Soccer-inspired graffiti a mainstay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian landscape

July 5, 2014

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“Jorges Leon Brasil is not lost. He started chauffeuring tourists and businessmen and urban adventurers all over Rio 26 years ago, when he was 18. His time-tested version of GPS is to squint his eyes in deep thought and—pop!—Ah yes, I know this place. He’s just not sure where he’s going this morning. A rest day during the World Cup has turned into a driving tour of Rio’s burgeoning graffiti scene, and I’ve asked Brasil—Junior to his passengers; he was named after his father—to be my guide in finding some soccer-inspired art. He has experience, after all. As a young boy growing up outside of Rio in the 1980s, in Vista Alegre (‘Happyville, you would say, in English’), Junior would join the local children at night during World Cup summers and literally paint the town center yellow and green, with Brazilian flags and soccer imagery celebrating his generation’s stars: Zico, Romario, Bebeto. . . It’s part of a tradition that carries on today.” SI


Brazil Takes a Painful Step Forward

July 5, 2014

“It was an enormous win for Brazil, but it came at a gigantic cost. Brazil on Friday powered to an impressive 2-1 quarterfinal victory over upstart Colombia at Estádio Castelão, setting off another round of raucous nationwide partying. But the noise and jubilation proved short-lived, as it was revealed after the game that Neymar — the country’s best player and biggest star — would miss the rest of the World Cup after injuring his back in the dying minutes of the hugely physical game. The Brazilian team has had only one goal this summer: to win the country’s sixth World Cup trophy while playing on home soil. The victory on Friday was an important step, setting up a semifinal next Tuesday against the powerful German squad.” NY Times

Odd couple pulls Brazil through
“On a day when Brazil lost star midfielder Neymar for the rest of the World Cup with a fractured vertebra, the Selecao turned to their odd couple — defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz — to pull them through. The two leaders in the back scored goals either side of halftime to propel Brazil to a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia. Silva latched onto a Neymar’s corner kick and deflected the ball home with his knee with the game less than seven minutes old. In the 69th minute, Luiz hit a scorching 34-yard free kick past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. It was difficult to tell what possessed more maniacal ferocity — the shot, or his celebratory run to the near side corner flag.” ESPN


Germany Wins a Battle of the Old Guard

July 5, 2014

“As appetizers go, it was more of a dessert: a World Cup quarterfinal at Estádio do Maracanã between two European powerhouses featuring 22 starting players who play club soccer in England, Spain, France, Italy or Germany. For much of the world, it was a heavyweight fight contested in one of the sport’s greatest venues. Here, of course, it was a distinct undercard. Brazil defeated Colombia, 2-1, later Friday afternoon in a game so big it prompted the Colombian government to declare a national holiday.” NY Times

France 0 Germany 1
“Germany became the first nation to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals as Mats Hummels’ early header proved enough to see them past France at the Maracana. The three-time champions needed extra time to beat Algeria in the last 16 and suffered a bout of illness in midweek, but they were comfortable victors over a disappointing France in Rio de Janeiro. Hummels got the better of Raphael Varane to score what proved to be the winning goal and Germany can now prepare for a meeting with Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday after the hosts beat Colombia.” BBC

World Cup: Germany defeats France to reach semifinals
“It’s a demon buried deep within the French psyche — a demon which refuses to be exorcized. A word which brings shivers down the spine and strikes a fear into the heart of the country’s football fans. In Rio de Janeiro, the ghosts of years past haunted France again — the ‘Angstgegner’ returned. Germany, the ‘bogey team’ as it is known in France, wrote another painful chapter into Les Bleus’ World Cup history on Friday. A 1-0 victory secured Germany’s place in the semifinals for a record fourth consecutive tournament. But unlike in 1982 and 1986, when Germany defeated the French in the last four on both occasions, this was not a battle of epic proportions. There was not the drama, nor the controversy — but the end result was the same.” CNN


Who Won the World Cup of Arm-Folding?

July 5, 2014

“This year’s World Cup has featured some of the planet’s greatest athletes performing seemingly impossible physical tasks. Bicycle kicks. Spectacular goals. Mind-bending saves. Displays of endurance, determination, and balletic grace. And, of course, turning to the left and folding your arms. It turns out that’s surprisingly hard to ace on your first (and, presumably, only) try. Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of television viewers have watched players from all 32 teams botch this seemingly simple technique in the lineup presentations before each World Cup match.” Slate (Video)


The Hopes of Central America Rest on a Perpetual Underdog

July 5, 2014

“When Costa Rica played Uruguay on June 14 in its first game of the World Cup, it was not so much a case of David versus Goliath as it was David versus David. That time fortune favored the Central Americans: Against all expectations — they had never beaten Uruguay, the two-time Cup winners — the Costa Ricans won, 3-1. But if ever there were a country from which La Sele (the Costa Rican national team), which will face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday, might learn how to punch above its weight, it would be plucky little Uruguay.” NY Times

Costa Rica’s Midfield Has Used the World Cup As a Stage For Redemption
“The Ticos no one wanted are suddenly in demand. The Costa Rican national team entered the World Cup hoping to send a message to the world. ‘That was one of our main goals here in Brazil, letting the world know about Costa Rican football,’ defender Giancarlo Gonzalez told reporters on Tuesday.” Fusion

Costa Rica’s Number One Soccer fan Is a Nun with her own TV Show
“Sister Aracelly Salazar is Costa Rica’s self-proclaimed number one soccer fan. When she is not kicking the ball around, she hosts a TV show on a religious channel to relive the national team’s best moments, with thousands tuning in every Saturday to hear her analysis.” Fusion


A Wonderful Tournament—But Just How Good Are Brazil, or the Rest?

July 5, 2014

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“‘How good was that?’ Anyone who watches sport on British television will be familiar with the Question Asinine asked by interviewers after a game. In the case of this World Cup, we can say already, ‘Very good indeed.’ This is one of the best tournaments even those with long memories can recall, endlessly exciting and continually surprising, with a feast of great goals, and almost more of great goalkeeping. Apart from anything else, the epic Thibaut Courtois v Tim Howard match, aka Belgium v USA, showed that an amazing save can be as good to watch as an amazing goal.” New Republic


Stop Making Sense

July 5, 2014

“Should we talk about where we’ve just been? The group stage was one coup after another, a sequence of thrilling games that gradually dismantled the existing order of international soccer. The last two world champions died in their baths. Italy, never expected to be a real threat, went down screaming about tooth marks, collateral damage in the Luis Suárez carnival of shame. Spain, the team that spent six years enforcing stability at the top of the sport, went out almost before the tournament had even started, like the first corpse in a murder mystery: Robin van Persie, with the forehead, in the invisible wind tunnel.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Javier Mascherano, Argentina’s Rock fusion

July 5, 2014

“Why Lionel Messi’s Barcelona teammate may hold the key to Albiceleste’s success. Lionel Messi was, quite understandably, named man of the match of Argentina’s first four games. But Javier Mascherano is having just as big an influence on the Albiceleste’s World Cup campaign. Mascherano has one of the most difficult jobs at the competition: to make coach Alejandro Sabella’s (or, according to widespread reporting, Messi’s) 4–3–3 system a success, and allow his higher-profile attacking teammates to shine. He’s no stranger to difficult tasks, having spent most of the last four seasons at center back for his club, despite being too small (5-7) and light (170 pounds) for the position. During that time he has won six trophies (including two La Liga titles and one Champions League), while also becoming one of the few “outsiders” to gain acceptance in the Camp Nou dressing room.” Fusion


Statkeepers Call the Shots, But They Can’t Agree on Them

July 5, 2014

“In the third minute of added extra time in Tuesday’s Belgium-U.S. World Cup match, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne took a pass in the box, dribbled to his right and hooked the ball into the left side of the net. Finally, after 31 shots, the Belgians had broken through. Or … wait. Was it 32 shots? It depends on which Twitter account you follow. ESPN’s Stats & Information Group tweeted that Belgium had scored on its 31st shot of the day. OptaJoe, the U.K. Twitter account of the soccer stats company Opta, said it was the 32nd. At the World Cup, shots are in the eye of the beholder. At least three major soccer stats companies are logging every match, and they have yet to all agree on each team’s number of shots and shots on goal. For every one of the 58 games so far, the companies can’t quite get their stories straight. Sometimes their counts have differed by as much as two or three.” fivethirtyeight