After watching this year’s World Cup, there must be a temptation to change the nickname of soccer from the “beautiful game.”
The 2006 World Cup has provided ammunition for those who dislike the game of soccer, with its tedious play, its lack of skill, its plethora of yellow and red cards, and its lack of scoring.
Lack of scoring doesn’t immediately doom a game of soccer, because sometimes a dearth of goals can result from superb defense. But even the most ardent of soccer fans has struggled in building up adreneline because of the boorishness of the offense played by most World Cup teams this year.
Simply put, those nil-nil games are a result of lack of effort offensively, not great effort defensively.
It is fitting that 2006 resulted in an ingominious first. Switzerland was sent packing after their fourth game despite having given up no goals (they lost in penalty kicks to Ukraine on Monday). In a year of boring teams and play, Switzerland was the poster child. They were entirely neutral when it came to playing offense, and might have had as many scoring chances if they put ten bars of chocolate on the field instead of their players.
I am not anti-soccer by any means, in fact I am staring at a pair of Central Massachusetts Soccer Association Media Awards for covering soccer. I love the game at the high school level, and that has been good to me because both the Groton-Dunstable and Bromfield boys teams have captured State Championships. I have learned the game covering those two schools, where the sport of soccer has been a passion. Even though I never played the game, I know the goods when I see it.
This World Cup is not the goods.
I have not watched every game, but I’ve given this Cup a chance to win me over. I watched Switzerland play twice, and I recommend that any insomniac get those game films for a good night’s sleep. Only Argentina and Brazil have worked relentlessly to create offense, with the short passing and movement required to score goals. But it even took the vaunted Brazilians more than a half to score against the Aussies, who are much more comfortable playing Australian rules football, possibly the most exciting sport in the world. I suspect that one of those two South American teams will win it, but never discount the home team, so Germany has a chance.
I have talked to people who know more about the game of soccer than I do, because I am just a single opinion, and the prevailing thought is that this World Cup doesn’t measure up to past editions. The free-wheeling athleticism that has surfaced in the past has been missing, possibly because of all the takedowns that have resulted in all the cards. The reviews on the refereeing has been mixed at best, which might also be part of the problem.
But rest assured there is a problem. Soccer zealots will defend the World Cup as the planet’s greatest event, but the 2006 version has been a tough sell. I am convinced that soccer players are the biggest hams on earth. Some of the acting they do when they get nudged, wouldn’t gain them a casting call for a remake of “Ishtar”. Those overblown reactions can’t make the job of the referees any easier.
Now that some of the teams have been weeded out, there still is time to save this World Cup. Mercifully, Switzerland has been sent packing back to the Alps.
What is needed to save it is a return to the passion shown in years past, the precise passing and skills that lead to exciting scoring chances. Some of the most exciting high school games I ever covered were low scoring, because the defense and goaltenders answered the challenge.
The World Cup lacks the color is usually has. What it needs is add some other colors to the mix, because we have seen plenty of red and yellow so far.