the 2002 World Cup

BEIJING, CHINA— On a Friday evening in May, more than 50,000 green-clad Beijingers streamed into Worker’s Stadium to watch the local soccer team, the Beijing National Security, play the Guizhou Harmonious Relations. Harmonious Relations lost that night, in more ways than one. The drone of vuvuzelas was punctuated with periodic chanting, mostly variations on the unprintable-in-English term shabi.

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At one point in the Italy-Slovakia game today, Peter Drury, ITV's commentator in the UK, said of Kamil Kopunek, who'd just scored Slovakia's third goal, "he need never kick a football again; he will bore his grandchildren forever!" It was a funny comment, but immediately I wondered if, in fact, Drury was not only referring to the goalscorer who had finally put paid to Italy's attempts to defend their crown, but also to that heinous, 32-year old midfield attack dog, Italy's excerable Genaro Gattuso. What a joy it will be to never see him in the World Cup ever again -- yes, please, go away and b

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Pele, the greatest footballer ever, has proved a notoriously dreadful analyst since his retirement. But perhaps none of his pronouncements has been so widely mocked as his suggestion, before Brazil and England met in the 2002 World Cup, that the best player at the tournament so far had been the English defensive midfielder Nicky Butt. Even the jingoistic Daily Mail couldn't get behind that one. Nicky Butt was the greatest case of social promotion in modern football.

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I am a big fan of the site Zonal Marking. The good folks over there have an excellent study of Chile. Now, I plan on rooting for Chile on feel-good humanitarian grounds. But I also intend to root for them because of their coach, Marcelo Bielsa. We’ve spent a fair amount of time already discussing the eccentricities of Diego Maradona. You might ask, how on earth did the Argentine football federation select such an obviously unstable man? Well, Maradona probably looked sane in comparison to Bielsa, one of his predecessors as the national coach.

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