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    FIFA Opens Door for Instant Replay

    Concussions are a hot topic in all sports now.  Brought into the mainstream by the tragic death of Junior Seau, head injuries have become the buzz by which all our favorite spectator sports are now being scrutinized ever so tightly.  A player's well being is the catalyst for sweeping changes in sport and this is a topic which drives the old timers insane.  

    Isn't part of the appeal the inherent danger in some of these sports that makes the spectacle sparkle after all?  Indeed it is but what is not considered by those who harbor this belief is that the general fan considers their two to three hours of entertainemnt wonderful, but disposable.  They don't have to experience the dizzying nausea that paralyzes these athletes for days, they're onto the next game and what excitement it can offer.

    But now a paradigm shift is happening to protect the modern day gladiators.  Even the dinosaur that is the governing body of soccer, FIFA, is looking into this topic and considering sweeping changes.  Entertaining the concept of actually stopping a match for three minutes to allow team physicians to assess the condition of players receiving blows to the head is a very controversial matter to consider.  http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/fifa-plan-to-introduce-three-minute-breaks-for-concussion-assessment-092314

    This change in the laws of the game would be the biggest since no longer allowing the goalkeeper to handle back passes played by teammate's feet in 1992.  To actually have an allowance to stop a match for three minutes is as revolutionary as allowing instant replay and would indeed open the door for that very controversial technological hope/ fear (depending on one's position) to become a reality.  Soccer would now have the very thing the purists despise- a time out.  

    In 2014 there were water breaks granted in the heat of Northern Brazil and now that the door has been cracked,  FIFA is going to blow it wide open.  Be prepared, once the winds of change begin blowing, it won't take long for them to gust and then howl their ever progressive changes to sweep away what was once unthinkable.

    Will it be an improvement?  It certainly will to those who lose cognitive ability for the sake of other's entertainment.  But then there will be those with the old school perspective who will argue, "They knew the risks."  

    Whichever side one takes, this much is true, if this three minutes comes to fruition, then instant replay will not be far behind.


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    Embarrassment is only "Semi" Brazilian

    Being in the stands that night for the German demolition, the clear reaction amongst the Brazilian faithful was shock.  From some of the stunned home support there was some form of response: mostly tears, and fortunately, far less punches.

    A Venezuelan wearing a German replica jersey went for adult beverages in the second half.  While in the tunnels of the Estadio Mineirao he was given the choice of removing the shirt and walking away unscathed or keep the shirt and be beaten.  His bare chested return indicated the prudence of his decision. 

    Even wearing a neutral blue Nike shirt , which actually is the Brazilian away kit, a concerned Brazilian wrapped me in the ubiquitous flag of the host nation because I appear more German than Brazilian.  I made it out unscathed.

    Four days later the Selecao embarrassment was complete as the Dutch ran rampant through a team in disarray to claim third place.  And so begins the inquisition of “Why” and “What happened?”

    The potential of answers are many but the distillation of it is as follows:

    • The Brazilian team could not play at the level necessary.
    • The Semi was more about playing without Neymar than playing the game itself.
    • Is the Brazilian team really Brazilian?

    The first consideration is the actual composition of the 2014 Selecao.  It can easily be argued that the players in this side are not at the level of past Brazilian teams.  And which of them actually play the joga bonito we have come to associate with the yellow and green? 

    Neymar is up to snuff and cases can be presented for Oscar, Thiago Silva and an in form Julio Cesar, but after that it become a far fetched argument. To say the outside backs are the level of Roberto Carlos and Cafu, the midfielders could play with Dunga, Rivaldo, Socrates, etc.  And the most obvious downgrade being the attacking players themselves- imagine a Ronaldo or Romario or Bebeto in this team and they simply outclass the current crop of strikers by a wide margin.  Imagine Scolari’s anguish as he would look to the bench and see Jo as his best option.

    Only Neymar played like a Brazilian and only Neymar could be in the sides of the past without much argument.

    Then there was game day itself.  The papers spoke of the Brazilian team playing without its talisman.  The pregame analysis was about what happened against Colombia and not the game itself.  There was already a resignation within the entire country as a result of playing without Neymar.  And the ridiculous yellow that sidelined Thiago Silva can’t be overlooked as an influential moment leading to the collapse.

    But the most glaring heartache endured by the home supporters is that their team is really not their team anymore.  Of the 23 man roster only four play in Brazil and just one of them was a participant in this deficient side.  Fred returned from France in 2009 to ply his trade with Fluminense.  The other three were the reserve keepers and European outcast Jo.

    The vast majority of the rest were gone to Europe by the age of 20 and most have remained there ever since.  Thiago Silva is a special story- he returned to Brazil in his formative early twenties due to contracting tuberculosis in Portugal (almost ending his career) but returned to the big money of Europe in 2009.

    It is safe to say this is symptomatic of the other CONMEBOL representatives in the 2014 Cup, but with Brazil there was a glaring snub of the homeland preparing for this tournament.  The other South American nations endured the grueling qualification process and were playing at home in front of their countrymen on at least nine occasions. 

    Brazil did not have to qualify. To chase money Nike had the Brazilians playing all over the globe and just about anywhere other than Brazil. So is it a tough sell to say that the average Brazilian may have become disenfranchised with their national side because of the long absences they endured?  In speaking with many before and after the German debacle, it was clear many Brazilians were not endeared to this team.

    Neymar is the glue that held this house of cards together.  He is easily the best player of the current crop and more importantly, plays like a Brazilian in the traditional sense.  He resisted moving to Europe when Europe kept knocking with lucrative offers until finally relenting and moving to Barcelona last year.  Taken cruelly out of the Cup with injury, with his absence the locals decided that the embarrassment of the Semi Final was really just a team of Semi Brazilians.


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    Headed to Brazil- New Odyssey Excerpts

    Click on this address to get the latest on my jaunt to Brazil!

    http://thelanguageofsoccer.com/brazil-2014


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    Group Winners Advance! 7 of 8, Only the Americans can Ruin the Party

    Two items of note- All seven round of 16 winners finished top of their group.  All that remains is Belgium to complete the set or for the US to play spoiler.  This would be a first in Cup History and while this Cup has been unusual in so many ways, wouldn't it be ironic for this World Cup to be the only one where the top 8 teams were the final teams playing?


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    Group G is THE Group of Death

    After the scintillating match between Ghana and Germany, it is a simple matter to profess the group of death as Group G.

    First coined in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, "el grupo del muerto" included reigning champion England, 1970 favorite Brazil, an aging but capable Czechoslovakia (runners up eight years earlier), and a Romanian side that had breezed through the European qualifiers and was considered a dark horse side to win in 1970.

    What constitutes a group of death?  The most basic argument is that in each game within group play there is a clear chance of either side winning and Ghana's stretching of the German machine was just such an example.  Had the Africans won the day, it would not have been due to fortune of any kind.  And as usual, the Germans exemplified resilience and an unerring display of competent play.

    Coming into the tourney there were three "groups of death" but each had a minnow that would leave two spots for three teams.  Australian fortunes went as predicted but they did not go quietly intio the night.  But nonetheless, after only two games, Group B is decided, Holland and Chile are through with a game still to play.  Group D has been turned on its head by Costa Rica, England is out and Uruguay and Italy have a showdown on June 24th.

    But what about Group G?  A US victory over Portugal will see CONCACAF qualify its second team in as many games while Portugal would be eliminated.  But that is the only result that will determine the fate of only one team- Portugal, the team with the current world's greatest player.  

    So is Group G this Cup's version of the group of death?  It is clearly that and more.  Whoever emerges from Group G will be a battle tested and capable couple of teams.  Just ask anybody who saw the second half of Ghana and Germany today, "Is either team a team they would want to play in a one off," and the answer will be a resounding, "NO!"



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