World Cup

The success of a football match, traditionally measured by who scores the most goals, can now also be measured by who scores the most tweets.

Twitter said that last night’s final between Germany and Argentina generated a new “tweets per minute” record, with a peak TPM of 618,725 World Cup related tweets as the final whistle blew.

During the final, the second-highest TPM of 556,449 occurred when Germany’s Mario Götze scored the winning goal against Argentina – the aftermath of which can be seen in Twitter’s real-time interactive animation of World Cup tweets during extra time, with much of the world lighting up in white in the seconds after the goal: Read more

In July 1990, a controversial late penalty by Andreas Brehme won the World Cup for Germany and snatched the title from Argentina. As a boy growing up in Buenos Aires, I can still remember vividly Diego Maradona’s inconsolable tears as the selección limped off the pitch of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

Those were my tears too. But 24 years later, there is a chance finally to erase that childhood trauma. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany in a World Cup final once again.

As a fan of la albiceleste I can’t really complain. During my lifetime Argentina have won two World Cups, including beating West Germany in the 1986 final, and produced some of the finest players in recent years, from Maradona to today’s hero, Lionel Messi.

I was a year old, and living relatively close to the River Plate stadium, when Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. When they did it again eight years later in Mexico, I was old enough to realise what it meant and to feel the country’s intoxicated joy as Maradona raised the trophy above his head in the sunny Estadio Azteca. Read more

Watching the World Cup from Brazil – as I did last week – it was impossible to miss the huge weight of expectations placed on the national team. Half the country – including some toddlers and dogs – seemed to be wearing the yellow jersey of Brazil. Some Brazilians told me that the players would use that pressure to inspire themselves to greater heights. That always seemed doubtful to me. And last night, we saw the opposite happen: the Brazil team crumbled under unbearable pressure and lost by an unthinkable amount. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Two national tragedies struck Brazil late last week. In the city of Belo Horizonte, an overpass collapsed, killing two people. The following day, Brazil played Colombia in the quarter final of the World Cup. Brazil won the match – but Neymar, the team’s star and national posterboy, suffered a back injury that will keep him out of the rest of the tournament.

  • The FT’s Richard McGregor reports on how detainees at Guantánamo Bay are growing old in limbo.
  • Algeria’s mostly French-bred football team highlights the failure of homegrown African football.
  • The Kurdish forces are unlikely to lose a war to Isis should it choose to launch a full-scale attack, but the fight could be costlier than its leaders let on.
  • In Jordan, officials fear that Isis is gaining support in poor communities such as Ma’an, or in the teeming northern refugee camps and border towns where many of those who have fled from Syria live.
  • The US State Department began investigating the security contractor Blackwater’s operations in Iraq in 2007, but the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq”. Weeks later, the firm’s guards killed 17 civilians.
  • One of Egypt’s leading novelists, Ahdaf Soueif, has accused Egypt’s military-backed authorities of “waging a war on the young”.
  • Buzzfeed looks into the Russian collective that calls itself the Anonymous International: “Completely unknown just months ago, the group has become the talk of Moscow political circles after posting leaked documents detailing elements of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; covert operations in eastern Ukraine; the inner workings.”
  • The flawed response in Saudi Arabia to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome could have contributed to its spread.
  • In the Netherlands, sandcastles are being used to educate schoolchildren the dangers of rising sea levels.

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Don’t mix football with politics, goes the old saying – and Belgians are learning the lesson well.

Often depicted (wrongly, in my view) as an artificial, politically divided country doomed to disintegration, Belgium is cheering with one voice as its football team delights fans at the World Cup in Brazil. The streets of Brussels and other cities are festooned with black-yellow-red national flags – symbols of unity under which, at least during a football match, most Belgians can gather. Read more

Brazilian players listen to their national anthem before a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup

(Photograph: AFP)

By Thalita Carrico

One week after the start of the World Cup, there seems little doubt

about where Brazilians’ loyalty lies. On days when the Seleção – the national team – is playing, São Paulo comes alive with people wearing their yellow and green jerseys and the streets are filled with the noise of horns used by soccer supporters.

After Brazilians staged massive protests last year during the
Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal event for the World Cup, the country put on hold any excitement over the 2014 tournament. As demonstrations this year against government spending on the World Cup allegedly at the expense of social services became more violent, people began to question whether Brazil was still the country of soccer. 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

  • China’s increased border security and pressure on Nepal to turn away Tibetans has reduced the flow of Tibetan refugees to a trickle.
  • Germany, the previous Darth Vaders of football, are keen to put an end to being beautiful losers and become beautiful winners.
  • Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia editor for the Times, writes about class war in Thailand and the story of Thaksin Shinawatra.
  • Nouri al-Maliki has made mistakes, but the real culprits in the present upheaval are the faultlines running through Iraq, contradictory Western policies and the predatory approach of Iraq’s neighbors
  • The seizure of 160 computer flash sticks has revealed how Isis came from nowhere and having nothing to possessing Syrian oil fields and control of Iraq’s second city.

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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

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.”

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  • The Obama administration has launched the most ambitious plan in US history to combat climate change by proposing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power stations. But business groups and Republican politicians have vigorously attacked the proposals.
  • In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the FT looked at what happened to the leaders of the protests there. The South China Morning Post’s Tiananmen retrospective is rich with footage from 1989 as well as a clip from the “River Elegy” television series that argued that Chinese culture was backward and oppressive.
  • Contemplating the recent allegations over corruption and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Dan Hodges argues that nobody cares about football corruption – or racism, diving, biting or any of the sport’s range of controversies – because when it’s match time we are only interested in our team winning.
  • The New York Times reports on how Poland’s ardour towards the US has cooled in recent years and Poles are focusing on becoming a more integral part of Europe. The intensity of [the] love affair has diminished,” says the paper.

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  • Chinese artist and former soldier Guo Jian had lunch with the FT and recalled his part in the Tiananmen protests 25 years ago. He was arrested today.
  • Despite attempts to protect whistleblowers on Wall Street, the personal price that they pay is still high.
  • Considering economists’ forecasting failures, should their predictions be taken seriously?
  • Edward Luce “would sooner consult the star signs” and says economists looking at the US should look at rising income and wealth inequality.
  • Western leaders will be looking to use the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings as a chance to boost the legitimacy of President Poroshenko in Kiev.
  • The Kremlin invests around €100m a year in Russian media abroad in order to influence public opinion in the West and, according to Der Spiegel, it is winning the propaganda war.
  • The US soldier traded for Taliban fighters was allegedly a deserter.
  • In Srebrenica, graves are still being turned over – as are memories and accounts of the genocide.
  • The Sunday Times reveals that millions of documents show how secret payments helped Qatar to win the World Cup bid.

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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

By Luisa Frey
The collapse of Eike Batista’s business empire has dominated the headlines about Brazil in recent weeks. With good reason. The brash entrepreneur’s rise and fall has become a metaphor for the end of the country’s economic boom.

After growing 7.5 per cent in 2010, Brazil’s economy expanded by a paltry 2.7 per cent in 2011 and sputtered to only 0.9 per cent last year. This year it is forecast to grow by 2.5 per cent. Meanwhile, inflation is stubbornly high at 5.84 per cent in October (on a yearly basis) – well above the official target of 4.5 per cent. To keep expanding, the country will need to boost its productivity by eliminating growth bottlenecks, improving infrastructure and encouraging investment.

Here are some of the best articles from the FT and elsewhere about the end of the “Samba economy”.

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♦ Michela Wrong thinks the events at Westgate mall jeopardise international justice because the west has realised that it needs Kenyatta and Ruto.
♦ On paper, Ted Cruz looks like a country club establishment Republican, but with every sentence he uttered in his 21-hour “filibuster” against Obamacare, he made clear that his primary mission in Washington was to rid his party of any lingering remnants of compromise.
♦ Xan Rice speaks to Ahmed Jama, the owner of a successful restaurant in London and a naturalised Briton, who decided to return to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and open a restaurant there, even while Somalia was at war.
♦ As conventional oil reserves diminish, the Kremlin is pinning its hopes on Siberian shale to maintain the nation’s standing, but stern geological and commercial challenges lie ahead.
♦ Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses in Qatar. A Guardian investigation reveals how Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day this summer labouring in preparation for the World Cup.
♦ Richard Gowan, associate director of the Centre for International Cooperation at New York University, asks how much the UN’s moral voice is worth as a peacekeeping toolRead more

A demonstrator holds a Brazilian flag in front of a burning barricade during a protest in Rio de Janeiro on Monday

The protests sweeping Brazil began in São Paulo, the country’s commerical capital, last week as a demonstration by students against an increase in bus fares from R$3 to R$3.20 ($1.47) per journey. They have swelled into an outpouring of popular discontent over everything from the billions of dollars the 2014 football World Cup will cost the taxpayer to the police’s heavy-handed reaction to last week’s protests. Commentators say they are probably the country’s largest since the end of the 1964-1985 dictatorship.

Here’s a reading list to help assess whether they are likely to escalate further or fizzle. Read more

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RB = Roger Blitz, the FT’s sports & leisure correspondent (in Zurich)
DD = Darren Dodd, an FT news editor

RB Fifa will sell this as votes for new frontiers, a la South Africa. The accusation of collusion is dampened by Russia’s victory. For England, going out in the first round only reinforces the argument that when it comes to football politics, England just does not get it.

Simon Gray in France asks: What time of year are they going to play the 2022 World Cup? In July it is about 50C in the shade in Qatar. Players will be dying, literally. Air-conditioned indoor stadiums? I suppose they can afford it.

Robert Orr in New York says not many tears were shed at the bar over the US losing out to Qatar in 2022. Pundits on ESPN, which was at least broadcasting the decision live, were more concerned about how to pronounce the Gulf state’s name. Cat-ar? Quat-ar? They quickly moved on to the  more important matter of Lebron James’ return to Cleveland later this evening…

Michael Kavanagh is back to reading L’Equipe. The site says Russia won despite a “dangerous risk” around transport considering the huge distances between host cities. It predicts that Russian football, already turbocharged by petroroubles, will gain further prominence.

Mark Mulligan in Madrid says: There’s deep disappointment in Madrid, but television commentators are at least conceding that perhaps Spain – and more so Portugal – have bigger issues to deal with at the moment, a reference to the eurozone crisis.

Iberia’s bid was built around quality of football and transport infrastructure, love of the game across the two countries and their natural appeal as tourist destinations.

Also, of course, Spain felt that it deserved to host a World Cup after its fine performance and subsequent victory in this year’s tournament.

HM: And in all Sepp Blatter’s waffle before the announcement, note how he referred to China as the place where football was born. A 2026 bid from Beijing, anyone? Then again, Blatter did call England “the motherland”.

Henry Mance: So Batman – as WikiLeaks had him – will be flying to Zurich after all!

and the 2022 host is…..Qatar

2018 winner is Russia Read more