“By the end of the World Cup,” Nate Silver concludes after analysing the relevant data, “Germany left little doubt it is the best team in the world. In fact, it may be the best national soccer team ever assembled [that's a big claim, which needs to be approached with a degree of scepticism -- NR]“:
“Germany didn’t begin the World Cup as the favourite,” notes Nate Silver. “That honor belonged to (ahem) Brazil).” Here are his predictions, which turned out to be way off:
And here are Silver’s apologetics:
Over the course of the 2014 World Cup, “Messi had the lowest work rate among non-goalkeepers when his team is on defense and the second-lowest among forwards when his team is on offense (among players with 150 minutes on offense/defense combined)…on the other end of the spectrum, Mario Goetze had a great tournament (obviously ) and the highest work rate.” This comes out clearly in Benjamin Morris’s interesting analysis in FiveThirtyEight Sports. But, the writer adds, “the bizarre spectacle of Lionel Messi strolling along lazily shouldn’t be used either to hang him or to excuse him…”
Courtesy: Prannoy Roy
Soccer, that is, real football, governed by FIFA, is much better theatre than the NFL ‘football’. NYT sports columnist William C Rhoden reflects after watching (‘again and again and again’) the vicious blow that put Neymar out of the World Cup with a cracked vertebra, ‘”Now that’s what soccer needs more of” if it wants to occupy a larger space on our [U. S. fans'] palette. Big hits and midair collisions. We like collisions; we like the violence. Cynical, but true.’
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, talks to Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, and reporter Ewen MacAskill in Moscow. Snowden appreciates the asylum that Russia has given him, and discusses his likely fate should he return to the US.
Manuel Neuer’s magnificent contribution to Germany’s triumph in the World Cup 2014 Brasil showed the world why he is regarded as the world’s best goalkeeper. But Neuer’s ascent was preceded by tragedy — the suicide of Germany’s No. 1 goalkeeper, Robert Enke, “the Kennedy moment of German football”.
Recommended reading: “A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke” (Kindle Edition) by Ronald Reng (translated from the German), Random House UK, 2011
A memorable chat, in 1993, with the most feared fast bowler in cricket history – “patron saint and forerunner of Lillee and Lindwall, Ambrose and Holding and Waqar.”
“During the BJP/NDA government of 1999-2004, there was a frontal attack on historians by the then HRD minister M.M. Joshi. The attack focused on two levels of history writing. One was the content of school textbooks written for the NCERT prior to 1999, and the second was the attempt to prevent the publishing of some of the research projects of the ICHR, such as the “Towards Freedom Project”. The present HRD minister, who unfortunately is unfamiliar with academia beyond school level, gives the impression that in this case she may be doing what she perhaps was appointed for: Carrying out the programme of the old history-baiters of the BJP who now have a fresh innings.”
Brazil’s racial divide has come into sharper focus during this World Cup. And the torrent of racist insults against the Colombian, Juan Camilo Zúñiga, demonstrates that the country’s declared policy of eradicating racism is a long way from fulfilment.
“We are here with the best teams on earth,” [coach Marc] Wilmots said. “You pay cash for any mistakes. I don’t know who plays beautifully. We’re not here to look at people and their performances. We’re here to win. We don’t have just 11 players; we have 23 good players. We can be very nasty and surprise teams.” Read on…
Soccer is a game played over 90 minutes, divided into two equal halves, but stoppage or added time can turn out to be a ‘mirage’. When to blow the whistle is entirely up to the referee. This makes soccer exceptional among games played to the clock.
“The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics is the latest effort in…[Russian billionaire Yuri] Milner’s crusade to make science lucrative and cool in a society that much more often celebrates athletes, entertainers, politicians and business tycoons.”
For all the doomsday predictions, the playing conditions at the 2014 FIFA World Cup across Brazil have been excellent. It is true that organizers are “toeing…the line between normal hiccups and a more irritating lack of preparedness” but this World Cup has been a great success thus far.