Offsides, Part 1, Part 2

January 28, 2013

“Mirko Vučinić showed up to the first day of soccer season this summer with a mustache. It was a thin one, and it made him look like a character out of an Italian neorealist homage to the dignity of the working class—handsome and proud, and heroic because ultimately he is up against forces that are far too great for him to succeed. Vučinić is the starting striker for Juventus, Italy’s Serie A defending champion. To date, though, he may be most famous for dropping his shorts, placing them on his head, and running around the pitch in his underwear after he scored a goal in an international match against Switzerland in 2010. You likely wouldn’t see that in an Italian neorealist film. But that’s all right, because Vučinić isn’t Italian. He’s Montenegrin, and Montenegro has a story of its own.” The Paris Review – 1

Offsides, Part 2
“Like Savićević, the Croatian Zlatko Kranjčar, fifty-six, had been a successful, offensive-minded player in his day, and one who understood the importance of international soccer. Nearing the end of his career in 1990 at the age of thirty-four, Kranjčar captained Croatia’s first national game of its post-Yugoslavia era. As a coach he led the Croatian national team into the 2006 World Cup. He had experience, and a lot of it. When Savićević hired him in 2010 as Montenegro’s new manager, it was Kranjcar’s eighteenth year of coaching and his twentieth job.” The Paris Review – 2

Braga 1-2 Benfica: Lima stars on his return

January 28, 2013

“Benfica produced a fine away performance to preserve their unbeaten Liga Sagres record. Jose Peseiro was forced to use an inexperienced centre-back combination of Vincent Sasso and Max Haas. The rest of his side was roughly as expected. Jorge Jesus was without Oscar Cardozo and Ezequiel Garay. Lima started alone upfront, while Ola John was selected on the left of midfield. Braga weren’t outclassed and had some decent moments, but intelligent attacking play and swift counter-attacking meant Benfica deserved their victory.” Zonal Marking

The 2013 African Cup Of Nations: Seconds Outs, Round Two

January 28, 2013

“The 2013 AFCON is neither the first nor last international football tournament to have an, ahem, ‘disappointing’ opening round of group matches. But that has usually been down to teams’ fear of losing their first game, something which the laws of football say you must not do. In South Africa, even when the attitude wasn’t fearful, the football was mostly dreadful. The second round had to be better. Didn’t it?” twohundredpercent

Tiny Cape Verde is Africa Cup of Nations’ Cinderella story
“When Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes entered the press conference room in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, he found his team had gotten there before him. They were lined up on the dais behind the desk, bouncing up and down in glee as a African Football Confederation official sat sheepishly in the foreground, aware he had formalities to complete but unwilling to interrupt the jubilation.” SI – Jonathan Wilson
Jonathan Wilson

Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast eye missing Africa Cup of Nations title
“The Africa Cup of Nations has always been one of my favorite international tournaments, and for the first time it’s possible for fans in the U.S. to watch every game live easily and legally, thanks to ESPN3 picking up the rights. One of the biggest storylines is whether a remarkable generation of Ivory Coast players — Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and others — can finally get over the hump and win the tournament after falling short in each of the past four occasions.” SI

Germany’s most bountiful scorer can’t sniff national team

January 28, 2013

“Not long ago, the German national team was so short of decent center forwards that manager Berti Vogts had to dig out a German grandmother for (Brazilian-born Leverkusen striker) Paolo Rink and personally intervene with the government to secure Sean Dundee’s fast-track naturalization — even if the South African ended up never wearing the White and Black.” SI

Roberto Martínez: The Most Overrated Coach In The Premier League?

January 28, 2013

“As someone who firmly believes that style is substance – at least in football, anyway – it feels slightly uncouth to question a manager so committed to doing things ‘the right way’. However, Wigan’s results under Roberto Martínez have been so underwhelming for so long that it seems only right to put him under the microscope. A charismatic and charming operator, Martínez has established a solid reputation for the way he educates players, fans and reporters alike. Managers the calibre of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger are happy to loan him their youngsters, believing that he will train them intelligently and progress their development into capable first-teamers.” Think Football

America’s Next Top Messi

January 28, 2013

“Part 1: Whither Lionel? A cruel accusation is often lobbed at America’s soccer powers that be: How can a nation blessed with a diverse population of over 315 million have failed to produce a single Lionel Messi? Or, for that matter, a few more Clint Dempseys and Landon Donovans?” ESPN