FIFA

Already, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been historic in many ways, and we’re just 29 games in as of Saturday night. Here are the five biggest takeaways so far from the tournament, as well as a preview of the USA-Portugal matchup tonight at 5 p.m.

  1. South America has dominated

Teams from the host country’s continent have obliterated the competition, going 8-1-1 combined so far. But it’s not just South America, though, that has taken charge. The entire Americas have played well above their opponents at this point of the tournament. Combined, North America and South America have an 11-2-0 record. It could be a changing of the guard or it just could be that the Americas, especially the Southern continent, feel more comfortable playing closer to home. Whatever it is, teams from this side of the world are showing no sign of slowing down.

  1. Is this soccer or the NFL?

But really, the kind of offense we have seen from World Cup teams in Brazil has been incredible, and its comparison to the offense-heavy league we see in our American version of football might not be that far-fetched. The point is that this World Cup has been about scoring, and the numbers back it up. There have been 80 total goals scored so far. Compare that with 2010’s World Cup number with the same number of games played (29) and the result is 23 more goals this year. 23. That’s about one more goal per match so far at this World Cup.

  1. Star play has come from non-marquee names

We heard so much about big names like Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi before the World Cup, and while two of those three have already made an impact, they have not led the pack. It has been players like Germany’s Thomas Mueller, who’s in a four-way tie for most goals so far with three and leads FIFA’s Castrol Index: Top Player rankings, a statistic that measures the overall impact a player is having on the game. Then there’s Mexico’s keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s four world-class saves against Brazil were the reason El Tri was able to stun the host country in a 0-0 draw. In total, Ochoa has a World Cup-leading seven saves and zero goals allowed in what has been a surprising Mexican run so far. And speaking of surprises, there have been plenty of them already. Besides countries like Mexico playing well, not many predicted teams like Spain and England to already be out of contention. 

  1. Technology has made what’s already entertaining, even better

For those on social media, especially Twitter, the fun has existed beyond the pitch. Whether it’s the hundreds of memes that have been shared or the cool flags that twitter has created to go alongside each team’s country abbreviation, it’s safe to say this has been the most interactive World Cup to date. Never before has this sporting event been almost as easy to follow online as it has been watching live. But technology has not just been about the tweets or Facebook posts. It has also directly affected the games. This World Cup introduced goal-line technology that has eliminated any question of close-called goals. Situations like what happened in the 2010 World Cup, when a clear goal by England’s Frank Lampard was not counted as his team was trailing 2-1 in a second-round match against Germany, have been eliminated. Any close call has been easily resolved in this World Cup. Tracking player’s fatigue, among other playing factors, with specially designed chips inside of their jerseys, has also affected the overall quality of play during games. This technology has been important for team’s use in Brazilian host cities like Manaus, where the high humidity and temperatures can affect play.

5. No Vuvuzelas deafening every other noise

Everybody remembers the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and how much the loud, annoying Vuvuzelas became a part of the headlines. This time around, Vuvuzelas have been replaced with what we’re used to hearing at World Cup matches – screaming chants from fans. Brazil has provided stadiums filled with unbelievable atmospheres. For all of the talk of problems with getting the facilities ready before the games began and the safety concerns plaguing host cities, Brazil has, from a far, looked like a solid host. The fans have shown up with passion and the culture of South America has been ever-present. Between the high scoring and energizing crowds, this World Cup has been worth the four-year wait.

Quick Preview: USA VS Portugal, 5 p.m. CT at Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus, Brazil –

Very simple. Win, and the U.S. is in to the knockout round of the World Cup. Not so simple, is how this game could play out. The Americans come in with pure confidence after their 2-1 victory over Ghana six days go and feel even better that they are facing a hobbled Portugal squad. 

The European team got dismantled by Germany, 4-0, in their first match of group play and lost one of their key defenders, Pepe, to a red card and suspension for this game. Cristiano Ronaldo’s injured knee is a concern for Portugal and a factor that will determine how powerful the team’s offense can be in attacking, based on how he’s feeling. 

But, with all that’s happened to this squad, they are still Portugal, and this is still the “group of death.” Portugal will not go out easily and they certainly won’t allow the U.S. to walk into the round of 16. Argentina’s Lionel Messi proved on Saturday, when he scored the game-winning goal for Argentia in the last minutes of the game against Iran, that if you have one of the best players in the world on your team, anything can happen. Ronaldo will try and second that notion Sunday evening. 

This matchup will be won in the midfield and in the counterattacks, where the U.S. could take advantage of a weaker Portuguese defense. Historically, the U.S. and Portugal are as even as you can get, each having two wins and one draw against each other with five total goals scored by each country as well.

Already, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been historic in many ways, and we’re just 29 games in as of Saturday night. Here are the five biggest takeaways so far from the tournament, as well as a preview of the USA-Portugal matchup tonight at 5 p.m.

  1. South America has dominated

Teams from the host country’s continent have obliterated the competition, going 8-1-1 combined so far. But it’s not just South America, though, that has taken charge. The entire Americas have played well above their opponents at this point of the tournament. Combined, North America and South America have an 11-2-0 record. It could be a changing of the guard or it just could be that the Americas, especially the Southern continent, feel more comfortable playing closer to home. Whatever it is, teams from this side of the world are showing no sign of slowing down.

  1. Is this soccer or the NFL?

But really, the kind of offense we have seen from World Cup teams in Brazil has been incredible, and its comparison to the offense-heavy league we see in our American version of football might not be that far-fetched. The point is that this World Cup has been about scoring, and the numbers back it up. There have been 80 total goals scored so far. Compare that with 2010’s World Cup number with the same number of games played (29) and the result is 23 more goals this year. 23. That’s about one more goal per match so far at this World Cup.

  1. Star playi has come from non-marquee names

We heard so much about big names like Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi before the World Cup, and while two of those three have already made an impact, they have not led the pack. It has been players like Germany’s Thomas Mueller, who’s in a four-way tie for most goals so far with three and leads FIFA’s Castrol Index: Top Player rankings, a statistic that measures the overall impact a player is having on the game. Then there’s Mexico’s keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s four world-class saves against Brazil were the reason El Tri was able to stun the host country in a 0-0 draw. In total, Ochoa has a World Cup-leading seven saves and zero goals allowed in what has been a surprising Mexican run so far. And speaking of surprises, there have been plenty of them already. Besides countries like Mexico playing well, not many predicted teams like Spain and England to already be out of contention. 

  1. Technology has made what’s already entertaining, even better

For those on social media, especially Twitter, the fun has existed beyond the pitch. Whether it’s the hundreds of memes that have been shared or the cool flags that twitter has created to go alongside each team’s country abbreviation, it’s safe to say this has been the most interactive World Cup to dat. Never before has this sporting event been almost as easy to follow online as it has been watching live. But technology has not just been about the tweets or Facebook posts. It has also directly affected the games. This World Cup introduced goal-line technology that has eliminated any question of close-called goals. Situations like what happened in the 2010 World Cup, when a clear goal by England’s Frank Lampard was not counted as his team was trailing 2-1 in a second-round match against Germany, have been eliminated. Any close call has been easily resolved in this World Cup. Tracking player’s fatigue, among other playing factors, with specially designed chips inside of their jerseys, has also affected the overall quality of play during games. This technology has been important for team’s use in Brazilian host cities like Manaus, where the high humidity and temperatures can affect play.

5. No Vuvuzelas deafening every other noise

Everybody remembers the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and how much the loud, annoying Vuvuzelas became a part of the headlines. This time around, Vuvuzelas have been replaced with what we’re used to hearing at World Cup matches – screaming chants from fans. Brazil has provided stadiums filled with unbelievable atmospheres. For all of the talk of problems with getting the facilities ready before the games began and the safety concerns plaguing host cities, Brazil has, from a far, looked like a solid host. The fans have shown up with passion and the culture of South America has been ever-present. Between the high scoring and energizing crowds, this World Cup has been worth the four-year wait.

Quick Preview: USA VS Portugal, 5 p.m. CT at Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus, Brazil –

Very simple. Win, and the U.S. is in to the knockout round of the World Cup. Not so simple, is how this game could play out. The Americans come in with pure confidence after their 2-1 victory over Ghana six days go and feel even better that they are facing a hobbled Portugal squad.

The European team got dismantled by Germany, 4-0, in their first match of group play and lost one of their key defenders, Pepe, to a red card and suspension for this game. Cristiano Ronaldo’s injured knee is a concern for Portugal and a factor that will determine how powerful the team’s offense can be in attacking, based on how he’s feeling.

But, with all that’s happened to this squad, they are still Portugal, and this is still the “group of death.” Portugal will not go out easily and they certainly won’t allow the U.S. to walk into the round of 16. Argentina’s Lionel Messi proved on Saturday, when he scored the game-winning goal for Argentia in the last minutes of the game against Iran, that if you have one of the best players in the world on your team, anything can happen. Ronaldo will try and second that notion Sunday evening.

This matchup will be won in the midfield and in the counterattacks, where the U.S. could take advantage of a weaker Portuguese defense. Historically, the U.S. and Portugal are as even as you can get, each having two wins and one draw against each other with five total goals scored by each country as well.

The 28th edition of African Cup of Nations kicked off this week in its host countries of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The tournament matches the best teams on the African continent, and the winner receives a birth in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This week marks the return of international football competition in a high-tech stadium in Africa. Less than two years after the 2010 World Cup crowned the Spain national team as world champions in South Africa, another high level international tournament is under way in the continent.

This time the festive environment and the stadium-filled vuvuzela buzz is a part of the 28th African Nations Cup. 16 African nations qualified for the competition to crown the best international football club in Africa, including the hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Despite defending champion Egypt not qualifying, this edition of the tournament features highly touted football clubs and dozens of internationally known footballers. Many soccer fans might still remember Ghana’s World Cup run and their dramatic exit in a penalty loss against Uruguay in the quarterfinals.

The Ivory Coast football team also had a solid showing in South Africa, and are led by Chelsea super star Didier Drogba. Ivory Coast holds the favorites tag in the eyes of many soccer experts, mainly because of their easy first stage group that features no other club in the top 65 of the FIFA World Rankings. Côte d'Ivoire started the tournament on pace with a 1-0 win against Sudan on a Drogba goal.

Drogba understands the importance of every tournament game, knowing his nation has a history of underachieving in this competition. “We did some things well and some things not so well, but the main thing was that we won the match,” said the 33-year-old Ivorian to ESPN.

More than a dozen African players from the English premier league will be out of action for their club to play for their country for at least a couple of months. Losing key players to the African Nations Cup tends to spark controversy with the English Premier League. Most notably Manchester City will have to survive on top of their league without two key players. The Toure brothers have helped Manchester City become the leader of arguably the toughest league in the world, but will now focus their efforts on the Ivory Coast squad.

“City have a great team, a great spirit and at the moment they are playing good football, but if they got a couple of injuries I think it would be very difficult for them,” said Emmanuel Adebayor, African and Premier League colleague.

The African Nations Cup usually occurs every two seasons but will break the pattern next year to better align itself with the Word Cup schedule. The African Nations title holder qualifies for the FIFA Confederations Cup, which is hosted the summer before the World Cup.

This is far from the world stage tournament hosted in South Africa in 2010 but it features the same multi-cultural atmosphere that many sports fans remember from the World Cup. So until an champion is crowned on the 12th of next month soccer fans can enjoy the festivities, and yes of course the humming of vuvuzelas.

Printed on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 as: African Cup of Nations kicks off as best teams in Africa compete

Nina Frausing Pedersen’s road to Texas was a long one.

As in 7,230 miles-long, the approximate distance between Auckland, New Zealand and Austin.

While the sophomore defender is a native of Silkeborg, Denmark, the prospect of playing for the Longhorns came about during the 2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in New Zealand.

The Danish international dreamed of coming to America to continue her soccer career and she turned to Facebook, of all places, to make that dream a reality.

After the tournament, Frausing Pedersen sent a friend request to U-17 U.S. World Cup goalkeeper, Alexa Gaul, whom she had never met and who just happened to be the goalie for the Longhorns.

“We had no idea who each of us was,” Gaul said. “I remember we were in the same hotel at one point, but I had no idea who she was.”

At that point, Frausing Pedersen was simply looking for more information on how to contact coaches and the possibility of playing collegiately.

“I was just like, ‘you can talk to my coach, here’s his email,’” Gaul said. “And it all worked out. We just built a friendship over Facebook and just communicated through that and she just ended up coming here, which was awesome.”

The friendship grew so strong that the two have since become roommates.

“We talk about everything on the field and leave everything on the field,” Frausing Pedersen said. “But we can be straight up with each other if we need anything. She’ll tell me what to do and I’ll do it, and afterwards we can go talk about it if we want something done differently. But we have a really good relationship.”

After Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli made the trek to Denmark to see Frausing Pedersen play, he knew she had to come to Texas. Ultimately, in a choice between Stanford and Texas, she chose the Longhorns and Petrucelli credits Texas’ persistent recruiting in convincing her.

“I was excited when I watched her play,” Petrucelli said. “I saw someone who was really good athletically, solid technically and a hard worker.”

But Petrucelli acknowledges that there are some difficulties in recruiting international players, such as not being able to see them play often or differences in academic standards.

“There are culture issues and whether or not they want to go that far from home,” Petrucelli said. “I will say that Nina, early in her freshman year, struggled with some homesickness.”

But her team was always there for her.

“Our team took to Nina right away and they were certainly looking out for her and protecting her early on, but I’ll tell you what — right now, it’s almost like she’s a Texan with a Danish accent,”
Petrucelli said.

Now in her second year, things have become easier for Frausing Pedersen. She knows her teammates better and she’s more comfortable with the language and with Austin. She‘s more confident in her ability and has earned the trust of Petrucelli, who has put her in his starting 11 every match this season.

The Dane, who began playing soccer at age 4 because of her father, even scored her first goal as a Longhorn in a 2-1 victory over Iowa State. That, according to her, was her greatest accomplishment during her time in Austin.

Along with providing stability to the backline, Frausing Pedersen showed her versatility last Sunday against Seattle University when Petrucelli asked the central defender to start at forward, something she had never done before.

“We’re making it a little hard on her by moving her all around, but I thought she did well up front,” Petrucelli said. “But she has the ability to play at a number of different spots and she’s good at all of them.”

Despite the accolades, Frausing Pedersen remains grounded. She understands that the expectations for this team, and for her personally, are high. She also feels that there is more to accomplish this season.

“This year we have such a good team, so I think we can win the Big 12,” Frausing Pedersen said. “And hopefully we can go further than last year in the NCAA. But [the goal] is to win the Big 12.”

For Frausing Pedersen, who admits that she still misses her friends and family back in Denmark, life has become a little easier. And in only her second year, her future as a Longhorn looks bright.

“She’s certainly going to be one of our better players and a leader here over the next couple of years,” Petrucelli said. “I think we’re just starting to see the beginning of a really talented player.”