We’re baaaack with one exciting football match today. And there’s no way I’m going to miss this one. I call this one a tossup since Brazil has lost Neymar and isn’t playing at top form anyway. Tomorrow: Argentina vs. Netherlands (go Argentina!), Saturday is the match for third place, and the big final is on Sunday. Our prize will be awarded Monday.
Click on the screenshot for more information (the game is at 3 p.m. Chicago time):
Today’s New York Times, in a piece on the Brazilian team, calls their play “ugly”:
The 2014 World Cup, which happens to be playing out on Brazil’s own stage, has dispelled one of sports’ most entrenched (if somewhat mythical) beliefs: that Brazilian soccer is a showcase of tempo and timbre designed, above all else, to enthrall and entertain.
In truth, Brazil plays a rather ugly version of soccer these days, unapologetically pursuing that which every other team in the world chases: wins.
It is working, too. While o jogo bonito may be dead, few here are mourning — least of all the fans who will pack the Estádio Mineirão on Tuesday when Brazil faces Germany in the semifinals, two victories away from its record sixth World Cup title.
There is little beauty here. Brazil has recorded the most fouls of any team in the tournament. It has played rough and rugged, raw and resolute. It spills blood. It clogs the field. If you want to see dynamic Brazilian playmakers dancing gracefully around the Germans, you will be disappointed.
. . . The opposite of futebol arte, Bellos continued, is futebol força — or, roughly, power football. That is what this Brazilian team has demonstrated throughout the World Cup and especially in the knockout rounds, where it just managed a Round of 16 victory over Chile and followed that up with a contentious, ultimately brutal, quarterfinal win over Colombia.
. . . While Neymar was the bright light of the Brazilian team, its foundation has been with its defensive players. Defensive midfielders can apply clamps to the game, shadowing the opposing attackers and making it difficult for them to be creative. Players like Fernandinho, who has shown a willingness to roughhouse, Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo are, in some ways, as critical to Brazil’s success as the scorers.
That may be anathema to those who are expecting Brazil to be constantly twirling on the field, but it is also just the simple reality. Scolari has made no secret of his methods: Brazil is here to win, not to entertain.
“Put it this way,” Lima said. “If Brazil played beautifully and lost in the final at Maracanã, it would still be terrible. Yes, there are some romantics, but for most of the rest of Brazil, all that matters is winning another trophy.”
Today’s animated Google Doodle is pretty good, too. Click on the screenshot below to see the fun:
Finally, since I have no highlights to show, here’s a video of a turtle and a dog playing football. At the end, the turtle pulls a Suarez.