The Making of Belgium’s Golden Generation, and Imported Versus Cultivated Talent

July 3, 2014

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“At its best, the World Cup produces games that are works of art, narratives that can rival our greatest plays and novels for what they tell us about ourselves and our world. Opinions will differ, of course, about any work of art, and our and interpretation always depends on what we carry with us. I’m certainly biased in this case: I am Belgian-American, and deeply invested in the stories both these teams brought to the pitch. Though I’m a bit of specialist in ambivalent fandom, yesterday’s brought my level of fragmentation to new levels. But I survived, and am grateful for what last night offered us.” New Republic – Laurent Dubois


Attack-minded Belgium finds way through USA, defiant Tim Howard

July 3, 2014

“It looked chaotic at times, and playing an extra 30 minutes wasn’t in the plan, but Belgium’s 2-1 win over the United States on Tuesday went about as Belgian manager Marc Wilmots scripted it. Belgium still hasn’t scored a goal this World Cup before the 70th minute, but the Red Devils were still the best team across 120 minutes of play. Both teams fielded fairly attack-minded lineups, with the U.S. playing 4-1-4-1 for the first time in the tournament. Belgium stuck with its usual 4-3-3, and all 10 field players had their moments in attack, including center back Vincent Kompany, who dribbled the length of the pitch in the 90th minute and turned it into a scoring opportunity.” SI

Belgium 2-1 USA: Belgium dominate but take ages to make the breakthrough
“USA put up a brilliant fight in extra-time, but Belgium had been the superior side for the majority. Marc Wilmots selected Divock Origi upfront, rather than the underwhelming Romelu Lukaku. Jurgen Klinsmann brought Alejandro Bedoya back into the side, and made the surprising decision to select Geoff Cameron rather than Kyle Beckerman in midfield, supposedly because of his greater mobility. This was a tremendously entertaining game, but Belgium should have put it to bed much earlier – only a tremendous goalkeeping display from Tim Howard kept USA in it.” Zonal Marking

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Belgium 2-1 USA: Sudden shift proves costly
“Although these two teams’ pre-tournament expectations were widely conflicting, both now found themselves facing off in what was being touted as a fairly balanced encounter. Belgium were expected to deliver and did with three wins and just 1 goal conceded (from the spot). The US on the other hand were expected to bow out early, but emerged ahead of Portugal & Ghana (so nearly Germany too). In a 5th round of 16 game that went into extra-time, Belgium emerged victorious, possibly deservedly, but the US could have so easily forced penalties.” Outside of the Boot

USA 1:2 Belgium – The What If Game
“In the end, it was a deserving result. The universe or fate or the soccer gods or whatever didn’t mess up and wrong the United States Men’s National Team. We didn’t play better than the other team, simple as that. And yet, how do you explain that feeling in the pit of every U.S. fans’ stomach? That sick, awful feeling that things could have been different. Soccer is a funny game. You can be clearly inferior for the entire match and still somehow win. If your defense holds and you capitalize on your lone scoring chance, then you can knock off a better side. This almost happened last night. In stoppage time of regulation, Chris Wondolowski had the ball on his foot six yards from the goal line. If he puts it in the back of the net, the United States are through to the World Cup quarterfinals. Belgium wouldn’t have deserved that, but to quote Will Munny: ‘Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it’.” Soccer Pro

Hooray for Losers
“Americans are learning how to lose, and soccer is teaching them how to do it. For the longest time, second place in any competition, domestic or international, has been regarded in the USA as a disaster of unmitigated proportions. (Third was not even worth acknowledging.) While other countries celebrated their silver or bronze medals with parties and parades, American commentators thrust microphones into the faces of the ‘losers’ and asked, sotto voce and with unconcealed disappointment, ‘What happened?’ or ‘What went wrong?’” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson


Argentina 1-0 Switzerland (AET): Switzerland concentrate on stopping Messi

July 3, 2014

“In a very enjoyable World Cup second round, this was surely the least exciting game. Everything went through Leo Messi, and he eventually assisted the winning goal. Alejandro Sabella was without Sergio Aguero, so brought Ezequiel Lavezzi into the side – he started on the right, and Argentina were pretty much a 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1 system. Ottmar Hitzfeld kept an unchanged side for his last game as a manager before retirement. This was a very poor game, with essentially only one major question – could Switzerland successfully shut down Messi, or would he come up with a moment of magic to win the game?” Zonal Marking


Rio Ferdinand column: Paul Pogba will be world’s best midfielder

July 3, 2014

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“Young France midfielder Paul Pogba has been one of the stars of this World Cup but I am not surprised by his impressive form in Brazil. Pogba did not play much during his time as a team-mate of mine at Old Trafford, but the things he did in training meant every member of Manchester United’s first-team squad was in no doubt how good he was, and how good he could be. It was a big disappointment when he left to join Juventus in 2012, and it was definitely a mistake by United to let him go.” BBC

France’s Paul Pogba: a complete midfielder worth ‘two Gareth Bales’
“Paul Pogba’s nickname has morphed since he arrived in Brazil. For most of his France team-mates he will still always be La Pioche, literally “The Pickaxe” though, in this context, a kid selflessly going about his business to help the collective. The locals, however, have been seduced by the blend of brute force and sinewy skill delivered in flashes by the youngster. They took one look at that eagerness to dribble, spray a pass or crunch a shot at goal, and awarded him their own moniker. He will take to the field at the Maracanã on Friday as Pogiba.” Guardian


World Cup 2014: Futsal – the game behind Brazil’s superstars

July 3, 2014

“There is a saying in Brazil that a great footballer is born here every day. A stroll along Rio’s breathtaking beaches is enough to show you why they believe that. As far as the eye can see, footballs dance in the evening air, propelled by one deft touch after another. Alongside the sun-worshippers, towel hawkers, muscle-men and bar-crawlers are boys and girls, men and women, repeating skills and drills, honing their feel for the football, hour after hour.” BBC (Video)

The Powerful Throat is giving favelas a World Cup voice in Brazil
“There’s a little football pitch up on the fifth station of the Santa Marta morro, in the Botafogo neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, where a group of Brazilian children who live in the favela are playing against some visiting Argentinian youths. The local kids hold a white ball, worn and battered, and they have challenged the Argentinians, saying if they win they will take their Fifa Brazuca football as the prize. The midday sun shines on the dry top of the morro, where the view of Christ the Redeemer on a nearby mountain top, and the undulating bays of Rio flanked by hills, literally stuns – can such beauty be humanly possible?” Guardian


Passion, pressure and prayers carrying Brazil on seven steps to heaven

July 3, 2014

“It was as Atlético Mineiro trailed 2-0 at half-time in the second leg of last season’s Copa Libertadores final against Olimpia of Paraguay that one of their supporters, wired on a cocktail of nerves, frustration and booze, decided to pop out for a smoke. He needed it. The Mineirão in Belo Horizonte was a maelstrom. Tears and prayers were seemingly everywhere. Another fan further down the row bawled his eyes out as he bellowed to the heavens. It was as if he were having an argument with the Big Referee upstairs. Atlético had never previously won the Libertadores. Their hated rivals, Cruzeiro, were on course to take the Brazilian league title. Atlético had to win this game.” Guardian


The Story of Resistance to FIFA’s War on Brazilian People – Video Blog

July 3, 2014

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June 13, 2014. “FIFA’s 50 billion dollar war on Brazilian people, started with the first worker oppressed, the first poor black person killed by police, the first indigenous forcefully evicted, the first teacher beaten by police, the first journalist or social activist attacked, the first protestor clubbed, the first kid in the favela murdered by state uniforms, the first sex worker raped by police, and the first child sold into sexual slavery. The World Cup is for the rich, the cops are for the poor. It started with the first home stolen, with the first rent raised, with the first law changed for FIFA’s sponsors, with the first patient left to die at the hospitals’ doors, with the first worker killed in their stadiums.” Revolution News (Video)


Stop Treating Women Like They Don’t Know Anything About Soccer

July 3, 2014

“Last week, Helena Costa resigned from her job as the head coach of second-division French club Clermont Foot. In the midst of World Cup fever, the news slipped under the radar, but it was momentous. The first woman ever appointed to lead a professional men’s club just quit her groundbreaking job—before the first ball was even kicked. Costa, who had previously scouted for Celtic and coached the Iranian and Qatari women’s national teams, had only been appointed in May in what had been praised around the world as a landmark decision.” New Republic


World Cup 2014: Who holds the balance of power in world football?

July 3, 2014

“Brazil’s World Cup has been played in the style that so many hoped for once football’s showpiece was awarded to the country regarded as the home of the game’s free spirits. The last three weeks have provided a consistent narrative of fast, attacking football and excitement – exactly as the game’s rulers would have imagined it when they handed the tournament to Brazil. Even the line-up for the last eight has a balance that brings pleasure to the purists, as four teams from the Americas are complimented by a quartet from Europe – all of them group winners.” BBC


Neymar v James Rodríguez – the first clash of the glamour boy No10s

July 3, 2014

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“Shortly before the start of Brazil and Chile’s World Cup last-16 match in Belo Horizonte there was a sudden kerfuffle in the Estádio Mineirão media centre. Voices were raised, chairs overturned, necks craned anxiously. Was this another riot? A security threat? A Western-style brawl between Peruvian TV and Norwegian state radio? As it turned out the calm centre of this storm was Miss Chile, present in her official capacity – and a very small pair of shorts – to be snapped and vox-popped and camera-phoned and generally gaped at by a throng of suddenly very animated journalists. Not that Miss Chile seemed uncomfortable with the process, bouncing around with practised ease and, in a dramatic finale, hoisting up her T-shirt to reveal (a) her brassiere; and (b) a preview of tomorrow’s inside back pages.” Guardian


The Eternal Cult of Zinedine Zidane

July 3, 2014

“This story first appeared in Eight by Eight magazine’s World Cup issue. ICON (also ikon) 1. A devotional painting of Christ or another holy figure, typically executed on wood and used ceremonially in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches. 2. A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration: ‘this iron-jawed icon of American manhood.’ So says the Oxford English Dictionary. ‘Zinedine Zidane’ would be a tempting addition: ‘regarded … as worthy of veneration’yes, certainly. When your face is beamed on the Arc de Triomphe on the night of France’s greatest-ever sporting exploit, of which you’ve been the undoubted hero, how could you not be? To acknowledge Zidane’s iconic status does not necessarily mean, however, that it was bestowed on him by a nation united in gratitude, as I was recently reminded in a Paris cab.” New Republic


The 2014 World Cup All-Hair Team

July 3, 2014

“After a scintillating batch of round-of-sixteen matches, it’s time once to announce the World Cup All-Hair Team. The All-Hair Team Selection Committee deployed a meticulous, scientific rating system to assess the coiffures of the 736 players who made the voyage to Brazil. The committee considered four main criteria…” Fusion