World Club Cup: Sepahan (Iran) 3-1 Waitakere United (New Zealand)

A clarifying thought came to me as I saw Waitakere United’s Jason Hayne come on for Christopher Bale somewhere around the 60th minute.  When you’re part of team to whom fell the misfortune of demonstrating the gap between professionals and part-timers, well, what do you have to lose?  Go out there loose, get a high from playing against people on a higher level in front of thousands, and just…play.  This is supposed to be fun, dammit.

Hayne’s substitution came ten minutes or so after Iran’s Sepahan scored its third, and final, goal on their way to a 3-1 win.  Abudl Wahab Abu Al Hail put a sliced, outward curve on the long-range shot, which made a slow-rolling mockery of the Waitakere ‘keeper’s decision to try to catch it.  The irony of that particular moment grew from the fact that, if forced to choose between the two ‘keepers on the field – Waitakere’s Simon Eaddy and Sepahan’s Mohammad Savari – I would go with Eaddy in a heartbeat…that precise moment excepted, of course.

In goal was just about the only spot on the field where Waitakere enjoyed an advantage.  The Iranian side passed more crisply, moved smarter off the ball and found a couple ways around – or, worse, through – the New Zealanders’ (hereafter, Kiwis) back line.  Forget the final score for a second; a more relevant statistic appeared during the first half, when my TV told me that Sepahan enjoyed a 71-to-29% advantage in possession.  Even with the game ending on a more equitable 66-to-34 breakdown, that edge proved more telling than usual.  Waitakere continually gave away the ball or, where their key forward, Benjamin Totori, was concerned, dribbled into dead-ends.

Given that, the late rally the New Zealanders (hereafter, Kiwis) put together seems a little more impressive.  Doubly impressive, in fact, given that they were part-timers going against full pros; normally, one would expect the professionals to gain the advantage as the game wears on.  This goes back to my theory that the Kiwis decided to make their one-game on the global stage more about getting kicks than getting results.  Whatever happened, they got forward more and, hence, around Sepahan’s back line a couple times – most notably when Totori found some use for his soloist’s skills. Continue reading

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World Club Cup: The Day Before* the Brawl

* Or is it? I don’t pay enough attention to how the International Date Line works, so maybe the opening game already happened already, at least in terms of the date. Probably not, though…moving on…

Kick-off for the World Club Cup play-in, which pits Iran’s Sepahan against Waitakere United’s (part-timers) from New Zealand comes in, oh, 13 hours (full TV schedule; a more detailed layout appears on soccertv.com). With the tournament so close, I’m working on getting psyched up for the thing, but I’m finding myself reliant on official sources – e.g. FIFA.com’s official site – in order to do so.  They certainly try by frequent uses of the adjectives like “ultimate” and “prestigious” for describing the trophy…here I thought the whole thing was just one more straw laid gently on players’ backs by FIFA and the clubs, all done with the apparent goal of breaking them without anyone noticing…

Knowing that official sites are ever-willing to stroke their product, I thought I’d poke around for some kind of buzz in non-official outlets. Sadly, a search of Google news – using “2007 FIFA World Club Cup” as the search words – hit only a few items and most of those coming from FIFA.com. Now that I’ve got a viewing schedule nailed down, I fully intend to do my bit to provide independent content, but FIFA.com looks like the well-spring for any pre-tourney hype (he writes without checking club sites).

Grousing about corporatist media outlets out of the way, I can say that the news section of FIFA.com’s site at least has plenty of content. That’s where I learned that all the World Club Cup tournaments operating under the present format have crowned Brazilian clubs as champions (Corinthians (2000), Sao Paulo (2005) and Internacional (2006)). That will change, if nothing else, thanks to the absence of Brazilian clubs in the 2007 tournament. Obviously, Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s AC Milan enter the lists as favorites, but we can imagine a different outcome…can’t we? Then again, Milan’s stars – guys like Kaka and Clarence Seedorf (shit…how old is that dude?) – wax eloquent in pre-game interviews about their “burning desire” to lift the World Club Cup (to which my first response as the interviewer would be, “No shit? C’mon, the tape recorder is off…now, tell me: you feel like well-compensated chattel don’t you?”

As a side-note, I should mention that Kaka seems equally up for the 2009 Confederations Cup…and guess who will be in attendance at that one? (HINT: Bob Bradley coaches this “mystery” team.) Continue reading

World Club Cup: A “Minnows” Primer

Now that I’ve got the bug – and, no less crucially, the indulgence of my wife with regard to TV time – I’m going to make an honest stab at covering the 2007 FIFA World Club Cup.  The first step begins, of course, with education – specifically, getting up to date on the clubs that aren’t world-renowned (e.g. Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s AC Milan) or that I haven’t seen play three times in the last year (Mexico’s CF Pachuca).

With that in mind, I pulled together some reading on the remaining clubs competing in this year’s World Club Cup (a.k.a. FIFA’s latest money-spinning scheme/methadone fix for soccer addicts the world over.  You don’t own me!  Get out of my mind!!).  I hope it will go some distance to making any viewing more pleasurable.

Sepahan (Iran)
The profile posted on the FIFA site gives dramatic background on this Iranian club’s arrival to the World Club Cup.  Some way or another, their loss to Japan’s entrants, Urawa Red Diamonds, in the obliges them to win a play-in against Oceania’s representatives.  They also mention the fact that, Ehad Mohammed, one of Sepahan’s key forwards, is Iraqi…kinda neat.  On a related note, the Wikipedia entry on Sepahan shows nationalities for all the team’s players – and, lo and behold, there’s another Iraqi in there.  I pull for Iraqis by habit lately.  And, on another related note, I read that their domestic league has recommenced play after an 18-month layoff. Continue reading

Methadone Clocking: The World Club Cup! Saved from UEFA Cup Viewing!*

* I kid. I kid. I just won’t get to it this week.

It’s only when the desperation gets one poking under the cushions of soccertv.com that one truly realizes the full-time nature of the global soccer calendar. I see now that waiting won’t be at all necessary, not with the U.S. U-17s in action all weekend long; they start Thursday, in fact. And the opposition – the U-17 teams from Brazil, Turkey, and Russia – should make for some fun viewing.

But that’s not if I’m not too busy watching the World Club Cup. Yippee!! Tournaments! What better way to justify recording all kinds of soccer, hogging the TV, etc.? That one kicks off Friday with a play-in game between Iran’s Sepahan (looks like soccertv.com has a typo) and New Zealand’s Waitakere United. The games follow hot and heavy from there with Mexico’s CF Pachuca taking on Etoile Sahel from Tunisia. This one only lasts till December 16, so you might miss it if you blink. On a side note, go, our region!

Credit to Sports Illustrated for the reminder. Surely, there’s an official site out there somewhere….ah, here it is. Full schedule, teams, and so on. The only question now is how I’m going to watch the NCAA finals with this going on. What are my priorities?

So, in all seriousness, I’m going to take a crack at catching/covering most of this one. I hope it’s fun.