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Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

Win, Lose, or Draw

June 23, 2014 | by

What next for Team USA?

Jermaine Jones in 2013. Photo: Erik Drost, via Wikimedia Commons

Jermaine Jones in 2013. Photo: Erik Drost, via Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan Wilson, from London:

Twenty years ago, I was in Giants Stadium watching the 1994 World Cup quarterfinal between Germany and Bulgaria. A group of cheerful German supporters unfurled a large banner that read, IT’S NOT A TRICK … IT’S GERMANY!!! This intriguing and challenging work of art (text, textile, mixed media, probably influenced by Joseph Beuys) baffled me for many years, right up until last night, when Jermaine Jones—the USA’s German-born, all-action midfielder—curled a superb “take that, Lionel Messi!” right-foot shot from the edge of the area into the far corner of Portugal’s net. Wowsers, I thought. It wasn’t a trick … it was Germany.

Last week, on Sports Illustrated’s Planet Futbol site, Grant Wahl reflected on the high number of dual nationality German American players on the U.S. team—there are five, and it’s common “to hear [them] speaking to each other in German.” Wahl speculated that if, in 1981, the year Jermaine Jones was born, the U.S. had had as many American servicemen in Brazil as in Germany (there were 222 and 248,000, respectively) we might have a really spectacular team by now. Improving your team by selectively locating your armed-forces bases: it’s an interesting Freakonomics- or Gladwell-type theory, but it might need some tweaking in light of the results so far at this year’s tournament. America’s long engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, I suspect, will produce negligible returns on the soccer field. These countries aren’t soccer powers, and we probably won’t hear anyone shouting across the field in Pashto, Dari, or Mesopotamian Arabic at the next World Cup. Certain teams, however, are clearly on the way up, and I’m thinking now that a base or two in Costa Rica, Algeria, Iran, and Mexico—where there are, at present, none at all—wouldn’t hurt. On the other hand, we might as well close those in Portugal, Australia, England, and Greece.

But what a game the USA played against Portugal yesterday. Tim Howard made one of the best saves of the tournament, and Clint Dempsey, with his badge-of-honor broken nose and black eye, chested in a goal that, until the very last kick of the game, looked to be sending the USA into the round of sixteen. Instead, defensive lapses—which appeared the result of miscommunication at the back; can the rest of the team please get on board with the German?—led to Ronaldo, who hadn’t really been much of a factor for the previous ninety-four minutes, sending in a perfect cross for Varela to head home and equalize.

So the U.S. must gather itself for one last go-round with—who else?—Germany. A draw is a likely result—a draw of the sort sometimes subtly engineered by teams for whom it’s mutually beneficial, as it would be in this case. Read More »

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Painkillers, God, and America

June 18, 2014 | by

Let us pray. Photo: Jason Wojciechowski, via Flickr

According to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s painkillers—more than 110 tons of addictive opiates every year. As a writer in The Guardian put it, the U.S. must be a very painful place to live.

How much of that pain has been caused by soccer? Not much, at least not to begin with: an unlikely and magnificent 1-0 victory over England in World Cup 1950 (held then as now in Brazil) featured a bunch of part-timers putting the boot to the “Kings of Football.” It didn’t require so much as a baby aspirin. Since then, working on the “no pain no gain” principle so beloved of hackneyed American high-school football coaches, the U.S. has enjoyed a steady climb up the world rankings and some encouraging advances in international tournaments, including a World Cup quarter-final in 2002. Still, in the last sixty-four years, there have been more losses and draws—a draw in the U.S. means, as we all know, a loss—than wins. But not many Americans were following the team during all that. I imagine only a fraction of a ton of painkillers were consumed.

Now, though, after this week’s stirring 2-1 victory over Ghana, the 80-percenters are getting on-board big-time, and The New York Times is reporting that a majority of Americans are convinced, unlike their coach, that the USA can triumph in Brazil. The team is clearly riding for a fall, isn’t it? They play Portugal on Sunday. One would think it’s pass-the-Tylenol time. Read More »

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Coaching, Portuguese Style

May 29, 2014 | by

César_Luis_Menotti

César Luis Menotti. Photo: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo, Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo

The coaches of the World Cup are more invested in the outcome of the match than almost anyone else on the planet. Players return to their league club between national-team matches—coaches don’t. They simply grit their teeth and bear the weight that comes with carrying an entire country’s sporting expectations on their shoulders.

“Your biggest question before you take the job is not, do you put them 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1,” Slaven Bilic, the former coach of the Croatian national soccer team, said, referencing different soccer formations. “The biggest question is, can you cope with the pressure?”

One of the great World Cup coaches of all time was César Luis Menotti, the manager of the 1978 Argentina championship team. El Flaco, or “the thin one,” as he was known, had a long flop of side-parted dark hair and thick sideburns, and he routinely used nicotine to help him cope with the pressure—he was rarely seen without a cigarette. It seemed to work, too. He may be the only person that Diego Maradona has ever referred to as God, other than Diego Maradona himself. Menotti’s reputation in later years became so great that he developed a group of followers known as Menottistas. And as with nearly all of the great coaches, his strategy possessed a blend of philosophy and artistry. He once said, with a lively spirit of abstraction, “A team above all is an idea.” Read More »

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Lello Bookstore, Porto, Portugal

April 24, 2013 | by

The Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal,

The Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal.

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.” —Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy

 

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Letter from Portugal: To a Portuguese Nun

September 18, 2012 | by

Around the sixth day of my trip to Portugal, I forced myself to accept the fact that I would not be returning home with vast quantities of convent-made lingerie, replete with handwork and bobbin lace. Not, I assure you, for lack of trying. When something doesn’t exist, as a hundred thousand visitors to Loch Ness will tell you, finding it makes for very tough work.

Why the obsession, you ask? Well, I will tell you. First, I happened to reread Rebecca just before we left. Do you remember when Mrs. Danvers shows the narrator Rebecca’s exquisite nightdress, folded and left waiting for her in a silk case? “Here is her nightdress … how soft and light it is, isn’t it? … They were specially made by nuns of St. Claire.” This alone would have been enough to fire my imagination: this one garment, after all, serves as a symbol of Rebecca’s unattainable perfection: delicate, beautiful, worthy not merely of the most exquisite things but of the work it entails. Somehow both ethereally pure and erotically charged. A sex goddess blessed by Brides of Christ. No wonder the nameless narrator is intimidated.

Then, flipping through D.V., I ran across the passage wherein Mrs. Vreeland describes her London lingerie atelier:

The most beautiful work was done in a Spanish convent in London, and that’s where I spent my time. There was a brief period in my life when I spent all my time in convents. I was never not on my way to see the mother superior for the afternoon. “I want it rolled!” I’d say. “I don’t want it hemmed, I want it r-r-r-rolled!”

And a conviction grew in my breast: I would return to New York with a wearable piece of the Old World. Read More »

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Letter from Portugal: Sonnets from the Portuguese

September 11, 2012 | by

Dollhouse with Portuguese tile, Museu Do Brinquedo Sintra.

You will have heard of Sintra. A stunning enclave some forty minutes outside Lisbon, filled with palaces and piles and follies of every era, Lord Byron called it “Glorious Eden,” and started “Childe Harolde” at Lawrence’s Hotel, on the Rua do Consiglieri Pedroso. (There is now an Escadinhas Lord Byron just outside its doors.) Tourists have been flocking there ever since.

We visited the Palácio da Pena with its majestic views, and the pink-hued Palácio Seteais, and the fourteenth-century Palácio Nacional de Sintra and the Gothic pleasure gardens of the Regaleira Estate, rich with grottoes and gargoyles and secret passages. We ate at the Queijadas de Sintra. It was very much the Lucy Honeywell school of tourism, but wonderful all the same. We were part of a multinational throng. I was vaguely aware of being a failure as someone who experiences life to the full, and probably the worst kind of American imperialist to boot. I studied my vocabulary list diligently.

In the afternoon, I visited the Toy Museum, lured by the sight of a six-foot Playmobil woman beckoning me in from a wrought-iron balcony. Some visitors seemed disappointed by the somewhat haphazard collection (“Where are the teddy bears?” demanded one disconsolate British tourist. “Where are the rocking horses?” implored her companion.) Read More »

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