8
Jul

World Cup Diary: Tournament has been glorious but problems persist

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BELO HORIZONTE —

Good football, or a least a tournament with good narratives, will cover a multitude of sins. Barring something calamitous in the final week, the chaos that many had feared would characterize the World Cup has not come to pass and nor have the demonstrations against government corruption that dominated last year’s Confederations Cup.

Only Belo Horizonte, where Brazil will meet Germany in Tuesday’s semifinal, has really suffered, an overpass constructed as part of improvements in infrastructure for the World Cup collapsing onto a bus, killing two people and injuring several others. At the weekend, there were demonstrations at the offices of Construtora Cowan, the firm that built the overpass on Avenida Pedro 1, while others have visited the site of the collapse bearing placards that read, “This is the reality of the World Cup,” and “World Cup disaster: Put it on FIFA’s bill.”

Wrangles over that are ongoing. The area around the collapsed overpass has been shut off pending an investigation, with some alleging that short cuts were taken to get the structure in place in time for the World Cup. Local authorities have urged the judiciary to re-open the road in time for the semifinal to ease traffic pressure. “The work won’t be carried it in haste because of the World Cup,” said Colonel Alexandre Lucas Alves of the Civil Defense. “It can only be done when we can be sure there will be no more casualties.”

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Elsewhere, the main issues have been with the police’s habit of acting first and asking questions later. Early in the tournament, partygoers in the Rio de Janeiro district of Lapa were subjected to a baton charge and the indiscriminate use of pepper spray after spilling from bars into a pavement. Eyewitnesses said the mood was jovial and police waded in without warning.

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1
Jul

World Cup Diary: Brazil reinventing, redefining itself one step at a time

SALVADOR, Brazil —

Brazil wasn’t what I had expected. I’ve been here three weeks now, covering the United States men’s national team across this vast and diverse country, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

The image was strikingly similar to that of the country where I covered the last World Cup, South Africa: A shambolic government that couldn’t get anything done by a deadline, inflicting crippling poverty lived in rambling shantytowns, in a country ruled only by lawlessness. But as it was in South Africa, most construction in Brazil has been completed, or at least looked the part, and I’ve never once felt unsafe.

Sao Paulo, where the United States and its press corps have been based, is a confusing place. There is no containing its sprawl, all of it infested with boxy apartment towers — invariably with terraces adorned with flapping Brazilian flags — pricking the blue sky. The traffic is soul-crushing. On a bad day, you can average less than five miles an hour in your cab or bus. Some days, early in our stay, the subway workers were on strike and it was worse still and you just stood there, thousands of running cars frozen in place.

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13
Jul

Cuban defections common talking point during Gold Cup

Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

By Kyle McCarthy, FOXSoccer.com

SANDY, UTAH

Cuba’s manager Walter Benitez braced himself for the inevitable questions ahead of Cuba’s match against the United States (live, FOX, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET). He would probably prefer to discuss selection issues and tactics, but he knew the chatter about defections and political differences would inevitably rise to the fore in such loaded circumstances.

Benitez insisted he had his entire squad at his disposal ahead of the match here at Rio Tinto Stadium. The prospect of departures, however, always looms large during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, particularly with former national team star Yordany Alvarez now plying his trade for the local side.

There are certain protocols to follow in these circumstances – Benitez and his players stayed as far away from politics as possible, for instance – as the group braces for the inevitable scrutiny the past brings upon the present.

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