TIME Appreciation

Turtle vs. Dog Is the Best Soccer Match You’ll See During the World Cup

You’ll never guess who wins the closest thing the World Cup has to the Puppy Bowl

The World Cup this year has been even more packed than most with high-intensity, hair-raising games, but none of them holds a candle to this matchup for the ages: turtle v.s. dog.

Posted to Facebook under the title “Italian soccer :) ( a.k.a. also a turtle and a dog can manage …” by Valeria D’Innocenzo Carlantoni in Civitavechia, Italy, a small town near Rome, this 1:17-long clip features some surprisingly cheeky touches and fancy footwork. The aggressive tackle at the end is exceptional, though it’s a miracle no one got carded.

If you’ve been rooting for the U.S., soothe your broken heart (which should still be celebrating the OMG-mind-blowingly awesome performance of U.S. goalie Tim Howard) with this clip.

Try and watch this video without, at least in your head, narrating the action in a game announcer voice. This needs to be the World Cup’s version of the Puppy Bowl.

TIME

Feel Good Friday: 11 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From giant pandas to rain god rituals, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME

Facebook Found Out What’s More Popular: “Soccer” or “Football”

Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Julian Green of the United States scores his team's first goal past Thibaut Courtois of Belgium in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) Michael Steele—Getty Images

Some people are going to be very upset

As the world descended into World Cup mania, Facebook decided to sift through its 1 billion-plus tournament related posts to run a little (completely emotion manipulation-free) study. Starting at the beginning of the games, the social network decided to track what was more popular: “soccer,” “football,” futbal” … you get the general idea.

And the most prevalent translation, based on Facebook comments and posts, is going to make some people very unhappy:

  1. Soccer
  2. Football
  3. Fútbol
  4. Futebol
  5. Futbol

That might numb the burn of the USA vs. Belgium game.

Facebook also looked at the use of the word “goal” on the site. More specifically, it looked at which countries used the most letters to express its enthusiasm. It turns out that Venezuelans are the most Gooooool exuberant, using an average of 21 characters to spell it out. Here are the top five elongated spellers:

  1. Venezuela (21.2 characters)
  2. Gabon (18.4)
  3. Tunisia (13.4)
  4. Mexico (12.8)
  5. Montenegro (12.8)

And just in case you needed some visualizations:

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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

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 American Helping Germany’s World Cup Quest

Shad Forsythe Germany Training
Shad Forsythe (left), assistant coach of Germany, talks to Bastian Schweinsteiger during the German national team training on June 23, 2014 in Santo Andre, Brazil. Martin Rose—Getty Images

He was originally appointed in 2004 when Jurgen Klinsmann was coaching Germany's team

sportsillustrated

By Ben Lyttleton

The USA may be out of the World Cup, but there is still an American influence in Brazil, and it’s part of the legacy that Jurgen Klinsmann put in place while he was coaching the Germany team at the 2006 competition.

The Factors that Determine World Cup PK Shootouts

Shad Forsythe is an American fitness coach who works for Athletes Performance, the company Klinsmann brought in upon his appointment to the German post in 2004. Forsythe has been with the team ever since and is now Performance Manager of Die Mannschaft. He is so trusted by coach Joachim Low that at the 2010 World Cup, he delivered the final words in the locker room before the players took the field.

His job is to ensure the players are in peak condition for every game and, specifically, at major tournaments. It’s made easier by the fact that the German players have bought into his methods and that his evaluations can take place throughout the season. “We monitor them through regular communication with their clubs, so we know exactly what situation they are in when they join up with us.”

WATCH: Will Howard and Dempsey Play in the 2018 World Cup?

As research for my book Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty, I wanted to understand why German players had the best record in international penalty shootouts, especially when at the club level German players had a below-average record (and certainly worse than English players).

I spoke to Forsythe after Germany had qualified for the World Cup and discovered his thoughts on the German psyche, and how Germany might prepare for a penalty shootout once it reached the knockout stages. Given that Germany takes on France in Friday’s quarterfinal – a repeat of the 1982 semifinal, the first World Cup game that went to a shootout – it might just come in useful.

The penalty practice in the Germany camp takes place throughout the qualifying phase, but stops once the tournament begins. It only re-starts once the team reaches the knockout stages. In 2006, when Klinsmann was coach, after training, every player took a penalty; before doing so, he would have to nominate into a camera where he would kick the ball – bottom right, top left, that sort of thing. Anyone who missed would be eliminated, and the competition would continue until only one player was left. It normally took four or five penalties to find a winner. The process helped Klinsmann select penalty takers.

23 for 2018: A First Projection of the Next USA World Cup Roster

When midfielder Tim Borowski, for example, nominated his spot – “Bottom left,” he said – the goalkeeper overheard him and stood next to the post where Borowski had said he would aim. Borowski did not flinch and powered his shot towards the same spot. He scored. Germany’s quarterfinal against Argentina went to penalties, and whom did Klinsmann bring off the bench who scored a penalty? Borowski.

“You can’t say he came on just for the penalty, but it’s definitely a positive to know that he is confident from the spot,” said Forsythe.

Forsythe will know everything about the player before he takes that penalty: from their mineral deficiencies, their VO2 max (a measure of the body’s ability to transport oxygen during exercise) to their napping patterns and how much sleep he got the previous night.

Given that preparation and recovery is such a key part of Forsythe’s methodology, I wondered if standing upright for 10 minutes after playing for 120 minutes was the ideal preparation for a penalty. Shouldn’t the players be stretching, running on the spot, anything rather than just standing there?

“From a physiological point of view,” he replied, “the most important thing is that they are calm, and part of that is cooling – so you always see them drinking cool fluid. Usually the adrenalin will keep them going but if they have to wait longer than 15 minutes, then they will stiffen up and that could be a problem.”

Forsythe, who has reportedly been courted by Arsenal to join its staff this coming season, agreed with my theory that German goalkeepers have a history of excellence. In fact, he thinks the current of goalkeepers has the potential to be better than Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann – partly because the likes of Manuel Neuer are better athletes too.

GALLERY: US vs. Belgium

To Forsythe, the penalty is 90 percent psychological and 10 percent physical. His job is making that 10 percent work to ensure the 90 percent works too.

“Confidence comes from knowing that physically they are ready for this,” he said. “They know they will be ready for any scenario.”

He makes it sound like none of the German players suffer from self-doubt. Surely that wasn’t right?

“If they don’t want to take penalties, it will be because of physical reasons: they have a weak shot, they don’t score many goals – those physical issues will limit their confidence,” Forsythe said. “But remember that the strongest shooters do not necessarily make the best penalty-takers – you need to factor personality in too – and that penalty failure is just not on the German horizon.”

The cultural difference is all too clear to Forsythe, who last year changed his routine when watching Germany take a penalty. He now stands on the touchline and watches the crowd – a true avoidance strategy.

“I have a 100 percent record with that method so I will stick with it,” he laughed.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME beauty

A Scientific Explanation For Our Obsession With Sexy Soccer Players

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the field after the second leg of the Spanish Cup quarter-final "El clasico" football match Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 25, 2012. Luis Gene—AFP/Getty Images

It's not just a beautiful game. There are biological reasons so many people prefer footballers over other athletes.

The U.S. team has been knocked out of the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean Americans will stop watching the tournament. If the dozens of hottest soccer players lists on sites like BuzzFeed, Jezebel and Elle are any indication, Americans have finally fallen for international “footballers” like Cristiano Ronaldo (right) who have been global stars for years. The ogling has become so pervasive that writers are debating whether it’s okay to objectify male athletes.

This isn’t your average love affair with the athlete of the moment. It’s a full fledged crush. In the graph below, you can see that Americans have searched “hottest soccer players” more in the past 12 months than they have searched for “hottest football players,” even though the viewership for American football dwarfs that of soccer. (Queries have obviously spiked in the past month during the World Cup which has gotten unprecedented attention in the U.S. this year.) Search terms “hottest basketball players,” “hottest baseball players” and “hottest hockey players” had so little traffic in the U.S. that they didn’t even show up on the chart.


So why are Americans swooning over soccer players more than athletes in sports that are more popular? TIME asked evolutionary biologists, psychologists and sports medicine experts to weigh in.

1. The evolutionary ideal

David Beckham on the cover of Elle UK Elle UK

Evolutionarily-speaking women are attracted to strength and characteristics associated with high testosterone production such as a more masculine face. But scientists are just beginning to discover that women are biologically programmed to be attracted to endurance as well. “Recent studies suggest that in our evolutionary past there has actually been strong selection on endurance performance,” says Erik Postma, a research scientist at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich. “Before the invention of spears, we would hunt by chasing down animals to exhaustion. Though we could not outsprint a zebra, over the course of many hours we could outrun it.”

Postma conducted a study in which he asked subjects to rate the attractiveness of the faces of various cyclists, and found that people rated the cyclists with highest endurance most attractive. This is good news for soccer players, who are not only strong but must cultivate endurance in order to survive games: soccer players run an average of seven miles per game, compared to the 2.5 run by basketball players and 1.2 run by receivers and cornerbacks in football (players in other positions run significantly less). “I think that unlike basketball and football players, soccer players might have the ideal combination of strength and endurance,” says Postma.

New York Jets v New England Patriots
Defensive Lineman Vince Wilfork #75 of New England Patriots on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Al Pereira—Getty Images

Our evolutionary biology then dictates what our culture sees as the ideal male form. “[The soccer player's body] is probably a little closer to the average person’s mental image of what beauty looks like,” says Dr. David Geier, a sports medicine expert and orthopedic surgeon. “When you look at ancient Greek and Roman sculptures of the ideal person, they look more like what soccer players are. They’re pretty regularly proportioned: they don’t have huge upper bodies and small lower bodies, or vice versa.”

2. A more relatable body type

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH52-CRC-GRE
Costa Rica’s forward Joel Campbell celebrates at the end of the round of 16 football match between Costa Rica and Greece at Pernambuco Arena in Recife during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 29, 2014. RONALDO SCHEMIDT—AFP/Getty Images

“When you look at the skills needed for soccer, it’s speed and endurance. It’s not upper body power. It’s not the ability to tackle people, so you don’t need the shape of a body that an American football player would need,” says Geier.

Soccer players, unlike many American athletes, are muscular without being bulky. Basketball players and football players must build up their upper bodies for shooting, passing and pushing one another around. Hockey players must build up their legs for strength and speed on the ice. Soccer players have a much more even muscle distribution. They’re toned, but not in an exaggerated way.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two
Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 24, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

“There’s probably a perception difference when you have a seven-foot athlete compared to soccer players, who are pretty normal height—5’8″ to 6’2″,” says Geier. It’s easy to imagine your boyfriend running every day and slimming down than to imagine him growing an extra foot and pumping iron until his arm muscles swell to twice their size. That’s why many people find a body like Costa Rica soccer player Joel Campbell’s (in white shorts above), which has muscle evenly distributed across his 5’10” frame, more attractive than that of NBA player Dwight Howard (in Lakers jersey above), whose shoulder and upper arm muscles are intimidatingly large. Plus, Howard is 6’11″—a less relatable height.

3. Showing emotion on the field

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH52-CRC-GRE
Costa Rica’s defender Waylon Francis (L) and Costa Rica’s midfielder Jose Miguel Cubero celebrate after winning a match with Greece during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 29, 2014. ARIS MESSINIS—AFP/Getty Images

Soccer players are notoriously more emotional during play than other athletes—so much so that a recent article in the New Yorker examined why Americans are exasperated by soccer’s dramatics. Players flop down on the ground when hit and roll around as if they’ve just been shot in the gut. When they congratulate each other, they don’t just high five, they leap into one another’s arms, scream and weep. After scoring a goal, players will tear off their shirt and run in circles. A goalie who let in a shot will collapse to his knees and wail.

It turns out these seemingly overdramatic (one might even say feminine) gestures are arousing to the opposite sex. A 2011 study found that men are perceived to be more attractive by heterosexual women when they exhibit emotional displays of pride and shame. In the way a peacock spreads his tail, men strut after victory to seem more attractive.

“This could explain part of what’s going on with male soccer players,” says Jessica Tracy, an associate professor of psychology at British Columbia who led the study. “If they show pride displays after success, and even shame displays after failure, this will likely increase their attractiveness—at least to North American women.”

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH43-NGR-ARG
Argentina’s forward and captain Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with teammates Argentina’s midfielder Angel Di Maria (C) and Argentina’s defender Marcos Rojo (R) after scoring during a match between Nigeria and Argentina on June 25, 2014,during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images

Emotional displays also increase a player’s relatability. “I think you get a better sense of their personalities,” says Geier. “There’s no helmet or cap like in football or hockey or baseball. Seeing them react to what’s going on on the field—it helps fans forge a relationship that you might not get with an athlete in pads and a helmet.”

4. Uniforms—on and off

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH49-BRA-CHI
Chile’s forward Alexis Sanchez reacts after missing a shot on goal during a football match between Brazil and Chile at the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 28, 2014. ODD ANDERSEN—AFP/Getty Images

Let’s face it: soccer players like to show their abs. Even when they’re not tearing off their jerseys to celebrate a goal, soccer uniforms are more revealing than others. Hockey and football pads conceal most of the athlete’s body and head. Basketball uniforms are baggy, and baseball uniforms aren’t exactly the most flattering wear. Soccer jerseys better display abs, arms, legs and bottoms than gear in any other major sport, as demonstrated by the variety of BuzzFeed’s lists on the topic, which include “bootyful butts” and “match the six-pack to the soccer player.”

“Uniforms and clothes in general are used to enhance desirable features,” says Postma. “I did for example notice that the shirts [in soccer] have gotten tighter, showing off their muscular upper bodies much better.”

FBL-WC-2014-FRA-PRESSER
France’s forward Olivier Giroud addresses a press conference at the theater in Ribeirao Prato on June 10, 2014, prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. FRANCK FIFE—AFP/Getty Images

The other reason there’s such a global obsession with soccer players is that there’s such a wide sample selection. The World Cup brings together hundreds of players from all over the world. Everyone has someone to root for—or ogle. Sheer variety has its appeal, and when there are that many men who spend all day, every day running, there’s bound to be at least a few players that capture the attention of the masses, like French forward Olivier Giroud (above), who tops many of the “hottest” lists.

And for Americans, who only see these players on ESPN once every four years and do not have as firm a grasp on the rosters, Postma believes that focusing on attractiveness might be “a way to make a sport that you otherwise don’t have much affinity with a bit more interesting.”

 

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

USA Soccer Players Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey Just Got a Call From the President

Goalie Tim Howard won't be Secretary of Defense anytime soon, but Obama is happy with him.

USA goalie Tim Howard and team captain Clint Dempsey received a phone call from President Barack Obama commending them for their performance in the World Cup.

Howard, who recorded a World Cup record of 16 saves in the team’s 2-1 loss to Belgium, has become something of hero, earning his own Internet meme even. Two separate petitions have called for Howard to be named Secretary of Defense and for the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to be renamed after Howard.

Obama didn’t quite offer to nominate him Secretary of Defense—White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest joked Wednesday that Howard would not be joining the Obama Administration in the near future—but he did praise the goalie and his captain for their leadership.

“I just wanted to call to say you guys did us proud,” he said on the call. “To see the way you guys captured the hearts and minds of the whole country is unbelievable.”

“Clint you were fantastic and Tim, you know, I don’t know how you’re going to survive the mobs when you come back home,” he said.

The real Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, also called Howard to congratulate him.

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