Tag Archives: Brazil

World Cup 2010: Group G jerseys

Group G is home to one of my favorite colonial smackdowns of the World Cup: Brazil v. Portugal. Will the colonials best their former masters? Who knows! It’ll be a good game, though. On to the shirts…

Brazil home shirt for the 2010 World Cup

Classic. Nike didn’t screw with it. ‘Nuff said.

Ivory Coast home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

Puma again treats us to the subtle shoulder graphic, which works especially well here. Ivory Coasts nickname is the Elephants and yes, kids, that’s an elephant on the shoulder. And yes, that’s totally awesome. While the elephant makes the shirt, the rest of it is beautiful simplicity. I hope Ivory Coast advances from this group just so I can see the shirt in action (though that probably won’t happen).

North Korea's home jersey for the 2010 World Cup?

At least I assume this is what North Korea’s jerseys will look like.

Portugal home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I like Portugal’s jerseys for the 2010 World Cup. I like the red home shirt, even with the green stripe, and I like the white away jersey (which has both red and green stripes). But the Portuguese FA’s crest is the best part. I love everything about it and I especially love how it’s so totally different from every other crest. And it doesn’t look out of place on either the home or the away shirt. And just for fun, Portugal’s away shirt:

Portugal away jersey for the 2010 World Cup

See? I told you it was good.

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World Cup Qualifiers: USA 2-1 El Salvador

Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore (Jonathan Ferrye/Getty Images)

Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore (Jonathan Ferrye/Getty Images)

Watching the United States play in World Cup Qualifying should be a zen exercise because, really, only a zen master could stay calm the entire time. That means, by extension, that Bob Bradley is either a zen master or, perhaps, a high-functioning unemotional zombie. Who knows, really?

In tonight’s match, the United States continued a disheartening pattern in World Cup Qualifiers: it was scored upon first by an inferior team. That is not to say that El Salvador is bad; it’s just that the US and Mexico clearly have the most talent in CONCACAF. In any event, the US should be taking the game to its opponents rather than settling back.

I was truly impressed in August in Mexico City when the US attacked Mexico from the outset. The US looked good, using Donovan’s creativity and Charlie Davies’s speed to establish an early rhythm. It paid off with an early goal. The US did nothing like that today. Instead, they laid back, as if expecting the goals to come without effort. Perhaps they’re suffering from the same malaise as Mexico: they think they don’t need to work against lesser teams. That, of course, is just plain wrong.

That said, the US deserved their win. We can take three positives out of this game:

1. Jozy Altidore has the potential to be a beast. He needs practice, playing time, and patience.

2. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have a good connection. That needs to be exploited further in future matches.

3. Stuart Holden and José Francisco Torres looked really good as late-game substitutes. They brought a shot of energy and effort to the game, which was sorely needed.

On another note, the refereeing was typically terrible. FIFA really needs to step in and change the way CONCACAF referees operate. The second half was a disgrace.

QUICK KICKS: A quick CONMEBOL update in that Brazil thoroughly outclassed Argentina in Rosario by a score of 3-1. Hopefully, that match marks the end of Diego Maradona’s reign as Argentina’s manager, a job for which he was entirely unprepared.


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Saturday Night Links: college football edition

Gael Kakuta

Gael Kakuta

Where else to start but with FIFA handing Chelsea a 1-year ban on signing new players for illegally signing Gael Kakuta, a French striker formerly attached to Lens, a French club? Wow. Just wow. FIFA really laid the hammer down on Chelsea, which is great, if the precedent stands. They also have to ensure that this new precedent is applied to all clubs fairly, from the biggest to the smallest. Apparently, something similar happened to AS Roma when it signed Philippe Mexès from Auxerre in 2005. In that case, the penalty was reduced to 1 transfer window (rather than 2) and a €7 million fine. On another note, how come the victims are always French?

Not surprisingly, Chelsea has filed the “strongest possible appeal” to the ban. Perhaps that appeal will carry more weight than just a regular-strength appeal. Or it’s just hyperbole. I expect Chelsea to get at least the same punishment as Roma, even with their strong appeal. Manchester United might be in for the same problem when FIFA gets around to ruling on its signing of Paul Pogba (yet another Frenchman… seriously, what’s up with that?).

Speaking of appeals… Arsenal are going to appeal Eduardo’s 2-match ban for diving. It says here that the appeal will be rejected and he’ll be gone for 2 matches.

Silly season update: how the hell did Hull get Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink? And why did Celtic release him? What’s going on there? I’m thoroughly confused by all of this. Though he’ll make a good partner for Jozy Altidore.

Hype from CONMEBOL in that Dunga doesn’t like Diego Maradona. Does anyone really like Maradona, though?

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Confederations Cup: Close only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades

The saddest part about today’s Confederations Cup final, which finished 3-2 in Brazil’s favor, is that the US should have won the game. They got the breaks – Kaká’s header was clearly a goal on replay – and they were out in front. The problem was the Brazil outclassed them in the second half. And, even though the US didn’t really miss Michael Bradley in the first half, they missed him dearly in the second.

With all that said, close wasn’t enough.

The US played a perfect first half. They found space and kept possession. Landycakes, as he has for the entire tournament, played like a man possessed. I may have to retire the Landycakes nickname, which would be a shame. Most importantly, they made their chances count. That was a continuation of the strategies applied in the game against Spain. The problem is that in the second half, Brazil was able to both build up their attack and finish it; that was the crucial difference between Spain and Brazil.

I’m not sure what to make of the US side. One of my goals was to try to gauge exactly how good the US could be. Assuming they qualify for the World Cup, I would have to say that how far they get in South Africa next summer depends mightily on their group. Perhaps, if they get a more difficult group, they’ll come out fighting right away. The squad seems like it has multiple personalities: one when they play lesser teams and one when they play better teams. In fairness, the latter only appeared just recently.

It would be instructive to go back to the World Cup Qualifiers in March when this whole “allow a goal or two in the first 20 minutes” thing first started. It seems to me that poor marking was the problem. In the Confederations Cup, their marking improved substantially – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Onyewu and Demerit are big-time centerbacks – mainly because (a) their back line improved; and (b) the central mids tracked back. Playing Landycakes as sort of an attacking midfielder just to one side gave him the freedom to roam and really showed what he can do (no, he’s not a striker; accept it and move on). It also demanded that the two central mids track back: Michael Bradley was born for that role because he can run all day; Ricardo Clark appears set to claim the other spot. So long as the mistakes that happened in the second half today don’t happen again (i.e. center backs pushing too far up and people not realizing who they’re marking), the US can hang with Brazil and Spain and others.

Until then, though, they’ll be able to put together one half but not two. The goal for the rest of the CONCACAF qualifiers should be nothing less than total domination. I don’t care that it’s hard to play in Estadio Azteca; the US must beat a Mexico side that is, in truth, not very good. Further evaluation will come at the end of the CONCACAF qualifiers.

With all that said, congratulations to Brazil (even though they used the thoroughly despicable Daniel Alves) and congratulations to the US for putting in a good game.

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Confederations Cup: One in a million

Charlie Davies scores v. Egypt  (Paul Thomas/Associated Press)

Charlie Davies scores v. Egypt (Paul Thomas/Associated Press)

To paraphrase John Harkes, if South Africa has a Powerball lottery, Bob Bradley should go buy a ticket. It was the opposite of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. It was, in fact, a series of very fortunate events.

The United States had the slimmest of margins to get through to the semi-finals yesterday, yet they did. Brazil beat the crap out of a really rather disinterested Italy squad by a score of 3-0. But the final goal, the one that helped put the US through, was an own goal off the foot of defender Andrea Dossena. And every Liverpool fan jumped as one and shouted, “See?!? We told you he was terrible!”

And what of the US-Egypt match? The US scored 3 goals? Really? Are they really that good? Short answer? Hell, no. Is Egypt that bad? Maybe, but I doubt it.

I’m having trouble assessing the US here. They played one good half against Italy and then got trounced by a combination of Giuseppe Rossi and Daniele de Rossi. They were completely and utterly outclassed by Brazil for 90 minutes. Hell, they were probably outclassed in the dressing room, at the pre- and post-match press conferences, and on the ride over from the hotel. The Brazilian hotel likely outclassed the US hotel. That match was a complete and utter destruction. There are no two ways around it.

At the same time, Egypt looked if not good, at least competitive where the US did not. So what happened? I think the Pharaohs ran out of gas, honestly. The one thing that really struck me about the underdogs was the lack of depth. Look at the Spanish, Brazilian, and Italian rosters (okay, Italy’s a bad example, but stay with me): the thing you notice first is that every single player would make the first XI of Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, Iraq, and the United States. Every single one.

So how do I explain the US in the semi-finals. The easiest answer is luck. Sheer shit luck. The other answer is that they finally put together a good 90 minutes; I think that’s true. I don’t think, however, that Brad Guzan is the new starting keeper or that Conor Casey is the answer at striker. Similarly, I don’t think we’ll get any answers when the US gets annihilated by Spain on Wednesday. The US remains an enigma, one of the dominant teams in CONCACAF but nowhere near the elite on the world stage. Perhaps the next two matches will reveal some pearls of truth.

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Confederations Cup: Italy v. Brazil preview

Daniele de Rossi and Giuseppe Rossi

Daniele de Rossi and Giuseppe Rossi

This is the match I’ve been waiting for since the tournament started. It’s not often that two teams this good would meet in anything other than the World Cup. Which is another reason you should love the Confederations Cup.

But Italy is playing like crap, you say. And Italy are notoriously slow starters and might just get burned by it this time. And you take the time to point out that should Italy lose, it could possibly not go through into the semi-finals. And, because you’re a homer, you point out that the US is still mathematically alive.

So, in descending order of ridiculousness: first, the US will not make it into the semi-finals. I sincerely doubt they’ll even get a point against Egypt. Which means the Pharaohs will win. (I’ll go ahead and pick a score of 2-1.) That gives the Pharaohs 6 points and a plus-1 goal differential.

Which brings us to Italy. If they lose, they and their kickin’ new jerseys and brown (brown!) shorts are out. I don’t think it’s true that they’re playing like crap; I think they took Egypt too lightly and got burned. It’s also true that they’re slow starters; but that can’t be an excuse now. So, they need a win (Italy has a goal differential of plus-1, therefore any win will give them a goal differential of plus-2 at least; problems arise if Egypt lays the hammer down on the US and blows them away). If they draw, they need to hope for an Egypt loss.

So, this is win or go home. And I think Italy will win. I’d like to think that there’s some form of Italian pride. I’d also like to think they learned their lesson from taking Egypt too lightly, which means they’ll come out with both barrels blazing. Which, to me, means Luca Toni joining Vincenzo Iaquinta or Alberto Gilardino up front. Giuseppe Rossi also needs to start. I would sit Fabio Cannavaro because he looked out of shape in the last match.

If all goes well and Italy catch some breaks, they’ll win 1-0 and receive the honor of losing to Spain in the semi-finals.

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Confederations Cup: Your reputation precedes you

Watching the United States’ 3-0 loss to Brazil today, I was struck by how scared the US was of Brazil. It was as if the yellow shirts had some sort of psychological effect, as if the US players had been conditioned to fear them. That got me thinking about how reputations impact the game. Herewith are three truths from the US-Brazil match.

1. Brazil is still scary. Dunga’s team is not your father’s, nor even your older brother’s, Brazil team. Gone are the days of the exuberantly dancing, forward-pushing teams. Now we see a more prosaic, defensive-oriented – dare I say boring? – squad. There’s a reason Dunga has been criticized even though he does keep winning. People in Brazil are almost as obsessed as people in Barcelona with winning the “right way.” That is, with fun to watch, attacking soccer. Yet Brazil remain everybody’s second favorite team, largely because of its reputation.

But just because they actually consider defense as something more than what to do between offensive possessions doesn’t mean that Brazil is bad. No, they still have more than enough talent to go around. Rather than constantly pushing forward, Dunga has instituted a counter-attacking approach. Instead of Dani Alves flying down the wing all the time, Maicon picks his spots. He’s arguably more effective that way. Of course, against the hapless US, they looked like the Brazil of old.

2. The US is reckless. Ricardo Clark received a red card against Italy. Sacha Kljestan received a red card against Brazil. There have been numerous cards in World Cup Qualfying. I daresay the US is developing a bit of a reputation. Reckless challenges come from (a) a lack of preparation; (b) a lack of technical proficiency; and (c) a lack of discipline. The US midfield has displayed all three against Italy and Brazil; all of them, save Landycakes, were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The end result was a reinforcement of their reckless reputation, leading to Kljestan’s straight red.

3. Landycakes deserves better. I never thought I’d say this, but Landon Donovan played well at both ends of the pitch. He did everything required of him – even tracking back into his own 18-yard box – even as his teammates let him down time and again. He has become a visibly better player over the last couple of years and is changing his reputation. He deserves another shot at Europe as he’s the only one who has shown up against both Italy and Brazil.

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Confederations Cup: What the hell just happened?

Kaka and Shawki at the Confederations Cup

I am, of course, talking about this: Brazil 4-3 Egypt. What the hell?

I can appreciate that Egypt is an underrated team, especially by me. I had them firmly in the underdog category a couple of days ago. But they played well today. They bounced back agaisnt one of the best teams in the world. And they scored 3 goals! Take a look, New Zealand: that is how you go about challenging a top team. It took a Kaká PK to finally seal the deal. The United States should be very, very afraid and probably wishing they had a time machine to go back and be drawn into Group A.

Side note: Brazil and Egypt have two of the plainest kits I’ve ever seen. Although Egypt has, hands down, the best team nickname: The Pharaohs.

And then, of course, there’s the WTF feeling the US must be having after losing 3-1 to Italy. After having Ricardo Clark red carded (I thought he deserved a yellow, but not a straight red) and going down to 10 men (seriously, will the US ever field a full 11-man squad versus Italy?), Landycakes scored on a PK to put them up 1-0. Everything was fine until Giuseppe Rossi showed up. He proceeded to score not once but twice. The first, it must be said, was spectacular.

Rossi ConfederationOne of my goals this week is to try to gauge exactly how good the United States is. I think, at number 14 in the FIFA rankings, they might be a tad overrated. Then again, they could just be going through a rough bit of form. They were lethargic against Italy until Clark got red carded; then Landycakes turned it on played like a man possessed. That’s two straight world-class performances for him, for those of you keeping track at home.

Bob Bradley’s tactics were acceptable, though they could have been better. Charlie Davies is overrated by the US hierarchy and should not have been subbed in for Jozy Altidor. What he should have done was put in another defender – perhaps someone to play a sweeper role – or a defensive midfielder. Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley provided nice offensive options at times but once the lead was their and they were down to 10 men, defense becomes the priority. I’m not saying they should have collapsed into a shell because that puts too much pressure on the keeper.

Hopefully the lesson was learned for what looks like two difficult encounters coming up.

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So why should you care about the Confederations Cup?

Confederations Cup 2009

I’m glad you asked.

1. It’s a mini-World Cup. Eight teams, all champions of some sort (except the host nation, South Africa). All looking to prove something ahead of the real World Cup next year. Where else are you going to see Spain, Italy, and Brazil playing, other than a World Cup or some sort of super-duper friendly schedule? Nowhere, that’s where.

2. How good is the US? Will the Confederations Cup provide a concrete answer as to how good Bob Bradley’s boys are? No, I don’t think so. But it will be high quality competition with something on the line. International friendlies are great practice. But let’s be honest: with a trophy on the line, people try harder. The US will not send a B-team, like the Gold Cup. Spain’s A-team and Italy’s A-team will be on display. Not to mention everybody’s second favorite team, Brazil.

3. Is South Africa ready for the World Cup? We’ve all read the horror stories of getting stadiums prepared in South Africa. Consider this a dry run.

4. What will the underdogs bring to the table? The top dogs are Spain, Italy, and Brazil, likely in that order. The US exists in a netherworld between elite and underdog. That is, it should be able to beat the underdogs but likely can’t compete with the top dogs. So, what will South Africa, New Zealand, Egypt, and Iraq bring to the table? I’m hoping for competitive games to get all of those countries hyped for the World Cup.

Who are your key players to watch, esp. for the lesser known teams? List them all with short reasons below!

Prediction: Spain will take the Confederations Cup.

A bunch of games will be on ESPN, starting tomorrow (Sunday, July 14) at 10am EST.

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Kaká’s transfer by the numbers

Two days. That’s how long Kaká’s reign at the top of the world record transfer list lasted. On 9 June 2009, he moved from AC Milan to Real Madrid for £59 million. This is after saying, in January, that he would stay at Milan for the rest of his career. Six months later, he’s off to Madrid.

30 percent. That’s how much salary AC Milan must cut because of the worldwide economic decline. Apparently, when he turned down the January move, Kaká agreed to a personal salary freeze. The move to Real Madrid puts money in the player’s pocket and the team’s. ESPN, which was not the only outlet to report this, decided that Kaká moved not only to help himself but also to help AC Milan.

Kaka in Madrid colors

The number 18. Kaká’s reported shirt number at Real Madrid. This is fascinating to me because shirt numbers say a lot. Some players want a specific number at all stops; others don’t care. Kaká is interesting because he wore number 8 at São Paulo, then number 22 at AC Milan. He wore number 8 with Brazil but has since changed to number 10 (which is, of course, sacred in Brazil and in the larger world of soccer).

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