Wednesday, July 12, 2006

World Cup Thoughts

I should rehash all my predictions, I guess. I don't really think I picked all that well, but I spotted some good players and picked 6 of the final 8 before the cup started. Focus on the positive!

What can I write now about the cup that hasn't been written a million times already, and a million times better?

Zidane's headbutt was mindblowing and surreal.

The refereeing was terrible. The refs altered their decisionmaking all the time due to externalities - FIFA, whining players, crowds, managers. And teams used that to their advantage, such as Portugal (who I will dislike for a long time because of their performance in this cup; I mean, they didn't have to rely on flopping and bitching - they had as much talent as anyone).

I kind of thought the cup was sort of odd in that it's a little difficult to make broad generalizations about the entire cup. Like the Golden Boot award given to Zidane - yes, he was incredible in the Brazil match and great in the Portugal match. But we're also talking about a guy who had to sit out the only good match France played in the group stage and someone who wasn't the 8th best player on the field in the Spain match. And then there's the headbutt. Italy can be praised for their defense, but I'll also, begrudgingly, say that they had some of the best finishing in the tournament - really. The first goal in the Germany match was superb. They didn't attack all that much, but when they had a chance to score, they usually twisted the knife. But then again, Italy's tactics in the USA, Australia, and France matches just piss me off. I want to praise them, but I think I can't - and that is as close to a generalization for the whole cup as I can get.

My least favorite teams coming into the cup (Italy and Argentina) played in a way that didn't let me simply cast the same aspersions I always would. My favorite teams (USA, England, Spain) did play in ways that met the traditional criticisms.

Lots of players made a bigger name for themselves here: Maxi Rodriguez, Frank Ribery, Lukas Podolski, Gennaro Gattuso, Aaron Lennon, the entire Aussie team, Clint Dempsey. Lots of players lost some esteem in my eyes too: Cris Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho, Landon Donovan, most of the Mexican team, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, I don't think the last month will mean all that much when considering how club teams are going to do.

Here's the deal: I don't really want to wait another 4 years for soccer to be a main topic of discussion. Euro 2008 could be interesting, but I wish the Copa America were on the same cycle and that the USA were included in it.

Very very very early prediction for South Africa 2010: Argentina win it, over Brazil. When the cup isn't in Europe, South America does well. I'll also say that an African team makes the semifinals. The USA will qualify, will advance out of the group, and will beat a good team.

Gotta hope, right?