Barcelona

¿Quién va a ganar esta cosa ? This is the Goal Post. We don’t need no stinking octopus. I can predict the outcome of the match without Paul. The mollusk seems quite nice, has been perfect in his predictions, but he’s only predicted six games before the final, all of them German. I can do better than that. He might be loveable and edible, but I’m cuddly and he ain’t. I did predict the final. I wrote that the final will be Spain vs. Argentina, and Algeria will win. There you have it. The cynical among you will say that it’s Holland and not Argentina, but that’s simply a technicality.

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Which team should the large majority of us who are neither Dutch nor Spanish support? At the final there are sometimes strong pulls of sentiment even for neutrals, though such sentimental longings can be disappointed, with Germany the likely culprit. I mean the 1954, “Aus! Aus! Aus!” final, when so many people wanted to see the World Cup got to Ferenc Puskas and his wonderful Hungarians, and 1974, when so many of us rooted for Johan Cruyff’s Dutchmen, only for both to be defeated by what we no longer call Teutonic efficiency.

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This should be a game for the ages, if for no other reason than because neither Spain nor the Netherlands has ever won the World Cup. We are going to have a new Champion and the constellation of world soccer is going to change. While the Netherlands narrowly missed it twice in the seventies, losing to the hosts (West Germany 1974, Argentina 1978), Spain has never reached the heights of the WC finals before. If Spain wins, a talented generation will be crowned as the best one in a long while.

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Cruyff's Choice

Whom will Cruyff be supporting on Sunday? The question arose during some Twitter chat I had this morning with Brian Phillips of Run of Play. In a piece on Slate, Brian makes a compelling argument for rooting against Holland. One, Spain plays if not with the creative, hypnotic elegance of Cruyff’s 1970s Dutch teams, then at least with something that can be perceived as stylish (if you like what the Guardian’s Fiver today described as “hypnotic death-by-a-thousand-cuts style of tiki-strangulation”).

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There’s no doubt that Germany looked magisterial against Argentina. Late last year, I watched a team pummel Diego Maradona’s team in similar fashion. They ran all over them with astonishing ease, making them look like a third division team on the brink of the brink of relegation. This was a particularly low moment for Maradona, the winter when his team was more messy than Messi. Still, the side that beat them clearly possessed players of superior quality. That was last December when the albiceleste ventured into Barcelona’s Nou Camp. They left the stadium that day defeated 4-2.

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Argentina seems to have benefited from Veron's injury. His absence sped them up considerably, and since there was no designated ball distributor, Messi and Tevez had to come back even deeper for the ball, pulling up the Korean defense with them, only to come back down relentlessly, often turning to the left which allowed Higuain to be open on the right side of the box. He scored all three goals from practically the same position, the ball coming to him from the left wing.

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Howard Wolfson asks whether soccer has arrived in America? Good entry, but my question is who is Matt Drudge? This might make me look stupid (not that difficult), but I don’t know who he is. I’ve come across his name before, I assume he’s new media, and I’m an old person. But that’s neither here nor there.  So forgive me for the upcoming mini-rant, Howard. It is not directed at you by any means. I’m just tired of the question.  Has soccer arrived? I’ve always wondered why that question is asked. Has soccer ever not been in America for it to arrive? I’m not being facetious.

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In early April, silly flags were already flapping all around Beirut. A non-resident would think that dignitaries from the entire United Nations were about to make an appearance, adding a touch of color to our city. According to numerous sources, the flags had sprouted much earlier. As early as January, my sister made sure to tell me. I don’t think any earlier than that, my mother said. People were too busy with Christmas and New Years, and in 2009, Ashura, the Shiite holiday fell at the same time—far too much going on for anyone to concentrate.

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Practically all the U.S. stars—Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, "Oguchi" Onyewu, and Tim Howard—are the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. But—despite an ever growing tide of immigration from soccer-frenzied Latin America, Hispanic representation on the national side has not kept pace. In fact, many have noted that at times it seems like things have been going in reverse, with the number of Hispanic players actually shrinking—from five when the cup was played on U.S.

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Hemon on Messi

One of the most compelling narratives of the tournament will surely revolve around reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and whether he can transfer his brilliance with Barca onto the international stage for Argentina. Aleksandar Hemon wrote about Messi (and the help he gets from his teammates) in April for TNR: This column was supposed to be about Messi, as he seems to be having a perfect season. He has scored 40 goals for Barca in his 45 appearances, 27 in La Liga alone.

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