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

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

Uruguay 1-1 Paraguay: Tabarez ditches his double pivot, then makes more attacking moves

March 26, 2013

“Reigning South American champions Uruguay recorded their third consecutive 1-1 home draw – their participation in Brazil remains in the balance. Oscar Tabarez fielded a familiar core to this side – Edinson Cavani was only on the bench, with Diego Forlan behind Luis Suarez upfront, the combination that won Uruguay the Copa America final against Paraguay in 2011. The major news was in the centre of midfield, where Tabarez played Nicolas Lodeiro rather than a second defensive midfielder. Uruguyan-born Gerard Pelusso selected a cautious 4-4-2 formation for bottom-placed Paraguay, having experimented with 4-3-3 earlier in the qualification process. Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez were together upfront, while Ricard Ortiz pushed forward to the left of midfield. This game started slowly before gradually developing into something quite interesting – mainly because of Tabarez’s constant chances.” Zonal Marking

Chile Boss Bichi Borghi Felling The Heat

October 26, 2012

“‘Fuera Borghi’ (Borghi out) was the message scrawled onto Chile’s Juan Pinto Durán training complex in Macul after the 3-1 defeat to Ecuador in the World Cup qualifier. Accompanied by ‘Vergüenza nacional’ (national shame) and ‘Ladrones’ (thieves), the message was clear: changes needed to be made as Borghi’s reputation had hit an all-time low amongst fans. The messages appeared after that defeat to Ecuador and before the game against Argentina. La Roja went out against Argentina like a team possessed; hunting down the ball when they didn’t have it and rampant when they did. They moved the ball, down the wings, at electrifying speed, bombarding the Argentina rearguard with crosses.” South American Football

Venezuela profit without kicking a ball

October 14, 2012

“A gap has opened up as South America’s World Cup qualification campaign reaches the halfway stage. Victories on Friday for Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador mean that three teams have pulled away from the pack. But the round had another winner, who did not even take the field on Friday. It was sixth-placed Venezuela’s turn to take a rest, and their position improved while they sat and watched as Uruguay and Chile, the teams above them, both lost. Three rounds ago Chile were first and Uruguay were second. Now they seem to be in free-fall. On Friday all they managed to accomplish was further damage to their goal difference – and things could get still worse for them in Tuesday’s 10th round.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Higher hopes for South America’s World Cup players

September 18, 2012

“World Cup qualification in Europe has a few good games along with plenty of mismatches. In South America, meanwhile, every game in the long campaign is resonant with rivalry and relevance. The best development in the history of the continent’s national teams was the birth of the Copa America in 1916 and its frequent, at times annual, staging in the early years. It did much to spread interest in the game and raise standards.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Continental shift: why the Olympics mean so much to South America

July 22, 2012

“It is fair to say that, historically, South America has not made a huge impact on the Olympics. While it is true Brazil is working hard to broaden its sporting base, of the 20 gold medals the country has won, over half have come in the last four Games. Argentina has picked up 17 golds, but its glory days are long gone. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Peron government invested heavily in a wide range of sports and leading athletes were closely identified with the regime, but all that ended when Peron was deposed in 1955. Since then, Argentina has claimed just four gold medals – two of them in the last two football tournaments.” World Soccer – Tim Vickery

South Americans ready to stop Spanish stroll

July 9, 2012

“Spain’s win at Euro 2012 – their third consecutive major tournament win – has sparked off all kinds of comparisons in the bar room debate over the best international team of all time. Of course, such conversations have a strong subjective component, but it is hard to formulate arguments against the facts – and a fourth consecutive trophy will surely tip the balance in Spain’s favour. But title number four looks set to be the hardest of the lot. It entails doing what no European team has ever done – winning the World Cup on South American soil when the world come to Brazil in 2014.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Corinthians finally break their duck as Emerson sees off Boca Juniors

July 5, 2012

“By the end, Boca Juniors had been so comprehensively beaten that, as the South American football expert Rupert Fryer joked, they could not even raise themselves for the traditional post-Copa Libertadores final punch-up. Corinthians won 2-0 after a 1-1 draw in the first leg but the gulf between the sides was so vast, the chances of a comeback so slight, that it may as well have been quadruple that. And so, in their centenary year, seven months after the death of Sócrates, the most iconic player in their history, Corinthians won the Copa Libertadores for the first time. No more will there be cracks about ‘the 100-year-old virgin’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Corinthian values
“The 2012 Copa Libertadores final ended up being fought out between two of South America’s biggest clubs. Boca Juniors, one of the competition’s most successful sides, who have six titles and are only one behind all-time record holders Independiente, and Corinthians, a club that despite their grand stature were hoping to win their first ever Copa. After a hard-fought couple of legs, it was Corinthians who came out on top, to become the 23rd different club to win the trophy.” ESPN

Lionel Messi hat-trick leads Argentina to 4-3 win over Brazil

June 12, 2012

“The summer friendly has become a familiar genre for American fans, but this felt different. For one thing, Brazil and Argentina are perhaps the only teams in the world able to draw more than 80,000 people in the same time slot as Germany-Portugal — a European Championship game that actually matters. For another, it provided another chance to compare Neymar and Lionel Messi, excellent players in their own right and proxies in the cold war between Pele and Diego Maradona.” Guardian

4-4-2 G4M3 TH3ORY 4-3-2-1 4-2-2-2 3-4-1-2
“Brazil finds itself in an awkward position. After a desperately disappointing quarterfinal exit in the 2011 Copa América, the Seleçao has three years to put it right with only the Olympic Games this year and the Confederations Cup next in the way of ‘proper’ matches. (Even then, the Olympic Games allow only three players over the age of 23, and the quality of opposition in the Confederations Cup is questionable, as the major nations seem unsure of the tournament’s importance.) Other teams may complain about qualifiers, but they do at least offer an opportunity for competitive games.” Howler – Jonathan Wilson

Jose Pekerman takes Colombia back to the future

January 16, 2012

“Pep Guardiola as coach of Argentina’s national team? It was an idea floated recently by Argentine FA boss Julio Grondona, but as nothing more than a pipedream. It is very, very hard to imagine Argentina having a foreign coach. Same with Brazil. The idea was debated briefly in the Brazilian press just over a decade ago. But that was in exceptional times, when the national team were in danger of not qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.” BBC – Tim Vickery

La U accomplishments unforgettable despite defeat

December 27, 2011

“It is finally over. After 36 games, the unbeaten run of Universidad de Chile came to an end last Thursday when they went down 2-1 to Santiago rivals Universidad Catolica (an interesting side themselves – look out for right-back Stefano Magnasco and left-footed striker Kevin Harbottle). The long awaited defeat of ‘La U’ (the previous one was in July) came in bizarre circumstances. At 1-1 and with the game in stoppage time, they looked in total control – until the usually excellent midfielder Marcelo Diaz misplaced a pass out of defence and Catolica’s Jose Luis Villanueva fired in a cross shot to win the game.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Universidad de Chile take the 2011 Copa Sudamericana crown in style

December 17, 2011

“The club of the moment? Universidad de Chile: sweeping up trophies in their domestic league, unbeaten in 35 games, and this week crowned Copa Sudamericana champions, their first ever continental title. More interesting than their success has been their style of play. Coming 18 months after Marcelo Bielsa took Chile to the World Cup having played dynamic, quick football with heavy pressing, usually in a 3-3-1-3 formation, his fellow Argentine Jorge Sampaoli is doing something similar.” Zonal Marking

Copa Sudamericana champions face uphill struggle to hold onto key players
“The best team in South America face an uphill struggle to hold onto their prize assets. With a crushing 4-0 aggregate victory over the formidable LDU Quito, Universidad de Chile secured their first ever continental title. The comprehensive victory ensures La U can be counted as one of the best teams on the continent. With Copa Libertadores football secured for 2012, they now face the task of holding on to their key players and push on to become one of the greatest teams in the recent history of South American club football.” Purple Patch

Paraguay’s hooligan problem is getting out of control
“Six games in 2011, four in just over a month, have been suspended in Paraguay due to crowd violence. The latest suspension came on last weekend’s crunch game between league leaders Libertad and title chasers Cerro Porteño, two points behind with three games to play. With Cerro Porteño leading one-nil at half time the players and officials came out ready for what was set to be a thrilling and potentially season-defining 45 minutes of football. But before the second half could begin a flare thrown from the Cerro Porteño end struck the linesman who had to leave the stadium in an ambulance.” World Soccer

Violence Reigns In Paraguay

December 14, 2011

“Six games in 2011, four in just over a month, have been suspended in Paraguay due to crowd violence. The latest suspension came on last weekend’s crunch game between league leaders Libertad and title chasers Cerro Porteño, two points behind with three games to play. With Cerro Porteño leading one-nil at half time the players and officials came out ready for what was set to be a thrilling and potentially season-defining 45 minutes of football. But before the second half could begin a flare thrown from the Cerro Porteño end struck the linesman who had to leave the stadium in an ambulance.” In Bed With Maradona

Bad start for new Argentina coach

October 18, 2011

“Last Tuesday when Venezuela beat Argentina in the second round of South America’s World Cup qualifiers it was historic, but hardly surprising. Venezuela have been making dramatic strides, had home advantage and were taking on an especially vulnerable Argentina side – whose 4-1 win at home to Chile the previous Friday may have disguised the fact.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Latin America’s power struggle
“Just a few rounds gone and, of the nine teams in contention, only two have yet to win a game. The other seven already have one success to their name, but nobody has two. The figures don’t just show it, they shout it: World Cup qualification in South America is more competitive than anywhere else on the planet.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Goals galore in South American World Cup qualifiers

October 10, 2011

“It’s the same teams, three months apart, coming up with a totally different spectacle. Back in July the Copa America in Argentina was always enthralling, but its fascination was frequently the grim, attritional kind, with defences holding the upper hand. Now in October, the first round of South America’s marathon World Cup qualification campaign produced four open games – at times absurdly so – and 15 goals. Much of this can be explained by the differing demands of tournament and league football.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Tough qualifying period ahead for South American sides

September 6, 2011

“While Uruguay’s players were still celebrating their recent Copa America victory, their coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, with typical wisdom, was guarding against complacency. ‘Winning the Copa doesn’t give us any guarantees in terms of the World Cup qualifiers,’ he said. ‘They are much more competitive than this tournament.’ On Friday, in their first outing since the triumph in Argentina, it took Uruguay just 13 seconds to realise that the Copa belongs to the past.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Venezuela’s Loudest Cheerleader

August 1, 2011

“The ubiquitous nature of Twitter in celebrity circles ensures that us less exalted types are always kept up to date on their thoughts whenever an event of significance is occurring and it was no different at this year’s Copa America. But amongst all the usual Latin American ex-players, silicone enhanced models and other two-bob celebrities, the most compelling account to follow was that of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (@chavezcandanga).” In Bed With Maradona

ZM’s Copa America Best XI

July 29, 2011

“The outstanding performers from July’s Copa America tournament in Argentina.” Zonal Marking

Uruguay’s momentum, Paraguay’s bumpy road, more Copa America
“Going into the Copa America, we posed questions about the campaigns of the 10 South American sides. Now that the 43rd Copa America is history, we look back to find out if the tournament came up with the answers. (Listed from winners down to the teams eliminated in the group phase) SI – Tim Vickery

Preview of Copa America final

July 22, 2011

“The finalists of the Copa America, Paraguay and Uruguay, have played a combined 10 games in the competition so far. Of those matches, only two have ended in victory. Uruguay has progressed with two wins from its five matches, while Paraguay has amazingly managed to squeeze through with five consecutive draws.” ESPN

Paraguay 0-0 Venezuela (AET): Paraguay win on penalties – again

July 22, 2011

“Paraguay are, amazingly, through to the Copa America final having drawn all five games in the competition so far. As he did for the Spain game in last summer’s World Cup, Gerardo Martino made numerous changes to his side, partly because of Antolin Alcaraz’s suspension, which meant a big reshuffle at the back. Nestor Ortigoza returned to the midfield.” Zonal Marking

Paraguay 0-0 Venezuela
“Paraguay rode its luck through another penalty shootout to beat Venezuela on Wednesday and set up a Copa America final against Uruguay. Paraguay, which has not won any of its five matches in the tournament, booked its place in the final following a goalless draw and a 5-3 victory on penalties. The only miss in the shootout came when Justo Villar stopped Franklin Lucena’s shot. Dario Veron held his nerve to net the final spot kick and set up Sunday’s final against Uruguay, which beat Peru 2-0 in the other semifinal on Tuesday.” ESPN

Uruguay 2-0 Peru: Tabarez changes formation again to take Uruguay to the final
“Luis Suarez scored two second half goals in a confident Uruguayan performance. Oscar Tabarez was without Diego Perez, so Napoli’s Walter Gargano took his place. Sebastien Coates returned at centre-back. Sergio Markarian brought in Giancarlo Carmona for Renzo Revorendo, and Yoshimar Yotun for William Chiroque. With both sides contesting the quarter-finals as underdogs and both used to playing reactive football in this competition, much of the game was something of a stalemate, with neither side committing enough players into attack to overload the opposition.” Zonal Marking

Uruguay Reach Copa America Final

July 20, 2011

“The 2011 Copa América has been a tournament full of shocks, everyone would agree. None of the three pre-tournament favourites won their groups, none of the group winners made it through to the semis, and both the hosts and the holders (who were among those favourites first mentioned) went out in the quarter-finals. When the curtain is raised on the final in River Plate’s Estadio Monumental on Sunday afternoon, though, there will be one sight that’s familiar from past tournaments, though.” In Bed With Maradona

Brazil 0-0 Paraguay: Brazil fail to score in 120 minutes – then miss all their penalties too

July 20, 2011

“Paraguay are through to the semi-finals of the Copa America, having drawn all four games so far. Gerardo Martino took the surprising decision of dropping Nestor Ortigoza, bringing in Victor Cacares in the centre of midfield. Roque Santa Cruz dropped out, with Nelson Valdez making his first start of the tournament.” Zonal Marking

Venezuela 2-1 Chile: Borghi’s changes put Chile on top, but set-piece vulnerability proves fatal
“Venezuela are through to the semi-finals after two goals from dead ball situations. Cesar Farias’ defence and midfield were as expected – the only decision to make was upfront, where Miku played just off Giancarlo Maldonaldo, in a fairly basic 4-4-2. Claudio Borghi was without Jean Beausejour, so Arturo Vidal moved out to the left and Carlos Carmona came into the centre of the pitch. Chile were poor in the first half, then excellent in the second. Venezuela were never particularly inventive, but retained a threat from set-pieces – and that was enough for them to win the game.” Zonal Marking

Uruguay 1-1 Argentina (AET): Uruguay progress after disciplined defending and superb penalties
“The hosts are out of the Copa America after an engaging 1-1 draw. Oscar Tabarez kept faith with the same narrow 4-4-1-1 system as against Mexico, although there was one change – Martin Cacares came in for Cristian Rodriguez, with Alvaro Pereira moving forward to the left of midfield. Sergio Batista named an unchanged XI in broadly the same system as in Argentina’s final group game against Costa Rica. The game started frantically and then slowed down but remained enjoyable – the two red cards opened up the game, but didn’t produce any more goals.” Zonal Marking

Peru 2-0 Colombia (AET): Colombia waste chances and Peru exploit goalkeeping mistakes
“Carlos Lobaton and Juan Vargas scored thumping extra time goals to put Peru into the semis. Hernan Gomez named his expected side, in a 4-3-3 formation. Sergio Markarian also named 4-3-3, though his side featured many changes from the final group stage game against Chile, when various players were rested. Colombia had the better chances, but Peru were always in the game and largely defended well.” Zonal Marking

Brazil pay the penalty

July 18, 2011

“Eight-time Copa America winners Brazil were left stunned and eliminated as they failed to convert a single penalty in their shootout against Paraguay, losing it 2-0. The Brazilians created the better chances throughout the 120 minutes, but were unable to make the breakthrough as both sides remained scoreless to send the quarter-final in La Plata to penalties.” ESPN

Paraguay 0, Brazil 0
“Paraguay advanced to the Copa America semifinals on Sunday by defeating defending champion Brazil 2-0 in a penalty shootout after the score was level at 0-0 following extra time. Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar stopped Thiago Silva’s shot and Elano, Andre Santos and Fred also missed for Brazil, which was eliminated from the South American competition a day after host Argentina lost to Uruguay.” ESPN

Argentina and Brazil lead the fall of the Copa América giants
“The giants woke up, but only to be felled. When Argentina and Brazil scored seven goals between them in their third group games at the Copa América, it seemed they were slowly rousing themselves for the march to a meeting in the final that the organisers had done everything in their power to make inevitable. In their quarter-finals, though, the problems of the opening games returned. Both struggled to make domination of possession count, both lost on penalties, and both will look on a barely credible semi-final line-up and wonder why on earth they are not there.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Brazil coach defends ‘historical incompetence’ after Copa América exit
“The Brazilian daily paper O Globo may have branded it an act of “historical incompetence” but the Brazil squad and coaching staff have defended their exit from the Copa América. The five-time world champions were beaten on penalties by Paraguay after a shoot-out in which they failed to hit the target with all four spot kicks. But despite the failure the coach, Mano Menezes, has pleaded that the public look on the bright side.” Guardian

Fickle Copa America quarterfinals yield surprising remaining quartet
“The full moon shone bright and white over San Juan, its domination of the chill sky seeming a symbol of the lunacy that took over the Copa America this weekend. The tournament — perhaps any tournament — has never known a series of quarterfinals like it, as the three group-winners and the hosts all crashed out. The machinations of the schedulers, who had done everything in their power to ensure a third successive Brazil-Argentina final, are left looking a little silly.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Inspirational Markarian leads Peru to semi-finals
“At the time of writing there is the chance that Venezuela might make it two, but at the moment there is the certainty that one of the Copa America semi-finalists will be a team who missed out on last year’s World Cup – and who missed out by the widest possible margin. Peru finished bottom of the table in South America’s 2010 qualifiers. They lost all nine away games, conceding 26 goals in the process.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Venezuela 2, Chile 1
“Venezuela reached the Copa America semifinals for the first time as Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Gabriel Cichero scored either side of halftime to beat Chile 2-1 on Sunday. Humberto Suazo equalized briefly for Chile in the second half. Venezuela is unbeaten in four games at the Copa America and has been the surprise team in a surprising tournament.” ESPN

Uruguay 1, Argentina 1
“Uruguay advanced to the semifinals of the Copa America with a penalty shootout victory over hosts Argentina on Saturday, with Carlos Tevez having his spotkick saved by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera in the decider. The game ended 1-1 after regulation time and there was no addition to that scoreline in extra time. The final tally in the shootout was 5-4 to Uruguay.” ESPN

Argentina dumped out
“In the biggest upset of the 2011 Copa America thus far, Uruguay have defeated tournament hosts Argentina on penalties in their quarter-final in Santa Fe. The match itself ended 1-1 as Argentina dominated large portions of the contest, but Uruguay showed their steel to win the shootout 5-4 and eliminate the favourites. Carlos Tevez, the figure at the centre of much transfer debate, had his spot-kick saved by Fernando Muslera while Uruguay converted all of their penalties in clinical fashion.” ESPN

Peru 2, Colombia 0
“Peru reached the Copa America semifinals for the first time since 1997 by defeating Colombia 2-0 in extra time on Saturday. Carlos Augusto Lobaton fired a powerful shot from just inside the penalty area in the 101st minute and fellow midfielder Juan Manuel Vargas sealed the victory with a shot from near the penalty spot in the 111th.” ESPN

Brazil 4-2 Ecuador: Brazil finally grab a win

July 15, 2011

Francesco Guardi
“An open game was always likely to favour Brazil, and they took advantage to confirm their progression to the knockout stage. Mano Menezes changed his right side completely – Robinho and Maicon replaced Jadson and Dani Alves. Reinaldo Rueda left out Segundo Castillo in the centre of midfield, with Oswaldo Minda coming in. Brazil turned in their most impressive display in the Copa so far, though they still lacked cohesion upfront, and remain a little nervous at the back.” Zonal Marking

Brazil 4, Ecuador 2
“Alexandre Pato and Neymar scored two goals each as defending champion Brazil hit form with a 4-2 win over Ecuador on Wednesday to secure a Copa America quarterfinals spot. Brazil finished atop Group B and advanced to a knockout match against Paraguay. Ecuador was eliminated. Pato scored with a header in the 28th minute and a close-range shot in the 60th, while Neymar netted from inside the area in the 48th and 76th. Striker Felipe Caicedo scored for Ecuador in the 37th and 58th.” ESPN

Chileans in raptures after sealing quarter-final against Venezuela
“Finding grilled meat in Argentina isn’t usually a problem, but for days the parrillas of Mendoza have been rammed. With Chile only 130 miles across the Andes, fans have come in their droves, with reports of queues of more than six hours at the border. Even a day after their 1-0 win over Peru – a poor match in which neither side managed a shot on target before the decisive late own goal – they lingered, and many will make the short hop up to San Juan for Sunday’s quarter-final.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Grondona: Messi could quit
“Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona has warned that Lionel Messi could call time on his international career if the criticism from fans and the country’s media continues. Messi came under fire for below-par performances in the first two group games at the Copa America before sealing Argentina’s progress against Costa Rica.” ESPN

Venezuela 3, Paraguay 3
“Grenddy Adrian Perozo scored a stoppage-time equalizer with the help of his goalkeeper as Venezuela rallied for a 3-3 draw with Paraguay in a thrilling Copa America Group B match Wednesday. Venezuela was trailing 3-1 but pulled one back in the 89th via Nicolas Fedor. Goalkeeper Renny Vicente Vega then rushed to the other end in the game’s last play and met a corner with an angled header to set up Perozo’s equalizer two minutes into stoppage time.”>ESPN

Sergio Batista and the Sharpening of Long Knives

July 11, 2011

Sergio Batista
“We’re one week into the Copa América, and if nothing else it’s proven correct those who made pre-tournament predictions that it would be the most closely-fought Copa in a long time. For the first time ever, both Argentina and Brazil failed to win their opening matches. It must be said that not enough credit was given to the two sides who foiled them in those games; Venezuela in the case of the holders Brazil, and Bolivia in the case of hosts Argentina.” In Bed With Maradona

Critics attack ‘disastrous’ Brazil after they scrape Paraguay draw
“Perhaps Dunga wasn’t so bad after all. He may have been pragmatic and have refused to pick the public’s favourites, but at least he won games. Brazil, after underwhelming in a 0-0 against a Venezuela team that, after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Ecuador, improbably tops Copa América’s Group B, were highly fortunate to scrape a 2-2 draw against Paraguay. Two thirds of the way through the group stage, none of the seeds have yet won a game and, amid all the grumbling about Argentina’s form, the one consolation for the hosts has been that Brazil have been even worse than they have.” Guardian

Can Argentina salvage their Copa America hopes?
“We’re one week into the Copa América, and if nothing else, it’s shown that those who predicted that this would be the most closely-fought Copa in living memory, have been proven correct. For the first time ever, both Argentina and Brazil failed to win their opening matches. It must be said that not enough credit was given to the two sides who foiled them in those games; Venezuela in the case of the holders Brazil, and Bolivia against the hosts Argentina.” World Soccer

Brazil 2-2 Paraguay: Brazil snatch the draw
“Mano Menezes ditched the “European” 4-2-3-1, went for a Dunga-style compromise system, then ended up with 4-2-2-2… He dropped Robinho from his starting line-up, favouring Jadson who played much narrower on the right, as he has done in previous friendlies. Gerardo Martino went for the 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 hybrid that he often favoured at last summer’s World Cup. Roque Santa Cruz played on the right, and made diagonal runs to a centre-forward position.” Zonal Marking

A guide to the 2011 Copa America

June 28, 2011

“Think football is over for the summer? Think again. From July 1st to the 24th, the ten nations comprising the CONMEBOL Confederation of South America, plus two guest countries, will play out the 43rd Copa America in Argentina. If you’re familiar with past tournaments, then you’ll know to expect some beautiful football, some drama, some hilariously shameless cheating, and some great spectacle, both on and off the pitch. It’s a fine showcase for South American football and for my money the most entertaining and passionate football on earth.” Three Match Ban – 2011 Copa America: Part One – The Minnows, Part Two – The Outsiders, Mexico & Costa Rica, Part Three – The Under-Achievers, Colombia & Peru, Part Four – The Over-Achievers, Paraguay and Ecuador, Part Five – The Contenders, Uruguay and Chile, Part Six – The Giants, Argentina and Brazil

We’re Coming To Win It

June 21, 2011

“If you want to cheer for a plucky underdog at this year’s Copa America then Paraguay are your team. Their small population of 6,000,000 (or 6,000 if you believe their most famous female export Larissa Riquelme)*, relatively small land mass in South American terms, and lack of funds (only Bolivia have a smaller GDP per head) will make them perennial underdogs. But this year they can also be considered dark horses, even though their opening game against Ecuador on July 3rd will be their first competitive outing since they were narrowly beaten by Spain in the World Cup quarter-finals. That was the furthest they had ever reached on the world’s biggest stage and it was the third time in their last three World Cup knockout games they were defeated by a team that went on to the final (2002 Germany, 1998 France). Here I assess the reasons why Paraguay are more than just spirited minnows.” In Bed With Maradona

He Was A Paraguayan

April 6, 2011

“Guess the player? He made his debut aged fifteen. He holds the Argentine record for goals scored in one season, forty-seven in thirty-four games. He is the joint highest scorer in Argentinian football history with 293 goals, yet he never represented his country. Alfredo Di Stefano who watched him growing up described him as circus artist, a compliment on his incredible ability to jump.” In Bed With Maradona

For Bob Bradley’s USMNT, Paraguay was Tactical Progress

April 1, 2011

“For those of you that have been living in a cave, the USMNT squared off against Argentina and Paraguay this week. The events were enough to make a “tactical analyst” such as me salivate. Let’s get right into what I saw over the two games: After the first match (Argentina), fellow writer Jon Levy wanted an immediate tactical reaction. I told him ‘no’ because I did not feel capable of writing anything conclusive watching that game. What I saw against Argentina was the tale of two halves (obviously).” The Yanks Are Coming

Chandler shines in Paraguay loss, leads German-American invasion

March 30, 2011

“It’s still early, of course, but the chances are more likely that we’ll remember this week’s two U.S. national-team friendlies less for the results — a 1-1 tie against Argentina and Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Paraguay — than for the initial impacts made by some young American players.” SI

United States (USA) 0-1 Paraguay – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Friendly
The 90th Minute

A Madman Who Never Stopped Running

December 30, 2010

“It is a statement that has been made by thousands of children. When Nelson Valdez promised that he would score at a World Cup tournament for Paraguay to his mother, who was crying after Paraguay had been eliminated in 1998, it was a promise that had been heard by many other parents. Nelson Valdez was different though, he would strive to fulfil this pledge.” In Bed With Maradona

South American football awards 2010

December 15, 2010

Diego Forlán
“Hello and welcome to the Fútbol Fútbol Fútbol awards for 2010. The awards focus on events in South American football, however there is room for an expatriate player of the year section to pay tribute to the best of the thousands of South American footballers plying their trade on other continents. You may find some of the awards surprising or idiosyncratic, however if you are offended by any of these selections you can either find another website to tell you exactly what you want to read or failing that you could leave your opinion on why we are wrong in the comments section below. Enjoy.” Fútbol Fútbol Fútbol

The IBWM Torneo Apertura Review
“Last weekend Estudiantes clinched the Torneo Apertura title, and as Sam Kelly reports, they were undoubtedly worthy winners.” In Bed With Maradona

Drugs, Poison, Guns, Football?

December 7, 2010

“In Central and South America the legacy of Andres Escobar’s death in 1994 appears to have left lessons unlearnt. Here’s Chris Ledger.” In Bed With Maradona

Brazilian league lacks bite

July 19, 2010

“Spain or Barcelona? No contest. Week in, week out, Barcelona combine the midfield interplay of Xavi and Iniesta with the cutting edge of Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and co. The comparison serves to confirm the impression that these days club football is of a much higher standard than international – as long as we restrict the debate to the major European leagues. The big clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are in front of the national teams because of the time their players spend together and because they count on the best talent from all over the planet. When the World Cup stops and domestic football returns, the level of play goes up.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Not For Glory Alone

July 17, 2010

“Two billion souls: One must begin with that. That’s how many people, or nearly so, sat or stood in view of television screens to watch twenty-two men kick a white ball around a green field on a warm July night in Berlin four years ago. The twenty-two men comprised the men’s national soccer teams of Italy and France. The occasion was the final game of the 2006 World Cup. The cagey match, as the world now knows, turned on an extraordinary event near its end when France’s captain and star, Zinedine Zidane, strode toward the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and, for reasons unknown, drove his bald pate into the taller man’s chest. The motion mimicked one he’d used a few minutes earlier to head a flighted ball inches over the Italians’ goal, coming ago nizingly close to winning the day for France. Now Zidane was expelled, his team was rattled, and a player in blue whose name few outside Umbria and Trieste recall darted inside a player in white and curled the ball inside the French goal with his left foot, cueing images, on countless flickering screens around the planet, of his countrymen celebrating Italy’s triumph in the floodlit waters of the Trevi fountain in Rome.” (Laphams Quarterly)

World Cup scouting: The 32 – Conclusions

July 16, 2010

Antonio Di Natale
“Starting with Nicolás Lodeiro back in December last year, Football Further selected 32 players to watch out for at the 2010 World Cup and then tracked their progress through the tournament via weekly scouting reports. Below is a full compilation of those reports, along with conclusions (and marks out of 10) on how each player performed.” (Football Further)

‘Octodamus’ and other surprises – Eduardo Galeano

July 15, 2010

Mensaje de Eduardo Galeano para América Latina Cartagena de Indias, Julio de 1997
“Pacho Marturana, a man with vast experience in these battles, says that football is a magical realm where anything can happen. And this World Cup has confirmed his words: it was an unusual World Cup. The 10 stadiums where the Cup was played were unusual, beautiful, immense, and cost a fortune. Who knows how South Africa will be able to keep these cement behemoths operating amid pulverising poverty? The Adidas Jabulani ball was unusual, slippery and half mad, fled hands and disobeyed feet. It was introduced despite players not liking it at all. But from their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they don’t propose. …” (Dispatch)

World Cup 2010: A tactical review

July 14, 2010

Marcello Bielsa
“At the dawn of the tournament Football Further posed ten tactical questions that the World Cup would answer. Three days after Spain’s tense extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final, the answers to those questions reflect a tournament in which defensive rigour was overwhelmingly de riguer and tactical innovation conspicious by its rarity.” (Football Further)


July 14, 2010

“Two days after the World Cup final, the whole event seems slightly surreal. I’m returning from South Africa today, having survived on my last day here a gauntlet of baboons and a march up a gorgeous mountain, after arriving on the 26th of June just in time to see Ghana beat the U.S. I’ve had the privilege of watching seven games, including the Cape Town semi-final and the final in Johannesburg. I’ve come to know and love the vuvuzela — and, yes, I’m bringing one home to blow at Duke soccer matches this fall. It was rapture on many levels, and now it’s passed.” (Soccer Politics)

Europe is still football’s dominant force

July 6, 2010

“Wasn’t it just a few glasses of Chardonnay ago that European soccer was melting faster than a wedge of warm Brie? France, Italy and England — three of the continent’s soccer superpowers — had gone home in various levels of disgrace. To make matters worse, all five of South America’s entrants had moved on to the knockout round, with all but Chile winning its group.” (ESPN)

The Currents of History: What does it take to win the World Cup?

July 5, 2010

Giovanni Battista Di Jacopo, Pieta
“‘What does it take to win the World Cup?’ asked Henry D Fetter of The Atlantic a couple of days ago, in a post called ‘What It Takes To Win The World Cup’.” (Pitch Invasion)

Özil the German
“No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Özil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.” (NYT)

Tap-in and Taboo
“If this happens, what will people say about Bryan Thomas (on Twitter, in newspapers, on comment threads)? Will anyone say that he has violated the ethics of the game, that he deserves further punishment? Will anyone argue that the rules of the game need to be changed so that teams cannot benefit from committing a penalty? I suspect, rather, that Thomas will be generally credited with a very smart play. How is what Luis Suárez did at the end of yesterday’s match against Ghana any different?” (Run of Play)

when i get older
“Brian at the Run of Play did a very good job crushing the idea floated in The Atlantic that countries with an authoritarian history play more winning football. The idea memed, nonetheless. (Shocked that highbrow soccer dorks — my favourite phrase this World Cup, used by TNR Goalpost to describe their ideal reader base) appear not to check RoP before coffee.) Laughable, snobbish solipsism — it’s not just for FIFA anymore, kids.” (Treasons, Statagems & Spoils)

Time Can Do So Much
“What I want to know is whether we’ll remember any of this in ten years, or if we’ll look back on it as the mass blackout during which we all wrote mystic texts. I can’t remember two more deranged or thrilling days of soccer, or four more shocking games, in any recent tournament, and Euro 2008 made me compare Aphrodite to a Toyota Prius. It was all the more stunning because it came out of nowhere—that’s not to say this World Cup had been boring, but it had rolled along at a pretty regular tempo and, apart from a few moments of madness and bliss, within a fairly livable emotional band.” (Run of Play)

Argentina Flounder Before German Unity

July 5, 2010

“Out of the chaos of the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup has come some degree of consensus. If today’s newspapers have one theme running through them, that theme is that Germany are currently the best football team in the world and that, to a point, it would be a travesty if they didn’t win the competition. All of this is somewhat odd, since it is effectively an admission that they got their predictions wrong before the start of the tournament (there weren’t many in the mainstream press that didn’t predict Brazil or Spain), but this groundswell of opinion has been building for the last few days.” (twohundredpercent)

Spain 1-0 Paraguay: Spain squeeze out a result again

July 5, 2010

“A familiar story for Spain. Good ball retention, a struggle until Torres departs, and Villa saves the day, scoring in a 1-0 win. That could quite easily be a description of their previous game, against Portugal. Spain lined up with their usual lopsided 4-2-3-1 formation and the expected XI, whilst Paraguay made six – yes, six – changes to the side that scraped through against Japan in the previous round.” (Zonal Marking)

World Cup 2010: Paraguay 0-1 Spain

July 4, 2010

“What a world. Regardlesss of the lie of the fixtures, if anyone had said two days ago that Paraguay and Uruguay would be the last South American representatives in the 2010 World Cup, they would have been dismissed as cranks. But here we are. We have had three marvellous quarter-finals so far (for an almost baffling variety of different reasons) and here we are, all set for the final match between Paraguay and Spain. The Paraguayan flame has burnt intermittently in South Africa so far. Their penalty shootout win in the last round against Japan came at the end of possibly the worst match of the tournament so far, but they demonstrated their capability in winning their group as Italy imploded.” (twohundredpercent)

Spain v Paraguay: tactical preview
“Have Paraguay got any chance of coming away from this game with a result? Possibly a greater chance than some might expect. They are clearly the underdogs, but Spain have yet to hit top form, and the ease with which they saw out games against Chile and against Portugal ignores the fact that they didn’t have the game their own way until David Villa broke the deadlock.” (Zonal Marking)

Spain Looks in the Mirror
“Until their victory in the European Cup two years ago, national football in Spain was never about winning. It was about hope and fury (la Furia, the team’s nickname, recalls an episode of heroism in battle), and yes, oh yes, it always ended up signifying nothing. But defeating Germany in the final of 2008, and doing so with extraordinary virtuosity, transformed them into World Cup favorites. And then came Switzerland, with their strange mixture of German practicality and Italian catenaccio, blundered their way into the goal and had Spanish football fans go into their deepest emotional crisis in history.” (Vanity Fair)

Paraguay 0-1 Spain – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – World Cup – 3 July 2010
“It was an eventful match that would see two penalty kicks missed but Spain eventually advancing to the semifinals. Spain was the better team throughout the match but struggled to break down the Paraguay defense until late in the second half. Both teams had penalties in the second half but both were saved.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup Quarters – “& Then There Were 8″

July 1, 2010

“The typical suspects have overcome group stage difficulties to rise to the top. However, no smoking gun has appeared to point out the single culprit most likely to win the tournament. Using a really big magnifying glass, a trench coat, a smart talking sidekick, and intuition, we embarked on an investigation of the remaining teams in this World Cup quarterfinals, searching for clues in a sea of uncertainty. Our conclusion as to who will win the World Cup?” (futfanatico)

World Cup tactics: How the quarter-finalists line up

June 30, 2010

“On the eve of the World Cup, Football Further asked whether the 4-2-3-1 formation would continue to dominate as it did at the last tournament in 2006. The average position diagrams below, taken from all eight last-16 matches, demonstrate that while it remains the most popular shape in the international game, variations in tactics mean that it is being deployed in very different ways.” (Football Further)

Facing the Two-Day Football Fast

June 30, 2010

“It’s alarming to even consider, but for the next two days there will be no World Cup matches. After gorging ourselves on football of varying quality for the past weeks, we suddenly have to think of others things to do. Read a book? Take a walk? But to what end and purpose, when all we have known for weeks is the spectacle of the fates of nations unfolding before our eyes?” (Soccer Politics)

World Cup 2010: Paraguay 0-0 Japan (Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties)

June 29, 2010

“They say that consistency helps in football. Especially in terms of number of players you use. This seems to be one of Japan’s tactics, as they enter this game with the same XI that began each of the group games with. Paraguay give first starts to Edgar Benitez and Nestor Ortigioza, as they become the sixteenth and seventeenth players to start for the South Americans (with two others having played as substitutes). Ortigoza makes his World Cup debut, leaving Dario Veron and Rodolfo Gamarra as the only two outfield Paraguayans to see any action.” (twohundredpercent)

Cardozo’s clincher sends Paraguay to first Cup quarterfinal
“The last thing Paraguay wanted was to wind up in a shootout with Japan. After all, the South Americans almost never practice penalty kicks — or have any success when they do. Yet Paraguay took the most difficult route to its first World Cup quarterfinals Tuesday. After 120 exhausting minutes without scoring, the Paraguayans found their touch in penalty kicks, making all five to beat Japan.” (ESPN)

Paraguay 0-0 (5-3 on penalty kicks) Japan – Video Highlights, Recap, Match Stats – World Cup – 29 June 2010
“Two sides who weren’t expected to make into the quarterfinals met in the round of 16 as Paraguay faced off against Japan. One would reach their first ever quarterfinal while the other would be knocked out of the tournament.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup scouting: The 32 – Week Two

June 26, 2010

Rene Krhin (Slovenia)
“The following 32 names represent Football Further‘s players to watch at the 2010 World Cup. We’ll be following their performances closely over the course of the tournament, with weekly scouting reports rounding up their progress.” (Football Further), (Football Further – Week One)


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