Watch: Lionel Messi breaks Iran’s heart with stoppage-time winner

June 22, 2014

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“For a player criticized for not doing enough for his country, Lionel Messi is sure doing what he can to change the narrative. Messi came through for Argentina yet again, delivering a highlight-reel, stoppage-time winner to give Argentina a 1-0 win over stubborn, valiant Iran on Saturday, giving Argentina six points and a commanding Group F lead. With Diego Maradona watching in the stands, Messi provided his own iconic moment for Argentina, cutting centrally to create space against a defender and curling home a beautiful 20-yard shot after the Albiceleste were frustrated and shut off time and again by a collective Iranian defensive effort. The moment mimicked his goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina, which proved to be the game-winning strike in Argentina’s opening game of the competition.” SI (Video)

World Cup 2014: Argentina Overcomes Iran With a Bit of Messi Magic
“Lionel Messi scored a goal in second-half stoppage time to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Saturday and a place in the second round of the World Cup. Iran had a solid defense in the game and took the match to Argentina in the second half, creating several chances to win the match in Group F. But Iran was punished for those missed chances when Messi picked up the ball about 20 yards out and curled a shot into the left corner. It was a moment of individual brilliance by Messi.” NY Times


World Cup 2014: group stage, day 10. ARGENTINA 1-0 IRAN. GERMANY 2-2 GHANA. NIGERIA 1-0 BOSNIA.

June 22, 2014

“Iran defended solidly and created some great chances, but Lionel Messi’s stunning stoppage time goal won the game. Iran deep and narrow. We expected another defensive-minded performance from Iran, and that’s precisely what we got. They set out to frustrate Argentina, sitting extremely deep and making little attempt to attack in the first half. Iran’s major strategy was to defend extremely narrow. They were aware of the danger of letting Lionel Messi have the ball in central positions, and therefore their five central midfielders formed a solid block in the centre of the pitch, denying Argentina’s central midfielders the passing lanes to feed the ball to Messi, Angel Di Maria and the other two attackers. They encouraged balls out to the full-backs instead.” Zonal Marking


Talent Radar: Mario Götze improves his defensive contribution in Germany’s 2-2 World Cup draw with Ghana

June 22, 2014

“In what turned out to be a hugely attractive encounter in one of the most open and end-to-end 2014 World Cup games, Germany & Ghana played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with fast paced counter-attacking football at it’s best. The two sides had met at the previous World Cup as well with the Europeans getting the win, but this time it seemed more likely that we’d witness an African triumph until the legendary Miroslav Klose turned up and scored his record equaling 15th World Cup goal.” Outside of the Boot

An Enduring Touch Proves as Essential as Ever
“The shaky front flip was not vintage Miroslav Klose, but the critical goal that led to it was definitely a classic Klose poach. Even if he is now an injury-prone, 36-year-old substitute, playing for Germany still brings out the essential man in Klose, and less than two minutes after he trotted onto the field in Fortaleza, Brazil, he smelled a chance and pounced. The far post has been one of his happiest hunting grounds through the years, and after his teammate Benedikt Höwedes flicked on a Toni Kroos corner kick, Klose was already moving toward empty space near the goal line, a half-step and a fully formed thought ahead of the closest Ghana defender.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: Germany Ties Ghana as Miroslav Klose Ties Goals Record
“Ghana held Germany to a 2-2 tie on Saturday in Fortaleza, Brazil, although the veteran striker Miroslav Klose came on as a substitute to match the World Cup scoring record with the tying goal in a highly entertaining Group G match. Klose has 15 career World Cup goals, equaling the mark set by the former Brazil star Ronaldo. Klose scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, less than two minutes after coming on, when a corner by Toni Kroos was flicked to the far post by Benedikt Höwedes, and Klose slid in to knock the ball in.” NY Times


The Anchor on an Evolving Team

June 22, 2014

“Tim Howard did not always like what Jurgen Klinsmann was doing to Howard’s closest friends. He actually hated it. One by one, all of the veteran players on the United States national team had their moments with Klinsmann, the coach from Germany, who had made clear since the moment he was hired in 2011 that history and past performance meant nothing to him. Klinsmann dropped Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain. He benched Michael Bradley. He denigrated Clint Dempsey. With Landon Donovan, he pretty much did all three. All the while, Howard, the longtime goalkeeper, played the role of supportive teammate and steady hand.” NY Times


Soccer Dives: Simulation Is Just a Part of the Game

June 22, 2014

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“Last Thursday, the World Cup opened with the play nobody wants to see: an appallingly incorrect penalty call. After a pass came into the penalty area, Croatian defender Dejan Lovren lightly touched Brazilian forward Fred, who had the ball at his feet, on the shoulder. Instantly, Fred threw his arms in the air, opened his mouth to scream, and fell to the ground like a popped balloon. The referee whistled a foul, and Brazilian star Neymar scored on the ensuing penalty kick. The goal turned out to be the winning one in a match that seemed destined to end in a draw. There is no call more controversial in soccer than the penalty. Quickly after Fred’s flop, nearly every soccer forum in the world ridiculed the call as a refereeing failure.” Vanity Fair

The Officiating Apologist: Time to get over the World Cup ‘gaffes’
“The outrage a Fred’s flop in the box during the opening game of the World Cup has been pervasive. I know that the American sentiment is that diving or ‘simulation’ is an egregious affront to good sportsmanship, but most people that have soccer as their primary source of sports entertainment view it as a part of every day life. Sure, some players are more regularly overdramatic in their dives, but as it stands now, being able to sell a call is a skill in international soccer, and Fred executed, and it payed off for his team.” The Rhino and Compass


Its Dragons Felled, Bosnia Reflects on Defeat

June 22, 2014

“In Sarajevo, a city ever running out of parking space, the downtown area was closed last night to traffic for the match between Nigeria and Bosnia. I suppose a massive victory celebration was anticipated. Everyone had been speculating about the outcome, the game largely already won. Everyone, that is, except the national team manager Safet Susic, who was repeatedly quoted as saying that Bosnia just needed a tie with Nigeria. The game to win was the next one, against Iran.” New Republic


Ctrl + ← A Sticker Collector, America’s Center of Mass and Gooooooooals

June 22, 2014

“This is Ctrl + ←, our weekly data journalism roundup. You’ll find the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles of the past week, as well as gems we spotted elsewhere on the Internet (not surprisingly, several this week are World Cup-related).” fivethirtyeight