Saturday Special: Countdown To The World Cup

Darius Soriano —  May 22, 2010

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I’m not like Marc Stein or Steve Nash (who seem fanatical) or even Bill Simmons in my fútbol fandom.  I don’t follow a team in the EPL and don’t have rooting interests in other club teams from around the world.  That said, like many young kids that grew up in America I played plenty of AYSO soccer and have always had a fondness for the beautiful game.

I’ve always seen soccer as having great parallels to basketball as it’s truly a team game where angles and positioning and team work are necessary for success.  Where fundamental play and technique can help just as much as great athleticism, and those with all those qualities are the best players in the world.  Where, despite the flopping or angling for calls, there’s a toughness that’s required to play the sport – even by those that play a “finesse” game.

Why do I bring all this up?  Because I’m legitimately excited for the upcoming World Cup.  Starting on June 11th, the best players put on their national colors and duke it out to stake their claim as the best team in the world.  Much like the Olympics, the every four year build up to the World Cup makes this event one of (if not the) biggest sporting events in the world and I plan to follow it as much as I can.  And as a basketball fan, I know I’m not alone here.  I already mentioned guys like Stein and Nash, but I know there are many, many other hoops lovers (players, media, and fans) that also go nuts over the game that we call soccer. Are you one of those people? Let me know in the comments (and who you’re rooting for).

Oh, and one last reason why I’m looking forward to the World Cup? The fantastic commercials. Nike always puts out some classic spots and this year is no different. Check out the clip below and you’ll even get a little basketball flavor with our own Mr. Bryant. (hat tip to Henry at TrueHoop for passing this along.)

Darius Soriano

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66 responses to Saturday Special: Countdown To The World Cup

  1. The new ad is truly epic, just like the rest of this playoff run will be!

  2. Allan – Brazil May 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Hey Darius,

    World Cup is awesome.
    A Seleção Canarinho will rule again.

    Wait and see.
    Kaka will lead us to the Championship.

  3. Allan – Brazil May 22, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Concerning the Ad, I don’t like it very much because the soccer scenes always look sooooo fake.

    Plus, Nike is sponsoring the wrong guy.
    Ronaldinho Gaucho is not even going to the World Cup.

    Just ask Adidas and they will tell you who the best Brazilian player is.

  4. Ask me about the World Cup an hour after the parade. Until then, there’s only one sport.

  5. It’s no wonder Nash is such a great playmaker. I play both basketball and soccer, and whenever I play soccer I get frustrated that I can’t pass like I can in basketball because it is so much harder to pass the ball accurately in soccer with your feet and head. Also, you’re so used to passing the ball at the area where your teammate can handle the ball well, that in basketball it’s almost intuitive to pass it so that your teammate can just catch and shoot.

    Kobe understands that aspect of the soccer well in that he really reads the defenders reaction very well and taking what the defense gives him. I could see why Brazillians and Argentinians have good basketball players. Soccer and basketball have a lot of similarities.

  6. The give and go is effective in both sports.

    Anybody have a good video link for the champions league final today?

    as for the WC
    Go Ivory Coast!

  7. Bobji,

    this link will work for the lakers games too.

  8. Dodol Surodol May 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Italy. For our own Mr. Bryant connection.

  9. Rooting for S. Korea (since I am from there) and kinda miffed that we’re only in that ad as a background 😉

  10. Has anyone been more clueless with the media than Amare has been lately? I’m sure some players have, but man, look at some of these quotes:

    “Last year, this same team with Shaq, we didn’t make the playoffs. You get rid of Shaq and add me and we’re in the Western Conference finals. That alone should tell you what I bring to the team.”

    Wtf? Am I forgetting things or wasn’t Amare playing last year? So how are they “adding” him? He was part of that loss last year too, wasn’t he?

    Stoudemire indicated defensive strategy, not his individual failings, were to blame for Phoenix’s interior defensive woes.

    Obviously these are semi-out-of-context as I’m sure the media is giving him a hard time, but still. Man up kid.

  11. Man up! Why?

    He is just following the lead of our biggest bankers and oil barons in front of Congress.

  12. Even though they sucked in the qualifying rounds.. Im going for Argentina!!

  13. well USA of course first but then Argentina

  14. Just wanted to post a link to this great podcast between Kevin Ding and Mike Trudell. Both are great beat writers for the Lakers.

    Also I wanted to post something about Bynum.

    It’s remarkable how much he is grown up these past two years. I know that we as fans expect players to be tough and persevere through adversity. I mean we see Kobe pretty much John McClane his way through this season and expect that of all of the Lakers.

    I remember the passionate debate that we had here about whether Pau should come back or not from his hamstring injury. A lot of people were arguing that Pau should suck it up because Kobe is able to push through his injury issues.

    I mean we have such high expectations for Laker players because we are completely and utterly spoiled. Kobe Bryant is a completely different breed of basketball player and human being. His determination and mental strength is beyond that of any person I have ever seen, read, or heard about. It is unfair to compare him to anyone else within the area of persevering through injury.

    The point I am trying to make is that we as fans should recognize and appreciate the effort that Bynum is putting in. He is still playing and giving an effort when he easily could be sitting. I mean to face injuries to both knees in consecutive years and then re-injure one of those knees can be mentally debilitating.

  15. Well, being from Mexico, where futbol is our national sport (not that we’re very good at it…). I’ll be very much paying close attention to the World Cup. I remember in my old job whenever a national team game was going on, the company let us bring in TV’s to watch the games.

    Regarding the comparisons between soccer and basketball, I can see that especially inside the penalty area or on free kicks, where off the ball movement, precise passes and cuts are tremendously important to help score.

    Also, the team aspect of passing, playing off the ball and even some of the defensive aspects are similarly named, be it man to man, zone or pressing, the defensive end is what is most similar since it is essentially stopping the ball from going to the net…

    On my office pool for the cup I’ve got Spain and I’m very happy with that since I think they have a great shot at winning it.

  16. 6 pts with 3:18 left??? wtf is wrong with Magic?

    3FG%: 0-2
    FT%: 0-2
    TO: 5

  17. Magic are playing uninspired bball so far. Celts are playing exceptional team defense.

  18. @10, Amare missed a huge # of games last season due to a retinal detachment.

    by contrast, in this year’s playoffs, he is MIA on defense due to a cranial detachment, or an existential detachment, neither of which is so easily treated.

    the fact that his response to criticism about his defense is not ‘you’re right, it’s on me, i guarantee you I’ll play better next game’ but rather claiming that he’s doing ‘everything (he’s) asked’ and thus putting it on gentry, should give his agent a real challenge when it comes to getting him a max or near-max deal in the off-season. really, would any contender want this guy? he’s a great offensive player, but gives most of his points back due to his terrible D. Standing Tall and Talented, heh heh.

    Amare, Boozer, and Joe Johnson, all of their playoff performances this year are killing their free agency value.

  19. I think the magic will have a hard time avoiding the sweep if they need/require an offensive spark from Williams and reddick

  20. is it just that the magic are so inapt or celtics are playing such great defense? or both? celtics look so scary now.

  21. Wow, the Magic being exposed bigtime.

    Do you think they miss Hedo? Or do you think it’s Boston playing 2008 ball?

    If we do meet in the finals, I hope our squad deals away with the soft tag once and for all.

    Or better yet, make the C’s look old and soft. Mmm…

  22. I thought the Magic would put up more of a fight, but they look uninspired and deflated. It is shocking.

  23. this rondo guy i hope doesn’t run circles around our more improved defense…don’t want to look like the suns in a matchup against the celtics…

    i just hope 08 was and will be different from 2010. GO LAKERS!

  24. celtics look the monster team in space jam: terrifying. their defense is just incredible.

  25. I think it’s a combination of both factors—the Magic are publicly falling apart. And basically, it’s pretty obvious why. No one can create in the post for the Magic except Rashard, and that’s once in a while. There’s no one to create their own shot on the perimeter and wing except Vince Carter…and c’mon. Dude takes one good hit and is “Ghost Like Swayze” for the remainder of the game.

    Jameer is a good me-first offensive PG, but he plays no D and is not good at getting multiple guys involved in the offense. The rest of the of the perimeter guys are spot shooters.

    And the second factor: The Celtics are playing some seriously great ball right now. I still don’t think it’s the same as 08 though. Besides HCA, I think the Lakers are just far better than they were in 08. And if they keep clicking in the Finals, I don’t think even the Celtics can beat them.

  26. The Celtics are playing streetball on defense. Lots of grabbing, leaning, hitting, poking, scratching.

    It is not pretty but it is effective.

    What is being exposed on the Magic is a lack of meanness. At some point, hopefully early on, you get tired of the dirty play, and toss an elbow at someones head.

    You just have to. If the referees aren’t protecting you, then you MUST protect yourself.

    Take the technical. Lay someone out.

    Hopefully when (if… I know… if…) the Lakers meet the Celtics one of the boys in purple and gold will put some shamrock asses onto the floor.

    If not, the Celtics will walk right over us.

  27. The thing is, Amare’s always tried to talk himself up as a franchise player and one of the tougher players in the league, not as an oil baron in front of Congress.

  28. #26—That’s what Artest is here for. And I am 100% certain that Artest will gladly risk a T to put the hurt on one of the Celts. In fact, I think despite what that article says, practically everyone on this Laker squad now officially HATES the Celtics. I really don’t see us getting pushed around without pushing back this time.

  29. Also, something to keep in mind for those Laker fans dreading the matchup—since the 08 Finals, the Lakers are 3-1 against the Celtics. The only loss came when Kobe was sitting out.

  30. Magic looking like we did in the last game of 2008.

    That’s probably why I’m feeling uneasy about this.

  31. Celtics are truly scary

  32. Josh, thanks for that reassurance. I was starting to wonder what happened when we lost to them this year.

  33. >>>the Lakers are 3-1 against the Celtics.

    the regular season games don’t mean much, if at all. magic was 3-1 against celtics this season.
    and, celtics are playing at very well in the playoff.

  34. Quick points on the Boston Orlando Game:

    Their defense on Howard was exceptional. They make him take hook-shots with either hand, and limit the layups and dunks that he’s allowed. They play exceptional pick and roll defense to limit any dunks by Howard and don’t allow the and pick and pops for the outside shooters. Also, most teams cannot handle D. Howard in single coverage, allowing the wing players to stay at home on the Magic’s shooters who killed their past two playoff opponents.

    As I was watching, I couldn’t help think that those little hook shots are Pau’s bread and butter. He actually has both shots with either hand. I see Boston trying to push him out as much as possible, because that type of Defense will not work on Pau.

    I know I’m stepping ahead, but I think the key will be containing Rondo. He is their biggest weapon. I am hopeful since the Lakers have handled Westbrook (who is similar to Rondo, but not as experienced), D. Will, and hopefully, S. Nash. But, I am really looking forward to going against the Celtics. No guarantees of winning, but geez, won’t that be a fun series??


    But the thing that made me laugh out loud was at 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter when ESPN showed those two lakers fans in their Kobe gear. The exchange started that they had the right number on, and that JVG loved Kobe because Kobe is a champion and has that insane will to win and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about it. Then, JVG goes: “Wouldn’t it be amazing to see V. Carter with Kobe’s will??” Camera pans to V. Carter as the officials call timeout, and V. Carter pulls his shirt over his head and hides his face. The best T.V. cannot be scripted.

  35. I don’t care how good the Celtics look. This intimidation thing is not becoming. The Lakers are defending champs. There is a reason Orlando lost last year.

    Boston won’t look that good against Kobe and company.

  36. Funky Chicken May 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    The Celtics looks scary, and are poised to get a lot of rest before the finals. That said, this might play to our advantage.

    A week ago I thought that the Lakers had the more cupcake opponent in the conference finals, and were not being well prepared for the finals. However, now it looks like the Celts are in the same boat.

    Orlando has no heart, and has nobody they can go to when they need a basket. This series is doing NOTHING to prepare the Celtics to face Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, nor is it preparing Paul Pierce for the beatdown that Artest is going to deliver.

    So, as good as they look right now, the next series, like all series, will be about matchups, and the Lakers match up a hell of a lot better against the C’s than Orlando….

  37. The regular season Celts’ D had nothing on this version of the team. It may have helped with the psychological aspect for our team (we did have some gritty wins against this team), but don’t read too much into the regular season. My personal opinion? This Celts team’s defense is better than in 2008. We’re much better than in 2008, but we also have to consider the possibility that this Celts team is better than in 2008 too. It’s hard to accept because of the way they played for much of this season, but this is a different animal.

    If we make it (not trying to get ahead of myself), it’ll be both terrifying and fun.

  38. thisisweaksauce May 22, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Snoopy (34),

    Our defense is one of the best of the NBA, as well (#1 in defensive efficiency at times during the regular season). That’s what’s different about the Lakers this year than in 2008. Both the offense and defense look elite right now. Running on all cylinders, I believe we have the best defense in the NBA.

  39. 35 – I agree 100%; that’s why I said we’re much better than 2008 – primarily because of our defense. Our offense isn’t any better than 2008; that team had a more consistent bench and Sasha in Machine mode. Our D is the difference, but all I was trying to say is that I think Boston is even better defensively than they were in 2008.

    Defensively, I think LA and Boston are right there at 1 and 2, although I’d give them the edge the way they’re playing right now. But I agree, and I think that’s what’ll make this matchup interesting this time around. That, and how our frontline stands up to theirs on the boards. But we have plenty of time to break that matchup down when we get there.

  40. Dodol Surodol May 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    This was only the second or third time I really watched Celtics play. One thing stood out for me: as terrific as Rondo is, he has no jump shots, even when wide open.

  41. thisisweaksauce May 22, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Guys, I don’t want to draw parallels just yet, but with all the rematch talk… Do you think this team might remind you of the 1985 Lakers? Revenge was clearly on their minds too.

  42. I love how all of us on this comment thread all say (and this includes me, so im not singling anyone out), stuff like “I don’t want to look ahead” or “I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch” or “I don’t want to draw parallels just yet” YET we still do.

    It is almost impossible not to look ahead right now for a Lakers Celtics rematch…

  43. We upgraded big time at SF, since 2008. Unfortunately we still have two more games against the Phoenix Suns to win, before we can wet our chops on taking down the dreaded Celtic’s.

  44. Rugby on ESPN2! A treat for us Americans, as we don’t get to see rugby on our national channels very often. The shorts are a little disturbing, but if you keep your eyes above waist-level it’s quite enjoyable.

  45. I DO want to look ahead.

    Lakers vs Celtics? It’s on!

  46. me too! as fans its ok to look ahead as long as kobe and co are still 100% focussed on the suns. I believe its alright to talk about the C’s but thats just me

  47. I can’t wait to completely ignore the World Cup.

  48. If the Lakers look at the Celtics and think one thing, I hope it’s, “If they’re taking care of their business, we need to take care of ours.” If they’re thinking of revenge against the Celtics, then they should start by taking it out on the Suns.

  49. Soccer is my second favorite sport behind basketball. I hope some of our guards start taking up soccer instead of basketball so we can start winning some world cups. Guards or running backs.

  50. THe Celtics might be playing a little better than in 2008, but not a lot. The Lakers are playing quite a bit better than in 2008, WHEN THEY ARE FOCUSED. They aren’t going to be able to get away with taking 1 or 2 quarters off each game against the Celtics. I think the Lakers have a slight advantage going in; a lot depends on how the refs call the game. (More so than normal.)

  51. This Celtics is peaking at the right time. They just not beat opponents, but they crushed thier spirits, beating their opponents physically and emotionally. Boston just did that to LA two years ago. Lakers need to match the level of play with Boston. The finals is getting interesting, the Defending champ vs the former champ? Who wins? Who knows? This is good basketball, but kinda scary. Don’t want to happen the same beatdown that the Celtics gave to Kobe and the Lakers on game 6.

  52. Regarding the world cup.
    I’m spanish so I root for Spain. I think they stand a good chance but they could very well loose to any well disciplined team like they lost to USA and like Barça lost to Inter.
    I don’t think Argentina has a good shoot, they have never looked good since Maradona became their coach. They have the best player in Messi, some of the best strikers in Tevez, Higuain , Agüero, and good passion. But they lack world-cup level midfielders and part of their defense suck and over that their coaching is horrible and don’t seem to have a game-plan.
    I’d be very surprised if Kaká leads Brazil. I’m a Real Madrid supporter and I can tell you that he is not the same he was 3 years ago. He has a cronic injury and it seems to hinder his performance till the point that he doesn’t remain a starter, of course it would be great if he could sudenly become his old-self.
    By the way I think Brazil, Italy, Germany and England stand a good chance. They may have better or worse players but all of them have a very asimilated game-plan and enough quality.

  53. I’m from Holland so I would have to say I support the dutch! I’m into both soccer and basketball!

  54. I’m from Germany and will of course be rooting for them as well. I second Feel’s (#52) doubt of Maradona as coach and would also count Spain, Brazil, England and Italy as the favorites.

    I’m not one to push soccer on someone who is not really interested. Still, to the hesitant, I would suggest to at least try to catch some game summaries of the drama of the early stages and then tune in to some of the later elimination rounds. Every World Cup I can remember has produced so many stories and great games that I’m sure we’ll see something amazing this years as well.

  55. This Boston/Orlando has no bearing on the Finals, just like the Suns aren’t a good measure for what the Lakers will face.

    The Lakers will be ready for Boston, hyped for a physical, bruising series, and intent on dishing out revenge.

    There is no reason to fear Boston. They will be a formidable opponent, but the Lakers are the only team in the L built to take on any style of play, they have the best player on the floor, home court advantage, veteran leadership and the best coach in NBA history.

    I’ll take my chances with the purple and gold.

  56. What were the Detroit Pistons of 2003-4 doing in Celtic green yesterday?

    Not liking the thought of Wallace, Perkins and Garnet putting Pau in a death vise grip.

    Not liking Rondo(best PG in NBA right now) running Fish around like a pin ball.

    How did these guys get soooo good or how did Magic get toooo bad.

    Best defense I have seen since the old,old bad boys Pistons.

    Lets close out the Suns to get extra rest and work on a offensive plan for the hated Green Men.

  57. To 55

    Some would argue that Rondo is the best guy on the floor right now. I don’t agree but he has been unreal.

    Also The Green Machine is mopping the floor with the team with the most wins Cavs and the team with the 2nd most wins Magic, Not just beating them but destroying them.

    Little tougher then OKC rookies, the mash team from Utah and the midget Suns.

    Sorry but I watched Saturday game with my mouth open in shock and I am worried about what I saw.

  58. Do you think this team might remind you of the 1985 Lakers?


    I posted a few days ago that this matchup will be 1985 for the Kobe Generation. I have been a Laker fan for a long time, and assuming we get the matchup, I expect this will be the most emotional series for the fanbase in the history of the franchise. It combines many elements of 1969 (before my time) with many elements of 1985 (I was a teenager), and I think from Lakers fans’ POV, those two series were the most emotional on their own. Combining them? Wow.

    Also, of course, there is the Garnett injury element. I have never–literally never–heard or read a Celtic fan saying the 1985 and 1987 Showtime teams were plain better than the Bird teams. Between Bird, Maxwell and McHale being hurt, and Len Bias’ death, the Celtic fanbase, right or wrong, seems unable to tip the hat and go there.

    And here we are again.

    In Hollinger’s Friday chat, someone wrote in and asked him if the Celtics would have had a threepeat if Garnett had not been hurt. If the Lakers play the Celtics, and lose, we will have to hear that, well, forever.

    In addition, there is the Simmons/ESPN factor. Hollinger complains all the time about Laker fans being “too sensitive” but he forgets that ESPN’s three loudest voices are him, Abbott, and, Simmons, whose position is one of the strangest things in the long history of sports journalism. Here we have a lifelong, hardcore Celtics fan, with a huge high-profile national gig and a bestseller, who has a massive audience and who LIVES IN LA. Simmons viciously–and I mean viciously–attacked Kobe’s manhood and character after the 2008 Finals. He since has backed off of that. But if the Lakers play the Celtics and lose, money says he goes right back to doing that.

    The Lakers will be in effect playing for four things:

    revenge for 2008
    validating 2009 (not fair, but it is what it is)
    winning 2010
    trying to the get last monkey off Kobe’s back, and the team’s.

    As Earvin always said, it’s Winnin’ Time.

  59. just another persons thoughts

    So, what would the Lakers do with Rondo? That has to be on everyone’s mind. Yes, Boston will find that defending Lamar Odom(notes) is a little more difficult than the one-dimensional Rashard Lewis(notes). Pau Gasol(notes) and Andrew Bynum(notes) are better two years later, and, yes, Kobe Bryant(notes) is still Kobe Bryant. Yet, what will the Lakers do with Rondo? He’s always been fearless, but he has such a mental toughness to him now. He has these Celtics believing so fervently in him that Garnett sat with him in the postgame news conference and Rondo’s once harshest critic gushed in pure testimonial form for him. These are the playoffs that have exposed so many unworthy and overhyped stars. LeBron and Howard have been the worst possible leaders in these playoffs, and Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) and Rashard Lewis have shown themselves to be unworthy of max contracts.

    I couldn’t agree about anything more!!!!!!

  60. Yet, what will the Lakers do with Rondo?


    I would put Kobe and Brown on him, and let Fisher follow Ray Allen around the picks. One small + for the Lakers vis-a-vis 2008: Brown plays better D than Sasha.

    But, first things first. The Lakers have yet to win on Phoenix’s court.

  61. “To 55

    Some would argue that Rondo is the best guy on the floor right now. I don’t agree but he has been unreal.

    Also The Green Machine is mopping the floor with the team with the most wins Cavs and the team with the 2nd most wins Magic, Not just beating them but destroying them.

    Little tougher then OKC rookies, the mash team from Utah and the midget Suns.

    Sorry but I watched Saturday game with my mouth open in shock and I am worried about what I saw.”

    Some would argue Rondo is the best player, I think Kobe will relish guarding him.

    I am in no way saying that the Lakers will waltz over the Celtics, but I believe game 6 and 7 at home are the deciding factors.

    And as for Magic and Cavs win totals, they play in the East. That is literally worth 10 wins a season, so I consider the Lakers the best team in terms of wins. And don’t forget, Dallas only won 2 fewer than the Lakers, and that didn’t work out so great for them.

    It’s about being a Champion, and I will put my faith in Kobe, Phil, Derek and a crew of players that have been through the fire for now the 3rd year in a row (Artest providing the “I need a ring too” spark that Jackson loves to add post Title).**

    **as long as Drew stays on the floor for 20-25 mins a game, I stick to this.

  62. to drew,Pau Kobe

    I agree that Lakers will win in 7 but hard to see Kobe running around after Rondo. Big loss of energy on offense from a guy with still many injuries.

    As for heart of champs etc. I have to rate Paul, Ray and Garnet equal to the Lakers. Thats a tie there.

    Again a very tough series and one that will really show the true value of aquiring Artest. We will need it because I have little hope for Andrew helping aganist the pounding of Wallace and Perkins.

  63. Again a very tough series and one that will really show the true value of aquiring Artest.


    Indeed. This will be EXACTLY why he was acquired, assuming it happens.

  64. World Cup soccer: I agree with a couple of posters above that point out Argentina’s coaching problems. Maradona, unfortunately, isn’t a good coach. And the defense is weak. However, I see some potential in their midfielders. JJavier Mascherano is world class, and Angel DiMaria is a quality player. Of course, the midfield would be stronger if Cambiasso would be playing for the national team.

    To sum it up, Argentina still is one of the teams with a chance to win, but I have to admit that I rank Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Holland above them.

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