Friday, June 20, 2014

Uruguay: Investigation Requested Over World Cup Concussion

The world soccer players’ union criticized global governing FIFA following a concussion to Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira in a World Cup match on Thursday.

According to FIFPro, FIFA’s concussion protocol “failed” when in the 61st minute Pereira was briefly knocked unconscious by a blow from the knee of England’s Raheem Sterling.  Pereira woke up and appeared to be confused as he was taken off the field for examination by Uruguay’s team medic, Dr. Alberto Pan.  Pereira became angry as Pan called for a substitution to be done but the defender would return and finish the game.

“FIFPro understands that in certain moments, faced by the pressures of such an important international stage, many players would react in this way. There are times, however, when the players also require greater protection against the prospect of making any rash decisions,” said a statement from the organization.

The union added, “The World Cup must set the standard for player health and safety to educate the international football community. Medical evidence shows that a person faces the risk of very serious brain injury, or worse, if he or she suffers a severe head trauma from a concussive blow.”

In light of Pereira’s injury, which came during Uruguay’s 2-1 victory over the English, FIFPro suggested that they might appoint their own independent doctors for “all FIFA competitions.”  Another proposal would be to change the rules and allow temporary substitutions of players believed to have suffered concussions on the field.

Costa Rica Continues World Cup Cinderella Story

On June 20, 1990, the Costa Rican men’s national team surprised Sweden and qualified for the first time to the knockout stages of the World Cup.  History repeated itself exactly twenty-four years later as the Ticos surprised another European opponent to continue their amazing run.

Costa Rica secured its ticket to the Round of 16 at this year’s tournament in Brazil by beating Italy 1-0. A close-range header from captain Bryan Ruiz near the stroke of halftime gave Costa Rica the victory in front of a raucous crowd in Recife.

“We’ve dreamed about this and we had the faith to accomplish it,” said the exhausted yet elated twenty-eight year old after the final whistle.

“We were in the group of death but the others are the ones who are dead,” added Ruiz who started in last Saturday’s 3-1 upset over Uruguay.

Ignoring their supposed role of World Cup minnows, Costa Rica was not troubled by Italy despite Mario Balotelli coming close in the 32nd minute when he mishit a lob with only goalkeeper Keylor Navas to beat. The Central American side could’ve lost control when Chilean ref Enrique Osses refused to give a penalty shot after Joel Campbell was apparently fouled in the area. But a minute after the non-call by Osses, the Ticos grabbed the lead through Ruiz off a stellar cross from Junior Diaz.

Costa Rica’s organized play, crisp passing and neutralizing of Andrea Pirlo ensured that the Azzuri would not come close to grabbing the equalizing goal in the second half.

“We did what we needed to do (and) we took away the game from the Italians,” Costa Rica’s Colombian-born coach Jorge Luis Pinto said following the match.

The emotional Pinto dedicated the win over the four-time World Cup champs to one of Costa Rica’s biggest detractors.

Daily Headlines: June 20, 2014

* Latin America: Today is World Refugee Day and according to the U.N. the number of refugees in Latin America is expected to rise this year as a result of “increasing violence from new criminal entities.”

* Ecuador: As Julian Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorean embassy in London moves past its second year, Ecuador's Foreign Minister admitted that talks with Britain to safely release the WikiLeaks founder have reached a legal “impasse.”

* Cuba: Russia state-owned firm Rosneft is reportedly seeking an agreement that would allow for the exploration of potentially lucrative Cuban offshore oil fields.

* Mexico: Legislative approval of a major energy reform backed by President Enrique Peña Nieto has been delayed due to opposition from both the left and right in Mexico’s Congress.

Video Source – YouTube user The VJ Movement (Video uploaded in 2011 shows Colombian refugees laboring as sex workers in neighboring Ecuador).

Online Sources – Newsweek; The Wire; Reuters; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Daily Headlines: June 19, 2014

* Argentina: The Argentine government is in a race against time in order to repay billions of dollars of debt to creditors and avoid default before the end of this month.

* Venezuela: Outspoken opposition politico María Corina Machado has been barred from leaving Venezuela as authorities investigate her role in unrest following an anti-government march over four months ago.

* Mexico: A mass grave with at least twenty-eight bodies was found the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz on Tuesday.

* Colombia: The U.S. Treasury Department removed economic sanctions on more than three hundred people and firms with ties to the formerly active Cali Cartel.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – Reuters; El Universal; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; NBC News

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

From Champs to Chumps: Spain Ousted from World Cup by Chile

In 1989, Brazil’s Maracaná Stadium was the setting for one of the lowest moments in Chilean soccer history when goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked an injury during a World Cup qualifier against by cutting himself with a razor and smearing ketchup on him.  (Rojas was subsequently banned for life and Chile was barred from the 1990 and 1994 World Cups). Twenty-five years later, the Maracaná played host to the Chilean team’s greatest World Cup performance.

On Wednesday La Roja beat defending World Cup champions Spain by a 2-0 score in their Group B match and, hence, eliminated Spain from progressing through to the second round. The result also assured that Chile would emerge past the group stage.

Chile had never their Iberian counterparts in international play though they came close at the World Cup four years ago.  That changed in Rio starting with the opening whistle as Chile applied constant pressure against a side that were embarrassed days ago by the Netherlands.

Eduardo Vargas nearly scored in the second minute when his shot was narrowly deflected wide by a defender.  Still, Chile did not let up and their persistence paid off in the twentieth minute when Charles Aranguiz picked up a Spanish turnover and fed it to Vargas who patiently slotted home the opening goal. That lead doubled just before halftime when Aranguiz took advantage of a goalkeeping error by the usually solid Iker Casillas and blasted the ball past the Spanish captain.

Spain showed some signs of life early in the second half as Sergio Busquets and pantomime villain Diego Costa didn’t convert on easy chances.  From then on it was Chile that controlled the match as their midfield and defense stifled La Furia Roja while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a sprawling save in the 84th minute.  Despite the inexplicable addition of six minutes of injury time, Chile never wavered and assured held on for the victory.

This is historic for us and the entire country”, observed Bravo after the final whistle while forward Alexis Sanchez emphasized that the team has “plenty of guts and the desire to achieve greatness (at this World Cup).”

Daily Headlines: June 18, 2014

* Brazil: Following a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed his confidence that both countries can improve diplomatic relations weakened by revelations last year of U.S. intelligence surveillance on the South American state.

* Cuba: Health officials have confirmed the first six cases of the mosquito-born chikungunya virus, which has ravaged through the Caribbean and recently reached South America.

* Chile: A Spanish firm will release a volume of previously unpublished poems by Pablo Neruda that were found in a library named after the late Chilean Nobel laureate.

* Bolivia: Animal rights activists in Bolivia are up in arms after a military instructor killed a live dog and smeared its blood on students’ faces.

Video Source – PBS NewsHour via YouTube (Uploaded in September 2013).

Online Sources – Reuters; ABC News; Latin Times; The New York Times; The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Saint Memo” Guides Mexico to World Cup Tie Against Brazil (Update)

An inspired performance by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa helped El Tri to a 0-0 tie in their World Cup group match versus Brazil on Tuesday. 

“I undoubtedly believe (I played the game of my career),” said the official match MVP after the final whistle in Fortaleza.

“We knew it was going to be a very difficult match…but we’re happy to pick up a point against the World Cup hosts,” added the twenty-eight-year-old who helped Mexico become the first team from the CONCACAF region to not lose to a Brazilian side in the World Cup.

Brazil tested Mexico’s defense on numerous occasions in the first half yet Ochoa lived up to the challenge with four saves. Neymar made two key stops by Ochoa in the 26th minute off a header from close range while the second came near the stroke of halftime from David Luiz alone in front of the goal.

The second half began with El Tri applying pressure via long-range efforts from J.J. Vazquez and Giovanni Dos Santos that sailed above the crossbar.  Three-quarters of the way through the match the Verde Amarelha turned the momentum to their favor but were once again thwarted by “Saint Memo”. Thaigo Silva’s blast from five yards out in the 85th minute was turned away by Ochoa who ended with eight saves while the Mexican defense repelled Brazilian attacks.

Ochoa’s Brazilian counterpart, Julio César, made a few notable saves and prevented what could’ve been an embarrassing defeat. The Brazilian team’s lackluster performance has surely disappointed their fans and will likely turn up the pressure on a side that’s among the favorites to win the World Cup.

Daily Headlines: June 17, 2014

* Venezuela: American Airlines has become the latest air carrier to slash capacity, sales or routes to Venezuela due to “an unresolved dispute over cash trapped there”.

* U.S.: A new poll released today found that most Cuban-Americans in south Florida, especially younger generations and recent arrivals from Cuba, oppose continuing the U.S. embargo on the Caribbean island.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez said that her country would be unable to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court order to repay billions of dollars to creditors within the next two weeks.

* Colombia: Roughly twenty-four hours after being elected to a second straight term, president Juan Manuel Santos proposed changing the constitution in order to bar presidential reelection.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Miami Herald; Bloomberg; USA TODAY; Xinhua

Monday, June 16, 2014

Brazil: Rio Cop Allegedly Shoots at Protesters (Updated)

Police in Rio de Janiero have come under scrutiny after a video apparently showed an officer firing a live gun round at protesters on Sunday night.

As seen in the following video via the Associated Press, what appears to be a policeman sitting on a motorcycle pulled out a pistol and fired at demonstrators outside the Maracaná stadium prior to Argentina’s World Cup group match against Bosnia-Herzegovina:

In addition, another man in plainclothes who identifies himself as a police officer also pulls out gun and fired two shots into the air near the stadium.

Rio law enforcement spokesman Pedro Dantas said that the authorities would not comment until they can review the video though he alleged that Molotov cocktails had been thrown at officers.  He also claimed that there were no reports of any shooting victims during the protest even though the video footage showed protesters holding up some of the live ammunition purportedly used against them.

Update: Rio authorities announced on Monday that they have placed under administrative leave two policemen believed to have fired live rounds during Sunday's protest.  One of the officers will be "investigated by internal affairs to determine if any wrongdoing occurred."

An estimated 200 anti-World Cup demonstrators carrying banners reading “FIFA go home” marched towards the Maracaná but their progress was halted by police on horseback.  Some of the protesters lashed with police who fired tear gas and stun grenades against the multitude.

Much like the actions in Rio, other small protests were held over the weekend near World Cup matches in Brasilia and Porto Alegre. These actions were peaceful, however, as demonstrators in the Brazilian capital held a sign welcoming tourists to the “World Cup of protests.”

Anti-World Cup demonstrations have been held across Brazil over the past year primarily over the billions of dollars spent on stadiums and other preparations for the tournament instead of social services.

Daily Headlines: June 16, 2014

Note: We will be posting several articles during the next month on the World Cup in Brazil.  As a result, our “Daily Headlines” entries over the next few weeks will focus primarily on non-World Cup news.

* Colombia: Conservative president Juan Manuel Santos turned around a first round loss and won reelection as most Colombian voters opted to continue the current direction of peace talks with leftist rebels.

* South America: Diplomatic tensions between Argentina and Uruguay have flared up again over a Finnish-owned pulp mill built in 2007 near the border of both countries.

* Mexico: Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission condemned the attacks on five journalists covering a recent march remembering the victims of the 1971 El Halconazo massacre.

* U.S.: Escaping from gang violence and poor economic conditions are some of the reasons behind the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors mostly from Central American countries crossing into the U.S. 

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – MercoPress; LAHT; The Latin Americanist; CNN; Reuters