2014 FIFA World Cup

Discussion in 'All Other Sports' started by little bear, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    http://www.espnfc.com/fifa-world-cup/story/1869593/world-cup-power-rankings

    World Cup Power Rankings

    ESPNFC.com's editorial desks from around the world ranked the 32 teams competing in the World Cup. Is your team too high or too low? Tell us what you think in the comments section or on Twitter.
    1. Brazil
    Host nation + pre-tournament favourites = what can possibly go wrong?
    2. Spain
    A tournament too far, or a shot at glory inspired by a one-time Brazil international?
    3. Germany
    After being there or thereabouts so often, can they finally win something?
    4. Argentina
    A World Cup win in the home of their bitter rivals -- surely not?
    5. Italy
    What's it to be, Azzurri -- more 2006-like heroics, or a repeat of 2010's dreadful showing?
    6. Portugal
    The reigning Ballon d'Or winner has never won a World Cup. Can Cristiano Ronaldo buck the trend?
    7. Belgium
    They're too good and too often discussed to be considered "dark horses," aren't they?
    8. Netherlands
    Their big three stars are all 30-plus -- can they come together for old times' sake?
    9. Colombia
    Falcao made them fashionable, but can they thrive without their talisman?
    10. Chile
    Another hipster choice, but will they even escape a group featuring both 2012 finalists?
    11. Uruguay
    Susceptible at the back, though strong in attack ... but how fit is Luis Suarez?
    12. France
    It can't be worse than 2010 (can it?), but without Franck Ribery, what can Les Bleus achieve?
    13. England
    Will the real Wayne Rooney finally show up at a World Cup?
    14. Switzerland
    They beat Spain in the 2010 opener -- can their young stars make an impact in Brazil?
    15. Croatia
    Playing for second in their group, or capable of giving the hosts a bloody nose in the opener?
    16. Ivory Coast
    There's no "Group of Death" excuse this time, but have their veterans' legs got anything left?
    17. Ghana
    So close to the last four in South Africa, but surely their group this year is too tough?
    18. Russia
    Can Fabio Capello make everyone forget the embarrassing last time he was on the World Cup stage?
    19. USA
    Facing their coach's homeland, Ronaldo and their World Cup nemesis Ghana, how can they escape their group?
    20. Mexico
    Was their shambolic qualifying campaign a teachable moment or a sign of things to come?
    21. Japan
    Can Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda shine for their country after disappointing club seasons?
    22. Nigeria
    The Super Eagles are African champions, but can they transfer that form to the world stage?
    23. Bosnia and Herzegovina
    It's their debut on the big stage -- will a potent forward line help them make a big impact?
    24. Ecuador
    They're the lowest-ranked of the six South American participants -- is that fair?
    25. South Korea
    Can these perennial qualifiers recapture the spirit of their 2002 semifinal run?
    26. Greece
    We'll hear all about Euro 2004's success every time they play, but can they make some new memories?
    27. Costa Rica
    If they are just to be spoilers in their group, which of England, Uruguay and Italy will they frustrate?
    28. Cameroon
    Twenty-four years after Roger Milla danced them to the Italia '90 semis, can they make a splash in Samuel Eto'o's swan song?
    29. Australia
    There's no way the Socceroos can escape a group featuring Spain, Netherlands and Chile, is there?
    30. Honduras
    They beat the U.S. and won in Mexico during qualifying -- should they be ranked higher?
    31. Algeria
    They frustrated England in a bore draw four years ago -- can they catch anyone out this time around?
    32. Iran
    Are Carlos Queiroz's men really the worst team in the World Cup?


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  2. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    http://www.espnfc.com/blog/world-cup-central/59/post/1870403/nick-hornby-world-cup-preview

    Nick Hornby: Cash, culture and the World Cup

    From the outside, life for Yaya Toure, the gifted, astonishingly powerful Manchester City midfielder, looked sweet as he celebrated his 31st birthday on May 13. His club had just won the Premier League title, and his contribution had been immense: goals, tackles, surging, unstoppable runs. He was off to Brazil to represent his country, the Ivory Coast, in the World Cup. And he was only one year into a four-year contract that pays him 200,000 pounds per week.
    Any smiles that he did manage, however, masked profound hurt. The first hint of Toure's unhappiness came from his Russian adviser, Dimitri Seluk. "Yaya is very upset, he is thinking of leaving City," Seluk said. "The club's owners ate a 100kg cake after winning the Premier League, but when they and the players were all together, none of them shook his hand on his birthday. It shows they don't care about him."
    Even then, incredibly -- even after we had all been told about both the size of the humiliation and the size of the title-winning cake (and it is unclear whether the player was even offered a slice of that) -- Yaya tried to soldier on. "Please do not take words that do not come out of MY mouth seriously," he said on Twitter. "Judge my commitment to @MCFC by my performances."
    But within an hour of this tweet, his morale had collapsed, inevitably and understandably. There is, after all, only so much disappointment that one man can take. "Everything Dimitri said is true," Toure admitted. "He speaks for me." A few days later, Toure said in an interview that it would be an "honour" to play for Paris Saint-Germain -- one of the only other clubs in the world, coincidentally, with pockets as deep as those of the Manchester City owners -- while reminding people that he'd like to finish his career at Barcelona.
    The smell of money around this World Cup is more unpleasant and more distracting than it has ever been. British newspaper The Sunday Times is currently running a series of extraordinary articles about tiny, oil-rich Qatar's successful pursuit of the 2022 tournament; a YouTube clip of a (disallowed) own goal by Nigerian goalkeeper Austin Ejide in a pre-World Cup friendly has provided cynical fans with a great deal of amusement. At the time of writing, there was some doubt about whether the Cameroon team would even get on the plane to Brazil because of an argument about bonuses. [The pay dispute was resolved.]
    Is it possible to care about a sport whose administrators, players and owners sometimes appear to have been driven insane by the rewards it offers? Perhaps we are foolish, naive and self-deluding, those of us for whom the World Cup is an event that results in the glorious suspension of ordinary life for the best part of a month; certainly all the sulks and the suspicions make it hard to protect the tournament from the contempt of those who loathe professional sport. But in an odd sort of way, everything that is so despicable about the contemporary game is a tribute to its power and continuing appeal.
    You cannot digitize Yaya Toure and put him in Dropbox, and you won't be able to for a while yet. His talent, drive, strength, speed and hunger -- I refer here to desire for victory, rather than for cake -- are unique, and they are what make him worth so much money.
    Football's commercial value has become only more necessary because of its global appeal -- to TV companies, brands, governments. Results remain unpredictable; we watch the games live because that's still the quickest way of finding out the outcomes. Favourites still stumble; games still turn on a moment of brilliance or of incompetence. And the traditional tournaments still matter, which is why Qatar went to all the trouble and expense of securing the 2022 World Cup rather than, say, paying Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Germany hundreds of millions of pounds to come and play in the Qatar Petroleum World Cup Championship.
    This month Toure will be playing for Ivory Coast, the country of his birth, rather than for Manchester City. He might cast envious glances at Argentina's sensational attack (Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero) or Spain's defence, but there's nothing he can do about it; no amount of petulance can force a change of nationality. And he'll be 35 by the time the next tournament comes around, and his talismanic captain, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, is already 36. Realistically, this is his last chance to shine at the World Cup.
    Club football is probably better than international football now -- the world's talents have all gathered at a handful of the world's richest clubs, and Real Madrid or Barcelona at their best would probably rip holes in most national sides. One of the weird quirks of globalization is that even the strongest national teams are forced to include players who don't feature regularly for their clubs -- David Luiz of Chelsea and Brazil played only half of his club side's league games last season. This was unimaginable 20 years ago. If a professional team were lucky enough to be able to call on the services of an international footballer, it would be calling on him every game he was fit.
    But club football has become predictable -- by and large, the teams with the most money win. None of the countries playing in the 2014 World Cup looks invincible. Plus, although the host nation must be favourites, they messed it up the last time the tournament was held in Brazil, in 1950, when a calamitous failure of nerve resulted in the trophy going to tiny Uruguay, the fingernail on the end of Brazil's giant hand. (And talking of fingernails: Who'd have thought, by the way, that tiny Belgium would be going to Rio with proper talent in every position? If you want a silly long-shot bet, that's where to put your money.) This time around, Brazil will be worried about facing Argentina -- and Messi -- in the final.
    There will be some great games and some appalling games. There will be fantastic goals, terrible cheating, drama, scandal, hilariously bad refereeing decisions. And all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly, will be worth watching, because nobody knows anything. "When it was Roberto Carlos' birthday, the president of [Russian side] Anzhi gave him a Bugatti," the ever-hopeful Seluk said. The beauty of the World Cup is that, for the moment, anyway, Toure wants three points in his opening group game against Japan on Sunday even more.


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  3. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Why U.S. soccer no longer needs the World Cup for validation
    The World Cup spectacle is days away, but the U.S. soccer boom that was predicted for so long already has happened. Just ask my 14-year-old.

    The pending arrival of the World Cup has led to the usual quadrennial speculation about whether this year’s event will spawn a U.S. soccer boom.

    You know, the one that had been periodically predicted — and gone mostly unfulfilled — since Pelé joined the New York Cosmos. In 1975.

    As usual, it’s an erroneous question — but not for the reasons that previously prevailed as the sport struggled to move beyond its niche among suburban moms and Premier League cultists.

    I hate to break it to you, but the boom has already happened. Soccer has infiltrated its way into the American sporting consciousness to such an extent that it doesn’t need to be validated, or accelerated, by a spectacle like the World Cup.

    That may rankle the haters who denigrate soccer out of nothing more than habit — not enough scoring, not part of the American culture, blah blah blah.

    It may infuriate those who are leading a backlash against the new breed of international soccer zealots in America, wickedly described in the Wall Street Journal by Englishman Jonathan Clegg as “may be the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet.”

    But that scorn is just a healthy byproduct of soccer’s burgeoning popularity. Every survey, every demographic study, every economic indicator, confirms what your gut tells you — soccer has become mainstream. And that won’t fade away once the month-long obsession with the World Cup dissipates.

    Adrian Hanauer, part owner and general manager of the Sounders, says archly, “Once every four years, the media gets involved and realizes soccer exists. From where I sit and from what I’ve seen, everyone else but the mainstream media understands that (the boom) has already happened.”

    Hanauer calls it, “Maybe not a revolution, but an evolution.”

    The sport has moved beyond the realm of the hundreds of thousands of boys and girls playing in youth leagues, even though those still exist. In previous generations, people kept expecting them to morph into adult soccer consumers, but somewhere around puberty, they always seemed to revert back to the traditional sports.

    But that is no longer the case, because of a combination of factors that provided a perfect storm for soccer to blossom beyond niche status.

    There was the formation, and growth, of Major League Soccer, which was founded in 1993 and began play in 1996 in the wave of excitement over the U.S. hosting the ’94 World Cup.

    “In the past, those kids didn’t necessarily have a league to look up to,’’ Hanauer said. “The MLS provided some of that aspirational buzz and visibility.”

    The rise of the Internet, and the exponential growth of social media, has fostered a community of soccer fans that no longer has to feel like isolated oddballs.

    As Mike Gastineau, host of Seattle Soccer Talk on KJR and author of “Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece,” put it: “People don’t have to be embarrassed to be a soccer fan. It used to be something you followed behind closed doors, looking over your shoulder. All of a sudden, you could find tens of thousands of people who were also into it.”

    But more important, for younger fans, the world of Twitter and Facebook has forged an accessibility, and connection, to their favorite team and players — even if they’re halfway around the world — that makes an international sport seem communal and intimate.

    All this has occurred at a time when the exposure to soccer on television has exploded. On any weekend morning, you can watch the best players from leagues around Europe on a variety of networks, and millions are doing so. On college campuses, large groups of students wake up early so they can get together to watch the English Premier League. This year, the EPL attracted 31.5 million viewers on NBC (with Seattle ranking fifth among major cities).

    It’s a far cry from the days when international soccer simply couldn’t be found in the U.S. between World Cups. John Ravenhill, co-owner of the George and Dragon Pub, a prime Seattle soccer hangout, remembers in the 1990s when watching the EPL was an ordeal.

    “The English would get together at the University Bar and Grill in the U District,” Ravenhill said. “He (the owner) was really the only person that had satellite equipment that could capture a game here and there, like the Cup final. We’d all sit there, twiddle with the frequencies, and all of a sudden it would appear on the TV. We’d all cheer and watch the game.”

    Now you can not only dial up a game virtually at will, you can play a realistic version of it on EA Sports’ FIFA video game.

    As the father of a 14-year-old son who can be obsessive about his FIFA 14 — and so are most of his friends — I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that game has on his generation. Note to Bud Selig: If you want to grow MLB among the younger generation, come up with a baseball video game that the kids flock to — and then head to the TV to watch their video standouts in real life.

    The anticipation for the World Cup, which begins Thursday in Brazil, appears to be more frenetic than ever. But even in the days of tepid soccer interest in the U.S., American fans could muster a few weeks of avid attention and patriotic fervor, in the same way they suddenly pay rapt attention to rhythmic gymnastics or downhill skiing in Olympic years.

    The difference now is that when the World Cup hype fades, soccer will remain what it was before the tournament: A formidable presence in America.
  4. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    The Problem With American Soccer Fans

    It All Feels Like An Elaborate Affectation


    Growing up as a soccer fan in England, I've witnessed my fair share of horrors. I've seen shocking acts of violence, overheard hundreds of abusive chants and watched Pelé retire to sell erectile dysfunction pills.

    Over the years, I've been angered, saddened and ashamed by these things. But through it all, my love for soccer remained undimmed.

    But lately, I've discovered there's a new scourge on my beloved game that I simply cannot tolerate: Americans.

    Understand that I'm not talking about the vast majority of you, who still regard soccer as a distinctly European product of dubious worth, like espadrilles or universal health care.


    I don't begrudge fans here who have only recently awakened to the charms of what the rest of the world has long known as the beautiful game. Welcome to the party!

    The problem is your soccer obsessives. By my reckoning, they may be the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet.

    If you've ever stumbled across this tribe as they spill out of a bar on Saturday mornings after 90 minutes spent watching a game contested by two teams based thousands of miles away, you'll know the sort of fans I'm talking about.

    They refer to the sport as "fútbol," hold long conversations about the finer points of the 4-4-2 formation and proudly drape team scarves around their necks even when the temperature outside is touching 90 degrees.

    It is this band of soccer junkies who have turned the simple pleasure I used to derive from heading to a bar to watch a game into something more akin to undergoing root canal surgery.

    [​IMG]
    Elaborately dressed U.S. soccer fans—with scarves, of course—at a game against Jamaica in Kansas City, Kan., in October. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

    It's not that they all have the same stories about study-abroad trips to Europe, or that they get wildly excited about the simplest saves, or even, for inexplicable reasons, that 90% of soccer fans in the U.S. seem to root for Arsenal.

    My biggest gripe is that all of this feels like an elaborate affectation.

    Instead of watching the game in the time-honored way of American sports fans—by thrusting a giant foam finger in the air, say, or devouring a large plate of Buffalo wings—your soccer fanatics have taken to aping the behavior of our fans from across the pond.

    The scarves thing is an obvious example, but it's far from the only one. There's the self-conscious use of terms like "pitch," "match" and "kit," the songs lifted directly from English soccer stadiums, and even the appropriation of terrace couture.

    On a recent weekend, I went to a bar to watch the UEFA Champions League final and found myself stationed next to a soccer fan wearing a replica Arsenal jersey, a team scarf around his neck and a pair of Dr. Martens lace-ups. He looked like he he'd been born and raised along the Holloway Road. In fact, he was from Virginia.

    The whole thing seemed to be less an expression of genuine fandom and more like an elaborate piece of performance art. Didn't we fight a war so you guys wouldn't have to take cues on how to behave from London?

    It should come as no surprise that the situation is particularly heinous in New York City. This is a town where artisanal toast is now a thing. So of course there's a peculiar species of fan here whose passion for soccer seems to be less about 22 men chasing a ball up and down a field and more about its intellectual and cosmopolitan qualities.

    Never mind that no other sport is so linked to the working class. For these fans, rooting for an English soccer team is a highbrow pursuit and a mark of sophistication, like going to a Wes Anderson movie or owning a New Yorker subscription.

    [​IMG]
    Getty Images
    It's not just English soccer that's been fetishized in this way, of course. Your soccer snobs have pilfered elements of fan culture from Spain, Italy and Latin America. These days, half of your national team has been imported from Germany.

    There's the curious obsession with 'tifo'—those enormous banners that are unfurled in stadiums before kickoff. They work at Lazio, Bayern Munich or Boca Juniors. At Real Salt Lake, not so much.


    These soccer snobs are so intent on maintaining an aura of authenticity that when they make a slip-up or use an incorrect or ill-advised term, I feel compelled to pounce on them with all the force of a Roy Keane challenge.

    There's no such position as outside back! (It is fullback.) The rest of the world doesn't call them PKs! (It is penalties. Just penalties.)

    Not to mention the fact that your fans happily refer to Team USA captain Clint Dempsey by the nickname "Deuce." Deuce?! This is international soccer, not "Top Gun."

    Ever since a ball was first kicked into a net, it has been an inviolable law of the game that Dempsey should be shortened to Demps. Just like Michael Bradley gets cut to Bradders, John Brooks to Brooksy and Jermaine Jones to Jonesy, or perhaps JJ, at a push. (For the record, Mix Diskerud can still be known as Mix Diskerud.)

    The great regret about all this is that mimicking the customs of fans from everywhere else could hinder the development of your own American soccer identity.

    One of the joys of soccer is seeing how different cultures view, interpret and celebrate the game in their own distinct ways.

    I find it fascinating, for example, that while we see soccer as a broad narrative that unfolds over 90 minutes, your fans tend to think about the sport as a series of discrete events.

    Or that I view the coming World Cup and England's inevitable failure with a mixture of trepidation and dread, while your fans seem positively excited about the tournament.

    Mind you, with Team USA facing a potentially decisive matchup with Germany, there's a strong chance that your upbeat disposition won't last long. That is one lesson you can take from an Englishman.


    -----

    A bit tongue and check (I think/hope), but some of this does hit home...
  5. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    I'm starting to really like John Oliver. That dude is funny!
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  6. Jimmors

    Jimmors The Rhymenoceros Staff Member SuperFan

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    Win or lose, America always wins.
  7. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    And here we go!
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  8. Loki

    Loki Assault Admin Staff Member

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    Japan!

    /slinks away and hides his shame....
  9. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    What a bull shit penalty in the box...
  10. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    And this is why I love Football or any other sport in North America. When a referee is not 100% sure, you stop the clock, watch the replay and decide if it's a good call or bad call. How many times have referees destroyed soccer games on bullshit calls like this one?

    Croatia really fought till the end and totally deserved that one point. I don't care who wins it all as long as it's not Brazil. Can't stand that arrogant prick Neymar.
  11. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Honestly, in my limited experience, not that often…and I hardly think that call “destroyed” that game…yeah, it was a bad call…a really bad call…but the better team won…and while Croatia played hard from the start, only managing one Own Goal is hardly deserving of a win against a team like Brazil…

    And the stop and start, long, dragged, let’s play for 7 seconds and than stand around talking for 1 minute nature of American Football is what I dislike most about it…

    But yeah, Neymar is a little prick…and that we totally agree….
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  12. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    Brazil was not the better team imo. I think a draw would have been fair for both teams.
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  13. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    If Brazil and Croatia play 10 times...Brazil wins 9 of them...Brazil, on paper and on the field, is better....I wanted Croatia to win that game...and they had their chance, but not because they were the better team....and they didn't lose it because of 1 bad call....

    I am hard pressed to say any team deserves to win/draw without a single honest goal...
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
  14. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    Of course they're better on paper, but last night they didn't play like a champion at all. And to be honest with you, I don't think Oscar would have scored that goal if there hadn't been the penalty.

    Anyway, Spain vs. Dutch should be a great game today.
  15. Loki

    Loki Assault Admin Staff Member

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    I'm with ya.... but I think we are both gonna be disappointed.
  16. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Well, even in victory, they didn't exactly raise to the occasion or the spot light...obviously they get out of their pool with ease, but they better being play a whole lot better once the knockouts start....
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  17. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Mexico just can't stay on sides...
  18. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    Im from Croatia and ur f.c.ing right! :)
  19. Aenir

    Aenir Pro-Bowler

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    Hah, Spain just got demolished!
  20. Loki

    Loki Assault Admin Staff Member

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    You're fucking kidding me! The Ivory Coast??????

    Good lord, it's gonna be a long month.

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