Monday, March 30, 2009

Match Preview: Andorra vs Croatia

I'm so bored. The international week started last weekend and as much as I love NT gatherings, it's been so boring and uneventful this time. Sure there are some pics and cute clips from training, but as they have too much private time on their hands, and they are sinisterly, well, private about it, that doesn't leave me with much. How inconvenient.

Also, we could've easily played two matches within these ten days, a friendly and an official, like most other teams, so I don't understand how come our team took 10 days off to prepare for Andorra exclusively? Really? And now they're wasting time doing nothing. Playstation and fussball and Seinfeld re-runs. Yes, that's how they're spending most of their afternoons.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when they just hang about casually, and it's probably for the better that they aren't playing anyone else until Wednesday as so many of our first team players are injured (Olić, Petrić, Pranjić, Mandžukić are definitely out, Luka is doubtful and Slaven probably won't risk him, Charlie is being mended as we speak).

But surely Slaven didn't know that when they were arranging the match schedule. They gave up on a friendly in November as it was 'pointless', and they've wasted this term now as well. I don't understand.

Well anyway, this is most likely the team that will run out vs Andorra*:

carli.gif vejic.gif krizanac.gif cale.gif
srna.gif juric.gif niko.gif rakitic.gif

* yes I stole this from another forum...

And this is where they'll be playing:

The capacity is about 1200, but far more important than that is the state of the pitch which is not fit for professional football. But as it happens, Andorrans refused our offer to play at Nou Camp instead, even though they did so with England - in other words, "who the f**k are you?" Ah well. They deserve a good stuffing anyway.

Some stats: We played Andorra in three qualifying rounds so far, and have a pretty good goal difference, 22-0. That's 4,4 goals per match - hopefully this means there'll be a goleada on Wednesday as well.

What to say about them? Hack'n'slash really. I noticed at the last match their #7 had some ball skills but all in all, it should be easy peasy. The only concern is none of the guys get hurt due to the bad pitch conditions.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

His kung fu is better than yours.

If there was ever any doubt Joe owned the world, this should quickly dispel it.
I can't tell you how much I love him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Niko could learn a few things about tackling from my mother.

"F**k yeah, team of the week AND my manager likes me - suck on that Charlie!"

My Mum is funny. I guess it runs in the family. So funny things always happen to her.
She told me today about this funny moment from one of the times she was flying; I'm sure she told me about it before but since I have a tendency to switch off during my parents' ramblings (like you don't!), it was pretty new to me.

So for one of her trips she happened to borrow a suitcase from a friend... and as you may have guessed, she eventually forgot what it looked like. She's often as absent minded as I am, so it's no wonder. So she picked up a suitcase she thought it was hers from the baggage carousel and headed for the exit.

Now imagine one of those long moving walkways at airports. Halfway on it she looks down and realizes the bag she's carrying is not hers at all. Panic ensues and she turns around to, well, leave the line and go back. As she suddenly halts, she messes up the queue of people behind her who start colliding with each other.

And as she looks down the line, she realizes there's the Croatian national football team, tripping over each other.

My Mom is not much of a football fan and I don't think she could name more than two players from the NT to save her life, so it would be useless to ask her about the details. But the idea of Charlie or Niko or anyone else really from the team bumping into each other and falling over (because of my mother of all people) is more than I can take.

In other news, the lovable and utterly impressive Mario Ančić is set to hold a lecture on sports law – at none other than Harvard. Apparently Mario is a nerd with admirable work ethics. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years his career was intercepted with various long term injuries or illnesses - but obviously he's found a constructive way to deal with the long breaks, and graduated from law school at the tender age of 22.

Also, just because it is too good not to share; my lunch was so made of win today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Groin Theory

Tottenham drew with Sunderland today, 1-1. I couldn't watch the match but I heard they were, well, pretty much shit again. Even Luka had a *meh!* time, and Charlie was kinda distracted. And it's not the first time this year either.

So it got me thinking, and working on a theory, the so called groin situation. You see, right before that friendly with Romania a month ago (that I promised to report about but probably never will :cries:), there was a speculation about Charlie's supposed groin injury and how he'd be doubtful for the match. When the journalists asked him about it before the match, he replied, casually as always:
"Well, I do feel a tension, but it's nothing serious. There is no muscle damage... my groin is just hard."

I thought that was one of his best quotes ever and shame on me for failing to share it with the general public while it was still fresh.

It however compelled me to start paying special attention to that special area on pics from that moment on (hey it was all for a scientific research! :blushes:) and I believe I noticed a correlation between the groin situ and his recent dip in form.

You see, in the pre-2009 pics there is no groin situation. Charlie's as cool as a cucumber and so is his groin, he's always on top of things, having impressed pretty much everyone.

Click to enlarge evidence (teehee!)

No groin drama below.

But come 2009 and we suddenly notice the groin is alive. It does look exciting doesn't it, but I bet it's rather distracting, or so would young Mr Corluka have us believe, because with its first signs of life he's somewhat astrayed from his usual faultless self, and played fairly average.


(I'd enclose more pics as evidence, but I'm this close to a heat stroke.)

So what could be the reason for this sudden groin uprising and the absence of his normal 'talking-to-me?' attitude?

Talking to me?

A. Is there something on pitch that gets him excited?
B. Problems at home that leave him feeling unfulfilled?
C. Hormons / recent change of diet = an increased appreciation for pies? (notice how he's rounded up a bit in the last few months)

Let me know what you think!

Please leave your suggestions as to how I may help him overcome this - this is very important.
We thank you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Joe Simunic is not crazy anymore.

About a year ago when I was in Berlin I stumbled into a Hertha fan shop to check for Joe's shirt, just because. I couldn't find it so I asked the shop assistant if they have it around.
"Are you kidding?", he asked in disbelief. "Psycho Joe Šimunić?" "The very one!" I replied.
"Who would want it?! He's the most hated player in the league!"

That made me sad. Joe is such a nice man, a gentle giant off the pitch, well spoken and polite guy, and a terrific footballer.

He just... sometimes sees red when he sees an opponent coming towards him. And sometimes it takes even less than that. His flipping outs are the stuff of legends. He's the pillar of defense, our Joe, it's either the ball or the player that can go past him, but never both of them together.

I understand why he was the most hated player in the league. He got sent off three times in five months, and when Joe comes charging, it doesn't look nice at all :-(

His other, more entertaining blackouts include playing heel passes in his own penalty box with three opponents on his back. Sometimes it works... and sometimes it doesn't.

You may also remember him as the only footballer ever to receive three yellows (Croatia vs Australia, WC 2006).

For all his great technique, natural talent and die-hard dedication, more often than not he was seen as a liability, and even those who supported him shuddered every time when the ball was in his possession - because you never ever knew just what he might do.

Well anyway, Crazy Joe is not crazy anymore.

I (and pretty much everyone else) already noticed a significant difference during the Euro last year, when he was our best player by a mile. Not to take anything away from the other guys, they were all great as far as I'm concerned (grrr Petrić!), but Joe was head and shoulders above everyone else. I thought Slaven got him on some kind of medications... but then he was voted the best defender in Bundesliga this season, with impressive stats of over 70% successful tackles.

And these days he revealed us his secret.

I always had the feeling that some people, like me, were there to be blamed for things. I was mad at some people, and disappointed in others. It made me a very frustrated man and a very aggressive player.

However, I realized that the point is not about who's guilty, but that a man is constantly improving himself. He must know how to channel properly his negative feelings and unhappiness. A disatisfied man cannot achieve good results. So in the end I only did harm to my team, opponents but mostly to myself. My past had two sides: it hardened me, but it also hurt me.

Whoa there! Where did this philosophical insight come from?

People from the club have already suggested I should work with psychologists. Like most other people, at first I thought it was silly and unnecessary. However, I soon changed my mind. I discovered psychology in the full sense of the word. I began to buy books and thoroughly study this complicated science.

I came to the conclusion that psychology is by far the most important aspect of professional sports. The difference between Nadal, Federer or Tiger Woods in relation to their opponents is in psychology. The physical differences in top-level sports are so minimal that the real difference is the mental viewpoint.


For three years I worked with a psychologist. Now I have calmed down. I learned a lot about my own body language, and I certainly learned a lot about harmful wasting of energy on unnecessary things.

When the player is angry at the referee or his team-mate because of some mistakes, he is in fact making himself unable to play, because he is losing concentration. It is impossible to play 34 matches a season without mistakes, and this is what athletes simply must come to terms with.

Niko adores him, I guess that says it all.