‘A daily nightmare’ – how four big nations not at the World Cup are coping

July 1, 2018

“People in Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana are watching the party in Russia from afar. For some it is a painful experience” Guardian


Why do African countries hire non-African football coaches so much?

June 23, 2018

“It seemed strange when in the run-up to Afcon 2013, Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi forcefully criticised African football associations for their preference for white coaches. That when Zambia, until this week the great success story of African football, had Hervé Renard to thank for masterminding their unlikely triumph last year in Libreville. Yet Keshi has a point. The success of Zambia under Renard should not obscure the fact that African football administrators have always failed to appreciate and make use of its own resources and talent. This is true of football as it is of Africa’s national economies.” Africa is a Country


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


At African Soccer Event, Games of Cat and Mouse

January 30, 2018


“CASABLANCA, Morocco — Standing just inside the lobby of Casablanca’s Novotel, Koly Koivogui was hard to miss. Dressed in a bright red zip-up track top bearing the insignia of the Guinean national soccer team, Koivogui, a large, barrel-chested coach, stood guard. He was making sure that uninvited player agents or scouts did not harass members of his team on the eve of the 16-team African Nations Championship, a competition for national teams with rosters made up solely of players who play club games in their birth countries. …” NY Times


2018 African Nations Championship: Group-by-group guide

January 12, 2018


“The 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco is the fifth edition of the tournament that features only players plying their trade in their own domestic championships. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) introduced the tournament in 2009 when Ivory Coast hosted an eight-team finals that was won by DR Congo. In 2011, the tournament – hosted by Sudan – expanded to 16 teams with Tunisia emerging as winners before Libya lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2014 and DR Congo won again in 2016, when Rwanda staged the finals. The holders and record two-time champions will not be in Morocco however, after losing to Congo Brazzaville in qualifying. …” BBC


Afcon 2017: wider spread of talent makes winner impossible to predict

January 19, 2017

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Riyad Mahrez, Diedonnei Mbokani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah are among the stars at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“The pattern has become familiar: a country wins the right to host a tournament and there is excitement, then come doubts about costs and readiness, but in the days before the event, the negativity falls away and excitement takes over. Not here. In 2015, Gabon stepped in to replace Libya as the hosts because of the conflict there but, as the 31st Africa Cup of Nations approaches, there is a clear sense a significant proportion of the country does not want it to happen.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Global Series | Top 10 African Players of 2015: Toure, Kidiaba and Brahimi feature

December 19, 2016

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“… 8. ROBERT KIDIABA Kidiaba is the veteran goalkeeper at TP Mazembe, is one of the most decorated African players in the game today. Kidiaba started off his career at AS Saint Luc, and his success there prompted the national team to take him to the AFCON in 1998. This brought attention to the young keeper, and he signed for Mazembe after the tournament. Ever since then, he’s been a constant in their side, winning league titles galore, and 3 African Champions League trophies as well.” Outside of the Boot


History of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

November 18, 2016

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“Before the BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016 launches on Saturday, BBC Sport looks at all the previous winners. The prize started life as the BBC African Sports Star of the Year award in 1992, when Ghanaian footballer Abedi Pele was the inaugural winner. The format has evolved and now a shortlist of five players is announced following a poll of football journalists from every country in Africa – after which a public vote decides the best for that year. Names etched on the trophy include George Weah, Didier Drogba, Jay-Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure and Sammy Kuffour.” BBC


Political unrest in Gabon casts shadow over 2017 Africa Cup of Nations draw

October 20, 2016

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“No news, they say, is good news. Either that or it’s the result of a government blackout. The draw for the Africa Cup of Nations will be held in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday but yet again the buildup to a tournament has been dominated by doubts over where it will be staged as the aftershocks of Gabonese presidential elections continue to be reverberate.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


African players in the Premier League

March 20, 2016

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“Peter Ndlovu was the first. Now 246 African players have played in the Premier League since it began in 1992, scoring 1,776 goals in 14,210 appearances. Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has scored the most goals (104), Kolo Toure has made the most appearances (349) while Nigeria (35) has contributed the most players. As the Premier League live fan park comes to Cape Town this weekend learn all you need to know about African players in the English top flight.” BBC, BBC – You can read an accessible version of this graphic here.


Ivory Coast win Africa Cup of Nations in penalty shootout against Ghana

February 10, 2015

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“Could there have been a more unlikely hero than Boubacar Barry? He was the reserve keeper, the relic of the past, the clownish figure so often blamed for Ivorian failure. Elevated to play in the final only because Sylvain Gbohouo had suffered a thigh strain, he seized his opportunity in a ridiculous, hilarious, remarkable way, saving two penalties and then scoring the decisive kick in the shootout himself.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

AFCON 2015 – the winners and losers
“The overriding theme of AFCON 2015 was undoubtedly one of Ivoirian redemption. Favourites for virtually every tournament across the last decade, Les Éléphants were perceived as being both fundamentally flawed psychologically and a disaster waiting to happen defensively. Yet under Hervé Renard – who in masterminding Ivory Coast’s victory becomes the first man to lift Africa’s most prestigious crown with two separate nations – they were a side reborn. The Frenchmen instilled both discipline and togetherness, alongside a sense of character that had long deserted the West Africans. A blend of youth together with the remaining fragments of the golden generation reaped dividends, as the previously much maligned Elephants visibly blossomed through the tournament’s progression – perhaps the seminal result, from a mental perspective at least, being a 3-1 quarter-final triumph over Algeria.” backpagefootball

Afcon 2015: Five lessons from the Africa Cup of Nations
“The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations came to a dramatic end on Sunday night when Ivory Coast sealed a thrilling 9-8 victory over Ghana on penalties. The win brought to an end a 22-year drought for Ivory Coast, and capped a tournament that was moved at the last minute and almost overshadowed by violence. But what did we learn? Here are five key lessons from this year’s competition.” BBC

Independent: In Pictures: Ivory Coast claims African Cup of Nations after epic sudden death 22 penalty shoot-out against Ghana


Avram Grant putting his shirt on Ghana’s Africa Cup of Nations chances

February 8, 2015

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Riot police shield Ghana’s John Boye and his team mates from objects thrown by Equatorial Guinea fans at the end of the first half of the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.
“As the helicopter descended, Avram Grant glanced up, his face as cadaverous as ever, but seemed emotionless. Whatever he actually felt amid the violence that led to Ghana’s Cup of Nations semi-final against Equatorial Guinea being suspended for almost 40 minutes, his outward appearance was calm. When the smoke grenades cleared, fans were evacuated from two stands of the Estadio de Malabo and the bottles and other missiles were cleared from the pitch, the overriding sense was of the sang-froid with which Ghana had reacted.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Ghana players, fans pelted with missiles in win over Equatorial Guinea
“The Africa Cup of Nations semi-final between Equatorial Guinea and Ghana was suspended for almost 40 minutes on Thursday night after crowd disturbances that led to police evacuating part of the stadium with smoke bombs and a helicopter. In scenes that will colour what remains of the tournament, home supporters aimed bottles at Ghana players and supporters, and the visiting team were forced to leave and re-enter the pitch under cover of riot police shields either side of half-time. The crowd was largely dispersed, with reports that trouble continued outside the stadium after the match. Eventually the game was restarted in front of near-empty stands before the Gabonese referee, Eric Otogo, blew for full-time five minutes early.” Guardian


Allez Les Éléphants!

February 8, 2015

“Two of the teams I had huge hopes for in World Cup 2014 were Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana; sadly things didn’t work out as well for them as many of us hoped. But that’s why I’m super excited for this superclásico tomorrow, the final of the African Cup of Nations 2015!!! Judging from the record cover, back in 1984 Côte d’Ivoire must have not had the team that they have today; “La victoire est possible” is even more hesitant than the Mexicans’ “Sí se puede”; when you have to explain to your team that they *could* win, things might not be looking so good for you. But things are very different today, and I’m really hoping to see this golden generation finally get the big win. Plus, I’ve waited years for the right moment to share this record with you, this better be it! Allez Les Éléphants!!! La Pelanga (Video)


Are DR Congo’s leopards rising from a prolonged slumber?

February 5, 2015

“With less than half an hour remaining in their quarter-final duel with Republic of Congo, it seemed DR Congo’s less than flattering AFCON campaign was destined for an ungainly conclusion – having just witnessed their limited yet well drilled neighbours move into an implausible 2-0 lead. It was at that point however where the fixture’s landscape shifted, as Republic of Congo – who prior to this tournament hadn’t tasted AFCON victory in 40 years -seemingly froze in the face of the momentous accomplishment that was within their grasp. Within minutes Dieumerci Mbokani had halved the bewildered Red Devils advantage, as a DR Congo suddenly rediscovered an attacking mojo that had been non-existent up to that point.” backpagefootball

Ivory Coast survive wobble against DR Congo to reach Cup of Nations final
“Could it be that one of the longest waits in football is at last coming to an end? For a decade, Africa has expected Ivory Coast’s golden generation at last to reach fulfilment and perhaps now, as the Elephants approach their third final in nine years, the itch will be scratched. Yet perhaps this isn’t even the golden generation any more: after all, only four players remain from the squad that lost to the hosts in the final in Egypt in 2006.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Ivory Coast march on but this tale of two Tourés is far from pretty

February 1, 2015

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Kolo Touré / Ivory Coast
“The good news for Ivory Coast is that they’re through. They’re not playing with any great fluency or style, but they have made it through to the quarter-finals, where they will face Algeria, and there is at least about them a sense of purpose and defensive resolve. “We will fight like elephants,” said Kolo Touré after a second successive draw had left them needing to win their final game, against Cameroon, to progress and if that means presenting a solid barrier, absorbing blows before prevailing through a goal based on raw power, they did just that. Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Cameroon, a team who had beaten them 4-1 in qualifying, was classic Hervé Renard.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Guinea and Mali to draw lots for Africa Cup of Nations knockout place
“The final place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals will be decided by the drawing of lots after Guinea and Mali drew 1-1. Both teams had played out 1-1 draws in their previous Group D matches, meaning lots will be required to decide who finishes second and will face Ghana. Every match in the group finished 1-1 except Wednesday’s other match, in which Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 1-0 to qualify. It is a remarkable set of circumstances and one not seen at the Africa Cup of Nations since 1988, when the drawing of lots sent Algeria through to the knockout stage at the expense of the Ivory Coast. Bizarrely, the draw will not be made immediately but at a meeting of Confederation of African Football officials on Thursday.” Guardian


Ghana’s loss to Senegal leaves Avram Grant in familiar territory

January 22, 2015

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“Avram Grant has faced enough hostile press conferences in his career to know that he got away lightly. The Ghanaian media was clearly disappointed by the 2-1 defeat to Senegal on Monday but it was relatively restrained in the way it dealt with Grant, who sat in familiarly morose pose as a bat fluttered back and forth above his head. Perhaps the gentle approach was born of a recognition that this was Grant’s first competitive game in charge, or perhaps it was simply that the poor performance wasn’t unexpected.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Afcon 2015: Star players, prizes and stats from Equatorial Guinea
“The opening round of group games at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has delivered penalty misses, last-gasp winners, no goalless draws and some man-of-the-match presentations with a twist. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has given fans the chance to hand out awards to the chosen star man in fixtures, but have they gone to the right players? Here, we put forward the round-one stars chosen by you, our reporters on the ground in Equatorial Guinea and African football’s governing body.” BBC

Zambia 1 Tunisia
“Tunisia made the most of Zambia’s wastefulness in front of goal as they came from behind to win. Emmanuel Mayuka opened the scoring when he blasted home a cross from the impressive Rainford Kalaba. But Mayuka was injured when stretching for a chance to turn the ball into an empty net and moments later Tunisia scored against 10 men when Ahmed Akaichi scored from two yards out. Tunisia improved after that and Yasine Chikhaoui headed home a late winner.” BBC


Favourites Algeria dealt AFCON minefield

December 7, 2014

“The pot compilation of yesterday’s 2015 African Cup of Nations draw always meant a strong viability for a series of heavy weight assortments, yet for the majority of sides assigned a spot in Group C their hand represented the nightmare assignment. The inevitably dubbed group of death compiles the intimidating quintet of Algeria, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal. If Algeria – undoubtedly Africa’s standout outfit in Brazil last summer and the continent’s highest ranked side – are to clinch a first crown in 22 years they must now do it the hard way. That being said as arduous as Algeria’s examination might appear, for their three opponents the Fennec Foxes represent the worst case scenario.” backpagefootball


Africa Cup of Nations’ lop-sided draw promises intrigue if not high quality

December 4, 2014

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Democratic Republic of Congo fan – African Nations Cup
“Given the seeding pots, the potential for an atrociously difficult group at next month’s Africa Cup of Nations was always there. The draw delivered, spectacularly and brutally. Algeria, the top-ranked team in Africa, the only one of the Cup of Nations qualifiers to reach the last 16 of the World Cup, were the danger lurking in Pot 2 and Ghana the unlucky seeds. But worse than that, Ghana had already been grouped with Senegal – by some distance the best team in Pot 4 – and, from Pot 3, the side that eliminated the champions Nigeria in qualifying, South Africa, resurgent under Shakes Mashaba.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


At least there is a Cup of Nations for Nigeria to fail to qualify for

November 21, 2014

South Africa's Eric Mathoho, left, and Nigeria's Ahmed Musa
“Twelve days after the Akwa Ibom stadium in Uyo was officially opened, it is already a site of ignominy. Nigeria fought back with two late Sone Aluko goals to draw 2-2 with South Africa on Wednesday, but preserving their unbeaten record against Bafana Bafana in competitive games is little consolation. Congo, whom Nigeria had beaten 2-0 on Saturday to have even a chance of qualification, held their nerve to win 1-0 in Sudan and so eliminated the defending champions from the Cup of Nations.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Uganda targeting history against Guinea

November 17, 2014

“In 1978 Uganda enjoyed their most momentous AFCON accomplishment, finishing runners-up to Ghana – back then nobody envisaged the cranes failing to grace Africa’s most prestigious tournament in the years subsequent. Those years of suffering could however be brought to an end on Wednesday night when Uganda visit Casablanca to take on Guinea, with a point from that fixture liable to secure the conclusion of their AFCON absence. Across recent history few sides have been closer to qualification without actually accomplishing it, with the Ugandans only missing the 2012 AFCON by a single point – Angola ultimately clinched the sought after qualification birth. That setback though was merely minor in the gut wrenching stakes given a year later only an epic penalty shootout defeat – 20 kicks in total – denied Uganda progression at the expense of 2012 champions Zambia.” backpagefootball


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


It starts here… Africa Cup of Nations 2015 – 2nd round qualification preview

July 21, 2014

“In early May the long journey towards Morocco and the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 began for the sizeable percentage of African sides – indeed for Mauritania that voyage started way back in April with a preliminary round fixture against Mauritius. Before Africa’s elite, including champions Nigeria, endure the rigors of qualification the rest must be whittled down to just seven – having seen 14 sides depart during May’s first round, that number will be halved once again in the second round.” Just Football


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

June 27, 2014

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


Group G – ESPN

June 27, 2014
Group G Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Germany 7 5 3 2 1 0 7 2
2 United States 4 0 3 1 1 1 4 4
3 Portugal 4 -3 3 1 1 1 4 7
4 Ghana 1 -2 3 0 1 2 4 6

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Iran

June 23, 2014

“The two teams could not have been further in reputation, Argentina being one of the favourites to challenge for the World Cup, and Iran being one of the ‘favourites’ to get knocked out in the group stages. It was most definitely a David vs Goliath situation. But still, the match had attracted quite a lot of build up considering both the teams’ contrasting strengths. Argentina’s mighty attack versus Iran’s extremely pragmatic approach was always going to be an entertaining contest.” Outside of the Boot

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Germany 2-2 Ghana
“Today, after a first 45 minutes of two sides feeling each other out, we saw a brilliant 2nd half which ultimately failed to separate the two sides. In fairness a 2-2 draw was probably a fair result as it highlighted Germany’s ability to penetrate Ghana’s defense but also rewarded Ghana’s sharp counter-attack and punished Germany’s lack of pace on the back line.” Outside of the Boot


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

June 22, 2014

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

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

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


The End of Ghana’s Golden Generation

June 17, 2014

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“As exhilarating as Monday’s 2-1 World Cup victory was for United States supporters, it must have been equally as heartbreaking for Ghana supporters. Having clawed back to tie the match 1-1, and appearing to secure a minimum of a point after allowing a first-minute opener to Clint Dempsey, the Ghanaian team now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of this World Cup. FiveThirtyEight suggests that Ghana’s loss dropped their chances of making it through Group G down to just 11.0 percent. (The United States, meanwhile, now have a 67.2 percent chance of advancing [the number has been updated since Nate Silver’s post yesterday].) Even worse, if Ghana are eliminated, it will likely bring the run of their golden generation to an end. It will take a while for a Ghanaian team this good to make it into the World Cup again.” Grantland

John Brooks and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very American Win
“Imagine if I told you before this match that America’s best pure striker and main offensive target would leave with a leg injury 20 minutes in. And that one of our best centerbacks would also be forced out with an injury at halftime. And that our most dangerous player would have his nose broken and not be able to breathe well out of it for the rest of the hot, humid game. And that our all-around best player would turn in a horrible performance. And that our passing style would for the most part resemble that of a co-ed adult league team, lower intermediate division. Knowing all that, you’d probably be OK with a 2-1 win against the best team in Africa in one of the most important matches in United States World Cup history, right?” New Republic

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Ghana 1-2 USA
“Coming into the World Cup, all the talk for the US National Team was the exclusion of all-time leading World Cup scorer, Landon Donovan. Many felt that even if he weren’t going to be awarded a starting berth, his experience off the bench and in training would be effective on getting the best out of the players, in what would be his last ever World Cup. For Ghana, it was a case of avenging their quarter-final defeat from the previous edition. They would have to start off against the Americans who they’ve defeated twice in the last two World Cups, knocking them out of the competition. Expectations were high for both sides, and given Portugal’s defeat earlier to Germany, these two sides knew they could take a massive step at progress from the first-round with a win at Estadio das Dunas.” Outside of the Boot

USA vs. Ghana in GIFs
“Revenge, at last. The U.S. faced a must-win situation in its first match against old nemesis Ghana, who eliminated the Yankes from the last two world Cups. Jurgen Klinsmann and his men had to deliver. And they did, in the most dramatic of fashion. Here are some unforgettable GIFs.” Fusion


World Cup 2014: Guide to Germany’s Group G

June 2, 2014

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“Style & formation: Blessed with far more flair than many Germany sides of the past, their fluid 4-2-3-1 is underpinned by Bastian Schweinsteiger and the currently injured Sami Khedira anchoring the side from the base of midfield. Ahead of them lies creative fulcrum Mesut Ozil, who is usually flanked by the dangerous Marco Reus and Thomas Muller.” BBC – Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA


Know Your Enemy: Ghana winger Andre Ayew

May 26, 2014

“For Andre Ayew to exhibit weariness when talking about his career is understandable, considering the status of his father — brilliant Marseille and Ghana attacking midfielder Abedi Pele. ‘What my father achieved in Ghana is huge,’ Ayew said. ‘He brought a lot to the country. I’m very proud of what he has done, but this doesn’t have any bearing on my game. Sometimes people may make useless comparisons. I suppose it’s normal, but I had to learn to live with that. Some people thought that maybe I would take the ball and dribble past ten players then score. There was a huge expectation.'” SI – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Super Eagles can be the best of Africa

May 8, 2014

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“If there has been a consistent theme in these World Cup columns – and there has been at least one, honest – it is that the Ivory Coast are not as good as people think. Given they have vied with Egypt as the best African team of this century but have a much higher global recognition factor because so many of their players play in the major western European leagues, that’s perhaps understandable – but support for them goes against the evidence of the last Africa Cup of Nations. In South Africa, the Ivorians looked what they are: an ageing squad. Yaya Toure, of course, remains an exceptional player and his influence can still turn games, but with Didier Drogba now 36, he is increasingly having to do it alone.” Betting – Jonathan Wilson


Know Your Enemy: Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah

April 11, 2014

Kwadwo Asamoah
“In the career of Kwadwo Asamoah is written a parable of the tactical history of African football. When he emerged, making his international debut in 2006 when he was just 17, he was hailed as the first great Ghanaian playmaker since Abedi Pele. Until a decade or so ago, West Africa specialized in technically gifted attacking midfielders or second strikers – as well as Pele, there were the likes of Ni’i Lamptey, Theophile Abega, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu, players who dropped deep from the front line and had the patience and skill to hold the ball up, wait for a runner and deliver the pass.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


U.S. draws incredibly difficult group, but one filled with opportunity

December 7, 2013

“The U.S. had drawn Germany, Portugal and Ghana, the hardest opening-round group the Americans have ever faced in a World Cup. Germany, a three-time world champion, could easily win the tournament. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who may be about to win the Ballon d’Or as the world player of the year. And Ghana has been the destroyer of U.S. dreams at the last two World Cups, eliminating the Americans both times. Group G has easily the most difficult average FIFA ranking of any World Cup group: 11.25. Germany is No. 2, Portugal No. 5, the U.S. No. 14 and Ghana No. 24.” SI

USA’s 2014 World Cup group overflowing with history
“You wanted a World Cup group with some sumptuous storylines? You got one. The USA was drawn into a Group of Supreme Death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, with Jurgen Klinsmann needing to gameplan for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo while aiming to break the Ghana hex — just to reach the knockout stage. The amount of history that the USA has against its group opponents is staggering, too.” SI (Video)


Africa comes to the boil with seven play-off places still up for grabs

September 3, 2013

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Michael Essien – Ghana
“You can tell a World Cup is approaching because Kevin Prince-Boateng has suddenly decided he feels like playing international football again. The attacking midfielder retired from international football in 2011, but has ended his exile to come into the Ghana squad for Friday’s final World Cup qualifier in which Ghana need only to avoid defeat against Zambia to secure a place in the play-off round for World Cup qualifying. The structure of the African preliminaries may be nonsensical, but they do guarantee drama: 10 groups of four, with the top sides going forward to two-leg play-offs, with the winners going on to Brazil.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The end of the road has been reached by the Kings of Ghana

July 22, 2013

“In the 83rd minute of a friendly against Tanzania in 2008, Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Kingson vacated his penalty area and ambled into opposition territory. As he crossed the half way line, his brother Laryea placed the ball, surveyed the options and prepared to deliver his free kick. Timing his run with the trajectory of the cross, Richard arrived in the box and headed an equalising goal for the Black Stars. It was a peculiar and unique way for a national team to score.” World Soccer


Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals: giants set sights on a return to power

February 8, 2013

“As the dust settles after the quarter-finals, the landscape looks strangely unfamiliar. The favourites, Ivory Coast, have gone; the hosts, South Africa, have gone; and Egypt, who dominated the tournament in the last half of the first decade of this century, didn’t even qualify. So the Africa Cup of Nations will go either to one of the traditional powers of African football, Ghana or Nigeria, both of whom nurse the pain of years without a title, or to a first time-winner, Mali or Burkina Faso.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Nigeria 4-1 Mali: a battle of attacking left-backs

February 8, 2013

“Nigeria qualified for the final by controlling the game in midfield and attacking with more speed. Stephen Keshi named an unchanged side from the XI that triumphed over the Ivory Coast at the quarter-final stage. Mali coach Patrice Carteron left out Samba Sow and Samba Diakite, with Mahamane Traore coming into the side on the left, and Mohamed Traore in the centre. Mahamdou N’Diaye returned in place of Adama Coulibaly. Nigeria dominated this match and fully deserved their victory.” Zonal Marking

Burkina Faso 1-1 Ghana: Burkina Faso dominate and win the game on penalties
“Burkina Faso upset the odds to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations final. Paul Put made various chances to the side which beat Togo – in came Artistide Bancé upfront, and Prejuce Nakoulma on the right. With two holding midfielders, Charles Kabore became the number ten and Jonathan Pitroipa moved left James Appiah made one change – Wakaso Murabak replaced Albert Adomah. Ghana went ahead but Burkina Faso deserved the win – they pressed well, passed smoothly and Bancé was magnificent upfront.” Zonal Marking


African Cup of Nations: Quarter final preview

February 1, 2013

“After twelve days of soccer in South Africa, eight nations are set to battle it out as the journey towards the final of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations continues. South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso,Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Togo have all booked their places in the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations tourney. The Black Stars of Ghana will lock horns with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in the first of a series of four quarter final games starting on Saturday, January 29. Coming into the game as the clear under dogs, Cape Verde will undoubtedly hope their fairy tale story in South Africa continues especially after defying the odds to qualify for the next round ahead of the more fancied Morocco and Angola in Group A. Though they had eliminated Cameroon during the qualifiers for the tourney, little was expected from the debutants, who have so far defied expectations. The Blue Sharks boisterous march in the tourney, led by coach Lucio Antunes, has caught the attention of many soccer pundits.” Think Football

Emmanuel Adebayor puts Cabinda behind him as Togo go through
“Togo secured the draw they needed against Tunisia and so made it through to the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in their history. Those are the bald facts, but they don’t begin to tell anything like the full story of an extraordinary night at the Mbombela. It may not have been great football, but it was magnificent drama. The Sparrowhawks, exploiting Tunisia’s shambolic offside line, broke through again and again in the early stages and eventually took the lead after 13 minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor laying in Serge Gakpo, whose firm low shot from just inside the penalty area beat Moez Ben Cherifia.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


No North African side in the last eight

January 30, 2013

Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli and South Africa's Dean Furman
Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria
“Didier Drogba scored his first goal of the African Nations’ Cup to ensure Ivory Coast go into the quarterfinals on an unbeaten run in the competition. Their opponents in that match, Nigeria, and their place in the group was already decided but they surged back anyways from 2-0 down to draw level with Algeria. The group’s bottom-feeders left with their respect intact. Although Algeria failed to record a single win in the competition, similar to their 2010 World Cup, the much-talked about Sofiane Feghouli made his impact on the competition with a goal through a penalty and assist for Hilal Soudini. But Algeria’s disappointment was compounded with Tunisia’s exit which means that no North African team will play the quarter-finals of the 2013 ANC.” ESPN

Mali’s Seydou Keita hails ‘priceless hope’ brought to crisis-torn land
“For Mali, this is becoming a habit: win the first group game narrowly, lose to Ghana, do just enough in the third match to get through and set up a quarter-final against the hosts. What they did in Libreville a year ago, when they beat Gabon on penalties, they will have to do again on Saturday as they face a newly enthused South Africa in Durban.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Tiny Cape Verde is Africa Cup of Nations’ Cinderella story
“When Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes entered the press conference room in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, he found his team had gotten there before him. They were lined up on the dais behind the desk, bouncing up and down in glee as a African Football Confederation official sat sheepishly in the foreground, aware he had formalities to complete but unwilling to interrupt the jubilation. Defender Gege, wearing his shirt back to front, leapt on a chair and carried on dancing. Antunes, at 46 and a little too old for that sort of thing, initially looked a little uncomfortable but then, after some awkward shuffling, draped himself in the flag and began directing the celebrations. Usually, he directs planes.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast eye missing Africa Cup of Nations title
“he Africa Cup of Nations has always been one of my favorite international tournaments, and for the first time it’s possible for fans in the U.S. to watch every game live easily and legally, thanks to ESPN3 picking up the rights. One of the biggest storylines is whether a remarkable generation of Ivory Coast players — Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and others — can finally get over the hump and win the tournament after falling short in each of the past four occasions.” SI


The 2013 African Cup Of Nations: Seconds Outs, Round Two

January 28, 2013

CAN2013-Bafana
“The 2013 AFCON is neither the first nor last international football tournament to have an, ahem, ‘disappointing’ opening round of group matches. But that has usually been down to teams’ fear of losing their first game, something which the laws of football say you must not do. In South Africa, even when the attitude wasn’t fearful, the football was mostly dreadful. The second round had to be better. Didn’t it?” twohundredpercent

Tiny Cape Verde is Africa Cup of Nations’ Cinderella story
“When Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes entered the press conference room in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, he found his team had gotten there before him. They were lined up on the dais behind the desk, bouncing up and down in glee as a African Football Confederation official sat sheepishly in the foreground, aware he had formalities to complete but unwilling to interrupt the jubilation.” SI – Jonathan Wilson
Jonathan Wilson

Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast eye missing Africa Cup of Nations title
“The Africa Cup of Nations has always been one of my favorite international tournaments, and for the first time it’s possible for fans in the U.S. to watch every game live easily and legally, thanks to ESPN3 picking up the rights. One of the biggest storylines is whether a remarkable generation of Ivory Coast players — Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and others — can finally get over the hump and win the tournament after falling short in each of the past four occasions.” SI


The 2013 African Cup Of Nations: The Group Matches, Round One

January 23, 2013

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“Blimey. They could have warned us Mark Bright was a British Eurosport analyst for the ‘AFCON 2013’. With the first group games being largely turgid, Bright had a lot of gaps in the action to fill. He chose to do so with ‘y’know,’ – an ironic nervous tic when discussing tournament nerves. He rattled them off at ten-to-the-dozen at first, eventually settling down to produce 178 during the 90 minutes plus stoppage time, although this was only 12 higher than Danny Mills, who also began with sentences which mostly were y’knows, before settling down to about two-per-minute. And if you think the football must have been bad for me to be able to count them, you’re right.” twohundredpercent

South Africa’s decline apparent as African Cup of Nations begins
“On June 24, 1995, South Africa won the rugby World Cup, a triumph detailed by the film Invictus. That was a remarkable triumph, and there is no decrying the symbolism of Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springboks shirt, delivering the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar, black president and white captain united in achievement. This was the glorious moment at which the dream of the rainbow nation seemed achievable.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Africa Cup of Nations preview: Ivory Coast primed to fly or flop again

January 19, 2013

“Ah, Ivory Coast. As we approach kick-off in another Africa Cup of Nations, all we can say for sure is that it would be as foolish to back against Didier Drogba & Co as it would be cavalier to count on them. For the fifth time in a row the Elephants go into the tournament as one of the heaviest favourites, but this time no one will be surprised if they flop in timid or traumatic fashion. Bad luck and bad attitudes have been foremost among the factors that have led to seemingly the most gifted generation of Ivorian players losing the 2006 and 2012 Nations Cup finals on penalties and getting dumped out of the two tournaments between by opponents who turned out to be sharper and more balanced (Egypt in the 2008 semi-finals and Algeria in the 2010 quarter-finals).” Guardian


The African Cup Of Nations: Back So Soon?

January 19, 2013

“Whether it was a sign of maturity or resignation, it was good to hear so little moaning from Premier League clubs about losing African international players to Africa’s Cup of Nations, especially given the decision to move the biennial tournament away from World Cup finals’ years by holding tournaments in 2012 and 2013. But Premier League clubs have accepted their temporary depletion of playing resource with relatively good grace, with the minor kerfuffle over Tottenham’s Emanuel Adebayor down to the player’s selection uncertainties – the Togolese striker being dropped for criticism of the team’s management before being re-instated at the behest of their football federation chief.” twohundredpercent

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group D
“Group D: Ivory Coast, Algeria, Tunisia, Togo. This looks the most difficult group having been labelled the `Group of Death` by most football pundits. Ivory Coast, Algeria and Tunisia are all powerful football nations in Africa. Togo can’t be taken for granted either, they can boast of some talented footballers who can win games individually such as Adebayor. This is also a very tricky group and very difficult to predict, but I will be brave to make my prediction. I see Ivory Coast and Tunisia advancing from this group. Tunisia play as a team and most of their players play together in the local league. Ivory Coast have some of the best players in World football and will likely put in a strong showing again.” Think Football


African Cup of Nations Preview: Group B, Group C

January 17, 2013

“Ghana, a power house in African football, are seen as clear favourites to top this group; whilst Mali and DR Congo also will probably contest the second qualifying slot. Niger can be classified as the underdogs as they don’t have the quality to match the other teams in this group, but in AFCON there is always room for a surprise. The game between Congo and Mali could prove crucial for both sides, who as stated will want to qualify second, behind an experienced and talented Ghana side.” Think Football

“Zambia are the defending champions going into the 2013 AFCON tournament, which will be their 16th appearances in the AFCON. Their unbelievable underdog victory against African footballing fiants Cote D’Ivoire last time round captured the imagination of football fans Worldwide, leaving many fans to wonder how the Zambians can fare in South Africa. On the 27th of April 1993, the Zambia national team were on their way to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier when the plane crashed and killed all 18 players on board, plus the coach and backroom staff. That team was the best Zambia has ever had and potentially one of the greatest in African history.” Think Football


Nigeria and Ghana battle the egos in Africa Cup of Nations buildup

January 9, 2013

Marseille's Andre Ayew
André Ayew
“There is a new mood of militancy about west African football. The buildup to previous Cups of Nations has often been dominated by will-he-won’t-he sagas as big-name players decide whether they really want to take a month out of the league season to go to play for their countries. This year, the coaches have hit back. The Ghana coach, Kwesi Appiah, on Monday omitted Marseille’s André Ayew from his squad after the Marseille winger reportedly turned up late for a squad get-together; he follows Nigeria’s Steve Keshi, who had already refused to select Peter Odemwingie and Shola Ameobi on the grounds they didn’t seem bothered enough about representing their country.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Best of 2012: Zambia’s championship

December 31, 2012

“In 1993, a plane carrying the Zambian team to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal stopped for refueling in Libreville. Shortly after takeoff, it exploded and crashed into the sea off the Gabonese coast, killing everybody on board. Kalusha Bwalya, the great star of that side, was not on the plane because he played in the Netherlands and was making his own way to Dakar. He helped put together a new side and went on to become president of the Zambian Football Federation.” FOX Soccer – Jonathan Wilson


Tactics: Zambia combine spirit with organisation

March 11, 2012

“Oscar Tabarez and Herve Renard may not obviously have a lot in common. With his sober ties and thoughtful limp, the 65-year-old former schoolteacher Tabarez looks like he should be the precinct chief in a seventies detective series, while the flamboyant, 43-year-old Renard’s long hair and unbuttoned shirts make him look like the passionate lead in a 19th-century romance. And yet, in the past year, both have taken unfancied sides to continental tournament triumphs, and both have done so with similar methods.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson (YouTube)


A worrying crush at Ghana v Brazil

September 6, 2011

“Last night Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium hosted the international friendly between Ghana and Brazil. As friendlies go, this was a particularly enticing prospect, with the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar on show to people who perhaps haven’t had chance to see them play live before. Not to mention chance for London’s sizable Ghanaian community to see the Black Stars in action against the most famous international team in the world.” Narrow the Angle


Africans in European football: the best of 2010-2011?

June 6, 2011

“It’s been another momentous year for African footballers, with players from the continent involved in title-winning sides in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Others have won a domestic cup, although the biggest trophy on offer ended up in the hands of Mali’s Seydou Keita after his Barcelona side destroyed Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday.” BBC


‘Obama We Are Sorry’ – possibly best World Cup memory from Ghana

August 10, 2010

“Flashback: This video captures the euphoria in the streets of Ghana just after the Black Stars knocked the US out of the World Cup.” (From A Left Wing)


Brazilian league lacks bite

July 19, 2010

“Spain or Barcelona? No contest. Week in, week out, Barcelona combine the midfield interplay of Xavi and Iniesta with the cutting edge of Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and co. The comparison serves to confirm the impression that these days club football is of a much higher standard than international – as long as we restrict the debate to the major European leagues. The big clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are in front of the national teams because of the time their players spend together and because they count on the best talent from all over the planet. When the World Cup stops and domestic football returns, the level of play goes up.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)


Not For Glory Alone

July 17, 2010

“Two billion souls: One must begin with that. That’s how many people, or nearly so, sat or stood in view of television screens to watch twenty-two men kick a white ball around a green field on a warm July night in Berlin four years ago. The twenty-two men comprised the men’s national soccer teams of Italy and France. The occasion was the final game of the 2006 World Cup. The cagey match, as the world now knows, turned on an extraordinary event near its end when France’s captain and star, Zinedine Zidane, strode toward the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and, for reasons unknown, drove his bald pate into the taller man’s chest. The motion mimicked one he’d used a few minutes earlier to head a flighted ball inches over the Italians’ goal, coming ago nizingly close to winning the day for France. Now Zidane was expelled, his team was rattled, and a player in blue whose name few outside Umbria and Trieste recall darted inside a player in white and curled the ball inside the French goal with his left foot, cueing images, on countless flickering screens around the planet, of his countrymen celebrating Italy’s triumph in the floodlit waters of the Trevi fountain in Rome.” (Laphams Quarterly)


‘Octodamus’ and other surprises – Eduardo Galeano

July 15, 2010


Mensaje de Eduardo Galeano para América Latina Cartagena de Indias, Julio de 1997
“Pacho Marturana, a man with vast experience in these battles, says that football is a magical realm where anything can happen. And this World Cup has confirmed his words: it was an unusual World Cup. The 10 stadiums where the Cup was played were unusual, beautiful, immense, and cost a fortune. Who knows how South Africa will be able to keep these cement behemoths operating amid pulverising poverty? The Adidas Jabulani ball was unusual, slippery and half mad, fled hands and disobeyed feet. It was introduced despite players not liking it at all. But from their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they don’t propose. …” (Dispatch)


World Cup 2010: A tactical review

July 14, 2010


Marcello Bielsa
“At the dawn of the tournament Football Further posed ten tactical questions that the World Cup would answer. Three days after Spain’s tense extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final, the answers to those questions reflect a tournament in which defensive rigour was overwhelmingly de riguer and tactical innovation conspicious by its rarity.” (Football Further)


Finale

July 14, 2010

“Two days after the World Cup final, the whole event seems slightly surreal. I’m returning from South Africa today, having survived on my last day here a gauntlet of baboons and a march up a gorgeous mountain, after arriving on the 26th of June just in time to see Ghana beat the U.S. I’ve had the privilege of watching seven games, including the Cape Town semi-final and the final in Johannesburg. I’ve come to know and love the vuvuzela — and, yes, I’m bringing one home to blow at Duke soccer matches this fall. It was rapture on many levels, and now it’s passed.” (Soccer Politics)


Ballet of Frost

July 11, 2010


“Someone wrote on Twitter yesterday that “Is Spain boring?” is the new “Will soccer ever make it in America?” And yes, it is, in the same way that it’s the new “Can Lampard and Gerrard play in the same midfield?” and possibly the new “Can Asians think?” It wants a word, nevertheless, if only because Spain-Germany was so divisive; and because this is the World Cup final, and a bubble of resentment against the pre-tournament favorites and anointed Best Team on Earth is one of the conditions in which history’s about to happen.” (Run of Play)


The Question: What have been the tactical lessons of World Cup 2010?

July 9, 2010

“This has been the tournament of 4-2-3-1. The move has been apparent in club football for some time; in fact, it may be that 4-2-3-1 is beginning to be supplanted by variants of 4-3-3 at club level, but international football these days lags behind the club game, and this tournament has confirmed the trend that began to emerge at Euro 2008. Even Michael Owen seems to have noticed, which is surely the tipping point.” (Guardian)


Europe is still football’s dominant force

July 6, 2010

“Wasn’t it just a few glasses of Chardonnay ago that European soccer was melting faster than a wedge of warm Brie? France, Italy and England — three of the continent’s soccer superpowers — had gone home in various levels of disgrace. To make matters worse, all five of South America’s entrants had moved on to the knockout round, with all but Chile winning its group.” (ESPN)


Who Said Cheating Doesn’t Pay Off?

July 6, 2010

“Uruguay is back in the World Cup semifinals. The little country had to cheat big-time to get there, but that’s another matter. In an epic quarterfinal Friday night, Uruguay defeated Ghana on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw to reach the semifinals, improbably returning to the sport’s biggest stage despite being one of its smallest countries.” (WSJ)


The Currents of History: What does it take to win the World Cup?

July 5, 2010


Giovanni Battista Di Jacopo, Pieta
“‘What does it take to win the World Cup?’ asked Henry D Fetter of The Atlantic a couple of days ago, in a post called ‘What It Takes To Win The World Cup’.” (Pitch Invasion)

Özil the German
“No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Özil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.” (NYT)

Tap-in and Taboo
“If this happens, what will people say about Bryan Thomas (on Twitter, in newspapers, on comment threads)? Will anyone say that he has violated the ethics of the game, that he deserves further punishment? Will anyone argue that the rules of the game need to be changed so that teams cannot benefit from committing a penalty? I suspect, rather, that Thomas will be generally credited with a very smart play. How is what Luis Suárez did at the end of yesterday’s match against Ghana any different?” (Run of Play)

when i get older
“Brian at the Run of Play did a very good job crushing the idea floated in The Atlantic that countries with an authoritarian history play more winning football. The idea memed, nonetheless. (Shocked that highbrow soccer dorks — my favourite phrase this World Cup, used by TNR Goalpost to describe their ideal reader base) appear not to check RoP before coffee.) Laughable, snobbish solipsism — it’s not just for FIFA anymore, kids.” (Treasons, Statagems & Spoils)

Time Can Do So Much
“What I want to know is whether we’ll remember any of this in ten years, or if we’ll look back on it as the mass blackout during which we all wrote mystic texts. I can’t remember two more deranged or thrilling days of soccer, or four more shocking games, in any recent tournament, and Euro 2008 made me compare Aphrodite to a Toyota Prius. It was all the more stunning because it came out of nowhere—that’s not to say this World Cup had been boring, but it had rolled along at a pretty regular tempo and, apart from a few moments of madness and bliss, within a fairly livable emotional band.” (Run of Play)


Argentina Flounder Before German Unity

July 5, 2010

“Out of the chaos of the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup has come some degree of consensus. If today’s newspapers have one theme running through them, that theme is that Germany are currently the best football team in the world and that, to a point, it would be a travesty if they didn’t win the competition. All of this is somewhat odd, since it is effectively an admission that they got their predictions wrong before the start of the tournament (there weren’t many in the mainstream press that didn’t predict Brazil or Spain), but this groundswell of opinion has been building for the last few days.” (twohundredpercent)