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”

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”

Lawyers, guns and money and Shari’a Law and air conditioning the desert: how the hell did the US lose World Cup 2022 to Qatar?!

Qatar 2022Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the governing body of world soccer, today awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The move is regarded by most as an upset – the odds-on favorite to land the event was the United States, which hosted the most successful Copa in history in 1994. Also in the running were Australia and a combined bid by South Korea and Japan.

“Upset,” I said. Actually, that’s a pretty mild term for this decision, which in many respects defies reason. Consider:

Conspiracy or Ineptitude: Why Do So Many Bad Calls Seem to Go Against the US Soccer Team?

Ken Gude has some thoughts on all the calls going against the US at the World Cup.

It wasn’t the first time in this game that there were odd calls – all going against the US – in and around the Slovenan box. One play Dempsey was wrestled to the ground in the box, no call. On another, he was body check as Altidore got off a snap shot. Altidore was blocked off just outside the box by the last defender that only drew a yellow card. One earlier decision saw Altidore thrown down this time near the midway line only to find the infraction whistled on the American. You might think the ref just plain didn’t like the United States. Continue reading “Conspiracy or Ineptitude: Why Do So Many Bad Calls Seem to Go Against the US Soccer Team?”

Note to Diego Maradona: STFU

Maradona has some words for Pele.

Diego Maradona made stinging comments about fellow soccer greats Pele and Michel Platini on Wednesday after the pair criticized Maradona’s performance as Argentina coach.

Maradona said he was not surprised by their comments and that “Pele has to go back to the museum.”

Earlier, Maradona had criticized Pele, who led Brazil to three World Cup titles, for doubting Africa’s ability to organize a World Cup. Continue reading “Note to Diego Maradona: STFU”

Copa Mundial 2010: why this World Cup is so important for the US

Copa Mundial 2k10 kicked off today in grand fashion, with host South Africa taking a point off of heavily favored Mexico. Tomorrow’s featured match (featured here, anyway) sees the US taking on an even more heavily favored England side that, despite having some of the best talent on the planet, has been lackluster in its pre-Cup tuneups. Of course, the US has been inconsistent, as well – looked good beating Turkey, vulnerable in the back in a loss to the Czechs, and absolutely terrible in an inexplicable win over the Aussies (who played like they were winding up a three-day bender). So grab a beer and we’ll see which teams show up. Continue reading “Copa Mundial 2010: why this World Cup is so important for the US”

Bring the World Cup back to America

The 2010 World Cup begins on June 11 in Johannesburg, with host South Africa playing Mexico. The following day the US kicks off its campaign against mighty England. This is going to be an exciting tournament, and if the US plays to its capabilities it should advance out of group play.

A lot of folks are already look past this year’s Cup, though, and are lobbying to bring either the 2018 or 2022 tournament to the US. You have to like our chances. When we hosted the 1994 tournament, the US smashed all World Cup attendance records, and since then our facilities and the sophistication of our various soccer organizations have done nothing but improve. Continue reading “Bring the World Cup back to America”