Tag Archives: Cup

2017 Confederations Cup Preview

confederations_cup

The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup will take place in Russia one year before they are to host the World Cup.

With the World Cup just a year away, that means this year will have the FIFA Confederations Cup. Back in 2013, I did a focus on the Confederations Cup and why it’s an important tournament. This year’s Confederations Cup is important as well. Not just because the Cup is a growing tournament but also for the host country of Russia.

Russia is already a country controversial enough with the way they do politics. Hosting next year’s World Cup is also considered controversial as there’s question on how Russia won their bid and FIFA’s process in achieving the victories for both Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022. All I can say in this matter is I don’t have the research on that and things will have to sort themselves out over the year’s time leading up to the World Cup.

While the World Cup will be contested in twelve stadiums in Russia next year, this Confederations Cup will be contested in four stadiums. All four being ‘fresh’ stadiums which are either just now breaking ground or have broken ground only within the past five years:

  • Otkrytiye Arena, Moscow – This will be one of two stadiums in Moscow that will stage the World Cup. Located in the Tushino area of Moscow, this stadium is the home venue for Spartak Moscow. Completed in 2014, this stadium seats just over 45,000 people.
  • Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg – This 68,000-seat stadium may have just broken ground this year but it took ten years to complete. Problems from construction management to changing contractors to problems with its conditions have plagued the stadium and its construction but it will finally be ready for the Confederations Cup. Built on Krestovsky Island, the stadium is also the host venue for the football team FC Zenit.
  • Kazan Arena, Kazan – Completed in 2013, this 45,000-seat stadium has the largest outside screen in Europe. The stadium has hosted events like the 2013 World Student Games and the 2015 World Aquatics Championships. The stadium is also the home venue for Russian Premier League team Rubin Kazan.
  • Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi – Remember the $51 billion Sochi Winter Olympics? This is the host stadium which hosted the ceremonies and held the Olympic flame. Determined not to have it become a ‘white elephant,’ the stadium is now the home venue for Russian Professional Football League team FC Sochi. In addition, it will also host six World Cup games next year.

The tournament begins Saturday the 17th. There will be eight teams. Six are winners of their continent’s respective championship, Germany qualified as winner of the World Cup and Russia qualifies as host nation. Here’s how the teams stack up. FIFA rankings for June 2017 are the numbers in brackets:

GROUP A:

Russia Fixed-Russia (63): Russia is an enigma in football right now. The team has a lot of talent but constantly misses in delivering in major tournaments and qualifying events. Such examples include qualifying for three World Cups since the USSR dissolved and failing to qualify for the knockout round each time. Another example is the Euro tournament: semifinalists in 2008 but out in the Group Stage in 2012 and 2016. Trying coaches from other countries like Guus Huddink and Fabio Capello have delivered sub-par results.

Russia has yet to prove its current team since Euro 2016. The team consists of a Russian coach and all but one of the lineup for the Cup play for teams in the Russian Premier League. 2017 has not been the best to Russia as they lost 2-0 to the Ivory Coast and drew 3-3 against Belgium and 1-1 against Chile. They did however score a 3-0 win against Hungary. Remember that football is a box of surprises as Pele always says and Russia could end up surprising everyone here.

NZL-New Zealand (95): New Zealand can be either a very good team or a bad team. It qualified for the 2010 World Cup and drew in all of its games. However it hasn’t made much of an impact since. The current line-up of the all-blacks only features one player that plays for a team in a major European League (France’s Ligue 1). The Kiwis have been dominant against teams from Oceania but have struggled against teams from other continents such as a 1-1 draw against the US and losses to Belarus, Northern Ireland and Mexico. If they don’t go far here, they can always learn in time for next year.

Portugal Fixed-Portugal (8): Portugal is a team of surprises. The team went from lackluster group play in Euro 2016 to becoming Cup champions. Portugal has since maintained its reputation as one of the best teams in the world with excellent play in World Cup qualifying and continuing to win most of their games. However they have had some notable losses such as a 2-0 loss to Switzerland in September and a 3-2 loss to Sweden in March. Portugal can either be very on or very off here in Russia. The next two weeks will decide their fate.

Mexico-Mexico (17): Mexico has always been seen as the leader of the CONCACAF. They hope to take it even further by proving themselves among the best in the world. However it’s come at a struggle as they’ve ended their last six World Cups in the Round of 16. Mexico have had a lot of good wins in the last 12 months to teams like Ireland, Iceland and Costa Rica and even had a 1-1 draw against the US. However they’ve had a 2-1 loss to Croatia and a 7-0 loss to Chile at the Copa America. The World Cup may be one year away but now is a good chance for Mexico to prove itself on the world stage.

Prediction: This is a tough one but I predict the two qualifiers to the semis to be Mexico and Portugal, but don’t count out a possible surprise from Mother (?) Russia.

GROUP B:

Cameroon-Cameroon (32): Cameroon have been one of the most consistent African teams. However their play in the last two decades have been far from their glory days in the early 90’s. The team has worked hard to become better and more consistent since the embarrassment of the 2014 World Cup where they finished dead last. The current squad has many players from many leagues. The team hasn’t had the best chances at proving themselves since. In the past twelve months, they’ve either won or tied every game, but they’ve all been against African teams. The Confederations Cup is a chance for them to prove themselves and where they stand.

ChileChile (4): We can have a long discussion about the ‘sleeping giants’ in football waiting for their big moment to arrive. Chile would be one of them. They have been underestimated in the past and have even gone out in the Round Of 16 in the past two World Cups; and to Brazil both times. However Chile has seized the moment at both the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas by winning their first-ever Copas. Chile now wants to prove its greatness on the world stage, but they have had an up-and-down period since Copa 2016. They’ve had wins against Uruguay, Colombia and Iceland, but they’ve also had losses to Romania and Argentina and even drew against Russia 1-1 just a week ago. Chile will have to seize the moment if they want to prove themselves further.

AustraliaAustralia (48): Since Australia was switched from the Oceania federation to the AFC after their Round of 16 surprise at World Cup 2006, bigger and better things were anticipated from them. Instead it’s been the opposite with losing in the Group Stage these past two World Cups. Australia hopes to put itself back as a powerhouse. However they’ve had a mixed bag of results in the past twelve months ranging from a 1-0 win against Greece to a 4-0 loss to Brazil. Anything can happen here in Russia and Australia could possibly find itself among the frontrunners.

Germany fixed-Germany (3): The current holders of the World Cup appear to be the heavy favorites to win here. They’ve maintained a consistency even with new members added to the national team ever since. However they’ve had their difficulties too. The semifinal loss at Euro 2016 showed they still have some elements of team unity and other glitches to work on. Since Euro, Germany have not had a loss. They’ve had wins against England and the Czechs but have also drawn 0-0 against Italy and 1-1 against Denmark. They have what it takes to win the Cup here. They just have to deliver.

Prediction: Long shots can pull surprises but I’m going to go with my best instincts and predict Germany and Chile to be this group’s two qualifiers.

And there’s my look at the confederations Cup and the competing teams. Winner to be decided on Sunday July 2nd. Possible more blogs to come, depending on how many hits I get with this.

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2016 UEFA Euro Final: Preview and Prediction

Euro Trophy

Will France win for the third time? Or Portugal for the first time ever?

How about that? What started on the 10th of June with 24 teams will end on the 10th of July deciding which team will win the 2016 European Championship. It took this whole time 50 matches to decide the two teams most worthy to play for the Championship. On Sunday, it will come down to Portugal and hosts France.  The big question is who will win it?

Euro Final

Head-To-Head Stats:

Before I get to head-to-head stuff, I’ll do some finals stats. France has been to the Euro finals twice before and won both times, including when they hosted in 1984. Portugal has been to the finals only once before back in 2004 when they hosted and lost to underdogs Greece. And to think back then it featured a rising 19 year-old by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo. The two have squared off 24 times before. France has won 18 times, Portugal five times and one draw. France’s most recent win over Portugal was 1-0 in a friendly nine months ago. The last time Portugal beat France was all the way back in 1975.

Team Breakdown:

PortugalPORTUGAL: Just a small tidbit of trivia. Two players from Euro 2004 –Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Carvalho– are here in Euro 2016. Also a piece of irony: you know how Portugal lost to Greece in the 2004 Euro final? Well coach Fernando Santos coached the Greek team at the 2014 World Cup. Unlike 2004, Portugal come to the finals as the underdogs. And it’s easy to see why. All three of their Group Play games were draws. Their Round of 16 match against Croatia was won thanks to an extra time goal. Their quarterfinal against Poland was a 1-1 draw which Portugal luckily won on a flawless penalty shootout. They didn’t fully come alive until their semifinal against Wales which they won 2-0.

It’s obvious Portugal has shown some of their weaknesses. Hungary was good at exploiting them during their 3-3 draw. Portugal should consider themselves lucky they were able to score three goals during that match too. Portugal has a lot of strengths too. They have two good strikers in Cristiano and Nani. They have a rising young star in 18 year-old Renato Sanches. They’ve also delivered more goal attempts than France. They’re a team that knows how to attack. Their defense needs to be as consistent as it was during their match against Wales if they want to win the Championship because the French are the highest-scoring team in the tournament. This will make for an interesting final of Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Antoine Griezmann.

FranceFRANCE: No member of France’s Euro-winning squad of 2000 is playing for France now. However the team is coached by Didier Deschamps who was the captain of the Euro-winning 2000 squad and was part of the 1998 world Cup winning squad.

For the most part, this trip to the Championship has been a dream for France. Save their scoreless draw against Switzerland, the French have been the class of the field. They’ve played like a strong team unit and have defended strongly too. They have a star striker in Antoine Griezmann but don’t forget Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet. They look like they’re on fire to win France’s third Euro title.

It’s not to say France has weaknesses, though they have hardly been exposed. One thing is that France has had less ball possession in some games. While that doesn’t prove much of a fact for those games, that could be a factor in the final as Portugal also has strikers who know how to score. France has even been contained by the other teams at times, including Albania who kept them scoreless until the 90th minute. Sure, Portugal has slacked off for most of the tournament but they could just surprise France on home turf when they least expect it.

My Verdict: Eventually I will have to predict a winner for the final so here goes. I predict France to win 3-1. They’ve been delivering the most and giving the least away. So I have to go with them. If they do, France would also become the first country to win the Euro twice as host nation. No nation has won even the World Cup twice as host.

Here’s an interesting note. Whichever team wins the Euro will represent Europe in next year’s Confederations Cup in Russia. Already six of the eight berths have been decided. Russia qualifies as hosts, Germany qualifies as World Cup winners, and Australia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand qualify upon winning their Confederation’s respective championship. Africa decides their winner in February next year. However Sunday will decided which team will represent UEFA next year.

And there you have it. My breakdown and my prediction. So Sunday will answer all your questions. Who will win it? Will France be only the third nation to win a total of three Euros? Or will Portugal become the tenth country to win a Euro? It will all be decided in the Stade de France that night.

 

2016 UEFA Euro Semifinals: Preview And Predictions

Euro Semis

How about that? The past three-and-a-half weeks have narrowed the field from 24 to four. It’s been full of shocking surprises with teams like the Czechs, Swedes and Russians performing well below expectations in the Group Stage. It’s also had unpleasant surprises off the football field with rowdy behavior from Russian, Croatian and Hungarian fans. It’s also had a lot of positive surprises like Wales and Iceland humiliating bigger competition. And now we’re down to four: Portugal, Wales, Germany and France. It’s the semifinals to decide the two teams to play for the final for the Championship. So here’s my rundown of the two Semifinals:

SEMIFINAL #1: PORTUGAL vs. WALES

Head To Head Stuff:

This is one head-to-head scenario where I don’t have much to compare. Wales only once played Portugal all the way back in 2000. Portugal won.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

PortugalPortugal: Portugal has been an enigma at this tournament. They’ve been very successful in making their way to the semifinals but they’ve grazed the bar almost each and every time. One important fact for this Euro: Portugal is the only semifinalist that has not had a single win in regulation time. All three of their group games were draws, their Round of 16 win against Croatia game after a single goal from Quaresma in added extra time, and their quarterfinal win was thanks to a penalty shootout. Even star Cristiano Ronaldo has faced some flack for underplaying. He should be thankful his two goals against Hungary were what Portugal needed to stay alive in the tournament. If Portugal expects to win the semifinal, they will have to come together and play solid. They can’t afford to take it easy or give things away. Not while Wales has been performing while other teams have slacked off.

WalesWales: Two of the biggest Cinderella teams at this Euro have been Iceland and Wales. In fact the Euro 2016 can best be remembered as the tournament where Gareth Bale finally came to prominence in international play. He’s one of only five players here that has scored three or more goals. In addition to Bale, other teammates had moments to shine too like Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey and the currently-unsigned Hal Robson-Kanu. In fact the whole team has performed as a solid unit winning matches over teams with bigger clout like Slovakia, Russia and especially #2 ranked Belgium 3-1 in the quarterfinals. Who decides these FIFA rankings anyways?

Wales does have its imperfections. In fact it faced a heated battle against Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 and was only lucky to advance thanks to an auto goal scored by Gareth McAuley: the only goal of the match. In short, Wales have proven themselves able to deliver. However it’s a matter of them all being there.

My Verdict: With no reliable head-to-head stats to base a judgement, I have to base it on the team’s play during the Euro. I predict Wales to win 2-1 in added extra time.

SEMIFINAL #2: GERMANY vs. FRANCE

Head To Head Stuff:

They’ve both faced each other off twelve times ever. France has won six times, Germany four and two draws. Germany’s wins have been one home, three away. France’s wins have been three home, three away. Germany’s last win over France was at the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals. France’s last win over Germany was during a friendly in Paris in November 2015.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

Germany FootballGermany: Germany faced a lot of expectations here at the Euro. They came as the reigning World Cup holders who were struggling to form a new team with new younger talent. They’ve done very well for the most part as they won 2-0 against Ukraine and 1-0 against Northern Ireland. Their big moment came in the Round of 16 when they beat Slovakia 3-0. Remarkable since Slovakia beat them 3-1 in a friendly one month earlier.

This Euro has also been the arena where Germany’s weaknesses have also been exposed. First was the 0-0 draw against Poland in the Round of 16. The second came against Italy in the quarterfinals. It wasn’t simply drawing 1-1 but their three misses in the penalty shootout right during the first five. Usually Germany are the experts at penalty kicks going without a miss in a major tournament since 1982. That was a shock! Had Italy not also had three misses in their first five, it would’ve been the Italians heading to the semis instead.

The German team here in Euro 2016 is very capable of great play and have gone beyond most people’s expectations. However they cannot give anything away while playing against France. Not while France is host nation and playing brilliantly.

FranceFrance: France is one team that has been on a roll consistently. They’ve only had a single draw: 0-0 against Switzerland in the Group Stage. Everything else has been a win: 2-1 over Romania, 2-0 over Albania, 2-1 over Ireland and 5-2 over Iceland. They even have the three highest scorers: Antoine Griezmann with four, Olivier Giroud with three, and Dimitri Payet with three. Having Didier DesChamps, captain of France’s 1998 World Cup winning team, as coach definitely has a lot to do with it.

France have been excellent though they aren’t perfect. The team has definitely risen to the occasion game after game and showed all of Europe they’re ready to win at home. They have not had a single loss in 2016. However they could face the pressure of playing at home. Sure, they may have beaten Germany in a friendly in Paris seven months ago but Germany may have something up their sleeve. Don’t forget Germany did a reversal on Slovakia. Also keep in mind Germany beat France 1-0 in the quarterfinals in Brazil as Des Champs was coaching. Some food for thought.

TRIVIA: The world was horrified on Friday November 13, 2015 when six bombs went off in various areas of Paris. The first attack was at 9:20pm just outside the Stade de France; right while the friendly between France and Germany was taking place. In fact the two explosions can be heard on video replays during the 16th minute and 19th minute of that game, which continued on and France won 2-0.

My Verdict: There’s no one ‘wonderteam’ at this Euro but I think France is the team that most has it together. I think they will win 1-0.

And those are my predictions for the semifinals for Euro 2016. I may be right. I may be wrong. All to be decided Wednesday and Thursday.

 

 

2015 Copa America: Tournament Intro and Group A Focus/ Torneo de Presentación y el Grupo A Enfoque

The Copa America has actually been contested longer than the World Cup. Since 1916 to be exact.

The Copa America has actually been contested longer than the World Cup. Since 1916 to be exact.

The biggest football tournament is the FIFA World Cup, right? The second-biggest men’s tournament is UEFA’s Euro, right? What’s the third-biggest? I don’t know either but I think the Copa America should be it. Here, it’s almost like a continental tournament the way the Euro is, adding in two CONCACAF teams. However knowing that the tournament consists mostly of South American teams should draw big football interest. Here we’re talking about a continent that has won nine of twenty FIFA World Cups and continues to show some of the top football prowess in the world today.

HISTORY:

The Copa America actually began fourteen years before the World Cup. The first competition was actually called the Campeonato Sudamericano de Football. It was contested in Argentina on July 2 and July 17, contested in two stadiums in Argentina and featured four teams competing: hosts Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. The competition was decided strictly on round robin play between the four teams. The game results became that the final match, Argentina vs. Uruguay would be a contest to decide the Championship. Argentina needed a win and nothing less because of winning one game and tying another while Uruguay could afford to draw to win the Championship. A scoreless draw is what happened and Uruguay was the first ever Championship winner.

During that time the president of the Uruguayan Football Federation proposed that a continental federation be founded. On July 9, 1916, Argentinian Independence Day, the CONMEBOL was founded. Funny how while Europe and North America were fighting in World War I, South America made advances for football competitions.

The Championship was actually to be a yearly event and except for 1918 because of a flu epidemic in Brazil, it was an annual event until 1928. More countries would be added including Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru. However because of the creation of the World Cup and a bitter rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina, the Championship was no longer an annual event. It would then take a six-year break between 1929 and 1935 and re-emerge either bi-annually or irregularly such as two competitions in 1959. The inclusion of the Copa Libertadores that year affected how those saw the Championships.

The last Championships were held in 1967 but the idea of returning a continental championships for the CONMEBOL countries was still under consideration at the time. In 1975, the Copa America was born. There was no fixed country as round robin games were contested throughout the continent over a period of five months. Only the ten CONMEBOL countries competed and it consisted of round robins, two semi-finals, two finals and a grand final. The continental champion would earn a berth to the upcoming FIFA World Cup for the first and only time. Since then all previous continental championships have been official recognized as Copa Americas.

The Copa America would have its growing pains over the next two decades. It was originally to be a quadrennial event and the format from the 1975 tournament would continue to be the norm where competitions would be scattered throughout the countries and a grand final held in a country other than the finalists’. In 1987, the Copa would then be contested in a single host country. It was held in Argentina that year consisting of three groups of three. The winners of the three groups would qualify for the semifinals with the defending Copa champions automatically earning a semifinal berth. In 1989, the Copa changed to a bi-annual event and was held in Brazil. The Copa consisted of First Round group play of two groups of five. The Top 2 from each group would move to the Second Round of additional round robin play to decide the Copa winner upon play statistics. That would continue to be the format in 1991.

In 1993, the Copa underwent a new format that currently exists today. The Copa held in Ecuador would be the first ever Copa to include two invitees from the CONCACAF countries of North America, Central America and the Caribbean nations. There would be three groups of four with a maximum of one CONCACAF invitee per group, quarterfinals, a semifinal and a final to decide the Copa winner. The event would continue to be bi-annual until 2001 when the next Copa was played in 2004. It would be tri-annual only temporarily until 2007. Since then, the Copa is slated to be a quadrennial event like the Euro except for a commemorative Copa America to be contested in the United States next year to commemorate the event’s centennial.

Here’s something to take note of. As I’ve said in past blogs, sometimes it’s harder for a team to win a continental championship than it is to win the World Cup. Brazil has won eight Copas but the country that has won the most is Uruguay with a total of 15 including the last Copa America in 2011. Argentina has won fourteen. Countries that have never won the World Cup like Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru have won a Copa America. Actually a total of seven countries have won the Copa. No country outside the CONMEBOL has won a Copa but Mexico has been a finalist twice.

Host country Chile has never won the Copa: one of three CONMEBOL countries that have never done so. They’ve been runner-up four times but they’re hoping to win for the first time ever this year. The winner of this year’s Copa America will represent the CONMEBOL at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. So there’s some additional pressure here.

So without further ado, here is my review of the Group A teams. Number in brackets are the FIFA rankings of May 2015:

GROUP A:

Chile-Chile (16): Well, Chile is host this year. It’s actually a good time since Chile is experiencing one of its best eras in football. Chile is actually one South American country long overdue for a major international win. It’s been runner-up to the Copa four times: they’re one of only three CONMEBOL countries never to have won the Copa. Its best World Cup finish was third back in 1962 which they hosted. Nevertheless this could be their competition as anything can happen in football. They’ve had some good plays since the World Cup where they were ousted by Brazil once again. They still face a tough rivalry with Brazil as they lost to them in a March friendly 1-0. Other friendly results include ties with Mexico and Bolivia, a 2-1 loss to Uruguay and wins over Peru and Venezuela. But they also include losses to Iran and Uruguay. Nevertheless football is a game of surprises and they could just do it if they play right.

Mexico-Mexico (22): Mexico is the sleeping giant of football. A country loaded with talent but still waiting for their big breakthrough. The last World Cup didn’t help because they lost their Round of 16 match against the Netherlands on a controversial note. An interesting note: ever since the Copa America has allowed invitees from the CONCACAF to play starting back in 1993, Mexico has qualified every time. Mexico could pull an upset as the first ever non-CONMEBOL country to win the Copa. They’ve had a great 2015 with wins over Ecuador and Paraguay but they’ve also had a loss to the United States back in April. Mexico could be the big surprise of this Group and possibly the whole tournament.

Ecuador-Ecuador (34): The 21st century has definitely been good to Ecuador. They never qualified for a World Cup during the 20th century but this century has given Ecuador berths in three of the four World Cups. Copa America success is a different story as they’ve failed to advance past the first round in all four Copas this century. Their best Copa finish ever is fourth-place finishes in 1959 and 1993. The team is full of talent as they have five players playing in Europe and three in Mexico. However they’ve had a rocky 2015 as they’ve lost to Mexico and Argentina. Chile will be another proving point for them.

Bolivia-Bolivia (92): Bolivia is an on-again off-again team in terms of success. They’ve played in three World Cups: the last being in 1994. They have won the Copa before in 1963 as hosts and was runner-up when they hosted again in 1997. They’ve had greats before like Luis Cristaldo and Erwin ‘Platini’ Sanchez but their team lacks the depth they’ve had. Most of the team plays for Bolivian teams or for lesser celebrated European teams. Whatever the situation, this Copa should be a meet where the Bolivians learn to improve themselves en route to the next World Cup.

PREDICTION:

My prediction for this group is that Mexico will top it with Chile in second. Third will be Ecuador. Instead of predicting if the third-place team will be the wildcard qualifier, I’ll just leave it with a third-place pick.

That wraps up my first blog of the Copa America. Like the next two, I will just predict group finishes and wait until further into the tournament to predict the eventual Copa winner once each team’s performance give indications which ones have the edge. More on Tuesday.

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Copa America. Wikipedia.com. 2015. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.<Wikipedia: Copa America>

BONUS: Also you’re in for a treat. I have included a Spanish translation of my blog courtesy of Google Translate!

BONUS: También estás de enhorabuena. He incluido una traducción al español de mi blog cortesía de Google Translate!

¿El torneo de fútbol más importante es la Copa Mundial de la FIFA, verdad? ¿El segundo mayor torneo de los hombres es de la UEFA Euro, verdad? ¿Cuál es la tercer mayor? Yo tampoco lo sé, pero creo que la Copa América debe ser la misma. Aquí, es casi como un torneo continental de la forma en que el euro es, añadiendo en dos equipos de CONCACAF. Sin embargo, sabiendo que el torneo se compone principalmente de los equipos sudamericanos deben atraer el interés de fútbol grande. Aquí estamos hablando de un continente que ha ganado nueve de veinte Copas Mundiales de la FIFA y continúa para mostrar algunas de las proezas de fútbol más importantes del mundo en la actualidad. 

HISTORIA: 

La Copa América comenzó en realidad catorce años antes de la Copa del Mundo. La primera competición se llamaba en realidad el Campeonato Sudamericano de Fútbol. Se disputó en Argentina el 2 de julio y 17 de julio, impugnada en dos estadios en la Argentina y contó con cuatro equipos que compiten: los ejércitos de Argentina, Brasil, Chile y Uruguay. La competición se decidió estrictamente en juego del round robin entre los cuatro equipos. Los resultados de los juegos se hicieron que el partido final, Argentina vs Uruguay sería un concurso para decidir el campeonato. Argentina necesitaba una victoria y nada menos porque de ganar un partido y empatar otro, mientras que Uruguay podía permitirse el lujo de sacar para ganar el campeonato. Un empate sin goles es lo que pasó y Uruguay fue el primer ganador del campeonato. 

Durante ese tiempo el presidente de la Federación Uruguaya de Fútbol propuso que se fundó una federación continental. El 9 de julio de 1916, Día de la Independencia argentina, la CONMEBOL se fundó. Es curioso cómo, mientras que Europa y América del Norte estaban luchando en la Primera Guerra Mundial, América del Sur hizo avances para las competiciones de fútbol. 

El campeonato fue en realidad ser un evento anual y con excepción de 1918 a causa de una epidemia de gripe en Brasil, fue un evento anual hasta que se añadirían 1928. Más países incluyendo Paraguay, Bolivia y Perú. Sin embargo, debido a la creación de la Copa del Mundo y una amarga rivalidad entre Uruguay y Argentina, el Campeonato ya no era un evento anual. Luego tomaría un descanso de seis años entre 1929 y 1935 y re-emerger ya sea dos veces al año o irregularmente como dos competiciones en 1959. La inclusión de la Copa Libertadores de ese año afectó cómo los vio a los Campeonatos. 

Los últimos Campeonatos se celebraron en 1967, pero la idea de volver a los campeonatos continentales de los países CONMEBOL todavía estaba bajo consideración en el momento. En 1975, la Copa América nació. No había ningún país fija como juegos del round robin fueron impugnadas en todo el continente en un periodo de cinco meses. Sólo los diez países de la CONMEBOL compitieron y consistieron en round robin, dos semifinales, dos finales y un gran final. El campeón continental ganaría un puesto para la próxima Copa Mundial de la FIFA por primera y única vez. Desde entonces todos los campeonatos continentales anteriores han sido reconocidos como oficial de Copa América. 

La Copa América tendría sus dolores de crecimiento en los próximos dos decenios. Fue originalmente para ser un evento cuatrienal y el formato del torneo 1975 seguirían siendo la norma en competiciones estarían dispersos por los países y una gran final que tuvo lugar en un país distinto de los finalistas. En 1987, la Copa y luego se disputó en un solo país de acogida. Se llevó a cabo en la Argentina ese año que consiste en tres grupos de tres. Los ganadores de los tres grupos calificarían para las semifinales con los campeones defensores de la Copa ganando automáticamente una plaza en semifinales. En 1989, la Copa cambió a un evento bianual y se llevó a cabo en Brasil. La Copa constaba de Primera Ronda de juego en grupo de dos grupos de cinco. El Top 2 de cada grupo se trasladaría a la Segunda Ronda de juego del round robin adicional para decidir el ganador de la Copa en las estadísticas de juego. Eso seguirá siendo el formato en el 1991. 

En 1993, la Copa se sometió a un nuevo formato que actualmente existe en la actualidad. La Copa celebrada en Ecuador sería la primera Copa de incluir dos invitados de los países de la CONCACAF de América del Norte, América Central y los países del Caribe. Habría tres grupos de cuatro, con un máximo de un invitado de la CONCACAF por grupo, cuartos de final, una semifinal y una final para decidir el ganador de la Copa. El evento seguirá siendo semestral hasta el año 2001 cuando la próxima Copa se jugó en 2004. Sería trianual sólo temporalmente hasta 2007. Desde entonces, la Copa está programado para ser un evento cuatrienal como el Euro a excepción de un conmemorativa Copa América que se disputará en Estados Unidos el próximo año, para conmemorar el centenario del evento. 

Aquí hay algo para tomar nota. Como he dicho en blogs anteriores, a veces es más difícil para un equipo para ganar un campeonato continental de lo que es ganar la Copa del Mundo. Brasil ha ganado ocho Copas pero el país que ha ganado la mayoría es Uruguay con un total de 15 incluyendo la última Copa América en 2011. Argentina ha ganado catorce. Los países que nunca han ganado la Copa del Mundo como Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay y Perú han ganado una Copa América. En realidad, un total de siete países han ganado la Copa. Ningún país fuera de la CONMEBOL ha ganado una Copa, pero México ha sido finalista en dos ocasiones. 

País anfitrión Chile nunca ha ganado la Copa: uno de los tres países de la CONMEBOL, que nunca lo han hecho. Han sido finalista cuatro veces, pero que están esperando ganar por primera vez en la historia de este año. El ganador de la Copa América de este año representará a la CONMEBOL en la Copa Confederaciones 2017 en Rusia. Así que hay un poco de presión adicional aquí. 

Así que sin más preámbulos, aquí está mi crítica de los equipos del Grupo A. Número entre paréntesis son los ranking de la FIFA de mayo 2015: 

GRUPO A: 

ChileChile (16): Bueno, Chile es sede de este año. De hecho, es un buen momento ya que Chile está viviendo uno de sus mejores épocas en el fútbol. Chile es realmente un país de América del Sur desde hace mucho tiempo para una importante victoria internacional. Ha sido finalista de la Copa de cuatro tiempos: son uno de los únicos tres países CONMEBOL nunca han ganado la Copa. Su mejor resultado en la Copa del Mundo fue tercero en 1962 que se organizó. Sin embargo esto podría ser su competencia como cualquier cosa puede suceder en el fútbol. Han tenido algunas buenas jugadas desde la Copa del Mundo donde fueron expulsados ​​por Brasil, una vez más. Ellos todavía se enfrentan a una dura rivalidad con Brasil, ya que perdió a ellos en un amistoso 1-0 de marzo. Otros resultados incluyen amistosas relaciones con México y Bolivia, una derrota por 2-1 a Uruguay y victorias sobre Perú y Venezuela. Pero también incluyen las pérdidas a Irán y Uruguay. Sin embargo el fútbol es un juego de sorpresas y que sólo podría hacerlo si juegan bien. 

MexicoMéxico (22): México es el gigante dormido del fútbol. Un país lleno de talento, pero a la espera de su gran avance. El último Mundial no ayudó porque perdieron su ronda de 16 partido contra los Países Bajos con una nota polémica. Una nota interesante: desde que la Copa América ha permitido a los invitados de la CONCACAF para jugar a partir en 1993, México ha calificado cada vez. México podría tirar una sorpresa como el primer país no CONMEBOL para ganar la Copa. Han tenido un gran 2015 con triunfos sobre Ecuador y Paraguay, pero también han tenido una pérdida para los Estados Unidos en abril. México podría ser la gran sorpresa de este Grupo y posiblemente todo el torneo. 

EcuadorEcuador (34): El siglo 21 sin duda ha sido bueno para el Ecuador. Nunca se clasificaron para la Copa del Mundo durante el siglo 20, pero este siglo ha dado literas Ecuador en tres de las cuatro Copas del Mundo. El éxito de la Copa América es una historia diferente, ya que han fallado para avanzar más allá de la primera ronda en las cuatro Copas de este siglo. Su mejor final de Copa siempre es el cuarto lugar acabados en 1959 y 1993. El equipo está lleno de talento, ya que tienen cinco jugadores que juegan en Europa y tres en México. Sin embargo han tenido una rocosa 2015, ya que han perdido a México y Argentina. Chile será otro punto de prueba para ellos. 

BoliviaBolivia (92): Bolivia es un en-otra vez de nuevo fuera del equipo en términos de éxito. Han jugado en tres Copas del Mundo: la última de ellas en 1994. Ellos han ganado la Copa antes en 1963 como anfitriones y fue subcampeón cuando acogido de nuevo en 1997. Han tenido grandes antes como Luis Cristaldo y Erwin ‘Platini ‘Sánchez, pero su equipo carece de la profundidad que han tenido. La mayoría del equipo juega para los equipos bolivianos o para los equipos europeos célebres menores. Sea cual sea la situación, esta Copa debe ser un encuentro donde los bolivianos aprenden a mejorarse a sí mismos en el camino a la próxima Copa del Mundo. 

PREDICCIÓN: 

Mi predicción para este grupo es que México superará con Chile en la segunda. En tercer lugar será Ecuador. En lugar de predecir si el equipo de tercer lugar será el calificador comodín, sólo voy a dejarlo con un tercer puesto de recogida. 

Que envuelve mi primer blog de la Copa América. Al igual que los dos siguientes, me limitaré a predecir acabados de grupo y esperar hasta más lejos en el torneo de predecir el eventual ganador de la Copa una vez que el rendimiento de cada equipo da indicaciones cuáles tienen el borde. Más el martes.

My World Cup Experience: Trophy Tour

As you can tell, I’ve been excited about the Women’s World Cup coming. It was a long time in anticipation. This was actually the last weekend before the World Cup is to begin this Saturday in Edmonton. With it came the Trophy Tour concluding in Burnaby. I had the good fortune to visit that afternoon.

120The FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy tour was a tour that happened in twelve cities across Canada including the six cities that have the venues for the Cup. The purpose was to showcase the World Cup encased in glass. The tour also allowed for other things too like a chance to learn more about FIFA’s goals in women’s football and to learn more about the Cup and its 24 years. There were also games and giveaways as well as music and an appearance from the mascot Shueme. The final stop of the journey was Vancouver. The event took place at Burnaby’s Metrotown: the biggest shopping mall in all of Greater Vancouver. Sunday morning was my one free chance I had to go see it. I’m glad I did.

THERE’S ALWAYS A LINE-UP

A week or two ago, I saw something from the Coca-cola web page on the tour saying there tickets through Ticketmaster available. At that time, I instantly thought you needed a ticket to see the trophy. I agreed to a ticket. They came at no cost so I really lost nothing. I arrived at the area in Metrotown where the event was supposed to take place–the lower level where Toys ‘R Us and T&T Groceries are– and I saw the line up. Most didn’t have a ticket. It wasn’t really needed. It may have helped for some getting to see the Cup sooner but it wasn’t needed. For kids too impatient to wait in line, there was a foosball table in the outside area.

Meeting with mascot Shueme made the wait in line easier.

Meeting with mascot Shueme made the wait in line easier.

I actually forgot my ticket at home so I ended up waiting in line. I arrived at 10:55: five minutes before the event was to begin. I could see volunteers setting up. I could see Shueme in the waiting area. Then at 11am it all began. Music was playing and the line was actually moving faster than I thought. Shueme actually left the event area and was walking around the Metrotown concourse including around the outside foosball table. Yes, they had a foosball table out in case people got too bored waiting. Fortunately she came around where I was standing. I told the volunteer I hope to get a picture with her when she returns to inside. The volunteer actually offered to take the picture right there. It was great.

VIEWING THE CUP

Here I am with the Women's World Cup!

Here I am with the Women’s World Cup!

It wasn’t even half an hour of a line up when I finally had the chance to see the Cup. However just before I got in, I saw there was a separate line up for the virtual goalie. I’ll talk more about that later. The exhibit could only have so many people at once so they had to group people: those seeing the Cup, those in the Winners Tunnel who were next in line and those in the waiting area.

The waiting area was there to keep us entertained while we were one step closer to seeing the Cup. There was one section that looked like a dressing room but it had jerseys commemorating past Cup champions. As well as there were pads that had WWC trivia. There was also a DJ spinning music with the official ball, the conext15, on display. Then came the Winners Tunnel. This was the section for those about to see the Cup. In there, people waited for about five minutes. Nevertheless we were treated to a video with scenes from the previous World Cup and even clips from the qualifiers.

Then it finally came to our turn to see the Cup. It was encased in glass and there were already cameras set up so we can have a custom portrait for sharing. Just go to the website and key in the code. I think mine turned out well. Finally of course with Coca-Cola hosting the event, people were treated to a free Coke in a commemorative aluminum bottle. I have mine as a keepsake.

A FUTURE CARNIVAL GAME?

That's the virtual goalie, controlled by motion sensors that make the split-second decision of which angle to block the shot.

That’s the virtual goalie, controlled by motion sensors that make the split-second decision of which angle to block the shot.

Not everything was about the Cup. Some wanted to try their luck at the Ultimate Goalie. How does it work? First it involves the participant doing a penalty kick into a net smaller than usual. Secondly the goalie is placed right in the middle of the goal post. Successful penalty kicks win a free commemorative shirt. The thing about this goalie is that it’s on a semicircle of 180. What controls the goalie are motion-sensor cameras that are able to detect how fast the ball is going and what direction it’s headed. The computers are programmed to position the goalie at the right angle to stop the shot. This was very smart and very fast. I remember seeing a couple of shots taken that were very fast and she was able to stop it. I took a shot at it and she even stopped mine. Fortunately for me, there were two people that said I delivered a good shot. I’m not over the hill yet! As for the goalie, I would not be surprised if I see that as a carnival game anytime soon. Good luck in trying to win!

I GOT A TICKET!

For a long time I was hoping to get a ticket. For the last few days I was hoping to get a ticket for a certain Round of 16 game. However I wondered if it would be too expensive. Not just because of the price but the ticket processing fee and tax added on. I wanted a second class ticket for that event but thought maybe it’s better I got third class. Glad I waited because just as I was in line to see the Cup, I heard that tickets were 30% off that day. By the time I was done seeing the Cup, I was ready to order my ticket. Yes, there was a bit of a line up for buying it and very often it was a case of families buying tickets together because of discounts for groups. Sometimes it took a family ten minutes or longer to have their order finalized.

Finally it was my turn and I knew what I wanted as I was eyeballing that seat on Ticketmaster the past few days. Knowing what I wanted and where only made me wait five minutes. There was a bit of card trouble at first but I finally got it: a second-class Round of 16 ticket that was originally billed at $75 I bought for just under $62. It was worth it! Now I just have to wait to see if Canada’s playing as one team slated to play is the first-place team of Group A. I’ll be shocked if it’s not Canada!

And there you go: my visit to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour. It was fun and a bit tiring but it was worth it in the end.

GROUP RECAP

Okay, for those of you just hitting my blog for the first time, below are links to my predictions for each group in the Group Stage:

Brazil 1950: A Country’s Shining Moment Ends With A Country’s Heartbreak

The World Cup in 1950 was to be Brazil's shining moment. Instead it delivered a heartbreak that still haunts them to this day.

The World Cup in 1950 was to be Brazil’s shining moment. Instead it delivered a heartbreak that still haunts them to this day.

You may remember a while back I talked about Brazil’s football legacy but refrained from talking about 1950, the first time they hosted.  The first time they hosted was intended to be a grand moment for the country and especially their football team. In fact the Maracana was built to be the grand stage for Brazil’s win. Unfortunately the Cup ended with a heartache that still haunts the country to this day.

WAR IS OVER, THE WORLD CUP IS BACK

1950 was to be the fourth time the FIFA World Cup would be held. It started in 1930 but the 1942 World Cup had to be cancelled because of World War II. The 1946 World Cup was also cancelled as the world was still recovering from the end of that war just one year earlier. Just like 1948 was the year that brought the Olympic Games back to life, 1950 was the year the World Cup came back. However Germany and Japan were still part of the international sanctioned list and were banned from competing, just like they were banned from the 1948 Olympic Games. Brazil and Italy were given automatic berths: Brazil as host country and Italy as defending champions. The four British nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland returned to FIFA after seventeen years of ‘exiling’ themselves.

WE WANT OUT

The 1950 Brazil team. Before 1950, Vrazil's best finish at the World Cup was third in 1938.

The 1950 Brazil team. Before 1950, Brazil’s best finish at the World Cup was third in 1938.

Seven spots were allocated to European countries, six to American countries and one to an Asian country. If you think it’s hectic getting teams to qualify for the World Cup, you should hear about 1950. Not because of competitive play but more because of international politics and football politics. Iron curtain countries like the USSR and two countries that participated in 1938–Hungary and finalist Czechoslovakia– refused to participate. Argentina, Peru and Ecuador withdrew after the qualifying round, possibly because of a dispute with the Brazilian Football Federation. The Philippines, Burma and Indonesia withdrew leaving India to receive the Asian berth by default. Austria declined to participate in qualifying feeling its team wasn’t good enough and Belgium withdrew from the qualification tournament which allowed Switzerland and Turkey to qualify without playing their final round of matches.

With the qualification done, it was off to the World Cup, right? Scotland withdrew because the very prideful chairman of the Scottish Football Federation insisted Scotland would only travel to Brazil as winners of the Home Championship. When England showed up, Scotland withdrew, even though England planned to attend even without the Championship. Turkey withdrew because of the huge cost of traveling to Brazil. FIFA invited two European nations who failed in qualifying–Portugal and France–to fill the gap. Only France accepted.

Now with the fifteen teams set for Brazil, that should lead to straight competition, but that led to more withdrawals. First came the draw on May 22, 1950 in Rio de Janeiro. India was the first drawn team to withdraw because of travel costs. France then withdrew because of the cost and time to travel between the cities. That left the World Cup with a field of only thirteen teams. Just like 1930 again! After all that, here’s how the teams worked out:

  • Group 1: Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland and Yugoslavia
  • Group 2: England, Chile, Spain and the United States
  • Group 3: Italy, Paraguay and Sweden
  • Group 4: Uruguay and Bolivia

ON WITH THE CUP

After all that hassle, the World Cup finally began on June 24, 1950. This would be the first world Cup since the inaugural 1930 World Cup where group play would be contested and would be the only World Cup where group play would decide the winner. It was Brazil’s idea to do this because more games meant more ticket sales to help compensate for the expenses of the stadiums. FIFA at first rejected the idea but agreed when Brazil threatened to pull out as hosts. The matches were held in six stadiums in six cities: Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Recife. Four of the six stadiums were long into existence before the World Cup. There were only two that were build especially for the Cup: Estadio Raimundo Sampaio in Belo Horizonte and the Maracana in Rio.

Because of the uneven number of teams per group, it was decided that only the team that finished first advances. Group 4 had no problem deciding the advancer as that only required a single game, which Uruguay won 8-0 over Bolivia. In Group 3, Sweden was the winner with a win against Italy 3-2 and a draw against Paraguay 2-2.

Groups 1 and 2 were the two fully contested groups and they provided the most action. Group 1 was a no-brainer right from the start. Brazil delivered an attack style of play that would take them to the top of the group with a 4-0 win over Mexico, a 2-2 tie against Switzerland and a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia.

World Cup 1950 wasn't all Brazil, Brazil. It also was the stage for the American's 1-0 upset over England.

World Cup 1950 wasn’t all Brazil, Brazil. It also was the stage for the American’s 1-0 upset over England with Joe Gaetjens (right) scoring the winning goal.

Group 2 was not exactly remembered for its winner Spain or for Spain’s wins of 3-1 over the US, 2-0 over Chile or 1-0 over England. Instead Group 2 was known for one of the biggest soccer upsets of the time. The US vs. England match first appeared to be England’s for the taking since England, known then as the ‘Kings of Football,’ had the pros on their team while the American team was made up of part-time players who made their income from the jobs they worked. However the English and the 13,000 in attendance at the Estacio Independencia in Belo Horizonte were stunned when American Joseph Gaetjens, who was actually not an American citizen, scored the first goal in the 38th minute. Despite strong challenging play from both sides throughout the game, there were no other goals scored. The Americans’ 1-0 win over the English is still considered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

The aftermath of this was also interesting. It made huge news in World Cup countries and almost made huge news in England but was trumped by the news the English cricket team lost to the West Indies for the first time ever. The English were nitpicky about the win saying that the team ‘had arrived through Ellis Island,’ referring to the assumption most Americans on that team were children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. For the record, three members of the American team including Gaetjens were not yet American citizens. In the United States, the win only made sidelined news. The Americans were still disinterested in soccer as they still promoted their ‘all-American’ sports like baseball, football and basketball. The win would gain appreciation by the Americans over time and especially in the last 25 years with the Americans slowly welcoming soccer especially after hosting the 1994 World Cup and the formation and success of MLS (Major League Soccer). The game has recently been dubbed by the Americans as the ‘Miracle Match’ and even spawned a small 2005 film “The Game Of Their Lives.’

ANOTHER SET OF GROUP PLAY?

Because of the uneven numbers of the groups in the first round, it was not only decided that only those that finish first in their group advance but also that it be group-style play to decide the winner.Also that ticket sales thing also has a lot to do with it too. This would be the only time in World Cup history in which group play would decide the winner. In group order, the finalists were Brazil, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. All of the games in the ‘winners group’ were played either in Sao Paulo’s Estadio de Pacaembu or the Maracana. All teams played all their matches on the same day and at the same time. Brazil’s matches in this round were all contested at the Maracana.

The group play of the winners started July 9th with a 2-2 draw between Uruguay and Spain. Brazil delighted a crowd of 139,000 with a 7-1 win against Sweden which included four goals from Ademir. On July 13th Brazil continued their winning ways in front of a crowd of 153,000 with a 6-1 victory over Spain which included the Cup’s only ‘own goal’ by Spaniard Jose Parra Martinez. Uruguay gained some boost with a 3-2 win over Sweden with the winning goal coming with five minutes to go. The two games on July 16th were still group games however many still believed they played the role as 3rd Place Final and Final because of the end result and the team’s overall placing. Sweden beat Spain 3-1 in Pacaembu with a measly attendance of 11,000 and would finish the World Cup in third place.

A FINAL GAME TO BE REMEMBERED

“Down through its history, only three people have managed to silence the Maracana: the Pope, Frank Sinatra and me.”

-Alcides Ghiggia

Okay, here it was. This was Brazil’s for the winning. They were in excellent position to win the World Cup. They’ve already proven to the world their greatness. Even if Brazil tied Uruguay, they could still win the World Cup because Brazil had two wins while Uruguay had a win and a tie. The general public were not the only ones claiming Brazil to be the victors days before the match even started. The specialized press were too. In fact the Brazilian newspaper O Mundo printed an early edition paper that day with the Brazilian team on the front page with the headline ‘These are the World champions.” There was a song composed days before the game entitled Brasil os vencedores (Brazil The Victors) and was to be played once Brazil won. Even Julie Rimet, president of FIFA and founder of the World Cup, anticipated Brazil would win and even had prepared a speech in Portuguese to congratulate anticipated winners Brazil after their win. Unlike now, medals were not awarded to teams at the World Cup who finished in the Top 3 but the Brazilian Football Confederation has already made 22 gold medals with the names of the players engraved on them.

On the morning of July 16th, the streets were already full of energy and there was even a ‘makeshift carnival’ with thousands of signs celebrating the world title and chants of ‘Brazil must win!” The Maracana was bustling in its own way. One thing we should remember is that the Maracana stadium consisted of two tiers of stands and much of the stands were standing area. This is the reason why unlike today they could field a capacity of over 100,000. At this match, the official paid attendance registered 173,380 attended while many estimate the actual attendance was over 210,000. This still remains as a world record for attendance for a team sports match.

As Brazil were in the dressing room, confident of victory in their spiffy white shirts and blue collars, Uruguay has other plans. Uruguay’s captain Obdulio Varela brought as many copies of O Mundo that had ‘These are the World champions” on the front page, laid them on their bathroom door and encouraged his teammates to urinate on them. In Uruguay’s locker room prior to the match, coach Juan Lopez informed the team that their best chance of surviving of surviving the powerful offensive line of Brazil would come through adopting a defensive strategy. After he left, Varela stood up and addressed the team himself, saying “Juancito is a good man, but today, he is wrong. If we play defensively against Brazil, our fate will be no different from Spain or Sweden”. Varela then delivered an emotional speech about how they must face all the odds and not to be intimidated by the fans or the opposing team. In response to his squad’s underdog status, the captain delivered the memorable line, “Boys, outsiders don’t play. Let’s start the show.”

The goal scored by Alcides Ghiggia (centre) in the 79th minutes stunned the Maracana silent and would break the hearts of Brazil.

The goal scored by Alcides Ghiggia (centre) in the 79th minutes stunned the Maracana silent and would break the hearts of Brazil.

As expected, the game began with Brazil playing aggressively and attacking against the majority of the Uruguayan defensive line for the first half. However unlike Spain and Sweden, Uruguay was successful in maintaining their defense and the first half ended scoreless.

First blood was drawn at the 47th minute when Sao Paulo forward Friaca shot low past the goalkeeper to give Brazil the first goal of the game. Captain Varela immediately took the ball after the goal and disputed its validity, arguing that it was offside. Varela’s argument was obviously intentional to the point he even forced the referee, Englishman George Reader, to bring out an interpreter. The protest was unsuccessful but it succeeded in calming the crowd down. Then Varela took the ball to the centre of the field and shouted to his teammates: “Now it’s time to win.”

Uruguay was able to find control of the game and Brazil soon had its defensive frailty exposed. Juan Alberto Schiaffino scored the equalizer for Uruguay in the 66th minute. Then in the 79th minute, Alcides Ghiggia ran down the right side of the field, dribbled past Brazilian defender Bigode and scored another goal. The crowd was virtually silenced; Uruguay was now the leader. The silence continued for the remainder of the play until Reader blew the final whistle. It was official: Uruguay won the Cup by defeating Brazil 2-1.

THE AFTERMATH: BOTH IMMEDIATE AND IN THE LONG RUN

“The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years imprisonment, but I have been paying, for something I am not even responsible for, by now, for 50 years.”

-Moacir Barbosa

When the sudden news was official, many said there was a ‘traumatic and disturbing absolute silence’ except for the celebrating by the Uruguayan team and delegation. In Brazil, many newspapers refused to accept the fact that their team had been defeated. Radio journalist Ary Barroso retired, albeit briefly. At least two or three people on the top tier of the stands of the Maracana were so distraught by the loss, they committed suicide. Yes, there were peole so distraught over Brazil’s loss, they committed suicide. One man in the stands even had a heart attack. The gold medals were immediately disposed of. The song Brazil the Victors was never played. The nation was just heartbroken over the loss. The game remains one of the biggest upsets in football history and Brazil commonly refers to that game as the Maracanazo, or “blow at the Maracana.” Even Pele talks of how his father cried saying: “Brazil lost!”

In the years to come, the game was influential for a lot of superstition. For one thing, Brazil refused to have a white-and-blue uniform and would soon adopt their famous yellow shirt with blue collar that still exists today. White is seen as bad luck in Brazil. The players of the time were vilified by the fans and were sometimes seen as bad luck. Many went into silent retirement while some never played for the national team again. Only two players that didn’t play in the final played for Brazil’s team in later World Cups. The defeat would weigh down on Brazil’s team so much, they brought a psychiatrist to the 1958 World Cup to remove the haunts of the memories of that game. Whatever the situation, the Brazilian team of 1958 which featured a 17 year-old Pele capturing the world’s imagination won the World Cup: the first of five total World Cups won by Brazil.

Brazilian goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa would be blamed and even vilified for Brazil's loss for the rest of his life.

Brazilian goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa would be blamed and even vilified for Brazil’s loss for the rest of his life.

However of all the players from Brazil, it was goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa that got hit the hardest. He received the biggest flack and biggest blame for the Maracanazo and it seems like Brazil never forgave him. He was still able to play professionally for another thirteen years and was even part of Brazil’s national team until 1953 but he was commonly shunned by the nation. There was even one time he was in a store in Brazil and a mother pointed at him and said to her small son: “Look at him, son. He is the man who made all of Brazil cry.” Little changed over the years. In 1993 the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation refused to let him be a commentator. In 1994, the Brazilian national team did not want him to visit them because they feared he would give them bad luck. If there was one good thing, his wife stayed married to him for a total of 50 years until her death in 1997. He managed administration at the Maracana but was always at a shortage for money after leaving. He did however received assistance from sources such as Brazilian football team Vasco da Gama and his wife’s friend after her death. The friend remembered his last years: “He even cried on my shoulder. Until the end he used to always say: ‘I’m not guilty. There were 11 of us.'” Moacir Barbosa died of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 79. He was penniless at the time.

One interesting note is what happened to Alcides Ghiggia who scored that heartstopping goal. He would continue to have a prolific career as a professional player until 1968 and was even signed onto European teams like AC Milan and AS Roma during a time when it was extremely rare for South American players to play for teams outside their home country. As of today, the 87 year-old Ghiggia is the only surviving member of Uruguay’s World Cup winning team from 1950.

Interesting note is that on December 29, 2009, Brazil honored Ghiggia by celebrating that decisive goal by having Ghiggia plant his feet in a mould to take his place along greats like Pele, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer. The reception to Ghiggia was surprisingly warm and Ghiggia himself was overcome by emotion to the warmth. Ghiggia also made a return appearance to Brazil during the draw for the groups of the 2014 World Cup in December 2013. Each country that had won a World Cup in the past was allowed to send one of its great players to participate in the draw. Uruguay sent Ghiggia. There was however one negative thing as of recent. Ghiggia has been invited to the opening games of both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup but it was revealed by him that he was not on the guest list for this World Cup. I wonder who did it too? Whatever the situation, FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer insisted the day before that Ghiggia and a guest will have at ticket. Ghiggia has also commented on this World Cup: “I hope Brazil become world champions, so they can all enjoy it here.”

The Brazilian team this year are hoping to finally make that bad memory of 1950 a think of the past. So far Brazil have been doing very well even if they’re not the most spectacular team out there. They opened with a 3-1 win over Croatia but left people shocked with a 0-0 draw against Mexico. They did reassure people that they will win with a 4-1 win over Cameroon to close out the Group Stage. They did win the Round of 16 match against Chile on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. For those concerned since that, don’t be. There have been many teams in the last 28 years that had a match lead to penalty kicks before they played in the final for the Cup and won.

Brazil is often praised and even fancied in the way they treat football like a religion. However their reaction to their loss in 1950 is a negative side of that. Sure the loss to Uruguay was a shock but it’s a shame how they went about it. You know how when the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and fans then showed a sign saying “We forgive Bill Buckner” in reference to Buckner’s Series-costing fumble in Game 6 of the 1986 Series? I hope that if Brazil wins the World Cup, there should be someone in the stands with a sign saying: “Nós perdoamos Moacir Barbosa  (We forgive Moacir Barbosa).”

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: 1950 FIFA World Cup. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1950_FIFA_World_Cup>

WIKIPEDIA: Uruguay v. Brazil (1950 FIFA World Cup). Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguay_v_Brazil_%281950_FIFA_World_Cup%29>

Bellos, Alex. “Obituary: Moacir Barbosa” THE GUARDIAN. 13 April 2000 <http://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/apr/13/guardianobituaries.alexbellos>

Grey Cup Preview

Grey Cup

On Sunday November 24th, the 101st Grey Cup will be contested at Mosaic Stadium at Regina’s Taylor Field. The game promises excitement as it will pit the Saskatchewan RoughRiders against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. But what’s in store for this year?

 

This year’s Grey Cup is not a milestone Grey Cup like last year. And unfortunately for a Vancouverite like myself, BC won’t be playing like two years ago. Nevertheless the game promises excitement. The defending champions will not be returning. Neither will the teams that finished at the top of their division during the regular season be playing. Instead it’s the two underdogs from both divisions.

The game also brings a return to Mosaic Stadium for the third and last time. Mosaic Stadium has previously hosted in 1995 and 2003, back when it was still called Taylor Field. Normally it seats about 33,000 people but it’s expandable to 55,000. As I said earlier, this will be the last year Mosaic Stadium will host the Grey Cup. Back in July of last year, it was decided that a new staudium was needed for Regina and its Roughriders. The new open-air stadium is expected to be completed by 2017 with an estimated cost of $280 million and is planned for Evraz Place. This will make it a break with a 107-year tradition with Taylor Field being home of the Roughriders.

The entertainers at the Cup are expected to please the crowds. The Saskatoon-based group The Sheepdogs are to perform in the pre-game show, Serena Ryder will sing the national anthem and Hedley will be doing the halftime show. The Roughriders will spend $14 million on temporary seating to increase the capacity to 50,000. Corporate boxes and concessions will also be added. A new 60-foot wide LED screen an scoreboard will be added to the northeast end zone while a 55-foot wide LED screen and scoreboard will be brought to the west grandstand. Now time to check out the two contenders:

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Being the host city of a Grey Cup has been a lucky thing for its team for the third year in a row. Two years ago when Vancouver hosted, the Lions qualified and won. Last year when the Skydome was hosting, the Argonauts qualified and won. This year luck is on the side of the RoughRiders. The regular season went well with 11 wins and 7 losses, placing them second in the West just behind Calgary at the end of the season. They were able to score a win against every team they played. Even leading into the playoffs, the RoughRiders had the advantage as both teams they faced–the Lions and the Stampeders– they’ve had at least one win against. Their play experience payed off as they beat the Lions 29-25 and beat the Stampeders 35-13.

HAMILTON TIGER CATS

They came in as a team with small expectations and they now find themselves playing in the Grey Cup. This year was adifficult year for the TiCats as they were not only no longer playing in the Ivor Wynne Stadium but were playing in the Alumni Stadium in Guelph as they were awaiting their new home stadium. They actually started their 2013 season off slow winning only one of their first five games. Almost echoing the BC Lions in 2011. However head coach Kent Austin was able to turn things around and they’ve won nine of their last thirteen regular season games. Like the RoughRiders, they too had at least one regular season win against the playoff opponents they faced and they materialized too beating the Alouettes 19-16 in overtime and the defending Grey Cup champion Argonauts 36-24.

THE BIG GAME AND MY PREDICTION

Coming to the game, my prediction is pretty much solid. I predict the Roughriders to win scoring double whatever Hamilton gets. It’s no doubt of the two teams, Saskatchewan has showed the most muscle this year. They have the strongest offence in the CFL and a very strong defence too. On top of it, Saskatchewan has beaten the TiCats both times they played them this season. It’s not to say the TiCats can pull an upset. Underrated teams have come from behind in the past. Plus keep in mind the losses to Saskatchewan were part of the first five games where the TiCats struggled. We have a whole new set of TiCats since so Saskatchewan should take note if they want to win. I still stand by my prediction that the RoughRiders will win but that doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable.

So there you go. The preview for the 101st Grey Cup. Kickoff is slated for 6:00pm EST which would actually be 5:00pm in Regina. May the best team win!

The Confederations Cup And Protests In Brazil

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

The Confederations Cup soccer tournament began on June 15th. Also what started around that time was a protest in Sao Paulo about transit fare inflation. Protests soon grew in Brazil. I’m sure the Confederations Cup competition and the worldwide media attention to that event had a lot to do with the growth. But what are the protests about? And why are they happening all of a sudden?

First it’s important to look at the country of Brazil. Most people will consider Brazil a poor or developing country. It is true to an extent. What most people don’t know is how much Brazil’s economy has grown since the 1980’s. Its biggest growth was in the industries of oil, mining and agriculture which grew at 47% or 3.6% per year since 2000. Its industrial growth rate is also impressive with an 8.8% back in 2008. Brazil’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and actually now ranks 7th in the world and has the highest GDP per capita in South America and 53rd in the world overall. Its gross national income of $10,721 US in 2011 classifies itself as upper-middle income: an income on par with many countries of Eastern Europe. It can be attributed to many factors. Some say it could be Brazil’s move to democracy that started with an Amnesty Law in 1979 and developed into its own Constitution in 1988.

The quality of life has also gone up considerably in the last 20 years and Brazil has worked to establish methods to either keep it that way or improve it. Despite huge urban sprawl in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, its cities have some of the finest public transit systems that have been copied and studied by many major cities in the world. Brazil has also reformed its Social Security programs and tax systems. There was even a Law Of Fiscal Responsibility that controls public expenditures by the Executive Branches of all government levels. Export, Industry and Trade has been increased while allowing Brazil to keep itself from vulnerabilities by methods such as not exporting the oil it consumes. It has also halved its debt through exchange rate-linked certificates which has allowed exporting to grow to as much as 20% a year and put a limit on its inflation rate to 4%. It also has an average life-expectancy rate of 72.7 years (2009) which is comparable to that of many Eastern European countries.

So what are all the protests about? Even before I get into the nitty gritty of the protests there are some facts to send a message that a bubble was about to burst. We must remember that while Brazil has improved a lot in past years and especially this century, there’s still a lot of development to go. Despite its improvements, the 53rd best GDP in the world shows they can do better. Its gross national income is roughly 1/4 of what developed countries like Canada are receiving. In addition, the minimum wage translates to an annual income of an unenviable 8,086 Brazilian Reals (R$) or roughly $3,600 American. Even in government despite being a democracy, Brazil still ranks as the 69th least corrupt country in the World according to Transparency International with a score of 43 out of 100.

The first protests actually started on June 1st, two weeks before the Confederations Cup was about to begin. The first major protest was in the city of Sao Paulo of a transit fare increase from R$ 3.00 to R$ 3.20. The first protest started on June 6 and grew over time. The real turning point came when police fired rubber bullets at the protesters and journalists on June 13th. This was widely criticized by Amnesty International and even Brazilian Amnesty Groups.

Soon after, and while the Confederations Cup was progressing further, the protests grew to as many as 250,000 in various major Brazilian cities on June 17th protesting. Rio de Janeiro had the biggest that day with 100,000. Even Brazilians in other world cities stages their own protests. By June 20th, protests grew to millions of people in 100 cities and grew over the next few days. As negotiations and government involvement in matters occurred, which I will discuss later, the protests calmed down but not without incidents.

Interesting enough is not just the number of protesters and cities involved growing but the issues too. What started off as one protest over a transit fare increase grew to a wide array of issues being protested against or demanded:

  • A bill (PEC – 37) that hindered Public Ministry to investigate.
  • The distribution of petroleum royalties to the appropriate causes.
  • Lack of criminalization of all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement.
  • Secret Voting in Congress for forfeiture of office.
  • A bill (PEC – 33) allowing decisions made by the Supreme Court going to Congress.
  • Having a Privileged Forum.
  • Taxing in Public Transport.
  • Demands to the National Pact for fiscal responsibility, control of inflation and proper distribution of funds to education, public transport and health.
  • Demands to implement means of political reform in the country.
  • Demanding 10% of the GDP be devoted to education.
  • Demanding a free-pass for full-time university students.
  • Demanding a revocation of a ‘gay cure’ bill (PDL – 234) authorizing psychologists to treat LGBT people.

Evident enough is that the growth in numbers and issues happened as the Confederations Cup matches were occurring. I still remember telecast of Confederation Cup matches on CBC that even included security updates of what was happening in the cities. Even though the protests have been successful in leading to solutions of problems being protested over, there was still last chances for opportunity as violent clashes occurred in Belo Horizonte as it was hosting a semifinal match on the 26th and in Rio de Janeiro as it was hosting the final on the 30th.

You could understand why the Confederations Cup had a lot to do with the increase in protests. With a major world event happening, it’s obvious the protesters want to highlight Brazil’s problems right while the eyes of the world are watching. Mind you these next three years are going to be very big for Brazil as they will play host to many major international events. Besides the Confederations Cup that finished yesterday, Rio will host the Catholic event World Youth Day later this month. Next year Brazil will host soccer’s World Cup with twelve major cities contesting the competition. And 2016 will have Rio hosting the Summer Olympic Games. I don’t know of any other country that has had to host this many major events in a matter of four years. For Brazil it’s a chance for them to show the world their image as a well-to-do nation as they will be the first developing country since Mexico in 1986 to host a World Cup and the first developing country since Mexico again in 1968 to host a Summer Olympics. In fact the World Cup was even the subject of protests that received less notice than most other protests. Many were protesting the government giving a lot of the budget ($12 billion US) to these sports events instead of on living conditions.

I mentioned that many of the issues being protested upon have been approved within this two-week span of time. You can assure the media attention to this had a lot to do with it. Among those approved by the governments and senate are: public transit prices reduced and taxes eliminated; petroleum royalties destined to education (75%) and health (25%); reform and improvement demands to the National Pact being granted; secret voting ended; Bill PEC – 37 being revoked; all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement being criminalized; and implementing a Plebiscite to politic national reform. Even though the Confederations Cup is over and a lot of reform and improvements have been politically approved, there are still demands outstanding. Some like the 10% allocation of the GDP to education, revocation of bill PDL – 234, and the Free Pass for students are currently under negotiation by Congress while issues of ending of Privileged Forum and the elimination of Bill PEC – 33 still remain undiscussed. On top of it, time will tell if the approved reforms are carried out and if carried out successfully or not. Another thing to look for in the future is how much impact it will have on President Dilma Rousseff. Her popularity has already been hit by the protests. It remains into question whether she will win the next election.

Even though many of the protester’s demand have been met and even though many are still pending as of now, don’t expect all the action to end just as the Confederation Cup has ended. I’m sure as long as Brazilians see injustice or wrong ways of doing things, there will continue to be protests even without the anticipated major events happening and even after they all end. Nevertheless it’s excellent opportunism to make improvements happen to a developing nation that has improved so much in recent decades but still has more to improve upon.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Economy Of Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Brazil>

Uncredited Author . “Brazil: One Million People Demand Accountability” Transparency International. 21 June 2013. <http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/brazil_one_million_people_demand_accountability>

WIKIPEDIA: 2013 Protests In Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Brazil>

2013 Confederations Cup: More Than A Soccer Tournament

The FIFA Confederations Cup is as much of a pre-World Cup test event as it is a major international soccer tournament.

The Confederations Cup is as much a pre-World Cup test event as it is a major soccer tournament.

So 2014 has the World Cup and 2012 had the Euro. I guess that means 2013 will be devoid of big-time international soccer excitement, right? Wrong! 2013 is the year of the Confederations Cup, an eight-team competition held in Brazil. It’s good and important for a lot of reasons.

A TOURNAMENT GROWS IN SIGNIFICANCE:

The Confederations Cup is more of an intercontinental competition than international. Six of the eight teams that are competing here have earned their berth by winning their respective continent’s confederation championship. The only exceptions being the World Cup winner and the host country. That’s how the Confederations Cup is contested.

The idea of having a soccer competition of the best of the continents was an idea that evolved over 21 years. Actually the first attempt at such a competition came not with the participation of FIFA. It came through the royal family of Saudi Arabia through a competition called the King Fahd Cup. The first King Fahd Cup was contested in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over five days in October 1992 and consisted of Saudi Arabia, which was the Asian Cup holder at the time, CONCACAF Gold Cup winner USA, African Cup Of Nations holder Ivory Coast and South America’s Cop America holder Argentina who won the Cup. The King Fahd cup was contested once more in 1995 and expanded to six teams: five continental cup winners and host Saudi Arabia.

By 1997, FIFA became involved and the King Fahd Cup had been renamed the Confederations Cup. This is the turning point with the Cup being contested the year before the World Cup and with the competition consisting of the eight teams through the qualifying format that still exists today. There were however two exceptions as two second-place teams from their continent’s championships competed: Czech Republic because Euro winners Germany declined to participate and United Arab Emirates because the hosting Saudis had already qualified as hosts. This would also be a new standard for the Cup  that if one of the continental cup holders already earned their berth as either host nation or World Cup holder, the runner-up team would be given the continent’s berth.

After the 1997 tournament, the Confederations Cup would be contested bi-annually and in a different country every year. The 2001 tournament featured a unique twist as the host countries were Japan and South Korea, the host of the following year’s World Cup. That would be the norm from now on in which the Cup held the year before the World Cup would be hosted by the World Cup host nation(s). Six of the stadiums that were to be for the World Cup the following year were the sites for the Confederations Cup.

The Confederations Cup would continue being a bi-annual competition. Germany, the host nation of the 2006 world Cup, would continue the tradition by hosting the 2005 Confederations Cup with five of the venues for the following year’s World Cup used for this event. Since 2005 in Germany, the Confederations Cup has become a quadrennial event and seen as a warm-up event for the following year’s World Cup. South Africa used it to prepare for their hosting of the World Cup and you can be sure Brazil will do the same here. Six venues that will participate in next year’s World Cup including the legendary Maracana stadium will stage this competition. You could say the Confederations Cup has really grown a lot in the last decade.

WITH THE WORLD CUP A YEAR AWAY…:

You can be sure with the Cup being contested, the media will be paying close attention to how prepared Brazil is for this event and how ready they will appear to look with the World Cup just a year away. Already the media has paid high attention to Brazil’s troubled preparations for the World Cup. FIFA and even local critics have complained of construction delays and cost overruns. Few infrastructure projects were completed and even the 3G network couldn’t work properly. Even the official musical instrument of the World Cup was a failure as fans of losing teams would throw it on the field. Only two of the six stadiums participating in the Confederations Cup were completed by December and two cities were almost axed from hosting. In fact delays have caused FIFA to make an exception in their pre-World Cup demand that the host country hold three major competitions.

It’s not to say it’s all bad. Tickets for the World Cup and the Confederations Cup were a success. Also a record number of volunteers for both the Confederations Cup and World Cup signed up. Even exports from Brazil look optimistic as Brazil anticipates to export $1 billion from this Cup. Brazil has openly vowed it will be ready for the World Cup and even FIFA believes they’re confident Brazil will be ready. There’s only one year to go.

TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:

Now enough talk about hosting the tournament. Let’s move onto the teams and see how well they stack up for this. All but two teams are winners of their respective country’s continental championship. The two exceptions are Brazil who qualifies as hosts and Italy which was runner-up at Euro but qualified since the winner Spain already qualified as World Cup winner. Here’s how they pare up group by group with their current FIFA ranking in brackets:

GROUP A:

-Brazil (22)- You’d think a country like Brazil with a legacy and depth of talent would enter the competition as the favorites but it’s actually not the case. Brazil first surprised everybody at the 2010 World Cup with a quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands. They surprised soccer fans even more by being ousted in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Copa America. Brazil just wasn’t Brazil. Lately Brazil has been making some changes like bringing back coach Luis Felipe Scolari who helped coach Brazil to the 2002 World Cup. Their play has gotten better in a slowly but surely pace. They may have tied Italy 3-3 three months ago but just last week they won a friendly against France who has been traditionally considered Brazil’s ‘Achilles Heel.’ The Confederations Cup could be a turning point for Brazil and send a message how much their team has improved and how far they would have to go to win the World Cup. I’m sure the world will be watching.

-Italy (8)- If you remember last year’s Euro, you’d remember it for Italy’s comeback as much as for Spain’s win. Italy was a team that was direly in need of improving after the 2010 World Cup and their qualification for the finals shows how far they came. Their play in World Cup qualifying matches have also been excellent. However they’re not immune to choking as noticed in a 2-2 friendly against Haiti. Nevertheless this tournament can also send a strong message to Italy how their team looks en route to the World Cup.

-Mexico (17)- Mexico has always been considered the ‘sleeping giant’ of soccer. The team has always been loaded with talent and skill but they have yet to prove themselves in a big way at a major tournament. They may be the current CONCACAF Gold Cup holders but even now with World Cup qualifying for the CONCACAF they still find themselves third in the standings with the USA leading. This group being the ‘group of death’ in the Cup could also pose a challenge. Nevertheless Mexico could pull one of the big upsets of the tournament. We also shouldn’t forget Mexico won the gold medal in London. It’s a given in any tournament to never count Mexico out.

-Japan (32)- If there’s one continent that has grown the most in terms of soccer play in the last two decades, it has to be Asia. And Japan has to be one of its strongest examples of accelerated success. Nevertheless Japan finds itself in a tight situation here in the Cup against three teams known for their legacies and their consistency of play. But don’t count Japan out. They’re the first team to earn a World Cup 2014 berth on play by already leading their AFC qualifying group by a huge margin. Plus they’ve won three of their six matches in 2013. So if any team can most give the biggest surprise at the Cup, it’s Japan.

GROUP B:

-Spain (1)- How about that? Spain has gone in five years from being ‘soccer’s greatest underachievers’ into the top team in the world. Two straight Euros and a World Cup. They sure have come out of their shell and they come to the Cup as the favorites to win. Heck they haven’t had a single loss not just in 2013 but 2012 too. They look to have an easy Group Stage play but play in the semis and possible finals could make things more challenging for Spain. Just because a team is #1 and undefeated for two years doesn’t mean their infallible. We shouldn’t forget they lost to the USA in the semis at 2009’s Confederations Cup. Here could be yet another achievement in Spain’s recent legacy or a sudden reminder of their own weaknesses. Only the next two weeks will tell.

-Uruguay (19)- Uruguay has to be the comeback story right now. It seemed as though Uruguay’s soccer legacy was a thing of the past. Their prowess from the 30’s to the 50’s captured the imagination of the world. However it was their fourth place finish at the 1970 World Cup that appeared to mark the end of Uruguay’s greatness. However recent years has seen Uruguay make a comeback with a fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Cup and the win of the 2011 Copa America. But before you can shout out that Uruguay was back in a big way, it hasn’t been completely easy. They currently stand fifth in the standings of World Cup qualifying play for the CONMEBOL. Nevertheless while their play against South American teams have been a bit of a struggle, their play against other international teams have been quite impressive. This tournament can also send a message to the Uruguayan team in terms of what they need to do to qualify for the World Cup.

-Nigeria (31)- Nigeria has always been one of the top African teams. They look impressive in world Cup qualifying right now. The big question is their international play. Not much is known and past international and World Cup play has not given to impressive results. One result that did send a strong message was a 2-2 tie against Mexico two weeks ago. Nigeria could prove to be a stronger team here than most experts think.

-Tahiti (138)- Usually the OFC Nations Cup goes to either Australia or New Zealand. Last year it went to little Tahiti! Tahiti has become the least populous nation ever to win a continental championship. Here at the Cup, Tahiti’s biggest victory is just simply qualifying. Not much is expected since all the other teams have stronger depth in talent and international experience. In fact Tahiti is the only team at the Cup that doesn’t have a chance in even qualifying for the World Cup as the Oceania contestant for a berth against a CONCACAF team is New Zealand. Nevertheless the Cup can be a valuable learning experience for Tahiti. They’ve had hardly any international experience outside of Oceania. Now’s their chance to experience play against some of the best teams in the World. Despite their meager chances of qualifying for further play, Tahiti is probably the only team at the Cup with nothing really to lose and everything else to gain.

So there’s my rundown of the eight teams for the Confederations Cup. I’m not going to hazard predictions until the Group play is done and the semifinal berths have been decided. In the meantime stay tuned to see who will win the 2013 Confederations Cup. And stay tuned to see how ready Brazil appears to be for hosting next year’s World Cup. Both should be interesting to see.

The Grey Cup Plays Its 100th Game

This Sunday will have the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup, the most prestigious prize of Canadian football. It will be an exciting time not just for fans of Canadian football but fans of the Cup itself.

A CUP FULL OF HISTORY

I’ve already talked about the Grey Cup partially back in a post from last year but I’ll elaborate more here. The Grey Cup has more history than the Super Bowl: 58 more years to be exact. Before there was a CFL, the Grey Cup was open to Canadian football teams from all sorts of leagues. The very first Grey Cup was played in 1909 by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club at Toronto’s Rosedale Field to a crowd of just over 3,800. Yeah, that small. The winner was the Blues 26-6. From 1909 to 1915 the Grey Cup was often a contest between Toronto and Hamilton teams. World War I led to the postponement of four straight Grey Cups until it was revised back in 1920. Those would be the only years the Grey Cup was not contested.

It wasn’t until 1921 that the Grey Cup stopped being a contest strictly of Ontario teams when the Edmonton Eskimos qualified for the final. It would pave the way for teams from Regina and Winnipeg to qualify for the final. 1931 was a history-maker for the Grey Cup as it was contested in Montreal’s Molson Stadium: the first time ever the Grey Cup was contested outside of Ontario. Just as historic was the match as it featured two teams outside of Ontario: the Regina Roughriders and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers. Montreal won 22-0, making them the first team outside of Ontario to win the Grey Cup. The first team from Western Canada to win the Grey Cup was the Winnipeg ‘Pegs back in 1935. While the Grey Cup was cancelled during World War I, it was not cancelled during World War II where teams from branches of Canada’s armed forces qualified for the finals.

The Grey Cup’s popularity grew after World War II as 1948 saw the first Grey Cup with a crowd of 20,000 in attendance for the first time. Then the Canadian Football Council (CFC) became the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1958 which would propel the Grey Cup to further popularity. Since then, Grey Cup Sunday has become a permanent fixture in Canadiana with the top team from the East competing against the top team from the West. An average crowd of over 50,000 gather to watch the big final in the stadium and millions more watch from their house.

A MILESTONE WORTH CELEBRATING

This year marks the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup. To celebrate, there has been a Grey Cup 100 Train Tour with the Cup touring various cities of Canada with three CFL themed railway coaches: a museum car, a railcar with contemporary memorabilia, and a car containing the Grey Cup itself. It started September 9th in an official ceremony in Vancouver, traveled across Canada for ten weeks visiting various Canadian cities including all cities with CFL teams, and ended in Toronto on November 17th. The 100th Grey Cup has also been celebrated through Canada Post. Canada Post has issued commemorative stamps of all the teams and the Cup itself. It has also issued 8*10 pictures of the various Grey Cup stamps and many other gift sets. Rosedale Field–which has had its spectator seats removed years ago and now functions as a field for festivals and community events as part of Rosedale Park– was commemorated during the celebrations in Toronto with a commemorative plaque from Heritage Toronto for its role as host field for the first-ever Grey Cup.

THIS YEAR’S CUP

As for this year’s Cup, the event will be held at the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, tomorrow night. This is the 46th time Toronto will host it. There will be a fan parade from Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre. The coin toss of the game will consist of the first 100th commemorative Grey Cup coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint executed by Governor General David Johnston. There will be various musical acts for both the pre-game show and the halftime show. Pre-game show acts include the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings and country singer Johnny Reid. Halftime show performers include Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench and Gordon Lightfoot.

As for game itself, it will be a face-off between the Toronto Argonauts representing the East and the Calgary Stampeders representing the West. So who will win? Here’s the breakdown:

EAST – Toronto Argonauts: The Argonauts have not looked like the team most likely to win the berth for the East. They have both won and lost nine games during regular season play and it was looked to be Montreal that would represent the East. Nevertheless Toronto has played brilliantly in their Division playoff games firstly against the Eskimos 42-26 and recently against the Allouettes 27-20. Toronto has an advantage leading into the Cup having won both its regular season games against Calgary. Their veteran quarterback Ricky Ray has been consistently strong and looks strong leading into tomorrow’s game. Nevertheless Toronto knows Calgary has a strong defense and they won’t overlook it for tomorrow’s game. Kevin Huntley even admitted their game against Saskatchewan, which I will talk about later, sent them the message. Nevertheless they have been taking note on Calgary’s strengths and weaknesses. They know that Kevin Glenn and Jon Cornish are the ones they have to maintain if they want to win tomorrow. Will they win it again or will it be a change in the game plan?

WEST – Calgary Stampeders: Like Toronto, Calgary was second in their division leading up to the playoffs. The Stampeders have has a better season with twelve wins and six losses. They too have been brilliant in the playoff games winning against Saskatchewan 36-30 and BC 34-29. Their consistency has been their biggest strength. They’re not flashy showmen, just a strong team. One important statistic to remember is that Calgary lost both of its regular season games against Toronto. Nevertheless they showed they can come from behind by winning a game against Saskatchewan where they were originally trailing by 17 points with six minutes to go. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been getting better and stronger as of recent. Their other strong players have played well. Nevertheless they know the Argo’s star quarterback Ricky Ray has returned from surgery back in October and is playing strong. Also the Stamps know the Argos have been good at holding Cornish back. Tomorrow could go either way for the Stamps.

MY PREDICTION:

So what’s my say? This is a hard one to call. both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both have shown they know how to perform when it matters. I have to give the win to Toronto. It’s not just about their play against Calgary this year but also balancing things out. Kevin Glenn has become a stronger quarterback but Ricky Ray has returned in a strong way. Also Toronto knows how to hold down Cornish and they have a special edge with Chad Owens winning the CFL award for Most Outstanding Player. So I have to hand it to Toronto. They have the edge but it’s going to be a tight game.

Anyways everything will be decided tomorrow in Rogers Centre and it promises to be a great game and a great show. In the end, one city will be left smiling. So may the best team win!

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: List Of Grey Cup Champions. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Grey_Cup_champions>