Friday, July 07, 2006

The End of the World (Cup)

"And so the end is near, and I must face the final" etc, etc. Yes, the World Cup is about to disappear from sight for another four years once again. One minute we're counting down the days with great expectation, waiting for the tournament to start, the next, we think it's all over. After Sunday night's Final, it will be.

So what have we learnt from this year's competition? Let's reflect for a moment...

1. Never write off the Africans
Before proceedings got underway, I was asked to predict the finishing positions for each first round group and yes, I admit it, I put all the African teams bar one at the bottom of their respective groups. How wrong I was. In the end, only one African team out of the five (Togo) finished bottom of their group, and I felt suitably ashamed.

It should be said that in recent times, African nations have achieved more and more at the Finals but this year saw arguably their best tournament yet. Angola and Ivory Coast finished third in their groups on their World Cup debuts while Ghana went one better by finishing second in theirs to qualify for the second round. Had they met Switzerland rather than Brazil directly after, they might have reached the Quarter Finals.

All in all, the African teams performed remarkably well and looked not one bit overawed. The Angolans, we were told, were in organisational disarray, the Ghanaians lacked fire power, Ivory Coast only played 'route 1' football and Tunisia were likely to under-perform. How wrong we were. Well, I was in any case.

2. Sexy Football gets you nowhere
Back in the heady days of Round 1, we were treated to the occasional glimpse of what World Cup football should be like. Teams like Holland, Mexico, Spain and Argentina followed the lead of Germany in the opening game by playing the ball around just like you’d expect Brazil to. Actually, they played the ball better than Brazil really did, but that’s beside the point.

While we were swooning at the performances that were laid before us, the likes of France, England and Brazil seemed to be struggling to even get a result, let alone play well, and yet when it came to the crunch, most of those teams that played sexy football were soon on their way home. All of which goes to prove that grinding out narrow victories in a workmanlike fashion with no frills can reap the ultimate rewards. Any Arsenal fan can tell you that.

3. There’s no place for sportsmanship in the modern game
For some reason, the vast majority of games at this World Cup have been littered with the gentlemanly act of kicking the ball out of play when a player is lying on the ground injured. Sadly a lot of the time, they’re just lying.

Whereas once upon a time a player would roll around on the ground for a while after being fouled (thus prompting a free kick to be awarded), nowadays the referee turns a blind eye until such a point when the injured player’s audition for RADA can no longer be ignored. The ball is kicked out of play, the stretcher bearers come on, the injured played is taken off, the ball is thrown back to the opposing team’s goalkeeper – sometimes back off the field again - and the ‘injured’ player returns to the field of play. All this causes the ball to be off the field more often than it should and everyone gets bored waiting for something to happen.

It seems the days of football becoming a non-contact sport like Basketball are now not far off.

4. Ignore the FIFA Rankings - they’re worthless
According to FIFA just before the World Cup, the Czech Republic were the second best team in the world. The USA were the fifth best. Neither made it past Round 1. Nigeria and Denmark were ranked joint 11th in the world, and they never even made it TO the World Cup Finals.

Something’s obviously wrong, and FIFA have finally realised it. Starting next month, their World Rankings will be calculated using a different system which they hope will give a fairer reflection of who’s best and who’s not. And not before time…

5. If you think you’ve got enough strikers in your squad, take one more
You never know when they might come in handy, eh Sven?


Portman & Emma said...

I'm not a huge fan of football, I'll admit. I'll watch a few games here and there and usually wouldn't watch them all the way through either. But this year, I have sat and watched most of the World cup games and must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. As you say, watching teams who you expect to crush the other teams in their group, struggle to even get a goal has kept me on my seat (doesn#t take much does it!!).

What has made it all the more enjoyable however, is coming upstairs to the computer and reading the entries put on this blog! Long may it continue?...


Smart said...

Well said, Emma! It has been fun.

In response to Chris' points...

1. Never write off the Africans

2. Sexy Football gets you nowhere
.. and Brazil apart, it never has. Arguably the sexiest football team of all time, the Dutch 'Total Football' side never quite made it.

Also check out the Premiership Champions now. Chelsea have 7 players behind the ball, 3 fast forwards on the counter-attack. Effective? Yes. Dull? Very

And no one is going to get near them this season.

3. There’s no place for sportsmanship in the modern game
Agreed, and I said as much re:FIFA's rulings only a few days ago.

4. Ignore the FIFA Rankings - they’re worthless
I wonder what algorithm FIFA will cup with this time? Its all very well the USA being that high, but you you are playing the likes of Haiti and El Salvador to qualify, its no suprise the US didnt win a single game.

I have always asked what exactly is the World Cup? Is it the best 32 teams in the World - which it clearly cant be if a teams such as Denmark and Turkey werent there whilst Saudi Arabia and Iran are.

Or is it the best teams from each continent in another money spinning attempt from FIFA to make it a 'Global Game'?

5. If you think you’ve got enough strikers in your squad, take one more
.. or failing that, take some GOOD ones, and preferably ones you have seen play.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments, Emma! And as you say Smart, it has been fun - but that's down to all of you that have left comments, taken the time to read the articles or even written the articles.

Essentially a blog is a place to read someone's writing, but if you leave feedback too, it adds a wonderful level of interactivity. So thanks to everyone that's visited, and stay tuned to this channel even after the World Cup's over as Some People Are On The Pitch will be running right the way through the coming domestic football season too!

Kedge said...

The whole domestic football season to look forward to? Can't wait.

On the point of strikers and article in todays Telegraph pointed out that strickly speaking Sven only took 3 out and out strikers. Owen, Crouch and the invisible one. They reckoned Rooney should be classed as an attacking midfielder, which means that until he was sent off, we played Portugal with NO strikers. Svens tactics make sense now! Pack your team with midfielders and you're going to keep the ball. Therefore you opponents can't score.

It worked up until the penalty shoot out. Wonder if Sven had been to the bookies before the game "£10 on a goalless draw please!"

Chris said...

An attacking midfielder?!? Isn't that someone who plays behind the front man? He IS the front man, for crying out loud!!!!

Smart said...

Lets not do the fond farewells just yet!! We still have 2 games left, one of which is the small matter of the Final!

Portman & Emma said...

And now the end is near,
and so we reach the final curtain,

sing along people!!!!!

Kedge said...

Yes Chris, but only because that swede has a turnip for a brain. For his club he usually has a partner up front or plays just behind Saha/Van Nistolburger. He needed Owen/Crouch in frontof him, as just about everybody in the country, except Sven, realised.
I think Sven lost interest in the competition the moment Sweden went out (or maybe even earlier).


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