Train in Vain

June 20, 2014

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“The trains run every half-hour up the green slope of Corcovado, the Hunchback, through a forest whose branches scrape against the windows of the cars. They climb a mountainside where howler monkeys live, and also ocelots, and birds the color of imaginary jewels. Twenty minutes after setting out from the leafy station on the Rua Cosme Velho, they deposit tourists at the base of a long escalator, which rises to the feet of Christ the Redeemer, Cristo Redentor, the white colossus whose open arms embrace the crescent sliver of Rio de Janeiro more than 2,000 feet below. From the peak you can stand and look down on the marvelous city, a cidade maravilhosa, Rio, a bright thread curling between the mountains and the sea.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


World Cup 2014 group stage: day 8. COLOMBIA 2-1 IVORY COAST. URUGUAY 2-1 ENGLAND. JAPAN 0-0 GREECE.

June 20, 2014

“A good game contested mainly in the wide areas, with the Ivory Coast full-backs overlapping and the Colombian wingers counter-attacking in behind them. Ivory Coast full-backs forward. This match was enjoyable throughout, but the tactical battle was very basic. Like in their opening match, the Ivory Coast tried to get their full-backs forward whenever possible, completely restructuring their system in order to get Arthur Boka and Serge Aurier high up the pitch. A couple of times, this meant that both Serey Die and Cheick Tiote dropped into the defence, to form a four-man backline along with the two centre-backs, while the full-backs pushed into the opposition half.” Zonal Marking


Laid Bare

June 20, 2014

“The same day that, in Chile, more than twenty previously unknown works by Pablo Neruda were discovered in the most unlikely of places—a drawer—Spain thought it was a good idea to continue their monarchy by changing the constitution so the prince could replace the abdicating king. I rejoiced at one and shrugged at the other. Fittingly, Chile beat Spain 2-0 yesterday. Chile showed the extent to which Spain is past its sell-by date. Spain has become a product, a collection of starry names to sell to a depressed populace.” The Paris Review


World Cup 2014: Colombia Defeats Ivory Coast, 2-1

June 20, 2014

“Colombia came out on top in a rollicking game in Brasilia on Thursday, defeating Ivory Coast, 2-1, and almost certainly clinching a spot in the next round. The first half was played at a lightning-fast pace but remained scoreless as both sides’ strikers struggled. Colombia was first to break through in the 64th minute, as James Rodriguez jumped highest after a Juan Cuadrado corner and headed the ball into the net. Six minutes later they were up 2-0 after a Serey Die giveaway led to an easy goal for Juan Quintero.” NY Times


Suárez Staggers England With Finesse and Ferocity

June 20, 2014

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“Luis Suárez’s first goal on Thursday was a delicate touch of class, a deft header nodded in with precision and purpose and placement. Suárez’s second goal, however — the one that was a death blow for England — was something closer to a savage blast. The combination was vintage Suárez, a pure attacker who perfectly embodies the Uruguayan notion of garra charrua — that is, a mixture of will, fight and an unyielding desire to win in whatever way is required. On a chilly night at Arena Corinthians, Suárez showed his deliberate jab and then, at just the right moment, his haymaker.” NY Times

England’s vanquished players are left sad, speechless and bewildered
“One by one they stepped blinking into the brightly lit corridor of uncertainty, clasping their wash bags like comfort blankets. Daniel Sturridge, so effervescent and full of life in his pre-match interviews and now displaying an expression somewhere between fury and heartbreak. A red-eyed Wayne Rooney, eyes fixed forward. Jordan Henderson, exposed and overrun in midfield alongside his club team-mate Steven Gerrard, muttering that he had been ‘told not to stop’.” Guardian

At This World Cup, England Fans Get Their Disillusionment in First
“My late friend Alan Watkins, who died four years ago after writing a political column for fifty years, was a Welshman and also wrote learnedly on rugby. In 1996 he was discussing Tony Blair, then the Labour leader of the opposition, a year before he became prime minister. Every rugby fan knows the words of Carwyn James, the great Welsh coach who led the British Lions to a unique victory over New Zealand in 1971. Ahead of what was expected to be an unusually violent series, James told his players to ‘get your retaliation in first.'” New Republic


Photos: Police on “Pacification Patrol” in a Rio Favela

June 20, 2014

“The metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, never lacking for spectacle and chaos, is presently welcoming the thousands of visitors squeezing into the city to be a part of the 2014 World Cup. Two years from now, its 6.3 million residents will have to share their city with even bigger throngs when the Olympics come to town. Already, they are feeling the strain of the put-upon host. As new facilities, retail, and accommodations pop up with each passing week, the cost of living rises along with the pace of construction. But rapid development isn’t Rio’s only stressor: To make the city presentable for international spectators, the military and police have been deployed in a program of slum clearance. In the favelas, heavily armed tactical units have engaged in pitched battles with squatters and local gangs as recently as last month.” New Republic


England’s Dreaming: How These Three Lions Recall the Spirit of Italia ’90

June 20, 2014

“During a break in the England-Italy match last weekend, there was a TV ad narrated by Gary Oldman. I was struck by how much he reminded me of the modern English footballer (not the first-time-on-a-world-stage ones — the ones they grow up to be). It also made me think of 1990. The 1966 World Cup was English football’s greatest moment, but the 1990 World Cup sparked one of the more stirring debates about national essentialism to take place in England that decade.” Grantland


Why Did Borges Hate Soccer?

June 20, 2014

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“‘Soccer is popular,’ Jorge Luis Borges observed, ‘because stupidity is popular.’ At first glance, the Argentine writer’s animus toward ‘the beautiful game’ seems to reflect the attitude of today’s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I can’t stand the fake injuries. And it’s true: Borges did call soccer ‘aesthetically ugly.’ He did say, ‘Soccer is one of England’s biggest crimes.’ And apparently, he even scheduled one of his lectures so that it would intentionally conflict with Argentina’s first game of the 1978 World Cup. But Borges’ distaste for the sport stemmed from something far more troubling than aesthetics.” New Republic


Heart of Darkness (Lite)

June 20, 2014

“In 2009, the German director Werner Herzog published Conquest of the Useless, his account of the shooting of his movie Fitzcarraldo in Manaus, Brazil, and the surrounding Amazonian jungle. As a result, he was recently asked by FIFA to return to Manaus and referee the England vs. Italy game to be played there in June. What follows are excerpts from his diary as the game approaches.” 8by8 – Jonathan Wilson


Japan 0 Greece 0

June 20, 2014

“Japan and 10-man Greece played out a stalemate that keeps alive both teams’ chances of progressing from Group C. Greece captain Konstantinos Katsouranis was sent off for two bookable offences before the break in Natal. The Greeks went close with a second-half header from Theofanis Gekas, which was saved by Eiji Kawashima. Yoshito Okubo missed from just a couple of yards and Atsuto Uchida also prodded wide from a good position as Japan were left frustrated. The draw leaves both teams on one point heading into the final round of group matches.” BBC