World Cup 2014: Might Brazil be the next victims of Chile?

June 28, 2014

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“Shortly after the World Cup draw was made in December, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named the opposition he wished to avoid should his men reach the last 16. ‘I hope Chile don’t qualify,’ said Scolari. ‘I’d rather play any of the others. They’re a pain to play against. They’re well organised and intelligent. It’s better to face a European team.’ The 65-year-old was tempting fate and it came to pass when Chile finished second in Group B and Brazil won Group A, setting up an mouthwatering contest in Belo Horizonte on Saturday. It is the coming together of two attacking powerhouses and, while Brazil cannot contemplate defeat as they pursue a title viewed by the host nation as a birthright, Chile intend to spoil the party.” BBC

Chile will press on against Brazil
“In years to come, when the 2014 World Cup is remembered, most of the focus will fall on the knock out matches. What came before, Luis Suarez and open attacking play included, is all prelude. One fear, then, is that when the competition reaches the business end it might suddenly go cautious; as sapping conditions take their toll and the less ambitious teams seek to grind out their passage into the next round by taking the tie to a penalty shoot out. But there would seem to be little danger of caution playing much part in the first knock out match, the all South American clash in Belo Horizonte between Brazil and Chile.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Babylon on the Beach

June 28, 2014

“There have been other parties on this beach. Not just the annual Carnival bacchanal or the New Year’s fireworks, which are massive and can run ragged (as a friend here told me, ‘you watch the fireworks and then run home so nothing bad happens to you’). Copacabana beach, the ‘billion dollar crescent’, as the New York Times called this strand fifty years ago, has hosted everyone from the Rolling Stones to Pharrell. Three million people showed up on its shore for Pope Francis last year, even more than that came for Rod Stewart a decade earlier. Five years ago, 100,000 people turned out just to celebrate the announcing of Rio as 2016 Olympic host—a party to celebrate a future party. But it’s still worth appreciating the unique wilding that is Copacabana this month during the World Cup. The Argentines are camping, the Chileans are chanting, the Costa Ricans are weeping, the Brazilians are hustling, and everywhere are the Americans, baying and bro-ing. Kiosks sell Ruffles and Lucky Strikes and Prudence condoms while sidewalk touts shove apitos and off-label FIFA tchotchkes in your face. Beach cruiser bikes weave around clusters of flagthumpers on the swirled stone promenade. A Uruguayan takes off running to the west for no apparent reason. A naval warship lingers just offshore; police helicopters buzz the beach. The atmosphere is somewhere between Spring Break and the Fall of Saigon.” Roads and Kingdoms


Five Burning Questions for the World Cup Knockout Rounds

June 28, 2014

I am here to tell you about fire. The group stage of the 2014 World Cup was one of the most spectacular phases of a soccer tournament in recent memory. We’ve had torrential rains. We’ve had jungle heat. We’ve had moths the size of magazines. We’ve had wild upsets and crushing defeats; we’ve toppled the entire world order. We’ve seen more goals than in any major conflict since at least the French Revolution. And now — at last — this tournament is about to get serious.” Grantland


What we learned in the group stage

June 28, 2014

“Footballers are known for spouting clichés whenever possible, and when Marcelo was asked to summarise Brazil’s goalless draw against Mexico in the second round of group games, he immediately responded with a classic. ‘At the World Cup,’ he began, ‘there is no easy game.’ Bingo! There are no easy games at the World Cup, despite the fact that some teams are drawing upon the best players in the world, and others are selecting footballers plying their trade in second divisions across Europe. The World Cup sees the greatest players on the greatest stage, but sometimes also features the greatest (apparent) mismatches too. Argentina against Iran? How will the scoreboard cope?” ESPN – Michael Cox


The Germans Are Young, in Their Prime, And Really, Really Good

June 28, 2014

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“In the fall of 2000, 11-year-old soccer wunderkind Thomas Muller left TSV Pahl, the local team near his hometown of Weilheim in Oberbayern, and joined Bayern Munich’s youth academy. That same year, 22-year-old Miroslav Klose was co-leading the Bundesliga club FCK in goals, becoming a star in his own right. Fourteen years later, they’re both on the same Germany squad, with Muller chasing the World Cup goals record that Klose just tied. In Germany, one generation is being eclipsed by the next. On Thursday, the United States will have to tussle with both. The U.S. faces Muller, Klose and the rest of the German juggernaut in a match that FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup prediction model gives the Americans only a 15 percent chance of winning.” fivethirtyeight

Dispatch from Berlin: Germany v. Germany
“Here in Berlin, despite the disagreeable weather, World Cup fever is now fully epidemic. There’s hardly a bar or restaurant that hasn’t got a large flat screen TV set up for the benefit of its smoking, drinking, screaming football clientele. The other night, sitting outside at a Mediterranean place in Kreuzberg, I could hear the TVs of the neighboring restaurants echoing across the square, as though the world’s most intricate surround sound system had been installed here.” 8by8


The great Dutch football tradition

June 28, 2014

“When I arrived in the Netherlands in 1976, I was six years old and had never previously heard of the country. My father just happened to have taken a job there. We moved into a typical small Dutch terraced house, with big front windows through which passers-by could peer to make sure nothing untoward was happening inside. On our first Dutch evening, my brother and I ventured on to the street to meet the other children. They greeted us by singing what were probably the only English words they knew: ‘Crazy boys!’ But we soon became regulars in the street’s daily football match. It turned out that we had landed in the middle of a golden age. In 1974 Holland had reached the World Cup final playing glorious passing football. In 1978 they got there again. And the present Dutch team, which faces Mexico in the second round of the World Cup on Sunday, is in that tradition. It isn’t as good, yet it won its three group games. Holland’s football team may be the last surviving unmistakably Dutch cultural product.” FT – Simon Kuper


World Cup: The art of protest — Brazil’s graffiti artists tackle Brazil 2014

June 28, 2014

“If graffiti is the voice of the street, what better way to take a nation’s pulse than by gazing upon the walls of its inner cities?  In Brazil, like many nations, graffiti has long been a way for urban artists to decorate their neighborhoods, voice an opinion or tag prominent buildings with their signature style.  As the 2014 World Cup approached, however, many works began to take on the role of a complex social commentary.  Like the diverse spectrum of emotions and opinions surrounding the hosting of the event itself, graffiti appeared that was both aggressive and welcoming; political yet playful.  Brazilians love their football after all — as evidenced by the passion displayed inside stadia throughout the World Cup so far — but many remain appalled by the amount of money being spent to host the tournament.  We asked Cranio and Paulo Ito, two prolific graffiti artists from Sao Paulo, to explain how the sentiment of the Brazilian street has impacted their work and been transported onto walls and buildings across the vast country.  Interviews and captions by Eoghan Macguire, for CNN.” CNN