Italia ’90: Roberto Baggio’s magical goal against Czechoslovakia

June 21, 2020


“Retro football has been our staple for the past few months, as we look to get our fix of on-pitch action by looking back at matches gone by. And with classic games screened on TVs from a series of international tournaments, it’s prompted a round of assessment of how good they really were in comparison to perception, collective memory and nostalgia. Which is all fair enough. It’s interesting to look back on tournaments like that, consider things we might not have thought about back then or since. False nostalgia for a time that didn’t exist has got the world into some problems in the past few years, so re-examining those memories are a useful exercise, if nothing else. …” the set pieces (Video)


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)


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son

August 12, 2018

“STIA, Italy — The road from Faella, down in the Arno valley, winds up and up into the hills, beyond the vineyards, with their military precision, beyond the tangled olive groves and into the woods, thick and dark and untamed. At Consuma, the highest point of the pass, the view stretches all the way west to Chianti; Arezzo lies south, Florence north. Consuma is not where the journey ends. It takes an hour, and countless tight hairpins shaded by slender cypresses, before the road descends into the village of Stia, its terra-cotta roofs nestled in an ocean of green, a little Tuscan idyll nestled in the valley. The soccer field, overlooking the river and screened by a chain-link fence, is the first thing you see as you arrive. Most days, for more than a year, Maurizio Sarri made the trip twice.” NY Times


How Zinedine Zidane’s flawed genius defined the 2006 World Cup

July 10, 2018

“Everyone remembers the headbutt, but not so much what came before. The background to that defining moment in the career of Zinedine Zidane – and the history of the French national team – has been lost in the stark brutality of such an arresting image. A thrilling journey has been forgotten, completely overlooked in favour of the tragic destination. In the final moments of the 2006 World Cup final, with the score at 1-1 and penalties on the way, Zidane planted his head firmly into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi.” The Set Pieces (Video)


‘A daily nightmare’ – how four big nations not at the World Cup are coping

July 1, 2018

“People in Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana are watching the party in Russia from afar. For some it is a painful experience” Guardian


France 3 – 1 Italy

June 2, 2018

“France continued their impressive build up to the World Cup with a comfortable victory over Italy in Nice. Samuel Umtiti set the hosts on their way after Kylian Mbappe’s effort was parried by the Italian goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu. The French doubled their lead when Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty after Lucas Hernandez had been fouled. Leonardo Bonucci reduced the arrears for Italy but Ousmane Dembele’s chip rounded off a fine French display. …” BBC


10 Greatest World Cup Matches

May 18, 2018


The 1966 World Cup Final makes our list of the best matches in World Cup history.
“The World Cup has seen some of the greatest matches ever take place, so bearing that in mind we have put together ten of the best. From amazing goals, to spectacular moments, these matches have helped write World Cup history. …” World Soccer


Reliving Giants Stadium

April 29, 2018

“The 1994 World Cup in America was the first for Luke Constable of the brilliantly named RGSOAS (Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed). His native England hadn’t qualified but thanks to his Irish grandfather, Luke was rooting for the Republic. Having missed the full game with Italy, the myth around the match had grown. Houghton’s goal and McGrath’s performance became legendary as the years went on. Luke has never seen the game in its entirety…until now. …” Pog Mo Goal


World Cup stunning moments: The Battle of Santiago

March 22, 2018


English referee Ken Aston sends off Italian player Mario David, while an injured Chilean player lies on the ground, during the 1962 World Cup meeting.
“It took two days for highlights of the match that was christened, even during the commentary, the Battle of Santiago, to be flown from South America and broadcast in Britain. Two days in which the game became, in its own brutal way, legendary, spoken of in ways which must have sent anyone with a combined interest in football and mild gore into a frenzy of excitement. …” Guardian (Video)


World Cup stunning moments: Cameroon shock Argentina in 1990 World Cup

March 22, 2018

“Of the great World Cup upsets – the USA’s victory over England in 1950, North Korea’s over Italy in 1966 and Algeria’s over West Germany in 1982 probably push it close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory. …” Guardian (Video)


The Last Cup of Sorrow – the story of the Anglo-Italian Cup

January 30, 2018

“MATTHEW CRIST remembers a short-lived and short-loved relic of the 60s which was reincarnated for football’s boom time in the 90s but eventually fell foul of supporter apathy and violence both on and off the pitch. The arrival of the 1990s provided something of a watershed for English football. The national side had shone at Italia ‘90, club sides were once again able to compete in Europe after a five-year ban, and Channel 4’s live Italian football coverage beamed a host of new names and faces into our living rooms for the first time; not to mention the introduction of the Premier League, which promised us a whole new ball game. …” Football Pink


Italy’s Soccer Apocalypse

November 17, 2017


“Is soccer a matter of life and death? ‘It’s much more serious than that,’ the droll Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool in the club’s glory days, once remarked. But how much more? ‘Us, out of the World Cup?’ Carlo Tavecchio, the head of the Italian Football Federation, said to journalists, after Italy lost a crucial qualifying game in September. ‘It would be the apocalypse.’ What he seemed to be saying was that it would be something so bad that it surely couldn’t happen. But then it did. ‘THE END,’ the enormous headline of the Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed, when, on Monday, contrary to all expectations and pundit wisdom, Italy failed to score against a modest Swedish side and crashed out of the forthcoming tournament in Russia. …” New Yorker


Where it went wrong for the teams who missed out on the World Cup

November 17, 2017

“Fans from 21 countries explain why they will be staying at home next summer. Holland were unlucky, Italy were mismanaged and Mongolia were a disaster” Guardian


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)


The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup

October 8, 2017


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“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


We Could Crush the World – Yugolavia’s Shattered Dreams

September 12, 2016

“Football so often is a tale of journeys, of teams, individuals and clubs. For some, those journeys end in glorious triumph; the Germans’ victory in the World Cup last year was the culmination of 14 years extraordinary work following their awful performances in Euro 2000. For most though, the journey ends in failure and the empty feeling of what might have been. One team that had so much promise to be cruelly wrenched away from them by politics and civil war was the Yugoslav team of the early 1990’s, and in particular, its team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.” Football Pink


Antonio Conte: Exploring Italy’s tactics at Euro 2016

July 23, 2016

“They may have been eliminated from the tournament in the quarter-finals, but in football you don’t just remember the winners. You remember the team that inspires the viewer the most. The Italy of Conte is a team that impressed a lot, not just me but the entire world of football. With as few opportunities to have sessions together as national teams have, it is quite usual to see national teams have an unclean collective positional structure/systems defensively and attacking wise, to rely a lot more on individual qualities. What Conte managed to build for this tournament, was a fantastic collective team, which in my opinion was the best this Euro 2016.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final headbutt recalled, 10 years later

July 8, 2016

“Berlin’s Olympiastadion was hot and humid on July 9, 2006. There had been storms all week. Zinedine Zidane had converted a penalty early in the World Cup final. Marco Materazzi had headed an equalizer. Italy had hit the bar. France had been denied another penalty. The game went into extra time and seemed to be heading for penalties. Then, with 10 minutes to go, a France attack was thwarted. As the ball was cleared, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a blue-shirted figure collapse. Something clearly had happened. The game stopped.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Germany 1–1 Italy (6-5 Pens) | Germany and Italy play almost similar systems

July 8, 2016

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“Joachim Low, in order to tackle Antonio Conte’s almost unbeatable 3-5-2 formation, decided to change his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-5-2. Germany took the lead through Mesut Ozil and Italy equalized through Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty. In the penalty shootout after the extra-time, 7 kicks failed to end up in the back of the net. Finally, it was Germany that managed to sneak through to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 just like Jonas Hector’s shot slipped under Gianluigi Buffon in the ultimate and decisive kick of the match. Here’s my tactical analysis of the game.” Outside of the Boot


Brutally tough path suiting Italy’s strengths at Euro 2016

July 1, 2016

“This was, they said, the weakest Italy squad in half a century. The draw has been so unkind that, after facing Belgium in the group stage, Italy’s putative route to the final means taking on the world champion Germany after the defending European champion Spain with the host France–or the host-slayer Iceland–waiting in the semi. For other sides that might have been too daunting a prospect, but Italy seems almost energized by it. Antonio Conte’s side has produced highly astute tactical performances to beat Belgium and Spain. It wouldn’t even be true to say they were counterattacking displays, although that clearly is a strength of his side, because Italy matched Spain for possession in the first half of their last-16 clash. But it is a team that is at its best using an opponent’s strength against itself.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Italy dominant, special in ousting reigning Euro champion Spain

June 27, 2016

“From Italy, this was magnificent, a display of intelligence and swagger to eclipse anything seen at this tournament so far. The 2-0 victory over two-time reigning European champion Spain in the Euro 2016 round of 16 was revenge for the final four years ago, for this was a victory every bit as comprehensive as Spain’s 4-0 win in Kyiv. For Spain, meanwhile, there was confirmation that the World Cup was not a one off. The magic has gone. This is a good side, but no longer a great one.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR49T0J
“The dramatic end to the group stage couldn’t disguise the fact that, for the most part, this has been a slightly disappointing opening to the tournament, yielding just 1.92 goals per game and precious few games of real quality. No side won all three group games, while many of the less-fancied sides troubled their supposed betters. The suggestion is that this is a very open tournament, although there remains the possibility that one of the top sides will suddenly click into gear and surge through to success on July 10. The knockout bracket has yielded an unbalanced final 16, with powers France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England on one half, while Belgium and Portugal benefited from underperforming in the group stage by being given a more favorable rout to navigate on the road to the Stade de France.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Six things we’ve learned from the Euro 2016 group stages

June 23, 2016

“Fears that lowly ranked sides like Albania and Northern Ireland might dilute the quality of the competition have not materialised. Cynics might say the overall quality was so low that nobody noticed anyway, but the fact is that some of the more fancied teams – the likes of the Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine and Rumania – couldn’t make it past these minnows. The extended format has brought plenty of colour and amazing stories like Iceland’s success to the tournament, and have helped more than make up for the lack of excitement felt elsewhere. But UEFA also got very lucky. Groups E and F were clearly at an advantage, knowing just how many points were needed to advance ahead of other third-placed teams.” red bulletin


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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“The group stages of Euro 2016 have provided goals and controversies, outrageous skill and dreadful mistakes. With no team able to win every game, but only one side losing all three matches, the tournament has proved more competitive than anyone could have expected. After 36 matches, the action is only just hotting up, but having played three times each, we now have a decent idea about what shape the teams are in.” Daily Mail


Italy’s defensive message gives Sweden deep burn at Euro 2016

June 19, 2016

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“That, perhaps, will calm some of the more excitable reactions to Italy’s victory over Belgium. After the high of that Euro 2016 opening performance came victory in a drab 1-0 win over Sweden, a side whose only two efforts on target in the entire tournament have come from Ireland defender Ciaran Clark. All those gloomy assessments of this Italy side as the worst it has ever sent to a major tournament seemed a lot more accurate than they had on Monday night.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Belgium 0-2 Italy | Belgium struggle against Italy’s position-oriented marking

June 15, 2016

“Belgium and Italy played against each other in what was the best match of the round on paper. Despite the lack of star names in the squad, Italy are very much a big name and on the night faced one of the best international teams in the world who initially failed to impress. Even though the second half saw an awakening from the Red Devils, their performance wasn’t suited to the caliber and style of play of the players at hand.” Outside of the Boot


Italy confirm that Euro 2016 will be last tournament with current manager

March 20, 2016

“It has been revealed that Antonio Conte will step down from his role as manager of the Italy international squad after they have finished competing in Euro 2016. The news has been confirmed by the Italian Football Federation that the competition will be the last that the 46-year-old will be in charge of the team.” backpagefootball


Euro 2016 power rankings: every team assessed before draw

December 10, 2015

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“The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris on Saturday and Jonathan Wilson looks at all the teams, putting France at No1 and Romania at No24” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Schurrle lifts Wolfsburg, Man United disappoints in Champions League

November 28, 2015

“The last 16 of the Champions League is beginning to take shape. The second day of Matchday 5 saw Real Madrid confirm top spot in its group as Cristano Ronaldo scored two and set two up in a 4-3 win away to Shakhtar Donetsk, while Paris St-Germain is through to the next round after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to Malmö with a goal in a 5-0 victory. Benfica and Atlético Madrid also progressed. Benfica had to come from 2-0 down to draw in Kazakhstan against Astana while Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atlético’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Football Weekly: Hungary qualify for Euro 2016 as England’s friendly with France goes ahead

November 18, 2015

“The podders reflect on the Euro 2016 playoffs and the rest of the international friendlies. Plus, Raúl retires, Paul Lambert heads to Blackburn Rovers and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink remains in high demand. On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo is joined by Jacob Steinberg, Michael Cox and John Ashdown to look back on the Euro 2016 qualifiers, with a bit of help from Jonathan Wilson, who was in Bosnia to see (or not) Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Dzecko and co in the fog, and then in Budapest to witness Hungary qualifying for their first major tournament in 30 years, and is now en route to Slovenia. Because that’s the sort of thing he does.” Guardian – Michael Cox, Jonathan Wilson, etc. (Video)


Euro 2016: Qualifiers for the tournament in France

October 14, 2015

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“The group stage of qualification for Euro 2016 is over and the make-up of next summer’s tournament is taking shape. There will be 24 teams competing in the finals. France were assured of a place as hosts, and a further 19 countries have qualified automatically – 18 by finishing either first or second in their group and one more as the highest third-placed finisher. There will also be four play-off ties to determine the final four teams competing in France – and we now know who will be competing in those ties.” BBC


Italy at Argentina ’78 – Bearzot leads the renaissance

April 3, 2015

“When the Romantics of Brazil imploded in Barcelona’s Sarria Stadium against an unfancied Italy in the second group phase of the 1982 World Cup, the purists’ dreams died, and Italy’s eventual triumph in Madrid just days later was greeted with largely grudging acknowledgment. Italy’s victory in Spain is often advanced as some kind of immoral victory of Roundheads over Cavaliers. In truth, it was no such thing.” backpagefootball


100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Defenders 10 – 1

December 21, 2014

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Marquinhos
“Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.” Outside of the Boot


100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Goalkeepers 5 – 1

December 10, 2014

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Simone Scuffet
“Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.” Outside of the Boot


Italy v Croatia: Boss Niko Kovac expects Uefa punishment

November 17, 2014

“Croatia coach Niko Kovac expects European governing body Uefa to punish his country following trouble during a Euro 2016 qualifier in Italy. The match ended 1-1 but was marred by crowd unrest as fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs on to the pitch. Referee Bjorn Kuipers was forced to twice stop the game and 16 Croatia supporters were arrested. ‘Of course Croatia will face sanctions, but there is no reason for any point deductions,’ said Kovac.” BBC


Explaining the difference between Germany’s and Italy’s World Cup wins

July 22, 2014

July 15, 2014. “As Germany evens Italy’s four World Cups, Brazil 2014 teaches us a lesson on the difference between Germany and Italy: the former win when they should, the latter win when they shouldn’t. On the day in which Germany pulled even with Italy, winning their fourth World Cup (they both trail Brazil with five) the two European football giants have never been so distant. And this isn’t just because the Nationalmannschaft literally dominated this Brazilian edition while Italy languished miserably, failing to qualify for the R-16 for the second straight time. This World Cup actually teaches us a lesson on how deeply different the Azzurri and the Germans are, even at football.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – England

July 21, 2014

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“The Breakdown. This was not a tournament to remember for England. A miserly one point from three games was England’s lowest-ever return in a World Cup group stage and this was the first World Cup that England have been eliminated from at the group stage since 1958. Valiant defeat to Italy (2-1) gave way to a gut-wrenching late defeat to Uruguay (again, 2-1). So by the time Roy Hodgson’s team took to the field for their last game against Costa Rica, they were out – Los Ticos’ 1-0 win over Italy sealing England’s fate without a ball being kicked. Joe Hart was already back home sat on his settee while his ‘we all know it will go down to penalties’ adverts continued to run on our TV screens and Daniel Sturridge was back in time to replicate his own pre-tournament advert, order a six inch chicken teriyaki Subway, find a TV and watch the real teams contest the World Cup knockout stages. All in all, a pretty meek, dispiriting World Cup.” Just Football – England

Part I – Portugal, Part II – Italy, Part III – Ivory Coast, Part IV – Brazil, Part V – Spain


Brazil’s World Cup Was Never Simple, Always Irresistible

July 19, 2014

“They had a soccer tournament, and the best team won. If only the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were as simple as that. Let’s look backward—before Germany’s extra-time victory over Argentina in the final, before the host country’s agonizing, indelible 7-1 loss in the semifinals, before the individual greatness of Lionel Messi, Miroslav Klose, James Rodríguez, Neymar Jr. and Tim Howard. Before 20,000 fans jammed Grant Park in Chicago to watch the U.S. team. Before Luis Suárez launched his infamous incisors. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the original idea: a World Cup in Brazil.” WSJ


World Cup retrospective

July 17, 2014

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“Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Previous World Cups have kind of come and gone from my consciousness: I was 8 for Italia ’90 and have very little recollection of it at all; I remember snatches from USA ’94, largely a grudging admiration for Taffarel; France ’98, a blur of blue and enormous jealousy that my sister was in Paris on a French exchange for the final; Japan and South Korea ’02, drunkenly going to first year university exams having watched games that started at 7, and manically cheering Senegal as my sweepstake team, especially after that win; and Germany ’10, revelling in that Spanish team. But, having started to write about football and, more importantly in many ways, become part of a community who talk and think about football, this is the first World Cup where I’ve really inhaled it, really been carried by the highs and lows of such a glorious celebration of football. So I thought I’d do a quick look-back. A good place to start would be the piece I did in The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition, which was a group-by-group preview. And boy did I get some things wrong.” Put Niels In Goal

amazon: The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition [Kindle Edition] $1.50, amazon: £0.97


World Cup 2014: BBC pundits pick their best moments in Brazil

July 17, 2014

“After 32 days, 64 games and 171 goals, there was only one winner. Germany are the new world champions after grabbing the glory at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The tournament will be remembered for its exciting games and spectacular goals but also some of the biggest shocks of recent times, with the hosts Brazil and defending champions Spain both suffering humiliating defeats. England, meanwhile, only lasted eight days and two games before being eliminated. BBC Sport’s TV and radio football presenters and pundits look back on the action and choose their best goal, best player and most memorable moment of the tournament, before considering how far away England are from being contenders.” BBC


2014 FIFA World Cup Awards: Best Player, Best Young Player, Best XI and many more

July 17, 2014

“With the World Cup drawn to a close, many are left disappointed while others celebrate their achievements. Germany won the World Cup, but many other individuals & teams left admirers in their wake. While FIFA gave out it’s individual honours with Messi the choice for Golden Ball particularly bewildering football enthusiasts. We at Outside of the Boot thought long & hard before deciding our choices which might just be a bit more fair & rational than FIFA’s choices! There are some surprises, and also occasions where the hipsters may not be pleased. Nevertheless, here are the best performers at the World Cup divided into Primary Awards, Talent Radar Awards and Secondary Awards.” Outside of the Boot


Die Größte Show Der Welt

July 17, 2014

“It’s staring at me, that wallchart. It’s a little bit frayed and crumpled now since the move back from Greece and after finding its way around Jesse’s sticky fingers and teething gums. Since Sunday, I haven’t been able to summon the requisite will to complete the final vacant space. The one that states that Germany beat Argentina, one-nil, AET. It’s the finality that daunts me; the knowledge that once complete it becomes a historical artefact, no more a tantalising map of an unknown future. All those games, all those goals, all those hours. Gone forever.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa


World Cup Expectations Rankings: Brazil’s over- and underachievers

July 15, 2014

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Cesare Prandelli
“Teams come to the World Cup with their own expectations. For some, just being there is enough, reaching the last 16 an almost impossible dream. For others, so exalted were their ambitions that even a quarterfinal feels like a disappointment. This is an attempt to grade teams according to how they did against their own expectations, looking both at results and at how well they played…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


O Jogo Bonito

July 10, 2014

“A little more than halfway through Brazil’s horrible, galling victory over Colombia last Friday, I began to wonder what type of foul might actually persuade the Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo to issue a yellow card: A studs-up, two-footed, kung-fu fly-kick to the chest, like the one launched by Eric Cantona against a fan in the stands back in 1995? Any one of the number of egregious fouls, including punches to the head, committed by Italy against Chile, and then by Chile on Italy, in the infamous Battle of Santiago in World Cup 1962? Maybe multiple Suárez-type bites by a hyena pack of players on a prostrate Colombian felled by a scything tackle might have done the trick.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson


Reality Bites

June 26, 2014

“When Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy, he more or less blew any chance France had of winning the game. Materazzi is believed to have made some provocative suggestions about Zidane’s sister, and what’s winning the World Cup next to defending one’s sister’s reputation? Luis Suárez’s action yesterday—he left an impression of his teeth in Giorgio Chiellini’s left shoulder—will, after his inevitable ban, have the same effect of terminally harming his country’s chances of victory. But unfortunately for him, Suárez doesn’t have a chivalric excuse. Human beings frequently act against their own self-interest. Think of the highly successful British pop group KLF, two of whose members, self-described as the K Foundation, withdrew a million pounds of their own money from the bank back in 1994 and ceremonially burned it.” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson


Blue, as in Happy

June 25, 2014

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“Victory, even in the group stage of the World Cup, can make Uruguayans feel like champions again. After the closing 10 minutes against Italy on Tuesday — 10 minutes in which all fans of the diminutive republic were on tenterhooks for a 1-0 victory — the cheers rang out. Renditions of ‘Soy Celeste … Celeste Soy Yo!’ (‘I’m sky blue … Sky blue, I am!’) were followed by the ubiquitous chants of winning the World Cup again (just like the first time, in 1930). There was much swinging of the national shirt.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Italy 0 – 1 Uruguay: Man marking all-over the place
“The Azzurri were expected to be comfortably through already following an opening-match win over England, but Costa Rica ended hopes of a quick qualification for Cesare Prandelli’s team. Uruguay were also left stunned by the Group D’s surprise team when they lost 3-1 to the Costa Ricans in their first group match. However, the return of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to the starting XI against England proved to be the catalyst for a 2-1 victory. Therefore, the setting was simple. Uruguay needed a win, Italy needed to avoid defeat to progress to the knockout rounds.” Outside of the Boot

Uruguay’s Suárez, Known for Biting, Leaves Mark on World Cup
“The most ruthless soccer players often use their hands or elbows or knees to rough up opposing players. The most reckless — or dirtiest — might even use their cleats. Then there is Luis Suárez. Suárez, the Uruguayan striker who has emerged as one of the best players in the world over the past year, is a biter. And, it seems, a serial one. For the third time in his career, Suárez is facing potential punishment for appearing to sink his teeth into an opponent. This time, it happened on the biggest soccer stage of all, the World Cup, during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday. Late in the second half, Suárez bumped into Giorgio Chiellini, an Italian defender, while jockeying for position in the penalty area and then dropped his head into Chiellini’s shoulder. Chiellini immediately recoiled as both fell to the ground.” NY Times

Luis Suarez ‘bite’: Uruguay striker ‘should be banned’
“Uruguay striker Luis Suarez should be banned for ‘as long as possible’ if he is found guilty of biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, according to former England captain Alan Shearer. Liverpool forward Suarez appeared to bite Chiellini just before Uruguay scored their winning goal. The Italian certainly felt he was bitten, pulling his shirt down to show an apparent mark on his left shoulder.” BBC

Your ‘Luis Suárez Bit a Guy!?’ Reaction Post
“Chris Ryan: Hey, Mike! Hungry? It sure looks like Uruguay forward Luis Suárez just bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup match. Uruguay, already up a man, went on to win the match and advance to the Round of 16. This is the third time Suárez has taken his Dracula imitation a little too far. In 2010, while playing for Ajax, he chomped on a PSV player. …” Grantland


Group D – ESPN

June 25, 2014
Group D Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Costa Rica 7 3 3 2 1 0 4 1
2 Uruguay 6 0 3 2 0 1 4 4
3 Italy 3 -1 3 1 0 2 2 3
4 England 1 -2 3 0 1 2 2 4

World Cup group stage: day 13. URUGUAY 1-0 ITALY. COSTA RICA 0-0 ENGLAND. GREECE 2-1 IVORY COAST. COLOMBIA 4-1 JAPAN.

June 25, 2014

“… Colombia counter-attacked excellently even with a second-string side. Expected pattern. This was another frustrating performance from Japan – lots of possession, some pretty build-up play, but little in the way of penetration. Even more than usual, they needed to commit men forward to increase their attacking threat, so inevitably left gaps at the back for Colombia to break into, with Juan Cuadrado – the only first-choice attacker not rested – having another excellent game. The only genuinely interesting factor was the positioning of Alexander Mejia, who on paper was a midfielder, but stuck so tightly to Japan’s number ten Keisuke Honda – who was determined to move forward to become a second striker – that he basically became a third centre-back. It meant Colombia retained a spare man at the back, and were generally comfortable despite having to withstand lots of pressure.” Zonal Marking


World Cup 2014: How Costa Rica’s ‘bulls’ shocked the world

June 21, 2014

“The world may have doubted Costa Rica, but Costa Rica never doubted themselves. As their players embraced, danced in front of their fans and grabbed banners thrown from the stands, it was hard not to reflect on something manager Jorge Luis Pinto had said about being drawn in a group with three previous World Cup winners. ‘We love the group. The braver the bull, the better the bullfight.’ True to his word, there has been a fearlessness about Costa Rica – a belief that anything is possible and reputations mean nothing.” BBC

A Central American Mouse Roars
“There was less than 20 minutes left to play here on Friday when a bundle of three balloons — red, white and green, the colors of Italy’s flag — floated down from the stands and onto the field. The balloons snaked slowly around the center circle, past several players who were jogging to join play on the far end of the field. But when the bundle glided into his path, Mario Balotelli, the enigmatic and hugely talented Italian striker, stopped. He fixed the balloons at his feet and stomped on them with his spikes, one by one, until there were only bits of latex left littered on the grass. As a metaphor, as a poetic image, it was almost too perfect.” NY Times


How We Play the Game

June 16, 2014

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Pelé in a match at the 1966 World Cup in England.
“Every team is simply trying to score goals while preventing its opponent from doing the same. But they all seem to go about it in distinct ways, don’t they? To understand what is happening on the fields in Brazil at the World Cup, one must learn a bit about each country’s history, and literature, and music, and regionalism, and economy – not to mention bicycles and pottery. If you look closely enough at the X’s and O’s, you just might find a national poem.” NY Times


Breaking Down Italy’s First Goal

June 16, 2014

“Was it Italy’s execution or the result of a small lapse in England’s defending? England started surprisingly well against Italy, but the first goal of the came from a perfectly executed set-piece by the Azzurri. Italy deserves more credit than England does blame. But the English did make two minor mistakes on the play.” Fusion (Video)


World Cup 2014: England loss to Italy need not spell disaster

June 15, 2014

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“England’s players may have left the draining conditions of Manaus and returned to Rio beaten by Italy in their first World Cup game – but this was a defeat that felt different. When England flew home from South Africa four years ago it was after a campaign that died of boredom and incompetence under the austere “Camp Capello” regime. Here there was boldness and a sense of adventure, even if Roy Hodgson’s side left the Amazonian rainforest empty-handed. The 2-1 loss to the Azzurri will have been painful and damaging but there was at least a sense that England had provided cause for optimism and hope they may yet navigate a route out of this tough Group D.” BBC

Raheem Sterling vindicates inclusion on England World Cup debut with promise for future
“England have been to too many tournaments and been lifeless, fearful and gone home early. England may be thrown out of this magnificent World Cup party prematurely but at least they are having a go, playing with a zest not seen in more sterile recent tournaments. England lost a game but gained some friends. Raheem Sterling is part of that welcome development, this step towards an age of enlightenment, but he’s still a work in progress, still learning against masterful opponents like Italy. England have to persist with Sterling, persist with this move towards a more sophisticated style.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

England 1-2 Italy: Jonathan Wilson’s Tactical Verdict
“The assumption had been that if Wayne Rooney was asked to play wide on the left it would be because England were playing a 4-3-3. In a 4-2-3-1, it was assumed, he would play behind Daniel Sturridge. But Roy Hodgson instead used Raheem Sterling in a central position, and he excelled there, looking composed at home from the moment he cracked a shot into the side-netting in the fourth minute. England’s great strength going forward is their pace, and there were signs of the sort of intermovement that could take best advantage of that. It’s easy, because of his pace, to assume that Sterling is primarily a threat because of his speed, but he can also be a measured and intelligent footballer, as he showed with the pass that released Rooney to cross for Sturridge to score the England equaliser. Sturridge himself had a good night, not just with the goal but in the way he constantly moved across the forward line, creating space.” Bet – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup Tactical Analysis: England 1-2 Italy
“With the World Cup in full swing now, the action shifted to the aptly labelled Group D, the Group of Death. This group, apart from containing minnows Costa Rica who went on to shock Uruguay, also had two giants of world football, England and Italy. These two titans locked horns in the middle of the Amazon Forest in a crunch World Cup tie to try and take advantage of Uruguay’s slip up.” Outside of the Boot

Watching the Three Lions Get Mauled at an Italian Restaurant in New Jersey
“I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea: watching England’s first game at Dusal’s, an Italian restaurant run by a bunch of guys from Naples. Perhaps I hoped that the Napolitano distrust of northern Italian prejudice—and by extension, ‘Italy’ as a concept—might make them sympathetic to a Brit 3,000 miles from home. Didn’t Maradona ask Napolitanos to back Argentina in their 1990 World Cup semi-final against Italy? And how did that work out for him?” New Republic


World Cup 2014: Group Stage, Day 3. COLOMBIA 3-0 GREECE. COSTA RICA 3-1 URUGUAY. ITALY 2-1 ENGLAND. IVORY COAST 2-1 JAPAN

June 15, 2014

“4-2-3-1 and lots of width. The team news was significant, because Colombia coach Jose Pekerman chose to use a 4-2-3-1 rather than the 4-2-2-2 he often fielded throughout qualification. This meant James Rodriguez shifted inside from the left to play as the number ten, with Juan Cuadrado on the right and Victor Ibarbo brought into the side to play on the left. This meant Colombia had a very defined structure, with a creative number ten and two speedy wingers, and these three were the crucial players in Colombia’s victory.” Zonal Marking


Fabio Cannavaro: The street urchin who became a World Cup ‘legend’

June 8, 2014

“‘When you win the World Cup, you start to become a legend — for the people around the world, you are different.’ For Fabio Cannavaro, this legendary status was hard earned. At just 5 foot 9 inches tall, he wasn’t built to be the world’s greatest center back. And he certainly never expected to be named the world’s best player.” CNN


Riccardo Montilivo’s injury ended Rossi & Destro’s World Cup hopes

June 4, 2014

“Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has finally released his 23 man squad for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. However, his decision to omit Fiorentina star, Giuseppe Rossi, has come into heavy scrutiny. After being forced to drop Riccardo Montolivo due to injury in their friendly game against Ireland, Prandelli finalised the team, and the exclusion of strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Mattia Destro was a surprise to the footballing world. However, the exclusion is easy to judge as incorrect, in particular in Rossi’s sake, but when you look at the facts, Rossi and Destro’s sacrifices may have been necessary for the balance of the team.” Outside of the Boot


Key Battles: How to Defend

May 24, 2014

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“How can defenders like Spain’s Sergio Ramos even hope to shut out the world-class strikers they’ll see in Brazil? It all starts at training camp with a clear strategy and a willing body double. Heading into the World Cup, most of the focus has been on the tournament’s large group of elite goal scorers: Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Suarez. All told, 14 goal mongers expected at this year’s Cup scored at least eight times in qualifying — and that doesn’t include the best from Brazil, which qualified automatically as host. But history shows it’s the team with the stingiest defense that hoists the trophy. Of the past five champions, all but one had the best goals-against average among the quarterfinalists. (Brazil was second to runner-up Germany in 2002.)” ESPN


Fascism & Football: The political history of Spanish football

May 22, 2014

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“Spain had been a notable absentee from the 1938 World Cup. The country was being torn apart by Leftist Republicans and a coalition of Nationalist Forces led by General Francisco Franco. The Spanish Civil War was instrumental in bringing three most powerful Fascist leaders together. In 1937, Mussolini sent a considerable number of men to support his Fascist ally. German involvement in the War began immediately as Adolf Hitler immediately sent powerful air and armoured units to assist Franco and his Nationalist forces along with considerable economic loans. By 1939, Franco was successful in curbing the last outbursts of his Republican resistance, including and importantly, the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona. In one week alone in the last year of struggle, 10,000 members of the anti-Franco brigade were executed in Barcelona. A further 25,000 were shot after the ceasefire in the city.” Outside of the Boot

Fascism and Football: How Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cup
Outside of the Boot

Fascism & Football: When Germany were the inferior team
Outside of the Boot

Mussolini’s Football
Soccer Politics


2014 Fifa World Cup draw: Guide to Group D

May 19, 2014

Argentina Uruguay Soccer WCup
“Gary Lineker’s verdict… Style & formation: As qualifying went on, coach Oscar Tabarez settled on a pragmatic 4-4-2. The industrious Edinson Cavani leads the line, with Luis Suarez given licence to roam. Tabarez, however, is not afraid to switch formations, doing so in away matches and during the Confederations Cup to counteract the opposition, including playing 3-5-2 and 4-3-3. Expect him to vary it up in Brazil.” BBC: Uruguay – England – Costa Rica – Italy