Algeria: Full of Confidence

With a 4-0 record in their last four matches, giving up only two goals, the Fennecs of Algeria are feeling good as they prepare to leave for Brazil.

This despite the fact that their last “friendly” match against Romania in Geneva was anything but friendly.  Algerian fans threw flares, bottles, and even themselves onto the pitch at various stages of the match.  It was a rowdy end to what had been several quiet weeks for the team.

The Fennecs, under coach Vahid Halilodzic, are now back in Algiers before they prepare to depart for South America.  Algeria is perhaps the least-talked about of the African teams, so if they do well, it would make for an exciting and surprising development.  But they face tough opponents, starting with favorite Belgium on June 17.

(this post comes courtesy of VOA’s French language World Cup blog. Check it out and follow at

Algeria's Yacine Brahimi controls the ball during their international friendly soccer match against Romania in Geneva June 4, 2014.

(photo: Pierre Albouy/Reuters)

Darfur United? Abkhazia FA?

Sick of World Cup hoopla? Think the whole thing has gotten too corporate, too greedy, too rigid, too authoritarian in its organization? Or just don’t have the cash to plop down for a flight to Rio?

Here’s an alternate suggestion: Check out few remaining games in the “Un-World Cup” formally known as the CONIFA World Football Cup.

As the BBC reports, the tournament, which is being held through June 8 in the central Swedish town of Ostersund, features teams from regions not recognized by world football’s governing body, FIFA.

This year’s competition features football luminaries representing off-the-beaten-track places like Abkhazia (a disputed region in the Caucasus nation of Georgia); Kurdistan (northern Iraq); and Darfur (the war-ravaged area of western Sudan). It also features a club called FA Sapmi, which claims to represent the Sami indigenous people whose historic territory spans Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. And don’t forget Padania FA, which comes from the Po Valley region of northern Italy, and parts of Croatia and Slovenia.

Check out the BBC report here.



(photo courtesy Darfur United Web site:


Futbol: No country for old men? Don’t tell that to Drogba

Team USA midfielder Julian Green is 19 years old. Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is 20. Raphaël Varane, a French defender, is also 19. Portugal’s William Carvalho is a wee 22.

It’s often said the football, particularly at the World Cup level, is increasingly a young man’s game.

Didier Drogba hasn’t gotten the memo.

The Cote d’Ivoirian international, who is appearing in his third World Cup, turned 36 in March and is still going strong. Now playing for Galatarasary after a notable career with Chelsea, Drogba is expected bring poise and experience to the Elephants’ bid to make it beyond the group stage to the tournament’s knockout round (which the team has never done).

Mind you, Drogba isn’t the oldest player in the World Cup by a long stretch (that honor belongs to Cameroon’s Roger Milla).

Here’s one example of the African’s exuberance at recent pre-tournament exhibition match against El Salvador:

Drogba(h/t Sonny Side of Sports)

Google o País do Futebol

Can’t make it to Brazil this summer?

If you’re a soccer fan who’s stuck working in some other part of the world or if all the tickets to your favorite game have just been sold out, don’t despair. Just fire up your Web browser.

Google on Thursday unveiled a new Google Maps feature using its famed Street View. With a couple clicks and a roll of the mouse, you can take a virtual tour of any of the 12 stadiums around Brazil where the world’s greatest teams will be competing


The feature lets soccer aficionados peek inside stadiums, airports and other interesting locations. They can also find directions and information about interesting points of interest should they decide to abandon their living rooms and hop on a plane to Brazil.

No word on whether you can take a virtual stroll through Rio’s notorious favelas (the sprawling slums on the hillsides that are inextricably linked to the city’s identity…)


A Hex on Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo,  Miranda

With one week to go before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, the football world (which includes much of humanity) has been buzzing in recent days about the fate of one of its best and most visible players.

Portugal’s Christian Ronaldo is nursing a knee ailment described in press reports as “tendinosis” in his left knee cap. The Portuguese Football Federation said Wednesday that Ronaldo underwent “specially adapted, individual” training on Monday. The ailment apparently kept him out of a pre-tournament match-up last week that saw Portugal play to a scoreless draw with Greece.

The health of the 29-year-old forward is of great interest not only to Portugal as a whole but the other teams Portugal has been paired up with in Group G: Germany, the United States and Ghana.

While the other sides have no doubt been painstakingly reviewing video of Ronaldo’s exploits, the Ghanaian Black Stars, meanwhile, have taken a more unusual approach to preparations. To be precise, a Ghanaian witchdoctor has joined the preparations with his own contribution, as VOA’s Portuguese Service Joao Jose Santarita reports:

Ghanaian witchdoctor Nana Kwaku Bonsam claims he has put a spiritual spell — Kahwiri Kapam — on Cristiano Ronaldo that is responsible for the Portuguese star’s knee and thigh injuries that have raised doubts about his ability to be at 100 percent for the World Cup.

“I know what Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury is about,” he told Kumasi radio station Angel FM. “I’m working on him. I am very serious about it. Last week I went around looking for four dogs and I got them to be used in manufacturing a special spirit called ‘Kahwiri Kapam.’”

Bonsam said his goal was to rule Ronaldo out of the World Cup or at least prevent him from playing against Ghana.

“This injury can never be cured by any medic,” he said. “They can never see what is causing the injury because it is spiritual. Today it is his knee, tomorrow it is his thigh, next day it is something else.”

Ghanaian teams have been accused of using witchcraft in the past. Two years ago, Black Stars coach Goran Stevanovic blamed players using witchcraft against their own teammates were responsible for their loss to Zambia in the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations.

On Wednesday, Ronaldo was seen training with the ball for the first time as at the start of a training session open to the media at the New York Jets training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.

No word on whether Team USA plan on enlisting the help of a witchdoctor in its preparations for what many consider to be “The Group of Death” (on account of the quality and caliber of the teams).

And if there’s any question in your mind as to Ronaldo’s flair, skill and artistry on the field, check out this snazzy little video posted by Ronaldo’s home club, Real Madrid, on its Web site.