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.
Luke Dempsey's Best and Worst
July 07, 2010
Best Uniform: Uruguay, for the insouciant way they wore their collars. No two players agreed -- should it be up, a la Eric Cantona; non-existent, a la Brazil, or all messed up? All messed up seemed to dominate. Worst individual performance: Ricardo Clark, USA. Phew, he was dreadful. Substituted after half an hour against Ghana? That's a starting pitcher giving up 8 runs in the top of the first. On two grand slams. No one out. In the post-season. Least enjoyable game: England vs. Algeria. Did anything at all actually happen?
The Unbearable Weight of World Cup History
July 01, 2010
To anticipate Argentina versus Germany or Brazil versus Holland is to again hear World Cup history whisper ever more urgently as the tournament approaches its conclusion. The coaches and players will insist that such talk is nonsense; a distraction. The game must be won on the pitch in South Africa. Eleven against eleven. The future scripts are yet to be written. What's past is irrelevant.
Are England Actually Under-Achievers?
June 29, 2010
A good question! Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski suggest not. Their argument, summarised by Tim Harford, runs more or less like this: - England do about as well as you’d expect, given their size, economic power, proximity to football’s “core” in Western Europe, and footballing history. That is, you’d expect them to usually make the last 16, sometimes make the last 8, occasionally make the last 4 and make the final very rarely. And they do. - Managers don’t make much difference to a team’s expected performance.
A Metablog in Links
June 26, 2010
--I have to admit, I’m not patriotic. It has partly to do with principle, but it is also a phobia/neurosis. When I hear people yelling, “USA, USA,” I begin to look for an exit through which I could slink away. Yet, my heart practically burst when I saw Shot Heard 'Round The World. Of course, my first thought was, “Kiss my ass, Glenn Beck.” --The Daily Show’s ‘coverage’ of the World Cup was superb! --Daniel wrote about Peru not making the tournament since 1982.
On Italy, Juventus, and Match Fixing
June 25, 2010
It ought to be noted that Marcell Lippi took the blame for Italy's humiliating demise—something that a clown like Domenech would never even think of. His penitence was somewhat forehanded as he managed to smack the players who lacked courage and played with terror in their hearts, while accepting the blame for picking such players. There were quite a few weak-kneed players on Italy's team yesterday, but none more so than De Rossi whose legs seemed to have been replaced with wet spaghetti.
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).
Go, Gattuso, Just Please Go.
June 24, 2010
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
The Nike Jinx?
June 24, 2010
For decades, superstitious sports fans have lived in fear of their favorite athletes and teams making the Sports Illustrated cover.
Is Italy Fatally Insular?
June 17, 2010
I’ve been reading Rob Hughes for many years, always with interest, but a recent piece of his in the New York Times (from his On Soccer column in the International Herald Tribune) made me wonder about the pretzel logic that can sometimes accompany political correctness. The theme of his article published on June 15 was that Germany, thanks to its multicultural team, was displaying a new vigor, while Italy, top-heavy with, well, uh, Italians, was on the skids: There seems to be a new, vibrant, powerful Germany: a side whose players are too young to fear defeat and whose diverse ethnic backgroun