The World Cup Final Is Upon Us. What Have We Learned?

July 15, 2018

“Here we are. The final match of the 2018 World Cup has almost arrived, and it has been as thrilling a tournament as I can remember. As Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character in ‘Gladiator,’ famously yelled, ‘Are you not entertained?’ Over the past four weeks, 32 teams from across the globe have come to Russia to play their hardest and to try their luck. One by one they have all gone home, often in heartbreak. There have been some shocking results, for sure. Germany didn’t even make it out of the first round; the formidable Spain was knocked out by Russia. Brazil looked invincible, and then Belgium brushed them aside. My home team, England, made it further than expected, before a gallant and tearful exit at the semifinal stage on Wednesday. Now it’s down to France against Croatia, on July 15.” NY Times

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Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

July 4, 2018

“An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a list of imported items banned by international sanctions.” NY Times


Soccer and Doping? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

June 27, 2018

“The World Cup continues to thrill, with exhilarating wins by England, Germany, Belgium and Colombia, and an equally exciting draw between Japan and Senegal. Away from the field, though, an old controversy has once again rumbled into view: doping. The Mail on Sunday, a British newspaper, reported over the weekend that a Russian player, Ruslan Kambolov, who was excluded from his country’s World Cup squad because of injury, had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs 18 months ago. And according to the paper, it gets worse: Both the Russian authorities and FIFA kept this information quiet.” NY Times


World Cup 2018: Serbia chief accuses Fifa of ‘brutal robbery’ after Swiss defeat

June 23, 2018

“The head of the Serbian Football Association has accused governing body Fifa of showing bias against his country at the World Cup in Russia. Slavisa Kokeza says Serbia were victims of a ‘brutal robbery’ during Friday’s loss to Switzerland, accusing Fifa of ‘directing’ officials to work against them. ‘We will send a protest to Fifa today,’ Kokeza told the BBC on Saturday. A Fifa spokesman confirmed a letter of protest had been received but that no further comment would be made.” BBC (Video)

Mexico Fans Stop Homophobic Chant, Excel at Good Chants
“Saturday’s match against South Korea went about as well for Mexico as its fans could have hoped. The 2–1 victory all but guaranteed a trip to the World Cup’s knock-out stages and bolstered El Tri’s chances of winning its tough group outright. The game also didn’t feature any homophobic chants, so it was a very fine day indeed. On Wednesday, FIFA fined the Mexico Football Federation $10,000 for its fans’ use of the ‘discriminatory and insulting’ puto chant during the opening match against Germany.” Slate


Europe And South America Are Growing In Soccer Power — That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen

June 20, 2018


“If there’s been a dominant trend in the first week of the 2018 World Cup, perhaps it has been how well European nations from beyond the continent’s traditional giants have performed. Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Russia are all off to a strong start. This should be no surprise. Only two nations from outside Europe and South America have made the World Cup semifinals (the United States in the inaugural competition in 1930 and South Korea in 2002). In 20 previous World Cups, only 12 countries have reached the final — all from Europe or South America — and only eight sides have won the tournament.” FiveThirtyEight


Mark Lawrenson’s pantomime punditry: a relic to cherish on the BBC

June 19, 2018

“Fifa are fond of telling us that football is a family. If so, Mark Lawrenson is the grumpy uncle one was compelled to invite to the gathering. But rather than simply sticking him in a secluded armchair and keeping him quiet with a gob full of Quality Street and cooking brandy, the BBC has let him loose on World Cup television viewers. Lawro has so far done two matches for BBC TV; reaction has been mixed. Which is to say, some people have hated it, and other people have really hated it. Or that has been the online response, anyway, with social media commentators vying to one-up each other with their spite and rage at his contributions to the France vs Australia and Belgium vs Panama matches.” Telegraph


Fifa’s Gianni Infantino hits rocky ground on 2018 World Cup eve

June 12, 2018

“The World Cup in Russia has sailed into view with a new Fifa captain at the helm, two and a half years since Sepp Blatter’s presidency crashed on the rocks of corruption and ethics breaches. Gianni Infantino seemed a callow, unlikely president when he was elevated to succeed the banned Blatter in February 2016 as, his tie slightly askew, he tapped his heart in wonderment at winning the vote of the Fifa congress.” Guardian