A Few Verbals
June 19, 2010

“The Football Association has made a complaint to World Cup organisers Fifa after a fan breached security and entered the England dressing room. ... The intruder was escorted out shortly after a ‘few verbals.’” Can I have everyone’s attention, please? Thank you very much. Mr. Capello, if you could just give me a couple of minutes, I’d appreciate it. OK.  Pleased to meet you all--my name is Alan Bartholomew. I don’t suppose any of you have ever  heard of me. I own a petrol station in Barnstaple, which for this last week I’ve left it in the capable hands of Mrs.

A Jingoistic and Well-Lubricated Take From Ellis Park Stadium
June 18, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- In the third row of the upper deck at Ellis Park Stadium -- site of the post-apartheid, racially unifying World Cup rugby game in Invictus (and in life); yesterday I saw the jersey Nelson Mandela wore that day on display at the fabulous Apartheid Museum here -- we were already in a state of high freak-out when it looked and sounded as if the U.S. had scored the go-ahead goal against Slovenia. That delicious, sudden eruption that happens best at sporting events happened. A deafening roar (and not of you-know-whats). A tasty shower of beer.

Best of the Web, AM Edition
June 18, 2010

Zonal Marking: Red card changes Serbia-Germany France quits early on the Domenech era FIFA solves the mystery of the "missing" North Korean players Algerian newspapers aren't optimistic about their game against England Why do English newspapers assume Americans don't care? Sid Lowe: Spain doesn't have a Plan B Some South African papers are unhappy with FIFA The 20 most disappointing players at the World far

June 16, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- I watched Brazil’s 2-1 win over North Korea in a bar in the hipsterish neighborhood of Melville, where my brother, nephew and I are renting a small house for two weeks. Brazil shirts abounded, as they always do. The run a distant second to South Africa’s ubiquitous shirt, but the two kits combined make yellow the dominant street color of this World Cup.  I like Brazil for all of the usual reasons -- grace, possession, elan, the inevitable jaw-dropping ball-on-a-string move or physics-defying shot.

Can the Hermit Kingdom Play Another Game of their Lives?
June 14, 2010

Apart from the fact that they are extreme long shots to win tomorrow’s match against Brazil—and their unfortunate mistake in listing their striker, Kim Myong-Won, as a goalkeeper—the North Korean side remains shrouded in mystery. Placed at 105 in the global rankings by FIFA, only a handful of the country’s players have experience playing abroad.

Mexican Destiny And That Lame Ball
June 11, 2010

Am I disappointed? Well, yes. Whenever a team owns the ball for 70% of a match, one is bound to feel frustrated if said match ends in a draw. But I’m used to this. A friend just shared with me what seems like the perfect epitaph for Mexico’s first outing in South Africa: “If football were a game with no results needed, Mexico would be a real contender.” It’s true: We’ve always been masters at possession: the lateral pass is a country specialty and we can cover the ball just like the best of them.

Home Field
June 11, 2010

As South Africa gets set later today to kick off the biggest international event Africa has ever hosted, the phrases we've coined in the past like "World Cup fever" seem badly lacking as descriptors of what's going on here.

Best of the Web, AM Edition
June 10, 2010

The most irritating World Cup products Tom Williams: Ten tactical questions for the World Cup FIFA: We Have No Profanity List The official Twitter feed of the stat geeks at Opta The Dutch squad have been banned from Twitter. Why Slovenia might qualify ahead of the US Argentina’s fitness coach says Messi’s exhaustion is “irreversible.” Top 25 “hard men” at the Cup

Dunga, Diego, and Destiny
June 10, 2010

The World Cup is but a couple of weeks away, and, if you are not trembling with anticipation, now is the time to start. There has never been a World Cup like the one about to take place in nine South African cities: For the first time ever, the greatest soccer tournament is being held in Africa.

Hemon on Messi
June 07, 2010

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.