Tag Archives: World Cup

Short-lived savors of glory

world cup trophyAnd so it goes. Four a few hours, the squad of German players who attained World Cup glory could caress the $10 million, 14-pound, 18-karat gold trophy.

Then after posing with the most-coveted sports prize in the world, it was taken from them and locked away. Two previous cups have been stolen, and FIFA guards against further theft.

Germany’s name was carved on the base with “2014.” Germany only gets a gold-plated replica.

Such anticlimax exposes this world’s essential hollowness. Jesus warns that the treasures you store here can corrupt or get stolen. If not, you can’t take it with you when you die — even if you put it in your coffin — because you (your spirit) won’t be where your body is.

Jesus tells us to work for rewards in Heaven.

And the German squad? They have bragging rights. That might last them for their lifetime.

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Win or lose, give glory to God

david luis praysNobody expected the embarrassing 7-1 loss of Brazil to Germany World Cup semi finals. But as critics groaned and Brazilians cried, another unexpected event transpired. Brazilian defender David Luiz dropped to his knees and prayed.

Amid a gaggle of self-lovers, braggarts and primadonnas who make up soccer’s elite, it’s refreshing to see genuine Christians.

To thank God publicly for a victory is admirable. To thank God for a defeat is maturity.

david luis supergoalAfter all, it’s only a game, though the way people follow it — and the way money is thrown at it — you’d think it was god.

And God is not a game. If we lose, let us remember that God doesn’t favor any team. He wants people to get in relationship with Him, starting now and continuing on into Heaven.

david luiz free kick“My faith in Jesus gives me strength to keep on going out onto the field and to do my best, but I also want to inspire others – that is what God inspires me to do,” Luiz gold Christian Today. “For me, true life is found in the relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that everything in life belongs to God and he has a clear plan for us if we follow him.”

I like that more than seeing Argentina win tomorrow.

Brazil lost, as expected, to Netherlands today. Defense was shoddy. But Luiz is winning at a game that is much more important than soccer.

Poetic justice at World Cup

I don't own the rights for this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights for this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Algeria scared expected-winner Germany in extra time of octavos knockout stage of the World Cup 2014. Had the northern African nation upset Germany, it would have been justice.

In the 1982 World Cup, over-confident, prideful, and racist West Germany players trash-talked the upstart Algeria team. The Algerians were nomads out of the desert. The Germans would dedicate their seventh goal to their wives, their eighth to their dogs. One player boasted the game would be so easy to win, he would smoke a cigar while playing.

But the Algerians won 2-1.

The West Germans were shocked. In their subsequent game, they colluded with Austria to play a game of 1-goal difference, which was the only option to send Algeria back home and allow both Germany and Austria to move on to the next round. After the first German goal, both teams essentially dilly-dallied with the ball for 80 minutes and never tried to score. Fans, who had paid their tickets to see a great game, were outraged. West German soccer officials recognized it was a “tactical game” and unleashed more racist comments.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

I was rooting for Algeria this time. It would have been payback for the evil, the corruption, the arrogance. Unfortunately, not every score will be settled in this imperfect world.

At least this time, the Germans stayed mum before the game. They respected their opponents.

Not until extra time could Germany break through a well-organized and determined squad this World Cup. They scored two goals, but Algeria struck back with minutes of play. It ended a reverse of the 1982 score line: 2-1 in favor of Germany. Algeria did respectably. We ought to respect our adversaries always.

 

Please don’t tarnish your memory as a hero

donovan lashes out

Pic from Yahoo Sports. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Landon Donovan came off bitter.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann omitted the notable U.S. star. Up until the U.S. loss, Donovan, who was my hero, was mum about the snub. He was supportive of the team.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

No sooner did the outgunned U.S. squad get booted (logically) by a Belgium team glutted with top club stars than Donovan unleashed a rant against the coach. According to Donovan, he mismanaged the team.

Landon, please, don’t do this…

julian-green-usmnt-soccer-player1

Julian Green wowed everyone with an extremely difficult lobbed ball over his shoulder that he hit squarely into the net, foiling the competent German goalie. This pic belongs to USMNT (I think). Thanks for letting me use it! I’m not making any money on it.

As the top goal-scorer for the U.S., you are an icon, an inspiration. You’re huge, but when you lash out, you make yourself small, immature, full of yourself, etc. It’s not pretty. Many of your followers will give you credence. But a whole other slew of us are going to leave you alone, a blathering brat.

If Donovan’s omission was the demise of the U.S team is material for lambasting comment threads. Klinsmann marshaled the U.S. team to success out of the very difficult “Group of Death.” He limited the German victory to one goal.

He’s locked down talented stars for the future. His recruit, 18-year-old Julian Green smashed home his first World Cup goal after only a two minutes of play. A coach can only bring so many players on his squad. Had he not brought Green, the dual-citizen starlet might have opted for Germany permanently.

Donovan, you’re not young anymore. We’re sorry. We love you. But go in grace. Don’t pile shame upon yourself. We want to hear your expert analysis, not your vented bitterness.

Who makes every save?

TimHoward1

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Tim Howard made 16 saves in U.S. Group of 16 knockout game. It was a record for a single World Cup game. Still two goals got past him as Belgium flexed its experience muscle. There’s only one person who makes every save, and that’s Jesus. If you cry out to Him, He will save you.

Need for a finisher

Clint Dempsey. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Clint Dempsey. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Part of the weakness of the U.S. Men’s National Team is the lack of a true finisher. Clint Dempsey finished a 34-second goal against Ghana that was nice, but he’s not like the finishers who given half a chance bury it in the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a great finisher, but he was injured, so he played poorly. Luis Suarez is deadly as a striker; too bad he likes to bite opponents. Wesley Sneijder took a back-header bouncing ball and rocketed it low into the net to sink Mexico’s hopes for their first-ever World Cup.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder's goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder’s goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

As the name suggests, a finisher may NOT be good at passing, possession, bodying, defending, imagination or creation. His job is only one: If teammates get him the ball near or in the area, he smashes it home. (He doesn’t kick it wide or high, as you so often see.)

The U.S. has an awesome goalie, competent defenders, a sensational midfielder, speeding wingers. Dempsey has played forward successfully in the English Premier League, so he’s the best thing we’ve got (if Jozy Altidore doesn’t recover from injury) for Tuesday’s game against Belgium. He’s hardworking, but he’s not a natural finisher.

Mexico World Cup loss

After barely qualifying, Mexico produced some spectacular football but lost because an exquisite finisher. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it..

Every team needs a finisher. Team U.S.A. doesn’t have one.

“It is finished,” Jesus said from the cross. No one else could earn us salvation. We can’t earn our own salvation. When He took our sins to the cross, the Sinless Savior finished off a game that the devil was winning. Death, empowered by the fall, was consuming ravenously all humanity, until Jesus finished Death off. “It is finished.”

By Picketty on redbubble. I don't own the rights to this art, and I'm not making any money on it.

By Picketty on redbubble. I don’t own the rights to this art, and I’m not making any money on it.

Jesus is our finisher.

German Giants

usmntPundits predicted that America OUGHT to win against Ghana, MIGHT tie with Portugal, but STOOD NO CHANCE against Germany. Tomorrow we shall see in the USA´s last World Cup group stage game if the red, white and blue can pass to the next round.

Germany´s football was like their engineering: precise, inerrant, mechanical. America on the other hand had scrapped together what it could, a ragtag band of players, only a few of which were from top leagues around the world.

Clint Dempsey's 34-second goal against Ghana. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Clint Dempsey’s 34-second goal against Ghana. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Against Ghana, the USA scored an early goal and weathered a storm of shots for 90 minutes. They were sloppy, lethargic, unambitious. They couldn´t maintain possession. By a miracle of God, they won 2-1.

Against Portugal, America improved greatly. They played open football (that’s soccer, for the uninitiated), maintained possession and set up goals with creative passing. Unfortunately, Michael Bradley gave up the ball to Portugal and a U.S. defender failed to track back with his mark, and that’s how Portugal tied in the last minute.

Germany's goal against Ghana. I don't own the rights to his photo, and I'm not making any money on it

Germany’s goal against Ghana. I don’t own the rights to his photo, and I’m not making any money on it

It was a disappointing end to what would have been an upset (led by Christiano Ronaldo, Portugal is a football powerhouse). But I was happy because the U.S. did much better.

Germany dismantled Portugal but struggled to eke out victory against Ghana. Their mythic precision was off.

Will the Yankee Doodle dudes beat Goliath? Part of the answer lies with belief. They mustn’t cower in fear but like David defy their opponents’ depth of experience, speed and accuracy. They must concentrate without a millisecond of slip-up.

That’s how we Christians should face everyday in God too.

What are YOU doing with the ball? Pass it to…

luis suarez 2

Defeating England, Luis Suarez hammers a ball in. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Give him a ball in front of the net, and Luis Suarez makes the goal.

Actually, two of them. The Uruguayan ace headed one goal and slammed home a second to oust England, the vaunted authors of modern soccer, out of the World Cup this past week. The highest goal-scorer in the English Premier League this season, seemingly doesn’t fail.

suarez

What a smile! I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Not every forward is a sharp-shooter of this caliber. Most are about 50%. Suarez does it all. He’s fast. He possesses a potent kick. He’s physical. He utilizes creative play. He maintains possession. He’s got my vote for best striker worldwide. Get a ball to him anywhere near the area, and it’s an assured goal.

If you like winning, you’ll want to have Suarez Jesus on your team. In fact, many Christians are losing the game. Why? Because they have possession of the ball.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE BALL? PASS IT TO JESUS.

Passing the ball to Jesus is called prayer.

Adiós España and the need for renewal

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas made two mistakes to gift two goals. Pic from Yahoo News. I don't own the rights to this, and I'm not making any money on it.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas made two mistakes to gift two goals. Pic from Yahoo News. I don’t own the rights to this, and I’m not making any money on it.

Sixteen of the Spanish squad raised the world cup four years ago, and that was the problem with the Red Fizzle. A gaggle were from FC Barcelona, which won nothing this season. Call them the geriatric team, Spain lost 2-0 today to Chile. They got walloped previously by Holland 5-1. With no chance to advance from the group stage, they’re packing their bags.

What happened to the team that made opponents wet their pants? What happened to Spain must not happen in the church. Maybe Coach Vicente Bosque thought to stick with what’s tried and true — he got what was tired and through.

For Christians, it’s easy to employ yesterday’s successes, to trust yesterday’s victories. It’s easy to NOT seek Jesus for fresh manna today.

Sensing their demise after the second Chile goal, Spanish players reform to kickoff positions. Pic from Yahoo News. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Sensing their demise after the second Chile goal, Spanish players reform to kickoff positions. Pic from Yahoo News. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Actually, I love Spain as a team. I learned futbol as a missionary in Guatemala, with its affinity to its Mother Country. All of my friends are gasping and fainting and asking themselves: How can it be?

As much as I love Spain, I saw it coming. Spain revealed a blunted edge in the Confederations Cup, a preliminary competition one year before the World Cup. Coach Bosque failed to see the writing on the wall, feared to shake up the status quo and jettison the old guys whose output would be less.

Let the Christian take heed and worry about renewal. Renew or fail.

 

Shaky, ill-advised, U.S. still wins

Clint Dempsey after his amazing goal.

Clint Dempsey after his amazing goal. This pic is from yahoo! I don’t owe the rights, and I’m not making $ on it.

Soccer games are won by a small difference (often just one goal), so after Clint Dempsey skated through an ill-prepared Ghana defense to score after 34 seconds of playing time, it looked like the U.S. settled back into defensive positions and tried to hold on to their slim lead — for another 90 minutes.

It was a formula for disaster. Onslaught after Ghana onslaught came at them. The U.S. scrambled and batted away every ball tenaciously until late in the second half, they could hold Fort Apache no more. With some tricky maneuvers, Ghana unlocked the back line and drilled home to tie.

John Brooks celebrates his first goal as a U.S. international.

John Brooks celebrates his first goal as a U.S. international. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making money on it.

U.S. fans groaned. Now we would probably settle for a draw, worth only 1 point in FIFA’s scheme for figuring who advances out of the group stage. With powerhouses Germany and Portugal looming ahead, U.S. was pretty much packing its bags up.

Then the unthinkable happened. A SUBSTITUTE came on and scored a header off a corner with four minutes from time. Ghana’s defensive line probably didn’t even bother to mark him. Why worry? He was only a reserve in case someone got hurt. John Brooks breathed new life into U.S. chances of proceeding forward in World Cup rounds.

Jermaine Jones performed powerfully to shut down the Ghana attack. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Jermaine Jones performed powerfully to shut down the Ghana attack. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Too often the U.S. strategy resembles the church’s: just barely try to win. Just barely try to make it to Heaven. Just maintain what the church has gained in previous years. Don’t try too hard. How much sin can I get away with and still make it to Heaven?

We need to press ahead for another goal. Pray. Outreach. Study the Bible. You can relax when you get to Heaven.

 

 

The Red Fury flickers: the cycles of soccer

My Guatemalan buddies are wailing unconsoled over Spain’s loss humiliation at by Netherlands, a 5-1 spanking that upended the Red Fury’s hegemony. Actually, Spain hasn’t been overlords for long. Until they won the EuroCup six years ago, they were the world’s historic underachievers. But then the won the World Cup and another Euro Cup and imposed superior football wherever they pleased.

They were gracious overlords. Once when thumping Italy, Spain goalie Iker Casillas asked the ref to end the game earlier to mitigate the damage done to such formidable rivals. Gracious, but unbeatable.

No more. At last year’s World Cup warmup tournament (called the Confederations Cup), they looked worn-out against Brasil. Fans laughed them off the field.

They looked spent again yesterday. Netherlands, which fell to Spain in the World Cup final last time, exorcised the spirit of football from them yesterday. The Orange Machine played fast and tight defense in the mid-field (where Spain is usually master). They shut down passing lanes. They played brilliant counter-attack. They pulled off mouth-watering goals that will contend for best-ever in the highlights videos for decades to come.

spainsdownfallSpain withered. Midfielder Xavi Hernandez — usually an incomparable play-maker with pinpoint passes that penetrate — was a non-presence. Impeccable Iker Casillas flubbed a backpass which gifted Van Persie a goal. Starlet Diego Costa probed he’s better at diving than scoring in open play.

“Let’s go, Spain!” my former student posted on Facebook. “Let’s go back to Spain,” I wrote in the msg. It’s not that I have anything against Spain. Actually, I love the team.

But I recognize that the cycle has ended, as it does for all teams. As aces grow older, they lose quickness and hunger. They become over-confident. They lose. At this point, it appears clear that the world of soccer is ready for a new king. Spain will have to reinvent itself, shed its fading stars and cultivate an entirely new crop. Only Andres Iniesta played like a star yesterday.

All this is good for me. It’s been four years since I have actively pastored. Right now, I’m one of 20 assistant pastors at my mother church. I’m champing at the bit to pioneer again. If I’m not announced at this conference, I’ll have to see what I can do because as Jeremiah said: “the fire is burning in my bones and I can’t keep quiet.”

It’s important to stay humble when you have wild success as a Christian or as person. It’s also important to know how to reconfigure when you are in a low or a failure. Will Spain ever be back to the peak? I’m more concerned about my own cycles of life.

Revenge! Netherlands trounces Spain

van persie goal

pic from Business Insider. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Netherlands tore up World Cup favorite Spain in a 5-1 humiliation on the second day of the tournament. Robin Van Persie flew like Superman to header the ball into Spain’s net over the head a hapless Iker Kasillas evening the score to 1-1 in the first half.

Then, hothead Arjen Robben coolly showed surgeons how to do a triple bypass in one second. He deftly caught a long ball on his FOOT that make NFL one-HANDed catches look like a piece of cake.

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robbin celebrates after goal. Pic from Dirty Tackle. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Settling the ball, he cut contrary to two rushing defenders and fired on goal contrary to a leaning goalie. He bypassed three players single-footedly with surgical precision.

Spain — which dominated the game in the first part of the first half, looking as if they wanted to retain the golden trophy — looked stale, ineffective, slow, discouraged. Only Andres Iniesta showed life.

How did he do it? Van Persie makes an improbable connection with the ball and bounces it perfectly over the goalie and under the bar. Pic from Dirty Tackle.  I don't own the rights to this pic, and I'm not making any money on it.

How did he do it? Van Persie makes an improbable connection with the ball and bounces it perfectly over the goalie and under the bar. Pic from Dirty Tackle. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

At risk of sounding off prematurely, I declare this game the most exciting of the World Cup. If Netherlands plays every game like this, they’ll carry home the gold.

Being the unfavored, defying the odds, playing hard, believing in the impossible — these are all things of the Christian heart. Play your day for Christ to take the trophy home… to Heaven. Don’t resign yourself to losing just because the odds-makers are against you.

Netherlands lost the final to Spain in the last World Cup. Now, they can savor revenge.

Here comes the World Cup! Aspiring is inspiring.

Nike’s pre-World Cup commercial is a genre all by itself. Combining stars, incredible moves and hilarity, these commercials have come to be the groundhog announcing the coming of soccer’s pre-eminent contest, awaited for soccer-lovers around the world for four long years. This year, Nike takes a very real situation, kids imagining themselves their favorite player, and they become them. One kid mispronounces a player’s name and becomes a mailman named Iniesto. The Hulk, a Brazilian star, moves into goal, which is not his position. So a friend tells him he can’t be Hulk, so he becomes the U.S. goalie, retaining the green color with his uniform.

The road to greatness is when you imagine yourself like a Biblical hero (I don’t think the Christian short will ever be produced). Aspiring is inspiring. And it brings about incredible things for God. That is the basic meaning of: Elijah was a man just like us. — James 5:17. Dreaming is seeming.

I love futbol. Even more, I love God. I think I’ll work more at becoming a Biblical hero rather than a soccer hero.