Rule One: It Should Be Fun


Rule One: It Should Be Fun


Youth Coaches: Do you ever struggle to find players willing
to play goalkeeper in games,

me playing goalkeeper at 12

The author in situ

let alone play it well? 

There are a few quick & easy things you can do to make it more fun and less nerve-wracking, there are three primary ways:

  • Make it more fun to play by involving the GK in play
  • Reduce stress by addressing mental aspects of the game
  • Increase confidence with proper equipment, technique and more chances to train

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A note to my girls soccer team from last month:

Last week I got stuck writing my post-game message to the G10s because I wanted to say something about Kobe Bryant. The original just got too big, ambitious, and lengthy. So I tried again this week and figured I’d share it with you as well, actually I built it out a little since last night:

When we were traveling to last week’s futsal game, his helicopter had just crashed with his daughter, some of her teammates, and others on board. (I’m sure you’ve all read the details). Since then, he has been mourned and eulogized by countless people, as a devoted father and sports legend. But if you know about Kobe, he had a dark side that I can’t forget. As the father of two daughters and the coach of about 20 more girls, (35 counting you G08s) the topics of sexual harassment and assault are ones I take very seriously and that is also part of his history. Too many media outlets shoved that to one side this week, and the few people who were outspoken about it were threatened and bullied into silence. From the consensus of reports, he assaulted a young woman in a hotel room, then lawyered up, his lawyer performed some extra-legal attacks on the victim which forced her into hiding, then Kobe’s lawyer settled the case financially without admitting guilt.

But Jemele Hill, a sportswriter I admire and read often, mourned his death and added that he was a man who could learn, and change, when presented with information — for example his increased advocacy for Travon Martin. He’d recently started supporting the WNBA as well. Jemele wrote, “Once the epitome of precocious arrogance, he evolved into being a true champion for others.” And Kobe was an advocate for soccer, it was the first sport he played as a kid in Italy. He loved visiting teams like FC Barcelona and still supported AC Milan, to such an extent that they held a moment of silence in memory of him.

I can’t give him a pass for the assault of a young woman. But hearing of his continued evolution, I can’t refuse to feel sad for his sudden passing, before we might see where else his life might have led him. And I concluded that if we only mourn the deaths of perfect people, well the florists are all going out of business. I decided to view him as a dad, taking his kid to her game and they died tragically on the way, along with two of her teammates. And as sports parents, that’s something that can move us all.

I still haven’t fully reconciled my feelings on it. Like a lot of stuff in the news right now, it bothers me. I can’t change what’s happening in Washington DC. I can’t extinguish the fires in Australia, where kids haven’t been able to play for weeks. “Think globally, act locally” I keep reminding myself. I can focus on each training session, enjoying how well the girls are working. I can aim to make our time together interesting, instructive, and fun. I can try to build each young woman’s confidence and belief in her ability to improve. These things I can do. I love it when we finish after 90m and someone says “wait — is it over already?” Coaching your daughters is often the best part of my day, I’m grateful you give me that chance, and it’s how I try to make a difference in all this.

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Follow the Fox

“There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”

— Aristotle

A horrific story of survival came out of last week’s Camp Fire. The Chronicle covered the ordeal of Greg Woodcox, who narrowly escaped with his life after flames engulfed the small town of Paradise. He was attempting to leave in his truck and had warned neighbors that the fire was upon them. He actually saw some of them die in the flames

Cars burn in the Camp Fire

before he started to flee. One thing saved him. Instead of sticking with the idea of driving, he saw a fox run across the road and down an embankment. Woodcox followed and hid in a stream, where he waited for 45 minutes as the flames passed over him.

Later, when he realized he had survived, he found his truck intact, motor running, with his two dogs inside. He then drove around recording the carnage and his camera lens recorded the corpses of people who had perished. His nephew published in on YouTube, which understandably enraged people in the community. One person commented, “You don’t need to show people’s remains in the middle of such a horrible tragedy.”

Greg Woodcox in his Jeep.

The article goes on to state that Woodcox is a self-described “mountain person,” who lives mostly out of his green Jeep. He admitted to spending time incarcerated in state prison “for drugs and other charges. He said he is bipolar and “high strung,” speaking in fragmented bursts. On Saturday, he said, he had a nervous breakdown after processing what he’d been through.”

What strikes me is his presence of mind to think differently when his life was on the line. There are so many stories of people trying to escape the fire by driving, choosing to sit for minutes and hours in stalled traffic. Many were found dead in  those same cars. Woodcox the “mountain person” instead saw a fox run and knew to follow him down the embankment where there may be water. Did he later make a mistake in judgment by allowing his video of dead neighbors to be posted online? Of course. He is a person who suffers from mental illness and lives in his car. He clearly processes the world differently from most people. But the same attributes that allowed him to survive when others died might be the same ones that led him to the live he lives, isolated, in those mountains.

As a coach I see similar patterns when a player shows exceptional skill on the ball. They can dribble four opponents and then won’t show up for the big game. Or they will get in a needless argument with a teammate. Sometimes, being “clever” or “brilliant” is just to see the world differently from most people. This person can often be a tortured soul who excels at one thing and fails at many others. In football their names are legion: Garrincha, Gerd Muller, George Best. Eric Cantona is revered for his talent but was suspended for six months after attacking a fan in the stands. Ronaldinho is said to be facing jail time for owing £1.75 million with just £5 in his account. Diego Maradona is a slow-motion train wreck. But they all gave us moments of unparalleled brilliance on the pitch.

We tend to admire the person who sees what we cannot, but often that vision comes with blindness and disability in other basic areas. Hence the legend of the “tortured genius” who struggles through life.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

― Arthur Schopenhauer

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Shoulder To Shoulder

On Tuesday the world moved closer to apocalypse when the bus carrying the BVB Borussia Dortmund team was attacked by three bombs on the way to its stadium for a Champions League quarter final match against Monaco. This violent invasion of sports breaks new ground because the Champions League is a top-tier sporting event of worldwide interest. This hasn’t happened since the Munich Massacre where eleven Israeli athletes were killed in the 1972  Olympics. In 2010 the bus carrying the Togo team was shot up on its way to an African Cup of Nations match and three members of the support staff were killed, with eleven others wounded. But most categorize that as the kind of thing that happens in the “Third World” and in fact is part of the definition of Third World — places that are insecure, lawless, uncivilized.

Now that kind of violence is here. Continue reading

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The Heart And Soul Of Heart And Soul – Iniesta’s Farewell Comments To Xavi At His Retirement

Longtime readers will note that the male players who most interest me in the pro game are Iniesta and Xavi at Barcelona. So when the club held a ceremony to mark Xavi’s decision to leave the club, and Andrés Iniesta stepped up to the podium, I took notice.

Iniesta is no orator. He does not possess skills in public speaking. But, the words he said to his teammate and friend were so spot-on, I felt moved to tears. Note that there is not one mention of any game, any play, any moment on the field. Iniesta’s heartfelt words center on what Xavi has done as a leader in the clubhouse. And in that spirit I am repeating them here with my loose translation:

“The occasion is such that I prepared a few remarks, said Iniesta in the Auditorium 1899. The heart of Barcelona CF was gathering to say farewell to Xavi Hernández, who couldn’t repress tears before the emotional comments of his colleague. Here are the verbatim comments the Manchego (region where Iniesta hails from) dedicated to him in his farewell:

“Captain, companion, friend, “machine” (He was nicknamed ‘La Máquina’ [the machine]

Xavi was 11 when he arrived,

Xavi was 11 when he arrived,

because of his perpetual motion and metronomic precision passing.  — Ed.) . . . it’s up to me to speak in the name of everyone who has had the luxury of sharing a locker room with you.

Who would’ve said this day would ever arrive, you who has always been here, 17 seasons in Continue reading

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Preserve the Park or Let Kids Play: Pick One

Here in San Francisco we just voted (again) on whether to convert one of our grass field complexes to turf. There were two measures, Proposition I and H, one in favor of going ahead (I) and one trying to prevent it (H). The pro-conversion side prevailed.

The policy argument for artificial turf reduces to supply and demand. Grass fields have to rest and are unplayable in heavy rain and turf is playable all the time. The economy is clear: more turf, more hours, more people play, more fun. The unspoken and incorrect assumption is that the two surfaces are of equal quality. They are not. Turf is a poor second to playing on grass (but clearly better to a poorer third – fields closed due to rain). Even now, professional clubs avoid playing on it except in the US. Women players across the world are suing to prevent their 2015 World Cup from using turf fields – because it is an inferior playing experience and athletes experience more pain, soreness, and skin damage on it.

I wonder why voters are not more concerned about athletic field quality. Look at the opposition people have to sweetened foods and corn syrup. GMOs. Iceberg lettuce. We voted on soda taxes and the majority here were in favor. I would think that by the same standards, worried parents would carefully weigh the benefits of Kentucky bluegrass vs

Falling is more pleasant on grass

Falling is more pleasant on grass

Zoysia in a series of painstaking Parent-Groundskeeper meetings (7pm in the auditorium, coffee, wheatgrass, light snacks). Why the concern with what kids eat and drink, but not what they play on?

  • Organic food costs a dollar more. Grass field cost calculations go into the millions.
  • Parents eat the same food, they usually do not play on the field
  • Adults and kids watch pro and college athletes play on turf and it gains credibility

An event that took place shortly before the recent San Francisco election highlighted the issue. A group of adults went to Park & Rec and obtained a permit to play, paying the

Tech Bros have a permit

Tech Bros have a permit

required fee. When they arrived they found a game in progress and there was a brief dispute before the guys on the field agreed to get off. But when it hit the paper it turned into “tech bros” against local Mission kids and controversy ensued. The matter got spun into “if we only had more fields, and turf fields, there’d be fewer disputes over space.” Some commenters were appalled that fields were ever rented. But the fees from rentals help pay for the field, and SFRPD policy states that some fields are available for open play. (Depending on your definition of “some” because at times these are rented too.) To me this is nothing compared to SFRPD renting out all of Golden Gate Park for concerts like Mostly Strictly Bluegrass and KFOG’s Outside Lands, or foot races like the Bay to Breakers. No one seems to think twice about losing the whole park for three days. But the principle is the same: the public park is for all people, unless the City decides to take money for a specific group to use it.

The SF Chronicle had this to say about the skirmish: “For many San Franciscans, the viral video showing a group of Dropbox employees trying to kick kids off a Mission District playground struck a chord because it’s a stark depiction of how little seems safe from the tech money pouring into the city — not housing, not retail space, not bus stops, not even neighborhood soccer fields.

“But for the people who play soccer in San Francisco, the surprising thing was that the conflict was so civil and understated. Marcelo Rodriguez, a longtime soccer coach who lives in Bernal Heights, said he has seen much worse behavior dozens of times at fields across the city. Part of the problem: Too many people want to use too few fields at the same time.”

“You have a great little neighborhood field now that everybody wants to play on,” Rodriguez said. “It could have been a bunch of Russian guys. It could have been a bunch of taxi drivers. It could have been anybody.”

On the ballot measures we just had:

Many hope the election’s results will settle a years-long turf war (Ed. Note: really?) between proponents of


A solitary protester attempts to stop construction after Prop I passes

A solitary protester attempts to stop construction after Prop I passes


the (measure) and a group of environmentalists and residents who have ardently opposed the project, alleging the turf in the city’s plans is toxic and that nighttime lights would disrupt bird migration.”

San Francisco’s inability to keep the decision simple made it into the New York Times:

“Here we have a project that is probably the most vetted soccer field in U.S. history,” said Phil Ginsburg, the city’s commissioner of parks and recreation. San Francisco’s planning commission, its board of permit appeals and the California Coastal Commission have all signed off on the plans. The project’s environmental impact review has been upheld in court. Mayor Ed Lee, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Nancy Pelosi all support it.”

The ballots are counted and San Francisco will finally begin converting Beach Chalet fields to turf and add floodlights. The highest opposition votes were from the areas immediatelyWalk No on I results

next to the fields — the Sunset and Richmond. People may not want the extra traffic. Or it may be concerns about the “elements” who play soccer. That has happened before. The vote when you look at it does not look like people concerned for athlete’s safety, or the quality of soccer, or preserving the park. To my eyes, it is a NIMBY movement where people don’t want more soccer in their neighborhoods.


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Walk the Fields of Gold

“You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

When we walked in fields of gold”

Soccer, like American football and baseball, is a sport designed to be played on grass. But football and baseball expanded into professional stadia where the weather was inclement and grass could not grow. The Astrodome was one of the first covered stadia and the grass in it died. And artificial turf, re-labeled “Astroturf” was born in 1966.

Walk Athena Gray Polo

Turf’s incursion into soccer has been slower. English clubs like Luton Town tried it but ended up removing it due to concerns about injuries and unfair disadvantage to the home side.

The biggest differentiator here is that the playing surface in soccer is hugely important because that is where the ball tends to stay. In baseball, the surface doesn’t matter for pitching, catching, or hitting. It only comes into play for fielding ground balls and somewhat for running. American football is the same: usually if the ball hits the ground, the play is dead. But soccer depends on a good surface that is level and receptive to the ball. And turf still cannot match grass in this regard. On turf the ball bounces higher, rolls further, and it’s harder to get it airborne because you can’t get your foot under it like you can on grass.

I have a lifelong scrapbook of memories of grass fields. As a goalkeeper I was always diving and could hear the grass give way as I landed. In the mornings when the field was wet I could smell the grass as I landed. It would stain my clothes and the moisture got into my uniform. Sight, smell, sound, and touch.

But it wasn’t always jake. The goal area is the first spot on the field to erode because people love to shoot on goal, and the center of the goal area quickly loses grass, and the dirt can even become concave. Sometimes the crossbar is several inches higher that regulation because I’d basically be standing in a hole. Diving on packed earth is less fun, scabs and blood replace the herbal scents and green stains.

One morning I was running around a grass field at West Sunset to warm up. As I passed behind the goal, an errant shot bounced near me and came to me at head height. I raised one hand and cradled it, feeling its topspin slowly die as the dew from the ball ran through my fingers. When the ball had come to rest I tossed it back to the coach who’d kicked it. He said, “Thanks, keeper.” I realized the way I caught it showed where I played on the pitch. On a turf field this wouldn’t have happened. The bounce would have been different, and my hand would have been full of little rubber pellets.

“Cast my memory back there, Lord,

Sometime I’m overcome thinking about

Making love in the green grass artificial turf

Behind the stadium” — Van Morrison, Brown Eyed Girl

This week San Francisco voted on whether to go ahead with the planned conversion of Beach Chalet fields to artificial turf. I have made a separate post regarding the election here. I supported the measure because we already voted on it a couple of years ago and I believe those opposing are now acting in an obstructionist manner, one that goes beyond reasonable democratic process. The city officials have decided, the voters have decided, let’s go forward.

But I will miss the grass. We are replacing something that is organic and alive with something manufactured and dead. When we stand barefoot, sit, lie on it, we will not touch the planet, and soil, but instead polymers and ground-up tires. There will be no scent of chlorophyll in the air and no grass stains to wash out. It won’t be romantic or sexy to recline there – can you imagine love scenes from movies on turf?


I love you but these little rubber pellets are getting everywhere.

Ultimately the attraction in a grass field is like what Maya (Virginia Madsen) says about wine in the movie “Sideways”: A soccer field is alive, it changes every day, it links us  to those who played on it before us. And it feels so fucking good.

“How (wine is) a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline. And it tastes so fucking good”

Other links:

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A Place To Play

A good photo can tell the story of a life. Or maybe it takes two.

I think in the Bay Area, there are many, many people who are feeling something that we can’t shake: the loss of Robin Williams.

What people through all the country may feel, in fact the entire world as well, is the loss of a transcendental entertainer, the improvisational genius of the century, and a successful movie actor. But here locally, we mourn the death of a neighbor, a local, and somehow, illogically, one of us.

I feel him everywhere. Across from a mansion in Sea Cliff where he used to live, there are two benches. One commemorates his parents, the other is for the parents of his second wife, Marsha Garces. I like to run to China Beach and the benches are on the way. I always think he’ll be in the window of that house or something, even though he hasn’t lived there for years.

People bumped into him in nearby Laurel Village, buying groceries. My wife Anne once saw him in the famous Green Apple bookstore on Clement Street. In the Richmond, my part of town, it was like he was in the air.

Comedian Marc Maron put together the cleanest, purest look I have found into the mind of Robin Williams on his podcast WTF. Around minute 29:00, they talk about the comedy culture in San Francisco where Robin got his start: the Holy City Zoo, The Other Cafe, and Cobb’s. I didn’t see Robin at The Other, but I did see Paula Poundstone and the late Jane Dornacker once. I remember Paula did a joke about her shower curtain being so slimy, it was like Velcro against the tiles. Had I accidentally chosen another night, I would’ve seen him, pre-Mork days.

But the part of his life that sticks with me like a burr in my sock is the little-known fact that he was also a soccer player. His Wikipedia page says he “was a student at the private Detroit Country Day School. He excelled in school, where he was on the school’s soccer team and wrestling team, and became class president.”

“As Williams’s father was away much of the time, and his mother also worked, he was attended to by the family’s maid, who was his main companion. When Williams was 16, his father took early retirement and the family moved to Woodacre, California. There, Williams attended Redwood High School in nearby Larkspur where he graduated in 1969.”

Somewhere in that period, he attended a soccer camp in Stanford where I would work some years after. The link between Robin’s participation there and mine is Michael Keohane, a friend and mentor. Michael was always the guy who was a couple of years older than me and who would meet me at West Sunset on a Saturday morning to kick against the wall, or give me a ride to San Jose to watch the Earthquakes play, or any of a hundred other favors. I don’t think I’d have been a player in college or a coach today if it weren’t for Michael. He’s also been responsible for getting me to Brazil a couple of times. And he is perhaps the only living person who remembers Robin Williams played soccer here in the Bay Area:

Top row, fourth from the right: Robin Williams. Middle row, fourth from teh left: Michael Keohane. Top row, second from left: Coach Feibusch.

Middle row, last on the right: Robin Williams. Middle row, fourth from the left: Michael Keohane. Top row, second from left: Coach Feibusch.

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Hamburgers und Frankfurters

“I will always have the half-side of Germany in my heart, but all of us half players—and the coach, too—we will try to win this game for America. We want to get to the next round.”

Jermaine Jones battles v. Costa Rica in a WC qualifier played in Denver.

These were Jermaine Jones’ words when he was asked about facing Germany on June 26.  Jones is referring to the fact that he and four other teammates grew up in Germany with a German mother and a father from the US military. As offspring of GIs, they were guaranteed immediate US citizenship. But English is not their first language and all only joined the USMNT fairly recently. The article goes on to say that they also go through challenges to their commitment and sincerity in playing for the US: “Are these guys really Americans?

“Some of Klinsmann’s German-American players say they have seen comments on Twitter suggesting that they aren’t real Americans. To this they can only shake their heads. The same goes for U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. ‘The thought that the sons of American citizens who are overseas because they are serving their country in the armed forces have less of a right to play for the United States than someone else is just absurd,’ he says. ‘That sort of thinking is everything America shouldn’t stand for. [These players] were American citizens the day they were born.'”

I was born in an Army hospital in Japan. My father was an American GI and my mom a Japanese national. Like most of the German-Americans on the National team, my relationship with my dad was hit and miss, with more miss than hit. Again similar to many of these players, my parents split up, but my mom and I had moved to the US when I was very little. While I have always considered myself to be an American, I have to say that there were many times when I felt less than fully accepted, and to be honest, it’s something I’ve never fully moved past. When you are the product of two cultures, on good days you can partake of either or both. But on other days you can feel like you have neither.

I thought about this connection with the National Team players after seeing this Tweet from a New York City sportswriter:

And there it was: more American than. It reminded me that there is a scale, and certain people will appoint themselves the arbiter of how American we all are, and the actual metrics will be secret but the results clear.

H&F Germans

(from L to R) Fabian Johnson, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones, and John Brooks

The World Cup is not that different from any game. There are two sides, and as a player I have teammates and I have opponents. An in-group and an out-group. Scrimmaging at practice, it’s easy to go from playing with someone to playing against them as the coach changes the sides and the rules. We automatically adjust; one moment you’re trying to make the other guy look good, and the next you’re trying to crush him into the ground. We understand that with me and against me are mutable concepts and we change behavior accordingly. But at the World Cup, the in-group is basically a mix of citizenship, birthplace, and parentage. The guys from Germany — Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, and Julian Green — qualify to play for us under the rules FIFA has set up. But that isn’t enough for some. As Noam Chomsky said,  “Sports plays a societal role in engendering jingoist and chauvinist attitudes. They’re designed to organize a community to be committed to their gladiators.” And so we suffer from differing definitions of where the lines of our community are drawn. Is it only those “born and raised” here, or do we expand to acknowledge our laws that grant citizenship to guys like these five?

Many of the teams in the World Cup have done the latter and expanded the player pool. An article in the Global Post, whatever that is, illustrates which teams depend more on players born outside of their country. Some nations like Spain, Brazil, and Ghana are 100% made up of native-born players. But others like Germany, France, and Switzerland have rosters much like ours, for example:

Mesut Ozil's father was born in Turkey; Sami Khedira's in Tunisia; Miroslav Klose was born in Poland.  Jerome Boateng has roots in Ghana; Shkodran Mustafi's parents are Albanians born in Macedonia; and Lukas Podolski was born in Poland.

Mesut Ozil’s father was born in Turkey; Sami Khedira’s in Tunisia; Miroslav Klose was born in Poland. Jerome Boateng has roots in Ghana; Shkodran Mustafi’s parents are Albanians born in Macedonia; and Lukas Podolski was born in Poland.

While some like Frank Isola start to pick at the hem of our National Team, what is the contribution of the players born in Germany? (If we fully applied the “no immigrant” rule, we’d lose even more guys like Diskerud, Tim Howard, and Altidore).

  • Jermaine Jones: probably our best player, assisted Dempsey’s goal v Ghana, and author of the best US goal of the tournament vs. Portugal
  • Fabian Johnson: solid presence and right back, always a threat to get forward, cracking goal v. Turkey in the run-up
  • Timmy Chandler: has not played

    H&F Brooks goal v Ghana

    John Brooks just beat Ghana with his last-gasp header

  • John Brooks: late sub v. Ghana, scores the game-winning goal
  • Julian Green: has not played SCORES VS BELGIUM WITH HIS FIRST TOUCH

These players have been involved in the key plays that put the US through to the Round of 16. Klinsmann has done an outstanding job using his knowledge of the Bundesliga to mine these five nuggets for our team. There is no question about their nationality, allegiance, or belonging. They’re as American as I am, and as American as Hamburgers and Frankfurters.





Also useful for this post:

As Jermaine Jones embraces U.S. role, critics embrace World Cup play

World Cup 2014: How John Brooks suddenly became an all-American hero with winner against Ghana

 Jermaine Jones, USA’s ‘Fighting Pig,’ Wins Over His World Cup Critics

 Jermaine Jones Decides to Switch Allegiances from Germany to USA (June 2009)

 Is Jermaine Jones misunderstood?


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The Unraveling



marca portada

Everyone’s asking what happened to Spain. My answer: not much. I think they are about as good as they were four years ago. Why the crash out? Primarily luck. I know you aren’t liking this and I look forward to your comments but before you do, here is a recap of some of the key turning points for La Roja in South Africa 2010. I’ll start with the group match vs. Chile.

Spain v Chile 2-1

David Villa scores the first goal, a one-touch, empty-net shot from 40 yards when the Chilean keeper comes out of his area and slams a clearance, which lands at his feet. Watch it here.

Spain v Portugal 1-0 (round of 16)

Iker spills a shot, much like Akinfeev does in 2014. It squirts through his hands and rises high in the air. He barely manages to slap the ball away. Then he fails to handle a Ronaldo free kick and allows the rebound to fall centrally, about 12 yards out — just like he did vs Chile in 2014. The difference? In 2010 the ball falls to his defenders instead of a Portugal attacker.

In the second half, Puyol almost scores an own goal, missing by a foot. Villa scores the winner but is arguably offside, see this Zapruder-quality investigation:

Spain v Paraguay 1-0 (Quarter final)
Iker saves a PK. Xabi scores a PK, it’s annulled for encroachment, he misses the follow-up. On the winning goal, Pedro (#18 shoots and hits the post; it rebounds to Villa, his shot hits the right post, left post, and goes in.

Spain v Germany 1-0 (Semi-final)

A tight match, the only goal is from a Puyol header from Xavi’s corner. It’s a play they ran at FC Barcelona.

Spain v Holland The Final 1-0 a.e.t.

Holland should probably have won but Iker saves from Robben with the bottom of his foot.









Iker had this to say after they crashed out this week:

 “When you don’t have luck on your side and you don’t perform well enough at a World Cup, this is what happens. This is football. Four years ago everything went our way and now it’s negative.”

There is a tremendous amount of random chance in every game: crossbars, posts, errors that don’t cost you, errors that do. Referee decisions, line calls, yellow and red cards. Spain’s players were not as sharp as they were four years ago, and their opponents all seemed more prepared to face their style of play. But to me a lot of the reason they are going home is just the luck of the draw.

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