James Downie's Best and Worst
July 12, 2010
Best Goal: By miles (which, ironically, seemed like the distance the ball traveled), Giovanni van Bronckhorst against Uruguay. Simply unstoppable. Most important goal (to Americans): Landon Donovan against Algeria, of course. To prove that soccer is now "mainstream," all you have to do is look at the many sports columnists (Bill Simmons, most notably), in their obligatory Lebron articles, using Donovan's goal as an example of what sports can be.
Daniel Alarcón’s Best and Worst
July 08, 2010
Best Player: In the first half of the tournament, I was very impressed with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, which is why I’m so dismayed by the talk that his goalless World Cup was somehow on the same level with Cristiano Ronaldo’s or Wayne Rooney’s disappointing performances. Granted, I’m a fan, and I won’t claim to be unbiased, but focusing on the fact that Messi didn’t score betrays a rather narrow understanding of an elite player’s impact on a game.
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.
June 27, 2010
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
The Boys from Montevideo
June 26, 2010
Let us now praise Uruguay. The Little Country That Did is deservedly back on the world stage and it's splendid to see. In a sense Uruguay are close to the platonic ideal for a heart-warming World Cup story: a tiny country of just 3.5 million souls who, once aristocrats of the game, subsequently fell on hard times but who now find themselves back in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970.
The Draw Opens Up
June 23, 2010
Today's results have produced many interesting developments. Not the least of which is the fact that one of Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana and the United States will now make the semi-finals. I think Uruguay have been the most impressive of these sides thus far but frankly any of them could make it to the semis. Place your bets.
The Best of Group B
June 22, 2010
Not surprisingly, when it comes to Group B, our writers have focused on Argentina. Daniel Alarcón pondered whether he could root for Maradona: Diego, with a much more talented team, barely qualified—but for a last minute goal by Martín Palermo (how old is that dude?) against Peru in the rain-soaked penultimate match, Argentina might be watching this tournament from home. His tactical acumen is zero; his misuse of the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, is almost criminal; and yet he made it. He could very well become the worst coach to ever win a World Cup.
How Messi is Argentina?
June 12, 2010
Yes, Messi could have scored five goals and Nigeria stood no chance. But Argentina were never under pressure when they had the ball, with a lot of time to pass it around and wait for Messi, or Tevez, to come back for the ball then run practically unencumbered toward the goal with it. Veron was awful, could not make a good pass with all the time in the world, turned it over a few times while being under no pressure whatsoever, and is entirely incapable of passing while running--he walks with the ball.
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.
North Korean Nature Tours
May 29, 2010
One of the odder things I've heard in China is that a good number of people see North Korea as a prime tourism destination. I didn't really believe it until reading Jon Cannon's piece in the London Review of Books about Dandong, a city that straddles the border between the two countries: A lot of Chinese tourists visit Dandong simply ‘because it’s there’. It is the only major city in China actually situated on one of the country’s external borders, and the view into another country is an attraction in itself.