My World Cup – Recap

14 07 2014

GermanyLast month I wrote about my excitement for the pending World Cup, and I made some predictions. Now that it’s all over, here are some thoughts, observations and realizations about the big event.

Overall, the World Cup competition was fantastic. I’m glad that the matches were completed with minimal controversy, and that everyone in Brazil was safe and peaceful. I was especially pleased by the excellent coverage by ESPN. Their commentary, analysis and special features enhanced what was already a tremendous event.

I made what I thought were a few bold predictions, and some were realized. This World Cup was full of surprises in the group stage, then everything settled down and the best teams went through to the finals. Germany won, and they were the best team… without question. But let’s see how I did on those predictions:

For the USA…

jonesPREDICTION: Jermaine Jones will do something that will cost the team. A red card, or a bad foul resulting in a dangerous free kick. I couldn’t have been more wrong… Jones was consistently the best field player for the USA (Tim Howard was team MVP, no doubt). My worry about Jones was that he had a history of cheap fouls and his temper getting the better of him. But after playing every minute and performing fantastic in every game – he made me a believer. His goal against Portugal was one of the best of the tournament, for any team.

PREDICTION: The USA will score in each match. Almost happened, but because they scored against everyone except the eventual champion Germany… I’ll give myself half credit.

PREDICTION: Julian Green will get in the Ghana match, but not see the field for the rest of the tournament. I had that one backwards. Green didn’t get in until late in the last match, and scored a nice goal.

PREDICTION: Tim Howard will stop a penalty. That didn’t happen because we didn’t concede any. Nevertheless, Howard was incredible… best performance on the USA squad.

PREDICTION: Klinsmann will park the bus against Germany, but try to run with Portugal. I think I got this one right. The situation of the group standings was that the U.S. only needed a tie versus Germany, and they played conservatively for that result. The 1-0 loss got them through. But they outplayed Portugal, and should have won.  

PREDICTION: The United States WILL get out of the group, then upset Belgium in the first knockout round. Argentina will knock us out, but that will be deemed a successful showing for Team Klinsmann. Spot on again, well… mostly. The group stage went exactly how I thought … Beat Ghana, a result against Portugal, and close match against Germany. I had counted on Belgium not being as good a TEAM as the U.S. even though they had so many stars. Still, we fought until the end and almost pulled it out.

The rest of the world…

PREDICTION: Lionel Messi will win the Golden Boot. Correct!! But I do think James Rodriguez of Columbia would have been the better choice.

PREDICTION: Some not so big names that will have a big impact: André Schürrle (Germany) and Hulk (Brazil)… “Puny humans!” Schürrle was fantastic, consistently bringing energy and pace off the bench… plus he scored three goals. Don’t forget the fantastic cross on the final winning goal. Hulk was probably one of the better players for Brazil, but they were such a disappointment that it’s hard to give any of them credit.

PREDICTION: England will not win a game. Spot on with this one too. The Three Lions have no bite (pun), and need to completely retool how they plan to compete internationally. The Premier League is the best in the world, and produced more World Cup players than any other. But there are too many foreign star players there restricting the development of English players. The FA has a problem, and no solution.

PREDICTION: Bosnia-Herzegovina will beat France in the first knockout round. Ouch! Lost the first two group matches, and were never a factor.

PREDICTION: Brazil will be a big disappointment, losing in the semifinals to Germany. Holy shit, I’ll never be so right about something again!! Truthfully, at the time of the prediction I thought that the pressure of winning at home would be too much for them. But I never thought it possible they would be humiliated like that. That match got its own post.

PREDICTION: Germany and Spain in the final. So I was half right!

PREDICTION: Spain will win the World Cup. If it wasn’t for Brazil’s epic collapse, this would have been one of the biggest stories of the World Cup. No one thought that some of the top teams in the world (Spain, Portugal, England, Italy) would be heading home after three matches. Wild results… great World Cup.

*At this point it should be noted that I tied for first place in my World Cup pool… no small feat! Yes, there were only four of us in the pool, and I didn’t predict everything right – but I was better than most. I guess I know some stuff…

photoLast thoughts… I observed a lot of soccer in the past 39 days. I watched at least one full match in the group stage each day, and fast forwarded through each goal in the others (love my DVR!). I saw almost every minute of the knockout stage matches. And I reveled in sharing the USA matches with hundreds of new friends and fellow American Outlaws at a few local watering holes. The crowds who gathered across the nation for these matches were incredible, and I hope that US Soccer keeps the momentum going. I know it’s only sports… but in those communal situations you realize that there is nothing more gleeful than a shared joy, and there is also nothing more soothing than commiseration.

But I think my favorite memory was yesterday. I went to my local bar to watch the final with family and friends. Not a traditional soccer bar, but a great place to watch sports. It was a good crowd, but not as many people for a USA match. I got a prime seat directly in front of the 15 foot screen, and seated to my left was a regular who knew nothing about soccer. Most soccer fans would shudder, but I spent the next two plus hours explaining some of the finer points of my beautiful game to an admitted non-fan.

I’m not sure if I turned him from the dark side, but answering his questions reminded me why I love this game so much. The past six weeks have shown how exciting, raw, unexpected, excruciating, and inspiring the game truly is.

And it’s beautiful.

Thanks for reading so many of my soccer posts. We now resume our regular programming…





Waxing Brazil

9 07 2014

87974_dd88989776b9a29af4f36e15f8582658_b7074e5727d16f90dc8ef2d33f893536This post originally began as a Facebook status. But as I thought about it there was more to say. It’s been close to 24 hours since the Germany/Brazil semifinal “mis”match in the World Cup, and certainly one of the big sports stories of the year.

The result was not a surprise but the margin of victory was a shock. Brazil did not impress in any of their previous games, but no one expected a slaughter. They finished atop what was arguably the weakest group in the tournament, and if it wasn’t for a phantom penalty call late in the first match versus Croatia they would have been on the couch a lot earlier. 

Brazil was the odds on favorite to win the World Cup, with more talent than any other team in the field. Their players are the best in the world, commanding the highest salaries at the top clubs. One would think that they could just show up and win.

That’s exactly what they didn’t do. The reason soccer is called the “beautiful game” is because of how the Brazilians always played it. A World Cup being contested in their own country… should be an easy win. (Ironically, the Croatia players and coaches asserted the same thoughts after their controversial loss… “Just give them the trophy now!”)

So what happened? Not to take anything away from a fantastic German side, it’s clear that Brazil was not ready to play against the best competition. As the host country, they do not have to go through qualifying like everyone else. With that edge lost, complacency took over with a predictable result. What we saw is a precise interpretation of an old axiom, that talent isn’t enough… you have to work hard to succeed.

I’m very interested to see how Brazil plays in the third place match. My thought… if they play neighborhood rival Argentina it will be a hotly contested match. If the play Holland, the Brazilians will roll over and die. Again…

After the match I saw a lot of comments about how the U.S. only lost to Germany by a 1-0 score, so accordingly we are better than Brazil. Sports doesn’t work that way. It’s a ridiculous notion, but can you imagine what a team with Brazil’s talent and America’s heart and determination would look like? Wow…

AR-140709193One last thought… ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup has been tremendous so far, with great pre and post game analysis and first-rate commentary during the match. Ian Darke and Steve McManama were terrific in, what had to be, a tough match to call. So I was disappointed that they spent so much time monitoring the streets of Rio de Janeiro waiting for a riot to start. I know that would be a ratings bonanza, but get a grip! I guess the Brazilians were too shocked to muster up the energy to flip over a car or two.

I’d like to give the fans credit. They stayed and cheered their team until the end, and showed appreciation for the German side that had just humiliated them. Well done… Brazilians!

So hoping the other semifinal is a better game.





Flippin’ Facebook

8 07 2014

cs9NN“I’ve had it with Facebook.” ~ John Q. Public

How many times have you heard this complaint? The constantly changing layout, hard to follow rules, more ads in your news feed, and the dwindling reach for company pages… flippin’ Facebook is a nightmare! Users can’t comprehend how Facebook has the nerve to make changes to the FREE site they love so much, and company page owners are mad that they now actually have to PAY for Facebook advertising. It’s exasperating!

Users need to relax. Breathe… Embrace the changes, because they are almost always designed to give you a more positive experience. The ads are the price you pay for using Facebook for free. And be honest, you get enough out of the Facebook experience to justify putting up with a few ads in your News Feed. The reality is that everyone has the right to make money – including the gods of Facebook. To think otherwise is Un-American! Truthfully, I can’t believe they took this long to end the free ride for company pages.

I’ve been speaking with a lot of small business owners about the decreasing reach of Facebook company posts. While we have been lamenting the decline, it should cause us to embrace and understand exactly what Facebook advertising can do. That “free” ride has been over for a while now, but Facebook is still the best way to target specific customers.

20130812-full1If you have been doing it correctly, you have built a Facebook following of the right people – people who want to do business with you. And you have been providing them with good content that helps grow your business. “Boosting” those great posts to your loyal “listeners” must now be a part of your budget. Low cost Promoted Posts not only reach your followers but can be expanded further to reach potential customers, by using specific demographic targeting and keywords – at very affordable prices.  I’m not saying that every post deserves boosting, because your core customers will probably visit your page frequently. Pick your spots and, most importantly, track your results.

Boosting works. Ads are similar, and certainly hit a wider audience. Think about spending $50 to reach 10,000 very specific people… Can that be accomplished with any other traditional B2C advertising method?

Whether you do a Facebook Ad or a Promoted Post, dedicate a portion of your marketing budget to make a big impact. If you are a small business it is a no-brainer. You’ll wonder why you weren’t doing this all along.

And quit yer whining…





Colors

4 07 2014

The colors of the flag of our nation are on my mind today, maybe because of all the World Cup/USA soccer fever over the past three weeks. Here are a few red, white and blue thoughts on the anniversary of our nation’s birth…

photo (2)Speaking of the World Cup – Although it’s still going on, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sporting event more than this World Cup – and I have no idea who these people are in the photo! With very few exceptions, the games have been edge-of-your-seat fantastic. Even if you are a soccer novice, it’s been the sports story of the year. Our U.S. team performed admirably, and I think soccer has finally reached the level of acceptance it deserves. Who could have pictured hundreds, and in some cities, thousands of people getting together to watch the World Cup? I can’t wait until 2018! There is a lot of work to be done, and many matches to be played before the next World Cup. But it’s a great time to be an American soccer fan!

If I Had A Time Machine – I often wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of our United States today. These brave, brilliant men could never have foreseen this future, as I’m sure none of us could accurately paint a picture of our world 238 years from now.

6a014e8c33f773970d017ee7f226ce970dImagine if we could pluck Thomas Jefferson from the past… I think he would revel in flying back and forth to his beloved Paris in a jet, and look in wonder at the massive cities that have sprung up across the wilderness he knew. (He might wonder how we got all of this done without slaves.) And, I think that he would be in shock to learn that his two century old parchment writings are considered by some to be the letter of the law.

By definition, a patriot is “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors”. Today, many describe themselves as “patriots” because they are convinced that their beliefs are the only solution to the ills of our nation… and all non-believers are to be treated as enemies of the state. They cloak themselves in the Constitution or the Bible, and spit upon those who dare to question their ideas. But they forget those very writings were made to be a beautiful framework for a vision of a free state, or a guide for all of us to be a better, kinder people.

We should continually inspire to be just that.

tumblr_l5aly0HcB01qa944oo1_1280Family and Friends – I’m looking forward to a great weekend. It looks like rain today for the actual 4th of July in Philadelphia, with remnants of Hurricane Arthur that making his way up the east coast. But it should be clear, blue skies on Saturday, and I’m heading to my sister’s place for a fun-filled afternoon by the pool with a bunch of family and friends. Sunshine, good conversation and cocktails are the only things on the menu… maybe a burger or two. Be warned, sis… watch out for a great big cannonball, and – to my chagrin – much water displacement.

As a wise man once said, “Family… what it’s all about!”

Quoting Myself – This time last year I wrote this tidbit, and then stole something from a “so-so” author:

Here’s something you’re not used to seeing on my page… great, great writing:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy 4th of July, my friends.

Red-White-Blue-Stars-Stripes-Flag