Can You Tell a Country by Its Corner Kicks?


“Mexico did not seem to see it coming. As he stood by the corner flag, Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul thought about slinging the ball into the penalty area, but then decided against it. Instead, he went short, clipping a gentle ball to Lionel Messi. Perhaps Mexico, at that point, thought Argentina was conserving possession, protecting its slender lead. Messi had other ideas. He eschewed the cross, too, choosing another short pass, this time to Enzo Fernández, on the edge of the penalty area. Fernández shimmed once, twice, and then sent a shot on a perfect parabola that took the ball beyond the reach of Mexico’s goalkeeper. The goal sealed Argentina’s win and — eventually — Mexico’s fate at this World Cup. …”
NY Times

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At Qatar’s Church City, Sunday Comes on Friday

“Behind closed doors on Friday, in small rooms usually used for teaching catechism, the children celebrated Christmas. There was food, drink and songs. Wreaths and stockings decorated the walls. A few adults wore red Santa hats. Nearby, across the complex of mostly unmarked sand-colored buildings, a Mass was being celebrated in a 2,700-seat sanctuary, its altar backed by painted angels and Jesus on a cross. There would be another mass every hour, 15 of them on Friday, said in 10 different languages: English, Tagalog, Indonesian, Korean, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil, Konkani, Sinhala, Arabic. …”
NY Times

USA 1-3 Netherlands: USMNT poor in possession, Depay’s finesse and roll on 2026


“The World Cup is over for the United States after losing 3-1 to the Netherlands. The USMNT went behind after just 10 minutes from a sharp Memphis Depay finish and Daley Blind scored a second just before half-time. In a game that looked increasingly comfortable for the Netherlands, the U.S. got a fortuitous goal back via Haji Wright’s heel, but that was cancelled out just five minutes later thanks to a full-back to full-back combination with Blind supplying an expert cross to Denzel Dumfries to volley home a third for the Dutch. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Ringer: The U.S. Crashes Out of the World Cup—but There’s Reason for Optimism – Brian Phillips
The Athletic: Twenty passes, every player, one beautiful goal from the Netherlands vs the U.S.
Guardian: USA’s familiar shortcomings exposed against clinical Dutch at World Cup
NY Times: Three Dutch Goals End U.S. Run in Qatar

How Brazil (It Lost) and Switzerland (It Won) Advanced to the World Cup Knockout Round



“The chaos that governed the first three days of World Cup group-stage finales did not bypass Group G on Friday so much as churn around the periphery of its two matches, swooping in to cause mayhem in torrents and spurts before leaving as quickly as it arrived. As Brazil’s reserves clashed with Cameroon, Serbia and Switzerland tussled for the group’s final qualification spot. That match included a paroxysm of goals — five in 30 minutes — and then a barren stretch that taunted both teams, one more than another. When it was over, Switzerland had won, 3-2, and advanced to the knockout stage, where it will face the Group H winner Portugal on Tuesday. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Cho Gue-sung, the South Korea striker who went viral at the World Cup — for being handsome

The Giant World Cup Rookie and an Enduring Dutch Mystery

“As they sat around the dinner table, Andries Noppert’s family raised the question as gently and as kindly as they could. He had been trying to make it as a professional soccer player for more than a decade. At 6 feet 8 inches, he had the physical gifts, and nobody would question his determination, his drive. But he was 26 now, and if everyone was completely honest, it did not seem to be working out. He had been at four clubs, and hardly played for any of them. He had made barely more than a dozen appearances in seven years. …”
NY Times

Can Brazil’s Divisive Team Unite a Fractured Nation?

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Ahead of Brazil’s elections last month, Neymar, the star forward of Brazil’s national men’s soccer team, pledged to dedicate his first World Cup goal to Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. On Election Day, Bolsonaro wore a protective vest in case of an attack. Over it, he pulled on the national team’s iconic yellow jersey. And in the days after Bolsonaro lost, hundreds of thousands of his supporters gathered outside military bases and called on the armed forces to take control of the government. From above, the protesters were a sea of yellow, with thousands wearing national team jerseys. …”
NY Times

Watching Qatar’s World Cup, Off the Field

“DOHA, Qatar — If you’re watching the World Cup from home, you can become numb to the brilliance of athletic feats that drive the world’s fascination. But away from the stadiums, the World Cup — every World Cup — has a distinct local flavor. Far from the manicured lawns of the tournament’s eight gleaming stadiums, New York Times photographers documented the flavor of the first Arab World Cup. …”
NY Times

Germany’s Coach Is Out of His Depth, and So Is Its Chancellor

“BERLIN — The start was promising. In a WhatsApp group — under the peppy name ‘Get prepared’ — the coach of Germany’s football team, Hansi Flick, delivered a stirring motivational message to the 26 players representing the country at the World Cup. Under a picture of a lamp, his colleague added: ‘May our light shine in Qatar!’ Well, not quite. After losing to Japan, in a lackluster, anemic display, the team just about managed to draw with Spain, thanks to a late equalizer. …”
NY Times | Opinion

Qatar’s World Cup Showcases Renewed Ties With Saudi Arabia, but Scars Remain



“There used to be so many Qataris in the bazaar in the Saudi oasis of Al-Ahsa, hunting for deals on spices and sandals, that some merchants called it “the Qatar market.” Qataris would cross the border and drive 100 miles through the desert to reach the towns of Al-Ahsa, loading their SUVs with sacks of flour, dining in the restaurants and filling the hotels. Then came ‘the crisis,’ as people at the market call it. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, severed ties with Qatar in 2017 and effectively isolated the tiny country, accusing its government of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs. Qatari officials denied the allegations and accused Saudi Arabia and the other countries of creating a ‘blockade’ against their nation. …”
NY Times

USA 1-0 Iran: Pulisic goal seals place in World Cup last 16, dominant Dest and focus on the wings


“As is often the case for the U.S., up popped Christian Pulisic when it really mattered to keep their World Cup journey alive. The Chelsea forward scored late in the first half from close range after a fine move involving Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest. Iran improved after the break but failed to really test Matt Turner in the U.S. goal. … From Pulisic’s vital intervention, to the atmosphere in the Al Thumama Stadium, and the energy and drive down the wings, our writers analyse the key talking points…”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Christian Pulisic eases World Cup injury fears: ‘I’ll be ready for Saturday, don’t worry’, W – Christian Pulisic
NY Times: Ahead of U.S.-Iran, Tough Questions and Two Teams Feeling the Heat (Video)
The Athletic – Carlos Queiroz: The many faces of Iran’s manager – tactician, statesman, populist (Video)

A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop


“…When players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country. The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world. …”
***NY Times: A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop
***Guardian: Bloody history brings flashpoint to key Iran v USA World Cup clash
The Athletic: Detained at the World Cup for wearing a ‘Women Life Freedom’ T-shirt
The Athletic: Iran World Cup 2022 ‘spies’
CNN: Iran calls for US to be kicked out of 2022 World Cup after it changes Iran flag on social media to show support for protesters

Spain 1-1 Germany: Super subs Morata and Fullkrug, technical quality and a very high line…


“A lot of the talk beforehand was about the midfield battle in Spain’s game against Germany but it was two substitute strikers that had the biggest say. Alvaro Morata put Spain in front midway through the second half before the Werder Bremen striker Niclas Fullkrug equalised late on to grab Germany a point. The result leaves Germany still without a win and with plenty of work to do to advance to the last 16. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Germany meets the moment and keeps its World Cup hopes alive.

Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint

“The final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon, and the Japanese fans who had just spent hours bouncing under a blistering midday sun allowed themselves a moment to wallow in the disappointment of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. But the moment quickly passed, and out came the blue trash bags. In the return of a postgame ritual that is being met with widespread astonishment at this year’s World Cup, a group of Japanese spectators, who only moments earlier had been deliriously singing for their team, began meticulously cleaning the stands at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, picking up trash scattered across the rows of seats around them. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Keysher Fuller’s late strike stuns Japan and revives Costa Rica’s World Cup

World Cup 2022: How Teams Can Advance to the Round of 16


“The 2022 World Cup is well underway. This year’s tournament is a little more open than usual, our chief soccer correspondent writes. And with the first matches completed in each group, we’ve already seen two major upsets: Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia, and Germany’s defeat against Japan. In the tournament’s opening matches, known as the group stage, each team plays the other three teams in its group, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw. …”
NY Times

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

What Is Offside in Soccer?

“Novice fans don’t understand it. Longtime fans claim to understand it, but then openly disagree about it. Referees and their assistants are trained to spot it, but often have to turn to replays to make sure they’ve got it right. The actor Ryan Reynolds — who, remember, owns a soccer team — admits he doesn’t understand it but has sought cover by saying, ‘in fairness, nobody understands the offside rule.’ But now you will understand it. …”
NY Times

England 0-0 USA: All-action McKennie, retreating Kane and how USMNT dominated right side


England were outplayed by the United States men’s national team in the second group game in Qatar, as Gregg Berhalter’s side earned a deserved 0-0 draw. Gareth Southgate named an unchanged team following the impressive 6-2 win against Iran in their opening game. The U.S., meanwhile, had drawn 1-1 with Wales in their first game, because of a late penalty by Gareth Bale. Weston McKennie impressed in midfield for the U.S., causing all sorts of problems down the right, and Christian Pulisic came closest to a breakthrough when his shot hit the crossbar in the first half. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Edgy England on verge of World Cup last 16 after fortunate draw with USA
The Athletic: USA vs England and the path towards respect and rivalry
***NY Times: England Gets a Look at Itself, and Isn’t Sure It Likes What It Sees

Iran’s Football Team Has Already Won

“Iran’s national football team, known affectionately as Team Melli, kicked off its World Cup on Monday in dispiriting fashion. The side, which came into the tournament the highest-ranked team from Asia, lost a one-sided match to England, 6-2. There is time to make amends. On Friday, Team Melli plays Wales — a potentially winnable match for the Iranians — before taking on the United States in a tantalizing fixture next week. For Iranian football fans, myself included, World Cup games are ordinarily the pinnacle of sporting excitement. This year, in Qatar, things are different. …”
NY Times

How Ronaldo Set a Record as Portugal Held Off Ghana

“The eyes were drawn to Cristiano Ronaldo, even more than normal. Fans poured into Stadium 974 to cheer him and the Portugal team he has led for a generation. But mostly him. There may be no more ubiquitous jersey in soccer than Ronaldo’s No. 7, and on Thursday a good portion of that laundry seemed to have congregated inside a temporary arena dropped between a port and the highway to Doha’s international airport. …”
NY Times

How Japan’s five substitutes and switch to a back five stunned Germany


“It’s been an eventful couple of days in the World Cup, to the extent that this isn’t even the most notable example so far of an Asian side turning a 1-0 half-time deficit against a strong favourite into a famous 2-1 victory. But in a purely tactical sense, Japan’s win over Germany was the most fascinating contest of the World Cup so far, a classic game of two halves. Germany ran riot in the opening 45 minutes, prompting Japan to dramatically change their shape at the interval before launching their astonishing comeback. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Germany’s protest will reverberate down the years and generations
NY Times: Germany Protests FIFA Decision That Blocked Rainbow Armbands
The Athletic: Germany chose to be an ally and take on FIFA. It was a powerful, meaningful gesture

Peek Inside a $200-a-Night ‘Room’ at the World Cup in Qatar


“DOHA, Qatar — After Sheng Xie, a 33-year-old soccer fan from Vancouver, booked his flight to the World Cup, he went searching for accommodations. Using the official tournament website, he quickly settled on a relatively affordable place called Fan Village. The room pictured looked functional and clean. There were two twin beds, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a refrigerator, all for about $200 a night. He did not realize it was, essentially, inside a shipping container. …”
NY Times

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?

Iran’s brave and powerful gesture is a small wonder from a World Cup of woe


While many protests were shut down by World Cup organizers, two people in attendance held signs protesting the Iranian government’s treatment of women.
“Well, that was unexpected. After the cold, cold theatre of Qatar 2022’s opening game, elite sport reimagined as a despot’s light-show, something remarkable happened on Monday afternoon in Doha. As night fell over the vast, swooping Khalifa International Stadium (all these World Cup structures are vast and swooping; unless specifically told otherwise, assume vast and swooping) England and Iran produced something that felt jarringly real, oddly warm, suspiciously authentic. Against all odds at this dislocated World Cup, a football match broke out. Albeit one shot through with its own layers of intrigue, and indeed pathos and horror. …”
Guardian
NY Times: Amid Disruptions, England’s Win Over Iran Was the Easy Part
****The Athletic – Cox: England dragged Iran apart thanks to ambition of full-backs Trippier and Shaw

Why the World Cup in Qatar Brings Fans Joy and Anxiety

“Kieran Jones, an avid soccer fan who lives in Cardiff, Wales, can tell you all the details about the last time his beloved Welsh national team made it to the World Cup. … As we spoke over the phone, Jones was preparing for a six-hour flight to Qatar, the tiny Arab country that on Sunday became the first nation in the Middle East to host the World Cup. Jones plans to stay in Qatar so long as his side remains in the 29-day tournament, which for Wales starts Monday, when it plays the United States. … With his team finally back in the thick of the quadrennial celebration of the world’s game, one might think Jones would be feeling pure, unfiltered joy. …”
NY Times

How Europe Decides Who Wins the World Cup

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Once a week, the boys from the Palmeiras youth academy climb aboard a bus and prepare for their regular visit to the past. These are the fledgling stars of Brazilian soccer: the best and brightest prospects from the most prolific youth system in the world’s greatest hothouse of talent. From their pristine campus in Guarulhos, on the outer edges of São Paulo’s suburban sprawl, the boys slowly make their way through the grinding traffic and head into the tight, winding streets of Heliópolis, the biggest favela in Brazil, or one of the dozens of other informal communities that house millions of the city’s poorest inhabitants. …”
NY Times

Aliou Cissé on African Soccer, World Cup Places and Lost Generations


A mural of the Senegal star Sadio Mané in Dakar.
“DIAMNIADIO, Senegal — Ask those who have watched Aliou Cissé take Senegal to two World Cups in a row and direct his team to a victory in the Africa Cup of Nations in February, and they will tell you that his country’s wealth of soccer talent is only one part of the reason. There is something more tedious, more long-term, but far more transformative that Cissé, the 46-year-old former Paris St.-Germain midfielder and former Senegal captain, has brought to his squad since he became its coach in 2015. …”

The World Cup’s Forgotten Team


“… None of it would have been possible, though, without hundreds of thousands of men like him: the migrant workers who fuel the ruthlessly capitalist business of supply and demand that does much of the daily and dangerous work in searing heat of the Persian Gulf, and who were indispensable to the $220 billion nation-building project that will culminate in the first World Cup in the Arab world. Qatar’s preparations for the tournament have shined a spotlight on that army of workers who have done nothing less than redraw the country over the past decade, as well as on the system that exploits their labor and their desperation, and has cost thousands of them their lives. …”
NY Times

Qatar World Cup Faces New Edict: Hide the Beer

“The message came from the highest levels of the Qatari state: The beer tents must be moved, and there would be no discussion about it. With the opening game of the World Cup only days away, Qatari organizers have been working hurriedly in recent days to relocate Budweiser-branded beer stations at eight stadiums after a sudden demand that three people with knowledge of the belated change said had come from inside the country’s royal family. …”
NY Times (Video)

Taking Stock at the World Cup Break

“In the end, the reverie could not quite hold. Union Berlin, the unassuming, unheralded team from the forest, had first moved atop of the Bundesliga in early September. It had the air, back then, of the sort of fleeting feel-good story that the early days of the season can bring: not a fluke, of course, but a confluence of circumstance that was unlikely to last. Nobody expected Union to remain there for long, least of all anyone connected to Union itself. The highest echelon of German soccer has, in recent years, grown used to the sudden advent of supercharged underdogs in its ranks, from Hoffenheim, the passion play of a local billionaire, to RB Leipzig, the artificial creation of an energy-drink conglomerate. …”
NY Times

A Soccer Team Once United Iran. Now It Reflects Its Divisions.

“Iran’s national soccer team has historically been viewed as a representative of the country’s people, not of the Islamic Republic’s government. Team Melli, as the squad is known, has been embraced as an apolitical force, and as a secular passion that reflected a certain ideal, the Iran of everyone’s imagination. For years, the team has brought unity and joy to a fractious nation. Support for it has been effectively unconditional. Until now. …”
NY Times

LAFC finds Hollywood ending, beats Philadelphia on penalty kicks for first MLS Cup title


LAFC goalie John McCarthy dives to block a shot during Saturday’s penalty-kick shootout against the Philadelphia Union.
“LAFC beat the Philadelphia Union to win its first MLS Cup in unbelievable fashion Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. Here’s what you need to know: LAFC got a 128th-minute equalizer from Gareth Bale to bring the game level at 3-3 and force penalties, where backup goalkeeper John McCarthy, a former Union player and Philadelphia native, made two saves to lead the Black and Gold to an unreal win. McCarthy, who was named MVP, was substituted on after starting keeper Maxime Crepéau was carted off with an injury — and got a red card — late in extra time. LA is the eighth team in MLS history to win both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a single season. …”
The Athletic (Video)
LA Times (Video)
NY Times: Los Angeles F.C. Wins First Title on Dramatic Day’s Final Twist (Video)

Qatar World Cup: What was promised and what is actually being delivered

“’The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.’ Florentine diplomat, historian and philosopher (a genuine Renaissance man) Niccolo Machiavelli would have been good at winning bids for major sporting events. A World Cup for all of Italy? Sure. Us, the Duchy of Milan, Papal States, Venetian Republic, we’re all Italian brothers. A dozen new stadiums? Absolutely — why not 15? New roads? Of course, we’ll pave them with gold! …”
The Athletic
NY Times: The World Cup is Weeks Away. Will Qatar Be Ready?
NY Times: Qatar Offered Fans Free World Cup Trips, but Only on Its Terms (Video)

World Cup Dreams, Gone in an Instant

“LEEDS, England — For a second, Aleksandar Mitrovic looked panicked. He slumped onto his back on the Elland Road turf, his face a grimace, his hands covering his eyes. It was not immediately apparent what had happened: Perhaps his ankle had jarred, or his knee twisted, or a hamstring popped. Fulham’s medical team rushed onto the field. Marco Silva, the club’s coach, has been ‘managing’ his striker’s fitness for weeks, ever since Mitrovic picked up an injury while away on international duty with Serbia. He was taken off early in a defeat against Newcastle. He missed a game with Bournemouth altogether. He has admitted to playing in ‘a lot of pain.’ …”
NY Times

The Instant Legend of Kvaradona


“BATUMI, Georgia — They used to worry that the Adjarabet Arena, with its sinuous arches and illuminated exterior, would turn into something of a white elephant. Batumi, after all, is a quaint resort town; it had little need for a 20,000-capacity stadium. Dinamo, the soccer team that was to call it home, generally required seating for only half that number. And then, at the start of April, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia arrived. …”
NY Times

La Liga Chief’s Feud With P.S.G. President Veers Into Court

“For months, it seemed, the feud between the leader of Spain’s top soccer league and the president of the Qatar-owned French team Paris St.-Germain has played out noisily, and in public. Javier Tebas, the outspoken president of La Liga, would regularly criticize Paris St.-Germain and its Qatari leaders, accusing them of flagrantly breaking European soccer’s financial rules. And occasionally, the P.S.G. president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, would respond to Tebas with his own accusations, questioning the health of Spanish soccer, or trade barbs with him in the news media and in speeches. The more high-stakes fight, it turns out, was taking place behind the scenes. …”
NY Times

How Arsenal Found Its Voice

“LONDON — On the night before the biggest game of Arsenal’s season so far, the fans slipped inside the Emirates Stadium to make sure everything was in place. Their leader and a handful of friends had spent weeks drawing up their plans: raising money, contacting suppliers, brainstorming themes, designing images, cutting out stencils, spray-painting letters. Now, late on a Friday night, there was just one job left to do. They had to check that every seat in Block 25 of the stadium’s Clock End contained a flag, either red or white, for the culmination of the display. …”
NY Times

Sticker Shock


“BUENOS AIRES — As prices continued to rise, Argentina’s commerce department decided something had to be done. Shop owners were worried about shortages. A key supplier was struggling to meet the demand. Desperate customers were standing in blocklong lines. So, two weeks ago, Matías Tombolini, the country’s commerce secretary, and a group of other government officials gathered interested parties around a large conference table in a downtown office building for a seemingly solemn discussion to ‘seek out possible solutions.’ Argentina was facing a crisis: It did not have enough World Cup stickers to go around. …”
NY Times

Fans Focus on Police After More Than 100 Die at Indonesian Soccer Match


“MALANG, Indonesia — It was supposed to be a joyous occasion for fans of Arema F.C., the most beloved soccer team in the city of Malang, Indonesia. Tens of thousands of young people — who call themselves ‘Aremania’ — had packed the Kanjuruhan Stadium on Saturday night, hoping to watch their team beat Persebaya Surabaya, a club it had defeated for 23 years running. But Arema lost, 3-2, and angry fans began rushing the field. What unfolded next became one of the deadliest sports stadium disasters in history: Police officers began shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd and beating fans with batons, witnesses said, and in a rush to flee the stadium fans piled up against narrow exits, crushing each other. At least 125 people were reported dead as of Sunday night. …”
NY Times (Video)

Manchester City played digital football. United are a dial-up version


“… With 44 minutes gone at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City scored a goal that brought the usual cheers and roars, but also something else, the urge to laugh. City had already spent the first half playing football that seemed to have benefited from an operating system upgrade, demonstrating the latest miracle processor against a batch of red-shirted patsies. The move to make it 4-0 was a moment of super-compression, lines cut in a perfect zigzag from outside City’s penalty area to the far left-hand corner of the Manchester United goal without friction or drag or loss of scale. …”
Guardian (Video)
NY Times: How Do You Stop Erling Haaland? You Don’t. (Video)
The Athletic (Video)

Juventus Learns That Progress Requires a Plan


“The fairest way, perhaps, is simply to recount the story as Massimiliano Allegri told it, stripped of all interpretation and emphasis. It is not a long one. Earlier this month, a few minutes after Benfica had beaten his Juventus team in the Champions League, Allegri ran into Rui Costa — the Portuguese team’s president — in the corridors of the Allianz Stadium in Turin. …”
NY Times

Neymar Is Still a Singular Star, but He Has More Help on Brazil

“LE HAVRE, France — As the announcer at the Stade Océane cycled through Brazil’s team on Friday, before the squad dismantled Ghana, 3-0, a murmur of appreciation greeted each familiar, stellar name. Alisson was granted gentle applause. Thiago Silva earned a respectful, admiring cheer. Raphinha drew a sizzle of anticipation. And then, leaving just a hint of a dramatic pause, the announcer came to Neymar. There were, perhaps, mitigating circumstances. …”
NY Times

The World Cup’s Carnival Comes at a Cost


“The good news is that it’s a yes from the gigantic, fire-breathing spider. It is hard, after all, to imagine a World Cup without its finest tradition: 50 tons of decommissioned crane arranged into the shape of a monstrous arachnid, pumped full of highly flammable fuel and then stocked with hopefully less flammable D.J.s. The spider will form the centerpiece of one of the cultural highlights of this winter’s World Cup in Qatar: a monthlong electronic music festival called the Arcadia Spectacular, staged just south of Doha and boasting what the promotional material calls an ‘electrifying atmosphere, extraordinary sculpted stages and the most immersive shows on earth.’ …”
NY Times
Guardian: What do Qatar’s World Cup workers fear most? Being sent home
Guardian: Migrant workers in Qatar left in debt after being ordered home before World Cup starts
Athletes, Fans Demand Remedy for Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

Chile Loses Appeal Seeking Ecuador’s Place in World Cup

“Chile failed Friday in its latest attempt to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup, another setback in a high-stakes campaign that threatened to alter the field for the sport’s showcase championship only two months before the tournament’s opening match. An appeals committee at soccer’s governing body, FIFA, rejected Chile’s newest claim, agreeing with an earlier decision by a disciplinary panel to reject the contention that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. …”
NY Times

At Soccer’s Best Talent Factory, the Future Is Always Now

“THE HAGUE, the Netherlands — As a rule, Arco Gnocchi regards himself as too old to buy a replica jersey with his favorite Ajax player’s name emblazoned across the back. Such displays of hero worship, he feels, are not entirely becoming of a person ticking through their early 40s. … This summer, though, for the first time in roughly a decade, Gnocchi made an exception. The jersey he bought for the new season bears the No. 9 and, above it, the surname of Brian Brobbey, Ajax’s bullish, bustling 20-year-old forward. …”
NY Times

Kylian Mbappé Is Coming for It All


“Kylian Mbappé will eventually turn up for his interview in an oversized vehicle outfitted with tinted windows, and accompanied by his mother, two P.R. reps, two lawyers, a small documentary crew, a stylist and a friend whose role is, initially, unclear. This is how one of the world’s biggest sports stars travels these days. Kylian Mbappé doesn’t just walk through the door. He arrives. But not just yet. …”
NY Times

Money to Burn: Lessons From the Premier League’s Transfer Window

“… This is what the Premier League does every year, of course: Every summer, and most winters, its clubs descend on Europe, the cash from infinitely spiraling television deals burning a hole in their pockets, and proceed to hose an entire continent with money. They swamp it, they flood it, they drown it with their wealth. And then, at the end of August, they go home, armed with a few more Brazilian playmakers and Swedish strikers, ready to play the games that will earn the money for them to do it all over again in a few months. …”
NY Times

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

Manchester United – what the rest of football thinks about a club in crisis

“No club in English football sets tongues wagging like Manchester United. Love them or hate them, in good times and bad, they are a source of endless intrigue and debate. As much as that applies to fans of every club, it applies to those who work within the game. For much of the past nine years, the entire industry has looked on with a sense of fascination — at times morbid fascination — as the empire Sir Alex Ferguson built has crumbled. …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times: Manchester United Isn’t for Sale, but a Piece of It Might Be

Bayern Munich and the Myth of Competition

“Just like that, it was over. For two months or so, there had been just the slightest flicker of hope for the clubs of the Bundesliga. They had not felt it in some time. They did not want to admit to feeling it now, not publicly: It was fragile, guilty, most likely forlorn, but it was hope nonetheless. Robert Lewandowski was gone. Serge Gnabry, for a time, seemed as if he might follow. Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer were another year older. For the first time in a decade, Bayern Munich seemed not weak — Bayern Munich is never weak — but just a little diminished, just a little more human. …”
NY Times

Coming This Season: Pep Guardiola 3.0

“Two months on, the euphoria has not yet faded. A few days ago, with the rich promise of a new season drifting into view, Manchester City released ‘Together: Champions Again,’ an official documentary detailing the thrilling, triumphant journey that culminated in Pep Guardiola’s team lifting yet another Premier League trophy last May. …”
NY Times

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Acquitted of Fraud

“Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, and his onetime ally Michel Platini were acquitted of fraud on Friday in the latest attempt by Swiss prosecutors to win a conviction in a sprawling, seven-year investigation into corruption at the highest levels of world soccer. The trial, held in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona, was related to a $2 million payment arranged in 2011 by Blatter, who led world soccer’s governing body for 17 years, to Platini, a former France player who was at the time the president of European soccer’s governing body and a potential heir to Blatter as the most powerful executive in the sport. …”
NY Times

Three Tales From the Transfer Market

“Let’s try something different in this week’s newsletter: A journey through modern soccer in three (vaguely related) stories. … 2. Lessons Do Not Get Learned. … Nobody watched Manchester United flailing in the Premier League and said: Yes, the issue here is the in-form left back. Nonetheless, the first signing of Manager Erik ten Hag’s tenure at Old Trafford was a left-back: Tyrell Malacia, to be exact, drafted in from the Dutch club Feyenoord. He will soon be joined, it seems, by Lisandro Martínez, an Argentine defender, and Christian Eriksen, a Danish midfielder, and Frenkie de Jong, currently with Barcelona, and possibly even the Brazilian forward Antony. …”
NY Times

A Soccer Team’s Success Puts Its Small Arab Village on the Map



“… His community’s soccer team, Maccabi Bnei Reineh, did not exist until six years ago. Less than two years ago, in September 2020, it was still a largely unknown club from a small Arab village of 18,000 people near Nazareth, preparing for yet another season in the Israeli fourth division. Now, after three promotions in quick succession, the name Maccabi Bnei Reineh is on everyone’s lips in Israeli soccer. The team’s success, to the surprise of even the village’s own residents, has put its community firmly on the map. …”
NY Times

Paulo Dybala and the Problem With Italy



“Paulo Dybala did not, particularly, look as if he were ready to say goodbye. As the lights at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, his home for the last seven years, flashed and flickered, and Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’ began its crescendo, he started to cry. Not in the sense of a single, elegant tear rolling down the cheek. He sobbed. He racked. His chest heaved as he gulped for air. …”
NY Times

Darwin Nunez vs Liverpool: Analysing the two games that wowed Klopp


“Darwin Nunez could become the most expensive signing in Liverpool’s history and his journey there has been seven years in the making. It was around 2015 when a Liverpool scout based in South America spotted the young Uruguayan striker playing for Penarol’s under-19s. Since then, Liverpool tracked Nunez’s progress as he went from making his debut in place of ex-Liverpool player Maxi Rodriguez for Penarol in November 2017 to his move to Almeria, in Spain’s second division, in 2019. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Darwin Núñez
NY Times: Soccer Rediscovers the No. 9
W – Erling Haaland

In Qatar’s World Cup Summer, the Mercury Rises and the Clock Ticks


“DOHA, Qatar — The sun comes up before 5 a.m. and immediately puts the entire city on convection bake. By lunchtime, the temperature has finished its methodical climb up the scale, from unusual through uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The wind off the bay offers no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot. This was to be the summer the World Cup came to Qatar, an idea that seems as preposterous now as it did a dozen years ago, when the tiny Gulf country, let’s just say, acquired the hosting rights to soccer’s biggest championship. …”
NY Times

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich and the Bitter End


“Robert Lewandowski does not, in his own words, like to make “too much show.” He is, and always has been, a touch more impassive than the average superstar. He does not greet his goals, the ones that have come for so long in such improbable quantities, with a roar, or a leap, or a scream. Instead, he grins. For the really good ones, he might go so far as a beam. …”
NY Times

Cruel Twist Puts Wales in World Cup and Keeps Ukraine Out


“CARDIFF, Wales — When it was over, when the referee blew his whistle and the crowd roared and Ukraine’s dream of earning a place in this year’s World Cup was gone, most of its national soccer team dropped straight to the grass. A few players held their heads in their hands. The rest simply stared off into space. The scoreboard confirmed what, in that moment, even the Ukrainians themselves could scarcely believe: Wales 1, Ukraine 0. A World Cup qualifying journey laced with symbolism and spirit and national pride, an opportunity delayed three months by war with Russia and reaching its denouement on a day that had begun with explosions in Kyiv, the first direct airstrikes on the capital in a month, had ended not in triumph but in the cruelest of twists: defeat to Wales on an own goal scored by a Ukraine forward, Andriy Yarmolenko. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Kyiv locals put Ukraine’s defeat into context after World Cup near miss

A Very Specific Risk


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times

Tallying the Costs, Shirts and All, of Missing the World Cup


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“In those initial moments of agony in March after Nigeria was eliminated from qualification for this year’s World Cup, the most immediate thoughts of Amaju Pinnick, the president of Nigeria’s soccer federation, were of the disappointment being felt by his 200 million countrymen in Africa’s most populous nation. He needed only to look down on the scenes unfolding inside Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to see what it meant. Thousands of angry supporters had poured onto the field after the final whistle to vent their anger, knocking over the advertising boards, chasing the players from the field and clashing with security officers. …”
NY Times