Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Uruguay fly under the radar en route to Russia

October 15, 2017


Uruguay’s Federico Valverde celebrates after scoring against Paraguay during their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Asuncion
“There is almost too much drama to take as South America’s World Cup qualification campaign moves into Tuesday’s final round. Amid the threat of elimination hanging over Argentina, and continental champions Chile, the remarkable resurgence of Paraguay and a crunch game between Peru and Colombia, Uruguay are flying under the radar. Little space has been devoted to the fact that, barring a mathematical miracle, the Uruguayans have already booked their place in Russia. This breaks a pattern. In all of the other campaigns this century Uruguay got underway with a comfortable win at home to Bolivia only to wobble along the way before just managing to clinch the play-off slot in the final round. …” World Soccer – Tim Vickery

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The Real Failure of U.S. Men’s Soccer Sporting – Brian Phillips

October 15, 2017


“For around 30 years, from the 1986 World Cup through the night of Tuesday, Oct. 10, the United States men’s national soccer team managed to project at least a pleasing illusion of progress. Maybe it wasn’t always real progress. Maybe it wasn’t the kind of spectacular success enjoyed by the United States women’s team, which has won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals and galvanized generations of fans. But there was always something you could point to, some piece of evidence to suggest that the men’s game was improving in this country. That the people at the top had a plan. …” NY Times


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

October 12, 2017


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


Argentina Savior Messi Enforces His Brilliance When His Nation Needs Him Most

October 12, 2017

“Twenty years ago, Lionel Messi, then a 10-year-old playing for a youth team at Newell’s Old Boys, headed into rural Santa Fe for a game against Pujato. These were always difficult, physical matches, and Messi took a kicking. … Messi has been getting the face on a lot recently. With Neymar gone, Ousmane Dembele injured and general chaos at the Camp Nou, it feels as though Barcelona’s perfect start to the season has been the result of him, fired by the ‘bronca’ that used to motivate Diego Maradona, dragging Barcelona forward almost single-handed. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


United States Misses World Cup for First Time Since 1986

October 12, 2017


“COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — There was always a chance that a year would come when the United States again failed to qualify for the World Cup, when the hurdles in the nearly two-year slog of regional qualification — the matches on steamy afternoons and muggy nights, the hard tackles and the coin-throwing fans, the lousy fields and the dubious refereeing — all proved too much. That year is 2017. Trinidad and Tobago, whose World Cup dreams ended months ago, stunned the United States, 2-1, on Tuesday night. The result, combined with just-as-shocking outcomes in two simultaneous games in Honduras and Panama on the final day of qualifying for the Concacaf region, ushered in the unthinkable: The American men, mainstays of the World Cup for more than a generation, are out of next summer’s tournament in Russia. …”
NY Times, How the United States Missed the World Cup, Minute by Minute


Finding Gabriel Jesus and freeing Neymar – how Tite made Brazil into Brazil again

October 8, 2017

“A point would have been a respectable result. Brazil had never won a World Cup qualifier up in Quito, losing two of their last three. Still, with 20 minutes remaining and the game goalless, a new era for Brazilian football was heading for a somewhat underwhelming start. When teenage debutant Gabriel Jesus set off after a lost cause that afternoon, it was mostly an attempt to appear useful after a fairly useless opening 70 minutes. And then everything changed. …” Independent


Odd Man Out

October 8, 2017

“In November’s Fifa rankings, Macedonia FYR fell to 155th place, the worst position in the country’s history. Their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup have all but disappeared, the national team reflecting the desperate state of Macedonian football. Milko Djurovski is a former Yugoslavia international and the brother of the former Macedonia FYR head coach Boško. …” The Blizzard