Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reflections from the World Stage

• There were fewer red cards at the 2014 World Cup than any other edition since 1986 (8). • The 2014 World Cup saw a joint-high number of goals scored (171). • Germany reached the World Cup final for the eighth time; more often than any other side in the history of the competition. • Germany scored 18 goals – the last team to score as many in a World Cup tournament were Brazil (also 18) in 2002. • Argentina trailed for just seven minutes in the entire tournament (excluding injury time). • Belgium reached the quarter-final stage, despite only holding a lead for 52 minutes in their five matches combined. belgium Belgium led for just 52 minutes of the tournament, but still made the last eight. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP • Brazil committed 31 fouls in their quarter-final win over Colombia; the most fouls that they had made in a single World Cup game since records began in 1966. • James Rodríguez became the first player to score in his first five career World Cup appearances since Peru’s Teófilo Cubillas (across the 1970 and 1978 tournaments). Gerd Müller in 1970 was the last player to do it in a single tournament. • Miroslav Klose became the top scoring player in World Cup history with his strike against Brazil in the semi-finals (16 goals). • This was the first time that three sides from the Concafaf region made it out of the group stages and into the last 16 (since the format began in 1986). • Costa Rica knocked out Italy, England, Greece and beat Uruguay, four sides placed in the top 12 positions of the Fifa Rankings (Uruguay – 7th, Italy – 9th, England – 10th, Greece – 12th). • Only six European nations made it to the last 16; a joint-World Cup low since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986. • All eight group stage winners progressed to the quarter-finals stage for the first time in World Cup history. • One point was England’s lowest-ever return in a World Cup group stage. rooney England's lowest-ever group stage points return. Photograph: Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images • This was the first time that England have been eliminated from a World Cup at the group stage since 1958. • Three of the last four teams to win the World Cup have gone out in the following group stage (France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014). • There were more goals scored by substitutes in this World Cup than in any previous edition (32). • Silvestre Varela’s goal for Portugal v USA was the latest during normal time of a World Cup finals match since 1994 (94min 33sec). • Tim Howard made 15 saves in the USA’s quarter-final defeat to Belgium – no goalkeeper has ever made as many saves in a single World Cup game (1966-2014). • Three of Holland’s five outright victories in this World Cup tournament were from losing positions in normal time. • Italy have exited at the group stage in their last two World Cups. The last time they managed this was in the 1960s (1962 and 1966). • Germany are the first European team to win the World Cup in Latin America. • Teams from Uefa have won the last three World Cups, the first time a single confederation has won three in a row. • Germany’s 7-1 win was the biggest margin of victory ever seen in a World Cup semi-final. Brazil's captain David Luiz reacts during the match against Germany. David Luiz contemplates the biggest World Cup semi-final defeat ever. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr./EPA • With their destruction of Brazil, Germany became the top scoring nation in World Cup history (223), overtaking Brazil in the process. Germany ended the tournament with 224 goals, three ahead of Brazil. • Luke Shaw was the youngest player to play at this World Cup finals, when he played for England v Costa Rica (18 years 348 days). • 13.3% of shots have been scored at these finals; a higher proportion than in any other World Cup tournament since records began in 1966. • There were only three direct free-kicks scored at these finals, the fewest since 1986 (3). In 2010 there were five scored, while in 2006 and 2002, nine were scored. • The only World Cup to see more own goals than this tournament (5) was the 1998 finals (6). • Switzerland’s Diego Benaglio was the only goalkeeper to register a shot at the 2014 tournament, thanks to a late effort v Argentina. • The Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi created two goalscoring chances; only three of his team-mates managed more in the tournament. Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi. Rais M'Bolhi: creative Algerian genius. Photograph: Caetano Barreira/Fotoarena/Corbis • Brazil have topped every group they have played in at a World Cup from 1982 onwards. • Spain conceded 5+ goals in an international (5-1 v Holland) for the first time since losing 6-2 to Scotland in June 1963. • That four-goal margin is the biggest losing margin by a defending champion at a World Cup. • Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany was the biggest losing margin by a host nation at a World Cup. • Tim Cahill has scored in three World Cups for Australia; no other Australian has done so in more than one tournament • Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (6) overtook Cameroon’s Roger Milla (5) as all-time top scoring African player at a World Cup. • Algeria became the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup game when they beat South Korea 4-2. • England’s Wayne Rooney recorded his first World Cup assist in his team’s opening game v Italy and his first goal in their game v Uruguay. • Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at two different World Cups. • Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored the first entirely left-footed hat-trick at a World Cup (1966-2014). Xherdan Shaqiri Xherdan Shaqiri scores one of his left-footed treble against Honduras. Photograph: Andres Stapff/Reuters • His treble was also the 50th hat-trick in the history of the World Cup. • In losing 4-0 to Germany, Portugal conceded four goals in a World Cup for the first time in their history. • Clint Dempsey’s goal (29 seconds) v Ghana for the USA was the fifth fastest in World Cup history. • The England goalkeeper Joe Hart made only one save in two World Cup games. • In his 126 minutes of World Cup action, Diego Costa failed to muster a single shot on target (only five shots in total). • In winning Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain conceded a total of six goals, one fewer than they did in their three matches at World Cup 2014. • Alex Song picked up Cameroon’s eighth red card in their World Cup history. His cousin Rigobert Song is one of only two players (along with Zinedine Zidane) to be sent off twice at World Cups, meaning the Song family is responsible for three of Cameroon’s eight reds. • Olivier Giroud’s opening goal v Switzerland was France’s 100th goal at World Cup finals. • Neymar scored the 100th goal of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil’s 100th game in World Cup finals history. • Against Japan Colombia’s substitute goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon became the oldest ever player to feature in a World Cup match, at 43 years and three days. Faryd Mondragon. Faryd Mondragon: record breaker. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images • Honduras have now played nine games without a win at the World Cup (D3 L6). They have played more matches at the World Cup without winning than any other side (New Zealand, El Salvador and Bolivia – all six). • Ghana went out in the group stage for the first time ever (in their third World Cup). Now only three teams have never exited in a World Cup opening group stage: Germany, Holland and the Republic of Ireland. • Fabio Capello has won one of his seven World Cup games as a manager. • Mexico have been knocked out of the World Cup finals at the second-round stage in all six editions since 1994; no team has been knocked out at this stage as often as this. • Nigeria have lost all three of their World Cup second-round ties (0-2 v France in 2014, 1-2 v Italy in 1994 and 1-4 v Denmark in 1998). • Ángel di María’s goal v Switzerland was the latest ever scored by Argentina at the World Cup (118 minutes). • Switzerland have failed to score in their last three World Cup knockout matches, last scoring in one in 1954. • Belgium conceded only three goals in five games at the 2014 World Cup. • Holland progressed to the semi-finals for the third time in their last four World Cups. • Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas saved 21 of the 23 shots on target that he faced at this World Cup (91%). • Thomas Müller has scored 10 goals and provided six assists in just 13 World Cup matches. Thomas Mueller celebrates scoring the third for Germany. Thomas Müller scores. Again. Photograph: Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty • Against Brazil in the semi-final, Germany were 5-0 up faster than any other team in World Cup history (29 minutes). • The 7-1 defeat to Germany equalled Brazil’s all-time biggest margin of defeat (lost 6-0 to Uruguay in 1920). • Germany scored two more goals v Brazil than England have in their past two World Cup campaigns combined. • Argentina have progressed from all four of their World Cup semi-finals. • Argentina v Holland was the first World Cup semi-final to finish 0-0 (including extra-time). Lionel Messi did not touch the ball in the opposition box in the entire 120 minutes. • Nine of the 14 goals Brazil conceded in this World Cup came in the first 30 minutes of their games. • Brazil conceded 10 goals from 14 shots on target conceded in the semi-final and third place play-off game combined. • Mario Götze is the first substitute to score a winning goal in the World Cup final. • Mario Götze is the youngest scorer of a goal in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966 (22 years, 33 days). • Sami Khedira is the 10th player to win the European Cup/Champions League and World Cup in the same season.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

World Cup Semi-Finals

The World Cup has reached it’s final four and in the end it’s the usual suspects that are left standing, Germany, Brazil, Holland, and Argentina. For all of the upsets heartbreaks, injuries, and controversial calls when all the rubble has been cleared no country is left that hasn’t won it multiple times (Bra 5, Ger 3, Arg 2) or been to multiple finals (Ned 3). However there’s no denying that despite the traditional names these aren’t your daddy’s behemoths. There has been much more scoring than we have ever seen, more comebacks, extra time goals, and most importantly lack of defense. It seems that despite the individual talents of Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, etc. the isn’t one great TEAM in this tournament. Everyone has been scored on, and been pressed to the limit by winning matches they should have lost. This is the typical type of tournament that yields a very unexpected final and perhaps winner, but prior to that, we have the semis so let’s take a look at those matchups. Brazil vs. Germany – The clash of the titans of the most storied names in world football, 38 appearances between them, 206 total matches, and 8 titles (BRA 5 Ger 3). Brazil is a wounded Lion trying to fend off a worthy predator that wants to rule the jungle in the form of Germans. At full strength one would think Germany would need a break, get an early goal, then use their tactical skill to keep Brazil from equalizing. However now Brazil will be without their captain and also their leading scorer Neymar, the poster boy for the ’14 cup which changes the dynamic considerably. Germany can win this playing their normal game, frustrating the perhaps more skilled Brazilian side but now not the better cohesive unit. Favoring Brazil is that enormous fervor of home field which will be an eruption waiting to happen. Also coach Luiz felipe scolari has never lost a world cup match while coaching Brazil, including already having a World Cup championship top his credit in 2002. Lastly, the motivation of playing for a fallen teammate that they’ve dedicated the match to. It makes for great theater but when you get to this level one let alone two players can make the difference, it will be interesting to see if the external factors can compensate for the lost talent on the pitch. We don’t think it can and like the Germans to pull the upset and advance.

Friday, July 4, 2014

For US Soccer, The House May Be Closing In

Ok now we’ve had a week to fully get over the US Men’s National Team’s loss exit from the world cup, once again in the round of 16. My initial reaction, like many fans was “man, that was sooo close, if that flick would have been just a little bit lower” and “if Dempsey could have just flicked that set-piece by the keeper”….on and on about what could have been. Then much like when my NFL team loses a big game a week or so passes and I’m able to watch Sports Center again, and I’m able to analyze things more clearly. Now that I’ve seemed to find my center and more importantly watch the quarter-final matches I realize our finish was just where we were supposed to be. We came into the World Cup with a very generous ranking of 12 and (partly due to scheduling) we were among 9 countries left standing. You don’t come into the NCAA Tournament ranked 25 and expect to reach the Final Four. Moreover when you watch the play of the remaining countries to immediately notice that the level of play is just one little notch higher. They’re just a little more technically sound, a tad bit more fundamental, and if you understand the game it may seem like a little bit, but when the stakes are raised it swells to the size of the Grand Canyon. Watching the Germans hold the ball and nurse a 1-0 lead that they obtained in the 11th minute and make that stand up against a French team that was easily more athletic, and never seem pressed makes that slim lead seem like a 21-3 NFL lead in the 4th quarter when you have a good running game. Or the Brazilians, who seem to have strikers that are a threat to score from anywhere on the pitch from just inside mid-field, just give them enough space to turn and face the goal or better yet, on a set piece where they can actually take some time to size up the goal, and they’re chances seem better than even money that it’s going in. Once again, we just don’t have that type of guy that can crack one from 10 yards outside the box if he gets space, and that is the difference. I know one can argue that Germany only beat us 1-0, and that we got out of the Group of Death, but when looked at objectively, at the end of the day we went 1-2-1 and but for not a really stupid foul by a Portuguese defender whom we’ve already lambasted in a prior post (ok Pepe) then Portugal doesn’t lose 0-4, might even fight back for a draw, let alone have such an egregious goal differential, and they not the US make it out of the group. Then how are we viewing our performance? People, the sad truth is on paper this will look like a decent run but at the end of the day we haven’t made any progress in 12 years, and suddenly the house has won back a lot of their money that we’ve been playing with since we hosted the Cup back in 1994. After hosting the tournament, the country was enamored with the game and it brought back fond memories of our failed soccer league of the 1970’s and the current MLS which was founded the year before the 94’ cup hoping to piggy back on the momentum, a very wise move which worked to perfection and the MLS parlayed the cup into a position that surpasses NASCAR and is on par with the NHL. However now we’ve given back most of those profits and are approaching break-even. MLS is strong in some cities, but has also had some franchises go BK and I would wager that most Americans couldn’t name 7 clubs in the MLS as opposed to almost every NFL, NBA, and MLB team. Come 2018 our chip count will be in the red in regards to the tolerance of the nation as this whole, “local boys make good” polish will long have worn off and we’re going to need to not only get out of the group stage, or through the round of 16, but seriously make the final four and perhaps the finals or the fervent fans that packed stadium viewing parties will quickly lose faith as this country does not have a tolerance for losing, let alone to countries who are the size of some our larger cities. Mark my words, this will take some work as it may seem like ONLY a goal here or a goal there and we’re through but to earn those extra goals will take years of training and I don’t know if our farm system is growing enough young talent to yield the returns necessary to make up that gap by 2018. The Euro powers like England, Italy, and Portugal will be even more hungry, and under more pressure so add those to the South American staples and it will make for a brutal field where they may be 3 “Group of Deaths” just to get into the round of 16. I’ll tell you, this may not be pretty and we had better start counting cards because the house has come back and there will be no running to the ATM in 2018.