Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more?

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The Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, rarely captures the imagination but fans in the United States aren’t lacking enthusiasm for the tournament after their team produced a major upset by defeating European champions Spain 2-0.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey ended Spain’s world record run of 15 successive victories and their 35-match unbeaten sequence, a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FIFA’s global rankings.

So a major upset — but just how big a surprise was it?

Our man at the game, global soccer editor Mike Collett, poses the question by putting the U.S’s victory in historical context — North Korea beating Italy in the 1966 World Cup probably takes the prize for this reporter and the fact that the Confederations Cup is a lesser tournament than the World Cup probably weakens the case for this win being among the very greatest upset ever. But regardless of the global-historical rating there is less doubt that, as Mike argues, the win is the biggest for United States since the 1950 shock over England in the World Cup finals.

The U.S have pulled off a few surprises since then, though, and Kartik Krishnaiyer at MLS Talk lists the main triumphs. As Kartik notes, a 3-0 win over Argentina in the 1995 Copa America was a particularly impressive result for a team which had yet to make a real impact in a World Cup. But probably the best U.S result, up until Wednesday, taking into account the importance of the match, was the 3-2 win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.

Money will talk louder than any vuvuzela

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The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.

The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.

Brazil looming large for Maradona and Argentina

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Is the fact that Brazil are Argentina’s next opponents in the World Cup qualifiers getting to Argentines worried by the precarious position of Diego Maradona’s team in the standings?

While Brazil enjoy more match practice at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, Argentina, their rivals in the 2005 final in Germany, are bickering over the pitch on which to host their arch-rivals in match that will have a major bearing on their World Cup ambitions.

from Left field:

Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front

SOCCER-CONFEDERATIONS/The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.

Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks' decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.

In defence of Giuseppe Rossi

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American soccer fans aren’t noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.

What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then — to add insult to injury — celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.

Mind how you go, sir — a lesson with the South African police

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FIFA president Sepp Blatter, World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan and just about everyone else involved in the 2010 finals have been playing down the risk of violence and crime in South Africa and in hundreds of reports over the last five years I have always been prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

That was until last night when I was effectively “mugged” by two uniformed police officers who demanded “pounds or dollars” before they would let me go on my way. In the end I handed over 200 rand (about 15 pounds) — and they showed their “gratitude” in the most astonishing way.

Oceania needs a rethink after New Zealand thrashing

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In the previous post, Martyn Herman looked at soccer’s international minnows while here Mark Gleeson discusses the particular plight of New Zealand.Oceania, as a confederation, threatened to disintegrate under the weight of a quick fire Fernando Torres hat-trick on Sunday night.The match-up in the Confederations Cup between European champions Spain and New Zealand, who represent FIFA’s smallest and least competitive confederation, was almost as one-sided as any major international in decades.As Torres banged in three goals in the first 17 minutes, so the legitimacy of the 11-member confederation came under a stark spotlight.Fortunately for Oceania’s cause, the Spanish managed just two more, albeit one profiting from a schoolboy error, but there will surely come a time when the gulf between the collection of Pacific island nations and the rest of the footballing world no longer produces a remotely equitable contest.Despite their best lobbying effort, Oceania are repeatedly denied a direct berth to the World Cup on sporting grounds. Their best team must playoff, usually against a South American country, or in the case for 2010, an Asian side, to qualify.Australia moved from Oceania to Asia because they felt it was uncompetitive and not advancing the standard of their game. Now New Zealand, where football is hoping to evolve from its current status as a minority sport, rules the roost against the islands, often barely breaking a sweat to dominate the confederation’s competitions.On the evidence of Sunday’s performance, New Zealand football would do well to join the Asian confederation too. They frankly need more exposure.Indeed Oceania’s collective cause is best served by folding into the Asian confederation where the island teams will find many other countries of the same footballing pedigree and have more competition too.Already Asia have created two tiers to accommodate its less proficient members and end years of ridiculous mis-matches.As Torres was riding roughshod in Rustenburg, I wonder whether that thought crossed the minds of any of FIFA’s top leadership.PHOTO: Spain’s Fernando Torres (C) rises above the New Zealand defence to score his third goal during their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Time to take minnows off the international menu

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SOCCER-WORLD/Now that the dust has settled on the Ronaldo story (at least until he actually signs) I wanted to go back to something that bothered me about last week’s on-field action.

Former England striker Jimmy Greaves summed it up quite well at half-time during England’s 6-0 thrashing of Andorra in a World Cup qualifier.

It appears logical to presuppose that this is Marcelo Bielsa…

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Chile ‘s 4-0 win over Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday has left them on a brink for only their second World Cup appearance since 1982.

Their progress through the tortuous South American qualifying campaign – which has included a memorable home win over Argentina — has been almost exclusively credited to the work one of the world’s most reclusive and enigmatic coaches Marcelo Bielsa.

World Cup is golden opportunity for Africa — if it succeeds

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The countdown has begun for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an event, now only a year away, that could change perceptions about the whole continent and show the globe a festival of sport that reverses obstinate stereotypes of a region in constant crisis and violence.

Africans are deeply frustrated by the tendency of foreigners, including investors, to see Africa almost as one country instead of more than 50 extremely diverse nations. Meltdown in Zimbabwe can impact on investors’ perceptions of countries thousands of miles away on the other side of the continent. By the same token, a successful World Cup will not only change the way people see Africa but also encourage future mega events and the huge investment that they can bring.

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