Elite Force Is Back in Spain, Dominance Undiminished

September 28, 2014

Lionel Messi nets goal number 400 of his senior career. His teammate Neymar scores a hat trick. And Barcelona hits Granada for six. Cristiano Ronaldo takes his personal account to eight goals in one week with Real Madrid. Diego Simeone returns in full voice to the coaching area. His new striker, Mario Mandzukic, returns in a black mask nine days after fracturing his nose, and Atlético Madrid crushes Sevilla by four goals.” NY Times

In Champions League, Bulgarian Club Is All Fight

September 19, 2014

“There must be an absolute fortune to be made for the psychologist who could affect what goes on inside the heads of players on a big night of Champions League action. Who can explain why Arsenal, whose team has played in this tournament for 17 consecutive seasons, should appear so stricken by fear or inertia that it failed to compete on every level in Dortmund on Tuesday night? Sure, Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion is a mighty cauldron, a sea of yellow and black raucously supporting their team, Borussia. But so rampant were the bees of Dortmund and so submissive was Arsenal that the 2-0 victory by the home team could, without exaggeration, easily have ended 7-0 or 8-0. On the same evening, in another of Europe’s most imposing stadiums, Liverpool needed a questionable penalty three minutes into injury time to see off Ludogorets Razgrad, 2-1.” NY Times

To Escape Fighting in Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk Takes an Indefinite Road Trip

September 17, 2014

“Plumes of thick black smoke and a rapid-fire echo of explosions rose into the afternoon sky. Several hundred people from eastern Ukraine, almost all of them men in black T-shirts and balaclavas, were singing nationalistic songs as they threw smoke bombs onto the soccer field in front of them. They were members of the Shakhtar Ultras, a group of hard-core soccer fans who support Ukraine’s champions, Shakhtar Donetsk, anywhere they play. On this sunny August day, they were watching the Donetsk derby between Shakhtar and Olimpik. But the match, like all of Shakhtar’s matches these days, was not taking place in Donetsk, which has been battered by months of shelling. Instead the fans traveled hundreds of miles west to the capital, Kiev.” NY Times

Soccer Fans Supply Strong Voice in Scottish Independence Debate

September 15, 2014

“In this city defined by the rivalry between its two biggest soccer clubs — Celtic and Rangers — there were no team colors on display Sunday night as fans filtered into a gloomy pub to watch Scotland play Germany in its first qualifying game for the 2016 European Championship. There is, however, more than soccer to talk about at the moment. Scotland is wound tight, waiting to uncoil next week, when the country will vote on whether it should be independent from Britain. The debate has generated the kind of tension and engagement usually reserved for soccer rivalries in Scotland, and in fact the country’s stadiums have become key battlegrounds for the yes and no campaigns.” NY Times

Scotland – when politics and football clash
“The Scotland independence referendum centers mainly on political and social issues, but as is often the case, the implications run far below the surface. One such area is the beautiful game itself. While many follow football in an attempt to forget about the problems of the world, the current climate in Scotland makes it impossible to ignore the reality of the impending referendum – from aggressive chants to verbal attacks on Scottish players, Scotland’s football takes first stage on the referendum.” backpagefootball

Player Ratings: U.S. 1, Czech Republic 0

September 4, 2014

“Despite missing many of its veterans, the United States men’s national team opened the cycle that will lead to the 2018 World Cup with a hard-fought exhibition win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday in Prague. The United States started strong, with a solid performance from its central midfield, composed of Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona. It was through those three players that the Americans scored the game’s only goal. Through it all, the team got outstanding goalkeeping from Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando, who are seeking to supplant Tim Howard during his hiatus from international play. Central defenders John Brooks, Michael Orozco and Tim Ream played well as well.” NY Times

For U.S. youngsters, win vs. Czechs about ideology, not victory
“Future editions of U.S. Soccer’s media guide will note Alejandro Bedoya scored the only goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Czech Republic. Press reports will praise goalkeeper Nick Rimando for his stalwart second-half showing and box scores might indicate that Joe Gyau, Greg Garza and 18-year-old Emerson Hyndman made their international debuts. But that’s all it is – trivia. The performances and moments that shaped Wednesday’s friendly will have no bearing on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann when he selects his team for the 2018 World Cup. And that’s no slight against those men. Four years can be a soccer lifetime.” SI

Managers Provide Drama as English Fans Lament Talent Drain

August 17, 2014

“The most popular soccer league in the world began its season on Saturday, and along with the excitement and exhilaration about the games themselves — not to mention the sheer wonderment over the eye-crossing suit that the golfer Rory McIlroy chose to wear while parading his British Open trophy around Old Trafford in Manchester — there was a fair bit of hand-wringing from many longtime observers of England’s Premier League.” NY Times

The Rise and Possible Fall of Southampton’s Saints

August 3, 2014

“In professional sports there are saints, sinners and opportunists who take their chances for a better life. Southampton F.C, known as the Saints, is the only team on England’s southern coast competing in the Premier League. Four years ago, the club faced bankruptcy. It was saved by a German-Swiss businessman, and four months ago Southampton dared to threaten the elite teams vying for Champions League spots. But sometimes a rapid rise begets instability.” NY Times

Deep-Pocketed Bayern Munich Is Open for Business in U.S.

August 1, 2014

“Bayern Munich, the mightiest of the clubs in Germany’s Bundesliga, picked an appropriate time to begin building a year-round presence in the United States. It won five titles last year, including the trophies for the Champions League and the European Super Cup, and the Bundesliga signed a global television deal with 21st Century Fox. Germany won the World Cup last month with seven Bayern players; eight others were also on World Cup rosters.” NY Times

A Tiny Club’s Uneasy Rise

July 27, 2014

“This month, Toni Kroos and Lionel Messi played in the World Cup final in front of nearly 75,000 people at Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio do Maracanã. Soon, however, these star players will discover the challenge of playing at Ipurúa, a hillside stadium with 5,250 seats that is home to Eibar, the new kid on the block in Spanish soccer. Tiny Eibar has needed more than just victories to join La Liga, Spain’s top division, and earn the right to challenge Kroos and his Real Madrid teammates or Messi and his fellow Barcelona players. After winning promotion in late May from the second division, Eibar faced a race against the clock to raise 1.72 million euros, or $2.32 million, and meet regulations on how much capital a top-division club should have.” NY Times

FIFA’s Dazed and Dated Attitude

July 16, 2014

“Of all the lasting images from the 2014 World Cup, the officials who run FIFA, soccer’s governing body, should be forced to remember one, above all: Germany’s Christoph Kramer staggering around the field in the final, glassy-eyed and dazed, like a sleepwalker. It was a glaring symbol of FIFA’s misguided approach to concussions and how desperately it needs to amend its substitution rules, which now allow for only three replacements per game and dictate that once a player is out of the game, he stays out. Faced with those restrictions, coaches are hesitant to keep a player with a possible head injury from leaving the match.” NY Times

Germany 1-0 Argentina

July 14, 2014

Germany 1-0 Argentina (AET): Gotze’s extra-time goal wins the World Cup
“Germany won their fourth World Cup after victory over Argentina in a tense but enjoyable final. Joachim Low’s team selection was compromised by the late withdrawal of Sami Khedira through injury. Christoph Kramer took his place – although he only lasted 30 minutes himself. Alejandro Sabella’s side was unchanged from the semi-final against the Netherlands. Both sides had promising moments in an even match – Argentina had the better chances before Mario Gotze’s late winner.” Zonal Marking

Germans End Long Wait: 24 Years and a Bit Extra
“For years, Brazilians had a phrase they would inevitably utter when things went wrong. ‘Imagina na Copa,’ they said after an endless traffic jam or a construction accident or an ugly rash of violence dominated the news — imagine if this happened during the World Cup. It became a foreboding warning, a pre-emptive sigh at the presumed disasters that lay ahead. Over five weeks, though, Brazil avoided any of the major catastrophes it feared. Thrilling games and entertaining soccer — as well as the national team’s own stunning collapse — generally overshadowed any logistical issues, and the tournament was seen as a global success. So it was fitting, then, that in the tournament’s final game, the Brazilians managed to dodge the ultimate on-field nightmare, too.” NY Times

Germany 1 Argentina 0 (BBC)
“Germany were crowned world champions for the fourth time as Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner beat Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final. Gotze demonstrated perfect technique and commendable calm to chest down Andre Schurrle’s pass and sweep in a left-foot finish with the prospect of a penalty shootout only seven minutes away. Argentina, with skipper Lionel Messi looking subdued despite flashes of his talent, could not respond and Germany claimed their first World Cup since they beat the same opponents in Rome 24 years ago.” BBC

Germany’s World Cup title a result of revamped development, identity
“At the final whistle, after Germany claimed a fourth World Cup by beating Argentina 1-0 in extra time, BastianSchweinsteiger collapsed to the turf, utterly spent. He had given everything, running to the point of exhaustion, the only holding midfielder in the Germany squad still standing by the end, and that only just, a stray arm from Sergio Aguero having caught him across the face leaving him with a gash on his cheek.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

The Party’s Over: A Critic’s Take on Brazil’s Dismal World Cup Legacy
“About a five minute walk from Rio de Janeiro’s historic Maracanã stadium, the site of today’s Argentina vs. Germany final (Update: Germany won, obvsly), there used to be a small community of about 700 families called Favela do Metro. The reason the city demolished the tightly-packed neighborhood is hotly disputed: Residents said it was to build a parking lot, while the city claimed it had more ambitions urbanization plans, such as a park. But at least for now, there is little left except a jumbled mess of concrete and brick.” Fusion

Germans See World Cup Win as a Symbol of Global Might
“Even normally quiet streets were electrified early Monday by Germany’s dramatic 1-0 win of the World Cup in extra time, a victory that symbolized, at least to fans, not just the country’s dominance of Europe, but its global prominence. Car horns and vuvuzelas honked, and fireworks and firecrackers exploded. On the Kurfuerstendamm, the gleaming street of stores and restaurants that was the symbol of West Berlin during the Cold War, cars quickly jammed traffic and fans draped themselves in the black, red and gold of the German flag.” NY Times

World Cup Pass & Move: Germany Wins It All
The World Cup came to a close on Sunday, with Germany defeating Argentina in extra time, 1-0, in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium. Here, five Grantland writers look at five important characters from the match. Be sure to check out all of our coverage of the final, and the entire month of wonderful soccer action, at our World Cup landing page. Grantland (Video)

A Final Prediction: Germany Wins a Thriller
“Like the Sex Pistols in their prime, World Cup finals rarely fail to disappoint. After all the buildup and hype, the games often turn out to be low-scoring, bad-tempered affairs. In 2010, Holland, the nation that, during the nineteen-seventies, invented “total football,” a free-flowing, attacking style of soccer that enchanted the world, disgraced itself by trying to kick the Spanish “tiki-taka” men off the park in Johannesburg, and almost succeeded. Four years earlier, during the latter stages of a tense 1-1 tie between Italy and France, Zinedine Zidane, the French midfield maestro, was sent off for headbutting an Italian player, Marco Materazzi, who had allegedly called his sister a whore. (Italy went on to win on penalties.)” New Yorker

Germany Grinds Its Way To World Cup Triumph
“Well, I got the result right. But my prediction that it would be a thrilling World Cup final turned out to be wishful thinking. Instead of thrills, we got another tense, low-scoring game, in which both teams accumulated more bookings for bad fouls (two each) than clear-cut chances. By the middle of the second half, it was evident that one goal would settle it, and, in the second period of extra time, Germany nabbed one, thanks to a great piece of finishing by the young striker Mario Götze, who had come on as a substitute.” New Yorker

Success for Brazil, Just Not on the Field
“When Mario Götze settled a crossing pass with his chest and volleyed a goal that won the World Cup, German fans roared in ecstatic release. Those from Brazil were nearly as delirious, even if it was out of relief as much as celebration. It might have seemed an odd sight, Brazilian fans celebrating another team inside their own cathedral of soccer, the Maracanã stadium. But after two demoralizing losses brought national embarrassment, solace finally came Sunday as Germany defeated Argentina, 1-0, to become the first European team to win a World Cup played in North or South America.” NY Times

In a Latino Enclave, the World Cup Puts Everything on Pause
“Something unusual happened on Sunday afternoon on the streets of Jackson Heights, Queens: Quiet. As crowds gathered to watch the World Cup final around the Latin American enclave — in bars and barbershops, in electronics stores and by food trucks — the usually frenetic area beneath the elevated No. 7 train grew uncharacteristically still. Business, which spills onto the streets in the form of carts and trucks and tables, came to a halt. There was no merengue. Or cumbia. Or bachata.” NY Times

Don’t Cry for Messi, Argentina. This Germany Team Is One of the Best in Years.
“Lionel Messi seemed to recognize that he had lost the World Cup several minutes before the final whistle had blown. Moments after substitute striker Mario Götze scored a wundervolley in the game’s 113th minute to put Germany up by the decisive margin of 1–0, the Argentine legend had his last somewhat realistic chance at goal. Defender Marcos Rojo sent a high arcing cross deep into the German area and Messi came flying in for a free header from about 15 yards out. Had his shot gone in, it would have been a glorious goal. Instead, the ball fluttered harmlessly over the bar, and Messi walked away with his head down, staring desperately at the turf.” Slate (Video)

Brazilians Go Back to Real Life
Brazil suffered mightily with its national team’s 7-1 rout at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semifinals last week, but the authorities here breathed sighs of relief as the tournament came to a close on Sunday with Germany’s victory over Argentina, amid muted street protests and a display of Brazil’s ability to successfully organize sporting megaevents.” NY Times

Germany May Be the Best National Soccer Team Ever
“Germany didn’t begin the World Cup as the favorite. That honor belonged to (ahem) Brazil. But that’s a slightly deceptive measure. This was a top-heavy World Cup; not only Brazil but also Germany, Argentina and Spain would have been the front-runners in many past editions of the tournament. By the end of the World Cup, Germany left little doubt it is the best team in the world. In fact, it may be the best national soccer team ever assembled. One simple way to compare World Cup winners is by their goal differential throughout the tournament. Germany, with 18 goals scored and four allowed, comes out at a plus-14.” Five Thirty Eight

Germany’s Haunting Emptiness in Goal

July 13, 2014

“Manuel Neuer is the latest in a line of German goalkeepers regarded by many as the best in the world. German soccer fans often reminisce about the greatness of Sepp Maier and Harald Schumacher and Oliver Kahn, and if Neuer helps Germany win the World Cup final on Sunday, his place in history — even in the middle of his career — will be secure. Yet there is also a darker side to the lineage of German goalkeepers, an incident that lingers over German fans and also started Neuer along his current path.” NY Times

Whether Wretched or Inspired, Title Match Often Provides a Jolt

July 11, 2014

“Apart from Germany, the Champagne fizz has suddenly gone flat at a World Cup that was being hailed earlier as the best in recent memory. Goals that seemed to pour from a spigot have now slowed to intermittent drips. The Netherlands once led the tournament with 12 goals, but it has not scored since the Round of 16. In Wednesday’s semifinal loss on penalty kicks to Argentina, the Dutch produced one shot on target. It was the lowest number for the Netherlands in a World Cup match since record keeping began in 1966, according to the Opta statistical service.” NY Times (Video)

Brazil’s nightmare gets worse: Argentina to play for World Cup title

July 10, 2014

“A bad week for Brazil just got worse. There’s not much that could make the humiliation of Tuesday’s 7-1 defeat to Germany feel even grimmer, but Argentina winning the World Cup at the Maracana would be unbearable. The holiest of the holies has already been defiled once, by Uruguay in 1950, but that would be nothing to the desecration of seeing Lionel Messi and his side celebrating there on Sunday. Whether that’s likely is another matter. Argentina will go into the final as the underdog, and understandably so, given the respective performances in the semifinals, but it will not capitulate against Germany as Brazil did. This may be a limited side, but it is one with great character and spirit, a cold-eyed willingness to get the job done.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Argentina 0-0 Netherlands: Argentina through on penalties
“Sergio Romero was the hero after an extremely uneventful 120 minutes. Alejandro Sabella brought back Marcos Rojo after suspension, while Enzo Perez deputised for the injured Angel di Maria. Louis van Gaal was able to bring back Nigel de Jong after injury, meaning Daley Blind moved across to wing-back in place of Memphis Depay. There was obviously great tension here, but not much happened – of the 62 games at this World Cup so far, this game featured the lowest shot rate, and the lowest percentage of touches in the opposition third.” Zonal Marking

After Long Stalemate, Argentina Breaks Through in Shootout
“Regulation and extra time brought 120 minutes of scoreless exasperation in a World Cup semifinal on Wednesday that was by turns tense, cautious, clumsy, gripping and stubbornly unyielding. There was little space to move, few chances to score. Sometimes the match was as dreary as the misty evening chill. If it possessed any beauty, it was not in gracefulness but in stark, struggling exertion. And finally, when grind and strain and labor could not bring a resolution, whimsy and caprice did. Argentina defeated the Netherlands by 4-2 on penalty kicks and advanced to Sunday’s final against Germany.” NY Times

Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties)
“Argentina will meet Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana after winning a penalty shootout to eliminate the Netherlands.After 120 tedious and goalless minutes that were in stark contrast to the spectacular shock of the first semi-final between Brazil and the Germans, Argentina prevailed and a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals – when they played West Germany – will be played out in Rio. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero with penalty saves from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, while opposite number Jasper Cillessen was unable to repeat the feats of his deputy, Tim Krul, in the quarter-final win against Costa Rica.” BBC

World Cup Pass & Move: Semi-Charmed Lives
“Two semifinal matches, one penalty shootout, one plain old one-sided shootout. As the World Cup draws to a close, we look at some of the characters who made the semifinal round so wonderful, weird, glorious, ponderous, and heartbreaking.” Grantland

Germany 7-1 Brazil: Germany record a historic thrashing, winning the game in 30 minutes

July 9, 2014

“In one of the most incredible matches in World Cup history, this ridiculous scoreline was an entirely fair reflection of Germany’s dominance. Jogi Low named an unchanged side from the XI that had narrowly defeated France in the quarter-final. Luiz Felipe Scolari was without the suspended Thiago Silva, and the injured Neymar. Dante was the obvious replacement at the back, while tricky winger Bernard was a surprise choice to replace Neymar, with Oscar moving inside to become the number ten. Luiz Gustavo returned after suspension, with Paulinho dropping out. Incredibly, this game was finished after half an hour – it was 5-0, and Brazil were simply trying to avoid further embarrassment.” Zonal Marking

Brazil 1 Germany 7
“Brazil’s World Cup dreams ended in humiliating and brutal fashion as Germany inflicted their heaviest defeat in the first semi-final in Belo Horizonte. A thunderous occasion that began with Brazil riding a tidal wave of emotion was reduced to a nightmare as Germany were 5-0 up inside 29 remarkable minutes in front of a disbelieving Estadio Mineirao crowd. Brazil’s players mourned the absence of the injured Neymar before kick-off, but captain Thiago Silva was an even bigger loss. The result was their first competitive home defeat in 39 years, and the end of their hopes of making it to the World Cup final at the iconic Maracana on Sunday.” BBC

Germany Scored Three Goals in 76 Seconds and Four Goals in Four Minutes
“Everyone, including Slate, has noted that Germany scored five goals in an 18-minute span on Tuesday. That figure, though, understates what the Germans accomplished. For a good portion of that 18 minutes, the ball wasn’t in play because it was sitting in the back of the net and Die Mannschaft was celebrating. The ESPN broadcast made it hard to determine how fast Germany had scored in actual game time, as the copious goal replays were always butting in to the on-field action. In order to get an accurate count, I rewatched the first half using ESPN’s ‘tactical cam’ replay, which shows the game from above and affords a clear view of each goal and the precise moment when play subsequently resumed.” Slate (Video)

Goal, Goal, Goal, Goal, Goal, Goal, Goal, and Brazil’s Day Goes Dark
“The fireworks began at dawn. All around this city, loud pops and bangs rang out as men and women and children, so many dressed in yellow, set off flares and beeped car horns. It was supposed to be a magical day. The Brazilian national soccer team, playing at home, was one game away from a World Cup final. No one could have guessed the tears would come before halftime. No one could have imagined there would be flags burning in the streets before dinner. Certainly no one could have envisioned that any Brazilian fans, watching their team play a semifinal in a celebrated stadium, would ever consider leaving long before full time.” NY Times

Let the Recriminations Begin in Brazil, and Let Them Begin with Scolari
“Then Brazil lost a relative squeaker to France in the finals of the 1998 World Cup, the country’s congress held intensive investigations and hauled some of its most storied athletes before a panel of preening politicians. Conspiracy theories swirled that cast blame in all directions—one widely held notion attributed the defeat to the machinations of Nike. The questions were irrational but give some hint of the mindset of a defeated Brazil and foreshadow the ugly recriminations that will follow this ugly defeat.” New Republic

Nation in Despair
“… Everyone knew it would be difficult for Brazil without the injured star Neymar and the suspended captain, Thiago Silva, but nobody imagined this feeble capitulation — four goals surrendered to Germany in six minutes during a 7-1 rout in a World Cup semifinal. Early on, Brazil’s players bickered, lost their cool, then lost their fight. The country of the beautiful game was left to face a grotesque humiliation. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the coach, flung his hands in disgust amid the flurry of early German goals. Marcelo, a defender, put his hands to his face in embarrassment and disbelief. A boy and a woman cried in the grandstand beneath their glasses, appearing stunned and overcome on camera.” NY Times (Video)

Semifinals Remain an Inner Sanctum Until Further Notice

July 7, 2014

“The World Cup, ultimately, is a highly exclusive club. To be sure, the World Cup lets in hoi polloi to give a glimmer of hope and inclusion, but the inner sanctum is usually sealed shut by the semifinals, sending home the pretenders. Not our kind. Check out the four semifinalists this time around. The outsider, the long shot, is merely a three-time finalist, respected all over the world for its Total Football, the open, offensive style that has influenced Spain, the nation; Barcelona, the club; and other appealing offensive systems. Yes, the Netherlands, destiny’s darling, is known universally as the greatest soccer nation never to win the World Cup. All over the world, the huddled masses like the United States, yearning to be significant, are asking themselves, What does it take to crash that club, to become a regular, a nation that feels at home in the semifinals? How do countries learn that self-assurance that wins dubious referee calls and takes over game-deciding shootouts?” NY Times

World Cup Brazil’s Other Beautiful Games

July 7, 2014

“It was a newsroom like any television station newsroom, unless you count the brunette receptionist wearing a crown, sash and leopard print dress and offering friendly advice on how to spice up the World Cup. ‘Beauty queens,’ Brenda Pontes, 19, said. The World Cup does have many things — consuming attention, enthralling soccer and a carnival atmosphere — but it does not have beauty queens. In the Amazon rain forest, though, there is a tournament that is equal parts soccer and beauty pageant. It is one of the largest and most unusual amateur soccer competitions in the world, and perhaps the only one with a reality show. Pontes is the reigning queen.” NY Times

A Late Entry Helps the Dutch Avert an Exit

July 6, 2014

“With a World Cup quarterfinal in the closing moments of extra time on Saturday, Louis van Gaal, the coach of the Netherlands, made a move that was as bold as it was rare. As penalty kicks loomed in a 0-0 game, he replaced his starting goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, with Tim Krul, who had not played in the tournament but was confident to the point of haughtiness in a 4-3 victory in the shootout. After growing frustrated against Costa Rica, which seemed mostly content to sit back, surrender possession and play for penalty kicks, the Dutch became assured and clinical. The Netherlands made all of its penalty kicks, and the 6-foot-4 Krul made two dramatic saves after appearing to try to intimidate the Costa Ricans.” NY Times

Netherlands 0 Costa Rica 0 (4-3)
“Goalkeeper Tim Krul came off the bench late in extra time and saved two penalties as the Netherlands beat Costa Rica in a shootout to set up a World Cup semi-final against Argentina. Newcastle’s Krul saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send the Dutch through after the game finished 0-0. Wesley Sneijder had hit the woodwork twice for the Dutch, while Robin van Persie’s shot was turned onto the bar. They face Argentina, who beat Belgium, in Sao Paulo on Wednesday in the semis.” BBC

At Home Abroad, Argentina Shuts Down Belgium

July 6, 2014

“As unlikely as it may seem given the résumés of the two nations involved, including the seven combined world championships, Argentina and Brazil had never reached the semifinals in the same World Cup until this year. With a 1-0 victory over Belgium on Saturday thanks to a goal by Gonzalo Higuaín, Argentina joined Brazil, which beat Colombia on Friday, in the final four. The possibility exists that the two teams, South American giants and bitter rivals, could face off in the final in Rio de Janeiro, which many feel would provide the most fitting conclusion to this World Cup. Argentina, the winner in 1978 and 1986, is back in the semifinals for the first time since 1990, when a rough group coming off a title relied heavily on the skills of Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia, who did just enough to win, before losing to Germany in a desultory final.” NY Times

Argentina 1 Belgium 0
“Argentina reached their first World Cup semi-final since finishing as runners-up in 1990 with victory over Belgium in Brasilia. Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal at Estadio Nacional, a thunderous early strike that ended his run of six international games without a goal. But Belgium’s so-called golden generation were undone by another quicksilver Lionel Messi performance, as Argentina set up a last-four encounter with Netherlands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.” BBC

For Bellicose Brazil, Payback Carries Heavy Price: Loss of Neymar

July 6, 2014

“A Colombian defender named Juan Camilo Zúñiga ended the World Cup for the Brazilian star striker Neymar on Friday with a nasty knee into Neymar’s back that fractured one of his vertebrae. It was an ugly play and a bad foul. It deserved, at least, a yellow card. Yet within any game, there is always a road map to every flash point. The beauty of soccer’s continuous flow is that one thing leads to another (and another and another), and that makes it possible to trace a path to a game’s most memorable moment. In a game like Friday’s, doing so makes it easier to see where things went wrong. So what happened to Neymar? How did the face of this tournament end up in a hospital? Brazilian fans will not like to hear it, but while Zúñiga was directly responsible for causing Neymar’s injury, Neymar’s teammates — specifically Fernandinho, though there were others — as well as the referee, Carlos Velasco Carballo, deserve their share of the blame, too. They did not commit the crime, but they contributed to an environment of lawlessness that led to Neymar’s being battered.” NY Times

Brazil Takes a Painful Step Forward

July 5, 2014

“It was an enormous win for Brazil, but it came at a gigantic cost. Brazil on Friday powered to an impressive 2-1 quarterfinal victory over upstart Colombia at Estádio Castelão, setting off another round of raucous nationwide partying. But the noise and jubilation proved short-lived, as it was revealed after the game that Neymar — the country’s best player and biggest star — would miss the rest of the World Cup after injuring his back in the dying minutes of the hugely physical game. The Brazilian team has had only one goal this summer: to win the country’s sixth World Cup trophy while playing on home soil. The victory on Friday was an important step, setting up a semifinal next Tuesday against the powerful German squad.” NY Times

Odd couple pulls Brazil through
“On a day when Brazil lost star midfielder Neymar for the rest of the World Cup with a fractured vertebra, the Selecao turned to their odd couple — defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz — to pull them through. The two leaders in the back scored goals either side of halftime to propel Brazil to a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia. Silva latched onto a Neymar’s corner kick and deflected the ball home with his knee with the game less than seven minutes old. In the 69th minute, Luiz hit a scorching 34-yard free kick past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. It was difficult to tell what possessed more maniacal ferocity — the shot, or his celebratory run to the near side corner flag.” ESPN

Germany Wins a Battle of the Old Guard

July 5, 2014

“As appetizers go, it was more of a dessert: a World Cup quarterfinal at Estádio do Maracanã between two European powerhouses featuring 22 starting players who play club soccer in England, Spain, France, Italy or Germany. For much of the world, it was a heavyweight fight contested in one of the sport’s greatest venues. Here, of course, it was a distinct undercard. Brazil defeated Colombia, 2-1, later Friday afternoon in a game so big it prompted the Colombian government to declare a national holiday.” NY Times

France 0 Germany 1
“Germany became the first nation to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals as Mats Hummels’ early header proved enough to see them past France at the Maracana. The three-time champions needed extra time to beat Algeria in the last 16 and suffered a bout of illness in midweek, but they were comfortable victors over a disappointing France in Rio de Janeiro. Hummels got the better of Raphael Varane to score what proved to be the winning goal and Germany can now prepare for a meeting with Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday after the hosts beat Colombia.” BBC

World Cup: Germany defeats France to reach semifinals
“It’s a demon buried deep within the French psyche — a demon which refuses to be exorcized. A word which brings shivers down the spine and strikes a fear into the heart of the country’s football fans. In Rio de Janeiro, the ghosts of years past haunted France again — the ‘Angstgegner’ returned. Germany, the ‘bogey team’ as it is known in France, wrote another painful chapter into Les Bleus’ World Cup history on Friday. A 1-0 victory secured Germany’s place in the semifinals for a record fourth consecutive tournament. But unlike in 1982 and 1986, when Germany defeated the French in the last four on both occasions, this was not a battle of epic proportions. There was not the drama, nor the controversy — but the end result was the same.” CNN

The Hopes of Central America Rest on a Perpetual Underdog

July 5, 2014

“When Costa Rica played Uruguay on June 14 in its first game of the World Cup, it was not so much a case of David versus Goliath as it was David versus David. That time fortune favored the Central Americans: Against all expectations — they had never beaten Uruguay, the two-time Cup winners — the Costa Ricans won, 3-1. But if ever there were a country from which La Sele (the Costa Rican national team), which will face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday, might learn how to punch above its weight, it would be plucky little Uruguay.” NY Times

Costa Rica’s Midfield Has Used the World Cup As a Stage For Redemption
“The Ticos no one wanted are suddenly in demand. The Costa Rican national team entered the World Cup hoping to send a message to the world. ‘That was one of our main goals here in Brazil, letting the world know about Costa Rican football,’ defender Giancarlo Gonzalez told reporters on Tuesday.” Fusion

Costa Rica’s Number One Soccer fan Is a Nun with her own TV Show
“Sister Aracelly Salazar is Costa Rica’s self-proclaimed number one soccer fan. When she is not kicking the ball around, she hosts a TV show on a religious channel to relive the national team’s best moments, with thousands tuning in every Saturday to hear her analysis.” Fusion

World Cup From Carrying Water to Stirring a Nation

July 4, 2014

“For a man once belittled by Eric Cantona as ‘a water carrier,’ Didier Deschamps has certainly made a habit of carrying lots of trophies. French reporters like to ask Deschamps, now the French national team manager, if he was born under a ‘bonne étoile,’ a lucky star. But there is clearly much more than good karma and good timing involved at this stage of the game. He was captain of the French team that won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship and a key player for Marseille and then Juventus when each club won the Champions League.” NY Times

Hail to the Alamo: Team U.S.A. Goes Down Fighting

July 2, 2014

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US
“In the very end—after the comeback goal from Julian Green, a nineteen-year-old World Cup débutant; after the close-range miss from Clint Dempsey that almost levelled it; after the final whistle that sent Team U.S.A. home; after the expressions of pride from Alexi Lalas in the ESPN studio on Copacabana Beach; after all the grandstanding tweets from politicians praising the U.S. team for displaying great valor—after it had all gone down, there was Tim Howard, the American stopper who had made an incredible sixteen saves to keep the United States in the game, a feat of goalkeeping prowess with no equals in World Cup history.” New Yorker

World Cup Pass & Move: The Boys of Summer
“For the last two weeks, the United States men’s national team has had your neighbor talking about 4-3-3 formations, the lady on the bus wearing a Clint Dempsey–riding-Falkor T-shirt, and has probably been the reason dozens of babies will be named John Anthony in nine months. The American players helped inspire a palpable passion around the game in this country, unlike anything we’ve felt before. And they helped make this truly extraordinary World Cup one that none of us will ever forget. With the United States’s exit from the tournament at the hands of Belgium, a few Grantland writers — Brian Phillips, Chris Ryan, Mike L. Goodman, Noah Davis, Ryan O’Hanlon, and Bill Barnwell — wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the players that gave us so much this summer.” Grantland

Wild Ride by U.S. Comes to End, but Soccer Is the Winner
“It felt as if Tim Howard would never go down. As if the United States would never go down, standing there, taking shots like an undersize fighter clinging desperately to a puncher’s chance. Howard saved with his hands. His feet. His legs. His knees. At one point, Howard even had a shot bounce off the crest over his heart. Trying to figure out where soccer fits into the fabric of America is a popular topic but, for one afternoon at least, there was this unexpected truth: All around the country, from coast to coast and through the nation’s belly, sports fans of every kind were inspired by the performance of a soccer goalkeeper. In a loss. The ending was cruel, but then so is the game.” NY Times

World Cup: USA dream shattered by Belgium
“No guts no glory, or so the saying goes. But perhaps the vanquished United States soccer team can rest in the knowledge that if the World Cup was decided on guts, it would surely be lifting the trophy in Brazil. For 120 minutes of Tuesday’s ultimately unsuccessful last-16 clash with Belgium, each one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s men left everything on the field in Salvador. From the second the Americans went 2-0 down in extra time thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, the rearguard action started. Substitute Julian Green’s goal offered the nation a lifeline and energized its fatigued players with a quarter of an hour to play. And you could almost hear the sigh of despair from New York to Nevada as late chances for Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey were agonizingly spurned. The final whistle signaled tumult at either end of the emotional spectrum as Belgium advanced to a quarterfinal with Argentina on Saturday and the U.S. departed. Beaten, yes, but not bowed.” CNN

A Eulogy for the Most Intoxicating USMNT of all Time
“There was a point during the end of the Belgium game, when Lukaku roofed that second goal, and we could see the end was nigh, that I stopped being stressed out, and started to just feel proud. The score didn’t matter, I told myself. This team has given every last iota of whatever nutritional substance is fueling their bodies. I will be fine with whatever happens. And then—of course—Julian Green comes on and buries a volley in the Belgian net to create the most frenzied final six minutes in US soccer history.” New Republic

Messi, as Always Expected, Rescues Argentina

July 2, 2014

“Lionel Messi is often the smallest player on the field. But it is clear that he possesses his own gravitational pull. Just look at how opposing players — entire teams — drift toward him, one after another, and impulsively flinch at his every step and feint. Look at how magnetically he draws a crowd’s collective gaze, how hushed with expectation a building can become whenever he makes a run. Look at how quickly the ball zips its way back to his feet whenever his team feels the slightest bit of anxiety. Messi’s stature, already large, has grown considerably in this World Cup, and it grew somehow bigger still Tuesday as he inspired Argentina to a 1-0 victory over Switzerland at Arena Corinthians.” NY Times

The Dilemma of Broadcasts: Univision, ESPN, and the Radio
“For this bilingual World Cup enthusiast, the beginning of each game requires a decision: watch the broadcast in English on ESPN (or sometimes on ABC), or in Spanish on Univision. I thought at first that what would make me choose one over the other would be a momentary preference for the agitation and drama associated with the Spanish broadcast or the calmness and restraint of the English broadcast. But later I realized it wasn’t that simple, that my choice was governed by darker motives that had to do with memory and the radio. I realized that the difference between the two broadcasts has to do not only with the languages they use but also in their tolerances for silence.” New Republic

It’s Time for Argentines to Get Behind Their Team
“The Albiceleste won all three first round games, but that hasn’t kept its demanding supporters from complaining. From one Che to another: Shut up and enjoy the team! As Argentina readies for its second-round game against Switzerland, its fans are getting, well, tense. Is Argentina playing to its full potential? No, it is not. Is it the worst team at the World Cup? No, far from it. Yes, many of us have been frustrated by the performance of our team at this World Cup, despite its perfect record in the first round. Alejandro Sabella’s men have been static and even boring at times with neither Sergio Aguero nor Gonzalo Higuaín up to their usual standards.” Fusion

Argentine Fans Feel Right at Home
“Tens of thousands of soccer fans came from all parts of Argentina. It does not matter that there were no tickets left for the match. This seemed an irrelevance. The main thing was to have been here, and to have witnessed Argentina take on Switzerland. In a sliver of park overshadowed by the modern office buildings of downtown São Paulo, FIFA has installed large screens for those without tickets. The fans know that tickets were going for between $2,000 and $3,000. Not that there were any for sale. Those who had come from the Arena Corinthians complain that there are only buyers and no sellers. Even two hours before the match started, the Argentines appeared en masse with their flags of light blue and white. The stripped albiceleste shirts are ubiquitous; even children in strollers were wearing them. The drinking started early. One fan, while being frisked at the turnstile, shouted: ‘Today, we’re all brothers. Boca-River, it doesn’t matter.’ He was referring to the rival clubs River Plate and Boca Juniors.” NY Times

Your World Cup Ethical Questions, Answered

July 2, 2014

Was Luis Suárez’s bite of an opponent any more unethical than other forms of direct harm, such as a stomp or a professional foul in which the risk of serious injury is more likely? Or does the fact that biting is viewed as ‘uncivilized’ make it uniquely worse? JACK HIGGINS, posted on FacebookNY Times

A New York Odyssey Through World Cup Fandom

June 30, 2014

“Interest in the World Cup is surging in the United States, with record television ratings, outdoor viewing parties and midday breaks for workers to watch the United States battle its way into the second round. Here, in an extremely diverse New York City, where soccer has long been popular in some neighborhoods but is now gaining wider traction, just about every team has its fans. A random survey was attempted during the first round of the tournament. The games were on across the city. Some places were crowded and boisterous but others were, well, pretty empty. Some fans yelled together, while others commented about the games in virtual solitude. But it was hard to find a place where the games were being ignored.” NY Times

World Cup: Brazil defeats Chile on penalties

June 29, 2014

“And so the carnival carries on. Brazil, the team which manages to thrill and frustrate almost simultaneously, clinched its place in the quarterfinal of the World Cup following a tension-fueled encounter with Chile. A 3-2 victory on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte means Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side’s quest to win the World Cup on home soil remains alive. It will now turn its attention to a last eight contest with Colombia — a team which has thrilled so far in this tournament. While Brazil will take the plaudits, Chile should be commended for a performance which at times defied the ability of the human body to run and hustle as its players did.” CNN (Video)

Brazil 1-1 Chile: Brazil progress by the finest of margins
“Brazil won on penalties after an incredibly tense and tiring contest. Luiz Felipe Scolari selected Fernandinho following his good impact in the win over Cameroon, with Paulinho on the bench. Jorge Sampaoli brought back Arturo Vidal after he was rested for the defeat to the Netherlands. The first half was an extremely fast-paced battle of pressing, and that tired both teams for the final 75 minutes, with the quality of football declining rapidly after half-time.” Zonal Marking

World Cup 2014: Brazil Survives Shootout Against Chile
“With the pressure of an anxious nation bearing down on them with each passing minute, the Brazilian players teetered on the brink of a defeat that would have wounded a country’s soul. Brave Chile was refusing to back down, demonstrating to 57,714 howling fans at Estádio Mineirão and millions more watching at homes, restaurants and bars that the team had the nerve to stand up to the mighty host nation through 120 minutes of the most tense and exhilarating soccer seen so far at the 2014 World Cup. After 30 minutes, it looked like the most fast-paced, breathtaking game of the tournament. After 90 minutes, the teams were even, at 1-1, after Chile had controlled play through much of the second half, leaving the Brazilian fans nervous and agitated. Through 30 draining minutes of extra time — which included a thunderous Chilean shot that struck the crossbar in the 120th minute, inches from knocking Brazil out — neither team could take a lead.” NY Times

Brazil shootout hero Júlio César: I have won the country’s trust back
“Júlio César, Brazil’s hero in the penalty shootout win against Chile, reflected on the prize of a World Cup quarter-final and said he felt he had won back the country’s trust after being the scapegoat in South Africa four years ago. Júlio César saved Chile’s first two penalties and referred immediately to his mistake in the quarter-final against Holland at the last World Cup.” Guardian

The Dazzle and the Desolation of Stadiums in World Cup Host Cities

June 29, 2014

“NATAL, Brazil — From her crumbling house with the leaky roof, across a new highway from a new World Cup stadium, Maria Ivanilde Oliveira heard everything. Notes of the national anthems floated through the humid air into her living room, where her black vinyl couch was losing its stuffing and a metal bookshelf was secured by gnarly wire. A mix of loud cheers and moans from 40,000 soccer fans told her that a team had scored. With no job and little money, Oliveira, 62, could not afford a ticket to see one of the four games played at the $450 million Arena das Dunas, one of 12 stadiums hosting the World Cup in Brazil.” NY Times

In Bronx, Joy and Agony for Ghana’s World Cup Match

June 27, 2014

“The faithful filed into a tiny back storeroom of the Malata African Market in the Bronx, making their way past the bins of giant yams and the freezer of dried fish, and took their seats in rickety rows. A 46-inch television, propped on a shelf next to 50-pound bags of white corn meal, was tuned to the only soccer match that mattered there: Ghana versus Portugal in the final group play match of the World Cup’s Group G.” NY Times

Messi Lifts Spirits of Argentines, Even Those Without Tickets

June 26, 2014

“An estimated 50,000 Argentines completed the trek to this World Cup city by Wednesday morning. Many of the soccer pilgrims were wearing long faces along with their Lionel Messi jerseys as they roamed the parks and the streets and took in the hazy view of Guaíba lake while carrying hand-lettered signs that read, ‘Compro’ (‘I’m buying’). ‘It’s shameful; the scalpers are asking for 1,200 to 1,500 dollars for a ticket with a face value of no more than 100,’ said Cintia Perri, a young woman from Buenos Aires who had driven 20 hours to get here and spent the night in her car in a nearby camping site. But Messi would soon lift the mood of his sleep-deprived, ticket-deprived compatriots.” NY Times

Magical Messi continues to rise
“At the very least, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella could say someone else settled the game. It wasn’t Lionel Messi who got the decisive goal; it wasn’t quite so necessary for the playmaker to drag his team forward. Instead, left-back Marcos Rojo kneed home Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner, and Argentina eventually beat Nigeria 3-2. It gave Sabella’s men a flawless points record from the group stage, with three wins from three games in Group F, but they are far from a flawless team. Although the specific details may have changed, the wider reality remains the same. It is the same storyline around the team tipped as one of the favourites to lift the trophy next month and the developing narrative of this World Cup.” ESPN (Video)

Why You Should Root for Nigeria (or Brazil, Mexico or Ghana)

June 26, 2014

“Most of the world considers soccer’s quadrennial World Cup to be the most important sporting competition of all. A growing number of Americans have embraced the event, but many are only vaguely aware of it, and, aside from the United States, not so sure for whom to root. I am offering an alternative, utilitarian guide to help Americans choose a country to support. This guide can also be used if the Americans are eliminated, to help decide whom to root for among the remaining teams. The basic principle is simple, drawn from utilitarian principles: Root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness. So I came up with a simple index, calculated by a country’s passion for soccer multiplied by its average level of poverty multiplied by its population. It’s perhaps a bit crude, simply to multiply these factors by each other, but the exercise highlights some important truths about the world.” NT Times

Blue, as in Happy

June 25, 2014

“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

Costa Rica Makes History at the World Cup

June 25, 2014

“Of all the surprises so far at this World Cup, perhaps none has been more unexpected than the success of Costa Rica, a country of 4.7 million and, relatively speaking, about the size of host country Brazil’s toenail. The team had been drawn into a group with three of the sport’s most storied nations: England, which is home to arguably the best soccer league in the world; Italy, which has won four World Cups, more than any country that isn’t hosting the event; and Uruguay, the team whose ghost haunts this year’s World Cup, having won the last one to be held in Brazil, in 1950. Nearly every pundit the world over had predicted that Costa Rica would function more as a punching bag than a soccer team this summer. And yet, after Tuesday’s draw with England in the final group match, Costa Rica finished in first place in the group.” Vanity Fair

Improbable Late Penalty Sends Greece to Round of 16
“Georgios Samaras scored on an added-time penalty kick to put Greece into the second round of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday. Samaras, who was ruled to have been tripped in the area by the substitute Giovanni Sio, calmly slotted in the spot kick for a victory that put Greece through to the knockout stage as the second-place finisher in Group C. Ivory Coast would have advanced with a draw.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Cameroon 1-4 Brazil: Neymar guides the Selecao to the Round of 16

June 24, 2014

“Neymar netted twice to help put Brazil into the last 16 of the World Cup as his side flounced aside Cameroon on Monday night. The Barcelona star was at the crux of every move and scored once either side of a Joel Matip strike to ensure the Selecao would continue their World Cup campaign on home soil. Brazil No. 9, Fred finally got off the mark with his first World Cup goal in eight years, and although it should have been ruled offside, it stood and will give the Fluminense striker a major uplift. His goal gave Brazil some extra cushion, only to be topped by Fernandinho, who came on for Paulinho and added the clincher late to give Brazil an extra boost on its way out of the group stage.” Outside of the Boot

We Went There: Mexico Qualifies for the Round of 16 in a Green Sea
“The ‘Meh-he-co’ chants drowned out the AC/DC blaring from the speakers at Arena Pernambuco as the kickoff of El Tri’s match against Croatia drew closer. When the 15-by-25-foot LCD screens showed the starting lineups, the Mexican fans hurled their favorite FIFA-sanctioned slur at the head shots of their opponents.” Grantland (Video>

Mexico Finds Itself Knee-Deep in Victory
“When Andrés Guardado of Mexico finally freed himself from a swarm of teammates Monday and emerged back under the floodlights of the crammed stadium here, he crouched along the sideline, pointed a finger down to his knees as he comically wiggled his legs, and vigorously shook his head from side to side. A smile stretched across his face as he soaked in the deafening cheers. The night before Mexico and Croatia met in this Group A game, with a spot in the World Cup’s knockout round very much up for grabs, Croatia Coach Niko Kovac suggested that his team had nothing to fear, that if anyone’s knees were to tremble, it should be the players of Mexico.” NY Times

Brazil Romps Past Cameroon and Into Knockout Rounds
“An anxious nation and its capital exhaled on Monday. Their beloved national soccer team, which has not played with the precision and dominance that many had hoped for in the World Cup, nevertheless moved on to the next round with a convincing win. Playing in front of a pulsating record crowd at Estádio Nacional, Brazil beat Cameroon, 4-1, behind two goals from Neymar to win Group A. On Saturday it will play Chile, the runner-up in Group B, in the Round of 16.” NY Times

A Cruel Match in an Unforgiving Jungle

June 24, 2014

“The US team was in a stadium in the middle of a city in the middle of a jungle, getting ready to take the field to play Portugal. The sun had dropped behind the arena and it was getting darker. And hotter. Manaus was built into the Amazon. Fly in on a plane or go out on a boat and you get a sense of the enormity of the uninhabited world surrounding it. Unlike other parts of Brazil, where the natural landscape—the stunning beaches, the looming mountains—seems as much a part of the city as the buildings, Manaus is a clearing in a forest. It feels like an intrusion on nature. The jungle hangs all around city, stifling heat and huge bugs reclaiming its streets and the people living in a place they don’t belong.” 8By8

Heartbroken, but Hardly Hopeless
“Forget about that last goal. Pretend it never happened, as if that soccer ball never ricocheted off the head of a perfectly positioned Portuguese player and into the United States’ net. Do not dwell on those last 30 seconds of that game on Sunday night in the Amazon that stomped on the throat of an otherwise sublime night. Emotions are hard to temper at a time like this — when a surprising American victory seemed all but guaranteed, until that header suddenly proved that it wasn’t — but the broader picture is not at all bleak. Even after tying Portugal, 2-2, the United States remains on a trajector.” NY Times

In Time Warp of Soccer, It Ain’t Over Till … Who Knows?
“… Such situations would be unthinkable in other sports, but vagaries of time are the norm in soccer. Games do not end when a clock expires, but only when the referee decides they are over. In a world where quantities as varied as footsteps and mouse clicks can be measured with scientific precision, soccer is a land where time remains a mirage. The most recent example came in the World Cup game here Sunday night, when the United States scored to take the lead in the 81st minute of a 90-minute match only to see the advantage slip away when Portugal scored — wait for it — 14 minutes later.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Netherlands 2 – 0 Chile: Dutch successful on counter

June 24, 2014

“With both teams already qualified for the knockout stages, this match would decide which team would finish top and which team would have to be content with second. While the winner would gain first place outright, a draw would be enough for the Dutch to qualify first on goal difference. Both teams knew the importance of first place, with the second placed team most likely facing the daunting possibility of a round of 16 match-up with hosts Brazil. Even though the Netherlands beat Brazil in the quarter-finals in 2010, Brazil at home are a different proposition. Chile, of course, are well acquainted with their South American counterparts; in their last two World Cups (1998 and 2010), Chile were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Brazil. Neither team wanted to lose, setting up a cagey, tactical battle.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup 2014: Netherlands Defeats Chile, 2-0, to Win Group B
“Both the Netherlands and Chile entered the final match of group play knowing they were through to the knockout stage, but the Dutch are moving on as the champions of Group B thanks to 2-0 victory. The Chileans had their chances, controlling much of the possession and play early in the first half, but after the 35th minute it felt very much like the Netherlands’ game. The first goal didn’t come until the 76th minute, on a header by Leroy Fer. The Dutch offered a final exclamation point in stoppage time, when Arjen Robben raced up the left side and sent a cross to Memphis Depay.” NY Times

World Cup Pass & Move: I Can’t Believe That We Did Draw!

June 23, 2014

“Looks like we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue! That was a pretty turbulent soccer match on Sunday. To try to make sense of it all, we’ve got a bunch of Grantland writers on hand to talk it out. This is a safe space! Blame Game. Bill Barnwell: When the clock struck 94:00, DeAndre Yedlin had the ball in the opposite corner of the pitch while trying to shield it from Portuguese defenders. At 94:24, the ball was up for grabs in the Portuguese half of the field. Eight seconds later, at 94:32, a bullet header from substitute Portuguese striker Silvestre Varela hit the back of the net. Given that the final whistle blew almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff, had the United States managed to hold the ball for another 10 seconds, it would have come away from Manaus with three points. It’s a bitter blow.” Grantland (Video)

USA eyes bigger picture after letting World Cup chance slip vs. Portugal
“They were 30 seconds away — half a minute from clinching a spot in the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup after only two games, an achievement few could have expected prior to the tournament. ‘It’s the Group of Death,’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ‘Most people counted us out.’ They were 30 seconds away from writing a new chapter in U.S. soccer history. Never before had the U.S. men advanced beyond the first round in consecutive World Cups. Only 30 seconds separated the Americans from a seminal victory over a European power that would have opened the eyes of millions around the world and galvanized an increasingly engaged public back home. Thirty seconds proved too long.” SI (Video)

Late Shock Interrupts U.S. Party
“The ball was barely past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, and already he had put his hands to his head. On the bench, Jurgen Klinsmann spun away as if he had seen a ghost. Up the field, not far from where he lost the ball, Michael Bradley could only stare. This was what shock looked like. The Americans had advanced, hadn’t they? Hadn’t they? The celebration had been epic after Clint Dempsey, the captain, the man with the black eye and the broken nose and the swollen cheek, scored just nine minutes from the end to put the Americans in front and surely — surely — into the knockout round of the World Cup. It was bedlam. It was overwhelming. It was historic.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | USA 2 – 2 Portugal: The Americans exploit down the right
“The two sides came into this game with contrasting opening fixtures. While the Americans were lacking expectations at the World Cup, they managed a positive result against Ghana, while the Portuguese disappointed with a 4-0 loss to Germany (though a victory was never likely). In what was the last late game of the World Cup, both teams certainly left it late. Although they shared the points, the US certainly were the more impressive side and looked deserving of all three points, while the Portuguese can count themselves extremely lucky for not having been knocked out of the tournament already.” Outside of the Boot

How the Portugal Draw Boosts the U.S.’s World Cup Advancement Odds
“The United States was seconds away from defeating Portugal on Sunday when Michael Bradley, normally one of the steadiest American players, mishandled a ball in midfield and gave Portugal a last opportunity. Silvestre Varela took advantage, scoring on a header. But the 2-2 draw was a result the U.S. might have been happy with before the match began. It improved the Americans’ odds of advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup. Those chances are up to 76 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, an improvement from 65 percent before Sunday’s match.” fivethirtyeight

World Cup 2014: Algeria Defeats South Korea for First Cup Win in 32 Years

June 23, 2014

“First-half strikes by Islam Slimani and Rafik Halliche helped Algeria defeat South Korea, 4-2, on Sunday and become the first team from Africa to score four goals in a World Cup match. Algeria led by 3-0 at halftime and withstood a stronger South Korean performance in the second half to claim its first Cup win since 1982 and move into second place in Group H with one match left.” NY Times

World Cup Brasília, a Capital City That’s a Place Apart

June 23, 2014

“The Brazilian flag reads, “Ordem e Progresso” — “Order and Progress” — which is somewhat curious in this wonderfully jumbled and beautiful country. For an outsider who has visited the samba-infused nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro, the Amazonian jungle or São Paulo, with its ramshackle favelas and snarled traffic, order is not what springs to mind. Until you arrive in Brasília. In a country known for its flair for improvisation, Brasília stands in jarring contrast, a city so orderly, it is hard to believe it is really in Brazil.” NY Times

Talent Radar: Mario Götze improves his defensive contribution in Germany’s 2-2 World Cup draw with Ghana

June 22, 2014

“In what turned out to be a hugely attractive encounter in one of the most open and end-to-end 2014 World Cup games, Germany & Ghana played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with fast paced counter-attacking football at it’s best. The two sides had met at the previous World Cup as well with the Europeans getting the win, but this time it seemed more likely that we’d witness an African triumph until the legendary Miroslav Klose turned up and scored his record equaling 15th World Cup goal.” Outside of the Boot

An Enduring Touch Proves as Essential as Ever
“The shaky front flip was not vintage Miroslav Klose, but the critical goal that led to it was definitely a classic Klose poach. Even if he is now an injury-prone, 36-year-old substitute, playing for Germany still brings out the essential man in Klose, and less than two minutes after he trotted onto the field in Fortaleza, Brazil, he smelled a chance and pounced. The far post has been one of his happiest hunting grounds through the years, and after his teammate Benedikt Höwedes flicked on a Toni Kroos corner kick, Klose was already moving toward empty space near the goal line, a half-step and a fully formed thought ahead of the closest Ghana defender.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: Germany Ties Ghana as Miroslav Klose Ties Goals Record
“Ghana held Germany to a 2-2 tie on Saturday in Fortaleza, Brazil, although the veteran striker Miroslav Klose came on as a substitute to match the World Cup scoring record with the tying goal in a highly entertaining Group G match. Klose has 15 career World Cup goals, equaling the mark set by the former Brazil star Ronaldo. Klose scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, less than two minutes after coming on, when a corner by Toni Kroos was flicked to the far post by Benedikt Höwedes, and Klose slid in to knock the ball in.” NY Times

The Anchor on an Evolving Team

June 22, 2014

“Tim Howard did not always like what Jurgen Klinsmann was doing to Howard’s closest friends. He actually hated it. One by one, all of the veteran players on the United States national team had their moments with Klinsmann, the coach from Germany, who had made clear since the moment he was hired in 2011 that history and past performance meant nothing to him. Klinsmann dropped Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain. He benched Michael Bradley. He denigrated Clint Dempsey. With Landon Donovan, he pretty much did all three. All the while, Howard, the longtime goalkeeper, played the role of supportive teammate and steady hand.” NY Times

Deep in the Amazon, an Isolated Village Tunes In to the World Cup

June 21, 2014

“The PP Maués would not set sail for an hour, but its long and narrow decks were already crisscrossed with hammocks for an overnight trip down the Amazon. By the time it was to dock early last Monday at the regional port for which it was named, the Maués would have traveled 15 hours from the nearest World Cup stadium. A second boat would be needed to reach an even more remote indigenous village that planned to watch Brazil play Mexico last Tuesday. The village did not have electricity or cellphone signals and would rely on a diesel generator to indulge its secluded passion for soccer. While Rio de Janeiro and its famous beaches provide the touristic backdrop of the World Cup, the fevered grip of the world’s most popular sporting event can be felt even in some of the most isolated areas of the rain forest, where outsiders seldom visit.” NY Times

World Cup 2014: Colombia Defeats Ivory Coast, 2-1

June 20, 2014

“Colombia came out on top in a rollicking game in Brasilia on Thursday, defeating Ivory Coast, 2-1, and almost certainly clinching a spot in the next round. The first half was played at a lightning-fast pace but remained scoreless as both sides’ strikers struggled. Colombia was first to break through in the 64th minute, as James Rodriguez jumped highest after a Juan Cuadrado corner and headed the ball into the net. Six minutes later they were up 2-0 after a Serey Die giveaway led to an easy goal for Juan Quintero.” NY Times

Spain undone by their own revolution

June 19, 2014

“It has been eight long years since Spain were last eliminated from a major international tournament. A 3-1 defeat to France in World Cup 2006 ensured Spain retained their status as Europe’s biggest bottlers, with no hint they were about to become the world’s most successful side — arguably in the game’s history. Amazingly, no fewer than seven players in the starting XI that day — Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa and Fernando Torres — were in Spain’s squad for this World Cup, too. That summarises how Spain were simply too old, too tired. Nevertheless, some of the other names from the 2006 side indicate how far Spain have progressed. Mariano Pernia? Pablo Ibanez? They’d also been eliminated from Euro 2004 in embarrassing circumstances, against close rivals and hosts Portugal, failing to progress from the group stage.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Spain’s reign ends with a whimper after six years of dominance
“To watch the collapse of Spain, eliminated from the World Cup after a 2-0 defeat to Chile, was to be reminded of Hemingway’s comment on bankruptcy. The end came gradually, and then suddenly. Over the past couple of years, slight signs of vulnerability have appeared, in the 3-0 loss to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup final and in surprising defeats in friendlies, which perhaps shouldn’t have been blamed as readily as they were on weariness brought on by the Spanish federation’s determination to flog its champions around the world in search of lucre. Players aged, hunger waned, doubts crept in.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Fearless Chile end Spain’s reign
“Chile supporters made the most of Rio — indeed, a ticket-less band of them literally invaded the Maracana stadium before the game, charging in through the press entrance in a bid to watch their team. On the morning of the game in the streets of Copacabana, when groups of Chileans ran into each other they would clap and shout out that they were going to send Spain back home — and they seemed to believe it. Such is the faith in the side led by electric little coach Jorge Sampaoli, who seems to run on batteries as he paces up and down the touchline.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Mighty Spain Goes Out of the World Cup Meekly
“The chants at the game between Spain and Chile began slowly, first from one side of Estádio do Maracanã, then from the other. By the time the final minutes had ticked off the clock Wednesday, tens of thousands of fans had joined in. ‘El-im-in-a-do! El-im-in-a-do!’ — eliminated — said those fans, who were leaping so wildly in their red shirts that they made the stands look like a supersize swath of roiling scarlet cloth. But those fans were not wearing the red jerseys of Spain, the defending World Cup champion and two-time European champion. They were wearing the red shirts of Chile, which eliminated Spain from this tournament in the first round, after Spain had played two games. No past World Cup defending champion had been knocked out of the tournament so quickly.” NY Times

Mexico Sings Praises of Its Goalie

June 18, 2014

“It is a hard thing to have your voices heard over tens of thousands of people who are screaming at the same time, hoping to drown you out, but that did not stop the fans of Mexico here Tuesday from trying and trying and trying. Dressed in red and green shirts, they formed a few watermelon-color splotches around the capacity crowd of Brazilian fans in yellow and chanted tirelessly toward the field for two hours. When the final whistle blew, their voices were the loudest ones heard in Estádio Castelão, and their varied songs were whittled down to one: the name of their goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa — or as they endearingly call him, Memo. Facing one of the premier attacking lineups on the planet, Ochoa made several spectacular saves to lead Mexico to a 0-0 draw against Brazil.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Brazil 0-0 Mexico
“With three points and the prospect of leading the group in sight, both teams set up with nothing held back. In a group stage game where Brazil failed to score for the first time in 36 years, the Mexicans showed great resistance in keeping Brazil at bay.” Outside of the Boot

Stalemate shows Brazil must improve
“Irony, sweet irony; the Seleção actually played a better game than they did last Thursday against Croatia but ended the afternoon with a 0-0 draw and a lot of soul searching to do instead of a win. More than the failure to score and the fact they were dominated by Mexico for long periods of the game — thankfully, Miguel Herrera’s team had poor aim with their array of long shots — Brazil will now be asking themselves if they can really live without a plan B to put ahead of Monday’s encounter with Cameroon in Brasilia.” ESPN

Guillermo Ochoa’s Spectacular Saves, In GIFs
“They are already building a statue for Guillermo Ochoa in Mexico City—at least they should be. The Mexican keeper—and free agent!—put on a masterclass Tuesday, nullifying a deadly Brazilian offense on its home soil. Ochoa’s areobatics earned his side a crucial point against the tournament favorites, setting up an exciting conclusion to Group A. In the famous words of Andy Gray: Take a bow son. But enough about that, you came for the saves. Things got started early.” New Republic

As Brazil Cheers, Protesters Struggle to Be Heard

June 17, 2014

“Twelve months after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to Brazil’s streets to complain of lavish public spending on stadiums for the World Cup, the tournament organizers have been relieved to see just hundreds attend scattered demonstrations as the first round of games got underway. With Brazilians loudly rallying behind their national team, the seleção — and whole cities exploding in a din of cheers and fireworks following every goal — activists concerned about social issues like poverty, corruption and police brutality have struggled to make their voices heard.” NY Times (Video)

Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, U.S. Soccer Falls Short

June 16, 2014

“The list of improvements that the United States men’s soccer team needs to make is considerable. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann would like to see a more consistent back line, better touch from his midfielders and plenty more production from the attackers. Yet as Klinsmann and his players begin their World Cup here Monday against Ghana, trickier questions of soccer acumen have come into focus: Are the Americans bad at playacting? And if so, should they try to get better? The first part seems easy enough. For better or worse, gamesmanship and embellishment — or, depending on your sensibilities, cheating — are part of high-level soccer. Players exaggerate contact. They amplify the mundane. They turn niggling knocks into something closer to grim death.” NY Times

How We Play the Game

June 16, 2014

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

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

June 15, 2014

“After a successful 2010 World Cup, expectations were high for Uruguay. But those that haven’t followed Oscar Tabarez’ men should know that the South Americans struggled in qualifying while retaining an almost identical squad from four years back. Their opponents, Costa Rica, were being over-looked by most in the highest ranked World Cup group. But while viewers can be forgiven for this, Uruguay were guilty of almost ‘expecting’ a victory rather than earning it.” Outside of the Boot

A Few Words on Uruguay’s (Very Tight) Shirts
“I was the only person in my local café watching Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, the first game in Group D. I knew there would be more interest for England vs. Italy. Egyptian love for Latin American teams extends mostly to Brazil and Argentina.” New Republic

A Nation Teased by a Stale Promise of Supremac
“Few in Uruguay will have heard of the English man of letters Cyril Connolly. Yet his most famous phrase — ‘Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising’ — would not be lost on a country used to auspicious starts. The seeds of Uruguayan exceptionalism were sown early. After the country hosted and won the inaugural World Cup, in 1930, the president of the Uruguayan Football Association gave a moving speech in which he stated his expectation that the country take its place as the first among all nations.” NY Times

Costa Rica vs. Uruguay Highlights (Video)

The World’s Ball

June 13, 2014

“An Imperfect Ball. Early soccer balls were hand-sewn and made of leather. They were never perfectly round, and inflating them required some skill. The laces had to be undone before an interior air bladder was filled and tied with a thread; then the laces were retied. Team captains chose a ball before each match, and every team had a preferred design, according to Peter Pesti, a collector and expert on World Cup balls. In the first World Cup, in 1930, Uruguay and Argentina could not agree on which ball to use. The first half of the match was played with a model favored by Argentina. The second half was played with Uruguay’s preferred design, the T-Model. Argentina led, 2-1, after the first half, but Uruguay recovered in the second and won, 4-2.” NY Times

Watching the World’s Game, in the World’s City

June 9, 2014

“On a gloriously sunny afternoon recently, Lunasa, an East Village pub, was packed seven deep at the bar, as three TVs showed the day’s big games. Soccer games, that is, in Germany, Portugal and England. Just wait until the World Cup starts on June 12. Outside Brazil, there is no better place to experience the world’s sport than the world’s city. Passion for soccer runs deep in New York, among Ghana fans in the Bronx, who expect yet another victory over the United States team; among the Japanese faithful in a discreet Kips Bay lounge; and bursting from 900 Bosnians around Astoria preparing for their nation’s first ‘Svjetski Kup.’ There are 32 teams, in eight groups; we have chosen one nation from each group and provided a local prism to view the games through.” NY Times

Where to Watch the World Cup in New York

A Fairer World Cup Draw

June 5, 2014

“The United States has drawn one tough World Cup group, which includes Germany (currently the second-ranked team in the world), Portugal (ranked third) and Ghana (38th). (In the October rankings used for the Dec. 6 draw, Portugal was ranked 14th and Ghana 23rd.) That much is known. But here is something many fans don’t know: The difficulty of the United States’ group is not merely a byproduct of bad luck. It’s a perfectly normal outcome from the selection rules created by FIFA, soccer’s governing body.” NY Times

Inside the Fixing: How a Gang Battered Soccer’s Frail Integrity

June 2, 2014

“A man arrived at the police station here in 2011 with an unusual tip. He told the police that a Singaporean man was fixing matches with the local professional soccer team. The police were incredulous. This city on the Arctic Circle is known as the hometown of Santa Claus. It boasts a theme park with reindeer, elves and jolly St. Nicks. It is also a popular destination for Asian couples looking to make love under the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi is known for many things, but not for organized crime.” NY Times – Part 1, NY Times – Part 2

Team Founded by Unhappy Fans May Buy the Club They Abandoned

April 28, 2014

“Breaking up the soccer club they loved was hard for fans of Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem. Putting it back together may prove even more difficult. But for many Katamon fans, a reunion with the club they left, Hapoel Jerusalem, has been the goal all along after they walked away from the more established Hapoel in 2007 to form Katamon, the first fan-owned club in Israel. The new team started over in the fifth division, and as it won promotion after promotion, and even as Katamon played its first emotional matches against Hapoel this season, a reunion was still the goal.” NY Times

The Beautiful Game Leads to a Beheading

November 5, 2013

“The field in Centro do Meio, Brazil, where two young men were killed after an altercation at a pick up soccer game last June. Late last week, Jeré Longman and Taylor Barnes of The New York Times relate one of the most chilling stories I have ever read in briliant, gory detail. This is a story of violence, poverty, anger and of course, soccer.” Soccer Politics

Building a World Cup Stadium in the Amazon

September 25, 2013

“The most challenging aspect of building a World Cup soccer stadium in the middle of the Amazon is debatable. Some might say it is figuring out how to get oversize cranes and hundreds of tons of stainless steel and concrete into a city surrounded by a rain forest that stretches for about 2.1 million square miles. Others might mention the need to put most of those materials together before the rainy season floods the entire construction site. Then, of course, there are those who might point to the need to install the special chairs. Yes, the chairs. It may seem like a small concern — at least compared with the whole everything-being-flooded possibility — but one of the less obvious issues that comes with building a stadium in the jungle is what the searing equatorial sunlight here can do to plastic.” NY Times

More than a game in Brazil
“I spent August in London, which means that returning to my adopted city of Rio de Janeiro there is a ritual which I always have to go through – catching the 472 bus to Sao Januario, the stadium of Vasco da Gama. It is the best way I know of ensuring that, in mind as well as in body, I have put London in the past and am focused on events over here.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

In Ecuador, a Thriving Game and Prospects Galore

February 28, 2013

“It has been a difficult couple of weeks for teams named Barcelona in continental competition. Last Wednesday the Spanish version dropped a 2-0 decision to Milan in the Champions League. On Feb. 12 the Ecuadorean namesake — Barcelona Sporting Club — was denied three points in its Copa Libertadores opener when Nacional’s Álvaro Recoba set up Iván Alonso for a late equalizer in Montevideo, Uruguay. That Alonso’s goal came in the third minute of second-half stoppage time was not the worst part. Throughout the night there was a feeling Barcelona was not only going up against the Uruguayan champion, but the Chilean referee, Enrique Osses, as well.” NY Times (Video)

U.S.-Mexico Preview, Part 3: Predictions

August 10, 2012

“The first two installments dabbled in absolutes. In Part 1, the questions was who U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann might call in for Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico at Estadio Azteca if players’ club questions were not a factor. Part 2 imposed artificial restrictions on the coach and explored what the roster might look like if Klinsmann was limited to a pool of North America-based players.” NYT