2014 Fifa World Cup: Guide to Argentina’s Group F

May 31, 2014

“Style & formation: Argentina often fielded a bold 4-3-3 formation in qualifying, although a more conservative 5-3-2 was deployed for tricky away fixtures. The former system allows Lionel Messi to play as a classic number 10 behind two strikers – typically Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain – who stretch play. But with Angel Di Maria deployed as part of a midfield three, the formation offers little defensive protection.” BBC – Argentina, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran, Nigeria

World Cup 2014 Tactics: How will Argentina set-up at the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
“The two-time winners topped the South American qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, as ever, will go into the tournament as one of the favourites. An Albiceleste victory on Brazilian soil would be the perfect way to rub salt into the wounds of the hosts and Alejandro Sabella’s men will be desperate to repeat the feats of ’78 and ’86.” Outside of the Boot

Five Refs Who Will Ruin Your World Cup

May 31, 2014

“No World Cup would be complete without a heavy helping of missed hand balls, blown offsides calls, unpunished loogie-hocking, and sharp, flying elbows. This year will be no different: FIFA recently released the list of referees who will be officiating the tournament and, because all referees make mistakes and they’re usually shown on television, we were able to find several highlight reel-worthy howlers. Here, in no particular order, are some of their greatest hits.” Fosion (Video)

Coaching, Portuguese Style

May 31, 2014

“The coaches of the World Cup are more invested in the outcome of the match than almost anyone else on the planet. Players return to their league club between national-team matches—coaches don’t. They simply grit their teeth and bear the weight that comes with carrying an entire country’s sporting expectations on their shoulders. ‘Your biggest question before you take the job is not, do you put them 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1,’ Slaven Bilic, the former coach of the Croatian national soccer team, said, referencing different soccer formations. ‘The biggest question is, can you cope with the pressure?’ One of the great World Cup coaches of all time was César Luis Menotti, the manager of the 1978 Argentina championship team. El Flaco, or “the thin one,” as he was known, had a long flop of side-parted dark hair and thick sideburns, and he routinely used nicotine to help him cope with the pressure—he was rarely seen without a cigarette.” The Paris Review

Nothing Can Stay Buried

May 31, 2014

“VEDAD IBISEVIC ACCELERATES his black Mercedes-Benz into Stuttgart traffic, almost outrunning the memory of his family crammed into an overcrowded bus, fleeing another home. His memories are always there, exerting both lift and drag. Today he is a star striker in the German Bundesliga. Twenty-two years ago, in a four-month period, the following things happened to him and his Bosnian family: Serb neighbors invaded his mother’s village, Pijuke, and called out familiar names on a bullhorn, promising that no one would be hurt. They murdered everyone who emerged. The ethnic-cleansing militia tortured and killed as many Muslims as they could find, burning down every house. They split his grand­father’s head open and carved a cross into the chest of a local shop owner, a man who kept chocolate in his store for children like Vedad. Eleven of the estimated 100,000 killed in the Bosnian civil war died on May 8, 1992, in a little town surrounded by rolling green hills and grazing white sheep.” ESPN (Video)

What makes the perfect World Cup shootout penalty?

May 31, 2014

“1. 204 and counting. ‘All you need to do is walk 50 yards, take a penalty and score,’ wrote former England defender Stuart Pearce in his autobiography, but it is not always so easy. Of the 204 shootout penalties at World Cups, 60 have been saved or missed and Italy’s talisman Roberto Baggio said his penalty failure in the 1994 final affected him for years. Often cruel, always captivating and for some the precursor to huge celebrations, the first shootout took place on 8 July 1982 when West Germany defeated France 5-4 in a semi-final in Spain. Since then penalty shootouts have decided two finals and become a source of huge debate, with Baggio himself arguing that he will never accept a defeat on penalties. …” BBC

Ten players who proved the World Cup is not a good ‘shop window’

May 31, 2014

“The ubiquity of televised football over the past two decades has resulted in foreign teams losing the sense of exoticism they carried in the 1970s and 1980s. It would be impossible now for players such as Teofilo Cubillas and Roger Milla to sneak under the radar and take the World Cup by storm. The increased knowledge of football outside of British shores has resulted in an unstoppable influx of foreign players into the Premier League. Most of these signings are undoubtedly based on months of careful scouting, however, when the World Cup comes round, it can be tempting for managers to take a punt on the talent on show, even if it is only exhibited over three games against often mediocre opposition. These ten players are examples of why it is perhaps a little foolish to judge on the basis of tournament performance alone.” backpagefootball

The war against the World Cup and the Olympics

May 29, 2014

“It must be strange for people who are used to see Brazilians as a smiley and youthful nation, proud of its country’s sporting exploits, to learn that most of them are hating to host the Olympics and the World Cup. While the costs are astronomical and no one knows for sure who actually benefits from these soulless mega-events centred on big business, very few countries get the privilege of hosting them and doing so usually is a matter of big national pride. Brazil seems to be an exception, and the question that comes to mind is why. Ask the average Brazilian and he will give you the standard answer: The anger is because the government decided to throw money on these useless events instead of investing in hospitals, schools and infrastructure.” Lost Sambista

Beyond samba, sex and soccer: The World Cup riots in Brazil
“Only 22 years old, the footballer known simply as ‘Neymar’ is far more than the ‘face of Brazilian soccer’. Since donning the iconic, canary yellow and blue kit for the first time, Neymar has sidestepped defenders as if dancing the samba, and raced up and down the pitch with the cavalier and carnival spirit definitive of Brazilian football. As Neymar sprints into his prime, Brazil is primed to host its first World Cup in 64 years. This year’s tournament, furnishes the Brazilian government with a rare opportunity to showcase its greatest export on its home soil. Brazil and football are synonymous: A conflation the state has engineered to carry forward its policies inside and outside of the country. Its iconic lineage of soccer stars, starting with Pele and ending with Neymar, provide the state with single-named ambassadors known and loved all over the world.” Aljazeera

Brazil’s evicted ‘won’t celebrate World Cup’
“Every four years, Brazilians decorate their streets in green and yellow, celebrating the arrival of the most anticipated sports tournament in the country. With the kick-off for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil less than one month away, the country’s passion for football should be pulsating more than ever. But there are some signs to the contrary. ‘World Cup for whom?’ read the words painted on a wall on a street in Sao Paulo. Many in Brazil’s middle class are unhappy with the effects the World Cup has already had on their lives. The cost of living has risen in the cities hosting the games, traffic jams have worsened, and a construction boom aimed at improving urban mobility has only compounded problems, they say.” Aljazeera

Eric Cantona: Fifa’s corruption divides Brazilian football from its roots
“It will surprise precisely no one who has taken even a passing interest in his life and career, but Eric Cantona is no great fan of football’s governing bodies. Having recently returned from Rio de Janeiro, where he has been making a documentary about Brazilian football and politics that will receive its UK premiere at Amnesty International’s Sidelines film festival next month, he has a jaundiced view of Fifa’s modus operandi.” Guardian (Video)

Police Repression of Indigenous Protest Against Brasil’s World Cup
“Hundreds of indigenous people and thousands of supporters peacefully marched towards the National Mane Garrincha Stadium in protest of the upcoming World Cup in an effort to block the roads. They were met by riot police and Military Cavalry Police of the Federal District on the afternoon of Tuesday the 27th. The demonstration, which had the support of hundreds of Indians left the Pilot Road, but was surrounded by police personnel about 100 meters from the arena to receive seven games of the World Cup 2014. Police blocked the march and soon were using tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets on people to violently disperse the protest march.” Revolution News!

Brazil Is Tired of Being Scolded
“By now, Brazil should probably have been grounded for life, without video games or dessert. Last month, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates, said that Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics were the worst he had ever seen. Before that, Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA — the International Federation of Association Football — claimed that Brazil was further behind in its preparations for this summer’s World Cup than any previous host nation, even though it had had seven full years to prepare. Then, in March, FIFA’s secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, declared we could risk being ‘the worst organizers’ of the ‘worst event.’ He had previously said that Brazil needed “a kick up the backside.” Well, that was harsh.” NYT: The Opinion Pages