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Sunday, June 01, 2014

World Cup 2014

This is shaping up to be an interesting and wide-open Mondiale. Brazil would normally be the big favorites, as the home countries usually do well, but as one newspaper has commented, the corruption of the Brazilian government and the shameless fraud associated with the construction of the tournament stadiums has actually turned the majority of the Brazilians against the World Cup. This is a staggering achievement and is a testimony to the unvarnished corruption rife within FIFA.

Literally dozens of international friendlies and qualifiers are suspected of having been at least partially fixed; there are even some serious questions about the legitimacy of a number of games leading up to the previous World Cup in South Africa.
A soccer referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a bank in a small South African city carrying a bag filled with as much as $100,000 in $100 bills, according to another referee traveling with him. The deposit was so large that a bank employee gave Mr. Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela.

Later that night in May 2010, Mr. Chaibou refereed an exhibition match between South Africa and Guatemala in preparation for the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event. Even to the casual fan, his calls were suspicious — he called two penalties for hand balls even though the ball went nowhere near the players’ hands.

Mr. Chaibou, a native of Niger, had been chosen to work the match by a company based in Singapore that was a front for a notorious match-rigging syndicate, according to an internal, confidential report by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

FIFA’s investigative report and related documents, which were obtained by The New York Times and have not been publicly released, raise serious questions about the vulnerability of the World Cup to match fixing. The tournament opens June 12 in Brazil.

The report found that the match-rigging syndicate and its referees infiltrated the upper reaches of global soccer in order to fix exhibition matches and exploit them for betting purposes. It provides extensive details of the clever and brazen ways that fixers apparently manipulated “at least five matches and possibly more” in South Africa ahead of the last World Cup. As many as 15 matches were targets, including a game between the United States and Australia, according to interviews and emails printed in the FIFA report.
Apparently, it's nearly as bad as the NBA during the David Stern era. As for the tournament itself, Italy's slim chances just took a blow with the loss of Riccardo Montolivo. Spain is beginning to look a bit creaky and underpowered up front, and both Argentina and Portugal look more like potential semifinalists than potential champions. In the end, I think Germany and Brazil look like the two teams to beat, with a slight nod to Brazil for being the home team. Let's face it, once the games actually start, the Brazilians are going to rally round their team.

Of the lesser teams, Switzerland looks solid. The USA has a decent young team, (although I would have brought Landon Donovan along in-case-of-emergency-break-glass purposes), but I can't see them getting out of the Group of Death, not with Germany and Portugal in Group G. Ghana isn't bad either, so it's not inconceivable that the USA could go pointless despite playing well. Holland is good, but Van Persie isn't enough to get them past the second round.

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31 Comments:

Blogger Lucas June 01, 2014 6:59 AM  

We (Portugal) only have CR7 and that's it.

You need a solid base from a domestic team to form a worthy national team. Like Mourinho said, all great [European] national teams were built around one national team: Holland (Ajax), Germany (Bayern) Italy (Milan), Portugal in 2004 (FC Porto), Portugal in 1966 (Benfica), Spain (Barcelona), etc.

Chances are the CR7 won't even play that well since he is physically down.

Blogger Xmas June 01, 2014 7:15 AM  

I liked Ghana in the last cup. I was in Johannesburg for their last match, they were the last African team in the tournament and the hopes of the continent were riding on them. It was a bit sad when they were knocked out.

Anonymous zen0 June 01, 2014 7:23 AM  

Brazil

Home field advantage

Parties all night outside the hotels of opponents..... mysterious food poisonings or "flu".....sex scandalswith male prostitutes.....referees in fear of their lives........that sort of thing.

But what about Argentina?. They would love to stick it to Brazil, I imagine.

Blogger Anth June 01, 2014 7:23 AM  

It will be interesting to see how much of the protesting continues into the tournament itself. I expect FIFA will be praying that the pagentry and all of the bells & whistles that inevitably descend will act as a natural balm and turn the general public back into docile fan-zone consumers.

Germany have a squad that contains the best collection of young talent in the tournament but they seem to be already developing a complex about coping with pressure and delivering in the latter stages which could be a worry.

France & Holland will both almost certainly implode mid-tournament as both squads are populated by infighting and factions that make the blue/pink sci fi antagonism look civil. Expect to see at least one French player on the plane home before the group stage is over.

I like Argentinas chances more than you do Vox, I think the extra motivation of winning the World Cup in Brazil will drive them on and they are my tournament favourites.

Of the smaller teams, I am expecting big things of Colombia, they look like they have the right balance to do some damage. I wouldn't be surprised if they get to the semi finals. If anyone tells you that Belgium is still a 'dark horse' ignore them, they are stuck in 2012

Anonymous JOTS June 01, 2014 7:28 AM  

More alleged FIFA corruption over 2022 World Cup
Al-ja-beeb-a (the BBC to foreigners)
http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27652181
links to a Sunday Times (pay wall) story
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/
titled 'the plot to buy the world cup' revealed by a huge email cache.

You ain't seen nothin' yet

Anonymous zen0 June 01, 2014 7:46 AM  

@ Anth

It will be interesting to see how much of the protesting continues into the tournament itself. .....the pagentry and all of the bells & whistles that inevitably descend will act as a natural balm and turn the general public back into docile fan-zone consumers

That is the historically normal pattern. Same with Olympics. Sochi the most recent example. Everyone with an ax to grind hops on the bandwagon, but when the band actually begins to play, nobody wants to hear from nay-sayers.

Its samba time..........shutup.

Blogger AdognamedOp June 01, 2014 8:09 AM  

I just hope team USA beats Ghana\ like 6-0 and we draw vs Portugal. This is the group of death.
I've no doubt the SA fixing scandal doesn't stop at Chaibou.
There'll be plenty of scandal to come, along with some great soccer.
This is like my fifth WC as a visitor and regular reader.I look foward to some choice commentary from our host and those in the know.

Blogger Outlaw X June 01, 2014 8:24 AM  

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and he lamented the fact that he can trust no one anymore other than family. He told me that society has devolved into a place to where he weeps for his children. When he told me how he had changed everything he does when dealing with people and gave me some examples of how he has changed I realized I wan't the only. You can't believe a word anyone says any more. The south used to be a place where when a man gave his word on something you could generally dpend on it. Not any more. I think this may have to do with the corruption everywhere and weak willed people have decided to hell with it and they are becoming just like our politicians and criminals. Sociopath thinking has become the norm and not the exception. I don't even believe doctors any more, except one or two I have. Why go when you figure they are going lie to you about your health.

Do people not understand if the don't hold the ground of honesty and dealing with your fellow man fairly, then this place in which we live will soon become a hell hole for them and their family, and sometimes I wonder if they even care about their own kin any more? Romans 1: 19-32 is happening right before my eyes.

Anonymous Cameron June 01, 2014 8:26 AM  

Hard to go past Brazil after seeing their performance at last years Confederations Cup.

Anonymous Alte June 01, 2014 8:55 AM  

I'm rooting for Germany, of course, but I've got a natural soft spot for the Amis and Ghana is an interesting underdog. Our group will be the most fun to watch, I think, because any of them winning will be exciting.

I still have mixed feelings about Kevin Boateng playing for Ghana, though. I know he was in exile for a while, but that's over now that he's at Schalke. He needs to play for his homeland or sit on the bench, instead of wandering all over the place like a Fußball mercenary. All of the German dual-nationals playing for foreign teams is very irritating because it's like we're breeding, raising, and training our competitors. We should pull their passports. LOL

Anonymous YIH June 01, 2014 9:01 AM  

It seems they learned something from those *&^%$#@! vuvulzelas.
And of course:
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke scolded Brazilians for using the World Cup to protest government waste, corruption, and mismanagement in an interview on FIFA.com.
In his explanation, he used an argument that contradicts almost all the research on the topic — hosting a World Cup is a smart long-term economic investment.
"When people are saying that we have put something into the World Cup that they could use for other projects, they're wrong," he said. "The World Cup is a way to speed up a number of investments in a country."

Ah yes, the old Field of dreams routine, the Olympics sure did wonders for Greece, didn't it?

Anonymous Fred June 01, 2014 9:09 AM  

Why is it US is always put in the shit early group? Vox is right we could go pointless even with a reasonably good team.

Anonymous trev006 June 01, 2014 9:37 AM  

I suppose getting tickets for the round of 16 may look less impressive now that France is more than likely going to play as the top of their group, if the infighting is carrying over from the last tournament. Ah well, cést la vie.

I'm outright laughing at the NYT article, though. FIFA is outright scathing about the performance of the South African officials, and it seems like the white man is the only one with enough integrity to sit on the flagrant cheating. Even when the match-fixers threaten to kill him for it: breach of contract indeed. The article goes from ominous to outright disturbing as they describe a soccer governance that is flagrantly corrupt AND utterly incompetent to do their job. So exactly what you expect from modern South Africa.

The worst part is, the CBC is falling all over itself to promote Desmond Bloody Tutu coming to Alberta to talk about the sin of the oil sands, yet he only drew 150 people and most of those being paid activists. Watching South Africa be pedestalized just makes me dislike them all the more, I'm not kidding.

Blogger Manach June 01, 2014 9:53 AM  

Whilst England's performance on the pitch can vary, the vitriol and hyperbole of their red-top press never fails to disappoint.

Blogger sapopular June 01, 2014 9:55 AM  

Well...There are some informations that you need to know.

This year is also Presidencial election year in Brazil. This may explain part of the protests against the federal government and states governments ( situation and opposition).

A lot of unions, political groups, and other organized groups taking advantage of the situation to make demands, gain popularity or just to create tumult.

The Workers Party (PT) historically is a joint venture of the left: Marxists, socialists, trade unionists, communists, bolivarians... They ran together as opposition, but as situation doesnt work ( as usual), at least until they find something "tradicional" or "right wing" to attack or just "non left enough".

The Workers Party (PT) was suddenly and unexpectedly benefited from the economic reforms that the current opposition PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic party) held in the 90s and the economic boom of commodities because China.

Obviously they were unable to take good advantage of these favorable winds and spending with populist measures and ideological priorities.

The World Cup (and Olympics) requisitions never was unanimity and have always been viewed with suspicion by a portion of the population. These events were sold by the government as a way to modernize the country and improve infrastructure.

Even with strong evidence that such events are absurdly deficient, leftists have facinio for major events and thought to reap electoral dividends with it to perpetuate in power.

Anonymous National Faggot League June 01, 2014 9:57 AM  

Soccer is gay

Anonymous Roundtine June 01, 2014 9:57 AM  

A team from the Americas wins when the World Cup is held in the Americas; a team from Europe wins when it is held in Europe. If not Brazil, who's left that has any shot? Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. I know the U.S. will be lucky to emerge with two points (Ghana isn't a great team, but they have the U.S.'s number), but if for some reason they did emerge.......

Anonymous PhillipGeorge(c)2014 June 01, 2014 9:58 AM  

Beer, skittles and circuses.
......... round and round and round.


Football fans must never be called on to renounce their faith in footballor Ruby Ridge is the game that's 24/7 on every channel?

the show must go on == it's only a question of channel

Anonymous Bz June 01, 2014 10:05 AM  

"The South African federation, troubled by financial difficulties and administrative dysfunction, was a ripe target."

Might one even say "willing"?

Anonymous Roundtine June 01, 2014 10:07 AM  

I'm willing to chip into a fund to get the Mandela funeral sign language interpreter into a World Cup match as the referee. I would love to see his interpretation of it.

Anonymous GreyS June 01, 2014 11:29 AM  

Heh-- the NBA was absolutely terrible for a long while. It was pretty clear that the refs were told to lean certain ways in order to prolong series. Couldn't say nowadays-- That was one of the reasons I stopped watching years ago.

Have to agree with Hugo-nominated author VD's assessment. Germany and Brazil. I see everybody, fans and media, jumping on the Brazil bandwagon as they move further toward the final. Spain has been so great over the last several years that it is hard to discount them, but it can't go on forever. Argentina and Portugal are two i always root for, but they never put it all together. For Argentina to win in Brazil would be a national dream, but it won't happen. Portugal just plain doesn't have enough people in the country to fill out the roster with top top players. The U.S. could have it's best team in years-- and go winless. I'm always rooting for Italy but haven't watched them lately so no idea how good they are. I always root against England (strictly because I can't stand the predictable media bandwagon) and always always root against our southern neighbors the urine-throwers. I root against Mexico in every single match unless it would help someone I like.

In the end, I will just hope for a good and entertaining Cup, while watching every match I can and rooting for the U.S. to get to the second round-- or maybe more. If the U.S. can finish second in their group they would face Group H winner, Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea. A big 'if' though. That sched bodes well for Portugal.

Anonymous wEz June 01, 2014 12:09 PM  

Finally a thread a can contribute to
with traction.
The fixed friendlies scandel doesnt surprise me, as friendlies are pretty much meaningless anyway.
Are far as the cup is concerned, Belgium is my sleeper team. Its ridiculous how much young talent that country is pumping out. Defensively is their potential achilles heel.

Anonymous Daniel June 01, 2014 3:00 PM  

The problem with corruption in soccer is that is so damn compelling and crazy. It is hard to imagine the sport retaining its color without it. In the NBA the fixing is so ham-handed and terrible and simultaneously wiped out a) interest in the game AND b) interest in the corruption!

NBA couldn't figure out what to do with Jordan's skill and his gambling...so Stern destroyed the game entirely by corrupting it. Brilliant. FIFA corruption is at least run by factions.

Even decentralized corruption is better than dictated corruption.

Blogger Hermit June 01, 2014 3:47 PM  

In my opinion Montolivo's injury don't change much for Italy.
Our team is clearly not the best Italy of all time, we'll see.

Anonymous Alte June 01, 2014 5:11 PM  

They just showed a clip of the Ghana team playing drums and singing on their bus, with Boateng sitting in the back corner with headphones on and looking -- as the voice-over snidely noted -- extremely irritated. Come home, Kevin! We forgive you. LOL We'll play Toten Hosen on the bus. Promise.

Some explosion at a Nigerian game. Boko Harem?

Blogger Scott June 01, 2014 6:14 PM  

The amount of fuck Americans don't give about soccer trumps the amount of gay soccer is, but only by a little

Anonymous miZ June 01, 2014 7:55 PM  

soccer is 100 times more gay than NFL football

Anonymous cheddarman June 02, 2014 8:31 AM  

My favorite part of the world cup is how sports, politics and African ju-ju men intersect.

Of course, the Europeans have their own variety of ju-ju men who wear expensive suits and work at large banks.

Anonymous Death to Rabbits June 02, 2014 9:05 AM  

I'm a fan of the NFL and World Cup... there is no contradiction.

And on a related note:

NFL: Last sports bastion of white, male conservatives
http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/05/30/nfl-last-sports-bastion-of-white-male-conservatives/
"Still, the game’s soaring popularity may actually signal the potential waning of those values rather than their power. Just as baseball embedded itself into the national psyche because it captured a sense of the country and then hung on because it represented a pastoral oasis in a frightening new industrializing world, football embedded itself into the national psyche because it captured Ronald Reagan’s America, and it may be thriving among its core fans because it is a last redoubt of white male values now being threatened by changing national demographics and a more tolerant mindset.

It is hard to call a league as popular as the NFL an anachronism. But it just may be a place where rich old angry white men can enjoy their world on Sunday — even if that world may be crumbling around them."

Anonymous NorthernHamlet June 02, 2014 6:44 PM  

With how hard I've been working this past year, I feel like this World Cup couldn't have come any sooner. Reading Vox's regular analysis and the comments will be a deeply guilty pleasure after a long day's work.

And if Ghana takes USA... that'll make what? three world cups in a row they've done that?

I'll throw something through my TV.

Anonymous Albert June 04, 2014 2:31 PM  

Anth said, "If anyone tells you that Belgium is still a 'dark horse' ignore them, they are stuck in 2012."

I'd ignore anyone who tells you a very young and fantastically talented squad was better off two years ago when one of their two commonly remarked upon weaknesses, in addition to not having particularly strong fullbacks, is a lack of international experience.

How Anth decided Belgium peaked two years ago is something I'd like to see (credibly and intelligently) explained. They are stacked at a number of positions.

The argument can be made that whichever of Curtios or Mingolet don't start in goal is the best back up keeper in the tournament. The former, at 22, was instrumental in helping Atleti become the first non-Barca/Real team to win La Liga in over a decade and also carried them to a Champions League final. The latter is Liverpool's number one.

Kompany is one of the best center halves in the world and captains English champions Manchester City. Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen is a cultured ball playing defender with an Ajax pedigree, and Vermaleen regularly turns out for Arsenal. Centerback won't be a weakness.

Tottenham's Dembele and Manchester United's Fellani are both physically imposing central midfielders. Dembele in particular is rather underrated (it is nearly impossible to dispossess the man of the ball). Witsel brings a bit more of an attacking flair and plays his club football for Zenit.

Amongst the attacking midfielders and wingers, there's an embarrassment of riches. Eden Hazard is Chelsea's best player. Januzaj is likely too young to have an huge impact this World Cup, but already regularly turns out for Manchester United at 19. De Bruyne (Wolfsburg) and Mirallas (Everton) both start for clubs in top domestic leagues, as do wing forwards Martins (Napoli) and Chaldi (Tottenham), with the latter finding regular playing time towards the end of the past club season.

Then up front, Lukaku, a battering ram of a number nine, scored 32 goals in the English top flight over the past two seasons out on loan with West Brom and Everton and looks the heir apparent to Drogba at Chelsea. Now 23, he's coming into his prime.

At 28, Kompany is the oldest of all the first division regulars I've just mentioned. And with the exception of Vertonghen and possibly Alderweireld being pushed out wide from their natural positions (though both came up with Ajax and are quite comfortable on the ball), their best eleven looks quite formidable.

Curtois
Vertonghen Kompany Vermaleen [Alderweireld/VandenBorre]
Dembele Fellani
Hazard DeBruyne Chadli
Lukaku

That still leaves Mingloet, Witsel, Mirallas, Januzaj, and Martins among others on the bench.

The quarterfinals are a reasonable expectation for Belgium and they have the talent to cause upset from there. With the importance of fullbacks in the modern game, the Red Devils may struggle against the very top teams, but they're definitely dark horses. The 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup will be their best chances for silverware (it is a shame their other physically imposing number nine Christian Benteke is out injured, as he scored 19 goals in 34 league games for Aston Villa in the English top flight as a 22 year old during the 2012-2013 season).

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