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A World Cup without goals?
July 6, 2006 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Goals are become scarce in the final 16 knockout phase of the World Cup. A discussion has been going on over at the Guardian's World Cup blogs. In the knockout phase the number of goals has declined from 42 in 1986 to about 25 in 2006. There hasn't been a World Cup Final since 1986 where both teams scored. There have been a mere 3 games in the knockout phase from 14 where both teams have scored. For the first time ever a team, Switzerland, has been eliminated without conceding a single goal. Does something need to be done? Do bigger goals, no goalkeeper, fewer players or changed rules need to be considered?
posted by sien (124 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Administrator please hope!

I think getting rid of the offsides rule would be pretty sweet. *ducks*
posted by anomie at 4:39 PM on July 6, 2006


In the knockout phase the number of goals has declined from 42 in 1986 to about 25 in 2006.

Thats misleading. There were 42 goals in 1998. So its the last two World cups that have declined in goals. It still may be potentially significant, but lets not completely warp statistics.
posted by vacapinta at 4:47 PM on July 6, 2006


4-5-1.


The points system needs to be overhauled so that draws with no goals reward neither team, and high scoring sides are rewarded. Simple.
posted by fire&wings at 4:49 PM on July 6, 2006


I'm gonna say no!
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:50 PM on July 6, 2006


The points system needs to be overhauled so that draws with no goals reward neither team, and high scoring sides are rewarded. Simple.

That makes a lot of sense, actually.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2006


No.

Every major American sport has been rendered unwatchable because of this obsession with scoring.

If they start 'retooling' soccer, what will be left...
posted by wfc123 at 4:58 PM on July 6, 2006


I thnk the best reform of soccer would be removing the offside rule. This opinion piece sums it up nicely.
posted by wilful at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2006


Watching two evenly matched, masterful teams duel for 90 minutes to a draw can be just as rewarding if not more so than a massive score-fest. The tension that builds as the match progresses is what makes soccer an incredible spectator sport.
posted by fatbobsmith at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2006


To qualify that last statement, Italy v Germany was one of the most exciting games I've seen. France v Brazil was pretty damned exciting too. Goals are not a specific requirement of exciting football matches.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2006


Eliminate scoring entirely. Take that you obsessive Americans!
posted by found missing at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2006


wfc123 writes "Every major American sport has been rendered unwatchable because of this obsession with scoring."

Hockey was quite fun this year, I thought.
posted by mullacc at 5:03 PM on July 6, 2006


"There hasn't been a World Cup Final since 1986 where both teams scored."

That's a sample size of four. Not much to go on.
posted by sellout at 5:03 PM on July 6, 2006


Every major American sport has been rendered unwatchable

Thank goodness football isn't a major American sport.

The offside rule is essential to football. Stuff like making the net bigger or removing goalkeepers would only lead to teams adapting to these rules. One of the few ways to make football more exciting that does not include releasing wild animals, is to reward teams who attack and try to score, and stop rewarding teams who play to stifle the opponent.
posted by fire&wings at 5:08 PM on July 6, 2006


I love soccer, but I'm no apostle for it. If my fellow Americans want to hate on it, fine, because I can't blame them for not wanting to watch 90 minutes of play with no scoring.

However, I will always defend the athleticism of soccer dudes. They're in much better shape overall than basketball, football (sorry, if you're 350 lbs. you're a fattie, no matter how much muscle you have), and (do I even have to say it?) baseball.
posted by bardic at 5:11 PM on July 6, 2006


Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality is a big sports fan, and he's just gotten into soccer a little this year. His observation, and one that I thought was very good, was that very low scoring makes a single bad call by a ref a VERY big deal. If a team scores or fails to score because of a poor call, there's a good chance the winner has just been determined.

Whether or not you like the American sports with their high scores, you do have to concede that the higher scores mean that a bad call has a much lower chance of deciding a game.
posted by Malor at 5:12 PM on July 6, 2006


Every major American sport has been rendered unwatchable because of this obsession with scoring.

Yeah, because football began to suck when they allowed passing. It was a lot more fun when it was just guys bumping into each other.

. . . Are you high?
posted by Ryvar at 5:12 PM on July 6, 2006


wilful: At no point in that article did I see a single coherent argument for removing the offside rule.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:13 PM on July 6, 2006


Malor makes an excellent point. When that fucking Uruguayan referee gave France an unwarranted penalty kick, he was giving them the goal and the game. I have no problem with France winning, I like them, but let them do so fairly. If one goal = sure win, there's something wrong.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on July 6, 2006


Obviously, much of the world is obsessed with soccer. However, several major markets are NOT obsessed with soccer - because they have more exciting alternatives. So, IMHO, soccer should do something to make the games more exciting through scoring. I'm not advocating wholesale changes, but rather some tweaking a bit. Making the goal a foot or two wider and taller would be a good low-cost place to start.

The problem as I see it is that soccer is perhaps TOO competitvely even - too much parity in other words. We have seen, in this and other World Cup competitions, that subpar teams can play a primarily defense game and still win. I think that in order to advance, a team should be clearly better than being as good as the other team in just one phase of the game. There is a clear disparity in talent and ability, versus the probable wins in soccer.

At least that's MY opinion - but what do I know, I'm a college football fan in the USA. I'd love to get more interested in soccer but can't seem to get over the hump.
posted by insulglass at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2006


bardic: I'd contest the soccer/basketball athleticism - both are incredibly active sports and it's impossible to judge which is moreso than the other. As for football: different positions have different requirements. The point of a center is to be the biggest, fattest wall of human flesh possible while still being able to adapt somewhat quickly. Receivers, on the other hand, are incredibly athletic (they need to be fast, tall, and extremely agile). I'd agree that the centers look pretty unhealthy to me, but in professional football athleticism varies wildly between positions.
posted by Ryvar at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2006


That Trinidad & Tobago Vs. Sweden game, 0-0, was pretty thrilling.

Now trying to make the Tour de France intersting w/o Lance, Ulrich, or Basso... there's a challenge.
posted by yeti at 5:22 PM on July 6, 2006


Do bigger goals, no goalkeeper, fewer players or changed rules need to be considered?
In the mid-90's, FIFA toyed with the idea of enlarging the goal. I think one of the reasons that the proposal never went anywhere was simply because it would necessitate the removal and replacement of goalposts on hundreds of thousands of pitches worldwide.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:24 PM on July 6, 2006


People who have pointed out that the stats don't show quite as strong a decline have a point, but it is also arguable that '94 and '98 were blips in a downward trend. 3 or the last 5 World Cups have seen very, very few goals in the last 16.

The best answer would be to make the goals larger. Goalsize was fixed over 100 years ago when people were considerable smaller. That would keep most of the game the same, but would result in higher numbers of goals. An extra metre should increase goals substantially without radically altering the game.

The other change that may make some sense is drawing one extra line on the pitch half-way in each side and only having offside work in the back quarter of each teams pitch.
posted by sien at 5:29 PM on July 6, 2006


Certainly there are plenty of genuine athletes in American sports leagues, but none of them go for 90 minutes with few pauses and no substitutions (IIRC, American football has less than 12 minutes of actualy play in a single game).

And if we want to be soccer purists, we should get rid of goalies altogether. They didn't exist in the game's earliest forms.
posted by bardic at 5:38 PM on July 6, 2006


How about this: make it so they can pick up the ball with their hands, run with it, or throw it, and knock the snot out of each other too. Now THAT would be a game!
posted by cccorlew at 5:39 PM on July 6, 2006


That's an interesting point. Defense definatley rules right now. Italy's back line looks practically unbeatable and France's defense held off Brazil got them past the first round when France had trouble scoring. Mexico's strong defense gave Argentina problems. Still, I think it's a little too early to start tinkering with the rules. What if this is just in the cyclical nature of the sport? Argentina still scored six goals in a match.

And anyways, teams tend to play more conservatively during big games. England v. Portugal was boring because both teams just kicked the ball around the midfield and waited for the other team to make a mistake.

I'd be more convinced if maybe a survey taken among the best leagues in Europe and South America showed that scoring was down among club teams, too.
posted by Kronoss at 5:40 PM on July 6, 2006


One of the few ways to make football more exciting that does not include releasing wild animals

I'm all for this idea. The toothier the better. That and giant killer robots. And pyrotechnic powered ball-launching bazookas. Excitingly chunky powered body armor. Jet packs. Rocket shoes. Multiple balls in play, mischievously robotic self propelled balls with complex AI systems. Exotic cocktails of performance enhancing drugs, not excluding heroic doses of psychedelics. Hell, put American football players on the pitch with baseball-bat wielding fratboys attacking meth-cranked cricket batsmen. I want to see hockey brute squads on gas powered offroad inline skates swinging bladed pole weapons while launching from strategically placed vert ramps on the edge of the pitch.

Fuck, if we're going to worship mock gladiatorial combat in huge arenas and spend billions and trillions of dollars on it, lets not dick around with these mincing displays of irrational sportsmanship. Think of all the technological advances plain old vanilla sports have brought to fruition. Imagine how many more we could come up with if we just fucked tradition in the ear and let people go batshitinsane crazygonuts.

We could call it jugging, or Calvinball, or Brockian Ultra-Cricket.
posted by loquacious at 5:41 PM on July 6, 2006 [3 favorites]


Although I might be willing to concede the offsides rule, I have to say my answer in general is a resounding no.

The drama and tension of a low scoring game is, to my mind, one of the great reasons to watch soccer (sorry, I'm american, and I dont' want to get myself confused). As a hockey fan, I'm always into the world cup because, like hockey, it's fast, low scoring and a lot about how the entire team acts, instead of how good the team is at putting their superstars into place.

Thats oversimplifying of course, but I think my point stands. If you can't stand a low scoring game, watch basketball. Soccer is fine as it is, leave it alone.

Besides, I only started watching them in '86, but this ones been my favorite, despite the fact that all the cool little country teams got eliminated way too early. If you can't appreciate how great these games have been, you really don't have to watch. Just leave it alone.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:44 PM on July 6, 2006


twowordreview, I guess you need to revisit the definition of coherent then.
posted by wilful at 5:50 PM on July 6, 2006


"I will always defend the athleticism of soccer dudes"

Really? They don't all seem that fit to me. Not for professional athletes. I was reading an article (which I can't find now) where one of the Australian fitness coaches was surprised and disappointed at how unfit soccer players are (compared to his usual charges, Australian Rules players).
posted by wilful at 5:53 PM on July 6, 2006


No goalkeeper? Who even considers that?

As to scoring: I don't think you can just say Americans want high scoring shootouts. That's simplistic. I think it has more to do with resolution. More goals, to me, means less ties. Maybe that's just me.

Tell me watching 90 minutes of 0-0 only to be decided in a 1-0 shootout is fulfilling. I'd have trouble buying it.
posted by absalom at 5:53 PM on July 6, 2006


Oh, and Budweiser's current ad campaign in Britain jokingly suggests what will happen if football becomes 'Americanized.' Some of the commercials can be found on their official UK site.

But why anyone in Britain would want to drink Budweiser is beyond me.
posted by Kronoss at 5:57 PM on July 6, 2006


How about this: make it so they can pick up the ball with their hands, run with it, or throw it, and knock the snot out of each other too. Now THAT would be a game!

Rugger-bugger.

Does something need to be done?

No, not at all. Admittedly, my opionion may be coloured by supporting a team in the lower divisions where no score draws are often celebrated like glorious wins.
posted by jack_mo at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2006


Oops, that first link's bad. Here's a related link.
posted by Kronoss at 6:03 PM on July 6, 2006


Do bigger goals, no goalkeeper, fewer players or changed rules need to be considered?

Simple answer: "No. Fuck off."
posted by Artw at 6:05 PM on July 6, 2006


We love a good pitchers duel in baseball and defensive "slobberknockers" in American football. But somehow a 2-0 win near the end of double overtime is dull? Okay, shootouts suck -- like deciding a baseball game with a home run derby -- but that doesn't mean the game itself wasn't a thrill.

And note that in two of the four major American sports -- football and basketball -- scores are artificially inflated. Your average football score is, in reality, probably around four to three (28-21), if not less. American football is essentially a series of set pieces, one after another. Do that in soccer and you'll see some scoring.

The notion that American sports feature all that much more scoring than soccer is also, I think, an illusion brought on by the fact that there is no clock stoppage in soccer. Without all the breaks, you notice how long it takes for teams to feel each other out, and to develop a scoring strategy.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:09 PM on July 6, 2006


wilfil - do you have a link to the thing about soccer players not being that fit. Someone else was talking about it or something very similar.
posted by sien at 6:10 PM on July 6, 2006


I've got an idea. Make the game much shorter, maybe like 20 minutes total. And reduce the number of players on each side, make it 7. And instead of having no goalie, let them all be goalies. Roaming goalies. That can pick up the ball with their hands, you know, if they feel like it. Oh, and let the players tackle properly, none of this 'go for the ball' stuff. Go for the player.

I bet that'd be a really exciting fast paced sport.

That'd be rugby sevens.
posted by The Monkey at 6:13 PM on July 6, 2006


Hockey was quite fun this year, I thought.

Funny, that's like the one sport with lower ratings than soccer in the U.S. And that's below poker, spelling bees, and reruns of Takeshi's Castle.
posted by bobo123 at 6:16 PM on July 6, 2006


Because there's no way an Aussie Football player or a rugger would ever, ever make fun of a soccer player (spoken as a former rugger myself). /rolls eyes

All three of these sports require stamina that isn't necessary for football or baseball. It's important in basketball but then again, there's a reason Shaq is huffing and puffing after about five minutes.
posted by bardic at 6:19 PM on July 6, 2006


I would also point out that dealing with the overtime situation -- ensuring a satisfying resolution to the game -- is a problem in many sports, not just soccer. Hockey's decided on five minutes of four-on-four, followed by a shootout. American football's got sudden death, which is dumb, though they've considered making it a "first to score six points" deal. College football has each team take a shot from its opponent's 25 yard line until someone blows it -- yup, it's a shootout. Only baseball and basketball let the game go on indefinitely, not really an option in soccer (unless you like seeing players drop dead of heat stroke).

So yeah, soccer shootouts suck. But so do most overtime rules.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:24 PM on July 6, 2006


And note that in two of the four major American sports -- football and basketball -- scores are artificially inflated.

Yeah, but that's necessary to establish a ratio which properly reflects the difficulty of the different ways in which to score. IE getting the ball into the endzone on the ground is equivalent in difficulty to twice kicking the ball through the uprights (which any decent team can pull off from the 30-35 yard line consistently). They're not just inflated so that the teams can say "Wow, we won 3000 to 0."
posted by Ryvar at 6:28 PM on July 6, 2006


They should all start taking HGH and androstenone.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 6:33 PM on July 6, 2006


i'm not really that into soccer. when the world cup comes around i watch it when i can....but something like MLS is completely off my radar.

some observations:

scoring doesn't mean a better game. i watched italy / germany the other day and i thought it was a great game. the problem for me isn't scoring. the problem for me is the refs, the dives and the cry-babying of the players.

the other problem i have with soccer is that the team that *plays* the best still only has a 50/50 chance at winning. i thought germany outplayed italy for the regulation 90 minutes the other day. i could be wrong about that, but it sure looked like they were controlling the play to me. and they didn't win. kind of reminds me of american football, but more extreme.

the refs are a big part of this problem. they remind me of wwf wrestling refs who are tricked by someone hitting macho man with a chair behind their backs. and then go after macho man for retaliating.

i think the best move for soccer would be to take the yellow/red cards out of the refs hands and just play with fouls. levy suspensions after the match for dangerous behavior. the refs weild way too much control over the outcome and sending players off for marginal calls seems quite ridiculous to me.

i think soccer should concentrate on rewarding the better playing team, the scoring will take care of itself.
posted by oliver_crunk at 6:42 PM on July 6, 2006


My point wasn't that tie-resolution is unsatisfying - it is in every sport - but I've seen more ties during the world cup than you'd probably find in an entire NFL season. *More* frequent scoring means *less* ties, which is all to the good.
posted by absalom at 6:43 PM on July 6, 2006


Only baseball and basketball let the game go on indefinitely, not really an option in soccer (unless you like seeing players drop dead of heat stroke).

Make a 15-minute break between the end of regulation and overtime and give both teams, say, two more subs. Then remove a player every fifteen (or thirty) minutes until someone scores.
posted by maxreax at 6:51 PM on July 6, 2006


Some interesting stats on fitness measures from AFL and soccer. I can't really find much more detailed stuff, I don't know if it hasn't been done or I'm googling badly.

On changing the rules: field hockey removed the offside rule after the '96 Atlanta games, and the two games are essentially similar, so there's an easy way to see how it might affect football.

At inter-varsity games a few years ago, we played extra time in a hockey final. It was golden goal, and you started extra time with 9 players each (down from 11), then after 15 minutes you swapped ends and went down to 7 a side. After another 15 minutes it went to penalties, but none of the games got to that, although at least 3 of 7 finals went to extra time.
posted by jacalata at 6:54 PM on July 6, 2006


Bardic -
So you've played American Football yes? The sport that requires no stamina?

Disabuse yourself of the notion that American Footballers are lacking in stamina because the play stops so often. Its a different sort of endurance then what you need for other sports. For example the force and velocity of contact that occurs on every play in Amer. Football makes a Rugby scrum look like synchronized swimming. The difference is that the rugger has to roll off and get to the ball, while the Amer. football player walks 4 yards down the field and does it again. Would a top flight prop beat an NFL offensive lineman in a five mile run - yes. Would that same o-lineman crush that same prop doing 25 reps of sprinting up a 45 degree slope? Wouldn't even be close. The explosiveness of an NFL player is astonishing

Every nation produces great athletes. And those athletes prepare for the challenges of the sports they play. Would Barry Sanders have been the equal if not better then Ronaldo as a striker? He Certainly has quicker feet and a more powerful body. Would Zidane be an astonishing point guard or safety? Yes.

One final point look at the average off season regime of an EPL star and the offseason regime of an NFL skill position star and tell me who you think is in better shape. Soccer is probably 10-15 years behind American sports in terms of conditioning and sports medicine. There is a reason why Klinsmann brought in so many Californians.
posted by JPD at 7:00 PM on July 6, 2006


It's important in basketball but then again, there's a reason Shaq is huffing and puffing after about five minutes.

Yeah, but Shaq is arguably the "fattest" player in the league, and that's only because he can get away with it by plowing his way to the basket.

There really aren't any more Oliver Millers in the NBA -- guys like Mike Sweetney and Eddie Curry, who are considered moderately out of shape, really don't get many minutes.

Point guards and two guards would make a better comparison, and I don't think anyone can doubt the athleticism of guys like Allen Iverson or Steve Nash.

Basketball is also murder on the knees, and a fast pace of play can be a drain on stamina because of the players are constantly required to bring their bodies to a complete stop and change directions.

When you think about the energy required to get enough air to really attack the basket or threaten a shot with a block, that's an added stamina drain.

As far as Shaq goes, you don't really see him do too many of those things because he's fat and because he's a center. He doesn't have to lift off much to get a block, he rarely goes for steals, he doesn't rush himself to get back on defense and his teams always set him up like they're supposed to -- in a low-post, half court offense.
posted by Alexandros at 7:00 PM on July 6, 2006


Well there's fitness and there's this! Bad Zinedine,
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2006


Very simple solution:

Regulation time + as many 20 minute overtimes as it takes. You play until someone wins.

No rules need to be changed. All we ask is that the teams keep playing, and play regular fucking football, not some half-assed coin-toss game called is-the-ball-going-to-go-left-or-right.

You think the fans would mind an extra hour or two of thrilling close-calls? It would make the World Cup the most exciting tournament on the planet.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:39 PM on July 6, 2006


fire&wings has a great idea.

All the rest of the suggestions here are fortunately not going to happen. I have no obsession with the scoring statistics. Football works ok on that front for mine.

Someone mentioned one of the reasons that widening the goals was rejected: it's not practical. One of the great things about football is it can be replicated with virtually no money anywhere. (and this dictates against technological improvements too)

I don't know how the refereeing problems can be fixed or ameliorated. I have a great deal of sympathy with their position - often it's the angle they see things from that decides their call. What is clearly bullshit from one side can look like malicious hacking from a similar position on the other side. 2 referees on the pitch perhaps? But maybe that's just begging for unknown convoluted problems.

But I don't want to go too far down the road of technological intervention, although this is of course the only measure that can have any serious impact. I'm sure this has all been debated to death in the hallowed halls of FIFA and nothing has come from it. I do recall hearing they were 'chipping' balls for the last youth world cup - so a sensor on the posts would determine if the ball crossed the line.

I guess I side with the majority of the world's football enthusiasts that consider that, despite the myriad foibles, it is still a beautiful and eminently watchable/playable game irrespective of any Americocentric alleged scoring deficiencies.

As a last thought, perhaps they should up the ante for the clubs with respect to player simulation and I don't mean just monetary penalties. Perhaps simulation should be one area that does come up for video review later (changing the score is a big ask though) and some transfer restrictions or the like be imposed on clubs.......or something along those lines. Commercial reality may shift the balance towards honest football in those circumstances.
posted by peacay at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2006


However, several major markets are NOT obsessed with soccer - because they have more exciting alternatives. So, IMHO, soccer should do something to make the games more exciting through scoring.

Yeh, because several major markets -- er, America -- are a reason for football to become "more exciting" by stopping doing what's made all the other "markets" love them so, and chase after the one market where it's got at least three sports better loved than it.

That's almost a stereotype of the US right there, where scoring=exciting, fans=markets and markets=good. What about letting tension build? "See this Waiting for Godot? It's all well and good, but could we have more explosions?"
posted by bonaldi at 7:47 PM on July 6, 2006


Football is as close to perfection as a sport can get.
posted by MetaMonkey at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2006


So yeah, soccer shootouts suck. But so do most overtime rules.

Hockey shootouts are pretty cool. I wouldn't like to see them in playoff games. I'm not sure why they don't just go right to the shootout during the regular season. 5 minutes of 4 on 4 is just silly..

In hockey, the goalie plays a big role in shootouts (saving a little under 50% of penalty shots), but that is not the case in football. Why not move the penalty spot back a little, from 12 yards to the edge of the penalty area at 18 yards? Penalties still wouldn't be great, but at least the goalie would be more of a factor..

As for removing off-sides.. Sounds completely nuts to me. You could maybe do something like a blueline for football somewhere around 1/4 or 1/3 of the way up field. If you are on the midfield side you can receive a pass whenever, if you are on the offensive side you have to play by the current off side rules.

Maybe more refs watching for the follies, but really, better to leave it alone.
posted by Chuckles at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2006


The best way to improve football as a spectacle and improve the number of goals scored would be to force the linesmen / assistant referees to do their jobs properly. How many incorrectly-given offsides have we seen in this world cup? Every striker with genuine pace has been at a disadvantage because they're invariably deemed offside when level.

A few years ago, FIFA issued a directive that if there is any doubt, the benefit of the judgement should go to the attacking team. If this was actually happening, there would be virtually no incorrect offsides, and this is not the case.

I am convinced that allowing goals scored by players who were marginally onside is a lesser evil than disallowing good goals. If the player is inches rather than yards offside, then the spirit of the law is obeyed by preventing goalhanging, but attacking football is rewarded more often.

The laws and directives are all in place for this, they just need to be enforced correctly.

As for increasing goal size to accommodate bigger keepers; well, maybe but the balls they have to cope with are less stable in flight than 100 yeears ago, so the argument isn't completely open and shut.
posted by nowonmai at 8:26 PM on July 6, 2006


Instead of making the goal wider, why not add extra posts off to each side of the goal? A kick through the centre could be worth six points, and a kick to the side could be worth one.

Of course, this makes it impossible for the goalie to cover the entire goal area, so to make up for this, anybody can act as goalie, ie handle the ball.

Now that there are so many goalies, the crossbar needs to be eliminated to balance things out again, so a kick of any height between the posts will be rewarded with points.

This makes scoring a bit too easy again, so to make it a bit harder, the goalies are entitled to tackle the opposing players who are in possession of the ball, with a proper, full-body tackle, using the arms.

Having an entire team of goalies out to tackle you makes things a bit tough for the attacking player, so to give the players a bit of room to move, the field could be expanded from a boxy little rectangle into a lovely wide ellipse, which just happens to fit nicely into arenas that cater to the gentleman's sport in summer, like the Melbourne & Sydney Cricket Grounds.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:37 PM on July 6, 2006


I really don't understand why you guys aren't all over the very simple idea I proposed.

It's a win for fans:
* No more "you didn't really win" bullshit.
* Your ticket buys you more football time in the stadium
* You like build-up and tension? Try 5 overtimes in a row.

It's a win for TV:
* More advertising revenue from "game-time" adverts
* More viewership (you really think anyone is going to turn off the telly in a quadruple-overtime final match?)

It's a win for the sport:
* No rule changes necessary (keep o/s, keep the goal posts, no crazy weighted-values for ties/wins/losses, etc.)
* Victors will be decided by their skill, tenacity and endurance (something we over here in the States call heart), the qualities of the athlete that we most admire.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:58 PM on July 6, 2006


Just don't get why they don't move the ball back 10 or so feet for shootouts. Make it *possible* for the keeper to get to the ball, unless it's a *great* shot. Right now, it's a coin toss. And that's my only beef.

Oh, I'm obliged to say, your favorite sport sucks.

Mine is snooker, so I'm off to soak my head.
posted by parki at 9:05 PM on July 6, 2006


When that fucking Uruguayan referee gave France an unwarranted penalty kick

That's pretty strong language for a PK which seemed to definitely fall into the realm of the legitimate.
posted by cell divide at 9:08 PM on July 6, 2006


Grazie bonaldi, for saying far better than what I was intending to say to the same comment.
posted by infini at 9:14 PM on July 6, 2006


Can't we just agree to sew goalies' elbows to their torsos and give them pointy mitts?
posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot at 9:33 PM on July 6, 2006


OK, let's crunch the numbers.

From the article's figures:
Mexico 86 42 goals in 15 games
Italia 90 30 goals in 15 games
USA 94 44 goals in 15 games
France 98 42 goals in 15 games
Korea/Japan 02 26 goals in 15 games
Germany 06 23 goals in 13 games

Extrapolate Germany 06 to 15 games: (23 * 15 / 13) = 27 goals expected.

Plugging those into a spreadsheet:

Average number of goals: 35
Standard deviation: 8

Therefore, we would expect roughly 27 to 42 goals per world cup.

We might be slightly below that this time, depending on how the final goes, but I'm not seeing a huge amount of evidence for a great decline.

Opinionating: the whole appeal of soccer is that it's a universal game. The rules are simple. The equipment is dirt cheap. You can play exactly the same game from the barrios of Brazil to the most hi-tech stadiums in the western world. Without video monitoring, even your fouling and diving has exactly the same chance of being detected.

The world cup is just the froth on the wave on the ocean of football. Suggestions like ten men per side are just stupid: why change the whole game for the sake of people who never play it and only watch it every four years?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:40 PM on July 6, 2006


Well, you could grant us once-every-four-yearsers just one tiny concession: hold all the penalty kicks & shootouts right at the beginning of the tournament. That way, we can all go home happy, knowing how the competition went & who won. Afterwards, those who feel like watching people kick a ball around for beautiful, strategic, tactical, ballet-like, chesslike, greglougainislike, edge-of-seat-tension-filled scoreless hours upon hours, can hang around and do so.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:17 PM on July 6, 2006


Oh, and your favourite sport sucks. Go the Socceroos Wallabies! ;)
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:19 PM on July 6, 2006


We have seen, in this and other World Cup competitions, that subpar teams can play a primarily defense game and still win.

Otherwise known as The Baltimore Raven's Effect.

American football reference, for those of you unfamiliar.
posted by Cyrano at 11:21 PM on July 6, 2006




no goalkeeper?

*picks up ball, leaves in huff*
posted by kosem at 11:47 PM on July 6, 2006


You can easily increase the scoring in Futbol without changing the size of the goal or any of the rules, save one: the goalie must be a midget.

There, it's sorted!
posted by Davenhill at 12:22 AM on July 7, 2006


Oh, and your favourite sport sucks. Go the Socceroos Wallabies Kangaroos! ;)
posted by vbfg at 12:27 AM on July 7, 2006


The rules for the game itself are fine and work.

There are only two things I would like to see improved:

1. A different tournament rule, so that more teams get to play each other.

2. An additional video referee, who informs his fellow referees on the field to improve the judgement of 'hot situations'.
posted by homodigitalis at 12:41 AM on July 7, 2006


Now trying to make the Tour de France intersting w/o Lance, Ulrich, or Basso... there's a challenge.

Of course plenty of people think it's going to be far far more interesting than the last few years since there is no clear favourite, nor strong team to control the race.

As for soccer, leave it as is, I'm not going to watch it anyway. But for the record, it's not the low scoring that turns me off it, it's the diving, and the offside rule. There is something wrong with a sport when a brilliant pass splits the defence and puts a striker into space, and the defenders are running away, to try and put the striker offside, rather than trying to, you know, defend.
posted by markr at 1:07 AM on July 7, 2006


Anyone who wants to change football in ANY WAY from its current form can fuck right off, right now. That includes Sepp 'fuckwit' Blatter and half of you dullards on here. If you don't like it, don't watch it. Really. The rest of the world who like football just the way it is don't give two shits whether the lack of goals or the offside rule or the diving annoys you. Go back to watching basketball, or football, or baseball or any of your other sports where you call yourselves 'world champions', even though you play no other country.
posted by ninthart at 2:58 AM on July 7, 2006


Soccer has started to remind me of economics.

See, in an ideal sport you wouldn't need referees. Referees are only there for when the players don't play the game the way they should. In an ideal sport, the structure of the game would implicitly enforce the rules; breaking the rules would not gain any benefit at all.

Similarly, in an ideal capitalist system, the government has no need to step in on individual cases, because it has set up a system of regulations so simple and sensible, that every company's self-interest is clearly directed in the direction that maximizes competition and vigorous innovation.

When the government has to frequently step in on individual cases to rectify misbehavior, it should be considered a failure of the marketplace. It's a sign that the regulations in place are destructively opposing, rather than constructively directing, the competitive forces driving business.

What's missing in soccer, in my opinion, is the recognition of a similar phenomenon. The number and impact of referee decisions in these games should be a red flag to everybody that the rules of the game are standing in direct opposition to the competitive spirit of players, rather than guiding that spirit into a greater game. I think many people recognize this implicitly, but it's still worth explicating.

I have to say, I see some similarity between this characterization of soccer, and the general shape of economic policy in Europe. But I can't see this as a general rule, since in most places sports are much cleaner than economic policy. Imagine:
East Asia : There are only 4 or 5 sports franchises, each with teams in every sport. The refs preferentially call in favor of the weaker team, to ensure that each franchise remains viable.
Russia : Players blackmail and physically threaten refs to ensure preferential treatment.
Africa : Generally, refs can be assured of siding with the player who shares their tribe or nationality, although bribery is often necessary to ensure the deal.
US : Players siphon money through a complex series of transactions to enrich the ref's family and friends. Refs -- and the league managers themselves -- are generally former players themselves, and nearly always rule in favor of ex-teammates.
posted by bjrubble at 3:11 AM on July 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


What Artw said, in spades.

If FIFA needs to change anything about the game, it should be the refs. The level of compentency is entirely too erratic. I think refs who wish to be eligible for major international cups should be required to do a type of exchange program first: ref for a year or two overseas to get a different perspective/better training.

That or just let Pierluigi Collina come back for as long as he can hold out.
posted by romakimmy at 3:44 AM on July 7, 2006


Collina is God.

I swear the sport must be finally catching on in America, because I have never before heard so much ill-informed critique of the rules of football as I have in the last three weeks. I don't know if this is a good sign or a really bad one.

Look, if it bores you, if you think it needs more scoring, the game doesn't need you as a fan, it's perfect just the way it is.. Go watch bowling or something.
posted by psmealey at 4:08 AM on July 7, 2006


Dumb idea #235: How about not trimming the grass so well? In fact make the field a bit bumby so there is more randomness and mayhem. Perhaps potholes too. With gophers.
posted by missbossy at 4:15 AM on July 7, 2006


Please stop, please. Just leave it alone. Don't play into the hands of the corporations. This is the dark side of American ingenuity.

Signed, one of the owners of Exeter City FC
posted by athenian at 4:16 AM on July 7, 2006


Wilful: Sorry 'bout the obnoxious tone there (notes to self the dangers of posting after a rake of pints). The writers contention that the offside rule makes it hard to score which is why players dive is pretty weak though.

As far as extra time goes, they did try sudden death (the golden goal) and it just didn't work. It turned extra time into a ridiculously cagey affair, with neither team willing to risk conceding the goal that would knock them out and instead always seemed to hold out for penalties. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect players to play beyond 120 minutes if the penalties were scrapped so that a team had to score. So the penalties were left in place and eventually the golden goal rule removed.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:32 AM on July 7, 2006


they did try sudden death (the golden goal) and it just didn't work. It turned extra time into a ridiculously cagey affair, with neither team willing to risk conceding the goal that would knock them out and instead always seemed to hold out for penalties.

No. The "Golden Goal" clearly misses the point, once again, because after two 15-minute halves, you wind up right back into penalty kicks. So of course they're going to sit on the ball until time runs out. That's the whole problem, right there. Remove the incentive for running out the clock. Play until you win.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:48 AM on July 7, 2006


They used to do that with Test Matches (cricket internationals, now played over five days) - known rather poetically as 'timeless matches'. The longest, in 1939, lasted eight days before being drawn by agreement.

Final score: England 316 & 496/3, South Africa 530 & 481 Match drawn.

Now *there's* a high-scoring sport.
posted by athenian at 4:54 AM on July 7, 2006


Civil_disobedient: your idea sounds similar to the old golden goal system.

The main difference being that the golden goal period is still limited, it still goes to penalties if there is no goals. Unlimited overtime is another American idea, others have mentioned the tension in Football (sorry "soccer") and having potentially eternal playing time would ruin that dynamic.

Its interesting that the golden goal system actually had the opposite of it's intended effect: teams adopted a more defensive strategy.
posted by verisimilitude at 4:57 AM on July 7, 2006


Play until you win.

That's easier said that done. Can you imagine a football match lasting 4 hours until a defender collapses with heat prostration and a liming defender puts one in the net? I think that would defeat the purpose of making the match more (American) fan friendly. The last 2 hours of the game would likely be unbearable.
posted by psmealey at 5:01 AM on July 7, 2006


One other thing: penalties might seem like an inappropriate way of deciding a football match, especially if you are new to the sport and unaware of its rich history of failures.

There have been some heartbreaking penalty misses. A single miss can mar an otherwise successful player's career, there are lots of examples. It's more than a coin toss -- the pressure is immense. The fact it's tough adds to the drama. Players have to volunteer to take a penalty, a gesture that takes more "heart" than staggering about the pitch through hours of "overtime."

You yanks just have to learn to enjoy the game for its beauty, then the shoot out for its sadism.
posted by verisimilitude at 5:15 AM on July 7, 2006


A single miss can mar an otherwise successful player's career, there are lots of examples.

Two words: Gareth Southgate.

I loved Southgate as a player, such an elegant defender, but it seems he'll only ever be remembered for one thing.
posted by psmealey at 5:25 AM on July 7, 2006


That's almost a stereotype of the US right there, where scoring=exciting, fans=markets and markets=good. What about letting tension build? "See this Waiting for Godot? It's all well and good, but could we have more explosions?"

You yanks just have to learn to enjoy the game


Can we please leave the nationalistic insults and bullshit out of the discussion? I'm American and I like the game fine the way it is. That does not mean it's perfect and untouchable, and in fact they tinker with it every few years. Did you guys freak out when they added the Golden Goal—"No! no! soccer without the Golden Goal is perfect!"—and then again when they took it away—"No! no! soccer with the Golden Goal is perfect!"? I don't think so. If they adopt C_D's suggestion (or one of the others), the game isn't going to go straight to hell; either the new rules will be felt to work or they won't, and in the latter case they'll be changed again. I appreciate the beauty of the 0-0 game as much as anyone, when it's a good, exciting game, but I've seen a lot of snoozers where both teams are sitting on the ball, and I'm sure you have too. Look, nobody wants a bunch of 8-6 games; it's just a matter of making it somewhat more likely that teams will actually try to score a goal once in a while. Is that really so terrible?

That's pretty strong language for a PK which seemed to definitely fall into the realm of the legitimate.


Yeah, I was expressing myself a bit forcefully, but what can I say? It pissed me off. It wouldn't have pissed me off if I hadn't known that the ref was essentially giving the game to France. Which brings us back to the initial problem.
posted by languagehat at 5:46 AM on July 7, 2006


It wouldn't have pissed me off if I hadn't known that the ref was essentially giving the game to France.

Please tell me you're joking. That was a legitimate foul that gave France the penalty. Henry was about to find daylight inside the top of the box, when his right leg got swept from underneath him. No striker worth his salt is going to take a dive - and risk not getting the foul - when they have a clear advantage (and the ball) 16 yards in front of the goal mouth.

As far as the refs "giving" the game to France, the only diving I saw in that game as Portuguese players crumbling in the box when French defenders breathed on them, presumably hoping for "make-up calls". I'm sorry your team lost, but I thought the game was called pretty fairly.
posted by psmealey at 5:55 AM on July 7, 2006


I thought the game was called pretty fairly.

So did I, in general. I'm not making myself clear. It's not that I didn't think there was a foul, it's the fact that the current state of the game means that the ref's calling the foul and awarding the penalty kick essentially decided the game. (Please don't tell me you thought Portugal had any hope after that.) Do you never express yourself forcefully and a bit irrationally after a game?
posted by languagehat at 6:03 AM on July 7, 2006


Oh, and it's not that "my team" lost—my team was Argentina. I have no great love for les bleus, but I'll be happy to see them beat Italy; I was sort of hoping Portugal would win just because they hadn't been there before, but I didn't really care. I just wanted to see a good, suspenseful game, and I hated to see all the suspense drained out that way. It spoiled the game for me.
posted by languagehat at 6:06 AM on July 7, 2006


they tinker with it every few years.

They only tinker with it to come up with a way to equitably settle draws in cup matches when replays are out of the question. It's not done to make the game more "enjoyable".
posted by psmealey at 6:06 AM on July 7, 2006


Do you never express yourself forcefully and a bit irrationally after a game?

Are kidding? I always do: win, lose or draw. :-)
posted by psmealey at 6:07 AM on July 7, 2006


it's the fact that the current state of the game means that the ref's calling the foul and awarding the penalty kick essentially decided the game.

But if Henry wasn't fouled (and he was) he would have scored, it would have been a goal and it would still have decided the game. What's the difference?
posted by Robot Rowboat at 6:11 AM on July 7, 2006


That's easier said that done. Can you imagine a football match lasting 4 hours until a defender collapses with heat prostration and a liming defender puts one in the net?

Just loosen the restrictions on substitutions during overtime. I like the idea of two 15-minute halves player in their entirety, followed by 15-minute sudden death overtime periods until someone wins.
posted by mullacc at 6:43 AM on July 7, 2006


The flat out biggest problems with FIFA are the refs and the players taking advantage of them.

If I were the GOD of FIFA, I would fix...

1) The refs. Two on the field, and make sure they're competent. MLB is about the only league I know that gets this right -- the umpires work in squads, and the best squads, together, work the playoffs, (with the addition of some umpires from other squads, since the playoffs add the RF and LF umps.)

American football screws this up badly, by taking the best umpires and making new sqauds for the playoffs. American football refereeing suffers as a result in the playoffs -- the exact time you least want it -- and more than one game has been won by a call that was flat out wrong. Indeed, this is why the instant replay rule came back, despite the hatred at the time it took -- too many badly blown calls on the field by umpire squads not used to working for them.

But FIFA's umpires are apparently selected by lot from the fans. It's not so much that they don't call by the rulebook (not that baseball has that issue *ahemstrikezone*) but the poor consistency. One minute, a player not involved with the play doesn't cause offsides, ten minutes later, they do.

Part of the problem is one set of eyes watching a large field. But mostly, I think, as a class, the FIFA refs are the worst of any top-league sport. Consistent calls are everything -- a pitcher would much rather have a tiny strike zone that's always there, than a strike zone that changes size on every pitch. He's aiming for the corners, but if the corners keep moving, he can't.

All refs suffer from famous-bias. Well known players and teams get calls that lesser known ones don't. But the refs in the World Cup are way beyond the pale. The last 20 minutes of the France-Brazil game was some of the most biased refeering I'd ever seen. Brazil could do no wrong. That ref needs to be suspended for either incompetence or favortisim.

2) Video review of all fouls and "play ons" after the game. Improper cards are voided for future penalites. Improper no-cards are awarded, to take effect on the next game, at the same time (so a player who wasn't, but should have been red-carded at 74 minutes is red-carded at 74mins later.) Refs who keep blowing calls are suspended, then disrated.

The harder part is improper penalties that result in goals. I'd say "restart the game from that point with the goal nulled", but that's not always feasable.

Finally, the all important "If you dive, you're red carded at the start of your next game, and suspended for two more" rule. The diving is amazing, and this alone is the biggest factor in making football boring. It seems that every tackle is followed by a flop and a plea for a free kick.

When a player gets away with a dive, only to find his side is down a man for ninety minutes, and he's out for most of the tournament, the diving will come to a stop. Until then, however, the econmics are clear, the moment you feel a foot near you and you lose control of the ball, you should flop on the ground and scream like your ankle was just shattered.
posted by eriko at 7:00 AM on July 7, 2006


The best quote of American reactions to the World Cup I have read was from Marina Hyde in the Guardian. She said it was like someone phoning up their ex-girlfriend every 10 minutes to say that they were SO over them. Some people want to dismiss it as a dull irrelevance but deep down know that it is a huge deal to almost everyone else and feel a wee bit left out as a result. If you don't enjoy football don't watch it.

As for the World Cup I would have to say I have enjoyed it more than any other since Italia 90. Number of goals scored is not as important as the quality of the games.
The games have been of a high standard and have been exciting.

The World Cup generates more interest than any other sporting event on the planet -the Olympics are in second place and events such as the (ahem) 'World' Series don't even register. It is a global phenomenon which is about more than the game itself. It is a positive event which makes lots of very different people feel happy. If anyone can think of any other single event that is positive, transcends cultural boundaries, and, will be watched by a ridiculously high percentage of the world's population I would like to hear it.

By the way it's the referee not the umpire.

I dont think that the 'umpire is a wanker' could possibly reverberate around a stadium in quite the same way as the old classic chant.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 7:13 AM on July 7, 2006


Rather sounds like 1986 was a freak year to me.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:17 AM on July 7, 2006


I agree that the only thing that needs fixing ar the refs. They're dire. They were shit in the last world cup (seemingly being swayed by home advantage) and they're shite in this one too. I second the two refs on the pitch idea. I like that FIFA now make them wear radios, that would quicken up any discussion between the two refs. The ball should also have that 'goalline chip' in it that has been discussed for years.

As far as refereeing decisions go in this WC, the penalty against Portugal was in the 33 minute. The only way that this can be seen as gifting the game to France is with the benefit of hindsight. Portugal had almost an hour to draw level but they didn't. Besides it was a reasonable decisions by the ref. The end of the Italy Australia game on the other hand is a different matter, I think that Grosso oversold it and it was bad defending, but still giving a penalty for non-violent play (or not a handball in the box) in the 93 minute of a knockout game is gifting the game to (in this case) the Italians. The ref should have waved it (or blown the whistle for normal time) and then the game should have go to extra time.
posted by ob at 7:18 AM on July 7, 2006


Those were some pretty good recommendations from eriko, I thought.

One of the things that was pretty clear in the Holland-Portugal match was the the Portugal players were taking dives not only to try to draw fouls, but to disrupt the flow of Dutch play in transition. This seemed to result directly in the incident where the Dutch continued to play (rather than kicking the ball into touch) after a Portuguese player went down and this infuriated the Portugeuse player into the mid game melee, and play only got worse from there.

The English must have taken notes on this, because they, too continued to play even after Portuguese players went down (presumably) feigning injuries.

There's always one team in every World Cup that stands above all others when it comes to diving. This year, far and away, it was the Portuguese, in 2002 it was the Turkish, and in 1998 it was the Croatians.

Also, kudos for pointing out the horrible refereeing at the end of the FRA-BRA match. Thankfully, it didn't affect the outcome of the game. Unlike their insufferable PR that would have us believe that the Brazilians are gods among men on the football pitch, they showed us once again that they don't jugo so bonito when they are losing. They are as dirty and chippy as any team in the world when the game isn't going their way. I also enjoy hearing them say how poorly they played... couldn't have had anything to do with with how the other side played, did it?
posted by psmealey at 7:28 AM on July 7, 2006


The harder part is improper penalties that result in goals. I'd say "restart the game from that point with the goal nulled", but that's not always feasible.

Since the game always pauses for a couple of minutes when a penalty is taken, it would be pretty easy to use a replay to confirm a call.

It wouldn't do anything about a missed call, but then I don't think that would be a problem. In one of the knockout games a ref pretended a foul occurred outside the box, it was obviously inside, but I don't remember very many completely missed fouls in/near the penalty area.

I would hate to see an after game suspension effect the number of players on the field for a teams next game. It might be necessary to kick the culture of diving out of the game, but it really isn't the way it should work..
posted by Chuckles at 9:01 AM on July 7, 2006


I would hate to see an after game suspension effect the number of players on the field for a teams next game.

I don't see another way to do it, given how endemic diving is, and how long it would take to judge all the dives. You'd be adding 10-15 minutes of stoppage time if you tried to review every foul and card in near-real time.

I think it isn't an optimal solution, and lord knows there's a huge hole for abuse that will need to be watched carefully. Then again, if FIFA itself is so corrupt that it'll glady red-card out stars for personal gain, there's no hope anyway.

It might be possible to have a TV ref reviewing, and then calling for the diving card at the next stoppage in play. Just have a person hold up a sign, similar to the subtitution sign, and issue the card. But critical in that is revoking any cards that were originally issued for the "foul" -- it would be inane to card someone for a hard tackle, and then three minute later, card the fouled person for diving.

By the way it's the referee not the umpire.

I'm mixing up terms, because I was mixing up sports. It's an umpire in baseball, a referee in football, but American Football has both (and the head linesman, line judge, back judge, side judge, and field judge -- plus the official scorer and the chain gang.)

Of course, I now just remembered the word "Official", which is a nice generic name for the entire clan of blind biased bastards gentlemen controlling the game.
posted by eriko at 9:31 AM on July 7, 2006


Just loosen the restrictions on substitutions during overtime. I like the idea of two 15-minute halves player in their entirety, followed by 15-minute sudden death overtime periods until someone wins.

Or do it like field hockey and remove two players every overtime period.
posted by maxreax at 10:00 AM on July 7, 2006


Did you guys freak out when they added the Golden Goal—"No! no! soccer without the Golden Goal is perfect!"

yes
posted by mr.marx at 10:04 AM on July 7, 2006


Leave the damn game alone. To retool it just to make it more interesting for a bunch of lame Americans is just BS.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:12 AM on July 7, 2006


I fail to see what this has to do with America. The rules of the vast majority of sports, including football, are changed over time in reponse to changes in tactics and approaches.

It's been a boring World Cup (the second in a row) with few good games, it's definitely time to take a look at some options.
posted by johnny novak at 10:23 AM on July 7, 2006


The world cup though is a small small part of the soccer world. It's obviously the most important international corporation, but it happens once every four years. The other 3 years and 11 months feature lots of exciting football that is in no need of a fix.

Don't judge the game by one competition.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:02 AM on July 7, 2006


How about "play til you win" but the offsides rule is abandoned in overtime.

Actually I think it's fine the way it is, but it is true that the semis and quarters were fairly middling in terms of greatest ever world cup games.

I think a big factor might be that we're basically looking at an older generation of teams. Next cup there will be no Ronaldo, no Figo, no Zidane, Roberto Carlos, maybe Beckham, etc. Names which have popped up for the past 3 cups.
posted by cell divide at 11:24 AM on July 7, 2006


The "Two Center Refs" thing was tried in the 90's. I believe it was in Columbia. One was in charge of one side of the field and the other the other half. Same linesman though. I must say, it was odd watching a game with two refs... it just... didn't look right. It took them no time at all to abandon the idea.
posted by hatchetjack at 12:27 PM on July 7, 2006


One was in charge of one side of the field and the other the other half.

Which is a remarkably stupid way to do it, I'm not surprised it failed. The idea is to have two sets of eyes watching, not one set per half-field.

American football has enough officials to do this, which each member of the crew assigned to watch specific areas and in charge of certain aspects (the Referee is in charge of the game, the Umpires watches the game clock, the Head Linemans watches the first down markers, etc...)

The center refs method means you spend twice as many officials to get the same result.

I'm not convinced that fixing overtime is nearly as important as fixing the officiating. I think if we fix that, the 0-0 tie won't be nearly as common. Right now, offensive players flop to try and get a set-piece in thier favor, defenders flop to try and get a free clearing kick. If the diving is called as dives, not as penalties against the other team, and real penalties are called, I think the game will be much more free flowing. Right now, lots of scoring opportunities are either denied by bad calls, or aren't risked in an attempt to get a free kick, which has a higher percentage of goal. The result, paradoxically enough, is less scoring, because many attempts at a dive don't work, and the ball is cleared.
posted by eriko at 12:44 PM on July 7, 2006


Here's one suggestion that I think would have improved this world cup, without changes the game's rules at all - have an official review the tapes of each game, if a player is clearly, incontrovertibly seen to be diving, ban that player from the rest of the World Cup, or at least a match or two. And then poke them with pointy sticks, and force them to say sorry for what they've done, and laugh at them on TV. That'd stop it pretty sharpish.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:41 PM on July 7, 2006


seriously, anyone advocating trashing the offside rule obviously doesn't know the first thing about football and should be laughed off the pitch. the offside rule is as essential to the game as the NO HANDS rule (you know, FOOTball).

matteo, hate to say I told you so, about gli azzurri, but well, I did. ;)
posted by mr.marx at 2:03 PM on July 7, 2006


So what about the offside rule makes it so essential in its current form? From an outsider's perspective (hockey mostly) defenders running away from their goal to force an offside seems pretty lame. Should I just chalk that up to intricate tactics or somesuch?
posted by megamanwich at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2006


First, defenders trying to make an offside trap aren't running away, they're defending.

Second, one thing that makes the offside rule essential is that without it you could place one or two players in the box, just standing there waiting for long passes from their own defence line. Thus eliminating the big part of the pitch (and a huge part of the game) that is the midfield.

Sure, you could play it like that, but it ain't football.
posted by mr.marx at 5:16 PM on July 7, 2006


I agree the offsides rule is essential, but penalty kicks are a real drag. That's why I said, eliminate offsides in overtime. Yes, it changes the game completely but isn't that better then going to PKs? I just hate penalty kicks.
posted by cell divide at 5:17 PM on July 7, 2006


by the way I also agree with the people saying the main problem is refereeing and the accompanying flopping or diving issue. Apparently Beckenbauer agrees.
posted by cell divide at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2006


but diving is hardly a new thing. gaming the ref has been a part of international football for the last 50 years. and the referees are neither worse nor better than 20 years ago.

btw, the most famous goal in football history - from the 1986 world cup - was preceeded by a goal almost as famous. by the same player. gaming the ref.

"the hand of god" might be "cheating", but it sure is classic football.
posted by mr.marx at 6:07 PM on July 7, 2006


Second, one thing that makes the offside rule essential is that without it you could place one or two players in the box, just standing there waiting for long passes from their own defence line.

There are other ways to handle that other than the current rule. Ice Hockey uses the "puck must enter the offensive zone before all offensive players", once that happens, the offensive side is onside until the puck is cleared.

Football already has most of the lines required. I'd change the offside rule to be "no offensive player may be inside the defensive zone until the ball enters." and I'd define the zone by extending the top of the penalty box to the touch lines. That may be too deep, but I don't think so -- however, testing would be needed.

The advantage of this is it takes most of the judgement calls out. Either the ball is in, in which case, any offensive player can enter, or the ball isn't, in which case, the play is offsides if the ball does enter. You could add the "almost there" rule, where a player who's technically offsides can be ignored if they aren't near the ball and are trying to clear the zone, but they have to clear before turning. That's a complication, though -- the simple rule is the way to start.

But that's more hacking than I like. Most of the bad offsides calls are bad calls by the limited (in number and talent) officals -- increasing them, and working to create better officials, may well fix the flakey offsides rule issue.

A fundamental rule here is fix the most broken thing first, and see what changes. Fix the refs, and many of the other problems may well go away.

but diving is hardly a new thing.

But diving is the core reason Americans hate football. Only silly people think it's the low score. Lots of baseball games end 1-0, and and a 14-7 American football game is really just a 2-1 in football.

The rule here is "walk it off." If you aren't seriously hurt -- as in "cannot stand", you're supposed to get up and walk off after a hard hit. The first time an American sees a dive, they're shocked by how hard the tackle was. When they see the guy bounce up, they start to hate the guy. Getting hurt sucks, but faking it sucks more. When they see how hard everyone flops at trivial contact, they get the feeling that soccer isn't a sport, it's a stage production with passing.

Americans hate to see guys get hurt, and applaud when the guy shows some signs of recovery -- often, even for a hated opponent. Fakery as practiced in football goes against on of the fundamental rules taught to kids in the US -- you play hard, but you play fair, and you never take a cheap shot at an injured opponent, nor fake an injury to avoid a fair hit.

We don't always live by it, but we try. Soccer divers rub us badly, because it is so endemic, and if part of the game truly is faking injuries to draw fouls, I'm not interested in supporting it.
posted by eriko at 7:03 PM on July 7, 2006


And then poke them with pointy sticks, and force them to say sorry for what they've done, and laugh at them on TV.

We had a discussion.

Option one. The pink card, which is one half a yellow card. But, if you get one, you have to put on a pink jersey. After two, pink tights. After three, you have to wear a pink tutu. For the forth, you get your fairy crown, and a red card.

Option two. For diving, the ref holds up a small statue, shaped like an Oscar. It's a red card with class.

Option three. For diving, the ref gets to kick you repeatedly, yelling "GET UP GET UP GET UP."

Option four -- free kick for the opposing team -- on the diver.

I think any would fix the problem, but I really want to see a 95 pound ref wailing on a diving forward yelling "GET UP GET UP GET UP."
posted by eriko at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2006


1) and you don't ever see any bad offside calls in hockey, do you? lines are not the answer, sorry.

2) well, shucks. if the two shall meet, I don't see why football has to adapt for americans. sorry, but you are the minority here.

;)
posted by mr.marx at 7:11 PM on July 7, 2006


"the hand of god" might be "cheating", but it sure is classic football.

It was classic bullshit, nothing more.
posted by homunculus at 7:58 PM on July 7, 2006


are you by any chance english?
;)
posted by mr.marx at 8:41 PM on July 7, 2006


are you by any chance english?

See, we had that problem too, with very bad calls reversing games. But, in general, we try to fix it so that they don't happen again.

The idea is that the *players* should win or lose games, not the officals. Officials are human, so it is impossible to reach perfection1

After the debacle in American Football where two teams advanced after horribly blown calls, the decision was to try and fix that. Our first experience with Video Replay was a nighmare, it ate way too much time, but the bad calls in the playoffs caused it to come right back -- it didn't hurt that two of the teams affected were two of the teams that were most against video replay.

So, we now have the current rule, where coaches can appeal many plays to the video judge, at the cost of a timeout if the play stands as called. I could easily see this exact situation working in football, but using substitutions rather than timeouts. Losing a timeout or a sub is a big deal, so coaches aren't going to go to the tape unless they're confident that the play was called wrong. (It does happen, though -- we never said coaches are perfect.)

The fact that bad calls are something to celebrate bothers us badly. When we get them, we don't celebrate them, we try to fix them. We're not perfect, but we try.

And, yes, while Hockey does have bad offside calls happen, because of the nature of the layout, they are vastly more rare than bad football offside calls, and they happen far before the scoring chances occur, so you almost never see a goal reversed by an offsides call -- indeed, I can't think of a single case. There is a "delayed offsides" call, where the offensive team is offside but not playing the puck and moving to get offside, in this case, the play isn't blown dead, but otherwise, the play is halted well before anyone is going to get a high-percentage shot.

This also gets rid of the offside trap, which is boring. (The neutral zone trap is something completely different.) I don't think football needs something like icing -- clearing a puck across the length of the rink takes trivial effort, blasting a ball from goal line to goal line takes vastly more, but as I've said before, bad boring football is work the ball up the wing, bad cross, clear, repeat.



1] The baseball umpire's lament: They're required to be perfect on opening day, and become better as the season goes along.
posted by eriko at 12:10 PM on July 8, 2006


I must note that American Football's most noted play, the Immaculate Reception, may not have been a legal reception. The problem was the rule of possesion at the time, and this is one that the current replay rules wouldn't have changed the call, no matter what the final call was (the standard for the umpire is that the call must be obviously incorrect. Any doubt means the call on the field stands.)

The big criticism of the time was the officials dithering on the call, but in thier defense, they just saw the most bizzare play of thier life, and they had to figure out who touched the ball last in the collision.
posted by eriko at 12:17 PM on July 8, 2006


are you by any chance english?

No, I'm just sad when the game gets ugly.

Like today. WTF Zidane.
posted by homunculus at 5:53 PM on July 9, 2006


Er, WTF Zidane.
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on July 9, 2006


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