Filed under: Brazil 1, Uncategorized | Tags: 1924 Olympics, 1928 Olympics, 1930 World Cup, Andre Schurrle, Argentina, Austria, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Brazil, Carnaval, Copa America, David Luiz, Estadio Mineirao, Germany, Japan, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose, Netherlands, Neymar, Oscar, Ronaldo, Sami Khedira, Sao Paulo, Sapporo, Saudi Arabia, Thiago Silva, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Uruguay, West Germany, World Cup
In the most shocking semifinal in World Cup history, Germany built a 5-0 halftime lead and went on to humiliate host and five-time champion Brazil, 7-1, before a stunned and tearful partisan crowd of 58,141 at Estadio Mineirao.
Thomas Mueller ignited the rout with a side-volleyed goal off a corner kick in the 11th minute, and the opening barrage wouldn’t end until Sami Khedira’s strike in the 29th. In between, Miroslav Klose scored in the 23rd minute–his 16th–to pass Brazil’s Ronaldo as the all-time World Cup scoring leader; and Toni Kroos put the match away with goals in the 24th and 26th minutes.
With the Brazilian defense in shambles and on the verge of capitulation, German substitute Andre Schurrle plunged the dagger in twice more, in the 69th and 79th minutes. Brazil’s Oscar scored a consolation goal in the 90th, moments after Germany’s Mesut Ozil missed an easy chance that would’ve finished off the clock and made the final score 8-0.
The evening began in a frenzied atmosphere as Brazil fans tried to urge on their team, which was missing injured superstar Neymar and suspended captain Thiago Silva. After a high-octane start to the match, the Brazilian defense, led by David Luiz in Silva’s absence, collapsed, and following Schurrle’s second goal the yellow-and-green-clad spectators began to cheer every pass completed by Germany.
The loss was Brazil’s first at home in a dozen years and its first at home in a competitive match since 1975, a string of 62 games. It was Brazil’s heaviest defeat since a 6-0 loss in Rio in the 1920 Copa America to Uruguay, which would go on to win the 1924 and ’28 Olympic soccer tournaments and the first World Cup in 1930. It was the biggest margin of victory in a World Cup semifinal since West Germany’s 6-1 flattening of Austria in 1954. And it also was the biggest World Cup blow-out since an equally ruthless German side crushed Saudi Arabia, 8-0, in a first-round match in 2002 in Sapporo, Japan. Perhaps most galling to Brazilians: Germany is now the highest scoring nation in World Cup history with 223 goals, overtaking–yes–Brazil.
Comment I: The Germans may very well have spoiled the party that has been this wonderful World Cup. Hard to believe that the host nation will still be in a Carnaval mood for the remaining five days after this shocking fiasco. On the other hand, Germany may have erased fears that this will be the World Cup in which an outstanding team never emerges. The final is yet to be played, but most observers would now concede that the Germans, with a solid performance Sunday, would be worthy champions.
Comment II: For the sake of Saturday’s third-place match in Brasilia, root for Argentina to beat the Netherlands in Sao Paulo in the other semifinal. Otherwise, it will be the sullen Brazilians facing their arch rivals in a consolation game neither side wants to play, and what is usually an open, carefree exhibition of soccer could turn into something ugly.
Comment III: Another of the beauties of soccer on display in Belo Horizonte: No time-outs. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his shell-shocked defense would have loved a two- or three-minute break to regroup midway through the first half, but this isn’t basketball or gridiron football. It was up to David Luiz and his mates to figure it out on the fly, and they could not.
Filed under: Ian Darke, Uncategorized | Tags: Alvaro Pereira, Carlos Velasco Carballo, Daniel Sturridge, Diego Godin, England, English Premier League, ESPN, Group "D", Ian Darke, Joe Hart, Liverpool, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, Sao Paulo, Steve McManaman, Steven Gerrard, Uruguay, Wayne Rooney
Uruguay, behind two goals by Luis Suarez, defeated England, 2-1, in a Group “D” showdown in Sao Paulo that kept the South Americans’ hopes alive and all but sent the winless English home.
Suarez, who led the English Premier League with 31 goals to spark Liverpool’s strong run last season but was coming off knee surgery, scored in the 39th and 84th minutes. The second came after an errant header by England midfielder Steven Gerrard–a Liverpool teammate–sent him in alone against goalkeeper Joe Hart. In between, Wayne Rooney, scoreless in nine previous World Cup appearances, shrugged off two near misses to produce an equalizer in the 75th. [June 19]
Comment: American TV viewers saw not only the likely exit of England after just two matches but the temporary exit of impartiality on the part of ESPN commentators.
Englishman Ian Darke has established himself as the Voice of Soccer in the United States with his knowledge, authority, wit and professionalism, but on this day he was too much the England fan.
Darke and analyst Steve McManaman went from restrained and nervous cheerleaders for 84 minutes to sharp critics after Suarez’s second strike to, in the end, resigned fans. What should have been, at most, recognition of yet another textbook example of a gritty Uruguayan team getting a necessary result dissolved into a eulogy for a not-so-good English team.
Two moments were telling. In the 29th minute, Uruguay captain Diego Godin, sitting on a yellow card for a handball in the ninth, hauled down Daniel Sturridge and was not issued a second caution. Darke was right in criticizing Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo, but he wouldn’t let it go throughout the rest of the half. And in the 61st minute he initially dismissed an apparent head injury to defender Alvaro Pereira as cynical Uruguayan time-wasting. Only after replays showed that Pereira had been clobbered by the knee of England midfielder Raheem Sterling did Darke temper his earlier remarks.
Has Darke been impartial during his calls of U.S. matches? Of course not. His paychecks are signed by ESPN, and from the Landon Donovan game to what is now known as the John Brooks game, his calls have been enthralling. But while there may be many fans of the English Premier League in this country, most soccer fans here are not, and most of those have no allegiance to England.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1990 World Cup, ABC, Andre Ayew, Brazil, Clint Dempsey, Cristiano Ronaldo, Croatia, Curitiba, ESPN, Fabio Coentrao, Germany, Ghana, Graham Zusi, Group "G", Group of Death, Hugo Almeida, Iran, Italy, John Brooks, Natal, NBA finals, NBC, Nigeria, Pepe, Portugal, Salvador, Sao Paulo, Stanley Cup finals, Sweden, Thomas Mueller, United States, Univision, World Cup
The first two doses of pain were inflicted in the so-called “Group of Death” as Germany humiliated Group “G” co-favorite Portugal, 4-0, in Salvador and the U.S. scored late to defeat Ghana, 2-1, in Natal.
German striker Thomas Mueller, the leading scorer at the last World Cup with five goals, picked up where he left off, scoring a hat trick. The rout was both humiliating and painful for the Portuguese: defender Pepe was sent off eight minutes before halftime for head-butting Mueller and both striker Hugo Almeida and defender Fabio Coentrao limped off with injuries.
U.S. forward Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds after the opening kickoff–the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history–and the Americans held on until the Ghanans equalized through forward Andre Ayew in the 82nd minute. In the 86th, however, substitute Graham Zusi curled in a corner kick and another sub, 21-year-old defender John Brooks, pounded a downward header into the net. [June 16]
Comment I: They can’t all be gems, but they’ve come close.
Two more entertaining matches. Though it was lopsided, the German victory over the world’s No. 4-ranked team and its reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, was beyond impressive. The U.S.-Ghana match was entirely different but no less compelling, with Ghana ratcheting up the pressure over more than an hour before gaining the tying goal, only to see the match turned on its head in dramatic fashion four minutes from the end.
Fitting, then, that those two games should bookend the day’s stinker, a toothless scoreless draw between Iran and Nigeria in Curitiba that put a dent in the average of 3.4 goals through the first 12 games–the best since 1958 in Sweden, a 3.6 average. Unlucky No. 13 only underscored how entertaining this tournament has been. Will any of the matches played thus far go down in World Cup history as classics? No. But this sure ain’t the dreadful 1990 World Cup in Italy (2.21), which gave new meaning to the word “dour.”
Comment II: Americans are responding. The Brazil-Croatia opener in Sao Paulo drew a total 9.5 television rating on ESPN and Spanish-language Univision, and the U.S.-Ghana game got a 7.0 on ESPN and 3.8 on Univision for a combined 10.8. By comparison, the NBA finals on free TV (ABC) averaged a 9.3 rating and the Stanley Cup finals, also on free TV (NBC), averaged a 5.0.
Filed under: 2014 World Cup predictions, Uncategorized | Tags: ABC, Amazon, Angel Di Maria, Argentina, Belgium, Bob Bradley, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brad Friedel, Brasil '14, Brazil, CONCACAF, Croatia, ESPN, ESPN2, Europe, FIFA World Player of the Year, Germany, Gold Cup, Gonzalo Higuain, Group "A", Group "F", Group "G", Group of Death, Ian Darke, Iran, Italy, Juergen Klinsmann, Korea/Japan 2002, Lionel Messi, Luis Montes, Manaus, Maracana Stadium, Mexico, Natal, Nigeria, Nobel Prize, Real Salt Lake, Recife, Riccardo Montolivo, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Sergio Aguero, South Africa, South Africa '10, Spain, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay, Western Hemisphere, World Cup
The 20th World Cup will kick off Thursday, June 12, in Sao Paulo when host Brazil plays Croatia in a Group “A” match. The Brazilians go into the 32-nation, 64-game tournament as an 11-4 favorite to lift the World Cup trophy for a record sixth time. Oddsmakers also have established Argentina as a 4-1 pick to win it, followed by defending champ Spain and Germany, both at 6-1. The United States is a 250-1 longshot. [June 11]
Comment: Here are predictions for Brasil ’14:
o Argentina will defeat Brazil in the final on July 13 at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium, site of Brazil’s nightmare 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the last match of the 1950 World Cup. This time, the Argentines will win an end-to-end thriller, 3-2, to capture its third world championship and its first in 28 years. Why? Because of Lionel Messi, who four years ago in South Africa played a part in several Argentine goals but scored only one. This time, the four-time FIFA World Player of the Year runs wild. Along with Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, the Argentine attack builds momentum against soft Group “F” opponents Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria, a momentum that only grows in the knockout rounds. In the third-place match, a banged-up Germany defeats an aging Spain … unless an outsider crashes the semifinals. Uruguay and Belgium are popular picks for that role, but Switzerland lurks.
o The U.S. will confound the experts, defy common sense, and advance out of Group “G”, the so-called “Group of Death”–and it won’t require a brutal tackle on Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. Juergen Klinsmann’s side has enjoyed an encouraging run-up to Brazil without suffering injury, and its considerable fitness level gives it an edge in the heat of coastal cities Natal and Recife and the Amazon jungle’s Manaus. Under Klinsmann the U.S. has become the attack-minded side it was not under then-coach Bob Bradley four years ago, and he has established a culture of winning, from placing first in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers to taking the 2013 Gold Cup to beating Italy in Italy. More important, he has instilled in his team the belief that it’s not just Germany that’s capable of a late miracle comeback. The U.S. enters its seventh straight World Cup without international stars, as usual, but as goalkeeper Brad Friedel, hero of the USA’s 2002 quarterfinal run, said in a recent interview, the Americans can do it as a team, if every player earns a 1-to-10 rating of 7 for every match.
o World Cup television viewership in the U.S. will dwarf the ratings numbers established at South Africa ’10. No matter where a World Cup is played, a World Cup game is scheduled to kick off in what is prime time in Europe, or close to it–the rest of the world be damned. With this being the first World Cup played in the Western Hemisphere in two decades, we Americans finally get reasonable game times: noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT on most days. That’s a far cry from Korea/Japan 2002, when some games started at 2 a.m. on the West Coast. Meanwhile, greasing the skids is the fact that, with apps and expanded streaming services, this will be the most digitally interactive World Cup ever.
o ESPN/ESPN2/ABC has once again gone all-British with its play-by-play commentators. Ian Darke rightfully gets the choice assignments, including the final, but it will only influence more in the American soccer media to go Brit. A player, wearing a “kit” and a pair of “boots” and playing not on a field but a “pitch” will score two goals, which will be referred to as a “brace.” One goal will have been made possible by a teammate who, at “pace,” sends him an “inch-perfect pass.” That will leave the opposition “on its back foot” yet possibly inspire it into a “purple patch.” Anyway, look forward to another four-year period in which an increasingly number of Americans who know better refer to any singular thing in soccer as a collective: “France are,” “Uruguay are,” and the “Real Salt Lake are.” I are looking forward to it. Or we am looking forward to it.
o Americans who really, really don’t like soccer–that is, those who feel threatened by it–will dig in their heels even further over the next four weeks. Everyone from newspaper columnists and radio sports talkers to Internet commentators will call the World Cup a dull, overblown waste of time and make xenophobic remarks about the participating nations and their fans. But with each World Cup, their footing is growing more unsteady. Those cracks about foreigners and soccer can’t be so easily excused anymore, not with some of our cherished sports–like golf, basketball, hockey and tennis–now a virtual United Nations of participants. Those jokes about one-named Brazilian soccer players? See “LeBron,” “Kobe.” The argument that soccer in the U.S. is a game for kids? The estimated number of soccer players in this country has ballooned from 8 million in 1982 to 25 million today. Hard to believe that a few of those millions aren’t adult players, particularly when what we see at the local park doesn’t say otherwise. And the line about soccer and 1-0 games leaving Americans bored beyond belief? That kinda lost something with Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria four years ago. What’s left is the complaint that penalty kicks are ridiculous and the charge that players feigning injury make soccer players crying, whining wimps. PKs are ridiculous, and a Nobel Prize awaits the first person who figures out a better tie-breaker. As for the macho involved in playing soccer compared to more manful, manly and masculine American sports, you could start with the hundreds of thousands of soccer players recovering from concussions caused by head-to-head contact. Or ACL tears. Or you could go straight to last Saturday, when Italy’s Riccardo Montolivo and Mexico’s Luis Montes sustained broken legs–in friendlies.
o Finally, this official World Cup song will be forgotten three days after the Brazil-Croatia opener: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGtWWb9emYI
Filed under: 2014 World Cup draw, USA's Group of Death | Tags: 2014 World Cup draw, Amazon, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Chile, Clint Dempsey, CONCACAF, Costa do Sauipe, Costa Rica, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cuiaba, DeMarcus Beasley, Eddie Johnson, England, FIFA Player of the Year, Fortaleza, Germany, Ghana, Golden Generation, Group "B", Group "D", Group "F", Group "G", Group of Death, Guadalajara, Holland, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jogi Loew, Juergen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan, Lionel Messi, Luis Figo, Luxembourg, Major League Soccer, Manaus, Maracana, Mexico, Michael Bradley, Natal, Nigeria, Paris, Portugal, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Sao Paulo, South America, South Korea, Spain, Steve Cherundolo, Sunil Gulati, Sweden, Tim Howard, Torsten Frings, Ulsan, United States, Uruguay, Washington DC
The 2014 World Cup draw, as expected, produced multiple “Groups of Death” as the 32 finalists were sorted into eight groups of four nations each for the 64-match tournament, which will begin June 12 scattered over a dozen Brazilian cities.
The United States got the worst of it, being drawn into Group “G” with three-time champion Germany, the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal and Ghana, the nation that knocked the Americans out of the last two World Cups. Not far behind in terms of difficulty were Group “B” (defending champion Spain, 2010 runner-up Holland, Chile, plus Australia) and Group “D” (2010 third-place finisher Uruguay, four-time champ Italy, England and Costa Rica).
Conducted at the beachfront resort of Costa do Sauipe before an international television audience, the draw also produced a first-round cakewalk for Argentina, which was joined in Group “F” by the tournament’s only World Cup newcomer, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as Iran and Nigeria. [December 6]
Comment I: In a repeat of the Brazilian nightmare of 1950, Brazil will tumble in its own World Cup. Argentina will defeat host Brazil on Sunday, July 13, before a stunned, heartbroken crowd of 73,531 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, and lift the World Cup trophy for the third time.
Argentina, unlike host Brazil, has been steeled by 16 World Cup qualifiers in the ultra-tough South American region–and finished first. It went into the draw at 6-1 odds, just behind Brazil and Germany. It will be playing virtually at home, without all the pressure that comes with hosting a World Cup. It will have the motivation of the opportunity to humiliate its neighbor and historic arch-rival. Its only question mark is its defense, while its absolute certainty is up front, four-time FIFA Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who will turn 27 the day before his team meets its final group-stage opponent, Nigeria. And the draw produced brackets that make a Brazil-Argentina final possible.
Comment II: To distraught fans of the U.S. National Team: Enough with the hand-wringing.