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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/KbBUrpAqZHA" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe>

    "Estrelar" by Marcos Valle, a piece of early 80s Brazilian disco-funk set to what appears to be Marcos driving an awesome car to his living room. His living room is the beach, where he watches movies with ladies in bikinis and enjoys tropical drinks. You say that you can't really make the living room your beach? You are clearly not Brazilian, and never will be. (HT: DJ Meeks)


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    Or: 10 things I wrote down at the bar in between heart attacks as 22 soccer players did their damnedest to kill me.

    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    1. Scores are forever lies. For instance: this game is going to sit on the books as 2-1, a score that in some circumstances is a secure, comfortable victory. Without looking at it, you might assume that one team pounced up by a score of 2-0, diddled around a little, and then allowed a desperate late goal while dribbling out the clock. You could assume that, because that indeed does happen in soccer matches.

    2. What the score won't tell you is that the United States ordered their goals with an eighty minute interval in between, breaking into the scoring column like a bear wrecking a cabin and then finding their second meal of the day much, much later. A third goal for lunch would have made the wait something less than excruciating, but some days you just get busy and forget to eat.

    3. Or, alternately: some days you go to find your lunch, and Ghana has eaten it out of the office refrigerator. After Clint Dempsey's savage opening goal, Ghana settled down, controlled the ball, bossed midfield, sent crosses in with alarming frequency into a harried Tim Howard*, and came close to short-circuiting the American attack just like they'd done in the two previous World Cup matches. If the opening goal was novelty, the better part of the remaining match was a waking nightmare on replay, with Sulley Muntari, Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew running roughshod through the USMNT midfield.

    *That's redundant. Tim Howard is basically a synonym for "harried" at this point.

    4. If we never see Sulley Muntari outside of a Milan match ever again, that would be fine. Like, totally, totally fine. Ditto for Christian Atsu, last seen punching DaMarcus Beasley with his own fist and asking him why he was hitting himself.

    5. Michael Bradley had a horrible game. We would love to be overly technical about it, but "generally and horrendously off" is the best possible term for Bradley's night against Ghana: he gave up possession, was uncharacteristically prone to fouls, and misfired repeatedly against the pressure of the Ghanaian midfield. The trend of one says Bradley is not in top form, and will perform poorly for the rest of the Cup, and should be benched. The trend of one as a mathematical concept does not exist, and is total horseshit. Bradley will likely be his old self against Portugal on Sunday. (And if he isn't, well...we don't really have an answer for this, and will just keep playing Michael Bradley until his legs fall off.)

    6. Jermaine Jones is a damn hero. In the long Ghanaian siege between goals one and two, he was an absolute stalwart, often doing the work of two men. Watching him play you can't help but hear Klinsmann in a German accent saying emphatically: "It iss vaaahry difficult to mooohve heem."

    7. DaMarcus Beasley has seized the early lead for the title of The USMNT Jeff Agoos Beloved Liability Of The Moment. Christian Atsu devastated Beasley all night, forcing Jones to play two defensive positions and opening up much of the mayhem wreaked on the American defense by Ghana. I love him, and always will, but love doesn't mean he's not currently on fire and headed toward further torching at the hands of Portugal's Nani on Sunday.

    8. No one knows exactly what a John Brooks is but he is beautiful and perfect and broke the losing streak against one of the USMNT's oddest and most stubborn rivals. For that he will be flawless forever, even if as a late sub he allows a goal to Portugal on Sunday.

    9. Clothes sweat through: one undershirt and one 2010 USMNT jersey. Drinks consumed: one beer, three Mississippi Mules (honeysuckle vodka and ginger beer.) Tables stood on: one, with a half-squat on the bench for the last excruciating twenty minutes. Profanities uttered in public: only one, in the direction of the Ghanaian fan who dressed like a witch doctor. Asshat Americans seen in Italy jerseys: two, but one was a child and can't be held accountable for the despicable treason of their father.

    10. This man got an ovation when he came on the screen. He is our new leader and king. Worship him. Turn down for nothing, and remain turnt in his name.


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    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    Belgium vs. Algeria

    Where: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. Be careful: the whole place belongs to brawling Colombians now.

    What I'm watching Belgium for: To see if a team that has its dreaded "Golden Generation" of players can forget that anyone ever called them that, and just play well in the World Cup. Striker Romelu Lukaku is your flashpoint player here, but he's got a lingering ankle injury that might slow him down a bit.

    What I'm watching Algeria for: Flying down the wings and being stubbornly resistant to Belgium's charms. Algeria is sneaky good across the board, but especially so along the flanks where they can probably gouge a goal or two out of Belgium. There are many teams you might want to play in the first game of group play in a place very far away from home. Algeria is not one of them.

    Intangibles: The Golden Generation curse; brawling Colombians disrupting match with festive fisticuffs

    Announcers: Adrian Healey, Efan Ekoku

    Watchability: A solid and feisty 7/10

    Brazil vs. Mexico

    Where: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza. Site of what's considered to be the loudest rendition of the Brazilian national anthem ever, sung during the 2013 Confederations Cup while violent protests raged outside.

    Go ahead and cut off the second verse, FIFA. Brazil will just keep singing.

    What I'm watching Brazil for: Consistent attack, which will not be a problem given Brazil's superiority at nearly every point on the field and their penchant for walking their defenders up the pitch. Translated: everyone can score for Brazil, and that's really hard to defend, especially when you are not as good at soccer as they are.

    What I'm watching Mexico for: The usual underdog business of shaking a few things loose in midfield and seeing if a goal or two falls out of things. Giovani Dos Santos was superb in Mexico's first match, so he's the primary source for any small hope El Tri has here.

    Intangibles: The northern beach breeze making Brazil sleepy. That's it, really.

    Announcers: Fernando Palomo, Alejandro Moreno

    Watchability: 6/10, provided Mexico doesn't collapse beneath the pressure of the Brazilian attack. (They might, but even then it's fun to watch Brazil run romperhouse all over anyone.)

    Russia vs. South Korea

    Where: Arena Pantanal, Cuaiba

    What I'm watching Russia for: To see if they function well without star midfielder Roman Shirokov, out with a back injury.

    What I'm watching South Korea for: To see if they function, period. Ghana beat them 4-0 a week ago, so sliding into the Cup backwards isn't a great sign for a team that made the tourney by goal differential to Uzbekistan.

    Intangibles: Russian fans. The ultimate match time wild card.

    Announcers: Daniel Mann, Kasey Keller

    Watchability: 4/10, but with a possible uptick if South Korea crackles to life and makes Russia sweat this one out.


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    LARRY MUNSON WOULD HAVE MADE A FINE SOCCER ANNOUNCER

    OH, HI THERE. We've been on the mothership living la vida soccer for the better part of the past week, but we'd be negligent if we didn't share the Larry Munson remix of John Brooks' winning header in yesterday's triumphant 2-1 win over Ghana. There's really very few differences between the basic key of announcing college football and soccer games. You may lose your mind, you are encouraged to use dramatic hyperbole, and if you happen to be very partial to one team, well, go ahead and roll in it for the viewer's benefit/disgust. As long as you aren't Joe Buck, and don't sound like you hate every second of your existence, you'll be fine in either universe.

    P.S. Please let Univision cover a few bowl games.

    (HT: Paul) (Not the Octopus.) (We think.)


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    The two early games are must-see. The late game is not.

    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    Colombia vs. Côte d'Ivoire - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Where: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia

    Colombia 2, Ivory Coast 1: Colombia manages two-goal lead to earn three points

    Why I'm watching Colombia: More aggression and more scoring and more coffee yes more coffee please. No other team matches their name-- "los cafeteros," aka "the coffeemakers" -- and their mode of soccer more harmoniously, as Greece found out in a 3-0 drubbing that could have been oh so much worse. Colombia likes to throw a lot of bodies forward, and hence is capable of leaving a lot of space for opponents to counter on the back end.  Côte d'Ivoire is going to do this, and probably score on Colombia in a moment of frantic defensive negligence. James Rodriguez will help get a goal back, because he is brilliant and good at soccering things.

    Why I'm watching Côte d'Ivoire: EVEN MORE AGGRESSION. Les Elephants rolled through Japan once Didier Drogba came off the bench, creating the only real problem thus far for the Ivorians: deciding whether to keep Drogba as a supersub, or to start him and watch the goals rain sideways into the net. Côte d'Ivoire likes to throw a lot of bodies forward, and hence is capable of leaving a lot of space for opponents to counter on the back end.  Colombia is going to do this, and probably score on Côte d'Ivoire in a moment of frantic defensive negligence. These teams are very similar in spirit, so watch standing up and in a place where you can yell without waking anyone up.

    Intangibles: Each team trying to out-underachieve the other, the continued distraction of thousands of Colombian fans having punchy, boozy fun in the streets of Brasilia

    Announcers: Adrian Healey, Alejandro Moreno

    Watchability: 8/10, with an option for some tomfoolery when the intensity of the match yields some unfortunate intervention by the officials.

    England vs. Uruguay - 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Where: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo

    What I'm watching England for: Tragedy is a given, but success may be the greatest shock of all. England should win this: they're fresher, not spitting bolts and screws like the aging Uruguayan team, and played pretty well despite the result in a loss against Italy.

    What I'm watching Uruguay for: Signs that they aren't in serious decline. An uneven team with a wobbly back line would worry about facing a team with Sturridge, Sterling, Welbeck, and Rooney on the attack. Uruguay is a very uneven team at the moment, and is in fact facing those four men on the attack, and none of this is good for Uruguay's chances at moving out of group play. (Even if Luis Suarez plays and plays well for the first time this tourney.)

    Uruguay v. England

    Intangibles: "England at the World Cup," Luis Suarez diving for cards, Luis Suarez just pissing everyone off, the usual distractions provided by Diego Forlan's unearthly male beauty.

    Announcers: Ian Darke and Steve McManaman and a holographic Winston Churchill muttering about blood, sweat, tears, and maybe going out in group play again, chaps.

    Watchability: 7/10, a solid piece of potential fluky tragicomedy that could fall on either team with a dramatic and fatal thunking noise.

    Japan vs. Greece - 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Where: Estadio das Dunas

    What I'm watching Japan for: A rebound after an uncharacteristically conservative performance against Côte d'Ivoire. Despite what you saw in their opening match, Japan like to press and disrupt opposing attacks. Greece has zero opposing attack, so Japan has nothing in the way of standing and delivering in front of goal for ninety minutes.

    What I'm watching Greece for: I'm not watching Greece, the most stultifying, negative team at this tournament. Light 'em up, Japan, and drive this curse from before our sleepy eyes.

    Intangibles: Greece are bad and you should not watch them. That's not an intangible, but I wanted to say it again for emphasis.

    Announcers: Daniel Mann, Efan Ekoku

    Watchability: 2/10 unless you are a masochist, and want to watch Greece struggle after conceding a few early goals to Japan.


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    Pelecash

    The best part about the soccer sequence in "The Cartridge Family", the Simpsons episode most relevant to any World Cup? The Simpsons' writing staff went in big on a "Pele loves cash" joke without even knowing that the Brazilian legend was notorious for putting his name on anything for money. As recent evidence, please accept this picture of Pele acting like he doesn't know you're not supposed to eat the paper on a Subway sandwich.


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    FEET, JUST FEET FLYING INTO MOUTHS EVERYWHERE

    Mark Emmert will be taking the stand in the O'Bannon trial today. If you are not familiar with Mark Emmert's superpowers as the most boring X-Man of them all, let us review them for you.

    No matter what position he is in, and no matter how you may try to chain him down or restrain him, he possesses the power to place his foot in his mouth at any time. If you cut both of his legs off, and buried both deep beneath the ice of the North Pole, Mark Emmert could summon them like Thor calling his might hammer Mjolnir to his hand.  Remove the feet from his mouth, turn away for just one second, and there's just...more feet, just feet all the way down.

    It's kind of hard to separate his superpower from his title. As a university president, Emmert was already gifted enough in nothingspeak to rise to the top of his profession, and survived a lengthy spell as LSU's president without indictment or assassination. Clearly he's already gifted, but being put in the position of heading up the NCAA conveys a very special superpower: defending the gibberish at the heart of the NCAA's mission.

    That mission is [FILE NOT FOUND]. The really fun part of watching Emmert in public -- besides his ability to take a massive paycheck without displaying an ounce of shame -- comes in watching a grown man dodge the most glaring question of all, time and time again: what exactly do you and your co-workers do that isn't theft, or at least elaborate, state-sanctioned fraud? The member institutions of the NCAA hide, which indicates some kind of understanding of the situation.

    The NCAA, and Emmert as its most public spokesperson, has no such option, and doesn't even bother to lie. It's either lazy, demented, or brilliant bullshitting without regard to any measured understanding of reality. And it is literally all that Mark Emmert does, all day long, every day, for money paid in American dollars to his bank account.

    Capitalism is amazing in a lot of ways. It can make a millionaire of a man by paying him to help convince others that work isn't work, and that you should pay him instead for keeping that work unpaid.  You might even be able to tell that lie to a judge, straightfaced and unflinching. If you can, you can probably be a millionaire, too, at least until you run up against the law or basic rules of economics.  But you need to hear both sides, you might say, something we'd agree with if the other side really cared about any reality at all.

    P.S. The O'Bannon trial has achieved the impossible: it's made us miss Will Muschamp football.


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    Rapsoccer_medium

    1. We're kind of playing a loose 4-2-3-1 here, if you're wondering about the formation.

    2. Starting in goal, we needed length and athleticism. At around 6'5" and with a not insubstantial high school basketball career to his credit, 2 Chainz will more than do as a kind of Hakeem Olajuwon-in-reverse project.

    3. Central defense requires some tenacity, energy, and fearlessness, and that's Waka Flocka Flame. Flocka brings along an impressive list of tangible and intangible soccer assets: height for headers, tattoos, and quality soccer hair. Wiz Khalifa takes the other spot based on his height and ability to calm Waka down when he gets a red card for obliterating a striker in the box. Wiz also fills out the tats requirement for central defenders nicely, though whether he can actually do anything is beside the point. He's there to keep things calm.

    4. Fullbacks in the 4-2-3-1 have to be physical enough to cut off attacks down the flanks, yet fast enough to push the ball up the pitch. The veteran is Nelly, who like all veterans understands the value of fitness, but also knows how to conserve energy for when it's most needed. (For instance: Nelly has not done anything since 2004, and is waiting for just the right moment to pounce.) On the other side is Tyler the Creator, who fills out the role of team lunatic and hit man. You need a leg broken? Tyler is your man, though you'll never be sure exactly whose leg he's going to snap, or what that player's team will be. You want to see an Odd Future goal celebration; you NEED to see an Odd Future goal celebration.

    5. Defensive midfielders represent the true strength of our team. Short, yes, but undeniably strong, and balanced nicely between Kendrick Lamar, the outlandish ball-hog incapable of taking a turn without destroying all other opposition, and Big Boi, the veteran capable of boundless creativity who understands the whole field. You might be wondering about Big Boi's conditioning: he's surprisingly fit, but we assumed he'd be doing a lot of passing and not much running, anyway. Also, this is totally made-up, so you should get upset about this, and about the combined nine and a half feet of defensive midfielder we're starting.

    6. The three attacking midfielders are a mess, but you have to admit they're a fascinating mess. Eminem is the older star clearly down a step, and perhaps only starting thanks to an elaborate blackmail scheme involving the manager and a woman who is not his wife. He's volatile, still occasionally explosive, and prone to disappearing into his mansion for months on end. Drake is sulky and wildly popular, so he belongs up here, too. By simply putting on a jersey, he may already be the best Canadian soccer player ever. (Eat it, Craig Forrest.) Pitbull's starting job is part of a contractual agreement with FIFA; we have no choice thanks to Sepp Blatter's insane devotion to corporate synergy. As with everywhere else in life, Pitbull is here, and we're just going to have to enjoy him.

    7. Big K.R.I.T. is a bold choice at striker, but consider his striker-y attributes: he comes out of nowhere, works alone a lot, and then swoops in after periods of inactivity to deliver thunderous scores.

    8. Didn't make the squad for good reasons: Kanye (locker room cancer), Andre 3000 (shows up once every ten years at this point), 50 Cent (TV and endorsement obligations), Jay-Z (age, off-field issues, knees), Gucci Mane (legal issues, conditioning), Juicy J (failed drug test), Bun B (age, conditioning), Rick Ross (fitness issues), Shaq (Grown Ups 2), Lil Wayne (did not get permission slip signed by Birdman).

    9. The manager is Action Bronson solely because we want to see him sweaty, angry, and in an ill-fitting suit.


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    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    Italy vs. Costa Rica (12 p.m. ET)

    Where: Arena Pernambuco, Recife

    What I'm watching Italy for: Pirlo's beard, the same thing everyone else watches Italy for. It would be nice to see Italy firm up the defense a bit especially since they're going to be facing the Ticos' Joel Campbell up front, but it's hard to be overly worried about the talented Azzurri at this point. (Now that we've written that, go watch Campbell get a hat trick today.) Ooh, and Buffon's back in goal!

    What I'm watching Costa Rica for: Theft, since drawing Italy here and stealing a point would further improve their chances of advancing out of Group D. And eliminate England.

    Intangibles: Pirlo's beard, which has both a tangible and spiritual component to it.

    Announcers: Derek Rae, Kasey Keller

    Watchability: 7/10, provided Italy doesn't park any buses on an early lead.

    Switzerland vs. France (3 p.m. ET)

    Where: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

    What I'm watching Switzerland for: A continued streak of tenacity after seizing a win late against Ecuador, which is the nice way of saying that Switzerland can't score consistently and got very lucky in their last game.

    What I'm watching France for: A continued streak of not-imploding. France came into the tourney as a deep, talented team with a penchant for self-sabotage, and have thus far avoided it. They were playing Honduras in that last game, mind you, so we could just as easily witness LE LOL FRANCE here if the Swiss find a way to score. They're France: all things are possible, including inexplicable failure.

    Intangibles: Switzerland threatening French players' hidden financial assets.

    Announcers: Daniel Mann, Efan Ekoku

    Watchability: 6/10, since the possibility of a draw always exists when you're playing Switzerland.

    Honduras vs. Ecuador (6 p.m. ET)

    Where: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

    What I'm watching Honduras for: Mmm, gritty failure. Honduras is endlessly tough, and that's about it for reasons to watch them since they're devoid of offense, and seem to be hoping for own goals as their primary source of scoring. This sounds way worse than we want it to: they're basically the Central American's Greece.

    What I'm watching Ecuador for: A mental recovery after blowing a lead against Switzerland. That, too, sounds way worse than we wanted it to, but we repeat: you blew a lead against notoriously toothless Switzerland.

    Intangibles: A stiff wind blowing an errant pass directly into goal for Honduras.

    Announcers: Fernando Palomo, Alejandro Moreno

    Watchability: 5/10, because it's Friday, mostly, and this seems like an agreeable enough game to watch while drinking beer.


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    Everything Piers Morgan touches turns to shit. Stay away from our soccer team, Piers.

    You may hate Piers Morgan for a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost reason to hate his attempted leap on to the American World Cup bandwagon is this: everything he touches turns to shit. He became editor of the News of the World, a paper that now no longer exists. He was fired from the Daily Mirror after a long series of incompetency, and then joined the toiletization of CNN before dragging down the ratings and ultimately getting canceled. If Piers Morgan just walked into your Starbucks, then that Starbucks, and two adjoining businesses, are now completely on fire, and he is whistling and walking out with free coffee.

    If Piers Morgan enters your club, your club is about to be crushed by the steaming guano of a passing nine-ton mutant fruit bat.

    You can also hate him because the USMNT are in a fight, and Piers Morgan is very, very bad at fighting. He was punched repeatedly in a fight by a fat man with a bad smoking habit. He was out-dueled in a debate by Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who sincerely believes robots are going to rule humanity by next Wednesday. Piers Morgan has in fact lost most every public debate he's ever had, including the one he had with gravity while falling off a Segway. The earth broke three of Piers Morgan's ribs. If you didn't love it for being your home, you love Earth a little more now after reading that.

    You can hate him because after somehow becoming one of Great Britain's Fifty Official Celebrities who make money simply by bouncing from one doomed BBC franchise to another, he has attempted to do the same in the United States with disastrous results. Glomming onto our soccer team is just one more step in the failed wooing of the United States, a country whose culture Morgan understands about as well as he understands British privacy laws. We like our Brits haughty without the need to be liked, like Simon Cowell. We like ones who solve mysteries in tiny New England towns in 47 minutes, like Angela Lansbury. We love Adele, who isn't particularly American for any reason but whatever. She can get a free Michael Bradley jersey on the house anytime.

    We love Hugh Laurie and Idris Elba most, and primarily because most of us believe they are, in fact, American. And passports and facts aside, Piers, that's enough for us. Being American is less a fact than a belief; that you, like House, can diagnose the disease while dispensing a series of brutal one-liners. It's the belief that even when you find yourself in the clutches of sea monsters like Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, you can grit your teeth, build a giant Clint Dempsey kaiju Jaeger, and cancel your apocalypse. That's what President Luther Stringer Bell taught us. That's what we believe.

    And yes, I believe in our hastily constructed, half-German giant robot soccer team, Piers Morgan. I also believe you should get the entire fuck away from it, immediately. In closing: Get away from my team, plague monkey, before you infect it with whatever franchise-killing dengue you carry in your bones.

    P.S. WE NEVER SAY THIS WORD, PIERS. #USMNT


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    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    Argentina vs. Iran (12:00 p.m. ET)

    Where: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte

    What I'm watching Argentina for: Messi, and to see if Iran can raise any red flags regarding Argentina's rearranged back four on defense. (They won't, but you have to have something to look for besides Iran running a blockade and praying for another draw.)

    What I'm watching Iran for: To see Messi cut through them like a hot butter knife, all the more entertaining if Higuaín starts up front with Messi this match. Iran's clearly in overwhelmed-and-coping-well mode, but a team with that little ability to counter facing a team like Argentina is just there for a survival test they will, by script, ultimately fail.

    Intangibles: Messi tiring of firing shots into a wall of Iranian defenders, and simply dribbling and grinning while sipping a Pepsi for the cameras.

    Announcers: Adrian Healey and Roberto Martinez

    Watchability: 4/10, since Argentina scoring is always good, but Iran not scoring in return makes this very lopsided and an exercise in accounting more than anything.

    Germany vs. Ghana (3:00 p.m. ET)

    Where: Estadio Castalao, Fortaleza

    What I'm watching Germany for: The return of Bastian Schweinsteiger, continued scoring, and to see if we can get through an entire Germany game without a single reference to them being mechanistic, merciless, or any other Teutonic cliché. We will fail, but it's the effort that counts

    What I'm watching Ghana for: To see if they can generate a goal against a tougher defense than the one they just faced. Ghana dominated possession against the United States, yet fell short of generating more than a single goal against a defense which is, well...The United States' back four.

    Intangibles: Germany refuse to leave the comforts of their ridiculous beach compound, which would be totally understandable.

    Announcers: Jon Champion and Stewart Robson

    Watchability: 6/10 if Ghana can manufacture a few goals and be physical with Germany's attack up front. Both teams need this win, so the game could be sneakily intense in the second half.

    Nigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (6:00 p.m. ET)

    Where: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá

    What I'm watching Nigeria for: A rearranged lineup to create more scoring opportunities, since the Super Eagles posted zero in the goal column against Iran. They do not have the option of relying on the draw here, and are facing a team with more than a few ways to score. It's essentially the same message cut-and-pasted from every other preview of a Nigeria World Cup match from the past decade, but in short: WAKE UP AND DO SOMETHING, NIGERIA.

    What I'm watching Bosnia and Herzegovina for: More of the same, since they actually played really well, and need to change little from their performance in a 2-1 loss to very good Argentina.

    Intangibles: "Nigeria wakes up and does something."

    Announcers: Daniel Mann and Efan Ekoku

    Watchability: 5/10, mostly on the provision that Nigeria could do something interesting based solely on our unfair memories of them being really cool 20 years ago.


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    "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

    How you feel this morning about losing a draw to Portugal last night probably depends on how you feel about the inevitable ice weaseling that comes with love. (It was that bad, at least bad enough to resort to Life In Hell-era Matt Groening quotes.)

    From one perspective, the United States lost a win last night, coughing up a late goal off a schoolboy blunder in the final splinters of a match the USMNT had won via a courageous comeback. Soccer and hockey both call this bug a feature: the capacity to hide hot, venomous, and sudden death in the midst of a seemingly harmless flow of events. One minute you're on the snowmobile; the next, the snick-snicking of weaselly teeth clicking hungrily in the frozen night.

    Tim Howard acknowledges fans after the draw (Photo: Christopher Lee -- Getty)

    That's a fair way to feel. How you may feel about the goal at the end may also depend on how you like to process events. One emotional editor cuts this as a defeat, a win torn out from the hands of the United States by a sinister Portuguese team playing without several key players and with a gimpy version of the the world's greatest caricature of soccer greatness: Cristiano Ronaldo. Four points! There at the end! And then, swooping in at the end, hanging from a helicopter like a Statham movie villain, Ronaldo dripped hair gel on our grasping hand, smiled, and stole it away, most likely flying away to a posh villa where his masseur and your spouse was waiting to touch his immaculate abs.

    Another story is this: the United States, an inferior team to the Portuguese overall, did what underdog teams cannot do in a match. They gave up two howlers, and were lucky to not give up more. Ronaldo, fresh off his evildoing helicopter and with pure epoxy running through his hair, had already misfired in front of goal with nothing but Tim Howard in front of him. (Remember that?)  Portugal missed another laugher before that. Portugal sleptwalk through a good piece of the match, and like a lot of talented underachievers had to rely on last-minute pyrotechnics enabled by the one thing you can say the Portuguese have that we don't: superior talent.

    That was the United States last night, a neonate team still standing on wobbly fawn legs in a forest full of mature predators.

    (Superior talent is no knock on the United States, by the way. The best player in the world might be sitting on Portugal's roster. Our striker, who almost scored a goal with his genitals last night, is playing in MLS after a middling stint in the EPL. Our star midfielder is playing for Toronto FC, a team that will not be confused for Real Madrid. The player who has kept the United States alive -- defensive mid Jermaine Jones -- is currently playing for Beskiktas in the Turkish Super Lig, which while metal as hell is where Didier Drogba went to fatten his retirement accounts after a stint in China didn't work out.)

    Another editor for this story might remind you that historically the United States has been all ice weasels and zero fun at the World Cup. We might even remind you that the United States, as a host country, did not not advance past the round of 16 in 1994. We could point you to the desperation of the 2010 World Cup, when in a group with England, Algeria, and Slovenia, the United States needed a late goal from Landon Donovan to advance. You remember that goal, but forget that the United States got in that situation in the first place when they drew with lowly Slovenia. We were lucky to draw 2-2 with Portugal, sequencing be damned, and still stand a good chance of advancing to the knockout stage.

    *In a match so frustrating I ate an entire pint glass in frustration, and chased it with half a bar table.

    You might also look at it this way. This is by far the best, most consistent performance the United States has had at any World Cup to this point in group stage. For a good chunk of the Portugal game the United States actually passed the ball, controlled the game, and threatened consistently. Imagine that four years ago: consistent, flowing menace from the United States, a team known more for prayer volleys down the flanks and endless, hopeful crosses into the box. That was the United States last night, a neonate team still standing on wobbly fawn legs in a forest full of mature predators.

    One final editor might put it this way: this team cannot play without placing both hands around your adrenal glands, squeezing, and watching the viewer's pupils dilate. If you don't like that, then please, for your health and that of those around you: do not watch this team. Do not operate heavy machinery while watching this team, do not place young children in your care during their viewings, and do not casually operate on anyone while listening to the game. Every open brain surgery is a lobotomy during a USMNT game, and every omelet a disaster of eggshells and half-cooked ingredients.

    For so many reasons, it will not be easy or simple, but it's not simple or easy for anyone. The most talented team in the world by reputation, Spain, is already out of the tourney. England's gone. Italy have fewer points, and have already lost to Costa Rica, a team the United States considers a fair but equal opponent in CONCACAF play. Soccer's only equality is cruelty, and prolonged exposure turns even the most self-respecting viewer into a masochistic gambler bent on playing the next hand. This game beats you into submission over a long enough span, and turns wins and losses at the whistle into the same intense, indispensable drug.

    Yes, even last night, that last goal gave a horrifying shock not too many degrees removed from pleasure. It's sick, but after watching this much soccer in a week, that's where I am, and probably where you are, if you're honest. Despite knowing the beast that lies ahead in Germany, you want in on the next hand, because the alternatives are ... well, you know. Clicking their teeth in the cold, and waiting for you to fall off the snowmobile.


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    STEVE SPURRIER REMINDS YOU AGAIN THAT WORK AIN'T HARD

    Well----

    [clears throat]

    Looks like a damn shame, again, for you. All y'all watching film in the offseason. Making sure you talk about how much film you watch in the offseason, too. That's always good. Why don't ya call me and tell me how hard you're working. My phone's in the golf bag, by the way. I'll answer it if I hear it.

    [THWOCK!]

    Damn, that's a pretty ball. This thirteenth's a hard one, yanno? Kinda drifts right on you, then cuts back to the left sneaky-like. You should play it some time. Yanno. When you're not in that film room.

    [CHIP!]

    On the green in two! Well look at that. Whew, it's got to be in the mid-eighties out here. Might hit up the beer lady for a cold one on #14. I can have just one or two, because that's what I'm comfortable with. Poor ol' Nick, staying in the office until midnight every night. Probably good he's not a big drinker. He'd probably drink twelve in a sitting just to make sure he had gettin' drunk right. Then he'd fall off the barstool, and that's a real long way to the floor when you're a man his size. Might break something at that height.

    Hold on while I hit this putt.

    [drains 50 footer with belly putter]

    WELLL LOOKA THAT. God's smilin' on this Gamecock today. Oh, I know, I could be recruitin'. Doesn't seem to help all that much, does it Nick? Hell, if I steal a few SEC titles at South Carolina, I might pull even with you on conference titles with half the effort. But whatever makes you comfortable. I don't judge, just like I hope you don't judge me for badass donut I'm about to do on this green in this golf cart.

    You gotta look for the ones that don't have the restrictor plate on 'em, Nick. I don't just work smart. I play smart, too.

    [tears giant donuts on green to celebrate birdie]


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    THE INTERNET, EXCEPT FOR ONE MAN, IS IMPRESSED

    AAHHHHHHHH. The worst part about recruiting is not the potential, and the total lack of context. Mind you, it's not cool, that lack of context. For instance, that is Emmanuel Greene, a 15 year old who won't be in the picture until the class of 2017, and who currently stands at 5'9". Who knows who's missing him on those tackles, and how talented or untalented they might be? Who knows--

    [rewatches three hundred times]

    --and to hell with realism, because what he just did to both of them is a crime in every state in America, and he earned two counts with whatever happened to that poor second dude. Let's see how Youtube commenters reacted! (Which is the worst part of the internet, and hence internet recruiting.)

    Screen_shot_2014-06-24_at_10.05.33_am_medium

    Your morning's reminder: #FSUTwitter existed before #FSUTwitter, and it usually spent its time shitting on fifteen year old's glory reels and leaving banal comments on Scotch vlogs.


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    For America, for truth, for liberty, and because there is nothing your boss can do about it

    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    If you leave work early to watch the United States play Germany, there will be no lost productivity, because it is a lie. Other countries with over two hundred years of history know this already: productivity is a fiction, and the average adult has something like four and a half or five hours of actual work time a day. The rest is creative accounting, a lie told by managers to managers to justify their existence. Your wages have been effectively flat for the better part of a decade, anyway.

    Take that flat money to the bar, and come back after the U.S. is done beating Germany.

    If your excuse for not leaving your office and joining the rest of America at the bar is "I have to do my job," congrats! You're already so, so wrong. It's Thursday, and chances are you've already done your job for the week. Medical personnel are excused, or may perform essential operations and the birthing of babies on sterilized bar tables. Teachers and day care workers, just leave the kids in a locked room for two hours with some snacks. It's what our parents did, and we don't even remember it and are obviously FINE.

    Finance personnel were unnecessary anyway, so leave and don't come back to the office. It's probably best for all of us if y'all don't ever show up again, ever. Just stay home, and learn a trade, and watch soccer and stop ruining the world.

    But I have a meeting. No you don't. You should never have meetings ever again, anyway, not unless you are doing any of the following.

    1. Are NASA, and are building a rocket to absolutely dominate another planet like Mars or one of the other solid-like ones you can land on and build casinos
    2. Are the President, and need to organize a rescue mission for your wife and daughter that you will play an improbably large physical role in, like "punching terrorist out of Air Force One" or something

    Everything else is superfluous.

    But I can only meet from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m today. Life is testing you. Pass this test by never meeting this person, deleting their phone number and email from your phone, and if necessary by throwing your phone out of a window. They are a garbage person seeking to siphon away your time, a mason whose only joy in life is entombing others in their boredom. You will not be a star victim in their horror movie. You will do the right thing, and cancel this meeting forever for the game and your own well-being.

    And if all else fails, you will Bartleby the Scrivener the hell out of this, American citizen. Your boss asks you to stay? "I would prefer not to," is the reply as you walk out the door and promise to return at 2:30 or so. Your boss threatens to fire you? "I would prefer not to, and I will see you at 2:30," you repeat, waving a cheerful goodbye as you put on your Tony Meola jersey and leave the office as promised. "I would prefer not to," you tell the cop as he puts the cuffs on you, and takes you to jail. That does not work as well, mind you, but if you are polite he may let you watch the game on your phone before you get to central booking.

    Uncle_sam_explosion_medium

    It's two hours out of your life, and barring you being one of the actual two percent of workers who keep things from literally bursting into flames at any minute, you have no excuse. Jurgen Klinsmann needs you. Clint Dempsey needs you. Kyle Beckerman needs you, and not just because he's lost and needs directions to the stadium. Our nation's bars and pubs and drinking establishments need you to provide the economic stimulus we, as a country that works too much and drinks too little, deny our barkeeps: a mid-day influx of alcohol purchases into the coffers of America's finest people, our bartenders.

    If your excuse for not leaving your office and joining the rest of America at the bar is "I have to do my job," congrats! You're already so, so wrong.

    What is the World Cup if you don't learn the best practices of other countries and make them your own? We've already done that with soccer by tearing the mainframe of the German soccer machine and calling it our own. Let's do that with life, and do what everyone else learned long, long ago: shut down the country for two hours to watch a soccer game, and you will miss nothing important in life whatsoever. Money is a lie, your job is probably not that important, and if you do get fired for being too American, well, that's clearly against a law that even if fictional should exist anyway.

    P.S. Don't worry about your wrongful firing case not holding up in court. The judge is at the end of the bar, and he will adjudicate the case on the spot in your favor.


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    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    WE LOST AND WE WON AND THE UNITED STATES MEN'S SOCCER TEAM ARE OUT OF THE GROUP OF DEAAAAAAAAATHHHHHHHHH.

    THIS MAY NOT BE ACCURATE BUT I DON'T CARE HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A TEAM SO THOROUGHLY DOMINATE IN A 1-0 LOSS? DID YOU SEE HOW THE GERMANS SIMPLY COULD NOT KICK THROUGH OUR POWERFUL BURGER KING LEGS BUT ONCE IN THE ENTIRE MATCH? DID YOU NOTICE THE REFINEMENT WITH WHICH WE ALLOWED THEM TO SHOOT ON GOAL, KNOWING WITH OUR HUGE, GRAIN-FED BRAINS THAT WE COULD ALLOW THEM ONE GOAL TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES. THE GERMANS NEED THAT AFTER PRODUCING SOME OF THE MUSIC THEY'VE MADE OVER THE PAST FORTY YEARS. WE'RE GIVERS AND LOVERS, AND THAT'S WHY WE DID THAT.

    Clint Dempsey during his post match celebration

    HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A TEAM SO THOROUGHLY TROUNCE THEIR OWN DEATH SENTENCE AFTER MAN-FROG-TOADSTOOL SEPP BLATTER RIGGED THE LOTTERY AND GAVE US THE WORST DRAW IN RECENT HISTORY? DID YOU EVER SEE ANYONE SHRUG OFF PERENNIAL FOES GHANA, NOTORIOUSLY COMPETENT PORTUGAL, AND THE LEGENDARY MANNSCHAFT OF BIG BAD GERMANY WITH SUCH EASE? DID YOU SEE US SURVIVE PLAYING A ROSTER OF HALF-GERMAN REPLACEMENT PARTS AND STRIVING MLS PLAYERS? DID YOU SEE JURGEN KLINSMANN SEWING YOU AN IMMACULATE BALLGOWN FROM OLD SOCKS AND A SHREDDED UPS PACKAGE? IT LOOKS BEAUTIFUL AND YOU CAN'T EVEN TELL WHAT IT'S MADE OF. THAT'S JUST HOW GOOD HE IS.

    DID YOU SEE HOW PORTUGAL, IN IMITATION OF OUR EXCELLENCE, MIMICKED OUR QUALITY AND ALSO BEAT GHANA 2-1? DID YOU SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS MAN WAS IN THIS GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR THE UNITED STATES?

    NO BETTER PLAYER IN THE WORLD NOT WEARING THE UNITED STATES JERSEY, IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. GET THAT MAN SOME CITIZENSHIP AND A CAR THAT DOESN'T RUN ON ECO-SUSTAINABLE WHALE FARTS AND INSTEAD BURNS ATMOSPHERE-KILLING GASOLINE, AND WE CAN CALL HIM ONE OF OURS AS SOON AS WE GET PAST THE FORMALITY OF GIVING HIM A PASSPORT. YOU SAY THERE ARE FIFA RULES AGAINST THIS. WE SAY WE HAVE CASH. IF QATAR CAN GET A WORLD CUP, WE CAN SEE AN AGING AND FAT CR7 FLOPPING FORWARD FOR US IN 2018. THAT'S WHY WE'RE A LAND OF DREAMERS AND DOERS.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY LET'S GO THROUGH ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AT THIS PARTY BUT AREN'T. OH LOOK, HERE'S PREVIOUS WORLD CUP WINNER ITALY. OH, LOOK, THE COUNTRY THAT INVENTED THE GAME, ENGLAND. WE'RE ABOUT TO EAT ALL THIS DELICIOUS SHRIMP COCKTAIL WITHOUT YOU. WELL I'LL BE TIKI-TAKA'D, IF THIS ISN'T THE SPOT RESERVED FOR SPAIN. WE HOPE Y'ALL WERE ALLERGIC TO SHRIMP BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO GIVE COLOMBIA AND GREECE ALL OF YOURS, AND SKIM A LITTLE EXTRA FOR OURSELVES ON THE SIDE, BECAUSE THE DOORMAN SAID OUR NAME WASN'T ON THE LIST AND AHAHAHAHAHAHHHAA WE'RE IN THE VIP DRINKING CHAMPAGNE ON YOUR TAB.

    GREECE DOESN'T EVEN SCORE ON PURPOSE.

    AND THEY'RE HERE TOO.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA THIS IS THE BEST SPORT ON EARTH. YOU CAN MOCK THE JOY BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE AREN'T CURRENTLY FILLING A JACUZZI WITH IT. THEY SENT US TO THE JUNGLE AND MADE US PLAY BETTER TEAMS. THEY MADE US PLAY IN A FLOODED CITY AGAINST BETTER COMPETITION -- LOVE YOU, GERMANY, EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT FOOD OR CLAPPING ON THE BEAT IS -- AND WE STILL SURVIVED. OUR BEST PLAYER GOT HIS NOSE BROKEN WHEN A GHANAIAN KICKED IT IN. OUR STAR MIDFIELDER HAS CAUGHT THE DREADED AMAZONIAN WOODFOOT VIRUS, AND HAS SHOWN NO SIGNS OF RECOVERY. OUR GOALIE HAS BEEN LEFT OUT TO DRY MORE TIMES THAN SOMETHING WHICH WOULD PEE ITS WETSUIT A LOT. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT

    OUR GOALIE HAS BEEN LEFT OUT TO DRY MORE TIMES THAN SOMETHING WHICH WOULD PEE ITS WETSUIT A LOT.

    THE POINT IS THAT THE UNITED STATES WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. WE WON. WE LOST. WE DREW. AND IN THE END WE DID NOT DIE, AND NOW MOVE INTO THE KNOCKOUT ROUNDS WHERE ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. YOU CAN TRY TO MOCK SURVIVAL ALL YOU WANT BUT IT'S THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN HERE. YOU CAN TRY TO MOCK SOCCER, BUT SHIT I KNOW YOU'RE NOT WATCHING BASEBALL.

    WE PLAY BELGIUM NEXT (PROBABLY!). AS SOON AS AMERICA LOOKS UP WHAT BELGIUM IS WE'LL FORM A DEFINITE AND VIOLENTLY FELT OPINION ON THE MATTER. BUT FIRST WE NEED TO LAY DOWN BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN DRINKING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, AND NEED A NAP. YOU KNOW, LIKE THE KIND THE SPANISH TAKE IN THE AFTERNOON, WHILE THEY AREN'T WATCHING THEIR SOCCER TEAM THAT ISN'T IN THE WORLD CUP. YOU SHOULD WATCH GAME OF THRONES, SPAIN. IT'S A LOT LIKE THE WORLD CUP IN THAT EVERYONE DIES, AND AN AMERICAN STILL HAS A HAND IN WRITING THE SCRIPTS.


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    NOT EXACT SIGNS, BUT DEFINITELY SIGNS

    You might look at a two-headed alligator turning up in the Hillsborough River and think a lot of things: genetic accident, a terrifying instance of pollution-induced mutation in a species highly susceptible to toxins in the environment, a grim warning by Mother Nature to mankind about the dangers of messing too much with the natural order, or a Santeria-borne hellbeast conjured by mispronounced spells made by bored teenagers in Lutz.

    We disagree. You're clearly not seeing the signs here. When are champions made? The summer. What animal are we talking about? An alligator. What else is an alligator? That's right, the University of Florida, represented by that sainted reptilian killing machine as a mascot for all sports teams, including its struggling football program. What's it got? Two heads. When was the last time the University of Florida had two heads? That's right, in 2006 with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at quarterback.

    What are we saying, you ask?

    Twingator_medium

    IT'S A SIGN OF GREATNESS TO COME IN 2014, WE SAY.*

    *Or that an enterprising Seminole will trap us, kill us, and turn us into a pair of boots at the end of the year while selling our heads on EBay. Shoney's doesn't ask for a lot of information from its suppliers.EITHER COULD HAPPEN, IS WHAT WE'RE SAYING.


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    THAT SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT

    The new South Carolina and Texas A&M rivalry has very little history behind it-- as in none, since the two teams have never played football against each other, and have to resort to grasping at historical and cultural straws to make a soul connection between the two schools. Guns? Both states like guns, and barbecue? On second thought, let's not talk about barbecue, because the number of people with concealed carry permits and a debate over mustard sauce versus unadorned brisket is how people get killed.

    Fortunately, someone has already come up with a brilliant solution: the James Butler Bonham trophy, named after a South Carolinian who died at the Alamo. Why is this appropriate in both directions? Well, Bonham died at the Alamo, which is the most Texan thing possible in history, and he did this, which honors the time-tested correlation between Palmetto State politicians and barking, possibly syphilitic madness.

    Bonham entered South Carolina College in 1824. In 1827, in his senior year, he led a student protest over harsh attendance regulations and the poor food served at the college boardinghouse. He was expelled, along with the entire senior class. In 1830, Bonham practiced law in Pendleton, but was found in contempt of court after caning an attorney who had insulted one of Bonham's clients. When ordered to apologize by the sitting judge, he refused and threatened to tweak the judge’s nose. Bonham was sentenced to ninety days for contempt of court.

    He caned an attorney and traveled several states to shoot people. HE'S PERFECT.


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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/h5fxVvvHRhs" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe>

    It's Dolly Parton playing the Benny Hill theme forwards and backwards. Even if you win today, Belgium, you'll never have that. NEVER. (P.S. She's really playing, just like she is here on "Son of a Preacher Man.")


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    SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

    1. Wondolowski almost had it: on the foot, nothing in front of him but the notion of the possibility of the chance appearance of the goalkeeper. In stoppage time, the United States got the ball in the right spot to steal a game from Belgium, advance to the final eight teams in the World Cup, and set that vast crowd of sunburnt Missourians in St. Louis into a beer-soaked levitation of humans too ecstatic to obey the rules of gravity. (You know the people we're talking about: the same crowd they showed in Kansas City before every game, the ones alternating vigorous mass bouncing with screaming "I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN" at the top of their lungs. The on-camera MVPs of the Copa, as far as I'm concerned.) Wondolowski had it, and then didn't, and in the extra period the Belgians would score two goals and eliminate the Americans from the tournament. The noise you should have been making was the last resort of the exhausted and helpless viewer: a sigh.

    2. A sigh, despite all of this going much farther than you thought it could — at least, much further than you thought before it showed up. In the case of Brazil, it took the form of a suave, nattily dressed gentleman with a massive beard and pince-nez, wearing the armor of a nineteenth-century intellectual. He whispered in my ear during matches that yes, despite Bradley kicking the ball with lead feet, and despite the frailty of Jozy Altidore's hamstring, this team had hope. Hope always takes a defined shape in the brain. Once it arrived for me, it took the form of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, the greatest Brazilian novelist, peeking over my shoulder, eyeing the dismal possession stats and shot attempts, and saying quietly: time is an invisible web on which everything can be embroidered. He'd say this, looking out the window, sipping from a cup of coffee, and turning back to nod from time to time and smile. Hope was a Brazilian novelist, and he was saying exactly what I wanted to hear.

    3. For instance, he would tell the story about the time Tim Howard saved you. In a thousand alternate universes, he has turned errant taxis away from your path, swatted you away from falling safes, and punched away cannonballs bouncing along the ground to a certain decapitation. Innumerable yous have been saved from an almost infinite variety of grim ends by his puffy white gloves, flashing into the frame at the last second. You never felt the bullet coming; Tim Howard kicked it away. Tim Howard had fifteen, sixteen, maybe seventeen saves against Belgium, and it pales compared to what he's done out there, in other places and other worlds where Tim Howard catches babies falling from windows and swats away killer asteroids with the help of a giant robot exoskeleton and enormous tennis racket.

    4. Hope, the guy who looked a lot like the Brazilian novelist Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, continued. This was later, after the United States had lost, and he was pacing the room stroking his beard, and hard in thought telling another story. The story involved a goalkeeper, and to understand the story, you must understand goalkeepers. Tim Howard is a goalkeeper. In any story, that means he is eventually going to lose. It is the position of Camus, of people who work against the envelope of total annihilation with ease.

    *Note: Camus got interviewed about his Nobel Prize at a soccer game, by the way, in one of the stranger and more wonderful intersections between soccer and literature ever.

    So, the man you've confused for Hope says with a slight Brazilian accent, Tim Howard was crying, and it hurt, but that doesn't matter. Goalies at their best function perfectly in the moment. They remember nothing, and expect no help, and when the end comes it is as relevant as a sum written out at the end of a long, dull equation. The present is the only thing to the keeper, and the play to the ball all that matters. Tim Howard would cry after the match, but there is another quote from Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis that applies here: Tears are not arguments. Tim Howard would agree, the man said, because for a goalie doom may be knocking at the door and adjusting its necktie at all hours, yes. But right behind that door was Tim Howard, who like all goalies would take a one-on-one match against the devil at whatever odds you cared to make for them.

    5. And that is how soccer can end: on a sigh. You have to assemble those sighs into something like an order. The United States is out, but not only a ferocious fight. The talent will be deeper in four years from now, even if we have to annex part of Lower Saxony and build an enormous and literal vacuum tube pipeline between the two countries in order to expedite the influx of Ameri-German prospects into the team. Players — Howard, Dempsey, and others — will age out. Others will age in, including Julian Green, last seen spiking the veins of the team with a desperate goal in extra time. He will be 23 in 2018, old enough to scare the daylights out of opposing defenders, yet still in the "have to do some extra bullshit just to rent a car" age spectrum. Klinsmann has another four years to cultivate the roots of a true national talent development system. This team just busted out of group play under nearly impossible conditions, and went out only after 120 minutes of furious work against one of the best sides in the world. After 1950, the United States fell out of the World Cup for forty years. The USMNT as we know it is basically 24 years old, the same age Julian Green will be in Russia. It is trying to pay off a few debts, but it has its own place right now, and is thinking about getting its life together. It's got plans, man. It's got whatever you imagine to be hope.

    6. If you asked the bearded man called hope who looks a lot like Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis on my couch right now, he would tell you this: Out of the sighs of one generation are kneaded the hopes of the next. If this is your first time around with the United States Men's National Team, you just made the kind of down payment that converts the faithless into zealotry for the rest of your life. You paid with sorrow, the emotion that is the mother of all affection. You saw John Brooks' winning header against Ghana, yes, but the circuit is never complete without the alternating current of loss. Welcome to a world of trying to find beIn Sports on a pirate feed at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight. Welcome to tracking Turkish soccer sites trying to gauge the fitness of a reserve defender who maybe, just maybe, solves our issues in central defense in a few years. Welcome to looking up plane fares to Mexico City, because, yanno, it's just a day or two, and you've got all this PTO just piling up in the work account, and ... they're playing, and they need you. You might need them, too, for a thousand reasons you can't quite articulate.

    Tim Howard would cry after the match, but there is another quote from Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis that applies here: Tears are not arguments.

    7. The World Cup is over, and yet there is still this man on my couch. He still looks like the famous Brazilian novelist, and he still seems like something like hope. These things take time, he will say, and you'll think oh: he's right. The last time the United States walked off the field against Ghana, my son could not sit up, much less ask for the remote, turn on an episode of Octonauts, and drill me on the particulars of Imperial ships in Star Wars while I pour him his milk for the morning. My other son didn't even exist. This is how the future is raised: a piece at a time, a day at a time, so slowly and yet so quickly you hardly notice how much closer it's gotten. The ghost of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis has one last quote for the occasion: Tomorrow's sun is on its way a relentless sun, inscrutable like life. In 1,442 days or so, that sun rises over Moscow and the first game of the 2018 World Cup. Hope and its best hallucinations are welcome to stay on the couch until then.


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