Second Touch

My brother’s favorite description of a technically poor soccer player is that “his second touch is a tackle.” I might add, “and he’s probably English.” There was a moment at the very start of the second half of today’s trouncing by Germany where the flaws of the very essence of English soccer were so clearly evidenced as to be borderline hilarious (if you DVR’d it—and why would you?—go to 45.45 and watch for a minute). 

 Here’s what happened: Schweinsteiger attempts a stupid over-the-shoulder pass, square at the half-way line, and Steven Gerrard picks it off, pings it to Rooney, who checks an


What is the "American" style of play? Sean Ingle: Germany weak at the back? USA-Ghana at even money The BBC's "farcical hype" US vs. Algeria - in photos Zonal Marking on Germany vs. Ghana and England vs. Slovenia Sid Lowe: England survives despite Terry's antics Diego's reserves star

When Landon Donovan finally slammed the Jabulani into the net, 91 minutes after the kickoff, there was one part of me that wondered “Will it count? Will it count?” And not, Alex, because I think there’s been a massive anti-American conspiracy, but simply because the refs in this group stage have been terrible. Contrary to popular prognostication, Koman Coulibaly, according to FIFA's official report, called back Edu’s goal for a foul not by Bocanegra, but by Edu (who didn’t commit a foul); there's a reason FIFA gave Coulibaly a "poor" rating and dropped him for the second round.


Jonathan Last calls the quadrennial World Cup "The Ritual Attack of the Soccer Scolds": But the thing is, you never hear football--or baseball, or ultimate frisbee, or tennis, or cycling, or hockey, or curling--or any other kind of fans railing against people who don't share their passion as if there's something morally and politically wrong with them. Why is it that soccer fans care so much about what American's don't care about? In defense of the soccer scolds, there's a counter-ritual of soccer haters. It takes two sides to have a culture war.


How the US can advance What the US-Slovenia ref saw Jonathan Wilson: a tale of two halves French newspapers hate Domenech A defense of vuvuzelas The latest episode of Special1 TV Why is the US sticking with its 2018 bid?

The Routledge guide to the World Cup Jonathan Wilson: will attacking fullbacks win the competition? Germany reap the benefits of a multicultural approach Zonal Marking: why Spain failed against Switzerland Martin Samuel: England have been here before Grant Wahl: 5 things to watch for in US-Slovenia Which German player looks like Peter Lorre, and other factoids The end of the European football empire?

Zonal Marking: Chile live up to their billing Sexy Dutch fans: legit or despicable marketing ploy? Prince William plays the vuvuzela The vuvuzela also has a Twitter feed Jonathan Wilson: US and Slovenia very similar teams Grant Wahl: why is scoring down? The willfull ignorance of football pundits Tim Vickery: cup winners pace their tournaments

Fair Play

If you tell a sad, woeful story in Peru, hoping to elicit sympathy, someone might just respond with the phrase, “Bueno pues, así es el fútbol.” Meaning: that’s how soccer is; soccer, in this context, standing in for life. Soccer isn’t fair. Neither is life. Stop whining. To understand winning and losing in soccer one must set aside the concept of fairness. The side that plays beautifully might be justifiably proud of its collective aesthetic achievement; but if they don’t score, they’re not likely to win many tournaments.


The Deadly Jester

In Defense of Lost Causesby Slavoj Žižek(Verso, 504 pp., $34.95)Violenceby Slavoj Žižek(Picador, 272 pp., $14)I.Last year the Slovenian philosopher SlavojŽižek published a piece in The New York Times deploring America's use of torture to extract a confession from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who is thought to have masterminded the attacks of September 11. The arguments that Žižek employed could have been endorsed without hesitation by any liberal-minded reader. Yes, he acknowledged, Mohammed's crimes were "clear and horrifying"; but by torturing him the United States was turning back the clock on centuries of legal and moral progress, reverting to the barbarism of the Middle Ages. We owe it to ourselves, Žižek argued, not to throw away "our civilization's greatest achievement, the growth of our spontaneous moral sensitivity." For anyone who is familiar with Žižek's many books, what was striking about the piece was how un-Žižekian it was. Yes, there were the telltale marks—quotations from Hegel and Agamben kept company with a reference to the television show 24, creating the kind of high-low frisson for which Žižek is celebrated. But for the benefit of the Times readers, Žižek was writing, rather surprisingly, as if the United States was basically a decent country that had strayed into sin.He was being dishonest. What Žižek really believes about America and torture can be seen in his new book, Violence, when he discusses the notorious torture photos from Abu Ghraib: "Abu Ghraib was not simply a case of American arrogance towards a Third World people; in being submitted to humiliating tortures, the Iraqi prisoners were effectively initiated into American culture." Torture, far from being a betrayal of American values actually offers "a direct insight into American values, into the very core of the obscene enjoyment that sustains the U.S. way of life." This, to Žižek's many admirers, is more like it.


Vision Quest

How the Eurovision Song Contest unified Europe.