World Cup

Here We Go Again

Far be it from me to intrude upon private grief. I'll leave Zach and the other England boys to put their anguish into words. Let it merely be said that if England vs USA was comical, then England vs Algeria was simply pitiful. England fans, I think, were half-expecting something terrible like this. Rarely has the disconnect between the supporters and the tabloids been quite so explicit, as this entertaining Sun front-page from the day after the World Cup draw was announced makes clear: Oops.  

Every fan is a bit of a conspiracy theorist. Every outcome can be chalked up (unjustly) to poor judgment or prejudice on the part of the referee. If the U.S. wanted to insure themselves against such a fate, they could have learned from their match against England and played with urgency from the first whistle. Torres could have tucked back and picked up Birsa rushing on to score the first goal. Demerit and Onyewu could have communicated to keep Ljubijankic offsides on the second.



Well, I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to work after that.  But why mess with the morning's workless streak? (Actually I'm at a panel discussion, where chin-tugging will hopefully calm me down.) The most exciting match of the tournament by far. Add it to the growing pantheon of courageous U.S. ties.  (I await the day when my most precious memories of U.S. soccer aren't just spiritual triumphs.) I certainly had a bad feeling entering the second half and had already begun writing an angry blog post in my head.


I wish I could read German so I could find out whether the press and soccer fans in Germany are blaming the referee after they lost to Serbia. Should Germans need any help in blaming themselves, I would be happy to step forth: Undiano the ref was a little card-happy, but was consistent. Klose's second foul was dumb and clearly cardable. He played little for Bayern last season and when he did he was poor. He might not be all that battle-ready as his slowness was visible in both of the carded fouls—both times he was a step or two behind the running man.


Zonal Marking: Red card changes Serbia-Germany France quits early on the Domenech era FIFA solves the mystery of the "missing" North Korean players Algerian newspapers aren't optimistic about their game against England Why do English newspapers assume Americans don't care? Sid Lowe: Spain doesn't have a Plan B Some South African papers are unhappy with FIFA The 20 most disappointing players at the World far

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.


A week ago, in Bogota, I asked a cab driver which team he wanted to win the World Cup. “Does it matter?” he asked back. “Colombia is not playing, so why should I care?” Half a mile ahead, he failed to hit a bus by an inch. “You almost killed us,” I said. “Would it have mattered that much?” he replied. I don’t know whether he was referring to the fact that he didn’t find me valuable enough through the rear-view mirror, or to the fact that, now that we weren’t worthy enough to participate in the World Cup, we might as well try to score a goal under a bus.


Viva México

Excuse me if I lose my journalistic objectivity when I say: ¡viva México! It’s not only that Aguirre’s men played a wonderful game tonight: air-tight defending, wonderful ball rotation and physical fitness that, as far as I’ve seen, is probably the best in the whole tournament. By the end of the match, even Jeremy Toulalan—by far the most committed of Domenech’s disappointing team—simply wanted to throw in the towel. Mexico didn’t lose pace or focus for one second.


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.


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