Brazil’s nightmare gets worse: Argentina to play for World Cup title

July 10, 2014

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“A bad week for Brazil just got worse. There’s not much that could make the humiliation of Tuesday’s 7-1 defeat to Germany feel even grimmer, but Argentina winning the World Cup at the Maracana would be unbearable. The holiest of the holies has already been defiled once, by Uruguay in 1950, but that would be nothing to the desecration of seeing Lionel Messi and his side celebrating there on Sunday. Whether that’s likely is another matter. Argentina will go into the final as the underdog, and understandably so, given the respective performances in the semifinals, but it will not capitulate against Germany as Brazil did. This may be a limited side, but it is one with great character and spirit, a cold-eyed willingness to get the job done.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Argentina 0-0 Netherlands: Argentina through on penalties
“Sergio Romero was the hero after an extremely uneventful 120 minutes. Alejandro Sabella brought back Marcos Rojo after suspension, while Enzo Perez deputised for the injured Angel di Maria. Louis van Gaal was able to bring back Nigel de Jong after injury, meaning Daley Blind moved across to wing-back in place of Memphis Depay. There was obviously great tension here, but not much happened – of the 62 games at this World Cup so far, this game featured the lowest shot rate, and the lowest percentage of touches in the opposition third.” Zonal Marking

After Long Stalemate, Argentina Breaks Through in Shootout
“Regulation and extra time brought 120 minutes of scoreless exasperation in a World Cup semifinal on Wednesday that was by turns tense, cautious, clumsy, gripping and stubbornly unyielding. There was little space to move, few chances to score. Sometimes the match was as dreary as the misty evening chill. If it possessed any beauty, it was not in gracefulness but in stark, struggling exertion. And finally, when grind and strain and labor could not bring a resolution, whimsy and caprice did. Argentina defeated the Netherlands by 4-2 on penalty kicks and advanced to Sunday’s final against Germany.” NY Times

Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties)
“Argentina will meet Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana after winning a penalty shootout to eliminate the Netherlands.After 120 tedious and goalless minutes that were in stark contrast to the spectacular shock of the first semi-final between Brazil and the Germans, Argentina prevailed and a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals – when they played West Germany – will be played out in Rio. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero with penalty saves from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, while opposite number Jasper Cillessen was unable to repeat the feats of his deputy, Tim Krul, in the quarter-final win against Costa Rica.” BBC

World Cup Pass & Move: Semi-Charmed Lives
“Two semifinal matches, one penalty shootout, one plain old one-sided shootout. As the World Cup draws to a close, we look at some of the characters who made the semifinal round so wonderful, weird, glorious, ponderous, and heartbreaking.” Grantland


Argentines Sing of Brazil’s Humiliation, Loudly and in Rio

July 10, 2014

“As the Brazil team has come spectacularly undone in the World Cup, the pain for the host country has been compounded by the prospect that its hated rival, Argentina, could still lift the championship trophy on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro’s fabled Estádio do Maracanã, after Argentina won a tense semifinal against the Netherlands in a penalty shootout on Wednesday afternoon. The tens of thousands of Argentine fans who have invaded Brazil to cheer for their team, and taunt their hosts, brought with them a song that predicts not just triumph for Argentina, but deep humiliation for Brazil. And the players themselves have joined the choir.” NY Times (Video)


29 Minutes That Shook Brazil

July 10, 2014

“It started, innocently enough, in the 11th minute. Thomas Müller, Germany’s top scorer at this World Cup, slyly slid around the back of Brazil’s defense. When the ball arrived from a corner kick, he blasted it home. The Brazilian fans who made up most of the crowd of 58,000 went quiet for a moment. But then, unbowed, they resumed their defiant chants. In Ceilândia, some 450 miles north of the Estádio Mineirão, a housecleaner shrugged. ‘After the first goal, our reaction was not too much of a shock because Germany is a strong competitor,’ said the housecleaner, Neide Moura de Brito do Nascimento, who was watching on TV with her family. ‘We already expected one or two goals from them.’ Nothing else about Tuesday afternoon followed anyone’s expectations. From that modest beginning, this country went on to witness something never seen before in World Cup soccer: Germany scored five goals — more than many teams scored in the entire tournament — in the first 29 minutes of a World Cup semifinal on the way to a 7-1 victory. Those 29 minutes will be scrutinized for generations in Brazil, poked and prodded and dissected the way Brazil’s dreaded defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final has been.” NY Times (Video)


No More Tears

July 10, 2014

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This “Jesus Wept” photo became a meme in the aftermath of Brazil’s defeat yesterday.
“O Lachryma Cristi, what has happened to our weepy Brazilians? Since day one of this tournament, it seems, they have been in tears. As the technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira reported, ‘They cry during the national anthem, they cry at the end of extra-time, they cry before and after the penalties.’ The sports psychologist Regina Brandão was rushed in, but failed to stem the flow; then it was the Pressure! The Pressure! A nation’s hopes, et cetera, et cetera. And now this 7-1 pasting, the iconic gone-viral boy in the crowd, glasses pushed up, fingers pressed to eyes, sobbing into his Coca-Cola cup; and somewhere else not too far off, the pretty girl with tears streaming down her cheeks, rivulets slowly obliterating the Brazilian flags she had painted there.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson

Why Brazil Lost
“Most people are terrible singers, and yet football crowds are good at picking out a tune. Crowds are often flat on the high notes and tend to rush the tempo, but generally the combination of thousands of wrongs adds up to one big right. The Brazilian national anthem last night was different. All around the Mineirão people stood and roared it so loud that their eyes bulged. The words resounded with startling clarity but much too loudly for any music to be heard. Down on the field David Luiz and Júlio César were holding aloft the shirt of Neymar like a holy relic. The camera picked out a woman holding a placard that read, “Don’t worry—Neymar’s soul is here!” It was as though Neymar had died and was looking down at his former teammates from heaven, rather than watching them on television. The collective emotional frenzy of the scene was awe-inspiring.” Slate (Video)

The World Cup Beyond the Stadiums
“The matches of the FIFA World Cup have played out before crowds in stadiums—some barely finished—throughout Brazil, but the passions of the tournament can, at times, be most acutely felt far from the stands. Here, David Alan Harvey captures scenes from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to Copacabana Beach.” New Yorker (Photo)

Why Brazil Crumbled
“Peeling back the layers of expectation. The weight of…a team. ‘A player plays for more than himself.’ That’s a common maxim echoed throughout dressing rooms across the globe. Players are also expected to play for teammates, families, communities, countries, continents, gods, and local bodega store owners probably. Every player on a World Cup team has shouldered a cross-section of these burdens on top of self-imposed expectations and demanding, perpetually looming coaching staffs armed with lots of professional badges. And the better the player, the more that weight is amplified. If a player is that good, he can become a meal ticket for all involved. All of that weight can rest on a selection of moments and touches. A final touch ending up in a net or in the lap of a cerveza-guzzling spectator can be the difference between being heralded in tribute videos or becoming an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons. This is the burden of performance, the burden of play.” Fusion


World Cup Tactical Analysis | Brazil 1–7 Germany: Germany run riot to trounce Brazil

July 10, 2014

“While Brazilians still talk about 1950 with disappointment and horror, what transpired at the Belo Horizonte will bring nightmares to the South Americans for years to come. Aman Sardana analyses what happened, and what went wrong. The enormous pressure, the inflamed anticipation, one nation’s obsession and hysteria amassed on the shoulders of a fervent and useful but ultimately imperfect team. They snapped under the stress, no doubt, but there was more to this than just pressure, or flawed tactics and team choice, or incompetent positional play, or a first-rate German squad filled with incisive passers and composed finishers. It was all of those things, and yet more. A first-half goal barrage saw Die Mannschaft 5-0 up, Miroslav Klose procured his record-breaking 16th strike at the finals and the cruelty prolonged into the second period with Schürrle coming off the bench and bagging a brace. Mesut Özil missed a one-on-one to make it 8-0, moments before Oscar netted a consolatory hit in the final minute of the first semifinal of World Cup 2014. But as it was, in 30 obscene first-half minutes, the Brazilian dream was over. Outside of the Boot


World Cup Players to Know: Argentina Goalkeeper Sergio Romero

July 10, 2014

“In the John Hughes high school class version of Argentina’s national team, Lionel Messi is the quiet, smiling genius who wins over all the teachers through his sheer brilliance. Ángel di María plays the fragile cello prodigy, performing out there in the wings of the gymnasium before cutting in with his jaw-dropping skill. Sergio Agüero is a legend in his own time for getting it on with the principal’s daughter, in this case Giannina Maradona, child of Diego, to whom the Manchester City forward was married for four years before splitting off and getting called a wimp. (Mr. Hand of God himself needs better writers.) As for Sergio Romero, well, Sergio Romero would no doubt like to remain unseen in the corner.” Grantland (Video)


Thirty-One Nil

July 10, 2014

“No sport generates extremes of passion like football. And for football, there’s no bigger stage than the World Cup finals, every four years. The road to Brazil 2014 started in 2011 with hundreds of qualifying games in every corner of the world. For teams, players and fans, the games represent national identity, sometimes against backdrops of war, riots and revolution. ‘Thirty-One Nil’, a new book by British author James Montague, chronicles these extremes of hope, joy and despair — sometimes very personal, sometimes felt by entire nations. … Nick Wrenn, editor-in-chief, CNN” CNN

amazon: Thirty-One Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

Thirty One Nil: A Book About The Ones We Won’t See in Brazil: Book Review


O Jogo Bonito

July 10, 2014

“A little more than halfway through Brazil’s horrible, galling victory over Colombia last Friday, I began to wonder what type of foul might actually persuade the Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo to issue a yellow card: A studs-up, two-footed, kung-fu fly-kick to the chest, like the one launched by Eric Cantona against a fan in the stands back in 1995? Any one of the number of egregious fouls, including punches to the head, committed by Italy against Chile, and then by Chile on Italy, in the infamous Battle of Santiago in World Cup 1962? Maybe multiple Suárez-type bites by a hyena pack of players on a prostrate Colombian felled by a scything tackle might have done the trick.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson