World Cup 2014: Goals, drama & that bite – is Brazil the best?

July 11, 2014

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“Record goals, Suarez gnaws, that James Rodriguez strike, passion, drama, colourful fashion – what a World Cup this has been. It was a tournament that started with a bang as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia, and has since delivered fantastic entertainment almost game after game. Here, BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty and the BBC’s much-loved and most experienced commentator John Motson consider whether this has been the best ever World Cup.” BBC


Man vs. Machine

July 11, 2014

This can’t be happening. At around the moment when Toni Kroos fired Philipp Lahm’s cross past the diving Júlio César for Germany’s third goal against Brazil, that thought started blinking in my brain like the red light at the top of a radio tower. This can’t be real. Only a minute earlier, Miroslav Klose had made it 2-0, breaking Ronaldo’s all-time World Cup goal-scoring record in the process; two minutes later, Kroos swiped the ball from Fernandinho, played a 1-2 pass with Sami Khedira to slip past Dante in the area, and scored again. 4-0 in the 26th minute. This isn’t possible. Three minutes after that, Khedira got the ball from Mesut Özil and knocked it home from inside the edge of the area. 5-0. I’m imagining this. The Germans had scored four goals in six minutes against the most celebrated nation in soccer history, a team that hadn’t lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. I’m asleep. After almost four weeks of obliterating expectations, the World Cup finally produced a match that obliterated belief.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Germany wary of Lionel Messi counter threat in World Cup final

July 11, 2014

“Nobody, Toni Kroos insisted on Tuesday night, wins the World Cup after a semi-final. Jogi Löw pursued the theme: there had been no exultation in the dressing room, he insisted; there was still one game to go. The response was sensible, admirable even, and it probably is true that there is no team so likely to be capable of moving on from a historic victory as Germany but, still, wins of that nature have their dangers.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


How Germany Got its Game On

July 11, 2014

“Paul Breitner (1974, 1982). Spain, 1982. It was the saddest goal in a World Cup final. Paul Breitner reacted quickly to a loose ball in the Italian box, adjusted his body, and volleyed neatly into Dino Zoff’s bottom right corner. It was a goal that begged to be scored, had to be scored, but there was no joy, no sense of relief, not even hope. It wasn’t even a goal at all, really, but an anti-goal. It marked defeat, not victory. Breitner knew it. He raised his hand to acknowledge his inconsequential achievement and jogged back to the halfway line. Nobody came over to congratulate him. The West Germany vice captain looked like a schoolboy who had come up to the board and solve a problem for which there is no solution. Seven minutes before the final whistle at the Santiago Bernabéu, the time was up—for the World Cup (West Germany were 3-1 down against the Azzurri), for Breitner’s team, and for Breitner himself. …” 8 of 8


World Cup quiz: name the goal from the chalkboard diagram

July 11, 2014

Name the World Cup goal
1. Which World Cup goal was this? Saeed Al-Owairan (Saudi Arabia v Belgium, 1994). Diego Maradona (Argentina v England, 1986). Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany v Switzerland, 1966). Archie Gemmill (Scotland v Holland, 1978).

“Everyone loves a tactical chalkboard, don’t they? Don’t they? Oh. Well, anyway see if you can decipher the World Cup goals after looking at our funky stripped-down graphics below.” Guardian


I Love Messi, But I’m Rooting for Germany. Here’s Why You Should, Too.

July 11, 2014

“I will be rooting for Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final. Now, there’s a sentence I thought I would never write. I grew up with an intense dislike of German prowess on the football field. One of my first memories is of Harald Schumacher flying through the air, almost killing the hapless Patrick Battiston. (To this day, the Frenchman still carries a cracked vertebra and damaged teeth; Schumacher probably still carries his hateful smirk.) Four years later I saw Germany end Mexico’s World Cup dreams in Monterrey through a relentless display of intimidation. They then proceeded to eliminate my beloved French again. Oh, how I hated them, with their canine names: Rummenigge, Littbarski, Briegel, Augenthaler. Yes: almost 30 years ago, when I celebrated Argentina’s triumph in the Azteca as if it were my own, it would have been unfathomable that I, one day, would root for Germany.” New Republic


World Cup Tactical Analysis | Netherlands 0-0 Argentina ( 2-4 pens ) : Netherlands’ discipline and Argentina’s narrow midfield

July 11, 2014

“After the ridiculously one-sided affair in the first semi-final, the second was always going to be a tight game. After seeing hosts Brazil blown away by Germany, both sides were set-up to primarily not concede. Something that they were successful in not only for the course of the 90′ but through extra time as well. Argentina was labelled as a lot of people’s favourites but are yet to convincingly stamp their authority on the tournament as front-runners. It is a strange accusation to level at the finalists of the tournament and yet there it is. They’ve relied on individual ability on multiple occasions in this tournament and will do so once again this Sunday. While the Dutch too have been beholden to Arjen Robben’s exploits to a certain degree, their progression has been characterized by multiple rabbits being pulled out of the hat by Van Gaal and his staff.” Outside of the Boot


Let’s Get Metaphysical

July 11, 2014

“Argentina and the Netherlands played yesterday’s second semifinal. That’s as much as should be said about the match, which forced us to appreciate what this World Cup has been, while remembering what it could have been. Throughout 120 minutes of football, there was first, last, and above all an air of safety that had been refreshingly absent from most of the games thus far—and with that absence came gifts of goals and good play. But yesterday, there was so much at stake: safe passage to a World Cup final. Since both teams are middling, professional, and graced by the presence of once-in-a-lifetime, left-footed talents, they took no risks—no playing the ball patiently through the midfield, no attempts at a tactical surprise. It was a game of chicken, and a penalty kick shoot-out was the inevitable collision.” The Paris Review


Humiliation, Honor, and Brazil

July 11, 2014

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‘The morning after Brazil’s shocking, numbing 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup (which the commentators on ESPN have been instructed to call, robotically, the FIFA World Cup), my soccer-loving son mordantly read out English translations of the Brazilian headlines, which he had found online. All were brokenhearted—“FIASCO,” “AN EMBARRASSMENT FOR ETERNITY,” “EMBARRASSMENT DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE IT,” and “WE CAN’T JOKE ABOUT IT: WE’RE TOO ASHAMED”—but the key word, over and over, was humiliation: “ULTIMATE HUMILIATION,” “HUMILIATING,” “FELIPE MISSES AND BRAZIL IS HUMILIATED,” “FROM DREAM TO HUMILIATION,” on and on like that.’ New Yorker


World Cup 2014: Brazil’s Neymar makes wheelchair claim

July 11, 2014

“Brazil’s Neymar broke down in tears as he claimed the challenge that ended his World Cup came close to paralysing him. The Barcelona forward, 22, fractured a vertebra in his spine when he was kneed in the back by Colombia’s Juan Zuniga during Brazil’s 2-1 quarter-final win. ‘I thank God for helping me, because if that blow had been a few inches lower I would have risked being paralysed,’ said Neymar.” BBC

YouTube: Brazil’s Neymar makes wheelchair claim


Most Memorable World Cup Moments

July 11, 2014

“The World Cup final between Germany and Argentina will take place on Sunday at 4 P.M. By now, many of us have watched an absurd amount of soccer, at the expense of work, family, and good sense. A few weeks ago, unwilling to break away from a close match, I resorted to streaming it on my iPhone while slaloming through a crowded train station, something I wouldn’t recommend.” New Yorker (Video)


Whether Wretched or Inspired, Title Match Often Provides a Jolt

July 11, 2014

“Apart from Germany, the Champagne fizz has suddenly gone flat at a World Cup that was being hailed earlier as the best in recent memory. Goals that seemed to pour from a spigot have now slowed to intermittent drips. The Netherlands once led the tournament with 12 goals, but it has not scored since the Round of 16. In Wednesday’s semifinal loss on penalty kicks to Argentina, the Dutch produced one shot on target. It was the lowest number for the Netherlands in a World Cup match since record keeping began in 1966, according to the Opta statistical service.” NY Times (Video)


25 of the best World Cup photos ever – in pictures

July 11, 2014

“Our sports picture editor, Jonny Weeks, has trawled the archives to pick out some of the best World Cup images ever taken. From the iconic shot of Diego Maradona taking on six Belgium players in 1982 – the real story of which can be read here – to the moment John Aldridge went berserk on the touchline at USA ’94, the shots range from the eye-catching to the unorthodox, the unforgettable to the bizarre. Beneath each image is a short explanation of why it made the cut.” Guardian