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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 7/25/14: Terror Squad - Lean Black (2004)

The Flashback Fridays return with the group hit from 10 summers ago. It's the "Fat Man's Dance" and served as the beat that really got Scott Storch that legit appeal before his inevitable cocaine fall off.

People can't rationally deny how quality Joe's skill is and how he did well to keep the Terror Squad movement afloat well after Pun's passing. And this was clearly the climax of their run.

Also, one of the few notable things about this video is the fact that a young Kevin Hart made his appearance at the 2:40 mark.

So without further ado, here's Terror Squad with "Lean Back,"in the return of The Flashback Fridays.

More to come at TWD today, stay tuned.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Final's Halftime and Postgame Thread For 7/13/14: Super Mario Golden Gotze Gives Germany A 4th Title (Postgame Version)

FT (aet) Argentina 0-1 Germany (Gotze 113')

Photo from Getty Images

Though injuries and pressure, Germany have deservedly and rightly won a fourth world championship.

It is already a terrific great scene in Berlin, and Mario Gotze scored a world class winner to break the deadlock. It's fitting that Gotze scored, considering that he has been called the "German Messi" for several years now and featured a touch that the glorious Argentine just did not have today.

All match long, Martin Demichelis was outstanding with Ezequiel Garay. Demichelis, much maligned at Manchester City, had a tournament that showed why he was good enough to not only go to City but also be apart of Bayern Munich. But with fatigue setting in, the "bad Demichelis" reared its head at the worst time for the Albiceleste by not monitoring Gotze on that final ball.

Still for Argentina, Demichelis' moment of negligence on Gotze wasn't the moment that cost them. It was the messed chances, from Higuain to Messi and Palacio that cost them the match. It was Alejandro Sabella who had the right game plan fulfilled by his dogged side, a team that only fell behind this World Cup at its last minutes.

A last few minutes that represented how mentally strong this German side were to win this World Cup, from its manager's tactical thoughts to all 23 men being called upon whenever and determined to make that final progression that started in 2006.

Captain Philip Lahm, the real captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski saw the completion of their youthful exuberance of 2006 and heartbreaking misses of 2008, 2010, and 2012 be the stepping stone for their ultimate moment. A moment that saw their nation return to the top of the football world as a unified nation for the first time.

Halftime: Argentina 0, Germany 0 

An enthralling first half that started as a cagey tactical battle.  Both sides ran the channels properly and got into any space their stringy opposition allowed.

The game plan worked for Sabella as best as it could, as Higuain blew a golden opportunity after a rare mistake from Kroos, and was impatiently offside on that chance he could have finished.

Biglia and Mascherano did they jobs as a whole, but Mascherano had his worst pass of the tournament (though not as bad as Kroos) and it lead to another chance for Germany. Those two will have to hold firm in the middle with Perez has to give Rojo a bit more on the outside whenever Lahm ventures forward. It would be better for Sabella to switch Lavezzi and Perez to make Lahm defend more.

For Low, Hummels is getting beaten far too easily by a heavy legged Messi and Boateng made to stay back more, while Hummels takes on Higuain or Lavezzi crashing in behind him. Schweinsteiger has been superb handling Messi, but the loss of Khedira has certainly messed up their final ball in the middle rhythm. They have gotten more of their best moments from the outside, but that will always be tough for the Germans with Klose as the only one consistently in the box.

A great second half awaits... 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final's Thread #2 For 7/13/14: High on Low

Focus: Whether His Team Wins A 4th World Cup For Germany, Joachim Low Has Proven His Greatness

Photo from Getty Images

Two years ago, Joachim Low faced intense criticism for his German side falling to a less talented Italian side in the Euro 2012 semifinals. That skepticism on whether he was truly the man who could lead this latest golden generation of the German nation, the first as a unified collective, further popped up despite a near flawless World Cup qualifying campaign. Blowing a 4-0 lead at home against Sweden and the long drawn out feud he and Leverkusen forward Stefan Kiessling had added to the immense pressure on the 54-year-old manager.

Low could have easily folded the minute a number of his key talents started to be stricken with injuries. Ilkay Gundogan's long term back issues have ruled him out for a while. Marco Reus suffered a devastating blow knee injury right before the tournament. Mario Gomez couldn't get back to full fitness in time to make the journey. Both the Bender twins were snake bitten as well. And long forgotten leftback Dennis Aogo was the early sign of this injury onslaught with his ACL injury way back at the beginning of last season.

And those injuries continued right at the start of Brazil. Benedikt Howedes and Julian Draxler escaped a significant car injury, while Bastian Schweinsteiger had a late scare in the preparation to the opener against Portugal with his knee. Add on the concerns of Sami Khedira still trying to get back from his ACL injury, Mats Hummels dealing with his own knee injury suffered during the 4-0 win over Portugal and Shkodran Mustafi tearing his left muscle fibres against Algeria and Low (along with his players) could have easily thought that it wasn't meant to be.

All those adversities speak to how great a job Low has done, and how it is an embarrassing mistake if he is to be criticized for his team not winning a 4th World Cup. Yes, it would be a bitter disappointment, especially after their famous 7-1 victory over the host nation Brazil.  But Low's job is no less impressive or commendable for getting this Germany side through all of those physical and mental challenges to another global ultimate match.

May that not be forgotten if Germany falls short as it will be cherished if they do win their first world title as a unified nation.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final's Thread #1 For 7/13/14: A Legacy Already Fulfilled

Focus: How Lionel Messi Already Merits Being Right Next To Maradona And Pele, Even Without A World Cup Title 

Photo from Getty Images 

He posted a final message on Facebook, enthralled by what is to come forth. He wasn’t born the last time his nation won a World Cup, barely born the last time they were in a World Cup final.

It’s another step taken on the legacy of a 27-year-old from the town of Rosario, a legacy that has featured a tournament where he has answered all of the questions from any of his rational critics looking for that one incompletion on a glorious resume.

Yes, even before the final that could give him the one trophy missing from his glorious cabinet, Lionel Messi has answered any of the final doubts about his claims to be the greatest footballer in history with his monthly display in the rival nation of Brazil.

“Tomorrow we will play the most important match of our lives with this t-shirt,” Messi wrote on his Facebook page. “My dreams and my dreams are being fulfilled thanks to the work and the sacrifice of all staff that it has given everything from the first day and who has believed that it could be.”

Of course, anything short of winning that third world championship for Argentina would be a disappointment that will sit forever for him, especially if it is at the hands of the Germans once more. Deutschland has been a prominent reason in all of the ridiculous and myopic pieces written about the 5’7’ man supposedly never performing at his highest level at a World Cup, focusing on that fallacy and centering in on it as a trendy pre-tournament story.

The 19-year-old version of Messi inexplicably never got off the bench against the 2006 hosts in that quarterfinal that saw the Albiceleste bow out in penalties. A (then) overly too cautious Argentine manager Jose Pekerman wasted a chance to bring on the precocious teenager as a difference maker, as Messi had to watch Jens Lehmann become the match hero he could have easily been.

No one in a right mental state could blame him as a rising star overshadowed by the Juan Riquelme’s, Esteban Cambiasso’s, and Carlos Tevezs of the world, but criticism would come in South Africa four years ago. Criticism that still to this day is totally misguided.

One of the more annoying aspects of Messi criticism comes from those who look at his “0 goals scored” tally in 2010 and assume that Messi was a massive disappointment on the biggest stage. Either those people did not watch those matches closely, or simply didn’t watch the matches at all. Messi did the primary job labeled of any #10, be an immense creative force. He set up the goals or chances for Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, and Sergio Aguero, while being unlucky to score himself thanks the brilliance of Nigerian goalkeeping ace Vincent Enyeama. And surely it wasn’t Messi’s fault that the Diego Maradona led team had no sense of any defensive principle, as evidence by the 4-0 thrashing that Joachim Low’s side gave them in that infamous quarterfinal.

This time around, it’s not a quarterfinal that Messi’s Argentina with face Germany in. And this time around, there can be no level headed dispute of how valuable he has been to his nation. Some like Gary Lineker and a few others have the absurd feeling that he has “marginally disappointed” them, like he needed to have 10 goals by now or something. They’ve felt that his last three games just didn’t see him at his highest.

They clearly overlook his set up for Angel de Maria's dramatic winner against the Swiss, his valuable two-way play led to Higuain’s class winner against Belgium and his constant threat against the multiple defenders Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands side place on him. The man simply can’t have his energetic displays he showed for the last six years before this injury plagued long season he endured at Barcelona and dominate every match. But to be disappointed by him, when he has been conspicuous whenever Alejandro Sabella's side required his services, is mysteriously bizarre.

It’s not about whether Messi was great with or without this tournament. Even casual fans who still only watch this sport closely every four years should know that. But it’s the 100% correct message that is sent to them, where this isn’t the only time he has made the clutch plays for Argentina and that his club legacy isn’t a secondary part of his career, that matters the most.

What if Messi does have a great final by scoring a brace or a hat trick, or setting up multiple goals for his side, only for Germany to score more and win? Does that automatically rule him out of being at least next to Pele or Maradona for at least four more years? Only a fool would be simple to think that. And in fairness to his collective body of work already amassed (a 4-time Player of the Year, three times Champions League winner, and possibly future Barcelona’s, La Liga and European club competition all-time leading scorer), he truly deserves to be in that discussion right now.

A World Cup title in the rival nation of Brazil would silence any doubters to that discussion, but there shouldn’t even be doubters in the first place. And if Lionel Messi has to still prove something else to you or anyone else right now, then those are standards that even Pele or Maradona would fail to amass.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 2014 World Cup Semifinal #2 Kickaround, Halftime and Runthrough For 7/9/14: Romero Celebrates Argentine Independence Day By Sending Them Into The Final

FT (aet): Argentina 0-0 Netherlands (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties) 

Photo from Getty Images

The reaction from the two sides towards Maxi Rodriguez's clinching penalty. 

It was that close of a match, that type of a tactical encounter that may not ever be in the highlight of reel like yesterday's semifinal, but was enthralling from a pure cagey perspective. 

Alejandro Sabella has just nicked Louis van Gaal in the "outfoxed department," as it came down to a simple overplay on penalties. 

Ron Vlaar, basting in the glow of a career afternoon, was wrongly chosen as the first penalty taker. It prove to be the first blink in a match where both sides were in an intense two hour starring contest. 

This is how a World Cup semifinal is suppose to look, not the debacle that was "The Beatdown in Belo." Chances are suppose to be few and far in between. Outstanding defending is suppose to be a constant, not an aberration. And managing the formation adjustments and the substitutions require the utmost shrewd thought. 

For all the praise he had received from the start of the tournament in the Salvador Slaughter of Spain to throughout the group stages, van Gaal had finally made his most glaring mistake. It was a rare lack of sagacity that he was apoplectic about towards the media, setting the stage for how he will deal with the persistent English press at Manchester United. 

But it was the deciding moment in a day of tremendous individual defensive plays led by Vlaar and Javier Mascherano. 

And it also was a memorable day for Sergio Romero, a man who was relegated to the bench at Monaco this season and thought to be the weakness of this Argentine side. Instead, Romero has become an integral part of a squad who could win a third world championship for their nation.  

And to do it on Argentine Independence Day is more incredible. 

Halftime: Netherlands 0, Argentina 0 

After the utter collapse of the Brazilian defense yesterday, a real World Cup semifinal first half has taken place today. 

It was a cagey opening 45 minutes that featured really good play by the centerbacks, particularly Louis Van Gaal's men. Ron Vlaar is looking like the opposite of the defender he was this past season in Aston Villa, while Stefan De Vrij has improved this tournament. De Vrij is still susceptible to mistakes however, with his passing and judgement. But so far has not had to pay for them. 

There has been moments when Dirk Kuyt and especially Bruno Martins Indi have shown their deficiencies in the full back spot, getting bypassed a few times by Enzo Perez and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Fortunately for the Dutch and unfortunately for Argentina, this is where Angel Di Maria has been sorely missed, as you got to believe the Real Madrid man would have benefit from such moments. Perez has been solid, but his play still hasn't produce the moment to really bring him the benefits of a controlled Argentine first half. 

With injury concerns for Mascherano and Sneijder to start this second half, Gago, Depay, and De Guzman will have to be on watch. And Van Gaal has to get more out of Wijnaldum. He just has to. 

Pre-game Version

Robben, Messi, Higuain, and an ill Van Persie get all the publication and attention for this game today. But the two key players of this game will be unsung midfielders Lucas Biglia and Giorgio Wijnaldum. 

Wijnaldum normally plays as a #10 for PSV, but has to show some of that offensive threat today to help Wesley Sneijder. Although his sacrifice the last few matches to take a deeper defensive role has been commendable, the 23-year-old has to become a true two way man today and make Javier Mascherano and the fullbacks pay for any obsessive focus on Robben. He will be given that chance with Nigel De Jong seemingly past fit now, and has to take advantage of the space given to him. 

Meanwhile, Biglia will look to continue how he provided much needed bite alongside Mascherano against Belgium for Alejandro Sabella. Biglia will look to provide that final passing and aggressive play in the midfield, allowing Mascherano to focus on containing Robben at all times. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread For 7/8/14: The Beatdown in Belo (Final Version)

Well, that question was firmly answered below. 

He didn't, and his teammate didn't. 

Pre-Match Thread 

For the last four years, David Luiz has been mostly an adventure at centerback whenever Thiago Silva was not with him.

Now without the services of his new club teammate at PSG and long time buddy, David Luiz's stability as a central defender will be defined today.

With Dante as his partner, he will need to showcase that he can truly be a force in front of Julio Cesar regardless of who is partnering with him. It said something immensely when Jose Mourinho had to concede that one of his bitter adversaries, Rafa Benitez, was right about the former Chelsea man being elite only as a holding midfielder. The fact that Luiz was played predominantly in front of Gary Cahill and John Terry for the second half of the season speaks to how Mourinho knew that Luiz wasn't stable at the back.

Luiz has been terrific thus far in this tournament, with key tackles and recoveries before his two goals scored in the last two games. Can he repeat that without Silva though, the partner who makes him look like a world class centerback? We shall see. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime And Postgame #2 For 7/5/14: Krul Blow For Los Ticos As Backup Tim Sends Orange To Semis

FT (AET): Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (Netherlands advance on penalties 4-3) 

Survival is the only thing that matters, as the Dutch did just that. Keylor Navas got all the (deserved) attention, but Tim Krul was the goalkeeper who got the final say. 

But despite the rough exit for Costa Rica, it was a valiant close to the greatest World Cup in their country's history. 

Navas and Giancarlo Gonzalez made themselves massive commodities in this tournament (and Navas arguably already made himself one with this season at Levante), while Michael Umaña did not at all resemble the player who just wasn't good in MLS. Johnny Acosta did a great job coming in for the suspended Oscar Duarte, and Cristian Gamboa could easily see himself be apart of three World Cups. 

It was terrific all around spirit from Los Ticos that was crafted by manager Jorge Luis Pinto. They went as far as it could go, but that time had to run out at some time. 

Van Gaal's pick of Krul made sense with how Cillessen was mostly inactive outside of the end. And the Newcastle keeper denials of Ruiz and Umaña sent them into a second straight semifinals. 

Halftime: Costa Rica 0, The Netherlands 0 

Photo from Getty Images

Missing Oscar Duarte was a big blow for this Costa Rican side, as they made more simple mistakes in the back than before. Johnny Acosta hasn't been one of them, doing the best of the backline so far. 

For the Dutch, Wesley Sneijder has just got to get involved in this game and provide so midfield drive instead of deep lying playmaking and letting Robben, Depay, and Kuyt do all the creativity. 

For Costa Rica, Pinto will need to move Gamboa in a bit more while Borges will have to comeback more on Diaz's side whenever Robben tries to come at the Mainz 05 product. Also, Tejada has to try and provide more of an offensive threat display all of his running. 

(We'll be back for the second half, after this). 

Pre-game Thread 

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