South Africa

Best of the Web, AM Edition
June 21, 2010

Simon Kuper: Brazilian football has moved from poetry into prose Familiar pattern emerging in Capello's reign Will fans just have to accept diving? Rob Hughes: cracks in the European camps Tim Vickery: South American stars shine Zonal Marking: Brazil always in control against Ivory Coast, Portugal exploits the space against North Korea Gabriele Marcotti: Denmark's Simon Kjaer is a throwback to the ball-playing defenders of old Can the Cup really spur grassroots soccer in South Africa?

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.

Worse Than An Insect Noise
June 18, 2010

I hear vuvuzelas everywhere. On the streets, in the shopping malls, and of course in the stadiums, but I even hear them now when they aren't there. Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep in the little house where I'm staying in Melville, I was certain I heard a crowd of them, honking relentlessly somewhere far off. Then I realized the heater in my room happens to drone at a B flat, the same tone made by most vuvuzelas. Would you ever confuse a crowd of Mexican soccer fans shouting "Puto," or a group of Brits singing "Rule Brittania," with a home electrical appliance? No.

The Dreadful French
June 17, 2010

Soccer is a dreadful game, and I mean that in the best way. There is beauty, to be sure, and we’ve seen some (well, a little) so far. But what makes the sport so desperately engaging for me, and maybe a lot of fans, is the creeping horror that can build over the course of a second half. Yes, every sport has a final period and can end on a last second field goal or three-point play or run batted in. But, I would argue, in no other is the suspense as drawn out as it is in soccer. And if you have spent years watching the United States play, then the suspense is agonizing.

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

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.

The Best Day Yet
June 16, 2010

The tournament came alive today. Three games and each of them excellent. Chile are fast becoming everyone's second-favourite team and not just because Marcelo Bielsa is superbly bonkers. They play with verve and ambition and good luck to them. Later, against an admittedly poor South Africa, Uruguay were very good. Again, virtue - in the sense of attacking football - was rewarded. Forlan and Suarez ran rings around the poor hosts and, whisper it, a quarter-final place for Uruguay is far from inconceivable.

The Horrific Letdown in South Africa
June 16, 2010

So, how bad was that game? I was inside the frigid Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria (you too, Zach?), and it was bad in the stands before it got bad on the pitch. South African fans have a strange, angsty relationship with Bafana Bafana. On the one hand, a Bafana triumph is held to have a sort of mystical, even quasi-political power.

Why The World Cup Has Been Crap So Far
June 16, 2010

Alex takes on the important question of why the World Cup has been crap so far. Or, if you want to stick to a proposition that's not debatable, why we've seen so few goals -- just 23 in 14 games, a clear drop-off from previous Cups. I agree it would have been better to have had Croatia for Slovenia, the Czechs for Slovakia, the Russians for Greece, and anyone for Denmark -- whose utter lack of anything resembling goal-scoring ambition against Holland I had the misfortune to watch live Monday.