Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 18 (R16 - 4)

The quarterfinals bracket is complete. Spain made it through (although more difficult that I thought, while Ronaldo disappointed his followers) and Paraguay has ended the Japanese dreams of moving on, after an insipid game that always seemed destined for penalty kicks.

One of the weakest games in the tournament paired Paraguay (who - to their credit - topped the group that included a sorry Italian team) and Japan (who outclassed Denmark in their group game). But the game itself was shadowed by that fear-of-losing (or being scored upon first) on both sides. In the end, it was nil-nil after 2 hours of play and the team better prepared to deal with the emotions of the penalty-kicks 'lottery' progressed.

Such a game makes one of the 'romantics' of the game [like me] think about ways to improve such performances and avoid PK shoot-outs. So here's a couple of solutions:
  • After 90 minutes, take out a player from each team. Then every 10 minutes take off another one...until eventually there is more space on the field and scoring opportunities are easier to come by. Chances are at least a goal will be scored before the 120th minute...
  • Assign a panel of 'judges' (like in gymnastics, or artistic skating) that would assign a score to each of the teams at the end of the 2 hour play period. The team with the higher score (more attacking, better stats, etc.) would progress [thus avoiding the possibility of exiting the competition after being the better team over the duration of the game]. I'm sure Yuichi Komano would have slept better and would not be haunted by that crossbar all his life had such a measure been in place...
Yeah, I know, this is just noiseless banter, but either alternative offers a fairer choice (in my opinion) for determining the winner based on what happens in the field, not during the split-second decision of a penalty kick. And although you may think this is all 'funny dreams' right now, things will eventually change as far as the antiquated laws of the game (and its management [read FIFA]) are concerned. More arguments to this on the bottom of this posting.

Yet, in a couple of firsts for the World Cup: this was the first PK-decided game where an European team was not involved... and the first time for Paraguay to make it so far! Chilavert would be proud.

The last game in the Round of 16 was particularly emotional for me, and although the scoreline was narrow, the better team [Spain] did go through. I only wish that as the competition progresses they get better at finishing off chances (with Argentina/Germany and then [potentially] Brazil waiting to take them on). Yes, I am assuming that they'll dispose of Paraguay a lot easier as they did of Portugal [who were a bit overrated, I think; the only team they scored against was a compassless North Korea].

Del Bosque should face the music and realize that Torres is just not 100% yet and should go with one of the many other talents on the team [Lorrente, Pedro, Silva]... and maybe even bring back Navas, who seems to give the team more width and pace on the right side. But here I go, making tactical recommendations when I'm naught but a simple spectator... I just hope he picks the best players for the team going forward.

One negative point from the game: Capdevilla faking an elbow to the face in order to get Ricardo Costa eliminated. I'll touch on some of the work that FIFA has to do around the game later, but what I would do, in the spirit of fairness [although I'm a Spain fan] is review the incident [post-game] and reverse the decision; suspend Capdevilla for the next game and erase Costa's red card. Maybe throw in a fine for good measure as well. Such actions should not be tolerated in any sports.

So as I'm going down that slippery slope, here's a couple of articles that may keep you preoccupied with additional reading over the next couple of days (since I'll be travelling and there's a pause in the competition anyway):

1. Blatter apologizing to England and Mexico and admitting that "something has to be done" by FIFA: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/id/5338733/ce/us/sepp-blatter-says-fifa-reopen-file-replay?cc=5901&ver=us

2. More on the same subject (with another theft incident - this time at a FIFA office - buried towards the bottom of the article: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/blog?entryID=5338695&name=worldcup2010blog&cc=5901&ver=us

Aside from that (and with potential "extra credit" for additional reading) here's a couple of interesting blogs from people that aren't quite friendly [to say the least] when analyzing the most popular sport in the world. What can I tell you, narrow minds who don't even begin to understand the intricacies of the sport... but I don't blame them; they're more or less a product of the sports society in the US. The fundamental difference is that sports in the US are classified as follows (depending on who you ask, of course, but I'm generalizing):
  1. American Football (gridiron)
  2. Baseball
  3. Basketball
  4. Hockey
  5. Tennis
  6. ...I don't know... beach volleyball
...while in Europe and/or South America (generalizing again) it looks like this:
  1. Football
  2. Football
  3. Football
  4. Football
  5. Football (the 'soccer' kind for all of the above)
  6. ....
  7. Beach Volleyball
Once Americans understand this, the 'light' will eventually come on!

The first one is quite appalling, and if you read through the comments, you'll realize that most people don't agree with that view (and quite hate the narrow, close-minded approach to it). But I'll let you be the judge of that... http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/06/13/look-out-futbol-here-comes-football-1/

The second one is not as bad (while it still attempts to explain why 'soccer' is not - and will not be - popular in the states). Although he makes some valid points, especially in reference to refereeing and replays (which we already 'talked' about) this type of attitude has no place in any US publication. In case you want to scroll through the responses, I like in particular the ones from dudester21 and mattfutball (you might have to scroll down or go the the next page to find them): http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/06/football-vs-futbol-why-the-world-cup-whets-our-nfl-appetite/1

So I'll leave you with these tidbits for now, while I'm getting ready for a quick trip to the motherland. From quarterfinals on, this blog will be brought to you from the Black Sea coast!

Bye for now...see you on Friday!

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