World Cup Update

It was a lazy Sunday in Chateau Steelypips, what with the party Saturday afternoon, so I watched a fair amount of soccer. I saw nearly all of the England-Ecuador game, and the second half of the Portugal-Netherlands game. This has made something clear to me:

The most difficult thing to find in international soccer is not a good goalie, or a great midfielder, or a skilled striker. The most difficult thing to find in international soccer is a good referee. Because otherwise, I can’t explain why the idiot working the Portugal-Netherlands game was drawing a paycheck.

Miscellaneous other observations:


– England striker Wayne Rooney doesn’t look so much like a world-class athlete, as a guy who ought to be picking fights in a pub somewhere. Which, judging from his on-field temperment, he probably does in the off-season.

– There have been a remarkable number of long-range goals in this World Cup, including Beckham’s sick free-kick yesterday. It seems like more people are scoring from outside the penalty box than inside. I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence, or if there’s some strategic reason for it, but it’s interesting.

– The announcers continue to be horrible. I eventually switched over to Univision for the end of the first half of the England game, because I was getting really sick of the commentary. I went back to ABC at halftime, though, because studio analysis really loses something when you can’t understand the language…

– To be fair to the referees, it’s got to be really hard to officiate international soccer matches– you’ve got the flopping problem, and the language barrier, and you’re only one guy trying to keep twenty-two players in line. The only worse gig has to be officiating international rugby games (fifteen to a side, and all of the violent). Still, that was horrendous.

– England is set up either for an easy path to the semis, or a failure that will echo down through the ages: Portugal had two guys sent off in the great card-o-rama, and a third (one of their best players) was injured and left the game in the first half. The English haven’t been all that inspired, but they ought to be able to beat a depleted side. You would think.

Anyway, it was nice to see that it’s possible to have an incredibly ugly game not involving the United States. Here’s hoping for some better play in the upcoming games.

12 thoughts on “World Cup Update

  1. You’re kidding about Rooney, righ?
    Did you see his footwork and running late in the game?
    The cutback passes to the centre of the box? That is unbelievable athleticism.

  2. He’s absolutely right about Rooney. He looks like an unusually clean cut and pleasant looking bar thug. Chad didn’t say anything about how his play looked.

  3. Dylan’s got it– I was commenting only on his appearance, not his play.

    He did do some fairly spectacular things with the ball, on the few occasions when he got it with enough room to work. But when he’s just standing around (or glowering at the referee), there’s nothing about him that says “world-class athlete.”

  4. FIFA changed the definition of “soccer ball” and made it lighter for this worldcup, which in turn means players can kick it faster from further away, which is the reason why in this worldcup the number of long range goals have increased.

  5. Marcelo, do you have a reference for that? I can’t find any reference that they actually changed the ball weight. It is supposed to be “more spherical”, and is supposed to swerve more. Though I can’t figure how the latter follows from the former.

    Rooney was a boxer as a younger kid. Guess it’s a family tradition. So his fights were much more organized…

    Nice to see the ref calling things more cautiously in Switzerland-Ukraine. Still 0-0 but an exciting game so far, lots of chances both ways.

  6. Yeah, I don’t think the ref of the Portugal-Netherlands match had much choice – the game was spiralling out of control. Deco should have known better than to pick up the ball on the free kick, though, especially considering how quick the ref was to hand out cards for time wasting.

    Re: long shots, yeah, the ball definitely seems livelier this time around. But even so, you have to hand it to Beckham. That shot was beautiful. Bent it down and to the left – that keeper had no chance.


    The ball is actually not lighter, as seen from the second link. Theoretically, since it has fewer seams and supposedly a smoother surface, it ought to “knuckle” a bit more (fewer seams = less spin imparted, smoother surface = less drag except at the seams), which would make it difficult for goalies.

    The ball _does_ seem livelier, but I can’t explain that one unless the new panel design (resulting in the “rounder” ball) can increase the size of the sweet spot for kicking.

  8. Hah! Reading the player comments for the Fevernova, and it’s pretty much the same as for the new Teamgeist. I think they just like to complain.

  9. Chad – ditto on Rooney – I said exactly the same thing. He and Robinson (goalie) are the poster boys for drinking hooligans who hang around bars. And it is quite amazing for a stocky guy like Rooney (who has been injured for a while) to move so gracefully on the field. Contrast him with Crouch who looks more like a brittish aristocrat. And his legs are soo skinny!!!

    Dennis – I totally agree about POR-NED game refereeing. With head-butting and fights almost breaking out here and there, what was ref supposed to do? Look the other way? Commentators wanted it both ways – they critisized him for NOT giving enough yellow cards and letting things get out of control and then critisize him for ridiculous number of cards. It was a rough game, and some cards were clearly well-deserved. It was a lot of other games that deserve some critisism – where there were a LOT of cards given out even when nothing terribly important was happening.

  10. Comments on referees work sometimes border on hypocrisy. First FIFA wants the referees to act severe. Then Sepp Blatter criticizes the referee for acting severe. WTF?

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