The US Men's National Team kicked off its World Cup campaign in somewhat sluggish fashion on Tuesday night with a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan. In case you missed our running-blog from the game (something we'll have for each World Cup match), here's a short-and-sweet recap so you can take part in this week's water cooler conversations.
There were other friendlies set for Wednesday – most of little consequence – but one, between Nigeria and Scotland, was worth taking note of.
Suspiciously friendly: First some context from Wednesday's friendly at Craven Cottage in London. The National Crime Agency, Britain's FBI, was investigating a possible attempt to fix Wednesday's match and alerted FIFA of the potential scam. Nothing incendiary was evidently found, and the Scottish Federation prepared for the match “as normal,” per the AP.
Fast-forward to Wednesday's game. Nigeria was down 1-0 to Scotland, and Nigeria's goalkeeper Austin Ejide appeared to heave the ball off a corner kick into his own goal in the 32nd minute.
The goal didn't count as a foul was called against Scotland, but Nigeria also scored an own goal later in the game, breaking a 1-1 tie. Nigeria wound up scoring in the 90th to earn a 2-2 draw, but that non-goal should certainly be cause for suspicion, especially given the pre-game chatter.
The own-goal that did count, it needs to be noted, didn't look nearly as suspicious. It was simply a deflection off a low, hard cross. However, match-fixing often involves the number of goals scored, not necessarily who wins or loses. Here's the own goal that stood.
Stephen Hawking's formula for England: An Irish bookmaker named Paddy Power (!!!) paid for renowned professor Stephen Hawking to analyze the best chances England has for World Cup success. Hawking paid particular attention to penalty kicks – an area England has struggled with in the past.
Essentially, Hawking found that the national team performs better in matches closer to sea level, when they wear red, and when they play a 4-3-3 as opposed to a 4-4-2.
In regards to penalties, Hawking asserted that “bald players and fair-haired players are more likely to score. The reason for this is unclear. This will remain one of science's great mysteries,” he said, potentially sarcastically. We secretly hope he pursues this endeavor.
Must-see protest photos from Brazilian protests: Indigenous Brazilians were engaged in a stunning protest against some of the country's riot police. The protesters aimed bows and arrows at the policemen, armed themselves with tear gas and clubs. The photos are absolutely wild. Here's one sample: