It should have raised red flags when both Syria and Russia approved of Kofi Annan’s February 23 appointment as the United Nations-Arab League Joint Special Envoy (JSE) to Syria. But after bickering world powers repeatedly failed to agree on an emissary to broker an end to the killing spree in which Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 9,000 people, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, was content to laud Annan as “an outstanding choice.” Certainly the Ghana-born Annan comes loaded with credentials: former U.N.
The United States may have missed its chance to play Spain in the World Cup final Sunday (and the Netherlands in the semifinal, and Uruguay in the quarterfinal), but similar battles take place every day on American turf, where the world meets for pick-up soccer games. There’s weekdays outside an MIT building in Cambridge, weekend mornings behind the White House, and barefoot on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. There are, in fact, times when the U.S.
Best Player: In the first half of the tournament, I was very impressed with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, which is why I’m so dismayed by the talk that his goalless World Cup was somehow on the same level with Cristiano Ronaldo’s or Wayne Rooney’s disappointing performances. Granted, I’m a fan, and I won’t claim to be unbiased, but focusing on the fact that Messi didn’t score betrays a rather narrow understanding of an elite player’s impact on a game.
Best goal: Van Bronckhorst’s, no question. Where the ball ended up was the only place it could have gone while still eluding the keeper. About as close to a perfect strike as I’ve ever seen. Watch him repeat it right-footed. Best player: David Villa. Forlan gets honorable mention, of course, but Villa somehow looks dangerous every time he gets the ball. Yes, he gets great service from the Spanish midfield, but with Torres slumping, he’s had to do it without a threatening attacking partner. Best goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer.
Best Uniform: Uruguay, for the insouciant way they wore their collars. No two players agreed -- should it be up, a la Eric Cantona; non-existent, a la Brazil, or all messed up? All messed up seemed to dominate. Worst individual performance: Ricardo Clark, USA. Phew, he was dreadful. Substituted after half an hour against Ghana? That's a starting pitcher giving up 8 runs in the top of the first. On two grand slams. No one out. In the post-season. Least enjoyable game: England vs. Algeria. Did anything at all actually happen?
“But I think we can take it there won’t be any air raids, not on London at any rate,” Sir Joseph Mainwaring says confidently on the day the Second World War, and Put Out More Flags, both begin. “The Germans will never attempt the Maginot line. The French will hold on for ever, if needs be ...” For the rest of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Sir Joseph's taste for of lofty predictions—“But there is one thing of which I am certain. Russia will come in against us before the end of the year.
I lived in Ghana back in 1998, so their match against Uruguay was a real threat to my usual pan-Latin American approach to World Cup soccer fandom. I respect their game, and adore the country. I felt uncomfortable rooting against them, and I would’ve supported them against any team besides the U.S. or a Latin American side. Like everyone else, I was hoping to see an African side go through, and who knows what this marvelous, hard-working team might have accomplished with a healthy Michael Essien in the midfield.
I will admit under the cover of darkness, with a long head start from those who might disagree, that I supported Uruguay against Ghana. Beirut had been gutted by the Brazilian loss in the afternoon (and here there are the Brazilians and there are the Germans, all else being commentary), so all that was left behind was a sense of solidarity for the little guy, for Africa, for the Third World, for the poor… Which is why, at a football dinner last night, the air turned to permafrost when I, rather alone, cheered Sebastian Abreu’s cheeky penalty that won the match for the “Celeste.” Echoes of the
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Over at the World Cup Blog, Stefan Fatsis is again full of soccer triumphalism: A poster named “Irishman” puts it nicely: “The USA has the extraordinary luck to be both Germanic and Hispanic, black and white and brown, African and European and Asian, all in one driven national character.” Progress is uncertain for every national side, but it’s highly likely for the U.S. Irishman quoted Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” To which JustinO replied: “First they ignore you (to 1989). Then they laugh at you (1990-2001).