Why this World Cup is setting up to be a disappointment.

As I sit patiently waiting for 10 AM Friday morning to arrive, all my excitement and hope for the US to do well is tempered somewhat by the likelihood that this Cup will lot live up to expectations of previous World Cups. Call it the curse of South Africa or whatever, this World Cup is setting up to be a disappointment if anything other than a favorite (or favourite if you prefer) wins on July 11.

In 2006 the fans got what they wanted and the Germans threw a world class party. Maybe I’m biased because I was there, on my honeymoon, watching along with thousands of fellow football fans, proudly wearing our nation’s colors, and cheering on our home team. Maybe my opinion is slanted, but in the end, Germany gave the fans a World Cup with blood and headbutts, overachieving “down-under” dogs, a successful host performance, and a clash of titans in the final, all to crown a historically successful country who’s home was dealing with scandals at every turn.

Unfortunately, the way things have started, South Africa will likely not be so lucky.

From the moment South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup, the majority of the world thought there was no way a developing country like South Africa would be able to accomplish the laundry list of tasks it needed to complete in order to be ready for the Cup. Once that uneasiness set in, someone should have pulled the plug. We should have trusted our gut instinct. We could have apologized to South Africa and said, you’ll thank us later, but we’re pulling the plug.

But we didn’t, and here we are, just days away. And what will we get? Well, for one, we know what we won’t get. We won’t get to see a full strength England side take on the US, German, or Argentina. We won’t get to see whether Ballack can lead Germany with heightened expectations following a successful qualifying campaign. We won’t get see the Group of Death at it’s full potential with the likes of Nani and Drogba missing from Portugal and the Ivory Coast’s starting eleven.

So, what will we get. If we look at South Africa and consider some history, we can probably get an idea of what we will see.

First, South Africa’s elevation changes are going to make things interesting from the very start. Consider that a team could play their first game (or have a base camp) at sea level, then make the trip up to Johannesburg to play at 5,751 ft. Some people disregard it, and others say that both teams have to play at it, but in the end, the combination of the colder, thinner air is going to speed up the fatigue factor–Let’s not forget that many of these players have come off of extremely long seasons. Fatigue means the players will think just a little bit slower, increasing the frequency of poor passing while also leading to reckless challenges. It’ll also mean that we’ll likely see more frequent stoppages due to “injuries.” However, the fatigue won’t only affect the 22 players on the field. I suspect we’ll see the referees make (or miss) game changing calls late in the games. All of this will lead to more cards, free kicks, and penalty kicks–changing the outcome and dynamic of the game, and perhaps leading to a greater number of upsets.

Second, I don’t care what FIFA says about their lack of responsibility in the recent stampede at the Nigeria and North Korea, the stampede is a sign of these to come. The event by itself is a symptom of a culture of football fanaticism in Africa and insufficient experience for this size of crowd control. I suspect we will see another stampede occur under FIFA’s watch this time and there will likely be serious injuries. I mean, Nigeria, I can almost understand the interest, but North Korea? Unless the stampede was the North Koreans trying to defect, there’s no reason to have a stampede with either of these countries. Because it wasn’t the paying fans that were the concern, makes me wonder whether FIFA’s security has really considered stampedes as a threat. What will it be like if England has to face Argentina, or when Brazil takes on Portugal or the Ivory Coast, all teams with players who jerseys are worn on the streets across the globe?

Third, if overall project management skills have led to a numerous number of infrastructure improvements failing to complete on time, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a match or two delayed to allow the teams competing or FIFA officials to arrive. Can you imagine if this were to happen during the third week’s action, when a group is suppose to play their games simultaneously? Now, I’m sure both games will be delayed until all teams are ready, but when will some cry foul, that this puts one team at a disadvantage?

So, why does all this drama mean the World Cup will be a disappointment? Well, hopefully it doesn’t. But, if for some reason, the events listed above take place, it will likely start to leave a bad taste in your mouth. And if one of the “contenders” (i.e., non favorites) or even the US, were to win the Cup, the 2010 World Cup will be considered a disappointment and the winner’s triumph will be minimized by the disappointed public. Because, in the end, while everyone likes the underdog, what the majority of the world wants to see is the best players in the world score spectacular goals and make us love them more.

What do you think? Would you be disappointed if the final was like EURO 2004 when Greece bored Portugal (and the viewing public) asleep with a stingy defense? Or do the teams that compete in the final even have an impact on the entertainment because it’s the World Cup? If the US won the World Cup, would you care if our Nation’s naysayers and soccer detractors minimized the accomplishment because of high-profile absentees in South Africa’s tournament?


13 thoughts on “Why this World Cup is setting up to be a disappointment.

  1. Hey Andy, I’d love to hear more from you on this post….

    Seeing as you are currently ACTUALLY IN South Africa.

  2. So it’s South Africa’s fault that players are injured?

    So no World Cup should ever be played in a country where venues are at different elevations or in different climate zones (good bye USA bid)?

    So local organisers of a game that has nothing to do with FIFA giving away free tickets to a venue with about as much security as a small high school football stadium means that there will be chaos at World Cup venues, which have three security perimeters and tickets most definitely aren’t free?

    If one of the favourites doesn’t win it’s a disappointment (and what does that have to do with staging the tournament in South Africa)?

    There are plenty of good reasons why South Africa may not have been the best choice of host. This blog shows us that there are also plenty of bad reasons.

  3. Absolutely not. But how many non-European or non-South American teams are considered favorites to win.

    I think this World Cup is ripe for the underdog, which is fantastic news for countries like the US, Mexico, Paraguay, Serbia… I would have included Ivory Coast, but the lost of Drogba is probably too much for them in the group of death.

    But what would you rather watch? Spain vs Argentina or Serbia vs Italy.

    Looking back on the Champions League final, who besides Inter fans would have rather watched Barcelona play in the final?

    The majority of the world wants to see World Class players because, well, they’re World Class. Players like Messi, Rooney, Kaka, and Ronaldo are exciting to watch because they are elite performers. But if enough of these teams get upset or the players get injured, the excitement around the tournament decreases some.

    It’s like going to watch a broadway to see someone in particular perform, but only getting to see their understudy. The show may still be good, but it’s not what you want to see.

    As for South Africa’s choice of the host, it may turn out to be fantastic. But reports coming out of South Africa are not so optimistic, such as Union strikes that include police officers and nurses and traffic jams. And they just keep on coming.

    Maybe it’s the “western” world’s press painting the picture of South Africa failing as a host so as to keep the World Cup in Europe for ever. But it’s at least somewhat interesting that there doesn’t appear to be a lot of “positive” reports coming out of South Africa leading into the Cup.

  4. Usually enjoy your work Aaron, but this blog is unnecessarily negative.

    What’s done is done. AGF Aarhus summed it up perfectly.

    Like many on here, I reacted to the SA choice admittedly (ashamedly) hoping for the bureacratic wranglings to cause enough concern so as to force FIFA to relocate. The obvious and capable last minute World host would have to be the US of A. Where I live, incidentally.

    Didn’t happen, as against everyone’s expectations, South Africa has done everything they promised they’d accomplish before the world cup. Everything.

    So they get their chance.

    Once every four years this whole WC thing. So nut up and quit acting like some whiny 1st world schill.

    And try, as difficult as it might be, to fuking enjoy the tournamnet.

  5. Aaron, i was just hacking away an apology to you. Incidentally, nothing indicates that TCompton wrote it.

    Unsettling negativity. I was going to ask you if you were actually the lead singer for a band called “The Smiths” it was so depressing.

    Just read the rebuttal (I try to take the artivles in chronological order), and agree with the anticipation and excitement you express.

    THAT’S more like the Aaron “Tidewater Terror” Stollar that I love to read!

  6. Let’s see… Spanish and Portuguese reporters mugged at gunpoint

    Chinese reporters mugged at gunpoint

    Colombian players money stolen at the hotel

    Greek players money and belongings stole from the hotel

    Mexican television reported that the interviewing room at the new stadiums are a mess, with cables hanging all over the place because the place was only half finished. To top it, no pavement was put in place (or even any parking lines) at the parking lot surrounding the new stadium in Johannesburg.

    The altitude piece is the only thing I don’t completely agree with. The Mexican World Cups were an incredible success and they were partially played at even higher altitudes (in Mexico City and Toluca)

  7. I won’t post a full piece on this, because if TC, Aaron and me all post, y’all are just going to be royally confused.

    But here’s a quick take.

    I’m one that doesn’t watch the World Cup for players. Do I enjoy watching Messi, Rooney, Altidore, Torres, etc., play? Of course. But there’s no particular player that has me excited to watch South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow morning (although rooting against Mexico might have something to do with it).

    It’s the same as watching the NCAA Tournament. I’m not looking for stars when Duke plays Weber State. I’m hoping for a good game and if it’s close late, I’ll pull for Weber State. I’ll pull for South Africa and Uruguay tomorrow, but it has nothing to do with an individual player. I just want to see good games. The event itself is appointment televisions, no matter the teams, players, or venue.

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that because South Africa is hosting, the players won’t be at their best, and the refs are going to mess up. Face it, the refs are going to mess up anyway, even if you played these games on a rec field in Biloxi.

    I was hoping the World Cup would get moved here, too. Because I’m a selfish American who wants the tournament in his backyard. But I don’t think South Africa hosting the event is going to have any bearing on who wins the event. This Cup is tough to win – doesn’t matter where you play it.

  8. Pessimistic to the point of sounding moronic sounding reasons if you ask me. There are always injuries going into World Cup time my friend. See the whole world participates in this and it is natural not the work of witch doctors.

    The Cup looks better and better the closer we get to the first match and if I had a vuvuzela I would blow it in your ear!

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