Daily Archives: June 21, 2014

In Tournament Packed With Goals, France Stuffs in Five More

“It was a gorgeous, ruthless finish from Karim Benzema: a perfectly timed swing of the right leg on the move from the French striker that put the ball into the upper-left corner of the Switzerland goal. The problem was that it did not count, with the referee Bjorn Kuipers indicating that he had blown the final whistle just before Benzema pounced. On a normal night and in a normal World Cup, this could have been pivotal, at the very least a source of heated debate, but at this stage it only produced Gallic shrugs. Everyone — except for Swiss players and fans — had already seen or scored enough goals to feel satisfied. So it has gone all over Brazil, and France’s 5-2 victory on this steamy Friday night was merely the latest indication in this delightful World Cup that defenders no longer rule.” NY Times


Deep in the Amazon, an Isolated Village Tunes In to the World Cup

“The PP Maués would not set sail for an hour, but its long and narrow decks were already crisscrossed with hammocks for an overnight trip down the Amazon. By the time it was to dock early last Monday at the regional port for which it was named, the Maués would have traveled 15 hours from the nearest World Cup stadium. A second boat would be needed to reach an even more remote indigenous village that planned to watch Brazil play Mexico last Tuesday. The village did not have electricity or cellphone signals and would rely on a diesel generator to indulge its secluded passion for soccer. While Rio de Janeiro and its famous beaches provide the touristic backdrop of the World Cup, the fevered grip of the world’s most popular sporting event can be felt even in some of the most isolated areas of the rain forest, where outsiders seldom visit.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 9. COSTA RICA 1-0 ITALY. FRANCE 5-2 SWITZERLAND. Ecuador 2-1 Honduras.

“… The highest-scoring game of the tournament so far – France were 5-0 up thanks to some brilliant counter-attacking, before switching off late on. France counter-attack into wide areas. This was a comfortable win, and much like Colombia’s victory over Ivory Coast yesterday, it followed a rather simple pattern. The defeated side determinedly pushed their full-backs high up the pitch to overlap and get crosses in, but this left the defence exposed to rapid counter-attacking into the gaps they left behind. This is becoming something of a theme at this World Cup.” Zonal Marking

Bosnia’s Forgotten Genius

“Even though Bosnia lost to Argentina in its opener, the World Cup debutants left an extremely positive impression, taking charge of the midfield for long spells and often playing significantly more imaginative soccer than its illustrious opponent. One of the reasons behind this was the precise play of Zvjezdan Misimovic. For close observers of the Bundesliga a few seasons back, this surely came as no surprise. Misimovic had been a slow, lazy playmaker who never liked to do the dirty work in defense—at least until Felix Magath came into the picture. Playing under the disciplinarian coach at Wolfsburg, Misimovic transformed into a rare genius, providing an all-time German record of 20 assists for the club during 2008–09, when its won the Bundesliga.” Fusion

World Cup 2014: How Costa Rica’s ‘bulls’ shocked the world

“The world may have doubted Costa Rica, but Costa Rica never doubted themselves. As their players embraced, danced in front of their fans and grabbed banners thrown from the stands, it was hard not to reflect on something manager Jorge Luis Pinto had said about being drawn in a group with three previous World Cup winners. ‘We love the group. The braver the bull, the better the bullfight.’ True to his word, there has been a fearlessness about Costa Rica – a belief that anything is possible and reputations mean nothing.” BBC

A Central American Mouse Roars
“There was less than 20 minutes left to play here on Friday when a bundle of three balloons — red, white and green, the colors of Italy’s flag — floated down from the stands and onto the field. The balloons snaked slowly around the center circle, past several players who were jogging to join play on the far end of the field. But when the bundle glided into his path, Mario Balotelli, the enigmatic and hugely talented Italian striker, stopped. He fixed the balloons at his feet and stomped on them with his spikes, one by one, until there were only bits of latex left littered on the grass. As a metaphor, as a poetic image, it was almost too perfect.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Uruguay 2-1 England

“In a World Cup where England lacked expectations heading to the tournament, they somehow still managed to disappoint. After a lot of positivity in defeat against Italy, England were expected to carry on and impress vs Uruguay but put in a lackluster performance Uruguay on the other hand also came into the game in disappointment after defeat and were expected to do the same, but encouraged by the returning Luis Suarez. The striker struck twice to keep Uruguay’s hopes alive, all but ending that of their opponents.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Cameroon 0 – 4 Croatia
“With both teams losing their first group game, this was a real test for both Cameroon and Croatia, where one side would be leaving the tournament if they succumbed to yet another defeat. Croatia had a slight advantage with Eto’o being out injured; as well as the return of their main striker, Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandžukić, who missed out against Brazil due to a one match suspension which he earned all the way back in the qualifiers. The game also featured a return of Danijel Pranjić on the left flank for Croatia, and Brazilian-born Sammir playing as a starter right behind Mandžukić instead of young Mateo Kovačić. As for Cameroon, the absence of Eto’o meant Aboubakar of FC Lorient was going in as his replacement, with a few more rotations in the team tactics.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast
“With the second round of matches underway, groups are beginning to take shape as teams fight for qualification to the knockout stages. In Brasilia, the two teams from Group C that won their opening encounters, Colombia and Ivory Coast, met to see which team would take sole control of the group. Both teams enjoyed contrasting wins in their opening games: Colombia routed Greece 3-0 while Ivory Coast had to come from behind to beat Japan 2-1. With top spot potentially at stake, both teams were determined not to concede early ground, resulting in a deadlocked first half. However, a flurry of goals in a matter of minutes set up an exciting finish.” Outside of the Boot

Brazil united: the World Cup effect

“It seems to have been Brazil’s left-back Marcelo who came up with the idea. When the national anthem was played before a match, he told his teammates, they should keep singing after the music stopped. It would be a display of patriotism for the fans. It has become a ritual. At Brazil’s matches here, crowd and players belt out the words together a cappella. For a minute, the nation is made flesh.” FT – Simon Kuper

The Reducer: World Cup Winners and Losers

“Can I interest you in March Madness spiked with second chances? Because that’s what we’ve got on our hands. After a little more than a week of World Cup action, we’ve seen the defending champions go crashing out, the hosts wobble, new stars rise, and established stars cement their place in soccer boot ads for years to come. We’ve seen a German-born defender become an American hero, a Brazilian-born striker be partially blamed for Spain’s early exit, and Mexico’s manager turned into an anime character.” Grantland

Africa United?

“Ivory Coast World Cup. In February this year, Felix Anyasi Agwu, chairman of Nigerian club Enyimba, complained about the treatment of his team in a CAF Champions League second-leg qualifying encounter at Anges de Notse of Togo. Agwu claimed that players and club officials were attacked by their opponents’ fans, training sessions were disrupted and water was thrown at them as they left the pitch at half time in their 4-3 win.” backpagefootball

Kissing and Biting

“Italy’s Mario Balotelli, he of the ‘why always me?’ undershirt, wants a kiss from the ‘the UK queen’—yes, that one—if he secures a victory against Costa Rica. The domino effect of that result would go like this: Italy will go on to beat Uruguay while England crushes Costa Rica by some outlandish score and, miracle of miracles, England qualifies for the next round on goal difference. From my brooding vantage—looking out at the low dark clouds gathered over the sceptred isle this morning—a little royal peck on the cheek doesn’t seem too much to ask for Mario’s compliance. He should go for more—but maybe not from the queen.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson