TIME Soccer

Meet Brazil’s ‘Black-Magic Enthusiast’ and His Anti-German Voodoo Dolls

Yasuyoshi Chiba—AFP/Getty Images An Afro-Brazilian ritual takes place at a religious-goods shop in Rio de Janeiro on July 3, 2014

After Neymar's injury, the Brazilian team may need all the magic it can get

Magic, or some other supernatural tendency, has had a long and weirdly intimate relationship with the game of soccer.

This isn’t simply a matter of the clairvoyant octopus or turtle that may have accurately predicted the outcome of a World Cup match or two. When Ghana’s national team, for instance, lost to Zambia in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, Ghanaian coach Goran Stevanovic pointed to deliberate acts of witchcraft between his players as a plausible explanation for the upset. (Stevanovic, it should be said, was fired shortly afterward.)

So let us be disturbed, but not particularly surprised, by Helio Sillman, the Brazilian “black-magic enthusiast” who, via a voodoo doll in his occult curio shop in northern Rio de Janeiro, has plans to “take [Germany’s] top player and bind his legs so he can’t run on the pitch,” reports AFP.

Brazil will play Germany on Tuesday afternoon in what’ll likely be a riveting match, considering the near infallibility of both teams so far. In the past few weeks, Brazil has trounced Cameroon, Chile, Croatia and Mexico; Sillman has voodoo dolls of players from all four teams sitting in a bowl in his shop. The match results are proof, he says, that his magic works.

The Brazilian team may need all the magic it can get. Neymar, the team’s golden player, apparently fell outside the domain of Sillman’s protective aura when he was kneed in the back during Friday’s quarterfinal match against Colombia, causing a particularly nasty lumbar vertebra fracture that’ll keep him benched for the remainder of the World Cup.


TIME World Cup

Tim Howard Does Not Want You to Hug Him

Tim Howard
Bryn Lennon—Getty Images Tim Howard of Everton instructs his team during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Everton at Selhurst Park on November 9, 2013 in London, England.

Lovable, but maybe not huggable

Tim Howard saved a record 16 goals in the U.S.-Belgium World Cup match this week, but don’t expect him to save your wounded ego after you try to give him a hug.

This fan went in for a hug with the All-American Wall and Howard did what he does best: blocked him out and turned him around. Here’s to the fan getting some love from Kyle Beckerman or Clint Dempsey.

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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.


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

Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Michael Steele—Getty Images 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)

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:


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

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.


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
Reinaldo Coddou—H./Pixath/SIPA Messi dribbles at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 1, 2014.

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
Martin Rose—Getty Images 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.

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


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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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