Monday, July 03, 2006

Cup comments

Well, the World Cup is moving along, with the semifinals beginning this week. Maybe I'm the only one who felt this way, but I think it's hard to believe that the World Cup has been going on for two or three weeks already. I, for one, find it very exciting to wake up in the morning and have such world-class soccer on right away. I think it's great to watch such elite athletes excel at their game. With that, here's my thoughts on the game so far. Read on for insight, or repeat it to friends or co-workers to sound like you've been paying as much attention as I have.

The Good: Some absolutely brilliant play by some of the greatest players to ever play the game. Did you see the Maxi Rodriguez goal? Blasts the ball far post from the edge of the penalty area after playing the ball off his chest? Disgustingly amazing. Or Lahm blasting in the first goal of the tournament from the edge of the box? Epic. Goalkeepers are saying that this ball is more difficult for them to read, but that is making for some fantastic goals.

The Bad: The U.S. getting knocked out of the competition at the group phase. Granted, I think their group was the single toughest group in the event, but they had a real chance to progress going into the last game against Ghana. The U.S. was killed by cards and fouls, though, and crashed out early. I'm not going to cry for Bruce Arena's head like some pundits (ahem, Eric Wynalda), but something about the team needs to change. The philosophy, the lineup, the coach, something has to give. To lose a hard-fought game is one thing, but to lose while looking like you're playing a friendly is another (ahem, Czech Republic game).

The Ugly: Of course, it's the officiating. Sixteen cards in the Portugal/Netherlands game? Something is amiss there, that's just unreal. The ref must have thought he was being paid by the card. I'm tired of seeing cards and whistles blown; if this game gets any less-contact, it's going to be baseball. Let 'em play. And don't get me started on the US-Italy game. The Italy red card was a legit red card, the two US ones weren't. And that's unbiased.

Biggest Surprise: France. Where did they come from? Granted, the talent is there. Barthez, Henry, Viera, and the great Zidane, they should have cruised. But they didn't. They looked about as excited to be there as the U.S. did, and they barely made it out of the group stage, but then they pull out a result against high-flying Spain, and stun Brazil. I don't really care for France for reasons I don't know, but I have to give credit where it's due. They're hot at the right time.

Biggest Disappointment: England. OK, I realize that they got to the quarterfinals, but with the squad they have, they should have made the finals. They have incredible talent on that team, but I think they're horribly mis-managed. Their manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, had decided to quit prior to the World Cup, and I think he could care less how that team did. They barely escaped past teams like Ecuador and Paraguay and couldn't beat Sweden. Then they lose to Portugal in the quarters on penalty kicks. I think Steve McLaren is going to be a great boost for them as the new 'gaffer,' and most of this squad is young and will be back. But England makes you wonder, what if...