So, now that Spain has yet another excuse for not doing any work for 3 months, we’re left turning our attention back to club soccer, World Cup 2014 Qualifying, and praying that your team doesn’t get put in a group that will have to play a World Cup match in Manaus, Brasil (a mere 1,427 mi from the nearest fellow host city (Cuiabá–which happens to be a neighborly 627 mi from it’s nearest fellow host city of Brasilia).
So, before I start pondering what could possibly make me interested in watching DC United again this year (they’re lucky I bought my tickets before the season started), I thought I’d take a look back and see the Top Ten Lessons I’ve learned from this World Cup–especially considering my very well received first post as a guest blogger for Fighting Talker.
LESSON #10 – Never skip another World Cup
I’d say that this is a no brainer, but having traveled to one, I have to say that being at the World Cup is unlike any other experience on earth (no matter where it takes place on earth). The fears of a developing country hosting the Cup were put to the test and ultimately proven unfounded. And despite the recently negative news about Brazil’s preparedness for 2014, South Africa has at least given me hope that bad news now only increases the likelihood of success in 4 years.
LESSON #9 – There are more bad performances than bad teams
I think going into the tournament, I expected the lower ranked FIFA teams like North Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, or Algeria to be pushovers, but they played a surprising competitive game and made the final round of the Group Phase much more exciting. And to think that New Zealand left the tournament its only undefeated Nation. That said, Mexico should have done better with it’s chances against South Africa, Italy & France really should have showed some interested in the games, and I hope the Argentina that showed up against Germany never shows up at World Cup again… that should have been a good game (instead it was great since I can’t stand so many of the Argentine players).
LESSON #8 – Not all traditions should be honored
Despite the claim that Vuvuzelas are part of South Africa’s traditions (which I doubt), the only good thing to come out of the World Cup’s conclusion is that we don’t have to hear that tradition any more. <- Although, the Vuvuzelas do make me wonder if DC United winger Khumalo's nickname is actually pronounced BzzzzzzzZZZ Khumalo
LESSON #7 – Nobody knows why Diego Forlan couldn’t succeed in England
Despite playing for one of the best teams in the UK, Diego Forlan couldn’t score goals like he did in this tournament… and nobody knows why.
LESSON #6 – Lalas may have found his post-retirement day job
Since Alexi Lalas retired from football, his professional career could probably have been compared to that of a clown. However, he may have found a spot as a soccer commentator. He came across as both informative and not arrogant, something that ESPN failed to capture in many of its other commentators. The unfortunate fact is that he may have also been the only personality hired by ESPN for the World Cup that could accurately explain off-sides… leave it to a defender, I guess.
LESSON #5 – We didn’t really learn anything new about the US Team
Sure, Landon had a great tournament and got the proverbial “monkey off his back.” But going into this tournament, we already knew Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Cherundolo, and Howard were good players… but nobody else really stepped up to make a name for themselves. That’s somewhat disappointing. In ’02 Donovan and Beasley became stars, in ’06 Dempsey did, in ’10… nothing.
LESSON #4 – The Black Stars are doing something right
If the US needs a lesson of how to build off of a success, they shouldn’t look much further than Ghana’s Black Stars. Following their Round of 16 exit from the 2006 World Cup, Ghana went on to finish 3rd and 2nd in the African Nations Cup (in ’08 and ’10), and won the U20 World Cup in ’09. Then they managed to advance to the Quarterfinal last month, losing a heart breaker to Uruguay. The average age of Ghana’s Black Stars… 24 yrs 9 Mo.
LESSON #3 – FIFA HAS TO help its referees
There were several bad & debatable calls during this tournament that really annoyed me, but despite wondering how de Jong stayed on the pitch after cleating Xabi Alonso in the chest during the final, the call that highlighted FIFA’s need to help out its referees the most was Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany. It was the fact that sideline referee was in the “correct position” yet couldn’t see the goal really drove home the point that the current system needs to be changed.
As for some of the other bad calls, they unfortunately are part of a larger issue that has helped change the way the game is played around the world. For example, if you don’t call a foul on Carlos Pujol for molesting then attempting to sweep the legs of Arjen Robben (who remarkably managed to stay on his feet <-SARCASM), then you're going to see more diving. Although, you could argue it was a make-up (non-)call for not giving de Jong a straight red for tattooing the cleats of his Adidas adiPURE III XTRX into Xabi Alonso's sternum.
LESSON #2 – Stats and Analysis have no place in the World Cup
One of the reasons why I agreed to help Aaron blog was because I like doing detailed analysis of stats, facts, and other pointless trivia to come up with a point of view. Unfortunately, there is no place for this type of behavior during the World Cup. I spent several “unproductive” hours coming up with some analysis of why South American nations were doing so well during the World Cup, only to see them get knocked out immediately by their European counterparts. Whether I was on to something with analyzing economic conditions in South Africa (32 largest economy) when compared to Brazil (8), Argentina (30), Chile (46), Uruguay (84), and Paraguay (103), we’ll never know. We’ll also never know if the various leagues that Brazil’s national team members compete in make them better suited to play in international tournaments.
LESSON #1 – Don’t bet against the Octopus
Seriously, what the ********?
Anyway, time to turn my attention back to MLS and the very few bright spots on a very dismal DC United team… ugh.