Boss, I'm gonna be sick today, I have World Cup Fever.
NBA Finals: Nowitzki leads Mavericks to 2-0 series lead
Yes, the Mavs are up 2-0, but there's something going on here that may be ignored in all the talk about Shaq's free throw shooting and poor play.
I think we're beginning to see a change in the perception of foreign-born players. At first, they were regarded as either complementary shooters or post players with no grit. Even last year, as France's Tony Parker and Argentina's Manu Ginobli were pacing the Spurs to a championship, the media was very quick to point out that "American" Tim Duncan (ironically born in the Virgin Islands), was the team leader and go to player.
Now with Dirk Nowitzki's performance this year, this is the first time that a foreign born player has been recognized as a team leader and a star who sets the tone for his team with his play. Granted, he was always this for Dallas, but it took an NBA Finals run for everyone to notice.
Big XII Baseball: Oklahoma the sole survivor
Only 2 Big XII teams were left on the road to Omaha after last weekends' regionals: Missouri and Oklahoma.
Missouri had the misfortune of facing powerhouse Cal-State Fullerton. Naturally, they went down in straight games. Neither was close.
That leaves Oklahoma, who won Game 2 of their Super Regional with national power Rice to force a deciding game 3 today (Noon, ESPN).
If Oklahoma needs any inspiration, however, they need look no further than last year's Texas squad, who, like this year's OU team, dropped the opening game in it's super-regional on the road, but came back to win the next 2 to advance to, and eventually win, the College World Series.
Aside from Germany going ape and dropping a 4-spot on Costa Rica, the World Cup finals have been marked by a lot of shots on goal, but not a whole lot of chances converted. So the offense is there, it's just that teams are not finding the back of the net. Which means it can only go up from here. Hitting the highlights...
Sweden 0, Trinidad and Tobago 0
All the credit in the world goes to former Howard University keeper Shaka Hislop, who basically made up for Trinidad's lack of offensive punch. Sweden should have won that game because they were the more aggressive team, but Hislop kept them in check and the "Soca Warriors" got a gift point.
Not to rain on Trinidad's parade (or Tobago's for that matter), but if you want to make good on Stern John's guarantee, you need to give John some more help when the ball's in your attacking third. He can't do it himself.
England 1, Paraguay 0
Speaking of gift points...
A win may be a win, and England may be the most nit-picked club in the world, but let's face it, they won it on a flukey goal that skidded off the defender's head and into his own net. They did not convert their opportunities, they had crosses where no one was home, and they almost let Paraguay back in the game on several occasions.
Mexico 3, Iran 1
Think Mexico wanted to get off to a good start? Led by Omar Bravo's 2 goals, Mexico absolutely blitzed Iran into the ground. At halftime, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Mexico "the new Great Satan" and threatened to continue his nuclear enrichment program if Mexico continued to score on them.
Interesting that a country whose leaders have so famously denied the Holocaust went down in defeat in Nuremberg, the very city where many of the Holocaust's leaders were tried and convicted after World War II.
Netherlands 1, Serbia-Montenegro 0
Apparently, the Dutch can get offense from sources not named Ruud Van Nistelrooy. While the Serbian defense was concentrating too heavily RVN, Arjen Robben stuck one in. And that's all it took.
Ecuador 2, Poland 0
Probably the first real "shocker" of this World Cup as Ecuador wasn't expected to do much, they pushed forward more times than the Poles did, and were rewarded with victory.
Argentina 2, Ivory Coast 1
This one really could have been 3-1 except the Ivory Coast keeper either just stopped a ball from completely crossing the the line or yanked one out of the goal (depending on your point of view) early on in the game. Still Argentina showed the kind of playmaking and offensive ability we've come to expect from them over the years.
Today's Group E Matches:
Ghana-Italy (1:55 PM, ESPN2)
This could really be a breakout game for Ghana, Many of the Ghana players are familiar with the Italian side since they play in Italy, so they know what to expect. Plus, their midfield is better and their team is more athletic overall.
Czech Republic-U.S. (10:55 PM, ESPN2)
There's one thing I forgot to mention about the U.S. side that I like: Attitude. Everyone from Bruce Arena down to the 25th man is saying their goal is to win it all, and anything else would be a disappointment. They feel like they can win.
They're not playing the politically correct game that a lot of players and coaches play when it's World Cup time. They're not "happy to be there" like a lot of past U.S. teams. They want it badly.
I know some players articulate it(Terrell Owens) and some don't (Peyton Manning), but you don't become a champion by being politically correct all the time. You have to believe you can win deep down in your soul. That's what I mean by attitude, and this U.S. team has it.
Now, let's see if they can translate that attitude into goals.