Is Samba fullback Wendell ready to waltz yet?

April 18, 2014

“German clubs, and Bayer Leverkusen in particular, have a long tradition of acquiring Brazilians. The latter club has also been very successful in doing so. Lúcio, Zé Roberto, Paulo Sérgio, Juan, Jorginho, Renato Augusto, França and Emerson each played over 50 matches for Die Werkself, most of them have even featured in over 100 games. Robson Ponte, another canarinho who had two periods in the outfit from North Rhine Westphalia, even got a techno tune of his own. Considering that only the most successful Brazilians are mentioned here, it’s safe to call Leverkusen a good destination for the boys from Brazil.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Chile tactics will ask a lot of the Socceroos

April 16, 2014

“In the final of the 2004 Copa America in Peru, Argentina dominated an experimental Brazil side. With three minutes to go La Albiceleste went 2-1 up. Surely the title was won. But with the last kick of the game, Brazil scored the equaliser. Argentina blundered into the penalty shootout with the air of men who had been blinded by the light, and Brazil kept its nerve to lift the trophy.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

World Cup 2014: Man Utd’s Valencia key to Ecuador in Brazil

April 9, 2014

“With his ability to fill in at right-back as well as his more customary position higher up the flank, Luis Antonio Valencia is an extremely useful member of the Manchester United squad. For Ecuador, though, he is much more than that. A year ago national team coach Reinaldo Rueda referred to him as ‘the main reference point for Ecuadorian football, as a result of everything he has achieved’. A British readership might be unaware how special it is for Ecuador to have one of their own playing at one of the world’s major clubs, and in action in the closing stages of the Champions League. Less than 30 years ago Ecuador was a Latin American Luxembourg in footballing terms.” BBC – Tim Vickery

How does Brazil keep the World Cup party going? Send in the army

March 30, 2014

Rio de Janeiro Sec. XIX
“Eighty days before the start of the World Cup, the Brazilian government has deployed the army to occupy one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest groups of favelas. On Monday it was announced that, following a recent escalation in violence across the city, the army will soon be present in the Complexo da Maré for an ‘indefinite’ period. Rio’s favelas are, unfortunately, well known for their violence. Yet, a strategy launched by the government in 2008 to combat the entrenched power of drug traffickers by using community police units (UPPs), designed to bring security alongside investment and social services, has yielded some impressive results. For example, one formerly violent favela has not had a murder for more than five years.” Guardian

History of Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police Part I: 19th Century Beginnings
“To fully understand the nature of the Brazilian police force today, it is necessary to know about the context in which it was originally created. In 1808, threatened by the impending invasion of Napoleon, the Portuguese royal family took the decision to move to Rio de Janeiro, taking its Court of nearly 15,000 people with it. Rio´s law enforcement until that point had consisted in unarmed watchmen (guardas) chosen by the town council working alongside neighbourhood inspectors (known as quadrilheiros) employed by local judges. However, the arrival of the monarchy clearly necessitated a more organized force.” Rio On Watch – Part I: 19th Century Beginnings, Part 2: From Dictatorship to Drug War, Part 3: Community Policing

Rio Looks Like A War Zone As Troops Raid Slums Only Months Before The World Cup
“Brazil has deployed federal troops to Rio de Janeiro in an effort to rid slums of violent crime, drug traffickers, and gangs ahead of the FIFA World Cup in June. The drug lords are fighting back against the authorities, trying to recapture their territory after years of police occupations. This violent battle has raised concerns about safety and security at the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, which hundreds of thousands of foreigners are expected to attend. The final game in the tournament will take place at the Maracaná stadium, a few miles from the Manguinhos slums.” Business Insider (PHOTO)

Protesters in Brazil: ‘There Will Not Be a World Cup!’
“An Agência Pública reporter searched out the activists that mounted the first protest of the year against the World Cup due to be hosted in Brazil this year; what he found was a mixed group determined to stop the sporting event throughout protest and without ‘violent acts’.” Global Voices Online

World Cup path clear for Brazil v Argentina final

March 12, 2014

“The Rio samba schools steered well clear of the 2014 World Cup when they selected their themes for Carnaval. The winner based its parade on the idea of speed, with pride of place for Ayrton Senna. Another school paid tribute to Zico, and finished fifth. But no one wanted to touch the coming World Cup. One school in the Sao Paulo parade took the plunge – one from the Itaquera district, where the new stadium is being built. They were relegated. Even the weather turned against their parade, which celebrated the fact that the World Cup kicks off in their neighbourhood. They had to strut their stuff in heavy rain and a hailstorm. There are signs of protest fatigue, but it is obvious that the 2014 World Cup has a public relations problem with the Brazilian people, upset at how much it is costing and how little it is giving back.” BBC – Tim Vickery

That Brazilian conveyor belt of talent

March 12, 2014

“Brazil continue to craft talented players week in, week out with Grêmio producing two fine defenders recently but can they find another with important Copa Libertadores matches coming up and how will the latest conveyor belt of youngster cope with expectation. One of the greatest things about covering Brazilian football is the opportunity to get an early glance at the future stars of the global game. The production line of talent never stops working, there are always promising new players appearing. Some will fall by the wayside, others will become household names all over the world, and it is fun to spot them early and follow their progress. Let us take the example of Gremio. Last year. For their Libertadores campaign, they repatriated left back Andre Santos from Arsenal. The team were knocked out of the competition relatively early, he was not a spectacular success and moved on to Flamengo – leaving space for Alex Telles to make the position his own.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery

World Cup watch: Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ukraine crisis

March 10, 2014

Police Battle Protesters in Kiev as Crisis in Ukraine Deepens
“The World Cup in Brazil is only 95 days away, with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia taking place in Sao Paulo on 12 June. BBC Sport, with the help of European football expert Andy Brassell, is taking a weekly look at happenings from across the world of football and what impact they could have on the tournament in the summer.” BBC

Brazil’s ‘hidden’ racism threatens to cast shadow over the World Cup

March 10, 2014

“As if Brazil needed any further irritants, beyond the World Cup preparations fiasco, it has found itself exposed over ‘hidden’ racism. For the eurocentric international media, racism in football had become an issue in which eastern and southern Europe and England, to a lesser extent, were easy to kick around. No-one in Europe ever gave a thought to the uneasy truth which lies below the tip of the iceberg perception of Brazil as a land in which blacks (Pele etc) and whites (Zagallo etc) were happy world champions together.” World Soccer

We Went There: A 72-Hour Whirlwind Tour of European Football

March 7, 2014

“Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena used to be called the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion, which used to be called Neckarstadion, which used to be called Century Stadium, which was first called the Adolf-Hitler-Kampfbahn when it was built in 1935. And it was in the shadows of this stadium that I was handed a VIP card — with ‘Einttritt frei!’ on it — for a strip club called Macabu Four Roses. I don’t know if it was because we didn’t speak German and therefore couldn’t say ‘no,’ but people kept trying to hand us stuff. Our hands were full of beers and bratwurst — we’re tourists, all right? — but that didn’t stop the women from Commerzbank from coming over, multiple times, and handing us schedules for the World Cup. And it didn’t stop the older woman in the German-flag smoking jacket from slipping us a card for the only-€84.95 Germany Jacket, which she casually suggested we buy as an ‘alternative jersey’.” Grantland

Mixed emotions after latest El Tri friendly

March 7, 2014

“I’ve been replaying Rafa Marquez’s header from the first half over and over again in my head. It’s not a conscious decision, but every time I even begin to think about the Nigeria friendly, the replay rudely interjects and occupies my mind. The memory nudges its way past Guillermo Ochoa’s remarkable saves and shoves Hector Herrera’s movement forward out of its sight. I can’t help it.” ESPN

El Tri depth chart: Not much has changed for Herrera
“With fewer than 100 days until the World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12 in Sao Paulo, this is now a crunch time for coaches chiseling down their squads to be as effective as possible at the summer tournament. Players know that the window of opportunity is shrinking, but that it’s still there with a run of performances. It is a time when every slight injury to a player causes ripples of panic through nations, and a couple of bad games from a star striker becomes a topic of national conversation.” ESPN

Futebol = life

March 5, 2014

“‘Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” wrote Oscar Wilde, who might not have spent much time in Brazil. For here, it is not art that life imitates, but football. There is arguably nowhere in the world where the game is so gloriously and tragically tied to the feats and failures of the society that surrounds it, and it is hard to think of another country whose history is so symbiotically linked to the sport or that looks so pleadingly to the success of its national team for self-validation.” ESPN (Video)

2014 World Cup: Pressure starting to rise for hosts Brazil
“‘We’re working in conditions where the cement is not yet dry,’ said Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke as preparations for the 2014 World Cup move towards the final straight. The strain is showing on Valcke. Fifa wanted all 12 stadiums ready by December, to give plenty of time for test events. Sao Paulo, scene of the opening game, may not be handed over until May. Curitiba got itself so far behind that there was a real danger of the city being cut from the schedule.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Battling the elements in Brazil
“‘President Blatter,’ asked a Fortaleza-born journalist during the World Cup draw last December, ‘in Fortaleza we never play soccer until early evening to avoid the heat. Why,’ the journalist continued, referencing the local times, ‘have you scheduled matches at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m.?’ FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s predictable answer mentioned Brazil’s time difference with the body’s biggest market, European TVs. Given that those kickoff times won’t change, some squads will have to prepare for a grueling mixture of heat and muggy weather, tiring factors to be added to the huge distances between certain venues.” ESPN

Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life
“The Brazilian football team is one of the modern wonders of the world. At its best it exudes a skill, flamboyance and romantic pull like nothing else on earth. Football is how the world sees Brazil and how Brazilians see themselves. The game symbolises racial harmony, flamboyance, youth, innovation and skill, and yet football is also a microcosm of Latin America’s largest country and contains all of its contradictions. Travelling extensively from the Uruguayan border to the northeastern backlands, from the coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to the Amazon jungle-Bellos shows how Brazil changed football and how football shaped Brazil. He tells the stories behind the great players, like Pele and Garrincha, between the great teams, like Corinthians and Vasco de Gama, and the great matches, as well as extraordinary stories from people and pitches all over this vast country.” amazon

Don’t Take Julian Green to the World Cup

March 5, 2014

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Julian Green is a special soccer player. The 18-year-old winger already made his first-team debut for Pep Guardiola’s world-destroying Bayern Munich, and has scored nearly a goal a game for its reserve team this season. Born in Tampa, Green has lived in Germany since he was 2. He is, at worst, an exceptionally promising prospect. At best? Who knows; projecting the future of a teenage soccer phenom is an exercise in cloudy crystal-ball reading under the simplest circumstances, and Green’s situation is far from simple. He’s not Lionel Messi, but he’s closer to him than he is to Freddy Adu. Let’s just say he’s the type of player who, in the right situation, could dramatically improve the fortunes of the United States national team this summer in Brazil.” Grantland

The Indomitable Tino

March 5, 2014

“September 5th, 1993 is more or less regarded as major event in Colombian history, a sort of soccer version of Independence Day. That is the date that the Colombian and Argentinian national football teams met in Buenos Aires for the last of their qualifying matches for the 1994 USA World Cup. Whichever team won would go straight to the World Cup. The loser would face Australia in a playoff. A tie would have sufficed for Colombia, but instead they won the match 5-0. It remains the biggest win in Colombia’s history. A player known simply as “El Tino” scored the second of Colombia’s goals—skilfully evading two defenders and the goalkeeper, and then scoring as he fell to the ground—and the fourth, a clever chip, before assisting teammate Freddy Rincón for the fifth. The day cemented Faustino Asprilla’s place in Colombian history.” ROADS & KINGDOMS

Will the World Cup Return to the Democratic World?

February 25, 2014

“The Brazilians are pissed off and their protests are increasingly directed against the World Cup, and rightly so. Romário explained why: I supported Brazil’s World Cup bid, but even I am against it now. Their main complaint is that a lot of public money is poured into stadiums that many will turn into expensive white elephants. It happened in South Africa, which hosted the World Cup in 2010 and it will happen in Brazil as well. I’m also pretty sure that will happen in Russia and Qatar.” Soccer Issue (Video)

The Beautiful Language

February 19, 2014

“I had been in Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro state, for two days and already I was running out of things to do. School children ambled between shops whose wares they must have known by heart. In the sleepy town square, old men gathered to play dominos and chat, whiling away the hours under a winter sun rendered impotent by altitude. There is a mountain trail that weaves through a jungle before coming up for air above the canopy, eventually scrambling up one of the mountains that flank the town. You can almost see Rio itself from the summit; almost feel its sands between your freezing toes. The youth of Teresópolis migrates to the city during the school holidays to escape their parents and the cold. Eventually, even the tasty steaks, breads and fine local beers lose their charm. With little to do, I soon found myself wishing I could play soccer with someone.” Road and Kingdoms

Can 2014 finally be Paulo Henrique Ganso’s year?

February 4, 2014

“On a radio show last week I was hit with a surprise question; who did I think would win this year’s Brazilian Championship? It is, of course, very early for predictions. The competition is not set to start until the end of April, and at this moment we don’t even know how many teams will be taking part. The controversy over the Portuguesa relegation rumbles on. But there was an instant answer that popped into my head. A big club without the distraction of the Copa Libertadores. A team that has recently made some very interesting foreign acquisitions. And a squad that already looks to have considerable depth, in some positions at least. That club is Sao Paulo. And leading their creative charge, with a coach who knows him and believes in him, is Paulo Henrique Ganso.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery

Brazil and its ‘relatively simple’ World Cup delays

January 25, 2014

“In a rare question-and-answer huddle with Brazilian journalists this week, President Dilma Rousseff pronounced with confidence that the beleaguered new football stadium in the southern city of Curitiba would ‘definitely’ be ready for the World Cup. Mrs Rousseff was speaking on the pitch at the Arena das Dunas in the northern coastal city of Natal, which she had just officially opened with a rather nervous kick of a ball from the centre-spot. It was a rare high-point for Brazil – and its World Cup organisers – after a disastrous week during which a high-level Fifa delegation had seen, warts and all, the state of the country’s readiness for the tournament that begins in mid-June.” BBC

World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero can shine in Brazil

January 21, 2014

“Federico Insua is one of those number 10 playmakers that Argentine football produces in such quantity. With a nice left foot and a good range of passing he is an interesting player, although at 34 his best days are now behind him. He was not quite good enough to impose himself on the European game – he had disappointing seasons in Spain, Germany and Turkey – but he has been a strong club player in Argentina, where he currently turns out for Velez Sarsfield.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Hernanes: The unsung hero of Lazio

January 21, 2014

“Beginning his career at Sao Paulo in 2005, Hernanes had won many trophies with the Brazil superpower. The midfielder had netted a sum of 28 goals in 184 official games and assisted many more. Hernanes is very effective on the pitch and the price tag of more than €11 million paid by Lazio was the cutest of examples to prove the Brazilian’s quality. Eddy Reja, who took the head coach role at Lazio from the struggling Davide Ballardini in early 2010, has taken the praise for landing this talented Brazilian midfielder in Italy.” Backpage Football

Are economic hardships in Brazil set to overshadow the 2014 World Cup?

January 17, 2014

“The lead up to a World Cup is a period where fans of the sport are filled with excitement and a child-like enthusiasm for a game; a game where nations compete in arguably the biggest competition in world sport. The years leading up to this colossal event are filled with building up hopes and expectations as they soar to an unrealistic level; hopes which come with the apprehension of the nightmare scenario which could be beheld or the joyous dream option which many will pray for well in advance. All this adds to the sheer spectacle a country puts on for the fans and players, and no other country has a carnival reputation like Brazil. However, in these modern times, it seems passion and zeal for the sport is not enough as money matters are playing a more important role than ever before. Brazil 2014 is not immune to this, and is possibly the most economically analysed World Cup in history.” Think Football

2014 Fifa World Cup: A huge year in the history of Brazil

January 8, 2014

“Going back home from a game on the underground can be a fascinating experience. At first nearly everyone in the carriage has been to the match, which seems like the only thing that counts. This is soon diluted as fans get out and new people get on, at which point the mix can be interesting. A couple of months ago I was taking the tube back from a midweek game at Rio’s Maracana stadium. The local side in action had been Fluminense, the traditional club of the Rio elite, and a group of young, self-proclaimed playboys were drawing attention to themselves, banging a rhythm on the side of the carriage as they belted out their songs.” BBC – Tim Vickery


January 8, 2014

“The Brazilian state of Amazonas is one of the most awe-inspiring places on the face of the Earth. Home to an incredible array of plant and animal life it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most well-known natural wonders. Yet outside of South America, it seems few people are aware that in the depths of the jungle, there is a large city now home to over two million people. Even less celebrated is the fact that each year it holds what locals claim to be the largest football tournament in the world. Manaus is a city of contradictions. It’s a functional modern concrete metropolis yet leave the suburbs behind and you are engulfed by the vastness of the rainforest. In Manaus people go about their daily lives as they would in any big city in the world yet a few miles down the Rio Negro there are jungle tribes whose lives have changed little in centuries. The climate is stiflingly hot and humid all year round and it is well over a day’s travel by road to any other city. Yet despite the unlikely isolated location, people have been flocking to Manaus for decades and it continues to be one of the fastest growing and most economically thriving places in Brazil.” In Bed With Maradona

No Happy New Year for Brazilian Football

January 2, 2014

“The war cry of Ronaldo, Sepp Blatter, the President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff and the rest of Brazil and FIFA’s great and good is about as considered a pronouncement as a turkey’s gobble. And yet in its sunny patriotism and glossing over of the cold reality of delays, mismanagement, overspending and dead construction workers it neatly captures a chunk of the troubled optimism/pessimism dichotomy that lies at the heart of Brazilian society. Everything may be a mess and there isn’t much sign of improvement on the way, but hey — God is Brazilian, carnaval is coming, we’re still pretty good at football and the weather is nice most of the time. So things could be worse. Life in Brazil can sometimes seem not so much a case of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it; but rather it’s always been broken, so there’s not much point in trying to fix it.” ESPN

Are Brazilian managers an endangered species?
“For Latin American and Portuguese news crews running around the Costa do Sauipe resort in northeastern Brazil during the buildup for the 2014 World Cup final draw, life was hectic. Argentines, for example, needed to be sure they kept tabs on the Albiceleste manager Alejandro Sabella; at the same time they “doorstepped” fellow countrymen Jorge Sampaoli and Jose Pekerman for a reaction on Chile’s and Colombia’s expectations before and after the draw. The Portuguese had to worry about ‘Quinas’ manager Paulo Bento, but also make sure that former Real Madrid commander and Sir Alex Ferguson deputy Carlos Queiroz, now in charge of Iran, would also be covered, as well as Greece’s ‘mister’ Fernando Santos.” ESPN

What’s next for Ronaldinho?

December 22, 2013

“Another magisterial free kick goal from Ronaldinho, this time against Guangzhou Everglade in the Club World Cup third place-off, serves as further testimony to the extraordinary depth of his talent. The way that he flitted around on the game’s periphery, even against a team from China, was an all too eloquent statement of how much of this talent has been wasted. What a puzzling enigma he is! The question is not easy to answer; should we be grateful for the fabulous moments Ronaldinho has given us, or frustrated that he could have delivered so many more of them?” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Football violence: a view from around the world

December 19, 2013

Spartak Moscow fans displaying a Nazi flag during a game at Shinnik Yaroslavl.
“Brazil: violence around games on the rise. Brazil ends 2013 with a record in football violence deaths. It was a miracle that nobody died in the festival of thuggery that took place on 8 December at the Atlético Paranaense v Vasco de Gama match in Joinville, during the last round of the Campeonato Brasileiro, whose shocking images were beamed all around the world. That, however, did not prevent Brazilian football finishing its 2013 season with the saddest of milestones: the 30 deaths in football-related incidents this year is the highest number in the history of the game in the country. What’s more worrying is that fatal cases have been rising steadily in the past few years. …” Guardian

World Cup – and outbreak of supporter violence – link Brazil and Russia
“In six months’ time the World Cup will land in the home of joga bonito clad in a Fifa-approved wrapping of sun, sea and samba. But the dark side of the beautiful game in Brazil was in evidence earlier this month, when images of running battles between fans of Atlético Paranaense and Vasco da Gama shocked the watching world. The game was being held at a neutral ground in Joinville due to previous clashes between fans of the two clubs, but within 10 minutes Globo was broadcasting close-up footage of supporters repeatedly stamping on the heads of their rivals and chasing one another around the stadium bowl. Following a long interregnum, the fighting was eventually broken up by armed security firing rubber bullets into the crowds and an army helicopter landing on the pitch, but not before several fans were seriously injured.” Guardian

The real cost of hosting a World Cup

December 15, 2013

“You don’t often see people consciously building a white elephant, but that’s what I witnessed in Brasilia last year. Smack in downtown, on the main avenue of Brazil’s tropical capital, workers were finishing off a stadium for 70,000 people. The Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha is one of 12 stadiums for next year’s World Cup. And even before the tournament ends, it will be redundant. No club from Brasilia plays in the two divisions of the Brazilian national league. Even what passes for the local powerhouse, Brasilia Futebol Clube, plays only in the local state league, in which the average game draws fewer than 1,000 fans. Nor will the Rolling Stones regularly visit this city in the middle of nowhere to fill the Nacional. Brasilia might as well tear down the stadium after the last World Cup game and save itself maintenance costs. So could other host cities such as Manaus, Cuiaba and Natal.” ESPN – Simon Kuper (Video)

Heat is on for all but Argentina

December 15, 2013

“And so after the trip way out west to Cuiaba to take on Chile, it’s the frozen wastes of the south for Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos. Winter can bite a little bit in the cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, where Australia will face Netherlands and Spain respectively. Whoever wins Group B is then in for something of a shock – up to Fortaleza in the north east for a second round match, which is due to kick off at 1pm local time. It will probably be hot enough to fry. A Brazilian first division game would never get going at such a time. A few days ago I was on a TV show with Tite, who has just stepped down from a hugely successful spell in charge of Corinthians – and who could well be the next Brazil coach, once the 2014 circus has packed up and left town.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Infographic: The Boys in Brazil | England at the World Cup

December 12, 2013

“The stage is set for the greatest show on earth and the ball is rolling. The countdown has begun for the grand World Cup in Brazil next year, as the beautiful game goes to its spiritual home. Of course, it’s inevitable that the competition would attract interest, but a few old men in suits hogged all the World Cup attention this week. The draw for the competition was released, and the customary search for the group of death ends with Group D. Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica find themselves pitted alongside England.” Outside of the Boot

2014 Fifa World Cup: Gary Lineker’s guide to the eight seeds

December 7, 2013

“England have been drawn in Group D for the 2014 World Cup, meaning they will face seeded team Uruguay as well as Italy and Costa Rica. Hosts Brazil are in Group A, reigning world and European champions Spain are in Group B and three-time champions Germany are in Group G. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, speaking before the draw was made, takes a closer look at the eight seeded national teams…” BBC

Brazilian thugs promise “World Cup of terror”

December 3, 2013

“Football fans have been warned to expect a ‘World Cup of terror’ at the hands of Brazilian crime gangs. The threat was issued by the First Capital Command (PCC as it is better known in its Portuguese acronym across Brazil) in Sao Paulo, who last year was behind the murder of more than a hundred of the city’s police officers. The gang, the biggest criminal organisation in Brazil, is operated from within the country’s prison system and membership numbers run into the thousands.” Backpage Football

El Fantasma helps bitter rivals unite

December 1, 2013

“The ghost of 1950 is back to haunt Brazil. With Uruguay snapping up the last place in the 2014 World Cup, the possibility opens up of history repeating itself – of Brazil organising the party only for its tiny southern neighbour to walk off with the prize. In the final game of the 1950 tournament host Brazil needed just a draw to become world champion for the first time. It seemed to have a hand and a half on the trophy when it took the lead early in the second half but Uruguay hit back, silencing a huge crowd in the newly-built Maracana stadium to win 2-1.” The World Game -Tim Vickery (Video)

Stadium tragedy shows peril of World Cup rush

November 28, 2013

“RIO DE JANEIRO — There are times when it seems that Brazil’s World Cup was born under a bad sign. On Wednesday, the cascade of bad news just got worse, with the accident at the new Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo killing at least two workers and possibly more. It appears that a crane collapsed onto the structure of the stadium that’s due to host the opening game of the World Cup in less than 200 days’ time. The soil reportedly gave way beneath the crane, perhaps a consequence of the heavy rain that has fallen on the city over the past few days. A key question now needs to be answered.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)

Brazil venues struggle to meet World Cup deadline

November 26, 2013

“After a spate of building problems and public protests in Brazil, the governing body of world football, Fifa, repeatedly warned there would be “no compromise” over the delivery of World Cup stadiums. But with Fifa’s end-of-year deadline looming, several stadiums are well behind schedule and one host city, Cuiaba, has told the BBC that not only will be it unable to finish its stadium on time, but there are not even enough hotel rooms for visiting fans.” BBC (Video)

Violence in World Cup Host Country Article #68899

November 20, 2013

“It’s not really a World Cup if there’s not at least one or two missed deadlines for stadium construction. It’s also not really a World Cup until major media outlets report on stereotypical ‘problems’ associated with the host country. Before South Africa 2010, folks only wanted to write, read, and hear about witch doctors and goat sacrifices and ‘voodoo.’ And Brazil?” futfanatico

A Yellow Card

November 15, 2013

“Three points make a trend, but in a World Cup year, two points are good enough. So here’s one: Early on the morning of October 29, 31-year-old Geisa Silva, a social worker with the Brazilian military police, found her husband’s backpack on their front porch in Rio de Janeiro. Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos was a retired professional soccer player, a journeyman who’d spent most of his career knocking around the Brazilian lower leagues; post-retirement, he ran a food shop in the city’s Realengo neighborhood. He hadn’t come home the night before, and Silva had been worried, jumping up at the sound of every car. Before dawn, she got ready to leave for her job with a police unit responsible for conducting an anti-gang crackdown. When she opened the front door, she saw the backpack. It contained her husband’s severed head.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

South American sides to show World Cup credentials

November 15, 2013

“Over the next few days South America’s World Cup sides will present their case for the defence. The continent’s sides made a strong showing in South Africa 2010; all five made it out of the group phase, four reached the quarter-finals and Uruguay (who had finished fifth in qualifying) made it into the semis. Naturally, good things are expected next year when the World Cup finally returns to South America. But on the evidence of the 2014 qualifiers, there could be a problem. A common theme of the campaign was teams tended to be better in attack than defence.” BBC

Why a South American experiment could be a boost to Europe

November 5, 2013

“How can the prestige and profile of the Europa League be raised? A second cup competition always has the problem of being in the shadow of the first, like a consolation prize for those who have missed out on the main event. There is, though, a relatively simple means of improving things; use the prestige of the leading cup competition to help pull along the second. The winners of the 2014-15 Europa League will automatically qualify for the Champions League, giving clubs a powerful incentive to take the competition seriously and field their strongest sides.” BBC – Tim Vickery

The Beautiful Game Leads to a Beheading

November 5, 2013

“The field in Centro do Meio, Brazil, where two young men were killed after an altercation at a pick up soccer game last June. Late last week, Jeré Longman and Taylor Barnes of The New York Times relate one of the most chilling stories I have ever read in briliant, gory detail. This is a story of violence, poverty, anger and of course, soccer.” Soccer Politics

World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games

October 15, 2013

“World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe. On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed. According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether. Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.” SI

The biggest problems facing World Cup contenders

October 12, 2013

“The fascinating thing about international football is that managers must cope with a very definite group of players. Whereas at club level, weaknesses can be solved by signing new players, at international level it’s not unusual for a top-class side to completely lack quality in one particular position. Sometimes, this forces managers to formulate innovative new tactical ideas to compensate for that weakness – but often, it simply means the side has a weak link. With eight months to go until the World Cup, here’s a look at six big international sides who have an obvious problem position.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The price of stardom can be a big one

October 6, 2013

“I won a prize! Some days ago Brazilian journalists voted me as foreign correspondent of the year. I had also won in 2011 but that time I was in London at the time of the ceremony. This time I turned up and was somewhat taken aback by how prestigious and sophisticated the whole thing was. I improvised a little acceptance speech, threw in the odd quip – which seemed to go down very well. In the shameless tradition of the British scoundrel (one local compared me to 007). I used the occasion to heap praise on a stunningly gorgeous journalist who had also just won a prize. She loved it, and sought me out to tell me afterwards. Her husband took it well, and didn’t glower at me too badly. I decided I deserved some wine and it turned out to be that good stuff that doesn’t give you a hangover. I had a wonderful time.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Ronaldinho’s thigh injury blow to comeback hopes

September 29, 2013

“The torn thigh muscle he sustained in training last week is, amazingly enough, the most serious injury Ronaldinho has had in his long career — and its timing is most unfortunate. There were occasions over the past five years when it would hardly have mattered, times when a once-great player seemed barely interested in his extraordinary gift for the game. But however naturally talented, it is almost unthinkable that someone can become as good at anything as Ronaldinho was at his height without being truly in love with the activity. Skills take countless hours of honing.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Building a World Cup Stadium in the Amazon

September 25, 2013

“The most challenging aspect of building a World Cup soccer stadium in the middle of the Amazon is debatable. Some might say it is figuring out how to get oversize cranes and hundreds of tons of stainless steel and concrete into a city surrounded by a rain forest that stretches for about 2.1 million square miles. Others might mention the need to put most of those materials together before the rainy season floods the entire construction site. Then, of course, there are those who might point to the need to install the special chairs. Yes, the chairs. It may seem like a small concern — at least compared with the whole everything-being-flooded possibility — but one of the less obvious issues that comes with building a stadium in the jungle is what the searing equatorial sunlight here can do to plastic.” NY Times

More than a game in Brazil
“I spent August in London, which means that returning to my adopted city of Rio de Janeiro there is a ritual which I always have to go through – catching the 472 bus to Sao Januario, the stadium of Vasco da Gama. It is the best way I know of ensuring that, in mind as well as in body, I have put London in the past and am focused on events over here.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Manuel Pellegrini & Mauricio Pochettino buck a coaching trend

September 25, 2013

“For more than an hour in last Wednesday’s Champions League matches, up and down the continent, every goal had been scored by players from either Argentina or Brazil – an extraordinary example of South America’s contribution to European club football. In comparison to the impressive feats of the players, surprisingly little of that contribution has come from coaches. There have been a few South American success stories on the other side of the Atlantic – Brazil’s Otto Gloria and Chile’s Fernando Riera spring to mind. But opportunities have been limited – hence the general surprise when Argentina’s Gerardo Martino was rushed into the Barcelona job, an appointment which suggests a desire to keep Lionel Messi content.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Scolari’s Seleção – The World Cup 2014

September 11, 2013

“Condemned as Brazil’s weakest squad in 60 years, the pressure is undeniably on for Scolari’s men as the road to the 2014 World Cup begins. Next year, the 20th World Cup unravels in South America, or more precisely—Brazil. The home advantage, arguably may give a morale boost for the men in yellow, or add even more pressure for such a young side to deliver on the grandest stage of them all. The last time a World Cup was hosted in Brazil, supporters were left heartbroken and distraught as it was local rivals Uruguay who came out victorious in the final so Brazil undoubtedly, will be looking to avenge those nightmares. Inspiring a Seleção to their 6th World Cup title will be by no means easy, but crashing out in the group stages simply isn’t an option for a nation looking to restore international dominance across the footballing globe.” Outside of the Boot

Five things we learned from South American qualifiers

September 11, 2013

“… 1 — ARGENTINA KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The first team from the continent to book their place in Brazil, Argentina’s qualification might seem predictable enough – but it looked anything but in the early stages of the campaign, when coach Alejandro Sabella’s side lost to Venezuela and drew at home to Bolivia. Since then, though, the side have made enormous progress. They are not perfect.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Africa comes to the boil with seven play-off places still up for grabs

September 3, 2013

Michael Essien – Ghana
“You can tell a World Cup is approaching because Kevin Prince-Boateng has suddenly decided he feels like playing international football again. The attacking midfielder retired from international football in 2011, but has ended his exile to come into the Ghana squad for Friday’s final World Cup qualifier in which Ghana need only to avoid defeat against Zambia to secure a place in the play-off round for World Cup qualifying. The structure of the African preliminaries may be nonsensical, but they do guarantee drama: 10 groups of four, with the top sides going forward to two-leg play-offs, with the winners going on to Brazil.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The pratfalls of moving abroad

September 1, 2013

“In a couple of weeks, when Australia travels to meet Brazil, Mile Jedinak may well be locked in midfield battle with Paulinho – just as the two were last Sunday at Selhurst Park. I was in the crowd for the opening weekend of the season clash between newly promoted Crystal Palace and a Tottenham team rebuilt in a bid to make into next year’s Champions League. On his competitive debut Paulinho had a solid enough game as Tottenham won by the only goal. But in an outgunned side, Jedinak was a candidate for man of the match. The Socceroos’ central midfielder had an excellent game shielding the Palace centre backs. He was so quick to spot any danger to his side, allowing him to snuff out any number of Tottenham attacks. In possession he did his best to knit the side together with safe, crisp distribution.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

The pratfalls of moving abroad

August 25, 2013

“In a couple of weeks, when Australia travels to meet Brazil, Mile Jedinak may well be locked in midfield battle with Paulinho – just as the two were last Sunday at Selhurst Park. I was in the crowd for the opening weekend of the season clash between newly promoted Crystal Palace and a Tottenham team rebuilt in a bid to make into next year’s Champions League. On his competitive debut Paulinho had a solid enough game as Tottenham won by the only goal. But in an outgunned side, Jedinak was a candidate for man of the match. The Socceroos’ central midfielder had an excellent game shielding the Palace centre backs. He was so quick to spot any danger to his side, allowing him to snuff out any number of Tottenham attacks. In possession he did his best to knit the side together with safe, crisp distribution.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Counting the cost of a dream ticket to Brazil

August 22, 2013

“Sales of 2014 World Cup tickets got off to a brisk start Tuesday. According to FIFA, the 1 million applications received in seven hours included plenty from host nation Brazil, from neighbours Chile and Argentina, and also from the USA and England — a testimony to the strength of Anglo-Saxon fan culture, especially as there is no guarantee that Roy Hodgson’s men will even qualify for the competition. For non-Brazilians the cheapest tickets start at $90. A number of tickets are available to locals at knockdown prices — part of a PR offensive to win Brazilian hearts and minds in the run-up to a tournament that may be a focal point for vociferous protests.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


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