Tag Archives: World Cup

The future of the World Cup: three burning questions

World Cup 2014 was a great one. But what does the future hold?

russia-2018Copa Mundial 2014 was a wonderful tournament, despite the bad officiating, diving and cannibalism. We saw the emergence of new stars (what do you mean it’s pronounced “Hahm-es”?), brilliant swan songs by old stars (here’s to you Miroslav Klose), dramatic overachieving (hail Ticos!), epic flame-outs (remember back in the old days when Spain was good?), spectacular individual performances in service of doomed causes (Memo Ochoa and #thingstimhowardcouldsave come to mind) and a whole lot more. Best of all, in the end the best team won.

Now we look ahead to 2018 and beyond with a series of questions on the mind of every avid football supporter. Continue reading The future of the World Cup: three burning questions

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World Cup intermission: underachievers and overachievers so far

The round of 16 features at least nine surprises. Who has outperformed expectations? Who swallowed their tongues?

The group stage of World Cup 2014 is done and we have our entrants in the round of 16, which commences tomorrow. As always there have been surprises, so let’s have a look at the teams who have performed contrary to our expectations.

Overachievers

1: Costa Rica. Anyone who has watched this Tico team in recent years knows they’re tough as damned nails. Honestly, CONCACAF qualifying trips down there are about as bad as visits to Azteca. Continue reading World Cup intermission: underachievers and overachievers so far

#USMNT 0:1 Germany: Yanks back into round of 16

It wasn’t pretty, but the Yanks advance. What next? Also, the ghost of Landon Donovan.

The US Men’s team lost to Germany today, but thanks to Portugal’s win over Ghana the Americans advance anyway. 10 stray thoughts, in no particular order.

1: The pervasive emotion is relief, not elation. Thanks to its last-minute collapse against the Portuguese this was tense until the final whistle for the US. Still, backing in is better than not getting in at all. Continue reading #USMNT 0:1 Germany: Yanks back into round of 16

Nigeria 1:0 Bosnia-Herzegovina: how bad was the officiating?

Edin Dzeko’s disallowed goal was clearly onsides, but a close review of the replay suggests that it was a simple missed call.

Yesterday’s pivotal Nigeria/Bosnia-Herzegovina match featured a blown offsides call that deprived BIH of the only goal it scored. Moments later Nigeria scored courtesy of a controversial no-call on the play that produced the goal by (of all people) Peter Odemwingie. The Bosnians were aggrieved, to put it mildly. Continue reading Nigeria 1:0 Bosnia-Herzegovina: how bad was the officiating?

World Cup friendlies are a necessary evil. Emphasis on the “evil.”

It’s Hold Your Breath Season. At least three World Cup dreams ended today and the USMNT plays tomorrow.

For the 32 national football sides heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, pre-tournament friendlies are a necessary evil. Necessary because competitive tune-ups are essential if they hope to be in top form for their opening matches. Evil because players can get hurt, even in matches that don’t count for anything.

The second round of friendlies got under way today (more are scheduled for tomorrow), and already the necessary evil has taken a nasty toll. Continue reading World Cup friendlies are a necessary evil. Emphasis on the “evil.”

Will Germany meet Ghana in the World Cup final? (Probably not. But I predicted it.)

Black Stars vs. Die Mannschaft was my prediction for Brazil after Copa 2010 in South Africa, but a lot has changed.

Four years ago, in the aftermath of Spain’s World Cup win, I ventured a bold prediction for the 2014 Copa final: Germany vs. Ghana.

Making these kinds of picks that far out is always a shot in the dark – there are so incredibly many variables in the equation and a lot can happen in four years, even before you factor in the deeper arcane mysteries of the Butterfly Effect and Quantum Fuckery. Continue reading Will Germany meet Ghana in the World Cup final? (Probably not. But I predicted it.)

#USMNT should pledge itself to Jurgen Klinsmann for the long term – regardless of what happens in Brazil

Landon Donovan was left off the World Cup team and American soccer fans are up in arms. Everyone needs to calm the heck down and think about the big picture for a minute.

Yesterday US Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 23-man roster that will represent America in this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. That roster didn’t include one Landon Donovan, the nation’s best-known soccer player (and one that many casual observers mistakenly regard as the best player in our history, but that’s another argument for another day). Continue reading #USMNT should pledge itself to Jurgen Klinsmann for the long term – regardless of what happens in Brazil

UEFA okays moving 2022 World Cup to winter: who could possibly have seen this coming?

CATEGORY: SportsUEFA (the governing body of European football) has given its tentative approval to moving the 2022 World Cup to the winter.

The prospect of a winter World Cup in 2022 took a step forward after European football chiefs agreed a summer event could not be played in Qatar.

Summer temperatures in the Gulf state can reach 50C, sparking health fears for players and fans alike.

Uefa’s 54 member associations backed the switch at a meeting in Croatia.

Yeah, I can see that.

“The World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer,” said Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce. “Everyone was certainly in agreement about that.”

Right. Everyone was in agreement. And I do feel sorry for FIFA. When they awarded the Cup to Qatar back in 2010, there was no real way to foresee that there could be problems. For instance, since meteorology hadn’t been invented yet, there was no way for the committee to understand that daily high temperatures in Qatar average 106F during the summer months. Average.

Otherwise, the deal made perfect sense. With a population of 1.69 million, the emirate would rank as the 38th largest metropolitan statistical area in the US, right alongside Providence. Sure, there was the fact that when they hosted the Asian Cup they managed the lowest attendance since Lebanon around the turn of the century, but you know, things change.

And as for the weather, that wasn’t going to be a big deal. Nor was the fact that they don’t actually have, you know, stadiums. The plan was that they were going to build several new ones and spread them out around the nation’s major metropolitan markets. Also, they were going to air condition them. No, not domes. They were going to AC outdoor stadiums. In the fucking desert. In fucking July.

That huge-ass seething spot you can see with the unaided human eye from fucking Mars?! Yeah, that’s the blackest carbon footprint in the history of the universe.

(Notice how so far I haven’t said anything about the potential cultural issues surrounding a rampaging month-long drunken orgy descending upon an Islamic village? I’m proud of how I didn’t go there.)

So, you’re probably asking yourself – self, how the hell did Qatar get awarded the World Cup in the first place? Good question. Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, said “The Arabic world deserves a World Cup.” He did not say “those of us making the decision deserve this suitcase full of unmarked bills.” But I’m pretty sure he thought it. He thinks all kinds of interesting stuff.

I will admit to not being 100% objective where Bladder is concerned. When he proposed hiring Henry Kissinger to “clean up” FIFA a couple years ago I wrote this:

What kind of narco-voodoo horse tranquilizer is Sepp Blatter injecting directly into his anal glands, anyhow? Enquiring Rational minds want to know. I mean, maybe he wants Kissinger to bomb the FA? But if he does, can he be trusted not to ramp up covert bombing of the Scottish FA and the FFF?

Seriously, what could Sepp be thinking? I can’t find any concrete evidence that he’s a deranged neo-fascist (although the fact that he’s Swiss and born in the mid-’30s raises obvious questions). He’s never been institutionalized that I can tell, although he’s bound to be prone to neo-liberal sex dreams. I did find this bit, which is curious:

In the early 1970s, Blatter was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation which tried to stop women replacing suspender belts with pantyhose.

No telling what a TSA search would shake out of that underwear drawer, yo?

Anyhoo, the collective geniusosity that is the world football braintrust has finally admitted that it would be bad to stage the biggest competition in global sport in an environment where the players’ cleats might melt. Better late than never, huh?

Now all that remains to be figured out is how to do this without completely disrupting the regular seasons of the world’s top leagues. And the Champions League. And the holiday season. And by the way, will we be doing this in January 2022 or December 2022?

#SuitcaseFullOfPetrodollars

Five reasons why soccer will eventually surpass football in the US – #5: Americans love a winner

Part five in a series.

As Americans continue to succeed in the global game, expect fans to jump on the bandwagon.

Back to my original thesis, noted in part one: Americans love a winner, and the more success we achieve on the global stage, the more fans here are going to latch on.

…soccer might well have a bright future as a spectator sport in the US if we become an international power. That’s right. If our national team were one of the world’s top five sides, I assure you – I guarantee you – American consumers would fight for a front-row seat on the bandwagon. We’ve been told we ought to like soccer because everybody else does for all these years (and what do we hate worse than being told what we ought to do?), and meanwhile we’ve struggled to even qualify for the World Cup. We’ve gotten our knickers dusted on a regular basis by third-rate countries like freakin’ Brazil. And you want to tell me that if all of a sudden we were dominating the sport the way we dominate basketball that people wouldn’t be lining up for tickets and merchandise?

We’re already seeing more and more American players succeeding internationally (and not just goalies, either), with several Yanks playing key roles in England (Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, Tim Howard, Maurice Edu), Germany (Tim Chandler, Fabien Johnson, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones), Spain (Oguchi Onyewu), Italy (Michael Bradley) and Holland, where Jozy Altidore was leading the league in scoring up until recently.

Meanwhile, the most accomplished field player the nation has ever produced, Clint Dempsey, is starting for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premiership (which is currently engaged in Europa League competition).

Dempsey finished fourth on the FWA Footballer of the Year list behind winner Robin van Persie and Manchester United pair Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, who came in second and third, respectively. Dempsey became the first American to reach the milestone of fifty goals in the Premier League, with a free-kick against Sunderland in the last home game of the season.

On 7 June 2012, Dempsey was voted the Fulham ‘Player of the Season’ by fans for the second straight season.

The national team has endured some growing pains since the arrival of new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but they have talent and he has a proven knack for getting the most of the players at his disposal. Nothing is guaranteed, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the US advance past the round of 16 in the next World Cup, and winning an elimination match would be a massive tipping point moment for American soccer.

In sum, then, soccer is posed for massive, sustained growth in the US at the same time our current alpha spectator sport is being eroded from the ground up by incredibly complex problems that suggest no obvious solutions. No one is predicting that football is going to go away for good, but it’s hard to see how it can maintain its status in the face of the dynamics described in the first two installments of this series.

While I love football (despite not being very good at it when I played as a youth), I’ve also come to understand the passion attending world football culture. Last year’s Champions League run by Chelsea FC was one of the most blindingly exciting things I have ever experienced in all my years of sports, and all those young people investing themselves in the supporters clubs are onto something. It’s more than a group of folks in matching shirts getting together to watch games, it’s genuine community.

I look forward to the coming years and the growth of “proper football” in the United States. And I hope that dedicated fans of American football will understand that this isn’t an either/or proposition: it’s okay to love them both.