The Haphazard Blog

Soccer

World Cup Coming to an End

by on Jul.10, 2010, under Entertainment, Soccer, Sports, TV

There’s only the third place match the final left to be played. I think it has been a surprising World Cup. I had a co-worker predict this final, but outside of him, no one I knew had the Netherlands and Spain in the final. I really don’t have much of a preference for either team. I’ve been thoroughly annoyed by the diving from the Dutch team, which seems like an all time low, worse than the Italians. I’m pretty much just hoping for a good game and leaning somewhat towards Spain. In the third place game, I’m expecting Germany to win. After Brazil was knocked out, I was hoping for Germany to win the World Cup.

I’m hopeful that U.S. Soccer will be able to capitalize on their coverage from this World Cup. Although making it past Ghana would’ve really been huge (1 more win away from playing to the last weekend of the World Cup), they just couldn’t pull it off. I think if they can continue to build on the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup performances, they can attract more fans. And one day, they may get that striker with a killer instinct they so badly need.

I got a little laugh reading the latest ESPN Ombudsman article. While he doesn’t come out and say it, he implies throughout the first section that ESPN is in total control of the World Cup coverage. In reality the audio and video for all the game coverage is provided by a host broadcaster. All ESPN does is not mess it up. I do applaud them for keeping the on screen graphics minimalist in nature and using good announcers. The coverage is not geared for those who suffer from ADD. It’s for people who want to watch the whole game and have an understanding of the game. It’s a welcome change from the usual dumbing down of everything.

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Brazil Out, Tough Loss for Ghana

by on Jul.02, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

My backup team is out. Brazil went down 1-2 after taking an early 1-0 lead. They grew more and more frustrated (Melo got a straight red card for cleating) and could not tie it up. Early on, the Dutch were diving like crazy, but in the end, they played the better game.

Watching the Ghana game, the way it ended, I wonder if a referee should be allowed to simply award a goal. I know this is in direct reaction to this game. What the Uruguayan player did was smart, and certainly against the rules. But it essentially took what was a definite goal, turned it into a potential goal via a penalty kick and as we all saw, that shot hit the crossbar. The game then immediately went to a shootout that Ghana lost. So, at the cost of a red card, Uruguay advances and Ghana goes home. No team would ever pass on that chance no matter who the player they lose is.

In the NFL, the rule book allows for a referee to award a TD in egregious and extreme conditions. I don’t think it has ever happened, but it takes into account what would happen if a player from the sidelines ran onto the field and made a tackle. In FIFA’s case, the referee would have the ability to award a goal or a penalty kick in this circumstance. The goal would only be awarded when it is clear a goal was about to be scored. And in reality, the only scenario I can think of is a hand ball with the trajectory of the ball clearly being on target to go in the goal. So maybe it should really be some type of rule specific to hand balls that prevent a goal.

It just seems wrong that Ghana is out given the way it played out.

Now I’m on the Germany bandwagon. Hopefully that does not end tomorrow.

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World Cup Update – Well Runs Dry, Terrible Refereeing

by on Jun.30, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

It was a good run for the United States, but it seems they were finally finished after giving up a quick goal in the extra time. In the whole tournament, only mid-fielders scored for the United States. They really didn’t get much from their strikers. Statistically, 1 assist. The United States lacks any type of skilled ball handler and scoring threat.

Up to the last game, I thought Bob Bradley did a solid job with the coaching. I’m not sure what the thought process was for that lineup against Ghana. People were puzzled and questioning it as soon as it was released. His contract ends this year, and while I think he’s a good coach, I hope the U.S. Soccer Federation makes a change and hires the guy they should’ve hired 4 years ago, Jürgen Klinsmann. I think he can bring an attacking mindset to the team and he won’t have any loyalty to any players (making replacing guys a lot easier).

The bad refereeing continued into the Round of 16. Had one goal a yard over the line that was not called a goal and another goal that had a player so offsides that no one was between him and the goal and they gave him the goal.

FIFA should not even be thinking twice about adding video replay as soon as this tournament is over. They can add a chip in the ball if they want, but they need replay. We saw replays within seconds often during the games. If all of us at home can know it wasn’t a goal within seconds by watching replays, it seems pretty simple to add a fifth referee (or make use of the fourth one)  to review every goal/non-goal and immediately notify the head referee of an error.

In the case of the blown England goal, as the play continued it would’ve been simply stopped and Germany would kick-off. In the case of the Argentina goal, as the players were celebrating it would’ve been waved off and Mexico would get a free kick. The flow of the game isn’t interrupted and it is limited to only goal/non-goal decisions.

Another rule FIFA (and the NBA) need is a harsh penalty for diving. FIFA should review game tape and hand out red cards to any player that dives from no contact or grossly exaggerates the level or location of the contact. (The NBA should fine and bench a player for a game.) In addition to the red card, they should also impose any penalty that their diving caused for the other team. So if a player took a dive and the other team got a red card, that player should get 2 red cards.

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You Can’t Count Them Out

by on Jun.23, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

The best way I can describe the game today is nerve-rackingly awesome. The U.S. run of scoring late continues. This time they were able to score during extra time to win 1-0, win the group and advance to the Round of 16.  Next up is Ghana.

Landon Donovan Celebrates

Landon Donovan Celebrates

The U.S. has shown that they can stand up to the pressure and that they finish strong. During qualifying they had to win after going down four times. Twice they came back from 2-0 to tie the game with goals in the last 20 minutes. They are stepping up when it matters the most.

There was another disallowed goal during this game. If the U.S. had tied, a very big deal would’ve been made about it because they would’ve been going home. I wasn’t really outraged. It was a bad call, but that kind of call happens. Sometimes they go your way, other times they don’t. The ball was bouncing around quite a bit and it’s a tough call to make in real-time.

John Harkes was pretty upset about it during the game and even rattled off a quick list of the big refereeing errors that cost the U.S. goals in the past. He wasn’t nearly as outraged when they made the same call (there was no goal to wave off) against Algeria.

I think this was the best 90 minutes the U.S. has played all tournament. They were hammering the Algerian keeper all game and finally — after a disallowed goal, a shot off the post, two players missing a wide open goal — they got one into the back of the net. They look to be getting better with each game.

Looking at the bracket now, the top quarter isn’t too bad. Uruguay (#16 FIFA Ranking), South Korea (#47), Ghana (#32) and the United States (#14). The rest of the teams in the top half haven’t been determined, but if I guessed now, it will be Netherlands (#4), Italy (#5), Brazil (#1) and Switzerland (#24). The Switzerland call is a tough one. I could see Group H going to coin flip.

The good news is, if the U.S. were able to make it to the Semi-Finals, only one of the other four teams will be left standing. But that’s getting way ahead of things.

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Someone Owes Us Two Points

by on Jun.18, 2010, under Basketball, Soccer, Sports

Following the tough loss last night to the Lakers (the refs were terrible, favored the Lakers all series, but LA also had really good defense in the 4th quarter),  the U.S. got a taste of the bad refereeing that robbed them of a 3-2 lead with just a few minutes left in the game.

Some more thoughts on the U.S. game/team and the World Cup in general.

Enough with the vuvuzela whining! It’s not that big of a deal. There is constant noise and horns during every game. This is just more white noise that sounds different.

Looks like today was the day for terrible officiating. 9 yellow cards in the Germany-Serbia game. The referee in the U.S.-Slovenia game left his glasses at home. Gave Findley a yellow card (and now he misses the next game) for a hand ball when the ball hit him in the face. Clint Dempsey got away with an elbow to the head in the first couple minutes. And obviously the goal cancelling foul was the most egregious. I would really like to know what he saw.

The goal scored by Maicon (from Brazil) was amazing, but I think the goal by Landon Donovan today tops it.

Is the U.S. team planning to participate in a Pageant?

Argentina looked a lot more aggressive in their second match. They showed why a lot of people think they will win the World Cup.

It looks like a lot of teams played their first game tentatively figuring they’d rather have a draw than lose. On the flip side, almost everyone will be playing to win in their third games.

The U.S. went from having to win by 2 over Algeria to guarantee a spot in the 2nd round to only needing to win with England’s tie. Other possibilities:

  • They lose and go home
  • They tie and England wins, they go home
  • They tie and England ties and England scores 3 or more goals vs. Slovenia than the U.S. scores vs. Algeria, they go home
  • They tie and England ties and England scores 2 more goals vs. Slovenia than the U.S. scores vs. Algeria, it comes down to a lottery
  • They tie and England ties and England scores 1 or less more goals vs. Slovenia than the U.S. scores vs. Algeria, they advance
  • They tie and England loses, they advance

Long story short, if the U.S. ties, hope that England loses or ties and only manages to score no more than 1 more goal that day than the U.S. If England ties and scores 2 more, our hopes rest on a coin flip.

Next week will be crazy. 4 games a day Tuesday through Friday.

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World Cup 2010

by on Jun.13, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

The World Cup has gone on for 3 days and I think I’ll share some of my thoughts.

It seems to have started out pretty slowly. I don’t think we saw a truly good team until the last game today with Germany. They attack almost non-stop. That is why I had hoped that U.S. Soccer would be able to hire Jürgen Klinsmann to bring that style of play here.

Moving on to the U.S., they ended up with a draw. They got a somewhat lucky goal when the England keeper misjudged the ball and didn’t position himself right behind the ball. They had a real shot to go up 2-1 with the ball bouncing off the post and out.

So Sad. (For England)

Overall, their play seemed disjointed. There were a lot of good individual efforts, but they didn’t play as well as a team. At times the defense broke down and there did not seem to be much feeding the ball to the forwards. I want to see a lot more offsides calls on the U.S. Then at least you know they are pushing to score. Quick comparison: Germany had 9 shots on goal (18 total), 4 goals, 7 offsides and U.S. had 4 shots on goal (12 total), 1 goal and 2 offsides. Watching England handle the ball, they seemed to be able to pass it around at will around the U.S.’s 18M box. The U.S. would get near England’s and would be able to have a couple touches before they’d force a shot or just have it taken away.

I hope they are able to improve over that performance. They had a real opportunity to beat England by holding them to only 1 goal. As it stands now, Slovenia is in the driver’s seat with their win today. The U.S. definitely need a win, and most likely need a win, a tie and a Slovenia or England loss.

The next few days should give us some more good games with Italy, Spain, Brazil and Portugal still left to play their first games. I’m not sure if the games have really been slow, or if it’s the collection of announcers that ESPN has put together. They got rid of the really bad ones, but most of these guys don’t seem to get excited at all. I feel like a good set of announcers are knowledgeable and get excited at the right time. If you’re looking away from the TV, they should get you looking in time to see something happen. (It sure would make working and watching Soccer a lot easier.)

Finally, this isn’t much of a bold prediction, but I think Brazil wins it all. I’ll be rooting for them (unless they play the U.S.).

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