soccer

A Captain’s performance

Featured image Wayne Rooney made his 100th appearance for England in yesterday’s Euro 2016 qualifying match against Slovenia. Only eight players have played more matches for England. Rooney should surpass Steve Gerrard (115 appearances) as England’s most “capped” outfield player. And, as Rooney is still only 29 years old, Goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s record of 125 appearances is also in jeopardy. Rooney wore the captain’s arm band yesterday, as he has since Gerrard »

Tim Howard still saves

Featured image European soccer returned to Goodison Park this week after an absence of more than four years. Everton celebrated with a 4-1 victory over the German side Wolfsburg in a Europa League match. The score flattered Everton. It was achieved on the strength of Tim Howard, the U.S. goalkeeper whose performance in the World Cup had some liberals lobbying to rename Ronald Reagan Airport after him. In his signature match against »

Sometimes the best deals are the ones you’ve already made

Featured image There’s a saying in sports that sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. This, I suppose, is the sports version of “don’t do stupid [stuff].” For Everton football club, the best deals it made this offseason were the purchases of two players who were with the team last year. The players are Gareth Barry (who was on loan last from Manchester City) and Romelu Lukaku (on loan »

2014 World Cup all-stars

Featured image The World Cup ended two weeks ago, which means that it’s high time for me to offer my World Cup all-star team. But first, a word about the tournament. The consensus among those who covered it is that this was the best World Cup in modern memory. I’ve followed every World Cup since 1978 (ten in all), but my memory of the early ones has become hazy. Certainly, though, this »

World Cup preview – The Final [UPDATE: Germany wins]

Featured image Germany and Argentina will play tomorrow in the World Cup final. Germany is the betting favorite. Nate Silver’s team estimates that the Germans have a 63 percent chance of winning. That sounds about right to me. Ever since it settled on its current lineup, Germany has been the best team on display in Brazil. The reshuffling was substantial. Lahm moved from midfield to right back; Schweinsteigger and Khedira were paired »

Germany vs. Argentina, the history

Featured image When Germany and Argentina play in the World Cup final on Sunday, it will be the fifth time in the past eight World Cups the two teams have met in the knock-out stage. Argentina beat Germany in the 1986 final and Germany reversed the result in the final four years later. In 2006, Germany eliminated Argentina on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals. In the 2010 quarterfinals, Germany routed Argentina 4-0. »

The World Cup Week in Pictures: Holy Cow!

Featured image So it’s Argentina versus Germany in the final.  I’ll naturally defer to Paul handicapping how the two teams match up on the field in the conventional way, but if we consider the matter theologically, Germany has to be favored for a simple reason: The retired German Pope (Benedict) is philosophically and theologically superior to Pope Francis.  While you’d think God would be neutral between his two living Popes, I say »

World Cup preview — Argentina vs. Holland [UPDATED -- Argentina wins]

Featured image Before taking a look at tomorrow’s World Cup semifinal between Argentina and Brazil, let’s take a quick glance back at today’s remarkable 7-1 victory by Germany over Brazil. It’s clear that Felipe Scolari made a huge mistake by not using three central midfielders. As I suggested before the match, doing so might have enabled Brazil to protect its back four, which was missing its best player (Thiago Silva); to limit »

World Cup preview — Brazil vs. Germany [UPDATED]

Featured image The romance of the free flowing, relatively high-scoring World Cup Group Stage is a distant memory now. At this point, the big boys are playing for keeps, and they are taking no prisoners. All three of the big boys in the semifinals — Brazil, Germany, and Argentina — won their quarterfinals match by scoring early and then grinding the life out of the opposition — Colombia, France, and Belgium. Only »

World Cup update: What goes around comes around for Brazil

Featured image Brazil defeated Colombia 2-1 yesterday in a foul-filled match. But the hosts paid a price. Neymar, their best attacking player, will miss the rest of the tournament due to injury. And Thiago Silva, their best defender, will miss the semifinal due to suspension. Brazil’s manager, Felipe Scolari, came up with both the lineup and the tactics necessary to bring down the high-flying Colombians. He replaced Dani Alves with Maicon at »

An islamist critique of soccer

Featured image Conservative pundits aren’t the only activists with ideological objections to soccer. Salafi clerics in Saudi Arabia and Egypt issued fatwas against viewing the World Cup before the tournament began. Their beef is that watching the World Cup will cause Muslims to neglect their religious duties and expose themselves to negative influences. Saudi cleric Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Barrak put it this way: There is no doubt that football, played according to »

World Cup preview — The Quarterfinals

Featured image So far, this World Cup has delivered almost everything a soccer fan could want: lots of scoring in the Group Stage, plenty of matches decided by late goals, star performances from most of the tournament’s superstars, the emergence of major new stars, seven tense matches of the eight games played in the Round of 16, and six or seven formidable teams remaining in the tournament’s last eight. The only thing »

World Cup Update: How good is the U.S. team?

Featured image Now that the U.S. has been eliminated from the World Cup, the excitement our run generated has given way to disappointment over the realization that we were constantly on the back foot against Germany and Belgium. So how good, really, is the U.S. team? The answer, I think, is clear. We’re one of the top 20, and probably one of the top 16, teams in world. But we aren’t in »

World Cup preview — the Round of 16

Featured image The Round of 16, which begins today, usually doesn’t produce many upsets. And, although this year’s World Cup has been exceptional, I wouldn’t expect major upsets this time around, either. Argentina, France, and Germany have all drawn clearly inferior opponents (Switzerland, Nigeria, and Algeria, respectively). Brazil faces a good opponent in Chile, but it would take a very brave man to pick Chile to defeat Brazil in Brazil. Still, the »

World Cup Update — Where have all the fullbacks gone?

Featured image I have always thought that the key to success in the World Cup is being “strong up the middle” — i.e. at goalkeeper, center back, central midfield, and center forward. But on reflection, I can’t think of a team that has won the World Cup in the last few decades without a good pair of fullbacks (the members of the defensive back four who patrol and protect the flanks). The »

World Cup Update — Show me the money [UPDATE -- U.S. advances]

Featured image The team from Ghana may be in disarray over a dispute about payments to the players for their World Cup services. This sort of thing happens a lot with African teams. In fact, the Cameroon team was going to stay at home until its federation showed players the money at the last minute. They might have been better off at home, though, considering Cameroon’s miserable showing in Brazil. Ghana has »

World Cup preview — the moment of truth for the U.S.

Featured image Tomorrow at the World Cup, the U.S. will face powerhouse Germany in the final game of the group stage. Simultaneously, Ghana and Portugal will play. If Ghana and Portugal tie, the U.S. will advance to the knock-out stage regardless of what happens in the match against Germany. That’s because the U.S. already has four points (from a win and a draw), while Portugal and Ghana have only one point each. »