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Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category

Changes to the Beautiful Game

July 16, 2010 12 comments

Every sport has their negatives & positives, their weak points & strong points, their Keanu Reeves & their Marlon Brando’s.

Obviously, soccer is not an exception. Many living on this planet, including myself, are feeling empty since the World Cup ended last Sunday. Moving forward, the competition exposed some flaws that minor tweaks could help fix. The tournament had its share of referee blunders, cheating, diving, & a host of fixable controversies that many feel tarnish the spirit of the competition & the sport itself.

In response, here is my list of changes to soccer & how these changes would improve the sport. Note: I didn’t include video replay which I think would help the game, but also believe it would slow the game down. Also, I do not think it will be implemented anytime soon.

1. Goal-line Technology – We have seen the Hawk-eye system flourish in tennis. They also have built a system for soccer which FIFA has ignored. (I know FIFA’s stance is that they want the soccer to be the same at all levels & in all nations, but this argument is a joke. I would not watch a lower level or youth match on TV, I would not buy the shirt or pay for a ticket; nor are the players making millions of whatever currency for which they are being paid.) So, soccer should adopt the Hawk-eye system, in all the top flight leagues in the world & for the World Cup’s. We can also make this a priority for each continent’s tournament (like the Euro’s or Copa America). Now, at first, we probably cannot use the Hawk-eye system for the World Cup qualifiers since some nations, for example, San Marino, may not have the capacity or finances to install the system. But in the future, the technology will become cheaper & every country can acquire this system.

2. Ref’s have to give a statement to the press after the game. – You may remember a second half goal ‘scored’ by Mo Edu in the USA v Slovenia group stage match. Well it was not awarded a goal because the ref from Mali awarded a free kick to Slovenia. For what infraction, you might ask? Unfortunately, we will never know the reason why since FIFA do not require the refs to explain their call, nor do they have a press conference after the match. In response, FIFA should make the refs give a statement after the match on what they saw on the crucial calls in the match. This will not be a Q&A style press conference, just an explanation from the officiating crew. So, what’s the purpose of this? The call won’t be changed, but maybe the ref did see something (& without the benefit of replay or slow-mo) he gave the decision the way he did. At least we will have an explanation & can understand that a ref has a different sight line than what we see on TV.

3. Players caught (or not caught) diving could be suspended after the game tape is reviewed. – This is the easiest fix to a problem that has hurt the sport’s image, especially in the USA. For example, if Cristiano Ronaldo dives in the box & the ref gives a penalty, the goal will stand. BUT, after reviewing the game tape, he could receive a suspension for his acts. Say it is in the World Cup? Then maybe a one match ban. In La Liga for Real Madrid? Maybe a three match ban. In the qualifiers? A two match ban.

In addition, if he gets punished during the match, like he gets a yellow card or the ref does not award a free kick, then maybe his suspension would be lighter. Also, if the defender were to get sent off because his counterpart dove, then his red card suspension could get wiped out. The referee who officiated the game could go back & do this, or a retired referee could handle all of these rulings.

4. Refs can ‘transfer’ to officiate in other country’s leagues. – Players from Asia, Africa & the Americas move over to Europe by the dozens to play football. So why can’t the best refs in the world transfer or move to a better league. Maybe Koman Coulibaly (he was the man behind the USA-Sloveniva blunder) is a top quality ref and he just needs experience week to week in one of the top leagues in the world. This will only help the standard of referring week to week at the club level & at the big tournaments.

5. If a player goes down injured & requires medical treatment, he will be held off of the pitch for as long as his injury stopped the game. – This rule may sound a bit confusing, but it would help deter players from stalling the game by lying around on the ground late in matches. Unfortunately, the ‘magic spray’ would then be used a lot less by the medical staff. And, he Fourth official would be in charge of enforcing this rule.

6. Get rid of the yellow card suspension rule at the World Cup – This is the most basic & easy change to make by FIFA. We want to see the best players on the pitch in the most important matches. So, why should we keep them off the pitch for a yellow card, which is sometimes a poor call from the ref in the first place. Thomas Muller was suspended for the Spain match after a bogus hand ball v Argentina in the previous round. He picked up TWO yellow cards in FIVE games. The rule does no good for the game.

7. In Extra time allow a fourth sub to come on. – Normally, extra time is slow & unexciting, with penalties always seeming imminent. Allowing an additional sub in the extra period may not liven up the game much, but one more fresh body could help open the game up a little bit. I know a game going to penalties is hated by many, but I do not have a better solution on how to end a match, without hurting the spirit of the game. Allowing a fourth substitute may be a small step tho.


Agree/Disagree?

Please post below any other changes that I may have forgotten or left out…

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23 Best of the World Cup

July 12, 2010 6 comments

Here is my 23 man squad of the best at the World Cup (I managed to sneak in another outfield player on the bench & did not get caught by FIFA, unlike North Korea’s coach)

My formation is a 4-1-2-1-2:

GK Casillas (Spain) Captain – On Friday I had the starting keeper slot up for grabs in my notes. And on Sunday Casillas grabbed it. Spain didn’t concede a goal in the knock-out rounds, though it is debatable how much Iker played a part in this. However, he stoned Arjen Robben on two break-aways & ultimately hoisted the trophy as the captain of the World Cup winning side.

RB Maicon (Brazil) – He started off the tournament tormenting the North Koreans & eventually scoried a phenomenal goal from what seemed like an impossible angle. Coach Dunga relied on him to be the lone attacking force on the right for Brazil. He did this while also tracking back to defend. Ultimately, Brazil ended up being a disappointment, but Maicon lived up to his expectations.

CB Puyol & Piqué (Spain) – This defensive combination was a no brainer. They are comfortable playing next to each other, see Barcelona, & organized a stingy Spain defense all tournament long. The most impressive part of these stalwarts is how they win the ball back for Spain & are always able to KEEP possession (take note Onyweu & Demerit). Piqué is able to spray passes across the pitch & Puyol is the warrior with the wild hair, who will be remembered for his thumping header that KO’d Germany.

LB Coentrão (Portugal) – This position had no obvious choice, but I went with Fabio. Many may question Fabio’s hair cut & hair color (actually everyone should), but nobody should question his abilities. He was the only player who was willing to venture forward & offer support to Cristiano Ronaldo. He swung a bevy crosses & provided flair for a Portugal team who were very conservative. Also, he was part of a back four who only conceded one goal in the tournament.

CM Schweinsteiger (Germany) – He played on the wing for the Germans in 2006 & was only converted to a central midfield player in the past year for his club team Bayern Munich. Bastian did exactly what he was required to do: stifle the opponents attack by breaking up passes in the middle of the field & then finding a passing outlet. He started off many of the memorable counter attack goals scored by Germany & also marshaled a young team that may be the favorites in 2014.

RM Müller (Germany) – One of the break-out stars of the tournament. Thomas won the Golden Boot by scoring 5 goals & assisting on 3 others. He was the executioner of the vaunted German counter attack.

LM Iniesta (Spain) – He cemented his place in this team by scoring the extra time winner in yesterday’s final. He also scored a great goal v Chile & made a marauding run through the Paraguayan defense to set up the winner in their quarter final. With Fernando Torres playing poorly, Iniesta picked up his slack by providing support for David Villa to form a cohesive attacking combo. (This combination will continue to be frightening this season for Barcelona). On the down side, I was disappointed by his constant complaining to referee Howard Webb & his ‘lack of balance’ that he showed in the final.

CAM Sneijder (Holland) – Although he benefitted from some deflected goals, he finished the tournament as joint top scorer on 5. Wesley was dangerous all tournament & picked up the slack left behind by his striker Robin Van Persie, who was non-existent throughout much of the tournament. In the final he was quiet, but he put Robben through for a one on one with Casillas which could have been the winning assist.

CF Forlán (Uruguay) – Diego was one of the few players who seemed to master the much controversial Jabulani ball. He won the Golden Ball for being the best player, as voted on by the journalists. He even played out of position for most tournament, dropping deeper into midfield to play the ‘#10’ role because his team needed him there. He played well consistently throughout the competition & also earns my award for “the Best Tweeter” out of all players in the World Cup.

ST David Villa (Spain) – He landed a huge transfer to Barcelona right before the tournament & I bet Valencia are kicking themselves after the display he put on. (How much would Man City have offered for him today?) He struggled in the final, but he bailed Spain out late in games to progress his country deep in the tournament. He scored one of the best goals of the tournament v Honduras weaving past 3 defenders before curling the ball into the top corner from the seat of his pants. V Chile, He added a 45 yard curler with his weaker left foot after the Chilean keeper came out to challenge a long ball. He advanced Spain  to the semis by scoring winners v Portugal & Paraguay.

The Bench:

GK Eduardo (Portugal) – He had my vote as top keeper until Iker’s performance in the finals. He stoned Spain numerous times until David Villa put one past him, which was his own rebound by the way. He only allowed one goal in the four games he played in.

CB Paulo Da Silva (Paraguay) – Paraguay were the most boring team in the World Cup. However, Da Silva led a very stingy defense which played organized under constant pressure.

LB Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland) – He captained Holland all tournament & scored the best goal of the World Cup in the semi-finals v Uruguay. Gio, who will retire from football, helped provide width on the left for Holland while also playing part in a surprisingly good defense.

RB Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Ramos has always been known for his attacking play (How did he not score at all in this tournament?), but his defensive work was what put him on this list.

CDM Javier Mascherano (Argentina) – He was the captain of the Argentine side many picked to lift the trophy. He anchored a midfield in which he was the only player who had any defensive responsibility.

RCM Diego Perez (Uruguay) – Mr. Perez was one of my favorite players to watch. He ran his butt off & made vicious slide tackles every game. Perez set up the first Uruguayan goal in the Thrid Place game  with a great slide tackle then outlet pass to Suarez. The announcers always wondered how he never received more cards, thus entering him into the All-Mark Van Bommel team. He also resembled one of the zombies from “I am Legend” which added to his intimidating demeanor.

CM KP Boateng (Ghana) – Boateng played exactly like he looked. (Which I guess is a compliment & why I couldn’t stand watching him). He was tatted-out & had a wicked mo-hawk. He was constantly barking at the referees, he took wild shots from 30 yards out & he somehow never got carded for ridiculous slide tackles. He also was the back bone of a young, upstart Ghana team.

CM Xavi (Spain) – He completed 599 passes in the tournament! But, the reason why he didn’t make my top 11: he didn’t make the killer passes that we are so used to seeing him make at Barcelona.

LM/CF Keisuke Honda (Japan) – He scored v Denmark on an outrageous free-kick & was often jettisoned on his own up top in a defensive Blue Samurai lineup. Honda showed off his great skill & his daring bleach blonde threads.

RM/LM Landon Donovan (United States) – Landon scored a last minute winner to beat Algeria that set off pandemonium in office buildings & local bars alike. He also tallied on a guillotine attempt of the keeper to spark a second half comeback v Slovenia. He scored 3 times in South Africa & was the best attacking player for the USA.

CAM Mesut Özil (Germany) – He was another member of the young German attack & arrived on the scene early by lighting up Australia in Germany’s opener. He reminds me of a raw Xavi & has the potential to win world player of the year in the future. He will be linked to every top European club this off season & I would be shocked if he stayed at Werder Bremen.

ST Luis Suarez (Uruguay) – Suarez made the list for my most memorable moment of the Cup; the cheating, yet genius, volley ball save in the 119 min to miraculously defeat Ghana. (And don’t tell me you wouldn’t celebrate in the tunnel after Gyan missed the subsequent penalty?) He also scored a stunning winner v South Korea in the round of 16. His value was seen in the semifinal as he was sorely missed in the loss v Holland.

Any player I left out or any changes you would make to the formation, starting XI?