TIME 2014 World Cup

World Cup 2014: Hello Long Shots!

Hey, not everyone can be a winner

The teams, the fans and the press are descending on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and almost everyone is aware that host country Brazil is a big favorite, as are Spain, Portugal and Germany. Even a turtle can tell you that.

But even with 32 teams contending for the big prize, anything can happen, right? And the one thing a true fan loves more than a guaranteed champion is an underdog.

So take a closer look at some of this Cup’s “least likely to succeed,” because if fate smiles on one of them, World Cup history could be made.

TIME World Cup

Why America Doesn’t Like Soccer, And How That Can Be Changed

Nigeria at United States, friendly
Fans celebrate during the United States' 2-1 win against Nigeria in a friendly in preparation for the World Cup, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Stephen M. Dowell—Orlando Sentinel/MCT/ Getty Images

The "Beautiful Game" can expand its reach beyond fringe support in the United States — but it'll need to change the rules first

As the FIFA World Cup begins in Brazil, pundits are already dusting off their explanations on why Americans don’t care for soccer. But only the most daring will offer proposals to change the game to make it more appealing to the American public.

First, the problem. Far and away the most common reason cited for the sport’s unpopularity in the United States is that you can spend 90 minutes watching and never see a goal. “Americans love to see scoring,” says Stephen Clark, a news anchor at WXYZ news in Detroit, who wrote a post on the subject ahead of the last World Cup in South Africa. “In soccer it’s too usual to see a game end at 1-0.”

Football — the one with the helmets and pads — may not always have a lot of scoring, but at least each touchdown delivers six points and an opportunity for a couple more. And then, between them, there’s the relentless to-and-fro across the field. “It’s almost military,” says Clark. “We like to march down the field and get rewarded for every victory. You’re rewarded every ten yards. It’s like conquering territory.”

Compare that to soccer, where it’s not unusual to see a team reset the play by kicking the ball back towards their own goal. The play never stops, but nobody gains lasting advantage. “When do you go the bathroom?” says Clark. “When do you get a beer?” More crucially, he points out: When does the broadcaster get a commercial break?

The problem isn’t just infrequent scoring, says Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at John Hopkins University and author of The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See If They Do. It’s the frequency with which games end in a “draw” — or a tie, in American parlance.

Ties are impossible in baseball and basketball, he points out, and “as rare as eclipses” in American football. And when they do happen they aren’t settled by something as capricious and peripheral to the game as penalty kick shoot-outs. “This seems absurd to Americans, like deciding the Super Bowl through a field goal kicking contest,” he says.

Mandelbaum also offers a proposal to make the game more popular in the United States. He’d alter the rules to favor the offense, eliminating the offside rule, which forbids players from passing to teammates standing behind enemy lines. Alternatively, he’d use the number of corner kicks awarded to each team as a way to break ties, a method that would reward aggressive play. “For this to happen in the US, however, the rest of the world would have to do the same, which it won’t,” he says.

The close-mindedness of the sport’s establishment shouldn’t stand in the way of a good idea. And so, in that spirit, here’s a modest proposal: soccer should take its cue from boxing and install three field-side judges to secretly score every 15-minute interval. Goals would be like knock-outs. Points would only come into play in the case of a tie.

The scorecards would put greater importance on each moment of the game (Sorry Clark, still no bathroom breaks). Teams would be motivated to play spectacularly or risk losing on points. Squads that felt they had slipped behind would be doubly pressed to get that last minute goal.

Best of all, the change would bring an entirely new aspect to the game, one not unfamiliar to fans of boxing (or for that matter figure stating): judges. After all, it’s one thing to argue about a referee’s call on a set of objective, verifiable rules. Think of all the fun that can be had arguing about the secret decisions of the judges.

TIME White House

Obama on Iraq: ‘I Don’t Rule Out Anything’ as Militants Aim for Baghdad

Obama is not considering boots on the ground, a senior administration official said

President Barack Obama said he would not rule out military intervention to support Iraq’s government against advancing Sunni militants, two and a half years after the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country.

“I don’t rule out anything,” Obama told reporters at the White House after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott after being asked a question about the possibility the U.S. would conduct airstrikes in Iraq to support the government there. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama added.

Obama said that is was “fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily and our national security team is looking into all the options.” However, a senior administration official said Obama is not considering putting U.S. boots on the ground once again in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a willingness to allow the U.S. to conduct airstrikes on the extremists, who have over the past week seized Iraq’s second largest city, the country’s largest oil refinery and the city of Tikrit, the home of former leader Saddam Hussein. Fighting between Iraqi forces and advancing fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, who spilled over from neighboring war-torn Syria, has already displaced more than 500,000 Iraqis.

“This should also be a wakeup call for the Iraqi government,” Obama said. “There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against the extremists.”

The U.S. has provided Baghdad with $15 billion worth of equipment and training after spending $1.7 trillion and nearly 4,500 lives in almost nine years of war.

“Over the last year we have been providing them with additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, the northwest portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border,” Obama said. “What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help. It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community.”

TIME Iraq

5 Things You Need to Know About the Militant Advance on Baghdad

IRAQ-UNREST-SECURITY
Iraqi policemen listen to a briefing inside a military base in the capital Baghdad, on June 11, 2014, after the declaration of a state of emergency by the government. Ahmad Al-Rubaye—AFP/Getty Images

As militants take terrain from the Turkish border with Syria to Baghdad, this is what you need to know about their plans

It took five days for an extremist splinter group of al-Qaeda to occupy the city of Mosul, one of the biggest cities in Iraq and 250 miles north of Baghdad. A day later the group, once known as al Qaeda in Iraq, and now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria to reflect its broader role in the region, advanced on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. A 60-vehicle convoy of ISIS units rolled into Baiji on Wednesday to take the country’s largest oil refinery. In each instance the Iraqi security forces dropped their weapons and melted away, effectively ceding nearly a third of the country to a militant organization so extreme that even al-Qaeda has repudiated it. Meanwhile ISIS is cementing control over a large swath of eastern Syria. As the militants push towards Baghdad, here are the five things you need to know about ISIS’s advance.

1. Despite the $25 billion spent by the U.S. to train and equip the Iraqi Army, it’s not fit to fight a war

Corruption, fear and divided loyalties have hollowed out the Iraqi army over the past several years. Even before these recent attacks, the Iraqi Army was losing some three hundred soldiers a day due to defections, deaths and injuries, according to a recent investigation by the New York Times. Once ISIS arrived on the scene, soldiers disarmed en masse, an indication that mid-ranking commanders either supported the militants’ advance because of tribal connections, or may have been bought off. And American assistance, based on the United States’ experience in Iraq, may have focused too tightly on counterinsurgency training, even as ISIS evolved into a full-fledged paramilitary force capable of fighting a conventional war.

But it’s not just a failure by the Iraqi military. ISIS has capitalized on widespread Sunni dissatisfaction with Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated central government. And the group’s superior fighting skills, honed in years of fighting against the Americans in the Iraq war, and more recently in Syria, has drawn funding and would-be jihadis from around the globe.

2. The Turkish citizens taken hostage in Mosul are in serious trouble

It’s not looking good for the 49 Turkish citizens taken from the country’s consulate in Mosul, or the 31 Turkish truck drivers who were also kidnapped. Turkish officials are talking to militants in Mosul about freeing their citizens, but Turkish media are also reporting that ISIS has demanded a $5 million ransom for the truck drivers. Kidnappings for ransom are ISIS’s bread and butter, and they drive a hard bargain. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a Turkish television network that “any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation,” but as long as ISIS has control over Mosul, any kind of rescue attempt would be impossible. Even a prisoner exchange is unlikely: When ISIS takes a town, the first thing it does is fling open prison doors in hopes of regaining old recruits or attracting new ones. There is unlikely anyone left ISIS would be willing to trade for, and those officials may have little more to offer than threats that will be hard to back up.

3. ISIS may not be part of al-Qaeda anymore, but it still poses a threat to the United States

The split between ISIS and al-Qaeda is largely philosophical. Both seek to build an Islamic caliphate, but ISIS thinks this is best achieved through hard power, by taking terrain militarily and then enforcing Islamic law. Al-Qaeda’s leadership prefers to create a community of like-minded converts first, through displays of power. Either way, both groups seek expansion, and will use ungoverned terrain to train foreign recruits that could eventually turn those battlefield skills on Western targets. It may have already happened: last month Saudi Arabian officials arrested an ISIS cell accused of plotting attacks against the kingdom, and it is thought that the man accused of killing four in a gun attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels fought with ISIS in Syria.

4. ISIS is unlikely to take over all of Iraq

Even if the militants had the manpower, they wouldn’t be able to hold that much territory for long. And unlike the Iraqi Army, they don’t have an air force. But they could incite a sectarian war, paving the way for success in the long term. “Sectarian civil war is the enabler,” says Jessica Lewis, an ISIS expert at the Institute for the Study of War. “They want to set conditions in Iraq that look like Syria so they can set up an Islamic state.” It may already be working: Shi’ite leaders have responded to ISIS attacks on Shi’ite targets with calls to form defense militias.

5. This newfound focus on Iraq doesn’t mean Syria is off the hook

Institute for the Study of War

ISIS’s vision for an Islamic caliphate modeled upon the early days of the Islamic empire straddles the border and erases colonial-era lines in the desert. Even as one ISIS wing took Tikrit, another wing encircled the city of Deir Ezzor across the border in Syria, cementing its control over Syria’s oil-rich eastern province of the same name. Lewis’ map of ISIS sanctuaries paints a vivid picture of ISIS’ future caliphate, and a current stronghold that not only threatens Baghdad, but the region.

TIME uk

Court Blocks UK’s First Secret Terror Trial

Plans to hold a terrorism trial completely in secret have been overturned by the UK's Court of Appeal, following a media challenge

Judges at the UK’s Court of Appeal have ruled that a proposed secret terror trial must be heard partly in public, though the core of the case can be held in private, the BBC reports. The swearing in of the jury, some of the prosecution’s introductory comments, the laying out of the case, verdicts and possible sentencing will all be heard in public.

Justice Nicol made the unprecedented decision in May that the case would be heard in secret and the defendants not named. Until Thursday, the accused, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, were known only as AB and CD.

Nicol’s ruling prompted a joint challenge from a number of media organizations. On June 4, the Court of Appeal ruled that the media could report on their challenge. Prior to this, news outlets couldn’t even mention the trial’s existence.

The Crown Prosecution Service, who are prosecuting the two men, said the trial had to be held in private for reasons of national security. They added that were the trial to be made public, they might have to drop it.

In their ruling, the appeal court judges stated that they had “grave concerns” about holding criminal trials in secret and not releasing the identities of defendants. They also added that though the core of the trial would be heard in private, a small group of journalists would be in attendance and their notes held until the end of the trail.

The two defendants were arrested in October 2013 in what were described as “high-profile circumstances.” Both are charged with collecting information useful to terrorism. Incedal was further accused of preparing for terrorist acts whilst Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is alleged to have possessed false identity documents.

[BBC]

TIME brazil

Reporter Hit by Tear Gas Container as Brazilian Cops Spar With Protestors

Police clashed with a small group of protestors 7 miles from a World Cup stadium

Brazilian police fired tear gas canisters at a group of protestors demonstrating against the World Cup on Thursday. At least one arrest was made, according to CNN reporter Shasta Darlington, who was struck with a tear gas canister on live air during the fracas.

The protestors intended to make their way to Corinthians Stadium some seven miles away.

Similar protests have cropped up in recent weeks as many Brazilians are enraged by the World Cup’s $11 billion price tag. Some argue those funds would be better spent on local needs like housing, hospitals and schools.

[CNN]

TIME Military

As Iraq Falls Apart, U.S. F-16 Deliveries Still Set to Begin

Iraq F-16 Inauguration Celebration Roll Out
Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., accepts his nation's first F-16 fighter at the Lockheed factory in Fort Worth June 5. Lockheed Martin photo

U.S. investment in blood and treasure is in danger of being squandered

Last month, as threats from Sunni insurgents in the western part of Iraq began looking increasingly serious, the Iraqi government asked Washington to consider carrying out airstrikes against the fighters’ camps.

Washington has declined, according to a New York Times report Thursday.

Last Thursday, however, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. was on hand in Fort Worth, Texas, to take delivery of its first U.S.-built F-16 fighter. And Washington, Baghdad and Fort Worth couldn’t have been more delighted.

The sale of 36 F-16s to Iraq for $3 billion is “a clear sign to the world and the region that a stable and strong Iraq, in a partnership of choice with the United States, is what we are after,” Ambassador Lukman Faily told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Iraq joins 27 other nations around the world who depend on the F-16 Fighting Falcon to maintain peace and security,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “We are proud to play a role in the defense of a new democracy and look forward to strengthening our partnership with Iraq.”

Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih Al-Fayyadh, said the F-16 will be “a weapon in the hands of all the people” to defend the country.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraqi government isn’t in the hands of “all the people.” It’s in pro-Iranian Shi’ite hands, which is helping to fuel the fundamentalist Sunni insurgency. The first pair of F-16s isn’t slated to arrive in Iraq until September, with another two slated to arrive monthly through 2015 — assuming the Iraqi government lasts that long.

It’s nothing short of tragic to see Iraq falling apart as the ancient battle between Sunnis and Shi’ites continues after the U.S. spent more than $1 trillion—and 4,486 lives—to overthrow Saddam Hussein in hopes of replacing him with someone better. Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit—cities where U.S. troops spent eight years dying to give Iraq another chance—are now in the hands of an al-Qaeda offshoot battling the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama Administration has delivered “300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms fire, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles to the Iraqi security forces.”

The Bush Administration erred in thinking it could graft democracy onto a nation split by a centuries-old religious conflict. The Obama Administration is erring by believing Baghdad’s current rulers can shoot their way out of their current crisis.

TIME Advertising

Check Out the Best World Cup Commercials So Far

The World Cup finally kicks off today in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In addition to the 32 teams vying for the championship, there’s likely to be even more soccer-themed commercials played between matches and shared online over the coming month. Since the last World Cup in 2010, U.S. ad spending on soccer programming has increased 43 percent to $378 million in 2013, according to Nielsen.

Despite being the biggest sporting event on Earth, the World Cup is a decidedly different marketing affair from the Super Bowl. While the Super Bowl is a celebration of advertising as much as (American) football, each half of soccer is played continuously with no breaks, so there’s considerably less time for commercials. That’s led savvy marketers like Nike and McDonald’s to craft short films instead of traditional 30-second spots. Indeed, the concept of branded entertainment seems to be reaching new heights for marketeers now, with many of the ads featuring minimal product placement and being entertaining in their own right.

Here’s a look at the most effective World Cup commercials that have debuted so far:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before the Game

The epic sweep of this commercial for Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s premium headphone line would make soon-to-be-new parent Apple proud. Beats has long tried to position itself as a fashion symbol for both musicians and athletes, and this spot takes that branding to its most extreme level yet. Not only are soccer stars Neymar Junior, Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez in the ad, but LeBron James, Serena Williams, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne also make an appearance. By the time ESPN anchor Stuart Scott inexplicably appears, you’re totally primed to watch soccer for a month straight.

Adidas – House Match

Every World Cup ad doesn’t have to be about an epic clash of titans. This humorous Adidas spot pits retired greats David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane against current stars Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura in a pickup match in the middle of Beckham’s mansion. Zidane accidentally smashes Beckham’s trophy case amidst the rough housing, but the players manage to keep it light. No headbutts this time around.

Nike – Winner Stays

Here Nike flips a classic childhood fantasy—pretending to be a star athlete while you play your favorite sport—and allows it to become reality as a group of ragtag teens are transformed into Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and other modern stars.

Nike – The Last Game

If a movie studio was going to make a soccer-themed version of Space Jam, it would probably feel pretty similar to the impressive animated short Nike made for the World Cup. In the short film, a team of All-Stars that includes Ronaldo, Rooney and Neymar Junior are replaced by clones that make less risky plays and therefore win more. Given the setup (and if you recall the plot of Space Jam), it’s easy to guess the rest of the plot. Though predictable, the short’s a joy to look at and is likely to appeal to both kids and adults.

Adidas – The Dream

Nike and Beats may upstage Adidas (who is actually an official World Cup sponsor) in terms of epicness, but this spot features the debut of a brand new Kanye West song called “God Level.” That’s worth a few cool points.

The Sun’s World Cup Ad

The British newspaper The Sun pulls off its best OK Go impression in this clever ad in which 74 soccer players head a ball to the beat of the Dexters singing “I’ll Never Find Another You.”

Hyundai – “Avoidance”

Hyundai’s offiical World Cup stars a soccer fan desperately trying to make it home to his Tivo recording of the latest U.S. match without discovering whether Team USA won or not. It’s something we can all relate to in this era of constant online spoilers.

McDonald’s – GOL!

This might be the coolest trick shot commercial since that one of Tiger Woods goofing around on the driving range back in the day. In the spot, soccer talents old and young show off their skills by bouncing balls off escalators, church bells and giant floating barges. The most impressive player might be the model juggling in five-inch pumps.

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