TIME World Cup

The Soccer Net: A Popular Destination for World Cup Players

Players have taken to the net in celebration, frustration and disappointment

TIME World Cup

Here’s How World Cup Fans Represent Their Favorite Soccer Icons

Messi. Suarez. Rooney. Around the world, fans construct idols, some more creative than others, of their favorite players.

TIME World Cup

World Cup Cheat Sheet: No Tim Howard, But Some Great Games Ahead

Brazil FIFA World Cup 2014-Argentina v Switzerland-Round of 16
Messi dribbles at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 1, 2014. Reinaldo Coddou—H./Pixath/SIPA

Bummer about the U.S., isn’t it? Tim Howard deserved another game just on his performance alone. But let’s be honest, you can’t suddenly start attacking after you’re down 2-0 and expect to win. Lack of attack is what often happens as underdog teams get deeper into the World Cup. But the quarterfinals promise a lot more attacking, and are well worth watching, even if you’re just a casual fan.

France vs. Germany (Friday, 12 noon ET): No European team ever lacks motivation to play against Germany. The grudge list of history is too long. But for France, it’s more about redeeming the reputation of Les Bleus, which the team trashed in the 2010 World Cup, following a player revolt against Raymond Domenech, the coach from another planet. Relatively speaking, the current French squad is playing blissfully. Coach Didier Deschamps has a lot of buttons to push, from precocious Paul Pogba and the vibrant Mathieu Valbuena in the midfield, Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud up front and the world-class Hugo Lloris in goal. Germany has looked less impressive every game so far, gasping for air against the suffocating Algerian pressure until Andre Schuerrle rescued die Mannschaft in extra time. Germany coach Joachim Loew is probably busy tinkering with the parts of his Bayern Munich-centered team —Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm— as well as the lethargic Mesut Özil, to get them to produce more power. Right now Loew has a Mercedes sedan and he needs an F-1 model. The Germans, as you know, are very good mechanics. This game is going to be about French style vs. German muscle, and style is looking good.

Brazil vs. Colombia (Friday 4 p.m.): Which team would you rather be coaching? The glamorous home side, the famous Seleção of Brazil, or the guys from the country nearby? Brazil coach Big Phil Scolari’s team was on the verge of collectively wetting its pants against Chile. The pressure to win is so great that Scolari had to bring in a psychologist to consult some emotion-wracked players after the narrow penalty-kick shootout win over the Chileans. But if you are Colombia’s coach José Pekerman, you can just tell your team, “Take it to’em, boys.” Colombia is a team playing without its leading scorer but, more importantly, playing without fear. And it has the wondrous James Rodriguez in the middle—the Monaco man’s price has skyrocketed during this tournament— creating highlight reel goals. Colombia will feel free to go at Brazil’s vulnerable defense, which features wingbacks like Marcelo who just hate hanging around their own end of the field. Brazil will also be missing Luis Gustavo, who has held its midfield together. Brazil’s offense, run by the endlessly inventive Neymar, lacks any cohesive imagination in its attack. There’s no beauty in Brazil’s beautiful game at moment. The Seleção had better find some, or the party could well end this weekend.

Argentina vs. Belgium (Saturday 12 p.m.): Game after game, Argentina has faced opponents trying to frustrate its attack at all costs. The Swiss erected massed ranks of defenders in front of its goal like so many Alps, and waited to counterattack. It’s a strategy that almost worked but for another burst of genius from Lionel Messi to set up Angel di Maria’s winning goal. Belgium, like Switzerland, is a small country, but unlike the Swiss, the Belgians are loaded with talent. They are here to play, not defend. Against the U.S., midfielder Kevin de Bruyne spent 68% of the game in the American end of the field, leading endless attacks. So did Eden Hazard, whose penchant for getting behind defenses should worry Argentina. Then again, if Messi is on your team, you can relax a little bit, knowing that he’s capable of miracles. Not that Argentina should need them. In a wide-open game, with players like di Maria and Sergio Aguero surging forward, this match could restore the high scoring that marked the group stage, and should restore Argentina as a favorite to win it all.

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica (Saturday 4 p.m.): The Ticos are one of the last teams that anyone would figure to reach the quarters, but its qualifying and World Cup run has been impressive. Costa Rica beat Uruguay, Italy and Greece, and drew with England. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who only recently had a hard time getting a game with Fulham, the Ticos have also handled Mexico, a team that gave the Oranje fits in the round of 16. Still, any team featuring Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder is going to be a handful, as Spain learned. Each player has the ability to change a game in an instant, although Robben’s conspicuous diving—it ought to be a red card offense— is hardly recommended viewing. Don’t expect the Ticos to be awed by this much talent; do expect them to be done in by it.

 

TIME World Cup

The 16 Best Photos From the World Cup’s Round of 16

The celebrations, the heartaches, and the sometimes gravity-defying saves and goals that made this leg of the tournament all pins-and-needles

TIME World Cup

U.S. World Cup Hopes Dashed After 2-1 Loss to Belgium

Jermaine Jones
United States' Jermaine Jones walks off the pitch at the end of the extra time during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Belgium held on to beat US 2-1 in extra time. Felipe Dana—AP

Just like four years ago, the United States is going home after the round of 16, beaten when Belgium scored twice in extra time Tuesday and then held on for a 2-1 win—but not without winning America's attention by showing that they have spunk

(SALVADOR, Brazil) — They captured the hearts of America — from coast to coast, big towns and small, all the way to the White House.

Capturing the World Cup will have to wait.

Just like four years ago, the United States is going home after the round of 16, beaten when Belgium scored twice in extra time Tuesday and then held on for a 2-1 win.

“Thirty-one teams get their heart broken,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “It has to end sometime. It ended a little bit early for us.”

Playing the finest game of his career, Howard stopped a dozen shots to keep the Americans even through regulation and force an additional 30 minutes. He wound up with 16 saves — the most in the World Cup since FIFA started keeping track in 2002.

Before exiting, the U.S. showed the spunk that won America’s attention. The Belgians built a two-goal lead when Kevin De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute and Romelu Lukaku in the 105th.

But then Julian Green, at 19 the third-youngest player in the tournament, stuck out his right foot to volley in Michael Bradley’s pass over the defense in the 107th, two minutes after entering.

“I was sure that we would make the second goal and we would go to the penalty shootout,” Green said.

The Americans nearly did. In the 114th, Clint Dempsey peeled away on a 30-yard free kick by Bradley, who passed ahead to Chris Wondolowski. He fed Dempsey, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois bolted off his line to block the 6-yard shot.

At the final whistle, the U.S. players fell to the field in their all-white uniforms like so many crumpled tissues.

“They made their country proud with this performance and also with their entire performance in this World Cup,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German World Cup champion who took over as coach three years ago.

The Americans advanced from a difficult first-round group to reach the knockout rounds of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Four years ago, they were eliminated by Ghana 2-1 on a goal in the third minute of extra time.

“Getting to the round of 16, if we don’t do that, we’re very, very disappointed,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. “We get here and it’s kind of the swing game. We get beyond here, then it’s generally viewed as very successful — this year was a little different because of the group we had in the first round, so that already was a success.”

The crowd of 51,227 at Arena Fonte Nova appeared to be about one third pro-U.S., with 10 percent backing the Belgians and the rest neutral. Back home, millions watched in offices, homes and public gatherings that included a huge crowd at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

President Barack Obama joined about 200 staffers in an Executive Office Building auditorium to watch the second half.

“I believe!” he exclaimed as he walked in at the front of the hall. “I believe!”

Belgium outshot the U.S. 38-14. The 35-year-old Howard kept the ball out with slides, with dives and with leaps. But he never felt it was his special night.

“If this continues, then we’re in trouble,” he recalled thinking.

With forward Jozy Altidore still not recovered from the strained hamstring that had sidelined him since the June 16 opener, Klinsmann inserted Wondolowski as a second striker in the 72nd minute. He appeared to have a chance to win it in stoppage time when Jermaine Jones flicked the ball to him at the top of the 6-yard box, but with Courtois coming out, Wondolowski put the ball over the crossbar. While the linesman put out his flag, it was unclear whether he was signaling goal kick or offside.

In the third minute of extra time, Matt Besler tried to intercept a pass to Lukaku but fell down as the Belgian striker fought free. Lukaku sped in alone, crossed, and the ball rebounded off defender Omar Gonzalez. Kevin De Bruyne controlled it, took three touches as he spun and beat Howard just over his right foot.

“I thought I could make a play on the ball. I took a shot and missed and lost my balance,” Besler said.

Twelve minutes later, with the U.S. pushing for an equalizer, Bradley’s shot was blocked and De Bruyne burst ahead on a counter. He fed Lukaku, who sent the ball over the left shoulder of Howard, his Everton teammate, and seemingly put the game out of reach.

But Green, among five German-Americans on the U.S. roster and a surprise pick, woke up the team and its fans with his first touch, setting off raucous chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

There would be no final comeback this time, though.

Bradley said the Americans had told themselves that regardless of when their run ended, they wanted to abandon their defensive style of the past.

“We wanted to go home going for it,” he said.

“And,” he added with satisfaction, “we did.”

TIME World Cup

Belgium Beat the U.S. Because They Played a Better Game

Even the Herculean efforts of Tim Howard couldn't outdo the U.S. opposition's

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Finally, Tim Howard could no longer save his team. Two minutes into overtime, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne collected yet another loose ball after yet another U.S. breakdown, to score past Howard to take a 1-0 lead in their round-of-16 game. And when Romelu Lukaku added what seemed to be the finishing touch from a De Bruyne assist a few minutes later, the American World Cup dream finally looked to be over. The disappointment was coast to coast, as millions of people stopped work or gathered in stadiums and outdoor venues to watch.

Then the game exploded back to life. Down two goals in extra time, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann played his last card, the German-American teenager Julian Green, brought on for a sniff of Cup experience. But when the fresh-legged Green connected with Michael Bradley’s pass to flick the ball past Thibaut Courtois with his first touch, it was suddenly game on. Late, very late, too late, the Americans took the initiative. A Jermaine Jones flick went just wide. At 113 minutes a rare designed play on a free kick — Bradley to Jones to Clint Dempsey — nearly sprung the trap, with Courtois providing the game-saving block against Dempsey. Jones smashed one high four minutes later.

To be blunt, this was a game that Belgium richly deserved to win. The Red Devils were the better team and maintained nearly constant pressure on the U.S. defense for the bulk of the game. With Eden Hazard running down the left wing and De Bruyne everywhere else, the Red Devils tilted the playing field from the early minutes. The first U.S. shot didn’t take place until the 21st minute, when Jones, who had an incredible World Cup, swept a pass toward Courtois, who was largely untroubled until that incredible overtime.

Amazingly enough, the U.S. had a chance to steal the game in regulation, during injury time when substitute Chris Wondolowski — another surprise move by Klinsmann — found himself alone in front of goal with Jones’ headed pass settling at his feet. But Wondo whiffed, sweeping the ball high and wide with his right foot, and American chances for a smash-and-grab job went with it.

In soccer, you get punished for giving up possession. It happened to Switzerland earlier in the day against Argentina. And throughout the course of a lopsided game, Belgium almost made the U.S. pay dearly for its lack of possession of the football. But there was Howard to bail them time and time, again. But eventually, something has to give. “It’s a bummer,” said Klinsmann. “We were so close. But I think we can all be very, very proud of this team.” So does an entirely new generation of American fans.

TIME

PHOTO: Obama Surprises World Cup Watchers, Chants For Team USA

He believes that USA will win

President Barack Obama joined the World Cup-watching bandwagon at a viewing party in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House Tuesday afternoon. Obama led about 200 White House staffers in a chant of: “I believe that we will win!” after entering to watch the game around halftime.

“So I was worried that if I walked in and Belgium scored, I’d get in trouble — oh no!,” quipped Obama.

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Obama had been meeting with his national security team around the game’s start time.

While Obama was watching at the Eisenhower Building, reporters at the White House had a viewing party of their own going:

 

 

TIME World Cup

Epic Photos From the USA vs. Belgium World Cup Match

The United States and Belgium are facing off Tuesday afternoon in the 16th round of the World Cup. These pictures take you inside the action

TIME World Cup

Waffle House Boycotts Belgian Waffles in World Cup Solidarity

Liege waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream at Locolat in Washington, DC.
Liege waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream at Locolat in Washington, DC. Evy Mages—Washington Post/Getty Images

Just call them 'freedom waffles'

The United States has a new World Cup ally against Belgium: Waffle House.

In advance of Team USA’s Tuesday match against Belgium, the breakfast chain has gone to extensive lengths on Twitter to clarify that they do not—and will not—serve Belgian waffles.

The patriotic message was retweeted over 17,000 times as of this writing. And the Georgia-based restaurant chain did not stop there, continuing to tweet clarifications that they have never served Belgian waffles. It’s also cheering along the American soccer team ahead of its do-or-die match.

Waffle House was not alone in denying any Belgian connection. Beer company Budweiser, which is owned by a company based in Belgium, tweeted a video featuring an American bald eagle and a cheerleader in red, white and blue.

America faces off against Belgium in Brazil at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.

TIME World Cup

Everything You Need to Know About the USA-Belgium World Cup Match

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The United States Men’s National Team will play Belgium in round 16 of the World Cup Tuesday afternoon. It’s a pretty big deal, and people are appropriately excited. (See official pump up video for the game above in case you need help on that front).

Considering a lot of newbies will be tuning in, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the big game:

What time is it? USA and Belgium will start at 4 p.m. EST

How long does it last? Games are 90 minutes long, with a halftime that must not exceed 15 minutes. There’s also some extra time added to each 45-minute half to account for various stoppages, like injuries. If the game’s tied after 90 minutes plus stoppage time, USA and Belgium will play for another 30 minutes, divided into two 15-minute halves (plus yet even more stoppage time!).

If the teams are still tied after that, the game gets decided on penalty kicks, as the Brazil-Chile match was.

How does a team win? Scoring in tournament soccer can be confusing. Some were confused that the United States won and moved on to the 16th round after a 0-1 loss to Germany, for example. But this round of the World Cup is simpler: The team with the most points at the end of the game wins and moves on to play the winner of today’s Argentina-Switzerland match. The losing side goes home empty-handed.

How do I watch? Viewers can tune in on ESPN and Univision. If you’re stuck TV-less at the office, there are livestream options at ESPN.com for people who have cable log-in information. You can also follow ESPN’s Gamecast (a live blog with updated illustrations) or ESPN Radio’s broadcast. Univision will provide free streaming video in Spanish.

How do the teams rank? FIFA ranked Belgium eleventh and USA thirteenth in the world. Renowned data journalist Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com ranks Belgium ninth and USA eighteenth.

Who is favored to win? Belgium. But according to the Los Angeles Times, that might not be a bad thing for the U.S. since “this World Cup hasn’t been kind to favorites.” Example: Spain was the world’s top ranked team and went home during the group portion of the tournament. (And then the team’s flight home was struck by lightning).

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