Thursday, July 23, 2015

U2 Rock The Garden With a Cameo From Jimmy Fallon

Time goes by so fast. I remember waiting agonizingly on Ticketmaster for an hour and a half getting my tickets for U2's Innocence and Experience Tour at Madison Square Garden back in December, and was lucky enough to get some pretty great seats. And now the show happened. It was all worth it, with U2 doing what they do best...knocking you off your feet in an arena.

The set list was largely a hits set of some of their biggest singles. I'm a big fan of deep cuts and rare songs being performed, but being in there and taking it all in, I didn't care what songs they played. It all worked so well - the moments of just the band on the main stage playing some of their loud rockers, and then them moments where they used the latest technology like the giant 3-Dimensional screen that the band walked inside of to put on an orgasm for the eyes. The new songs from their latest album Songs of Innocence packed a punch, especially "Iris", written by Bono for his mom who died when he was 14.

Jimmy Fallon was pulled out of the crowd, and he joined the band in a performance of "Desire". He famously dressed as Bono on the Tonight Show and performed it with The Roots, and then before the start of the tour U2 & Fallon dressed up as street performers to perform in the Subway. The Roots were then brought out to lend a hand on "Angel of Harlem". It's not often U2 have a special guest on stage at a concert, as they don't need it. However, it worked in this setting.

The show ended with a sing-along version of "One" that concluded with Bono singing a bit of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" since Paul McCartney was in the crowd to perfectly cap off yet another strong concert from U2.

Friday, July 17, 2015

2015 Women's World Cup Review

Its been over a week now since the end of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, and we've seen the 3-Time Champion USA get a ticker tape parade in New York City down the "Canyon of Heroes" and an ESPY Award for Best Team. The parade was a fun celebration that I was glad to have attended, and a moment I won't forget. I'm also now 3-0 in World Cup predictions, picking Japan over USA in the 2011 Women's World Cup, Germany in the 2014 Men's World Cup (wrongly over Belgium though) and USA over Japan in the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Turf controversy aside, the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada will be regarded as another turning point in the development of Women's Soccer/Football. The expansion to 24 teams came at the perfect time. I'd even argue you could have 32 teams if done correctly - I could name some who can easily compete. Europe has a bunch that would be worthy such as Italy, Iceland, Denmark, Scotland, Belgium, & Finland. The UEFA Euro is being expanded which should help further. Asia has North Korea back from a ban, and Vietnam could possibly grow with competition. Ghana, South Africa & Equatorial Guinea have talent in Africa. Trinidad & Tobago had a solid qualifying for CONCACAF, barely missing out and showing vast improvement. Jamaica have been working hard as well. CONMEBOL/South America is the Confederation that needs the most improvement, though Chile & Argentina could use a boost of appearing in a World Cup.

Cameroon and Colombia surprised by appearing in the knockout stage for the first time and showing they belong. China made it back to the Quarterfinals with a stingy defense, and will look to improve in their attack ahead of 2019. Australia and England both proved they were ready to take the leap and be considered as contenders. Especially England, who finished 3rd as the highest ranking European team, beat Germany for the first time, and captured the hearts of fans both in England and around the world with their determination and fight.

One thing we always remember are some of the outstanding goals of the tournament, such as James Rodriguez' wonder strike for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. These were my five favorite of the 2015 Women's World Cup:

1. Carli Lloyd, USA vs. Japan. Well, she scored a hat trick. The best though was of course her blast from almost midfield. She juked her opponent, saw the goalie was up off her line, and blasted the sky high shot. Goalie Kaihori just could not get back in time, trying to track the ball and then getting it with the tip of her fingers, but it was too late.

2. Mizuho Sakaguchi, Japan vs. Netherlands. This goal was just a thing of beauty, showcasing why Japan is one of the most technical teams in the world, with multiple players getting involved before Sakaguchi buried it. The dummy by Iwabuchi fooled plenty. It was without a doubt the most creative goal.

3. Lucy Bronze, England vs. Norway. After tying the game, England kept pressing. They got the ball into the box drawing Norwegian defenders, but instead passed back out to a charging Bronze who blasted it up into the corner of the net.

4. Daniela Montoya, Colombia vs. Mexico. Montoya was outside the box but she sensed an opening, even pointing to the spot in front of her. When her teammate passed back to her she geared up, and blasted a ball that just seemed to keep gaining steam as it went to the back of the net.

5. Lisa De Vanna, Australia vs. USA. The US defense was stout all tournament, but Australia were able to break through with a wonderful team goal. Passing through multiple defenders to Michelle Heyman, she then taps the ball to an open De Vanna who expertly nails it right into the corner with her left foot.

The 2019 Women's World Cup will be held in France and will surely continue to build on the success. You can currently follow the NWSL (National Women's Soccer League) for your fix until the Rio 2016 Olympics. Do yourself a favor and watch a Portland Thorns FC home game to see what an energized and raucous crowd looks like.
France 2019 Women's World Cup bid logo. Will not be the final design.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ariana Grande Hates America and Licks Donuts

Thanks to TMZ, terrible person Ariana Grande was caught on video with her boyfriend in a pastry shop saying, "What the fuck is that? I hate Americans. I hate America." So why do you live here? She was also caught licking donuts behind employees backs, and would send the employee back to get more, so she could spit on them with her boyfriend. She was also reportedly rude towards employees, which isn't the first time there have been reports of her being a total bitch to people.

In a PR spin she claimed she is passionate about fighting obesity hence her frustration with America. She also apologized. Sorry, her PR team released a forced apology. It's really a non-apology though, blaming obesity. It is so hilariously random. So I guess that's why she spread her germs all over donuts? She didn't explain licking/spitting on the donuts in her forced statement. I guess the way to combat poor health is by spitting onto random food... Nice to see Grande's "apology" is as tired, recycled and overproduced as her shitty music. If only she could apologize for that.

If she hates America she can easily move to North Korea or Iran.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Carli Lloyd Leads USA Past Japan for 2015 Women's World Cup

USA Are 1st To Win 3 Women's World Cups
The highly anticipated rematch which saw the United States take on Japan at the FIFA Women's World Cup ended differently than the last. While Japan won a nail biter in 2011, Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of this match - a record. The US had a whole set piece plan in place, with two low driven balls the cause of the first two goals. Japan finally settled down after a rare poor start, and they never gave up, but it wasn't enough. Japan fought back after the score was 4-0 to make it 4-2. They deserve a ton of credit for that, we've seen teams (ahem, Brazil men) just completely collapse after going down big. They composed themselves and made it close again, giving their fans a little hope they could mount what would've been a historic comeback.

However it was not to be, as Tobin Heath quickly buried a 5th goal, showing their determination to not let this slip away. Japan fought back twice in 2011 and won, so the US were ready to respond. USA defeated Japan 5-2 to win their third Women's World Cup title, previously doing it in 1991 and 1999.

Carli Lloyd won the Golden Ball (basically, MVP) of the tournament. Carin Jennings was the last US player to do so, back in 1991. Japan did have a fantastic tournament. Its possible that being in the sunlight may have hurt them (I mean really Vancouver, who designed that?). Regardless, the US were not going to lose this game, and Lloyd would make sure of it. They had an outstanding game plan that shocked Japan. Japan defender Iwashimizu lost Lloyd twice, and was in tears after being subbed out early. She was normally a tough defender, but she was unfortunate to face a determined Lloyd in full Beast Mode. Homare Sawa came on in the 1st half and helped calm things, but it just wasn't enough. In hindsight, she probably should have started.

I don't think Japan will lose too much sleep though, they get to keep the 2011 World Cup Gold Medals, as well as those silvers from London 2012 and the 2015 World Cup.

Both Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone came into the game late to help seal the deal. Rampone was the last active player from the 1999 Women's World Cup championship team. Someone who didn't come onto the field? Sepp Blatter. He wasn't there to present the trophy and medals for fear of being arrested and sent to the US. The match was better off without him though.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Final: USA vs Japan, Round Three

The Third Place match and Final Match of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup are set. However, I just have to touch upon England first after that match. The beautiful game turned devastating for them.

England, the Lionesses, had an ending that left most people gutted/devastated. A solid 1-1 match between England and Japan was headed to Extra Time. Then Japan sent the ball into the box and the reliable Laura Bassett went to clear it. Only the ball just hit the crossbar and went down into her own goal, giving Japan the 2-1 lead and win. It was a freak play and an extremely rare way to lose a game, so Bassett should not feel bad at all. However, England shouldn't feel bad. They've grown so much over the past few years, and can rightly be seen as a top contender now alongside Japan, USA, Germany, France, Sweden and Brazil. 

It would have been fun to see England back in a World Cup final for the first time since 1966, and the first time in the Women's World Cup. That country really has no luck in this sport. Don't worry though, the England Women won't need luck at the 2019 Women's World Cup, which will be held in France. They should be a contender to hoist the trophy. I'll be cheering for them to win the third place match against Germany. How about a Bronze Medal for Lucy Bronze and co? 

England frustrated Japan, who struggled when it came to finishing even as they dominated in the passing category which they always do. England were firing off some good shots, and Ayumi Kaihori made an excellent save to prevent a goal from Ellen White. Kaihori doesn't get enough praise from the media. 

So USA and Japan are set to meet again, for the third straight major final, on Sunday July 5th. Japan won the 2011 Women's World Cup final, while the US won the London 2012 Olympic final. This is the first ever rematch in the Women's World Cup. Japan will be looking to join the US & Germany as two-time winners. USA will try to become the first Women's team to win three World Cups, and their first since 1999. Something to watch will be to see how Japan uses Mana Iwabuchi. The super sub is incredibly fast and may have as much talent as Marta. Will she play longer, and can she get behind the outstanding US defense? USA is riding high on confidence right now, and the midfield and attack are starting to click. 

Japan should get a goal, but the US should be too determined in this one. Alex Morgan has just one goal, but that was to be expected as she returns from injury. She is creating space and chances, which can be just as beneficial. Both teams have a variety of players who can score, and both have a solid defense with the edge going to USA. This will also be the final World Cup game for Abby Wambach, as well as 1999 veteran Christie Rampone who probably won't play due to an injury. It will also be the last for Japan's Homare Sawa, in her record 6th World Cup. 

England will take on Germany for Third Place on Saturday. I'm picking them to win this game and go out on a high note. Maybe that's just me feeling bad for them due to losing on a freak own goal. I mean, its an angry Germany coming their way. They do have the ability though, which they showed against Norway and Japan, two previous Women's World Cup winners. I say England get an emotional win to go out on a high note. 

For the first time, Sepp Blatter will not appear at a final. Of course he won't. He's afraid he'll have a "Handshake for Peace" with an FBI Agent who will turn it into a Handcuff for Peace. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Semifinals

Down to the Final Four
The Semifinals are upon us at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. I got three of my four predictions correct (USA, Japan, England) from before the start of the tournament. However, I had France beating Germany. And they certainly should have beaten Germany in that game, but failed to put the ball into the back of the net despite dominating the pace of the game and getting behind the German defense. Now, a look at the two semifinals.

USA vs Germany - June 30, 2015 in Montreal. Germany are ranked #1 in the FIFA rankings, with USA at #2. They haven't met at the World Cup since 2003 when Germany beat USA in the Semifinals. USA defeated Germany in the 1999 Quarterfinals and 1991 Semifinals. The crowd could reach 50,000 in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, with many expected to be US supporters who just have to travel over the border. However, Germany just dealt with a loud French-Canadian Montreal crowd supporting France. 

France were able to get in behind the German defense in the Quarterfinal, and controlled the pace of the game. Germany were struggling to score until getting a Penalty Kick late in the game. Meanwhile, France had a bunch of of great looks at goal they couldn't capitalize on. The US should use their fastest players to get in behind Germany's defense much like France. And bury those chances they'll get because of it. Alex Morgan should get her chances in this game, while Megan Rapinoe should be rested after missing the match against China with a yellow. Its a 50/50 toss up, but I'm sticking with the USWNT getting it done. 

Japan vs. England - July 1, 2015 in Edmonton. Defending champs Japan got a scare from Australia, but prevailed in the end with a late goal. They are completing 83% of their passes, the best in the competition. England defeated the hosts, capitalizing on mistakes by Canada and holding onto their win with a grit and toughness we haven't seen from any England team in a while. Its the first time England have been in a World Cup semifinal since the men in 1990, and the first time the women have made it this far. It's good to see the Lionesses have such a solid run to captivate the attention of those home in England. 

England should put up a fight, but they can't rely on mistakes to score here. Japan are so technical and pass the ball better than anyone, rarely giving the ball away in a bad position. However, England are the last team to beat Japan at the Women's World Cup which they did in the group stage in 2011. Still, I think Japan will be too experienced and too technical for England to win. England will have to try and make the most of any set pieces they get.

And yes, many have noticed how there's a whole WWII Allies vs Axis theme with USA & England taking on Germany & Japan. Its nice that we can peacefully joke about it now with them all being allies. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 Women's World Cup Quarterfinals

We're into the Final 8 teams at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup after an enjoyable Round of 16. There are some interesting storylines to look forward to as well, such as the United States taking on China in the World Cup for the first time since the famous final in 1999.

First, a ranking of the Final 8.

1. Japan. They aren't blowing teams out on the scoreboard, but that is not the kind of team they are. They completely own the field and control the pace of the game by being the best technical team in the world, which can frustrate and wear others down. They also play with a looseness, handling the pressure well. They also have fun personalities. An example: putting a teddy bear on the bench to represent Kozue Ando, who broke her ankle in the first game. One curious thing is they used a different goalkeeper in each group game. Could that hurt the flow in a close game? Just one example of their technical prowess, Sakaguchi's goal against the Netherlands:

2. Germany. The Germans are as good as always, though they also haven't been truly tested until they face France. Their biggest test was against Norway in the group stage, which ended in a draw. However, they are the #1 ranked team in the world for a reason. So many players can get a goal at any given moment, and they won't allow teams to take a big lead.

3. France. Les Blues suffered their shock defeat to Colombia, as well as some frustrations in the match with Louisa Necib throwing a ball at her teammates legs. Aside from that match though, they've been on top of their game. They have a strong technical ability to rival Japan and may be peaking at the right time.

4. USA. It hasn't been pretty, and there are questions about the formation and where players are being placed. After beating Australia they tied Sweden and followed that up with a 1-0 win over Nigeria. However, Nigeria got a red card yet the US couldn't get another goal. Then against Colombia, they couldn't break them down until Colombia got a red card early in the 2nd half. After a missed penalty kick, the US finally scored and then notched a 2nd with another penalty kick. They still have time to find their mojo though. And the defense has been lights out. Hopefully they move to a 4-3-3 formation.

5. England. They're a tough team to pinpoint, as sometimes they look off and sometimes they look in complete control. Their win over Norway showed that, with a mediocre first half. Then they went down and turned it on after, scoring two goals and dominating the rest of the game. They certainly have skill and some composure, now can they play a full game to the best of their ability?

6. Canada. The host nation haven't been scoring many goals, but they have been pretty stout on defense, not giving up many goals either. Still, they'll need to find their scoring boots if they hope to make it all the way to the final. Having the home fans can only take you so far. They have Christine Sinclair, who is perfectly capable of scoring multiple goals in a game which means Canada are never out of a game.

7. Australia. It's tough to put them at 7, as they've been playing lights out since their loss to the US. They shocked Brazil, sending them home before the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1995. If they can break down Japan, they may become the favorite to topple Canada or England to make the final.

8. China. They had some luck on their side, but they have a defense that doesn't allow much to get past it. Their main issue is scoring multiple goals. Having a great defense is fine, but at some point they'll have to score more than one goal to continue their run. It doesn't seem likely it'll come considering they'd have to upset the USA and if they did, Germany or France.

Germany vs. France. #1 takes on #3 in what should be a highly entertaining match with everything on the line. I picked France to beat them before the tournament, and i'll stick with that. This is really a 50-50 toss up though. France will have confidence, as they defeated Germany in their last meeting. The Germans should be in top form though. It will be interesting to just watch this unfold.

USA vs. China. A rematch of the 1999 Women's World Cup final. This won't be played in the Rose Bowl or with Mia Hamm and Sun Wen. The US have struggled to score since the first game, and it might not get any easier when they face a tough Chinese defense, call it the Great Wall. One bonus is they have faced China a bunch of times and should have a good read on them. The US defense has also been great, while China haven't scored many goals recently either. I imagine the US finds their scoring ability and breaks down China in the 2nd half for a win. First, watch that outstanding moment in 1999 when Brandi Chastain buried her penalty kick to give the US their 2nd Women's World Cup.
Japan vs. Australia. These two teams are familiar with each other from playing in the same confederation and offer different styles of play. Australia are tough and physical, while Japan are highly technical. The Matildas are on a hot streak, but Japan have been going about their business like they always do. I think they'll just have that extra bit of firepower to take down the Aussies and control the flow.

England vs. Canada. Another 50-50 toss up here. Both of these teams can be inconsistent at times, so it will be interesting to see if either can take control of momentum and keep it. England really have nothing to lose, with most of the pressure on Canada. I had them meeting in my predictions, and I chose England. Canada did beat them before the tournament, but it was close and i'll stick with England here. They seemed to have found a high level of confidence that could take them to the Semifinals for the first time.