Blue, as in Happy

June 25, 2014

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“Victory, even in the group stage of the World Cup, can make Uruguayans feel like champions again. After the closing 10 minutes against Italy on Tuesday — 10 minutes in which all fans of the diminutive republic were on tenterhooks for a 1-0 victory — the cheers rang out. Renditions of ‘Soy Celeste … Celeste Soy Yo!’ (‘I’m sky blue … Sky blue, I am!’) were followed by the ubiquitous chants of winning the World Cup again (just like the first time, in 1930). There was much swinging of the national shirt.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Italy 0 – 1 Uruguay: Man marking all-over the place
“The Azzurri were expected to be comfortably through already following an opening-match win over England, but Costa Rica ended hopes of a quick qualification for Cesare Prandelli’s team. Uruguay were also left stunned by the Group D’s surprise team when they lost 3-1 to the Costa Ricans in their first group match. However, the return of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to the starting XI against England proved to be the catalyst for a 2-1 victory. Therefore, the setting was simple. Uruguay needed a win, Italy needed to avoid defeat to progress to the knockout rounds.” Outside of the Boot

Uruguay’s Suárez, Known for Biting, Leaves Mark on World Cup
“The most ruthless soccer players often use their hands or elbows or knees to rough up opposing players. The most reckless — or dirtiest — might even use their cleats. Then there is Luis Suárez. Suárez, the Uruguayan striker who has emerged as one of the best players in the world over the past year, is a biter. And, it seems, a serial one. For the third time in his career, Suárez is facing potential punishment for appearing to sink his teeth into an opponent. This time, it happened on the biggest soccer stage of all, the World Cup, during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday. Late in the second half, Suárez bumped into Giorgio Chiellini, an Italian defender, while jockeying for position in the penalty area and then dropped his head into Chiellini’s shoulder. Chiellini immediately recoiled as both fell to the ground.” NY Times

Luis Suarez ‘bite’: Uruguay striker ‘should be banned’
“Uruguay striker Luis Suarez should be banned for ‘as long as possible’ if he is found guilty of biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, according to former England captain Alan Shearer. Liverpool forward Suarez appeared to bite Chiellini just before Uruguay scored their winning goal. The Italian certainly felt he was bitten, pulling his shirt down to show an apparent mark on his left shoulder.” BBC

Your ‘Luis Suárez Bit a Guy!?’ Reaction Post
“Chris Ryan: Hey, Mike! Hungry? It sure looks like Uruguay forward Luis Suárez just bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup match. Uruguay, already up a man, went on to win the match and advance to the Round of 16. This is the third time Suárez has taken his Dracula imitation a little too far. In 2010, while playing for Ajax, he chomped on a PSV player. …” Grantland


Group D – ESPN

June 25, 2014
Group D Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Costa Rica 7 3 3 2 1 0 4 1
2 Uruguay 6 0 3 2 0 1 4 4
3 Italy 3 -1 3 1 0 2 2 3
4 England 1 -2 3 0 1 2 2 4

World Cup group stage: day 13. URUGUAY 1-0 ITALY. COSTA RICA 0-0 ENGLAND. GREECE 2-1 IVORY COAST. COLOMBIA 4-1 JAPAN.

June 25, 2014

“… Colombia counter-attacked excellently even with a second-string side. Expected pattern. This was another frustrating performance from Japan – lots of possession, some pretty build-up play, but little in the way of penetration. Even more than usual, they needed to commit men forward to increase their attacking threat, so inevitably left gaps at the back for Colombia to break into, with Juan Cuadrado – the only first-choice attacker not rested – having another excellent game. The only genuinely interesting factor was the positioning of Alexander Mejia, who on paper was a midfielder, but stuck so tightly to Japan’s number ten Keisuke Honda – who was determined to move forward to become a second striker – that he basically became a third centre-back. It meant Colombia retained a spare man at the back, and were generally comfortable despite having to withstand lots of pressure.” Zonal Marking


Colombia Pulls Away From Japan to Win Group C

June 25, 2014

“James Rodríguez scored a brilliant goal and set up two more for Jackson Martínez as Colombia routed Japan, 4-1, on Tuesday to clinch the top spot in Group C and eliminate the Asian champions from the World Cup. Already assured of advancing, Colombia guaranteed first place with its third straight win, setting up a second-round match against Uruguay. The Colombians started with a virtual second-string lineup but still went in front when Juan Cuadrado — one of the few regular starters — drilled in a 17th-minute penalty kick.” NY Times


Costa Rica Makes History at the World Cup

June 25, 2014

“Of all the surprises so far at this World Cup, perhaps none has been more unexpected than the success of Costa Rica, a country of 4.7 million and, relatively speaking, about the size of host country Brazil’s toenail. The team had been drawn into a group with three of the sport’s most storied nations: England, which is home to arguably the best soccer league in the world; Italy, which has won four World Cups, more than any country that isn’t hosting the event; and Uruguay, the team whose ghost haunts this year’s World Cup, having won the last one to be held in Brazil, in 1950. Nearly every pundit the world over had predicted that Costa Rica would function more as a punching bag than a soccer team this summer. And yet, after Tuesday’s draw with England in the final group match, Costa Rica finished in first place in the group.” Vanity Fair

Improbable Late Penalty Sends Greece to Round of 16
“Georgios Samaras scored on an added-time penalty kick to put Greece into the second round of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday. Samaras, who was ruled to have been tripped in the area by the substitute Giovanni Sio, calmly slotted in the spot kick for a victory that put Greece through to the knockout stage as the second-place finisher in Group C. Ivory Coast would have advanced with a draw.” NY Times


Group C – ESPN

June 25, 2014
Group C Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Colombia 9 7 3 3 0 0 9 2
2 Greece 4 -2 3 1 1 1 2 4
3 Ivory Coast 3 -1 3 1 0 2 4 5
4 Japan 1 -4 3 0 1 2 2 6

Passing the World Cup’s Soccer Idealist Torch From Spain to Chile

June 25, 2014

“Soccer ideology on the international level is a rare thing. Managers are faced with a limited, static pool of talent and a training schedule that consists of, at most, a couple of weeks at a time most years. The ultimate result is qualifying for and performing well in the World Cup. It’s a goal that prioritizes getting results right now, because if you don’t you’re out, and if you’re out you’ve failed. Losing games in the present makes it hard to focus on building for the long term.” Grantland


Shades of Oranje

June 25, 2014

“France ’98 remains the standard for World Cups in my lifetime. The number of great players in their prime, the quality of the games in the knockout rounds, the last-second drama of the now (thankfully) abolished Golden Goal—a rule by which the first team to score a goal in extra time won—it all proved irresistible. France as a nation had turned to embrace the right, and up had risen the National Front; nevertheless, people traveled in happy droves to spend days, if not weeks, in their dream of Romantic France. During those June days, football flourished under what should have been a crushing paradox of love and hate, more felt than fully understood.” The Paris Review


Policing FIFA-Space

June 25, 2014

“What’s happening in the stands, where the fans meet the field? Scalpers, ticket touts, and cambistas operate freely around the Maracanã, exploiting fans desperate to get into matches. Outside the Spain vs. Chile match, an Englishman was selling three tickets for a total of $2,500—a sum that is maddeningly expensive and theoretically illegal. And this was one of dozens of such transactions happening on a newly constructed overpass that leads to the stadium before the game.” Fusion


Messi, Sabella now in tactical tandem

June 25, 2014

“It’s a peculiar lark, this football management. Use a system that doesn’t suit your best players, and you’re considered an inflexible ideologue. Tweak your system to get the best players in the role they’re happiest, and you’re criticised for having no backbone. Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella and his captain, Lionel Messi, have been criticised this week, after Sabella supposedly bowed to Messi’s demands for the game against Iran. Having played a 5-3-2 system in their opening match against Bosnia, Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 for the Iran contest. It’s tough to work out which criticism is sillier — the idea that Sabella is weak for listening to Messi, or the idea Messi was unprofessional for pointing out the obvious. The reality is simple: Argentina’s use of a 5-3-2 against Bosnia was the managerial cock-up of the tournament so far.” ESPN – Michael Cox