Brazil: What to Watch for on TV—How Messi, Neymar, Kroos, and Others Play By Shane Stay, author of bestselling book, THE World Cup 2018 Book Based on Rivaldo’s notorious flop near the corner flag in the 2002 World Cup, Brazil might forever be worthy of the “Top Flop Team” award…an honor Neymar’s team may want to stray away from. Over the years, every team in the world has been inspired by Brazil. Interestingly, in today’s game, Brazil is now caught in a position of keeping up with the pack, as one of the gods of world soccer. Since 2008, Spain and Germany have continued on a path of success in the modern era (even though Spain is likely returning to a path of normal). Now, somewhat lost by comparison, Brazil has to learn from these teams in an attempt to use tactics from the “new” refined European style (which relies on principles of sound possession to out will an opponent), while redefining their “old” samba rhythm. If Neymar and supporting staff are healthy, Brazil should have a huge impact on the tournament. Watch for quick, upbeat passing, with Neymar seeing plenty of the ball, exuding his dribbling prowess whenever he can, exploiting the sides while also turning into the middle, causing danger for opposing defenders. With Brazil, quick combination passes open up the wings for overlapping outside defenders who are chosen for their ability to attack down the line. If all these parts are operating at full-throttle, Brazil should be a handful for any opponent and a pleasure to watch. Overall Team Rating: 9.2, bordering on 8.8 Despite Neymar and the successful World Cup qualification run making it appear as though Brazil is a solid 10, the samba beat struggled in the 2016 Copa America, and many lineup choices are not reflective of Brazil’s true artistic potential. For that reason, even though they’re a favorite to win the whole thing, they are a 9.2, slipping into the 8.8 range. Shane Stay Shane is also the author, Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet. If you have any questions or would like to order a copy of THE World Cup 2018 Book or Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet, please contact us here or give us a call at 317-352-8200.
US Has Great Success Building Into The World Cup Part Of Shane Stay's Four Year Review From The 2016 Copa America By Shane Stay Paraguay As this Four Year Review rolls on, the US took on Paraguay for the last game in their group. A good result was needed to advance into the playoff round, and that’s where things got interesting. Previously, the US lost to Colombia, 0-2. Then the US defeated Costa Rica, 4-0. On the night of the third game, Colombia, the number three team in the world, lost to Costa Rica, causing them to get second in the group. Against Paraguay, the US won 1-0 despite playing down a man. Dempsey scored the goal, Yedlin received two yellow cards, Brooks had a great defensive game and the team as a whole came together to hold off the Paraguayan attacks. With the win, the US moved onto play in the quarterfinal against Ecuador, which was held in the loud setting of Seattle. With home field advantage, the US was showing the tournament they were one of the top teams there. This generation of US players has benefited from the creation of the MLS in 1995. All of the players from the generation before 1995 were good athletes and players, but they lacked the experience provided by an outdoor league. While fielding competitive teams, they couldn’t get beyond a certain level. Practically everyone in the world looked down on the American soccer program, which affected the team’s performance. Furthermore, the players back then were good defenders, as they are today. While defenders like Brooks played well, I still believe the team needed to take a chance with more skillful defenders on the offensive side of the ball. This would push the team forward with long term success, which comes from a sound groundwork of creative possession that has gotten better over the years. Paraguay had a good team going into the game. Traditionally, they’ve been competitive, but they’ve never stood out as a major threat in a tournament like this, or the World Cup. At this point in the tournament Brazil, who has been a leader in the game since the 1950s and who was expected to win their group, was sent home because of not getting through the playoff round. Though it wasn’t a huge surprise that the US won their group, with Brazil gone, the feeling was that anything could happen. Ecuador The US stood up to the challenge of playing in the quarterfinal against Ecuador, in Seattle. It could be said that home field advantage was playing a significant role in the success of the team during the tournament, considering what a terrible year they had in 2015. However, was the team playing well? Were they getting results? Did they advance in a large tournament? Yes, yes and yes. The bigger issue here is how to get the team past that certain point. The team can get better with adjustments. Change the culture of play in defense, by developing more offensive-minded defenders who control possession in a skillful way, and you will have a better team which will have consistent success. To push us over the top, like Sylvester Stallone from his underrated "Citizen Kane of an arm wrestling movie," it’s about creative possession from the defense. The team needs to adjust the defense to get into the deeper rounds of the World Cup. They look good now, but this team can’t win the World Cup. They’ll turn some heads, like in 2010, but they won’t push it to the limit. We need more “skateboarders,” such as Neymar’s debut game for Brazil in 2010 against the US. No one had ever heard of him, in the US anyway. He was about 17 or 18. During the national anthem the camera panned over this kid, with a mohawk, looking like a puny, skinny, scrawny little punk-rock skateboarder. At that moment, in line with Pato (who’s gotten a bad rap), Gonso (who’s been looked over) and Robinho, most people realized he was going to be a good player. And for his debut, Neymar scored a goal and dribbled with confidence as a veteran would. (Gonso, also in his debut game for Brazil, played phenomenally, casually leading the attack with beautiful passes.) That’s what the US needs: more scrawny, skateboard punks who can really dribble. Why did Brazil exit the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Copa America so disgracefully? They didn’t have the classic creative dribblers and playmakers that they’re known for. They need to get back to what they do well, and the US needs to get into what Brazil should return to. After losing the first game to Colombia, the US made great strides getting into the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America. A little surprised, yes and no. It turns out that Paraguay and Costa Rica weren't as good as people thought, and the US got out of the group. Yet, considering home field advantage, particularly in the quarterfinal with Ecuador in Seattle, it made sense. The argument I'm putting together for the future of the team is that making the semifinals for this tournament "isn't there yet," considering the US made the semi's in this tournament in 1995. Also, Brazil didn't advance out of their group, which was really weird. Another surprise was Mexico, who was thought to be one of the best teams in the tournament, losing 7-0 to Chile. Argentina From the outset, the US and Argentina were looking to be interesting. Yet again, with home field advantage there was a glimmer of hope that the US men could find a victory in Houston and leave Texas for the championship match. But Argentina proved that South American competition is a world away from the leaders of CONCACAF. In the end, the US lost 4-0, playing the number one team in the world. The majority of US analysts constantly serve as a reminder as to how we Americans approach the game: It’s like an executive boardroom, ala Glengarry Glen Ross, with high expectations and unrealistic goals. “Did you score a goal?” “No.” “Well, you didn’t do your job. We have to replace you.” The key issue is that we are not supplying the players with the right approach to “scoring goals.” There’s no use in expecting them to score if the approach is wrong, particularly against an opponent like Argentina, who was doing everything we needed to be doing (which is not asking too much, which is the paradox). Dribbling must be a priority. The two-man game within crowded areas on the field must be a priority. When Argentina possesses the ball in the middle of the field, with artistic short passing and dribbling, it becomes clear why they have more quality scoring chances. That’s where all the scoring begins. The question for the future is simple. Can the USMNT figure it out by the next World Cup? It’s possible. There’s still a lot of time to wait and see. Shane Stay is the author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet, Meyer & Meyer 2014. Shane Stay is a former professional soccer player, writer, comedian, producer and founder of Leaf Dressing. In 2008, Stay bottled Leaf Dressing, co-authored a print book, published a magazine story, worked clubs as a comedian, played restaurateur and received a Masters of Arts. Stay has a Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. This blog post is brought to you by CPG News & Information Services.
By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet http://www.shanestay.com/ The Gold Cup has people excited, but scratching their heads. “What is this again?” they may ask. Soccer fans are exuberant but often there has been some ambiguity as to what the Gold Cup actually is. It is governed by CONCACAF and it is the main tournament for the region, which determines the champion of North America, Central America and Caribbean islands. For US fans, it’s the equivalent of the European Cup. It is held every two years. As of 2015, the winners of the two successive Gold Cups will face each other in a game to decide who will represent CONCACAF in the next Confederations Cup. (The Confederations Cup is the pre-tournament to the World Cup, taking place one year prior to the World Cup, held on the grounds of the host country, as a practice run for the World Cup. It gives the World Cup exposure while also giving the host nation an opportunity to test everything out from a practical sense with problems like traffic issues to hotel accommodations.) Before 1961, the year CONCACAF formed, there was an attempt at a “Gold Cup” of sorts which was broken into smaller regions in which Costa Rica did quite well dominating the Central America region. In more recent years, the first Gold Cup was in 1991, as the US won the title. Mexico went on to finish the decade winning three consecutive titles in 1993, 1996, 1998. From 1996 to 2003 the rules were broken a little bit as guest nations like Brasil were invited to join the Gold Cup (likely to give it more exposure). Then in 2005, it returned to only CONCACAF members. With the exception of Canada winning in 2000, it has been a back-to-back struggle for supremacy between the US and Mexico. The 2015 groups are: A) US, Haiti, Panama, Honduras B) Costa Rica, El Salvador, Canada, Jamaica C) Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Cuba The US looks to be the favorite this year around, with Mexico disappointing many fans with recent losses. Costa Rica should turn heads as the second best team in the running, coming off their successful 2014 World Cup run. Currently, Mexico is in the lead with six titles, as the US is knocking on the door with five, giving the American team a lot of motivation to surpass them, one tournament at a time.