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Brazil's demise, Sampras' reflection and all the week’s best sportswriting

Also, men fighting bears, men fighting men, and NASCAR fighting the Confederate flag.

1.Just before her team took the field here Friday night for the second half of its quarterfinal against China at the Women’s World Cup, Wambach stood in the center of a circle of her teammates, shouting — profanely — that the United States needed a goal in the first 10 minutes if it wanted to ensure a victory. And with the snap of her fingers, six minutes later, the Americans found the net.

“You could say that the situation unfolded the way it does in the movies. But Wambach didn’t score the goal. Carli Lloyd did. And frankly, Lloyd doesn’t seem the type to subscribe to silver-screen sappiness.”

Juliet Macur of the New York Times profiles Carli Lloyd, one of the stars of this year’s Women’s World Cup.

Chile Soccer Copa America Brazil Paraguay Brazil limped out of the Copa America last week. Source: Silvia Izquierdo

2.Late on against Venezuela, Brazil had four centre-backs on the pitch, Dani Alves playing on the right wing and Elias as the advanced central midfielder. At one point, Elias received the ball in space in the centre-circle, turned, and – with no one ahead of him – launched a ball into the corner to run down the clock. It is cynical and almost wilfully ugly football.

“It is not even winning football any more. It took a brilliant pass from Neymar in injury time to beat Peru. They lost to Colombia. They wobbled horribly when 2-0 up against Venezuela. Then, here, having gone ahead after Robinho converted an Alves cross – the two thirtysomethings were probably Brazil’s best players – they contrived to let a very ordinary Paraguay side back into the game. Robinho’s finish was their only touch in Paraguay’s penalty area in the first half.”

Just what has happened to the Brazil we knew and loved? Jonathan Wilson attempts to find out for The Guardian.

3. Yet Nike have still had opportunities to show themselves in a different light, only that didn’t pay. Earlier this year, 41-year-old mother-of-two and European 10,000-metre champion Jo Pavey was Nike contracted but despite her success and strong voice in pushing for clean athletics, she was dropped by the label. Shortly after, Nike threw their cash behind Justin Gatlin, a sprinter twice banned for doping and who has never shown remorse.

“It was a series of moves that perfectly illustrated what the company represents as those in the know say there’s no smoke without fire. But fumes from Nike are so thick that most in track and field are suffocating, long before they can get anywhere near the flames that are burning the sport alive.”

Ewan Mackenna calls out Nike’s attitude to doping for the Sunday Business Post, and his personal website.

Sampras/Wimbledon Trophy Pete Sampras celebrates his 1999 Wimbledon win. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

4. “Dear 16-year-old Pete,

“You’re about to go pro, and you’re pretty excited. Deep in your heart you know you’re eventually going to succeed. But believe me, it’s coming a lot sooner than you think. You’ll have your early ups and downs, but in just a couple of years, you’re gonna fight your way into the Top 5 in the world rankings, and you’ll win the U.S. Open, beating the likes of Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi in the process. At 19, you’ll be the youngest player to ever win the U.S. Open.

“That’s when everything will change.”

On the opening day of Wimbledon, Pete Sampras wrote his 16-year-old self a beautiful open letter on what to expect in his career. 

5. “It is easy to say that when the Confederate battle flag has lost NASCAR, it has lost whatever little constituency it had in the culture at large. But the events of the past two weeks have given rise to something people have said they wanted for decades — a return among elite athletes to the kind of public social and political commitment associated with athletes like Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Billie Jean King.

“This time, it’s occurring at the accelerated pace of 21st-century communications. And it’s occurring when the notion of corporate branding has overwhelmed the presentation and sponsorship of the games themselves. It’s going to be fascinating to watch these two disparate dynamics collide with each other. Be careful what you wish for. Something inevitably has to give.”

Athlete Power has resulted in the Confederate flag being no longer welcome at NASCAR events, and Grantland’s Charles P Pierce explains why.

Confederate Flag NASCAR Auto Racing Confederate flags are no longer welcome at NASCAR events. Source: AP/Press Association Images

6. “Soon, bear wrestling was a mainstay in venues across the country. In New York, two circus bears named Lena and Martin participated in a series of fights against event promoters and their audiences (a reporter from the New York Times, unimpressed with Martin’s debut bout, wrote that “The bear did not understand the fun of the thing.”)

“A man named Lucien Marc bested a bear in Cincinnati the following year, but lost a thumb in the process.”

Men fighting bears? Sarah Kurchak of Vice looks back at one of the most twisted “sports” of years gone by.

7. ”He did not laugh. Neither did any of his teammates sitting nearby. This was not a time for joking; Nana and the rest of his team were about to begin their last training session before last Wednesday’s final match of calcio storico, a centuries-old competition that features very few rules and the sort of human wreckage generally associated with the days of the gladiators.”

Another entry from the New York Times, as Sam Boden explores the incredibly violent ‘calcio storico’.

8. “Six to zero. 6-0. The final score of the June 16 China-Bhutan World Cup qualifier was six to freaking zero in favor of the Chinese. And do you know what the Bhutanese fans did after the game? They sang to the players. They cheered. They screamed with absolute joy when the keeper, Hari Gurung, unofficial Man of the Match, left the stadium. They poured into the streets after the game, not to burn Thimphu to the ground, but to celebrate.”

Michael Peil of Deadspin looks at the greatest 6-0 defeat in Bhutan’s history.

9. ”The English public and press, meanwhile, rallied around the England team, and even around Bassett, who received an outpouring of sympathy on Twitter from across the soccer world.”

The support given to England’s Laura Bassett after her last minute own goal against Japan is a lesson for the men.

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About the author:

Neil Treacy

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