The cult of Lionel Messi: From the pitch, to Buenos Aires, to the pilgrims of Doha

“… Lionel Messi could have been in the stands. He rhythmically threw his hands up in the air and sang with the fans behind the goal, as if he were one of them at the Ahmad bin Ali stadium, a smile breaking through his red beard.  After a fortnight of carrying the cross on his shoulders, Argentina’s messiah appeared ecstatic and unburdened. He spent a long time after the final whistle communing with his team-mates and his people. The players doused each other in water, bouncing arm-in-arm, joining the fans in concert. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: This is how you can stop Lionel Messi

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Argentina 2-1 Australia: Messi scores in 1,000th game and big Martinez save denies Kuol


Lionel Messi scored on his 1,000th career appearance to put Argentina in the driving seat against Australia, and Julian Alvarez added a second, but Lionel Scaloni’s side were pushed all the way in the second half. A deflected effort by Craig Goodwin reduced the deficit and future Newcastle United player Garang Kuol forced an excellent save from the Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the dying moments of the game. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: How Argentina Escaped Australia’s Last-Ditch Rally to Advance to Quarterfinals
Aljazeera:
Guardian: Socceroos push Argentina all the way and exit World Cup as Australian heroes

Argentina 2-0 Poland: Messi’s role, Szczesny penalty save and goal difference drama


Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stages of the World Cup despite losing 2-0 to goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez after a thrilling end to Group C. For much of the final 20 minutes, Poland were going through courtesy of a better disciplinary record than third-placed Mexico, with whom they finished level on points and goals scored, and had the same head-to-head record after drawing 0-0 in their opening game. Mexico had seven bookings in the group stage, compared to Poland’s five. …”
The Athletic

Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi delivers, Fernandez’s impact and Martino’s ultra-defensive tactics


“When Argentina needed him most, there was Lionel Messi. And then Enzo Fernandez. Mexico were resolute defensively in the first half but Messi broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with a drilled shot from outside the box, then one of Argentina’s substitutes Fernandez scored an excellent individual goal, curling the ball past Guillermo Ochoa. Tata Martino’s Mexico failed to offer much in response and are yet to score in Qatar. Argentina, meanwhile, grew in confidence after Messi’s opening goal. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Lionel Messi Scores as Argentina Saves Its World Cup
SI: Messi’s Mastery of the Moment Breathes New Life Into Argentina’s World Cup – Jonathan Wilson
Guardian: Tears follow tension as Lionel Messi and Argentina find redemption

Ronaldo, Messi, and the World Cup As a Bad Barometer for Evaluating Legacy

“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves the two defining stars of their generation and the confounding question of legacy. …”
The Ringer

How Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina: Direct play and high line, crowd sows panic, microscope on Messi


Saudi Arabia have beaten Argentina 2-1 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The opening match of Group C at the 2022 World Cup looked to be going as expected after Lionel Messi’s early penalty. Yet two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half — from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari — stunned the South American champions, who entered the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian – ‘We gave them a response’: Saudi Arabia claim their place in World Cup history
NY Times: Saudi Arabia Leaves Another Scar on Argentina’s Soul
BBC – World Cup 2022: Saudi Arabia deliver ‘seismic’ shock, but don’t count Argentina out
The Athletic: ‘He sold himself to the devil’ – Messi, 2030, and a very uncomfortable deal with Saudi Arabia (Video)
Guardian: Lionel Messi’s international career has never felt closer to oblivion
The Athletic: Messi’s Argentina have no excuses – but they also shouldn’t be too worried
The Athletic: Saudi Arabia humble Argentina – but was it the greatest World Cup shock ever?

The Radar – The Athletic’s 2022 World Cup scouting guide


“Welcome to The Radar — the World Cup edition. Last year, for Euro 2020, we profiled 60 players that people were talking about — or would be by the end of the competition. Thirty-four of those players have since moved club. More teams means more players, so for the World Cup we’ve upped that to 100. The result is below, a carefully crafted guide to some of the best footballers on show in Qatar listed alphabetically by country — the heavyweight names, the rising stars and the under-the-radar players who could be coming to an elite club near you. …”
The Athletic

Lionel Messi, Here & Gone

“In the imagination of guidebook writers, who see places as they should be but rarely as they are, there is a passionate love affair between the city of Rosario and its famous progeny, global soccer star Leo Messi. … He’d agreed to help me act on my obsession with Messi, who is one of the world’s most famous athletes, and most unknowable, the combination of which sucked me in. I’d been reading everything I could find, watching internet videos of him scoring one ridiculous goal after another for Barcelona. …”
ESPN

From Kudus to Gavi: eight players ready to break through at World Cup Federico Valverde, Gavi, and Rafael Leão.

“We pick the young stars well placed to shine in Qatar, ranging from Milan’s Rafael Leão to Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo. … Rafael Leão (Portugal). A product of the Sporting academy, the attacker has become one of the most feared forwards in Serie A, helping Milan to their first title in 11 years last season and gaining a place in the league’s team of the year. In addition to height, the 23-year-old possesses plenty of pace and is often utilised on the flanks by Stefano Pioli. Leão is as adept at creating as he is scoring, making him a threat whether out wide or down the middle. …”
Guardian

Mapping out Brazil’s Potential Route to the World Cup Final

“What if Brazil’s preparation for the 2006 World Cup in Germany had been more intense? What if Felipe Melo hadn’t received a red card in 2010? What if Neymar hadn’t been injured ahead of the semi-final in 2014? What if Thibaut Courtois hadn’t saved that shot from Renato Augusto in 2018? Brazil supporters are always looking back at the past, imagining a scenario where the Seleção have already won their sixth World Cup title. But now, with the help of our tournament simulator model, we can estimate the probabilities of the ‘Hexa‘ happening in Qatar 2022. …’
The Analyst

World Cup 2022 Group C guide: Argentina’s fast starts, ageing Mexico and possession-shy Poland


“What tactics do Argentina use? What is Mexico’s weakness? Which quirk should we look out for from Poland? The 2022 World Cup is nearly upon us and The Athletic will be running in-depth tactical group guides so you will know what to expect from every nation competing in Qatar. Liam Tharme will look at each team’s playing style, strengths, weaknesses and key players, and highlight things to keep an eye on during the tournament. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup 2022 Groups: The Predictions


“The 2022 World Cup is finally here, with the tournament in Qatar being the first held in the months of November and December since the first World Cup finals in 1930. The 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup tournament will see 32 teams battle it out in the group stage after qualifying via five different regions – Asia, Africa, South America, North America/Central America and Europe (no nation from Oceania qualified). From there, 16 will make it through to the knockout stages. …”
The Analyst

World Cup 2022 team guides part 9: Argentina

“This is the first time Argentina arrive at a World Cup in peace. Excited, yes, but also calm. The greatest strength is the team’s collectiveness, the fact that everyone works hard for each other and that has been highlighted again and again over the past four years. Everyone in the team – in the squad in fact – knows their role: this is a well-oiled machine. The current cycle began towards the end of 2018 after Jorge Sampaoli’s disastrous spell in charge, which included a last-16 exit from the Russia World Cup and off- and on-field problems. Lionel Scaloni, who had been an assistant to Sampaoli, took over on an interim basis – together with Pablo Aimar – and the former Deportivo La Coruña and Lazio player never looked back. …”
Guardian

The Curious Case of the World Cup Catfish

“Many of us have had that experience where we have been anticipating a film for many months, one whose cast and director are so good that it simply cannot fail, only to realize that, within the movie’s first few scenes, we are in for an epic disappointment. By the time we shuffle away from the cinema or forlornly fold our laptops closed, we are overwhelmed by that unique feeling: the ache of unsatisfying art. In extreme cases, our ache also carries a sense of betrayal: You promised us a rousing, soaring spectacle, and yet you presented us with something so different from and so far beneath our expectations. How could you? You catfished us. …”
The Ringer (Video)

World Cup provisional squads explained: What are the rules and will they be made public?


“A month from today, it all begins. The World Cup in Qatar looms ever larger on the horizon and the countdown is on to the first of 64 games that will crown a winner at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, December 18. Doubts persist over the suitability of Qatar to host this World Cup, as well as its readiness to welcome more than one million visitors, but the biggest names in football are about to descend on a tiny Gulf nation that’s half the size of Wales and roughly as big as the US state of Connecticut. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst: World Cup 2022 Guide to Each Group

Football and Politics in South America

“Published in 1995 as part of Verso’s series of Critical Studies in Latin American and Iberian Culture, Tony Mason’s Passion of the People? Football in South America examines the centrality of the game to cultural life in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay over the course of the twentieth century. In the excerpt below, Mason reviews the points of contact between professional football and the state, with a particular emphasis on Argentina and Brazil. …”
Verso

World Cup 2022 news round-up: Nkunku and Lewandowski shine as Argentina put faith in Scaloni

“Club football is back and with fewer than 50 days for players to find form and fitness before the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Leandro Trossard of Belgium and USA forward Ricardo Pepi laid down a marker at the weekend. Off the pitch, coaches are already being rewarded before the tournament kicks off with Wales extending Rob Page’s contract and Argentina set to keep Lionel Scaloni as head coach until the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go

“With most teams having played their final matches before the tournament in Qatar, who appear most likely to lift the trophy? …”
Guardian

Against all odds, Lionel Messi has one last shot at World Cup glory with Argentina

“Argentina went to Russia in 2018 with a sense it was now or never. They had lost in the final of the previous World Cup. A great generation of attacking talent was ageing. Lionel Messi was 31 and two years earlier had flirted with international retirement after a second successive Copa América final defeat to Chile. And at last the Argentinian Football Association had managed to appoint, in Jorge Sampaoli, a dynamic and progressive coach who promised to restore the days of Bielsista optimism. Messi scored one brilliant goal, against Nigeria and there was a spirited exit against France in the last 16, but the last World Cup was a huge disappointment. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

The Surprising Names at Risk of Missing the Flight to Qatar 2022

“We’re currently 67 days away from the first ball being kicked at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and as we approach the first ever World Cup to be staged in winter rather than summer, players have less time and more pressure to impress their respective international managers. Some players have an almost guaranteed spot in their national teams regardless of their seasons – think Harry Kane and Achraf Hakimi. Others don’t have such a luxury and have a constant point to prove when they step out to play. Those are the players we’ll delve into in this article: players with a point to prove to be part of the travelling pack who jet off to Qatar in mid-November. …”
Football Paradise

Dennis Bergkamp, the Non-Flying Dutchman Who Reimagined Space and Time


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Dennis Bergkamp at the 1998 World Cup in France. …”
The Ringer (Audio/Video)

The Myth of South America

South America has produced some of the greatest ever players in football history. Many South American players have played for the best teams in the game. But rarely do players make a move directly from South America to elite-level clubs. But why? As Jon Mackenzie explains most players need a stepping stone club to take them to the next level. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.
YouTube

‘22 Goals’: Ronaldo, 2002 World Cup Final in Japan


“As the 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup approaches in November 2022, The Ringer introduces 22 Goals, a podcast by Brian Phillips about the most iconic goals scored in the history of the World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves the ‘original’ Ronaldo from the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. …”
The Ringer (Audio)
The Ringer – ‘22 Goals’: Diego Maradona, 1986 World Cup in Mexico (Audio)

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


“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.


“… 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


“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.


“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


“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


“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


“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


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


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?


“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


“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


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


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


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?


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


“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


“‘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


“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


“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


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)


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


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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“… 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


“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


“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


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

“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


“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

“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


“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

“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