Tag Archives: FIFA World Cup 2014

New Post: Messi vs the Machine. A World Cup Final for the ages

By, Kyle Gibson

So, it’s all down to this. The efficient masters Germany take on the Argentina team that revolves around Lionel Messi. Will Germany’s players finally be rewarded after losing the final in 2002 and finishing 3rd in 2006 and 2010? Will Argentina return to the glory it last visited when Maradona ruled the world? I don’t have a prediction, but here’s a preview I wrote earlier this week for Marshall University’s student newspaper, The Parthenon.

We will know the answer to a month-long question Sunday, a question that was first asked nearly four years ago exactly.

After 90, or maybe even 120 minutes Sunday, we will know soccer’s new World Champion.

The two teams that will face off for the FIFA World Cup trophy Sunday are no strangers to World Cup glory.
Germany, with three titles, has long been considered one of Europe’s powerhouse teams.

Argentina, with two trophies, has a rich World Cup history in its own right, winning 2 of 3 tournaments from 1978-1986.

The game Sunday has already been dubbed “Messi versus the Machine.”
Lionel Messi, the diminutive Argentine wizard, is a once in a lifetime talent making his first World Cup Final appearance.

Messi’s play in World Cups had been criticized until this year.
Messi has silenced his doubters with four goals and one assist in 2014.
Even though he has failed to score in his last three games, Messi assisted on Angel DiMaria’s last minute, extra-time goal against Switzerland in the Round of 16 and worked to set up Gonzalo Higuain’s goal against Belgium in the Quarterfinals.

Messi is judged harshly on the world stage, but his harshest criticism comes from his native Argentina.
To Argentina, there will never be another like Diego Maradona, who almost single-handedly won the 1986 tournament for the Argentines. Maradona was known for his creative prowess and controversy, the dichotomy of which was put on display in the 1986 Quarterfinals against England, where he scored one goal from a handball, known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Maradona’s second goal in that game came from a dizzying solo run from beyond half-field and is often regarded as the greatest World Cup goal ever.
That dazzling play and legendary personality is what Messi is up against in Argentina.

Germany is often referred to as a “machine” because of the efficiency of the system it plays.
This 2014 team resembles classic World Cup winning teams of old, but it isn’t quite as ruthless or violent.
Still, it’s as if every player could run and perform for 180 minutes straight and not be tired.
The Germans are known for clinical goal scoring, in which two players on the team specialize.
Miroslav Klose now owns the all-time record for World Cup goals, surpassing Ronaldo of Brazil with 16.
That number may only stand until the next World Cup, where teammate Thomas Muller, already with 10 World Cup goals at age 24, could easily surpass Klose.

The German midfield is surgical as well, with Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who excel at long-range shots, precision passing and stabilizing organization, respectively.

Captain Philipp Lahm had been playing in the midfield, but Coach Jogi Low moved him back to anchor the defensive line.

Low, who led Germany to a third place finish in 2010, is under extreme amounts of pressure as well from his home country.

In a nation as soccer crazy as Germany, it can often feel as if there are 81 million would be coaches, a phenomenon most American football coaches know all too well.
Germany made it to the Final by achieving one of the most shocking victories of all-time, beating host Brazil 7-1, Brazil’s largest ever defeat.
The Brazilians were without Captain Thiago Silva and World Cup star Neymar, but there’s no denying the Germans were the better team throughout the entire tournament.

It was a tougher route for Argentina, which had to outlast the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties.
If it wasn’t for the heroics of Javier Mascherano and a game saving tackle on Arjen Robben, the Dutch could have been facing Germany and made it to consecutive World Cup Finals.
I suppose that is the plight of the Dutch, the quadrennial bridesmaids.
As for the Final and how it will play out, we have recent World Cup knockout round match-ups to examine.

At World Cup 2006 in Germany and World Cup 2010 in South Africa, Argentina and Germany faced off in the Quarterfinals.
Germany won both matches, 4-2 on penalties in 2006 and 4-0 in regulation in 2010.
Germany then went on to place third in both 2006 and 2010, unable to make it past the Semifinals.
For the Germans in 2014, the team surpassed its goal of no longer settling for consolation games at World Cups.
For 90 minutes or more Sunday, the team must prevent Argentina’s goal of finally making it past the Germans.


New Post: Goals, Goals, Goals! The FIFA World Cup 3rd Place Game: Here’s Why You Should Care

By, Kyle Gibson

Today’s FIFA World Cup 3rd place game is considered by some to be the ultimate nonevent in sports. I have three reasons (3!) that I hope will change your mind and hopefully convince you to tune in to today’s match against the Netherlands and Brazil.

1. Has a World Cup game ever not been worth watching?

The answer to the above question is, no. Many of us have waited the entire 4 years from the last World Cup in South Africa. You won’t get a World Cup Finals game for the next 4 years, so why not watch both of the ones remaining?

2. 3rd place games have goals galore.

Going back to the 1994 World Cup, the only time a 3rd place game has failed to produce a total of 4 goals was 1998, when Croatia beat the Netherlands 2-1. That’s still 3 goals, though, which is more than enough for soccer fans looking to have some fun. The 2010 and 2002 World Cups each produced a total of 5 goals. These are still very good teams, good enough to make the Semifinals of a 32 team tournament. The best thing about this game is that the teams don’t have as much pressure and can go out and play loose soccer.

3. Both teams want to leave with some distinction

Getting 3rd place at a World Cup sounds like just being named 2nd loser, but you can still make your nation proud by winning your final game on the world’s biggest stage and by beating a big team. Brazil’s fans are mightily pissed off, so the country needs a big showing to salvage some of the resentment from its fans.

The Dutch are always hungry. I’m excited to see what Arjen Robben will try to do against the Brazilians.

What else do you have going on for a very hot Saturday? Wait until the evening to do stuff. Escape the sun and watch what should be a very fun soccer game.

New Kicking it Podcast! 2014 FIFA World Cup Semifinals Preview and Predictions

In this edition of the Kicking It Podcast, Kyle and Richard break down each of the 4 teams left at the FIFA World Cup, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands. We discuss how each team did in the quarterfinals and make our bold (and probably wrong) predictions for the rest of the tournament.

Listen in the player below, or subscribe on iTunes by searching “Kicking it With Kyle Gibson.” Please allow a podcast up to 24 hours to appear on iTunes because of additional posting steps.

New Post: USA vs Belgium: I’m not afraid of this team and you shouldn’t be either.

By, Kyle Gibson

After celebrating in offices across America, US soccer fans settled in to watch and see who the opponent would be for the Round of 16. After being treated to a real Group of Death, another daunting task awaits, Belgium.

The Belgians are loaded with star power from essentially every big league in Europe, especially the English Premier League. The high amount of American audience the Premier League receives has made Belgium many people’s dark-horse World Cup contender across the US and around the globe. Actually, Belgium was the dark horse of so many leading into the tournament that the team has in many cases become a favorite.

I, your humble blogger, am here to tell you that things could have been so much worse than drawing Belgium and the Belgians are in fact highly beatable.

There’s no denying that Belgium has plenty of star power. Midfielders include Chelsea star Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne of Wolfsburg, Moussa Demble and Nacer Chadli of Tottenham and (for a lesser part) Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United.

Then there are the forwards! Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas! The defenders! Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen! The goalkeeper! Thibaut Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers on Earth and is only 22 years old.

These individual stars so far this tournament are just that, though, individuals.

I’ve watched all three of Belgium’s games in Group H and in each one, I didn’t really see team soccer. It’s taken great individual moments for guys like Hazard and Mertens to either score or create winners. In the World Cup, you need more than just individual stars, you need those players to gel, lean on each other and become a team that fires on all cylinders.

Also, I know Belgium won its group with three wins, but it was perhaps the softest group of the tournament. Algeria is pretty decent, but South Korea and Russia played some terrible games.

Still, Belgium trailed Algeria in the first match, until Fellaini and Mertens came off the bench and helped the Red Devils win 2-1. In the second match against Russia, it wasn’t until right at 90 minutes that Hazard created a beautiful chance for Divock Origi to win 1-0. Thursday, the Belgians went a man down and ended up only beating South Korea by a score of 1-0.

So, yeah, winning a group with the maximum 9 points sounds good, but look at the opponents. I will take the US 4 points against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

I want to rest my case with this, I’ve seen three of the defenders for Belgium, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld  all make huge mistakes that can impact a game. The US could capitalize on those miscues if they were to happen. That being said, they are still very good players that I’ve also seen dominate games.

There could have been worse for the US: Brazil, the Dutch, Argentina. Belgium is a very beatable team.

Still, a tough team awaits and for the US to advance, the beatable must be beaten.

Preview: The United States will finally beat Ghana at the World Cup today if it can do these three things


By, Kyle Gibson

The day we have waited for (or dreaded) for months is finally here. Once again, the United States finds Ghana in its path at a FIFA World Cup finals. The Stars of West Africa are talented, dynamic, fast and most importantly, beatable. Here, in my humble opinion, are the three keys to the US coming out victorious in it’s first Group of Death match.

Survive the first 15 Minutes

In studying the US on film. Ghana’s technical staff has probably realized by now that the US back line is not so stellar. There are still problems with the combination of Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler centrally and the only player of the four with World Cup experience, DaMarcus Beasley, earned his caps as a midfielder. That’s why I think Ghana will press and attack the US hard to start the match, before this back four can find its footing. If the US can make it through the first 15 minutes without giving up a goal, the defense can breathe easier and relax, knowing it has stopped a significant effort from a top team.

Keep shape in Midfield

This thought hinges on whether or not Jurgen Klinsmann will roll out the lineup we saw against Nigeria. Klinsmann axed the 4-4-2  diamond for a 4-2-3-1 with both defensive midfielders, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, playing just ahead of the defensive line. If Klinsmann wants to use that formation again, I’m worried about the positional discipline of Jermaine Jones. Jones can wander out of position at times, which could leave the fledgling back line exposed to players like Jordan Ayew and Asamoah Gyan.

If the 4-2-3-1 is indeed the formation, I think Clint Dempsey’s role is important as well. Dempsey’s unorthodox game can often be selfish, as Klinsmann himself has pointed out. He is playing behind Jozy Altidore in this new formation, which means he’s tasked with helping Jozy stay involved. Clint has scored against Ghana at the World Cup (2006), but if today becomes the Clint Dempsey show, it hurts chances at winning.

We know Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey will fill two of the attacking spots, but what about the other? I think this should be Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya possesses ability going forward and is also conscientious about tracking back to help on defense, which will be crucial against Ghana. Mix Diskerud can be subbed into this spot if need be later on.

Play Possession oriented Soccer

Keeping Ghana off the ball will be very important and a healthy amount of possession can aid the US in that regard. More possession equals more chances as well. This is easier said than done against a side as quick and gifted as Ghana, but it can be done. Also, if Ghana wants to spring into counter attack, it essentially will have six defenders to deal with if Klinsmann sticks with the 4-2-3-1.

Here’s my projected US Starting lineup, in the formation I’ve been mentioning.

Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Alejandro Bedoya, Jozy Altidore.

–Give us a follow on Twitter, will ya? @kickingit10

New Kicking It Podcast, USA World Cup Preview! Our predictions might just shock you.

By, Kyle Gibson

The long wait is over, soccer fans! The Kicking It podcast is back, previewing FIFA World Cup groups E through H, with an extended discussion of the US and group G. We think the teams we have moving forward from Group G will surprise you.

Here is the link, Enjoy!

–Follow @kickingit10 on Twitter

New Post: Top Five Biggest World Cup Injury Blows

By, Kyle Gibson

It’s every soccer player’s dream to suit up for the FIFA World Cup Finals. From the time a player laces up the boots, the dream begins. When you’re dribbling in your back yard or garden, or playing street soccer with friends, the dream is always there. Some make it to the top and have that chance to shine. It’s always terrible in the soccer community when one of these players misses their chance to shine due to injury. Here are the top 5 (or so) guys that I’m very bummed about for either missing the World Cup, or may not be entirely healthy.

Honorable Mention- Alvaro Saborio, Costa Rica

5. Stuart Holden- United States

By every estimation a class act, the US midfielder has had trouble staying healthy for years. After rehabbing a lengthy injury, Holden again suffered an injury in March that left him out for another 6 to 9 months. It’s a big IF to say whether or not Holden will ever return to his form with the Houston Dynamo and his early days with Bolton Wanderers, but if he does, the odds for a World Cup return could be in his favor. Holden will be 32 in 2018. Crazier things have happened.

4. Luis Montes- Mexico

I’m not going to be one of those people that mentions Montes just to get clicks for the leg injury. It just doesn’t seem right. I think there was a chance for a good player to have a good World Cup and that was cut short in the game against Ecuador a few days ago. After scoring, there was a big collision that in a second, left Montes out for the World Cup. The Leon man will have to hope the rehab will bring him back stronger than ever.

3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott

The Ox was injured in yesterday’s game against Ecuador and will be out for 10-21 days. Walcott was injured a few months back in a game against Tottenham Hotspur. Both Arsenal midfielders would have injected the pace and flair that could have really helped England in a packed group stage.

2. Luis Suarez- Uruguay

He had a chance to be the true star of the tournament, but had surgery at the end of Liverpool’s season. Oscar Tabarez said Suarez might be back by the opener. Will he be ready? We don’t know, but I doubt he will be 100 percent, which is good for Costa Rica, England and Italy, but bad for the soccer world.

1. Rodamel Falcao- Colombia

One of the best strikers in the world. The Monaco man suffered an ACL tear in January and his rehab could not get him back in time. It’s a shame that we won’t get to see him playing against the Ivory Coast in what should have been an epic match. He also wold have torn Greece apart.