Category Archives: World Cup

US focusing on 2022 World Cup bid

In the official report, that goes down as a Ronaldo-style laser into the back of the net

The United States withdrew its bid to host the 2018 World Cup in order to focus on the 2022 finals. That means two things. One, that Europe is guaranteed to host the 2018 World Cup (England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium, and Spain/Portugal are the only remaining bidders). And two, that the US will likely get the 2022 World Cup, which is fantastic. Granted, the latter is only my speculation because I don’t think the US would withdraw unless it got Europe’s support. Then again, since Europe is now competing against itself, who knows if there was a deal made (I do think the US will support England for 2018, with the reverse being true for 2022).

So, what of 2022? The remaining bidders, other than the US, are Australia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea. Of those, I think Japan and South Korea are longshots at best, simply because they hosted the World Cup in 2002. Australia may or may not have the stadiums (there are five with capacities over 45,000 and eight between 20,000 and 31,000). The weather will be fine, though, which is nice.

I figure Qatar will be the main competition, if only because of the money it has. The problem is the temperature, which is about 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), during the World Cup. That will necessitate covered stadiums, or very odd game times. Speaking of stadiums, there is only one 50,000 seat stadium in the country, while the others are either 20,000 or 25,000. I still think Qatar will be a serious bidder, but that the US will win out.

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US roster announced for October friendlies

US manager Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley announced the roster for the October friendlies against Poland and Colombia. The big-ish surprise is that Landon Donovan was left off the roster. I am completely okay with that because Donovan has earned a break. His spot is secure. What Bradley should be doing is looking at new talent. Youngsters need a chance to break through onto the national team if the US is to have any hope at next year’s Gold Cup and the World Cup Qualifying campaign. Hopefully US Soccer made that clear to Bradley when it decided to retain him for another 4 years.

Here’s the roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson

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Bob Bradley re-hired by US Soccer

US manager Bob Bradley

Like water running down a hill, the US Soccer Federation took the easy way out when it re-hired Bob Bradley for a second World Cup campaign. The better choice would have been to let him go – and pursue other opportunities, perhaps at Aston Villa or Fulham – and move forward with a different manager and, perhaps, a different philosophy. But it didn’t, perhaps because it is, in fact, afraid of change.

The US performance in South Africa was decent, but below expectations. It should have advanced past Ghana and into the quarter-finals, because that was an eminently winnable game. Although Bradley’s teams have reputations for preparation and fitness, in reality, only one of those is true.

Bradley needs to shoulder the blame for his tactical errors. The most recent is, of course, starting Ricardo Clark instead of Maurice Edu or, really, anyone else. His substitution patterns were unreadable (which, to a degree, is fine) but he clearly didn’t trust some players. Similarly, he plays his favorites too much and is too reluctant to make changes, either in personnel or in tactics. In short, he and the USSF are made for each other: overly cautious and unwilling to rock the boat.

I think this is a mistake, and I’ll likely be proven right. The USSF should have made a bolder choice.

UPDATE, 22 SEPTEMBER 2010: Grant Wahl at SI reports that Jürgen Klinsmann had all but agreed to become the new US coach. The unspoken reason that the deal didn’t get done was because of power. Apparently, Klinsmann wanted too much for the USSF’s liking.

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Marginal players quit England

Wes Brown, one of the rare times he's worn an England shirt (Getty Images)

So acceptably decent goalkeeper Paul Robinson announced that he is retiring from international soccer because he’s a fringe player in Fabio Capello’s squad. Of course, he’s not that good, either. So there’s that. And then Peanut Head joined him a few hours later. Well, at least the latter told Capello in person (both were called up for next week’s friendly against Hungary).

It’s not like either is a big loss for England: Robinson is a third-string keeper on a second-team squad while Peanut Head barely made the squad as Don Fabio looks at different and younger players. So the world looks on and shrugs and moves on.

Of more interest is Don Fabio’s squad, which includes teenager Jack Wilshere, as well as Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott. This is a good thing: Capello needs to know which of the younger players will be key players at Euro 2012 and World Cup 2014, and their respective qualifying campaigns.

Hungary won’t provide much of a challenge, but it should give Don Fabio and idea of who can handle some of the media circus around the England national team.

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Entire France team suspended

France and Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc

Well, “suspended” is a term loosely used here. New France coach Laurent Blanc will not pick any of the 23 players from the World Cup for the next friendly against Norway on 11 August. It’s something that needed to be done and I didn’t think, in a million years, that he would do it.

After the squad’s mutiny in defense of monumental douchebag Nicolas Anelka, it had to be done. Patrice Evra was a poor choice as captain and his willingness to stage (lead?) a wildcat strike shows that. I can understand wanting to defend your teammate but, at the same time, it’s not like Anelka is a symbol of stability. Evra would have been better off talking to the squad behind closed doors rather than making everything private. Of course, there’s just something so very French about a petulant mass walkout. (This does not absolve the French Football Federation of blame for going to the World Cup with a terrible coach in Raymond Domenech, just to be clear.)

What’s the impact going to be? A couple of world-class players will miss out on 1 cap. Evra will likely be stripped of his captaincy and, if I were in charge, frozen out for a while. That’s about it, unless Blanc is a lot bolder than I think he is.

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World Cup Final: Spain 1-0 Holland

Andrés Iniesta scores the World Cup-winning goal for Spain (Michael Sohn/AP)

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. For Spain, anyway. For Holland, it was just the worst of times.

In some respects, the Dutch players brought it on themselves. In abandoning Total Football (much like Brazil abandoned its joga bonito style) in search of championships, the Dutch employed a guerrilla style that results in fouls. Take Mark van Bommel, for example. He’s a hard man in the middle, and I respect that. But if we’re being honest, he probably should have been booked at least 10-15 times more than he was (once). The same can be said of Nigel de Jong. The problem, then, is that while the Dutch played sturdy defense, they fouled too much. Which is exacerbated when trying to mark players as skilled as Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.

So how did Spain win? Patience and perseverance. Spain frustrates opponents because it controls the game in ways other teams can only dream of. It’s intimidating. Look how passive the Germans were against Spain, as compared to their other games. Look at how passive the Dutch were today, despite their tough pre-match talk. It was all posturing because they, like the other teams Spain played, became flustered by their lack of possession.

Spain’s patience was rewarded, albeit extraordinarily late. Iniesta’s goal was the result of a good build-up and a terrible cross (with a lucky bounce) by Fernando Torres. The point is that the build-up, the probing (in Martin Tyler’s words), is successful. It’s not exactly Barcelona-style beautiful football, but it’s effective, in part because of the skill on Spain’s team and in part because the team is committed to it.

That’s not to say there aren’t any problems. The Spanish back line was curiously bad today (probably because they gave Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder more room than other opponents, and justifiably so). But San Iker was there to save the day on Robben’s especially glorious chance at 62 minutes. David Villa, up front, was frustrated numerous times that he wasn’t found in time (Cesc Fàbregas should have laid the ball out for him) and he blew a couple of open-ish chances. Fernando Torres was off the entire World Cup and pulled up lame near the end of the game. But the good far outweighs the bad for the Spanish team.

A quick comment on Howard Webb’s performance. In a tournament in which the referees were, on the whole, terrible, Webb had a reasonably good game. The bookings (a record number for a final) were all justified. There could have been a couple more, especially if Nigel de Jong had been booked for kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest. In all, it was a choppy game but not because of Webb; it was choppy because of the Dutch tactics.

That should not detract from Spain’s triumph. Spain won the game fair and square. It was the most dominant team over the last 3-4 years and thoroughly deserved to win.

Congratulations to Spain.

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Spain wins the World Cup

Spain wins the World Cup, by a score of 1-0 over Holland on 11 July 2010

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