Inside of a year to go until the World Cup in Brazil, there are very few chances left to get any real sense of who can or will do well next June. And while it might still be way too early to make any kind of assumptions or conclusions about good, bad and i-between, it's also way to quiet this summer to ignore it.
So here's another in the oft-forgotten 3 On/3 Off series where we identify 3 positives and 3 less-than positives from a major tournament.
|Neymar (2nd from R) That's my next haircut!|
- Neymar is every bit as good as advertised. The run up to this tournament was all about the youngster from Mogi das Cruces. Would he be the million dollar man Barcelona thought he was? Would he be another case of dynamic youngster out of his depth in international competition? Would he have an ugly hair cut? The answers, as we all know now, are yes, no and yes. His fluidity and inventive style of play clearly justify the faith of the millions in green and gold throughout Brazil, and even make me pause before I comment on the soggy tea cozy atop his head. With a more than competent ally up front in Fred and an increasingly confident set of backs shoring up the defense, Brazil is officially back.
- Only fools doubt Spain. We're all a little desperate for some drama in international soccer, so the stories have begun: Spain is getting older. Spain is getting tired. Spain is too unsure of the next generation. Pbbt on all of that. Spain is every bit the well-oiled, soul-crushing machine they have ever been, and while there have been brief spurts of teams like Nigeria and Italy looking ominous in their own end, once La Furia Roja gets control in midfield it's all over but the crying. And even despite the final drubbing at the hands of the Selacao, they still have to be deemed favorites
- Dilma Roussef and the Brazilian Government is very smart. Here's a little lesson for all future cup hosts: if you spend billions of dollars on a bunch of fancy pants stadia built to sell Pepsi and Hyundai to the world and then ask average citizens to pay more for things like busses or schools, be prepared for citizens to get pissed. Better still, let them be pissed. Let the march. Let them demonstrate. Let them exercise their rights as citizens. And make absolutely sure that Pepsi and Hyundai execs ride the bus at least once or twice. That's the way to be a modern nation where disagreement does not equal destabilization (hint hint Egypt/Turkey)
|"Why do my teeth hurt? Could it be all that biting of opponents?"|
(adammjohnston.wordpress.com via SBNation)
- Luis Suarez is a jerk...maybe without a future. It really doesn't fail does it. Luis Suarez shows up on the pitch and the dander of anyone who roots for Ghana, or for Patrice Evra, or for just--you know--not biting people, gets their dander up. Luis Suarez has tremendous talent, but won't ever be a global favorite when his behavior makes him seem like a crazy man's Diego Maradona (yeah...that's pretty crazy). But with Uruguay in 5th place in Conmebol qualifying, with Diego Forlan aging rapidly, with Edinson Cavani alternating hot and cold, and with la Celeste's defense folding against top flight scorers like a Tide commercial soccer mom, there's no guarantee that he'll get to bring his madness back next summer...please, oh please...let's go everybody else in South America.
- Expect more disappointment in Asia, Africa, North America and Oceania. As major supporters of the minnows of international soccer, our biggest disappointment in watching the Confederations Cup was the utter destruction of anything not from Europe or South America. Worse still, with the exception of Tahiti, these are teams that ought to represent the best of their continents. Yet Japan came way with nothing, Mexico slightly more than nothing (but even more scorn and derision from pundits), and Nigeria came away with the standard issue victory over Tahiti and a solid half against Spain. These are not the most promising signs of greater parity in the global game. Drat.
- Hold off on that Hulk reboot. It's okay Disney, you can shed a tear over soccer. Admit it, it was too good to be true: your most successful tv station (ESPN) is all geared up to lovingly ogle Brazilian futbol, and perhaps the most ogle-able Brazilian player is named "Hulk"after a character in your most successful film franchise (Marvel comics). You could practically hear the keyboards rattling off spec scripts in Malibu coffee shops where Mark Ruffalo meanders down by Ipanema bumping into the staggering striker in a winking little aside. Then the Zenit St. Petersburg man went and underwhelmed us all (not unlike the Hulk movies themselves), next year's a long way away, but Disney's cross-platform synergy is on the verge of sputtering out.