Off The Beaten Track Today …

There are two international soccer tournaments in progress at the moment. The Copa America has reached the semi-finals round where the US team met Argentina last night. Argentina is rated as the #1 team in the world at the moment – whatever that means – and the results last night showed pretty conclusively that the US team is not anywhere near the #2 squad in the world. The final score as 4-0 in favor of the Argentines; I am not sure the game was that close.

Let me not pretend to be an expert when it comes to soccer because I am not. In addition, as I have pointed out here many times, I cannot read minds. With those caveats, let me tell you what I sensed as I watched the Argentina/US game last night:

    Soccer is a game of passes; the ball moves from player to player as the team seeks to build up an offensive attack that will result in a shot on the goal.

    Last night it looked to me as if the Argentine players knew what they were going to do with the ball as it was on the way to their foot and they seamlessly executed the physical act that made the ball do what was already in their minds.

    Meanwhile, the US players seemed to focus on receiving the ball and controlling it. Then, they would seek to determine what to do next.

    Argentina played a fluid game; the US played mechanically.

Argentina will play the winner of the Chile/Colombia semi-final game and the US will take on the loser for third place in the Copa America. Chile got to the semi-final game by beating Mexico 7-0 a few days ago. As outclassed as the US team looked last night, they put up much more of a fight against Argentina than Mexico did against Chile. Remember, I do not read minds, but it sure looked to me as if the Mexicans quit against Chile; I never got the sense that the US team quit last night.

In a very small way, I will be rooting for Colombia in their semi-final game against Chile. That has nothing to do with any ties I have to Colombia or any enmity I have towards Chile. It is just that Colombia and the US have already played in this tournament and Argentina and Chile have already played in this tournament. Rather than have two “rematches” to end the tournament, I can root for a semi-final outcome that will produce two fresh matchups.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Europe, the Euro 2016 tournament is coming to the end of Group play and heading into the knockout round. In the Copa America, there have only been a few shocking results – the early dismissal of Brazil, the magnitude of the defeat suffered by Mexico, Costa Rica beating Colombia in the Group phase – but there have been a bunch of surprises in Euro 2016.

    Wales and England were in the same Group and Wales was the Group winner. This is the first major international tournament where Wales has advanced since 1958 and the Welsh play the English frequently in “friendlies” or in less prestigious tournament settings. In a total of 112 meetings, England leads the series 67-21-14. Playing to form here, the English beat the Welsh. Nonetheless, Wales won the Group with England finishing second.

    Reigning World Cup Champion, Germany won its Group but only scored 3 goals in 3 games. They won because they did not allow a single goal in any of those games.

    Croatia beat Spain head-to-head to win that Group. Spain dominated the first 30 minutes of that game and then Croatia seized control. Croatia trailed 1-0 early on but scored in the final minute of the first half and in the final 2 minutes of regulation time to win 2-1.

    With one game left in Group play, Iceland is in second place in that group having played 2 tie games. Considering the other national teams in Euro 2016, you would have to call Iceland the outlier or the Cinderella. Their final Group game is against Austria; if they win they are sure to advance to the knockout round.

The games in these tournaments are being shown on ESPN and on FS-1. They are definitely worth checking out…

I watched some – certainly not all – of the TV coverage of the US Open golf tournament last weekend. I have a question for those of you who pay much closer attention to golf than I do:

    Is Jordan Speith a significantly slower player than the rest of the guys out there or is it just me?

    I felt as if I could go and make a sandwich and eat half of it in the time it took him to line up either a chip shot or a putt.

Since I am off on a track today that passes by sports I normally do not write about, let me ask rhetorically if anyone has paid attention to the WNBA standings early on in this season. The teams have played 12 or 13 games so far in 2016; the regular season in the WNBA consists of 34 games so the season is a bit more than one-third finished.

    In the East, there is a race. Five of the six teams there are within 3.5 games of one another.

    In the West, there are two winners and the rest of the Conference. Minnesota’s record is 13-0; Los Angeles’ record is 11-1 (guess who they lost to…) All of the other 4 teams are below .500.

Finally, as women’s golf takes on more and more of an international dimension, newspaper copy editors and TV announcers will need to step up their games. Two young Thai women on the tour this year are Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong and Pornanong Phatlum. Good luck fitting those names into a one-column wide headline or saying them in sequence three times.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………