How Good is Enzo Fernandez?

“On 2 August 2022, 21-year-old Enzo Fernández made his Benfica debut in a UEFA Champions League third-round qualifier against FC Midtjylland. He was uncapped at senior international level for Argentina and his move to Portugal was his first foray into European football. 138 days later, the young midfield maestro is a world champion with Argentina, was named the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament in Qatar, is an integral part of a Benfica side that is top of the Primeira Liga, has gained passage into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages helping As Águias top their group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, and he has yet to lose a single match for his new club. It’s fair to say that Enzo Fernández’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. …”
The Analyst

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Messi, Lusail, and closing a personal chapter

“If you have followed me or my writing, you’ll know that my own journey with the maddening game began with this freekick 20 years and six World Cups ago. In 2002, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate what I was witnessing with the Brazilian side—that arrived only in hindsight—but I can still recall that overwhelming, all-encompassing feeling, one that I’ve experienced only a few times since and keeps me hooked to a sport that routinely demands more than it can return. But oh that feeling. …”
Football Paradise

What’s Next for Julián Álvarez, Argentina’s Breakout World Cup Star?

“The otherwise perfect image of Lionel Messi thrusting the World Cup trophy into the sky while perched on the shoulders of Sergio Agüero contains an unfortunate blemish. It’s an awkward reminder of what could’ve upended this whole achievement. There’s Messi, exalted, on a raft of Argentina players and fans in various states of rapture and euphoria, and then, behind and above him, ruining it, is Lautaro Martínez. Going into the tournament, the 25-year-old striker had scored seven goals in 15 Serie A appearances for Inter Milan; he’s led Argentina’s line for most of the last four years, playing a decisive role in the 2021 Copa América victory. …”
The Ringer

Confusion, exasperation and dating apps – my month as a gay reporter at the Qatar World Cup Confusion, exasperation and dating apps – my month as a gay reporter at the Qatar World Cup


“The morning after Germany were dramatically knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, I took a walk around the backstreets of Doha. For the first time in my life, I was confronted, in person, by a sign telling me I was not welcome. Across Qatar’s capital, we often saw flags, usually for the 32 nations competing at the World Cup. This time, alongside Qatari national flags and a banner saying, ‘Welcome’, I saw a piece of paper: a rainbow flag with a no-entry symbol over the top of it. Beneath it, in red letters, the sign said: ‘Not allowed in Qatar’. In Britain, I had read about signs like this, whether they were against black people, Irish people or immigrants in years gone by. I am not making a direct comparison; I am not trapped in a hostile environment. For me, this was merely a moment in time. For others, it can be a lifetime. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Today I Have Very Strong Feelings – Jonathan Wilson

“A month ago, Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, made his now infamous ‘I am Spartacus’ speech at the World Cup’s opening press conference. ‘Today I have very strong feelings, today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker,’ he said, before adding, ‘Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied.’ Two days before Sunday’s final, he returned to the microphone to announce, a bit prematurely, that this had been the ‘best World Cup ever.’ It pains me to say it, n terms of pure football, and especially given the galactically great final—a game that will remain, as everyone pretty much agrees, unsurpassed in the annals of football history—he was right on the money. …”
The Paris Review

World champions but second: Why Argentina are below Brazil in FIFA’s world rankings

Argentina will not go into 2023 as FIFA’s number one ranked team. Fresh off lifting the World Cup, you might expect Lionel Scaloni’s side to move top of the leaderboard but they have had to settle for second. It is Brazil — one of the sides knocked out in the quarter-final in Qatar – who have retained top spot, their only consolation from a rather forgettable fortnight. …”
The Athletic

Huge crowd forces Argentina victory parade to be completed by helicopter


Argentine soccer fans descend on the capital’s Obelisk to celebrate their team’s World Cup victory over France, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Argentina’s triumphant World Cup-winning squad were forced to complete their victory parade in Buenos Aires with a helicopter flyover after a crowd of millions brought their open-top bus to a standstill, with reports suggesting 18 people were injured in the celebrations and footage appearing to show one fan diving on to the squad’s bus. The streets of the capital were thronged by millions of ecstatic supporters, with the homecoming of Lionel Messi and company having been declared a national holiday following their thrilling penalty shootout win against France in Qatar. …”
Guardian

Cutbacks were more popular than ever at the World Cup – here’s why


“One goal that will always be remembered from this World Cup is Argentina’s third against Croatia in the semi-final. The way Lionel Messi bamboozled Josko Gvardiol down the right, before playing the ball back into Julian Alvarez was just marvellous. Messi’s dribbling didn’t only get him past Gvardiol, it also forced Dejan Lovren and Josip Juranovic (both dark blue) to drop deeper to close the shooting and passing angles to the onrushing Nicolas Tagliafico… ”
The Athletic

This was the Angel Di Maria final — then he came off and Argentina very nearly fell apart


“For one hour, three minutes and 52 seconds, Angel Di Maria was the best player in the world. This was the same day that 35-year-old Lionel Messi would kiss the World Cup trophy to seal his place as the greatest footballer of all time, and his historic performance would deserve it. Kylian Mbappe, the outstanding player of the tournament, would score three goals after the 80th minute and leave not even a baguette crumb of doubt who will take over when Messi is gone. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup tactical trends: Lots of width, set-piece goals down, and who needs possession?


“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Thirty-two teams, 28 days, 64 games and they saved the best one until last. Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina lifted the trophy last night after a pulsating penalty shootout victory against France. Across the whole tournament, we had on-field drama, off-field controversy and even a half-time cameo from Chesney Hawkes. There is barely enough time to reflect and take stock of the past month before we swiftly pivot back to domestic football, but let’s take all take a minute to indulge ourselves in some numbers, shall we? Allow The Athletic to walk you through some of the data trends we have spotted in Qatar. …”
The Athletic

Emiliano Martinez’s starring role for Argentina: The spread saves, the penalties, the mind games


“In psychology, the butterfly effect describes how small, seemingly insignificant moments can have huge, unforeseen long-term effects. A butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon on the other side of the world is an example. As is Brighton striker Neal Maupay accidentally inflicting a season-ending injury on Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in June 2020 as the Premier League played out Project Restart after three months of pandemic lockdown. That paved the way for Emiliano Martinez, who had been at Arsenal for a decade but made only six league appearances for them before moving to Aston Villa, to become part of their starting XI and end up, 911 days later, lifting the World Cup with Argentina last night. …”
The Athletic

Argentina, caught in economic depression, gets something to cheer in World Cup win


Argentina will hold general elections in October next year
“BUENOS AIRES — An incredibly tense World Cup final, if not the best of all time. An extraordinary victory for Argentina that crowns the career of superstar Lionel Messi. A new hope for a country in deep crisis. Argentina beat France in a penalty shoot-out after the match ended tied 3-3, causing hundreds of thousands of citizens to pour into the streets of Buenos Aires to celebrate, chant and dance. The obelisk, the landmark monument of the South American capital that houses over 17 million people in its broader agglomeration, was quickly covered in a sea of people. …”
POLITICO
NY Times: Argentina Hits the Streets for Long-Awaited Celebration

Argentina beat France on penalties to win World Cup: Messi’s legacy, Mbappe’s hat-trick


“One of the most exciting World Cup finals of all time was won on penalties by Argentina after Kylian Mbappe had scored a hat-trick to force the shootout. Argentina were coasting to victory with an hour gone with the score at 2-0 thanks to goals by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria. But when Di Maria came off in the 64th minute the game changed, and France and Mbappe’s confidence grew and grew. … Argentina went ahead through Messi’s close-range finish but Gonzalo Montiel’s handball gave Mbappe the chance to complete his hat-trick. He went the same way with his second penalty, hard to Emiliano Martinez’s right. Martinez was Argentina’s hero in the shootout, saving a spot kick from Kingsley Coman before Aurelien Tchouameni put his effort wide. Montiel, who had given away the penalty in the 117th minute, scored the one that sealed the victory. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Argentina are the most tactically flexible World Cup winners we have ever seen – Michael Cox
The Analyst – Argentina 3-3 France: Debate Over as Lionel Messi Finally Wins The World Cup
SI: Argentina, Messi Win Epic World Cup Final in PKs, Overcoming Mbappe’s Hat-Trick Heroics (Video)
Guardian – Argentina 3-3 France (aet, 4-2 on pens): World Cup final player ratings
CNN: Stepping out of Maradona’s shadow. How Lionel Messi won over the hearts of all of Argentina
The Athletic: Lionel Messi doesn’t need the ball to hurt you (Video)

How Argentina’s Favorite Song Became the World Cup’s Soundtrack

“Lionel Messi apart, arguably nobody has played a more prominent role in Argentina’s run to the World Cup final than a 62-year-old musician and a 30-year-old teacher, neither of whom is anywhere near Qatar. Between them, though, they created the song that has become the soundtrack to Argentina’s games and an earworm contracted by anyone who has been in Doha over the last month, or watched any of the tournament on television. …”
NY Times (Video)

Ousmane Dembele – a guide to France’s incompletely brilliant winger


“In Paris, somewhere in the Louvre, in halls packed with tourists snapping selfies in front of all things beautiful and gift shop-worthy, there’s a sculpture that gets largely overlooked. Unlike the gods around it, this one is incomplete. ‘We cannot know his legendary head / with eyes like ripening fruit,’ Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of the decapitated marble torso. But the poet was fascinated by this broken, perfect body that seemed ‘suffused with brilliance from within’. He lingered on the ‘placid hips’, the shoulders, the way the stone itself ‘burst like a star’. The poem ends abruptly, with a command to the reader that is akin to a slap in the face: ‘You must change your life.’ …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Ousmane Dembélé

‘Maybe I started his career!’ – The man that got Lionel Messi sent off on his Argentina debut

“Vilmos Vanczak will watch the World Cup final from his home in Hungary, willing Lionel Messi to succeed. Should the Argentina legend lift football’s biggest prize on Sunday in Qatar, Vanczak will, with his tongue pressed firmly in his cheek, smile and take a little of the credit. …”
The Athletic (Video)

France’s 2018 vs France 2022 – how have Deschamps’ side evolved tactically?


“‘You know that I don’t like comparing teams between the years,’ said France head coach Didier Deschamps after their quarter-final victory over England. But on Wednesday night they became just the fifth defending champions to reach the World Cup final and the first European side to do so since Italy in 1938. If they beat Argentina on Sunday they will become the first team in 60 years (Brazil in 1962) to retain the world crown. Deschamps might not like the comparison but, given their injuries and poor form coming into the tournament, how have they adapted their tactics to reach another final? …”
The Athletic (Video)
Slate: Nobody Can Stay in Front of These Frenchmen Forever (Video)

World Cup final tactical preview: Messi loves to exploit the exact spaces Mbappe leaves open


“Four years ago, France defeated Argentina 4-3 in a genuine epic of a World Cup second-round game. It was the day Kylian Mbappe transformed from a future great into one of the world’s best — his stunning 70-yard sprint to win a penalty ended up being the defining image of his World Cup, France’s World Cup, and World Cup 2018 overall. Lionel Messi, part of a shambolic Argentina side, was peripheral. It seemed Messi’s dominance was over. After 11 years in the top three, he didn’t finish on the Ballon d’Or podium that year. Neither, in fairness, did Mbappe — although he was obviously the coming force, set to become better and better. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 briefing: Argentina v France will provide subplots aplenty


“Lisandro Martínez v Raphaël Varane, Leandro Paredes v Adrien Rabiot, Cristian Romero v Hugo Lloris and Nahuel Molina v Antoine Griezmann. These are subplots we can look forward to when Argentina face France in the final on Sunday. While everyone is thinking about Lionel Messi v Kylian Mbappé, there are plenty of clubmates preparing to do battle for the right to be champions of the planet, the entire planet. In theory, Martínez and Varane could team up as a centre-back pairing for Manchester United’s Carabao Cup tie against Burnley next Wednesday. You could imagine the relationship would be somewhat soured by the result in Qatar on Sunday. …”
Guardian (Video)

Argentina succeeded by doing what few have tried at this World Cup


Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Croatia was a curious contest. Nothing much happened for the opening half hour and you were left waiting for the game to get going. Then, suddenly, it felt like game over. Two goals in a five-minute spell put Argentina in command and while Croatia have a habit of coming from behind at World Cups, they never appeared to have the necessary attacking threat to get back into this one. The tactical battle was fairly typical of this World Cup. Both sides concentrated on keeping it tight between defence and attack, conceding space both behind their defence and in front of the midfield, but never between the lines. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox
The Athletic: Lionel Messi winning World Cup would define him but he’s already among the greatest of all (Video)

Argentina beat Croatia to reach final: Alvarez stars, magical Messi assist, goodbye Modric


Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi starred for Argentina as they swept past Croatia to seal a place in the World Cup final. Messi opened the scoring from the spot after Alvarez was fouled by the Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. Then Alvarez bundled his way through a scrambling Croatia defence to make it two before the break, and the two players combined for a brilliant third goal in the 69th minute. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Inspired Lionel Messi takes Argentina past Croatia and into World Cup final
The Analyst – Argentina 3-0 Croatia: Lionel Messi is One Game From Immortality
NY Times: Lionel Messi’s World Cup Magic Continues in Argentina’s Romp Over Croatia (Video)

Richarlison, Messi and Pulisic: Three Stunning Goals Frozen in Time


“We take a closer look at three memorable goals from the group phase of the 2022 World Cup. See the critical moment when each ball was struck into the net. …Richarlison’s Wonder-Strike. In Brazil’s opening game, Richarlison leaped into the air and scored his second goal of the match with an acrobatic scissor kick. Brazil went on to finish at the top of the group, advancing to the round of 16 to face South Korea. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Watch Christian Pulisic Send the U.S. Past Iran and Into the Knockout Rounds
NY Times: Belgium’s Long-Ball Goal Sinks a Determined Canada
NY Times: Germany’s Late Equalizer Revives Its World Cup Hopes

Messi and Argentina’s heightened emotions could end up undermining them


“There are times when it appears a wave of emotion, patriotic fervour and desperate longing is carrying Argentina towards another World Cup final. At other times it feels as if Lionel Messi, in the twilight years of his extraordinary career, is dragging them there single-handedly. By 12:50am local time in Lusail on Saturday morning, Messi had done all he could. It was his jaw-droppingly brilliant no-look pass, threaded between Nathan Ake’s legs, that had set up the opening goal for Nahuel Molina. It was his ice-cool penalty that had made it 2-0 on 73 minutes. …”
The Athletic (Video)

This Argentina picture has everything that makes the World Cup great – just enjoy it!

“More joyless carping about footballers showing emotion then, is it? Fresh from Brazilians dancing it’s now Argentinians celebrating. In fairness, it was more than just celebrating. There was plenty of aggro in it but surely the first time you saw the photo (the one at the top of this article) you didn’t think, ‘Oh that’s out of order’ but, ‘Oh I wonder what the story is there’? There’s always a backstory, although that’s not really the point here. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties: The Messi pass, Martinez heroics and Weghorst causes havoc


Lionel Messi produced one of the moments of the World Cup in Argentina’s win against the Netherlands, a majestic no-look reverse pass to set up Nahuel Molina for the opening goal. But that was somewhat overshadowed by a stirring fightback from Louis van Gaal’s side, who forced extra time after two very late goals by the former Burnley striker Wout Weghorst. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Argentina edge Netherlands in shootout to win World Cup quarter-final thriller
The Athletic: Messi and Martinez criticise ‘useless’ referee after Argentina’s win over Netherlands
Aljazeera – ‘Joy, sadness’: Football unites Argentina during World Cup 2022

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the remaining eight teams shape up

“We cast our eye over the quarter-finalists’ key strengths and assess who is most likely to lift the trophy in Qatar. 1 – Brazil.  The Seleção are in full flight and, as you may have heard, enjoying themselves in the process. Their first-half evisceration of South Korea felt like a throwback, moments such as Richarlison’s seal impression offering reminders of those days when nobody could rival Brazil for sheer fun. Even without Gabriel Jesus they retain a depth of attacking talent few can match, partly thanks to Neymar’s Lazarus-like recovery from injury. …”
Guardian

The cult of Lionel Messi: From the pitch, to Buenos Aires, to the pilgrims of Doha

“… Lionel Messi could have been in the stands. He rhythmically threw his hands up in the air and sang with the fans behind the goal, as if he were one of them at the Ahmad bin Ali stadium, a smile breaking through his red beard.  After a fortnight of carrying the cross on his shoulders, Argentina’s messiah appeared ecstatic and unburdened. He spent a long time after the final whistle communing with his team-mates and his people. The players doused each other in water, bouncing arm-in-arm, joining the fans in concert. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: This is how you can stop Lionel Messi

Argentina 2-1 Australia: Messi scores in 1,000th game and big Martinez save denies Kuol


Lionel Messi scored on his 1,000th career appearance to put Argentina in the driving seat against Australia, and Julian Alvarez added a second, but Lionel Scaloni’s side were pushed all the way in the second half. A deflected effort by Craig Goodwin reduced the deficit and future Newcastle United player Garang Kuol forced an excellent save from the Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the dying moments of the game. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: How Argentina Escaped Australia’s Last-Ditch Rally to Advance to Quarterfinals
Aljazeera:
Guardian: Socceroos push Argentina all the way and exit World Cup as Australian heroes

Argentina 2-0 Poland: Messi’s role, Szczesny penalty save and goal difference drama


Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stages of the World Cup despite losing 2-0 to goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez after a thrilling end to Group C. For much of the final 20 minutes, Poland were going through courtesy of a better disciplinary record than third-placed Mexico, with whom they finished level on points and goals scored, and had the same head-to-head record after drawing 0-0 in their opening game. Mexico had seven bookings in the group stage, compared to Poland’s five. …”
The Athletic

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

Ronaldo, Messi, and the World Cup As a Bad Barometer for Evaluating Legacy

“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves the two defining stars of their generation and the confounding question of legacy. …”
The Ringer

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?

The Radar – The Athletic’s 2022 World Cup scouting guide


“Welcome to The Radar — the World Cup edition. Last year, for Euro 2020, we profiled 60 players that people were talking about — or would be by the end of the competition. Thirty-four of those players have since moved club. More teams means more players, so for the World Cup we’ve upped that to 100. The result is below, a carefully crafted guide to some of the best footballers on show in Qatar listed alphabetically by country — the heavyweight names, the rising stars and the under-the-radar players who could be coming to an elite club near you. …”
The Athletic

Lionel Messi, Here & Gone

“In the imagination of guidebook writers, who see places as they should be but rarely as they are, there is a passionate love affair between the city of Rosario and its famous progeny, global soccer star Leo Messi. … He’d agreed to help me act on my obsession with Messi, who is one of the world’s most famous athletes, and most unknowable, the combination of which sucked me in. I’d been reading everything I could find, watching internet videos of him scoring one ridiculous goal after another for Barcelona. …”
ESPN

From Kudus to Gavi: eight players ready to break through at World Cup Federico Valverde, Gavi, and Rafael Leão.

“We pick the young stars well placed to shine in Qatar, ranging from Milan’s Rafael Leão to Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo. … Rafael Leão (Portugal). A product of the Sporting academy, the attacker has become one of the most feared forwards in Serie A, helping Milan to their first title in 11 years last season and gaining a place in the league’s team of the year. In addition to height, the 23-year-old possesses plenty of pace and is often utilised on the flanks by Stefano Pioli. Leão is as adept at creating as he is scoring, making him a threat whether out wide or down the middle. …”
Guardian

Mapping out Brazil’s Potential Route to the World Cup Final

“What if Brazil’s preparation for the 2006 World Cup in Germany had been more intense? What if Felipe Melo hadn’t received a red card in 2010? What if Neymar hadn’t been injured ahead of the semi-final in 2014? What if Thibaut Courtois hadn’t saved that shot from Renato Augusto in 2018? Brazil supporters are always looking back at the past, imagining a scenario where the Seleção have already won their sixth World Cup title. But now, with the help of our tournament simulator model, we can estimate the probabilities of the ‘Hexa‘ happening in Qatar 2022. …’
The Analyst

World Cup 2022 Group C guide: Argentina’s fast starts, ageing Mexico and possession-shy Poland


“What tactics do Argentina use? What is Mexico’s weakness? Which quirk should we look out for from Poland? The 2022 World Cup is nearly upon us and The Athletic will be running in-depth tactical group guides so you will know what to expect from every nation competing in Qatar. Liam Tharme will look at each team’s playing style, strengths, weaknesses and key players, and highlight things to keep an eye on during the tournament. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup 2022 Groups: The Predictions


“The 2022 World Cup is finally here, with the tournament in Qatar being the first held in the months of November and December since the first World Cup finals in 1930. The 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup tournament will see 32 teams battle it out in the group stage after qualifying via five different regions – Asia, Africa, South America, North America/Central America and Europe (no nation from Oceania qualified). From there, 16 will make it through to the knockout stages. …”
The Analyst

World Cup 2022 team guides part 9: Argentina

“This is the first time Argentina arrive at a World Cup in peace. Excited, yes, but also calm. The greatest strength is the team’s collectiveness, the fact that everyone works hard for each other and that has been highlighted again and again over the past four years. Everyone in the team – in the squad in fact – knows their role: this is a well-oiled machine. The current cycle began towards the end of 2018 after Jorge Sampaoli’s disastrous spell in charge, which included a last-16 exit from the Russia World Cup and off- and on-field problems. Lionel Scaloni, who had been an assistant to Sampaoli, took over on an interim basis – together with Pablo Aimar – and the former Deportivo La Coruña and Lazio player never looked back. …”
Guardian

The Curious Case of the World Cup Catfish

“Many of us have had that experience where we have been anticipating a film for many months, one whose cast and director are so good that it simply cannot fail, only to realize that, within the movie’s first few scenes, we are in for an epic disappointment. By the time we shuffle away from the cinema or forlornly fold our laptops closed, we are overwhelmed by that unique feeling: the ache of unsatisfying art. In extreme cases, our ache also carries a sense of betrayal: You promised us a rousing, soaring spectacle, and yet you presented us with something so different from and so far beneath our expectations. How could you? You catfished us. …”
The Ringer (Video)

World Cup provisional squads explained: What are the rules and will they be made public?


“A month from today, it all begins. The World Cup in Qatar looms ever larger on the horizon and the countdown is on to the first of 64 games that will crown a winner at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, December 18. Doubts persist over the suitability of Qatar to host this World Cup, as well as its readiness to welcome more than one million visitors, but the biggest names in football are about to descend on a tiny Gulf nation that’s half the size of Wales and roughly as big as the US state of Connecticut. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst: World Cup 2022 Guide to Each Group

Football and Politics in South America

“Published in 1995 as part of Verso’s series of Critical Studies in Latin American and Iberian Culture, Tony Mason’s Passion of the People? Football in South America examines the centrality of the game to cultural life in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay over the course of the twentieth century. In the excerpt below, Mason reviews the points of contact between professional football and the state, with a particular emphasis on Argentina and Brazil. …”
Verso

World Cup 2022 news round-up: Nkunku and Lewandowski shine as Argentina put faith in Scaloni

“Club football is back and with fewer than 50 days for players to find form and fitness before the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Leandro Trossard of Belgium and USA forward Ricardo Pepi laid down a marker at the weekend. Off the pitch, coaches are already being rewarded before the tournament kicks off with Wales extending Rob Page’s contract and Argentina set to keep Lionel Scaloni as head coach until the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go

“With most teams having played their final matches before the tournament in Qatar, who appear most likely to lift the trophy? …”
Guardian

Against all odds, Lionel Messi has one last shot at World Cup glory with Argentina

“Argentina went to Russia in 2018 with a sense it was now or never. They had lost in the final of the previous World Cup. A great generation of attacking talent was ageing. Lionel Messi was 31 and two years earlier had flirted with international retirement after a second successive Copa América final defeat to Chile. And at last the Argentinian Football Association had managed to appoint, in Jorge Sampaoli, a dynamic and progressive coach who promised to restore the days of Bielsista optimism. Messi scored one brilliant goal, against Nigeria and there was a spirited exit against France in the last 16, but the last World Cup was a huge disappointment. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

The Surprising Names at Risk of Missing the Flight to Qatar 2022

“We’re currently 67 days away from the first ball being kicked at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and as we approach the first ever World Cup to be staged in winter rather than summer, players have less time and more pressure to impress their respective international managers. Some players have an almost guaranteed spot in their national teams regardless of their seasons – think Harry Kane and Achraf Hakimi. Others don’t have such a luxury and have a constant point to prove when they step out to play. Those are the players we’ll delve into in this article: players with a point to prove to be part of the travelling pack who jet off to Qatar in mid-November. …”
Football Paradise

Dennis Bergkamp, the Non-Flying Dutchman Who Reimagined Space and Time


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Dennis Bergkamp at the 1998 World Cup in France. …”
The Ringer (Audio/Video)

The Myth of South America

South America has produced some of the greatest ever players in football history. Many South American players have played for the best teams in the game. But rarely do players make a move directly from South America to elite-level clubs. But why? As Jon Mackenzie explains most players need a stepping stone club to take them to the next level. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.
YouTube

‘22 Goals’: Ronaldo, 2002 World Cup Final in Japan


“As the 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup approaches in November 2022, The Ringer introduces 22 Goals, a podcast by Brian Phillips about the most iconic goals scored in the history of the World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves the ‘original’ Ronaldo from the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. …”
The Ringer (Audio)
The Ringer – ‘22 Goals’: Diego Maradona, 1986 World Cup in Mexico (Audio)

About That Game: England 2-2 Argentina (1998)


“International football rivalries are rarely intercontinental, but the ill-feeling between Argentina and England is an exception. The rivalry emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, partly due to the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, but also on the pitch thanks to controversial World Cup meetings between the two sides in 1966 and 1986. This meeting in 1998 certainly didn’t help to heal the rift. …”
The Analyst (Video)

2022 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 32-team Group Stage.


“… The group stage, consisting of 6 match-weeks, will last 8 weeks. … Teams are shown in the two flanking sections on either side of the map, organized by country. Shown there in the country-groupings are each team’s all-time total Libertadores appearances (in the tan-colored column), and Libertadores titles (in the pale-blue-colored column). At the far left of the map-page is the Libertadores titles list by club (25 clubs have won a Libertadores title). At the far right is the Libertadores titles list by country (of the 62 Libertadores titles, 25 have been won by Argentine teams, and 21 have been won by Brazilian teams). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2022 Copa Libertadores group stage
Copa Libertadores

The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)

The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind

Lionel Messi and Argentina look in harmony with World Cup dream alive


“Argentina’s last home game before the World Cup turned into an unexpected love-in at La Bombonera on Friday. The penultimate qualifier for the already qualified nation (they play Ecuador away in their last fixture) became the emotional send-off that is usually organised with that specific purpose but which the new calendar means will be impossible at a later point in the year. Asked after the game about his future with the national team post-Qatar, Lionel Messi replied with a ‘who knows’, so potentially this was his last appearance on Argentinian soil wearing the oversized Argentinian strip, which ironically feels too small for him, at least in official competition. …”
Guardian

2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations

2022 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 47-team tournament, with Club Histories


“This map includes the Preliminary-Stage teams: there are 19 preliminary-stage teams…and only four of those 19 teams will advance to the Group Stage. … The first of 3 Preliminary stages start on 8th & 9th February, 2022 Copa Libertadores, Qualifying stages. The Group Stage starts on 5th-through-7th April. The draw for the Group Stage is on the 23rd of March. 2022 Copa Libertadores, Group Stage. Qualified teams by country: •Brazil has 9 teams (7 + Copa Libertadores holder + Copa Sudamericana holder). •Argentina has 6 teams. •The eight other countries all have 4 teams each, in the tournament (Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela). …”
billsportsmaps

Tears at La Bombonera: Stories from a Six-Year Sojourn in South America


Tears at La Bombonera is author Christopher Hylland’s six-year journey living, working, and traveling through South America—where soccer, called football, is a way of life. From Buenos Aires to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and back again, Hylland experiences the history and fanaticism at some of South America’s football clubs along the way. Football is a global language, and he shares the stories and experiences from the terraces. It’s a place where what happens on the pitch can rank low in terms of quality, but means so much off of it; where everything else, most notably the culture of the game, is unrivaled. Hundreds of thousands of football-mad visitors flock to South America every season. To the iconic stadia such as La Bombonera and Maracanã; to lower division teams in the shadows of some of the world’s poorest slums and favelas. Tears at La Bombonera is a book rich in human interest, including the author’s own personal experience of adapting to a new continent and way of life.”
Goodreads
amazon

History of Boca Juniors


Boca Juniors 1919
“Origins of Argentine sports club Boca Juniors can be traced to the early 1900s, when a group of Italian immigrants decided to establish a football club in Buenos Aires. They were descendants from the first Italian (most of them from the city of Genoa) that had set in La Boca during the late 19th century. Because of that, the nickname Xeneizes is a derivative form of ‘Genoveses’ (in Spanish, it refers to people from Genoa). During the first years of its existence, the club developed a strong rivalry with then neighbor team River Plate, that would continue through the years, despite River Plate soon left La Boca to establish itself in Belgrano. In the 20th century, Boca consolidated as one of the most popular and successful clubs in Argentina, giving its first step in 1913 when the team promoted to Primera División. …”
Wikipedia
amazon: Blue & Gold Passion: A History of Boca Juniors
YouTube: History of Boca Juniors – Club Atlético Boca Juniors.

Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times