79 Days Until the World Cup

23 03 2010

Can’t believe we’ve already knocked out 21 days of the countdown. Believe me, I’m still very grateful to be writing the column. It is a lot of fun. Shout out to my broham for coming with me on Sunday to do some ‘research.’ As always, the link to my newspaper’s site follows http://bit.ly/9HA7tx

Talking soccer? Better talk Messi
By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
While watching my share of soccer last week, one word came out of my mouth over and over again.Wow.

So, in this week’s version of the countdown, it would be an injustice to not sing the praises of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.

How good is Messi? Well, in a column we’ve decided to dedicate to the World Cup, the Barcelona striker has made it impossible not to talk about him when you talk about anything soccer.

In his last three games, Messi has scored eight goals, the majority of them marvels of soccer skill, collecting two hat tricks along the way and running his season tally to 25 — in a word, he’s been unbelievable.

And it isn’t just I who’s in awe of this player. After Sunday’s three-goal performance against Real Zaragoza, members of the United States soccer team couldn’t stop talking about him on Twitter.

“Messi is unreal. If he keeps this up he’ll be the best ever,” said Jozy Altidore.

“HaHAH messi is a JOKE!!!” said Stu Holden

“Ummm who is watching the Barcelona game right now?? Wowww, what a goal,” said Maurice Edu.

Former Netherlands star and all-time Dutch national team leading scorer Patrick Kluivert went as far as to say that Messi is currently better than soccer legend Diego Maradona.

It would be hard to argue against that statement. As a fan, you have to take a moment and realize that you’re in the middle of witnessing something amazing. Players like Messi come along once in a lifetime — Pele comes to mind, Johan Cryuff, Michel Platini.

The comparisons to Maradona are warranted, Messi is that good. But one thing separates the two? A World Cup win. If there is a knock on Messi is his lack of presence when it comes to international play. Argentina struggled during qualifying, and as any team with a star like Messi, as he goes, so does the team. The pressure is definitely on for Argentina and Messi and despite all that skill, a true legend is made on the world’s grandest stage. That said after watching him score over and over again this week, I wouldn’t bet against him or his team in 2010.

Scouting Venues

With only 79 days to go I’ve begun my search for an adequate locale to enjoy the Cup. I’ve been told there are plenty of places in San Francisco I can go to, but here’s my dilemma: having to be in the office at 9 a.m. With games starting at 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. my goal is to find somewhere on the Peninsula to suit my needs and that will allow me to get to work on time.

The criteria isn’t tough, basically, will you be open early, can I get a cup of coffee and will I be surrounded by other soccer-loving nuts like me? Easy enough, right?

This week, I went to Palo Alto beginning my sweep up the Peninsula and based solely on a whim found myself at the Crown and Rose, an English Pub on Emerson. Upon my arrival, I knew I had found a keeper.

The first thing that caught my attention was the atmosphere — six men lined the bar in their soccer jerseys, pints in hand, discussing several soccer-related issues (including Messi by the way). They were knowledgeable, friendly and the ambiance felt like a place that was conducive of a good soccer-experience.

Their beer tap is plentiful, the discovery of Fuller’s London Pride was a definite bonus and despite not being a fish person, I found their fish-n-chips very tasty.

Because of the size of the venue, the fact that they only have two big screens didn’t bother me. In fact, I find it to be a good thing — there’s an intimacy to the place, a familiarity that adds to the pub feel.

I was told that come June they would be showing all the games of the tournament. But come the bigger ones there will be a $10 cover charge to watch them there — a small price to pay to enjoy the Cup in a great venue. I’ll definitely keep The Crown and Rose on the ‘must-visit’ list during the Cup, I might even catch the U.S vs. England game there (I overheard there might be some interesting pre-game rituals going on over there).

I’m open to any other suggestions on this very important quest, so feel free to drop any recommendations. They’ll be much appreciated.

Things still looking up

To finish, it’s hard not to get excited for the U.S national team.

Last week we mentioned how an injury-ravaged squad is on the up, recovering nicely from injuries. And this past week that recovery took an even greater step forward.

As a sheer beauty of a play, Clint Dempsey’s goal against Juventus last week, the one that gave Fulham a 5-4 aggregate win and advanced them to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, was sensational and skillful.

Symbolically, it meant more for the Stars and Stripes. It’s pretty obvious that the U.S isn’t considered among the world’s elite teams. So a key to the United States’ success in South Africa is confidence — they have to go into the cup believing that they can play with the world’s best.

Positive results on stages like the Champions league only help with that swagger the U.S must carry into South Africa 79 days from now.

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