Archive for the ‘FIFA’ Category

Two days removed from Germany’s biggest group stage loss at any World Cup in 30+ years, I think the time is right to begin the ‘healing’ and address the obvious … “What the frick happened on Sunday?  Obviously, the Germany 0 – Mexico 1 result was a far cry from the 4:1 score versus Mexico at last year’s Confederation Cup and a final score no one, Germany fan or not, saw coming. Granted, Die Mannschaft under-performed during their last two pre-World Cup friendly matches, a loss to Austria and a weak 2:1 versus hapless Saudi Arabia, but I chalked it up to working on their WC game plan and trying out different players at different positions leading up to group play. Well, their game plan did not work before and the SAME plan, with few adjustments and less creativity and ingenuity, failed on Sunday as well. Hearing Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio proclaim that the Germany game plan was conceived six months ago, makes me even more incredulous.

Anyone who’s met/knows a German, knows we are stereotypically hard-headed and above else nihilists and doom and gloomers … especially when it comes to our Fussball. So, it goes without saying that the German team has been ripped to shreds by pundits, fans, politicians and the general public since Sunday’s loss. You have heard of slut shaming but what about selfie-shaming? So, in an attempt to appease Germany fans looking for a selfie with their footballing hero, Julian Brandt become the top post-match story. Not because of his big heart or a horrible match performance but because he had the audacity to smile and make friends after such a crushing defeat. Get a grip people, the kid is 22, it’s only one match and by the way snapping selfies is the least of our worries.

Julian Brandt selfie

What looked to be a harmless, gracious selfie with fans turned into “selfie gate” with German media blasting Germany’s Julian Brandt for smiling and taking frivolous pictures with fans after the horrific result versus Mexico.

After a few nights to sleep on it, I figured it was time to do some Monday morning quarterbacking and share my match take-aways.

Die Mannschaft … not ready to eat

ready to eat

Right from kick-off, it was evident that the Germans would be in for a struggle, and as it turns out a loooong day at the office. Mexico executed it’s game plan to perfection– be aggressive and punch Germany in the mouth early. It worked, and German’s lack of energy and resilience resulted in a shocking loss.

Match fitness

Going into Russia, the biggest question mark regarding player injuries was clearly the fitness level of Manuel Neuer. Prior to Germany’s pre-WC training camp, Neuer was recovering from a severe foot injury that sidelined him for nearly 10 months in 2017. Not only did Germany’s captain get the start in goal against Mexico he also served and will serve as team captain throughout the tournament. While Neuer played well, the same cannot be said for several of his pitch mates. To that end, it was quiet evident that especially Mesut Oezil in midfield and Jerome Boateng in defence where not a 100% match ready. Both, are also recoevering from previous injury and in contrast to Neuer they really struggled throughout the 90 minutes. I cannot imagine Germany coach Joachim Loew replacing Boateng (the central figure in the German defense) but Oezil I feel is definitely replaceable.

Different but the same

Confed cup GermansLast year at the Confederation Cup, considered the ‘dress rehearsal’ to the World Cup, Germany fielded and impressive squad on their way to the title. The 23-man roster was made up of mostly ‘B’ players versus the regulars that led Germany to World Cup glory in 2014. With a roster chock-full of of German prodigies including Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, and Julian Brandt, the future is bright. On Sunday however, 9 of the starting German 11 where players from 2014 with only youngstar Timo Werner getting the start. Considering the ‘B’ team beat Mexico in the Confed CUp’s semi-final last summer 4-1 maybe ‘B’ should have been swapped with ‘A’.

Chucky’s Revenge

Chucky Lozano

Chucky Lozano, Mexico international and winger for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands elevated to legend status on Sunday with his match winning goal versus Germany in the 35th minute

SO. I have been holding out on all TRF followers and supporters … my last blog post was on July 13th, 2014, the morning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between my mighty Germans and the persistent Argentinians. What happened that afternoon and evening is now part of global footballing and World Cup history.



22 year-old German young-star Mario Goetze sends the German footballing world into utopian frenzy with his World Cup Final match-winner.

Mario Goetze’s epic strike in the 113th minute earned Die Mannschaft it’s 4th world cup star and provided the icing to the sweetest German Fussball chocolate cake any team could whip up. Why so sweet? On its way to the WC trophy, Germany accomplished notable ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’ … most goals scored 18; best goal difference +14; most goals scored in a match by one team: Germany 7 v Brazil 1 (in the WC semis!), most passes by a team: 4,157 passes, with a 82% completion rate, and first European team to win a WC in a South American host nation.


Miro Klose scored 16 goals in 23 world cup matches in four world cups including the record winner versus Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals.

A lot has happened to the German National Team since that magical night at the Maracanã: Match winner Mario Goetze went from national team hero to club (Bayern Muenchen) bench-warmer and sometimes goat; Captain Philip Lahm, defender Per Mertesacker and goal-getter extraordinaire Miro Klose retired from Die Mannschaft; country and Bayen hero Basti Schweinsteiger left for not greener pastures at Manchester United; and overall the team has had a less than impressive showing since Brazil, with 10 wins, 7 losses and 2 ties in various friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers. On a positive note: NT regular Mesut Oesil had a sensational season with Arsenal (19 assists, 6 goals) and was voted the team’s MVP; Mario ‘9 Lives’ Gomez resurrected his career once again and won golden boot (26 goals) honors with Turkish side Beşiktaş (he’s back as Germany’s striker); and a new crop of German Young-stars (including Kimmich, Sane, Brandt and Weigl) are all poised to make their Euro 2016 or Rio Olympics NT debuts.

match-schedule-euro-2016-smallLet’s talk Euros. For the first time, the European Championship final tournament (Euro 2016) in France will be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format used since 1996. The group stage consists of six groups, four teams, followed by a knockout stage (sweet 16, quarter-final and semis) and the final.

The June 10th France v Romania game kicks- off a 51 match, 10 venue celebration of Europe’s finest culminating in the July 10th Euro final at Stade de France located in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. If all goes well, Die Mannschaft will be competing for a fourth European title , and the last since 1996. Also, according to my match-up math, if all tournament favorites hold serve, Germany will face German-killer Italy (Germany has never beaten Italy in an international tournament including a loss in the 2012 Euro quarters) in the Quarter-Finals on Saturday, July 2nd and Euro host and co-favorite France in the Semis on Thursday, July 7th.


For those of you who can’t sit tight for the Euros to begin in a mere 12 days, you can exhale and set your sights on the Copa America Centenario. The centennial Copa will be held in the U.S. starting June 3rd and marks the first Copa América hosted outside of South America. It will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL (the South American football confederation) and CONCACAF (the football confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean) as a special edition between the usual four-year cycle, and features an expanded field of 16 teams (an increase from the usual 12), with ten teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF.


The Chilen National Team celebrate their epic win in the 2015 Copa America vs. Argentinia to claim the title

This is your chance to watch all the South American stars as well as the US and Mexican favorites including 32 matches culminating with the Copa Final at Citi Field in Queens on Sunday, June 26th. The U.S. National Team just completed an impressive 3 match tune-up tour and silenced the critics with victories over Puerto Rico, Ecuador (also in the Copa) and Bolivia (also in the Copa). The U.S. kicks-off the Copa on Friday night (9:30PM Eastern) vs. Columbia. Other countries they’ll face in Group A include Costa Rica and Paraguay.

Consider TRF open for business once again and stay tuned for periodic updates and features on all things Euro 2016 and Copa America. And oh yeah, the Rio Olympics including a world-class soccer competition start August 5th.













The World Cup 2014 has just started … the knock-out, winner takes all phase is upon us. We have seen 48 group stage matches so far with our share of headlines … 136 goals scored; 2 hat trick performances [German Thomas Mueller & Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri] massive upsets for European heavyweights including Italy, Spain, England and Portugal, and of course the ‘bite heard around the world’. Also, check out Wikipedia’s 2014 World Cup Statistics for updated numbers.

Our first weekend of knock-out matches includes four delicious match-ups including 2 main event south american matchups and a Cinderella v Cinderella encounter. Dude, our world cup spirit canine, is back with world cup predictions so let’s see what he sees unfolding this Saturday and Sunday.

chi_braBrazil v Chile: This match will set the tone for upsets in the ‘put up or shut up’ stages. Brazil is everybody’s favorite to win the title but after a lackluster group stage display featuring an electric Neymar (but only him), Dude sees the wiley Chileans seize the day and add their name to world cup history.


Colombia v Uruguay: Saturday’s late match in Rio will be a no bite, no Suarez affair and continue Colombia’s impressive run during the World Cup.

hol_mexMexico v Netherlands: el Tri will look to continue it’s massive group stage performance and keep spunky coach Herrera happy. Unfortunately, the Dutch who scored the most goals so far with 10 and snatched 10 points in group qualifying won’t be in the mood to make the negative headlines. Look for a very close match that is decided by one of the Dutch superstars — Robben or van Persie — late, late in the match.

Costa Rica v Greece: Nobody expected this ’round of 16′ matchup so this should be an extremely scrappy and entertaining (yes, even with Greece) game. There are no clear favorites so this prediction was a bit tougher for Dude. He thinks Greece will find its shooting boots and score 2 in a 2:1 win.gre_cr

My Germerican heart has been beating out of my Brust with excitement this week. Not only did Die Mannschaft ‘Mueller-handle’ CR7 and his portuguese brethren in their Group G opener, Juergen’s U.S. boys, five of whom also claim Germerica, finally broke the seal vs. Ghana in a thrilling yet agonizing 2:1 victory for the ages. Oh yeah, there’s more … FIFA’s goal line technology (designed by a German company) made its debut during Sunday’s France-Honduras match … technology 1 technophobic naysayers 0. And if things couldn’t get any rosier fuer Deutsche and Deutschland lovers everywhere, Wednesday marked the end of Spain’s reign as global football juggernaut (and Germany killer) guaranteeing that Brazil will crown a new world cup champion in 2014 … hallelujah! Let’s take a closer look …

Germany 4 Portugal 0: What a way to celebrate Germany’s record 100 world cup matches

Angela Merkel has made a habit of visiting the national team after matches and she did not disappoint after Monday’s win over Portugal. Pictures of her enthusiastically celebrating German World Cup wins have become standard fare. She’s definitely Germany’s talisman.












FIFA debuts goal line technology and wins … German tech startup GoalControl to the rescue

GoalControl installed 14 cameras in each of the 12 World Cup stadiums, located high up above the stands. The cameras work together to triangulate the motion of the ball with calculated precision, snapping up to 500 images per second. The result … when French striker Karim Benzema struck a ball toward the Honduran goal and it looked to be on the line (no goal) not over the line (goal) the brand new technology took over and erased any doubts. France scored, FIFA scored and GoalControl celebrated.Goal line tech












The mighty Spaniards failed to make it out of group qualifying … after only 2 matches in WC 2014 … Enuff Said!

Adios Spana

Here we are, on the first world cup Sunday (the Final is today in 4 weeks!), half-way through the first round of matches in the group stages, with 8 games under our belt.   There have been plenty of eye-raising and even hair-raising and downright shocking moments … here are my top headlines:

Red card goes to WC refsFIFA World Cup Referees …anything but world-class: Right from the very first match the official’s performance has been criticised and scrutinised and the spotlight yanked from the world cup players that so far have delivered a lively, high-scoring and entertaining tournament. After Mexico’s victory vs . Cameroon, despite several inexplicable officiating faux pas, I was seriously contemplating my own for of walk-out … watch less matches because of the horrible and seemingly acceptable lackluster officials. Luckily, Holland’s exhilarating performance and a handful of very high quality matches since — all without official interference, have turned the spotlight back on the players, teams, fans and the host. Let’s hope the next 56 matches are void of ANY officiating controversy.

van Persie goalDutch Treats: Look at the 8 WC final scores so far and the 5:1 tally stands out … a dismantling of the Spanish compliments of the Netherlands. Who’d have thunk it? Clockwork Orange, true grit, focus, bravery, believe and unprecedented unity come to mind. I said before the tournament that Spain might well have a tough time this WC, primarily based on its aging roster and a lack of hunger (after gorging at the ‘highest level of soccer’ buffet too long) to 4-peat (Euro 2008- WC 2010-Euro 2012- WC 2014), but surely no one expected this. Anyone who knows me, realizes I am not the biggest Holland football fan (mild understatement) but anyone who enjoys the beautiful game was surely licking their lips on Friday. I really hope this was just the beginning of the Oranje show and I’ll be the first to raise a cold glass of Crush to celebrate this Dutch revival.

Mexican Calm: I was thoroughly impressed with Mexico’s convincing 1:0 win over Cameroon … El Tri created plenty of scoring chances and looked like a completely transformed squad from the crew we saw struggling to even qualify to earn a ticket to the big dance. To me, even more impressive than the result, was the squad’s calm and collected, ‘chillin’ attitude after being literally robbed of 2 goals by atrocious officiating in the first half. No one lost their cool and led by Mexican mascot and skipper Miguel Herrera pulled together to still end up victorious. What role models and consummate professionals.

Costa Rican Miracle: Another day, another upset. The Costa Ricans surprised the world saturday with an inspiring come from behind victory versus footballing giants Uruguay. The South Americans who on paper have one of the strongest, experienced squads (even without Luis Suarez who did not play with a knee injury) took an early lead but got majorly out-played by the wily islanders. CR’s win gives CONCACAF member nations an impressive 2 and o record heading into upcoming matches for federation mates Honduras (today vs. France) and the US (Monday vs. Ghana).

Andrea Pirlo

Italian Youth: I know this may sound as an oxymoron, especially if comparing the likes of 35-year-old midfield maestro Andre Pirlo, goalie legend Buffon (36), defender Andrea Barzagli (33) and midfielder Thiago Motta (31), but the Italians looked young and fresh versus the crampy, limping English last night. While England took advantage of multiple water breaks and other interruptions to barely survive the rigors of the rainforest humidity, the Italians (who are also European and don’t play in the Amazon heat) looked rejuvenated and ready to run post match wind sprints. Who knows what’s in the Chianti but if your Italian bottoms up!

FYI … Dude, our world cup spirit dog, is taking Sunday off and will be back Monday with new World Cup 2014 predictions. 8 matches in, he’s picked 5 winners including correctly predicting 2 final scores!

Greetings TRF readers, welcome FIFA World Cup Fanatics. It’s been a while since we brought you some Fussball insights, commentary and biased opinions. Consider the drought over and buckle in for our 2014 World Cup coverage. Watch this space for #WC14 notables and quotables, player profiles, match previews and reviews, cool footie pictures and vids, strange WC factoids and world cup stuff you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

For starters, here’s a handful of useful links to enhance your world cup viewing experience:

World Cup printable bracket: Thanks to Eight by Eight, we can all print-out our WC match plan and keep it close by. Why use an app when you can waste paper!

Full world cup match broadcast schedule: Everything and everything about who is showing what, when and who’s commentating each of the 64 matches starting June 12th

SI World Cup TV coverage guide: Much condensed, at a glance version of above

FIFA World Cup Fantasy League: Build your WC Brazil fantasy team with FIFA’s official McDonald’s Fantasy game. Easy to set up … why not!

Must See Pre-WC TV: Tuesday night at 8:30 PM Eastern, ESPN will air the final 1 hour episode of Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil, an awesome behind-the-scenes look at USMNT’s road to Rio. Don’t touch that dial because “There is no Tomorrow”, a close up of the Brazilian NT at 9:30. In case you miss all of that, there’s no avoiding the 24 hour ‘Countdown to Brazil’ soccer TV marathon starting at 3PM on June 11th and ending at 3PM on Thursday, just in time for ESPN FIFA Match Day, the live pregame show leading into the tournament-opening match: Brazil vs. Croatia from Arena de Sao Paulo.



One of the really cool aspects of this week’s NYC Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival is discovering films and topics that I would otherwise never hear about, let alone watch. One of these gems is Friday’s short film selection ‘The Final Fax’, directed by German filmmakers Nico Raschick and Birke Birkner.

The 15-minute flick features Martin Sonneborn, editor of a German satire magazine, and his attempts to bribe eight members of the 24-member FIFA executive committee on the eve of the World Cup 2006 host country vote. Sonneborn’s bribe letter offers gifts, mostly eatable, in return for votes for Germany. The unthinkable happens and New Zealand delegate Charles Dempsey abstains from voting (after having been instructed to vote for South Africa), thus swinging the World Cup 2006 host decision Germany’s way. Here’s a ‘Frage und Antwort’ (Q&A session) we had with Nico Raschik (NR). We have kept the original in German and added English translations (in BOLD) for each question.

TRF: Wie lange machst Du schon Filme? How long have you been making movies?

NR: Ich arbeite seit 1999 beim Film und habe meinen ersten Kurzfilm und Musikvideo im Jahr 2000 gemacht. I’ve been working in the genre since 1999 and produced my first short and music video in 2000.

TRF: Was is Dein Bezug zur Thematik? Zum Fussball? What is your background and relationship to the film/topic?

NR: Ich selber war in meiner Kindheit sehr erfolgreicher Leistungssportler.  Aber man muß wohl kein Sportler, geschweige denn ein Prophet sein, um zu erkennen, dass es leider bei allem nicht mehr um Sport, um Fußball geht. Und nach unserem Film ging es ja weiter – ich meine, was macht eine FußbalWM in Katar? Growing up, I was always involved in competitive sports. But, one need not be a professional athlete or a prophet to recognize that sport, and in this case football, has taken a back seat (to corruption, politics …). Case in point, how did a football world cup end up in Qatar?

Als Regisseur geht es mir aber immer mehr auch um das, was drunter liegt. Ein Leitspruch, den ich bei dem Film die ganze Zeit im Kopf hatte, war,  „wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen „. Das zeigt sich dann eben in der letzten Szene, wenn Sonneborn mit dem Rücken an die Wand steht und 100 MIo zahlen soll…wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen. Im Sport sollt es spielerisch zugehen und um Leidenschaft – und die hat Sonneborn. Das sieht man in der kleinen Szene, wenn das Titanicteam gegen die Businesstypen spielen. Sie können bei weitem nicht mithalten – aber spielen mit Herz☺

In my role as a director, I am always looking for what is underneath it all, below the surface. One of the themes I kept on remembering as we were shooting was ‘when things are bad and the odds stacked against you, go ahead and dance’. The point is to remain light-hearted, yet focused. Sports should focus on performance and passion (and having fun while playing). 

TRF: Has Du und Deine Filme schon mal bei einem Soccer/Fussballfilmfest mitgemacht? Have you ever participated in a soccer film festivals? Have you produced other soccer films?

NR: Nein – wie ich schon sagte, geht es mir immer eher um etwas, was drunter liegt. Ich weiß, dass man jemanden von außen immer  gerne auf eine Sache festmachen mag: Du hast einen Horrorfilm gemacht – war doch schön, was ist dein nächster Horrorfilm? So ist es genauso mit Fußball, Komödie… Generell bin ich kein Fan zu sagen, hauptsache das Genre oder die eine Sache – ich bin ein Fan von Geschichten. Und diese Geschichte mußte einfach gemacht werden.

No. It is human nature to categorize everything and try to pigeon-hole someone based on what they have done before …’ you make horror movies, what’s your next horror film? I like to focus on stories and why certain stories must be told as opposed to specific genres.

TRF: Gibt es eine Zusammenfassung/highlights vom Kurzfilm? Summarize The Final Fax. What’s the main message?

NR: Es geht um Leidenschaft  wie beim Fußball – und wie man 2006 die dt. Mannschaft spielen gesehen hat, haben sie leidenschaftlich gespielt – das ist Sport, denn sie waren ja nicht die technisch besten oder auch drittbesten, aber die Mannschaft mit dem größten Herz.  Deshalb wohl in dem Film das Highlight: die Montage zwischen dem leidenschaftlichen (aber hoffnungslosen) Spiel von Sonnborn und den geldumhangennen Machtmenschen der FIFA. It’s all about passion. Persönlich mag ich aber die letzte Szene: wenn alles festgefahren scheint und Sonneborn eigentlich so unter Druck steht, dass er erfürchtig (wie alle anderen) vor den Funtionären mit der Macht hinknien müßte. Gib nicht auf, halt an deiner Überzeugung fest + wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen.

In The Final Fax, it’s all about showing the passionate but hopeless game played by the main character Martin Sonneborn pitted against the mighty and corrupt FIFA powerbrokers. And in the end, against all odds, with the all-powerful football officials and politicians breathing down his neck and making him beg for mercy, Sonneborn does not give up or sell out his believes. Remember, when things are bad and the odds stacked against you, all you can do is dance! Side note: This never say die attitude was put on display during the 2006 World Cup, when the German National Team played with a fire,passion and conviction that had not been seen in decades. They were not the best technicians but displayed the biggest heart. That’s my take-away for The Final Fax … heart, passion and conviction. 

TRF: Wie kamst Du an dieses Thema? How did you end up focused on this particular topic?

NR: So ist der Film nach einer realen Vorlage entstanden, als eine Satire auf die reale Satire, welche in der FIFA und Fußballwelt gespielt wird. Und das nicht als reines Abbild, sondern so wie aus der Sicht von Sonneborn erzählt. Denn Martin Sonneborn hätte ja ebenfalls einen ernsthaften Spiegelartikel schreiben können über Korruption im Fußball. Nur dann hätte doch jeder gesagt: langweilig, weiß ich doch. Und so hat er selber bestochen: mit einem Korb mit leckeren Würstchen und einer Kukuksuhr. Er machte Satire – und führte dazu, was er hätte sich selber nicht besser wünschen können: zur WM im eigenen Land. So sollte der Film auch sein und ich habe viele Originalzitate gesammelt und mehrere Ereignisse aus umfangreicher Reschersche zu der Geschichte verdichtet.

The film is a satire based on the satire of organizations like FIFA and other powerful football entities. What makes this film unique is Martin Sonneborn’s approach. As a publication editor, he could have chosen the high (boring) road  and written a serious article about corruption in football. The result would have been very predictable … ‘we know about corruption … boring’. Instead, he decided to turn the tables and be the one that lead the corruption and bribery efforts. His offer, a gift basket filled with specialties from the Black Forest and a Kukuclock , ultimately lead to the unraveling of the ‘business as usual’ FIFA and to a highly controversial 2006 world cup host.

TRF: Wo schon ge-screened? Has the film been shown before?

NR: Ich hab den Film in Berlin auf einem Festival gesehen – mit Martin Sonneborn. Das war nen schöner Abend. The Final Fax feiert allerdings be Kicking & Screening New York sein US Premiere. We screened the film at a festival in Berlin with Martin Sonneborn in attendance. That was a fun evening. The Final Fax will be celebrating its US premier at the Kicking+Screening soccer festival this week in New York.

This wraps-up our Q&A with Nico. Make sure to stop by the K&S Soccer Film Fest tonight (July 22) to check out The Final Fax and the evening’s feature presentation Soka Afrika. Also, thanks to Nico’s partner in crime, producer Birke Birkner, you can download the official Final Fax Press Kit (in German).

When all this WWC madness first started less than 2 weeks ago, we teamed up with the Free Beer Movement guys to give you a drinker’s guide to successfully navigating Germany’s nine host cities and stadiums. For those of you just in the mood for a quick ‘brew-view’, we provided a ‘Sudsy Facts’ quick reference guide. Hardcore connoisseurs could check out various Bier options in Berlin, Dresden, Augsburg and the Sinsheim area in our part one feature. Well, we just concluded documenting the rest of the tour which includes a delicious blend of Pilsners, Altbier, Koelsch and Hefeweizen available within the city limits of our final five WWC venues. Check it out and tell us about your favorite cold one.

As of the end of play on Sunday, July 3rd, we have reached the halfway mark of games played (16) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. Judging by various factors – stadium attendance; TV ratings; host country hospitality; player reactions and enthusiasm; quality of football played; and media interest – the 2011 Women’s World Cup will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression, even before the world cup championship trophy is hoisted in Frankfurt on July 17th.

While there are too many highlights to mention, here are our top 5 winners & losers 8 days in:

Winners (Starting 11)

Japanese Women’s Team: The Nippon warriors have not only captured the hearts of football fans around the globe, but also brought their ‘A’ game to the tournament. They currently sit atop Group B with the most goals scored, including a hat-trick by captain Homare Sawa vs. Mexico.

Genoveva Anonman: The 22-year old Equatorial Guinea midfielder wasted no time making headlines in Germany with 10 shots on goal vs. Norway and 2 goals scored in the last match against Australia.  While her gender may have been questioned pre-WWC, her heart and commitment to her team are unshakable. While many have been put-off by her arrogant, in your face style, I have found her outlook refreshing.

TV Ratings: More than 90% of all WWC tickets have been sold, public opinion of women’s soccer in Germany and worldwide are at an all time high, and TV ratings in the host country are unprecedented.  While 18 million Germans tuned in for Germany’s opener against Canada, more than 16.6 watched the Nigeria match, accounting for 50+% of all TV viewers last Thursday. More stats can be viewed here.

Cecilia Okoyino Da Mbabi: Cecilia is quickly becoming a household name in Germany although pronouncing her name is no easy feat. The German midfielder scored the 2nd goal in her country’s victory against Canada, securing her slot as one of the starting 11.  In addition to her obvious footballing skills, she is another sport poster child of the German ‘multikulti’, multi-cultural generation with foreign parents but a German passport. Nonetheless, her French mother will root for her daughter and teammates when Germany faces France next.

HERoics: As part of its 2011 Women’s World Cup coverage, ESPN aired a series of six soccer documentaries made by women, about women. The 10 minute short films profile WWC players Marta (Brazil), Kelly Smith (England), and Lisa De Vanna (Australia); and highlight unique stories about a group of grandmothers and senior citizens on a football team in Jerez, Spain; a woman referee in the Republic of Congo who earned accolades from FIFA while working through the stress of abuse from fans; and a probation officer who uses soccer to steer troubled teens away from gangs in a Central California town.

Losers (On the bench)

Birgit Prinz: Here’s another case of an aging German soccer star unwilling to see (or acknowledge) the writing on the wall. In what could turn into ‘Ballack, part two’, the German’s captain has been playing very poorly and acting worse off-the field (in reaction to her early substitutions). Time will tell how this turns out, but since the ego/psyche damage has obviously been done, I say bench the star and give U-20 World Champion Alexandra Popp her shot.

Gaal Gyoengyi: She is the Hungarian referee that missed the obvious handball (non-call) during the Australia-Equatorial Guinea match. Want more musings on this ultimate bad call and day 8 WWC action? Check out The All White kit blog women’s soccer blog.

Sepp Blatter: Not only did German WWC organizing committee members have to plead with fans to not boo the man at the Opening Ceremonies, the press was also instructed to not ask questions about the ongoing FIFA bribery allegations. In fact, FIFA was so worried about the boo birds coming out to greet Blatter, that the decision was made to not have him officially ‘open’ the tournament from the field. He was seen ‘hiding’ in the stands.

Nigerian WWC Team: Their on-field performance this world cup has been nothing short of dismal and their sportsmanship and aggressive tackling has raised eyebrows (for the wrong reasons). Just like the men’s team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the women are ‘3 and out’ and will be flying home undoubtedly disappointed. We are somewhat surprised by the team’s poor performance since the Nigerian U-20 team had a phenomenal showing at last year’s U-20 world cup and only lost to Germany in the final.

Anheuser-Busch: The beer giant proves once again that selling a lot of beer to a lot of people has nothing to do with making good beer. Case in point, A-B’s continued sponsorship (as the sole beer vendor) of the FIFA World Cup including this year’s WWC. I first began rioting about this when I was subjected to lukewarm Budweiser peddled at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and consequently forced to stand in very long German beer lines (1 beer stand per venue) at the stadiums. More rants and perspective on this can be read here.

With 8 games played and game 2 group matches starting Thursday, what is the initial take-away from the big Germany summer party that is the FIFA WWC 2011?

We expected (and hoped for) … record attendance; renewed interest in the women’s game; an extremely hospitable Germany; and host cities and venues par excellence.

We did not expect … 16 teams that are so closely matched-only one game had a 2 goal differential (USA vs. North Korea); hot weather that has left many players cramping up and gasping for 2nd half air; 38 shots on goal in the Norway vs. Equatorial Guinea match with one lonely goal (scored in the 84th minute by Norway); and, the North Korean National team blaming their loss to the U.S. on lightning