About That Game: England 2-2 Argentina (1998)

April 16, 2022


“International football rivalries are rarely intercontinental, but the ill-feeling between Argentina and England is an exception. The rivalry emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, partly due to the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, but also on the pitch thanks to controversial World Cup meetings between the two sides in 1966 and 1986. This meeting in 1998 certainly didn’t help to heal the rift. …”
The Analyst (Video)


2022 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 32-team Group Stage.

April 4, 2022


“… The group stage, consisting of 6 match-weeks, will last 8 weeks. … Teams are shown in the two flanking sections on either side of the map, organized by country. Shown there in the country-groupings are each team’s all-time total Libertadores appearances (in the tan-colored column), and Libertadores titles (in the pale-blue-colored column). At the far left of the map-page is the Libertadores titles list by club (25 clubs have won a Libertadores title). At the far right is the Libertadores titles list by country (of the 62 Libertadores titles, 25 have been won by Argentine teams, and 21 have been won by Brazilian teams). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2022 Copa Libertadores group stage
Copa Libertadores


The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song

April 2, 2022


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)


The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.

April 1, 2022


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind


Lionel Messi and Argentina look in harmony with World Cup dream alive

March 28, 2022


“Argentina’s last home game before the World Cup turned into an unexpected love-in at La Bombonera on Friday. The penultimate qualifier for the already qualified nation (they play Ecuador away in their last fixture) became the emotional send-off that is usually organised with that specific purpose but which the new calendar means will be impossible at a later point in the year. Asked after the game about his future with the national team post-Qatar, Lionel Messi replied with a ‘who knows’, so potentially this was his last appearance on Argentinian soil wearing the oversized Argentinian strip, which ironically feels too small for him, at least in official competition. …”
Guardian


2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets

March 25, 2022


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations


2022 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 47-team tournament, with Club Histories

February 11, 2022


“This map includes the Preliminary-Stage teams: there are 19 preliminary-stage teams…and only four of those 19 teams will advance to the Group Stage. … The first of 3 Preliminary stages start on 8th & 9th February, 2022 Copa Libertadores, Qualifying stages. The Group Stage starts on 5th-through-7th April. The draw for the Group Stage is on the 23rd of March. 2022 Copa Libertadores, Group Stage. Qualified teams by country: •Brazil has 9 teams (7 + Copa Libertadores holder + Copa Sudamericana holder). •Argentina has 6 teams. •The eight other countries all have 4 teams each, in the tournament (Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela). …”
billsportsmaps


Tears at La Bombonera: Stories from a Six-Year Sojourn in South America

January 24, 2022


Tears at La Bombonera is author Christopher Hylland’s six-year journey living, working, and traveling through South America—where soccer, called football, is a way of life. From Buenos Aires to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and back again, Hylland experiences the history and fanaticism at some of South America’s football clubs along the way. Football is a global language, and he shares the stories and experiences from the terraces. It’s a place where what happens on the pitch can rank low in terms of quality, but means so much off of it; where everything else, most notably the culture of the game, is unrivaled. Hundreds of thousands of football-mad visitors flock to South America every season. To the iconic stadia such as La Bombonera and Maracanã; to lower division teams in the shadows of some of the world’s poorest slums and favelas. Tears at La Bombonera is a book rich in human interest, including the author’s own personal experience of adapting to a new continent and way of life.”
Goodreads
amazon


History of Boca Juniors

December 8, 2021


Boca Juniors 1919
“Origins of Argentine sports club Boca Juniors can be traced to the early 1900s, when a group of Italian immigrants decided to establish a football club in Buenos Aires. They were descendants from the first Italian (most of them from the city of Genoa) that had set in La Boca during the late 19th century. Because of that, the nickname Xeneizes is a derivative form of ‘Genoveses’ (in Spanish, it refers to people from Genoa). During the first years of its existence, the club developed a strong rivalry with then neighbor team River Plate, that would continue through the years, despite River Plate soon left La Boca to establish itself in Belgrano. In the 20th century, Boca consolidated as one of the most popular and successful clubs in Argentina, giving its first step in 1913 when the team promoted to Primera División. …”
Wikipedia
amazon: Blue & Gold Passion: A History of Boca Juniors
YouTube: History of Boca Juniors – Club Atlético Boca Juniors.


Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

November 24, 2021


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


El Gráfico

November 3, 2021


Heleno de Freitas (Boca)
El Gráfico is an Argentine online sports magazine, originally published by Editorial Atlántida as a print publication between 1919 and 2018. El Gráfico was released in May 1919 as a weekly newspaper, and then turned to a sports magazine exclusively. It began to be scheduled monthly from 2002, and was discontinued in 2018, continuing only on internet. El Gráfico is widely the most regarded sports magazine in Argentina and Latin America. The magazine was nicknamed La Biblia del deporte (‘The Bible of sports’) due to its chronicles, notable journalists and collaborators and its photographies. … The best selling era of El Gráfico was during the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Argentina crowned champion, with 690,998 sold. The second place in the ranking of all-time best seller magazine is for the 1978 FIFA World Cup with 595,924. Diego Maradona was the sports man with the most appearances on the cover: 134, followed by Daniel Passarella (58) and Norberto Alonso (54). …”
Wikipedia
Angels with Dirty Faces – Jonathan Wilson: 15 – Our Way
Diego Maradona: A genius and the soul of a nation – Jonathan Wilson
El Pibe del Barrio: Understanding the Latin American archetype and what it means for U.S. Soccer


UEFA Euro 2012 Group B

October 28, 2021


Joachim Löw
Group B of UEFA Euro 2012 began on 9 June 2012 and ended on 17 June 2012. The pool was made up of the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Portugal. Germany and Portugal progressed to the quarter-finals, while Denmark and the Netherlands were eliminated from the tournament. Group B was dubbed by many the ‘group of death’ of Euro 2012. All four teams were in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings at the start of the tournament. … Ultimately, Germany defeated Denmark 2–1 after Lukas Podolski and Lars Bender scored for Germany in the 19th and 80th minutes, respectively, despite an equalizer from Michael Krohn-Dehli in the 24th minute. …”
Wikipedia
W – Joachim Löw
W – 2014 FIFA World Cup Final
Guardian: German model bangs the drum for club, country and the people’s game (Dec. 2012)

Germany and Argentina face off in the final of the World Cup 2014


Brazil cruise past Uruguay with Neymar goal, Raphinha double

October 15, 2021


Raphinha turned in another eye-catching performance for Brazil on Thursday by scoring twice in the home side’s 4-1 victory over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier. Brazil took the lead after 10 minutes when Neymar chested down a pass from Fred and rounded the keeper before firing low between two defenders on the goal-line. …”
ESPN
ESPN: Loss to Neymar’s Brazil leaves Luis Suarez’s Uruguay with fight to reach World Cup (Tim Vickery)
YouTube: Brazil vs Uruguay 4-1, Argentina vs Peru 1-0, Chile 3 Venezuela 0 (Resumen Completo)


Who invented the red card?

October 15, 2021


Referee Horacio Elizondo of Argentina shows the red card to Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup … Berlin, Germany, July 09, 2006.
“… Yet that law was only instigated in 1992. Those that watched football throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s still find themselves wondering why the defence doesn’t kick the ball back to the goalkeeper to waste some time. Of all the rules that have been introduced to football over the years, perhaps none have been as influential as the decision to issue players with yellow and red cards for infractions of the rules of the game. The backpass rule that we’ve just mentioned is widely considered to be one of the game’s most successful changes, but it has never had the ability to influence a match in the same way that a sending off has, for example. …”
Yellow And Red Cards In Football
Who has more red cards in their career: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
W – Fouls and misconduct
YouTube: Who invented the red card?


Analyzing Leeds’ Tactics Under Marcelo Bielsa

October 3, 2021


“Since returning to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, Leeds United have become one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Europe, and whilst they have struggled early on with three points from their first six games, they were able to get their first win of the season as an early Diego Llorente goal saw them pick up three points against Watford. Leeds’ devotion to Marcelo Bielsa’s buccaneering style of attacking football has been a great spectacle to watch — a great respite from the dark ages of the past two decades at Elland Road. In this article, I will analyse the tactics which have built Leeds’ free-flowing footballing style, and also the problems which come with it. I will do this by looking at Leeds both in possession and out of possession, beginning with an analysis of their ideas off the ball. …”
Breaking The Lines
W – Marcelo_Bielsa


Jorge Sampaoli is building something special at Marseille

September 24, 2021


“‘Nietzsche thought while walking too,’ said Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli to explain why he constantly paces up and down the touchline. ‘I analyse things better while on the move.’ Following Sampaoli’s arrival in March, Marseille lacked the ferocity and intensity of their coach. Now, however, they are playing with intensity and dynamism, embodying their manager’s snarling, prowling touchline presence. Club and coach are a perfect match and, after years of underachieving, Marseille may have finally found the right formula. Known as a Marcelo Biesla ‘disciple’, even if he quietly rejects the comparison, Sampaoli has based his success this season on a gung-ho outlook. It is working, with four wins and two draws from Marseille’s first six games. …”
Guardian
Jorge Sampaoli: Coach Watch (Video)
W – Jorge Sampaoli
Jorge Sampaoli: 5 things on the inbound Marseille coach


Explained: Why South American Premier League stars are heading to Croatia after international duty

September 7, 2021


“After Colombia play Paraguay in Asuncion this Sunday evening, the eighth of their 18 qualification games for next year’s World Cup, Davinson Sanchez will not stick around for the ninth. Rather than staying on for the home game with Chile in Barranquilla on Thursday, Sanchez will fly back across the Atlantic. Not back to London, but to Croatia, for a hastily arranged 10-day training camp by the Adriatic Sea. This is all part of a plan that Sanchez agreed with Tottenham Hotspur to make sure that his involvement in Colombia’s World Cup qualifiers will cause minimum hassle to Spurs’ season. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: Brazil-Argentina Match Stopped After Health Officials Storm Field (Video)
The Athletic: Spurs and Villa receive clarity over Argentina stars and hope there is no repeat next month Argentina, Brazil
YouTube: Brazil vs Argentina | Matchday 6 Highlights | CONMEBOL South American World Cup Qualifiers


The Parable of Inter Milan

August 21, 2021


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times


Mauricio Pochettino

August 1, 2021


Mauricio Roberto Pochettino Trossero (born 2 March 1972) is an Argentine professional football manager and former player who is the current head coach of Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. Pochettino played as a central defender and began his career in 1989 with Primera División club Newell’s Old Boys, winning a league title and finishing as runner-up in the 1992 Copa Libertadores. In 1994, at age 22, he transferred to newly-promoted La Liga club Espanyol, helping establish their top-flight status and won the 2000 Copa del Rey, their first trophy in 60 years. In 2001, he joined Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain, and had a stint with Bordeaux, before returning to Espanyol in 2004, winning another Copa del Rey in 2006. He was capped 20 times for the Argentina national team and played at the 1999 Copa América and 2002 FIFA World Cup. …”
Wikipedia
W – List of Paris Saint-Germain F.C. managers


2021 Copa Libertadores: map of Final Stages (16 teams)

July 18, 2021


The Round of 16. The first legs of the 2021 Copa Libertadores Round of 16 will be played from 13 to 15 July {click on the links at the top of this post for the fixtures}. The breakdown of qualified clubs-by-country… •Brazil: 6 clubs (Atlético Mineiro, Palmeiras, Flamengo, Fluminense, Internacional, São Paulo). This includes reigning champions Palmeiras. •Argentina: 6 clubs (Racing, Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Vélez Sarsfield, Defensa y Justicia, River Plate). •Paraguay: 2 clubs (Cerro Porteño, Olimpia). •Chile: 1 club (Universidad Católica). •Ecuador: 1 club (SC Barcelona). This is the most clubs – 12 clubs – that the Big 2 (Brazil & Argentina) have ever placed into the Round of 16. Last year, Brazil had 6 clubs in the Round of 16, while Argentina had ‘only’ 3 clubs. The previous most-ever-clubs placed by the Big 2 into the Round of 16 was in 2018, with 11 clubs (Brazil 5/Argentina 6). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2021 Copa Libertadores final stages


Lionel Messi and Argentina Beat Brazil in Copa América Final Image

July 11, 2021


The Copa América victory was Lionel Messi’s first major title with Argentina’s senior team, and the team’s first since 1993.
“Lionel Messi finally ticked the last empty box in his glittering soccer career on Saturday night, leading Argentina past host Brazil, 1-0, in the final of the Copa América in Rio de Janeiro.The trophy was Messi’s first with Argentina after a string of painful, agonizing, maddening failures, including perhaps the most demoralizing defeat of his career — against Germany in the World Cup final — inside the same stadium, Rio’s hulking Maracanã, in 2014.When the whistle blew to end the final, Messi — his relief palpable — dropped to his knees and was immediately surrounded by his teammates. Moments later, they were lifting him above their shoulders and tossing him in the air. …”
NY Times (Video)
YouTube: Celebrations in Buenos Aires as Argentina claim Copa America title, Buenos Aires erupts as Argentina beat Brazil in Copa América final
ESPN: Copa America final preview: Will Neymar, Brazil beat Messi’s Argentina?
NY Times: Lionel Messi Tries to Slay His Ghosts (July 9)
Head to Head: Comparing Tite and Scaloni’s numbers ahead of the final (Video)


Relief as Argentina reach Copa America final to give Messi another shot at glory

July 7, 2021


“The tension was almost too much for Argentina’s veteran players to take — they have traumatic memories of penalty shootouts in the Copa America finals of 2015 and 2016. But new first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez rose to the occasion, made three saves and after a 1-1 draw Argentina overcame Colombia on penalties to make it through to Saturday’s final. …”
ESPN: Tim Vickery (Video)
ESPN: Tim Vickery – Brazil books berth in Copa America final, but Peru might have exposed the Selecao’s weakness (Video)
Copa America: Argentina beat Colombia on penalties to set up a final against Brazil


Messi, Neymar and the importance of this Copa América title

July 4, 2021


“Copa América has entered the knockout stage, and there are two clear frontrunners led by two clear stars: Brazil with Neymar and Argentina with Leo Messi. Messi and Neymar are widely accepted to be South America’s two best players and have reaffirmed that fact during the opening stage of this tournament, as they lead the competition in goals and assists (three goals and two assists for Messi, two and two for Neymar). The gap between them and the rest of the continent’s field has perhaps never been wider. …”
The Athletic (Video)
ESPN: Lionel Messi sends Argentina into Copa America semifinals as Colombia pip Uruguay – Tim Vickery


Lionel Messi remains Argentina’s best hope of glory even in his twilight

June 21, 2021


“The ball comes to Lionel Messi in midfield. He returns it with a disdainful flick of the foot that says: I can’t do anything with this. I don’t want it. Take it back. And then he sighs and walks off in the opposite direction. Surprised, and a little abashed, Guido Rodríguez gathers the ball and looks around for somebody else to pass it to. Perhaps it’s because Messi gives so few interviews – and tends to say so little in the interviews he gives – that over time you start to delude yourself, in a weird anthropomorphic way, that you can glimpse some sort of profound human insight in his football. …”
Guardian


The 10 coaches at the Copa América 2021

June 16, 2021


“The tried and tested, the revolutionary innovations and the evolving the projects; The 2021 CONMEBOL Copa America promises to provide weeks of fascinating tactical duels once we kick off on 13 June. Managing the national team requires a careful balance and provides a different challenge to working with a club side. National team managers don’t have the time on the training field to develop a strong understanding and bond with their players. They have to quickly earn the trust and support from their squad. Tailoring and implementing complicated tactical concepts is also far more difficult with just a few weeks a year to work with the group. Team spirit is key alongside clear, impact communication and an efficient tactical approach. …” CONMEBOL Copa America, Who are the top five coaches at the Copa America 2021? Which coach can mastermind their side to glory?, YouTube: COPA AMERICA 2021 – National Anthem Of The 10 Teams 25:33


How Real Madrid star Casemiro became a leader for Brazil – on and off the field

June 13, 2021


“The last two weeks preceding the Copa America have been far from straightforward for Brazil, who kick off on Sunday with the tournament opener against Venezuela. The reigning South American champions saw the tournament foisted upon them after original hosts Argentina and Colombia pulled out in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus infections, prompting another acute health crisis on the continent. The news did not go down well in the Selecao camp, causing the squad to take almost unprecedented measures to stop the Copa being played in one of the most severely affected countries in the entire world. …” Goal (Video), Scandal, Covid and political meddling: Brazil in crisis as Copa America looms (Video), W – Casemiro


2021 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 47-team tournament, with Club Histories

March 15, 2021


“… The 2021 Copa Libertadores Preliminaries start on 23 and 24 February. (The Group Stage will start on 16 April.) As I did last year, I will post an updated map for the Group Stage, around the 12th of April; then I will post a map/chart for the the Final Stages when the Round of 16 starts, around the middle of July. Of course, that is all subject to change (as it was last season…due to the COVID pandemic). Shown on the map are 45 of the 47 teams that have qualified for the 2021 Libertadores. Due to scheduling problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one country – Uruguay – has 2 qualification-spots yet to be determined. …” billsportsmaps, ESPN – Copa Libertadores: Long road ahead for minnows like Guarani, Uruguay’s Liverpool – Tim Vickery, W – 2021 Copa Libertadores


Diego Maradona, anti-imperial symbol

January 2, 2021


“Even in death, Diego Maradona continued to torment the peculiar empire-nostalgic milieu that is conservative England. The scars of Mexico ’86 have clearly still not healed. The Times painted a portrait of a ‘self-obsessed’ and ‘self-destructive’ figure whose ‘rare gifts were ruined by self-indulgence,’ with paternalism dripping from the page: ‘That such a supreme talent could be so undisciplined, that he felt he needed to cheat … was perhaps a pointer to the unhappy times ahead.’ The Telegraph obituarycould wait no longer than the end of the first sentence to denounce him ‘a liar, a cheat and an egomaniac,’ concluding that whatever about his talents, ‘ultimately Maradona remained a boy from the barrios.’ This was not meant as a compliment, and the snobbish tones were nothing new to British media depictions of Maradona. …” Africa Is a Country


Hidden In Plain Sight: The Black Bands of ’78

April 24, 2020


“As a Scottish schoolboy who was in love with goal nets and the prospect of Scotland becoming world champions, the Argentina World Cup in 1978 couldn’t have seared more had I been sirloin scorched on the parilla. While I’d never experienced anything like the disappointment of Scotland failing in their opening game against Peru, equally, I’d never seen anything like the goals installed uniformly at the tournament stadia. The nets were stunning. Brilliant white and pulled taut at the seams into squared corners as if draped over the stanchion of an A-frame. …”
In Bed With Maradona, WITHOUT THE STREETS OR DUSKS OF BUENOS AIRES, A TANGO CANNOT BE WRITTEN


A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


Timeless Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentina: Lost chances and broken hearts

August 10, 2018

“Over the last few weeks, Marcelo Bielsa has been in the spotlight over his new role as Leeds United’s manager. A man whose character often draws comparison to a great philosopher rather than a football persona, his radicalism and man management is worthy of any admiration in football. But long before Leeds United, 2 decades ago to be precise, El Loco was in charge of Argentina. Following their exit from the World Cup in France 98, Daniel Passarella had stepped down from his post. Prior to this, the 1978 World Cup winning captain had put together a team that was brimming with excitement.” FootyAnalyst


World Cup 2018 Best XI: France’s Champions Lead the Top Players in Russia

July 17, 2018


“After 64 games and more drama than any World Cup in at least 20 years, there’s one piece of business left to do: Pick a team of the tournament. It’s been picked as a team that might function together rather than just the 11 best players, and to avoid the temptation of packing it with France’s champions, a limit of four players per country has been self-imposed. In a 4-3-3 formation fit for the world stage, here is our 2018 World Cup Best XI.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


For all the ills of the world, World Cup 2018 showed that a bit of football done right can make the planet smile

July 17, 2018

“Monday morning dawns with a grim and crushing inevitability. Unless you’re peeling yourself off a Paris pavement, or drowning your sorrows in a Dubrovnik dive bar, the 2018 World Cup is over. As a month of sporting hedonism slips from present tense to past, real life and its hard borders re-sharpen their focus, bringing with them a cruel reckoning. It was only football, after all. It felt like more than that when Kylian Mbappe was burning through opposition defenders, or Lionel Messi was fighting back the tide, or Russia and South Korea were pulling off the unfeasible, or when England’s town squares throbbed with rasping songs and nervous tension and the prickly spines of a faint dream. But no: ultimately, it was only football, no more and no less.” Independent


World Cup 2018 goal celebrations: A statistical analysis of unbridled joy

July 17, 2018


“How would you celebrate if you scored at a World Cup? A jig by the corner flag, an emphatic sprint, jump and punch of the air, an emotional tussle with the goalnet, or just run as fast and far as you can until someone finally, gleefully leaps on you? Whether you’re a Milla, a Josimar or a Tardelli kind of guy, there are plenty of ways with which to physically revel in what, for most players, is the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime act of scoring on the world’s biggest stage. Goal celebrations – often just as complex, slow-motion-worthy and memorable as the goals themselves – are an art form. But, just like everything else, they’re moulded by cultural trends, context and just pure momentary instinct.” Telegraph


France’s Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

July 10, 2018

“France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.” FiveThirtyEight


The World in a World Cup

July 7, 2018

“I would never have watched the World Cup if it weren’t for my partner, a British national who grew up on Gary Lineker, the striker who towered over the English game in the 1980s and early 1990s. I find televised sports—all organized sports—boring. But after celebrating my birthday last weekend, my boyfriend voiced a tentative wish to watch France play Argentina, and I wanted to be with him. So we found ourselves in our pajamas in front of the TV at midnight, watching toy-sized men kick a tick-sized ball around.” New Republic


If Ronaldo Can’t Beat Uruguay, the Least He Can Do Is Pay Taxes

July 4, 2018

“Before his team lost on Saturday, Portugal’s superstar forward Ronaldo was having a thrilling World Cup. There was his stunning performance against Spain, where he scored three of the game’s six goals. There was his outstanding early header against Morocco, which prompted his coach to declare that Ronaldo was aging ‘like a port wine.’ Exhilarating displays of virtuosity! Brilliance and showmanship! What’s not to like?” NY Times


World Cup 2018: How Blaise Matuidi laid the platform for Kylian Mbappe to put in the performance of the tournament

July 2, 2018

“Didier Deschamps appeared entirely unsure of his best system ahead of the opening game of this tournament, but recent World Cup winners have tended to suddenly find their optimum formation midway through the tournament. In 2002 Brazil clicked into gear once introducing a second holding midfielder, in 2006 Italy’s switch from 4-3-1-2 to 4-2-3-1 worked wonders, in 2010 Spain thrived once they added more directness and width to their attack, and Germany’s 2014 side changed considerably from their opening game to the final.” Independent – Michael Cox

Why Argentina’s road to World Cup failure is long, complicated and paved with greed and corruption
“… Sebastian Fest’s line in La Nación on the day of Argentina‘s World Cup 2018 elimination this weekend was so starkly poignant because it gets straight to the crux of the matter, cutting through every excuse offered and pointing straight to the institutional rot that is fundamentally to blame for Argentina’s ills. That bumpy road that ended in Kazan, Russia, in the baking summer of 2018 is our current waypoint but this path truly began all the way back in the mid-winter of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1978 on the day that the Albiceleste won their first-ever World Cup.” Independent


Kylian Mbappe destroys Argentina to send Lionel Messi and co home in World Cup thriller

June 30, 2018


“It is one of the gifts of being the most talented teenager footballer in the world that Kylian Mbappe makes fast defenders look slow and slow defenders look ridiculous, although in the end this was about bigger things than just a first half demolition of poor old Marcos Rojo. The 19-year-old’s savage turn of speed that won France the penalty for their first goal saw him flash before our eyes in real time while simultaneously the careers of half a dozen Argentinian defenders and midfielders were flashing before theirs. One of those moments that every old pro recognises when the legs are getting slower, the youngsters are getting quicker and the best they can hope for is to kick him before he reaches the area.” Telegraph

Welcome to Kylian Mbappé’s Coming Out Party
“It’s Kylian Mbappé’s world. We’re all just living in it—even Lionel Messi. Mbappé became the first teenager to score more than one goal in a World Cup knockout match since Pelé in 1958, as he tallied twice and drew a penalty. When the final whistle sounded, the scoreboard read 4-3 in favor of Les Bleus, and no player was more responsible for the victory than the youngest player on the field.” The Ringer (Video)

France 4 – 3 Argentina
“Kylian Mbappe announced himself on football’s biggest stage with two fine goals that gave France victory in a classic World Cup encounter with Argentina, and a place in the quarter-finals. Though much of the focus before the game was on Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, it was Mbappe who produced a brilliant performance that will linger long in the memory.” BBC (Video)


The 2018 World Cup Letdown All-Stars

June 29, 2018

“The World Cup is a deceptively tricky tournament to predict. Even as it showcases the game’s greatest players on an international stage (with apologies to poor Christian Pulisic), the window to make a lasting impression is aggravatingly short: At most, a team will play seven games in the tournament. The majority of club leagues, meanwhile, play upward of 30 matches in a season—and that’s before considering concurrent cup competitions. The brief nature of the World Cup, in other words, is basically an international version of March Madness and all the swirling chaos that entails.” The Ringer


Made in Argentina, and Now Coaching Everywhere at the World Cup

June 28, 2018


“For a while, even after he had embarked on his coaching career, José Pékerman refused to give up his taxi. He had driven the little Renault 12, given to him by his brother, for four years, after an injury had forced him to retire as a player but before he started work in the youth system at the Buenos Aires club Estudiantes. In those early days, Pékerman often arrived for training sessions in the car he had painted yellow and black himself. Coaching was his ambition, and he quickly showed he had a gift for it, but he was reluctant to part with the taxi. It was his guarantee that he could support his family, his safety net. In Argentine soccer, he knew he could never be certain when he might need it.” NY Times


Nigeria vs Argentina: Ever Banega’s return frees Lionel Messi from creative duties to inspire victory

June 27, 2018

“Argentina required a late goal from a hugely unlikely source – the right boot of Marcos Rojo – but their approach throughout their 2-1 victory over Nigeria was at least an improvement upon past displays. How much credit manager Jorge Sampaoli can take remains questionable, however, after various reports Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano are effectively now running the dressing room.” Independent – Michael Cox

What’s wrong with Argentina? We now value ‘balls’ more than talent
“So many things are wrong with Argentina we do not know what is wrong; so much is happening no one knows what is happening. You could start an article on the news pages with that same line but they fit on the sports pages too because these are turbulent times for our football. It was not always like this. For many years, football made up for our long political, social and economic decline.” Guardian


From Elimination to Elation: Argentina Somehow Staves Off Early World Cup Exit

June 27, 2018


“It’s probably best not even to try to make sense of it. You have Lionel Messi in your side. You bring on Sergio Aguero to play alongside Gonzalo Higuain in front of him. You have taken off Angel Di Maria. You have just brought on Cristian Pavon. None of them look like scoring. Passes are misplaced. The shape has gone. Every attempt to advance, it seems, runs into a Nigerian wall. It’s the same story as against Iceland, as against Croatia. All of the ball, no penetration. And then the goal comes. You make all your plans, you squeeze in as many gifted forwards as you can, and somehow the vital 86th-minute winner is scored by Marcos Rojo turning up with no justification whatsoever to volley in a rare accurate cross from Gabriel Mercado. With his wrong foot.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Argentina Takes Its Bad Self to the Knockout Round
“With time running out and his team on the brink of group-stage elimination, everyone in the world knew there was only one man Argentina could count on to find the winner against Nigeria. Yes, Marcos Rojo, the versatile defender who made nine Premier League appearances for Manchester United this season. Scorer of four goals in the last four years for club and country. Perhaps the last person you might expect to save his country by scoring a late goal, other than Argentina forward and chronic international choker Gonzalo Higuain. Rojo’s claim, made in an interview after the game, that he told his teammates he was going to score is either a sign of a healthy, functioning ego or grounds for a psychiatric evaluation, even considering that one of those four goals in the last four years was the winner against Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup.” Slate

Argentina Survived the Group Stage. But How Far Can Messi Carry Them?
“On a team with Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Ángel Di María, few would have predicted that Marcos Rojo — yes, that Marcos Rojo; the one who scored just one goal in four seasons with Manchester United — would be the hero who put Argentina ahead of Nigeria and into the knockout stages.” The Ringer


Shambolic, frenzied, anarchic – and Argentina crisis has Messi at its heart

June 22, 2018


“It was in 1913 that Racing became the first non-Anglo side to win the Argentinian league title. For much of the century that has followed, Argentinian football has defined itself in opposition to the English, distancing itself from its British heritage. And yet, under pressure, in their frenzied desperation on Thursday, Argentina resembled nobody so much as England. This was shambolic. Too many players tried to do too much themselves. There was altogether too much running, too much frenzy, too many fouls conceded as they desperately tried to regain possession, too little thought. By the end, as Ivan Rakitic casually rolled in a sarcastic third for Croatia, Argentina were gone, any semblance of defensive structure blown to the winds.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

World Cup 2018: Jorge Sampaoli’s approach was an utter disaster that rendered Lionel Messi useless
“There was always a danger Argentina might flop at World Cup 2018, but it shouldn’t have been this pitiful. If Argentina were going to go down, they were going to go down fighting, with coach Jorge Sampaoli a noted advocate of aggressive pressing, attacking football and quick combination play. If those tactics exposed them defensively, it was a risk Sampaoli was willing to take. But the approach Sampaoli stumbled upon somehow provided all the drawbacks without any notable positives. Argentina didn’t press high, they didn’t attack relentlessly, and it’s difficult to recall any passing moves worth mentioning, yet they were still hopelessly open defensively, conceding space on the outside of their three-man defence readily. Only poor Croatian finishing prevented them from taking the lead earlier.” Independent – Michael Cox

Mentally and emotionally burned out, Lionel Messi crumbles under the burden of carrying Argentina at the World Cup
“By the time a humiliated Argentina emerged from the dressing room in Nizhny Novgorod, it was late – in so many ways. A stony-faced Lionel Messi at least led the way here, but this time with ample support as the entire squad followed tightly behind…and right on through the mixed zone without stopping once. Argentina were at last singing from the same hymn sheet in this World Cup by not saying anything all.” Independent

As fighters, as entertainers, as a team, this Argentina project has failed
“On 21 June 1978 Argentina’s World Cup defeat of Peru went down in history as one of the most controversial games ever. The goalfest and intelligent football that unfolded on that cold night in Rosario, as the wonderful Mario Kempes found his feet on his home turf of yesteryear, were eclipsed by allegations which kept conspiracy theorists and investigative journalists busy for years. Argentina, aware they needed to win by at least four goals to progress in their home tournament, triumphed 6-0 amid rumours that an exchange of grain between the countries had been brokered in the dressing room. They went on to lift the trophy.” Guardian (Video)


Argentina 0 – 3 Croatia

June 21, 2018


“Argentina are facing the prospect of an early World Cup exit after a dreadful error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero set Croatia on their way to victory and a place in the last 16. On a night when so much was expected of Argentina captain Lionel Messi, Caballero made the most telling contribution to his team’s fate with an attempted chip over Ante Rebic that backfired badly, allowing the striker to volley into an exposed net in the 53rd minute. Messi – adrift for much of the match, especially during a pedestrian opening half – rallied his side, but neither he nor substitute forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Pablo Dybala could find a way through in Nizhny Novgorod.” BBC (Video)

Argentina on brink as Ante Rebic sparks rout to put Croatia through
“Jorge Sampaoli held his head in his hands. Lionel Messi stared at the floor. The rest of the Argentina players were gazing aimlessly into space with their hands on their hips as Croatia celebrations broke out all around. Luka Modric had just filed a contender for goal of the tournament and twisted the knife in the process, leaving Argentina, twice world champions, on the brink of elimination. By the time Ivan Rakitic added a third, in the closing minutes, Argentina were broken.” Guardian


Punchless Argentina Barely Hanging on, Pogba Comes to Life at World Cup

June 21, 2018

“MOSCOW — Day 8 of World Cup 2018 was defined by Lionel Messi’s continued frustration and the suffering of Argentina fans, who saw their team lose 3-0 to Croatia in a one-sided headliner of the day’s triple-header. Thursday was also defined by the resurgent Paul Pogba and France, which clinched advancement to the knockout stage along with Croatia following a 1-0 win over Peru; and by a brave 1-1 tie earned by Australia against Denmark that keeps the Aussies alive in Group C.” SI


World Cup 2018: How Mexico stunned Germany by exposing their full-backs and harassing Toni Kroos out the game

June 18, 2018


“The first four days of World Cup 2018 have featured a string of impressive underdog performances, largely about sitting back and frustrating the opposition. Iceland’s defensive-minded approach worked well against Argentina, Switzerland were content to soak up pressure against Brazil, and both recorded unexpected draws. Mexico’s approach in yesterday’s 1-0 victory over reigning champions Germany, however, was braver, bolder and ultimately more successful. Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been criticised for his constant chopping and changing, but while he might be reactive, that doesn’t mean he’s defensive. Here, he used a 4-2-3-1 system, rarely seen throughout Mexico’s qualifying campaign, in order to nullify Germany’s strengths and expose their weaknesses.” Independent – Michael Cox (Video)

World Cup 2018: Germany ‘crestfallen’ as shock Mexico defeat is called ’embarrassing’
“It was a defeat that left Germany ‘crestfallen’, was described as an ’embarrassment’ by the country’s media and even triggered an earth tremor, such were the celebrations in Mexico. World Cup holders Germany looked a shadow of their usual selves as they were humbled 1-0 in Moscow – and the result could have been much worse for them. But despite the loss – the first for a German team in a World Cup opener since 1982 – coach Joachim Low remains confident that his side will progress to the knockout stage in Russia.” BBC (Video)


Lionel Messi penalty saved by Halldórsson as Iceland hold Argentina

June 16, 2018


“With 64 minutes gone Argentina seemed to have found the decisive break on a tight, bruising afternoon that saw their revered attack struggle to find its gears against an excellent Iceland team. The score was 1-1, as it would finish. Iceland were holding steady. With a long pass from the left Sergio Agüero was suddenly in space in the area, sent tumbling by a collision with Hördur Björgvin Magnússon. The penalty was given. Half of the stadium leapt up, phones raised as Lionel Messi stepped up to take it, breath drawn to yowl and cheer as the ball hit the net. Or perhaps not. Messi’s kick was terrible, too close to Hannes Thór Halldórsson, who guessed the right way and palmed the ball far enough from goal.” Guardian


Nine Reasons Why Brazil Will Win the World Cup

June 14, 2018

“… They’re among the betting favorites, but the Selecao still haven’t quite emerged as the favorite. ‘As good as Brazil are, they’re still arguably underrated,’ said Omar Chaudhuri, head of footballing intelligence at the consultancy 21st Club. There’s a chance we’ll get to July 15 and wonder, as we watch Neymar lift the World Cup trophy, how we didn’t see it all along. So, to prevent that from happening—and to risk some relatively minor, low-stakes, online embarrassment—here are nine reasons why Brazil is gonna win it all.” The Ringer (Video)


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 13, 2018


“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent (Video)


The History of Lionel Messi and Argentina vs. the World Cup

June 13, 2018

“In Argentina, it’s a gambeta. Derived from the gaucho literature of South American cowboys, the word was initially used to describe the distinctive running motion of an ostrich. Before the industrialization of Argentina’s Pampas, the vast grassland that covers most of the nation’s northeastern pocket, wild-riding gauchos served a vital purpose in an era when farmland had yet to be systematized: They looked after cattle. But as the story goes, the British eventually arrived with their barbed wire, the concept of ‘fencing’ was introduced, and the gaucho didn’t matter anymore.” The Ringer (Video)


In Sports, a Must-Win Situation Usually Leads to a Loss

June 13, 2018

“On May 31st, Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina, met with the members of the nation’s soccer team as they departed for training before the World Cup, which opens, in Russia, on Thursday. ‘Whatever we Argentinians achieve, we will be happy,’ Macri told the squad, in televised remarks. ‘And it is not true that if one does not become a champion, one is a failure; that is a madness that does not exist anywhere in the world.’ This, coming from the leader of a soccer-mad nation—the home of Lionel Messi, no less—was a shocking concession: Our team might not win the World Cup. And if they don’t, we’ll love them anyway.” New Yorker (Video)


Argentina Is The Team To Beat In Group D, But Can Messi (Finally) Win The Tournament?

June 12, 2018


“Lionel Messi still has not won a senior international tournament.1 His Argentina was defeated by Germany in the last World Cup and lost on penalty kicks to Chile in the final of the Copa America in both 2015 and 2016. La Albiceleste will be looking to win Messi the trophy he deserves, and for the first step on that journey, the team has been drawn into an entirely winnable group with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.” FiveThirtyEight


World Cup favourites choosing defensive-minded midfielders over deep-lying playmakers

June 11, 2018


“The most fascinating tactical development over the past few World Cups has been the increased popularity of the deep playmaker. Having nearly become extinct around the turn of the century, it’s notable that recent World Cup winners have generally depended upon a great creative influence from deep.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


World Cup Preview 2018: Messi vs. Ronaldo, Magic Cats, Iceland!!, and the Entire Emotional Context in Which Much of Human Life Transpires

June 10, 2018

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your psychic octopuses. The biggest and strangest sporting event in human history resumes next week in Russia, where thirty-two men’s national soccer teams will begin the monthlong competition for the strangely un-cup-like trophy given to the winners of the FIFA World Cup. For many of the world’s best soccer players, the tournament offers a chance to become legends in their home countries and icons in the history of the game. For billions of soccer fans, the tournament offers a chance to participate in modernity’s most sweeping collective frenzy, a spectacle that will shape the emotional context in which much of human life transpires for the next few weeks. For the United States men’s national team, which did not qualify, the tournament offers a chance to feel gloomy while eating Cheetos on the couch.” New Yorker – Brian Phillips


Who’s the Best No. 10 at the World Cup?

June 9, 2018


“In Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes the symbolism of the no. 10 as “the ‘free-spirited epitome of the artistry of soccer.’ And while free-spirits have become fewer and farther between as more money’s been poured into the game and managers have systematized their tactics, the no. 10 is still typically given to the most creative player on the team. Or, in Poland or Nigeria’s case, it’s given to a defensive midfielder best known for his ability to make tackles and pass the ball sideways. But each team has its reasons, and so with all of the World Cup squad lists now officially released, we each ranked all the nos. 10 set to play in Russia this summer, tallied the results, and came out with the following list. No. 1 is obvious, but that’s about the only spot we came close to agreeing on. Yes, someone, who shall remain nameless out of our sheer fear for his safety, didn’t put Lionel Messi first.” The Ringer


World Cup groups A-D preview – Football Weekly

June 9, 2018

“Max Rushden is joined by voices from around the world to preview World Cup groups A-D, including Danish royalty, Peruvian vigour and the prospect of a tournament without a French meltdown.” Guardian (Audio)


Your complete guide to all 736 players at the 2018 World Cup

June 7, 2018

“Biographies of every player in all 32 squads in Russia, including caps, goals, nicknames, hobbies and, once the tournament starts, ratings for every performance. We strive to give you an unbiased, trustworthy and in-depth view of the world’s most prestigious football tournament. If you think that’s worth something, then you can support The Guardian from as little as £1 – and it only takes a minute.” Guardian


Russia 2018 Group D – Betting Tips

June 7, 2018

“Two teams at this World Cup appear gloriously unpredictable: you wouldn’t be surprised if they reached the semi-finals; equally, crashing out at the group phase is eminently possible. The first is Portugal, and the second is Argentina. The link is obvious: underwhelming sides with plenty of defensive question marks, but captained by an all-time great. But whereas Cristiano Ronaldo tasted success with Portugal at the European Championship two years ago, Leo Messi is still searching for a first taste of international glory – the Olympics notwithstanding – for Argentina.” Betting Tips – Michael Cox