Political football: how Brazil’s military hijacked the beautiful game

Brazil
“As five-time World Cup champion, the Brazilian national team has become known the world over not just for winning, but for winning with a joyous panache that has become synonymous with the beautiful game. However, behind every one of Ronaldinho’s toothy grins and camouflaged by the color-shocked mohawk clinging to Neymar’s head lies an intensely complicated relationship between nation and sport.” World Soccer

“Brazil is a country commonly associated with the highest level of soccer. The world has grown used to Brazil winning, but the Brazilians themselves seem to have an insatiable appetite for world football dominance. Their nation has produced soccer players that have come to represent spontaneity, creativity and skill on the playing field. The bandy-legged Garincha, a walking paradox, the goal scoring machines Friedenreich and Ronaldo, the modern hope Kaká, and, of course, the eternally great Pelé – all these players have left their indelible marks on football’s canon.” Soccer Politics

Zero Dark Thirteen – Brazilian football wallows in the mire of corruption
“If the 2014 World Cup is to signal the arrival of Brazilian football’s brave new world, a desperately needed fresh start for the game in a country where on-field majesty is usually matched by administrative skulduggery, it can’t come soon enough. The year is not yet four months old but it feels, to misquote autocratic former president Getúlio Vargas, as though Brazilian football is standing in a sea of mud. Worse, it often appears as though chaos has become the norm.” Independent

Socrates and the Corinthians’ Democracy
“As the global sporting world faces one corruption scandal after another, former Manchester United star Eric Cantona presents the stories of five football heroes whose social conscience led them to challenge unjust regimes, join opposition movements and lead the fight for democracy and human rights. Football Rebels looks at a side of football that does not always make the headlines.” Aljazeera (Video)

All the President’s Torturers
“Chosen to host both the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games and with abundant natural resources and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, one way or another Brazil is set to become a major player in the affairs of the 21st century. With an ambitious, progressive government, a population of around 193 million, now well established federal democratic structures and apparent political stability, many even see it as a global superpower in the making, perhaps even deserving of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in the not too distant future. But its solid international reputation has not always been so glossy.” Aljazeera (Video)

The Copa Libertadores and differing stories for Ronaldinho and Riquelme
“The Copa Libertadores this season has been the story of two brilliant players in the twilights of their careers: one having immense fun as though he can’t quite believe he’s still getting away with it, the other grumpily raging against his waning powers. For Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro, this has been, so far, a tournament of glee, of great goals and big wins; for Juan Román Riquelme and Boca Juniors, it has been all about suffering. Both will be in the last 16, but their journeys could hardly have been more different. It’s also been the story of the continuing development of Ecuadorean football.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Neymar! Reducing Brazil’s Football ‘Trade Surplus’
“It’s time for another sporting feature since we haven’t had one for quite some time now. Fortunately, there’s interesting stuff courtesy of TIME Magazine about the changing complexion of ‘the beautiful game.’ Even if the Brazilian economy has cooled off markedly in recent times, it has had a strong run-up and most folks remain optimistic about its economy’s future. Contrast its fate with that of the European football powerhouses that traditionally import South American players in droves–especially Portugal, Spain,and the United Kingdom–and you begin to understand the reduced “trade surplus” of Brazil sending away its best footballers time and again…” International Political Economy Zone

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Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea: City start brightly but Chelsea rally late on

“Manchester City won a surprisingly attack-minded game at Wembley. Roberto Mancini was without David Silva, so started Sergio Aguero after his excellent goal at Old Trafford on Monday. Costel Pantilimon continued as City’s dedicated FA Cup goalkeeper. Rafael Benitez used his three creators behind Demba Ba – Frank Lampard and John Terry continue to be left out. City played better football over the 90 minutes, although frequently made the wrong decisions in the final third.” Zonal Marking

Statistical Analysis: Do Chelsea need to sign a ball-playing centre-back?
“Of the top fourty passers in Europe in terms of passes played, 8 players are central defenders. Not one of these players though is a Premier League centre-back. Chico, of Swansea, is the only Premier League centre-back in the top 50 passers. That being said, there is still a growing emphasis on ball playing defenders in England, particularly at Swansea but also now at Liverpool. Nine of the top 50 passers in the Premier League are centre-backs, but not one of these defenders is a Chelsea player.” Think Football

FA Cup violence unlikely to revive hooliganism

“There will be those who insist the violence that broke out toward the end of Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal between Millwall and Wigan Athletic was an isolated incident; it’s the usual way of downplaying such things. But it wasn’t. I saw three separate scuffles in the Millwall end before the brawl that was shown on T. I saw around 30 men going toe-to-toe, swinging punches at each other and then turning on police when, belatedly, an effort was made to stop them. Other journalists spoke of at least two other incidents, and there had been an unpleasant edge to the atmosphere all day.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

The Return of Matt Le Tissier

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“Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement, and I’m going to type that again, because it contains words that deserve to be repeated. Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement. If you don’t know who that is — and there’s a good chance you don’t, if you’re American, not a soccer fan, or under 25 — watch the YouTube clip of him scoring against Newcastle on October 24, 1993. This is the second season of the Premier League, all lunging tackles and signboards for Street Fighter II. Le Tissier’s playing midfield for Southampton, the team in red-and-white stripes. The ball comes flying over the left flank to the Southampton striker, Iain Dowie, who heads it down toward the middle of the pitch, where Le Tissier’s running forward at a smooth trot. It’s a bad header; the ball scuds directly behind him. The move should be over. But watch what Le Tissier does.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Reading 0 Liverpool 0: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

“Neither manager opted for a surprising selection in terms of personnel, yet both managers surprised with their choice of starting formation. Both teams used a shape unfamiliar to them in recent games. Adkins used 4-4-2, with Pogrebnyak and Hunt up front. The latter was told to play deeper and often drop on Lucas when out of possession. Rodgers selected his ‘lopsided’ variant of the 4-2-3-1 shape with Henderson tucked inside from the left flank. Surprisingly, Coutinho was handed his first start playing centrally between the lines. With Suarez as the centre-forward, it meant Sturridge had to play on the right flank.” Tomkins Times

PSV 2-3 Ajax: Eriksen’s influence helps Ajax attack down the wings

“Ajax recorded a crucial victory over their major rivals for the league title. Frank De Boer brought Christian Poulsen into the side in the holding role, meaning Lasse Schone moved out to the right in place of Derk Boerrigter, who was on the bench. Dick Advocaat left out Tim Matavz, with Dries Mertens returning to the side on the left flank, and Jeremain Lens playing as the primary striker. In terms of quality, this match was underwhelming – neither played their best football.” Zonal Marking