The World Cup

Americans and Soccer
June 27, 2010

Every time the World Cup is on the same annoying question comes up: Will Americans accept soccer? Well, frankly, I could not care less. Yesterday I watched the US-Ghana game in a steakhouse in the suburbs of Nashville, with the game sound replaced by a country music selection so immaculately insufferable that they’re surely using it to extract bogus information in the Guantanamo Bay torture resort. Apart from me, there was a guy drinking alone, and some of the kitchen staff. Did I care less about the game because of that? No.

First They Ignore You
June 27, 2010

I was en route home from South Africa yesterday—and still haven’t made it to D.C.; I’m sipping a Jamba Juice and typing in the lovely JetBlue terminal at JFK—so I still haven’t seen all 120 minutes of USA-Ghana. The last 30, however, I did catch during a short layover in Dubai. I was drained, the U.S. seemed drained. Maybe it was sitting in a quiet airport lounge, listening to play by play in Arabic, with just a couple of American fans in a small group around a flat screen.

Mourning USA
June 26, 2010

What made this team different? Longtime fans of the national team will remember our past painful efforts to string together possession. Or the times when our defense consisted of spasmodic clearances. Or the moment we coupled poor quality with poor character, staging our own disgraceful mutiny. This was a fine team in every respect. It should be said that they played several atrocious halves, the kind that reminded one of the most shambolic chapters of our soccer history. But they were able to put those behind them.

Look Who’s Afraid of the Three Lions
June 26, 2010

Some of my earliest memories are of international football matches, between England and Germany among others, like the game this Sunday afternoon. I can’t honestly claim to have seen the famous England 6-3 defeat at the hands of Hungary in 1953, or even to have been more than vaguely aware of it. Much later, my friend A.J. Ayer told me that he had been taken to the game by Arthur Koestler, still enough of a Hungarian to gloat over his native country’s victory. In the following year came the “Miracle of Berne” when those same magical Magyars lost the World Cup final to West Germany.

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.

Last Word on the Soccer Wars
June 25, 2010

Grist, you might think, for both sides in the Soccer Wars comes from this Economist poll, which reports that 55% of Americans have no interest whatsoever in the World Cup. See! Soccer will never catch on! Except that 21% of Americans say they are following the tournament at least somewhat closely.

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 World Cup and American Exceptionalism
June 24, 2010

This year’s World Cup demonstrates, as it has in the past, a particular feature of American exceptionalism: the rest of the world cares passionately about soccer and its quadrennial championship. Americans don’t. True, the United States has a team in the tournament that has played well, earning a place in the second round with a dramatic last-minute goal; but unlike in other countries, the names of its leading players are little known outside their own households.

Why Italy Flopped
June 24, 2010

There are a number of theories for why Italy slinked out of the World Cup so shamefully. That the team was old; that coach Marcello Lippi could have picked better attackers; that the Juventus-based central defense with Cannavaro and Chiellini was shaky, and dismally proved it with their club all season long, and so on. In my view, while these criticisms are all in some respects true, the real problems lie elsewhere, particularly in two places: tactically, the absence of anything we might call an effective midfield; and, more generally, the declining standard of Italian football.

On the Map: The World Cup at Home, Abroad
June 24, 2010

Yesterday’s dizzying stoppage-time goal by Landon Donovan put the U.S. World Cup squad through to the next round of the tournament, and that dramatic finish probably created a new crop of American soccer fans in the process. Up next for Donovan and company is Ghana, a physical team that, despite an injury that sidelined their star midfielder Michael Essien before the tournament, should test the U.S.

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