Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Few Notes On Day 1 Of The Round of 16

Brazil needs to calm down. Brazil’s players don’t merely sing the national anthem; they bellow it with aneymar manic intensity I find slightly disturbing. After opening day of the tournament, many fans hailed the pre-match a capella performance as a moving example of the squad’s patriotic spirit. But in recent games, the emotional screaming has begun to seem indicative of a serious problem: Brazil’s inability to exert steady control over matches it should win. The size of David Luiz’s eyeballs dramatically increases as he passionately howls the anthem, but Luiz remains a sloppy defender prone to stupid mistakes. And if Luiz Gustavo continues to hack opposing players with the same enthusiasm he brings to each rendition of “Hino Nacional Brasileiro,” he will eventually get sent off. The team needs to relax. At the moment, it feels like only a matter of time before a Brazilian player high on nationalistic fervor tries to bite somebody.

Neymar is a seriously cool customer. Unlike his teammates, Neymar seems completely immune to the manifold pressures associated with playing football in a stadium full of expectant Brazilians. If he’d missed his penalty and Chile had won the shootout, Neymar probably wouldn’t have made it out of Belo Horizonte with his head intact. And yet he was still confident enough to pause for some cool but unnecessary stutter steps in another ridiculous run-up.

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How Do You Say “Laser-gate” In Russian?

Fabio Capello has blamed Russia’s embarrassing exit from the 2014 World Cup on the meddlesome fan who akinfeev laserpointed a laser at keeper Igor Akinfeev’s face mere seconds before Islam Slimani headed the goal that sent Algeria to the next round. “You can see that in the footage,” Capello said after the game. “This is not an excuse – it is a fact.”

The laser incident isn’t the first time a fan has tried to hobble a player at this year’s tournament. Earlier this month, Ghanaian witch doctor Nana Kwaku Bonsam (aka Devil of Wednesday) claimed he placed a curse on Cristiano Ronaldo’s knee. Ronaldo started all three of Portugal’s games, but he played poorly and scored only one goal. That’s a fact. You can see it in the footage.

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Another Team Implodes

Many of us woke up this morning to the news that the Ghanaian Football Association has suspended Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari from Ghana’s World Cup squad. According to early reports, Boateng launched an Anelka-esque verbal assault on coach Kwesi Appiah (“words like ‘fuck off’ were said”) and Muntari attacked an official from the Ghanaian FA.

I’m incredibly curious about Muntari’s “unprovoked physical attack”: Was it a Zidane headbutt? A Joey Barton right hook?

Did it, dare I ask, involve biting?

Sorry, But The World Cup Isn’t Going To End Gridlock

An op-ed in today’s New York Times describes the Mexican president’s plan to sneak controversial ***BESTPIX*** Brazil v Mexico: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazillegislation through the Mexican Congress as the distracted masses cheer on the national team in Brazil: “To debate and pass laws that could open Pemex, the nationalized oil company, to foreign investment, the Mexican Congress scheduled legislative sessions from June 10 to 23, dates precisely coinciding with you know what.”

I kind of doubt this ploy would work in the United States. Soccer is increasingly popular here, but if the Democrats had somehow passed immigration reform during the second half of USA-Portugal, people would have noticed.

A Lousy Video About The Offside Rule

If you’re new to soccer and confused about the offside rule, don’t go to Slate.com for help. I’ve enjoyed Slate’s offsidecoverage of the 2014 World Cup – a new podcast, a regularly updated blog, etc. – but this video, which promises to “clear up your offsides confusion for good,” is pretty awful.

It assures viewers that, without the rule, soccer would be “mayhem, chaos, a catastrophe” but never explains why. (For one thing, strikers would crowd the opponent’s goal, waiting for long balls to be hoofed into the penalty box.) And it repeatedly uses the word “offsides” instead of “offside” — a common mistake, but still.

By the way, if you want to see the offside rule in action, watch a rerun of Italy’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. The toothless Italian offense seemed as confused about the rule as the legions of soccer newbies Slate is failing to educate.

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Seriously, Who Ditches Work To Watch Honduras?

Yesterday, Joe Biden met with the leaders of several Central American countries to discuss illegal immigration. honduras president 2According to The New York Times, Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez “sent a top aide to the meeting but skipped it himself in order to watch Honduras play in the World Cup in Brazil.”

The American ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, was unimpressed: “Today there is a very important game, but the country has priorities for which the top leader should be present.”

To be fair, watching Honduras play football is arguably even less fun than being lectured by Biden, who visited Natal last week to see USA-Ghana. Honduras is one of the dirtiest teams in the tournament, and a panelist on The Guardian’s World Cup Football Daily podcast said its match against Ecuador was “like watching Stoke under Tony Pulis play Stoke under Tony Pulis.”

I bet Hernandez wishes he’d attended the meeting. He could’ve tried out the WatchESPN app.

I Hope This Was A Joke

Yesterday was bad. But England isn’t this desperate:

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I guess it’s easy to say that a coach “deserves to be part of the debate.” After all, what does that even mean? That someone at the FA should say the words “what about Steve Bruce?” and then quickly change the subject? That Bruce merits at least an interview? That we all ought to tweet about him just to see what happens?

In others news, Harry Redknapp says Roy Hodgson should remain England manager and that in the future, the team should try to emulate Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool. For some reason, he didn’t mention Steve Bruce.

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In Defense of American Soccer Fans

When Berlin-born center back John Brooks scored the United States’ winning goal against Ghana, fans brooks ghanawatching the game in bars across the US celebrated wildly. I know this because I’ve seen it on YouTube. Videos of American soccer fans wearing replica jerseys and red-white-and-blue scarves as they cheered on the US national team became an Internet sensation after Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal against Algeria in 2010, and a handful of similar clips cropped up the morning after the Ghana game. I love these videos. I happen to think it’s pretty cool that Americans are excited about soccer.

Not everyone agrees with me. American soccer fans are under assault – not by partisans of other American sports who consider soccer slow and boring but, surprisingly, by fellow soccer fans. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Why I Hate American Soccer Fans,” Jonathan Clegg, a British expat who writes about the New York Giants for a living, calls American fans an intolerable “scourge on my beloved game” and “the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet.”

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Semi-Important News I Do Not Care About

Earlier this morning, the Premier League released the 2014/15 fixture list. Manchester City will face Newcastle epl imageon opening day. Manchester United will play Swansea. Liverpool will host Southampton in what I have decided to call the Rickie Lambert Derby. Most years, I get up early to see United’s fixtures and then spend about half an hour poring through the rest of the schedule. Not today. I don’t feel like reading the Premier League fixture list; indeed, I’m offended by its mere existence. After all, Holland-Australia kicks off in less than three hours! And Spain-Chile is on ESPN this afternoon! It’s day seven of the 2014 World Cup, and, frankly, I couldn’t care less about Chelsea’s run-in.

 If you could care less: BBC Sport’s guide to the Premier League fixture list.

Dead Animals And The 2014 World Cup

Today’s World Cup Google doodle features an old friend from 2010: Paul the psychic octopus, the “animal A dove flies after being released before the start of the 2014 World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Pauloracle” who correctly predicted the results of all seven of Germany’s matches in South Africa.

The 2014 World Cup is less than a week old, but some fans are already calling it the best international tournament since Spain ’82. I’m not so sure. Paul died in October 2010, and the animal-related news emanating from this year’s tournament is pretty bleak: two of the three doves released from the center circle before Brazil’s match against Croatia crashed into the stands and died. The third dove flew into the press box and instantly became a Twitter celebrity. Welcome, symbols of peace, to the 21st Century.