The World Cup and Wikileaks: USA, 0-2
December 03, 2010

How shrewd is Vladimir Putin? In his bid to host a World Cup—an event that would inevitably turn into a grotesque advertisement for his regime, if one reasonably assumes that he’ll still be repressing Russia in 2018—Putin feigned contempt. He called the whole process of bidding for a World Cup an “unfair competition,” suggesting it had been rigged to favor his western European competitors. Then, of course, he turned around and entered the unfair competition in the ruthless manner it was meant to be played.

The Little Emirate and the World Cup
December 01, 2010

[Guest post by James Downie] Today, the talk of the soccer world is Barcelona’s sublime 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid. Come Thursday, though, for a brief moment at least, international soccer will grab the spotlight once again, as FIFA announces the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The Real World Champions
July 09, 2010

You may not know this but now you do: Sunday's World Cup final is a unification contest to determine the Undisputed Champion of the World. This is the 19th World Cup Final but only the eighth that will unify the two halves of the footballing world championship. How so? Well, the Netherlands are the current Unofficial Football World Champions, the holders of a bauble that stretches all the way back to the first international match ever played when Scotland and England battled to a 0-0 draw in Glasgow in 1872.

Homage to Catalonia
July 07, 2010

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.

Football for All
July 04, 2010

On the way home from Johannesburg, I picked up a copy of the Mail & Guardian, which calls itself “Africa’s Best Read.” Here’s the headline on the lead story that day: “Danny Jordaan’s brother cashes in on 2010.” The newspaper reported that a company controlled by Andrew Jordaan, brother of the head of the local organizing committee, is being paid around $15,000 a month by the World Cup’s official “hospitality-services” provider to serve as a “liaison” in one of the host cities. He also happened to own a share of a consortium that built one of the World Cup stadiums.

Hand of God II
July 03, 2010

I lived in Ghana back in 1998, so their match against Uruguay was a real threat to my usual pan-Latin American approach to World Cup soccer fandom. I respect their game, and adore the country. I felt uncomfortable rooting against them, and I would’ve supported them against any team besides the U.S. or a Latin American side. Like everyone else, I was hoping to see an African side go through, and who knows what this marvelous, hard-working team might have accomplished with a healthy Michael Essien in the midfield.

Best of the Web, AM Edition
June 30, 2010

Nike's Cup-conquering culture For Lionel Messi, is context all that matters? FIFA's disgraceful "code of ethics" Martin Samuel: "when it comes to football, English players are not very bright" Should England look to youth? Who should Jewish Americans now root for? How Spain's madcap sports media sees their team now

The Jabulani Virus
June 30, 2010

Whining about the World Cup ball is almost as old as the tournament itself. During the last Cup in Germany, scientists postulated that it might “unsettle goalkeepers.” In Korea and Japan, the ball was universally deemed too light and bouncy. This year the now typical smattering of complaints began during the final tune up matches, when most teams were given a first chance to get their touches on it—but the whingeing really got started with Robert Green’s blunder against the U.S. Green, to his credit, refused to blame the ball for his woes, but Capello was not so tactful.

Best of the Web, PM Edition
June 29, 2010

Why FIFA's official match reports can't be trusted Sid Lowe: Spain discovers its old self US-Ghana and Mexico-Argentina TV ratings leave the networks hungry for more A musical interpretation of the Jabulani Is the Nike TV ad really cursed? Zonal Marking: substitutions the turning point for Spain How Germany saw their win

Peru Wins!
June 24, 2010

Peru hasn’t won a major tournament in nearly thirty years. We last qualified for a World Cup in 1982, and didn’t make it out of the group stage. Since then, with the exception of a few instances of magic, watching the national side has been a kind of ritualized despair. We—players and fans—start each game hoping not to lose. During this last qualifying campaign, our players drew with Brazil at home and celebrated with so much booze and so many prostitutes, you’d think they’d actually won something (or that they were French).