Monday, June 14, 2010

world cup thoughts, part 1

The World Cup is well underway. Some initial thoughts to follow:

1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: World Cup soccer is too defensive, and always disappointing. Watching the first few games just convinces me more and more that something has to change in the rules of soccer or the structure of the tournament to encourage more attacking play. Through nine games so far, even after many of the best teams and best players in the world have already played, only one team has actually attacked with much flair and confidence, and that was, somewhat surprisingly, Germany. I hate to say it, but so far, the opening matches look too much like soccer straight out of that Simpsons episode: fast-kicking perhaps, low-scoring for sure, and ties, you bet!

With games like this, you too often have teams losing games, instead of winning them. For instance, Robert Green lost for England (goalkeeper blunder), Algeria's goalkeeper for them (another blunder), Kozmanovich for Serbia (stupidly conceded penalty), and Poulsen for Denmark (own goal). I want to see more players, like Oezil and Podolski for Germany, actually earning their teams' victories.

Apologists will say that it's opening game jitters, that teams are especially cautious in opening games, that the best attacking teams have yet to play, and that players are struggling with the new ball (see below for more on that). Though those all may be true, shouldn't we hope for attacking play throughout the tournament? If this really is supposed to soccer's greatest exhibition, is it too much to ask that more than a handful of teams actually come out and try to score goals and win games? If teams are really that cautious in the opening games, then shouldn't we change the group phase somehow so that a third of the group games don't suck?

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