Brazil 2014

Rio de Janeiro mayor says, “We made a mistake”

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Eduardo Paes, mayor of World Cup host city Rio de Janeiro, believes Brazil made a poor choice in structuring the tournament’s games. Although host countries are required to provide eight match venues, in 2014, there will be twelve cities involved.

That choice has led to massive spending, as the country renovates or rebuilds the stadiums hosting the World Cup matches. There have been multiple delays, including reports that the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo, where the first match will be played, will not be ready on time. Concerns remain over the lack of promised improvements to Brazil’s transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps Brazil has stretched itself too thin?

“We are a continental country, we are very big,” Paes said on Thursday. “We made a mistake. We should have fewer cities hosting the World Cup than we have.”

It doesn’t help that at least four of those stadiums are likely to go unused after the close of the tournament, having been built in areas home to teams in the lower divisions of Brazilian football. Such waste only further infuriates much of the population, who have been protesting government spending on the tournament.

Paes believes these protests, which have been occurring for nearly two years now, are likely to continue during the tournament itself. “I don’t think people are protesting against the World Cup,” he said. “People are asking for better services. They are asking for better politics. They are asking for more transparency.”

He is also worried about the potential damage playing host will have on his country’s reputation, saying the delays have already hurt Brazil’s image. However, all hope is not lost: “I don’t think we blew it. Let’s wait until next week. We’re going to have a great World Cup.”

Let’s all cross our fingers.

2014 World Cup team preview: Iran

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Getting to know…Iran: This is the fourth World Cup for Iran (1978, 1998, 2006), who have yet to make it out of the Group Stage and have won only one of the nine matches they’ve played in the tournament (a 2-1 victory over USA in 1998). This side, managed by 61-year-old Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz, are a defensively staunch group that at times puts 10 players behind the ball to absorb pressure before trying to nab opponents on the counter. Of the 32 teams in the World Cup, the Persian Stars are pegged by many to finish at or towards the bottom but not if players like Jalal Hosseini, Javad Nekounam, Ashkan Dejagah and Reza Ghoochannejhad have anything to say about it.

Record in qualifying: Qualified first in Group A of Asian Football Confederation, beating out South Korea for the top spot. In eight matches, Iran took 16 points, scoring eight goals and conceding only two.

What group are they in?: Group F with Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Nigeria

Game schedule:

16 June, 16:00, Curitiba – Iran vs. Nigeria
21 June, 13:00, Belo Horizonte – Argentina vs. Iran
25 June, 13:00, Salvador – Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Iran

source: APStar player: Javad Nekounam

The 33-year-old defensive midfielder plays his club ball at Al-Kuwait SC and brings a wealth of international experience (140 caps) to the side. After a strong performance in the 2006 World Cup, Nekounam was in-demand throughout Europe and signed with La Liga outfit Osasuna where he would spend six seasons registering 149 appearances and 24 goals. Since then the powerful destroyer enjoyed a two year spell at Esteghlal before transferring to Kuwait this past January. A possession-based player who relies on simple short passes and combination play to charge forward, Nekounam captained Iran through World Cup qualifying by scoring four times, including the winner against South Korea to secure the top spot in AFC.

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Perhaps best known as Sir Alex Ferguson’s trusted assistant at Manchester United, Queiroz has managed Iran since 2011. He became coach of the Persian Stars after spending two years as boss of Portugal, with whom he brought to the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup. Queiroz is known for his defensive, counter-attacking system, and is a well-traveled manager having coached a variety of international and club sides including Sporting Lisbon, South Africa, New York MetroStars, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Real Madrid, among others.

Secret weapon: Ashkan Dejagah

Premier League fans will be familiar with Fulham’s rampaging winger (above, right), who left his mark on numerous matches this season by scoring a number of impressive goals. Powerful, pacy and possessing a vicious shot, Dejagah is a game-changer in the truest sense of the word. With Iran’s formation and scheme, expect Dejagah to occupy the right wing where his teammates will look to spring him on the counter-attack. Look for Dejagah to link up with Ghoochannejhad as the side’s lone striker or to simply over-power opponents on his own and have a go. Don’t be surprised if the World Cup serves as a stage for the 27-year-old to be snapped up by a top-tier club as Fulham settle for life in the Championship.

Prediction: A point would be an achievement. Getting out of the Group Stage, a miracle. At best Iran could snag a 0-0 draw with Nigeria or Bosnia & Herzegovina but look for Argentina to make the Persian Stars their whipping boys.

Will claiming soccer as your religion get you off work during the World Cup?

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Every soccer zealot dreams of having a month off work so they can watch the World Cup unhampered by such menial tasks as responding to email or chatting with the boss. It’s an event that comes around but once every four years, so you’d think companies would be more generous, allowing long lunch breaks or even full days away to watch your country’s team pursue glory.

Especially in Brazil, for goodness sakes.

But turns out that, even in the country hosting the World Cup, workers are expected to input data into spreadsheets rather than devote their full attention to the Seleção. So a company called Cerveja Foca came up with an ingenious plan: register futebol as a religion in Brazil, and then, in order not to run afoul of laws respecting religious freedom, companies will be forced to give employees time off to watch the game.

Here’s Cerveja Foca promoting this devious plan:

Just one problem: Brazil has no such law that requires companies to provide paid leave to those observing religious holidays, nor do the country’s labor laws permit religious observation as a reason to take time off work.

In other words, this is just a (rather clever) marketing campaign. But what of the suckers that visit the Cerveja Foca website, submitting a form that is meant to prompt the brewer into sending a request for time off to the worker’s company? Wouldn’t that make viewers angry, actually turning them off the idea of buying Foca beer?

Apparently, there’s enough mistakes in the website and text to convince any Portuguese speaker that the brewery isn’t serious. Pretty high standards, Brazil has. Even if they won’t let employees take time off to watch their beloved futebol.

Giggs backs Rooney to make an impact at the World Cup

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Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time top goalscorer in competitive internationals, has never scored in a World Cup. By the time the 2018 tournament rolls around, the forward will be nearly 33 years old. In other words, it’s now or never for Rooney – it’s time for him to make his mark on the world’s biggest stage.

Ryan Giggs has faith in the 28-year-old. Manchester United’s interim manager said, “Wayne is a top player. He is at a good age. He is probably at the peak of his powers and I know for a fact he can’t wait for it.”

Rooney won’t be involved in United’s final game of the season, in which the side travel to Southampton. He’s scored 17 league goals this season, but this will be the third straight game the forward has missed due to a groin injury.

Giggs isn’t worried, however, as he believes the rest will be to Rooney’s benefit“He will be going into it relatively fresh. The injury has probably done him a favour. I know he is excited, just like all the lads who are going to the World Cup.”

Indeed, what Rooney may need to work the hardest to overcome are the memories of previous tournaments. In 2006, after a race to be fit enough for his first World Cup, Rooney was sent off in the quarter-final against Portugal for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. In the last tournament, England in general disappointed, and although Rooney was the top scorer in qualifying, he was unable to get on the scoreboard.

England were dealt a tough group for Brazil, in Group D with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. Quality performances by Rooney could even determine if the Three Lions make it out of the group stages, so many England fans will be hoping Giggs’ words ring true.

American robots set to help police 2014 World Cup

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If the U.S. national team head home early from the World Cup in Brazil this summer, there will still be a huge U.S. presence on the ground in South America… in the form of robots.

That’s right folks, iRobot, a Bedford, Massachusetts-based company, will supply 30 ‘Packbots’ to the Brazilian government in a $7.2 million deal, according to Robohub, as security is high on the agenda ahead of this summer’s World Cup. When contacted by NBC nobody was able to comment at iRobot.

However it is expected that the 12 host cities will share the high-tech machines to help boost security and examine any packages that are deemed to be suspicious. The PackBot system made its debut in Afghanistan in 2002 were it was used to help soldiers cross minefields and clear buildings. It has been used in Iraq and several other countries, with over 800 of the military robots providing much needed help across the world.

With plenty of unrest expected across Brazil this summer, due to huge anti-Government protests planned, it seems as though Brazil will need as much help as it can get to police the event properly. Helping out will be American robots strolling the street of Sao Paolo, and other cities, to help keep the tournament safe.

That’s pretty cool.

But these lightweight robots, which can be folded up into a backpack and weigh just 40lbs and can reach speeds of up to 9 miles/hour, are nothing compared to the huge military spending going on in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup. As we documented on PST back in the summer, the Qatari government has bought 118 tanks to helps with the policing of their World Cup tournament.

Anyway, having extra Americans on the soil in Brazil to give the hosts a helping hand is neat. Maybe the robots should be dressed in U.S. jerseys? Just a thought…