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

October 12, 2017

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

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United States Misses World Cup for First Time Since 1986

October 12, 2017


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


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

October 8, 2017

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


Odd Man Out

October 8, 2017

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


Gareth Southgate should switch England to a three-man defence

October 8, 2017

“It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast between performance and outcome than England’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday night. The narrow win, sealed by Harry Kane’s last-gasp goal, didn’t really mask an uninspiring performance from manager Gareth Southgate’s side. But ultimately it means England have qualified for next summer’s World Cup. Preparation starts now: The FA immediately announced home friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month, knowing those dates wouldn’t be needed for playoff matches, while Sunday’s trip to Lithuania effectively has become another friendly, a chance for experimentation. And experimentation is crucial if England have any chance of reaching the latter stages in Russia next year. …” ESPN


U.S. National Team Still Controls Its Own World Cup Destiny

October 5, 2017


“The easiest route to the World Cup, any national team will tell you, is through the front door. Win your qualifying games and you can’t be left out. No worries. No math. No if-we-do-this-and-they-do-that calculations. Win, and you’re in. This, then, is the most appealing route for the United States national team over the next six days. If Coach Bruce Arena and his players win their final two qualifying games, at home against Panama on Friday and at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, they can pack their bags for Russia 2018. …” NY Times


Faded Orange – The decline of a footballing superpower

September 25, 2017

“The Netherland’s recent dismantling by France symbolized the frightening predicament the national team now finds itself in. The side that gave us ‘total football’, previously a staple fixture in the latter rounds of major tournaments, now faces the prospect of failing to qualify for two in a row. In truth, the 4-0 score line flattered the Dutch, who were overran in midfield, ponderous at the back, and unimaginative up top. New manager Dick Advocaat was clueless as how to line up against a technically superior side, in stark contrast to his predecessors van Gaal and van Marwijk. Their problems go far beyond the manager however, and at the present moment Dutch football is facing an identity crisis and a lost generation of talent as they desperately attempt to scramble their side into the World Cup finals next summer. …” Backpage Football