Not so strong: Lance Armstrong apologises for taking performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, January 2013. Photo: Getty
After the beep: when mental strength hits a wall, doping helps you get over it
By Ed Smith - 17 July 10:00

The relentless professional era has taken elements of the beep test and incorporated these into real sports, even disciplines we usually think of as “skill” sports.

The German team celebrate their World Cup victory. Photo: Getty
After the World Cup final, the streets of Copacabana ran with urine and the bars ran out of beer
By Jonathan Wilson - 15 July 16:35

Even amid the camper vans and the seemingly anarchic raucousness of the beach, Sepp Blatter reigns supreme.

Centre Court at Wimbledon. Photo: Getty
Thrilling in the name: Wimbledon on BBC Radio 5 Live
By Antonia Quirke - 10 July 11:58

Is it just me or is everyone enjoying saying the word “Kukushkin” rather a lot?

A TV reporter commentates in the rain. Photo: Getty
Ex-pros fill the pundits’ chairs – but giving a good game isn’t the same as talking a good game
By Ed Smith - 10 July 11:21

A problem arises when it is assumed that professional playing experience is the sole source of authority.

The German team celebrate their fourth goal against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semi-final. Photo: Getty
It has been the World Cup of the individual, but Germany showed us the power of the team game
By Jonathan Wilson - 09 July 12:10

Germany, superbly well drilled, provided the perfect example of the superiority of the team game with their 7-1 evisceration of Brazil’s emotionally overcharged individuals in the semi-final.

Brazil fans celebrating their team's success. Photo: Getty
Best World Cup ever! Or is it? Why we should beware the deception of enthusiasm
By Oliver Farry - 07 July 11:02

Is being wary of enthusiasm just intellectual masochism, or are we missing out on a powerful force for good in the world?

Entourage too small? Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney at a World Cup press conference, 21 June. Photo: Getty
Next time, let’s give our lads their own hair stylists and some major surgery
By Hunter Davies - 04 July 17:06

And of course give up all training or playing for five weeks before their first game, perhaps even have some major surgery, spend some time in a wheelchair, like Luis Suárez.

Boys' done good: Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard of the England team after the Costa Rica game, 24 June. Photo: Getty
Why we should actually be proud of England’s World Cup performance
By Hunter Davies - 04 July 11:12

I am honestly and truly now coming to the conclusion that England did astonishingly well. In fact, they overachieved. 

Orange squash: Ron Vlaar and Andrés Guardado during the Netherlands v Mexico match, 29 June. Photo: Getty
This is Fifa-land: colourful, attractive spectators in team shirts playing by the rules
By Jonathan Wilson - 03 July 17:35

There is a set way to behave. Team shirts and face paint have become de rigueur, while Mexican waves now interrupt the view of anybody trying to watch the football with irritating regularity. 

Algeria fans supporting their team in Marseilles. Photo: Getty
New attacks on French-Algerian citizens resurrect old, subtle forms of racism
By Myriam Francois-Cerrah - 02 July 16:56

The World Cup is just the latest political football to be kicked by the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, who suggested that “You are either French or Algerian”.

We should be promoting sports that aren't effectively formalised pub brawls. Photo: Getty
Is it time to ban violent sport?
By Kate Smurthwaite - 02 July 10:29

There is no glory in setting out to cause injury to another human being.

Chile's forward Mauricio Pinilla (L) challenges Brazil's midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Photo: Getty
Much like the country, Brazil’s performance against Chile was both heaven and hell
By Simon Schama - 30 June 14:47

Simon Schama bissects a tale of two halves: Brazil’s nail-biting victory over Chile.

Full English: the MCC's chief executive (centre) and others at Lords 2011. Photo: Getty
I wear my egg-and-bacon tie with pride – MCC membership is my last link to civilisation
By Nicholas Lezard - 26 June 10:00

My politics may place me firmly on the left of Labour, but confess to owning an MCC tie and people start looking at you in a whole new light.

The England football team in Brazil. Photo: Getty
Who's to blame for England's failure at the World Cup? There's only one answer
By Phil Hartup - 24 June 18:27

... and it's not foreign players in the Premier League.

The crowds at the coronation of Felipe VI of Spain. Photo: Getty
Why the World Cup is not a reliable political football
By James Dawson - 20 June 14:22

World leaders have often found, to their cost, that using football as a political emblem isn’t always as successful as they might hope.

Playground for the rich: Tomson Golf Club in Shanghai. Photo: Alessandro Rizzi/Luz/Eyevine
The Chinese golf courses that don’t officially exist
By Simon Kuper - 20 June 12:00

The Forbidden Game uses golf – a game that most in the country probably still know nothing about – to gain a rare insight into ordinary Chinese lives. 

Wayne Rooney during the match against Uruguay. Photo: Getty
England second best again: how the lack of a truly world class player took its toll
By Jon Holmes - 20 June 11:48

Despite losing to Uruguay, this England team is one for the future, and viewed as such there is no real disgrace in such an elimination from a tough group.

Steph Houghton of England in action during a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in May 2014. Photo: Getty
Why is men’s football the default “proper” sport, while the women’s game is merely a pale imitation?
By Martin Cloake - 19 June 12:07

Everything a women’s football team does is taken to represent the “quality” of the sport as a whole, while male players are allowed to be judged as individuals. We have to put an end to this sexism.

Smile! Despite being booed, the World Cup has gone well for Dilma Rousseff so far. Photo: Getty
Dilma Rousseff was booed but the riots haven’t started – and most people are enjoying the football
By Jonathan Wilson - 19 June 11:43

 A successful World Cup could create a mood of general contentment that might yet carry Rousseff to an election victory later this year.

These women like football. But it's OK if you don't. Photo: Getty
Women! If you don't like football, it's OK to say so
By Glosswitch - 18 June 15:15

Back in the 1990s, I used to pretend I liked football. Now I realise I had been taken in by the Football Mystique.

A fan on the Isle of Wight watches the England v Italy World Cup match. Photo: Getty
“I want to believe”: Russell Brand on England at the World Cup
By Russell Brand - 16 June 14:21

The world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories. The World Cup is an arena in which narratives are fulfilled. Heroes, villains, scapegoats, underdogs, triumphs, near-misses and tragedies, all are played out on a global stage, a pagan drama in a secular age.

Raheem Sterling put in a good performance. Photo: Getty
England's impressive start to the World Cup: can they make it through the group of death?
By Jon Holmes - 15 June 13:48

Italy's star players prevailed, but Roy Hodgson's young team made a splash in their first game.

Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard in action for Manchester City in January 2012. Photo: Getty
A prayer for the goalies and referees of the World Cup
By Laurent Dubois - 13 June 15:39

Let’s take a minute to remember the perennial villains of the game.

Luis Suarez and the Uraguay team train in Brazil ahead of the World Cup. Photo: Getty
My World Cup training is not going well but I am perked up by Uruguay’s most charming fan
By Hunter Davies - 13 June 11:48

In Sheffield, 96-year-old Tanya Schmoller will be cheering on Uruguay. After all, she attended the first ever World Cup finals, held in Uruguay in 1930.

Italy celebrate winning the World Cup in Berlin, July 2006. Photo: Getty
The last World Cup: after Brazil 2014, is the tournament finished?
By Jason Cowley - 13 June 10:00

Football is a supreme instrument of soft power and can unite people as little else can. But allegations of Fifa corruption have tarnished the image of the beautiful game. Can anything be done to save it?

A technician at the British Cricket Balls company tests balls in a wind tunnel, 1981. Photo: Getty
If you want to imagine England under Ukip, think back to cricket in the 1980s
By Ed Smith - 12 June 10:00

Back then when critics pointed out that England had been overtaken by hungrier and more progressive teams, a stock reply was ready: “But we’re English and we’ve always done it this way.”

Poland's Kamil Majchrzak serves against US player Noah Rubin at Wimbledon 2014. Photo: Getty
Ballet on Centre Court: how modern tennis fuses strength and grace
By Ed Smith - 12 June 10:00

Tennis has not become ugly. It has got more beautiful. Professionalisation did not ruin its balletic strand; it deepened it. The ultimate athletes turned out to be lighter, leaner and more mobile.

The 1982 Brazil World Cup side in action against Argentina. Photo: Getty
Why football loves beautiful losers
By Oliver Farry - 11 June 14:19

Sport’s love affair with the myth of thwarted victory.

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