my world cup thoughts ...

i'm not a soccer ("football" for all you euro-trash fockers) fan by any means, but it's hard not getting caught up in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. so now that the 2006 fifa world cup is over, here are some of my thoughts:

unpredictable
now once again, i'm no soccer fan or expert by any means, but the unpredictability in this year's world cup, while exciting, makes me sort of wonder about the sport. before the world cup began, here were the top fifa rankings:

1. brazil
2. czech republic
3. the netherlands
4. mexico
5. usa
5. spain

now let's see how each team fared:

1. brazil - although top ranked and heavily favored, knocked out in the quarterfinals
2. czech republic - didn't even make it out of the opening round ... ranked #2?
3. the netherlands - knocked out in the 2nd round
4. mexico - knocked out in the 2nd round
5. usa - gone in the first round (not sure how they were ranked #5 with spain in the first place)
5. spain - knocked out in the 2nd round

so out of 32 total teams in the world cup, brazil was the only team ranked in the top 6 to make it to the "elite 8", and not a single top 6 team made the "final 4". here was my company pool:

http://www.jochemgeerdink.com/worldcup (yeah, i didn't do very well ...)

nobody picked italy or france to make the finals. hmmm ....

now would that EVER happen in basketball? baseball? american football? tennis? golf? bowling? ping pong? ... you catch my drift. sure, upsets happen all the time in sports. like when the patriots beat the rams in superbowl xxxvi. or when the a's got swept by the reds in the 1990 world series. in fact, that's the beauty of watching sports. "that's why they play the game" you always hear.

BUT C'MON, in an event that happens every 4 years, and is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world (besides the olympics), you would think there would be some distinction between the powerhouses vs. the "just happy to be here" teams. and that in the long run, SKILL would determine the winner. but the czechs losing to ghana? brazil not even showing up against france?

take the ncaa basketball tournament. people LOVE march madness. all the close games ... the competition ... the last second upsets. it's awesome. BUT, at the end of the day, the final 4 teams usually don't surprise anyone. the best teams WILL make the final 4. some facts to back my claim (from wikipedia):

  • No #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed since the field was expanded to 64 teams, and only four #15 seeds have ever defeated #2 seeds
  • Only twice since full seeding of all tournament teams began in 1979 have no #1 seeds made the Final Four.

skill prevails. it's just that simple.

 

the sport of soccer just seems too .... random. there, i said it. too many of the games are decided by penalty kicks, which i think everyone agrees, is basically a coin flip. and i've also watched too many games where a "questionable" foul is called in the box, which of course results in a penalty kick. another coin flip. so basically, the world waits every four years to play a tournament of coin flips? what is this, poker? a pair vs. two overcards?

yeah yeah, my soccer fan friends tell me all the time that i "just don't understand". they say things like:

  • the sport is all about "heart"
  • the intensity on the field is unmatched in any sport
  • the level of competition is so high that there's parity in the world of soccer

sorry, i just don't buy it. i'm use to a sport where a championship is determined by a final shot in the final second of the 7th game of a series. THAT'S intensity. THAT'S heart.

 

btw, here are the latest fifa rankings:

1. brazil
2. italy (surprise surprise)
3. argentina
4. france (ahem)
5. england

i think jamie foxx should sing his "unpredictable" at the next world cup. oh, and i call "tails" for team usa in 2010.

offsides
now i know i'm gonna get a lot of shit for this one, BUT ... what is up with the offsides rule? it's just a load of crap if you ask me. now i understand the need to protect against "cherrypicking" because that would definitely ruin the game, as every team would just leave a player back, and the average scores for a soccer match would be 29-30.

but in a "half-court" (is it obvious that i'm a basketball fan?) situation, do we really need the offsides rule? every player is already on one side of the field. "cherrypicking" doesn't apply in this situation anymore, so why do you need this rule? i've seen way too many great "passes" turned back because of offsides, just because there were no defenders back there. PLAY SOME FREAKIN' DEFENSE!!! i think this takes away from the game, especially from the offensive side.

i think the offsides rule should be modified and called only to prevent obvious "cherrypicking". otherwise when all the players are on one side, let the players play. defense vs. offense. if an offensive player can get past the defense, receive a pass from a teammate, then score, THAT'S exciting. THAT's great soccer.

we would have scores like 6-5, or 7-8. not only is that more exciting, but i think it would take away the "randomness" from soccer. fewer matches would be decided by penalty kicks. bad calls by refs would have less of an effect. no more coin flips. bottomline: better teams would stand out.

i know this argument has come up many times (i found this blog while googling this topic), and i've heard many times before that eliminating offsides would ruin the game of soccer, but i still stand by my opinion: OFFSIDES sucks!! ok hardcore soccer fans, flame away ... =)

universal
don't get me wrong, despite all my ranting, i still LOVED the world cup. as a sports fan, i appreciated the fierce competition, the excitement and buzz, the red cards and headbutts, but mostly, i loved how the world cup really was a WORLD cup. there's something really special about watching a sporting event where the best of the best from each country compete, with people from all over the world watching. very much like the olympics, every 4 years, when the world cup arrives, it's like putting the planet on pause for a month.

like music and science, sports is truly universal.

mmm (most memorable moment)
although he played brilliantly and won the adidas golden ball (the most valuable player award), zinedine "zizou" zidane will always be remembered for his headbutt in the extra period, which ultimately prevented the sharpshooter from participating in the game-deciding penalty kicks.

poor zidane ... i'll leave you with the most memorable moment from the 2006 fifa world cup: