Champions League

Has the great Swedish player of Bosnian-Croatian origin finally found a home?

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I watched most of the Greece Russia without much attachment. I had no dog in this fight, not even a flea. I’m an Arsenal fan and couldn’t even sustain enough animosity toward Arshavin. I didn’t really blame him. He hadn’t shown any inclination to cover an opposing player or tackle anyone since 2008, maybe 2007, so it was my fault that I kept expecting him to. He had cost us many a game but it was Wenger’s fault that he kept faith with the Russian. One of these days, an epiphany and Arshavin would track back. Nope.

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Much has been made of Dutchman Arjen Robben’s almost preternatural ability to choke on soccer’s biggest stages. There was his series of oh-so-close shots in Bayern Munich’s losing effort against Inter Milan in the last match of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, the Champions League, in 2010; his indefensible blunders in the final game of the 2010 World Cup; his uninspired and easily-corralled penalty kick in the overtime period of this year’s Champions League Final.

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Frank Foer: Luke, I'm putting together a Euros blog. Are you in? Luke Dempsey: Couldn’t care less, Frank. FF: The phrase is “could care less,” Mr. Dempsey. LD: Not in England it’s not. FF: You’re not IN England. You haven’t lived there for 17 years. I know for a fact that you missed the whole Jubilee thing . . .

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Every time the World Cup is on the same annoying question comes up: Will Americans accept soccer? Well, frankly, I could not care less. Yesterday I watched the US-Ghana game in a steakhouse in the suburbs of Nashville, with the game sound replaced by a country music selection so immaculately insufferable that they’re surely using it to extract bogus information in the Guantanamo Bay torture resort. Apart from me, there was a guy drinking alone, and some of the kitchen staff. Did I care less about the game because of that? No.

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It ought to be noted that Marcell Lippi took the blame for Italy's humiliating demise—something that a clown like Domenech would never even think of. His penitence was somewhat forehanded as he managed to smack the players who lacked courage and played with terror in their hearts, while accepting the blame for picking such players. There were quite a few weak-kneed players on Italy's team yesterday, but none more so than De Rossi whose legs seemed to have been replaced with wet spaghetti.

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Of all the advantages that England seemed to enjoy at the outset of their lifeless 0-0 draw with Algeria, perhaps none looked so dramatic on television as their vast handsomeness advantage. On the sideline there was David Beckham, of course, the only man alive who can make a mohawk look upstanding, and the coach Fabio Capello, who looked terrific and commanding--gorgeous light grey suit, charcoal shirt, black tie, and spectacles so impeccably designed they seem likely to inspire a line of kitchenware.

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Let me bring to your attention a couple of things about the Mexican team before Friday’s opening match. I am fairly certain you have heard about Hugo Sánchez, the famous striker who owned Spanish football during the eighties playing for Real Madrid. Yes, Hugo was great: trained by gymnasts, his acrobatics remained unmatched in the box. His most famous goal, against Logroñes in 1988, still is one of the most beautiful in the long history of the sport (I challenge anyone who worships Zidane’s goal in the Champions League 2002 final to watch the above clip).

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Goal-Oriented

My best friend, a notorious Americanophile, has been trying for years to get me to abandon the lush, green meadows of soccer for the thin, shiny parquet of the NBA. A dreary return match between Barcelona and Inter in the Champions League semifinals provided him with the perfect opportunity to try and convert me again. “How can you waste so many hours watching a game where the highlight is a closeup of a frustrated, unshaven Spanish player spitting on the ground?” he asked. “Even FIFA knows the game is mega boring. Why else would they try to jazz it up by changing the rules every year?

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Barca Lounging

In the run-up to the first goal in the recent game between Real Madrid and Barcelona—known around the world as El Classico—Lionel Messi, currently the best player in the world by a long shot, was fouled and knocked down, only to get up quickly, receive the ball, and pass it on to Xavi, who returned it with a sublime chip over the hapless heads of Real’s defense—and while Raul Albiol* thrashed around as though about to speak in tongues trying to stop him, Messi scored with a shot that simultaneously looked clumsy and exactly perfect.

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