Monday, June 21, 2010

Second Week Thoughts

"You're doing that mighty well coach."

The second round of group play of the 2010 World Cup is just about in the books, and it couldn't have been any more different than the first round. There has been intrigue, upsets, scandals and most importantly, goals. Lots and lots of goals. The first round had only 25 Jabulanis find the back of the net. In comparison, with one game to go, 39 goals have been scored in this round for an average of 2.44 a game. Increased scoring has brought renewed excitement to what was a dull tournament. More goals, however, are just the introduction into what has been a fascinating week of soccer. Here are the top three story lines from around the world.

1)France does what it does best: quit
France came into the tournament in the most controversial fashion possible, beating Ireland 2-1 in a playoff on a Thierry Henry handball. They are determined to leave the World Cup in the same manner. It is no secret that French Coach Raymond Domenech is not well-liked in France. Not by the fans, not by the players, not even by his employers the French Football Federation, who already hired his successor for after the World Cup. Things hit a new low this weekend, though. Star striker Nicolas Anelka, upset with his boss' decision to sub him off in France's match with Mexico, let Domenech hear about it in the locker room at half time going off in a profanity-laced rant. That did not go over well with the French skipper who threw Anelka off the team and sent him packing.
This wasn't enough drama for the French, though, they wanted more. Captain Patrice Evra went to the press saying there was a traitor in the locker room who disclosed the rift between coach and player and that he would be found and punished. Apparently Evra found him in the form of fitness coach Robert Duverne. Evra confronted Duverne who had none of it and quit the team, marching off the practice field and throwing his credentials to the ground. This still was not enough drama for the Frenchies. The team, in an act of "solidarity" walked off the practice field, refusing to train, in a show of support for the exiled Anelka. Now that my friends, is prima donnas at their finest. Can you imagine this ever happening in the United States? Only in the World Cup can a reigning world power act like a bunch of babies. The French newspaper Le Parisien said it best, "To have the worst football team at the World Cup was already unbearable. To also have the most stupid is intolerable … The mutiny at Knysna will forever remain the Waterloo of French football."

2)Power Outage
Did I forget to mention that France lost the game against Mexico and is now almost assuredly out of the World Cup? Yea, that happened too. France currently sits in a tie for last place in group A with South Africa. In order to advance, they would need a victory over the host nation in their final match as well as a lopsided score in favor of either Uruguay or Mexico. Chances of that happening, slim to none. France is not the only super power in serious danger of embarrassing elimination. Italy, the reigning world champions, have only managed two draws in what was widely considered the easiest group in the tournament. After tying Paraguay 1-1 in their opener, the "Azzuri" let fearsome New Zealand score first and had to rely on a phantom penalty kick to avoid the ignominy of being the victim of the Kiwis' first ever World Cup victory. Italy now faced Slovakia and must win in order to advance. The Italians should take care of the Slovakians without much difficulty, then again, that's exactly what they said about their first two opponents.
Joining the underachieving club is England, the father of all underachievers. They too could only muster a tie against the fearsome Algerian squad that hasn't scored a goal in the World Cup since 1986. Sitting with two points in group C, a loss by the "Three Lions" would leave them out of the knockout stages for the first time since 1958. I can't wait to see the headlines in London if and when that happens. Rounding out the struggling powers are Germany and Spain. Germany was unfortunate in their 1-0 loss to Serbia and still might advance, but they need a draw or a win to assure themselves of a spot in the final 16. Spain plays later today, attempting to bounce back from a shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland. They must beat Honduras and still have to take on a surging Chile after that.

3)"disMALI" refereeing
We all have little bias towards our home teams and feel that referees always have it out for us. However, there is no bias when I say the United States got robbed by Malian referee Koman Couliably. None. We got screwed, hosed, jobbed, whatever you want to call it. The U.S. had made one of the greatest comebacks in World Cup, overcoming a 2-0 half-time deficit against Slovenia to tie it up on a goal by Michael Bradley. I'll let the one and only Peter King take it from here:
"With the score tied at 2 in the 86th minute, the United States had a direct kick on the Slovenian side of the field. There was much pushing and shoving in front of the goal, both before the ball was in the air and while it flew toward the net. Replays showed three American players being bearhugged by Slovenians -- and Americans, in the case of at least two scrums, hugging back. But in the case of an earlier hero, midfielder Michael Bradley, Slovenian Aleksander Radosavljevic did his best Ray Lewis imitation, practically dragging Bradley down just feet from the goal. As the ball fell to earth, American sub Maurice Edu pounced on it, flicking it hard into the net for what appeared to be the winning goal. But in his first World Cup game, referee Koman Coulibaly, from the landlocked West African country of Mali, ran into the fray and blew off the goal. At least four Americans tried to find out what the call was. But Coulibaly, who, according to several U.S. players was all but mute during the game (a rarity in world-class games, they say), didn't inform either side what call he made. We still do not know what the infraction was that Coulibaly called, and under the idiotic rules of FIFA, Coulibaly doesn't have to say what the infraction was. He might go to his grave with it."
The goal would have given the U.S. the victory and almost assured them of their qualification to the knockout stage, but one blind official ruined it for the Americans. "We waited our whole lives for this, and you feel like it was taken from you,'' said goalkeeper Tim Howard.

No comments:

Post a Comment