Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup 2006, finit.

My overall comments on the World Cup this year.  I had probably the best time watching soccer than I ever have.  I think that partly stems from the fact that I got to watch far more games than I ever have.  I also got to share a bit of it in my writings here, as well as see some exciting action. 

Sure the USA didn’t get as far this year, but replace that excitement with all the controversy regarding refereeing, diving and possible violence.  OK, maybe not, but unlike 2002, there was some really good soccer played this time around.  There were only a few teams in 2002 that I thought were playing really well, Brazil among them.  Turkey was another.  This year I found I was enjoying some actually creative midfield play and true attacking soccer from a number of teams, including Germany, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Italy, and (finally, when they got around to it) France.

I hope that the trend continues.  Many people are getting soured by the increase in “professional fouling” and diving to get advantage.  I certainly agree that this takes away from the game, and if nothing else I hope that the refereeing trend in the last few games, where they let the game progress instead of let fouls control the pace of play, continues.  I also hope that countries get shamed at some point into trying harder to play well instead of develop those “professional” skills mentioned above.  I know I speak for Billions when I say that good soccer is a joy to watch, in those uncommon moments when it happens.

And one more comment on the refs.  Sure there were some bad refs and some bad calls that changed games, but just because there was a record number of yellow and red cards in 2006 doesn’t mean that many of them weren’t fully deserved.  The game has gotten quite physical.

Some other interesting articles as a result of the passing Cup.
Jamie Trecker looks at ideas to reform the Cup so the process won’t be so grueling for the players, and games during the qualifying and final will have more importance.  Although I think the wisest thing in the comments section of his post pointed out that the larger club leagues forcing more club games and more regional tournaments is what is causing players to wear out, not all the national team games.

Another thought on why American soccer players are not ready to compete for the ultimate prize.

Here’s an opinion about what’s going on in the Italian league.  It’s not just a game or two fixed by officials from one team or another.  It’s the officials from several teams fixing matches by manipulating referees over a period of years.  What happens when the perennial top 4 or 5 teams with billions in TV, marketing and ticketing revenues suddenly gets thrown down into the Italian minor leagues?

Here’s the Guardian’s best and worst of the Cup.
ESPNs All star team of the tournament is here.

My impressions of the final game later.

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