Everton’s Identity Crisis



“Frank Lampard can, at least, be sure that there will be no lasting damage. The disappointment of his firing as Everton manager will sting for a while, of course, but there is little reason to believe it will be held against him. A failure to meet expectations at Everton has long since become the sort of thing that might happen to anyone. It did not, after all, stop Carlo Ancelotti — who steered Everton to the dizzying heights of 10th in the Premier League in his sole full season at Goodison Park — from getting the Real Madrid job. …”
NY Times

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Witness Says Inside Information Helped Fox Win World Cup Rights



“When the news broke a dozen years ago that Fox had been awarded the U.S. broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, many in television, and in soccer, were surprised. For decades, the sport’s showcase championship was the exclusive domain of ESPN, which had been instrumental in driving interest in the world’s most popular game in the world’s richest sports market. But according to a government witness testifying this week in federal court in Brooklyn, Fox didn’t acquire those tournaments on merit alone. …”
NY Times

Everton are engulfed in a civil war that could have a catastrophic end


Ugly fallout between the fanbase and the board places Frank Lampard’s struggling side in a dangerously precarious position
“It is too charitable to describe Everton as a club in crisis. A crisis can be solved with the right people in charge. Everton are engulfed in a civil war, the consequences could be catastrophic, and it is a measure of the turmoil that the potential endgame for a manager with the worst win ratio bar the hapless Mike Walker is not dominating their agenda before the trip to West Ham. Frank Lampard returns to his first club on Saturday having presided over 10 defeats in 13 matches and Everton’s descent to joint bottom of the Premier League. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Everton protests are not about money, they are about hope and connection
NY Times: When the Owner Isn’t the (Only) Problem

FIFA Trial Could Implicate Fox, a Major Player in Soccer


“The World Cup may be over, but the FIFA corruption scandal never seems to end. Nearly eight years after a series of predawn raids exposed corruption at the highest levels of international soccer, and more than five years after the conclusion of the first trial in the Justice Department’s sprawling probe of bribery in the sport, a second trial is set to begin on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn. Once more, the defendants stand accused of being involved in complex schemes to pay millions of dollars in exchange for the rights to matches. …”
NY Times

At Juventus, a Strange Season Takes Another Turn



“The start of Juventus’s season was miserable. A raft of injuries ravaged the club’s squad. The team’s results, in those first few weeks, were flecked with disappointment. Barely a month into the campaign, Manager Massimiliano Allegri was having to smooth over the impact of an interview in which he had suggested “something was missing” from his side, alienating several of his players. …”
NY Times

Celebrating Pele, the greatest player in World Cup history


“It is a matter of opinion whether Edson Arantes do Nascimento was the greatest footballer in the history of the world, but there’s little doubt he was the greatest footballer in the history of the World Cup. One simple fact concisely demonstrates that: Pele won it three times. No one else in history, man or woman, can match that. There was more to Pele than simply the World Cup. At club level, he won six Brazilian titles, two Copa Libertadores trophies and remains Santos’ all-time top goalscorer. He subsequently starred in the North American Soccer League for New York Cosmos. But no one has ever matched Pele’s World Cup record, achieved when international football, rather than club football, was unquestionably the most revered form of the game. …”
The Athletic
W – Pelé
*****Guardian – ‘A piece of footballing art’: six memorable moments from Pelé’s career
*****BBC – Pele: Goalscorer, World Cup winner, hero, icon and legend (Video)
*****NY Times: Pelé, a Name That Became Shorthand for Perfection (Video)
*****NY Times: Pelé, the Global Face of Soccer, Dies at 82 (Video)
*****NY Times: Pelé Will Live Forever
YouTube: Pele’s Top 5 Goals, Pele’s Best Skills

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


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

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

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

How FIFA Silenced a World Cup Armband Campaign


Belgium’s foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, wore a One Love armband into a V.I.P. box, where she sat near the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.
“The opening match of the World Cup was only hours away when the leaders of a group of European soccer federations arrived for a meeting at the luxury Fairmont Hotel. The five-star property, converted into the tournament headquarters for FIFA leadership, was an unlikely setting for a fight. But with the matches about to begin, it would have to do. By then the federations and representatives of FIFA had been meeting on and off for months about a plan by the group of national teams to wear multicolored armbands with the message ‘One Love’ during their matches at the tournament in Qatar. …”
NY Times

France beat Morocco to reach final: Mbappe v Messi, Amrabat’s tackle and a rare fast start


W – Antoine Griezmann
France withstood an impressive Morocco display to set up a World Cup final with Argentina on Sunday that pits Kylian Mbappe against his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi. Theo Hernandez, who came into the France side in the first game when his brother Lucas suffered a tournament-ending knee injury, scored the opening goal after just five minutes, acrobatically steering the ball past goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Why Antoine Griezmann Is France’s Most Important Player
Guardian: France bring Morocco’s adventure to an end and reach World Cup final
Guardian: Antoine Griezmann’s devilment gives France the edge when it matters
The Analyst: France 2-0 Morocco: France Through to Fourth Final in Last Seven World Cups

These Soccer and World Cup Movies Have Big Goals

“Every four years, the World Cup offers something not unlike the movies: For a whole month, it stops time, enveloping its distant spectators in the electric-green glow of the screen. But there’s more to the ‘beautiful game’ than balletic ball-moves and the cheek-gnawing suspense of gameplay characterized by low score count. … The pulsing moment is one of communal exultation at odds with the film’s forthcoming depiction of a fractious multiethnic society. …”
NY Times (Video)

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


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

Are Qatar’s World Cup Stadiums the Future of Sports in a Warming World?


Cooling vents beneath the seats at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
“Saud Ghani knows cool. In his air-conditioned Porsche, he pulled up to a shady spot at Qatar University. He entered one of the many laboratories in the engineering department where he studies thermal dynamics — mainly, how to keep people comfortable in a warming world. Even his title is cool: professor and chair of air conditioning. The university’s campus was empty because the semester had been suspended for the World Cup. The temperature outside was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The indoor labs were noticeably chilly. …”
NY Times

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


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

His Estate Has 3 Swimming Pools and a Stable. He Says He’s Not Rich.


Muhammad Almisned, a wealthy Qatari businessman, with a falcon at his estate in the middle of the desert in Al Khor, Qatar.
“Every afternoon, Muhammad Al Misned leaves his office in Doha, the Qatari capital, jumps into his white land cruiser and drives to his second home in the desert. There, behind a castle-like facade, is his sanctuary — with three swimming pools, two soccer fields, a bowling alley, a stable, a volleyball court and one carefully manicured hedge maze, among other luxuries. The daily visit to his estate, in the northern town of Al Khor, has offered him much-needed respite since the men’s soccer World Cup turned Qatar into an exhausting, round-the-clock carnival, he told me. …”
NY Times

England 1-2 France: Kane’s penalty miss, Lloris breaks record, Saka dominant on the right


Harry Kane missed an 84th-minute penalty as England were beaten 2-1 by the reigning champions France in the World Cup quarter-finals. The skied spot-kick, six minutes after Olivier Giroud had restored France’s lead, meant the game finished in 90 minutes. England captain Kane had earlier scored a penalty — and been denied one in the first half after a foul by Dayot Upamecano just outside the area. Aurelien Tchouameni put France ahead in the first half with an impressive strike from distance and Didier Deschamps’ side will now play surprise package Morocco in the semi-finals on Wednesday. …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times: Kane’s Miss Will Be Another Ghost to Haunt England
Guardian: Cruel on Kane but England should feel no disgrace at losing to world’s best

Morocco 1-0 Portugal: En-Nesyri’s leap, Africa in the semi-finals, Ronaldo says goodbye


Morocco have made it to the World Cup semi-finals after defeating Portugal 1-0. Youssef En-Nesyri scored the only goal of Saturday’s game, leaping above goalkeeper Diogo Costa to power home a superb header in the 42nd minute. Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench again, and despite coming on in the second half, was not able to help Portugal claw back an equaliser. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst: The Data Behind Morocco’s World Cup Journey and Why They Have Every Right to Believe Against Portugal
Guardian: Morocco book historic World Cup semi-final place as En-Nesyri stuns Portugal
NY Times: North Africans have their day in Astoria, Queens.
The Athletic: Cristiano Ronaldo. Yesterday’s man

Portugal 6-1 Switzerland: Ramos hits hat-trick as Santos’ side shine without Ronaldo


Goncalo Ramos scored a superb hat-trick for Portugal after replacing Cristiano Ronaldo in Fernando Santos’ starting line-up against Switzerland. … With Ronaldo dropped to the bench, Portugal played with a freedom we had not seen in their previous three matches in Qatar. The 21-year-old Benfica forward Ramos was their standout performer, opening the scoring and adding two more goals after half-time. Pepe, Ronaldo’s replacement as captain, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on the scoresheet, Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji scored Switzerland’s consolation goal. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Ronaldo’s Replacement Scores a Hat Trick in Portugal’s Romp Over Switzerland (Video)
The Athletic: Why Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped by Portugal – and what’s next for him at the World Cup

Can You Tell a Country by Its Corner Kicks?


“Mexico did not seem to see it coming. As he stood by the corner flag, Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul thought about slinging the ball into the penalty area, but then decided against it. Instead, he went short, clipping a gentle ball to Lionel Messi. Perhaps Mexico, at that point, thought Argentina was conserving possession, protecting its slender lead. Messi had other ideas. He eschewed the cross, too, choosing another short pass, this time to Enzo Fernández, on the edge of the penalty area. Fernández shimmed once, twice, and then sent a shot on a perfect parabola that took the ball beyond the reach of Mexico’s goalkeeper. The goal sealed Argentina’s win and — eventually — Mexico’s fate at this World Cup. …”
NY Times

At Qatar’s Church City, Sunday Comes on Friday

“Behind closed doors on Friday, in small rooms usually used for teaching catechism, the children celebrated Christmas. There was food, drink and songs. Wreaths and stockings decorated the walls. A few adults wore red Santa hats. Nearby, across the complex of mostly unmarked sand-colored buildings, a Mass was being celebrated in a 2,700-seat sanctuary, its altar backed by painted angels and Jesus on a cross. There would be another mass every hour, 15 of them on Friday, said in 10 different languages: English, Tagalog, Indonesian, Korean, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil, Konkani, Sinhala, Arabic. …”
NY Times

USA 1-3 Netherlands: USMNT poor in possession, Depay’s finesse and roll on 2026


“The World Cup is over for the United States after losing 3-1 to the Netherlands. The USMNT went behind after just 10 minutes from a sharp Memphis Depay finish and Daley Blind scored a second just before half-time. In a game that looked increasingly comfortable for the Netherlands, the U.S. got a fortuitous goal back via Haji Wright’s heel, but that was cancelled out just five minutes later thanks to a full-back to full-back combination with Blind supplying an expert cross to Denzel Dumfries to volley home a third for the Dutch. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Ringer: The U.S. Crashes Out of the World Cup—but There’s Reason for Optimism – Brian Phillips
The Athletic: Twenty passes, every player, one beautiful goal from the Netherlands vs the U.S.
Guardian: USA’s familiar shortcomings exposed against clinical Dutch at World Cup
NY Times: Three Dutch Goals End U.S. Run in Qatar

How Brazil (It Lost) and Switzerland (It Won) Advanced to the World Cup Knockout Round



“The chaos that governed the first three days of World Cup group-stage finales did not bypass Group G on Friday so much as churn around the periphery of its two matches, swooping in to cause mayhem in torrents and spurts before leaving as quickly as it arrived. As Brazil’s reserves clashed with Cameroon, Serbia and Switzerland tussled for the group’s final qualification spot. That match included a paroxysm of goals — five in 30 minutes — and then a barren stretch that taunted both teams, one more than another. When it was over, Switzerland had won, 3-2, and advanced to the knockout stage, where it will face the Group H winner Portugal on Tuesday. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Cho Gue-sung, the South Korea striker who went viral at the World Cup — for being handsome

The Giant World Cup Rookie and an Enduring Dutch Mystery

“As they sat around the dinner table, Andries Noppert’s family raised the question as gently and as kindly as they could. He had been trying to make it as a professional soccer player for more than a decade. At 6 feet 8 inches, he had the physical gifts, and nobody would question his determination, his drive. But he was 26 now, and if everyone was completely honest, it did not seem to be working out. He had been at four clubs, and hardly played for any of them. He had made barely more than a dozen appearances in seven years. …”
NY Times

Can Brazil’s Divisive Team Unite a Fractured Nation?

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Ahead of Brazil’s elections last month, Neymar, the star forward of Brazil’s national men’s soccer team, pledged to dedicate his first World Cup goal to Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. On Election Day, Bolsonaro wore a protective vest in case of an attack. Over it, he pulled on the national team’s iconic yellow jersey. And in the days after Bolsonaro lost, hundreds of thousands of his supporters gathered outside military bases and called on the armed forces to take control of the government. From above, the protesters were a sea of yellow, with thousands wearing national team jerseys. …”
NY Times

Watching Qatar’s World Cup, Off the Field

“DOHA, Qatar — If you’re watching the World Cup from home, you can become numb to the brilliance of athletic feats that drive the world’s fascination. But away from the stadiums, the World Cup — every World Cup — has a distinct local flavor. Far from the manicured lawns of the tournament’s eight gleaming stadiums, New York Times photographers documented the flavor of the first Arab World Cup. …”
NY Times

Germany’s Coach Is Out of His Depth, and So Is Its Chancellor

“BERLIN — The start was promising. In a WhatsApp group — under the peppy name ‘Get prepared’ — the coach of Germany’s football team, Hansi Flick, delivered a stirring motivational message to the 26 players representing the country at the World Cup. Under a picture of a lamp, his colleague added: ‘May our light shine in Qatar!’ Well, not quite. After losing to Japan, in a lackluster, anemic display, the team just about managed to draw with Spain, thanks to a late equalizer. …”
NY Times | Opinion

Qatar’s World Cup Showcases Renewed Ties With Saudi Arabia, but Scars Remain



“There used to be so many Qataris in the bazaar in the Saudi oasis of Al-Ahsa, hunting for deals on spices and sandals, that some merchants called it “the Qatar market.” Qataris would cross the border and drive 100 miles through the desert to reach the towns of Al-Ahsa, loading their SUVs with sacks of flour, dining in the restaurants and filling the hotels. Then came ‘the crisis,’ as people at the market call it. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, severed ties with Qatar in 2017 and effectively isolated the tiny country, accusing its government of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs. Qatari officials denied the allegations and accused Saudi Arabia and the other countries of creating a ‘blockade’ against their nation. …”
NY Times

A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop


“…When players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country. The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world. …”
***NY Times: A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop
***Guardian: Bloody history brings flashpoint to key Iran v USA World Cup clash
The Athletic: Detained at the World Cup for wearing a ‘Women Life Freedom’ T-shirt
The Athletic: Iran World Cup 2022 ‘spies’
CNN: Iran calls for US to be kicked out of 2022 World Cup after it changes Iran flag on social media to show support for protesters

Spain 1-1 Germany: Super subs Morata and Fullkrug, technical quality and a very high line…


“A lot of the talk beforehand was about the midfield battle in Spain’s game against Germany but it was two substitute strikers that had the biggest say. Alvaro Morata put Spain in front midway through the second half before the Werder Bremen striker Niclas Fullkrug equalised late on to grab Germany a point. The result leaves Germany still without a win and with plenty of work to do to advance to the last 16. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Germany meets the moment and keeps its World Cup hopes alive.

Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint

“The final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon, and the Japanese fans who had just spent hours bouncing under a blistering midday sun allowed themselves a moment to wallow in the disappointment of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. But the moment quickly passed, and out came the blue trash bags. In the return of a postgame ritual that is being met with widespread astonishment at this year’s World Cup, a group of Japanese spectators, who only moments earlier had been deliriously singing for their team, began meticulously cleaning the stands at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, picking up trash scattered across the rows of seats around them. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Keysher Fuller’s late strike stuns Japan and revives Costa Rica’s World Cup

World Cup 2022: How Teams Can Advance to the Round of 16


“The 2022 World Cup is well underway. This year’s tournament is a little more open than usual, our chief soccer correspondent writes. And with the first matches completed in each group, we’ve already seen two major upsets: Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia, and Germany’s defeat against Japan. In the tournament’s opening matches, known as the group stage, each team plays the other three teams in its group, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw. …”
NY Times

Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi delivers, Fernandez’s impact and Martino’s ultra-defensive tactics


“When Argentina needed him most, there was Lionel Messi. And then Enzo Fernandez. Mexico were resolute defensively in the first half but Messi broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with a drilled shot from outside the box, then one of Argentina’s substitutes Fernandez scored an excellent individual goal, curling the ball past Guillermo Ochoa. Tata Martino’s Mexico failed to offer much in response and are yet to score in Qatar. Argentina, meanwhile, grew in confidence after Messi’s opening goal. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Lionel Messi Scores as Argentina Saves Its World Cup
SI: Messi’s Mastery of the Moment Breathes New Life Into Argentina’s World Cup – Jonathan Wilson
Guardian: Tears follow tension as Lionel Messi and Argentina find redemption

What Is Offside in Soccer?

“Novice fans don’t understand it. Longtime fans claim to understand it, but then openly disagree about it. Referees and their assistants are trained to spot it, but often have to turn to replays to make sure they’ve got it right. The actor Ryan Reynolds — who, remember, owns a soccer team — admits he doesn’t understand it but has sought cover by saying, ‘in fairness, nobody understands the offside rule.’ But now you will understand it. …”
NY Times

England 0-0 USA: All-action McKennie, retreating Kane and how USMNT dominated right side


England were outplayed by the United States men’s national team in the second group game in Qatar, as Gregg Berhalter’s side earned a deserved 0-0 draw. Gareth Southgate named an unchanged team following the impressive 6-2 win against Iran in their opening game. The U.S., meanwhile, had drawn 1-1 with Wales in their first game, because of a late penalty by Gareth Bale. Weston McKennie impressed in midfield for the U.S., causing all sorts of problems down the right, and Christian Pulisic came closest to a breakthrough when his shot hit the crossbar in the first half. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Edgy England on verge of World Cup last 16 after fortunate draw with USA
The Athletic: USA vs England and the path towards respect and rivalry
***NY Times: England Gets a Look at Itself, and Isn’t Sure It Likes What It Sees

Iran’s Football Team Has Already Won

“Iran’s national football team, known affectionately as Team Melli, kicked off its World Cup on Monday in dispiriting fashion. The side, which came into the tournament the highest-ranked team from Asia, lost a one-sided match to England, 6-2. There is time to make amends. On Friday, Team Melli plays Wales — a potentially winnable match for the Iranians — before taking on the United States in a tantalizing fixture next week. For Iranian football fans, myself included, World Cup games are ordinarily the pinnacle of sporting excitement. This year, in Qatar, things are different. …”
NY Times

How Ronaldo Set a Record as Portugal Held Off Ghana

“The eyes were drawn to Cristiano Ronaldo, even more than normal. Fans poured into Stadium 974 to cheer him and the Portugal team he has led for a generation. But mostly him. There may be no more ubiquitous jersey in soccer than Ronaldo’s No. 7, and on Thursday a good portion of that laundry seemed to have congregated inside a temporary arena dropped between a port and the highway to Doha’s international airport. …”
NY Times

How Japan’s five substitutes and switch to a back five stunned Germany


“It’s been an eventful couple of days in the World Cup, to the extent that this isn’t even the most notable example so far of an Asian side turning a 1-0 half-time deficit against a strong favourite into a famous 2-1 victory. But in a purely tactical sense, Japan’s win over Germany was the most fascinating contest of the World Cup so far, a classic game of two halves. Germany ran riot in the opening 45 minutes, prompting Japan to dramatically change their shape at the interval before launching their astonishing comeback. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Germany’s protest will reverberate down the years and generations
NY Times: Germany Protests FIFA Decision That Blocked Rainbow Armbands
The Athletic: Germany chose to be an ally and take on FIFA. It was a powerful, meaningful gesture

Peek Inside a $200-a-Night ‘Room’ at the World Cup in Qatar


“DOHA, Qatar — After Sheng Xie, a 33-year-old soccer fan from Vancouver, booked his flight to the World Cup, he went searching for accommodations. Using the official tournament website, he quickly settled on a relatively affordable place called Fan Village. The room pictured looked functional and clean. There were two twin beds, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a refrigerator, all for about $200 a night. He did not realize it was, essentially, inside a shipping container. …”
NY Times

How Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina: Direct play and high line, crowd sows panic, microscope on Messi


Saudi Arabia have beaten Argentina 2-1 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The opening match of Group C at the 2022 World Cup looked to be going as expected after Lionel Messi’s early penalty. Yet two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half — from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari — stunned the South American champions, who entered the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian – ‘We gave them a response’: Saudi Arabia claim their place in World Cup history
NY Times: Saudi Arabia Leaves Another Scar on Argentina’s Soul
BBC – World Cup 2022: Saudi Arabia deliver ‘seismic’ shock, but don’t count Argentina out
The Athletic: ‘He sold himself to the devil’ – Messi, 2030, and a very uncomfortable deal with Saudi Arabia (Video)
Guardian: Lionel Messi’s international career has never felt closer to oblivion
The Athletic: Messi’s Argentina have no excuses – but they also shouldn’t be too worried
The Athletic: Saudi Arabia humble Argentina – but was it the greatest World Cup shock ever?

Iran’s brave and powerful gesture is a small wonder from a World Cup of woe


While many protests were shut down by World Cup organizers, two people in attendance held signs protesting the Iranian government’s treatment of women.
“Well, that was unexpected. After the cold, cold theatre of Qatar 2022’s opening game, elite sport reimagined as a despot’s light-show, something remarkable happened on Monday afternoon in Doha. As night fell over the vast, swooping Khalifa International Stadium (all these World Cup structures are vast and swooping; unless specifically told otherwise, assume vast and swooping) England and Iran produced something that felt jarringly real, oddly warm, suspiciously authentic. Against all odds at this dislocated World Cup, a football match broke out. Albeit one shot through with its own layers of intrigue, and indeed pathos and horror. …”
Guardian
NY Times: Amid Disruptions, England’s Win Over Iran Was the Easy Part
****The Athletic – Cox: England dragged Iran apart thanks to ambition of full-backs Trippier and Shaw

Why the World Cup in Qatar Brings Fans Joy and Anxiety

“Kieran Jones, an avid soccer fan who lives in Cardiff, Wales, can tell you all the details about the last time his beloved Welsh national team made it to the World Cup. … As we spoke over the phone, Jones was preparing for a six-hour flight to Qatar, the tiny Arab country that on Sunday became the first nation in the Middle East to host the World Cup. Jones plans to stay in Qatar so long as his side remains in the 29-day tournament, which for Wales starts Monday, when it plays the United States. … With his team finally back in the thick of the quadrennial celebration of the world’s game, one might think Jones would be feeling pure, unfiltered joy. …”
NY Times

How Europe Decides Who Wins the World Cup

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Once a week, the boys from the Palmeiras youth academy climb aboard a bus and prepare for their regular visit to the past. These are the fledgling stars of Brazilian soccer: the best and brightest prospects from the most prolific youth system in the world’s greatest hothouse of talent. From their pristine campus in Guarulhos, on the outer edges of São Paulo’s suburban sprawl, the boys slowly make their way through the grinding traffic and head into the tight, winding streets of Heliópolis, the biggest favela in Brazil, or one of the dozens of other informal communities that house millions of the city’s poorest inhabitants. …”
NY Times

Aliou Cissé on African Soccer, World Cup Places and Lost Generations


A mural of the Senegal star Sadio Mané in Dakar.
“DIAMNIADIO, Senegal — Ask those who have watched Aliou Cissé take Senegal to two World Cups in a row and direct his team to a victory in the Africa Cup of Nations in February, and they will tell you that his country’s wealth of soccer talent is only one part of the reason. There is something more tedious, more long-term, but far more transformative that Cissé, the 46-year-old former Paris St.-Germain midfielder and former Senegal captain, has brought to his squad since he became its coach in 2015. …”

The World Cup’s Forgotten Team


“… None of it would have been possible, though, without hundreds of thousands of men like him: the migrant workers who fuel the ruthlessly capitalist business of supply and demand that does much of the daily and dangerous work in searing heat of the Persian Gulf, and who were indispensable to the $220 billion nation-building project that will culminate in the first World Cup in the Arab world. Qatar’s preparations for the tournament have shined a spotlight on that army of workers who have done nothing less than redraw the country over the past decade, as well as on the system that exploits their labor and their desperation, and has cost thousands of them their lives. …”
NY Times

Qatar World Cup Faces New Edict: Hide the Beer

“The message came from the highest levels of the Qatari state: The beer tents must be moved, and there would be no discussion about it. With the opening game of the World Cup only days away, Qatari organizers have been working hurriedly in recent days to relocate Budweiser-branded beer stations at eight stadiums after a sudden demand that three people with knowledge of the belated change said had come from inside the country’s royal family. …”
NY Times (Video)

Taking Stock at the World Cup Break

“In the end, the reverie could not quite hold. Union Berlin, the unassuming, unheralded team from the forest, had first moved atop of the Bundesliga in early September. It had the air, back then, of the sort of fleeting feel-good story that the early days of the season can bring: not a fluke, of course, but a confluence of circumstance that was unlikely to last. Nobody expected Union to remain there for long, least of all anyone connected to Union itself. The highest echelon of German soccer has, in recent years, grown used to the sudden advent of supercharged underdogs in its ranks, from Hoffenheim, the passion play of a local billionaire, to RB Leipzig, the artificial creation of an energy-drink conglomerate. …”
NY Times

A Soccer Team Once United Iran. Now It Reflects Its Divisions.

“Iran’s national soccer team has historically been viewed as a representative of the country’s people, not of the Islamic Republic’s government. Team Melli, as the squad is known, has been embraced as an apolitical force, and as a secular passion that reflected a certain ideal, the Iran of everyone’s imagination. For years, the team has brought unity and joy to a fractious nation. Support for it has been effectively unconditional. Until now. …”
NY Times

LAFC finds Hollywood ending, beats Philadelphia on penalty kicks for first MLS Cup title


LAFC goalie John McCarthy dives to block a shot during Saturday’s penalty-kick shootout against the Philadelphia Union.
“LAFC beat the Philadelphia Union to win its first MLS Cup in unbelievable fashion Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. Here’s what you need to know: LAFC got a 128th-minute equalizer from Gareth Bale to bring the game level at 3-3 and force penalties, where backup goalkeeper John McCarthy, a former Union player and Philadelphia native, made two saves to lead the Black and Gold to an unreal win. McCarthy, who was named MVP, was substituted on after starting keeper Maxime Crepéau was carted off with an injury — and got a red card — late in extra time. LA is the eighth team in MLS history to win both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a single season. …”
The Athletic (Video)
LA Times (Video)
NY Times: Los Angeles F.C. Wins First Title on Dramatic Day’s Final Twist (Video)

Qatar World Cup: What was promised and what is actually being delivered

“’The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.’ Florentine diplomat, historian and philosopher (a genuine Renaissance man) Niccolo Machiavelli would have been good at winning bids for major sporting events. A World Cup for all of Italy? Sure. Us, the Duchy of Milan, Papal States, Venetian Republic, we’re all Italian brothers. A dozen new stadiums? Absolutely — why not 15? New roads? Of course, we’ll pave them with gold! …”
The Athletic
NY Times: The World Cup is Weeks Away. Will Qatar Be Ready?
NY Times: Qatar Offered Fans Free World Cup Trips, but Only on Its Terms (Video)

World Cup Dreams, Gone in an Instant

“LEEDS, England — For a second, Aleksandar Mitrovic looked panicked. He slumped onto his back on the Elland Road turf, his face a grimace, his hands covering his eyes. It was not immediately apparent what had happened: Perhaps his ankle had jarred, or his knee twisted, or a hamstring popped. Fulham’s medical team rushed onto the field. Marco Silva, the club’s coach, has been ‘managing’ his striker’s fitness for weeks, ever since Mitrovic picked up an injury while away on international duty with Serbia. He was taken off early in a defeat against Newcastle. He missed a game with Bournemouth altogether. He has admitted to playing in ‘a lot of pain.’ …”
NY Times

The Instant Legend of Kvaradona


“BATUMI, Georgia — They used to worry that the Adjarabet Arena, with its sinuous arches and illuminated exterior, would turn into something of a white elephant. Batumi, after all, is a quaint resort town; it had little need for a 20,000-capacity stadium. Dinamo, the soccer team that was to call it home, generally required seating for only half that number. And then, at the start of April, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia arrived. …”
NY Times

How Arsenal Found Its Voice

“LONDON — On the night before the biggest game of Arsenal’s season so far, the fans slipped inside the Emirates Stadium to make sure everything was in place. Their leader and a handful of friends had spent weeks drawing up their plans: raising money, contacting suppliers, brainstorming themes, designing images, cutting out stencils, spray-painting letters. Now, late on a Friday night, there was just one job left to do. They had to check that every seat in Block 25 of the stadium’s Clock End contained a flag, either red or white, for the culmination of the display. …”
NY Times

Sticker Shock


“BUENOS AIRES — As prices continued to rise, Argentina’s commerce department decided something had to be done. Shop owners were worried about shortages. A key supplier was struggling to meet the demand. Desperate customers were standing in blocklong lines. So, two weeks ago, Matías Tombolini, the country’s commerce secretary, and a group of other government officials gathered interested parties around a large conference table in a downtown office building for a seemingly solemn discussion to ‘seek out possible solutions.’ Argentina was facing a crisis: It did not have enough World Cup stickers to go around. …”
NY Times

Fans Focus on Police After More Than 100 Die at Indonesian Soccer Match


“MALANG, Indonesia — It was supposed to be a joyous occasion for fans of Arema F.C., the most beloved soccer team in the city of Malang, Indonesia. Tens of thousands of young people — who call themselves ‘Aremania’ — had packed the Kanjuruhan Stadium on Saturday night, hoping to watch their team beat Persebaya Surabaya, a club it had defeated for 23 years running. But Arema lost, 3-2, and angry fans began rushing the field. What unfolded next became one of the deadliest sports stadium disasters in history: Police officers began shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd and beating fans with batons, witnesses said, and in a rush to flee the stadium fans piled up against narrow exits, crushing each other. At least 125 people were reported dead as of Sunday night. …”
NY Times (Video)

Manchester City played digital football. United are a dial-up version


“… With 44 minutes gone at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City scored a goal that brought the usual cheers and roars, but also something else, the urge to laugh. City had already spent the first half playing football that seemed to have benefited from an operating system upgrade, demonstrating the latest miracle processor against a batch of red-shirted patsies. The move to make it 4-0 was a moment of super-compression, lines cut in a perfect zigzag from outside City’s penalty area to the far left-hand corner of the Manchester United goal without friction or drag or loss of scale. …”
Guardian (Video)
NY Times: How Do You Stop Erling Haaland? You Don’t. (Video)
The Athletic (Video)

Neymar Is Still a Singular Star, but He Has More Help on Brazil

“LE HAVRE, France — As the announcer at the Stade Océane cycled through Brazil’s team on Friday, before the squad dismantled Ghana, 3-0, a murmur of appreciation greeted each familiar, stellar name. Alisson was granted gentle applause. Thiago Silva earned a respectful, admiring cheer. Raphinha drew a sizzle of anticipation. And then, leaving just a hint of a dramatic pause, the announcer came to Neymar. There were, perhaps, mitigating circumstances. …”
NY Times

The World Cup’s Carnival Comes at a Cost


“The good news is that it’s a yes from the gigantic, fire-breathing spider. It is hard, after all, to imagine a World Cup without its finest tradition: 50 tons of decommissioned crane arranged into the shape of a monstrous arachnid, pumped full of highly flammable fuel and then stocked with hopefully less flammable D.J.s. The spider will form the centerpiece of one of the cultural highlights of this winter’s World Cup in Qatar: a monthlong electronic music festival called the Arcadia Spectacular, staged just south of Doha and boasting what the promotional material calls an ‘electrifying atmosphere, extraordinary sculpted stages and the most immersive shows on earth.’ …”
NY Times
Guardian: What do Qatar’s World Cup workers fear most? Being sent home
Guardian: Migrant workers in Qatar left in debt after being ordered home before World Cup starts
Athletes, Fans Demand Remedy for Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

Chile Loses Appeal Seeking Ecuador’s Place in World Cup

“Chile failed Friday in its latest attempt to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup, another setback in a high-stakes campaign that threatened to alter the field for the sport’s showcase championship only two months before the tournament’s opening match. An appeals committee at soccer’s governing body, FIFA, rejected Chile’s newest claim, agreeing with an earlier decision by a disciplinary panel to reject the contention that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. …”
NY Times

At Soccer’s Best Talent Factory, the Future Is Always Now

“THE HAGUE, the Netherlands — As a rule, Arco Gnocchi regards himself as too old to buy a replica jersey with his favorite Ajax player’s name emblazoned across the back. Such displays of hero worship, he feels, are not entirely becoming of a person ticking through their early 40s. … This summer, though, for the first time in roughly a decade, Gnocchi made an exception. The jersey he bought for the new season bears the No. 9 and, above it, the surname of Brian Brobbey, Ajax’s bullish, bustling 20-year-old forward. …”
NY Times

Kylian Mbappé Is Coming for It All


“Kylian Mbappé will eventually turn up for his interview in an oversized vehicle outfitted with tinted windows, and accompanied by his mother, two P.R. reps, two lawyers, a small documentary crew, a stylist and a friend whose role is, initially, unclear. This is how one of the world’s biggest sports stars travels these days. Kylian Mbappé doesn’t just walk through the door. He arrives. But not just yet. …”
NY Times