Today’s footie, with added biology

July 5, 2014 • 7:31 am

Yesterday Matthew was rooting for France, as he lived there for many years—he speaks fluent French—and has written two books about the Resistance and the liberation of Paris. Sadly, France lost to Germany 0-1 in a pretty dull game, and Matthew consoled himself with a bowl of Eton Mess.

Brazil beat Colombia 2-1, in a fast-moving game that showed that Brazil is not nearly as bad as it has looked so far. Colombia just couldn’t control the ball, but did have one good goal (on penalty) by James Rodríguez. Brazil clinched the win with a wonderful free-kick by Luiz from 68 feet (21 meters) out. I managed to watch both games.

Today’s schedule is also a corker, and I’ll try to watch both games, as I’m almost finished polishing the Albatross. I’m rooting for Argentina, of course,  and, although the Dutch will likely win, my heart is with underdog Costa Rica.

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 5.59.54 AM


Here are the highlights from yesterday’s games:

Germany/France (click on screenshot to go to videos):

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 6.11.38 AM

Brazil/Colombia (Luiz’s kick):

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 6.07.35 AM

Did anybody notice that Rodríguez, the young star of Colombia, had a huge grasshopper on his arm when he made his successful penalty kick against Brazil? The Telegraph reports with photos; clearly the orthopteran brought luck:

James Rodriguez threw his side a lifeline late in the semi-final defeat by Brazil when he scored a penalty and celebrated the strike, unaware that a huge green insect had been hitching a ride on his arm.

He calmly slotted the spot-kick past Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, with the grasshopper still clinging to his shirt.

Eventually it flew off, together with Los Cafeteros’ hopes of reaching their first ever World Cup semi-final as the Brazilians prevailed 2-1 in the quarter-finals in Fortaleza.


Such is football in the tropics. Can anyone identify this insect?


Rodríguez had six goals in the tournament, and although his team is through, this young man has plenty to be proud of.  But he was in tears after the post-game exchange of jerseys, and, after being hugged by his coach, walked forlornly off the field.


Here’s a take on the tight US/Belgium match from a piece in Slate called “This GIF shows how tantalizingly close the US came to tying Belgium.” It’s US-centric, of course, and we lost in overtime 2-1.

First, Jermaine Jones streaks in front of Michael Bradley, helping to camouflage the Americans’ true intentions. Bradley then taps a diagonal ball to the cutting Chris Wondolowski. The Belgian wall, which had been primed for a Bradley shot, busts apart as five players scatter aimlessly. As the Red Devils scramble, Clint Dempsey races to the front of the goal, and Wondolowski’s pass hits him in stride. At this point, the Belgians have been thoroughly beaten. The men in red are standing, watching, and hoping that the play breaks down, somehow.

It does. Dempsey’s first touch is heavy, perhaps because Wondolowski struck his pass with a bit too much pace. Instead of gathering it smoothly and smashing it into the net, Dempsey now races to control the ball.

There’s also one Belgian player who’s not absolutely dumbstruck. To his credit, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois comes off his line quickly. It’s a world-class move by a world-class player: Courtois is just fast enough to slide in and dispossess Dempsey before the American forward can regain possession.

If Courtois had stayed in place, Dempsey would have slotted the ball in and tied the match 2-2. Instead, the Belgians held on for a deserved victory. In the end, this play stands as a microcosm of the Americans’ performance at the 2014 World Cup. It was surprising, thrilling, and not quite good enough to beat one of the best teams in the world.


Finally, today’s Google Doodle; I think they’re running out of ideas! Click on the screenshot to see the animation:

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 5.58.29 AM


h/t: Steve, pyers

20 thoughts on “Today’s footie, with added biology

  1. Now that Neymar was carried off the field in a stretcher maybe the execrable Ann Coulter will shut up about soccer being a game for sissies, but I doubt it.

  2. My heart was crushed when Neymar went off field. I knew then it was not good. Hard game, if Brazil wants to win it all they have to play better, and all the more so now.

    Go Messi.

  3. I’m surprised that the knee in Neymar’s back didn’t earn a penalty. This was the roughest (dirtiest?) game I’ve seen so far.

    1. In real time, it did not look that bad. In slow motion, you see what happened. Perhaps FIFA should have a Department of Player Safety like the NHL (Hockey). It reviews every game and hands out penalties and suspensions. It would be nice if it also could penalize diving. I think there should be video review of any fouls in the penalty area. If it is a dive – red card the diver. That might put an end to diving.

      1. Do the referrees not make use of instant replay because it would slow down the game? I’ve seen so many calls/non-calls that would’ve been corrected with replay. (My confusion comes from a lifetime watching American NCAA football, so pardon.)

  4. “Finally, today’s Google Doodle; I think they’re running out of ideas! Click on the screenshot to see the animation:”

    Maybe they can show What’s-His-Name soccer player biting another soccer player (or even better biting himself and complaining to the referee about it).

    1. Too bad these pictures didn’t come out earlier in the tournament. Suarez might have been deterred by the prospect of a mouthful of grasshopper. Nothing else seems to work in his case.

  5. “Matthew consoled himself with a bowl of Eton Mess.”

    That’s seriously good consolation. I’d almost be willing to see Arsenal lose if that was the consolation.

  6. Fouls, and faking fouls, unlike most other sports, are an accepted part of football tactics. Fouls are used to contain especially skilled players and to slow down the game. The fouled team is conpensated with a shot with the ball stationary and possibly a yellow or red card for the guilty player. It is the job of the referee to see that fouls are called and punished fairly, for if they are not, violence tends to escalate and get out of hand as it did in the Brazil-Colombia match.

    The full name of Brazil’s star backfielder is David Luiz Moreira Marinho.

    1. I assume you are trying to somehow correct me with the full name. Thank you for that instructive bit of information, as well as for the information about fouls.

      And if fouls are accepted, how come they’re penalized?

  7. The Netherlands are gonna kick themselves in the nuts if they lose this one.

    Unbelievable they’re still in it.

  8. Too bad for Costa Rica, I was really rooting for them in this match. But I had to admit Netherlands was better and they were also much more skilled penalty kickers. Most of their penalties were super accurate and impossible to catch for any goalie and the substitution of a specially trained giant goalie was a brilliant idea. This proves that unlike what some commenters have claimed here, penalties shootouts are not random, arbitrary, or unrelated ways to decide the outcome of games. The skills required to win on penalties are well-connected to the skills required to play the game well.

  9. That free kick was from a lot more than 21 meters. The penalty box is at 18 — it was closer to 32-34 meters out.

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