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Forget Ireland vs France—Egypt and Algeria’s World Cup playoff got truly nasty. Plus, sexism in Olympic ski jumping

By David Goldblatt   January 2010

The politics of the playoffs

Whatever the real correlation between the state of a nation and the performance of its national football team, the relationship is often seen as a form of morality play. The World Cup in particular offers a unique and globally televised theatre of popular nationalism. And 2010’s tournament will have some way to go to top the drama of the final days of its qualifying campaign.

In central Europe, conventional plot lines of national decline and fall have been in evidence. Slovenia, one of the most successful post-communist economies, edged out the Russians on away goals.…

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