32 countries, 64 matches latter, and 30 days later, the dust from the World Cup 2010 has settled. I’ll admit, it has taken me a while to get into soccer. During the 2006 World Cup, I was in Mexico and couldn’t help but to feel the passion they had for the game. This year I had the pleasure to be in Costa Rica during the World Cup. It was invigorating the way anywhere you’d go you could find the matches on. This facilitated my goal to watch at least part of every game, which I nearly accomplished. I followed all of the World Cup drama closely, so here’s my attempt to sum up my thoughts a month later.
While discussing the World Cup with my brother he asked me why I even bother with watching group play if the U.S. (or Mexico in my case) isn’t playing. For me, I love watching how each country has its unique style of play. I think it reflects a lot on the
culture of the country they represent. It turns out there’s data to support my view, which brings us to flopping. While sports in the U.S. are not immune to acting or working the officials, it seemed a little excessive during the World Cup. Players were willing to sell it to the point that they would get carried off in a stretcher just to hop right off when they get to the sidelines. Sure it feels cheap and even un-American, but it has become part of the culture of the sport and we should embrace flopping. The rest of the world isn’t going to change because the U.S. (a non-super power) has a problem with it.
If there was just one thing I learned during this World Cup, it was that FIFA has officially passed up the NBA for worst officiating. I know I just said that we should embrace flopping as part of the game, but it doesn’t mean the officials shouldn’t do their best to limit it. At times I felt like I was watching the San Antonio Spurs there was so much whining. Even so, this World Cup may be even better remembered for the the blown calls for offsides and goals.
The U.S. was rightfully outraged when the officials wrongfully called them offsides and took away their go-ahead goal as they nearly staged an incredible come back in the Slovenia vs. U.S.A match. (I admit I was infuriated by the call, but I saw a poll on ESPN.com showing that the large majority of sport nation felt that it was a worse call than the blown call that ended Tiger’s pitcher, Armando Galarraga’s, perfect game. Call me biased, but the ump’s view was much clearer and an easier call.) Then the officials failed to call offsides on Argentina’s first goal against Mexico. They couldn’t seem to get any call right.
Many fans are calling for instant replay on goals to make sure the right call was made; however, I disagree. One major difference between soccer and sports in the U.S. is that soccer doesn’t stop. There are no commercial breaks or time outs. It is pure sport. While adding instant replay would increase accuracy on some important calls, it would slow down the game, and there is still no guarantee they will get the call right anyway. I like Bill Simmons’ suggestion (Question #8) to at least add special goal line judges. They wouldn’t cost much or slow down the game. Something to think about FIFA.
This World Cup was definitely filled with drama. The two countries that played in the finals four years ago (Italy and France) were both eliminated in group play, which allowed us to see some new, fresh faces advance. Each region was represented in the
elimination round. After U.S. lost, Ghana became a favorite but suffered a controversial loss. This gave fans yet another reason to complain about the World Cup. I am just as heartbroken as anyone that Ghana lost to a Uruguay team I was not especially fond of, but I think it was handled correctly. By using his hand he gave his team a slight chance of staying in the game. The appropriate consequences were dealt, and the unimaginable happened.
Also very unfortunate, was that Spain won. I remember watching the match between Spain and Honduras and deciding I did not like Spain. They seemed arrogant and tried working the officials more than anyone. Then I saw David Villa, the Spanish hotshot striker, slap an opponent because he was frustrated and didn’t even get a card for it. At that moment I realized that I did not like this Spain team and that with my luck, they
would have a decent shot at winning it all. I was not happy to see Spain hoist the trophy, but they played extremely well and they earned it. Felicidades.
Even though this was really long, I could have talked about so much more. What key moments from South Africa did I leave out?