Unorthodox Bookends Leading the Germans

July 4, 2014

1. FSV Mainz 05 - FC Bayern München 3:2
“It has been a hot and cold World Cup for Germany: from its bold statement match in steamy Salvador against Portugal to its botched lines and opportunities in the chill and drizzle of Porto Alegre against Algeria. Despite fluctuating form and Manager Joachim Löw’s concern about seven players with mild flu symptoms, the Germans are, as usual, in contention with the World Cup reaching its business end. The next obstacle amid national angst: Friday’s quarterfinal against resurgent France. Germany is hard to read and difficult to categorize, and its protean nature is particularly evident at the front of the attack and the back of the defense. Thomas Müller, again its leading scorer, is an unconventional, unusually versatile forward. Manuel Neuer is an unconventional, unusually versatile goalkeeper.” NY Times


The Netherlands’ Odds Rise Dramatically in Big Bank’s Fancy World Cup Predictions

July 4, 2014

“Banks are good at making money (or crashing the economy), but can they predict the outcome of the World Cup? The short answer: kind of. On May 30, Goldman Sachs released its 67-page World Cup and Economics 2014 report, thatbetween interviews with Franz Beckenbauer and in-depth breakdowns of every team (really, it’s a pretty good read)includes a statistical model designed to predict the outcome of the tournament.” New Republic


Mario Yepes, Colombia’s Grand Old Man

July 4, 2014

“The 38-year-old Cafeteros captain persevered through the national team’s dry spell but now leads a new golden generation. Mario Yepes watched the 1994 World Cup like most of the rest of us, on television. He had just completed his first professional season, helping second division Cortulua gain promotion to the Colombian top flight. He was a striker then, but new manager Reynaldo Rueda had other ideas. Yepes would be converted to center back, to play as a libero. He was big, fluid, and rangy, but never fast, even before he became slow, never the brand of Colombian burner that has set this tournament alight.Fusion


Impossible Isn’t French: Can France Go All the Way this World Cup?

July 4, 2014

“In early June, I had an appointment at the French Football Federation (FFF) headquarters, a modern building with lots of glass and light in Paris’ 15th arrondisement. The place hummed with activity and there was a contagious undercurrent of optimism and eager anticipation. My visit occurred just after the last of Les Bleus’ three pre-World Cup tune-up matches (a win vs Norway, 4-0; a draw vs. Paraguay, 1-1; a win vs Jamaica, 8-0), so perhaps those successes fed into the confidence emanating from 87, boulevard de Grenelle. Yet, the atmosphere differed from September, when the air was more heavily perfumed with the “we’ve got hard work to do” odor of determination. This time around, even the French media, often highly critical of Les Bleus, reflected an upbeat sentiment.” New Republic


World Cup From Carrying Water to Stirring a Nation

July 4, 2014

“For a man once belittled by Eric Cantona as ‘a water carrier,’ Didier Deschamps has certainly made a habit of carrying lots of trophies. French reporters like to ask Deschamps, now the French national team manager, if he was born under a ‘bonne étoile,’ a lucky star. But there is clearly much more than good karma and good timing involved at this stage of the game. He was captain of the French team that won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship and a key player for Marseille and then Juventus when each club won the Champions League.” NY Times


What’s Behind the World Cup’s Second-Round Slowdown?

July 4, 2014

“It feels like something has gone missing from Brazil in the past week. After an opening group stage that had been almost universally praised as the best-played and most entertaining World Cup in decades, the recent round of sixteen was a little more ordinary. Fouls are up and offense has slowed down, with the celebrated statistic of 2.83 scores per game in the group stage dropping by more than half a goal in the second round. Yes, it’s still the knockout stage of the World Cup, but it has sometimes felt uninspired—prosaic play clothed by the tension of high-stakes games with close final scores, extra-time finishes, and penalty shots.” New Yorker