An idea unto itself

June 30, 2010

“Robben Island rises just out of the ocean in the distance. From the shore, it looks like a thin, lifeless wedge, a gray spot on the horizon. The rabbits have taken it over. But tourists dutifully pile into boats, and they make the pilgrimage along with the whales across the water. During the World Cup, the boats have been sold out, piled high with Algerians and Englishmen, Italians and Portuguese. Robben Island, this terrible place once reserved for lepers, lunatics and prisoners, has become a must-see. Its most famous former resident, Nelson Mandela, spent 18 of his 27 years in prison there; his life since has transformed his cell into a kind of shrine, an impossibly cold place turned impossibly warm.” (ESPN), (ESPN – OTL: Robben Island)

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)

Spain 1-0 Portugal: Villa eventually finds a way through, Portugal fail to respond

June 30, 2010

“An intriguing game – Spain were comfortable by full-time, but struggled to find the breakthrough. Substitutions were crucial in the outcome. Vicente del Bosque fielded a side unchanged from the win over Chile – a 4-2-3-1ish shape, with David Villa high on the left, and Andres Iniesta drifting in from the right. Xabi Alonso was fit to start, and Fernando Torres continued upfront.” (Zonal Marking)

World Cup 2010: Spain 1-0 Portugal
“I’m not sure what channel I’m watching but it’s not one of ours. The pundits sound refreshing. There’s a Scotsman who looks a bit like Hansen but uses verbs and sounds interested. In fact, it’s as if it is Hansen but he’s next to proper pundits, so he has to raise his game so as not to sound lazy and under-informed. Alongside him is a nicely understated Dutchman who is always to the point. He admires the Spanish not simply because ‘they’ve got Torres,’ but because ‘there are always two options for the man with the ball… it’s not about the man with the ball if he has no options.’ Simple logic.” (twohundredpercent)

Villa, Vidi, Vici: Spain Moves On
“Is tiki-taka starting to look a bit tired? This phrase, which roughly translates as touch-touch, defines Spain’s technical, ball-playing approach to this sport, a strategy that saw the country crowned European champion in 2008, set a new record for consecutive wins a year later and arrive in South Africa this month as the favorite to win the World Cup. The philosophy is that giving the ball away is inexcusable. It is about perpetual motion, short passing and maintaining possession above all else. And when everything clicks, Spain does it better than anyone.” (WSJ)

Villa scores off own rebound to carry Spain to quarterfinals
“David Villa called it one of his best goals. He was talking about the timing but the effort was pretty nice, too. On a night when Portugal’s defense fought off attack after attack, the Spanish striker finally broke through in the 63rd minute, giving the European champs a 1-0 victory Tuesday and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.”>(ESPN)

Spain 1-0 Portugal – Video Highlights, Recap, Match Stats – World Cup – 29 June 2010
“Two European teams who have never won the World Cup met in the round of 16 as Spain faced Portugal. The winner would go on to play Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Spain would be favored in the match as they have improved since their opening loss against Switzerland while Portugal have yet to conceded a goal in the tournament.” (The 90th Minute)

Legacy and Lionel Messi

June 30, 2010

Lionel Messi
“Epistemic frustration is the curse and the genius of soccer, which, compared to, say, basketball, obscures causes, disguises responsibilities, and makes all forms of knowing and categorizing moot. Not in a radically skeptical way, but just in terms of guys kicking stuff, I sometimes wonder whether it’s possible to know anything at all.” (Run of Play)

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)

The Questions: 6 Questions on England v Germany

June 30, 2010

Fabio Capello
“After England’s hugely disappointing 4-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup 2010 round of 16, asked some of it’s contributors (and a special guest) to analyse the flaws and the future for the England national team in the rebirth of a new feature, The Questions. Is it now time for serious structural change in English football?” (Just Football)

Is it time for England to ditch the 4-4-2 and play like the rest of the world?
“Terry Venables tells a story about Paul Gascoigne at Tottenham. Gazza, with his limited attention span, was forever bemoaning the time spent working on tactics. Then he went to Italy to play for Lazio. When Venables saw him next, Gascoigne had changed his tune, even admitting that, after confronting the deep and well-organised defences of Serie A, he realised how important tactics were.” (Independent)

England’s Loss to Germany
“England’s performance was in a different league of awfulness from the regular awfulness that had been seen in earlier games. Before, the problem had been one of not seeming to care; the players behaving as though they deserved to win by virtue of the size of their wages. This time they definitely cared, they were fired up, ready to go and then when they got there, they were just awful.” (The Paris Review)

An open letter to Sir Dave Richards, re: the England job
“Dear Dave, In the next twelve days, I’m told, you and the Football Association board will decide whether or not to relieve Fabio Capello of his duties as England manager. Matt Dickinson, who normally gets these things right, said on The Times podcast that you guys will most likely base part of your decision on what the media say. Given that I am a small part of the media, I’m offering up my two pence, not just on Capello, but on the England team’s future.” (The Game Blog)

World Cup 2010: Ten things Fabio Capello got wrong
“The England manager exposed his fallibility with a series of bad calls during the World Cup campaign” (Guardian)

FIFA Plays Hard To Get With Technology

June 30, 2010

“The World Cup thus far has been less about the Beautiful Game on the field and more about the inexplicable refusal of Sepp Blatter and his clan to uphold FIFA’s own Fair Play Code of Conduct. In the wake of recent controversial decisions (or indecision – you make the call), the pressure is mounting on FIFA to stop making nonsensical excuses and step into the 21st Century and embrace the use of technology by game officials.” (Nutmeg Radio)