Juan Zuniga with a vicious knee to Neymar’s back, fracturing his vertebrae, put the Brazilian star out of the semi-final of the World Cup. Zuniga’s tackle on Neymar should have been treated quite similar to Suarez’s bite of the Italian defender yet FIFA has failed to act.
Brazil’s captain and defensive technician, Thiago Silva, ridiculously attempted to kick the ball out of the hands of the Colombian goalkeeper and received a second yellow card which meant Brazil would face Germany devoid of its offensive star and defensive stalwart.
Winston Churchill was fond of reiterating that the sun never sets on the British Empire. The decolonization movement after World War II was instrumental in dismantling the British Empire. In recent decades, Britain has been unsuccessful in establishing itself as a world power in soccer. Its Premier League is considered one of the better leagues in the age of global soccer but the England national team has not fared well in the European Cup or the World Cup in recent decades. Britain playing at home won the World Cup in 1966. Since then Britain has been plagued by a trophy drought.
In Brazil 2014, England was knocked out of the group stage. Italy beat them 2-1 and Uruguay also beat them 2-1. England went to the World Cup with a nucleus of young talented players like Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson and some seasoned hands like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
The World Cup group of Germany, Poland, Ghana and the United States has been characterized as the “Group of Death”. All things being equal, logic dictates that Germany and Portugal should emerge as the two teams that advance. But in soccer, the ball is round.
Portugal played pitifully against Germany and Ronaldo was missing in action. Germany looked like world class material and spanked Portugal 4-0 opening some space for the United States to advance.
In the 2006 and 2010 World Cup, Ghana had beaten America and forced them to return home prematurely. In the 2014 World Cup, Klinsman, the American coach and psychologist, convinced his players that 2014 was a new day and should produce a different outcome.
Like Usain Bolt, America was out of the blocks like a bolt of lightning and in thirty seconds, Dempsey netted to put America ahead. Ghana kept coming like waves of Chinese troops in the Korean War but Tim Howard, the American goalkeeper, kept his team in the game. The Americans were under siege but the Ghanaians did not attack with great imagination. Nonetheless, they did equalize in the latter stages of the second half. The game was deadlocked but in the eleventh hour, the American substitute, John Brooks, a central defender, scored on a corner to put America ahead 2-1. Americans in Brazil and outside of Brazil erupted with unbelievable joy.
America still has a steep mountain to climb. Portugal is wounded but still dangerous. The Americans must beat or draw with Portugal to have a chance to advance. The Gods are smiling on Jurgen Klinsman and the Americans. Twenty thousand Americans travelled to Brazil to cheer on the red, white and blue.
The opening game of the World Cup will take place in Sao Paulo between the host country, Brazil, and the Baltic nation of Croatia. The beautiful game, to use Pele’s description of soccer, is being played in the political arena of a burgeoning protest movement in Brazil. The protesters are not taking a holiday as the visitors from all parts of the world descend on Brazil to enjoy the spectacle of the World Cup.
Brazil sought both the World Cup of 2014 and the Summer Olympic Games of 2016. The government did not anticipate the domestic turmoil. Brazil has made much progress in recent decades in expanding the middle class and made some efforts in reducing extreme poverty. But the income inequality chasm, though narrowed, is still gaping and fuels the discontent in the favelas and with the unions.
Brazil had not fared too well in the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and worse the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Playing at home in 2014, they are favorites to win their sixth World Cup. Brazil last beat the World in 2002 and the question is the 2014 team better than the 2002 World Cup team?
Playing against the South African national squad in the March 5, 2014 friendly, South Africa failed to test the Scolari squad. Brazil won 5-0 with Neymar scoring a hat-trick and the newly called-up Fernandinho scored from way outside the penalty box.
The 2002 squad had Dida in goal, Cafu and Roberto Carlos as wing backs, Lucio and Rogue Junior were the central defenders.
Manchester City vs Liverpool
Liverpool had entered the sacrosanct home grounds of Manchester City where the EPL champions of two years ago simply defiled their opponents. That is what they did to the mighty Arsenal. They stomped all over Arsenal 6-3. But as Liverpool’s manager, Brendan Rodgers stated, his team had confidence in their own attacking prowess.