While the World Watched

June 11, 2014

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1978 World Cup and the simultaneous political strife …
“INSIDE A BUENOS AIRES restaurant named El Cuartito, sky-blue paint covers the walls, along with photographs and banners from important athletes and teams. In the center of the largest wall is a shrine to Diego Maradona, the star of the 1986 World Cup. That title is so important that Maradona, a recovering drug addict, still basks comfortably in a nation’s warming love and goodwill. People celebrate the ’86 title with vivid street art murals, and with photos and signed jerseys and posters in nearly every place of business, including El Cuartito. The restaurant celebrates civic heroes, which is why one particular omission is jarring. Argentina has won two World Cups, the famous one in 1986 and the other just eight years before, in 1978, when Argentina played host. That team is barely honored at all inside El Cuartito. In the back corner of the main room, as far away from the door as you can get, hang two team photos. That’s it.” ESPN


2014 World Cup Roundtable: Planet Futbol’s prediction panel

June 11, 2014

“The 2014 World Cup kicks off Thursday, when Brazil and Croatia open the highly anticipated competition in Sao Paulo. Every World Cup is met with excitement and intrigue, but there’s something extra special about the 2014 edition. Perhaps it’s the host and its tradition of excellence. Perhaps it’s the loaded tournament field. Or perhaps it’s that transcendent stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in their primes at the most ideal time. Regardless, there is quite the chapter of international soccer that is on the cusp of being written. Our reporters on the ground in Brazil — Grant Wahl, Brian Straus, Jonathan Wilson and James Young — and our contributors throughout the tournament — Liviu Bird and Ben Lyttleton — offer their picks as the world’s spotlight gets firmly planted on Brazil for the next month.” SI


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): FIFA and the World Cup

June 11, 2014

“John Oliver’s excitement for the World Cup is tempered by knowing information about FIFA, the organization that produces it. John details the problems with the upcoming tournament and the staggering allegations of corruption against FIFA.” YouTube: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): FIFA and the World Cup (Video)


Germany: need the right combination upfront

June 11, 2014

“Germany have reached at least the semi-finals of the last four major international tournaments without winning any. Frankly, it’s about time that changed. It’s worth remembering Germany went into the 2010 World Cup with many key players relatively unknown outside of Germany. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira were very raw, yet were rightly thrown in at the deep end and proved extremely capable. By Euro 2012, Jogi Low could add Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle. Now, he can add Julian Draxler.” Zonal Marking


The Pressure Builds on Brazil

June 11, 2014

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“Just days before Brazil kicks off the World Cup against Croatia, warm-up matches and training sessions around the country reveal the two sides of Felipe Scolari and regional feelings about the team. June 3, 2014; Brazil v Panama; Goiânia, Brazil. Luiz Felipe Scolari is answering a question about Neymar. Scolari answers a lot of questions about Neymar. And about David Luiz, and Hulk, and all the other members of the Seleção. He also answers a lot of questions about pressure, and preparation, and a thousand other subjects connected with the most important, and least answerable, question: Will Brazil win its sixth World Cup this summer.” Fusion


Brazil on Edge as World Cup Exposes Rifts

June 11, 2014

“Brazil’s list of feats since ending authoritarian rule in the 1980s is as long as it is varied, including antipoverty programs pulling millions into the middle class, the democratic election of presidents who suffered indignities under the dictatorship and the surging growth of tropical agriculture to help feed the world. But instead of coming together to extol such triumphs on the global stage as the host of the World Cup, the soccer tournament starting on Thursday with teams from 32 countries, Brazil is marked by rifts, with some people genuinely excited about the event while others are simmering with resentment over its ballooning costs and a sluggish post-boom economy.” NY Times


World Cup Opinions in 19 Countries: Likes, Dislikes, Predictions

June 11, 2014

“Argentina, the United States and Iran appear to be the most disliked World Cup teams. Brazilian fans enter the World Cup as the most confident, though Argentines and Spaniards aren’t far behind in their home-country optimism. And fans across many countries agree that the Brazilians play the most attractive form of soccer. These are among the results from a study of people in 19 countries conducted by YouGov, the online survey firm, in collaboration with The Upshot. The study offers insight into the psyche of fans around the world as they prepare for the most watched tournament in sports. Highlights include…” NY Times


Portugal: the same as usual

June 11, 2014

“Even if you haven’t seen Portugal play since Euro 2012, you’ll still know the team pretty well. Portugal always have roughly the same style, roughly the same strengths and weaknesses, and roughly the same chance of winning the competition. It’s no different this time around. Portugal’s starting XI for World Cup 2014 is extremely similar to their starting XI for Euro 2012, and it’s a familiar story – solid defence, talented central midfield, dangerous wide players, no prolific striker.” Zonal Marking


How the UK taught Brazil’s dictators interrogation techniques

June 11, 2014

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“As the world focuses on the World Cup, which opens in Brazil in less than a fortnight, many Brazilians are wrestling with painful discoveries about the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. The BBC has found evidence that the UK actively collaborated with the generals – and trained them in sophisticated interrogation techniques.” BBC (Video)


National Defense

June 11, 2014

“On June 12th, the United States men’s national soccer team faces England, in Rustenburg, South Africa, in a match that is expected to draw one of the largest audiences in the history of televised sports. The last time the U.S. met England in a World Cup was sixty years ago, in June, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The American team, cobbled together so hastily that many players had just met one another, included a dishwasher, a mail carrier, a meat packer, and a hearse driver. A reporter from Belfast called them a ‘band of no-hopers” and “surely the strangest team ever to be seen at a World Cup.’ No one gave the Americans the slightest chance. Their coach, Bill Jeffrey, described his squad before the game as ‘sheep ready to be slaughtered.'” New Yorker


Algeria: young and mobile

June 11, 2014

“Anyone who remembers Algeria’s performance at the last World Cup won’t be excited to see them this time around. Algeria were extremely disappointing in terms of both quality and entertainment, and arguably contributed less to the World Cup than any other side. Four years later, however, they’re a more exciting prospect. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has the side well organised, but also committed to playing good attacking football, with plenty of movement amongst the front three, and a mobile, young and technically proficient midfield trio too. Algeria are receiving less attention than the other four African sides in this competition, probably because of the lack of star names – but they’re actually the highest-ranked African side in the latest FIFA rankings.” Zonal Marking