Scrutinized documents, a mysterious brother and lots of jokes: The legal battle between Chile and Ecuador with World Cup implications

May 15, 2022


“Accusations of cheating are nothing new in South American football. The latest scandal, however, could have major implications ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It involves an international court battle between the Ecuadorian and Chilean football federations that is surrounded by nationalism, name-calling in the press and decades-old grudges. …”
The Athletic


Canada men’s national soccer team

May 13, 2022


“The Canada men’s soccer team has qualified for the World Cup, for the first time in 36 years. It is only Canada’s second qualification for a World Cup. (Their first came in the 1986 World Cup, in Mexico, when Canada went scoreless in their 3 first round games, and left the tournament dead last.) Canada will play in 2022 FIFA World Cup Group F (vs: Belgium, Morocco, and Croatia). You can see how far the Canada men’s soccer team has come in the last 20 years by simply looking at their home venues. Twenty years ago, for 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification, Canada were playing in places like the 2,000-capacity Winnipeg Soccer Complex, and the 5,000-capacity Varsity Stadium in Toronto. …”
billsportsmaps
The Athletic: The tactical factors behind Canada’s rise to the CONCACAF elite in the Octagonal (Video) Jan. 2022
W – Canada men’s national soccer team
Aljazeera: Canada changes football narrative with Qatar 2022 qualification (Video) March 30 2022


Chile Files Claim Seeking Ecuador’s Place in the World Cup

May 5, 2022



“Qualification for this year’s soccer World Cup, already disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now faces more uncertainty after Chile this week called on FIFA to throw out Ecuador and hand its place in the tournament to Chile instead. Chile contends that its South American rival fielded an ineligible player who is in fact Colombian. …”
NY Times


VAR in Scottish Premiership: What will it solve? What won’t it fix? Who will foot bill? When will it come into force?

May 3, 2022


“VAR has arrived in Scottish football. On Tuesday, the SPFL’s member clubs passed the motion to introduce video assistant referees to the Premiership from midway through next season — after the winter break for the World Cup finals in November and December. While VAR is, and almost certainly will continue to be, a divisive topic among supporters, all 12 of Scotland’s top-flight clubs enthusiastically supported its implementation in the league. Here is what has happened so far, and what comes next. …”
The Athletic


As World Cup Nears, Brands Weigh Cost of Teaming With Qatar

May 2, 2022



“For Gary Lineker, a starring role in Qatar’s big show was not an option. Sure, he had hosted a World Cup draw before. And as a former top scorer in the tournament who now works as a popular television broadcaster he has an ongoing professional relationship with the tournament’s organizer, FIFA. But fronting the glamorous event in Doha last month that set the matchups for this year’s World Cup in Qatar — a hosting choice he has regularly criticized — was not something, Lineker decided, that he could consider. So in a conversation with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, Lineker said no. …”
NY Times


Nigeria’s troubles are reflected in its football

April 24, 2022


29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …”
New Frame


Taking Senegalese Soccer to New Heights, With Pride and Style

April 22, 2022



“DIAMNIADIO, Senegal — Standing on the sidelines of Senegal’s brand-new national stadium, Aliou Cissé, the biggest fan of his own team, waved his arms at 50,000 fans, exhorting them to cheer even louder, his signature dreadlocks bouncing on his shoulders. Fans roared back, clapping and blowing their vuvuzelas at a more deafening pitch. Minutes later, Senegal defeated its fiercest rival, Egypt, earning a qualification for soccer’s World Cup, which begins this November in Qatar. …”
NY Times


USMNT 2022 World Cup roster prediction 1.0: Our first guess at who is going to Qatar

April 18, 2022


“Previously, teams could only bring 23 players to the World Cup. The pandemic changed the nature of international soccer, however, leading to expanded rosters during the course of qualifying and in international tournaments over the last year. FIFA hasn’t yet made a final ruling on how large the squads will be for the 2022 World Cup, though USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said on CBS Sports’ Golazo Show last week that he’s hearing teams will be allowed to bring an expanded group of 26 players to the tournament. …”
The Athletic


‘We could play at Wembley’: Ukraine manager on war, the World Cup and his hatred of Russia

April 6, 2022


“When the war broke out in the early hours of 24 February, Oleksandr Petrakov, the manager of Ukraine’s men’s national football team, chose not to leave his home in the capital, Kyiv, as the Russians advanced and shells dropped, but to try to join the fight. … A Russian speaker from childhood, Petrakov now sticks to Ukrainian in public and while some are sad about Vladimir Putin’s war and others are angry, he admits to a more visceral emotion. ‘It’s just hate. It is not anger, but people hate those who invaded their land. We need time to calm down but for now it is just hate. They have broken our countries for years.’ …”
Guardian (April 1)
W – Oleksandr Petrakov


How Canada used the 4-4-2 to success in World Cup Qualifying

April 6, 2022


“After thirteen long, hard-fought games, the Canadian Men’s National Team have officially qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With 8 wins, 4 draws and just 1 loss in the final stage of qualifying, John Herdman’s men sealed their spot with a game to spare, after thumping Jamaica by a smashing score-line of 4-0. In the final stages of the competition, Canada smartly stuck by a 4-4-2 formation, maintaining consistency and chemistry en route to an impressive run to the finish line. Here is our analysis of how Canada used the 4-4-2 to success, and stood strong to stand on guard for thee. …”
The Mastermindsite


The Biennial World Cup May Be Dead, but FIFA’s Fight Isn’t Over

April 4, 2022


“Gianni Infantino strode into the bright lights of a packed convention center alongside the emir of Qatar on Friday and declared that he expected this year’s World Cup to be the best ever. … It was here where yet another of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change, the kind of bold but ultimately failed plan that has marked his presidency of soccer’s global governing body, finally came to an end. The divisive efforts to double the frequency of the men’s World Cup, to milk FIFA’s multibillion-dollar cash cow every two years instead of every four, are over. …”
NY Times


The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song

April 2, 2022


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)


This is why the World Cup 2022 in Qatar is controversial

April 1, 2022


“We are just over seven months away from the World Cup finals in Qatar and Joe White is yet to decide if they will be there to follow England’s latest bid for football glory. There is a reluctance to entirely rule out travelling in November but the doubts are abundant and persist. … The countdown to the 2022 World Cup begins in earnest on Friday as the great and the good of international football gather at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. It promises to be a typically glitzy, polished event as groups are drawn and schedules set with a worldwide audience watching on, but the controversies surrounding a World Cup staged in Qatar are not easily quelled. …”
The Athletic


The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.

April 1, 2022


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind


Jude Bellingham: Has Borussia Dortmund midfielder made himself an England starter?

March 30, 2022


Jude Bellingham was named man of the match at Wembley
England’s 3-0 friendly victory against Ivory Coast at Wembley was as routine as it comes, but there was still plenty for manager Gareth Southgate to ponder as the countdown to the World Cup in Qatar continues. Southgate will discover England’s group opponents at Friday’s draw, then will further fine-tune his plans when they return to action against Hungary, Germany and Italy in the Nations League in June. England delivered pretty much all Southgate would have wanted in two Wembley wins against Switzerland on Saturday and here against a disappointing Ivory Coast, but it all gets harder from now on and he has issues to consider. …”
BBC (Video)
W – Jude Bellingham


Lionel Messi and Argentina look in harmony with World Cup dream alive

March 28, 2022


“Argentina’s last home game before the World Cup turned into an unexpected love-in at La Bombonera on Friday. The penultimate qualifier for the already qualified nation (they play Ecuador away in their last fixture) became the emotional send-off that is usually organised with that specific purpose but which the new calendar means will be impossible at a later point in the year. Asked after the game about his future with the national team post-Qatar, Lionel Messi replied with a ‘who knows’, so potentially this was his last appearance on Argentinian soil wearing the oversized Argentinian strip, which ironically feels too small for him, at least in official competition. …”
Guardian


‘We are Ghana and we have what it takes to win’

March 28, 2022


Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …”
New Frame


Despite a pair of horrible misses, the USMNT leaves the Azteca in good shape

March 26, 2022


“The final celebration was muted, more of a full-body manifestation of a sigh of relief than an explosion of joy: A fist pump, a high-five, a slap on the back and a quick exit to field level to congratulate the team. Not that U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and U.S. men’s national team GM Brian McBride were that composed for the duration of the USMNT’s critical 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Thursday night. The former U.S. internationals, who both played in qualifiers at the Azteca, were visibly tense throughout, watching the match on a platform near the press tribune in the upper bowl of the cavernous stadium. The pair spent most of the game in a strained silence that was only punctuated by brief moments of encouraging applause and a couple instances of agonizing disbelief. Their anxiety was understandable. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – ‘Positive disappointment’: After struggles in Mexico, a young USMNT must show their resilience once again
NY Times: U.S. Ties Mexico as World Cup Remains Just Out of Reach (Video)


‘Destroyed and crushed’: Italy stunned after missing out on World Cup again

March 26, 2022


“Winning Euro 2020 last summer is now a bittersweet memory for the Italian national team after they failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals. The Azzurri will not be in Qatar, just as they were not at Russia 2018 after falling at the same playoff stage. ‘It is clear that we are destroyed and crushed, a great void will remain within us,’ said the veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp strike earned North Macedonia a famous 1-0 win in Thursday’s playoff semi-final. …”
Guardian
Guardian: What now for Italy after catastrophe of missing second World Cup in a row?


World Cup 2022: Algeria avenge Nations Cup failure in Cameroon

March 26, 2022


Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….”
BBC


2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets

March 25, 2022


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations


Southgate voices England concerns about human rights at Qatar World Cup

March 20, 2022


Southgate voices England concerns about human rights at Qatar World Cup
“Gareth Southgate says it is vital that sections of England’s support are given stronger assurances about their safety at the World Cup in Qatar, and that it will be ‘horrible’ if people feel unable to travel because of human rights concerns. Among the many issues clouding this winter’s tournament is the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while there are also serious problems surrounding women’s rights. While officials in the country have repeatedly stated that all supporters will be safe, there remains significant disquiet. Southgate explained that he has researched the problems that have caused alarm since Qatar was awarded hosting rights in 2010. …”
Guardian


Poland Refused to Play Russia Once. It May Have to Do So Again.

March 16, 2022


“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …”
NY Times


The human cost of the Qatar World Cup

March 13, 2022


“… His story is emblematic of the lives of migrant workers who have helped shape Qatar’s football vision. Their own hopes are often dashed by deceptive recruitment practices, wage abuses and strenuous working conditions enabled by the kafala or sponsorship system. Yet Qatar and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the local organising committee for the World Cup, have trumpeted that labour reform is real. …”
New Frame


Why Did Global Soccer Ban Russia, Really?

March 5, 2022


“Anything as popular as soccer, whose fans number in the billions, is bound to become currency. The game carries immense value for people who play and watch it, but also to anyone who wants to use it to reach hearts, minds, and wallets the world over. In the past 30 years, the commoditization of the world’s game has accelerated, both as a television product and as a means for the ultra-rich to blow their money and burnish their reputations. The highest tier of global soccer is so expensive now that there probably is no ethical way to afford membership. But the roster of EPL club owners is a who’s-who of murderous dictators; scions of other oil-rich, human rights-denying royal families; and oligarchs who pillaged state assets to make themselves rich as their countries privatized them after the Cold War. …”
SLATE
FIFA’s suspension of Russia is a rarity – but one that strips bare the idea that sport can be apolitical
ESPN – FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works (Video)
Forbes: FIFA Bans Russia, But Don’t Forget About Ukraine’s World Cup Dreams
Aljazeera: Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine (Video)
FIFA has finally acted against Russia, but it doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up to Putin (Video)

Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Stop War. We against war.” prior the Bundesliga soccer match, Germany


FIFA Suspends Russia, Ejecting It From World Cup Qualifying

March 1, 2022



“World soccer’s global governing body suspended Russia and its teams from all competitions on Monday, ejecting the country from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only weeks before it was to play for one of Europe’s final places in this year’s tournament in Qatar. The suspension, which was announced Monday evening in coordination with European soccer’s governing body, also barred Russian club teams from international competitions. The decision came a day after FIFA was heavily criticized for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and amid mounting demands from national federations for stronger action. …”
NY Times


Champions League Final Will Be Played in Paris, Not Russia

February 26, 2022


“European soccer’s governing body on Friday voted to move this season’s Champions League final, the showcase game on the continent’s sporting calendar, to Paris as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The game, on May 28, had been scheduled to be played in St. Petersburg, in a stadium built for 2018 World Cup and financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, a major sponsor of the governing body, UEFA. It will take place instead at the Stade de France, in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. It will be the first time France has hosted the final since 2006. UEFA said it had made the decision as a result of ‘the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.’ …”
NY Times
****New Republic: European Soccer Only Has Itself to Blame for Its Russia Problem
***NY Times: Stranded Soccer Stars, Frantic Phone Calls and a Race to Flee Kyiv (Video)
NY Times: The Roots of Ukraine’s War: How the Crisis Developed
NY Times – Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The Athletic: Footballers should not be asked to do a politician’s job
NY Times – Soccer, Russia and a Line Drawn Too Late


£3 tickets, no Man City fans and VAR controversy – what Abu Dhabi football is like away from the glamour

February 15, 2022


“One man is bashing a drum at an incessant rhythm, another is singing through a megaphone and two more have taken it upon themselves to get the rest of the crowd around them to clap to the beat. Anyone who ignores them is getting a steely glare. ‘You must join in!’ a young man named Abdul Kadir shouts excitedly to me before turning back to his friends sitting next to him. There are only about 300 people in this section of the stadium, so how could The Athletic refuse? This is where the most fanatical fans have come to watch their beloved Baniyas play Al Wahda. …”
The Athletic


What it’s like to be a USMNT lightning rod for criticism: ‘It was overwhelming’

February 5, 2022


“It was midway through the first half of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier between the U.S. and Canadian men’s national teams when Gyasi Zardes charged forward toward goal. Canada had taken a 1-0 lead not long beforehand. An American equalizer would settle all of their nerves, maybe even quell the rising panic that a qualification disaster was happening to them again. This could’ve been Zardes’ moment, the play that would make him a hero whose goal put the team’s trajectory back on course for Qatar 2022. …”
The Athletic


Canada Beats U.S., Cementing a Soccer Power Shift

January 31, 2022


“If it wasn’t already clear which country in North and Central America and the Caribbean had the best soccer team during this World Cup qualifying cycle, Canada provided another resounding argument for its primacy on Sunday. With a 2-0 win over the United States on a frigid afternoon, Canada, without its best player, extended its lead atop the eight-team qualifying group that will determine the region’s berths in this year’s World Cup. Now four points clear of its closest rival with four games remaining, Canada has put itself in pole position for one of the region’s three automatic spots in Qatar in November. …”
NY Times (Video)


Iran vs Iraq – tension, admiration and ‘one of the best atmospheres in world football’

January 29, 2022


“It was not a straightforward journey to Tehran for Wycombe Wanderers striker Ali Al-Hamadi this week. A snowstorm in the Turkish city of Istanbul threw his flight plans up in the air but while waiting at Heathrow airport, mulling over a change to his connecting flight, the Iraq international was able to have a quick chat with The Athletic before two more World Cup qualifiers in the next week, and his first taste of the Iran-Iraq derby. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Is Canada the Soccer Rival the U.S. Needs?

January 28, 2022



“By most measuring sticks, Dwayne De Rosario enjoyed a successful career in soccer. He played 14 seasons in Major League Soccer, earning a most valuable player award, a league scoring title and collecting four M.L.S. championships. He represented Canada in the world youth championships, won a Gold Cup with its senior team and, although retired for years now, he still shares the title — for the moment at least — as his men’s national team’s career goals leader with 22. …”
NY Times
NY Times: U.S. Picks Up Another Win and Turns Focus to Canada (Video)
The Athletic: USMNT win over El Salvador highlights growing need for a reliable striker as World Cup hopes take shape


A trip to Dubai, ‘Yellow days’ or time off: What will your club’s players be doing during the Premier League break?

January 24, 2022


“It has snuck up on us in a whirl of postponed fixtures, the FA Cup’s third round and the Carabao Cup semi-finals but this weekend is the last push before the Premier League takes a two-week break. Don’t worry, there’s going to be plenty of football to keep us going in the meantime — with the EFL continuing, the Africa Cup of Nations’ knockout phase, World Cup qualifiers and the FA Cup fourth round to keep us entertained — but it’s an opportunity for many Premier League squads to get some time on the training pitch or simply take a well-deserved rest. Ralf Rangnick has opted to give his Manchester United players six days off, and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will also have extended breaks. But Newcastle United (Saudi Arabia) and Arsenal (Dubai) are off to warmer climes. Here, The Athletic’s club writers give you the rundown of what your lads are going to be up to over the next couple of weeks…”
The Athletic
W – 2022 EFL Cup Final


The English FA and a very uncomfortable relationship with Qatar

December 8, 2021


“After wrapping up their place in next year’s World Cup finals, the Danish Football Association (DBU) made an emphatic move. ‘The DBU has long been strongly critical of the World Cup in Qatar,’ its chief executive officer, Jakob Jensen, said in a statement. ‘But now we are further intensifying our efforts and critical dialogue so that we take advantage of the fact that we have qualified to work for more change in the country.’ The Danes committed to action, not only words. They announced that their two training kit sponsors have given up logo space on those jerseys to create room for ‘critical messages’ about alleged Qatari human rights violations. Additionally, commercial partners will not travel to Qatar. The federation also pledged to limit the number of trips it makes there in the lead-up to the tournament to avoid promoting the ‘World Cup organiser’s events’. …”
The Athletic


Semi-automated offsides: FIFA’s new baby and a bold step in the development of VAR

December 3, 2021


“A show of hands please from those who watched Tunisia hammer Mauritania 5-1 on Tuesday. Really? The opening game of the FIFA Arab Cup passed you by? More fool you. It had plenty going for it, honestly. Some classy finishes from Tunisia, particularly the cheeky backheel from Seifeddine Jaziri to break Mauritania’s resolve for 3-0. No way back from there when you are ranked 103rd in the world, that’s for sure. Arguably the most remarkable aspect of the match, though, was the 17 (seventeen) minutes of stoppage time played at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Qatar. Even more remarkable was that none of it was down to offside VAR checks. …”
The Athletic
FIFA: Semi-automated offside technology explained ahead of FIFA Arab Cup (Video) 24:21
W – Video assistant referee
The Athletic: Thicker VAR offside lines, new referees and away fans – what’s different for the 2021-22 Premier League season


Portugal on collision course with Italy after Qatar World Cup play-off draw

November 27, 2021


Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the same pathway for the European FIFA World Cup play-offs, meaning only one will be able to secure qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar. Italy are the defending European champions, after beating England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer. Portugal meanwhile won Euro 2016, overcoming France in Paris to win the tournament for the first time. But one — or both — will miss out on a place in Qatar after Friday’s play-off draw. …”
The Athletic


Is 2021 Switzerland’s greatest year?

November 26, 2021


“It’s never easy to define a team by a single year. There are so many variables, so many intricacies, that can determine what constitutes a ‘great year’, that it’s almost impossible to put one above another. For starters, everything is relative: is it ‘better’ to over-achieve with a weak squad, for example, or to succeed with a side that was always expected to win? Like everything in football, you’ll never get a unanimous decision. After Remo Freuler scored Switzerland’s fourth goal of the night against Bulgaria last Monday, however, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single Swiss fan in attendance that wouldn’t put 2021 right at the top of the pile for the men’s ‘Nati’. …”
Back Page Football


Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

November 24, 2021


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times


Qatar 2022 is a powerplay aimed at neighbours more than European critics

November 21, 2021


“One year to go, 11 in the making. Welcome to Qatar 2022, the final countdown, and a World Cup that for all the noise, the sense of fingers crossed and a gaze averted from the bloodier details, still makes no real sense at all. It was easy to feel a bit distracted as Sepp Blatter read out the word ‘Qatar’, with a slight break in his voice, shortly after lunchtime on 2 December 2010. There was an edge of hysteria in the chamber at Fifa House. Ten minutes earlier Blatter had broken the red wax seal on another padded envelope, and said ‘Russia’, to protracted squeals of joy. The crowd had already begun to seethe. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Pride and poverty: Qatar’s World Cup fever tempered by legacy of labour abuses
Guardian – The men who built Qatar’s World Cup dream deserve some of David Beckham’s pay packet (October 2021)
Guardian – Revealed: football’s plan for Qatar workers’ centre as World Cup legacy


The World Cup Loses Its First Star

November 20, 2021


“Somewhere, in a darkened room, Erling Haaland was watching. Injury meant he would not be able to take the field for Norway’s most significant match in 20 years. The Netherlands’ return to partial lockdown last weekend meant, with the game played behind closed doors, he would not even be able to support his national team from the stands. Instead, Haaland had to follow from afar, powerless to help. Two minutes into the game, he posted an image of the game’s television broadcast on Instagram, accompanied by a Norwegian flag and the heart emoji. There was, then, still a scintilla of hope. …”
NY Times


Switzerland Are Back in the World Cup and They Will Be a Problem

November 20, 2021


“Switzerland have done it again, grabbing glory from the mouths of supposedly greater footballing nations. Once again, one of the sport’s superpowers has woken up one morning, ready to eat breakfast with destiny, only to go downstairs and find that Switzerland has already scoffed its meal. In this summer’s Euro 2020, France seemed to be moving toward the next stage of the tournament, soaring toward glory on the back of a series of sublime performances from Paul Pogba. That was until Switzerland snatched away their aspirations with a last-minute goal to force extra time in the Round of 16 before sending them home by winning the penalty shootout. Most recently, Italy has been made to suffer at Swiss hands. …”
The Ringer (Audio)


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


World Cup 2022 qualification: Who will be in Qatar and who is in play-offs?

November 16, 2021


Gareth Southgate’s England are heading to Qatar 2022, while Wales and Scotland have a play-off place secured
“England have qualified for the 2022 World Cup finals while Wales and Scotland are heading to the play-offs along with some surprising names. European champions Italy and Portugal will also have to go through two rounds of play-off games next March after failing to win their respective groups. Heading to the World Cup so far are: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey are the three teams left who can still qualify automatically. The winners of each group secure a place at the World Cup, with the 10 runners-up joining two Nations League teams in the play-offs, where three further places are up for grabs. …”
BBC


Scotland 2 – 0 Denmark

November 16, 2021


“Scotland secured a seeded spot in the World Cup play-off semi-finals as goals from John Souttar and Che Adams stunned Denmark with a thrilling performance at Hampden Park. Steve Clarke’s Group F runners-up needed at least a point against the runaway leaders to give themselves a chance of a home draw. But centre-half Souttar headed home in his first Scotland game since being sent off in a 2018 defeat by Israel and striker Adams burst clear to settle growing nerves after 86 minutes. Scotland had lived dangerously in the closing stages before that breakaway goal secured a sixth competitive victory in succession for the first time since winning six Home Nations matches in a row between March 1928 and February 1930. …”
BBC
Guardian: Che Adams secures Scotland play-off seeding in superb win over Denmark


U.S. Beats Mexico and Then Rubs It In

November 14, 2021


Weston McKennie and his teammates beat Mexico with goals and then taunted them in song.
“Michael Jackson’s 1988 song ‘Man in the Mirror’ — a classic tune, but no one’s idea of a rousing sports arena jam — was blaring over the stadium speakers late on Friday night as the U.S. men’s soccer team rollicked and embraced happily on the field. A bit less than half an hour earlier, Christian Pulisic had charged toward the sideline to celebrate the first of the Americans’ goals in their 2-0 victory against Mexico, lifting the front of his No. 10 jersey to reveal the same phrase, ‘Man in the Mirror,’ scrawled in permanent marker on his white undershirt. At that moment, even reasonably well-informed American soccer fans might have been left scratching their heads at the references, struggling to understand what, exactly, was afoot. …”
NY Times (Video)


Hjulmand: Denmark happy to be World Cup dark horses

November 13, 2021


“With eight wins from eight, 27 goals scored and zero conceded, Denmark qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in stunning, swashbuckling style. But when Politiken, one of the country’s daily newspapers, dubbed 2021 an ‘almost perfect year’, the reason for qualifying the description was obvious. The events of 12 June, and Christian Eriksen’s horrifying on-field cardiac arrest, are never far from Danish minds – or from conversations around their team. Rather than cast a shadow, however, the trauma of the Eriksen incident – and the response to it – has served to solidify bonds within Kasper Hjulmand’s team and unite the nation around them. …”
FIFA
W – Kasper Hjulmand


Italy 1 – 1 Switzerland

November 13, 2021


Italy remain top of Group C on goal difference despite being held in Rome
“Jorginho’s last-minute penalty miss ensured the race to finish first in 2022 World Cup qualifying Group C goes down to the wire as top two Switzerland and Italy played out a gripping draw. The Chelsea player blazed over after VAR was used to rule that Ulisses Garcia had shoved Domenico Berardi. Giovanni Di Lorenzo headed Italy level after Silvan Widmer’s superb opener. The Azzurri hold the edge going in to the last round of games with a goal difference two better than the Swiss. It means a straight shoot-out between the pair for top spot on Monday, with Italy at Northern Ireland and Switzerland at home against Bulgaria….”
BBC


The Little Country That Could Wonders if It Still Can

November 13, 2021



“Luis Suárez arrived first. And in the ordinary run of things, for a city like Salto — a sleepy place tucked into a distant corner of a tiny country — that would have been its claim to fame: producing one of the finest strikers of a generation. Except that, precisely three weeks later, a second arrived. Edinson Cavani grew up only a few streets from Suárez. The curiosity that the two players who would, for more than a decade, help turn Uruguay’s national team into one of the most potent in the world were born in such quick succession, in such proximity, lends their origin story a faintly fantastical gleam. Lightning, after all, is not supposed to strike twice. …”
NY Times


USA-Mexico: 5 things to know about El Tri before crucial World Cup qualifier

November 12, 2021


“So begins Mexico’s most challenging – and most frigid – World Cup qualifying window. Following a promising start to the Octagonal with four wins and two draws, manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino and his squad will now embark on a demanding two-game away trip against the United States (Nov. 12) and Canada (Nov. 16). There’s much more than just World Cup qualifying points on the line here. After already losing to the USMNT twice this year in the Nations League and Gold Cup finals, Mexico will seek to avoid a potential third consecutive defeat since June. As for Canada, Mexico have had some issues with John Herdman’s team after narrowly defeating them 2-1 in the Gold Cup semifinals and being held to a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at the Estadio Azteca in October. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. …”
MLS Soccer (Video)


Manchester United’s Perfect Feedback Loop

October 22, 2021


“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the mood to play the hits. Manchester United’s most ardent fans, he said, were ‘the best in the world.’ The players who had the privilege to wear the team’s colors were the ‘luckiest’ on the planet. And, of course, there was the inevitable nod to history, to the club’s ‘habit’ of clawing victory from the maw of defeat. Solskjaer was glowing, and with good reason. United had just given Atalanta a two-goal head start in the Champions League and recovered to win regardless. Cristiano Ronaldo had delivered, yet again. United had been at the bottom of its group at halftime, flirting with elimination, but now it sat comfortably at the top. The fans sang Solskjaer’s name as he gave his postmatch television interviews. …”
NY Times


Brazil cruise past Uruguay with Neymar goal, Raphinha double

October 15, 2021


Raphinha turned in another eye-catching performance for Brazil on Thursday by scoring twice in the home side’s 4-1 victory over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier. Brazil took the lead after 10 minutes when Neymar chested down a pass from Fred and rounded the keeper before firing low between two defenders on the goal-line. …”
ESPN
ESPN: Loss to Neymar’s Brazil leaves Luis Suarez’s Uruguay with fight to reach World Cup (Tim Vickery)
YouTube: Brazil vs Uruguay 4-1, Argentina vs Peru 1-0, Chile 3 Venezuela 0 (Resumen Completo)


Jack Grealish must play the system to be an England regular for Southgate

October 14, 2021


“Jack Grealish could not hide the frustration. And nor could pockets of the England support inside Wembley on Tuesday night, some of whom booed the decision. There were 62 minutes on the clock, the team were level at 1-1 with Hungary and Gareth Southgate had substituted Grealish, replacing him with Bukayo Saka. The TV cameras lingered on Grealish as he took his seat. The midfielder shook his head before putting it down and running his fingers through his hair. It was the night when Southgate tried a different blend, dispensing with his usual minimum of six defensive-minded outfield starters and going with five whose first instinct is to attack. It was Phil Foden and Mason Mount as the No 8s in the 4-3-3, leaving only Declan Rice in front of the defence, and there is no doubt that it was what the fans had demanded. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Southgate must not ditch newfound attacking intent. Fail again. Fail better the same way
“We didn’t play at the level we need to play” – Five things learned as England slump to a 1-1 draw with Hungary


U.S. Suffers First Defeat in World Cup Qualifying

October 13, 2021



“Continuing the good vibes from one performance to the next can be tough, it turns out, when you switch out all of your top performers. That was one of the harsh lessons learned by the U.S. men’s soccer team on Sunday as it fell limply to host Panama, 1-0, in its fifth qualifying match for the 2022 World Cup. Things had looked so different on Thursday, when the Americans stomped to a 2-0 win against Jamaica in Austin, Texas. But with a quick turnaround between matches — and a third game to play on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio — U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter made seven changes to his lineup. …”
NY Times (Video)


World Cup roundup: Denmark thrash Moldova to keep up perfect record

October 10, 2021


Denmark thrash Moldova
Denmark maintained their 100% record in Group F, with a 4-0 win in Moldova. Andreas Skov Olsen opened the scoring before Simon Kjær added a penalty. Christian Norgaard and Joakim Mæhle were also on target. Austria won 2-0 in the Faroe Islands to keep up their slim hopes of overtaking Scotland, who beat Israel 3-2 in a Hampden Park thriller. First-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk gave Ukraine a 2-1 win over Finland in Group D. The West Ham forward Yarmolenko put the visitors ahead less than five minutes after kick-off when he drove home from 20 yards past the Finnish goalkeeper. Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland in the 29th minute but Ukraine regained the lead minutes later with a goal from Yaremchuk. …”
Guardian


Are Qatar any good at football?

October 7, 2021


“The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was not, to say the least, a popular one. The objections can generally be split into two categories. One is the moral argument, the idea that the World Cup should not be played in a country with an abominable human rights record and in which an estimated 6,500 migrant workers have died in the last decade, a number of them while constructing stadia for the tournament. The second was that this was a country with no football heritage, that the hosts of the World Cup would be a terrible team who had no sporting place being there. This will, after all, be the first World Cup to be hosted by a country that had never qualified for one before since Italy staged it in 1934. The first argument still stands. The second, not so much. …”
The Athletic


USMNT, Ricardo Pepi shine against Honduras in second half of World Cup qualifier

September 9, 2021


“The U.S. men’s national team has gotten its World Cup qualifying campaign back on the rails with a 4-1 win over Honduras on Wednesday night. After entering halftime down 1-0, manager Gregg Berhalter made three substitutions to start the second half with aplomb. What ensued was a four-goal onslaught, as the USMNT climbed all the way to third in the Octagonal as the first international window comes to a close. It was a classic ‘tale of two halves’ type of match. After struggling in the 4-3-3, Berhalter lined his team up in a 3-4-3. What ensued was an even sloppier 45 minutes than any of the previous four intervals, with gaps galore in the midfield, between the back seven and the attack, and all over the defensive line. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: For U.S. Men’s Team, Win Salvages a Week They’d Rather Forget
Guardian: A brilliant 45 minutes against Honduras failed to mask US World Cup problems


UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Explained: Why South American Premier League stars are heading to Croatia after international duty

September 7, 2021


“After Colombia play Paraguay in Asuncion this Sunday evening, the eighth of their 18 qualification games for next year’s World Cup, Davinson Sanchez will not stick around for the ninth. Rather than staying on for the home game with Chile in Barranquilla on Thursday, Sanchez will fly back across the Atlantic. Not back to London, but to Croatia, for a hastily arranged 10-day training camp by the Adriatic Sea. This is all part of a plan that Sanchez agreed with Tottenham Hotspur to make sure that his involvement in Colombia’s World Cup qualifiers will cause minimum hassle to Spurs’ season. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: Brazil-Argentina Match Stopped After Health Officials Storm Field (Video)
The Athletic: Spurs and Villa receive clarity over Argentina stars and hope there is no repeat next month Argentina, Brazil
YouTube: Brazil vs Argentina | Matchday 6 Highlights | CONMEBOL South American World Cup Qualifiers


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


For U.S. Men, Two Games and No Wins Add Up to Concern

September 6, 2021



“If every World Cup qualifying campaign is a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, then the United States men’s soccer team has not yet left the ground. The Americans have played two games in four days to start the final round of their regional qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and though they expected to win both matches, they have settled instead for two disappointing draws. These are early days, still. There are 12 games to go. And two points are better than none. …’
NY Times (Video)
Guardian: John Herdman aims to end Canada’s time in the World Cup wilderness (Video)