Key Battles: How to Defend

May 24, 2014

PBSOCCER_2
“How can defenders like Spain’s Sergio Ramos even hope to shut out the world-class strikers they’ll see in Brazil? It all starts at training camp with a clear strategy and a willing body double. Heading into the World Cup, most of the focus has been on the tournament’s large group of elite goal scorers: Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Suarez. All told, 14 goal mongers expected at this year’s Cup scored at least eight times in qualifying — and that doesn’t include the best from Brazil, which qualified automatically as host. But history shows it’s the team with the stingiest defense that hoists the trophy. Of the past five champions, all but one had the best goals-against average among the quarterfinalists. (Brazil was second to runner-up Germany in 2002.)” ESPN


‘The Greatest Victory’

May 24, 2014

“Elmo Cordeiro is 80 now, but he still stands ramrod-straight, with a ready smile and eyes that shine under a set of bushy gray eyebrows. It isn’t hard to turn back the clock and imagine him 64 years ago, his white hair a darker shade, his skin wrinkle-free, his compact frame darting around the edge of a soccer field chasing down errant balls. In 1950, Cordeiro was a ballboy at the Estádio Independência here in Belo Horizonte, Brazil—stationed yards away from the historic goal itself—for perhaps the most famous upset in the 84-year history of the World Cup.” SI (Video)


The Landon Donovan Decision

May 24, 2014

“So Landon Donovan is not going to the World Cup. We’ve had a night to reflect. Does it make sense yet? No. Yes. No, because he’s Landon Donovan. Yes, because he’s Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann had always seemed to regard Donovan’s much-publicized sabbatical from the game with barely tolerant bemusement. The player himself may have believed he was back in the fold, after a typically Donovanesque Gold Cup, and his return to the team during late-stage World Cup qualifiers, but Klinsmann always maintained an equivocal cool. It was as if he were mulling over when, and how, to use the entire Donovan episode as a teachable moment. He chose the eve of the World Cup.” Grantland


Bank Robber, Assassin, War Criminal, Football Club Owner

May 24, 2014

“Sixteen years ago, FK Obilić Belgrade became national champions of Serbia. Quite a remarkable feat when you consider it was their first ever season in the top flight, and the only time that the title has been held by a club other than Red Star or Partizan since the break-up of Yugoslavia. They remained amongst the country’s elite until their relegation in 2006, which was the start of the kind of tail-spin the poorly run clubs in Britain have got nothing on. After suffering another five more relegations over the six seasons that followed, a team that drew 1-1 with eventual finalists Bayern Munich in the 1998/99 Champions League qualifiers, now reside in Serbia’s seventh tier.” In Bed With Maradona


Atlético Madrid – welcome interrupters

May 24, 2014

“‘If you believe and if you work, you can do it.’ Diego Simeone’s words were clear on Sunday evening. They were simple, they were true. Speaking at an enormous celebratory parade in the wake of Atlético Madrid’s attritional league-winning draw, away at Barcelona, Simeone extolled humble virtues often lost in the din of modern professional football That Atlético are now triumphant is genuinely significant. Setting aside Rangers’ spectacularly grubby fall from Scotland’s top tier, the last decade had seen Spain develop its own high-end version of an Old Firm hegemony.” backpagefootball