World Cup 2014: group stage, day 2. NETHERLANDS 5-1 SPAIN. MEXICO 1-0 CAMEROON. CHILE 3-1 AUSTRALIA.

June 14, 2014

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“… A truly extraordinary game of football – Spain took the lead, but the Netherlands repeatedly breached their high defensive line and recorded a historic victory. High lines. This match was all about high defensive lines, a concept that has become a key part of both Spanish and Dutch football – the two are strongly linked, of course. At the last World Cup, barely any teams were brave with the positioning of their defensive line, instead sitting deep and allowing space in front of their defensive block. Here, the space wasn’t in midfield, where no-one had time to put their foot on the ball, but instead in behind the opposition.” Zonal Marking


The Play That Changed Holland vs. Spain

June 14, 2014

“For most of the first half of the Spain-Holland match, the defending champions had been in complete control and were up 1–0 as halftime approached. Then Robin van Persie struck in the 44th minute and turned the game upside down. … Ultimately, the first rule of defending is that you don’t let an attacker get behind you. But allowing a talented player like Van Persie to receive the ball 30 yards from goal in the middle of the field isn’t far behind. More than a tactical error, it seems that Spain’s biggest problem was Ramos’s and Pique’s execution. Notice that Pique is slightly behind the defensive line, holding Van Persie onside. If he had been in line with the rest of the defenders, RVP would have been offside. Now, it’s usually the opposite-side outside back or weak side center back who has the best view of a developing play, and so he calls the line, commanding his defensive partners in front of him to hold, step, or drop.” Fusion (Video)

Holland’s World Cup win over Spain wasn’t the return of Total Football – Louis van Gaal has created something new
” By 1661, Rembrandt had fallen on hard times. Golden Age Amsterdam was turning against the gritty, unglamorous realism of his paintings. They wanted lustre, not texture. But Rembrandt was not going to go down without a fight. And so, when he was commissioned to paint a historical scene to hang in Amsterdam Town Hall, he knew that he would be expected to produce something decorous, reverent, heroic: a bold piece full of strong colours and glorious poses, in keeping with the style of the age. The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, when it emerged, was none of these things. It was harsh, dimly lit, borderline disturbing. The barbarian chieftain of the title is depicted with his one blind eye not obscured in profile, but front-on, in full and queasy detail. It was one of Rembrandt’s greatest works. But it was too harrowing by far for the Amsterdam city council, who rejected it and returned it to the artist. In financial difficulties and now with a five-metre painting nobody wanted, Rembrandt was forced into the single most traumatic act that a painter can undertake.” Telegraph

Holland’s beautiful goals put the wonder back in World Cup
“Vicente del Bosque was not expecting that, and Louis van Gaal – “We had a plan but I never imagined it would work out quite so well” – was not expecting it either. Ron Vlaar, penalised for the first foul challenge after just 13 seconds, was not expecting it, and neither were the six Spain fans in replica shirts – three middle-aged couples from Valencia – who turned up a little sheepishly in a Salvador seafront restaurant on Friday evening and politely asked for a table without a view of the television. Not since the heyday of Monty Python, it appears, has anyone been quite so surprised by a Spanish inquisition.” Guardian

What If the Most Beautiful Goal of the World Cup Has Already Been Scored?
“I am sure there will be a few memorable goals during the rest of the World Cup—we’re only on day three—but the one scored by Robin van Persie of Holland against Spain to tie the game justifies the entire tournament. Those of us who wait four years for this fiesta de fútbol so that moments such as these might nourish us know full well they are few and far between. This one came early and might not be surpassed.” New Republic (Video)

Spain Was Asking for Trouble Against the Netherlands
“Spain played a high defensive line, positioning themselves well forward, near midfield. It left them vulnerable. . .” NY Times


Three Points: Chile vs. Australia

June 14, 2014

“Three observations from Chile’s 3-1 win over Australia to open up their World Cup campaign. 1. The Chile Way… If you are going to play the Chile way, there can be no half measures. It has to be all or nothing. Chile seek to impose themselves on the game, throwing both full-backs forward at the same time in a ceaseless quest to create two-against-one situations, looking to play high-tempo, dynamic football in which they seek to suffocate the opposition by pressing them in their half of the field. In order for this to function, everyone needs to press. Chile made hard work of their 3-1 win against Australia because everyone did not press. Perhaps it was the heat of Cuiaba, Brazil. Or maybe there is a dollop of confusion and doubt in the mind of coach Jorge Sampaoli.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Chile vs. Australia in GIFs
“Besides Belgium, no team has been as hyped coming into this World Cup as Chile. Led by coach Jorge Sampaoli and his high-pressing 3-3-1-3 formation, the Chileans have become the darlings of the international game. In their opening game, they got out to a fast start and were up 2—0 after the first quarter hour. But Australia were dogged. Led by Tim Cahill, it got a goal back and repeatedly found gaps in the Chilean defense. Only a late third goal by La Roja assured it of the three points. Here are a few of our favorite GIFs.” Fuion


Out of Joint

June 14, 2014

“When I switched on last night’s World Cup opening ceremony, it first appeared that some São Paulo carnivalesque version of Macbeth was in production and Birnam wood was on its way to Dunsinane. A number of figures masquerading as trees were making their way around the field shaking their branches and twigs. But soon the trees had exotic birds for companions and then some children in white bounced on a trampoline while mechanical leaves unfolded and, of course, we were not in Scotland but a virtual rainforest, where the uncontacted tribe appeared to consist only of JLo, Pitbull, and Claudia Leitte. Luckily for them, the Amazonian jungle on display was the Disneyfied version, significantly denatured: there were no carnivorous plants in evidence or shamelessly sexual banana fronds.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson


Eyesore and Landmark in On

June 14, 2014

“Rotting, crumbling, covered in graffiti, overrun by weeds, the hulking wreck of a building known as the Aldeia Maracanã would make an unsightly addition to any neighborhood. But it happens to stand next to Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, the soccer cathedral that will host some of the World Cup’s most important matches, including the final. To get to the stadium, tens of thousands of fans will have to pass the Aldeia Maracanã’s ruined walls, now unattractively shielded by a 10-foot mesh fence. If the Maracanã is the celebrated face of Brazilian soccer, the Aldeia Maracanã is the scab on its nose.” NY Times


Mexico’s relief after cagey opening win

June 14, 2014

“I still don’t have cable, but I do have two feet. Yesterday morning, I realized that my best option for watching the Mexico versus Cameroon game was the local bar. On went my Mexico jersey and El Tri scarf as I debated whether I could honestly justify a pint of beer at 9 a.m. By the way, that was the least excited I had ever been while wearing a Mexico jersey. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was because I was half-awake. Mainly, though, it was because deep in my futbol-loving heart I knew the true answer was fear. Fear that Mexico would lose. Fear that after years of riding an emotional soccer roller-coaster, the national team would be the first squad knocked out of the World Cup.” ESPN


Football, Love, and Feminism: My Holy Trinity

June 14, 2014

“My dad and I are watching the World Cup together in Cairo, Egypt. It’s the first World Cup in forever that is on while we live in the same city. My family has left and returned to Cairo many times, together and separately. My first ever World Cup was Argentina 1978. Ten year old me watched with my dad and my younger brother in London where my family had moved from Cairo three years earlier. Those early matches with my dad and brother have instilled in me a thrill that kicks in—pun fully intended—as soon as the studio pundits shut up and the camera switches to the pitch.” New Republic