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

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The tiny nation that produces amazing players

At the World Cup in Doha, the Dutch national team was captained by the Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, while much of their tactical acumen comes from assistant manager Edgar Davids. Van Dijk and Davids, along with many others at the World Cup may have represented a different nation altogether – Suriname. This is the story of how the tiny nation of Suriname produces so many world-class players. Told by Adam Crafton, illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube

Why introducing temporary concussion substitutes in football would be the right move

“In a World Cup full of notable moments, there was one early in the tournament that grabbed the attention more than most. Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, in his team’s opening game with England, suffered a violent and high-speed clash of heads with a team-mate. Sitting on the turf with his swollen nose heavily bleeding onto his kit, Beiranvand was treated for several minutes on the pitch by medical staff. Despite clearly being in serious discomfort, he was allowed to continue. …”
The Athletic

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

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


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

Today I Have Very Strong Feelings – Jonathan Wilson

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

Huge crowd forces Argentina victory parade to be completed by helicopter


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

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


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

The Athletic and Tifo’s documentary: A Journey To A Postmodern World Cup


“Most people who attended the World Cup in Qatar flew there. That would have been the simple way to do it. We — Laurie Whitwell and Nick Miller, plus videographer and football culture expert Martino Simcik — decided not to do that. We went via the scenic route. We travelled from London to Doha via 17 countries, taking at least eight different forms of transport — from planes to e-scooters — taking 17 days to travel just over 5,600 miles. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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

World Cup predictions: How many games did our AI get right?


“World Cup 2022 produced incredible football. At the start of the tournament, Al Jazeera introduced Kashef, our artificial intelligence (AI) robot, to crunch the numbers and predict the results of each game. After every day of action, Kashef downloaded the day’s data and compared it with more than 200 metrics, including the number of wins, goals scored and FIFA rankings, from matches played over the past century, totalling more than 100,000 records, to see who was most likely to win the following day. …”
Aljazeera
FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022 bracket [+PDF]

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Qatar 2022: Shifting sands where the real and almost-real collide


1 – Qatar fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.
1 Fake Qatar fans. It is one of the strangest minor stories of the strangest of World Cups. Shortly before the opening game, Qatar versus Ecuador, a group of men in uniform Qatari team-coloured T-shirts emerged en masse into a vacant area behind the goal and started making noise, doing choreographed dances and leaping about with apparently genuine excitement, something they kept up through the game irrespective of what was happening on the pitch. … 4 Fake Venice shopping centre. The motorised gondolas at the Villaggio Mall, a Qatari classic. This is a place that loves a bit of urban mimesis. Doha and its surrounds also have a fake Place Vendôme, a fake Champs-Élysées, even a fake Hackney in the guise of Stadium 974, with its billionaire-hipster aesthetic, the pretence of being built out of glossily reclaimed shipping containers. …”
Guardian
4 – Fake Venice shopping centre.

Qatar World Cup set to end without adequate migrant worker remedy fund


“The World Cup in Qatar is set to end without migrant workers receiving access to an adequate remedy fund. This tournament has been controversial for several reasons, including Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality and male guardianship system, as well as alleged abuses of migrant workers. These workers make up around 90 per cent of Qatar’s population, and have embarked on an unprecedented construction programme in the country since 2010. There have been thousands of unexplained migrant worker deaths during that time. They have also faced risks such as non-payment of wages, illegal recruitment, and heat-related safety issues. …”
The Athletic

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

You’re Not Imagining Things. There’s Way More Stoppage Time At This World Cup.


“… Wait a minute — just how much of this World Cup has happened during stoppage time? From the opening match, it was clear that this competition’s official time was going to be unusually kept; Ecuador’s 2-0 cakewalk against their Qatari hosts went on 10 minutes and 18 seconds longer than expected. FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina soon confirmed that throughout this World Cup, officials would be adding much more time than usual, at least in part to punish teams that deploy time-wasting tactics. …”
Five Thirty Eight

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


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

Ranking all 77 goals ever scored in the World Cup final


“Only 62 men have done it. They’ve used their right foot 43 times, their left foot 21 times. There have been a dozen headers, only five penalties and a solitary own goal (should Mario Mandzukic’s accidental flick-on make it 13 headers? We’re in uncharted territory already.) The average World Cup final goal is scored in the 55th minute — whatever that average manager said at the average half-time, it’s worked, on average — and has made the score, on average, 1.92-0.94. Let’s call it 2-1. Game on! …”
The Athletic (Video)

Croatia finish third at World Cup after Mislav Orsic’s winner against Morocco

“Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the World Cup third-place playoff to leave Qatar on a high after again surpassing expectations following their run to the final in 2018. Mislav Orsic’s strike just before half-time was enough to settle the contest after two goals inside the first nine minutes set the tone for a pulsating encounter, Morocco’s Achraf Dari cancelling out Josko Gvardiol’s opener. …”
Guardian

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

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

Special report: Qatar, the World Cup and the war on truth


“For a brief few moments it looked like the World Cup was being rigged in real time, amplifying an explosive conspiracy theory seen by millions around the world. In the days running up to the tournament opener between hosts Qatar and Ecuador on November 20, a viral tweet suggested the South Americans had been bribed to deliver a 1-0 defeat. The claim mutated from the Twitter feed of someone named Amjad Taha to other social media sites and news outlets around the world. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian – As Qatar’s World Cup ends it is time for truth: Fifa chose death and suffering
Guardian – Qatar 2022: this World Cup has taken place in a crime scene
World Corrupt (Audio)

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


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

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


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

World Cup 2022: Vittorio Pozzo’s legacy and a record that is finally under threat


“When Didier Deschamps leads his France side out to face Argentina in Sunday’s World Cup final, he will be hoping to take a further big step towards becoming only the second manager to retain the trophy. Just two nations have managed to win back-to-back men’s World Cups, Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962, but with the Selecao job changing hands between successes, former Azzurri coach stands alone. Nicknamed Il Vecchio Maestro (the Old Master) in coaching circles, Pozzo was considered a visionary of the time and is credited as one of the minds behind the Metodo formation, the earliest example of the 4-3-3 we recognise today. …”
BBC
W – Vittorio Pozzo

The World Cup trophy: Stolen by robbers, found by a dog, weighs the same as a cat

Pickles poses for photographers near the spot where he found the stolen trophy
“What do Franz Beckenbauer, Daniel Passarella, Dino Zoff, Diego Maradona, Lothar Matthaus, Dunga, Didier Deschamps, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Iker Casillas, Philipp Lahm and Hugo Lloris have in common? Granted, as quiz questions go, it’s not the most taxing. The captains to have lifted the World Cup from 1974 are a distinct and illustrious group — one of a small number of people that are actually permitted to touch FIFA’s most iconic prize. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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

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


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

Morocco starting in a 5-4-1 system cost them their shot at the World Cup final


“Before Morocco’s semi-final with France, Walid Regragui made a surprise decision. Having guided Morocco further than any other African side in World Cup history with a 4-5-1 formation, he decided to start this contest with a 5-4-1. It owed much to the fitness problems of his defenders. Nayef Aguerd pulled out shortly before kick-off, Romain Saiss lasted 20 minutes, and Noussair Mazraoui didn’t make it to the second half. With concerns about the mobility of those defenders, and up against France’s speedy wingers, Regragui opted to load up on another defender. On paper, it made sense. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

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

Africa’s World Cup: how a continent that usually underperforms finally got it rig


“After the first round of games at the World Cup, an all too familiar script looked to be playing out for African football fans. Five games played, three losses, two draws and only Ghana putting the ball in the back of the net in a defeat by Portugal. Another disappointing tournament appeared to be looming for the continent that Brazil soccer great and three-time winner Pelé once declared would ‘win the World Cup before the year 2000.’ … However, as Qatar 2022 draws to a close, the outlook looks very different. Every single team from the continent went on to win a game in its group for the first time in history, two teams made it out of the group stages – a joint record – and Morocco will become the first African team to play in a World Cup semifinal. …”
CNN

‘All thanks to Qatar!’ The one way the host nation has won at the World Cup

“When Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup in 2010, the choice shocked and surprised soccer fans around the world. Concerns about lack of infrastructure, the country’s conservatism, summer heat waves and allegations that the country had bribed its way to the bid dominated the international media. FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, responded to the heat issue by moving the tournament to the winter, and the Qatari government threw up stadiums, hotels, roads and even new cities in record time — only to raise new concerns about its treatment of migrant workers. …”
GRID

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

Hakim Ziyech’s Morocco redemption is the result of hard work as much as skill

“Somewhere on the outskirts of Cairo in 2019, Herve Renard’s Morocco were looking to break their Africa Cup of Nations hoodoo. Since finishing as runners-up to Tunisia in the 2004 version, Morocco had only made it out of the group stage once, in 2017. In the six editions before that, they had fallen at the group stage four times, failed to qualify once and been disqualified once. In 2019, they made it to the knockout stage once more, facing Benin in the round of 16. It was a match they were expected to win, having finished top of a group containing Ivory Coast, South Africa and Namibia. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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

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


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

‘Josko Gvardiol is world’s best centre-back’ – the Croatia defender by those who know him


“Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic gave the standard platitudinal response after his side’s 0-0 draw against Belgium secured their place in the knockout rounds of the World Cup. But then he couldn’t help himself. ‘Josko Gvardiol is the best centre-back in the world. To play this maturely, it’s amazing. The way he plays, with the elegance he carries the ball.’ Croatia are in the World Cup semi-finals having only been in the lead for 46 minutes in the tournament. Their collective fortitude and astonishing consistency in penalty shootouts are the most frequently cited explanations, but to get away with that you also need an extremely good defence. …”
The Athletic

Morocco’s ‘Bono’ linked to big clubs after World Cup heroics


“Morocco’s win over Portugal to become the first African side to reach the World Cup semifinals produced some iconic images: Youssef En-Nesyri’s leap for the goal, Sofiane Boufal dancing with his mother on the touchline, manager Walid Regragui being hoisted by his players, the unbridled joy among Moroccan fans in the stands. Yet a crucial moment that enabled these scenes of euphoria came in the 84th minute, with Portugal pressing hard for an equaliser. …”
Aljazeera (Video)
W – Yassine_Bounou
Why is Morocco World Cup goalkeeper Yassine Bounou called Bono? Explaining the Atlas Lions star’s show-stopping nickname (Video)

How England kept France’s star forward Kylian Mbappe quiet


“‘There are a handful of players you need to consider for special attention,’ England assistant coach Steve Holland said before the quarter-final against France. ‘You’d have to put (Kylian) Mbappe in that category. We need to look at trying to avoid leaving ourselves in situations where he is as devastating as we’ve seen.’ On a night when Mbappe recorded just one shot and one key pass, and failed to score or assist for the first time when starting a game at this World Cup, here is how England managed to keep him quiet… ”
The Athletic

No World Cup tickets on sale despite empty seats


“No World Cup tickets are available for purchase on FIFA’s official ticket portal despite swathes of empty seats being clearly visible at many matches during the tournament, The Athletic can reveal. While many tickets were sold long in advance of the first match, FIFA now is in its “last-minute sales phase” where additional tickets can be bought at short notice. All knockout matches are listed as sold out. There is a link to an official resale platform but few appeared to be available. …”
The Athletic

Another World Cup semi-final, but are shot-shy Croatia actually any good?


“It’s difficult to find anyone — aside perhaps from those in neighbouring countries — who have anything other than the utmost respect for Croatia as a football nation. Their debut World Cup as an independent country was only in 1998, and yet in those seven tournaments they’ve reached the semi-finals three times. It’s remarkable for a country with a population of under four million (half that of London), and all the more remarkable considering Croatia have always been intent on playing positive, possession-based football, with a midfield based around playmakers rather than destroyers. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Dominik Livaković
BBC – World Cup 2022: Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic is unlikely hero – again
Dominik Livaković stands tall as Croatia stuns Neymar and Brazil (Video)

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

Alan Shearer: Kane’s penalty miss will hurt and haunt him every day for the rest of his life

“… Harry is an exceptional centre-forward, an exceptional player full stop. I know his position and I know his mindset and I know he will put his head on the pillow on this night and the next and a few more besides and he will blink and stare at the ceiling. He will re-live his penalty over and over. He will revisit it, he will re-take it and in his mind’s eye he will convince himself that this time, he’s scoring. And I promise you, it will stay with him forever. …”
The Athletic

How FIFA corruputed the World Cup


“On December 2, 2010, FIFA announced the 2022 World Cup would take place in a surprising country, Qatar. At that same meeting, they also announced that the 2018 World Cup would take place in Russia. These selections set off a new chapter in FIFA’s history, one where the public would have a greater sense of how bribery and corruption play a huge role in who gets to host this international sporting event. The last 14 World Cup locations were decided by a group of 24 powerful men within FIFA called the executive committee. Their votes meant a lot to bidding nations and allegations on bidders bribing members of the committee lingered for decades. These allegations reached a new level when criminal investigations were launched nearly five years after that FIFA announcement. The fallout of these investigations nearly broke FIFA and tainted the World Cup. …”
Vox (Video)

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

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

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

Pleasure and Politics at the World Cup

“‘The first ten days were soccer as it is,’ Sam Knight writes, of the World Cup, ‘rather than as you want it to be.’ Knight reflects on his time reporting in Qatar, and the highs and lows of the tournament to date. Plus, David Remnick talks with Politico’s new owner, the German media baron Mathias Döpfner, who has made a name for himself as a contrarian, fighting what he sees as partisanship fuelled by the largest media outlets. And the contributor Andrew Leland sits down with the poet John Lee Clark, whose writing on the DeafBlind experience is full of humor and life. …”
New Yorker (Audio)

The World Cup of tiredness: Who is running fast or slow, playing most and resting least?

Today I feel… pretty tired. It takes a lot of energy to keep across all 56 games played so far during the World Cup. And it takes far more energy to actually play international football in a humid climate — for many of those being asked to do so, in the middle of a gruelling domestic season with just a few days’ preparation time. …”
The Athletic

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

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


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

Croatia beat Brazil – Penalties, Neymar’s moment of genius and Gvardiol’s defence


Croatia progressed to the World Cup semi-finals after beating Brazil on penalties. A tense 90 minutes where clear-cut chances were few and far between meant extra time was needed, which perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise – eight of Croatia’s last nine tournament knockout games have gone to extra time. … Having had a quiet night, Neymar delivered a passage of magical football as he played through the resolute Croatia defence before rounding Dominik Livakovic and guiding the ball into the roof of the net. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst – Croatia 1-1 Brazil: Livaković the Penalty Hero Once Again for Croatia
NPR: Croatia stuns top-ranked Brazil to advance to the World Cup semifinals
Guardian: Croatia reach World Cup semi-final as Brazil miss twice in penalty shootout
The Athletic: Neymar weeps for the end of his world – and his place in Brazil history

How the Netherlands (finally) learned to start loving each other


“Opulence is traditionally frowned upon in the Netherlands, but Doha doesn’t do pared-back. The St Regis, the Dutch squad’s hotel in the West Bay district of the Qatari capital, is an Arabian palace by way of Disneyland: toffee-coloured marble, quadruple-height ceilings, an Olympic-sized pool overlooking the sea, a bronze Ferrari in the lobby. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Pochettino: Only man to coach Kane and Mbappe on their rare talents – and how to stop them

“One of the turning points in Harry Kane’s career came a few weeks into my first season as Tottenham manager. I had started with Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado as our two first-choice strikers — great players, senior players, and deserving of respect. Harry was only starting in the Europa League. On September 18, we played at Partizan Belgrade, but Harry struggled and we drew 0-0. Three days later, when we played West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, I didn’t even put him on the bench. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why this World Cup is the tournament of the ‘finisher’


“‘With five substitutes, you can have half of your team change during a game, so you want different options for different moments of matches and for different stages of the tournament as well,’ said England manager Gareth Southgate when announcing his squad for this World Cup. The ‘finisher’ was outlined as one of five tactical trends to watch this tournament, but how are teams having success with substitutes and who are the impact players? …”
The Athletic (Video)

Brazil, 1970, and the Captivating Mythology of the ‘Beautiful Game’


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves a mesmerizing team goal from Brazil that changed the World Cup forever. …”
The Ringer (Video)

Explained: How a 48-team World Cup could work

“When FIFA president Gianni Infantino is not empathising with minority groups, lecturing on postcolonial theory and sitting next to heads of state, he comes up with ideas to improve/ruin football (delete as applicable). Biennial World Cups, a global Nations League, 32-team Club World Cups… the ideas come spitting out of his head like tracer bullets. …”
The Athletic

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

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