For all the ills of the world, World Cup 2018 showed that a bit of football done right can make the planet smile

July 17, 2018

“Monday morning dawns with a grim and crushing inevitability. Unless you’re peeling yourself off a Paris pavement, or drowning your sorrows in a Dubrovnik dive bar, the 2018 World Cup is over. As a month of sporting hedonism slips from present tense to past, real life and its hard borders re-sharpen their focus, bringing with them a cruel reckoning. It was only football, after all. It felt like more than that when Kylian Mbappe was burning through opposition defenders, or Lionel Messi was fighting back the tide, or Russia and South Korea were pulling off the unfeasible, or when England’s town squares throbbed with rasping songs and nervous tension and the prickly spines of a faint dream. But no: ultimately, it was only football, no more and no less.” Independent


France’s Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

July 10, 2018

“France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.” FiveThirtyEight


England vs Colombia, World Cup 2018: Drop in performance raises question about Gareth Southgate’s tactical nous

July 4, 2018


“England finally ended their abysmal run in penalty shoot-outs with their second-round victory over Colombia, but a dramatic drop in performance towards the end of normal time raises a question about Gareth Southgate’s ability to influence matches tactically. Jose Pekerman spring a surprise with his team selection. Having previously used a 4-2-3-1 and experimented with a 4-3-3 in training, this was actually more of a midfield diamond. With James Rodriguez out, Juan Quintero played as the number 10, with Radamel Falcao upfront to the left, and Juan Cuadrado playing in a right-sided forward role. Quintero pushed forward to press England’s centre-backs three-against-three, but Pekerman’s approach was basically about keeping things tight in deeper positions, and guarding against England’s midfield runners.” Independent – Michael Cox

England’s unique 3-3-2-2 formation could cause Colombia headaches
“For all the optimism about Gareth Southgate’s side and their chances of winning the World Cup, it’s so often this stage — the first knockout round of a major tournament — in which England collapse. This is usually because England have appeared unprepared for the opposition’s approach, or at least too inflexible to guard against it. Germany’s counter-attacking speed wasn’t nullified in 2010. Andrea Pirlo’s deep-lying playmaking skills weren’t shut down in 2012. Iceland’s long throw proved fatal in 2016. Tactical naivety has constantly been England’s main problem.” ESPN – Michael Cox


World Cup 2018: Analysing the tactical flaws England will look to exploit against Colombia in the Round of 16

June 29, 2018


“If it remains difficult to judge England’s level of ability, after two victories against below-par opposition and a defeat with a second-string XI, something similar can be said of Colombia for very different reasons. Jose Pekerman’s side have blown hot and cold, with a fine 3-0 win over Poland sandwiched by a 2-1 defeat to Japan and a nervy 1-0 win over Senegal yesterday. The Japan loss was influenced heavily by the fact Colombia were down to ten men for almost the entire contest, and the Senegal performance was compromised by star man James Rodriguez clearly being unfit, lasting just half an hour. It seems unlikely he’ll be fit to start against England, and certainly won’t be 100% fit.” Independent – Michael Cox


Colombia Emerges From the World Cup Chaos, Booting Senegal

June 29, 2018

“After all that, after all the qualification and buildup, after six hard-fought matches and injuries and hand-wringing, it all came down to yellow cards. Just like Japan, Senegal won once, tied once, and lost once — falling by 1-0 to Colombia on Thursday after giving up a goal to Yerry Mina — but it will be the Japanese advancing to the knockout phase by virtue of having only three yellow cards, while Senegal had five.” NY Times


Made in Argentina, and Now Coaching Everywhere at the World Cup

June 28, 2018


“For a while, even after he had embarked on his coaching career, José Pékerman refused to give up his taxi. He had driven the little Renault 12, given to him by his brother, for four years, after an injury had forced him to retire as a player but before he started work in the youth system at the Buenos Aires club Estudiantes. In those early days, Pékerman often arrived for training sessions in the car he had painted yellow and black himself. Coaching was his ambition, and he quickly showed he had a gift for it, but he was reluctant to part with the taxi. It was his guarantee that he could support his family, his safety net. In Argentine soccer, he knew he could never be certain when he might need it.” NY Times


World Cup Group Stage Ends With All Eyes on Fair Play, Unusual Battle for First

June 28, 2018

“Day 15 of World Cup 2018 saw the end of the group stage and another dramatic set of simultaneous group finales. Colombia and Japan advanced and Senegal was out in Group H after fair-play points was used a tiebreaker favoring the Japanese. And in Group G, Belgium beat England 1-0 to win the group and advance to the tougher side of the knockout bracket, while Tunisia exited on a high note, coming from behind to beat Panama 2-1.” SI


Colombia Dazzles Us Again, England Overwhelms in Big World Cup Wins

June 24, 2018


“Day 11 of World Cup 2018 is done, and the goals came by the bucketload. England rained them down on Panama in a 6-1 victory highlighted by Harry Kane’s hat trick. Japan came from behind twice against Senegal in a fun 2-2 tie marked by inventive goals and goalkeeper errors. And Colombia kicked a disappointing Poland out of the tournament with a 3-0 victory that brought back memories of Colombia teams from 2014 and the early 1990s. With each team having played two matches, only six have booked their round-of-16 places, while another eight have been eliminated, leaving plenty of drama to be settled in the coming four days.” SI


Russia Continues to Surprise, While Japan, Senegal Earn Landmark World Cup Wins

June 19, 2018


“Day 6 of World Cup 2018 is done, headlined by Russia’s 3-1 thrashing of Egypt, which gives the host nation six points and brings it to the cusp of a place in the knockout stage. The headliner was preceded by a pair of notable victories: Japan’s historic 2-1 win over Colombia (for reasons explained below), and Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland, which was the first victory by an African team in the tournament. Every nation has now played at least once in Russia, where there has yet to be a scoreless draw, though there have been five own goals and a number of VAR interventions.” SI


A World Cup Sleeper May Be Lurking In Group H

June 14, 2018

“Group H is potentially the most interesting in Russia this summer. While the average group difference in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index score between the best and worst teams is about 25, Senegal’s SPI rating of 66.0 is only 14.5 points lower than Colombia’s 80.5. Poland (73.3) and Japan (71.4) are rated very similarly in the middle of the group. On top of this, the teams are filled with exciting attacking players from Europe’s strongest leagues: Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Colombia’s James Rodríguez (Bayern Munich), Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and Senegal’s Sadio Mané (Liverpool) will all be battling to make an impression on the world’s biggest stage.” FiveThirtyEight


Who’s the Best No. 10 at the World Cup?

June 9, 2018


“In Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes the symbolism of the no. 10 as “the ‘free-spirited epitome of the artistry of soccer.’ And while free-spirits have become fewer and farther between as more money’s been poured into the game and managers have systematized their tactics, the no. 10 is still typically given to the most creative player on the team. Or, in Poland or Nigeria’s case, it’s given to a defensive midfielder best known for his ability to make tackles and pass the ball sideways. But each team has its reasons, and so with all of the World Cup squad lists now officially released, we each ranked all the nos. 10 set to play in Russia this summer, tallied the results, and came out with the following list. No. 1 is obvious, but that’s about the only spot we came close to agreeing on. Yes, someone, who shall remain nameless out of our sheer fear for his safety, didn’t put Lionel Messi first.” The Ringer


World Cup groups A-D preview – Football Weekly

June 9, 2018

“Max Rushden is joined by voices from around the world to preview World Cup groups A-D, including Danish royalty, Peruvian vigour and the prospect of a tournament without a French meltdown.” Guardian (Audio)


Your complete guide to all 736 players at the 2018 World Cup

June 7, 2018

“Biographies of every player in all 32 squads in Russia, including caps, goals, nicknames, hobbies and, once the tournament starts, ratings for every performance. We strive to give you an unbiased, trustworthy and in-depth view of the world’s most prestigious football tournament. If you think that’s worth something, then you can support The Guardian from as little as £1 – and it only takes a minute.” Guardian


Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup? SI’s Expert Predictions and Knockout Brackets

June 4, 2018


“The World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow with a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field, which, in some ways, is quite appropriate. The competition is meant to be a crescendo, one whose drama and defining moments don’t occur until the very end. With the way the draw and schedule worked out, that’s precisely how Russia 2018 is shaping up to play out. Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be a massive 90 minutes for the host nation, which can set its tone for the tournament in front of its partisan crowd. But once it’s over, the focus will shift to the traditional powers and the individual superstars who figure to have plenty of say in determining the 2018 world champion. …” SI


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: A tale of two Colombians

June 2, 2018


“When Colombia sealed their place in Russia last October, Edwin Cardona must have thought his World Cup presence was guaranteed. The 25-year-old attacking midfielder had been part of the team throughout the qualification process. He only missed three of the 18 rounds, starting eight matches and coming off the bench in seven. He contributed three goals – all of them important, making him the team’s joint second top scorer. His capacity to shoot from range looked set to make him one of Colombia’s main attacking threats in Russia. …” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


World Cup 2018 team previews: what you need to know about all 32 teams (ESPN)

May 25, 2018


“The 2018 World Cup might be missing some big nations, but that’s what makes this tournament the best in sports. Brazil are looking to bounce back from a travesty in 2014, while Spain, Argentina and France are hoping to dethrone defending champions Germany and their typically deep squad. Can Belgium or Portugal make a splash? Do England have what it takes to challenge too? ESPN FC is previewing every team ahead of the opening game on June 14 in English, Spanish and Portuguese to give a truly global feel to our team profiles. Here’s what you need to know about the 32 teams set to do battle in Russia beginning on June 14. …”
ESPN


2018 FIFA World Cup

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018, after the country was awarded the hosting rights on 2 December 2010. This will be the first World Cup held in Europe since the 2006 tournament in Germany, and the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe. All of the stadium venues are in European Russia, to keep travel time manageable. The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities. The final will take place on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. …” Wikipedia


World Cup 2018 squad guide: Latest news and updates ahead of Russia (Independent)

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 World Cup is now only weeks away. The 32 countries have until the May 14 deadline to name their provisional squads for Russia with managers all over the globe currently scratching their heads as they bid to whittle down their long list of possibles and probables in time for the final June 4 cut off, just 10 days before the opener in Moscow. However, many teams – England included, – have already pledged to name their lucky few earlier with Gareth Southgate set to pick his 23 before the final pre-tournament friendlies with Nigeria and Costa Rica. …” Independent (Video)


Lessons from Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Disaster

May 23, 2018

“… The extraordinary story of the next few weeks is essentially one of what happened to this confidence – ebbing away bit by bit until one scarcely believable afternoon in Belo Horizonte brought about a candidate for the most amazing result in World Cup history. Brazil prepared with a routine 4-0 win over Panama, followed by a laboured single goal triumph against Serbia. There was no cause for alarm. This was merely the warm up phase in a competition that usually goes to the side that peaks at the right time. …” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


World Cup 2018 groups: Your complete guide to the teams

April 5, 2018

“The World Cup draw is done and dusted with England drawn against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Here is your guide to the eight groups for the 2018 World Cup…” Telegraph


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Venezuelans battle against the weight of history

March 13, 2018

“If Tottenham came close to glory before blowing the chance last week, then a club from Venezuela came even closer. Last Thursday Mineros were at home to Nacional of Paraguay in the second leg of their clash in the Sudamericana Cup, the Europa League equivalent. The game in Asuncion had finished goalless, and the same thing happened in Puerto Ordaz. The tie went to penalties. After three rounds, Mineros led 3-1. They could hardly be closer to a place in the next round. One successful penalty from their last two, or one more failure to convert from Nacional, and the Venezuelans would be through. The stadium was ready to celebrate. And then, one by one, the chances went begging. After two consecutive Mineros misses, and two consecutive Nacional successes, the scores were level at 3-3. Sudden death ensued. Mineros missed, Nacional scored and the Paraguayans were the ones doing the celebrating….” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


Uruguay get the luck of the World Cup draw

December 6, 2017

“Both Brazil and Argentina were hoping that last Friday’s World Cup draw would put them in Group B. From a logistical point of view, it would have been the best bet; not a great deal of travelling during the group phase, and, for the group winner, an entire knock out campaign restricted to Moscow and Sochi – perfect for teams who aim to be based in Sochi (Brazil) and just outside Moscow (Argentina). …” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


Applause at the Draw, but Will Russia Keep Cheering?

December 3, 2017


“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis


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


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)


Global Series | Top 10 South American Players of 2015: Alexis, Neymar and Suarez feature

December 19, 2016

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“1. LIONEL MESSI No real prize for guessing the occupant of this position. Messi stakes his claim this season as not just the best of South America, but also the best of the world. There were noises last season about Messi disagreeing with Enrique and having a training ground bust up with the manager, but he turned it all around after a point, and an incredible send half of the season saw him lead Barcelona to glory in 3 competitions.” Outside of the Boot


First Look: Argentina vs. Chile in Copa America final rematch

June 23, 2016

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“The Copa America final is set, and it’s a familiar one. Argentina and Chile will vie for the Copa America title for a second straight summer after each easily dispatched its semifinal opponent. Argentina overran the USA in a 4-0 result on Tuesday night, while Chile blitzed Colombia out of gate, picking up where it left off in the quarterfinal against Mexico and advancing after a weather-delayed 2-0 win.  In addition to meeting in last year’s final, which Chile won on penalty kicks, the two sides engaged in one of the more entertaining games of this Copa America, opening group play against one another. Argentina prevailed, 2-1, with Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega scoring and assisting for each other before Chile nicked one in the last minute.” SI


Cristian Cueva a symbol of Peru’s frailty after defeat to Colombia?

June 19, 2016

“Peru so nearly snatched a win in their Copa America quarterfinal right at the end. Colombia were rattled and frustrated when Christian Ramos met a corner from the right with a header that forced a fine save from Colombia keeper David Ospina. The absence of extra time in these games favours the weaker side, the one less inclined to take the initiative, and the clock had been ticking down, with Colombia looking less and less likely to break the deadlock. Then came Ramos’ chance — clawed away by the Arsenal stopper.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


After winning Copa group, USA has chance to prove knockout chops

June 12, 2016

“Now a new Copa América begins for the United States. The U.S. has persevered through the group stage, shaking off an opening loss to Colombia and winning twice against Costa Rica and Paraguay to reach the knockout rounds of another major tournament, even winning the group with a late helping hand from Los Ticos.” SI (Video)

U.S. Advances to Copa América Quarterfinals After Surviving an Ejection
“The United States knew the Copa América math days before it took the field against Paraguay on Saturday. A win or a tie would mean advancement to the quarterfinals. A loss would mean elimination. It was the solution to that problem that was surprising: 10 men and one goal equaled a second life. Riding a first-half goal by Clint Dempsey and overcoming the second-half ejection of defender DeAndre Yedlin, the United States held off Paraguay, 1-0, to seal its place in the quarterfinals later this week. Instead of the Americans’ facing the ignominy of a first-round exit, it was the Paraguayans heading home.” NY Times


Show Your Copa Colors

June 6, 2016

“The 100th edition of the Copa America hits U.S. shores from June 3 to June 26, and all 16 nations from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL will be sporting some slick new kits. Check out their home/away looks and download your favorites.” ESPN


U.S. must rebound after falling to Colombia in Copa opener

June 6, 2016

“It was a pick play in the box. Nothing too complicated. Geoff Cameron said afterward that he sees them “fairly often” in the Premier League. On a Colombia corner kick in the eighth minute of the U.S.’s Copa América Centenario opener, Daniel Torres set a screen in the area. Cristián Zapata looped around it like a basketball player running a curl play, and the small amount of space it created between Zapata and Cameron allowed the Colombian to fire home a volley that put the U.S. on its heels right from the start. … After the U.S.’s 2-0 loss, in which Colombia scored on a corner kick and a penalty kick, Cameron couldn’t hide his frustration that a solid performance by the U.S. back line was marred by a couple decisive moments, including the pick in the box.” SI (Video)


Copa América 2016: Who’s In, Who’s Hurt and Who Could Win It

June 4, 2016

“The Copa América Centenario, born in scandal and saved only by the promise of better behavior (and the presence of some pretty good soccer teams), kicks off Friday night when the United States faces Colombia in Santa Clara, Calif. The 16-team event is being played outside South America for the first time as a celebration of its 100th anniversary, and while a handful of top players have been left out or ruled out by injury, there is plenty left in the cupboard, including four of the eight quarterfinalists from the last World Cup. Here’s what you need to know before the tournament begins.” NY Times


Copa America 2016: 10 Young Player to Watch

June 4, 2016

“As the centenary version of the Copa America gets set to kick off this Friday, we here at Outside of the Boot are excited to present this list, featuring ten youngsters (22 and under at the start of the tournament) who could play an important role over the coming month. Admittedly, this isn’t the best tournament for young players, as several intriguing players (Paulo Dybala, most notably) weren’t selected while a handful of others (Jesus Manuel Corona, John Brooks) narrowly miss the age cut-off. Nevertheless, much as the likes of Derlis Gonzalez and Romel Quinonez impressed last summer, seemingly from out of nowhere, there are sure to be a few breakout stars this summer.” Outside of the Boot


SI’s Copa America Centenario picks

May 31, 2016

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“Copa America Centenario is a unique competition, one that pits South America’s 10 sides against each other and some of the best CONCACAF has to offer. Despite some of the stars who won’t be participating this summer–namely Neymar–and some of the nations who missed out, this is as close as it gets to a World Cup-style competition reserved for the Western Hemisphere. With that said, there can only be one winner. Argentina is out to end a trophy drought that is in its third decade. Mexico is out to make a statement against its South American foes. The U.S. is out to achieve material success under Jurgen Klinsmann for the first time since the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.” SI

Copa America Centenario group previews

Chicharito has been loved, hated and loved again
“HE’S THE FIRST player out of the clubhouse. The Mexican reporters are unprepared, chatting with each other behind the metal barricade. They turn their heads when the door scrapes open, lunging for their microphones. A camera stand nearly topples. Javier Hernandez is small and slight. At 28, his body seems barely removed from boyhood. Yet even in an unadorned black tracksuit, charisma flies off him like sweat off a boxer. As he strides through the mixed zone underneath Vancouver’s BC Place, someone calls his nickname: ‘Chicharito! Hey, Chicharito!'” ESPN

Copa America Centenario – News


Top South American clubs launch Liga Sudamericana to challenge disgraced CONMEBOL

January 25, 2016

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“Last week, 15 of South America’s top soccer clubs got together in Montevideo, Uruguay, and decided to create an organization named Liga Sudamericana, or the ‘South American League’ (as in ‘League of Nations,’ not ‘Premier League’). And even though the organization has no clear leadership yet, it does have a clear purpose: to shift the power balance from CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, to clubs looking to depend less and less on the discredited continental confederation for their earnings.” Fusion


Deportivo Cali: Colombia’s Cantera de Oro

December 28, 2015

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“It may sound like a truism but South American football usually finds itself adopting a short term mentality. With many clubs steeped in debt, the fragile state of their finances means that squads are dismantled after any success and young stars are whisked away at an increasingly early age. The gulf between South America teams and Europe is bigger than ever and shows no sign of reducing any time soon.’ Outside of the Boot


Global Series | Top 10 South American Players of 2015: Alexis, Neymar and Suarez feature

December 21, 2015

“In this new annual feature, we at Outside of the Boot aim to unearth the best performing footballers from each of the 5 primary Confederations in the past calendar year. Rather than do the work ourselves, we had the bright idea of crowd-sourcing the answers and the football-sphere has spoken with its votes. Drum roll please. And the winners of Global Series: South America is…” Outside of the Boot


Lucas Biglia scores to give Argentina first WCQ win over Colombia

November 18, 2015

“Argentina claimed their first win in 2018 World Cup qualifying against Colombia at the Metropolitano Roberto Melendez stadium. Lucas Biglia’s first-half strike was enough to give the Albiceleste a 1-0 triumph — their first win at the fourth time of asking on the road to Russia. It was also only their second goal in four games, but that result now catapults Argentina up to fourth and back into contention in the fledgling campaign.” ESPN


Derlis Gonzalez, David Ospina and more – 4 Players who defined the Copa America 2015 quarters

June 30, 2015

“Brazil’s ousting in the quarter-final stage was the talking point, but Peru’s run along-with Chile’s impressive showing has kept enthusiasts intrigued. Though Argentina remain as favourites with online sports betting at Sportsbook.ag, it may not be as simple to call these games. Paraguay too who eliminated Brazil for the second successive Copa America, have shown they aren’t to be overlooked. Finley Crebolder picks his four players that defined the quarter-final stage, a stage that has left us with two enticing fixtures.” Outside of the Boot


Argentina outlasts Colombia in PKs in heart-stopping Copa quarterfinal

June 27, 2015

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“The bare facts are that Argentina reached the semifinals of the Copa America, defeating Colombia in penalty kicks (5–4) after a goalless draw, but that hardly tells the full story of the match. It had been an astonishing game, which Argentina had dominated almost from start to finish without being able to score. David Ospina, the Colombia goalkeeper, made a number of fine saves, chances were missed, the woodwork was struck twice and, even when Carlos Tevez got by all those obstacles with two minutes to go, Jeison Murillo was on hand to hook the ball clear.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


James Rodríguez irked at Copa América, a year on from World Cup wonder goal

June 27, 2015

“On Sunday, it will be a year since James Rodríguez scored the goal against Uruguay that, emblematically at least, confirmed his talent. His performances for Porto and Monaco had marked him out as a player of great potential and the rumours linking him with a move to Real Madrid were well-established, but it was his sumptuous chest and volley against Uruguay in the last 16 of the World Cup that provided the image of his brilliance, a shorthand for what he is capable of.” Guardian


A Guide to Copa America, in Queens

June 24, 2015

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El Gauchito, 94-60 Corona Ave in Queens.
“Copa América, the South American soccer championship, is in its third week in Chile, and has given the world everything it could handle from a tournament: dramatic comebacks, shocking suspensions, all-out scoring feasts, and acts of idiocy and manslaughter off the pitch. Now, after the end of the group stages, eight of the original 12 teams remain, and they will begin the direct elimination rounds today. There is still plenty of action to catch—with some potential classic matchups coming up—and as we wrote during the World Cup, there is no finer place to watch international soccer than New York City. So if you aren’t able to make your way over to Chile, your next best shot at living the fever of South American soccer is right here, in the almost impossibly diverse borough of Queens. From Astoria to Sunnyside, bars, bakeries and butcher shops are turning their establishments into prime viewing spots. Here are the upcoming matches and the best places to catch them with diehard fans from each country.” ROADS & KINGDOMS

Uruguay have the history to hit Copa América heights against Chile
“Chile have scored more than twice as many goals as anybody else in this Copa América. They will be playing at home in front of 40,000 red-shirted fans. They have played with a verve and a fluidity nobody else in this tournament has matched and, if anything, Arturo Vidal’s drink-driving charge, which could have been a destabilising influence, seems to have given them an enhanced sense of purpose. Uruguay scraped through their group in third place, having scored only two goals. Other sides in their position might have approached Wednesday night’s quarter-final like lambs to the slaughter but not Óscar Washington Tabárez’s team. This is the sort of situation Uruguay have traditionally relished.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Copa America: Group C’s key tactical system, game-changing performance, and best young player
“Group C has easily been the Copa America’s most engaging, as shock wins by Venezuela and Colombia saw all four teams level on points entering the final match day. With a resurgent Thiago Silva leading Brazil to victory over Venezuela to top the group, the final placing may not seem like much of a surprise. However, with Brazil needing a last-minute winner to beat Peru, Neymar’s suspension, and a host of strong defensive performances, many from unsung, domestically based players, these six games provided us with multitudes of knife-edge tension. As the three survivors lick their wounds ahead of the quarterfinals, here is a brief look back at some of the keys to the way things played out.” Outside of the Boot

Copa America quarterfinals: Argentina and Brazil face tense challenges
Chile vs. Uruguay. All the momentum is with Chile, but all the history is with Uruguay. The hosts have looked to be far and away the best team in this tournament so far, scoring twice as many goals as everybody else, but Uruguay have by far the best record in spoiling such house parties. On the past three occasions that the latter have met the home team — Argentina 2011, Venezuela 2007 and Paraguay 1999 — they have eliminated them. That’s all the more relevant here because it reflects just how good the Uruguayans are at digging in and disrupting more exciting and excitable sides. Oscar Tabarez’s current side are experts at that, and abnormally difficult to beat. … ” ESPN


The Copa America heats up now for Chile

June 22, 2015


“These days, the Copa America tournament serves as a warm-up for the qualifiers. Of course, once the Copa kicks off, everyone wants to win. There is always pressure on Brazil and Argentina to go home with the trophy, and that is especially true this year, with La Albiceleste waiting for a senior title since 1993 and Brazil anxious to cover up that huge stain on the carpet left by its performance in the World Cup. The focus of most coaches, though, is firmly on preparing a team for the World Cup qualifiers. More than anything else, the Copa America is about the host, which really wants to put on a show in front of its own public. And that, too, is especially true this year, with Chile gunning for a maiden continental title. As expected, there has never been a dull moment during Chile’s group phase. Indeed, there was more incident than anyone had bargained for.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Tactical Analysis: Brazil 0-1 Colombia | Colombia’s counter-press proves effective as Dunga’s men finally lose

June 22, 2015

“Brazil entered this heavyweight clash in Santiago brimming with confidence and seeking their 13th straight win since manager Dunga was reinstated. After narrowly edging past minnows Peru thanks to Neymar’s brilliance, Brazil topped the group going into this game. However, a much better performance was required if they were to overcome the threat of Colombia, desperately needing victory to avoid elimination from the tournament. With world-class attacking talents such as Neymar, James Rodriguez and Falcao on display and Colombia’s survival in the competition on the line, this had all the makings of a memorable game and was one that would have been worthy to grace the final. Alas, excluding the post-match brawl, this was anything but a memorable game mainly due to Brazil’s awful decision making in the attacking phase and an over-reliance on Neymar as well as a frighteningly high tempo throughout the 90 minutes which denied both sides the opportunity to find any real rhythm in the game. In the 3rd meeting between these teams since their World Cup quarter-final clash in Brazil, Colombia’s superb counter-pressing system and Jeison Murillo’s scrappy finish from Juan Cuadrado’s free kick in the 36th minute ensured a nervy 1-0 victory for los Cafateros.” Outside of the Boot


Radamel Falcao is the reason Colombia isn’t playing as well as it did at the World Cup

June 21, 2015

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“When news broke in January 2014 that Colombian star Radamel Falcao had picked up a serious knee injury playing for club team, AS Monaco, an entire nation held its breath… with one notable exception. While Colombia and the wider soccer world was left to lament a World Cup without arguably the game’s best out-and-out center-forward, coach José Pékerman could have been forgiven for feeling a certain sense of relief. On the surface, it was a huge blow. Los Cafeteros had just secured its first trip to a World Cup in 16 years during a qualification campaign that saw it hammer defending South American champion Uruguay 4-0, pick off Chile 3-1 in Santiago, and become just one of two sides to prevail at the dizzy heights of La Paz. Expectations were at their highest since Carlos Valderrama led his 1994 side to the United States with realistic aspirations of becoming world champions.” Fusion


Neymar’s petulance leaves Brazil in trouble after Copa America suspension

June 21, 2015

“There were some warning signs flashing in Brazil’s Copa America opener against Peru, Neymar’s first competitive match as Brazil captain. He produced a wonderful individual performance in that 2-1 win, crowned with a pass of breathtaking vision that set up Brazil’s stoppage-time winner. … Three days later, the collision could not be averted — with consequences that will, unless Brazil’s appeal is successful, rule Neymar out of the rest of the Copa America. He was suspended for four games after being sent off in the 1-0 loss to Colombia.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Brazil’s inadequacies echoed by Neymar’s lack of patience against Colombia

June 18, 2015

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“Disappointment would have been bad enough for Brazil, but after the final whistle it became disgrace. Defeat to Colombia, followed by Neymar’s red card, may not resonate like the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final last year did, but the shame is just as real. After all the talk of trying to find some sort of redemption in the Copa América, all the same old flaws were there, just without quite the same hysteria. This was a petulant, complacent, unimaginative Brazil and they now, almost unbelievably, must beat Venezuela in their final group game on Sunday to be sure of making it to the quarter-finals – and they will have to do it without the player on whom they have become so reliant.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Breaking down last night’s Colombia-Brazil nonsense with the power of GIF
“Last night, Brazil and Colombia met in a Copa América group stage game, almost one year after Brazil eliminated the Colombians in Forteleza in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals. But this time was different. Colombia, having already succumbed to Venezuela in its opening game, managed to pull itself together and frustrate Brazil for 90 minutes, eeking out a 1-0 victory. Typically, that would be the story. Colombia exacts revenge on the Samba Boys. Or something basic like that. But that would be a disservice to the real story: These two teams wanted to murder each other, and they came damn close after the final whistle.” Fusion

Neymar’s brilliance and immaturity have been on display at Copa America
“There was a time not long ago when Brazil boasted countless world-class attackers. It was a time when, for example, Marcio Amoroso could finish as top goal scorer in Brazil, Italy and Germany, but count himself fortunate simply to be named in the Brazil squad. Mario Jardel scored 130 goals in 125 league games for Porto and collected only 10 caps, usually as a substitute. Giovane Elber, meanwhile, spent a decade banging in the Bundesliga goals and managed just 15 caps.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Eight things we learned from the Internet about Copa América 2015

June 11, 2015

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“For the next three weeks, the pulse of South American futbol beats from Chile, where the continent’s 10 national teams plus invitees Mexico and Jamaica will battle it out for a piece of international silverware that’s been contested for 99 years. This is the Copa América, a tournament renowned for its storied rivalries, vibrant fan support, politically-charged history, and incredible star power on the pitch; a competition which, for the past near-century, has ignited a continent. With just days left until the tournament kicks off, we turned to the world’s greatest source for information on the tournament — Wikipedia — and came back up with a few gems. The Copa América, it turns out, is a weird, weird tournament.” Fusion

Copa America preview roundtable: Games, players, stories to watch
“For a second straight summer, a massive international prize is on the line in South America, and even though it may not carry the weight of the World Cup, the 2015 Copa America features plenty of star power and a winner’s medal that includes a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Days after winning the Champions League together, two-thirds of Barcelona’s record-setting front line–Lionel Messi and Neymar–will be on display as adversaries (the third member, Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, is still banned internationally for his World Cup bite of Giorgio Chiellini); Brazil puts its undefeated mark under Dunga (this time around, anyway) on the line in its first meaningful games since last summer’s disappointment on home soil; host Chile and Colombia aim to build on the success they enjoyed last summer; and a series of upstarts look to spring surprises in what promises to be an intense 12-team competition. Jonathan Wilson and James Young are on the ground in Chile, and here are some of their games, story lines and other items to watch over the next three-plus weeks…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Never forget your roots – Palmeiras’ illustrious history

February 25, 2015

“One of the most successful clubs in Brazil, Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras have won eight league titles, as well as two Copa do Brasil trophies. The champions of South America in 1999, having beaten Colombian side Deportivo Cali to claim the Copa Libertadores, with their success culminating in the awarding of ‘Best Team of the 20th Century of Brazil’ by the Sao Paulo State Football Federation, they are a club of immense power and wealth. Palmeiras’ team is predominantly Brazilian, with ex Bayern Munich and Inter Milan defender Lúcio among their ranks. Apart from a smattering of Chilean, Argentinian and Uruguayan players, their squad is entirely made up of footballers from the ‘Futebol Nation’.” backpagefootball


Everything you need to know about the 2015 Copa Libertadores

February 23, 2015

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“With the last of the group spots now finalised, the 56th edition of the Copa Libertadores – South America’s equivalent of the Champions League – properly gets underway this week and, as ever, it promises to be full of drama, excitement and shocks. The vast distances, not to mention the range of altitudes and climates, make it a highly challenging, unpredictable and captivating contest, while also offering the opportunity to catch a first glance at some of the continent’s emerging prospects. Argentinian side San Lorenzo won their first ever title last year, breaking the run of Brazilian triumphs and capping a remarkable turnaround for a club on the brink of relegation just two years before. With the last three victors being first time winners, could we see another maiden champion? Or will one of the established giants reclaim the continent’s top club prize? The following comprehensive group by group guide will take you through all the contenders.” Outside of the Boot (Part 1), Everything you need to know about the 2015 Copa Libertadores (Part 2)


Messi, Neymar, Sanchez: In search of South America’s next star

February 10, 2015

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Angel Correa is leaving Argentina to play in Spain.
“For the crunch World Cup match against England last year, Uruguay were without their captain and centre-back Diego Lugano. In to replace him came Jose Maria Gimenez, a 19-year-old who had played in a grand total of one league match the previous season and one Copa del Rey fixture for Atletico Madrid. It is hard to imagine England, or another major European nation, throwing a youngster into the deep end in this way. But Uruguay had no qualms. Gimenez had been immaculate the previous year in the World Under-20 Cup, and that was good enough. This story helps to explain the importance of under-20 football in South America. There are plenty of others like it.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Panning for gold – the Sudamericano Sub-20

January 19, 2015

“As a beaming Lionel Messi wheeled away from an ugly goalmouth scramble after putting Barcelona’s victory over Atletico Madrid beyond doubt, he was set upon by the evening’s two other scorers. Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi made their way back to the back to their positions arm-in-arm having together lifted a slightly deflated mood around the club beset by managerial pressure and rumours of their favourite son’s discontent. The victory left Barca just a point behind Real Madrid in the Liga BBVA and three ahead of Atletico and it was these three South American stars, each arriving at the club via hugely different paths, that were its architects. There’s nothing quite as marketable as a South American football star. By now the image has become something of a cliché: the young pibe winding through cobbled, uneven streets from dawn to dusk, with nothing but a rudimentary ball and a dream; carrying that childlike exuberance into the professional game and becoming a star.” backpagefootball


U.S. grades: Yanks fail to hold on to early lead yet again vs. Colombia

November 14, 2014

“The U.S. men’s national team tried to take a page out of its World Cup playbook against World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia, one that relied on gritty defending to escape with a result. But Los Cafeteros proved to have too many attacking weapons, and scored twice in the second half to claim a highly deserved 2-1 victory. Jozy Altidore opened the scoring courtesy of a first half penalty, but Carlos Bacca equalized 15 minutes into the second half, and Teofilo Gutierrez nodded home the game-winner in the 87th minute. While the match did feature some moments where the U.S. looked threatening in attack, and there were some youthful elements in the U.S. lineup, it did little to stop questions about when the proactive style that Jurgen Klinsmann has long promised will begin to emerge.” ESPN


What next for hipsters’ post-World Cup favourites, Colombia?

October 8, 2014

“With no competitive fixtures for almost a year, the post-World Cup period is a perfect opportunity for South American nations to assess, experiment and in some cases, rebuild in preparation for the next qualification campaign. Tom Robinson takes a look at the future of the Colombian side that we recently witnessed at the FIFA World Cup.” Outside of the Boot


The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – Colombia

July 22, 2014

“Brazil 2014 was Colombia’s best ever World Cup for several reasons. For the first time the team reached the quarterfinals of the tournament and, in doing so, delighted fans both at home and abroad with their exciting brand of football, their skill and their talent. Not only did Colombia have the top goal scorer, James Rodríguez, they also won the Fair Play award. When things became difficult, the Colombians picked themselves up and rose to the occasion. They went out fighting and without relinquishing their style of play. It was a most fantastic time for Colombian football. The doubts that had crept-in over the previous months were quickly washed away by the dazzling pace of the Colombian attack, the team’s confidence and its prolific goal-scoring. Memories of the tournament will endure for decades in the Colombian mindset.” Just Football

The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – Ghana
“An impressive 2-2 draw with eventual winners Germany in what was touted one of the best games of the tournament had seemingly shot Ghana high up the favourites list for a round of 16 spot, after a 2-1 loss to the USA in their opener. And Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were to be the patsies. However, a lacklustre showing twinned with a series of camp agitations at the Estadio Nacional meant the Black Stars would be heading home at the group stages for the first time, following a 2-1 reverse.” Just Football


World Cup 2014: Top five transfer targets – and those already done

July 15, 2014

“They may not be new to everyone, but Brazil 2014 brought a handful of players to the attention of a wider global audience who sat up and took notice of them. Even more importantly for the players’ agents, it is likely to have sparked the interest of the clubs with the deepest pockets, who may well be about to spend big on their talents. Here, we look at five stand-out transfer targets to emerge from the World Cup finals – and five deals that were done during the tournament.” BBC


O Jogo Bonito

July 10, 2014

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


Neymar’s Injury Sidelines Effort to End World Cup Racism

July 9, 2014

“After an episode in Peru earlier this year in which Peruvian soccer fans subjected a Brazilian player to racial abuse by imitating the sounds of monkeys, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil swiftly pledged a ‘World Cup against racism,’ declaring, ‘Sports should be no place for prejudice.’ Yet when Brazil’s top player, Neymar, broke a vertebra when he was kneed in the back during a match on Friday by a Colombian player, the torrent of racist insults against the Colombian, Juan Camilo Zúñiga, showed how far the host of the World Cup remains from achieving that goal.” NY Times


Neymar’s cultural significance to Brazil transcends soccer, World Cup

July 8, 2014

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“Tweets of sympathy and support from Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to Kobe Bryant and everyone in between, including super models (Gisele Bundchen), Olympic sprinters (Usain Bolt), footballers (Ronaldo and Lionel Messi) and soap opera stars (too many to mention). Hours of TV coverage devoted to detailed analysis of spinal columns and estimated back injury recovery times. More hours of TV coverage dedicated to discussion of whether Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga’s crushing, knee-raised challenge was premeditated or not (the debate oscillating between ‘a normal part of soccer’ and ‘a cowardly assault’). FIFA Fan Fests all over the country, filled with supporters who minutes before had been wildly celebrating Brazil’s 2-1 World Cup quarterfinal win over Colombia, falling still and silent. On Friday evening, Brazil turned its lonely eyes to Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.” SI


Brazil’s Only Hope to Take This World Cup: Win Ugly

July 8, 2014

“There are three contradictory narratives getting batted around about Brazil’s foul-plagued, back-breaking 2–1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia. The first, one that’s being pushed by the Brazilian press, is that Neymar was assaulted by brutish Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zúñiga, whose late-game challenge was reckless and cowardly. (Sample headlines: ‘Stabbed in the back’ and ‘Damn Colombian.’) An alternate view, one articulated by the New York Times’ Sam Borden among others, is that Brazil got what it had coming. Borden believes that Neymar’s fractured vertebra was the logical conclusion of Brazil’s decision to play a dirty game, and of referee Carlos Velasco Carballo’s refusal to keep the foul-happy Seleção in check. The third perspective, laid out by Forbes’ Bobby McMahon, is that Colombia was the team that came out fouling, that the referee didn’t do much of anything wrong, and that Neymar’s World Cup-ending injury was an unfortunate accident rather than a violent inevitability.” Slate (Video)