We're just 30 days away from the World Cup and national team rosters are beginning to settle. A few title contenders (hello Spain, Uruguay) cemented their provisional rosters and this tournament is starting to get very, very real.
US Squad: First and foremost, Jurgen Klinsmann named the preliminary 30-man squad, which begins its training camp in Palo Alto this week. All the regulars are in tow – Donovan, Howard, Bradley, Beasley, Altidore – except for one glaring omission up front.
Eddie Johnson, the striker whose goal clinched the US team a spot in this summer's World Cup, didn't make the cut. Take it from here, Klinsi.
“The way I want to build the puzzle for the 23-man roster, I see those players competing ahead of the curve,” Klinsmann said on a conference call yesterday. “But I always recognize Eddie's value and strengths overall. Not only by scoring very important goals and getting us to Brazil, but he's a player who can make a difference within a second of being on the field. … It was a very difficult decision based on what he's done with me the whole time, and now not getting that chance at the last moment, it's a tough one on him.”
Report exposes Brazilian stadium/political corruption: Remember those protests in Brazil that conflicted with the Confederation's Cup last year? They were largely over disapproval of the government's spending on lavish World Cup and Olympic stadiums. An AP investigation revealed that political donations “skyrocketed” from construction companies after the contracts to build World Cup stadiums were awarded. The report hinges on National Stadium in Brasilia, which cost a reported $900 million, making it the second-most expensive stadium in the world. Auditors suggest that contractors gouged an extra $275 million for the project.
Spain annouces roster: Defending champion Spain announced its provisional 30-man roster, and, unsurprisingly, it's littered with names from Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their strength (if we're being honest, there's really no weakness) lies in the midfield with Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas. Fernando Torres was named as well. The real question is how do you cut seven of these guys?
Uruguay, too: Uruguay named its initial 25-man roster as well, headlined by striker Luis Suarez. In Group D, against the likes of England, Italy and Costa Rica, Uruguay should have no trouble advancing. There were few surprises, and while strikers Suarez and Edinson Cavani will garner attention, captain Diego Lugano (currently recovering from a knee injury) gives the team clout in the backline.
Ronaldo headlines Portugal's roster: The US didn't catch an early break as Cristiano Ronaldo was included on Portugal's provisional roster. The final roster won't be announced until June 2, but there's a fairly decent chance that he'll be on Paulo Bento's squad heading to Brazil, competing in Group G. Pepe and Joao Moutinho were the other headliners.
Belgium names roster: The young but extremely dangerous squad out of Group H named its initial 24-man roster on Tuesday morning. It features 12 players from the Premier League, highlighted by 23-year-old star Eden Hazard up front. Expect to hear this team as everyone's dark horse.
Swiss name preliminary squad: Switzerland announced its team as well, headlined by keeper Diego Benaglio. The Swiss allowed just six goals in qualifying and have a good chance at advancing to the knockout stages out of Group E while battling Ecuador, France and Honduras.
Vuvuzela 2.0? Please, soccer gods, never again. The Washington Post took at look at some potential noise makers that could replace the godforsaken plastic horns. One suggestion is something called a diabolica, which should be banned A) because of its name, and B) because it sounds like a mosquito buzzing inside your ear. I'd vote for the caxirola, featured below.
Klinsmann, from 20 years ago: The coach of your US Men's National Team, everybody!