Roadside graffiti in Rio de Janeiro depicts a disappointed Lionel Messi, one with his head in his hands.
“Time was slipping away, yet Lionel Messi still had plenty. Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, who committed the 120th-minute foul that offered Messi the opportunity for one last look at goal, was receiving treatment a few feet away. The Argentine maestro took advantage of the pause. He stood quietly for a moment then bent over and pressed his fingertips into the ball, testing the air pressure. Messi was calm and deliberate, as if he hoped the measured pace of his movement would help clear his mind and calm any nerves. He was about 25 yards away and to the left of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Argentina trailed, 1-0, in the dying seconds of the World Cup final at the Estádio do Maracanã and its fading hopes for a third title rested where they always had – at Messi’s feet.” SI
“The reaction to the back three showed how fickle the representation and reception of tactical phenomena can be. At the World Cup, the back three, as used most eye-catchingly by Holland and Chile, but also by Mexico and Costa Rica, was presented as something exciting and new. And in a sense it was, or at least the return of a formation that had largely fallen out of fashion at international level. But really three at the back, in its reincarnated form, was never a single tactical movement in its own right; rather it was the result of other tactical decisions.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
“Is Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho right when he says there is a campaign to influence referees’ decisions against his side? Following his team’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday, Mourinho said: ‘The media, commentators, other managers are all doing it [putting pressure on referees].’ BBC Sport looks at games in which the Portuguese has complained about refereeing decisions but also at matches where opposition managers have criticised those that have gone in Chelsea’s favour.” BBC (Video)
“Often the players playing for the biggest clubs in the world, are the ones that are ‘officially’ recognised as the best individuals in the sport. It might seem like a lazy bit of accreditation but it’s actually a fair assessment of the beautiful game. The best, play for the best. And while a lot of their development, and ability is honed at these clubs – given the top quality facilities and resources, it isn’t where their core football skills are established. Consult any coach or professional and they’ll explain how a footballers’ initial years can determine his future career path. Academies start it off, while the initial professional senior football years engrave skills and set the tone for the next decade or so.” Outside of the Boot
“It’s hard to accurately predict future Ballon D’Or nominees based on a players current exploits in the early part of his career. But given the propensity of usual Ballon D’Or nominees bearing rather conspicuous goal-scoring traits, you wouldn’t go too wrong in betting Memphis Depay as a potential future nominee.” Outside of the Boot
“It’s been a busy few days in the English Premier League, with every side — except for Liverpool and Swansea City, who face off later today — playing two matches since Christmas. Here’s a roundup of everything good, bad, and Ashley Young about the three-day weekend that was.” Grantland (Video)
“It was the longest a Premier League season had gone without its first firing in 19 years, but that’s now done. Neil Warnock, the man whose return to Selhurst Park provided a small (for some, invisible) silver lining to Tony Pulis’s untimely departure, just experienced an early exit of his own. Two days after Christmas, the 66-year-old’s second tour in Croydon is done.” Soccer Gods