Spain

Every couple of months, Bob Bradley produces a crisis of faith. His team slips and the mind wonders, what if Jurgen Klinsmann were the man in charge? Would we look so shaky in the back? Would our attack have a bit more flair? And then his team turns around and pulls out an incredible result—a smashing victory of Mexico in the Gold Cup, a stolen win from Spain, a fantastic half against Brazil. In this tournament, he has outcoached Fabio Capello; his tactics have been, to my eyes, largely sound. He never lets his own ego or rigidity interfere with the pragmatism that the moment demands.

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The Best Day Yet

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.

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There's a fascinating dispatch in Ha'aretz reporting that Palestinian
Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear to President Obama that he doesn't want Israel's naval blockade against Hamas lifted. This
should be no surprise, and it raises difficult questions for both America
and the meddlesome Europeans who can produce nothing diplomatically but hot air. In fact, why doesn't Europe attend to its own terrible problems, among
which are the survival of the Eurozone itself and the very liquidity of
Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland? What does that mean? Leave Israel alone. But it won'

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In early April, silly flags were already flapping all around Beirut. A non-resident would think that dignitaries from the entire United Nations were about to make an appearance, adding a touch of color to our city. According to numerous sources, the flags had sprouted much earlier. As early as January, my sister made sure to tell me. I don’t think any earlier than that, my mother said. People were too busy with Christmas and New Years, and in 2009, Ashura, the Shiite holiday fell at the same time—far too much going on for anyone to concentrate.

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England are struggling with the altitude. "Shouldn’t Africans coach Africans?" The strangely addictive Freddy Adu Twitter feed Jonathan Wilson: single-striker formations predominant in South Africa Grant Wahl’s USA predictions “If Kaka still believes in God, does God still have faith in Kaka?” Rob Smyth: Top 10 one-tournament wonders And Spain heads to South Africa on a high note:

I Fall for Afellay

I have a confession to make: I’m tired of this Spain-certainty. Yes: they do have an amazing team. Courageous when defending, brilliant when attacking, Spain is formidable. Their midfield by itself is a thing to behold. What on earth could be the result of having Barca wizards Iniesta and Xavi playing alongside Fabregas, their former Catalan accomplice, and Xabi Alonso, that confident brute? Only magic. So yes: Spain should win the cup. Which is exactly why I think… it won’t!

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Anyone But Brazil

Hello everyone. It's nice to be back and thank you, Frank, for the invitation to join this merry throng once again. You ask: Who will win this thing? The sensible answer, I suppose, is to say that either Spain or Brazil will carry the trophy home. On paper they are comfortably the two most accomplished squads in the tournament. But, as the television pundits always remind us, soccer ain’t played on paper.  Nevertheless, should it be a Brazil-Spain final, I very much hope that Spain will prevail. I am, you see and I am afraid, bored of Brazil.

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Look, I wish the Israeli raid on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” had ended differently. Why, I ask, didn’t Israel’s navy disable the engine of the Mavi Marmara and drag the ship into port? Who knows? The engines of the other boats were apparently disabled—or so reliable sources say. But, frankly, when some 800 men and women, distributed over six boats after weeks and weeks of preparation, are headed towards Gaza on the wings of slogan and hysteria, you don’t take that many chances.

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Steven Pearlstein has a good column today explaining that Germany, not Greece, is Europe's real problem: While European governments surely have long-term structural budget problems, the immediate fiscal challenge comes from the decline in tax revenues and the increase in transfer payments that result from slow growth and high unemployment. The right policy response to that -- along with the very real threat of price deflation in Europe -- isn't to put the entire continent in a fiscal straitjacket that makes the recession even worse.

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Actually, the insolvency of Greece also made rough waves in America. Shortly before 3 p.m., the major stock indices (S & P, Dow and NASDAQ) were about to register 10% southwards. Not good news. And the fact they all ended the market day at roughly 3.5% down was only relatively good news, very relatively. This was not a good week for Wall Street. Of course, it was a disastrous week for Greece, which, mirabili dictu, avoided default only because the professional Eurocrats in Brussels and in other boring cities where “Europe” is headquartered went into hysterics.

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