2010 FIFA World Cup Final

July 11th, 2010

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Today, Spain and Netherlands will play the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final in the Soccer City Stadium, in Johannesburg.

In November of 2009, Spain already was the main favorite to win the 2010 World Cup (along with Brazil), whereas the Netherlands was in the fourth block of favorites (with the same odds as Italy and France). In the very first day of the World Cup, Spain was still top favorite, with Netherlands a few notches up from previous standings.

Spain, the current European Champion, did their job. A surprising defeat in the first match against Switzerland, followed by winnings against Honduras, Chile, Portugal, Paraguay and Germany.

The Dutch are very far from being considered an underdog. They come from a flawless campaign in the Qualifying (8 winnings in 8 matches), and continued with 6 winnings in the finals (Netherlands is the only team to have won all their matches in these finals), against  Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay.

So, the two best teams deserved to reach the final. Spain have more skillful players, resembling Brazil from other times. Netherlands have a stronger tactical preparation, with a tradition of also playing skillfully.

It looks a 50/50 chance for each team.

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Brazil didn’t make it

July 3rd, 2010

Brazil lost to Holland and was eliminated from the World Cup 2010.

Brazilian fans were disappointed, because, after easily winning Chile, the team was considered favourite to win Holland. And Brazil easily commanded the game against Holland in the first half.

In the beginning of the second half, Brazilian players looked nervous; after Holland scored their first goal, Brazilian players entered in despair; and after the second goal, players entered in panic.

Holland have several excellent players, played a better second half, and deserved to win (just as, in 2006, France played better than Brazil and deserved to win).

However, for Brazilians, loosing a World Cup is never natural. A guilty (or a escape goat) must be found.


Brazil vs Ivory Coast

June 16th, 2010
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Brazil will face Ivory Coast on June 20th. That will be the first official match between the countries.

Brazil have  respect for Ivory Coast. When the groups were drawn, all Brazilian journalists agreed that Ivory Coast was the strongest African team in the Cup. Brazilians know that Didier Drogba is a successful player in English Chelsea and deserves attention.

This respect should only increase, after Ivory Coast tied their match with Portugal, and even more after Brazil won North Korea by just 2 x 1.

However, nobody in Brazil expects Brazil to loose this match. Brazil expects to win by a tight margin, but even a tie will be considered a surprise.


Brazil won North Korea

June 16th, 2010

Brazil won North Korea by 2 x 1.

The starting line-up, as expected, was Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan and Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Elano and Kaka; Robinho and Luis Fabiano.

Brazilian fans and media were deceived. Everyone expected an overwhelming victory.

During the game, when the score was 2 x 0, coach Dunga attempted to make the team more offensive; however, the tactic backfired and Brazil conceded a goal instead.

In an interview right after the match, Dunga declared that he was happy with the performance of the team in the second half, and that the important was to win the match (rather than to have an spectacular performance).

A remarkable fact of this game was the Korean player crying copiously at the moment that the National Anthem was being performed. In 1966, the only World Cup that North Korea had played before, the English refused to perform the Korean Anthem (because of this, in 1966, the National Anthems were performed only at the first and last games); so, this was the first time ever that the North Korean National Anthem was performed during a FIFA World Cup.


Favorite to win the World Cup – odds

June 11th, 2010
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Back in November 2009, we published a post called who’s favourite to win the World Cup 2010.

Well, the ball started rolling today. Below, the more current odds, according to traditional online brokers.

In London: Ladbrokes.

Spain is still top favorite and Brazil is second (but both are paying higher – meaning their favoritism is smaller); Argentina was fourth, now is third (is Messi causing a good impression among betters?); England was third, and fell to fourth, below Argentina; another switch over was Holland passing Germany and Italy (Germans lost Ballack, and betters seemingly didn’t like the Italian roster); the USA Team odds were 66/1, and are now at 67/1.

In the USA: William Hill.

Again, some minor changes. Brazil and Spain were tied, now Spain is leading at 4/1 and Brazil is second at 5/1; also among Americans, Argentina became more favorite than England; and also among Americans, Holland has now more chances of being champion than Germany and Italy.

In one month time, we shall see how well betters could predict the winner of World Cup 2010.


The 11 players of Brazil

June 1st, 2010
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We already know the roster of the 23 Brazilian players who will be in South Africa.

Dunga didn’t announce the list of the 11 players who will start playing the first match against North Korea, but it is not difficult to tell that they will be:

Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan and Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Elano and Kaka; Robinho and Luis Fabiano.

This is the team which has been training together since Brazil arrived in South Africa.

This is almost exactly the same lineup which started the last friendly match against Ireland, with the sole difference of Elano in place of Ramirez (Elano has more experience, and is one of the experts in free kicks).

This is nearly the same lineup which started the match against Argentina in the Qualifying, in September 2009; the only difference is that Juan was injured then, and Luisão was his substitute.

This is nearly the same lineup of the team which finished the last match of the Confederation Cup, in June 2009; the only difference (besides Juan vs. Luisão) is Daniel Alves in place of Michel Bastos (actually, this is probably the only doubt in Dunga’s mind).

That’s it. Dung always said that there will be no surprises: he would go with the team which has been prepared since 2007. So far, he kept to his promises, and there are no reasons to believe he will change now.


Terrorism in South Africa 2010 ?

May 30th, 2010

A few days ago, the US Government issued a warning about terrorism acts during World Cup 2010 (see BBC and Telegraph).

NEFA is an organization  (the name stands for Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation) whose state goal is “to help prevent future tragedies in the U.S. and abroad by exposing those responsible for planning, funding, and executing terrorist activities, with a particular emphasis on Islamic militant organizations”.

According to some news sources (such as here, here and here), a director of NEFA declared that there is a high risk of a terrorist attack during the World Cup in South Africa.

I believe there is an 80 per cent chance of an attack, he said.

The former analyst for the Dutch Ministry of Defence, provided details o three training camps in Mozambique run by Somalis, Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis.

Sandee had earlier told the US Congress that numerous references had been made in closed frequency radio broadcasts and telephone intercepts.

South Africa was quick to deny the threat.

“As far as we’re concerned there are no threats that we have identified which are linked to the World Cup,” spokesman Brian Dube told AFP.

“No country is immune to these things, that’s why we say we’ll continue to be vigilant. But really there isn’t any threat to the World Cup itself.”

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) which is coordinating World Cup security, also dismissed the article, saying it was “riddled with inaccuracies” and that it mostly relied on unnamed sources.

Like South Africa, Brazil is a country which so far has never seen a terrorism attack; the Brazilian security agencies will have much to learn from Natjoints.


Prize for winning the World Cup

May 27th, 2010

If Brazil wins the World Cup 2010, each Brazilian player will have a cash prize of R$ 1,000,000.00, which, by current rates, would be exchanged by a bit more than US$ 500,000 or a bit more than € 400,000.

Is that plenty or little?

Today, minimum wage in Brazil is R$ 550 per month. So, a worker in Brazil who gets minimum wage would have to work more than 150 years to get that much of money.  That makes R$ 1,000,000.00 look like a lot of money.

However, several players in Brazil are paid more than a million dollars per year; sponsors of the Brazil team pay millions and millions per year; FIFA pays about US$ 30 million to the country who wins the World Cup. After winning the European Champions League, each player of Inter Milan was paid € 300,000.  Thinking that way, US$ 500,000 or € 400,000 don’t look too impressive.

However, it is unlikely that any Brazilian player complain about that.

First, because several players seem to be thankful just for being in the team. There was a strong popular clamor for coach Dunga to leave out players like Josue, Felipe Melo and Elano and call up Ronaldinho, Ganso, Neymar instead.

Second, because all players know that they would be accused of being anti-patriotic or mercenaries. In the 1990 World Cup, all Brazilian players agreed that the prize proposed by CBF was too small, and posed for a photo with their hands covering the sponsor brand; it ended up that that team had one of the worst performances ever.


Brazil friendly matches: Zimbabwe and Tanzania

May 24th, 2010

The Brazilian Football Federation announced today that the Brazilian team will play two friendly matches before the World Cup.

Brazil will play against Zimbabwe on June 2nd and against Tanzania on June 7th; the venues were not informed yet.

Update, May 27th: CBF confirmed today that the match against Zimbabwe will be in the National Stadium of Zimbabwe, and the match against Tanzania will be in the capital of that country, Dar es Salaam.

Brazil won Zimbabwe by 3 x 0, goals by Michel Bastos, Robinho and Elano.

Brazil won Tanzania by 5 x 1, goals by Robinho, Kaka and Ramirez.

Zimbabwe and Tanzania are African countries, with very little tradition in football; both teams rank  worse than #100 in the FIFA ranking.

According to coach Dunga, there is not much more to improve in the team; the matches will be useful to change Brazil’s mode from training to playing. The last serious friendly match, which Dunga probably used to define the lineup of Brazil in South Africa, was against Ireland, last March.

Brazil is training in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. The team will fly to South Africa on May 26th. The first official match of Brazil in the World Cup 2010 will be on June 15th, against North Korea.

Note: besides not being useful to help in the preparation of the team, some say that the game against Zimbabwe could raise political problems, as that country is ruled by a dictator, Robert Mugabe. However, these friendly matches are arranged by CBF, the Brazilian Confederation, which is guided primarily by financial reasons (Brazil doesn’t set foot in an stadium for less than US$ 1 million).


Brazilian Doctor: no problems so far

May 21st, 2010

Most Brazilian players arrived today in Curitiba, where they will be training until May 26th, when they fly to South Africa (only three players are still to arrive: Julio Cesar, Maicon and Lucio, who will play the final of the Champions League tomorrow).

Curitiba (one of the host cities of the World Cup 2014) was chosen for this last stage of preparation in Brazil thanks to its climate, which is similar to Johannesburg’s, where Brazil will stay.

jose-luiz-runco-doctor-brazil-teamThese first days of the preparation, the busiest person of the Brazilian team (and the one most listened to) will be José Luiz Runco (photo), official doctor of the staff.

Two players have deserved more attention: Luis Fabiano and Kaká. Fabiano got injured two weeks ago, and was saved from playing with his team, Sevilla, last weekend. Kaká has been suffering from a pubis lesion which, even though he says to be healed, also kept him out of the last matches.

Doctor Runco, however, affirmed that, after preliminary observations, all Brazilian players are in good physical conditions.

In the past ten World Cups (since 1970), it was only in 1990 that at least one player wasn’t dismissed from the Brazilian team because of physical problems (see a list here).

In 1998, Romário had a lesion in the calf; despite all effort to heal it (Romário had been the star of the 1994 champion team, and all time was given to him), Romário was eventually dismissed (see Romário crying before the cameras), and Emerson was called to replace him. Ironically, in 2002, it was Emerson who got injured during a training in Korea, and Ricardinho was called to replace him. In 2006, it was Edmilson who got injured, and Mineiro was his substitute.