The Embroiderer
February 10, 2011

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin Selected and edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare (Viking, 554 pp., $35) The expression “to embroider the truth” was already current when Sir Walter Raleigh—no mean embroiderer himself—complained about the exaggerations of Greek travelers such as Herodotus. But it could have been invented for the English writer and self-styled nomad Bruce Chatwin instead.

Adios Maradona!
July 03, 2010

Now how predictable was that! All the paeans to Maradona for his non-existent coaching skills (see Rob Hughes’s open letter in the NYT today) have proved to be, well, embarrassing. With no tactical flexibility, let alone a Plan B, the Argentines in the second half kept pushing through the German middle and running, time after time, into Schweinsteiger and Khedira. Everyone—and I mean everyone—except Maradona could have foreseen Germany playing with two holding midfielders who would constrict the space for Messi, thereby completely undoing Argentina's obsolescent diamond-shaped midfield.

Bracing for the Quarter-finals
July 01, 2010

Of all the match-ups, the most intriguing one (by a narrow margin) is Brazil-Holland. For one thing, they have a nearly identical tactical formation: two holding midfielders in De Yong and Van Bommel for Holland and Melo (or Ramires) and Silva for Brazil, a linking attacking midfielder in Kaka (Brazil) and Sneijder (Holland), four in the back, and a single man up top (Van Persie and Luis Fabiano) supported by pacey wingers.

Americans and Soccer
June 27, 2010

Every time the World Cup is on the same annoying question comes up: Will Americans accept soccer? Well, frankly, I could not care less. Yesterday I watched the US-Ghana game in a steakhouse in the suburbs of Nashville, with the game sound replaced by a country music selection so immaculately insufferable that they’re surely using it to extract bogus information in the Guantanamo Bay torture resort. Apart from me, there was a guy drinking alone, and some of the kitchen staff. Did I care less about the game because of that? No.

I Have A Dream
June 25, 2010

Four years ago, Mexico had a chance to make history by bringing down Argentina. I was there, in Leipzig, in that beautiful, modern stadium built literally inside the shell of the older, pre-war arena. It truly was a gorgeous sight. And when the Mexican team went up with Marquez’s goal early in the game, it became even more so. But it didn’t last. The Argentines tied soon enough and then, with a goal endlessly repeated in our nightmares, won with a kick that surprised even its modestly talented author, Maxi Rodríguez. It was sad. Once again, Argentina proved unbeatable.

Chilean Romanticism
June 16, 2010

The fate of attacking football in this tournament largely rests with Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile. Like so many other teams in these opening games, they should have probably run up a much higher score today. (A point-blank header into the arms of the goalkeeper didn’t help.) But it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about Chile’s contrarian methodology. There's lots of talk about Bielsa being a nutter, and, how this explains Chile's unique approach. I suppose the nickname “El Loco” will tend to generate that line of chatter. But, as I’ve argued, this doesn’t do the great man justice.

Kiev Chameleon
January 05, 2010

KIEV–Like many Ukrainian politicians, prime minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko relies on fortune-tellers and TV psychics to bolster her embattled spirit.

Political Pitch
June 19, 2006

This article was adapted from The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. There have been revolutions to create socialism, democracy, and authoritarian dictatorship. But humankind has yet to fight a revolution to guarantee one of the most vital elements--if not the most vital element--of the good life. That is, a winning soccer team. If we were to take up arms for this reason, what kind of government would we want to install? Political theory, for all its talk about equality and virtue, has strangely evaded this question.

Office Politics
May 02, 2005

ON A RECENT Saturday morning, President Álvaro Uribe held the Colombian equivalent of a town-hall meeting in Málaga, Santander Province. Tieless in a casual plaid shirt and standing before a gigantic seal of Colombia, Uribe praised the locals for their generous hospitality that "increases our love for the great Colombian people" and then lauded Málaga's efficient new airport. After a brief speech, Uribe introduced Transportation Minister Andrés Gallego to the crowded room.

Setting Up the Scapegoat Who Will Be Blamed for Cuba?
March 13, 1961

For nearly 20 months a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary has been holding hearings, ostensibly on "the Communist threat to the United States through the Caribbean," presided over by James O. Eastland of Mississippi. He is assisted by Senators Dodd, Johnston of South Carolina, McClellan, Ervin, Hruska, Dirksen, Keating and Cotton. How many witnesses have been called has not been disclosed. The testimony of only a few has been released, and that has been edited before publication.