Belgium's own Budweiser                                                                                                 


 I'd prefer some new blood come July 15. No Spain, Brazil, Germany, France or Argentina. Wouldn't it be fun to see Belgium, England or even Mexico the last man standing?  Now that everyone has played a game (Russia is already through, Egypt already out) I thought I'd take the temperature of the tournament and look who may  still give me hope. 


But first, a few tidbits from CBS Sports writer Roger Gonzales' rundown of team chances back in November when the field was set. His top 16 teams have a total of 26 pts. after everyone's initial game; the bottom 16 have 19 pts. Not earth-shattering, but an interesting  stat that indicates some of the mild upsets so far. Gonzales predicts there are nine teams whose worst-case scenario is losing somewhere in the knockout stage. Among those teams so far only Germany has lost. Brazil and Argentina have drawn (Spain and Portugal drew, but they played each other). He predicts the best-case scenario for Iran, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia is one point. Iran already has three.


Of the 13 teams who have won in Russia this month there are only a handful I don't really fancy: Russia, France, Serbia. I'll root for all the rest but not with confidence. I predicted Belgium 3-0 yesterday but I won't put money down on these hopefuls. England struggled to beat one of the supposed worst teams in the tournament (Gonzales ranked them 31). As much as I'd like Mexico to win it all it's hard to take any CONCACAF team seriously. Belgium has been a darkhorse for a few big tournaments now and I've always liked Roberto Martinez. I'd go with Belgium but let's talk again after two games. 


On To the Beer
As noted yesterday I popped the top on one of those curvy, rugged Sapporo cans. This was their black beer and a really good example of a German Schwarzbier.   


3rd-Minute PK conversion

Our little brewery has operated four miles from Minnesota since 2007 and today the Borderline Brown finally  crossed the state line.  To honor the great Minnesota brewery renaissance, let's tip an Arcturan Mega Saison from Minneapolis' Eastlake Brewing.  Chef Nat has shared this strong Belgian ale with us a few times and it never disappoints.   


Warming Up

Tomorrow will be a grab bag. Maybe this random pick will win the whole thing. 


Artist: エイプリルズ (The Aprils)

Nation: Japan

Album: Astro (2003) 




I’m happy for Japan. 


That’s in part because, on Tuesday, Japan became the first Asian side to notch a World Cup win against a South American one. 


That surprised me at first. But read a little deeper and found it was only attempt number 18. And the third-minute Colombian send-off didn’t hurt. But still, an impressive performance and a deserved win. I’d love to see them go far. 


Japan, the nation, makes me happy, too. I’ve never been there. But among the unvisited places I’d like to go, Japan has been in the ascendancy for years. Food, art and aesthetics, history, media, a great transit system — it seems to me to be a unique amalgam of culture that works in cool harmony. Plus my son wants to make a Nintendo pilgrimage. Anyway, I’ll get there sometime, and I’ll let you know if I’m right. 


There’s tons to love about Japanese music, from ancient to modern. One subset I find they’re particularly good at is absorbing and morphing other styles from around the world to fuse it into something new. 


For a long time I’ve been especially fond of one such approach — a genre of Japanese indie music called shibuya-kei. It covered a lot of sonic ground, but it tended to draw upon kitschy 60s and 70s culture and popular, loungey music of the U.S. and Western Europe. 


Instead of mocking the source, though, artists of the shibuya-kei genre tended to celebrate it — taking the best parts and adding their own slant. The resulting music is usually bright, colorful, naive and happy. Later branches of it incorporated a broader range of sounds, especially early 8-bit digital and video game music and other electronica.


It was through exploring this genre one day that discovered this video from The Aprils. I love the retro look and sound of this video — steeped lovingly in retro. And the songwriting itself is terrific. A keeper. 


I still don’t know much about The Aprils, though. Their stuff at the time wasn’t easy to find in the U.S. beyond some YouTube videos and a few scattered Spotify tracks, including a great take on the theme from the film “My Neighbor Totoro.” 


Researching this today, though, I was pleased to find that some new material went up on Spotify last fall, including a remake of today’s track. Again, happy. Thanks, Aprils, if you’re reading. 


The lyrics to “Astro,” sung in English, include the optimistic imperative, “Hello! Let’s go to stars!” Are you listening, Team Japan? 


 Francesinha, the European poutine ?                                                                                             Pingo Doce  


Nat's Kitchen

Let's have eggs and sausage for breakfast as Portugal opens the day facing a desperate Morocco. Francesinha (little Frenchie) is a sandwich created by Daniel da Silva in the 1960s originating from Porto in northwest Portugal. Constructed of bread layered with wet cured ham, linguica (a smoked sausage), chipolata (fresh sausage), steak or roasted meats, covered with melted cheese and a thick, spicy tomato and beer sauce. Of course there are variations but all sauces include beer. It's usually served with French fries. Some variations are topped with a fried egg and or piri piri sauce. Locals argue about Francisinha like Philadelphians argue about cheese steaks. 



Hard to see any upsets tomorrow. Let's just hope for some goalie bloopers, red cards, bad calls, superb goals and gentlemanly manners. 


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