Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 8

At last [it was inevitable, given past history] unacceptable refereeing has returned to the World Cup. The Spaniard in charge of the Germany – Serbia game [Undiano] did everything in his powers to steal the limelight [8 yellows and a red], while Coulibaly (from Mali) robbed the US of a well deserved victory.

One would argue that the referees have been very good up to now, but really, at this level, there’s no room for mediocrity. FIFA should really consider their selection when it comes to the match officials. I realize the “global” nature of this event (and the need to have representation from all continents) but I’m sure that there are other officials far more qualified and more experienced at the big stage, than this guy from Mali…

So, Germany’s wings were clipped a bit as they faced much stronger opposition than Australia. Granted, the referee messed up the intensity of the game by throwing ‘yellows’ left and right (and reducing the Germans to 10 men way too easily) but these types of results are becoming the standard in this competition. A tie would have been a more equitable result, but Stojkovic denied Podolski from the spot after another Sebian hand ball in the box (Vidic this time). What is with the Serbian defense and hand balls? Didn’t they learn from last week’s experience where they gifted Ghana the 3 points from a similar scenario?

Overall, Germany played better, even with 10 men. They would have won if any other referee was in charge. Serbia should be thankful!

Even more controversy shrouded the US game an hour or so later. Yes, they had a poor first half [really looked like there was no cohesion at all] but Slovenia was not much better. They just capitalized on a couple of chances and took a strong lead to half time. But the Americans made some inspiring changes and were back in the game shortly after the restart. They looked like a different team, really. Slovenia was so unconvincing that I started wondering how they even scored twice already.

Then, right after the equalizer, came the controversy which robbed the US of the 3 points. There was nothing there anyone could see but Mr. Coulibaly. Replay after replay showed nothing. This makes a perfect case for that video replay I was talking about in the ‘Preamble’ last week [just like in gridiron football, give each team one or two chances to challenge the referee’s decisions, especially at this level]. And even if he spotted an infringement in the box as the kick was being taken, then he should have allowed the free kick to be taken again. Anyway…plenty of ink and air time will be wasted over that decision, I’m sure. In the end, the result stands and the US still have a good chance to make it through. The way I see it, if they beat Algeria in the last game (which they should) and England beat Slovenia (that should also happen, for two reasons: the Brits have something to prove [they have not impressed yet] and they want to qualify first from the group in order to avoid stronger opposition in the round of 16) then USA will grab the second place in group C. Hell, even first, depending on goal difference…

In the other game of the group, dismal performance from England. Credit to Algeria, for a very disciplined performance, but England were abysmal. Not one Albion player stood out; none looked like they wanted to play. The tabloids in Great Britain will have a field day! And on Capello’s birthday, no present from his players; instead, he looked like he aged 5 years in 90 minutes!

This leaves group C wide open for the last round of games. Unless England wakes up, they’ll take an early flight back out of Cape Town…

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