Monthly Archives: June 2014

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Costa Rica 1–1 Greece (5-3 pens): Keylor Navas hands glory to the Los Ticos

“A second-half sending off, a last-minute Greece equalizer and an extra-time fusillade to go on to penalties were not enough to hinder Costa Rica’s dream run to the quarter finals. Backed by five turbulent spot-kicks from his team-mates, Levante stopper, Keylor Navas ensured his tiny Central American nation will take part in their first ever World Cup quarter-final, despite playing for virtually an hour with a man down. They retorted to misery having been seconds from victory before Sokratis Papastathopoulos emerged unmarked to keep the Greeks in the contest with an injury time goal which nullified the opener scored by Bryan Ruiz. Greece seemed sure to win from this point but Costa Rica dug in, rode their luck it has to be said, relied on their brilliant goalkeeper to play out extra time and triumphed on penalties.” Outside of the Boot

Costa Rica 1 Greece 1
“Costa Rica are into the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history after beating Greece 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Recife. Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s injury-time equaliser for Greece had cancelled out Bryan Ruiz’s side-footed opener and sent the game into extra time. Costa Rica, down to 10 men for almost an hour after Oscar Duarte’s dismissal, scored their first four spot-kicks. Theofanis Gekas missed for Greece, and Michael Umana settled the tie. It means the Central American side – surprise qualifiers from a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay – go through to face the Netherlands on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals as their unlikely run at the World Cup continues.” BBC

World Cup 2014: Costa Rica Defeats Greece on Penalty Kicks, 1-1
“For the first time in its history, Costa Rica will play in the quarterfinal of the World Cup after defeating a dour, defensive Greece team in a penalty shootout. The Round of 16 match in Recife, Brazil, was tied 1-1 after regulation. Greece scored a late goal in stoppage time to even the score. Costa Rica was playing with only 10 men after one of its defenders, Oscar Duarte, was ejected in the 66th minute.” NY Times

World Cup: Costa Rica sets up Dutch quarterfinal
“Nobody gave them a chance — nobody. Perhaps nobody was listening. Perhaps they didn’t want to. For all of the joking and laughing that Costa Rica would simply turn up in Brazil to make up the numbers, there were those who knew the reality would be different. ‘Think big’ is the motto that Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has always subscribed to.” CNN


Middle Class Brazilians Watch from Afar

“The Country’s Classe C is the engine of Brazil’s Fan Culture, but You Won’t See Them in the Stadiums. Even after the sun has sunk beneath the horizon, the city of Fortaleza in the northeast of Brazil remains as warm as a steam bath. On a narrow, poorly lit street in the bairro of Mucuripe, the soft breeze coming off the Atlantic whips the hundreds of cheap yellow and green streamers hung between the cramped houses back and forth. It lifts up dust and sand too, covering the plastic tables and chairs of the Bar do Amiguinho (‘the Little Friend Bar’) in a thin layer of silt.” Fusion

A New York Odyssey Through World Cup Fandom

“Interest in the World Cup is surging in the United States, with record television ratings, outdoor viewing parties and midday breaks for workers to watch the United States battle its way into the second round. Here, in an extremely diverse New York City, where soccer has long been popular in some neighborhoods but is now gaining wider traction, just about every team has its fans. A random survey was attempted during the first round of the tournament. The games were on across the city. Some places were crowded and boisterous but others were, well, pretty empty. Some fans yelled together, while others commented about the games in virtual solitude. But it was hard to find a place where the games were being ignored.” NY Times

Nigeria’s Coach Makes History

“Stephen Keshi is the first African to lead an African team to the second round. Progress in African soccer should not be measured only by how the continent’s teams progress through the World Cup brackets. You can also judge the pace of evolution by looking at who’s standing in the technical area. On Monday in Brasilia, Stephen Keshi will be inside the dotted white lines as his Nigeria side face France for a place in the quarterfinals. Even this early in the tournament, Keshi is a pioneer: the first African head coach to lead a team into the round of 16.” Fusion

Algeria Looks for Revenge, 32 Years Later

“At the 1982 World Cup, West Germany and Austria colluded to eliminate the upstart North Africans—or did they? Algeria has been waiting 32 years for Monday’s match against Germany, which is one year more than the age of the oldest member of its national team. But even if most of them weren’t around for the ‘Game of Shame,’ it has been ingrained in the collective consciousness of Algerians, who do not tend to easily forget injustices.” Fusion

Netherlands 2-1 Mexico: Mexico dominate the start, but Van Gaal changes help the Dutch back into the game

“The Netherlands produced a dramatic late turnaround, meaning Mexico were eliminated in the second round for the sixth consecutive World Cup. Louis van Gaal welcomed back Robin van Persie after suspension, while Paul Verhaegh came into the side as the right-wing-back. Miguel Herrera was forced to cope without Jose Vazquez, who had been excellent throughout the group stage, so Carlos Salcido played the holding role. Mexico were clearly superior until they went ahead, then became too passive and the Dutch rallied to create a number of goalscoring chances.” Zonal Marking

This Time, the Dutch Did Not Capitulate in Fortaleza
“Before it was Fortaleza, it was the Dutch stronghold of Schoonenborch—the beautiful city. This was, it’s true, three hundred and seventy-odd years ago when the West India Company took north-east Brazil from the Portuguese, renamed it New Holland and then lost it again to the original colonialists in 1650s. Not much remains of the Dutch tropical moment in South America—the weirdly hallucinatory paintings of Frans Post, complete with sultry stillness and the occasional tapir. Even the old Pernambuco synagogue, survivors of the Inquisition finding a Dutch refuge in Brazil, got torn down in the last century. For the Dutch there was an acclimatization problem; the Company hard-pressed, over-stretched. And disinclined to put a hand on New Spain to the north. And so it was for much of today’s game: the Dutch battle plan, such as it was, wilting in the brutal heat. Both managers sported ties of their respective colors, though van Gaal’s is more a peach than an orange and as the game went on he wore it with increasing discomfort.” New Republic

Dutch Mount Dramatic Rally With Theatrical Fall
“Mexico’s coach, Miguel Herrera, has become an icon during this World Cup for his impassioned exhortations in front of the team bench. Herrera has stomped and stamped, whirled and whipped, flailed and frothed over everything from referee decisions to near misses to, most notably, goals scored by his players. Among the countless Internet tributes to Herrera is one delightful concoction in which Herrera’s wild gesticulations result in a violent thunderstorm.” NY Times

Colombia 2-0 Uruguay: James Rodriguez steals the show

“Colombia took a while to get going, but never looked in trouble after James Rodriguez’s astonishing strike. Jose Pekerman selected Jackson Martinez, though he played from the left rather than alongside Teo Gutierrez upfront. Oscar Tabarez was without Luis Suarez, as you might have heard…Edinson Cavani moved upfront, and Diego Forlan played the support role. Tabarez stuck with the 3-5-2, so Maxi Pereira returned with Alvaro Gonzalez shifting inside and Nicolas Lodeiro dropped. This was a pretty simple victory – Colombia are a far superior side to Uruguay, and demonstrated that for the first 50 minutes before sitting back.” Zonal Marking

James Rodriguez Is the Best Player of This World Cup

“When James Rodriguez was four years old, he wanted to be a footballer, and so his mother bought him his first football. At the time, however, his hero wasn’t Freddy Rincón or Pibe Valderrama, the heroes of the 1990s Colombian team, but Oliver Atom, the protagonist of Japanese TV series Supercampeones (originally Captain Tsubasa), an anime chronicling the adventures of a youth football team. Now, 18 years later, James Rodriguez has far eclipsed Oliver Atom, sitting alone at the top of the World Cup scoring charts with five goals and two assists in four games, above global superstars such as Neymar and Messi.” New Republic

World Cup: Brazil defeats Chile on penalties

“And so the carnival carries on. Brazil, the team which manages to thrill and frustrate almost simultaneously, clinched its place in the quarterfinal of the World Cup following a tension-fueled encounter with Chile. A 3-2 victory on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte means Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side’s quest to win the World Cup on home soil remains alive. It will now turn its attention to a last eight contest with Colombia — a team which has thrilled so far in this tournament. While Brazil will take the plaudits, Chile should be commended for a performance which at times defied the ability of the human body to run and hustle as its players did.” CNN (Video)

Brazil 1-1 Chile: Brazil progress by the finest of margins
“Brazil won on penalties after an incredibly tense and tiring contest. Luiz Felipe Scolari selected Fernandinho following his good impact in the win over Cameroon, with Paulinho on the bench. Jorge Sampaoli brought back Arturo Vidal after he was rested for the defeat to the Netherlands. The first half was an extremely fast-paced battle of pressing, and that tired both teams for the final 75 minutes, with the quality of football declining rapidly after half-time.” Zonal Marking

World Cup 2014: Brazil Survives Shootout Against Chile
“With the pressure of an anxious nation bearing down on them with each passing minute, the Brazilian players teetered on the brink of a defeat that would have wounded a country’s soul. Brave Chile was refusing to back down, demonstrating to 57,714 howling fans at Estádio Mineirão and millions more watching at homes, restaurants and bars that the team had the nerve to stand up to the mighty host nation through 120 minutes of the most tense and exhilarating soccer seen so far at the 2014 World Cup. After 30 minutes, it looked like the most fast-paced, breathtaking game of the tournament. After 90 minutes, the teams were even, at 1-1, after Chile had controlled play through much of the second half, leaving the Brazilian fans nervous and agitated. Through 30 draining minutes of extra time — which included a thunderous Chilean shot that struck the crossbar in the 120th minute, inches from knocking Brazil out — neither team could take a lead.” NY Times

Brazil shootout hero Júlio César: I have won the country’s trust back
“Júlio César, Brazil’s hero in the penalty shootout win against Chile, reflected on the prize of a World Cup quarter-final and said he felt he had won back the country’s trust after being the scapegoat in South Africa four years ago. Júlio César saved Chile’s first two penalties and referred immediately to his mistake in the quarter-final against Holland at the last World Cup.” Guardian

World Cup 2014: Coaches praise Colombia’s James Rodriguez

“His name is James, but he pronounces it Hahm-ez, and that was the way the Colombian fans shouted it on Saturday night. They have been singing James Rodríguez’s praises all along, in fact, but in the flurry of goals and teams and story lines in this World Cup, there was a chance a few people had not yet noticed Rodríguez. Everyone knows him now. Rodríguez scored two more goals — giving him five at this World Cup — in a 2-0 victory over Uruguay that sent Colombia to the quarterfinals for the first time.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Colombia 2-0 Uruguay | Pekerman’s smart James plan
“In the second all-South American Round of 16 clash at the World Cup, the ever impressive Colombia took on Uruguay for a chance to face hosts Brazil. Colombia came into the game on the back of three comfortable wins in the group stage; Uruguay on the other hand, despite defeating both England & Italy, were yet to convince anyone of their proposed superiority and this was further thrown into doubt with Luis Suarez and his ‘behaviour’ once again.” Outside of the Boot

The Dazzle and the Desolation of Stadiums in World Cup Host Cities

“NATAL, Brazil — From her crumbling house with the leaky roof, across a new highway from a new World Cup stadium, Maria Ivanilde Oliveira heard everything. Notes of the national anthems floated through the humid air into her living room, where her black vinyl couch was losing its stuffing and a metal bookshelf was secured by gnarly wire. A mix of loud cheers and moans from 40,000 soccer fans told her that a team had scored. With no job and little money, Oliveira, 62, could not afford a ticket to see one of the four games played at the $450 million Arena das Dunas, one of 12 stadiums hosting the World Cup in Brazil.” NY Times

Were the Billions Brazil Spent on World Cup Stadiums Worth It?

“Aside from some brilliant play by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa that turned an expected victory for the Brazilian national team into a draw, so far the 2014 World Cup has gone well for host Brazil. The home team won its group and advanced to the Round of 16, and the widespread concerns about social unrest, street crime and stadium completion have faded as the games have largely gone off without a hitch. Of course, with a price tag estimated at $11.3 billion in public works spending alone, it will take more than just a trouble-free four-week tournament to justify Brazil’s heavy investment in hosting the World Cup.” fivethirtyeight

Viva El Piojo: How the fiery Herrera has revived once-rudderless Mexico

“Mexico’s national soccer team trains in a modern facility in a neighborhood where the vast sprawl of Mexico City begins to fade southward into the mountains of the state of Morelos. The setting is almost idyllic: golf carts, low-slung country-club architecture, wide soccer fields landscaped into the hills. Were it not for the hovering smog and the bare cinder-block apartments rising behind high fences, you could mistake this for Tucson. Miguel Herrera eases up to the complex’s gate in a black coupe with a 10‑cylinder engine.” SI

World Cup 2014: Might Brazil be the next victims of Chile?

“Shortly after the World Cup draw was made in December, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named the opposition he wished to avoid should his men reach the last 16. ‘I hope Chile don’t qualify,’ said Scolari. ‘I’d rather play any of the others. They’re a pain to play against. They’re well organised and intelligent. It’s better to face a European team.’ The 65-year-old was tempting fate and it came to pass when Chile finished second in Group B and Brazil won Group A, setting up an mouthwatering contest in Belo Horizonte on Saturday. It is the coming together of two attacking powerhouses and, while Brazil cannot contemplate defeat as they pursue a title viewed by the host nation as a birthright, Chile intend to spoil the party.” BBC

Chile will press on against Brazil
“In years to come, when the 2014 World Cup is remembered, most of the focus will fall on the knock out matches. What came before, Luis Suarez and open attacking play included, is all prelude. One fear, then, is that when the competition reaches the business end it might suddenly go cautious; as sapping conditions take their toll and the less ambitious teams seek to grind out their passage into the next round by taking the tie to a penalty shoot out. But there would seem to be little danger of caution playing much part in the first knock out match, the all South American clash in Belo Horizonte between Brazil and Chile.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Babylon on the Beach

“There have been other parties on this beach. Not just the annual Carnival bacchanal or the New Year’s fireworks, which are massive and can run ragged (as a friend here told me, ‘you watch the fireworks and then run home so nothing bad happens to you’). Copacabana beach, the ‘billion dollar crescent’, as the New York Times called this strand fifty years ago, has hosted everyone from the Rolling Stones to Pharrell. Three million people showed up on its shore for Pope Francis last year, even more than that came for Rod Stewart a decade earlier. Five years ago, 100,000 people turned out just to celebrate the announcing of Rio as 2016 Olympic host—a party to celebrate a future party. But it’s still worth appreciating the unique wilding that is Copacabana this month during the World Cup. The Argentines are camping, the Chileans are chanting, the Costa Ricans are weeping, the Brazilians are hustling, and everywhere are the Americans, baying and bro-ing. Kiosks sell Ruffles and Lucky Strikes and Prudence condoms while sidewalk touts shove apitos and off-label FIFA tchotchkes in your face. Beach cruiser bikes weave around clusters of flagthumpers on the swirled stone promenade. A Uruguayan takes off running to the west for no apparent reason. A naval warship lingers just offshore; police helicopters buzz the beach. The atmosphere is somewhere between Spring Break and the Fall of Saigon.” Roads and Kingdoms

Five Burning Questions for the World Cup Knockout Rounds

I am here to tell you about fire. The group stage of the 2014 World Cup was one of the most spectacular phases of a soccer tournament in recent memory. We’ve had torrential rains. We’ve had jungle heat. We’ve had moths the size of magazines. We’ve had wild upsets and crushing defeats; we’ve toppled the entire world order. We’ve seen more goals than in any major conflict since at least the French Revolution. And now — at last — this tournament is about to get serious.” Grantland

What we learned in the group stage

“Footballers are known for spouting clichés whenever possible, and when Marcelo was asked to summarise Brazil’s goalless draw against Mexico in the second round of group games, he immediately responded with a classic. ‘At the World Cup,’ he began, ‘there is no easy game.’ Bingo! There are no easy games at the World Cup, despite the fact that some teams are drawing upon the best players in the world, and others are selecting footballers plying their trade in second divisions across Europe. The World Cup sees the greatest players on the greatest stage, but sometimes also features the greatest (apparent) mismatches too. Argentina against Iran? How will the scoreboard cope?” ESPN – Michael Cox

The Germans Are Young, in Their Prime, And Really, Really Good

“In the fall of 2000, 11-year-old soccer wunderkind Thomas Muller left TSV Pahl, the local team near his hometown of Weilheim in Oberbayern, and joined Bayern Munich’s youth academy. That same year, 22-year-old Miroslav Klose was co-leading the Bundesliga club FCK in goals, becoming a star in his own right. Fourteen years later, they’re both on the same Germany squad, with Muller chasing the World Cup goals record that Klose just tied. In Germany, one generation is being eclipsed by the next. On Thursday, the United States will have to tussle with both. The U.S. faces Muller, Klose and the rest of the German juggernaut in a match that FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup prediction model gives the Americans only a 15 percent chance of winning.” fivethirtyeight

Dispatch from Berlin: Germany v. Germany
“Here in Berlin, despite the disagreeable weather, World Cup fever is now fully epidemic. There’s hardly a bar or restaurant that hasn’t got a large flat screen TV set up for the benefit of its smoking, drinking, screaming football clientele. The other night, sitting outside at a Mediterranean place in Kreuzberg, I could hear the TVs of the neighboring restaurants echoing across the square, as though the world’s most intricate surround sound system had been installed here.” 8by8

The great Dutch football tradition

“When I arrived in the Netherlands in 1976, I was six years old and had never previously heard of the country. My father just happened to have taken a job there. We moved into a typical small Dutch terraced house, with big front windows through which passers-by could peer to make sure nothing untoward was happening inside. On our first Dutch evening, my brother and I ventured on to the street to meet the other children. They greeted us by singing what were probably the only English words they knew: ‘Crazy boys!’ But we soon became regulars in the street’s daily football match. It turned out that we had landed in the middle of a golden age. In 1974 Holland had reached the World Cup final playing glorious passing football. In 1978 they got there again. And the present Dutch team, which faces Mexico in the second round of the World Cup on Sunday, is in that tradition. It isn’t as good, yet it won its three group games. Holland’s football team may be the last surviving unmistakably Dutch cultural product.” FT – Simon Kuper

World Cup: The art of protest — Brazil’s graffiti artists tackle Brazil 2014

“If graffiti is the voice of the street, what better way to take a nation’s pulse than by gazing upon the walls of its inner cities?  In Brazil, like many nations, graffiti has long been a way for urban artists to decorate their neighborhoods, voice an opinion or tag prominent buildings with their signature style.  As the 2014 World Cup approached, however, many works began to take on the role of a complex social commentary.  Like the diverse spectrum of emotions and opinions surrounding the hosting of the event itself, graffiti appeared that was both aggressive and welcoming; political yet playful.  Brazilians love their football after all — as evidenced by the passion displayed inside stadia throughout the World Cup so far — but many remain appalled by the amount of money being spent to host the tournament.  We asked Cranio and Paulo Ito, two prolific graffiti artists from Sao Paulo, to explain how the sentiment of the Brazilian street has impacted their work and been transported onto walls and buildings across the vast country.  Interviews and captions by Eoghan Macguire, for CNN.” CNN

Don’t Call It Luck: The Divine Powers of the Soccer Fan

“There is a saying in this coastal city of mixed religious heritages and many creeds that goes more or less like this: If superstition decided soccer matches, all matches would end in a tie. Still, that has never kept fans here from turning to rituals, magic, prayer or just odd practices to give a helping hand to their club, or to the Brazil national soccer team, which plays Chile on Saturday in the Round of 16 at the World Cup. Whether it is wearing the same shorts for as long as the team is winning or leaving a sacrificial chicken and other offerings on a street corner to some African deity, fervent soccer fans in Salvador and beyond believe the outcome of the matches is somehow in their control.” NY Times (Video)

Is This Soccer’s Moment in America?

“The World Cup is enjoying a surge in TV ratings thanks to excitement surrounding the U.S. team’s strong performance, putting the tournament among the elite telecasts in all of sports. But can soccer sustain its burst in popularity in the U.S. The evidence suggests that some skepticism is in order The U.S. lost 1-0 on Thursday to Germany, but still advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament, having survived this year’s Group of Death The surprising run has made for captivating television. Ratings for the Germany match weren’t available on Thursday, but it is clear already that this year’s telecasts are setting records. The U.S. match versus Portugal on Sunday wasn’t just the highest-rated soccer game ever in the U.S. The combined viewership of the game was 24.7 million between ESPN and Univision, making it the most-viewed sporting event of the year so far, excluding American football, a perennial ratings juggernaut.” WSJ

World Cup: Do Latin Americans care more?

“… So too did world champions Spain, much-fancied Italy as well as England, who managed just one point from three games in a group that saw Costa Rica and Suarez’s Uruguay reach the last 16. Remarkably Costa Rica topped one of the tournament’s toughest groups with two impressive wins over Uruguay and Italy and a draw against England. For European observers, who perhaps don’t have the chance to watch much Latin American football, this has been a World Cup that has arguably showcased the tactical innovation and passion of the Americas.” CNN

I Was Wrong About Klinsmann

“Three weeks ago, I wrote in this space that Jurgen Klinsmann had to deliver now. Wins in friendlies and the Gold Cup and CONCACAF qualifiers are great (and, at this point, expected), but his job was to get the U.S. national team into the knockout rounds. I went further and said that he hadn’t been the best candidate for the job when he was hired in 2011 because his coaching resume was thin. Klinsmann’s main achievement was bringing a German team, playing at home, to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. But German teams have made the final four in nine out of 13 tournaments since the World Cup resumed after World War II in 1950. It didn’t seem like a big deal.” Fusion

World Cup As a Bandwagon Fills, a Team Fails Forward

“The United States soccer players seemed to pass the ball to Germany more often than they did to their own teammates. Late in the game, two Americans — Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya — were left splayed on the field after running into each other and knocking heads. Jones had also hit the turf earlier when he ran at full speed into the referee. No matter. After their World Cup match here on Thursday, a 1-0 loss, the American players hugged, high-fived and pumped their fists, while their coach flashed a goofy grin. Their fans, soggy from the torrential rain, chanted: ‘U-S-A, U-S-A.’ Weird thing, this World Cup. It generously laid a giant red, white and blue welcome mat at the back door. The United States escaped the Group of Death by enduring a lot of self-inflicted wounds but never fully losing its pulse. As if by miracle, even in defeat, the United States will advance to the Round of 16, and it is scheduled to play Belgium on Tuesday.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: USA 0-1 Germany | Germany expose and dominate wide areas
“On the last day of the group phase, one of the most exciting groups, Group G, drew to an exciting close. All 4 teams were in with a shot of going through to the next round. There was a lot of tension in the air in the build up to this game as a draw was enough to take both sides through, and many had doubts after Germany’s performance against Austria in the 1982 World Cup. That aside though, this was also set to be a very tough game as two very evenly matched sides very going up against one another. Coach Jogi Low, who was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann during the latter’s time in charge of Die Manschaft went up against his former colleague as well, to add some more spice to the occasion.” Outside of the Boot

U.S. Moves On With Assist From Portugal
“This time, there was no moment. No tingle in the spine, no shiver in the neck, no blood rush to the ears. There was no memory that will live on in hearts and minds and YouTube videos forever. This time, there was only this: About 10 minutes before the end of the United States national team’s World Cup game against Germany on Thursday, a U.S. Soccer staff member sidled up to one of Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistants and informed him that Portugal, playing simultaneously about 1,200 miles away in Brasília, had taken a one-goal lead against Ghana. The assistant, Andi Herzog, then turned to his left on the bench and tapped Klinsmann on the arm.” NY Times

U.S. needs possession to continue run
“The emotional ups and downs the U.S. went through in surviving Group G required a year’s supply of Dramamine. The Americans withstood withering pressure to beat Ghana 2-1, played brilliantly before coughing up a late equalizer against Portugal and finally concluded group play with a 1-0 defeat to Germany. Omar Gonzalez summed up the experience perfectly when he said, ‘Last game’s draw felt like a loss, and today’s loss felt like a win. It’s pretty weird.’ Taking the big picture view, the Americans had every reason to feel joyful. The U.S. had emerged from arguably one of the two toughest groups in the tournament, a magnificent achievement that many observers thought was beyond this side.” ESPN

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 15. GERMANY 1-0 USA. PORTUGAL 2-1 GHANA. ALGERIA 1-1 RUSSIA. BELGIUM 1-0 SOUTH KOREA.

“Thomas Muller’s fine goal won the game, but both sides progress. USA narrow. The major tactical feature was the narrowness of the USA without possession, which is something we’ve become accustomed to. Before the tournament it seemed Jurgen Klinsmann was going to play a midfield diamond, and while they’ve switched to more of a 4-4-1-1 formation, they still focus upon defending the centre of the pitch and preventing the opposition playing through the middle, which made sense against a German side boasting multiple playmakers. It also made sense considering the lack of proper full-backs on the German side. Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes are both more accustomed to playing at centre-back, and therefore the USA were content for these players to have the ball.” Zonal Marking

Group stage round-up

“A few brief points to make… 1. The three-man defence has been highly successful so far. A three-man defence has played a four-man defence (at least from the start) on ten occasions. These matches have produced eight victories for the three-man defence, and two draws. A back four is yet to beat a back three. There have been two meetings between three-man defences, Uruguay 1-0 Italy and Netherlands 2-0 Chile. …” Zonal Marking

In Bronx, Joy and Agony for Ghana’s World Cup Match

“The faithful filed into a tiny back storeroom of the Malata African Market in the Bronx, making their way past the bins of giant yams and the freezer of dried fish, and took their seats in rickety rows. A 46-inch television, propped on a shelf next to 50-pound bags of white corn meal, was tuned to the only soccer match that mattered there: Ghana versus Portugal in the final group play match of the World Cup’s Group G.” NY Times

A Dark Horse Is Adjusting to Rising Expectations

“It was always the neighboring Dutch who painted their houses orange for the World Cup, drove orange cars and wore orange outfits until everything and everyone in the Netherlands was the color of a traffic cone. Belgium, meanwhile, could only wonder when its Red Devils would give fans another chance to carry plastic pitchforks around in foreign lands with yummy drinks and sandy beaches. Sure, Belgium reached the semifinals in 1986, but since then, its most notable achievement might have come at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, when players wore hair gel that also acted as a coolant and sunscreen.” NY Times

Algeria’s Chance for Revenge
“I had been thinking of 1982 World Cup even before the tournament began. Socrates had been on my mind. I wanted to write an essay about him, but couldn’t come up with anything that hadn’t been said many times before. I worshipped him as a player and respected him as a man. I hated the Italy team that defeated Brazil, thought them too cynical for some reason, but not as much as I hated the West German team. I hated them before the tournament that year and loathed them after that scandalous game against Austria. All I had to do was see Rummenigge on the small screen and I’d feel the blood in my face boil, steam whistling out of my ears, and imaginative curses in at least three languages escaping my lips.” New Republic

Messi Lifts Spirits of Argentines, Even Those Without Tickets

“An estimated 50,000 Argentines completed the trek to this World Cup city by Wednesday morning. Many of the soccer pilgrims were wearing long faces along with their Lionel Messi jerseys as they roamed the parks and the streets and took in the hazy view of Guaíba lake while carrying hand-lettered signs that read, ‘Compro’ (‘I’m buying’). ‘It’s shameful; the scalpers are asking for 1,200 to 1,500 dollars for a ticket with a face value of no more than 100,’ said Cintia Perri, a young woman from Buenos Aires who had driven 20 hours to get here and spent the night in her car in a nearby camping site. But Messi would soon lift the mood of his sleep-deprived, ticket-deprived compatriots.” NY Times

Magical Messi continues to rise
“At the very least, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella could say someone else settled the game. It wasn’t Lionel Messi who got the decisive goal; it wasn’t quite so necessary for the playmaker to drag his team forward. Instead, left-back Marcos Rojo kneed home Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner, and Argentina eventually beat Nigeria 3-2. It gave Sabella’s men a flawless points record from the group stage, with three wins from three games in Group F, but they are far from a flawless team. Although the specific details may have changed, the wider reality remains the same. It is the same storyline around the team tipped as one of the favourites to lift the trophy next month and the developing narrative of this World Cup.” ESPN (Video)

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 14. ARGENTINA 3-2 NIGERIA. BOSNIA 3-1 IRAN. SWITZERLAND 3-0 HONDURAS. FRANCE 0-0 ECUADOR.

“A gentle, open game with both sides already through. Open feel. This game could have gone in two very different ways. With both happy with a draw, it could have been slow, boring and about both teams avoiding injuries. However, there was a sense both wanted to put on a show, having been underwhelming in their opening two matches, and therefore it was open and entertaining. With two goals inside the first five minutes, it was immediately an enjoyable contest. Messi. Nigeria’s main tactic was to track Lionel Messi extremely tightly. Ogenyi Onazi was usually the man with this responsibility, although sometimes Messi was passed on to the other two midfielders when he drifted around the pitch.” Zonal Marking

How Soccer Explains the World

“Female soccer fans in Iran chuck aside the hijab to celebrate the national team’s victory halfway across the globe. Brazilian managers swindle American corporations abroad and exploit their own players at home. Undisciplined soccer stars from Nigeria are sold to Ukrainian teams and forced to adapt to chess-like coaching strategies in the dead of winter. Globalization never seems so vivid as when seen through the eyes of a soccer fan. In his new book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, Franklin Foer looks at the passions and rivalries embedded in soccer, and comes up with some surprising theories about our ever-shrinking world.” Mother Jones

amazon: How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization – Franklin Foer

Why You Should Root for Nigeria (or Brazil, Mexico or Ghana)

“Most of the world considers soccer’s quadrennial World Cup to be the most important sporting competition of all. A growing number of Americans have embraced the event, but many are only vaguely aware of it, and, aside from the United States, not so sure for whom to root. I am offering an alternative, utilitarian guide to help Americans choose a country to support. This guide can also be used if the Americans are eliminated, to help decide whom to root for among the remaining teams. The basic principle is simple, drawn from utilitarian principles: Root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness. So I came up with a simple index, calculated by a country’s passion for soccer multiplied by its average level of poverty multiplied by its population. It’s perhaps a bit crude, simply to multiply these factors by each other, but the exercise highlights some important truths about the world.” NT Times

World Cup 2014: A Tie Sends France Through and Ecuador Out

“The goals came so easy, and so often, for France in its first two games at the World Cup that one could be forgiven for assuming it might never end. Three against Honduras. Five against Switzerland. When the well went dry in a scoreless tie against Ecuador on Wednesday, there were bound to be questions. Just do not bring them to France’s coach, Didier Deschamps. Unbeaten and safely in the second round as the first-place team in his group, he was not really interested in hearing them.” NY Times

Ramadan Poses Test to Muslim Players at World Cup
“Down the quiet, tree-lined Rua Gonzaga Bastos, less than half a mile from Estádio do Maracanã, the custodian of this city’s only mosque was preparing for the busiest time of the year. Mohamed Zeinhom Abdien, the custodian, was sitting at a desk opposite messy piles of boxes containing thousands of leaflets about Islam written in Portuguese, English and Arabic. The observance of Ramadan, one of Islam’s five pillars, is a religious obligation in which Muslims fast and forgo any liquids from dawn until dusk over the course of a month. The month begins Saturday night, and Abdien’s usually quiet mosque has been inundated with newcomers.” NY Times

Why Are These Fans Showing Up to World Cup Matches in Blackface?

“Racial attitudes, historian Barbara Fields wrote in a classic essay, are ‘promiscuous critters that do not mind cohabiting with their opposites.’ If I were FIFA, I’d consider hang that from a banner in the World Cup stadiums to provide a little inspiration for self-reflection among certain fans. It might ultimately do more good than the more satisfyingly pedantic ‘Say No to Racism,’ which is of course an unimpeachable as a command but has the disadvantage that it requires the people at whom it is directed to understand what racism is. But to interpret, understand, and confront racism in sport is to enter into a labyrinth of contradictions. And it forces us study the denials and tactics of deflection and self-exoneration on the part of fans and institutions alike.” New Republic

The Ivory Coast’s Golden Generation Comes to a Cruel End

“The soccer gods can be cruel. Nobody knows that more than Les Éléphants of Ivory Coast. For the third-straight World Cup, the nation finished third in its group and failed to move on to the knockout stages. In a way, this exit is more painful than previous departures in Germany and South Africa. For this trailblazing collection of superstars, the dream is over, almost certainly for good. The tale of Les Éléphants becomes more popular with each passing World Cup (although it can often carry with it a faint unpleasant scent of paternalism).” Grantland

Reality Bites

“When Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy, he more or less blew any chance France had of winning the game. Materazzi is believed to have made some provocative suggestions about Zidane’s sister, and what’s winning the World Cup next to defending one’s sister’s reputation? Luis Suárez’s action yesterday—he left an impression of his teeth in Giorgio Chiellini’s left shoulder—will, after his inevitable ban, have the same effect of terminally harming his country’s chances of victory. But unfortunately for him, Suárez doesn’t have a chivalric excuse. Human beings frequently act against their own self-interest. Think of the highly successful British pop group KLF, two of whose members, self-described as the K Foundation, withdrew a million pounds of their own money from the bank back in 1994 and ceremonially burned it.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson

Blue, as in Happy

“Victory, even in the group stage of the World Cup, can make Uruguayans feel like champions again. After the closing 10 minutes against Italy on Tuesday — 10 minutes in which all fans of the diminutive republic were on tenterhooks for a 1-0 victory — the cheers rang out. Renditions of ‘Soy Celeste … Celeste Soy Yo!’ (‘I’m sky blue … Sky blue, I am!’) were followed by the ubiquitous chants of winning the World Cup again (just like the first time, in 1930). There was much swinging of the national shirt.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Italy 0 – 1 Uruguay: Man marking all-over the place
“The Azzurri were expected to be comfortably through already following an opening-match win over England, but Costa Rica ended hopes of a quick qualification for Cesare Prandelli’s team. Uruguay were also left stunned by the Group D’s surprise team when they lost 3-1 to the Costa Ricans in their first group match. However, the return of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to the starting XI against England proved to be the catalyst for a 2-1 victory. Therefore, the setting was simple. Uruguay needed a win, Italy needed to avoid defeat to progress to the knockout rounds.” Outside of the Boot

Uruguay’s Suárez, Known for Biting, Leaves Mark on World Cup
“The most ruthless soccer players often use their hands or elbows or knees to rough up opposing players. The most reckless — or dirtiest — might even use their cleats. Then there is Luis Suárez. Suárez, the Uruguayan striker who has emerged as one of the best players in the world over the past year, is a biter. And, it seems, a serial one. For the third time in his career, Suárez is facing potential punishment for appearing to sink his teeth into an opponent. This time, it happened on the biggest soccer stage of all, the World Cup, during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday. Late in the second half, Suárez bumped into Giorgio Chiellini, an Italian defender, while jockeying for position in the penalty area and then dropped his head into Chiellini’s shoulder. Chiellini immediately recoiled as both fell to the ground.” NY Times

Luis Suarez ‘bite’: Uruguay striker ‘should be banned’
“Uruguay striker Luis Suarez should be banned for ‘as long as possible’ if he is found guilty of biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, according to former England captain Alan Shearer. Liverpool forward Suarez appeared to bite Chiellini just before Uruguay scored their winning goal. The Italian certainly felt he was bitten, pulling his shirt down to show an apparent mark on his left shoulder.” BBC

Your ‘Luis Suárez Bit a Guy!?’ Reaction Post
“Chris Ryan: Hey, Mike! Hungry? It sure looks like Uruguay forward Luis Suárez just bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup match. Uruguay, already up a man, went on to win the match and advance to the Round of 16. This is the third time Suárez has taken his Dracula imitation a little too far. In 2010, while playing for Ajax, he chomped on a PSV player. …” Grantland


“… Colombia counter-attacked excellently even with a second-string side. Expected pattern. This was another frustrating performance from Japan – lots of possession, some pretty build-up play, but little in the way of penetration. Even more than usual, they needed to commit men forward to increase their attacking threat, so inevitably left gaps at the back for Colombia to break into, with Juan Cuadrado – the only first-choice attacker not rested – having another excellent game. The only genuinely interesting factor was the positioning of Alexander Mejia, who on paper was a midfielder, but stuck so tightly to Japan’s number ten Keisuke Honda – who was determined to move forward to become a second striker – that he basically became a third centre-back. It meant Colombia retained a spare man at the back, and were generally comfortable despite having to withstand lots of pressure.” Zonal Marking

Colombia Pulls Away From Japan to Win Group C

“James Rodríguez scored a brilliant goal and set up two more for Jackson Martínez as Colombia routed Japan, 4-1, on Tuesday to clinch the top spot in Group C and eliminate the Asian champions from the World Cup. Already assured of advancing, Colombia guaranteed first place with its third straight win, setting up a second-round match against Uruguay. The Colombians started with a virtual second-string lineup but still went in front when Juan Cuadrado — one of the few regular starters — drilled in a 17th-minute penalty kick.” NY Times

Costa Rica Makes History at the World Cup

“Of all the surprises so far at this World Cup, perhaps none has been more unexpected than the success of Costa Rica, a country of 4.7 million and, relatively speaking, about the size of host country Brazil’s toenail. The team had been drawn into a group with three of the sport’s most storied nations: England, which is home to arguably the best soccer league in the world; Italy, which has won four World Cups, more than any country that isn’t hosting the event; and Uruguay, the team whose ghost haunts this year’s World Cup, having won the last one to be held in Brazil, in 1950. Nearly every pundit the world over had predicted that Costa Rica would function more as a punching bag than a soccer team this summer. And yet, after Tuesday’s draw with England in the final group match, Costa Rica finished in first place in the group.” Vanity Fair

Improbable Late Penalty Sends Greece to Round of 16
“Georgios Samaras scored on an added-time penalty kick to put Greece into the second round of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday. Samaras, who was ruled to have been tripped in the area by the substitute Giovanni Sio, calmly slotted in the spot kick for a victory that put Greece through to the knockout stage as the second-place finisher in Group C. Ivory Coast would have advanced with a draw.” NY Times

Passing the World Cup’s Soccer Idealist Torch From Spain to Chile

“Soccer ideology on the international level is a rare thing. Managers are faced with a limited, static pool of talent and a training schedule that consists of, at most, a couple of weeks at a time most years. The ultimate result is qualifying for and performing well in the World Cup. It’s a goal that prioritizes getting results right now, because if you don’t you’re out, and if you’re out you’ve failed. Losing games in the present makes it hard to focus on building for the long term.” Grantland

Shades of Oranje

“France ’98 remains the standard for World Cups in my lifetime. The number of great players in their prime, the quality of the games in the knockout rounds, the last-second drama of the now (thankfully) abolished Golden Goal—a rule by which the first team to score a goal in extra time won—it all proved irresistible. France as a nation had turned to embrace the right, and up had risen the National Front; nevertheless, people traveled in happy droves to spend days, if not weeks, in their dream of Romantic France. During those June days, football flourished under what should have been a crushing paradox of love and hate, more felt than fully understood.” The Paris Review

Policing FIFA-Space

“What’s happening in the stands, where the fans meet the field? Scalpers, ticket touts, and cambistas operate freely around the Maracanã, exploiting fans desperate to get into matches. Outside the Spain vs. Chile match, an Englishman was selling three tickets for a total of $2,500—a sum that is maddeningly expensive and theoretically illegal. And this was one of dozens of such transactions happening on a newly constructed overpass that leads to the stadium before the game.” Fusion

Messi, Sabella now in tactical tandem

“It’s a peculiar lark, this football management. Use a system that doesn’t suit your best players, and you’re considered an inflexible ideologue. Tweak your system to get the best players in the role they’re happiest, and you’re criticised for having no backbone. Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella and his captain, Lionel Messi, have been criticised this week, after Sabella supposedly bowed to Messi’s demands for the game against Iran. Having played a 5-3-2 system in their opening match against Bosnia, Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 for the Iran contest. It’s tough to work out which criticism is sillier — the idea that Sabella is weak for listening to Messi, or the idea Messi was unprofessional for pointing out the obvious. The reality is simple: Argentina’s use of a 5-3-2 against Bosnia was the managerial cock-up of the tournament so far.” ESPN – Michael Cox

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Cameroon 1-4 Brazil: Neymar guides the Selecao to the Round of 16

“Neymar netted twice to help put Brazil into the last 16 of the World Cup as his side flounced aside Cameroon on Monday night. The Barcelona star was at the crux of every move and scored once either side of a Joel Matip strike to ensure the Selecao would continue their World Cup campaign on home soil. Brazil No. 9, Fred finally got off the mark with his first World Cup goal in eight years, and although it should have been ruled offside, it stood and will give the Fluminense striker a major uplift. His goal gave Brazil some extra cushion, only to be topped by Fernandinho, who came on for Paulinho and added the clincher late to give Brazil an extra boost on its way out of the group stage.” Outside of the Boot

We Went There: Mexico Qualifies for the Round of 16 in a Green Sea
“The ‘Meh-he-co’ chants drowned out the AC/DC blaring from the speakers at Arena Pernambuco as the kickoff of El Tri’s match against Croatia drew closer. When the 15-by-25-foot LCD screens showed the starting lineups, the Mexican fans hurled their favorite FIFA-sanctioned slur at the head shots of their opponents.” Grantland (Video>

Mexico Finds Itself Knee-Deep in Victory
“When Andrés Guardado of Mexico finally freed himself from a swarm of teammates Monday and emerged back under the floodlights of the crammed stadium here, he crouched along the sideline, pointed a finger down to his knees as he comically wiggled his legs, and vigorously shook his head from side to side. A smile stretched across his face as he soaked in the deafening cheers. The night before Mexico and Croatia met in this Group A game, with a spot in the World Cup’s knockout round very much up for grabs, Croatia Coach Niko Kovac suggested that his team had nothing to fear, that if anyone’s knees were to tremble, it should be the players of Mexico.” NY Times

Brazil Romps Past Cameroon and Into Knockout Rounds
“An anxious nation and its capital exhaled on Monday. Their beloved national soccer team, which has not played with the precision and dominance that many had hoped for in the World Cup, nevertheless moved on to the next round with a convincing win. Playing in front of a pulsating record crowd at Estádio Nacional, Brazil beat Cameroon, 4-1, behind two goals from Neymar to win Group A. On Saturday it will play Chile, the runner-up in Group B, in the Round of 16.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 12. NETHERLANDS 2-0 CHILE. SPAIN 3-0 AUSTRALIA. MEXICO 3-1 CROATIA. BRAZIL 4-1 CAMEROON.

“… Mexico would have been happy with the draw – but were the better side for long periods, and deserved the victory. Croatia wingers v Mexican wing-backs. This was always likely to be the key battle, considering both Mexico’s previous opponents had problems containing their wing-backs. But the Croatian wingers had been extremely impressive in terms of their work rate and discipline in this tournament, and had constantly looked the most likely players to find the target. Could they pin back the Mexico wing-backs, or find space in behind them?” Zonal Marking

A Cruel Match in an Unforgiving Jungle

“The US team was in a stadium in the middle of a city in the middle of a jungle, getting ready to take the field to play Portugal. The sun had dropped behind the arena and it was getting darker. And hotter. Manaus was built into the Amazon. Fly in on a plane or go out on a boat and you get a sense of the enormity of the uninhabited world surrounding it. Unlike other parts of Brazil, where the natural landscape—the stunning beaches, the looming mountains—seems as much a part of the city as the buildings, Manaus is a clearing in a forest. It feels like an intrusion on nature. The jungle hangs all around city, stifling heat and huge bugs reclaiming its streets and the people living in a place they don’t belong.” 8By8

Heartbroken, but Hardly Hopeless
“Forget about that last goal. Pretend it never happened, as if that soccer ball never ricocheted off the head of a perfectly positioned Portuguese player and into the United States’ net. Do not dwell on those last 30 seconds of that game on Sunday night in the Amazon that stomped on the throat of an otherwise sublime night. Emotions are hard to temper at a time like this — when a surprising American victory seemed all but guaranteed, until that header suddenly proved that it wasn’t — but the broader picture is not at all bleak. Even after tying Portugal, 2-2, the United States remains on a trajector.” NY Times

In Time Warp of Soccer, It Ain’t Over Till … Who Knows?
“… Such situations would be unthinkable in other sports, but vagaries of time are the norm in soccer. Games do not end when a clock expires, but only when the referee decides they are over. In a world where quantities as varied as footsteps and mouse clicks can be measured with scientific precision, soccer is a land where time remains a mirage. The most recent example came in the World Cup game here Sunday night, when the United States scored to take the lead in the 81st minute of a 90-minute match only to see the advantage slip away when Portugal scored — wait for it — 14 minutes later.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Netherlands 2 – 0 Chile: Dutch successful on counter

“With both teams already qualified for the knockout stages, this match would decide which team would finish top and which team would have to be content with second. While the winner would gain first place outright, a draw would be enough for the Dutch to qualify first on goal difference. Both teams knew the importance of first place, with the second placed team most likely facing the daunting possibility of a round of 16 match-up with hosts Brazil. Even though the Netherlands beat Brazil in the quarter-finals in 2010, Brazil at home are a different proposition. Chile, of course, are well acquainted with their South American counterparts; in their last two World Cups (1998 and 2010), Chile were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Brazil. Neither team wanted to lose, setting up a cagey, tactical battle.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup 2014: Netherlands Defeats Chile, 2-0, to Win Group B
“Both the Netherlands and Chile entered the final match of group play knowing they were through to the knockout stage, but the Dutch are moving on as the champions of Group B thanks to 2-0 victory. The Chileans had their chances, controlling much of the possession and play early in the first half, but after the 35th minute it felt very much like the Netherlands’ game. The first goal didn’t come until the 76th minute, on a header by Leroy Fer. The Dutch offered a final exclamation point in stoppage time, when Arjen Robben raced up the left side and sent a cross to Memphis Depay.” NY Times

World Cup Pass & Move: I Can’t Believe That We Did Draw!

“Looks like we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue! That was a pretty turbulent soccer match on Sunday. To try to make sense of it all, we’ve got a bunch of Grantland writers on hand to talk it out. This is a safe space! Blame Game. Bill Barnwell: When the clock struck 94:00, DeAndre Yedlin had the ball in the opposite corner of the pitch while trying to shield it from Portuguese defenders. At 94:24, the ball was up for grabs in the Portuguese half of the field. Eight seconds later, at 94:32, a bullet header from substitute Portuguese striker Silvestre Varela hit the back of the net. Given that the final whistle blew almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff, had the United States managed to hold the ball for another 10 seconds, it would have come away from Manaus with three points. It’s a bitter blow.” Grantland (Video)

USA eyes bigger picture after letting World Cup chance slip vs. Portugal
“They were 30 seconds away — half a minute from clinching a spot in the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup after only two games, an achievement few could have expected prior to the tournament. ‘It’s the Group of Death,’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ‘Most people counted us out.’ They were 30 seconds away from writing a new chapter in U.S. soccer history. Never before had the U.S. men advanced beyond the first round in consecutive World Cups. Only 30 seconds separated the Americans from a seminal victory over a European power that would have opened the eyes of millions around the world and galvanized an increasingly engaged public back home. Thirty seconds proved too long.” SI (Video)

Late Shock Interrupts U.S. Party
“The ball was barely past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, and already he had put his hands to his head. On the bench, Jurgen Klinsmann spun away as if he had seen a ghost. Up the field, not far from where he lost the ball, Michael Bradley could only stare. This was what shock looked like. The Americans had advanced, hadn’t they? Hadn’t they? The celebration had been epic after Clint Dempsey, the captain, the man with the black eye and the broken nose and the swollen cheek, scored just nine minutes from the end to put the Americans in front and surely — surely — into the knockout round of the World Cup. It was bedlam. It was overwhelming. It was historic.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | USA 2 – 2 Portugal: The Americans exploit down the right
“The two sides came into this game with contrasting opening fixtures. While the Americans were lacking expectations at the World Cup, they managed a positive result against Ghana, while the Portuguese disappointed with a 4-0 loss to Germany (though a victory was never likely). In what was the last late game of the World Cup, both teams certainly left it late. Although they shared the points, the US certainly were the more impressive side and looked deserving of all three points, while the Portuguese can count themselves extremely lucky for not having been knocked out of the tournament already.” Outside of the Boot

How the Portugal Draw Boosts the U.S.’s World Cup Advancement Odds
“The United States was seconds away from defeating Portugal on Sunday when Michael Bradley, normally one of the steadiest American players, mishandled a ball in midfield and gave Portugal a last opportunity. Silvestre Varela took advantage, scoring on a header. But the 2-2 draw was a result the U.S. might have been happy with before the match began. It improved the Americans’ odds of advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup. Those chances are up to 76 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, an improvement from 65 percent before Sunday’s match.” fivethirtyeight

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 11. BELGIUM 1-0 RUSSIA. ALGERIA 4-2 SOUTH KOREA. USA 2-2 PORTUGAL.

“… A very exciting game – USA dominated for the majority, but conceded a very late equaliser, meaning all Group G sides can still qualify. Portugal left / USA right. There were various changes to the sides for this game – Portugal’s backline was decimated through injury, while Jurgen Klinsmann switched to a 4-2-3-1 in the absence of Jozy Altidore, with Clint Dempsey upfront alone. Incidentally, this is probably what should have happened after Altidore’s injury against Ghana, and USA played much better football in this match, even if they didn’t eventually record a victory. But this game was basically all about the battle in one area of the pitch, as always with Portugal’s matches. Usually Cristiano Ronaldo starts on the left flank and cuts inside onto his right foot before shooting. The starting structure of Portugal’s side suggested this was the plan again, but Ronaldo played an even freer role, appearing as something of a second striker for the latter period of the second half, before eventually becoming Portugal’s highest man up the pitch. The left-wing position was left bare.” Zonal Marking

World Cup 2014: Belgium Defeats Russia, 1-0

“Belgium booked a place in the Round of 16 after a late goal from Divock Origi earned a 1-0 victory over Russia in Group H. It was the second game in a row that Belgium needed a late score from a substitute to win. Origi, who replaced the ineffective Romelu Lukaku in the 57th minute, is only 19 years old and became Belgium’s youngest ever World Cup goal scorer. He combined with Eden Hazard, the skillful midfielder, down the left wing to engineer a counterattack in the 88th minute. Both goals in Belgium’s previous match, a 2-1 win over Algeria, came from second-half substitutes.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Belgium 1 – 0 Russia
“A game which was fairly fought out for 80 minutes, was suddenly stolen away from a team that showed it’s individual brilliance. A game in which man to man ability was the thin line between three points and zilch.” Outside of the Boot