2014 Fifa World Cup draw: Guide to Group A

May 11, 2014

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“Gary Lineker’s verdict. … Style & formation: The flicks and tricks remain second nature, but this Brazil side is also resilient and well organised, moulded by the pragmatism of 2002-World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. They press the opposition high up the pitch, while midfielder Luiz Gustavo acts as an auxiliary third centre back – allowing the full-backs and the likes of centre-back David Luiz to venture forward. Brazil usually adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation and are not afraid to be direct, often seeking out the flamboyant Neymar on the left with long balls from the back. …” BBC – Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon


Game of two halves: the ugly side of Brazilian football

May 11, 2014

“In 1958 a Brazilian team starring the black teenager Pelé and several other dark-skinned players won the country’s first World Cup. After the victory, wrote the playwright Nelson Rodrigues, ‘I saw a small black woman. She was the typical slum dweller. But the Brazilian triumph transformed her. She walked down the sidewalk with the charm of Joan of Arc. The same was true for black men, who – attractive, brilliant, luxurious – seemed like fabulous Ethiopian princes.’ Brazil, said Rodrigues, ‘was no longer a mongrel among nations’. Football has helped Brazil construct its national identity. The game also functions as a lens on to this poorly understood country. Football helps us see Brazil’s beauty, its ugliness and the usually ignored lives of the Brazilian poor. Admittedly, most accounts of Brazilian football omit women but so, for much of history, did Brazil’s public sphere. So what does football reveal about Brazil?” FT – Simon Kuper.


Liverpool’s season is shiny but hollow

May 11, 2014

“The dream is over. The romance is dead. The glory will have to wait.  Liverpool’s season is not mathematically at an end, of course, but the nature of their spectacular collapse will have drained the impetus from their title challenge with as much speed as it has animated Manchester City, once thought adrift from the summit of the Premier League table.  Given the 25 years of heartache linked to the Hillsborough disaster, the souring of a dream which captured considerable public sympathy is especially hard to take. There is been more than a hint of misty-eyed destiny in the accomplished way that Steven Gerrard has carried his teammates to the pinnacle but, in purely sporting terms, their fall is not completely surprising. If Liverpool’s intense, fast-paced attacking style provided us all with some kind of illicit high in recent months, then their disregard for the game’s core principles surely represents the wicked comedown.” backpagefootball


In a season decided by small moments, City emerges with the crown

May 11, 2014

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“It was all over before it was over — In the end, Championship Sunday followed a predictable course. Manchester City, needing just one point, barely broke a sweat as it beat visiting West Ham 2-0. Liverpool struggled but beat Newcastle, which finished with nine men, 2-1 to stay two points back. Chelsea fought back to win 2-1 at relegated Cardiff to end four points behind City. City was a deserved champion. It defended far better than Liverpool. It attacked far better than Chelsea. It had as many really good days as either of its rivals and fewer really bad ones. It’s a better, deeper all-round squad. You’d expect that with the money it has spent.” SI


Bundesliga 2013/14 End of Season Awards

May 11, 2014

“The readers of Outside of the Boot have cast their votes across Europe’s top 4 leagues across 10 different award categories with 4 nominees under each to pick the players who they believe deserved recognition the most. The Bundesliga 2013/14 End of Season Awards were the most closely competed one, with most categories lacking a clear winner. Note that no club has more than one representative in a particular product category.” Outside of the Boot


Points per game record versus top half and bottom half shows why Chelsea lost the title, and why Sunderland survived

May 11, 2014

“If there’s one result that sums up the crazy, unpredictable end to this Premier League season, it’s Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland. That was Jose Mourinho’s first home league defeat as Chelsea manager, after 78 games, and proved crucial at both top and bottom. Chelsea’s chances of winning the league title took a huge blow, while Sunderland continued their great escape. However, to a certain extent that result was typical of their campaigns, because Chelsea and Sunderland are the two sides in the division that have collected more points against top half sides, than against bottom half sides.” Zonal Marking