Sunday, July 4, 2010

More on the World Cup

I trust you were all watching the quarterfinal matches over the last couple of days. Perhaps the best two days of soccer that you can get. The South African dominance that was the story of the first round ended rather quickly with 3 of the squads losing to those from Europe.

The Netherlands shocked Brazil and most pundits with that gutsy 2-1 win, but I expected the Dutch to prevail after Brazil's poor performance against the Portuguese combined with the low altitude setting of the game. In reality, I doubt that the location of the stadium had much to do with the outcome, rather the Brazilians lost their composure after the first Dutch goal. It was fascinating to watch them self-destruct in 40 minutes, highlighted by Melo's red card. By the way, the first Dutch marker was originally given as an own goal to Melo, but later was credited to Wesley Sneijder, who also scored the second.

Ghana were dealt a cruel blow with the Suarez handball on the goal line. In hockey, if you throw your stick at the puck when it is going toward an empty net, a goal is awarded anyway. I wonder if a similar rule would make sense here. Still, it was not that surprising for Gyan to miss given that he had the hopes of a continent weighing on him.

Uruguay now play the Netherlands, who will win because the football gods will not allow the South Americans to advance after the way they knocked out Ghana.

In yesterday's contests, the ruthless Germans showed that their thrashing of England was no fluke. A team has scored four goals in a game four times in the tournament with 3 of those being the Germans. Argentina had their chances but the Germans are just too good on the counter-attack. Sad to see Maradona go.

Spain bested Paraguay and are the only remaining side that have yet to appear in a finals. Unfortunately, they face the Germans in a rematch of the 2008 Euro championship, so it's unlikely that they will end that streak this time around.

I think most are expecting an all-European final with Germany and the Netherlands to face off. I can't disagree with that, it does seem like those are the two best teams left. The officiating has improved (how could it not?) and I expect that we will see the best referees for the last four games.

Finally, the yellow-card carryover rule means that all 4 squads are missing key players for their semi-final clashes. I hope FIFA revisits the rule before the next World Cup. Two cautions in five matches simply is not grounds for a suspension. The most obvious example is Germany's Thomas Mueller, whose booking for a handball will cause him to sit out the game against Spain. He's scored 4 goals so far but Germany should be able to rely on their other strikers to pick up the slack.

A bit of trivia: only two teams from outside Europe and South America have made it to the semi-finals in World Cup history: USA in 1930 and South Korea in 2002. Both lost. It's amazing that other regions can't catch up even after 80 years.

Enjoy the semi-finals!



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