Croatia Stuns England, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Is Theirs for the Taking

Coratia's mario-mandzukic 2018
Mario Mandzukic celebrates after scoring Croatia’s winning goal in their upset, comeback win against England

“Little” Croatia didn’t get the memo. Little Croatia didn’t read the script. And Little Croatia, the little country across the Adriatic Sea from Italy (see, sports and a geography lesson to boot!) that was carved out of former Yugoslavia (and a history lesson), is on its way to its first World Cup Final in only 27 years of existence. And along the way, Team Croatia defeated Argentina and host Russia. Unbelievable.

England was on its way to not just the World Cup Final, but to a victory in the World Cup Final. It was a fait accompli, or so they thought. Until Croatia got in the way with a come from behind, goal in extra time-turnaround win. It was an upset for the ages. England wasn’t supposed to lose. And Croatia wasn’t supposed to win. And that’s how the ball bounces in this summer of surprises.

And here’s the theological twist: what have people, or even you yourself, said that you couldn’t do? What seemingly insurmountable, unachievable, or impossible feat have you been told just can’t happen in your life? Write it down. The Biblical examples are endless. Abraham and Sarah had their promised baby boy late in their retirement years. So did Zacharias and Elizabeth. The woman with the issue of blood was cleansed after being sick for so long, and the widow from Nain had her son raised to life again. It can happen!

So write it down. Write what you are believing God for down. Put a magnet on it and stick it on the refrigerator. Write it in on a post it and stick it on your mirror. This way, every day, you can remind yourself of what you are believing God for. And then remember Croatia in the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Because if Croatia can pull off the improbable, you can too.

And if “little” Croatia defeats France in the final on Sunday, they will forever be the upstart that pulled off the upset that we will be talking about for ages to come. And, when your miracle comes to pass, we’ll be talking about you too.

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Belgium Beat Brazil? YES!

Belgium Defeats Brazil In a stunner, Belgium defeated heavily favored Brazil and advanced to the “Final Four” of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. And I watched in absolute horror as Brazil out shot Belgium 27 – 10 and still lost. Shots on goal sailed high and went wide as one scoring opportunity after another went by the wayside.  Brazil had their chances, but still couldn’t get it done. The Boys from Brazil outplayed, out passed but couldn’t outscore the brothers from Belgium, and it was a sight to see. 

And herein is the 2018 World Cup life lesson: sometimes the favorite does not win, and sometimes the best team is not the better team.  And sometimes there will be an upset, not a comeback.

Four years ago Brazil lost AT HOME in the 2014 World Cup to Germany 7-1, and that was a gut wrencher. I saw that match too (ya gotta know which games you just HAVE TO watch). This time out, the Boys from Brazil, namely Neymar and company, were supposed to avenge the blood of their 2014 brothers, but the Russian soccer gods would have none of it. Yes this game is spiritual. How else can you explain the Brazilians missing shot after shot on goal, and then the Belgium’s, with just five measly shots on goal, winning the game with two goals, one of which was an own goal.

This is why we love sports. This is why we learn life lessons from the games. And this is why we believe in upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. I TOLD you to watch this one! So much for the commentary; here’s the play by play from Rob Harris, NBC Chicago:

“Belgium reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 32 years by holding off five-time champion Brazil 2-1 Friday, sending Neymar home without living up to the expectations of being soccer’s most expensive player. Belgium scored the decisive goal on a counterattack just after a corner had been taken by Neymar. Romelu Lukaku surged forward with the ball and Kevin De Bruyne put it in the net to give Belgium a 2-0 lead in the 31st minute.

‘This was the biggest test for us,’ De Bruyne said. ‘Brazil was so strong in attack.’

The opener came after a bit of good fortune. Fernandinho’s trailing arm inadvertently helped Belgium captain Vincent Kompany’s header land in his own net in the 13th minute.

As Belgium lost cohesiveness in the second half and Brazil’s changes stirred the team, substitute Renato Augusto reduced the deficit in the 76th with a header.  But it was too late for Brazil to muster an equalizer as efforts to force the game into extra time were thwarted by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

For the third time in a World Cup — after 1982 and 2006 — the semifinals will feature only European teams. Belgium and France will meet in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The next day in Moscow, it will be either England or Sweden against either Russia or Croatia. The other two quarterfinal matches will be played Sunday.”

So who do we route for now? Go Croatia!

Why I’m  Going to Watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup (now)

Neymar-world-cup-2014-hairstyles

 Ok, ok, ok. So stop ribbing me already about not watching the World Cup. I’m going to watch Brazil beat Belgium tomorrow. Because Brazil is the favorite now, right?  So that should be a great match. What? You mean you’ve been watching the whole, entire tournament; every match, every penalty kick and every minute of stoppage time? Please.

Let’s just say that I’m finally going to go all in on the world Cup. Partially because it’s the Elite Eight (what? they don’t use that term?) and partially because it’s almost over and I’d hate for some great goal to get scored and I didn’t see it. And I’ve got to see Neymar’s fancy new doo.  What? That hairdo was from 2014? Ooops.  Oh well, Neymar’s the flashy guy on Team Brazil so he (or his hair) and the match should still be great to watch.

AND I’ve got to watch because Russia is still in it (booooo!) And if they (they being Russia) win, we’ll never live it down. So let’s all watch the Russia/Croatia match and route, route, route for the AWAY Team. GO Croatia!

It’s Time To Be A Philly Fanatic, a.k.a., Baseball Anyone?

It’s officially time to watch baseball fanatically! Just don’t be like the Phillies mascot who injured a female fan by nailing her in the face with a hot dog shot out of the hot dog cannon. Sheesh.

It’s officially summertime so that means that the boys of summer now get to take center stage. The NBA just crowned the Golden State Warriors again and the surprising Washington Capitals finally captured Lord Stanley’s Cup, after a very long chase. So all that remains is baseball.

What’s that you say? The World Cup is being played in Russia? Seriously? So why didn’t the good ole US-of-A get invited? Huh? They didn’t qualify? Really? I thought Trump and Putin were buddies?

Anyway, it’s now time to pay attention to baseball. What’s that you say? The WNBA is playing their summer league season? Like I said, it’s time to pay attention to baseball and the boys of summer (no offense to the basketball ladies, but the WNBA just doesn’t do it for me).

Anyway, back to baseball. The Evil Empire New York Yankees and their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are at again, going at it, neck and neck, tooth and nail, and it’s fun to watch — the standings that is. I mean, it’s just June and we have a pennant race! And that’s not the only one.

My Philly Phillies just whipped and whupped the presumptive National League favorite to go to the World Series, the Washington Nationals, 12 – 2, and reclaimed second place in the East! Whoop whoop! So there! Here’s what one ESPN writer had to say about my Phillies:

“In the opener of a three-game set in D.C., the Phillies trounced the Nationals 12-2, in the process leapfrogging them for second place in the NL East. Philly is now 8-3 in its past 11 games, while Washington is 3-8 in its past 11. Even though the division rivals will square off twice more this weekend, not to mention 13 more times after that, and even though there’s over half a season still left to play, the upstart Phils sent a clear message on what turned out to be a Freaky Friday: They’re not planning on going away anytime soon.”

And there are other races worth watching too, like the National League Central with Milwaukee and the Cubbies going head to head and the National League West with Arizona and the Dodgers going neck and neck. And did I mention it’s still June? Pennant races aren’t supposed to start untill late August or mid September. Man!

So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the TV, take the remote, tune in to the guide (remember the actual TV Guide that came with the Sunday paper? My little sister and I used to fight over it all the time, but then again she had it memorized) — err, where was I?

Oh yeah- it’s time to watch, and pay attention to baseball!

Go Phillies!

Why Aren’t You Watching The World Cup?

So the reason you’re not watching the 2018 World Cup is what again, exactly? This is the WORLD CUP! It only comes around once every four years. So what’s the problem?

Ok, ok, ok, so let’s fess up. I’ll stop being so hard on you because I’m not watching the World Cup either. Why am I not watching the 2018 World Cup? Here’s my list of excuses:

Number One: To my horror, I found out that the US Men aren’t in it. They’re not? Nope. (Please excuse me while I argue with myself). I mean, I was about to turn on a game (I mean match) and I went to my ESPN App to see when the good ole US of A was playing, and I said to myself or to the App, I’m not sure which, “Where’s the USA?” But low and behold, the US isn’t playing. They’re not. Here’s how one sports reporter put it:

“With the World Cup about to kick off, a lot of Americans are about to commence the quadrennial tradition of following international soccer. However, once you start paying attention to the coverage (or maybe you already have if you’re not a casual fan), you may notice something off. No one is talking about the United States. The reason is simple, so don’t overthink it: The United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup in Russia this year.”

Whaaaat? Seriously?

“So how did this happen after the United States made it to the round of 16 in 2014? What happened in four years that caused the United States to fail to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986? Thirty-two teams qualify, so just what the blank happened?”

I kept reading the article and my head got foggy. So no USA men’s team this time around.

Number Two: We just got finished with the NBA Finals and the Washington Capitals historic Stanley Cup Championship win. So I’m exhausted and need a sports break.

Number Three: I don’t know who to route for. I mean, I’m not touting for the home team, right? So who else is there to cheer for, Nigeria? No offense, but I saw that their fans were banned from bringing live chickens to their games? Seriously?

Oh well. Let’s watch. Let’s watch the USA-less World Cup. Let’s just tune in for the love of the game.

Don’t Play With The Game

Bend It Like Beckham

The game of life comes with rules and regulations, directions and instructions and do’s and don’ts. For instance, it’s just not a good idea to drink and drive. Hence the admonition, “Don’t Drink and Drive!” Then there’s the allowance for right turns on red. So that’s a good thing, right?

We’ll here’s one for everyone to follow as well: “Don’t play with the game.”

Life is nothing to play with. Since life is a game, and there are rules for games, then this is one of them. Life is too short, and tomorrow is not promised. Make the most of every moment, and don’t trifle with the sanctity of life. Living is hard enough, so breaking rules and making up your own policies is foolhardy, at best.

In the game of life there’s a game clock and half court and foul balls and penalties. Sometimes someone may commit a false start or run out of bounds or line up off-sides. Even though It happens, most times it shouldn’t. You’ll want and need to play within the rules, right?

But then again, the world has imposed some rules that need to be broken. Ours is to figure out which ones are hard and fast and which ones are flexible. For instance, what about these recent taboos:

The rule to marry within your culture?

The rule to follow the crowd?

The rule to put family first?

The rule to marry for money? (The rule actually says you should marry for love, right?)

Anyway, it takes discernment and discretion and wisdom and good judgment to play this game the right way. And since we all want to win, we should play to win. And playing to win means that you honor the guidelines and bylaws that have been time tested and proven.

So don’t play with the game. Don’t take it lightly or live it loosely. Play hard and play for keeps. And when necessary, bend it like Beckham.

Watch the film Bend It Like Beckham. You’ll see what I mean.

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/movies/bend-it-like-beckham/8d6kgwzl5wz0

From Joy To Sorrow, and Now No “Hope” for Tomorrow for the USA Women’s Soccer Team

Hope Solo

This time, Hope was no help. In sports and in life, usually hope springs eternal and we fight to keep hope alive. But not in the 2016 Olympics for USA Women’s soccer. For Team USA, Hope Solo did not help the Soccer Sisters when they needed her help the most, and then things went from bad to worse after the whistle sounded.

For the first time in its distinguished history, the U.S. women’s soccer team has failed to advance to the semifinals of a major tournament.  The four-time Olympic gold medalists were upset by Sweden on penalty kicks, 4-3, following a 1-1 draw Friday at Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.

The top-ranked Americans had gotten past the quarterfinals in seven World Cups and earned no worse than silver in five previous Olympics. But on this day, Sweden, guided by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, prevailed in the tiebreaker to claim a semifinal slot against Brazil or Australia on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro. And when the game was over, the post-game propaganda war began.

After the game, Hope Solo was very unsportsmanlike as she downed the team and the coach that beat them in blunt terms:

“I thought that we played a courageous game,” she told reporters. “I thought we had many opportunities on goal. I think we showed a lot of heart. … But I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that.”

Asked to explain her criticism of the Swedes, Solo said: “They didn’t want to pass the ball. They didn’t want to play great soccer. It was a combative game, a physical game. Exactly what they wanted and exactly what their game plan was. … I don’t think they’re going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly. But they won. They’re moving on, and we’re going home.”

I have been a poor sport more than once, and you have too. And in case you’ve forgotten how to be a sourpuss and fussbudget and a cry baby, Hope Solo just gave us a rancid reminder. Hope showed us, once again, how to be a poor sport. And it’s a lesson we all need to take heed.

A poor sport is “a person who becomes unnecessarily emotional after being defeated at some sort of contest, regardless of the contests’ significance. Also could be described as a “cry baby.” 

And once again, I turn to Washington Post sports reporter Sally Jenkins to tell the story:

 RIO DE JANEIRO — “It’s called composure, and Hope Solo’s never been overburdened with a lot of that, or grace either. The U.S. women’s soccer team had their temperaments tested by a savvy, conservative Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals and lost. Solo has spent years undermining their collective equilibrium, and this one’s on her.

She’s a chronically rattled and rattling soul, the American goalkeeper. Let’s face it: For every shiny marketing moment and big victory she’s been a part of, she’s given the U.S. a nasty unwanted drama. The victories usually smoothed over her behavior. Not this time. This time she went pure loser and lout.

After giving up the winning penalty kick to Sweden, Solo called her opponents “a bunch of cowards” for their conservative game plan. Now, who is the real coward here? Solo gave up three regulation goals in the past two games, between a draw with Colombia and this loss. She tried to ice Lisa Dahlkvist on the final kick by changing her gloves, and then couldn’t lay a hand on the ball. And she couldn’t take responsibility for any of it; she could only lash out.

Sweden’s calculatedly frustrating game plan worked because the designer of that plan, Pia Sundhage, knew exactly whom she was dealing with, having coached the U.S. from 2008 to 2012. Told of Solo’s remarks in the postgame mixed zone, Sundhage said, “I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, and she’s going home.”

Hope Solo 2016 Olympics

Solo’s sore, hot-head remarks were personally aimed at Sundhage, who has made it clear just how much she had to put up with in Solo as the U.S. coach. There was always some trouble following Solo, stemming either from her irradiated blot-out-the-sun ego, or her temper.”

So let’s learn the lesson. Let’s learn how to win humbly and lose graciously, all the time.