Thursday, July 7, 2016

Germans Taking Lyric 'Throw Your Hands In The Air Like You Just Don't Care' A Little Too Literally

Welcome back, jags and jagettes. Another day, another confounding handball by the Germans, who were unable to bounce back against France to secure a place in the final round of the European Championship. As the game wore on, the Germans showed the devastating impact of their tactical cohesion, much like they did against my Polish namesake as documented in a post from years ago, though it was aimed this time at the French defense and not an unassuming pierogi shop that turned into a battle zone of guns and artillery and potato and butter; needless to say, my family lost this particular skirmish.

Though getting to the semi-finals is no failure, this German machine expects nothing but victory, and this defeat has undoubtedly raised a multitude of questions. Why were the Germans so undisciplined in the box? Were set pieces a major concern for the team? What were they thinking? Well, don't worry: all these questions will be answered in the latest pieces here on Sports Unfiltered, so let's get right to it.


Löw Regrets Bringing On Dirk Nowitzki To Help With Set Pieces 

"A good idea at the time," says Löw who watched players dominate the backboards and box out the opponent, regrettably in a game where it is illegal to use your hands 

The set piece: always a dangerous moment in the game of soccer. It can be so dangerous, in fact, that it is not unusual for teams to rely on these dead-ball opportunities as an ace in the hole against opponents of superior technical skill and tactical prowess.

The German team is the reigning World Champion. They possess an intimidating combination of ability on the ball and movement off of it.  There are few teams who could attempt to challenge their soccer acumen, let alone eclipse it.  For these reasons, they are the common target of the set piece strategy, and so when training for the European Championship, German trainer Joachim Löw was faced with a serious dilemma: how does he best prepare his team for the onslaught of orchestrated free kicks and corner kicks?

The solution was simple, he thought: bring in a professional.

What better man for the job than fellow German and professional NBA player Dirk Nowitzki?

"You want to find someone who not only is an expert in his field, but will resonate with the team," said Löw, who considered several others to take the position, "and Dirk is a world-renowned basketball player, who is also German, so the fit was ideal."

Löw and Nowitzki, who insisted on wearing his national team jersey, celebrate Boateng's monster board in training

It appeared to be a perfect match -- Nowitzki the missing piece for a German team poised on securing another major championship. The 13-time NBA all-star began immediately schooling his soccer counterparts on how to win the aerial game, conducting drills with obvious influences from professional basketball: basic jump ball exercises, small-sided games centered at winning a loose ball, and extensive practice demanding the opposition "get the fuck out [the player's] house."

Löw was enthralled at first at his squad's rapid understanding of the principles introduced by Nowitzki, but as the training continued, he started to notice concerning changes.

"Corner kicks, which tend to feature aggressive confrontation as is, were getting even more intense," stated Löw, citing one corner kick at training where striker Mario Gomez violently swatted the ball out of the air and began beating his chest. "It was at that moment that I had to reconsider the effectiveness of my decision."

When Löw saw veteran defender Jerome Boateng throwing talcum powder in the air prior to Germany's quarterfinal match against Italy, his nerves worsened.

"I was on the sideline when it happened and instinctively yelled 'Ach nein,'" Löw recalled. 

Boateng asked teammates to call him 'Jerome der König' (King Jerome)
The Germans confirmed Löw's fears, committing two costly handballs during the knockout round of the tournament. Against Italy, Boateng challenged the shooter Chiellini hard, only to realize that his block is completely impermissible in the game of soccer; facing France, captain Bastian Schweinsteiger made a great desperation play on a corner at the end of the first half that was nullified by the fact that there is not a single reason a field player should be flying at the ball hands-first.

After a penalty was issued, Schweinsteiger began to complain to the referee under the impression that he had received a technical foul.

"I thought the ref had 'T'd' me up," he said in a press conference, utilizing a piece of basketball slang he had learned from Nowitzki. "Then I remembered that, you know, you're supposed to use anything but your hands."

The goal put France up at half against the run of play, and the Germans were unable to overcome the deficit. Despite the loss, Löw insists he will continue to innovate the way he trains and manages the team.

"This particular attempt did not work out as intended, but there are plenty of areas that I can improve upon," he said.

Nowitzki, for his part, relished his time with the national soccer team.

"I thought it was great. I think I learned a lot in my time here, especially from Jogi (Löw)."

Most recent reports state that Löw is on the phone with Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle who keeps asking "why the hell [Dirk] is kicking the ball all over place."


The only thing more amazing than two egregious handballs in consecutive games is the unrelenting daggers of insight provided by my jag cousin. He never fails to impress. Now onto second piece today on Sports Unfiltered: another round of dissenting viewpoint commentary called Jag Talk.


Today's topic: corner kick at end of first half in Germany-France game

Jag #1: Bastian Schweinsteiger
I'm pretty sure I can bat this one out of here with my hand -- no problem.

OK Bastian, keep your head in the game. Near the end of the half here and your team is playing well; no need to do anything rash.

Corner kick. Find your mark, find your mark. There he is -- #3. Got him. Now relax. Keep your eye on your man. Don't let him through because if he scores...

Stop! Enough negative talk. You've done this a million times, Bastian; just do it once more and get yourself to halftime. Keep it simple: time your jump, up and away with header -- this is easy. You're a pro, dammit; why are you making it so difficult?

OK, here we go. Here we are; he's kicking it. Just gotta keep an eye on... Uh oh. Shit, shit, shit -- where is he?!

There he is! Oh fuck, you've done it now. Move your ass! Move! Move!

Not gonna make it. Panic time. I mean, this ref -- how much could he be paying attention? Time to get desperate.

You know what? Fuck it. I'll hit it with my hand. Make it look like a mistake. Yeah, that's it. It's almost too easy. Just jump up, get a casual skip off the arm, and everybody goes to the locker room none the wiser.

OK, line it up; time it right. Wait for the perfect moment, Bastian. There it is -- riiiiiight now!

Jag(s) #2: Every German Fan
What the fuck are you doing?!

OK guys, let's do this. Just one corner and we get through to the half. We have to say, we're kind of irritated you haven't scored yet, but that happens, so do what you have to and live to bring them down in the next half.

So who's got who? Neuer looks to be in good position, on his toes. Boateng! Please. for the love of Christ, don't pull any stupid shit this time, will ya?

Who's got Evra? Schweini, you got him? Perfect. He's the consummate pro -- no way he would do something stupid or risky in a game like this.

Here's the kick. Who's got it? 

Um, wait... Schweinsteiger? What the?! What... How...

What the fuck are you doing, Schweinsteiger?!

Maybe they didn't see it. Nothing yet. But seriously, Schweini, you got away with a dumb as shit m...

Oh no. The line ref. He saw it. Oh come on -- please, no. Shit! Shit! 

Seriously, Schweinsteiger, what on Earth were you thinking, you asshole?!
OK, don't panic. Neuer's got it. He's good. He's the best. He won't let you down.
Let's do it, Neuer! Here we go, here we go.
Shit. Holy handballing shit.

Fine. We'll handle business in the second half then. France should take it easy on us, anyway, after that giveaway. I mean, what have we ever done to them?

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