Semifinals Remain an Inner Sanctum Until Further Notice

“The World Cup, ultimately, is a highly exclusive club. To be sure, the World Cup lets in hoi polloi to give a glimmer of hope and inclusion, but the inner sanctum is usually sealed shut by the semifinals, sending home the pretenders. Not our kind. Check out the four semifinalists this time around. The outsider, the long shot, is merely a three-time finalist, respected all over the world for its Total Football, the open, offensive style that has influenced Spain, the nation; Barcelona, the club; and other appealing offensive systems. Yes, the Netherlands, destiny’s darling, is known universally as the greatest soccer nation never to win the World Cup. All over the world, the huddled masses like the United States, yearning to be significant, are asking themselves, What does it take to crash that club, to become a regular, a nation that feels at home in the semifinals? How do countries learn that self-assurance that wins dubious referee calls and takes over game-deciding shootouts?” NY Times


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