Italy’s problem with creativity must be overcome

June 10, 2010


Creative Destruction, Da Vinci
“No-one is talking about Italy ahead of this tournament, despite them being the holders, despite them breezing through qualification, despite them having received the most favourable draw of any side. The pessimism stems from the lack of quality, both in their playing squad as a whole, and from the performances over the past four years. Star names like Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Rino Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo are still around and capable of big performances, but all are nowhere near the players they were four years ago.” (Zonal Minute)

USA a good side, but need tactical tweaks
“United States fans seem to go into every World Cup thinking that the rest of the world is underestimating them – which has traditionally been fair. This time, however, ranked 14th in the world and widely expected to qualify from their group, it’s a different challenge for the US – everyone expects them to be a good side. Firstly, a nod to a great article that analyses the USA’s tactics in greater detail than this piece shall, at the Shin Guardian. It breaks down the game against Turkey in excellent detail, examining the difference between the first-half and second-half shape, and summarising what Bob Bradley should do at the World Cup.” (Zonal Minute)

Japan worse than the sum of their parts
“Japan probably should be better than they are considering their attacking talents, but manager Takeshi Okada is intent on playing a certain way, even if it means leaving out star names. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – international football is about assembling a cohesive XI rather than squeezing all your best talents into one team – but there’s no guarantee it’s going to work. Japan were unconvincing throughout qualification and their three pre-tournament friendlies have all ended in defeat.” (Zonal Minute)


The Style and Skill to Reach the Final

June 10, 2010

“And the winner is. … As the World Cup opens Friday amid a celebration of exceptional vibrancy with host South Africa playing Mexico, two countries float above the field of 32 teams: Spain and Brazil. Yes, Africa is the host. Yes, Asia is developing. And, yes, there are dark horses — the gifted but erratic Argentines, the talented Dutch and the ever self-confident English among them.” (NYT)


Pilgrimages

June 10, 2010

“The South African magazine Chimurenga has just launched a World Cup project called ‘Pilgrimages,’ sending African writers on journeys to various cities on the continent and beyond to report on the experience of the World Cup there. It will be a great series, I think, and starts with a compelling case for Argentina winning the Cup, by Grant Farred.” (Soccer Politics)


Your Brazilian Soccer Name

June 10, 2010

“Kaká. Cafu. Zico. Ronaldinho. Adriano. The names are the stuff of soccer genius, sporting legend, and Western confusion: Why do all Brazilian soccer players have only one name? It’s a good question. Another good question is, What would my name have been had I been born in a Brazilian favela, raised to kick a soccer ball down Rio de Janeiro’s dirt roads, and fallen into ill repute for allegedly having connections to a notorious drug lord?” (Vanity Fair)


A World Cup Drinking Challenge

June 10, 2010


“It all started as an excuse to drink good wine during the 1998 World Cup in France. A few of us had decided to attend the tournament, but before we jumped in the car we had to work out where we were going to watch those matches for which we didn’t have tickets. France doesn’t have many pubs, and for my Anglo-Saxon friends the thought of watching their beloved England team in a Parisian café didn’t appeal. And it was beer they were after, in this wine-drinking country; warm and flat, not the strong, gassy lager served on the Continent.” (WSJ)


Chasing The Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup

June 10, 2010

‘Right or wrong, I felt I was still improving,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said about his stalled playing career. “I was a late bloomer. Was I good enough? I don’t know. When I was done playing in college I still felt I was getting better, that I had something to offer. Yet there wasn’t any place to try it out. Yes, there were reserve teams with the NASL, but there weren’t that many opportunities for Americans. They held open tryouts. You played games where you play against a reserve team. You played in men’s leagues, but nonetheless it was not that easy to find good ways to continue to play. You chased the game.‘” (Pitch Invasion)


ESPN Learns to Speak Soccer

June 10, 2010

“Turn on ESPN Friday, or in the 30 days that follow, and a regular viewer will be in for some surprises. The ever-present news ticker will often be gone from the screen bottom. The action on the field will be called in British cadences and analyzed by men with unfamiliar names and German, Dutch or (occasionally) American accents.” (WSJ)


It Is Almost Upon Us

June 10, 2010

“Finally, the waiting is over. After all the hype, the talk and the phony war, it is almost upon us. Yes, it is now time for the Fiver to emerge from its cobwebbed crawl-space and head off for its early-summer “special” at Madame She-She’s Kings Cross bathing parlour, there to enjoy its annual intensive ablution regime involving a 20-minute industrial hose-down, the descaling of physical extremities, laundering and re-stitching of Kevlar undergarments and finally an assisted constitutional massage overseen by a group of faceless, asbestos-suited individuals armed with tongs. With any luck the Fiver may emerge in time to catch the start of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, which also gets under way tomorrow, and which has also been letting off a humid stink of fevered, pent-up excitement. Finally, 1,464 Fifa World Cup-less days since the last one, football’s great final frontier, the not-for-sale, inescapably shiver-inducing Fifa World Cup is here.” (Guardian – Barney Ronay)


The Thursday Preview: Algeria Vs Slovenia

June 10, 2010

“Last week, we previewed a friendly international involving a clutch of Championship-tinged stars and in the end, it was Robert Koren and Slovenia who prevailed, with a 3-1 win over New Zealand in Maribor. Hence, the Slovenes will go into their first World Cup finals match for seven years with confidence. Laying in wait are the Desert Foxes of Algeria; the match taking place this Sunday in Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo Province, a venue to put alongside Orlando, Saitama, Seogwipo and Uddevala in a roster of obscure host cities.” (thetwounfortunates)


Will Rap for Trophies or at Least Advancing to the Knockout Stage

June 10, 2010


“If U.S. Men’s National Team players were rappers. No, that’s it, if they were rappers. One shouldn’t read this expecting the tired comparisons where white people are required to resemble white people and brownish people need to resemble other brownish people. Rather, we’re doing this based on character traits. Is there an MC who is a better rapper stunt double for the players selected below? Let us know! And remember, characteristics, not appearance.” (Nutmeg Radio)


One striker or two?

June 10, 2010

“The level of knowledge saturation in the global game means no teams will be able to spring radical tactical surprises at the World Cup, but there is nonetheless likely to be plenty of diversity on show when it comes to formations. The 4-2-3-1 was the dominant shape in 2006 and will probably be so again in South Africa, with England, Brazil, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands among the sides predicted to adopt 4-2-3-1s or hybrids thereof.” (WSC)


World Cup Predictions, Knockout Stage: World Cup Buzz Podcast

June 10, 2010

“You have invested the last month with us, though the expert interviews to the two weeks of group breakdowns, and now – the day before the 2010 World Cup starts – Laurence McKenna, Kartik Krishnaiyer and myself make out final predictions: the Round of 16 to the July 11 final. Join us in this final preparatory step for South Africa 2010 as we tell you who we think will be the next world champions.” (EPL Talk)