Friday, June 27, 2014

Thoughts on the World Cup

Enough about the law for now. Here are a few observations about the group stage of the World Cup.

Luis Suarez may very well be the best striker in the world but he has got a serious problem that needs to be addressed. He has now been suspended three times for biting another player. The latest ban is for four months and nine international matches. I can't even being to imagine what was going through his mind, but biting someone during a World Cup match is beyond stupid. While the referee might not have seen it, there are so many cameras out there that someone was going to. Little children bite because they don't know better. Grow up, Luis.

This edition of the World Cup has a very Latin flair to it. Seven of the sixteen teams that advanced to the second round are from Central and South America. And then there's the United States. When you factor in two teams from Africa, you end up with less than half the remaining squads coming from Europe. The two biggest surprises have to be Costa Rica and (the suddenly Suarez-less) Uruguay. Who would have thought that neither England nor Italy would've survived the group stage? I must say, however, that one of the things I'm going to miss about the rest of the World Cup is watching England find new ways to lose.

The United States has some serious work ahead if they want to be serious contenders for the trophy. Until the US can develop midfield players that know how to play possession soccer and who can create goal scoring opportunities through creative passing, we will be left just hoping to get out of the group stage. Against Ghana the midfield was non-existent, serving as nothing more than a way station from the back line to the strikers up top. In a game in which possession of the ball was crucial, there was no one in the middle that seemed to know how to do it. While they looked better against Portugal, against Germany in the monsoon the midfield reverted to form and the team showed a complete lack of ideas on what to do on the pitch.

Lionel Messi has been nothing short of superb for Argentina. He has demonstrated just what a goal-poaching striker should be. His goal against Iran in stoppage time of a scoreless draw was spectacular. His goals against Nigeria were remarkable. The first was the perfect example of what a striker does. He was in the right place at the right time when the ball caromed off the post and he drove it into the net. Against Iran he did little for 90 minutes but when he got his foot on that ball in stoppage time he made the world forget that he had, in essence, been kept out of the game by the Iranian defenders. That's what the best strikers do - they can be invisible for much of a game but when that opportunity comes, they pounce on it.

No comments: