TIME

Brazil Moves From Sadness to Acceptance in Its World Cup Loss

Brazil and the World Cup
Brazilian fans react with sorrow as their team goes down in the World Cup semi-final FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Yes, it was just about the worst defeat in World Cup history. But Brazilians are resilient

With sadness, self-reflection and gallows humor, Brazil was today coming to terms with its most humiliating sporting defeat, a 7-1 thrashing by Germany in the World Cup semi final.

“It was really bad. No one expected to lose by that much,” said Enio Monteiro, aged 55, who was having a sandwich at a bar in Rio de Janeiro the day after the game. “But it happened, and I’m not thinking about it any more. You’ve got to move on.”

As he spoke, a customer nearby was reading local daily O Globo, whose front page screamed: “Shame. Embarrassment. Humiliation.” And on the wall above, a TV screen was showing the lunchtime news. The two presenters were giggling as they read out the funniest social media posts from the game.

Brazil began the World Cup as overwhelming favourites to win the World Cup for a record sixth time, and for the first time as hosts. Yet this World Cup will now be remembered for the country’s historic hammering by the Germans: the first time Brazil have let in seven goals in an official game, the only time a team has conceded 5 goals in 29 minutes in all World Cups, and the worst defeat ever of a World Cup host.

“The dream of winning the sixth title at home has turned into a horrible nightmare,” wrote Globo columnist Renato Maurício Prado. “Who would have thought that in the Cup of Cups, Brazil would end up having the humiliation of humiliations?”

Brazilians were expecting the game against Germany to be difficult, especially since they were without their best player Neymar, out injured, and their captain Thiago Silva, missing a game for an accumulation of yellow cards. “But not even the most delirious pessimist would have predicted the result,” the Folha de S. Paulo said in an editorial.

Pundits here have been united in stating that in terms of national shame, Tuesday’s game now eclipses the conclusion of the 1950 World Cup. Brazil lost the title in a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay, which was watched by 200,000 people in Rio’s Maracanã stadium, still the largest audience ever present at a soccer game.

“The team who played on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte have rewritten our memories [of 1950] by taking part in the bleakest day in the national team’s glorious 100 year history,” wrote Antero Greco in the Estado de S. Paulo.

Since the 1930s soccer has been the greatest symbol of Brazilian identity and a good performance in World Cups is seen as crucial for the nation’s self esteem. Within minutes of the end of the game, President Dilma Rousseff—who is on the campaign trail for re-election later this year—spoke to the nation in four tweets: “Like all Brazilians, I am very, very sad by the defeat. I feel immensely sorry for all us. Fans and our players. But we wont let it break us. Brazil, ‘get up, shake off the dust and come out on top again’.”

The national team’s spectacular elimination comes in the closing stages of a tournament that had already created much anger in the Brazilian population for the amount of public money that it cost. A year ago two million people protested against the spending during the Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up event. “I think that the Brazilians have been at odds with the World Cup all along, and the defeat was a reflection of this to a certain extent,” said Norberto Schlanger, aged 49, a stationery distributor in Rio de Janeiro, who said he was cheering for Germany. “Not because my name is German but because I wanted the money to go to hospitals and schools.”

Fears that a defeat would lead to more protests or riots have so far proved unfounded, with only minor reports of scuffles in Rio and some buses were set alight in Curitiba and São Paulo on Tuesday night. In fact, Brazilians have been reacting with resignation and good humour to the result, possibly because it was so shocking. Even in the Mineirão stadium the Brazilian fans were shouting “olé” at the German team, a traditional chant you sing when your team is winning.

Many past Brazilian stars have been making their comments known via social media, TV interviews and newspaper columns. Tostão, who played alongside Pelé in the 1970 World Cup and is one of the most respected pundits, wrote in the Folha de S. Paulo: “It was a tragedy: sad, very sad, the biggest defeat in the history of the Brazilian national team. As a consolation, maybe it will serve to force big changes in Brazilian soccer, both on and off the pitch, from junior levels and up. There needs to be a change in the way of thinking, and to lessen the promiscuous exchanges of favors, a national disease, that riddles the country.”

For some, though, the only way to get over the pain of the defeat is to look to the future. Luciano Santos, aged 39, said: “It is sad, but everyone will have forgotten this game when the next World Cup starts in four years time.”

TIME World Cup

World Cup Players’ Crazy Haircuts

From mohawks to dreadlocks, these World Cup players have quite the array of styles

TIME video

Watch TIME.com Chat With the Crew of the International Space Station

A few minutes with 3 men putting in a very long day

+ READ ARTICLE

It’s awfully easy down here on Earth to forget about the International Space Station (ISS)—and that’s awfully hard to understand.

This remarkable feat of human engineering shouldn’t be ignored: a flying machine that measures 357 ft. (109 m), by 239 ft. (73 m), weighs nearly one million lbs. (420,000 kg) and has logged more than 80,000 orbits of the Earth since it began carrying crews in 2000.

Is this our Roman Coliseum? Our Pyramid of Giza? History will judge that, but in the contest for wonders of the world, the ISS at least makes the medal round.

On July 9, Time.com got a chance to talk via video downlink with three of the six astronauts aboard the ISS, who shared with us a little bit about their schedule, their work, what they miss on Earth—and about following the World Cup from 230 miles up in space.

TIME World Cup

Blitz Breakdown: How Mighty Germany Ripped Apart Brazil

World Cup Team Germany
German team celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup semifinal against Brazil on July 8 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Martin Rose—Getty Images

The German team scored an historic five goals in 18 minutes of play

sportsillustrated

By Liviu Bird

A match’s opening period is dicey for analytical purposes. It usually can’t be analyzed too thoroughly because teams may settle in slowly or make tactical adjustments to respond to an opponent. Not so much for Germany on Tuesday.

Germany needed very little time to acclimate to its World Cup semifinal, demolishing Brazil 7-1 after a strong first 30 minutes, which included five goals in an 18-minute span for the ages.

For Brazil, World Cup reams turn to worst nightmare in semifinal rout

Germany controlled the match through calculated, choreographed pressing in its front block, as well as targeted ball movement in possession. The style wasn’t too surprising, considering the pressing emphasis in the Bundesliga recently, with Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing at Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola’s system at Bayern Munich.

The magnitude of the result, though, will be shocking for decades to come, especially because Brazil was on the front foot in the first five minutes, winning a corner kick within 60 seconds of kickoff. Germany fired warning shots in transition, and after riding the initial chaos of Brazil’s energetic start, it put Brazil in a stranglehold.

Germany’s main defensive posture was a 4-1-4-1 medium block, drawing its line of confrontation just above the center circle. Brazil couldn’t build out of the back, playing long balls into the strong German defense or over the touchline. An inability to create was a constant theme for Brazil this tournament, minus Neymar’s individual brilliance.

WATCH: Germany thrashes Brazil in historic fashion to reach World Cup final

The fourth German goal resulted from Khedira and Kroos’ direct central pressure, as Dante played a poor short pass to Fernandinho, who had his back to the field and no outlet. That was the only first-half goal that came from the middle, as the other four were created wide.

Germany’s first good chance was in the seventh minute, exploiting the space Marcelo vacated when he bombed down Germany’s right flank. With Thomas Muller and Philipp Lahm running the channel and Mesut Ozil tucking in from the left, Germany built 53 percent of its attacks down the right.

The corner kick that led to the first goal also came from using the space Marcelo conceded. He could only recover and knock the ball out for a set piece. As Brazil scrambled to regain defensive positioning in transition, the player on the ball in that wide space had an array of options.

Simply Stunning: Three Thoughts on Germany’s 7-1 semifinal rout of Brazil

This is where the analogy of football as chess comes in. Rehearsed team movements cause reactionary movements in the opponent, leaving spaces to attack. Germany created seven scoring chances in the first half hour to Brazil’s zero, mainly through Khedira and Muller down the right.

The Germans looked for a vertical initial ball to catch overlapping players in transition. In instances where that was nonviable, they built up through short passes and quick movements.

Despite having clear control of the match, Germany never maintained the majority of possession statistically. It was a pragmatic approach that kept the ball away from Brazil’s top block and allowed square passes by Brazil’s defenders that led to nothing.

Still, possession elements were especially noticeable on Germany’s second and third goals.

GALLERY: Germany 7, Brazil 1: The headlines in Rio de Janeiro

On the second, Muller ran in from his wide starting position, slashing through the back line to create a central opportunity. Marcelo kept him onside as the only Brazilian defender inside the penalty area, and Klose was on hand for a simple layoff, as he was behind the ball but ahead of the center backs.

Marcelo struggled defensively all night, a product of his focus on getting forward too high and too early. Germany exploited him as the weak link in the back four, and Brazil never adjusted despite facing similar attacks the entire first half-hour.

GALLERY: Brazil fans react to semifinal demolition

On Germany’s third goal, two more typical elements of a possession system emerged: a central overload and playing between lines. Ozil moved to create a 5-on-3 advantage in the middle, and Lahm overlapped on the right.

Muller stayed between Brazil’s holding-midfield block and defensive line from build-up to finish, constantly looking over his shoulder to check his positioning in respect to his opponents’. Nobody tracked his run, and although he whiffed his shot at the top of the penalty area, Toni Kroos made a similar movement just behind him and finished emphatically.

The team-first emphasis and selflessness in this German attack is strongly reminiscent of Spain in the height of its golden generation that crashed to earth this World Cup. Players interchange effortlessly and pass fluidly — such as on Germany’s fifth goal, capping 30 minutes of misery for Brazil — rather than go for glory alone.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari: Loss to Germany was ‘worst day of my life’

It should come as no surprise with six Bayern Munich players in the lineup that Germany’s emphasis on organized pressing and fluid play between opposing lines is Guardiola-flavored, possession-based football at its best.

Germany has always been difficult to beat on the big stage; Tuesday’s performance was anchored in a typically detail-oriented tactical approach. However, the particulates of this German machine are meshed with tiki-taka characteristics to give the team a tilt toward a more flexible Spanish style of play.

In a lot of ways, Joachim Low has created an evolution of Vicente del Bosque’s dominant force from much of the last decade. Kickstarted by Jurgen Klinsmann after Germany’s embarrassing winless group stage at Euro 2004 and fine-tuned by Guardiola coaching the majority of the team’s starting lineup all club season, this is perhaps what Germany needed to take the next step for the first time in 24 years and win another World Cup.

The most obvious holdover characteristic from great past German teams is this group’s winning mentality, also seen in the early 4-0 destruction of Portugal and in resilient performances against scrappy challengers the United States and Algeria.

When Brazil finally scored Tuesday, in second-half stoppage time while facing a 7-0 deficit, Neuer slapped the ground in frustration. Schweinsteiger openly berated Ozil for missing an obvious chance moments before conceding. That goal was all that stood between Germany and perfection in Belo Horizonte, a shutout the only flourish missing from a cold, ruthless machine’s devastation of a pressure-laden team collapsing under the weight of its own emotional expectation.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

GALLERY: Brazil’s Having a Bad Day

TIME world cup 2014

2 Dead, 19 Injured in World Cup Highway Collapse

Fire department personnel work to retrieve a car from underneath a collapsed bridge in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Thursday, July 3, 2014.
Fire department personnel work to retrieve a car from underneath a collapsed bridge in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Victor R. Caivano—AP

The collapsed overpass was under construction for the tournament

At least two people were killed when a highway overpass collapsed Thursday in Belo Horizonte, one of the Brazilian cities hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The rubble trapped a commuter bus, a car and two construction trucks, Brazilian authorities said. An official who wished to remain anonymous told the Associated Press that 19 additional people were injured in the accident.

The overpass that fell was under construction, one of the many infrastructure projects undertaken for the World Cup that is still unfinished. It lay about three miles from the Mineirao stadium, where the semifinal game will be played Tuesday.

One of the people killed was a woman who was driving the commuter bus.

[AP]

TIME World Cup

Fans Want Tim Howard to Be Secretary of Defense

Soccer fans want to promote their new hero

+ READ ARTICLE

Tim Howard’s newfound stardom has made it all the way to the White House.

Fans of the Team USA goalkeeper started a White House petition Tuesday night to rename the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after Howard, and a second petitionwas created to name him Secretary of Defense.

After recording a World Cup-record 16 saves during an incredible 2-1 loss to Belgium on Tuesday, Howard quickly became something of an American hero.

“Whereas Tim Howard has shown himself to be a national treasure, Minister of Defense, Friend of Joe Biden, and the holder for the record of most saves in a World Cup match,” the petition states. “Therefore, we politely request that we rename the airport to recognize his accomplishments, and meritorious service to the United States of America.”

Anyone can post a petition on the White House website under its “We the People” initiative started in 2011. The Obama Administration says any petition that reaches 100,000 signatures will trigger a formal response. The petition to rename Reagan airport had more than 7,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. It has until July 31 to get the necessary signatures for a response.

The second petition about Howard asks for him to receive a spot in the White House Cabinet.

“We, the undersigned, hereby petition for the appointment of Timothy Matthew “Tim” Howard, Goalkeeper and MVP of the USMNT, king of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, to the office of U.S. Secretary of Defense for acts of valor and general badassery during the 2014 World Cup,” it reads.

That petition had 430 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

When asked about the petition on Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest joked that Howard would not be joining the Obama Administration in the near future. “I don’t have any personnel announcements to make,” Earnest said.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel jumped in late Wednesday afternoon when the Department of Defense tweeted a photo of him holding a soccer ball. The tweet said: “From 1 SecDef to another: Hagel calls to say thanks for defending USA. We (USA) are proud of !”

Late Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby released a statement saying that Hagel congratulated Howard “on his record-breaking game and a great run in Brazil.” The Secretary of Defense invited Howard and the entire U.S. men’s national soccer team to come to the Pentagon later this year. He told Howard that with some training, he could someday become the real Secretary of Defense.

MONEY Sports

Hottest, Weirdest, World Cup Collectibles

142506_EM_WORLDCUPCOLLECT
Panini World Cup stickers—collect all 640 of 'em! Mario Tama—Getty Images

In addition to the usual suspects bought by soccer fans by the truckload, hot-selling 2014 World Cup souvenirs include obscure country flags, dog jerseys, and Brazilian-colored (and flavored) condoms.

Among the surprising (and not so surprising) World Cup merchandise that’s been popular with fans thus far in the tournament, here’s a list of the most interesting, best-selling collectibles:

Official Adidas World Cup Soccer Ball
OK, not much surprise here. The official Adidas Brazuca World Cup ball was expected to be a monumental big seller, and it appears that it will be just that. Adidas says that it is on pace to sell more than 14 million Brazuca World Cup balls worldwide this year, priced from $12 to $160 in the U.S. That’s one million more balls than the company sold during the last World Cup, in 2010 in South Africa.

Panini World Cup Stickers
The Italian firm Panini has been making and marketing stickers and sticker albums for the World Cup since 1970. There’s a sticker featuring every player participating in the tournament, and the 2014 edition has a total of 640 stickers for fans to collect.

And collect they do. A pack of World Cup stickers sells for 99¢, and researchers estimate that a collector would have to buy nearly 900 sticker packs to complete an album on one’s own. But given the enhanced sticker-swapping possibilities offered by social media, there have been individuals like a 35-year-old British fan Russ Cockburn, who became the envy of collectors when he completed his book in just six weeks with an outlay of less than $200, thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

In any event, soccer merchandise sellers around the world—including sporting goods stores in U.S. locations ranging from Staten Island, N.Y., to Richmond, Va.,—report strong sales for sticker albums and sticker packs. FIFA also hosts an online sticker album app that’s attracted more than 2.5 million users.

Colorful Cleats
As the New York Times Fashion & Style section noted before the World Cup even began, the traditional “color” for cleats (black) has been replaced by pink, purple, bright red, and pastel blue, with some neon stripes and fluorescent tones here and there. Virtually all the players in the soccer apparel world are embracing colorful cleats—namely, Nike, Adidas, and Puma.

The latter has taken the trend to a particularly odd extreme, with the Puma Tricks collection. They’re the cleats worn by players such as Italy’s Mario Ballotelli, and even in the marketplace’s colorful footrace they stand out because one shoe (left) is blue and the other is pink. Nike is pushing a lineup of futuristic red and neon yellow-green cleats, and Adidas is leaning on the zebra pattern and neon colors featured in various Messi Battle Pack shoes, including one pair that retails for $230. That doesn’t even include the special shoes just unveiled by Adidas for Lionel Messi’s 27th birthday. Only 27 pairs of the neon-rainbow-splotched cleats have been made, and anyone who gets their hand on a set should know that they’re worth a lot more than $230.

As for Nike, on Saturday it introduced a special new edition of the Hypervenom Phantom cleats, which are bright gold in color–and have a price tag that suggests they’re made of actual gold to boot: $545.

Oh, and will any of these cleats actually, you know, help you play better on the soccer field? Who knows. But it’s all but guaranteed that the feet at your local soccer field will be featuring a lot more neon in the near future, if not already.

Germany World Cup Jerseys
Adidas, which is based in Germany, reports that it has already sold 80% to 90% of the World Cup jerseys it had when the tournament began. By the time a champion has been crowned, the sports apparel giant anticipates more than eight million jerseys sold—roughly one-quarter of which will feature the colors of Germany. The company will sell more than two million Germany jerseys, regardless of how the team fares in the rest of the World Cup. “If Germany wins, we still can sell a few more but this will not materially change our results,” Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer said this week, according to Reuters.

Flags (of Winning Teams)
A popular flag store in Philadelphia has noticed a direct correlation of country flags sold … when the country’s team is about to play a big match, and especially when the team is winning. For instance, the flag of Algeria, which advanced to the second round for the first time ever with a win over Russia, was a hot seller for a while. On the other hand, once-strong sales for the flags of Spain and England have tanked after their teams were eliminated, as have a wide range of jerseys and other merchandise featuring the disappointing squads.

Jerseys (of Hot Players)
Early in the tournament, the top-three best-selling player jerseys, according to U.S. sports apparel specialist Fanatics.com, belonged to Brazil’s Neymar, the World Cup’s leading scorer; Robin Van Persie, the Dutch forward who scored what most observers say is by far the best goal of the tournament, an epic header against Spain; and the captain of the U.S. national team, Clint Dempsey. Recently, Fanatics.com reports that Mexico’s Chicharito has pushed into the site’s top three for jersey sales, and sales for gear for Mexico’s team in general has spiked 180%. Now that Mexico has been eliminated, presumably sales will decline, though perhaps not as steeply as merchandise featuring Spain and England.

Jerseys (for Dogs)

Among the many kitschy souvenirs being hawked by vendors in Brazil, one store in Sao Paulo said that its surprise hottest seller has been a $14 dog shirt with Brazilian colors and the #10 on the back—the number of Brazil’s leading scorer, Neymar.

World Cup Condoms
Global sporting events like the Olympics are associated with increased demand for condoms, so it makes sense that when the sexiest country of all hosts the World Cup, it’d spur on enough condom sales to fill a rainforest. Sure enough, the World Cup-themed Prudence brand condoms, which sell in a three-pack for around $1.39 in Brazilian pharmacies, have been hot sellers. According to Agence France-Presse, the first 850,000 packs of condoms, which were supposed to last three months, sold out in 15 days.

“I think there must be foreigners who will take it home as an inexpensive souvenir,” said Daniel Marun, the Brazilian director of DKT International, a family-planning nonprofit that ordered the condoms—which happen to taste like caipirinha, Brazil’s famous cocktail.

Whatever condom-selling records are set during the 2014 Brazil World Cup, get ready for it to be broken in two years, when the country hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics.

TIME World Cup

The World Cup Tactical Trend Yielding the Most Success

FIFA World Cup Brazil Netherlands-Mexico
Ron Vlaar and Stefan De Vrij of Netherlands battles with Hector Herrera of Mexico during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 29 in Fortaleza, Brazil. Laurence Griffiths—Getty Images

World Cup teams starting games with three center backs have won 11 matches

sportsillustrated

By Liviu Bird

The most interesting tactical trend at the 2014 World Cup has been an increase in nations using systems with three center backs. Teams starting matches with these systems have won 11 matches, lost three and drawn four, and all three of the losses were against teams using a similar system.

After Surviving Group, USA Out to Set New Standard

The re-emergence of three-back systems may have been a direct response to the tiki-taka trend sparked in Spain nearly a decade ago. The Spanish system favors central overloads by the midfielders, a false No. 9 and central wingers, leaving fullbacks to provide width in attack. Systems with just two or three central midfielders end up overwhelmed, but playing one less in the back allows for an extra in midfield.

After a certain point, a central overload becomes stifling. A 5-on-2 situation is conducive to keeping the ball in tight spaces, but 5-on-5 means passing lanes disappear. That’s how the Netherlands beat Spain 5-1 in their rematch of the 2010 final to open Group B play.

USA vs. Belgium Stadium Primer: Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova

Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi played the man-marker roles, tracking runners into midfield, while Jonathan De Guzmán and Nigel De Jong acted as destroyers in holding roles. The wingbacks recovered and pinched in to maintain a solid back line when De Vrij and Martins Indi tracked runners, and Spain couldn’t establish a rhythm in possession.

Upon regaining possession, the wingbacks bombed forward, exploiting space created by the opposition’s overlapping fullbacks. Daley Blind turned in a Man of the Match performance with two assists.

The Dutch struggled against Australia for the same reason they succeeded in the first match: their 5-3-2 is set up to counterattack, which provided the perfect antidote to Spain’s system, but it didn’t help the Oranje push the tempo against an inferior Australian side. Louis van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 in the second half to secure the victory after allowing Australia to control the tempo and expend energy in the first.

Louis van Gaal’s Methods Make the Dutch World Cup Contenders Again

Similarly, van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 after Mexico took a 1-0 lead in their round of 16 match on Sunday. Again, the system switch provided numbers in attack, and, along with the timely introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Robin van Persie, was the difference in winning on two late goals. Against Mexico and Australia were the only matches in which the Oranje possessed the ball more than 50 percent of the time, at 55 and 52 percent, respectively.

In the final group match, Chile attacked for most of the game, but van Gaal’s team scored twice in the last 15 minutes to win 2-0 when La Roja tired and dropped off, much as Mexico did as a response to being up 1-0 with just 30 minutes remaining.

Chile was a perfect contrast to the Dutch with its high-pressure system based on collective work rate. In the round of 16 on Saturday, Brazil only completed 69 percent of its passes in the first 90 minutes before Jorge Sampaoli’s side ran out of gas again and played to survive extra time without losing.

In Chile, the three-back system started with Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed “El Loco” for the radical tactical permutations he implemented with the national team. Bielsa is a theorist akin to a quantum-mechanical physicist, his strategies detailed like NASA launch code.

Sampaoli is one of many managers influenced by Bielsa. The list also includes Pep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino and Diego Simeone, whose Atlético Madrid team best resembles Sampaoli’s Chile in its defensive strategy and lethal counterattack.

Sampaoli built on Bielsa’s system, but the chief feature remains: high defensive pressure that leads to immediate vertical play upon regaining the ball. Chile doesn’t play much in the central channel in possession. Instead, the wingbacks and attackers pull wide to find space created by the Chilean defensive swarm in the middle.

The players’ work rate allows the team shape to shrink and expand rhythmically depending on the location of the ball and the match situation. The center backs pull wide when building out of the back, and all three are comfortable with the ball at their feet, also advancing into midfield. Out of possession, the entire team squeezes centrally and applies pressure.

Heartbreak for El Tri: Three Thoughts on the Netherlands’ win over Mexico

The difference in Chilean players’ average positions against Spain and the Netherlands shows the team’s dichotomy. Against Spain, the forward line stayed central to prevent easy play out of the back, with the wingbacks pressuring the Spanish fullbacks. Against the Dutch, Chile controlled most of the possession, necessitating a wider starting position from each player.

Against Spain, the shape could be best described as 3-4-1-2, with two holding midfielders screening the center backs and Arturo Vidal running the central channel to connect midfield and attack on both sides of the ball.

Miguel Herrera: Mexico is Going Home, and So Should the Referee

Against the Netherlands, it was closer to 3-3-1-3, the fringe players forming a circle around the field with Charles Aránguiz and Marcelo Díaz running the middle. (Coaches with possession philosophies will immediately recognize the shape as a field-encompassing rondo.)

Chile’s downfall was the same as Simeone’s Atlético in the Champions League final. It’s extremely difficult to play at the intensity necessary for a high-pressure system for 90 minutes, let alone 120. Simeone’s team gave up a back-breaking goal in extra time and ended up losing in a landslide, and while Sampaoli’s troops never conceded that goal to Brazil, they were physically spent and had to cling to the possibility of winning in penalties, spending most of the final half-hour inside their own defensive third.

Costa Rica’s three-back system also suffocates the middle defensively, playing a box-shaped central midfield. The Ticos’ shape becomes a flat 5-4-1 when the opponent gains obvious control in its own defensive third, using visual cues to pressure in midfield.

In attack, right-sided center back Óscar Duarte pushes higher than the left side, allowing wingback Cristian Gamboa to push higher and Bryan Ruíz to tuck in from the right wing alongside Joel Campbell on the front line.

Against Italy, Andrea Pirlo was pressured immediately any time he received the ball. With two Ticos as holding midfielders, one could always step to the ball, the indented winger on each side working to support his partner.

The three-back system is engrained in Italian culture, with catenaccio taking hold in the 1980s. The diamond midfield and 4-1-4-1 formations Cesare Prandelli used in recent times also packed the middle of the field, but he played 5-4-1 in the final group match against Uruguay, intensifying the effect.

Italy started with a triangle midfield and two strikers, moving to a diamond and a lone forward after halftime. Uruguay countered with its own three-back system, but instead of adding numbers in the middle, it played with a flat line of three midfielders who limited forward ball circulation and limited service to Pirlo.

Cutting off Italy’s ability to go through the middle meant the Azzurri resorted to long, diagonal balls and crosses into the penalty area. Uruguay kept numbers back, winning every aerial duel in its own 18-yard box and limiting Italy to two successful crosses on 18 attempts.

Uniquely, Mexico’s three-back system is not about central overloads but wide isolation. Wingbacks Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layún have freedom to get forward faster, and the top points of the midfield triangle, Héctor Herrera and Andrés Guardado, pull wide to create two-on-one situations.

Brazil Survives, Outlasts Chile in Emotional, Tense Knockout Clash

The trend mostly applies on the left side, through Layún and Guardado. As the ball moves from the middle to the flank, Guardado runs wide to create the isolation. In the middle, forwards make third-man runs to exploit gaps in the opposition back line as defenders adjust.

Layún also cuts inside to combine or take long shots. At the same time, he rarely leaves the team exposed defensively. He was one of Mexico’s hardest workers this World Cup, recording the largest number of sprints in all four matches.

El Tri’s system presents a double-jeopardy situation to opponents: either defend the 2-on-1 and leave the middle open for the central midfielders and forwards to receive service, or leave the wide spaces open and allow easy combinations and crosses.

Defending and defensive-oriented tactics are alive and well among successful teams, even in a tournament of high-scoring matches and an era that has seen more goals than any before it.

The Netherlands — favored to make at least the semifinals — and Costa Rica won their groups with defense-heavy schemes, and Chile’s prowess without the ball was a perfect example of using an opponent’s possession to the defensive team’s advantage. At the same time, every team with a three-back system has provided moments of explosive offense on par with those fully engrained in the tiki-taka philosophy.

With the widespread knowledge of tactics in an age of technology and reflection, football may not see new advancements in that area. Instead, old ideas are likely to resurface and evolve to modernity through slight tweaks — man-marking center backs who can also build out of the back or teams that high pressure not just for 45 or 90 minutes at a time, but for tournaments and seasons in their entirety thanks to modern fitness training.

In a World Cup where new technologies are all the rage, whether it’s in the Brazuca, training regimens or player tracking that provides seemingly endless analytics, it’s the decades-old idea of playing three center backs that has been the most intriguing development.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME 2014 World Cup

Muslim World Cup Players Weigh Options for Ramadan

Brazil Soccer WCup Algeria Russia
Algerian players celebrate after the group H World Cup soccer match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil on June 26, 2014. Ivan Sekretarev—AP

The month-long fast may affect players' performance in the knockout stage

Saturday marks the beginning of the World Cup’s knockout stage, the tournament’s most ruthless — lose one game, and you go home. But it also marks the first night of Ramadan, a month-long religious fast during which many Muslims refrain from ingesting food and liquids from sunrise until sunset.

Muslim players competing in the World Cup, then, face a tough choice, as fulfilling the requirements of their religion may affect their performance on the soccer pitch. In Brazil’s timezone, believers who wish to observe the holiday will have to spend approximately 13.5 hours per day fasting. While athletes’ bodies are fine-tuned instruments, that’s still no easy feat when you’re burning up as many calories as international soccer stars do during the World Cup.

Ramadan observance could affect a decent number of World Cup teams: Among the 16 remaining squads, France, Nigeria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Nigeria all have more than one Muslim on their squad, while the Algerian national team is made up exclusively of Muslim players.

Muslim players have some options, though. FIFA Chief Medical Officer Jiri Dvorak suggested at a Monday media briefing that players observing Ramadan can ask religious authorities for an exemption and make up for the missed fast days at a later time. And during the 2012 Olympics, the United Arab Emirates’ soccer team was exempted from fasting during the tournament by the country’s highest religious body.

Indeed, Germany’s Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, has already told the press that he will not take part in Ramadan because he “is working.” A spokesman for the Swiss team, meanwhile, has said that none of its players will fast during the competition.

Muslim players who do choose to fast during Ramadan and the World Cup, however, could face a tough next few weeks. While observing Ramadan, players would have to adjust their daily habits to its requirements: eating and hydrating before the sun rises and then again only after sunset. They would spend the hours in between, a period during which they may have to play a match, with no nourishment at all.

But according to research conducted by the FIFA medical team and others, fasting players can still compete at the top of their games.

“We have made extensive studies of players during Ramadan, and the conclusion was that if Ramadan is followed appropriately, there will be no reduction in the physical performances of players,” Dvorak said during the Monday media briefing. “We have done extensive studies and nothing worries us.”

And a report from the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information found that fasting players can take some practical steps to ensure their performance does not suffer on the pitch.

“The available evidence indicates that high-level athletes can maintain performance during Ramadan if physical training, food and fluid intake, and sleep are appropriate and well controlled,” says a 2012 report by the NCBI. “Individualized monitoring of athletes may help to prevent fatigue and overtraining and to reduce the risk of consequent illness and injury.”

That NCBI report recommends athletes observing Ramadan train close to meal times. It also emphasizes the importance of adequate sleep throughout the fast. On top of that, a separate 2013 NCBI report advises athletes to include fat in their pre-dawn meal. The immediate fluid deficit that accumulates throughout the day can usually be reversed when athletes ingest fluids at night, the 2013 report adds.

The reports do emphasize that the effects of the fast on athletes vary with the sport, the season, and athletes’ personal habits. The sweltering heat in Brazil at this time of year, it should be said, will not make observant Muslim players’ task any easier.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: June 20 — June 27

From the US advancing to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup and the growing crisis in Iraq to selfies with Queen Elizabeth and Batman’s California VIP appearance, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,908 other followers