Africans in European football: the best of 2010-2011?

June 6, 2011

“It’s been another momentous year for African footballers, with players from the continent involved in title-winning sides in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Others have won a domestic cup, although the biggest trophy on offer ended up in the hands of Mali’s Seydou Keita after his Barcelona side destroyed Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday.” BBC

‘Obama We Are Sorry’ – possibly best World Cup memory from Ghana

August 10, 2010

“Flashback: This video captures the euphoria in the streets of Ghana just after the Black Stars knocked the US out of the World Cup.” (From A Left Wing)

Brazilian league lacks bite

July 19, 2010

“Spain or Barcelona? No contest. Week in, week out, Barcelona combine the midfield interplay of Xavi and Iniesta with the cutting edge of Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and co. The comparison serves to confirm the impression that these days club football is of a much higher standard than international – as long as we restrict the debate to the major European leagues. The big clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are in front of the national teams because of the time their players spend together and because they count on the best talent from all over the planet. When the World Cup stops and domestic football returns, the level of play goes up.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Not For Glory Alone

July 17, 2010

“Two billion souls: One must begin with that. That’s how many people, or nearly so, sat or stood in view of television screens to watch twenty-two men kick a white ball around a green field on a warm July night in Berlin four years ago. The twenty-two men comprised the men’s national soccer teams of Italy and France. The occasion was the final game of the 2006 World Cup. The cagey match, as the world now knows, turned on an extraordinary event near its end when France’s captain and star, Zinedine Zidane, strode toward the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and, for reasons unknown, drove his bald pate into the taller man’s chest. The motion mimicked one he’d used a few minutes earlier to head a flighted ball inches over the Italians’ goal, coming ago nizingly close to winning the day for France. Now Zidane was expelled, his team was rattled, and a player in blue whose name few outside Umbria and Trieste recall darted inside a player in white and curled the ball inside the French goal with his left foot, cueing images, on countless flickering screens around the planet, of his countrymen celebrating Italy’s triumph in the floodlit waters of the Trevi fountain in Rome.” (Laphams Quarterly)

World Cup scouting: The 32 – Conclusions

July 16, 2010

Antonio Di Natale
“Starting with Nicolás Lodeiro back in December last year, Football Further selected 32 players to watch out for at the 2010 World Cup and then tracked their progress through the tournament via weekly scouting reports. Below is a full compilation of those reports, along with conclusions (and marks out of 10) on how each player performed.” (Football Further)

‘Octodamus’ and other surprises – Eduardo Galeano

July 15, 2010

Mensaje de Eduardo Galeano para América Latina Cartagena de Indias, Julio de 1997
“Pacho Marturana, a man with vast experience in these battles, says that football is a magical realm where anything can happen. And this World Cup has confirmed his words: it was an unusual World Cup. The 10 stadiums where the Cup was played were unusual, beautiful, immense, and cost a fortune. Who knows how South Africa will be able to keep these cement behemoths operating amid pulverising poverty? The Adidas Jabulani ball was unusual, slippery and half mad, fled hands and disobeyed feet. It was introduced despite players not liking it at all. But from their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they don’t propose. …” (Dispatch)

World Cup 2010: A tactical review

July 14, 2010

Marcello Bielsa
“At the dawn of the tournament Football Further posed ten tactical questions that the World Cup would answer. Three days after Spain’s tense extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final, the answers to those questions reflect a tournament in which defensive rigour was overwhelmingly de riguer and tactical innovation conspicious by its rarity.” (Football Further)


July 14, 2010

“Two days after the World Cup final, the whole event seems slightly surreal. I’m returning from South Africa today, having survived on my last day here a gauntlet of baboons and a march up a gorgeous mountain, after arriving on the 26th of June just in time to see Ghana beat the U.S. I’ve had the privilege of watching seven games, including the Cape Town semi-final and the final in Johannesburg. I’ve come to know and love the vuvuzela — and, yes, I’m bringing one home to blow at Duke soccer matches this fall. It was rapture on many levels, and now it’s passed.” (Soccer Politics)

Ballet of Frost

July 11, 2010

“Someone wrote on Twitter yesterday that “Is Spain boring?” is the new “Will soccer ever make it in America?” And yes, it is, in the same way that it’s the new “Can Lampard and Gerrard play in the same midfield?” and possibly the new “Can Asians think?” It wants a word, nevertheless, if only because Spain-Germany was so divisive; and because this is the World Cup final, and a bubble of resentment against the pre-tournament favorites and anointed Best Team on Earth is one of the conditions in which history’s about to happen.” (Run of Play)

The Question: What have been the tactical lessons of World Cup 2010?

July 9, 2010

“This has been the tournament of 4-2-3-1. The move has been apparent in club football for some time; in fact, it may be that 4-2-3-1 is beginning to be supplanted by variants of 4-3-3 at club level, but international football these days lags behind the club game, and this tournament has confirmed the trend that began to emerge at Euro 2008. Even Michael Owen seems to have noticed, which is surely the tipping point.” (Guardian)

Europe is still football’s dominant force

July 6, 2010

“Wasn’t it just a few glasses of Chardonnay ago that European soccer was melting faster than a wedge of warm Brie? France, Italy and England — three of the continent’s soccer superpowers — had gone home in various levels of disgrace. To make matters worse, all five of South America’s entrants had moved on to the knockout round, with all but Chile winning its group.” (ESPN)

Who Said Cheating Doesn’t Pay Off?

July 6, 2010

“Uruguay is back in the World Cup semifinals. The little country had to cheat big-time to get there, but that’s another matter. In an epic quarterfinal Friday night, Uruguay defeated Ghana on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw to reach the semifinals, improbably returning to the sport’s biggest stage despite being one of its smallest countries.” (WSJ)

The Currents of History: What does it take to win the World Cup?

July 5, 2010

Giovanni Battista Di Jacopo, Pieta
“‘What does it take to win the World Cup?’ asked Henry D Fetter of The Atlantic a couple of days ago, in a post called ‘What It Takes To Win The World Cup’.” (Pitch Invasion)

Özil the German
“No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Özil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.” (NYT)

Tap-in and Taboo
“If this happens, what will people say about Bryan Thomas (on Twitter, in newspapers, on comment threads)? Will anyone say that he has violated the ethics of the game, that he deserves further punishment? Will anyone argue that the rules of the game need to be changed so that teams cannot benefit from committing a penalty? I suspect, rather, that Thomas will be generally credited with a very smart play. How is what Luis Suárez did at the end of yesterday’s match against Ghana any different?” (Run of Play)

when i get older
“Brian at the Run of Play did a very good job crushing the idea floated in The Atlantic that countries with an authoritarian history play more winning football. The idea memed, nonetheless. (Shocked that highbrow soccer dorks — my favourite phrase this World Cup, used by TNR Goalpost to describe their ideal reader base) appear not to check RoP before coffee.) Laughable, snobbish solipsism — it’s not just for FIFA anymore, kids.” (Treasons, Statagems & Spoils)

Time Can Do So Much
“What I want to know is whether we’ll remember any of this in ten years, or if we’ll look back on it as the mass blackout during which we all wrote mystic texts. I can’t remember two more deranged or thrilling days of soccer, or four more shocking games, in any recent tournament, and Euro 2008 made me compare Aphrodite to a Toyota Prius. It was all the more stunning because it came out of nowhere—that’s not to say this World Cup had been boring, but it had rolled along at a pretty regular tempo and, apart from a few moments of madness and bliss, within a fairly livable emotional band.” (Run of Play)

Argentina Flounder Before German Unity

July 5, 2010

“Out of the chaos of the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup has come some degree of consensus. If today’s newspapers have one theme running through them, that theme is that Germany are currently the best football team in the world and that, to a point, it would be a travesty if they didn’t win the competition. All of this is somewhat odd, since it is effectively an admission that they got their predictions wrong before the start of the tournament (there weren’t many in the mainstream press that didn’t predict Brazil or Spain), but this groundswell of opinion has been building for the last few days.” (twohundredpercent)

Uruguay: The Only Civilized Latin Americans

July 4, 2010

Luis Suarez
“Why, among all the South American teams, have you heard so little talk about Uruguay this summer? I’ll tell you why: Because they’re civilized. Uruguay is the first democracy of Latin America, the first country where women voted. Whenever they have a national conflict, they solve it by referendum. Even the flyers announcing illegal prostitution clubs have a polite note below: ‘Please do not throw this paper in the street. Use a trash can.’” (Vanity Fair)

Uruguay rides luck against Ghana
“Against Ghana, though, in the final minutes of extra time, there was no control; there was merely nerve-rending hanging-on, and if Asamoah Gyan had taken the penalty he went on to take in the shootout five minutes earlier, Uruguay would have been out and Ghana would have been Africa’s first ever semifinalist. Instead after the game ended at 1-1 in extra time, Uruguay triumphed 4-2 on penalties.” (SI)

The New Hand of God
“Finally, there’s the larger point — PKs may feel like a gimmick, but, yeah, there’s no denying: It’s one heck of a gimmick. Like the fortune in the fortune cookie, it works. The penalty kicks ending of the Uruguay-Ghana match on Friday was so emotional, so heartbreaking, so inspiring, so powerful — it was the peak of this World Cup. It was one of those universal moments of sport, the sort of thing you can just enter without credentials, without prior knowledge, without any sense of the game. This was boxing without violence, tennis without lines, an Olympic 100-meter dash without a finish line. This was raw sport.” (SI)

World Cup Live: Uruguay vs. Ghana
“An unbelievable finish at Soccer City in Johannesburg put Uruguay through to the semifinals and Ghana out of the tournament in absolutely heartbreaking fashion. Ghana was awarded a penalty kick at the end of extra time when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez punched a Ghana shot off the goal line with his hand — a denial of a certain goal and a red card offense, but punishable only by giving the Black Stars a penalty kick as the last act of the match. But Asamoah Gyan blew his chance to give Ghana a 2-1 victory by shooting the ball off the bar and out of play.” (NYT)

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana: nothing to separate the sides

July 3, 2010

“A game that got increasingly exciting, before an incredible finale. Penalties and Suarezgate aside, a ‘draw’ was a fair result. Both sides fielded their expected line-ups – Uruguay had named their team 48 hours before kick-off, whilst Ghana’s team featured the predicted two changes because of suspensions. The opening to the game was played primarily in Ghana’s half, with Uruguay dominating possession.” (Zonal Marking)

World Cup 2010: Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (Uruguay Win 4-2 On Penalties)
“If this isn’t the signature match of this World Cup, an absolute classic awaits. All the “total football” focus had been on Holland v Brazil but in the end only Brazil played like they did in 1974; while this… this match was total… everything. The streets of Ghana’s capital Accra are not as packed as Ned Boulting and ITV would have been hoping when they flew 3,000 miles to get there. Most of the locals are filmed showing two fingers to Boulting and his cameras and we are assured that this is a prediction of the scoreline, rather than an invitation to the patronising outsiders to foxtrot oscar.” (twohundredpercent)

Black Star Tragedy
“Football, we learned last night during the Ghana-Uruguay game, is the most effective tool for mass torture every devised by the human race. A vast majority of the over eighty thousands fans in the stadium, and millions of viewers throughout the world, were left speechless and unwound by what we saw unfold. For me, it was a little bit like reliving the final of the World Cup in 2006, with an early euphoria followed by an equalizer, then a game dragging on and on into penalties, with Gyan’s missed shot at the last minute playing the role of Zidane’s head-butt as the dramatic and decisive instant of the night. The sorrow, the indignity, the sense of unfairness of it all was too much to even contemplate.” (Soccer Politics)

Unloved Uruguay
“The Italian JobI will admit under the cover of darkness, with a long head start from those who might disagree, that I supported Uruguay against Ghana. Beirut had been gutted by the Brazilian loss in the afternoon (and here there are the Brazilians and there are the Germans, all else being commentary), so all that was left behind was a sense of solidarity for the little guy, for Africa, for the Third World, for the poor…” (TNR)

Ghana’s Elimination by la Mano del Diablo
“If la Mano de Dios works in the service of an attack on goal, helping the ball over the keeper, across the line, or to the foot of a well-placed teammate, la Mano del Diablo does its opposite – a hand raised on the line to stop a ball speeding toward the back of the net. The Hand of God works in one direction, the Hand of the Devil in its opposite.” (From A Left Wing)

Uruguay earns first WCup semifinal spot in 40 years after ousting Ghana
“Nothing, it seemed, would go in for Ghana. Not the shot kicked away at the goal line. Not the block ruled a handball an instant later as extra time ticked to a close. Not the subsequent penalty kick that sure-footed Asamoah Gyan sent bouncing straight up off the crossbar.” (ESPN)

Uruguay 1-1 (4-2 on penalty kicks) Ghana – Video Highlights, Recap, Match Stats – World Cup – 2 July 2010
“A spot in the semifinal round was at stake as Uruguay faced Ghana in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Ghana was looking to be the first African side to reach the semifinals while Uruguay was looking to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1970.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup Quarters – “& Then There Were 8″

July 1, 2010

“The typical suspects have overcome group stage difficulties to rise to the top. However, no smoking gun has appeared to point out the single culprit most likely to win the tournament. Using a really big magnifying glass, a trench coat, a smart talking sidekick, and intuition, we embarked on an investigation of the remaining teams in this World Cup quarterfinals, searching for clues in a sea of uncertainty. Our conclusion as to who will win the World Cup?” (futfanatico)

World Cup tactics: How the quarter-finalists line up

June 30, 2010

“On the eve of the World Cup, Football Further asked whether the 4-2-3-1 formation would continue to dominate as it did at the last tournament in 2006. The average position diagrams below, taken from all eight last-16 matches, demonstrate that while it remains the most popular shape in the international game, variations in tactics mean that it is being deployed in very different ways.” (Football Further)

Facing the Two-Day Football Fast

June 30, 2010

“It’s alarming to even consider, but for the next two days there will be no World Cup matches. After gorging ourselves on football of varying quality for the past weeks, we suddenly have to think of others things to do. Read a book? Take a walk? But to what end and purpose, when all we have known for weeks is the spectacle of the fates of nations unfolding before our eyes?” (Soccer Politics)

Midfielder Annan is Ghana’s key

June 29, 2010

“He’s the starting central midfielder for a perennial African powerhouse and a World Cup quarterfinalist. He’s still just 23 but has already amassed 43 caps for his country and drawn rave reviews, not just in South Africa but at the last two Africa Cups of Nations. So the question is: why does Anthony Annan still ply his trade in Norway?” (SI)

Corruption, disorganization blamed for Africa’s poor showing at Cup

June 28, 2010

“So much for the boost African sides were supposed to receive from the first African World Cup. Only Ghana made it through to the last 16, and had Serbia been awarded the late penalty it deserved in its defeat to Australia — and converted it — the Black Stars would also have been on the way home. Had that happened, Africa would not have had a representative in the second phase of the World Cup for the first time since 1982.” (SI)

Ghana 2-1 United States: Ghana’s organisation and direct running results in the narrowest of victories

June 27, 2010

“A tremendous football match won by the side who showed just a little bit more organisation and structure throughout, and made fewer mistakes. Ghana made a change on the right of midfield, bringing in Samuel Inkoom – often deployed at right-back. The US fielded a line-up largely as expected, the one issue being the central midfield partner for Michael Bradley. Ricardo Clark got the nod, although he didn’t last long.” (Zonal Marking)

Putting Tears Aside: Celebrating Ghana’s Victory
“Over the last week, everyone from the New Republic, to Reason Magazine to the various inept corners of the right wing blabbospehere (neocons, libertarians, and wingnuts OH MY!) has taken a whack at my little blog post in the Nation After Donovan’s Goal: Joy or Jingoism? The article seemed innocent enough. I wrote about my drunken joy over seeing the miraculous US win over Algeria, but regretted the ugly openly racist jingoism I heard in the immediate aftermath on DC Sports Radio. My lament seemed innocent enough.” (The Nation)

Watching Ghana Beat the U.S.A., in Johannesburg
“Well, being on a different continent certainly changes things. After the epic flight from the U.S. to South Africa — 16 hours, including the required putzing around on the tarmac in Atlanta — I arrived just in time to catch the U.S.-Ghana game at a restaurant here in Melville, Johannesburg. I watched with Simon Kuper, who is the author of the excellent Soccernomics and reporting for the Financial Times on the World Cup, along with a few other journalists.” (Soccer Politcs)

World Cup 2010: United States 1-2 Ghana (aet)
“When Ghana becamse independent in 1957, the first of the wave of sub-Saharan countries to do so in that period, there’s a nice story about then Vice-President Richard Nixon attending their Independence Day celebrations. The US were broadly supportive of countries seeking to cast of the yoke of the old European colonial powers, and a beaming Nixon was shaking hands with anyone and everyone. “How does it feel to be free?” he asked of one black man he took for a native; ‘I wouldn’t know sir,’ the man replied, ‘I’m from Alabama’.” (twohundredpercent)

US Loses & ESPN Colossal #FAIL
“So, the US lost. I am sad, but happy we did not get played off the park and advanced out of our group. Salutations to Ghana – I do not wish you well, but you deserved to win. Daggumit! Still, despite the unprecedented attention to the World Cup in the US, unfortunately big media continues to churn out amusing errors by the boatloads. You may recall the NYTime’s error about Zizou playing for Italy. Well, ESPN did them one better. Check out this screenshot…” (futfanatico)

Gyan’s extra-time goal propels Ghana over U.S., into World Cup quarters
“The nail-biter comeback wasn’t there this time. The U.S. soccer team relied on it once too often. Life on the World Cup edge came to an exhausting and crushing end against a familiar foe Saturday night, when Ghana — led by Asamoah Gyan’s goal 3 minutes into overtime — posted a 2-1 victory that ended a thrilling yet futile tournament for the United States.” (ESPN)

United States (USA) 1-2 Ghana – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – World Cup – 26 June 2010
“The USA looked to get revenge from the 2006 World Cup as they faced Ghana who knocked them out in that tournament. Both teams have a favorable draw where they would play Uruguay in the quarterfinal round if they would advance in this match.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup second round preview (part one)

June 26, 2010

Diego Forlan
“The eight World Cup second round matches are spread over the course of four days. Here’s previews for the first half…” (Zonal Marking)

World Cup scouting: The 32 – Week Two

June 26, 2010

Rene Krhin (Slovenia)
“The following 32 names represent Football Further‘s players to watch at the 2010 World Cup. We’ll be following their performances closely over the course of the tournament, with weekly scouting reports rounding up their progress.” (Football Further), (Football Further – Week One)

Germany 1-0 Ghana: Ghana pay the price for not picking up Özil, but both progress

June 24, 2010

“Like yesterday’s Uruguay v Mexico game – a strange contest, because both teams were happy with the scoreline as it stood for most of the second half.
As such, mentality and strategy are difficult to assess, but these are certainly the best two sides in the group, and they put on a great show in Durban that resulted in a narrow victory for Germany, the group winners.” I(Zonal Marking)

World Cup 2010: Ghana 0-1 Germany
“If England supporters had reason to be concerned that their run of not having been knocked out at the opening stages of the World Cup finals since 1958 mind come to an end, then the question of what might be running through the minds of German supporters this evening probably also merits our consideration. Germany last failed to get through the opening round of the World Cup finals in 1938 and, unlike England, they have qualified for every tournament since then. Yet the precariousness of their position has gone curiously unmentioned in the British press. If Germany fail to beat Ghana this evening and Serbia beat Australia, Germany, who had everyone singing their praises after the opening match hiding that they dished out to Australia, will be out in the first round of the World Cup finals.” (twohundredpercent)

Ghana 0-1 Germany – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – World Cup – 23 June 2010
“Germany and Ghana played their final group stage match with a chance at the knockout stage still alive. The winner would win Group D and likely play England in the next round. Germany would be favored but Ghana came into the match with the lead with four points.” (The 90th Minute)

Australia 2-1 Serbia – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – World Cup – 23 June 2010
“Australia needed a win and some help while Serbia could advance with a draw as the two teams played in Group D. Serbia would favored but Australia will be wanting to show their run into the round of 16 in 2006 was not a fluke. Australia was unlikely to have a chance to win the group while Serbia could with a win and better goal difference then Germany (if they won).” (The 90th Minute)

2010 FIFA World Cup Group D Final Standings: Germany & Ghana advance
“The matches in Group D are finished in the 2010 FIFA World Cup as Germany & Ghana have advanced. Ghana topped Australia on goal difference while Germany led the final standings with six points. Australia just missed out on goal difference as they beat Serbia 2-1 in their final match. It was a close group in the end and all three teams still had a chance going into their final match. Germany will now place England in the next round while Ghana faces the USA.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup 2010: Ghana 1-1 Australia

June 19, 2010

“This game sees us pass the halfway point of the group stages. By the end of Friday, we’ll have lost half of the teams, and we’ll know the shape of the knockout stages. Once we reach the knockout stages, most of the contrasting games (whether in ability, age or experience) will be over, and the main contrasts we’re likely to get between opponents are playing style and location. Ghana and Australia are as big a contrast as you can get. Australia are an aging team, with a wealth of experience. The nucleus of the squad is from the team that reached the last 16 in Germany, with six of them being aged 30 or over.” (twohundredpercent)

Australia 1-1 Ghana – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – World Cup – 19 June 2010
“Ghana could move on top of the Group D with any result while Australia needed some points after their opening loss to Germany. A win for Ghana would put them three points clear of Serbia and Germany who both have three after two matches. Australia wouldn’t be eliminated with another loss but would be in very tough shape without at least a draw.” (The 90th Minute)

Serbia 0-1 Ghana – Video Highlights, Recap and Match Stats – World Cup – 13 June 2010

June 13, 2010

Soweto, Kliptown. 1890 and 1910.
“Serbia and Ghana faced off in Group D action with both teams knowing that a loss would put their knockout stage chances in the balance. Both teams are likely fighting for second place with Germany a clear favorite to win the group. The teams played the early match (13:30 local time) on Sunday, June 13, 2010.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup Power Rankings

June 6, 2010

“You knew they had to be coming: World Cup power rankings are here. Let’s dive in…” (SI)

Experience at the World Cup

June 6, 2010

“It’s an oft-used cliché that experience is necessary in order to win the greatest football competition in the world. In fact, only the other day I saw Steve Hodge being interviewed on Sky Sports News talking about this very subject. I think he was trying to tout his Maradona ’86 World Cup shirt again but was nonetheless happy enough to offer his wisdom to Sky Sports’ rolling news feed. He made the point that the sides who won the World Cup normally had an average age of around 28/29. He’s got a point, the average age of the World Cup winning Italian squad of four years ago was 28 years and 8 months.” (twinty tin)

Ghana: defensive, cohesive and underrated

June 5, 2010

“‘Tactically naive’ is the common criticism for any African side which fails, generally regardless of the nature of their defeat or their manager’s tactical acumen. Ghana showed at the Africa Nations Cup earlier this year that they are anything but tactically naive. As if to emphasize what a silly criticism it is, Ghana were then labelled boring and defensive for daring to set out in a fashion that might maximise their chances of victory.” (Zonal Marking)

World Cup 2010: Matthew Booth the perfect advertisement for integrated South Africa

June 5, 2010

“So when some members of the Spanish press thought they heard him being booed by black fans at the Confederations Cup last summer they thought they had a great story about racial disharmony in the new South Africa and filed their copy to Madrid. They got it excruciatingly, embarrassingly wrong. The fans were celebrating their cult hero, launching into a resonant chant of “Booth!” every time the 6″6 centre-half met the ball with one of his thumping defensive headers.” (Telegraph)