Heading to the World Cup semifinals

July, 12, 2011

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany -- It's been quite a ride so far in Germany. Players supposedly hit by lightning. Controversies, huge upsets and one of the most memorable comebacks in all of soccer. Now we face a semifinal round with the U.S. but without Brazil and Germany. Suffice to say, the oddsmakers took a beating again.

Here are some odds and ends from the notebook as we prepare for the big clash between the U.S. and France.

1. France coach Bruno Bini is (not shockingly) a poet. I imagine he specializes in abstract haiku. As he said after his PK win against England, "It's not that we love each other because we win, it's that we win because we love each other." Or regarding his coaching style: "We met on the pitch, I said 'la la' and they said, 'lee lee.' A beautiful story."

2. That's the person who's gonna fix my knee? U.S. Team orthopedist Dr. Scott Powell has had nine lives, including a bit part in "Caddyshack." He was also dubbed the Great Santini and Captain Outrageous when performing on TV as the Elvis revival singer in the band Sha Na Na. And he was also in "Grease" with Sha Na Na performing as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. Is it possible that entertainment is the best medicine?

3. The Swedes' rain dance makes it rain wins. "We started the dance when we started the World Cup and it's become routine -- before the game to cheer us up, when we score and when we win. … if we come to the final, we will dance," said defender Annica Svensson.

4. She doesn't just score the biggest goal of all time. Abby Wambach has trained her English Bulldog, Kingston, to ride a skateboard.

5. Can we get a cover please that doesn't include swimsuits? The highlights of the U.S. vs. Brazil were shown on the JumboTron in Yankee Stadium, and that's not all. "Supposedly, someone said that Derek Jeter's SI cover might get bumped." That was Heather O'Reilly's wishful thinking after the Miracle in Dresden.

6. Best birthday present, ever. Japan's Karina Maruyama scored in extra time to eliminate Germany in the quarterfinals. It also happened to be forward Kozue Ando's 29th birthday. Maruyama will be hard pressed to top that gift next year.

7. More verification that Team USA is badass: A slick Nike campaign that would make the most slovenly couch potato want to run drills and handle the pressure. You can check it out here and here.

Jaime Lowe played AYSO soccer for eleven years and never scored a goal. She still loves the sport. She has written for ESPN the Magazine and is the author of Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB (Faber & Faber) and a contributor to Fathers & Daughters & Sports (Random House).


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