Football

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring his team's second goal against England during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 19, 2014

Credit: Reuters

By Simon Kuper in São Paulo

England deserve to go home early. A poor witless team was undone by Luis Suarez, who only a month ago was in hospital having a cartilage operation. After England’s defeat to Italy in Manaus on Saturday, they now have no points from two games. Even a thumping win against little Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday – of which this team do not look capable – would probably not be enough to save them. Read more

Fernando Torres

Spain’s forward Fernando Torres after Spain lost their Group B World Cup football match against Chile Credit: Getty

By now, the FT’s award for worst team of the World Cup is possibly as prestigious as the golden trophy pocketed by the winner. The US won our inaugural prize in 1998, Saudi Arabia in 2002, Serbia in 2006 and France in 2010. All were terrible teams, but none sealed the award just six days into the tournament. That distinction belongs to the FT’s worst team of 2014: Spain.

The Spaniards landed here not merely as world champions but – after two straight European titles – as the most successful national team ever. However, they started with a classic mistake: picking players because they had been world champions before. By that logic England should have sent their 1966 team, while Diego Maradona would be here as Argentina’s playmaker, not as a TV pundit who can’t always even get into the stadium. Read more

 

Colombian soccer team fans sleep on Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup (Getty)

Colombians will elect a president on Sunday in an election widely seen as a plebiscite on talks with Farc rebels that could end a five-decades guerrilla insurgency.

But polls are so tight that they have failed to predict a clear winner between centrist President Juan Manuel Santos and conservative candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won the first round. Some believe it will take something momentous to produce a runaway winner. Like football.

Colombians are among the world’s biggest football fans, and they will either be cheering or sobbing as they head to vote after the country’s first World Cup match the day before against Greece, its first Cup match in 16 years. Read more

Brazil 3 (Neymar Jr 29, 71 penalty; Oscar 90)

Croatia 1 (Marcelo own goal 11)

By Simon Kuper in Sâo Paulo

This was the joyous start the World Cup needed. After all the Brazilian anger about wasteful spending, and Fifa’s anger at Brazil’s tardy preparations, this was a surprisingly attacking, open, cheering game.

It was also played in perfect conditions: the stadium looked ready, the weather handily cooled off just before kickoff, and Brazil’s players and crowd got us into the mood by continuing to belt out the national anthem for half a minute after the music had stopped. Read more

Brazil 2014: Political tensions surround World Cup
About half the world’s population is expected to watch the World Cup in Brazil, but the run up to the tournament has been troubled by demonstrations in Brazil and all-too-familiar allegations of corruption at the heart of Fifa, world football’s governing body. Joe Leahy, Brazil correspondent, Roger Blitz, leisure industries correspondent, and JP Rathbone, Latin American editor, join Gideon Rachman to discuss the state of the World Cup.

Gideon Rachman

The political leaders of all 32 nations competing in the World Cup will be praying for a good performance from their national side. With the possible exception of Barack Obama, they can confidently expect to bask in any success achieved on the playing fields of Brazil. Football glory is welcome for any country. But, right now, it feels particularly important for those countries that are currently troubled by national identity crises – in particular Belgium, Nigeria, Spain and even, France. Fortunately, all four countries have good teams that have arrived in Brazil with high hopes. Read more

  • The US president’s thicker skin and conviction that he can transact little business with Congress means he is using his executive authority to shape policy – and his legacy.
  • The next king of Spain will need to work hard to restore faith in the Bourbons, says the FT’s Tobias Buck.
  • Not one of the ECB’s new measures addresses the problem of low inflation directly, says Wolfgang Münchau.
  • This week’s Ofsted report that is expected to warn of hardline Islamist teaching creeping into a handful of British schools will revive the debate on whether a much broader push is needed to combat extremism in the UK.
  • Even before the bribery allegations concerning Qatar’s World Cup bid emerged last Sunday, the young emir of the gas-rich state had reason to believe the world was turning against his country.

Football interlude:

  • Young prodigy Cassiano de Jesus has captured the footballing world of Brazil where the sport is one of the few equalisers in one of the planet’s most unequal countries.
  • Four years after the last World Cup, residents of South Africa are still waiting to see its legacy.
  • Lionel Messi “rejected the advances of Spain’s national team to choose Argentina, the land of his birth, only to find that he could never really come home.”

 Read more

Roula Khalaf

 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (Getty)

Has Qatar’s luck run out? Just a year ago the small, rich Gulf state was at the top of its game, well on its way to establishing itself as a regional political and global financial force.

Splashing its gas-fuelled wealth across the globe it accumulated a multibillion-dollar portfolio of assets, and spread its influence in an Arab world in turmoil, setting itself as the champion of rising Islamist powers.

So confident was its emir of his own standing that in June 2013 he abdicated in favour of his son, in an attempt to demonstrate that Qatar is the most progressive among Gulf states stubbornly attached to the status quo.

 Read more

By Roger Blitz and Simeon Kerr

Why is Qatar facing so much pressure over winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup tournament?

From the outset, the decision of the 22 Fifa executive committee members who voted in December 2010 raised eyebrows. A tiny state with no football infrastructure beat more fancied rivals Australia and the US, as well as Japan and South Korea. It got 11 votes in the first round and beat the US in a run-off by 14 votes to 8.

That is a very small electorate.

Yes – and they were also voting for the 2018 tournament hosts, won by Russia. Even before they voted, some Fifa members were being accused of offering their votes in return for cash. Fifa subsequently admitted it was wrong to run the two tournament votes together.

Corruption allegations. Qatar. World Cup. Those words tend to stick together.

Indeed. It did not help that a leaked email from Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said Qatar had “bought” the world cup. Nor that Qatari Mohammed bin Hammam was suspended by Fifa and later banned for life following bribery allegations during his campaign to become Fifa president. Nor that Fifa has been battling bribery claims stretching back several years. Read more

Gideon Rachman

France's Benzema celebrates after scoring the second goal for the team during their World Cup qualifying playoff match against Ukraine at the Stade de France Reuters

If any country is in need of a morale booster, it is surely France. President Hollande’s popularity ratings are in the low 20s. The economy is shrinking. The country’s credit-rating has just been downgraded again. The far-right is on the rise. And a crazed gunman is on the loose in Paris. But amid all this gloom, something good has happened. And the positive news has come from an unlikely source, the national football team. Last night “les Bleus” overcame the odds and notched up the 3-0 victory they needed to defeat Ukraine and get to the World Cup in Brazil. Even the high-brow “Le Monde” had the footballing triumph as its banner headline, this morning. Read more