+ First, a New York Times Magazine interactive piece on the so-called curse of Maracanã, which has haunted Brazilian fans since 1950.
+ I’ve picked Argentina to face Brazil in the final, and if that happens it’ll be the biggest stage of Lionel Messi’s career to this point. In another NYT Magazine piece, Jeff Himmelman considers the burden of being Messi:
Over the past nine years, Messi has led F.C. Barcelona to national and international titles while breaking individual records in ways that seem otherworldly. In 2012, he scored 91 goals in 69 games — a ridiculous number — for club and country, and he has been chosen by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, as the best player in the world an unprecedented four of the last five years. He is something of a freak, a blazing left-footer whose legs and spatial intuition operate at electrifying speed, and his performances in Europe have already put him, at age 26, on the short list of the greatest players ever. And yet, for all of that, Messi has never won widespread devotion in Argentina. The main resistance to him, beyond his uneven play for the national team thus far, is that he isn’t Argentine enough.
+ Love him or hate him, Luis Suarez is one heck of a soccer player, and whatever happens over the next month, he’ll undoubtedly make headlines. Wright Thompson’s in-depth profile for ESPN The Magazine is a worthwhile read (but fair warning: it contains explicit language). Here’s a snippet having to do with Thompson’s quest to find a referee Suarez allegedly head-butted as a teenager:
No soccer player in the world provokes such a strong emotional response as Liverpool’s striker, with less of an understanding of what lurks beneath the surface. His recent injury, which puts his World Cup fitness into doubt, makes him more intriguing. Yet knowing Suarez is difficult, since he seems to not know himself, and, regardless, he wouldn’t talk to me. The best path to that knowledge would have to be a journey through his past, looking for clues. That was the plan: talk to people who knew him and let their memories paint a picture. Those who met him during his early years, especially the first person he ever assaulted, might offer slivers of insight. So in addition to visiting Suarez’s mother, friends and neighbors, I wanted to sit down with the referee. Only I couldn’t find him.
+ According to statistical guru Nate Silver, the US has a 0.3% chance of winning the tournament. So he’s saying we have a chance!
+ American celebrities, meanwhile—whose collective statistical acumen is questionable—are slightly more confident.
+ Some great photos of goalposts from around the world.
+ On a satirical note: World’s Greatest Soccer Stars Arrive In Brazil For Monthlong Coca-Cola Ad.
+ I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the official anthem of this year’s cup is by Santana, and the official song (there’s a difference?) is brought to us by Pitbull (with J.Lo)—apparently because FIFA wasn’t aware that Brazil has a storied music culture of its own.
And with that, we’ll conclude this week’s Repaso. Enjoy the next month of soccer… or fútbol… or futebol, or whatever you happen to call it.