08 July 2010

The World Cup

I'm only a mildly-interested football--er, soccer--fan, but I've watched quite a bit of the action from South Africa this year. That's mostly due to the new DishTV I had installed so I could watch my favorite baseball club, and the fact that the early-morning broadcasts fit my summer schedule nicely. I watched both group stage and knockout stage action, though I did miss the most of the U.S.-Ghana match. My rooting interest was simple: I wanted to see a new champion. I wanted the finals to involve teams that had never hoisted the Jules Rimet Trophy. That's worked out rather nicely, with Spain facing Holland, don't you think? I admit I was rooting for Germany--three-time champion--to beat Spain, but only because I like teams that score lots of goals, and Germany had soundly thrashed England and Argentina, scoring four goals in each match. Four goals is almost unprecedented in a competition where 1-0 is not only the most common score, but is also considered a decisive result. I'll admit, the dearth of goals is the main reason I can't get too excited by international football. They lads are certainly terrific athletes, and the steady flow and rhythm of passing and probing, passing and probing, can be entertaining. But goddammit, kick the fecking ball towards the net, will you? The game--at this level, is just too damn tactical and defensive. I think a team ought to feel that they can score, at the very least, one goal per half. That would make, for the most part, 3-2 and 2-1 results common rather than out of the ordinary. And don't get me started on the silliness of penalty kicks deciding championship games. I mean, should the World Series be decided by a home-run derby? Ye gods, that would be hideous. Being an American, I still have a hard time with "draws" as well. If FIFA restructured the group stages so that zero points were awarded for draws, just like for losses, you'd see a much more aggressive and attacking style of play as teams would have to go for the win. Spain, who certainly were the better club versus Germany, and deserved to win, has won its last three matches 1-0. Booooooooooring!!!! I have a feeling the final with Holland will end 1-0 as well, which would take some of the luster off the championship, at least for me. I also expect it will be Spain 1, Holland 0, as the Spanish team looks even more disciplined about possession and ball control than the Dutch team. We'll see, of course, it could be 90 minutes of cracking good football and end 4-3! But that would be a shocker. Perhaps the best thing about soccer is it requires so little time investment. The whole thing is over pretty quickly, what with the running clock and the short halftime. I can agree with fans that it is a beautiful game, but I cannot accept the notion that it is THE beautiful game. Sorry, that's a crock of snooty bullshit. Nor can I buy the idea that these guys are the "best" athletes in the world. Any sport played at an international level requires great athletes. I wonder how these fellows would do in ice hockey, where you have to skate like Michelle Kwan, crack heads like Ronnie Lott, and dribble, pass, and shoot like Kobe Bryant. With a stick, fer chrissakes! Trying to bully people into believing that one particular sport is the best with pronouncements like that makes me want to gag. Sure, I'll buy that it is the most popular sport in the world, but that is certainly not much of an argument. After all, Titanic is the most popular movie ever--does that make it the best? I don't think so.

That's my take on the World Cup. Congratulations to Spain and Holland for their success, and may the best squad take home the honors. And score some bloody goals, will ya?

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