Prominent nations not going to the 2018 World Cup

We’ll take a look at a few nations that will not take any part in the finals in Russia. I’ll start the list in ascending order of relevance.

4. USA

The US wouldn’t have made the list but for the fact that I live here now and follow the team. In global terms, the USMNT (that’s US Men’s National Team) hasn’t done anything in the last few editions to make them a relevant team. Costa Rica and Mexico from the CONCACAF division has done more. Costa Rica in 2014 topped their group of Uruguay, Italy, and England and then went on to lose to Netherlands in the quarters on penalties. With a current ranking of 24, the US laughably sits one spot above Los Ticos, while the latter will be making merry in Russia. The US came in 5th in the Hex, behind Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras, and didn’t even make the play-off.

The team going forward will be built around Christian Pulisic, the most technically gifted footballer the nation has produced. Ever.

3. The Netherlands

What a fall for the mighty Oranje, finalists from 2010 and destroyer of Spain in the first game in the last World Cup, with Van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” goal. They couldn’t even make it to the play off round from their group, coming in third behind France and Sweden. My personal favourite team on the world stage, I’ll have to fall back on the Albiceleste to go all the way.

Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie et all had been carrying this team for far too long. The future will be looking to Memphis Depay.

2. Chile

Winner of the last two editions of Copa America, incidentally beating Argentina both times on penalties in the final, Chile will be the second most high profile nation to miss out on the quadrennial event. Boasting of households names such as Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, and fielding a solid team, Chile was in a good position going into the last match-day of qualifications. They had to avoid losing to Brazil or hope Columbia beat Peru. Instead, Chile lost 0-3 and Peru drew 1-1. Peru and Chile ended up on the same points, with Peru ending on 5th place due to better goal difference. Peru went into the inter-continental play-off and Chile was left wondering. Also read about the fascinating back-story behind Peru and Chile’s campaign.

1. Italy

Italy missed out on a World Cup for the first time since 1958. That’s 60 years! Buffon will not get a chance to aim for a second World Cup trophy. Curious man management by Gian Piero Ventura, who’s being blasted as the worst gaffer ever, where he didn’t play red-hot Lorenzo Insigne in either of the two legged play-off with Sweden. Italy didn’t score a single goal in over 180 minutes of open play. After having finished second in their group behind Spain, they were handed a not too unfavourable draw against the Swedes but couldn’t muster up enough firepower, or willpower, to get to the finals.

Categories: Analysis, Loves | Leave a comment

Big clubs, big decisions their way

After Barcelona’s incredible win against PSG with a few controversial calls going the victor’s way, and a couple of games this past weekend, where bigger clubs were awarded decisions which turned the games in their favour, I decided to write this post.

The 3 games I’m going to talk about here are: UCL Barca-PSG on Mar 8th, Serie A Milan-Juve on Mar 10, La Liga Real Madrid-Real Betis Mar 12.

Let me be clear on one thing. In all the three instances, the eventual winner was the clear favourite (before and during the game) to win. I am not for a moment suggesting that somehow the losers were “robbed” of a win. What I am suggesting is that the eventual winners could may have lost or tied the games had some very debatable decisions not gone their way.

Ok, so for the UCL game the 3 crucial calls the referee made mistakes, in my opinion, are the penalty call on Neymar (by Meunier), the penalty call on Suarez (by Marquinhos), and the non-penalty call on Di Maria (by Mascherano). Mascherano even openly admitted to his foul in post-match interviews.

The author at this URL has made lucid points on the all the 3 decisions I mention above.

There was one other non-call for a penalty that was made in the same game, and I believe that was the right call. This was a penalty call against Mascherano in Barca’s box when he slid in to stop in a cross from Draxler (#23). Even though the ball clearly strikes Mascherano’s hand, he was barely a foot or so away from Draxler when the shot was taken. There are 3 things to consider while making the decision to award a penalty based on a hand ball: 1. Intention, 2. Proximity for body from where the ball was kicked, 3. Unnatural positions of arms.

Now, to the Milan-Juventus game. In the 95th min, Milan’s De Sciglio stops Lichtsteiner’s (#26) cross while they are both inside Milan’s penalty box. There was no way De Sciglio could have avoided contact with the ball, he was barely a yard away when it was kicked at him!

And the third incident happened on in the Madrid-Betis match. Navas was waaayy off his line trying to clear the ball and he completely missed the ball and took out, I mean TOOK OUT, the Betis midfilder Darko Brasanac. It should have been a free kick (as it happened outside the box) to Betis  and a red card to Navas (last man, clear goal scoring opportunity). Neither was given.


Then, I read this report from La Liga, about Barcelona getting more penalties in La Liga than any other club.

A little more digging brought up these numbers from UCL:  Most penalties for, and most penalties against.

From the above 2 list of numbers I made the following list for most net penalties awarded to clubs in UCL.

You could very well argue that these biggest club play in the most games and they have the most gifted forwards so they get more penalties. That certainly can be a part of the answer, maybe not just the whole. Any one who has followed Champions League football over the years will remember how ManU, in their heydays, could be certain for the game to go on till they equalized or won. Same with Milan of the early 2000s. Barca, Madrid, Munich and Juventus in the recent few years.

Clubs Penalties For Penalties Against Difference (For – Against)
Barcelona 42 16 26
Real Madrid 38 20 18
Bayern Munich 35 22 13
Manchester United 24 11 13
Liverpool 10 2 8
Chelsea 19 12 7
Sevilla 8 1 7
FC Porto 18 12 6
Juventus 19 13 6
AC Milan 18 13 5
Internazionale 8 3 5
Borussia Dortmund 8 4 4
Manchester City 12 8 4
Arsenal 26 23 3
Atletico Madrid 8 5 3
AS Roma 10 9 1
Bayer Leverkusen 13 13 0
Celtic 9 9 0
Valencia 11 11 0
Olympique Lyonnais 10 13 -3
Shakhtar Donetsk 10 13 -3
Olympique Marseille 5 10 -5
Benfica 5 11 -6
Paris Saint-Germain 7 14 -7
AFC Ajax 4 13 -9
PSV Eindhoven 7 16 -9
Olympiakos 7 18 -11
Categories: Analysis, Loves | 1 Comment

First real ride of 2014

Yesterday was my first real ride of this season. A group of people from work have a standing ride scheduled on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday of the month. This was my first time riding with this group. Nine people, including me. Except for me, everyone was over 40, with 1500+ cc of mostly Harleys. The ride was a little over 100 miles (160 km), after we got off from work around 4 pm. Really refreshing.

Here is the full route:

2014-07-23 USB group ride_main map


The highlight of the ride was a little stretch of 8 and half miles on County Rd O, from the Gas Lite pub in Trimbelle, WI to the Great River Road. Full of twisties and turns and curves; of full throttle and hard braking!

2014-07-23_close up of Gas Lite to Great River Road, on Count Rd O



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A looong ride

Last Sunday, August 18th, I went out on a motorcycle ride with a group of dedicated bikers. This group of people have been riding together for many years, and enjoy long distance riding.  This was, by far, the most I’ve ridden on my motorcycle, in a single day – 340 miles or 544 kilometers. To put into perspective, it is almost the same distance as a one way trip from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. Or a little more than one way from Kolkata to Puri!

Here is the route we traveled. I started from our home in Brooklyn Park and went down to Rosemount, where all the us were meeting up. From there we took US-52 south to Spring Valley, through Rochester. Turned east on MN-16 to Preston. Continued on MN-16 and turned north on MN-43 to Winona. Took US-61 north up to Wabasha. Turned east on MN-60 to Zumbrota, which merged on to US-52 north, and then back home.

When I reached home, my ears were ringing so bad that I could barely hear Vivian speak. The palms and fingers on my hands felt like …like they had been holding on to the handle bars of a bike which has traveled 340 miles!

But it was fun! The route from after Rochester to Zumbrota was so beautiful,  and the ride so sweet, that it made up for the small inconveniences of the last paragraph.

riding route






Here is a close up on the map on the real fun part of the ride, the southern loop.

close-up of southern loop











The 6 bikes (yeah, mine was the only cruiser)



Close up of my bike, Suzuki Boulevard M50. The “M” stands for “muscle” (as opposed to the standard “C” for cruiser; this one is a cruiser too, but looks a bit sportier), and the “50” stands for the engine displacement in cubic inches, which equals 805 cc or cubic centimeters.



Categories: Loves, Motorcycle | 4 Comments

Brinda Rose

So, Vivian and I have new names now – Mom and Dad; Maa and Baba.

Ok, the vital stats first:

Name (first middle): Brinda Rose (more on that in another post)

Born: June 23rd, 2012 at 7:54 pm Central time

Weight and length: 7 lb 7.2 oz (3.4 kg), 20.3″ (51.5 cm)

Brinda wasn’t due till June 28th, but she came last Saturday. Incidentally (Fate’s sadism showing through?), I was out on a bachelor party on Friday evening. Now, this fact is of grave importance. Not the bachelor party itself, but the fact that I returned home at 2 am on Saturday morning. Any new parent will attest to the lack of sleep for a few days after their baby is born. I got a head start on the sleep deprivation.

Vivian wakes me up on at 4:15 am, with the much-anticipated, but dreaded, “My water broke!”. With barely 2 hours of sleep under my eye-lids, I spring into DR (disaster recovery) mode. But she is calm. Knowing that I haven’t had enough sleep, and the potential of a full day ahead, she said to take it easy and sleep for another hour or so till her contractions start, if I can. That sleep from 4:30 am to 5:30 am made a whole lot difference.

Another nudge at 5:30 am, to let me know her contractions had begun. At 6 am, we call up our doctor and she advises to go to the hospital. By 7 we are on our way. It is 11 miles from our home to the hospital and most of it is freeway. You would assume that early on Saturday morning, I was not to be denied the opportunity to speed – I mean really speed – all the way to the hospital. But you would be wrong. The cops had picked this very day to lay out a speed trap all the way! We saw at least 3 pulled over vehicles, making me drive meekly at 60 mph.

Yet another curve ball awaits us at the hospital. More than 6 weeks ago, we had filled in the online pre-admission form for our hospital. Vivian even has an email confirmation from them, but somehow magically, none of that information was in their system when we arrived at the hospital at 7:30 am. So with Vivian cringing in pain from the contractions, they wouldn’t even hook her up to the monitoring tools before a “registration nurse” completed the registration process. !@#%. Well, on the bright side, things only got better from here on …. Or, did they?

Let’s see. With 3 attempts to find a vein for IV, 2 separate attempts to administer the epidural (with 3  pokes in the 1st try), a Second Stage labor lasting an hour and half, Vivian experiencing 3rd degree tear – yeah, all was well!

Seriously, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Overall our hospital stay was pleasant with the doctors and nurses, especially the nurses, making every effort to help out whenever we needed, and at times, even when we didn’t know we needed help. We also got to see the Spain-France quarterfinal while we were waiting for labor to progress! And everything could have been so much worse. No complaints.

Oh, and did I mention I cried when I first saw her? Oh yeah, because I didn’t. I haven’t cried in public since I was probably 12 years old.

How very clichéd it would be of me to proclaim my love for my daughter! Very, so what?  I love you Brinda! Probably more than anything else in this world.

Happy Us

Mother and daughter

View from the postpartum hospital room

Important skin-to-skin session with Dad

Gorgeous ladies!


Happy Feet

Categories: Life, Loves, We | 6 Comments


A couple of stories that I found to be profoundly inspirational.

The first piece is about Dawn Loggins, a teenager who was abandoned by her parents; homeless; endured extreme poverty and abuse; worked her way through and came out with a scholarship to Harvard! How absolutely incredible is that?!

The second story is about LeBron James’ standout performance against the Boston Celtics in game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Now I’ve never been a basketball fan. I only start (and stop soon) following it around the conference semi-final/final. I was introduced to King James in 2007 when I went to Cleveland. This was when James was still a Cleveland Cavaliers guy. My cousin, who was 10 years old then, was an ardent follower of the game and I guess, more than an ardent follower of James. I still remember his incredulous face, when I said,  “I don’t know who LeBron James is”! I have since then followed his career – his alleged “treachery” in moving to Miami, the decidedly absurd announcement on ESPN, the subsequent commercial showing his human side, the heart-break last year against Dallas.

Throughout everything, one thing remained quite apparent to me: LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players. I cannot comment on his greatness with respect to past and future eras, but currently he’s a colossus. Another thing, which might not be that apparent to many, about him that I find true of a champion is the measured, and sometime pretty humble, words that he has to say. Having watched live interviews, read printed article on him, he seems to be guy who just wants to play. And win. Badly.

Dispatching off the Celtics in seven games, Miami Heat are currently leading the Oklahoma City Thunders 2-1. Two more games, and 2 more wins, and LeBron James will surely join the ranks of all time greats.

Categories: Life and Times, Loves, Sports | 3 Comments

Thanksgiving in Duluth

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Duluth,MN with Vivian’s parents and brother. The day after Thanksgiving we went down to the lake shore to see the Bentleyville lights. It was chilling – the weather, not the lights!

I haven’t said this aloud (ever), but I’m thankful for all that is there in my life.  Every single one of them – people, memories, achievements, even things. I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.

Here are some photographs from that weekend. All taken with my new (bought used, but new to me) Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8, a veritable beast!

[Click on the first one and you’ll be able to see them as a slideshow.]

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U2 and Def Leppard

I’ve now seen U2 and Def Leppard perform live. That too within a span of 34 days. I can now die.

Oh wait, haven’t yet seen Messi in live action. Cannot die.


I mentioned this is some earlier post: U2 performed in Minneapolis, at the TCF Bank stadium (Minnesota Gophers home ground) on July 23rd .  They were supposed to perform in Minneapolis in Aug 2010, but Bono injured his back and they postponed the tour. I’ve had the tickets since November 2009! Vivian was out of town, I took a friend with me.

To describe the show in one word: Awesome. Even if I do see another show better than this, I’ll probably always refer to this one as the best I’ve ever seen.

Did I mention it was a open air show AND it rained? Thrice, during the show. But instead of turning into a damp squib, the showers, lightening and thunder made it more special. We were soaked to our skins, and loved it.

Anecdote: Since the TCF Bank stadium is a college stadium, no alcohol was allowed inside the stadium. There were a few ‘beer tents’ set up outside the stadium. All these tents had big lines outside them. We had time on our hands and stood in queue. Now this guy comes up behind us, about 50-ish. With his wife and few others. Everyone in the group is a bit tipsy. Starts to chat me up. About how this is so wrong that they won’t allow beer inside the stadium or how he had to join the queue at the end even when he had already purchased beer from this particular location before. Thanks us for letting them cut in line (when in fact he was at the back of the queue) and tells us that our beer is on him! We politely decline, but he is adamant. Starts cracking jokes about his daughter-in-law, who is apparently a part of the group. Once we are in, he almost pulls us to the place he knows is less crowded and promptly orders beer for us!

U2 - Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr, The Edge

To give a perspective of how far we were seated from the stage

And this is a cool link. The U2 FanCam, Gigapixel Camera.


Def Leppard

Def Leppard had performed in Minneapolis (when I was living here), but I was out of town. I had regretted missing out on seeing them live. This year they came back to the Minnesota State Fair, performed on August 26th. Couldn’t find anyone to go with me (I waited till the very last moment!) Vivian wasn’t feeling too well and my friend back out at the last moment . On Friday afternoon – the day of the show – I took put an ad out on Craigslist

Within a couple of hours I had 3 offers. I took the 2nd offer, where the woman was selling at the face value.

One word to describe the show: Rocking!

After the cover bands were done, an interesting thing happened while I was seated in the grandstand stand and just waiting for Def Leppard to come out. A visibly drunken guy walks up to me and says that we wants to be seated next to his friend (who was siting next to me), and was willing to trade tickets with me. I was up in the stand, his ticket was down on the floor, around 26 rows from the stage. Ignoring the alarm bells ringing in my head for this too-good-to-be-true offer, I accepted. Hell, I was alone and had nothing to lose. Worst case, his ticket was fake/stolen/not valid, I would have come back to my original seat and if he hadn’t relinquished it, I would have just stood in the aisle. As it turns out, the traded ticket was a legitimate one, I got great seats and got sugar poured on me!

Vivian Campbell, Rick Savage, Joe Elliot, Phil Collen

Rick Allen - quite possibly the world's best drummer

Top left - where I'd be sitting if I hadn't traded my seat

Categories: Loves | 1 Comment

Hat trick

The word might conjure up images of a bowler in a cricket match taking 3 wickets in 3 consecutive balls, this being the middle of the World Cup and all that, but hang on, it’s me who we are talking about here! Haven’t played cricket in almost 3 full years (though I have watched ALL of India’s games from 3 am and later on – after we changed over to daylight saving – from 4 am). So what’s all the hullabaloo about hat trick?

Well, you see, I scored my first ever hat trick in football (soccer) in a competitive game since …I don’t know, ever? Right!!

Three goals in a single game. The sense of euphoria, the feeling of exhilaration, the rapturous clapping of team mates, times 3. Sweet, sweet joy.

This exceedingly rare phenomena happened in last Sunday’s game. It was a game in the recreational co-ed league that I play in. All the goals had superb assists from my team mates and my heartfelt thanks to them. And more importantly we won, leaving us clear of the bottom of the table, with a game in hand.

In other news, tomorrow’s the semi-final clash between India and Pakistan. Granted this is big, but wish the (Indian) media didn’t hype it as the ‘mother-of-all-battles’. Hey, haven’t we gone way past of just beating Pakistan, and onto bigger fishes, like beating Australia and South Africa, IN their own backyards?

In non-sports news, I’ve started learning German. My reasons:
a) For a while now I’ve been thinking of learning a new language, more so since Vivian is learning Bangla
b) I wanted to learn a ‘global’ language, i.e. available through Rosetta Stone. That struck off most of the Indian languages from the list
c) A language in which the script, or the alphabet, has similarities to English. That took care of Russian and Chinese/Mandarin
d) That left me with: French, Spanish and German
e) Vivian knows French and French is hard
f) You hear Spanish quite frequently in the US and can pick it up. Moreover Spanish is similar to French, refer point (e)
g) German it is

Categories: Loves | 3 Comments

The pro-life and Obama connundrum

Jon Stewart had a segment last night which neatly wove around two of the most fallacious arguments of the conservative GOP.

Here’s the video link. The interesting part starts around the 3 minute mark in the video.

If you don’t want to see the video, here’s the interlude between Stewart and Reagan OS 911 (à la IBM Watson), the Republican presidential ‘front-runner’.

Stewart lays the trap by asking, “Why, in 2008 when the Obama campaign produced a certificate of live birth, wasn’t that good enough?”

The computer goes ballistic about never accepting that.

Starts the luring in process. “You are pro-life, I assume”.
“Affirmative”, answers the computer.
Stewart continues, “Obama’s parents were married on February 2, 1961 in Hawaii.” Shows the marriage certificate. Computer agrees that they were married in Hawaii, but still denies that Obama was born in Hawaii, and hence not an American citizen. (The computer doesn’t deny the fact that Hawaii is part of America).

Stewart goes in for the kill. “But he was born. August 4, 1961 to be exact. That means Obama’s mom was a few months pregnant when she got married. In the United States. That means Obama was in the US, when he was a fetus. So, either Obama is an American citizen or fetuses don’t count as people!

Mea culpa.

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