BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for July 2012

How Olympic football affects the World Cup

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Tim Vickery | 09:55 UK time, Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympic football may not be the main event of the Olympic Games but those teams taking part have an excellent opportunity to try things out as they prepare for the next World Cup.

This has rarely been clearer than at Old Trafford on Sunday, when 2014 hosts Brazil were confronted with a problem they will surely meet time and time again in two years' time. Opponents Belarus put 10 men behind the ball and looked to frustrate them, forcing them to pass sideways, hoping that Brazilian frustration would lead to error and then launching the counter-attack.

What made this match especially interesting was that Belarus took the lead, scoring a beautifully worked goal on almost the first occasion they crossed the halfway line. The true test of a team is always when they go a goal down. How would Brazil respond?

In the event they were level just six minutes later - but it took them another forty to get in front. And the three points were not safe until the third goal was scored in stoppage time. A crowd of 66,000 turned up, many of them Brazilians well aware of the importance of Olympic football.

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Can Uruguay roll back the years at London 2012?

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Tim Vickery | 17:49 UK time, Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Paris Olympics of 1924 are best remembered in Britain for providing the backdrop to Chariots of Fire. But for all the heroism of Messrs Liddell and Abrahams, something happened there with far greater consequences - the birth of modern football.

No-one knew much about Uruguay as they sailed their way across the Atlantic to take part in the football tournament. But they strolled to the gold medal with an artistic style of play that captivated spectators and set off a fever for the game.

Four years later, to prove it was no fluke, Uruguay won the gold medal at the Amsterdam Olympics. Argentina came across as well, and they took the silver.

The South Americans, who had been playing a continental competition almost annually since 1916, had taken the game to new heights. But could they beat the English professionals? A new competition was needed, one which was not restricted to amateurs. And so the World Cup was born, its first edition staged - and won - by Uruguay in 1930.

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Brazil's dual football mission at the London Olympics

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Tim Vickery | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2012

The British public are getting a crash course on the appeal and importance of the Olympic football tournament.

They may still regard it as something of a sideshow, but in Brazil it is seen as the showpiece of the Games, especially over the last three decades when professionals have been allowed to compete.

Olympic gold remains the only major title open to Brazil that they have yet to claim. The quest to win it has been the source of four-yearly frustrations.

But in the UK over the next few weeks, the current Brazil side will be doing much more than trying to complete the set: they are also building towards an even higher objective.

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South Americans ready to stop Spanish stroll

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Tim Vickery | 08:30 UK time, Monday, 9 July 2012

Spain's win at Euro 2012 - their third consecutive major tournament win - has sparked off all kinds of comparisons in the bar room debate over the best international team of all time.

Of course, such conversations have a strong subjective component, but it is hard to formulate arguments against the facts - and a fourth consecutive trophy will surely tip the balance in Spain's favour.

But title number four looks set to be the hardest of the lot. It entails doing what no European team has ever done - winning the World Cup on South American soil when the world come to Brazil in 2014.

Worse, it comes at a time when the South Americans, who have always won the trophy when it has been staged on their continent, have an unprecedented degree of strength in depth. This is something the reigning world and European champions should know from experience.

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Spain success built on clear football identity

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Tim Vickery | 08:00 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

With a goal scrambled in from a set piece, Brazil beat Spain 1-0 in the final of the 2003 Under-17 World Cup in Finland. Spain, though, played most of the football.

“We were the Brazilians today,” said their coach Juan Santiesteban, after his team of little ball-players had lost out to opponents who carried much more physical presence.

The overriding objective of youth football is to groom players for the senior side. Nearly a decade on, then, it is clear who really won the game. Not one of the Brazil team has played a serious competitive international.

Cesc Fabregas and David Silva, meanwhile, have gone on to better things, combining on Sunday to put Spain on the way to a third consecutive major tournament win.

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