Posts Tagged ‘ FIFA ’

World Cup 2002

Looked back at the 2002 World Cup, from recapping key moments to kits to goals to the performance of the USMNT.

Read both parts below and let me know thoughts in the comments below.

Bad Hair, a Historic Run, Crazy Fans and Bad Refereeing (World Cup 2002) Part 1

Kits, Shoes, Tactics and Team of the Tournament (World Cup 2002) Part 2


Bad Hair, a Historic Run, Crazy Fans and Bad Refereeing (World Cup 2002) Part 1


Four years on from France 98 and I was ready. Having been completely consumed by Euro 2000, I looked forward to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. With the help of the internet I was able to learn more and more about the teams and stay up to date on the most recent results.

The tournament started earlier than usual due to the rainy season and, due to the time difference, games kicked off in the middle of the night here in the United States. The United States had qualified (including the first Dos a Cero in Columbus) and opened up against a Portugal team led by their Golden Generation (Vitor Baia, Sérgio Conceição, Jorge Costa, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, Luís Figo, Nuno Gomes, João Pinto, etc.), who had made the semis of Euro 2000.


The night before the game I had a strange dream, a dream in which the United States thrashed the Portuguese in a stunning upset. Quite the premonition but complicated by the fact that I had slept through the match, missing the Stars and Stripes stunning achievement. I awoke in the early hours and drove to a friend’s house where local coaches were assembling to watch the match, and, as the memorable first half unfolded, my dream was becoming a reality. Portugal fought back and nearly saved a point, but the US held on and set the stage for a historic tournament, in which they reached the Quarter Finals.

This tournament was memorable for several reasons. Recently wed, my wife and I had rented the upstairs of a house and were starting our lives together. Our house didn’t have air conditioning, so I was sweating in the heat even at 2am. I was able to get out of the house to watch the morning matches, as a local bar hosted watch parties for the US games. It was my first taste of communal watching with US fans and not just ex-pats watching EPL and FA Cup games.

moreno frings

Referees were in the news due to several key decisions: Italy falling to South Korea, partly due to some dubious decisions; Spain also losing to the hosts and some even more questionable calls (ball not going out of bounds, phantom whistles, etc); and the no handball call in the Germany/USA game. Frings  stopped the shot on the line and nothing was called.

Average goals continued to decline for the third straight competition but there were some amazing strikes (apologies for the awful music). Uruguay produced two great goals, one by Darío Rodríguez  against Denmark and another by Forlan against Senegal. Edmilson hit a half bike against Costa Rica, there was Torrado’s laser against Ecuador, and Japan’s interplay for the single goal against Russia was fantastic. Dynamic free kicks were also on show with Roberto Carlos against China, Raouf Bouzaiene for Tunisia against Belgium, and Johan Walem for Belgium against Russia. The champions produced two wonderful goals, with Ronaldinho torturing Cole before laying off for Rivaldo and their second against Germany in the Final.

YOKOHAMA - JUNE 30: Ronaldo of Brazil lines up before the World Cup Final match between Germany and Brazil played at the International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan on June 30, 2002. Brazil won the match 2-0. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)


Defending champions France were absolutely abysmal, going home with only one point and no goals scored. Brazil made the Final but not before Rivaldo had a shameful dive against Turkey in the Group Stage. Unfortunately Ronaldo unleashed a horrible haircut on the world as well. But one of the lasting memories of the tournament was the noise of the South Korean fans. Watching them support one of the surprise packages of the tournament was a joy. This summary from the Guardian team really captures the highlights (and lowlights) of the tournament.

World Cup 2002 Film

World Cup 2002 Final highlights

John Devlin/True Colours

true colours cover

John Devlin/True Colours

John Devlin, author of True Colours: Football Kits from 1980 to the Present Day, Volumes 1 and 2, came on the SoccerNomad podcast to talk kit history and design. His wealth of knowledge is remarkable and I learned a lot. After a great conversation, we finished with some listener questions.

Learn more about kits and get in touch with John.



Sample page from True Colours

true colours sample page

Early kits

England 1872-1879


Aston Villa 1878-1879


Woolwich Arsenal 1894-1899


(images courtesy of Historical Football Kits)

Sample jersey styles from Picking Up the Threads

picking up the threads

Kit Design Elements

Tramline kit

coventry city


Sublimated dye


Collar Styles






50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever

Additional resources


Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Paging Gianni Infantino

About a year ago the state of the US Soccer Pyramid consumed me. At that time I really thought that the NASL was on the way out due to the lack of a national footprint, MLS moving in on possible markets, and the development of USL as a feeder league for MLS. The NASL is still fighting the good fight bringing San Francisco into the fold and maintaining a Midwest presence with Rayo OKC. Time will tell if the league survives.

Recently the lower tiers of US Soccer and the ever present #ProRelforUSA conversations have been bubbling up in my twitter feeds. I started reading the American Pyramid blog and I was introduced to dozens of clubs/groups looking to fill a need, which is one of player development and local support. So I had American Pyramid creator John Pannebaker on the SoccerNomad podcast and one item he focused on was building critical mass at the lower levels. The day after I edited a rough cut of our conversation, I came across an article by Denis Crowley who started Stockade FC. Several times he mentioned the idea of “If something doesn’t exist, create it”, which is similar to what John said on the podcast.

The something is pro rel. It doesn’t exist in the US, at least not yet. Thanks to FIFA’s exemption and the powers that be at USSF and MLS, a concept that is used around the world (except in Australia) is non-existent in the US. But what if the lower leagues said, we’ll just do it, show how it’s done, build critical mass and change things? Might be a pipe dream but you never know.

These recent conversations and articles were reasoned and passionate with a real desire for a change that will benefit everyone from the clubs to the players to the supporters. The tone was in contrast to a lot of the chatter on social media demanding change. All of these things made me ask myself, Do we want Pro/Rel or do we want to yell about something or do we want to be like the rest of the soccer world?

I’m not against Pro/Rel. Don’t necessarily think it will be the magic bullet but it could help. Again the US has no frame of reference and the moneyed interests at the higher levels, especially in MLS, have no interest in changing. Only way this changes is if FIFA changes their special exception and then wins the ensuing legal battle.  No way these owners give up their fiefdom with a fight.

If people need something to yell at, I’m all for that. If you need a topic other than Pro/Rel, might I suggest fixing roads, improving the quality and decision making of drivers and improving customer service at fast food establishments? If you need more, I’ve got a whole list.

In terms of being like the rest of the world, we are America. We are the world. If we want to be like the rest of the world, does that mean #SingleTable and #LeagueNotPlayoff and #InternationalBreak? And does that mean we start petitioning FIBA and whoever is in charge of American Football worldwide and the World Baseball Softball Confederation and the International Ice Hockey Federation so that my local team can progress to the highest level? Who is the Ted Westervelt for those sports?

Again I’m for Pro/Rel but I’m tired of being yelled at by the most ardent supporters. Also I have enough in my life to complain about so I don’t need to add screaming at FIFA/USSF/MLS to the list. And finally I want to know how far people are willing to go to emulate the rest of world soccer. Whoever you are, carry on, but I’m going to keep going to games, having a beer or seven and enjoying myself.

Virtual Emotions, Wasted Time

Well, Doctor, it’s like this. I’ve been playing the Football Manager games for 20 years. Since the very first one, the one with the picture of an angry man on the box, came out I’ve spent hours and hours and hours of my life tinkering with make-believe football teams, playing with tactics, scouting and recruiting new players. When I think about what I could have achieved in my life, the languages I could have learned, the places I could have seen, it really does break my heart. At some point, I’m going to be on my death bed, surrounded by family members, gently ebbing away into the next plane of existence and all I’m going to be able to think about is the fact that I must have spent a cumulative total of six unbroken months playing a computer game.

Taken from Iain Macintosh’s work for the Guardian and the Blizzard.

Iain Macintosh really is the gold standard for this topic. He has taken his obsession with Football Manager and rolled it into his work, writing a book Football Manager Stole My Life and occasionally publishing articles for websites showing what he would do with team x to get them out of situation y (including what he would have instead of Moyes at Manchester United for the 13/14 season).

My experience has been with the EA Sports FIFA series, which has resulted in hours spent in front of a computer, regardless of physical, emotional and social demands. Late into the night, first thing in the morning; so many worn out controllers, worn out discs; virtual high and lows. Yes my life is sad and this is just one example.


The EA Sports FIFA series has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. In talking about this with my brother, he reminded me that the first version we played was FIFA 95. When I moved back to Michigan, we used to play for hours in his dorm room with opponents trying to get to the “hot spot” to score a certain goal. To prevent this from occurring, the C button was used in order to foul the player.


I can also recall playing FIFA 97 on the SEGA Genesis system. I seem to remember an outdoor and indoor version, which was a great idea. I took Manchester United to glory and this laid the groundwork for how I used the game. Stephen McKeown had familiar experiences, getting all the iterations, finding the sweet spots, playing against friends.

Once I got the game I would start playing on the easiest level to see how things worked. I looked for two things: how to score and how to tackle.  I would usually learn the game using a middling team from France or Germany, slowly figuring it out, unlocking achievements and setting the stage for the hardest level. At this point, I would always start with Manchester United. Success usually came quickly and I would then move on to another big club in a different league. Once I had mastered the game, I would challenge myself by taking lesser teams and trying to win with them.


In the early years of the game, I developed a blitzkrieg mentality. For the 1998 version, I rented the game for Sony Playstation and played an entire Serie A season in one weekend as Juventus. Then the obsession moved to the N64. When the 1999 copy came out (featuring The Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim), I played constantly and tried to win the European Cup with the Red Devils but could never beat Kyiv.


FIFA 2000 saw the addition of Major League Soccer. Didn’t really care for the league at the time so didn’t use those teams. I did play a lot as Derby County. Why the Rams? Well in the early days of the interwebs, I could listen to Derby matches on the internet. They became my first “second” team, so this bled into my gameplay experience as well. This version of the FIFA series contained over 40 “classic” teams, so that gamers could play as retired football legends. Looking back at that, I don’t think I made enough time for this feature. FIFA 2000 had my favorite soundtrack, especially Stop the Rock by Apollo 440, although Sell Out by Reel Big Fish was a blemish on an otherwise fantastic soundscape.


I switched to the PC version in 2001 and started buying the game every couple of years. Moby’s Body Rock was a highlight of FIFA 2001 and this game came at a time when I had more time on my hands. After a while I recreated the Manchester United team with horrible player rankings in an attempt to still be the Red Devils but handicapping myself. This approach had mixed results as the pseudo Reds weren’t nearly as successful as the real club.


Starting in 2003 I would take an established team and sell off the best players and replace them with players of inferior ability. This took shape in the FC Barcelona as the Blaugrana won trophies with players that I had never heard of.  Finding players from around the world, I reshaped the Spanish giants and found success without Rivaldo and Luis Enrique and Ronaldinho. As a side note, this version had another solid soundtrack.


In future versions, namely 2007 and 2009, I picked English League Two sides and worked on how quickly I could get them to the Premier League. This was quite time consuming as they played a 46 game schedule plus participated in three Cup competitions. I only got three straight promotions once but found this a great challenge, especially when I ran into Premier League teams in the cups.


Notts County was my greatest example of this strategy. Picked as homage to the team that supplied the kit that would eventually become the iconic black and white stripes of Juventus, I took them from the fourth division to the top flight in just three seasons. Unfortunately I got relegated but bounced back and eventually qualified for Europe before accidently failing to renew my players contracts which resulted in a bare bones squad. Results dropped and I was eventually fired. On the soundtrack front I really enjoyed Chloroform by Belasco and New York Minute from Mobile on the 2007 version as well as Kids by MGMT from the 2009 copy. I have dabbled with 2013 and 2014 but since my son is constantly on the Xbox (a parenting discussion to be had at a later time) my opportunities are few and far between.

One aspect of the game that I explored was creating an alternate version of the game, a series of what ifs. For instance I created several leagues that didn’t exist in real life in an attempt for increased competition for myself and to see how these proposed leagues might work.

My first creation was the Commonwealth League, a fusion of the English and Scottish Premier Leagues.  Playing as Celtic I matched wits with eternal rivals Rangers and the rest of the English teams. I created the league along with custom Scottish Cups and European competitions. While the removal of the Old Firm would kill the Scottish League, it may be the only way for these two to ever be a factor in Europe ever again. The only problem with this exercise was that you had to re-create the league every season.

Next up was the Atlantic League. For a time there were discussions about creating a breakaway league for second and third tier European leagues, which would increase their revenues and levels of competition.  I had found success as Ajax and decided to see how I would do against teams from the proposed countries, drawing from Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. Found that Anderlecht and Brondby were quite strong, but my Ajax were victorious, although the absence of the Scottish teams may have cleared the way for triumph.


Finally there was the European Super League. I expanded the, at the time, G-14, and added six teams—Valencia, Arsenal, Parma, who I had won several scudetti with, and several other teams I can’t remember. Here was my structure: two groups of ten, played everyone once and the top two from each group advanced to the semi finals. Due to the computer generation, the big teams rarely did well so it wasn’t dominated by Barca, Real, Bayern and the Milan teams. Juve and Porto did well and, due to my ability, I was able to keep Parma competitive. In terms of getting a minimum number of games for the super clubs, this option is attractive but my guess is that if this money spinning competition ever comes to fruition, it will be groups of four with an 8 to 16 team knockout. Did it for three or four seasons and reshuffled the groups every season to get new match ups.

Another aspect of the game I really enjoyed was creating kits for the various teams. Part of my budding #KitNerd-ness, I actually used the sash on a shirt for Ipswich Town long before its introduction into contemporary kit design. Inspired by the silver Juve kits produced by Lotto in the early 2000’s, I created one for Ajax, if for no other reason than it looked cool. And of course I designed an all black strip for United.

Gamescom: visitors play Fifa 14 on the Xbox One

Another FIFA obsessive Dylan Murphy talked about the hours playing the game and the pursuit of glory to determine how good you were worldwide. That never appealed to me. Mine was solely a pursuit of man versus machine. Plus, due to limited internet access, I never got into the live, online experience. I admit I am a little jealous when I hear about something that happened online between players and their epic online clashes, with the accompanying trash talk and virtual recognition, but I’m terrified of playing in any sort of public tournament. Don’t want the bubble of invulnerability to be punctured or to feel the sting of defeat. I’m a delicate flower.

Recently it appears that the game is impacting American fan culture, with recent statistics compiled by ESPN and EA Sports showing that 34% of EA Sports FIFA players became pro soccer fans after playing the video game and 50% of EA Sports FIFA players are more interested in pro soccer after playing the video game.

For me, it was just another way to engage the sport. With limited access before the days of high speed internet and multi-national TV contracts, I didn’t have to wait for magazines or newspapers or tape delayed highlights. I could live the dream every day, I could create a new reality. Hours upon hours were spent learning about new players, competing for trophies (imaginary as they were), and creating a new narrative while drawing from the past. I still play the PC version from time to time as a way to relax, although relax is probably not the right word as the desire for success has led to screaming, both triumphant and angry, and the occasional moment of property damage. No matter what happens, I return to the game.

Would love to hear how other people engaged the game. Post your successes, failures, favorite teams, favorite players, or favorite tweaks in the comments below.


Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Confederation Combination and World Cup Expansion

At the recent FIFA meetings, the possibility of a 40 team World Cup was raised and fellow soccer fan/on field adversary Ben Dettmar had to poke the bear on facebook. His post raised two issues: an expanded World Cup and a combined soccer confederation including all of the Americas.

Let me take the second issue first. A combined CONCACAF (41) + CONMEBOL (10) would be similar in size to UEFA, so a western hemisphere bi annual or quadrennial competition (prefer the latter) to replace the Copa America and Gold Cup and an expanded qualifying series make sense. The Gold Cup is relatively recent so it’s passing would not be that big of a deal but the Copa America is one of the first international competitions with a hundred years of history. Suppose life moves on but that did occur to me. Plus how would you qualify for the tournament? That makes the quadrennial option much more plausible and would put the Americas on a similar international cycle as Europe.

For listeners of the World Football Phone In, Tim Vickery has made the case several times about the merits of the South American home and away qualifying cycle. Teams earn their way by playing everyone. He is also of the opinion that the minnows are strengthened by playing the big boys every cycle. I agree with the first, not sure on the second. South America is perfectly set up for a merit based qualifying system due to having ten countries whereas other confederations have too many members to make this feasible.

But a combined confederation raises the issue of travel. Canada draws Chile and that’s 5300 miles one way. Costs and travel time could hamper this endeavor, especially for smaller nations. Ben brought up the comparison of Kazakhstan to Iceland being of a similar distance so even Europe has travel issues. Putting travel to one side, if the two confederations were to combine, there should be some sort of tiered system similar to CONCACAF. Imagine a double hex final round with the top six to eight progressing to the World Cup and really interesting games like Mexico v Brazil or US v Argentina. Something to think about.

Again, this is an interesting idea and a fun hypothetical exercise but not a must for me. A combined confederation has pros and cons but not enough pros to undo over 100 years of history, organization and unique football culture. I did not even think about the impact on the club game because for me that is a non-starter due to logistics and CONCACAF teams having almost no shot at the FIFA Club World Moneygrab.

As for the expanded World Cup, I admit I’m totally against it. However, I took some time to look at the history of place allocation and other factors to create a more informed opinion.

From 1950 to 1970, it was a 16 team competition that catered to South America and Europe. In 1966 CONCACAF was guaranteed one spot and only in 1970 did African and Asian teams avoid an inter-continental playoff to qualify. These three areas were only allotted three spots total until 1982, when the tournament grew to 24 teams and CONCACAF, CAF and AFC were granted two spots each. Africa gained a spot in 1994 and the enlarged field of 32 in 1998 saw the following distribution:

  • Europe (UEFA): 15 places, one of which went to automatic qualifier France, while the other 14 places were contested by 49 teams.
  • South America (CONMEBOL): 5 places, one of which went to automatic qualifier Brazil, while the other 4 places were contested by 9 teams.
  • North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF): 3 places, contested by 30 teams.
  • Africa (CAF): 5 places, contested by 38 teams.
  • Asia (AFC): 3.5 places, contested by 36 teams. The winner of the 0.5 place would advance to the intercontinental play-offs (against a team from OFC).
  • Oceania (OFC): .5 place, contested by 10 teams. The winner of the 0.5 place would advance to the intercontinental play-offs (against a team from AFC).

This has been the approximate make-up of the tournament, with the values dependent on hosting countries. Europe contributing almost half the teams is quite interesting. Yes the continent has a history of success and top level teams but I considered the distribution of teams based on population and found this:

Places % of WC % of pop
UEFA 13 41% 10%
CONMEBOL 5.5 17% 6%
CONCACAF 3.5 11% 8%
AFC 4.5 14% 60%
CAF 5 16% 16%
OFC 0.5 2% 1%
32 100%

Ben raised the issues of more participation for underserved regions of the world as a consideration for a bigger tournament. Don’t disagree with his idea but seems like the matter could be solved by tweaking the allocation of the 32 places rather than having more people at the party. I mean if I was Asia, I would be asking some questions of Europe and South America, especially if evaluating from a population perspective.

A 40 team tournament doesn’t make sense from a logistical perspective. First you start with size of each group. Either an unwieldy ten groups of four or an awkward eight groups of five. Either way, every day would have to be a quadruple header to get the extra games to keep the tournament around 30 days long.

Then how do you determine the round of 16? 10 group winners and 6 best second placed teams? But imagine finishing second in a group and progressing. Plus the Group Stage draw the December ahead of the World Cup would have a huge impact on possible success. Ben suggested eight groups with the top team going through and 2 and 3 playing a 1 game e to see who makes it. Gives an incentive to win group and also means last place team will usually have a shot still by the 4th game! But what about the group winners would have to sit around for a week while this goes on?

A footballing festival of about a month every four years seems about right. Any more than that, it becomes on par with the playoff series of American sports. That many games for that long of a period during the Group Stage could lead to World Cup fatigue. In addition, a larger World Cup would further narrow the nations that could host this event (unless FIFA moves to a pan-continent hosting plan), which wouldn’t be fair to developing soccer countries.

I gave the concept of a 40 team World Cup a shot but 32 is a great number. Thirty days of excitement, drama and excellence is ideal, and I just think the distribution of places should be tweaked. It’s almost impossible to determine the 32 best teams anyway so each continent trims it down via qualification and let the party begin. My basic tenet is more is not better. The recent hubbub around the expanded Euros should be kept in mind but we’ll see if this is a one off or a trend. So FIFA concentrate on internal corruption and leave the World Cup alone.