3 of 4 Europe Knocking on the Door

When I last posted, South America had 4 of the teams in the round of 8; 3 from Europe, and the black stars of Ghana.  Now Ghana is gone and so are 3 of the 4 South American teams, and 1, Argentina, fell to Germany 0-4.  Europe dominated in the quarters, winning all 3 matches.  I expected the Germany Argentina match to be close, but never imagined it would be a blowout.  Like Chile and Brasil in their elimination contests, Argentina unaccustomed to being behind, fell apart in the second half.

With Chile, Brasil, Paraguay and now Argentina out, South America’s only hope rests with Uruguay, who are the clear underdogs to win the Cup, at 14/1, but have slightly better odds of winning their match against the Netherlands at 6/1.

Of the European powers left, Spain, the favorite to win the Cup, had maybe the most difficult quarterfinal match, eking out a 1-0 win over Paraguay.  I’d say Germany is the team to beat, based on how well they’ve played in the tournament thus far, scoring 4 goals in three of their games, two of those wins against powerhouses – Argentina and England.

As an inhabitant of the “New World”, I’d like to see Uruguay, the last team from the Americas left standing, in the finals against Spain.  I think this matchup might favor Uruguay.  First, though, they have to take down the Netherlands, no small task.

New World Cup Rules Proposed

Soccer, Futbol, Football, or whatever you want to call the sport, needs to make some changes, especially in World Cup action.

First, no more ties in Group Play.  Just penalty kicks, that’s it.  I like overtime in the knockout rounds, but it seems just too much for the players.  One thing FIFA ought to look at is how many games are actually decided in overtime. So far in the knockout rounds, two games were tied after 30 minutes of overtime only to be decided by penalty kicks.  This extra time seemed like a waste of time.

Second, I don’t like the fact that if a player gets two yellow cards, or a red, he misses the next match.  FIFA did change the rules for the 2010 World Cup so that a yellow isn’t carried over to the semis.  If the players reach the semi finals, the card slate is wiped clean, but a player could still miss the finals if given a red card or two yellows in the game.  A red, I can understand, but two yellows and you miss the finals – that’s harsh.

Third, I’m tired of the whining, the play acting and the fake injuries.  The referees need to issue more yellows for stalling tactics.  And I don’t think there should be any added time.  It seems the referees just add on 3 minutes to the end no matter.  They should simply stop the clock if there is an injury or some sort of delay.

Fourth, I know this sounds a little crazy, but I’d like to see extra points awarded for difficult goals – a long kick like Ghana’s goal in the Uruguay match should have been worth 2 points.   Headers, maybe 1.5.  A scissors kick, 3 points. A free kick and penalty kick, just 1, because hey, it’s free.  Like a free throw.

Fifth, FIFA should adopt instant replay technology so that a close goal call can be reviewed.  No team should be eliminated due to an officiating error.

Top 5 Reasons Not to Like team Brasil

Top 5 Reasons Not To Like Team Brazil

  1. They go by nicknames or first names.  This has to stop, starting with the coach, Dunga – his name is Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri.  And Kaká, couldn’t they come up with a nicer nickname like Speedy or Hammer or something – by the way his name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.  Why not call him Rich – he no doubt really is that.
  2. Unappealing Jerseys.  Blue, Green and Yellow – I know these are the colors of the Brazilian flag, but must the uniforms contain all the colors of the flag?  In some cases the jerseys actually look like flags – see Paraguay.  Brasil, stick to green and yellow, it looks much better.
  3. Rough Play. Brazil is a physical team that will push folks around.  I’ve seen them commit some nasty and dirty fouls.  This is not rugby.  Their game is far from beautiful.
  4. Bad Acting and Whining.  This play acting and whining is especially popular among latin american teams – see Argentina.  Stop stalling, flopping, and contesting calls.  Just play ball.
  5. Brasil is not known for beer and wine.  Whereas, Germany and Argentina create fine wines and Holland and Germany brew some of the best beer in the world.  I know, I’m running out of material here.

Ok, having said all that, I like Brazil and Brazilians.  They are a nice people and have a wonderful country and many fine traditions, soccer being one of course.  But their soccer team is so good, maybe too good for their own good.  I’d like to see a team that hasn’t won one get a chance like, Uruguay or Ghana.

Down to 8 and So. Am. dominates

Down to 8.  The elite 8.  Africa, South America and Europe, the only continents left standing.  And of the 8 teams, 4 are from South America, a continent with only 5 representatives in the tournament, posting 10 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties in first round group play.  All 5 teams, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina made it to the knockout round, and all but Chile, beaten by Brazil, have advanced to the quarterfinals.

Domination?  Not quite, but if the 4 teams all advance to the semifinals, guaranteeing an all South American final, then we can legitimately talk domination.  And the scenario could happen.  How about Argentina and Brazil in the final.  Of course, the unexpected could happen too – what about Uruguay and Paraguay?  Or Spain and Ghana or the Netherlands and Germany.   Anything can happen and probably will.  My prediction?  Paraguay over Uruguay (PU) 0-0 with Paraguay winning on penalty kicks.  Why, there is something about Paraguay’s clown outfits, those zany stripes that intimidate and distract opponents.  Yes, I’m going with Paraguay.

All South American Final

I was rooting for Chile against Brazil, and thought they might have a chance.  Brazil had shown some vulnerabilities in the tournament.  In the last game of first round action in Group G, Portugal played them to a scoreless tie.  A scoreless tie!  But against Chile, Brasil looked invincible, like a team out to show the world that they are the ones to beat.  Posting a 3-0 win against a tough and talented Chilean team, Brasil looks ready to take on the Dutch and the world.  But they just might not have to take on the world if things roll a certain way.  They may only have to take on their neighbor, Argentina in an all South American final.  I’d like very much to see that happen.

Soccer Needs PA Music

When I saw President Clinton and Mick Jagger at the US Ghana match I got an idea about how to spice up soccer/football/futbol at the World Cup.  By now, everyone is surely tired of blowing on the vuvuzela.  In the last few games I’ve watched, I haven’t heard that frenetic buzzing sound as much.  Maybe ABC has figured out a way to filter out the drone of the plastic Dr. Seuss like trumpets.  What the game needs is a PA system to blast music.  This sounds ridiculous, I know, but HEAR me out.

Seeing President Clinton brought to mind his 1992 campaign song, Don’t Stop, the classic Fleetwood Mac hit from 1977.  I was thinking, a PA system could have blared the song when team USA had the ball in the second half, trying to come back from a 2-1 deficit against the mighty upstart squad from Ghana.

And seeing Mick again in the stands during the knockout match between England and Germany, I’d have liked to have heard the Stones tune, Start Me Up when Germany was up 3-1 to get the Brits back on track.

This would also serve the purpose of drowning at the droning vuvuzelas. So here’s how it would work.  Each team would select about 10 songs that could be played at various stages of any match.  Let’s say a song for when the match is tied, one for when the team is behind, one for when it is way behind, one for when it is ahead and so on.

For example, with a 3 goal lead, Germany could have played something from the Brandenburg Concertos, an airy piece fit for a merry stroll in the park.  When tied, they might chose a Dokken tune (wait, they aren’t German), ok, let’s say a Scorpions’ tune.  And when team Germany wants to rub it in, say it’s near the final seconds and their opponents are 2 or more down, they could play 99 Luftballons.

Moribund World Cup Broadcast in English

The English speaking broadcast of the World Cup match between England and Germany was like listening to a golf match.  They whispered.  It was Ian something or other, a monotone, crestfallen Brit, who sounded suicidal after Germany’s 4th goal.   I had no particular interest in the outcome, but I myself was becoming disturbingly depressed and nearly fell asleep at the 60 minute mark so I had to find the Spanish speaking broadcast to wake me up so that I could really fully appreciate the spirit of the game.   GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

Team USA Ran Out of Gas

It’s all over for team USA in the 2010 World Cup.  They had a good run, playing England to a tie, winning their group and advancing to the knockout round, where they fell to a young Ghanian team…again, 2-1.  The match was statistically close, but Ghana seemed to play with confidence, especially after the German born midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng scored right off the bat in the 5th minute.  That goal came on a mistake, akin to an interception in American football where the defensive back runs it back for a score.   The U.S. eventually tied the game to send it into overtime, but were burned again early after another miscue and just didn’t have the energy or the legs left to answer.

The U.S. may have had the better team.  They had the experience, lots of momentum and confidence, the best goal keeper and a prolific scorer in Landon Donovan, but they played sloppily with heavy legs.  Ghana on the other hand looked fresh, controlled the ball with crisp and precise passing and used their speed and keen anticipation to take advantage of every U.S. miscue.  And they had the home field advantage, and will have it from here on in as the last African team standing.  There was a lot riding on the game for Ghana and they rose to the occasion.  They will face Uruguay in the Quarterfinals.  If I were an Uruguayan player,  I’d be worried.

No Wins for the English Speaking

Did you know that English speaking countries have yet to win a game in the World Cup?  England, team USA, New Zealand and Australia are a combined 0-1-7.   By contrast, South American teams are undefeated going 10-0-2.  Already Uruguay and Argentina have made it to the second round.  Add in Mexico, and 3 of the 4 teams that have advanced so far are from Latin America.

South Africa at Free State Stadium

It will be a big day for the host nation today in World Cup action.  France is desperate for a win against South Africa to keep a sliver of hope alive in Group A, but will struggle against the host nation at Free State Stadium.  The French will blame the loss on the mighty vuvuzela.  South Africa has a chance to advance, but they’d need to shut out France and score something like 7 goals in the game, certainly not unprecedented if you’ve been paying attention lately.

Nigeria would like nothing more than to post their first win of the tournament.  If Greece loses decisively to Argentina, Nigeria could advance in Group B with a convincing win over South Korea, like Portugal’s win over North Korea.

So far, Latin America teams have dominated the tournament going 9-2-3, the highest winning percentage of any delegation.  Honduras is responsible for both losses.  European teams are 10-8-8.  These results are somewhat misleading though because in some groups Latin American teams have faced off (Chile v Honduras and Mexico and Uruguay today) and European teams have competed against one another as well (Holland v Denmark; Spain and Switzerland and later Slovenia v England).  That said, winning percentage is a good marker of dominance and to date, Latin America takes the prize.