The Evster's top XI things to look forward to in the World Cup™

The Evster's top XI things to look forward to in the World Cup™

WARNING: THIS POST IS ABOUT SOCCER

1. Paul Pogba's Hair

With apologies to Arturo Vidal and the entire Japanese National Team, no one has better hair than Paul Pogba. I'm not even sure what Paul's got goin' on up there. It's like a half-Gumby, half-Prince, half-Peanut Buster Parfait-lookin' jawn and yes I realize that's too many halfs. Plus, he shaved some Nick Van Exel lines in his eyebrow and correct me if I'm wrong, is that dyed blonde chin hair? This dude is so cool looking, and also happens to be one of the best young midfielders in the world. Now that France has Paul Pogba (real name!) playing behind Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Yohan Cabaye (PSG) and the adorable Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille) / Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) combo platter, Les Bleus might actually not suck beaucoup de butt this time around.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/1yo6K1WItIA width=620 height=349]

2. Beautiful (and I mean beeeee-yooooooo-tiful) Colombian Women

Maybe it's the cocaine. Maybe it was my sheltered Jewish upbringing. But Colombia has BY FAR the most attractive fans. For those of you out there who are like, "AYO EVSTER, WHAT ABOUT PARAGUAY?" Please note that they failed to make this year's tourney. And Sofia Vergara is Colombian. And sex on cocaine seems INCREDIBLE.

3. Spain v. Netherlands on Match Day 2!

Forget about giving players time to find the cleanest hookers, FIFA has scheduled a 2010 Final rematch on the very first Friday. The defending champs (sorry, "cup holders"), Spain, return with an even more ridiculous midfield, consisting of Xavi (Barça), Iniesta (Barça), Sergio Busquets (Barça), Cesc Fabregas (OMG WE GET IT, BARCA), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Juan Mata (Man U), Rafael Nadal (Roland Garros), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Frank Dorblestam (FC Dorbsville), Koke (Atletico) and David Silva (Man City). Unfortunately, up front they'll still be starting Fernando Torres (fart noise).

The Dutch no longer have Mark Van Bommel to regulate the midfield (he retired), but they do still have the Nigerian (not Nigerian) Nightmare, Nigel de Jong.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/J2NqS4IBLxw width=620 height=465]

Prediction: Spain 2, Arjen Robben NOPE.

4. Andrea Pirlo's Beard and Gigi Buffon's Barrettes

Gennaro Gattuso, Pirlo's ex-teammate at Milan, summed him up best, "When I see what Andrea can do with the ball, I have to ask myself whether I am a footballer." Granted, Gattuso was one of the least-skilled midfielders to ever play, but still, I'm not telling him that wasn't a good quote. That guy's crazy.

He sometimes wears an ascot, too!

5. The Return of Michael Essien, Alex Song, Didier Drogba, and other Gigantic African Dudes

The last few years in America, we've been denied the opportunity to see these African superstars because of injury (the Bison), Barcelona's depth at midfield (thanks, Sergio Busquets) and banishment to Turkey (is that where Galatasary is?). But now these three monsters are BACK, along with their adorable African mates.

It's amazing how easy it is for Africans to endear themselves to Americans. This is partly due to the unbridled joy they play with. As well as their passion. And the fact that their continent is literally riddled with dysentery. Or it could just be Samuel Eto'o's ears. Also, is that where you're supposed to put the apostrophe in "Eto'o's"? FASCINATING.

I have an amazing idea that revolves around African footballers that I've never shared with anyone... let me know what you think. Let's say you owned a mid-tier English Premier League team -- some team like Stoke or West Ham or Sunderland -- who was never in contention for a Champions League berth, but always fighting to stay up in the top flight. Every off-season you sell your best players off and scrounge for new talent. But why not sell EVERYBODY, and simply rebuild your team with ONLY Nigerian internationals? You could still be West Ham, but you'd be made up of strictly Nigerians. That would be your team. Nigeria. You wouldn't have to pay big-time salaries (John Obi-Mikel and Victor Moses would be your only bank-breakers), and the rest of the squad would just be African warriors who would PLAY THEIR AFRICAN HEARTS OUT. Every single match. They'd take it as a personal, no, NATIONAL challenge, to beat those English pig dogs every time out. Do you think Ogenyi Onazi would let his team get relegated?! OF COURSE HE WOULDN'T. I don't even know who he is, but he wouldn't let James Milner beat him. I obviously think this is a brilliant idea. There's no reason Fulham can't also be Ghana.

As a sidenote, Ghana plays Germany on June 21st.

AKA...

DA BATTLE OF DA BOATENG BROS!!!

6. Everything about Belgium

No longer just some cutesy European contender, the Belgians are HERE TO BELGE. They have potentially the best centre-back duo in the world with Vincent Kompany (Man City) and Daniel Van Buyton (Bayern Munich), plus loads of fire power up front: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Adnan Januzaj (Man U), Lurf Flervswan (Made Him Up), Kevin Mirallas (Everton) and Romelo LOO-KA-KU (Chelsea/Everton/$$$).

Also, if you haven't seen it, the move In Bruges is TOTALLY worth watching. Colin Farrell. Ralph Fiennes. Some other people. Awesome flick. I actually visited Bruges a few years ago and it was really, really nice.

Pic or it didn't happs, Ev!

BOOM BABY.

Why do we live in Philadelphia again?!

This church claims to have a vile of Jesus's blood!

HORSE!

7. Mesut Özil's Eyes (and yes, I also mean his field vision)

Sure, he might look like Marty Feldman, but Özil is the smoothest, silkiest, niftiest playmaker in the world. And his eyes are so bulbous! And he might have herpes on his lip there. But that's cool with me! Get 'em Ozie! I mean Özie! Adam Oatesy!

8. There's a Guy on Greece Named Sokratis Papastathopoulos

LOVIN DAT CHEST HAIR, STEPHANOPOULOS.

9. Argentina's Attack

You know when you order nachos and you can't decide to get 'em loaded or just regular and then you decide to get 'em regular 'cuz you don't wanna spend the extra $4? Then the waiter brings 'em out and you're like, "We shoulda got 'em loaded!" Well, Argentina got 'em loaded. They got 'em so, so loaded. There's sour cream and guacamole all over the place. Leo Messi (Barça), Sergio Aguero (Man City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Ezequiel Lavezzi (PSG) and Rodrigo Palacio (AND HIS TAIL). It's stupid how many forwards they have. It's honestly stupid. Please tell me you clicked on that "tail" link. PLEASE TELL ME YOU CLICKED ON IT.

10. The Samba Boys

Nothing else matters, folks. Nothing else matters. When push comes to shove, it's all about the Brazilians. I don't care who's partnering up front with Wayne Rooney. It doesn't matter how cute my wife thinks Clint Dempsey is. The Samba Boys are the illest. They have a guy named Fred for cryin' out loud. Fred! And Hulk. And Neymar. And Os-CAR. And their two attacking fullbacks -- Marcelo and Dani Alves -- are more skilled than any other team's wingers. I know, I know, style doesn't always beat substance, but these guys are by far the most fun team to watch, and I'm not even sure if "style doesn't beat substance" is an actual saying.

11. This Uncle Drew-inspired Football Video Will BLOW YO MIND

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/VGEfNcvntno width=620 height=349]

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to shit my pants.

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- For struggling pitchers, facing the Phillies has become like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
 
Another rival pitcher searching for a cure got it Monday night when the Phillies suffered their 23rd loss in the last 29 games. This time it was Miami Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed just three hits in leading his club to a 4-1 win over the Phillies, who fell to 6-20 in May (see Instant Replay).

Volquez had gone 16 starts between wins.
 
"Every loss stings, I don’t care who's pitching," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're just in a rut. We've got to battle our way out of it. We have to show up tomorrow and get after it. We've got to get more than three or four hits in the game."
 
The Phillies had just four hits in the game. It was the fifth time in the last nine games that they've had four or fewer hits. Only one of the hits was for extra bases and one of the singles was an infield hit.
 
"Once again, we need more offense," Mackanin said.
 
Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson completed a difficult month of May by allowing six hits, including a two-run homer, and four runs over six innings.
 
Hellickson surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich with two outs in the sixth and that was basically the ball game. Dietrich hit a high changeup. Back in April, that pitch would have been at the knees. But Hellickson has misplaced the pitch command that he needs to succeed.
 
Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. In May, however, he went 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in six starts. He was tagged for 35 hits, including nine homers, in 30 2/3 innings.
 
"Command in general," said Hellickson, describing his problem this month. "The biggest thing is not getting strike one, falling behind too much. I'm not getting the quick easy outs I was getting early in the season. I'm trying to get ahead, just missing."
 
Volquez signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Marlins over the winter, but it wasn't until this game that he delivered his first win. He entered the game 0-7 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
 
The win was Volquez's first since Aug. 25, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Volquez isn't the first struggling pitcher to shine against the Phils recently. Eight days earlier, Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl took a 6.69 ERA into a start against the Phils and pitched five shutout innings. In the series against Colorado, the Phillies were dominated by a pair of rookies. In the only game they won (in a late rally), they were held to one run over six innings by Tyler Anderson, who had entered that game with an ERA of 6.00. On Friday night, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tim Adleman pitched eight shutout innings against the Phils and gave up just one hit in the best start of his life. He had come into that game with an ERA of 6.19.
 
So Volquez had to be heartened when he saw the Phillies on the schedule.
 
They are the get-well team for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up.
 
It's actually kind of sad.
 
With Odubel Herrera locked in the throes of the worst slump of his life and on the bench and Maikel Franco mired in a 2 for 21 slump and hitting .209, Mackanin is trying to push things a little. He gave Aaron Altherr the green light to steal with one out and runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Altherr was out at second on a close play and Tommy Joseph struck out to leave the runner at third.
 
The Marlins salted the game away in the bottom of the inning on Dietrich's homer.
 
"With our offense, I have to take chances," Mackanin said. "I can't sit around and wait for three hits in a row. We haven't been doing that."
 
The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 17-32.
 
They have lost eight of their last 10 and scored just 15 runs in the losses.
 
"It sucks," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's really no other way to put it. It's frustrating. But the only people that are going to help us are ourselves. Nobody's going to go out there and play for us, swing the bats, pitch, play defense. That's on us and we have to do a better job all around.
 
"We all want to be successful and get the job done. We just haven't been hitting the ball. There's no other way to put it. But the good thing about baseball is we play every day so we turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to get it done."

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.

They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.

Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.

"I think at the end of the day we're up 1-0," Bonino said. "We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don't think it's Xs and Os. We've got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998.

All the guys from "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

"The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history -- and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

"We didn't do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake."