I'm a big soccer fan, and I think the World Cup is one of the best sporting events out there, but this year's games have kinda sucked. I remember the 1994 World Cup for it's fast paced, wide open, full throttle play, and 1998 was the same way. The 2006 World Cup seems to be classified by the return of the exaggerated dive that made Americans hate soccer players in the first place. I never learned the "go down like you got shot by a bb gun in the hamstring" maneuver that almost ALL teams now seem to use as a staple - I always tried to stay on my feet when I got hit. Whereas in the old days we could count on a few dramatic Latin teams to take dives every time a player came near them, now it seems almost standard.
Sunday's Portugal - Netherlands game was one of the great all time games, featuring a record number of yellow cards. People are SHREDDING the ref for losing control of the game, but if you watched the game (and I sympathize, as a former official) - the game started to get rough, and he did exactly what he was supposed to do to try to TAKE control: he started handing out yellow cards the way I hand out stacks of chips when I have A-Q (which is to say, liberally.) Unfortunately, the players decided to completely ignore him, and continued to take cheap shots at one another. The ref was actually later quoted as saying something to the tune of how he was actually surprised that the Dutch players played so dirty, while he expected it from Portugal.
The highlight of the game came when Holland violated a classic piece of soccer etiquette: a Portuguese player was hurt on the field, so Portugal played the ball out of bounds. When play resumes, the accepted play is for Holland to take the ball and kick it back to the Portuguese side. However, the Dutch player with the ball, I think it was Van Persie, decided to dribble it up the field instead, as several Portuguese players watched in awe. A Portuguese midfielder took matters into his own hands (a la Kid Dynamite 1996 style) and crushed Van Persie from behind, earning a yellow card. The next time Van Persie got the ball, he was mauled again by another Portuguese defender. I think he got the point.
The quarterfinals will hopefully provide some incredible games, as all 8 teams are top notch. England has sucked thus far, and will be facing a depleted Portugal team that has given them a hard time lately in international play. France finally woke up and played decently against Spain, but will have a tough time with Brazil. Argentina-Germany figures to be a tremendous game, and I like Ukraine over the always over-dramatic Italians.
until next time,