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Football And The Game of the Gods

The Hand of God seems to control all of football.

As we come down to the final four teams in the 2014 World Cup, VOA’s Bagassi Koura looks at the invisible hands controlling the kicks, passes, and shots:

I used to think that football was 60 percent skill and 40 percent chance. But as this World Cup shows, I’m way off: this sport is entirely controlled by the Gods of Football.

How else can we explain some of the favorite teams – the dynasties – surviving the direst of situations? Brazil comes within one penalty shot of losing in the Round of 16, but manages to survive. Mexico dominates the Netherlands for nearly the full 90 minutes, only to lose after the winning goal comes in the 94th minute.

At the same time, how else can we explain the other outlandish upsets that no one saw coming? England, Portugal, and defending champions Spain going out in the first round? Greece into the Round of 16 and Costa Rica into the quarterfinals for the first times? And then there are the moments in the matches that have seemingly come through fate, whether kind (van Persie’s spectacular header); cruel (Neymar’s Cup-ending back injury); or a little of both (Tim Howard’s miraculous saves in the United States’ loss to Belgium).

True, you do need the skill to get to – and succeed at – the World Cup. But it takes more than skill to win. Perhaps Maradona was onto something when described his famous goal in the 1986 World Cup as being guided by “the hand of God.”

Based on this year’s Cup, it seems that the beautiful game indeed sits squarely in the hands of the Football Gods.

(this post courtesy VOA’s French World Cup blog. check it out at


Historical Rivalry

France-Germany: A Grand Classic in the Church of Football

German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, left, and defender Hans-Peter Briegel, right, stop France's William Ayache during the World Cup semifinal in Guadalajara, Mexico, on June 25, 1986.

Harald Schumacher, the German goalkeeper, and defender Hans-Peter Briegel (right) stop William Ayache of France in the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico. (AP)

As luck would have it, Rio’s Estadio Maracana, considered a “temple” of world football, will host this classic dream match between two giants of world football: France and Germany. The neighbors will meet Friday for the fourth time in World Cup history. Their two previous meetings in 1982 and 1986, won by West Germany, were memorable.

France - Allemagne.

Manfred Kaltz of West Germany (left) hits the ball beyond Gérard Janvion of France, in the semifinals of between West Germany and France, in Seville, Spain, on July 8, 1982. (AP)

July 8, 1982. semifinals. Seville, Spain. 

An unforgettable match in the warm night of Seville. The two teams are tied at one apiece at halftime, but then the game switches into madness. France quickly takes the lead, sending Tresor and Giresse into ecstatic joy. But the Germans then equalized and snapped a shot on goal. Thirty-two years later, the night in Seville is legend.

June 25, 1986. semifinals. Guadalajara, Mexico.

At Jalisco Monumental, Germany beats France 2-0. The “Platini Generation” lets slip a last chance to win the World Cup.

July 4, 2014. quarterfinals. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

France has a better face with a young and dynamic team: watch Benzema, Pogba and Sakho closely.  But the Mannschaft which has not lost its status as favorites.

(Material from AFP was used in this report)

Onward and Upward Les Éléphants!

Three Reasons Why Ivory Coast Will Pass the First Round

(this post courtesy VOA’s French-to-Africa Service. check out their unique insight and analysis into World Cup play at

Ivory Coast's Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure.

(Mike Stone/Reuters)

The best African team

Côte d’Ivoire is undoubtedly one of the best teams in sight for this World Cup. It is true that over the past decade the so-called “golden generation” have won nothing. But the team is still very impressive and can inflict damage. Players like midfielder Yaya Toure have been crowned champions of England with Manchester City.

A great experience

Players of the “golden generation” have great experience. In the last 10 years, Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Didier Zokora, to name but a few, have shone on the European stage. Côte d’Ivoire, even with the fairly advanced age of some of its players, needs to pass the first round and, why not go further.

The pressure of the last appointment

Many of these players might return more to the finals of the World Cup. Repeated failures of this team, far from being a handicap, will certainly be a motivating factor that will push this generation of players to give everything for the finals.