The World Cup

The Nike Jinx?
June 24, 2010

For decades, superstitious sports fans have lived in fear of their favorite athletes and teams making the Sports Illustrated cover.

Enough Already With the Anti-American Conspiracy Theories
June 23, 2010

To be just a little cheeky, the answer to your question, Frank, is Yes. This has nothing to do with Team America's performance. We may, nay should and do, all admire their courage, their attitude, their determination to rise above their limitations and their refusal to buckle even when all seems lost.

Maradona is Smarter Than You Think
June 22, 2010

Well, maybe he is. The contrast between Argentina and France or England is total and not simply because Argentina are winning and a winning team tends to be a happier team. Nevertheless, keeping the players contented—and unified—helps too. And here Maradona has, I think, done well. All but one of his outfield players has now played a part in the tournament and the man who hasn't, Ariel Garcé, is, well, Ariel Garcé: Of the lesser lights who made the plane instead, Ariel Garcé has become symbolic of Maradona's unconventional approach.

Bafana Bafana Is Out. Will South Africa At Least Make Some Money?
June 22, 2010

With South Africans' dreams of soccer glory dashed by the elimination of their Bafana Bafana from the tournament today, fans may now be hoping that at least the World Cup will deliver on the economic boost its organizers have repeatedly promised them. They are likely to be disappointed again.  "We want, on behalf of our continent, to stage an event that will send ripples of confidence from the Cape to Cairo—an event that will create social and economic opportunities throughout Africa," former South African President Thabo Mbeki said in the run up to the tournament.

Best of the Web, AM Edition
June 22, 2010

Mexico and Uruagay both aim to win The French media tries to make sense of their team's collapse Does the World Cup need width? Jonathan Wilson: wide play will be key for U.S. against Algeria Legos make England-Algeria slightly more entertaining. Slightly. How players should deal with the vuvuzelas John Terry made to look like "a guilty schoolboy" And finally, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of what many consider the greatest goal in World Cup history:

About Those Kiwis...
June 21, 2010

I have to take issue with Zach's assessment last week that the World Cup has been "crap" so far. Sure, only 67 goals have been scored in 32 games. But two of them were scored by New Zealand. I happen to be a Kiwi myself, and so it's possible that this means more to me than it does to any of you. To be honest, like most New Zealanders, I don't normally pay any attention to soccer. Rugby is the national religion—it dominates the culture in a way that reminds me, as one of the country's twelve non-fans, of those droning vuvuzelas.

The Ritual Attack Of The Soccer Scolds
June 21, 2010

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.

Does England Just Need a Good Shag?
June 21, 2010

Things are not looking good for England. Two draws against opponents many in the global football community had quickly written off. The passes aren’t coming through, the runs are being cut off, the set pieces are blasting over the cross-bar. Exasperation was clear and bright red on the faces of players during Friday’s match against unexpectedly impressive Algeria. They were snippy with each other, with the officials and with their coach. Their game could simply be described as frustrating.

Why Has England Been So Bad?
June 19, 2010

Why has England been so bad? England is like a well-known child actor who has suffered a disappointing later career, a series of flops leavened by one or two near-misses, which almost make it worse. People who only remember him as the chirpy sitcom star are surprised by his moroseness, his meanness, the fact that he is working as a mattress salesman, and that he looks like an aged child. The England psyche is as fragile and transparent as glass.

The Sixties Strike Back
June 19, 2010

Of all the advantages that England seemed to enjoy at the outset of their lifeless 0-0 draw with Algeria, perhaps none looked so dramatic on television as their vast handsomeness advantage. On the sideline there was David Beckham, of course, the only man alive who can make a mohawk look upstanding, and the coach Fabio Capello, who looked terrific and commanding--gorgeous light grey suit, charcoal shirt, black tie, and spectacles so impeccably designed they seem likely to inspire a line of kitchenware.