic free transfer acquisition, as was getting Philippe Mexes for free. Milan also bought Stephan El Shaarawy outright and signed Mario Balotelli. Antonio Nocerino was a superb signing upon arrival, but struggled following the departure of Ibrahimovic and company. He has since been farmed out to West Ham and Torino on loan.
Under Allegri, Milan went from spending on top-level talent like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng to splurging a significant amount of money on misfiring striker Alessandro Matri (a player Juve fans know well) when the team already had Balotelli, Robinho, Giampaolo Pazzini and El Shaarawy under contract and glaring holes elsewhere on the roster.
Is all this going to happen at Juventus? No. Could it? Yes. Allegri won’t make the same blunder with Pirlo that he made the first time. He, along with anyone who’s familiar with football who has seen Juve play, knows that Juve runs through the bearded maestro. Running through Pirlo has netted the Bianconeri three straight titles. I get the feeling Allegri’s not going to mess with that. Juve must win to maintain everything, namely their roster. Allegri must be successful; otherwise players could leave in hoards. You would think if the team truly struggled after a long period of time, a team with Juve’s ambitions would cut the chord with Allegri rather than experience a prolonged nightmare like Milan. This is a proven winner, Allegri shouldn’t be make any bizarre personnel decisions like he did at Milan in fear of upsetting the proven formula. Allegri is in a completely different situation then Milan. He must produce results, and judging by what he’s already said, he has the right mind-set. Either way, the gradual nose dive that occurred at Milan won’t happen at Juventus.
Italy didn’t experience the best of World Cups – not by their own prestigious standards, or the standards of anyone else for that matter. The Azzurri were eliminated in the group stage with one win and two losses to show for it. One of those losses was to an underrated Costa Rica side, the other loss was marred by near-cannibalism. Regardless, Italy didn’t just miss out on the knockout rounds because of a singular incident (although you could make a case with Suarez’ bite…) they looked slow and uncreative at times.
Once you get past these maladies, there were some bright spots to be had. Here are a few of them.
The 24 year old Torino right back burst onto the scene in his competitive debut for Italy, combining with Antonio Candreva to terrorize England down the right flank in both team’s opening game. Darmian looked solid defensively as well and was one of six Italians to start every game. The others? Established starters Claudio Marchisio, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli. That’s pretty good company for a player who made his international debut just weeks before the tournament began. The performance helps Darmian even more so because it solidifies his hold on the position. With Ignazio Abate unable to hold down the position and Christian Maggio getting older, Italy may have found their right back for the next eight years.
At age 36, captain Gianluigi Buffon doesn’t look like he’s slowing down, but at some point he won’t be around to mind the net for the Azzurri. For a while, no keepers embraced the mantle of Buffon’s successor. At one point in time, you could have pegged it on Marco Amelia or Federico Marchetti, but both have fallen by the relative wayside. Now the title firmly belongs to Salvatore Sirigu. The 27 year old shot-stopper is already a full-time starter at French giant PSG, arguably one of the top clubs in the world. Winning games in Ligue 1 and the Champions League is one thing, but winning and playing well at the international level is a completely different animal. Sirigu, starting for an injured Buffon, performed admirably against England in Italy’s win. He looked solid in goal all game, and would have kept a clean sheet had it not been for a smash of a goal from Daniel Sturridge that few goalkeepers could have stopped.
Another member of the Italy’s “heir-apparent club” is Verratti. Like his PSG teammate Sirigu, is the long-term replacement for another Azzurri legend, Andrea Pirlo. Unlike Sirigu in goal, you can play more than one midfielder in a game, so Verratti is afforded the rare opportunities to play alongside the man he may one day replace. At 21, he was arguably one of Italy’s best and most consistent players at the World Cup. Like Pirlo, he is a superb passer and regularly is handed starts at the club level ahead of the likes of Javier Pastore and Yohan Cabaye.
This isn’t fair, Rossi didn’t make the team that went to Brazil. Nonetheless, he remains a bright spot. Why? Because of the role he will play in the future after Italy’s attacking options faltered in South America. Of the five forwards Cesare Prandelli brought to the World Cup, Alessio Cerci and Lorenzo Insigne only made two substitute appearances. Besides those two, you had the trio of Ciro Immobile, Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Immobile, still only 24, looked nothing like the goal-scorer he was at Torino. Cassano looked exceedingly sluggish and seemed to struggle physically. Balotelli’s play meanwhile was once again, mercurial. Except this time, it took a downward trajectory as opposed to his previous positive displays in an Italy shirt. After scoring against England, he was relatively quiet and missed a key chance to score versus Costa Rica. However, his yellow card against Uruguay changed the game in a bad way for the Europeans. This meant, if Italy advanced, they would have been without their most dangerous striker. On top of that Prandelli took him out to avoid going down to ten men only to see the referee give Claudio Marchisio a straight red a few minutes later. The point I’m making with Rossi is that none of Italy’s strikers wowed anyone in Brazil. Together they managed just a singular goal. Teams need goals to win, and Italy needs players who can get them those goals. Sure, the Azzurri have a superbly talented group of midfielders who can score, but the team needs strikers who can consistently put the ball in the back of the net. They know that they have that in the New Jersey born Rossi.
The Confederations Cup is a strange event, a warm up for the following year’s World Cup, and it even takes place in the same country. The Confederations Cup takes the winner of each regional cup (i.e. the winner of the European Championship gets a bid, as does the CONCACAF winner, etc.) as well as the reigning World Cup winner and the host country and throws them into a mini junket of a tournament.
The Confederations Cup is strange; let me re-emphasize, it’s strange. This year’s field features reigning World Cup champ and two-time reigning European Champion Spain. They are clustered in a group with South American champion Uruguay, surprising Oceania winner Tahiti and equally surprising African Cup of Nations winner Nigeria. The other group is the scarier of the two, with host country Brazil, CONCACAF winner Mexico, Asian powerhouse Japan and Italy. Italy is here based on the fact that they finished second in the European championship last summer. Because Spain won the World Cup and last year’s aforementioned Euros, the team can’t occupy two slots; so Italy, as runners up, get the Euro spot.
The Cup is strange for a number of reasons. One, participation doesn’t necessarily mean entry to the World Cup the next year. Iraq and Egypt participated in the 2009 Confederations Cup and didn’t appear in the 2010 WC. The second reason that it’s strange is because it’s hard to call this a major worldwide tournament without the usuals in the field. With a smaller field, it’s hard to imagine a tournament with this magnitude and with these implications with only one, or in this case two, of the European giants that dominate the footballing landscape. Or in other words, it’s odd to watch a major tournament and know that you are going to get as many touches on the ball as the entire German, French, Dutch and English national teams are.
A lot has been made about Brazil’s talent and that talent failing to win a WC in the last decade. The team also failed to win the Olympics last summer, further fueling frustration. But the one thing Brazil has done, and done well in the last decade, tournament-wise, has been winning the Confed Cup (as the kids call it.) Brazil is the two-time defending champion and will look to make it three in a row this summer. While this tournament’s trophy would be nice, I’m sure the South Americans would trade it in in a heartbeat if they could win the cup’s more prestigious “older brother,” if you will, next summer.
Brazilian football is often synonymous with technical genius. Thus everyone expects this of the South American powerhouse, but Brazil’s best asset may be that of its defense. The host nation will deploy some combination of Dani Alves, David Luiz, Marcelo, Dante and skipper Thiago Silva at the back. Any three or four of the group would be among the best in the world.
Prediction- The 19th ranked (lowest in country history) side in the world will have trouble with the tournament’s toughest group. All three teams have the quality and potential to make it to at least the knockout stage, not only in the field, but next summer as well. Brazil will get second in the group and likely bow out to Spain in the next round.
The Dark Horse
The Samurai Blue, as Japan is called, is this year’s dark horse. Like Brazil, they are saddled with the de-facto group of death. However, given the chance in a game Japan is very dangerous. Just ask the French, who the Japanese beat 1-0 in Paris. The Asian bread winners are very technically gifted, led by Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa and free kick master Keisuke Honda. We’re not talking Andrea Pirlo good, but he’s still better than nine out of ten guys at free kicks. Yasuhito Endo is another to watch on set pieces.
If you give Japan too many set pieces, they will tear your goal to shreds. They could thrive against young, inexperienced squads who foul a bit too often.
Prediction- Japan will give its group a lot of trouble, and could win a game, but third place in the group and a delayed off-season vacation plan is all that’s likely in store for Alberto Zaccheroni’s troops.
The Danger Men Man
Mexico will either be in fine form come Brazil, or gasping for air. The team already drew Nigeria 2-2 on May 31st courtesy of a Chicharito brace and face an away tilt in Jamaica on the fourth of June before playing in Panama three days later against the home country before taking on Costa Rica in Mexico City a mere five days before opening the Confederations Cup against the Italians.
(Gasping for air after reading that sentence aloud.)
El Tri’s previous six games haven’t exactly been a joy ride. All six have been draws. Three of them scoreless draws. Not to mention two of the scoreless ties were at home to Jamaica and the US in World Cup Qualifying. The other three draws were the aforementioned 2-2 deadlock with Nigeria, bailed out by Chicharito’s aforementioned brace. The Mexicans were also bailed out by another Javier Hernandez brace away to Honduras in WCQ and managed a 1-1 draw with Denmark thanks to a penalty. What I’m getting at is that while Mexico has talented players with the likes of Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Aquino, the weight of the team falls on Chicharito. Stop him and you get three points, or at the very least a point by draw.
Prediction- If Chicharito (that’s four usages of the word Chicharito, oops, sorry five usages of that word for all of you playing along at home.) goes on a tear, Mexico has the talent to possibly win the whole thing. But the bold prediction is that they get last, finishing behind Japan in their group by virtue of a Honda free kick in a 1-0 win. Bold indeed.
The Seasoned Bunch
You have Euro 2012 to thank for Italy re-establishing themselves as a worldwide player in the game of football. After a disappointing performance in South Africa in 2010, Italy was picked as nothing more than group-stage fodder by many a talking head in Euro 2012. The Italians shocked everyone by not only holding eventual champion Spain to a draw in the first round, but also knocking out England on penalties as well as dispatching the in-form Germans in the Semi-Final.
Italy is a well-rounded team. They have perhaps the best “spine” in the world. The spine of Gigi Buffon in goal, the center backs Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci in defense, the deep lying playmaking of Pirlo, the industry of Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio and the ruthless goal scoring of Mario Balotelli. Outside of the spine, Italy has talented players such as Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo and Ignazio Abate to fill out a talented team sheet.
Italy has been very unspectacular in friendlies as of late. They lost to France in Parma 2-1. They let the Netherlands think they were going to win 1-0 before stealing the latest of equalizers to escape Amsterdam with a draw and split four goals down the middle in a 2-2 draw with the Brazilians in Geneva in late March. Almost any country would take draws against the likes of the Netherlands and Brazil, as well as a close loss to France as a good sign, but when you are of Italy’s standard, more is expected. Even though the team has been uninspiring in friendlies, it hasn’t been as bad as one might think. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli likes to use friendlies to tinker with his lineup, fine tune it and see which players play well together. This strategy seems to have worked thanks to his excellent showing at the most recent Euros and in Italy’s utter domination in WCQ where they have scored three times as many goals as they have let in on their way to sitting atop the group table.
Prediction- Italy has what it takes to win it all. They’ll win their group on the last day of the group stage before beating whichever team finishes second to Spain in Group B, finally triumphing over the Spaniards in the final. All the while being glad that a resurgent German side is watching from their couches.
So just to recap, I have Group A finishing in this order- Italy, Brazil, Japan, Mexico.
Check back soon for my Group B Primer.
How do you think Group A will play out? Tell me in the comments section below.
(Disclaimer: I don’t profess to know a ton about football. I just love the beautiful game.)
- Andrea Pirlo’s genius, pace and the fouls/free kicks he draws. Some people play on a whole other physical level, or a whole other level in terms of speed. The latter is Pirlo. (Also, isn’t it nice that in football/soccer, wherever you’re from, a players is simplified to just one name? Even if he hasn’t shortened his name to one name. Messi is called Messi when his full name is Lionel Messi, etc. Anyways, it lends itself to lazy typers like me, and the rest of the world for that matter.) Pirlo plays the game almost methodically. You know when basketball gurus say that the game has “slowed down” for some players? That’s Pirlo. He slows it down. While the tempo killing can sometimes be hard to watch, the Italian midfield maestro always makes the right pass, even if he has to slow down to do it. Expanding on that, especially in the match against the Dutch, everyone else was going 110 miles an hour (if you will) while Pirlo was cruising at a comfortable 85. The result of this is that a lot of hand checks and fouls that might go un-noticed were noticed as Pirlo drew multiple free kicks by simply playing at the speed he feels comfortable playing. I should also point out his genius. Which he is, by the way. Every game there are about three to four plays where he makes a pass that could open up the defense. If your defense gives Pirlo milk and curds he turns it into Swiss cheese. (Especially if he’s playing against the Swiss.)
- Buffon does it again. Where Pirlo makes three or four passes that unlock the defense, Gigi Buffon makes three or four saves that the average Joe keeper wouldn’t make every game. He did this again on multiple occasions against the Dutchmen.
- Sub Par? Not to say that the starters were lacking, but the substitutions of Pablo Osvaldo, Alessandro Diamanti, Alberto Gilardino and Marco Verratti certainly changed the game in a positive way.
- Slick Whats? The field was very slick in case you didn’t notice. At least half a dozen players hit the turf, one of which quelled a promising Italian attack.
- Friendly Strategy. (That faux headline didn’t work, but stick with me.) Cesare Prandelli certainly isn’t using friendlies to get results. The Italy head-man consistently uses friendly games to test younger players and tinker with different pairings and lineups ahead of major tournaments. He’s using this strategy for the upcoming Confederations Cup as well as the Azzurri’s likely World Cup spot in Brazil in 2014.
- It’ll Work. Eventually. Italy’s spearheaded attack of Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaaraway seemed to be a bit stagnant in the first half. While the Osvaldo/Diamanti/Gilardino trident worked, the former group will likely be the long and short-term options up front. They’ll figure it out eventually, playing together that is. After all they both play for AC Milan. They’ll be tested and ready by Brazil.
If I missed anything from the game that you thought was mention-worthy, tell me in the comments section.
You thought the whole Los Angeles feat was impressive. Get a load of this one, one couch for three different sporting events in one day. Yes, more impressive than hosting multiple playoff games by three different franchises in a couple days. I’m taking one for the team and watching the Italy-Germany soccer match followed by (pending MLB Network’s cooperation) the Tigers-Rays game and the NBA draft.
Just to give you an idea, “Chronicle of Couch” was the winner of a very tight race for the naming rights. Here’s a quick peak at the Knowhitter drawing board.
Diary of a Couch
The Couch Diaries
And there you have the long, drawn out process of how I got to the highly acclaimed “Chronicle of Couch”.
This isn’t necessarily a bunch of playoff games like the aforementioned LA mess, but the games still hold water. Italy-Germany not only figures to be a closer game than people think, but it should be pointed out that the winner gets the right to play the overhyped Spaniards in the Euro 2012 Final. I don’t think the Spanish are bad mind you, it’s just that I watched their 1-1 draw with the Azzuri and they didn’t scream “Winners”. As stated, the game is going to be much better than people think. I’ll take the Italians in an upset, 2-0. This might be a bogus looking prediction because I’m posting this after it all happens, but that’s why I’m putting the respective times in. From an analysis point of view, if the Italians can control the game through Andrea Pirlo, then they have an excellent shot to beat the Germans. However, that certain sword is double sided: if the Germans can silence Pirlo, the Italians could have some trouble.
Since I’ll be absorbed in the Italy-Germany tussle, here’s why the regular season matchup between the Tigers and the Rays is so important for Detroit. The Tigers need to take the series and they might as well do it. A quick aside, here is one of the few things that baffle me about baseball, in the last two years the Tigers are 8-2 against Tampa Bay. As good as the Rays have been in recent years, they have only mustered two winners in their last ten against Detroit. It should also be noted that the Tigers beat-every-team-in-plain-sight tear that propelled the squad to its first AL Central Division title last season originated with a strong showing in where? Tampa.
Kickoff coming soon, the tactical lineups are out and the Italians have key defenseman Girorgio Cheiellini back in the lineup after going down with a leg injury versus the Irish in the group stage. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up. Sorry to get all soccer-y on you there.
Just wanted to point out that the Germans have never beat Italy in a major competition. I should also try not to make this a twitterfeed. Sorry readers.
Mario Balotelli scores with a “noggin toboggan” for Italy, it looks like we’ll be getting the Super Mario instead of the other guy who shows up. Here’s my take on Balotelli. He’s deemed as “disruptive,” maybe the Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco of European soccer, maybe even Milton Bradley. The point is, I Wikipedia’d him and his “antics” are bad, but wouldn’t be considered too terrible if he were playing in America. I‘m not saying that I approve of some of his actions, but that just shows you why people are so much nicer and have higher expectations in Europe than in the US.
Balotelli scores again; rocketing it past the German keeper. He got carded for the whole shirt-taking-off celebration, but let’s remember, Germany hasn’t trailed in a game in around two years. They’re down two-nil already. If Mario Balotelli is Super Mario then the Germans are playing like Bowser who keeps getting beat. Sorry, nerdy I know, but it makes works.
The Italians nearly scored twice on tries by Juventus mid-fielder Claudi Marchisio. The substitutes have also come on in force. Antonio Di Natale is on for “Super” Mario Balotelli, who left with supposed cramps. Thiago Matta has also checked in for another midfielder, Riccardo Montolivo. The last substitute of mention and the first chronologically was the swap of Alessandro Diamanti taking the place of Antonio Cassano. I won’t say that the Germans have given in here, but they seem a bit sluggish. With all the crosses being crossed in, the Germans have the air of a basketball team down twenty with two minutes left that just starts hucking up threes.
Gianluigi Buffon has been spectacular in goal for the Azzuri. As I say this, Frederico Balzaretti got called for a handball in the box and the Germans score on the PK. The German keeper is playing in the Italian half now, but it’s too late. Italia wins 2-1. I honestly did call the win, no going back and editing the previous prediction here. Italy-Spain is going to be quiet a game this weekend. I’ll take the Italians again. Now a break and then the NBA Draft and the Tigers game.
One of my favorite parts of soccer: when the team is down and the keeper plays up with the midfielders.
We get a break in the break because of news via Jason Beck and other sources which report that Victor Martinez could return in mid-late September. That’s great news for V-Mart and the Tigers after he tore his ACL in the off-season. I’m sensing something along the lines of Martinez coming back and going beenaners (That’s bananas for all you folks who don’t know) in the playoffs.
Almost draft time and MLB Network is cooperating, so the Tigers-Draft back-and-forth is going to be tricky. I’ll be flipping back and forth with the analysis/commentary/occasional babble and such. As stated earlier, I’m looking forward to the Tigers playing in Tampa. For some odd reason the Tigers do well against Tampa Bay and if all goes as it did last year, the Tigers should turn their season around tonight.
After Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry go down in order, Miguel Cabrera shoots a double into right-center with two outs in the first. The Rays amaze me that they are still contending with an infield cobbled together with the likes of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and Brooks Conrad. Hopefully I’ll get in as much of the Tigers game as possible before switching back to see Northwesterner’s favorite commissioner shake Anthony Davis’ hand.
(The Secret Word is… sarcasm).
Joe Maddon’s lineup choices are curious to say the least. This is the guy who hit John Jaso leadoff a fair number of times before the backstop was dealt to Seattle. He now has Carlos Pena in the two hole. Which, you know, makes sense because Pena hits a robust .198.
Pena’s first AB of the night currently, and I’ve already been showed up by the Rays broadcasters. Apparently Pena draws a ton of walks. I’m sorry for the skepticism Joe Maddon.
Still confused as to why the draft is in New Jersey. I guess that’s David Stern’s way of saying, “I’m sorry for making you drive to Brooklyn to see your team”. Also confused as to why we didn’t have the ping pong balls at the lottery. Stern is asking for conspiracy theories, which most of them about Seattle are probably true.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sorry had to boo Stern when he came out to talk. Got to take every chance I get. I know Miami just won the title, but Stern’s asking for it by bringing up the Heat.
Back to the Tigers game, Cabrera a double in first, Young and Peralta get on here in the second. Shields is striking guys out, but can he keep this up against this good of an offense?
Anthony Davis is picked first overall. No one, absolutely no one, saw that coming. Otherwise a great piece for New Orleans to build their franchise around.
Now here’s where the draft really starts. Does Brad Beal go to Charlotte and play for the ‘Cats? Is he picked and dealt to say Cleveland or maybe, gasp, OKC? Is someone else picked? Say Thomas Robinson? Remember, the Bobcats traded for Ben Gordon, so who knows?
Wow, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes to Charlotte, a high motor guy, going to outplay you every day of the week. A good pick for the Bobcats, he isn’t going to carry this team, but he is going to be a little Gerald Wallace-esque. So that’s settled, this pick probably isn’t going anywhere. Kentucky is the first school with the first two pick in modern era draft history.
A quick check on the Tigers has Max Scherzer cruising through the sides of Tampa Bay’s lineup. By sides I mean this, if the middle of the order is the meat of the order, then the bottom or less potent part of the lineup is the sides, or sides of the meal.
Bradley Beal is finally off the board going to Washington. The SEC party continues. I know its Beal’s birthday, but that’s a crap birthday present from the NBA: “Look kid, welcome to the league, say hello to David Stern.” Like I said, great birthday present. Quick side note on the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette deal, have you noticed that he’s (Maggette) played for a good deal of lottery teams in the past couple years? Charlotte, Golden State, Milwaukee and now Detroit. Nothing says “Lottery Bound” like Corey Maggette.
Wow, Dion Waters, who didn’t start at Syracuse, going to Cleveland at four. I haven’t seen a lot of tape, but he’s supposedly a potent scorer. That’s a solid, young back court for the Cavs to build on with him and Kyrie Irving.
Back to Tampa, after Austin Jackson gets on, Quintin Berry drops down a beauty of a bunt to put two men on for Miguel Cabrera. As I say this Jeff Keppinger makes a spectacular play to not only grab the ball out of the air, but to then outrun a fast Jackson to second to double him off. Prince Fielder then gets on after Keppinger can’t make a dandy of a play again in the shift. It must be a little troubling for Tampa seeing as the Tigers’ hitters 1-5 all have two ABs through the third. You give this team that many chances and you’re going to get hurt. And again, as I write this, the Rays get hurt by former Devil Ray’s number-one-overall-pick Delmon Young hits a single through the left side, and Berry beats the throw easily to score from second.
Alex Avila is really getting back into the swing of things here, a couple of hits yesterday and today he’s got an RBI double. Fielder comes huffing and puffing around to score. Jhonny Peralta followed up by grounding out, which is unusual because he generally eats James Shields for breakfast when they play the Rays. You know, a little break from the egg-white omelet.
Let’s recap the Delmon Young thing for un minuto. What a great deal for the Rays. Yes, he gave Minnesota some nice years and one really good one, but Minny gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to get him. Throw in the ridiculous return obtained by the Cubs for Garza as well as the solid bullpen arms picked up in exchange for Bartlett from the Padres, and it makes the Rays look pretty darn good. Minnesota didn’t get short ended by the whole process though, they picked up Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris in the trade. That more than made up for the other losses.
(The Secret Word, again, is … sarcasm)
Great pick by Sacramento. They needed a four, and Thomas Robinson is a great option for them. Real happy for Thomas Robinson after all that’s happened to him. An NBA PF in the fullest.
(If you’re wondering, I don’t have quick typing skills at all here; I’m just pushing my DVR to its limit.)
Portland about to pick…(waits for Stern to announce the pick)… Portland selects Damian Lilard. A guy with in-the-gym range gets to the rim. Nice pick for Portland. That whole Andre Miller/Raymond Felton thing the last couple years hasn’t been amazing. Nice pick here. Plus, when is the next Weber State lottery pick going to come along?
Gotta love the constant booing of Stern. Warriors take Harrison Barnes, a great pick to add to the wing spot for Golden State. You talk about Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. That’s a lot of offense there. Young offense. Golden State has wanted to run in the past and drive up the score, but now they can do it successfully too.
Back to the Deeetroit Tigers, Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup. That’s the one thing with Tampa, if they get behind, and a few guys are cold at the plate… well let’s just say that a shutout or knowhitter (see what I did there?) could come into play. Lots of potential 0-4s in the Rays lineup.
Carlos Pena has won some hardware for his fielding, but here he commits a big miscue. Could have tagged Berry on the way to first, can’t get him, Boesch scores. Next play Austin Jackson supposedly tagged out at home on a Miguel Cabrera single. After that, Jeff Keppinger is in the right place for once on the shift and gets Prince out at first. Underlying theme, the Tigers get another run early off “Big Game” James Shields. Commercial time, back to the draft.
Toronto takes Terrence Ross, a UW product. Good shot, really good shot, he’s probably a prototypical wing. I know Toronto liked Dion Waters, so maybe they picked Ross as an alternative. Not sure there. I’m obviously not inside of the Toronto brasses’ collective heads so I don’t know. All this Nash-to-Toronto talk with Ross and Bargnani is pretty exciting.
Pistons on the clock, Andre Drummond would be potential pick here… and yep, it’s Drummond. Great pick by Detroit. They get the guy they wanted for the third year. Monroe, Knight and now Drummond, a great nucleus there.
With the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the David Stern cronies 2.0 select… Austin Rivers. A pure scorer. Nice paring with Anthony Davis to couple with Eric Gordon for a growing nucleus. Anyone else noticed we haven’t had any movements on the trade front? The draft could have gone like this or have trades every-which-where.
Meyers Leonard is the pick for Portland. An athletic big guy with good potential. Some nice post moves. He’s got some big potential, but is still very unproven.
Here’s the weird part of the draft where guys like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, guys that could go anywhere from the top ten to maybe the late teens. Not sure who goes here, especially with Houston picking three times in the next half hour-ish. Notice that they didn’t move up? Maybe they are some pieces to throw at Orlando for Dwight Howard (probably) or maybe even Pau Gasol (probably not). It’s going to be interesting. On that note, we’re going back to baseball for the Tigers update.
Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup with relative ease. As I say that, Brooks Conrad leads off with a double. As we get into the sides. There is potential to get out of this unscathed. And again as I say that, the Rays get on the board. No more damage after that. Tigers batting again with Jackson on base, yet again.
Houston on the clock for the first of their many picks, they go with… Jeremy Lamb. Great pick either way. Lamb can fill it up and fill in for Kevin Martin when and/or if he leaves. He could be a really good player for the Rockets, or he could be a centerpiece for a Dwight Howard-like trade. Either way, nice pick.
MOVEMENT!… Nope, it’s just Bucher announcing that the Raptors want to get Steve Nash. Right after this Phoenix takes point guard Kendall Marshall. I’m pulling for him to wear number eleven in the league due to all the double L’s in his name. This also proves that the NBA isn’t right with their whole green room ordeal. Marshall wasn’t invited. He won’t necessarily push Nash out, but he might be the heir apparent or what not to Nash.
John Henson is going to Milwaukee. On a random side note, maybe my favorite headline on ESPN.com, Gym Henson. Moving on, UNC killing Kentucky so far in players drafted.
Back to Tampa again. James Shields goes to pick off Austin Jackson and is charged with an error after the ball goes into foul turf. Shields comes back with a strong throw to get Berry at first on a really good bunt. Nothing Berry can do on that one. Cabrera follows it up with a single that bounces off the mound, Keppinger misses it. The Tigers have now set new career highs for both Roy Oswalt and James Shields in terms of hits allowed in back-to-back games.
Philly takes Maurice Harkless. They add yet another athletic wing player to their team of seemingly all athletic wing players.
The Rockets are still reaping the benefits of the Tracy McGrady deal, and get Knicks pick here because of it. More future trade piece fodder. Tyler Zeller would make sense for them, though if the picks for someone else, we’re not totally sure. Pick is in… Kevin McHale’s team picks Royce White. Such a versatile player. He could play multiple positions on the offense end and is a great passer. This is a good pick for the Rockets or whoever gets this pick in the end.
Dallas picking… Dirk with his lowest point total (21.9) since the beginning of the current century. Ho hum. That’s not too bad, not great for Dirk, but still a good output. Mavs and Tyler Zeller would make sense; I said that for Houston too. I like Zeller, he’s going to go at some point. Also grounds for gambling with a Sullinger or Jones. Nope it is Zeller. Good pick, he’ll contribute right away for Dallas.
Another Rockets pick… La di da di da. And it’s Terrence Jones, second Terrence to go here in the draft, athletic power forward. Joins another former Wildcat in Houston: Patrick Peterson. Lamb, White and Jones form a solid group of wings for the Rockets.
Tyler Zeller going from Dallas to Cleveland for a host of the Cavs picks. Orlando is now on the clock, Dwight Howard not going anywhere yet. The Magic need to do well with this pick after struggling with their last couple first rounders. ST. BONNIES Andrew Nicholson is the pick for Orlando. When did we have a draft with a St. Bonnies and a Weber State player drafted in the first round? When will we again?
Evan Fornier is the first international pick of the draft. I don’t know a ton about the guy, but after his highlight package, he looks like a pretty good player. Good, potential stash pick for Denver.
Before the Celtics hogging of the podium, we’ll switch back to the Tigers game for some somewhat, in-depth analysis.
Nothing new to note other than a few stranded base runners and Phil Coke’s comical entrance where he sprints in. It’s pretty funny. Scherzer in line for the win, another run comes home though as the sides of the Rays’ lineup get it done. Coke gets out of a jam and Austin Jackson shows his wheels with a two out triple to the wall in the next inning. Quintin Berry up, he can’t plate the run, but the Tigers stay on top. Back to Boston’s picks.
Boston has some interesting decisions. KG is probably back, but Ray Allen is a different story. Should he come back and maybe come off the bench behind Avery Bradley? Allen has supposedly looked at Miami and New York as options. If he stays in Boston, the Celtics should be in the playoffs again next year. Boston has the opportunity to take a gamble on a guy like a Jared Sullinger or Perry Jones III here. Toney Wroten, Jr might make sense as a combo-point guard type. Jones is tabbed as the tenth best player available by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. He’s still on the board at 21, worth a flyer here. Maybe. Nope, not there. Sullinger is the pick. Remember when we were talking about him being a lottery pick as late as last year? Either a great steal for Boston, or a low-ish risk here at the bottom end of the first round.
Boston goes with seven-footer Fab Melo with the next pick. Another big body to throw out there, he’s an ever-improving player with some potential. A great value for Boston in the first round. I would have gone with Jones, but that’s just me.
Atlanta on the clock, the oldest team in the league, lots of puzzling contracts. The pick is in; they go with John Jenkins the sharpshooter. Good pick for the Hawks to improve offensively.
It sounds very unprofessional, but I’m going to go eat.
And we’re back. A handful of teams picked, including Miami while I ate, and no one took Perry Jones III. Very surprising. More surprising picks include Miles Plumlee to Indiana and Jared Cunningham to Cleveland, or probably Dallas after the Tyler Zeller trade.
The Raiders are on the clock next, and they’re showing the team’s respective contracts, one of which is Thabo Sefolosha through 2013-2014. I can’t fathom the length of that contract. Must be a terrible owner dolling out that money. Oh wait…
OKC takes Perry Jones. I’m convinced David Stern published the doctor’s report that said Jones had a bum knee that made him plummet to the Raiders so his little buddy could take PJIII (Does anybody call him that yet?).
Bucher gets another morsel of air time as the Heat deal Arnett Moultrie (the 27th pick) to Philly for the 45th pick and a future first rounder. A great pickup for Miami in terms of future trade ammo.
First off, I love how the crowd booed off Stern and cheered when he announced that he was done and Adam Silver was taking over. I now love New York/New Jersey fans.
Festus Ezeli goes to Golden State at the end of the first round. The pick was acquired in the Stephen Jackson trade, a great name and talent.
With the first round over, we are going to go check on Detroit, who I think is done according to the DVR. Sorry Tigers-Rays game. When we left off it was 4-2 Tigers and Detroit was well into their bullpen with the lead. Generally that means a win. Last year the team was lights out when having the lead with their bullpen entering the tail end of the game. Hopefully all goes as planned and the Tigers get a win. As it stands, the Tigers have the lead by the same aforementioned score with a run tacked on going into the ninth. Here comes the Big Potato, and here comes the antics.
Tigers win 5-2. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera each had four hits apiece, and Miguel Cabrera made his sixteenth foray into “Souveeenir City” as the Tigers roll. The Tigers are now 9-2 in their last 11 over Tampa. That’s a rap on Detroit as my teams improve to 2-0 today. Now back to the draft.
Got to love the applause for Silver instead. Nobody likes Stern. Well, outside of the state of Oklahoma.
Also got to love the Bernard James pick, a great story. He plays hard and is a great rebounder.
I’m getting a little more blippy as the draft goes on. I’m not going to comment on everything because I don’t know a ton about some of the second round guys. Just a warning.
Jae Crowder comes off the board as well as Draymond Green as the seniors start to go here in the second round.
Orlando Johnson can fill it up. No bones about it. Good value for Sacramento.
Quincy Acy, big time energy guy going north of the border.
Quincy Miller, it’s a “Baylorpalooza”. Thanks Reece Davis.
Orlando Johnson actually going to Indiana for cash from Sacramento.
Efficient three-point-marksmen Doron Lamb going to Milwaukee, fifth Wildcat taken in the draft. UNC down 5-4 in terms of number of players picked this year. See? I’m getting blippy.
Darius Miller going to New Orleans with Anthony Davis. He’s also the sixth Kentucky player to be drafted, modern era record right there.
Kyle O’Quinn, a good rebounder goes to Orlando to beef up the Magic’s frontline.
Robert Sacre taken with the last pick by the Lakers. Great value pick, the best free-throw-shooting big man in the league right now. You heard it here first.
So that’s it for the “Chronicle of Couch Volume I.” I should throw in other tidbits such as the Rafael Nadal loss as well as the fact that Dwayne Wade is going to miss the Olympics.
I also applaud any of you who are still ready after 4,000 plus-odd words. Thank you and good night.