The Game of Their Lives
June 12, 2010 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes called the "Miracle on Grass", the USA's 1-0 victory over England in the 1950 World Cup is arguably the biggest upset in the history of the cup; when a team of school teachers, dishwashers, and postmen beat the "Kings of Football". It was the Game of Their Lives. Today, they had the chance to do it again.
posted by daniel striped tiger (241 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jabulani Fever! Catch it if you can!
posted by Rock Steady at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clearly, America failed to win by not playing Hercules Gomez. If you have somebody named Hercules Gomez on your team, you play him.
posted by mightygodking at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


1-1 England v Fulham, er, USA!
posted by grubi at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2010


ATTENTION ALL ENGLAND

For 2010, the event normally referred to as "Guy Fawkes Night" shall be designated "Robert Green Night."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


DST, thanks for phrasing this in a way to not spoil the ending for those who haven't watched it yet. May all FPP posters do the same).

(I think that's sufficient warning, however, and one should actually click on the links at their own risks)
posted by mreleganza at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2010


grubi: I would actually call that game "England v. Howard" but to each his own
posted by shii at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


butterfingers
posted by eddydamascene at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2010


If you have somebody named Hercules Gomez on your team, you play him.

His name is actually Herculez Gomez, for extra zee-power, and he's been named Best US Team Twitterer as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2010


Sample HERCULEZ!!!!! twitter:

"Shakira... Yes please. How do I meet her? Am I even worthy? Sch-wing!
1:51 PM Jun 10th via web"

posted by Panjandrum at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


so, did US outperform or England underperform? Looks likely it'll come down to goal differential to decide Group C A/B slots. At least it isn't Group A though. While I think Uruguay and France go though S. Africa out performed and I'd love it if they made it far. (although it'd screw with my brackets)
posted by edgeways at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2010


There's some serious weeping and gnashing of teeth happening on London sport-talk radio right now.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2010


edgeways, England underperformed in my opinion. Leaving Greene's whoopsie alone, Heskey was an embarrassment who had no business being out there, and Rooney was, except for the last 10 minutes or so, a non-factor.

The US played well for sure, but really, they were no better than anyone expected them to be. The US defense was weak, being entirely propped up by Tim Howard, who was predictably awesome. (what is it with the US and monster goalkeepers? Brad Friedel and his performance in 2002 is the reason I became a soccer fan, and Howard's performance today was right up there)
posted by deadmessenger at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2010


so, did US outperform or England underperform?

The US team had a few good chances, but England were the better team for the majority of the match. England couldn't finish, and were let down by a catastrophic goalkeeping error.
posted by afx237vi at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2010


> The US team had a few good chances, but England were the better team for the majority of the match. England couldn't finish, and were let down by a catastrophic goalkeeping error.

So, it was a tie, then?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:11 PM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I still only support two football teams: Scotland, and whoever England's playing.
posted by scruss at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


Nonsense. Heskey was as good as Emile Heskey ever is. Excellent holdup player, rubbish finisher. Wright-Philips was the true dud. Even factoring in Green's fuckup little Shaun was the player who embarassed himself most.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2010


For 2010, the event normally referred to as "Guy Fawkes Night" shall be designated "Robert Green Night.

At least it explains Fabio Cappello's triple secret goalie drama leading up to the match.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


and Rooney was, except for the last 10 minutes or so, a non-factor.

Yeah, what was up with that? Did someone slip him a valium before the match?
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2010


I'm surprised the game didn't break the internets.
posted by desjardins at 2:22 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Leaving Greene's whoopsie alone, Heskey was an embarrassment who had no business being out there

Heskey played well, but there wasn't a huge amount of linking between him and Rooney.

I would personally say that Wright-Phillips and Lennon were bad, with Wright-Phillips being unable to do anything but give the ball away. Cole also had a quiet match.
posted by djgh at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2010


Our goal was totally, TOTALLY the hand of G-d. Absolutely.

But I've got to say, the US keeper was amazing. Guy got a cleat to the chest and totally, totally made a few wicked awesome saves. We were discussing here at the 'moon household (we had a group of nerds convened for the occasion) how the altitude might have played a factor in both teams' performance, especially during the second half, which was totally underwhelming to watch and mostly looked like a bunch of tired guys who couldn't get organized.

In any case, I don't think England expected the US to score AT ALL and their reaction (as compared to the really muted US reaction to our goal) to scoring at minute 3 was that the whole thing was fait accompli.

FAIT ACCOMP-THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Not that we won, but still. This is the US. And soccer. NOT LOSING is a victory in and of itself.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:31 PM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Every time I hear someone talk about soccer or cricket, I have the subtle suspicion that I'm being put on.
posted by empath at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2010


Can someone explain to me why it's England and not Great Britain playing?
posted by empath at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


(or the UK)
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2010


"BP" Green.
posted by rodgerd at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2010


Never before has kissing your sister been more YAY! and your sister's reaction been more YECCCCH.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I were Algeria or Slovenia, I'd be damn concerned right now. Before this game, all the US or England had to do was beat them to advance, but now they have an pretty big incentive (goal differential) to really run up the score.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2010


empath: Because Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales also have national teams that may (on the rare occasion) compete for the World Cup. Wikipedia.

back on topic, this is what Capello gets for not starting Crouch.
posted by doublesix at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heskey played well, but there wasn't a huge amount of linking between him and Rooney.


I disagree. Heskey had two jobs out there: first was to take a shot if it was there, and the second was to get the ball to Rooney. His one significant chance went straight into Tim Howard's chest, and he certainly didn't do the other.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2010


By the way, I'm guessing everyone got a bit excited/upset (delete as appropriate) when England scored their goal? Good for you. I, on the other hand, was watching on ITV HD...
posted by afx237vi at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2010


It's quite simple really, empath

England and Wales are separate countries which share the same legal system and Wales has it's own assembly which has control over certain legislation though this is recent. Scotland was independent, and then the Scottish king also became the English king (although since then the monarchs have actually been Dutch(originally French) and then German (well, Saxony, this predates modern Germany) - although some Scots (the Jacobites) didn't accept this so they rebelled). Oh, but they were still independent until later when Scotland went bankrupt and had to dissolve its parliament and submit to rule from London (Actually Westminster which is not the same as the City of London (which is not the same as "London")). Now recently the Scots have got their own parliament and much of the decision making is done there. All this time though they've stayed a separate country that happens to be part of er... another country.\
I haven't even mentioned Ireland...


Wales + England + Scotland = Great Britain
United Kingdom = Great Britain + Northern Ireland

TL:DR
The UK is basically like a non-linear Matroshka doll filled with other countries.
posted by atrazine at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2010 [56 favorites]


I am your typical non-football fan Yank. I did however watch today's match. Maybe I am biased or ignorant or both, but I thought the boys from the colonies had more time of possession, their defense was better than the fellows in white and we had some good opportunities including hitting the wood thing that holds the net. I thought the guys in blue outplayed them or in the least played as well. The first goal of the match in the fourth minute was nice and highlighted the Yanks not quite being ready yet, but after that they settled down.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2010


the event normally referred to as "Guy Fawkes Night" shall be designated "Robert Green Night."

Because so many people lose their hands playing with fireworks?

the US keeper was amazing . . . FAIT ACCOMP-THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS

Not a bad impression of Everton's own.
posted by yerfatma at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2010


Beckham sure seems to spend a lot of time on the injured list. Is he unlucky? A wimp? Or just old?
posted by Joe Beese at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2010


Beckham has a busted achilles. He's not in the playing squad, he's there for... actually I don't know why he's there. Moral support? The 2018 bid?
posted by afx237vi at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2010


afx237vi: "Beckham has a busted achilles. He's not in the playing squad, he's there for... actually I don't know why he's there. Moral support? The 2018 bid?"

Assistant coach, apparently.

Also: ESPN needs to update Green's Career Low.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2010


BuzzZZzZzZzzZZZzzUSAUSANEVERNEVERSHALLBESLAVESzzZZzUSAUSARULEBRITANNIA
posted by pyrex at 3:13 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


and Rooney was, except for the last 10 minutes or so, a non-factor.

Yeah, what was up with that? Did someone slip him a valium before the match?



Demerit had him sewed up most of the match. England may have the better players, but I'd argue that USA has the better team. Demerit, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Donovan, and Howard all had good games, IMHO.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before the match, it was a question of which would betray their team more, the suspect US defense or the suspect British keeper? Turned out they both did.

That said, the US ran far more counters than they usually do in the second half. Since 1950, the US strategy has been exactly the same -- play 11 in the box and play for the draw. Too bad Charlie Davies wasn't available. Altidore has great quickness, but he can't carry this team, not until he realizes that he could, and not without another threat in the middle or up front.

Jay DeMerit did a great job keeping Rooney quiet. Good news is they won't face someone with his talent in either Slovenia or Algeria, so maybe that will free the midfield to play up a bit.

It'll be interesting to see how Slovenia and Algeria play out. Slovenia is a great defensive team, but they know they can outrun and outgun the Algerian defenders. Will they play up?
posted by dw at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2010


I could only handle watching it with the sound turned off. If I were there in person I would have beaten several people to death with their own vuvuzelas.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 3:33 PM on June 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


NPR did a story on the, Joseph Gaetjens, the guy who scored the goal in the 1950 match. He was Haitian and apparently brought in as a ringer. His personal story did not end well.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:35 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


(what is it with the US and monster goalkeepers? Brad Friedel and his performance in 2002 is the reason I became a soccer fan, and Howard's performance today was right up there)

I've read a number of theories about this, and two of the more convincing are a) kids in the US grow up playing sports that involve using your hands to control the ball, like basketball or baseball, and thus they're more suited to playing the position that involves that aspect of the game and b) goalkeepers rely far more on athleticism and far less on ball skills than any other position, and the US tends to produce soccer players that have world class athleticism and mediocre ball skills.
posted by Copronymus at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Copronymus:

I'd agree with those. I also think that goaltending is a "big guy" position, and Americans have an almost innate understanding of how to use large players in sports.

(I was a goaltender for most of my youth, so I'm probably biased.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought Rooney and Donovan were both sparkling even if none of their plays were completely spectacular. You don't dominate every game that you play in. That's not how it works, but it makes for easy media commentary. "What happened to Rooney?" "What happened to Ronaldhino?" "What happened to Rondo?" That's what you'll hear if they don't create magic every game. Yet the non-magical plays that they make are still huge and game changing.

Side note1: The reason Rooney became more of a factor in last ten minutes was that he started coming back into the midfield to gather the ball. That makes him more of a factor but it is not a good long-term strategy.

Side-note 2: I think Green will be somewhat let off the hook as the tourney goes on. The way the ball skips on that grass is pretty intense and will cause more problems for keepers. Notice that after his goal Garrard slid on his knees for around 25 yards. What struck me more than his butterfingers was how unathletic he looked when trying to recover.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 3:47 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know about Donovan. I know he's an excellent player, but to me it seemed like his whole game was focused on the 2-meter wide strip at the edge of the field. Also, USA seemed very tentative about approaching England's goal, with so many of their shots taken practically from midfield. I think USA played respectably but will have to step up on owning the ball and taking more aggressive attacks on the goal. I still think they have a decent chance of making it into the quarter-final but they can't depend on the kind of slip ups that happened today.
posted by contessa at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The very fact an athletic event can end without a winner is anathema to my American sensibilities. Play until they collapse from exhaustion, but for the love of God, don't end in a tie.
posted by geoff. at 4:00 PM on June 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


"...the second half, which was totally underwhelming to watch..."

It looked pretty clear to me that USA was hedging their bet and playing more defensively all around in the second half. The forwards were much farther off the ball than they would have been had they been pushing the offense. They were playing an opportunistic offense, and had a couple of decent breakaways, but I am certain they were deliberately countering an anticipated full-press offense from England.

If the USA's defensive backfield were more certain, that would have freed up the USA offense to play full on, and its safe to say USA could have scored again. Though the second half looked pretty lackluster, it looked to me like England were having a tough time getting good shots. It was both the defensive effort and some good luck for USA that England didn't score again. Conservative soccer is pretty ugly, but USA did a great job of preserving the draw.

I was surprised to see, and I think England was too, that USA's tackling was so good. And Tim Howard was spectacular.
posted by Xoebe at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is an excellent profile of the US goaltender in last week's New Yorker (sadly not online in its entirety). Apparently he has Tourette's Syndrome and doesn't take meds because he says it helps him keep sharp for his job tending goal. It's a pretty great article about him and futbol in general.
posted by hippybear at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2010


I know he's young/inexperienced, but is there any other reason England didn't go with Hart? IMO he's had better EPL form this season than either Green or James.
posted by juv3nal at 4:18 PM on June 12, 2010


Lampard was totally invisible and should be getting more blame than he's gotten. I also didn't understand the Milner substitution. If the man wasn't fit 30 minutes in, Capello should have known that before the game.
posted by Kwine at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2010


I don't know if Milner was fit or not, but I do know that Cherundolo and Donovan were making him look silly.

England certainly had more possession and chances, but this was intentional on the part of the US (particularly in the second half). With the exception of Heskey's breakaway, all of England's chances were from poor angles, far from goal (not going to beat Howard from there- sorry Frank), or in an absurd amount of traffic.

Bradley's not a great coach, but that was a well-executed game plan on the part of the US. It seems like that "bend don't break" thing never works for us, but maybe we have the personnel to pull it off now. Mexico has done this to us for years (with decreasing success). I think the draw was a just result.
posted by GodricVT at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2010


The very fact an athletic event can end without a winner is anathema to my American sensibilities. Play until they collapse from exhaustion, but for the love of God, don't end in a tie.

I don't quite get this attitude. If anything, a draw in the first game of a group play intensifies the excitement. (In the cup play that follows there is no such thing as a draw.) It's a bit like a chess tournament: the more initial draws the more unpredictable it gets.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally a British spill we can be happy about.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:58 PM on June 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


Our goal was totally, TOTALLY the hand of G-d. Absolutely.

Or maybe someone else helped.
posted by mcdoublewide at 4:59 PM on June 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


For 2010, the event normally referred to as "Guy Fawkes Night" shall be designated "Robert Green Night."

I suppose that will be some small relief for the Catholics this year.
posted by Elmore at 5:07 PM on June 12, 2010


We looked down the river and we see'd the British come.
And there must have been a hundred of'em beatin' on the drum.
They stepped so high and they made the bugles ring.
We stood by our cotton bales and didn't say a thing.
posted by bwg at 5:07 PM on June 12, 2010


I most definitely agree that Lampard was a non-factor, and he can't really play like that if we want to progress in the tournament. We need him and Gerrard to form a very strong partnership and deliver good balls through the midfield from as many angles as possible.

I don't think Rooney was much to blame, he didn't get a lot of good balls through and the US defense was clearly keyed on him which is probably why Heskey got his chances. I think that Jagz-Mario has it right. Rooney took more of a ball control role after Crouch came on. I don't think he was any more effective in that position, he just had the ball on his toe a little more.

The US defense, especially Demerit and Onyewu, really did a good job in one-on-one matchups, and when mistakes were made, Howard was there to make some very strong saves.

Now is the time for that famous mental fortitude that Fabio Capello is supposed to have instilled in the team. England needs to rally, and Capello will have a big decision to make about whether he sticks with Green or puts David James in for the next match.
posted by dnesan at 5:16 PM on June 12, 2010


I do feel sorry for Rob Green, mistakes like that happen to every player. It's just that when it's the goalie that makes the mistake, the consequences tend to be pretty severe. Poor guy. Good to see that Capello realised that too, and didn't pull him off at halftime.

I suspect that Milner was subbed off in part because he got booked, and one thing England cannot afford to do in the group stages is have a man suspended for a red card. He wasn't making much of an impact, anyway.

Good game, on the whole, with some excellent play from England in the second half - if it hadn't been for some fantastic work by Howard it could all have been over. I was impressed by the American sportsmanship as well, with very little in the way of rolling around in mock agony or yelling at the ref. Looks like the USA team are continuing their improvement - they're already pretty good, and could be a major world-class force before too long.
posted by ZsigE at 5:20 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, it's not too late (I think) to join the MeFi Fantasy World Cup League.
posted by 256 at 5:47 PM on June 12, 2010


ZsigE: "I was impressed by the American sportsmanship as well, with very little in the way of rolling around in mock agony or yelling at the ref."

Thanks to ESPN's super slo-mo replays, I was able to study all the subtleties of Rooney's "whingeing yob" expression when he didn't get a foul call he wanted.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2010


So, does this mean Obama owes Cameron a beer?

Please don't let it be Bud Light again. I tell you, the Prez needs a beer intervention.
posted by darkstar at 6:09 PM on June 12, 2010


dnesan: most definitely agree that Lampard was a non-factor, and he can't really play like that if we want to progress in the tournament. We need him and Gerrard to form a very strong partnership and deliver good balls through the midfield from as many angles as possible.

That raises the interesting question of what to do with Gareth Barry, if he's fit. Do you put him in the centre, where he can pass and shield, and move Gerrard to the left, where his pace will allow him to get forward, or do you put Barry on the left and keep Gerrard in the centre, and rely on Cole to overlap the relatively static Barry?

The left side of midfield still seems to be a weakness - Milner and Wright-Philips both failed to convince, and it's really hard to gauge how well the strikers are doing if the flanks are misfiring. Lennon had some good moments, I think, and did enough to keep his place. It may be time for Capello to try Joe Cole on the left, but then what do you do with Gerrard, Lampard and Barry in the two midfield places?
posted by DNye at 6:10 PM on June 12, 2010


wtf are you people talking about
posted by camdan at 6:13 PM on June 12, 2010


baseball.
posted by grubi at 6:27 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Goal aside, Gerrard didn't show much either, and Lampard at least had an excellent season in the Premiership. He has to be in the first 11. I wouldn't mind seeing Barry and Lampard in the center with Cole and Lennon on the wings going forward. It would feel like a panic move to pull Gerrard at this point though. Another trouble is that the competition might not be strong enough going forward tell the tale until the knockout stages. Not an enviable position for Capello.

As an American who was thrilled to see our side luck into the draw, I should give some credit to Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley, who looked in top form (Clark looked out of position on the goal, but I blame it half on bad luck and half on Bocanegra's tentative decisionmaking). Until we develop some world class technicians, strong effort from our defensive midfielders will be required to hang in against top competition.

I still think England takes the group.
posted by Kwine at 6:30 PM on June 12, 2010


I dunno. Firm footing on dry land, unlike hockey... don't need to dribble like in b-ball, don't need to hit a sphere going almost 100mph with a stick... soccer should be higher scoring.

What makes soccer boring to most Americans is the lack of an obvious strategic element - you have flashes of individual brilliance, but you don't have The Big Play, where the coach concocts something special using the combined talents of his team to their best effect. This is what makes this year's NBA playoffs really something special. Phil Jackson didn't bother to bring his zen with the kind of powerhouse team he has, and Doc Rivers is finally letting his X-and-O basketball smarts shine with an old-and-crippled and young-and-weird kind of team. (Rondo and Big Baby are the strangest teammates since Bugsy and Dikembe. When I saw Glen Davis was drafted by a Boston team, I thought for sure they meant the Patriots got him as a defensive end...)

I sometimes wonder what would happen if a pair of hockey coaches, or basketball coaches, each took over a soccer team. Real cerebral X's-and-O's kinda guys, bringing American-sports-style strategic and tactical innovation to the game. Soccer is too often decided by talent on the field, not smarts on the sideline. This probably makes sense to the rest of the world, but not to Americans.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2010


(Err... Musgy and Manute, I mean.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:44 PM on June 12, 2010


The very fact an athletic event can end without a winner is anathema to my American sensibilities. Play until they collapse from exhaustion, but for the love of God, don't end in a tie.

Yeah, when I played little league soccer, if there was a tie we would always do a Sudden Death tiebreaker. Is this not the norm for pro football and World Cup games?

/ignorant Yank
posted by zardoz at 6:47 PM on June 12, 2010


(Err... Musgy and Manute, I mean.)

More like Manute and Minute amirite
posted by Nothing... and like it at 7:13 PM on June 12, 2010


I don't know what annoys me more about scruss' comment, its aggressive pointlessness or that it's currently got 8 favourites.

Thanks for continuing to chip away at my pride at being half-Scottish.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 7:31 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The NFL still lets games end in ties. The NHL and College football still should (tie games in college were really one of the things that was great about the game).

But don't worry the games only end in ties in group play. Soon enough you guys can start complaining about penalty kicks as the tie-breaker.
posted by oddman at 7:35 PM on June 12, 2010


More like Manute and Minute amirite

Guess which one is a slam-dunk machine, and which one scores consistent 3's from so far outside the paint, he had to put a zipcode on the ball.

WRONG!

Best freakshow pairing in basketball, evarrr...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2010


"Hi, I'm Bill Buckner."
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Robert Green."
"YERRR OUT!"
"Who's that guy?"
"Jim Joyce. It's a long story."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, slap*happy could you be more condescending?
posted by oddman at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2010


Is this not the norm for pro football and World Cup games?

Ties are the norm for pool play and general league play, which is the current round of the World Cup. For tournament play (i.e. the next round of the World Cup) where a winner must advance, there will be sudden death overtime and penalty kicks in the case of a tie.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:40 PM on June 12, 2010


Please don't let it be Bud Light again. I tell you, the Prez needs a beer intervention.

When Obama and Harper bet on the Olympic Hockey final, it was Yuengleng at stake, which is at least better than Bud Light and more patriotic. Of course I'd like to see him send over a case of something more obscure and higher quality, like Brooklyn Lager. It'll probably be Sam Adams though.

(On a related note, I should probably update my Firefox version if the spellcheck is sitll not recognizing "Obama.")

Anyway, I'm with Slap*Happy on this one. I'm trying to get into Soccer (and Hockey, to a lesser extent. I've chosen the Habs as my teams only because I like Montreal and they'll be playing the Caps a few times next year) but both games are tough for my American sports sensibilities.

Not just because they are low-scoring, mind you. Americans can get into defensive battles just fine. A perfect Baseball game would go on forever with nobody scoring, obviously, and highly defensive Football or Basketball games ratchet up the tension. And that's what Americans are trained to look for in sports: tension.

It's easy to find in Baseball, of course. Every pitch is a new situation to ponder before it gets going. Similarly with Football, as much as Rugby is more badass for the continued play, the gridiron allows for every play to require thought about what the spectator themselves would do in the situation. Basketball keeps moving, but the five-on-five aspect makes it easier to follow and see patterns in how offense and defense are matching up. Hell, during the Olympics, Americans even started paying attention to Curling, for god's sake.* But it makes sense - every rock is a new situation and the question of 1.) what to do and 2.) whether the athlete can pull it off.

Soccer is tougher because, well, we don't really grow up watching it so most of us aren't familiar with the different positions, and thus can't follow the strategy very well. The necessary wide-angle shots keep us from being able to tell who's who on a team aside from the goalie, and scoring seems to come out of nowhere most of the time. This isn't to say that we couldn't understand it, just that we aren't very good at watching it yet (and the sorry state of the MLS means that most of us only try to do so every four years, really.)

Hockey suffers from almost the exact same problems, except that it has the advantage of being violent and the disadvantage of being even harder to follow because the puck is harder to see, and US networks tend to film it way to closely to understand the action. (NBC did the smart thing, by the looks of it, by using Canadian crews to cover the Olympics, making Hockey suddenly more accessible through wide-shots and thus bumping up the NHL's profits this year as a result.)

We are a country that loves sports, and we have room in our heart for Soccer, but first we need to know how to watch it, and most of us simply don't know how yet.

*Or maybe this was just in DC, where the Olympics matched up with everybody being stuck inside for a week due to massive blizzards
posted by Navelgazer at 7:41 PM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Slap*Happy- I say this as a pretty serious baseball, hockey, and (college) basketball fan: that's a really unfortunate misapprehension you have there, and a pretty offensive way of expressing it.

I guess soccer is one of those things about which it's stylish to be willfully, smugly ignorant on Metafilter.

(not a dig at people who are making a genuine attempt to understand the game- enjoy the tournament!)
posted by GodricVT at 8:04 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, slap*happy could you be more condescending?

Yes. Yes, I can.

Rugby and Soccer bore the snot out of americans because their strategic elements are withered and ethereal to the point where they might not exist at all.

Baseball: sending in Roberts to pitch-run, to steal a base. Mo knew he was going to try to steal. Posada knew he was going to to try to steal. Everyone in Fenway knew he was going to to try to steal. Everyone watching at home knew he was going to try to steal. Zen Buddhist monks on isolated mountaintops in Tibet who had never heard of baseball were suddenly aware that an African-American/Japanese man was going to try to steal a base.

He. Steals. It. Anyway.

Tension! Anticipation! Strategy! Athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes! Baseball.

Football: Following a smart and stifling defensive effort, Tom Brady organizes a One Minute March on Belichick's playbook, and Adam Vinatieri has to come through in the clutch to win the championship. Lather, rinse, repeat three times.

Tension! Anticipation! Strategy! Athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes! Football.

Soccer: A 1-1 tie! In a championship! Bleah. What that tells me is that the teams have top talent, and crap coaching. Too much fiddling with the ball, not enough solid strategy to negate their best defensive players.

Boring. Convention-bound. Field is too big. Rules too constricting. Soccer!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


This isn't to say that we couldn't understand it, just that we aren't very good at watching it yet (and the sorry state of the MLS means that most of us only try to do so every four years, really.)

Interesting idea Navelgazer. I don't disagree with the premise (although youth participation is huge and that there are teenagers who are younger than MLS and have had access to soccer on TV their entire lives, so maybe this is ultimately generational), but I do think that people need to give MLS a chance. The league is much better than most people give it credit for (quality of play has improved 10-fold in the last decade), and nothing will get you into the game like actually going to one and abandoning yourself to joining the collective will of the supporters culture. It's healthy, it's humanizing, and it's fun as hell. MLS may not be perfect, but it's our league and it's getting better all the time.

Of course, being in DC you may want to stay away for a bit. United are truly terrible this year. Maybe wait until you're on a business trip to LA or Salt Lake or Columbus or something.
posted by GodricVT at 8:15 PM on June 12, 2010


Well that's another problem - I'm pretty sure I'd want to cheer for United (DC, not the Manchester monster)
posted by Navelgazer at 8:21 PM on June 12, 2010


Guess which one is a slam-dunk machine,

Neither of them, really. As far as I can recall, Muggsy never actually dunked in a game (although he apparently did in practice) and although Bol was certainly capable of dunking, and did many times, he wasn't what you'd call a "dunk machine" because he was just too damn frail which led to a whole lot of getting muscled away from the basket. Also, legend has it the first time he tried to dunk he lost a couple of teeth in the net on his way down.

On the other hand, he did kill a lion with a fucking spear, which makes him pretty badass.

Maybe you're thinking of 5'7" Spud Webb, who was in fact a dunk machine of sorts.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 8:22 PM on June 12, 2010


Slap*happy, that you don't understand what is going on does not imply that there is nothing going on.

Read the earlier posts in this thread in which people are clearly assessing and discussing the complexities of the game, including, yes, strategy.
posted by oddman at 8:31 PM on June 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


I am continually baffled that people can claim soccer is boring, and yet profess to enjoy baseball.

That said, one thing I think is holding America back from fulling embracing the World Cup is the lack of a charismatic star. I'm sorry, but Landon Donovan? Just, no. By all accounts he's a talented player, but I've seen dentists do their job with more flair. I don't think soccer per se is boring, but the way the US team plays it sure is.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:33 PM on June 12, 2010


empath Every time I hear someone talk about soccer or cricket, I have the subtle suspicion that I'm being put on.

Cricket was once the national pastime and was popular in the US for close to 300 years.
posted by mlis at 8:37 PM on June 12, 2010



I sometimes wonder what would happen if a pair of hockey coaches, or basketball coaches, each took over a soccer team. Real cerebral X's-and-O's kinda guys, bringing American-sports-style strategic and tactical innovation to the game. Soccer is too often decided by talent on the field, not smarts on the sideline. This probably makes sense to the rest of the world, but not to Americans.


I'm sorry. I can't let this go. Are you suggesting that only Americans have had the brilliant idea to use strategy in sports and that non-Americans are too stupid to understand that they're watching a bunch of mindless savages? Do you think that if Bill Belicheck or Phil Jackson were to become a soccer coach he'd take over the world with his tactical genius? Because all those other soccer coaches in other countries (and, in fact, the good old USA!) haven't been spending the last 125 years thinking about tactics?

There are tactics. They are incredibly sophisticated and fluid. They are developed on the training ground over weeks and months and years and are changed on the field during the game by both players and coaches. You just don't know what they are.
posted by GodricVT at 8:38 PM on June 12, 2010 [22 favorites]


Oh, I mean I watched today's game, and loved moments of it. Howard was amazing, all the more so for basically having cleats punch through his chest cavity and then continuing on in top form. My personal favorite moment was when on of the Englishmen kicked a shot straight past him, though, and one of the US defenders was able to swoop behind it and kick it away. Whenever I stop to watch Soccer I find moments that I love, but I still don't have a deeper understanding of it which could lead to true appreciation.

Hopefully that will change soon.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:38 PM on June 12, 2010


Rugby and Soccer bore the snot out of americans because their strategic elements are withered and ethereal to the point where they might not exist at all.

Your ignorance and arrogance are not, in fact, the fault of the sports you don't understand.
posted by rodgerd at 8:41 PM on June 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


I don't think soccer per se is boring, but the way the US team plays it sure is.

Ah, it comes and goes. Certainly they weren't too entertaining today (except maybe the way Dempsey freed himself for that shot by turning Gerrard twice and maybe Altidore's run) but the US did some beautiful things in qualifying. And Donovan...also comes and goes. He was really pinned back by his defensive responsibilities today, but talk to an Everton fan about how dynamic he can be in the right environment.
posted by GodricVT at 8:43 PM on June 12, 2010


Your ignorance and arrogance are not, in fact, the fault of the sports you don't understand.

This is my hope. Baseball is fascinating to those who understand it, despite being mind-numbing to those who don't. It took me a long time to really get into sports. I liked Basketball as a kid because I could play it despite being the shortest kid around (I focused on being extremely irritating on defense) and was growing up in Houston at the exact time to be watching the Rockets. (Speaking of which dammit dammit dammit why couldn't Yao have turned out to be as awesome as we'd all hoped? I mean on the court. He's still a great example of a human being.)

It wasn't until college (film school, at that) that I really started paying attention to sports again, though. My roommate (a gay Indian kid who I wish I still kept in touch with) was a huge Buffalo Bills fan, and got me into them. Even though I didn't really understand (American) Football, he was able to talk me through it enough to get me engaged and excited. Later I started paying attention to the Red Sox, during the Nomar years, and fell in love with that. (I broke my first cell phone by excitedly mimicking a particularly good Pedro Martinez pitch without realizing I still had the phone in my hand.)

So I have high hopes for Soccer and Hockey - I just know that I need to 1.) have a team that I want to invest myself in, and 2.) have someone there to explain things to me when I don't get it. Someone crazy excited by the action. I respect sports now as a beautiful expression of human joy and interaction for the sheer hell of joyously competing with other humans, but I need to understand the strategy before I can truly fall in love with a sport.

(Again, like with Curling. This year's Olympic coverage was enough to make me understand Curling enough to make me have immediate opinions about the players and strategy involved. And now I love Curling. Soccer should certainly have a chance.)
posted by Navelgazer at 8:56 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I refute your "Don't understand, stoopit Murcan!" palliatives with the response that cricket fascinates the hell out of me, and most Americans. The problem is that it's too cerebral in the other direction... we understand there is strategy in who bowls to whom when, and where to place the guys in the field, but there are too many moving pieces to keep us focused.

Cricket: we don't understand because we're too dumb.

Soccer: we don't understand because we see a naked emperor.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sometimes wonder what would happen if a pair of hockey coaches, or basketball coaches, each took over a soccer team. Real cerebral X's-and-O's kinda guys, bringing American-sports-style strategic and tactical innovation to the game.

I want you to read this blog, this book, and learn about this man. Then I'd like you to understand that these "real cerebral guys" have always existed in the sport, as you might expect that the biggest sport in the world attracts superlative worldwide talent, and that the problem with football isn't that no one's thought to apply American ingenuity to it. This is the sort of American exceptionalism that makes my teeth itch.

Last year Real Madrid spent over 230 million dollars to buy two players. Not to pay those two players, you understand, as fees to those players' previous employers in order to earn the right to pay those two players some very silly money. This was all done in a failed bid to win a couple trophies. Do you really, honestly believe that if all they needed to do was ask a hockey coach what those weird Xs and Os are about, they wouldn't have done so? Do you really believe that there must be no strategy or tactics, just because you can't recognize any in a game you don't understand, don't like, and have never studied? American football looks to me like a bunch of armored slugs slamming into each other at high speed, but even I'm not stupid enough to think that's all there must be to it.
posted by Errant at 9:05 PM on June 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Rugby and Soccer bore the snot out of americans because their strategic elements are ...

... based on different fundamental principles. Not better, not worse. Just different.

Quick example...

* American football is based on the principle of, from a series of set plays, segmenting the field into zones, and then applying force to those zones, into which you can deliver the ball. "On the snap, you block left, and I'll run into the hole you create in the defense."

* Rugby is based solely on the position of the ball. You are attempting to move the ball into open positions that you find and exploit by moving the ball around and supporting its position (i.e. a ruck, or a scrum). You cannot create an opening by any application of force -- you can't block -- other than moving the ball itself.

Because Americans don't watch a lot of rugby, aren't taught a lot of rugby, we don't generally grok these underlying principles on a fundamental level.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:06 PM on June 12, 2010


Cool Papa Bell - I try to understand Rugby every time their World Cup comes up as well, but ancestral pride has me cheering for Wales, and that just never goes well.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:11 PM on June 12, 2010


I still only support two football teams: Scotland, and whoever England's playing.

In order for your team to get to the final, England have to keep winning.

Think about it.
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:19 PM on June 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Last year Real Madrid spent over 230 million dollars to buy two players...

And the Florida Marlins have appeared in the World Series twice in five years, and generally made a menace of themselves in the post season, with a total salary a fraction of that, marked by frequent fire-sales. They murdered the Yankees, a team with roughly twice the payroll, and they did it how? The Tampa Bay Rays are how far out in front of teams with how fat a payroll?

Teamwork!! Strategy! Athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes!

Yes, absolutely yes, soccer coaches need to get over their reps and need to ask a hockey coach how to neutralize the best defenders on the other team with pattern, practice and execution. The first team that mans-up, and has a superstar that spends more time in the film room than on the tabloid front pages, and does exactly what a toothless canadian tells them to, will completely own their big-money rivals.

Don't make me start comparing NASCAR to F1. The both of us won't like it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:24 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Baseball is the only sport I know that even "hardcore fans" fall asleep to while watching on tv. How's that for "teamwork!! strategy! athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes!" for you?
posted by Arbac at 9:30 PM on June 12, 2010


It was a boring game for me - but that's because England is generally boring to watch. I thought Heskey played really well, finishing aside (and we knew that already, plus he really hasn't had the games at Aston Villa), but his presence on the field means that most of all England knows to do is pump the ball upfield to his head. There's no joy to England's play, no flair, no imagination. Once pumping it up to Heskey or behind the full-backs stop working, they run out of ideas. (And players like Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and, if he had come, Theo Walcott - all they seem to know to do at the moment is run straight ahead as fast as possible. They are fast - but not much more.)

On the other hand, England does seem to play much better when they are facing oppositions they don't think are below them, like Argentina or Brazil. So the ability is there. (and I'm referring to their possible complacence rather than any disrespect to the American team on my part - I was supporting USA in the match against Brazil in the Confederations Cup, where they were absolutely awesome - now that was a great game. The second American goal was beautiful counter-attacking football.) I hope Capello's regretting not taking Adam Johnson though - and where was Joe Cole? Was he injured?

I was saying to my girlfriend before the game that I hoped it would be a draw, because if either of them won their country's media would be insufferable. Glad to see South Korea doing well though. Park Ji-Sung deserves some glory for once.

And you know, I look at many popular American sports and cannot really see their appeal, but I know enough to know that that's my own ignorance about the sports, not having spent enough time with them. Some of the criticisms here sound about as knowledgeable as the American right-wing anti-football rants linked in the other thread. But I know many Americans already love football (soccer, whatever you like to call it), and I know it's only a matter of time.
posted by catchingsignals at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2010


Can we just ignore slap*happy? He's clearly just trolling at this point. (Either that or he's freakishly obtuse. Either way, best to let it go.)
posted by oddman at 9:40 PM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Teamwork!! Strategy! Athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes!

Have you seen Barcelona or Arsenal play when they are on form? Or how Jose Mourinho neutralised the Barcelona team this year in the Champions League? Or the magic when a lower-league team beats the multimillionaires in the FA Cup? Or hell, go back to your own American team, in the Confederations Cup Final game I linked to - they took on Brazil, and nearly won in style. If you still think you know better - well, your loss I guess. Most of the rest of the world (and more and more of the US) can enjoy it without you.
posted by catchingsignals at 9:46 PM on June 12, 2010


As a BTW, I wasn't interested in sports until I was shanghaied into a semi-pro rugby team in the late '90s (Oi! In the scrum, go for the ball, and kill anyone on-field who doesn't have a North Irish or Afrikaans accent, yeah? Drinks on Coach!), and I didn't start following pro sports until 2000, and was rewarded by a Patriots Superbowl win. Since then, I've made an effort to understand the other local pro-sports, including soccer, which New England traditionally does very well in. If I can get the ins-and-outs of Baseball and Hockey, I can get the ins and outs of soccer.

There. Is. No. There. There. The emperor is starkers.

It's not arrogance. It's not ignorance. It's really obvious to any American sports fan what's wrong. You are one clued-in coach away from a Revolution (pun!) in soccer. Get ready for it, is all I'm saying.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:52 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, absolutely yes, soccer coaches need to get over their reps and need to ask a hockey coach how to neutralize the best defenders on the other team with pattern, practice and execution. The first team that mans-up, and has a superstar that spends more time in the film room than on the tabloid front pages, and does exactly what a toothless canadian tells them to, will completely own their big-money rivals.

I was asking whether you believed this was all that was required, with the implied question of whether you believe no one has asked for this wisdom anyway. It appears that you do. It also appears that you believe there are no upsets in football or that no football team currently knows how to neutralize a superior opponent. I thank you for answering my questions, and I won't trouble your made-up mind further.

There's no joy to England's play, no flair, no imagination.

This is something I noticed as well. I also thought their ball-handling and technical skill was well below the level we'd expect from a real contender. Their flank play was reasonably well-executed and they really took advantage of Bocanegra's relatively static fullback role, but their finishing was abysmal. Still, the US didn't offer too much either, and our formation was clearly designed to stifle Rooney and the midfield and hope for a good counterattacking opportunity. I thought Bradley, Clark, and Cherundolo had excellent games, although Bradley started to really lose control of his passing in the last 15 minutes and needs to retain discipline.

Overall, I'd say neither team really played their best games, and maybe the reason that it feels more like a win for the US is that their best game isn't so much in advance of what we saw tonight.

I was saying to my girlfriend before the game that I hoped it would be a draw, because if either of them won their country's media would be insufferable.

Both medias were pretty insufferable well in advance of the match. But I spent most of the morning with one of my best friends, a passionate ex-pat who insisted on playing "Three Lions 96" at high volume during all the halftimes and between games. Forget the media, every time I hear that "Football's coming home" chorus I want to beat England and then offer them a replay so we can beat them again, the arrogant so and sos.
posted by Errant at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2010


Sorry Slap*Happy, but you're talking out your ass.

Also, I'm American and I know a many many soccer fans, so your whole "We Americans" speeches are ridiculous.
posted by JenMarie at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wish Capello would have brought Adam Johnson instead of SWP. That's a player to watch. Also I really hope Bradley gives Gomez time on the pitch. That guy is pretty spectacular.
posted by JenMarie at 10:08 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the hell is goaltending?
posted by doublehappy at 10:17 PM on June 12, 2010


What the hell is goaltending?

Whatever Robert Green does instead of his proper job.
posted by Errant at 10:36 PM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


cricket fascinates the hell out of me, and most Americans.

Here's where your clothes came off, emperor.
posted by Cyrano at 10:40 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are one clued-in coach away from a Revolution (pun!) in soccer.

And you don't think we think the same thing about American Football or Baseball? The first ten or so NFL games I watched I was pretty much saying "Why the fuck don't they just get X to do Y?" and "Surely they don't need 11 players that all specialise in different types of kicking" every five minutes (during the ridiculous stoppages).

Once you start watching and understanding the game, you realise your ideas won't work, because you're ignorant. It's the Dunning-Kruger effect. This doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong in your statement, but you probably are.
posted by doublehappy at 10:52 PM on June 12, 2010


I refute your "Don't understand, stoopit Murcan!" palliatives with the response that cricket fascinates the hell out of me, and most Americans.

What the fuck? Look, I'm totally willing to give damn near anything a chance, but I'm going to have to see some rigorous polling, sales data, anything to back up a declaration that most Americans are fascinated by Cricket. I think most Americans barely know Cricket exists, and most of those who do, think of it vaguely as a kind of surreal British version of Baseball that somehow has been modified such that it takes approximately six months to finish a game, which fits in well with cultural notions about the English being hoity-toity and aristocratic.

Anyway, I'm really not much of a sports guy at all, so y'know, grain of salt and all that. But sweet fuck, you seriously believe that a sport that dominates nearly the attentions of most of the world has missed such an obvious possibility as "import hockey tactics?" That a sport that billions are sunk into, has somehow managed to avoid developing sufficiently advanced strategy and that everyone's just getting by on raw player talent - while every major American sport has tons of this magical! Strategic! Content! that you're all about? And that's ignoring the many Americans who've played in foreign football clubs, and the many foreigners who've played here? And somehow American players and coaches, who are presumably familiar with the many "more strategic" sports we prefer - have totally failed to bring this element in? You cite basketball as having a stronger stragetic element than football. Basketball's actually pretty popular in a lot of Europe; do you really think nobody in Germany or Spain thought "you know, there's elements here in the strategy that are totally lacking in our football play!" and brought it over?

You're basically declaring Americans to be Smarter Than Everyone Else, because we know how to follow Smart Sports, and the entire rest of the world plays a Stupid Sport, and it'd all be so much more awesome if they just learned from all the Smart American sports. You don't have to like football, but there's really no way to read your "There's no strategy, unlike even the relatively-similar games of hockey and basketball!" claim as anything but borderline-gibberish nationalistic arrogance.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Soccer is too often decided by talent on the field, not smarts on the sideline.

Please look up Steve Coppell and Reading's 2005-06 team, and then please shut up. That team had next to no talent, and they rip off a 106 point season in the Championship.

The Tampa Bay Rays are how far out in front of teams with how fat a payroll?

Teamwork!! Strategy! Athletic feats! Miraculous outcomes!


CLUB CONTROL!!!! YEARS OF HAVING TOP FIVE DRAFT PICKS!!!!

I mean, are you really that stupid about baseball? The Rays have been winning because they're swimming in cheap talent (especially since Chuck LaMarr was canned) they don't have to pay a ton for because they're in their first six years in baseball.

As for the 2003 Marlins, it was a similar case of having a lot of cheap young guys mixed in with cheap veterans that were sold off in 2004. And even now it's all about picking up the cheap talent off the scrap heap -- see Dan Uggla.

And if you had half a clue about sabermetrics, you'd know most everything sold as "teamwork!" and "strategy!" in baseball actually doesn't work. Hell, the guy you'd probably go on about as some master genius of a manager, Tony LaRussa, is actually really, really terrible at knowing what wins games (other than knowing that looking the other way when McGwire and Canseco were shooting roids was the thing to do).

What's "wrong" with soccer vis-a-vis Americans is really, really simple -- the Ivy League chose rugby football over association football in the late 19th century, and over the years that followed American football developed from those rugby rules. Soccer became more and more an "immigrants" game played by first generation Italian and Irish and German immigrants in the mill towns and the big cities. It took until my generation, the Gen Xers, for soccer to be played by white kids again. While it's not being embraced by the Boomers who grew up on the NFL and MLB, it is being embraced by Gen X and Gen Y and younger. One of the great things to see at MLS games is how young the crowds are. Seattle is drawing over 30,000 a game, and most of them are 40 or younger.

In conclusion, you're very dim about American sports and about soccer.
posted by dw at 11:11 PM on June 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Forget the media, every time I hear that "Football's coming home" chorus I want to beat England and then offer them a replay so we can beat them again, the arrogant so and sos.

PRO TIP: Next time it comes on, start singing this:

You're going home
You're going home
You're going
England's going home

ad infinitum

And make sure you make a point of really booming it out when England actually does get eliminated.
posted by dw at 11:14 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also thought their ball-handling and technical skill was well below the level we'd expect from a real contender. Their flank play was reasonably well-executed and they really took advantage of Bocanegra's relatively static fullback role, but their finishing was abysmal.

England are not a real contender, whatever they tell themselves. They do have a potential good keeper in Joe Hart, but I don't think Capello's going to play him. Defoe is one of the best finishers when he is playing well, and Crouch can be great as well. Rooney of course didn't get much of the ball or really perform at all yesterday.

and maybe the reason that it feels more like a win for the US is that their best game isn't so much in advance of what we saw tonight.

I dunno - I rate the USA much more highly than most people. Many of their players are from the Premier League, where they do just fine - I loved watching Landon Donovan play for Everton last season, and that Clint Dempsey goal for Fulham against Juventus was sublime. And they did beat Spain and played really well against Brazil in the Confederations Cup, even if Brazil never did get into top gear. They are not quite there yet, but I think in five to ten years' time we'll see a very strong American team. And then of course they will become arrogant, and I will start hating them.

"Three Lions 96" at high volume during all the halftimes and between games. Forget the media, every time I hear that "Football's coming home" chorus I want to beat England and then offer them a replay so we can beat them again, the arrogant so and sos.

British, living in England, totally understand. Forty years of hurt - get over it. Every time immigration comes up, people talk about what a small island Britain is - come to sports, and suddenly England/Great Britain should have the people to beat the rest of the world.

I would find it much easier to support England if they and their fans had the mentality of the Fulham or Portsmouth supporters last season - where it's just about effort, and adventure, and doing better than you thought you were capable of.

I wish Capello would have brought Adam Johnson instead of SWP. That's a player to watch.

Yeah, what happened to picking players on form rather than big names and reputation Capello? Many people are saying he's going to be the next Ryan Giggs. And Capello should have brought Scott Parker too, maybe instead of Michael Carrick - Scott Parker would have played his heart out, like Owen Hargreaves did.
posted by catchingsignals at 11:19 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn Errant, you've got Three Lions stuck in my head now.
posted by catchingsignals at 11:25 PM on June 12, 2010


And if you had half a clue about sabermetrics, you'd know most everything sold as "teamwork!" and "strategy!" in baseball actually doesn't work.

2004 says differently.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:35 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, that's not fair at all, as the Sox placed a ton of faith in Sabermetrics, but team coherence was, to my mind, the most important factor in them finally winning (which is also why I consider losing Nomar, their star player at the time, to be the best move they have made in recent years.)

No longer trying to defend Slap*Happy, but just saying that teamwork in baseball is still phenomenally important (see, the Nationals, who have great players but no idea of how to make them work as a single unit, vs the Yankees, who work like a damned machine together) and that strategy is still crazy-important, and that Sabermetrics are simply changing and evolving that strategy.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:41 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had the impression that the lopsidedness of futbal (soccer) was more due to the lack of any kind of salary cap, leading to several teams having explosive offensive output while the others have to cope with strategic management (aka boring defense) to win games.
posted by mannequito at 11:44 PM on June 12, 2010


I dunno - I rate the USA much more highly than most people.

Well, don't get me wrong, I like this USA team very much, and I think this tournament draw coupled with the specific talent we have on offer represent a very good chance to go "deep". It's just that for the US, going deep is a quarterfinal or (exceedingly unlikely) a semifinal finish; for the real powers it's winning the damn thing.

You've named our two most creative players, the guys that make the team go. I think Donovan's come on quite a lot since 2006, and I'm really impressed with his current maturity level -- compare his rather successful stint with Everton against woeful terms at Leverkusen and Munich, and I think it's down to his relatively new ability to work for the team and not feel like he's the biggest fish in a small pond. He's become a real leader for us. Clint Dempsey, well, I've been a fan of his forever, since his Revolution days. If he's not a complete midfielder, he's at least as close to it as any US player has come.

Having said that, those are those two guys. Most of the team are the sort of hard-working journeymen you see in the bottom half of the Premier League and the Championship: tough, committed, and willing, but also prone to basic lapses and technically mediocre. When was the last time you saw an American free-kick specialist? I think that one of the strengths of the US team is that they really seem to be more than the sum of their parts and they seem to come together nicely (arguably one of England's flaws is that the side so often seems less than their parts).

I do think there's a good chance for our side to find a new consistent level over the next decade. Whether they'll become arrogant about it -- I don't know about that. I never dismiss the possibility of arrogance in a sportsperson, but there's something about playing a sport that your countrymen couldn't care less about that keeps these guys on the ground, for the most part. Should the MLS or the bulk of the American players overseas start seeing anything like the kind of money we see in European leagues, that's when we'll see the arrogance come through, to my mind independently of the actual talent on display; ditto if the American media suddenly decide to start taking US soccer very seriously indeed. As it stands now, after we beat Spain, the few media outlets that cared started big-upping us so much that they decided we were the favorites in the final.

Which, as you do recall, was against Brazil. So, a taste of our tabloid future, perhaps.
posted by Errant at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2010


Alongside many good comments, there's an awful lot of shit being talked on this topic, and not just by Slap*Happy (who deserves a time-out for shitting on a post.) It seems that whenever football is discussed here, there's a significant proportion of Americans who are simply unable to think "no, not interested - next post." No, those morons have to come in and loudly proclaim how boring the sport it, or how there is not enough scoring, or that there's something wrong with ties, or American sports are just plainly better. To all of you, just FUCK OFF.

Now, onto the game. I thought before the game that a draw would not be a terrible result for either team, since they are clearly better than Algeria or Slovenia, and should both progress now. As an England fan, this draw feels like a loss, with USA's goal coming as it did. I've seen media reports on how badly England played, but I don't really agree with that at all. Apart from a spell just before half-time, I thought England actually played well enough to have won the game. A combination of poor finishing and inspired keeping by Howard kept England from scoring again. There are tweaks that need to be made, and I'd like to see Joe Cole start on the left, but overall 6/10.

The USA is a good team and I wouldn't be surprised to see them make at least the quarter finals. They defended pretty well for most of the match, and they have real speed up front. They will be a handful for most sides, and I think that will put England's performance in perspective.
posted by salmacis at 1:13 AM on June 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, what happened to picking players on form rather than big names and reputation Capello?

That's my biggest disappointment in all that Capello's done. "I will pick players who are in form, and playing for their clubs".

But we get Heskey instead of Bent (or Defoe instead of Bent, come to that), and SWP instead of Johnson (SWP: get ball. Head down. Run quick. Head down. Run into something. Fall over. Repeat), and Carragher or Upson in front of Dawson, and Carrick instead of Parker, Green starts, not Hart.

Feels like the same old same old.

Oh, and Slap*Happy, it must be so frustrating: if only the world would recognise your genius.
posted by reynir at 1:53 AM on June 13, 2010


It seems that whenever football is discussed here, there's a significant proportion of Americans who are simply unable to think "no, not interested - next post."

I'm trying to come up with an FPP about Twitter and soccer.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:47 AM on June 13, 2010


I've never watched a top-flight Football game live in my life before (although I have caught the odd Champions League game on TV) and I attended the France/Uruguay game on Friday night and to my virgin live football watching eyes the strategy and tactics were pretty clear: it's all about making space, moving into an advantageous field position and execution. What you see in TV is probably about half of what is happening on the field.
posted by PenDevil at 4:08 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Soccer became more and more an "immigrants" game played by first generation Italian and Irish and German immigrants in the mill towns and the big cities. It took until my generation, the Gen Xers, for soccer to be played by white kids again.

what
posted by kersplunk at 4:40 AM on June 13, 2010


I'll cop to being an American who doesn't completely understand all the nuances of soccer (but I'm getting there). Like a lot of Americans I know, watching MLS isn't exactly something I'm all that interested in, but World Cup soccer is awesome because of the intensity, the Olympics-esque camaraderie/competition, all that stuff. Maybe it'd be easier to get into if we got Champions League games broadcast over here.

I think one of the reasons why soccer is tough for some Americans to watch is the offsides rules. It really, really changes the dynamic of the game so that most of the action takes place in the middle of the field. I grew up around a lot of basketball, so the concept of offsides is alien to me. I got into a discussion with my friend the other day about offsides:

Me: Why do they even have offsides?
Him: Cause otherwise it would be stupid.
Me: No it wouldn't.
Him: Yes it would. They'd just kick it back and forth from one to the other and there'd be a lot more scoring.
Me: Uh-huh.
Him: And that would be boring.
Me: Would it?

As a basketball fan and someone who intuitively understands the concepts, tactics, and strategery of the game, I don't see what would be so bad about scrapping the offsides. I feel like it's at least worth a shot. What would happen? If someone gets behind your defense, then good for them. Next time, have a defender back.

HOWEVER, I totally understand that that would completely change soccer and it would be a different sport. The field is much bigger than the court in basketball, for one thing. You'd probably just end up with eight guys at one end, eight at the other, and a couple of midfielders who go either way. So ultimately it's about me getting my head around my understanding of "sport" and trying to appreciate the game as it is, not as I think it should/could be. Maybe that's what slap*happy was inartfully (and dickishly) getting at - he's not so much arguing that soccer could be coached better, but that soccer should be Americanized with more set plays and tactics - something that would definitely happen if you scrapped the offsides rule.

The other rule I find odd is the limited substitutions. What's the reasoning behind that? Seems like you'd have a much more robust end of game if your best players were all out there, fresh from having a good rest in the middle of the half.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2010


The USA is a good team and I wouldn't be surprised to see them make at least the quarter finals. They defended pretty well for most of the match, and they have real speed up front. They will be a handful for most sides, and I think that will put England's performance in perspective.

Especially in a weak group like this: the USA looks a lot better than what I've seen of Slovenia-Algeria so far. Let's remember the USA are ranked #15 in the world, and England are ranked #8, so a draw shouldn't be a huge surprise.

I'm not sure I can see the US getting past the second round though, given that they'll have to play Germany (or possibly Serbia) in the 2nd round, unless they can top the qualifying group.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2010


What you see in TV is probably about half of what is happening on the field.

Soccer and ice hockey both lose a lot when watched on TV. There is simply no substitute for being in the stadium.

I'm certain anyone (yes, even Slap*Happy) who hasn't watched professional soccer in person, would be astounded by the level of athleticism involved. For example, just about everyone on the pitch is sprinter-quick. TV doesn't capture that for some reason.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:36 AM on June 13, 2010


Empath: Can someone explain to me why it's England and not Great Britain playing?

Technically you're right that it should be the UK. The UK competes as one country in the Olympics, and in some other sports. Football (as well as rugby and cricket) are different: because England basically invented the rules of these games, and was the most influential country in their early development and in spreading the game around the world, they got to have their own team. And likewise the Scots (also important in the theoretical and tactical development of football) had their own team. Up until about 1950, England and Scotland were hugely important in football, and as a result, FIFA allows them to enter as separate teams.

This is one of the reasons why the UK doesn't enter a football team in the Olympics - there's a fear that this would lead to the countries being forced to join together in all football.

Sport in the UK and Ireland is fascinating:

Athletics etc: United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have teams.
Soccer: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Rep of Ireland have teams.
Cricket: England and Wales (together), Scotland, Ireland (N Ireland and Rep of Ireland combined, I believe) have teams. England also steal players from Ireland.
Rugby: England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (definitely N Ireland and Rep of Ireland combined) have teams. There's also the British and Irish Lions, made up of players from all five countries, in harmony.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:38 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I can see the US getting past the second round though, given that they'll have to play Germany (or possibly Serbia) in the 2nd round, unless they can top the qualifying group.

I think they have a decent chance to advance even from second place. Really technical teams tend to slaughter us: Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Netherlands. USA aren't going to clean-sheet those teams, and if it will take two goals to win, you can pretty much forget it. Germany and Serbia are happy to play stiff defense, rely on athleticism and more direct play and beat you 1-0, and that's a style that works in USA's favor.
posted by Kwine at 6:12 AM on June 13, 2010


I think one of the reasons why soccer is tough for some Americans to watch is the offsides rules.

There's also offside in hockey.
posted by iviken at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2010


I think one of the reasons why soccer is tough for some Americans to watch is the offsides rules.

There's also offside in hockey.


Good point. I think one of the reasons why soccer and hockey are tough for some Americans to watch is offsides.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:25 AM on June 13, 2010


Oh man, I hadn't even thought about the possibility of the US playing against Portugal until Kwine mentioned it just now... I think if that game happened, 'moonMan (who is Portuguese) and I would have to watch in different rooms. Possibly on different continents. And the game had better be a draw or there will be several days of not-speaking going on in our house.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2010


Hockey is only marginally more popular in the US than Soccer is. I forget that since I live in a rabid hockey town but hockey is half-forgotten in a lot of the US. The most viewed hockey game in the 00s only got 7 million viewers.
posted by octothorpe at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2010


Hockey's a weird one because where it is followed in the US, it is done so with a totally religious fervor.

I grew up in one of them cold climates and hockey was KING. You played hockey or you were some kind of filthy heathen. And Lord help you if you missed a Bruins game.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2010


As a basketball fan and someone who intuitively understands the concepts, tactics, and strategery of the game, I don't see what would be so bad about scrapping the offsides. I feel like it's at least worth a shot. What would happen? If someone gets behind your defense, then good for them. Next time, have a defender back.

Jonathan Wilson explains the offside law.

The offside law creates the passing game that is regarded as beautiful around the world. It's the foundation of team play in soccer and the basis of football tactics. It's not completely clear that abolishing it would lead to more scoring, but even if it did, it would do so by completely dismantling the rest of the sport, and that doesn't seem to me to be a great option.

The other rule I find odd is the limited substitutions. What's the reasoning behind that?

As with the offside law, the trend in substitutions is towards liberalization. There used to be substitutions only for missing players or injured players. In the 60s this was changed to allow tactical substitutes, then as time passed more substitutes and a deeper bench became legal. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the number expanded to 4 subs per game sometime in the next twenty or thirty years.

As to why there are limited subs: because soccer is a theoretically "seamless" game, you want your best players out there all the time, and you don't want stoppages of play to lengthen by 30 seconds or so every time the manager wants to make a change. In the NFL, there is an average of 11 actual minutes of play. So amending rules in soccer to make it more like football would arguably induce teams to play as little soccer as football teams do football, and I don't think that's a good thing.
posted by Errant at 8:07 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Errant, how are US networks supposed to sell you lite beer and monster pickup trucks if play doesn't stop every two minutes?
posted by octothorpe at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2010


But the substitutions in soccer appear to happen very quickly. In hockey, they're even quicker. No stoppages in play at all.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2010


octothorpe: The most viewed hockey game in the 00s only got 7 million viewers.

Only if you count NHL games. The most recent Olympic final had an average U.S. viewership of 27.6 million, second to the final game (Finland-U.S.) of the 1980 hockey medal round, which drew 32.8 million pairs of American eyes. But otherwise you're right - the U.S. doesn't give a rink-rat's ass about the Stanley Cup finals unless it's the fans of the cities playing.

grapefruitmoon: And Lord help you if you missed a Bruins game.

Now it's Lord help you if you watch a Bruins game.
posted by hangashore at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2010


And thanks for the link about offsides. To reiterate, I'm not saying that they should scrap offsides. Obviously you all have been tweaking the game for ages and have gotten it quite right. I'm just trying to describe a US perspective. I'd say that most here in the states are more familiar with basketball than soccer, and so the concept of offsides is alien to many of us when we first start watching. Like I said above, I do see how it benefits the play on the field.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2010


Offside. Singular.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 8:50 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Germany and Serbia are happy to play stiff defense, rely on athleticism and more direct play and beat you 1-0, and that's a style that works in USA's favor.

Very interesting point. USA were unlucky to lose to Germany in '02, as well. (Ghana just beat Serbia, so maybe you don't have to worry about the Serbs).

Oh man, I hadn't even thought about the possibility of the US playing against Portugal until Kwine mentioned it just now...And the game had better be a draw or there will be several days of not-speaking going on in our house.

If I read the draw right, there's good news and bad news: the good news is, USA can't meet Portugal until the semi-finals (and even if both teams make the semis, they might not meet). The bad news is that the match can't be a draw - if it is, they will go to penalties to find a winner.

As with the offside law, the trend in substitutions is towards liberalization. There used to be substitutions only for missing players or injured players


Indeed, and for quite a while substitutions weren't even allowed in the case of injury: so you had games where the goalkeeper would get concussed, and would have to swap places with another player, and then stand around on the wing looking dazed.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:13 AM on June 13, 2010


I keep getting confused by the count up clock. I guess that it's just what you're used to but it's disconcerting.
posted by octothorpe at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, that's not fair at all, as the Sox placed a ton of faith in Sabermetrics, but team coherence was, to my mind, the most important factor in them finally winning

Not the fact they led the AL in OBP, OPS, TB, and R that year?

And "team coherence" is a minor factor. The '86 Mets, the infamous "25 players, 25 cabs" team full of fighting primadonnas, won the World Series. The 2004 Mariners by some accounts had the best clubhouse chemistry of any team the last decade. They narrowing avoided losing 100 games that year.

The reason the Red Sox won the Series that year is they got lucky on that steal and then set about mashing the tired Yankees pitching. Also, the Cards were pretty terrible.
posted by dw at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2010


Metafilter: "a non-linear Matroshka doll filled with other countries"

"As to why there are limited subs: because soccer is a theoretically 'seamless' game, you want your best players out there all the time, and you don't want stoppages of play to lengthen by 30 seconds or so every time the manager wants to make a change. In the NFL, there is an average of 11 actual minutes of play. So amending rules in soccer to make it more like football would arguably induce teams to play as little soccer as football teams do football, and I don't think that's a good thing."

It would be interesting to see soccer with hockey style substitutions.
posted by Mitheral at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of the team are the sort of hard-working journeymen you see in the bottom half of the Premier League and the Championship: tough, committed, and willing, but also prone to basic lapses and technically mediocre.

That's how I'd describe most of the non-major sides, though. The US is not on the level of England, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, or the Netherlands. They are, however, better than Serbia. You could take the Argentinian reserves and build a quarterfinal team out of them. Can you say the same about Slovenia? Greece? Serbia?

One of the problems with US soccer is it's too often compared to the elite level of the game, which is a big disservice to how far the American game has come in the last 20 years. The MLS isn't the Premiership or the Bundesliga, but quality-wise it's maybe a notch below the English Championship, which UEFA considers a top-10 European league. The US "only" has Donovan and Bradley and Howard, but it one upon a time it had 2-3 guys who could be European journeymen, like Harkes and Reyna, while the rest of the team was of low quality.

The US had to essentially start from scratch with a league and a team in the 1980s. They've qualified for every World Cup since 1990 (save 1994, when they didn't have to). The MLS averages 17K a game -- the Championship averaged 18K a game this year. The US is no longer considered like New Zealand is being considered this year -- a friendly to warm up or cool down from the group because, God love them, they aren't going anywhere but home. They're considered a team you can't take lightly, just like Paraguay.

In 20 years the US went from Well-You-Finally-Showed-Up-Now-Go-Home to We-Can't-Make-Those-Jokes-Anymore-No-Fair. They're still a generation from being a threat to win it all and maybe two from consistently winning it, but that's not bad for a "fourth sport" and a "girls game" where the best athletes are playing in the NFL.
posted by dw at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


In the NFL, there is an average of 11 actual minutes of play. So amending rules in soccer to make it more like football would arguably induce teams to play as little soccer as football teams do football, and I don't think that's a good thing.

Until the 1950s, US football teams also had limited subs. The "two platoon" system was subject of heated debate for years. Free substitution didn't become the norm until the 1960s. The specialization you see now in the NFL and college football is a relatively recent invention.
posted by dw at 10:11 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Offside : Soccer :: Cherry-picking : basketball

Cherry-picking is legal in basketball because the game is a higher-scoring affair played on a smaller court. But think about it ... have you ever played a game of basketball with some jackass cherry-picking half the game and not felt like you were somehow being cheated by an exploit in the rules?

Now magnify that by 100 and you see why you have offsides rules in soccer and hockey ... and American football, for that matter.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I played basketball cherry-pickers would be handled with an elbow to the head.
posted by oddman at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2010


Today's New York Post headline: USA WINS 1-1
posted by painquale at 11:17 AM on June 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I forgot to say this earlier:

Soccer - offsides rule = Girls six-on-six basketball.
posted by dw at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good point. I think one of the reasons why soccer and hockey are tough for some Americans to watch is offsides.

there's also offsides in American football.
posted by inigo2 at 11:50 AM on June 13, 2010


Offside. Singular.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 4:50 PM on June 13

This.
posted by idiomatika at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2010


Ok, well, I'll stop asking questions about soccer now. Sorry if I offended you all with my curiosity!

there's also offsides in American football.

It's called offsides, yes, but it's not even remotely the same penalty as in soccer or in hockey. There is no penalty in basketball or football for an offensive player beating a defensive player down the field.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:18 PM on June 13, 2010


Soccer - offsides rule = Girls six-on-six basketball.

Good point ... and lacrosse has rules that similarly keep players relegated to portions of the field -- defenders cannot advance and become attackers, and vice versa, for example.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:34 PM on June 13, 2010


It's called offsides, yes, but it's not even remotely the same penalty as in soccer or in hockey. There is no penalty in basketball or football for an offensive player beating a defensive player down the field.

There's one for beating the ball down the field before the snap. It's like the soccer penalty, just in super slow motion since the game is always stopped.
posted by inigo2 at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2010


Germany and Serbia are happy to play stiff defense, rely on athleticism and more direct play and beat you 1-0, and that's a style that works in USA's favor.

Just saw Ger/Aus. We're screwed if we don't win our group.


Good point ... and lacrosse has rules that similarly keep players relegated to portions of the field -- defenders cannot advance and become attackers, and vice versa, for example.


I wonder how that would work in soccer.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:39 PM on June 13, 2010


I wouldn't want to live in a world where George Weah's 1996 length of the pitch wonder goal against Verona was disallowed.
posted by kersplunk at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2010


Well if you thought football was just blokes kicking a ball around then watch the repeat of that Oz/Germany game. Germany took the Socceroos to pieces.
posted by PenDevil at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just saw Ger/Aus. We're screwed if we don't win our group.

Keep in mind the US beat this exact same Australia team 4-1 last week. Germany is good, but Australia is really, really terrible.
posted by dw at 2:39 PM on June 13, 2010


I wonder how that would work in soccer.

Using the lacrosse set-up as an example, you would divide the field into thirds -- let's say you're attacking from left to right, and the three areas are left, midfield and right -- and then divide your team into thirds (attack, midfield and defense, and a fourth class for a single goalkeeper).

* Attackers can only be in the midfield and right.
* Midfielders can roam everywhere.
* Defenders can only be in the midfield and left.

Let's say there are three of each, just for the sake of being even.

Every attack is six on seven -- (three attackers, three midfielders) vs. (three midfielders, three defenders and a keeper). Your three defenders hang back on the left side of the field, marking the three opposing attackers, who also must hang back, because they cannot assist in defense.

There's no need for an offside rule, because you have defenders bound to their area, marking an equal number of attackers, who are also bound to a forward area.

Lacrosse further divides equipment by class, for game balance -- defenders have longer sticks, which are more useful for defense (checking players at a distance), but have a natural advantage on attack (long stick = more speed on a shot), which they can't really use to a full effect, because they can't approach the opposite goal.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:51 PM on June 13, 2010


Thanks CPB, but I meant how would you divy up the attacking and defending players? Two per side? Three? An extra man on defense? It's an interesting exercise.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:10 PM on June 13, 2010


I don't even like hockey...
posted by 29 at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


We did exactly what Cool Papa Bell is describing in training. Hated it, but it taught us to concentrate on our different roles. I wouldn't want to make a game of it, mind, but not having to cross the dreaded half way line was a blessing for me as a lumbering Center Half.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 4:20 PM on June 13, 2010


Obviously you all have been tweaking the game for ages and have gotten it quite right. I'm just trying to describe a US perspective.

For the record, I'm an American as well, so I haven't really tweaked anything. I just love football/soccer, like, a lot.

But the substitutions in soccer appear to happen very quickly.

They do sometimes. If a team is losing by a goal and wants to swap a midfielder for a striker, that will usually happen very quickly because the subbing team wants to get back to it asap. If a team is winning and wants to swap a striker for a defender, that will happen very, very slowly, because the subbing team wants to eat up time. Check out a few 1-0 games and see how many subs are used in stoppage time by the winning team, and how the referee rarely adds that time on to the end even though they should. Now imagine that happening every time the ball is played out. You'd have every winning player lumping it into row Z at any opportunity and then standing around while the subbed player walks slowly to the sideline. You'd also see a lot more managers suffering apoplectic fits. I admit the latter would be entertaining.

One of the problems with US soccer is it's too often compared to the elite level of the game, which is a big disservice to how far the American game has come in the last 20 years.

I totally agree with you. It appears that I'm coming off as saying that I think this US team is bad because they're not going to win the tournament, and that's not the case at all; I actually think it's rather good. I think it will be better in a decade or so, once MLS has slowed down expansion and clubs have a chance to consolidate and build without losing key players to the expansion draft every year (don't get me wrong, it helped out my Sounders quite a bit so I'm not naysaying it) and once there's a little more money in the league. Believe me, I remember the wilderness years of the 80s. I was too young then to appreciate how the collapse of NASL drove American soccer into the void, but I knew that no one I knew gave a shit about the sport or the World Cup, except for a couple friends. I don't think I would have imagined then that I'd be seeing every game live on mainstream TV just a few years later, or that kids could go into the sport thinking they might actually be able to make a career out of it. I think we have come quite a long way and that the future is bright. If we could get to the point where we finish in the QFs twice in a row, well, that's not any worse than England, is it? And I think that's eminently doable for this squad.

Ok, well, I'll stop asking questions about soccer now. Sorry if I offended you all with my curiosity!

Can't speak for anyone else, but you haven't offended me and you don't have to stop if you don't want to. I always appreciate a chance to talk about soccer.

Just saw Ger/Aus. We're screwed if we don't win our group.

Maybe. Australia played a strikerless formation today, looking to pack the midfield and reduce Germany's time and space on the ball, then counterattack via set pieces. Zonal Marking calls their normal formation a 4-2-3-1, but I saw today more of a 2-4-4-0, employing Tim Cahill as a false nine and two wingers per flank. What that means for the US is that Australia never really tested the German central defense, especially once Cahill got sent off, because their game plan was to defend deep, counterattack on the wings, and then either play in crosses or win corners/free kicks. So I don't think we have a good sense of how the German defense will cope with 2 central strikers supported by creative outside-inside wingers like we play. They're German, so I'd assume well, but Mertesacker and Friedrich were completely anonymous today. If they're as anonymous against us, we'll have a pretty good chance.
posted by Errant at 4:23 PM on June 13, 2010


* Attackers can only be in the midfield and right.
* Midfielders can roam everywhere.
* Defenders can only be in the midfield and left.


We might disagree on a lot in thread, but surely we can all agree that nobody likes Netball.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lacrosse further divides equipment by class, for game balance...

One of the beautiful things about football is that you can play it with nothing more than an object and a square foot of space.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keep in mind the US beat this exact same Australia team 4-1 last week. Germany is good, but Australia is really, really terrible.

Australia really aren't 'really, really terrible'.
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The US is no longer considered like New Zealand is being considered this year -- a friendly to warm up or cool down from the group because, God love them, they aren't going anywhere but home.

When New Zealand beats Slovakia and gets a draw (not a 'tie') against Italy, I'll be looking out for a MetaTalk retraction and apology for that comment!
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... the strategy and tactics were pretty clear: it's all about making space, moving into an advantageous field position and execution. What you see in TV is probably about half of what is happening on the field.

This. If you watch a match live (and there's a replay screen in case you miss a goal), pick a player and follow them for a few minutes. Watch how he positions and repositions himself. Count the number of times he makes an, apparently, arbitrary run into space and ends up nowhere near the ball. Notice how the opposing player follows him (or doesn't). Now refocus on the team and watch how every player is doing this, and how their individual actions create what's known as shape. Then get a bit carried away and post a comment about it. Be a student of the game, &c.
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Cricket: ... England also steal players from Ireland.

And South Africa.
posted by doublehappy at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2010


It would be interesting to see soccer with hockey style substitutions.

Funny, my friends and I watching the match yesterday said that it'd be interesting to see soccer with penalty box minutes instead of yellowcards. Especially after that one English player (I don't know the names yet, sorry) got subbed out after spending all of his time on the field in the unofficial position of "trip-master" and then finally got carded for it.

So, for those who understand the intricacies of the game/teams much better than I do, what are the U.S.'s chances at offensively blowing out Slovenia and Argentina better than England can? Is it worth trying to do so?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:06 PM on June 13, 2010


Algeria, not Argentina.

Yes, scoring a lot would help, goal difference (so playing good defense is important, too) and total goals scored are two tie-breakers in the group stage. Could we score a lot? Well anything can happen, but I wouldn't count on it.
posted by oddman at 6:18 PM on June 13, 2010


One of the beautiful things about football is that you can play it with nothing more than an object and a square foot of space.

Well, it's not like we're talking about adding sticks or somesuch to the game.

Although... that might do wonders for its popularity in the US.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:24 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to say that England will score more goals against Algeria and Slovenia than the US - but at this stage I think my optimism will only extend as far as to say that England should etc. Rooney in particular grows in stature through tournaments (until injured), and Crouch tends to score lots of goals against (no disrespect intended) minor teams.

That said, it's not looking great. In particular, England are running out of fit and mobile defenders, and the goalkeeping choices are between the ageing and occasionally inconsistent David James, the inexperienced Hart and the probably at this point quite demoralised Robert Green. As a curiosity, if Hart plays his old team, Shrewsbury Town, will get £500,000 due to a clause in the sale contract with Manchester City.

Regarding Capello saying England could make it to the final - that's marketing, really, and confidence-building. I don't think many England fans with a realistic view of the game are expecting an appearance in the final. If England win the group, which should be within them, then they will fancy their chances against Ghana, Serbia or Australia - Germany's weak group should help them there. At a guess, that will take them through to a quarter-final against probably France, who have recent tendency to self-destruct and lack a real goalscorer (Djibril Cisse, lord of the manor of Frodsham, has been scoring nearly a goal a game for Panathinaikos, but the Greek league is not the highest level and pace is less useful against international defences) but will probably be too accomplished on the day for England. If not, Brazil or Holland in the Semis will realistically be too much for them.

Despite the hype and the subsequent inquests, England have probably performed about as expected in most recent tournaments - they are good enough to expect to get to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, assuming they top their group, which is exactly where they got in 2002 and 2006. In 1998 one very bad slip against Romania meant that they met Argentina in the second round, Argentina being the sort of team who might be expected to put them out in the quarter-finals. Which means that if they outperform and are lucky they could get to the semis, and if they outperform and are very, very lucky they could theoretically get to the final, but I think most people are realistic about the likelihood of that. "England could be in the final' is just manager-speak for "I want my players to feel good about their abilities and their chances". It's the media that leads the pantomime of "we can win", followed by "what went wrong?".

(Incidentally, the other side of the draw looks really quite a bit more mouth-watering, with second-round games probably including Spain v. Portugal, and a Brazil v. Holland quarter-final. Arguably a shame these came so early on, but definitely worth looking out for...)
posted by DNye at 7:08 PM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, @empath - the explanations of why England are playing and not Great Britain given so far are correct (the home nations have traditionally had their own teams, going back to the days when they would play each other in in the Home Internationals), but also, on a political level, having four separate football associations means that Britain has four seats in FIFA, which we are understandably loth to surrender. This also means Britain are very chary of putting a team into the Olympic football event, in case that gives other nations an argument with which to compel them to unify their national teams.

Also, it might be hard to get the Scots to support a unified side made up primarily of English players, although it has often been commented that a Great Britain side in the late 1990s and early 2000s that had been able to field Ryan Giggs on the left of midfield with David Beckham on the right and Michael Owen up front might have been a real force in football. Ryan Giggs could have achieved the same result by choosing to play for England rather than Wales, being eligible for both, of course, but it's hardly fair to blame him...
posted by DNye at 7:21 PM on June 13, 2010


So, for those who understand the intricacies of the game/teams much better than I do, what are the U.S.'s chances at offensively blowing out Slovenia and Argentina better than England can? Is it worth trying to do so?

It's possible, I guess. I am expecting England to win both those games. I also expect the USA to win them both, though I'm not as certain. England should win them by more goals than the US does, but anything's possible. Say the USA scores early against Algeria, and the Algerians go all-out on attack, trying to equalise - the USA could easily score 2 more goals. Conversely against England, Algeria might stick ten men behind the ball and play for a 0-0 draw, and only concede a late goal.

The USA's best strategy would be to, firstly, ensure that they win, but secondly, try to score a lot of goals if possible.

Ryan Giggs could have achieved the same result by choosing to play for England rather than Wales, being eligible for both,

Something of a myth, I'm afraid.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:54 AM on June 14, 2010


It appears that I'm coming off as saying that I think this US team is bad because they're not going to win the tournament, and that's not the case at all; I actually think it's rather good.

Incidentally, football has a place for teams which don't manage to win a cup. Holland, Hungary, Czech Rep 2004 or perhaps France 2006 for a more recent example. I actually like that it's not completely a first-past-the-post game.
posted by ersatz at 4:06 AM on June 14, 2010


It's funny how long it takes to work through all the games at three a day. Half the groups haven't even played a match yet, and the US doesn't play again until Friday.
posted by smackfu at 6:17 AM on June 14, 2010


It's funny how long it takes to work through all the games at three a day. Half the groups haven't even played a match yet, and the US doesn't play again until Friday.

And it took 3+ years of qualifying to get to this point. Determining the best in the world in a month is pretty quick, I think.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:02 AM on June 14, 2010


@infinite jest Crikey - I have been peddling the belief that Giggs could have played for England, and was rumoured to have been driven into the arms of Wales by Graham Taylor, for years. How embarrassing. (Almost as embarrassing, in fact, as the realization that you had already answered the question about England vs. Britain).

It does kind of throw the paucity of left-sided options post-Waddle into sharp relief, mind, if the best potential England winger of his generation was actually completely mythical...
posted by DNye at 11:28 AM on June 14, 2010


Germany is good, but Australia is really, really terrible.

It must be! Everywhere I go in this world, I encounter Australians away from home. The only conclusion is that they are fleeing a really, really terrible place.

Rugby and Soccer bore the snot out of americans because their strategic elements are withered and ethereal to the point where they might not exist at all.

As a Canadian, I have the same issue with basketball. I mean, there's a net, but you don't even have a goalie! That's like playing only half a game! Look at a really cerebral, strategic game... like, say hockey for example. You got a guy called a "goalie" in the net whose only job is to stop the other team from scoring, and it's like all he does! Now we're talking strategy, cuz you have to watch videos and shit to find their weaknesses, like football and baseball, right? Hockey games end at something like 3-2 instead of bajillion-bajillion what with the unimpeded scoring of half-sport basketball. If only some basketball team used a clever hockey coach one day, he'd put Yao Ming or Manute Bol in there standing under the net with his arm up through the bottom of the hoop and win every time, like 100-0, and blow everyone's mind. It's really too bad you Americans never tried to apply any type of strategy to your simple ball games...I mean, basketball has some potential to be so much more than just a bunch of lanky dudes throwing a ball into a hoop but you guys just aren't realizing it.
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2010


The US team can be worldbeaters - they handed Spain their only loss in the last year, and almost beat Brazil. Conversely, they've lost to Honduras at home. I'm fully expecting them to take second in the group, then to upset Germany in the next round. ("Expecting" may not be the right word, "needing" is probably more accurate, otherwise my pool picks are shot).
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 7:38 PM on June 14, 2010


Incidentally, football has a place for teams which don't manage to win a cup. Holland, Hungary, Czech Rep 2004 or perhaps France 2006 for a more recent example. I actually like that it's not completely a first-past-the-post game.

Oh, absolutely, and I'm an Arsenal fan so I'm pretty familiar with glorious failure (or not-so-glorious, as the case may be). My favorite match of all time is Netherlands - Czech Republic at Euro 2004, which was in the group stage, so I'm definitely not saying only winning the final matters.

The teams you mention, though, are well-regarded both because they were absolutely packed to the gills with talent and because they got so, so close, playing so, so well, that it's basically a travesty of justice that they didn't win. The US team is very good, second only to the 2002 edition in my view, but neither were/are that. It's enough for me right now that we're no longer there to make up the numbers and have a solid chance to progress. Though, again, talk to me in a decade and I hope I'm singing a different tune. But once we're in the knockout stages, anything can happen.

Speaking of 2002, though: how awesome would it have been to have a South Korea - Turkey final? Guus Hiddink would have been president-for-life. Instead we got boring old Brazil - Germany, bleh.

I'm fully expecting them to take second in the group, then to upset Germany in the next round. ("Expecting" may not be the right word, "needing" is probably more accurate, otherwise my pool picks are shot).

This is precisely my bracket as well, so we may expect and need together.
posted by Errant at 8:28 PM on June 14, 2010


The US team can be worldbeaters - they handed Spain their only loss in the last year, and almost beat Brazil.

The US is one of those teams that no one seriously thinks will win a World Cup any time soon, but still has the ability to beat any team in the tournament, bar none. No team takes the US lightly any more, that's for sure. They're no where near being in the same category as an England, Spain, Netherlands or Portugal (the teams everyone knows COULD win any given WC), but they have the ability to derail the plans of any of those teams, plus any of the real heavy hitters (who are likely to win any given WC), Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Argentina.

In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't consider it out of the realm of possibility that the US will make the semifinals this year. If they win their group (after Saturday's draw against England, they've got a good shot), they're probably going to get Ghana or Serbia in the round of 16, with a likely pairing against Mexico or South Korea in the quarters. The US's awful performance against Ghana in 2006 notwithstanding, those are all highly beatable teams for the US. Of course, if that all happens they get to be roadkill for the Netherlands or Brazil in the semis.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:26 PM on June 14, 2010


Deadmessenger - do you think? Groups A and B are very interesting - in the sense that there isn't really an unflawed team; France and Argentina, the traditional heavyweights, are not necessarily as unassailable as usual (although I say this in part out of a suspicion that Diego Maradona won't get through the group stages without doing something incredibly unwise, and France really have been a bit of a shambles lately. If the US win Group C, which I still think is the less likely outcome but is certainly not inconceivable, the second round should be highly negotiable, but that next game could be France, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria... avoiding Argentina would definitely be a good thing.

The runner-up in Group C has an absolute stinker of a run, on current form - Germany, Argentina and then (although I'm a bit sleepy and I may be wrong) Spain? - although, as you say, the prize for winning Group C is a relatively easy second round, a quarter-final that is really hard to call but unless France really come good should be winnable, and then Brazil or the Netherlands (probably Brazil, the Netherlands having played an amazing game of football and lost, as is traditional against Brazil). Right now, I have a feeling that the final might be Argentina v. Brazil, but I'm always wrong - this year seems interesting partly because many of the traditional contenders aren't really at the level of their better sides, let alone their best - France lack goals (and harmony, and trust in their manager), England and the Netherlands both have iffy defences, Germany and Italy don't seem to have players who will turn difficult matches around, whereas Portugal and Argentina may conversely be too reliant on their one truly exceptional (as in unbelievably able) player, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi respectively.

I can't quite work out why I'm writing off Spain, who have Casillas, Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta Silva, Torres - I mean, genuinely a remarkable collection of talents and some proper strength in depth. Maybe it's just the expectation that they are all exhausted and that Fernando Torres will be almost immediately injured...
posted by DNye at 11:28 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


IS THIS THE THREAD WHERE WE CELEBRATE A DOUR ONE ALL DRAW WITH SLOVAKIA?
posted by doublehappy at 6:30 AM on June 15, 2010


DNye - I think after the way France played against Uruguay on Friday that they'd be lucky to get out of the group stage, let alone win it. There's tons of talent there, but just no coherence there at all, and the off-field BS is clearly taking it's toll. France needs a big turnaround to win their group, and I don't think that Raymond Domenech has the leadership ability to make that happen. Mexico looked far better, and I think they're the winners of group A - with no idea who gets the second spot at this point.

As far as group B, Argentina is the clear winner to me. I agree that Maradona is a like a ticking time bomb just WAITING to screw something up - it's inevitable. But, with Messi & Tevez up front, I can't see them not getting past Greece, South Korea, and Nigeria. In my bracket, I have them going out to Spain in the semis. I thought South Korea looked really good out there this weekend, and while my original bracket had Greece, right now I have to say that South Korea looks like the better pick to go through in the second spot there - they looked good out there against Greece, and they're still only 8 years removed from a semifinals run (albeit at home).

I've written off Italy - they'll win their group, and probably also their round of 16 match, but I don't see them getting past a likely match with the Spaniards in the quarters. Similarly, I agree with your assessment about Portugal - they've got Ronaldo and nothing. I thought they were just plain average against Cote d'Ivoire today. I think they'll go through behind Brazil, but then they will almost certainly have to play Spain, and that's the end of the road for them.

I have Spain as the winners in my pre-tournament bracket, on the other hand. After we see them play tomorrow I guess we'll know what kind of form they're in, but they're just too good to write off at this point. I see where you're coming from, though - they might be worn out, not only from the La Liga season that just ended, but from carrying around some very, VERY high expectations.

Finally, I don't think this year's Brazil team is anything like the clearly dominant teams we saw in 2002 and 1994. Leaving Ronaldinho off the squad was a BIG mistake. Of course his skills aren't what they used to be, but his on-field leadership and experience is going to be missed out there. Although I agree with your assessment that the Netherlands has a questionable defense, I still have them beating Brazil in the quarters. At the very least, they're going to make things VERY interesting.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:04 AM on June 15, 2010


I'm not convinced by Mexico. They were really sloppy in defense against SA and I think Ribery and Forlan will have a field day with their fullbacks. And they never really threatened despite having tons of possession; their goal came from a complete breakdown in defense, something that won't happen against Uruguay's 3-5-2 but could happen against France's general lack of quality. Gourcuff had an absolute shocker, but he can't play that badly twice in a row, can he? And I think Uruguay were playing for a point in their opening game and will open up against the perceived weaker sides of Mexico and SA. I have Uruguay winning the group and France coming in second, and I still think that's a likely possibility.

Argentina are too good not to win group B; the only reason it was 1-0 was because Enyeama played the match of his life. Greece are absolutely hopeless and I'll be surprised if they even score a goal. South Korea looked good against a truly awful team, but I think it's too early to say how good they actually are, since a pub team could have put two past Greece. They still seem reliant on a lot of fouls to break up the opposition and I think that's going to hurt them. Nigeria didn't offer very much at all. I have them going through second but it seems likely to be South Korea now, unless Nigeria can get an emphatic result in that tie.

Finally, I don't think this year's Brazil team is anything like the clearly dominant teams we saw in 2002 and 1994. Leaving Ronaldinho off the squad was a BIG mistake. Of course his skills aren't what they used to be, but his on-field leadership and experience is going to be missed out there.

I really, emphatically disagree with this. I think this Brazilian team is better than 2002. Dunga has traded flair for pragmatism and instilled a solidity in the squad that was clearly missing in 2006. Ronaldinho is of course a fine player, but the combination of his lack of form and all-around play caused him to fall out of favor. Ronaldinho is many things, most good, but I never saw him as a leader; he's too individualistic for that. As for experience: Robinho has 75 caps, Gilberto Silva has 88, Kaka has 78, the central pairing of Lucio and Juan have 165 caps between them. This side is shot through with match experience; their likely starting 11 averages almost 60 caps a player (58.something; Spain's likely 11 average 59.something). And that's leaving aside their manager who is tied for 9th in all-time appearances and of course knows what it takes to win a World Cup. I really think you underestimate this Brazil side at your peril.

Now they'll go and lose 7-0 to North Korea and I'll look like an idiot, so there you go, favor delivered.
posted by Errant at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2010


The teams you mention, though, are well-regarded both because they were absolutely packed to the gills with talent and because they got so, so close, playing so, so well, that it's basically a travesty of justice that they didn't win. The US team is very good, second only to the 2002 edition in my view, but neither were/are that.

Yes, I wanted to make a point in general, not compare the US with Netherlands. Incidentally, I remembered how amazing was Netherlands in the group stage of Euro 2008 and then they got beat soundly by a great Russian side which suffered the same fate at the hands of the Spanish. Good times.

Speaking of 2002, though: how awesome would it have been to have a South Korea - Turkey final? Guus Hiddink would have been president-for-life.

Oh no, no, no. Turkey had a great side, but South Korea was all speed and tenacity and (the great) Hiddink. They were boring and they were scandalously favored by the referees in the knock-out games.

Germany and Italy don't seem to have players who will turn difficult matches around


On their own. But I wouldn't discount Germany, which seems well-organised and both has new players with stronger technique and more experienced ones who can motivate the rest of the team. I expect Schweinsteiger to help towards that significantly.
posted by ersatz at 3:18 PM on June 15, 2010


Ersatz: I wouldn't discount Germany

Sure - I wouldn't write off a bad German team, and this doesn't look like a bad German team, just one without much in the way of genuinely world-class talent. Schweinsteiger I think was meant as a youth to be the next Beckenbauer/Sammer/Kohler - the truly exceptional performer who imbued the team with confidence - but it hasn't quite come off for him. That said, I'm coming into this World Cup less well-informed than I've ever been, thanks to a busy 2010, so his club form may have been exceptional.

Here in Blighty, we're already preparing for the possibility of messing up the group and getting dumped out in the second round by Germany by blaming the ball - this Daily Mail article does a very Daily Mail job of implying that German football has somehow cheated by not securing lucrative but exclusive sponsorship deals with Umbro or Nike and thus being able to use the Jabulani ball in its club football. Expect dark rumblngs that the Jabulani is made by Adidas, a German company, to follow if Germany keep doing well.
posted by DNye at 2:21 AM on June 16, 2010


Brazil is the new Germany.

Germany is the new Brazil.

Discuss.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:31 AM on June 16, 2010


Before the 2006 WC the MLS played half a season with the WC game ball, the one all the keepers bitched about for doing odd things in the air. Fat lot that did for the US.
posted by dw at 7:48 AM on June 16, 2010


SVIZZERO! So, did ANYONE see the result of the Switzerland-Spain game coming? Between that, and Brazil's failure to mop the floor with North Korea as everyone thought they would, this WC just got real weird.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:54 AM on June 16, 2010


So, did ANYONE see the result of the Switzerland-Spain game coming?

C'mon, this is Spain we're talking about. They're always good for a choke.

Brazil's failure to mop the floor with North Korea as everyone thought they would

North Korea was playing nine in the box most of the game. Getting two goals against a decent defense flooding the box is pretty good if you ask me.
posted by dw at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2010


North Korea was playing nine in the box most of the game. Getting two goals against a decent defense flooding the box is pretty good if you ask me.

You think? I thought Brazil clearly underperformed in that game, and at the same time the North Koreans played their hearts out. One of those goals (Maicon's) was a gorgeous accident, I'm absolutely convinced that it was a cross that missed and went in. The second was Brazil just being Brazil. On the other hand, they gave up a goal as well - and giving up even one goal to a seriously inferior team (they haven't won in months) that was basically parking the team bus in front of the goal, playing everyone back, has GOT to be a sign of something.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:21 AM on June 16, 2010


Brazil schmazil! Spain schmain! Did someone see Chile? Jesus fuck they're a crazy crew! I fear they'll crash out in the bizarre fashion of past superentertaining teams but what a show they'll put on. God I hope they'll reach at least the semifinals. I know it was against Honduras, but still... these guys just barrel forward. They were unlucky to only win by one goal.

Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, Chile does represent real tactical innovation. As ever, Zonal Marking has more on Chile.
posted by Kattullus at 11:11 AM on June 16, 2010


Brazil is the new Germany.

Germany is the new Brazil.


I have just turned on BBC1's coverage, and the presence of Jurgen Klinsmman on the commentary team - brilliant striker, manager, inspired tormentor of Oliver Khan and uncanny spiritual if not physical resembler of Will from Will and Grace - reminded me of the first part of this process, when Sebastien Deisler was first injured and then retired, Klinsmann managed from California and a young team with few expectations got to third place in the World Cup and then, with rather higher expectations, second in the European Championships under Joachim Low. Maybe there's some sort of karmic exchange which is forcing Brazil to become more dour in comparison.

Gosh, though. That's reminded me what a shame it was about Sebastien Deisler.
posted by DNye at 11:32 AM on June 16, 2010


One of those goals (Maicon's) was a gorgeous accident, I'm absolutely convinced that it was a cross that missed and went in.

Was this also an accident?

Brazil always has trouble against teams that play 5 at the back. Look at their results against Bolivia. On the other hand, Portugal and Ivory Coast play 4-3-3; look at Brazil's results against Argentina and Chile. They gave up the goal partially because at 2-0 up in the 88th minute, they were pushing forward so far that Lucio was in the penalty area trying to beat defenders and make space for a shot. North Korea took a quick free kick, the flick on from the People's Rooney was immaculate, and Ji-Yun Nam beat two defenders to get the shot away. It was a very nice goal, and it does highlight potential weaknesses in Brazil's defense, but North Korea never were the rubes everyone seemed to think they'd be. Brazil should have an easier time with teams that play more openly. I said "should".

Chile were fantastic, Honduras were pretty woeful, and wow, Spain looked nervous and got caught by route one football. They've got some work to do.
posted by Errant at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2010


Honduras looked scared whenever Chile would approach the box. It was something to see.
posted by grubi at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2010


Spain vs. Switzerland was a real heartbreaker in so many ways. It was a an encounter of Underdog vs. Beautiful Game, with the underdog winning. Part of me cheered the underdog, another feared that Spain would disappear from the tournament. It was an interesting contest. I've been thinking quite a bit about it since the game ended.

Incidentally, I'm writing a world cup blog for The Reykjavík Grapevine, which is the Icelandic equivalent to The Village Voice. The blog's in English. So far it's half linkblog, half personal reflections.
posted by Kattullus at 1:57 PM on June 16, 2010


xposted from the vuvuzela thread: The Mexico fans in the match that just finished were the first whose songs, chants, and cheering I could clearly hear over the sound of the vuvuzelas. Don't know if the Mexico fans are louder, the vuvuzelas were quieter, or the teevee has gotten better at filtering the sound, but it was a pleasure to hear the actual fans for once in this world cup.

Also, it appears that Domenech's cunning plan of keeping two of the best strikers of recent French history (past their respective primes or not) firmly seated on the bench isn't really working out so well in terms of, y'know, actually scoring some goals this tournament.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 1:32 PM on June 17, 2010


That bloody Domenech. If Zizou wasn't fired up after the group stage of the past WC, France would not have done much. Domenech messed up again in Euro 2008, he messed up now and he managed to waste half a generation of talented French players.

At least Greece won their first game today.
posted by ersatz at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2010


Not a surprise: The top goal scorer so far in this tournament plays for Argentina.
Surprise: It's not Messi.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:09 PM on June 17, 2010


Goddamn Domenech! Valbuena? Gignac? Govou and not Gourcuff?

Also, goddamn every player on that team (except Lloris... and Malouda... he at least gave it his all).

And goddamn me for getting emotionally involved.

Finally, goddamn my parents for having taken me to France to live there as a kid. 1998-2000 was great and all, but after this decade my heart is starting to show some wear and tear.
posted by Kattullus at 10:15 PM on June 17, 2010


Toulalan was good, too.

I think the referee of Serbia - Germany was over the top with his yellow cards. Some of these were ridiculous.
posted by ersatz at 7:48 AM on June 18, 2010


Meanwhile, is anyone awake and watching Slovenia against the USA? Although the actual football has been patchy in this World Cup, the maths is getting really interesting. It's very hard to work out who might be squaring up in the round of 16, especially on the left-hand side of the draw.

(As an aside, as the teams start to master the Jabulani, it feels like the crowds might be starting to get the hang of the vuvuzela. There seems to be more of a flow to the volume levels in this game, although that might just be the aural equivalent of seeing faces in the fire...)
posted by DNye at 8:19 AM on June 18, 2010


THEFT THEFT THEFT THEFT THEFT

Why am I a proponent of instant replay? Bullshit like THAT.
posted by grubi at 9:00 AM on June 18, 2010


Meanwhile, is anyone awake and watching Slovenia against the USA?
Yes, as is my entire office thanks to my screaming.
In other news, I have just asked my husband's permission to have Landon Donovan's babies.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to get past Landon Donovan's resemblance to Dawson's Creek heartthrob Kerr Smith.

Donovan was impressive in that game - and, actually, I'm not sure England would have the resolve to fight back from 2-0 that way. Congratulations to the US.

Oh! And, interviewed on the BBC, Landon Donovan has just said that he is "a little gutted" at the disallowing of the third goal. That sounds so... unnatural in an American accent. But adorable!
posted by DNye at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2010


Why am I a proponent of instant replay? Bullshit like THAT.

That's not exactly a poster child for instant replay. If you notice a guy is offsides by a foot, you should also notice that he's being mugged without having to refer to the video.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2010


Yeah, the US was robbed there. On the other hand, if they beat Algeria by more than 1 goal, they'll be certain to get through.
posted by Kattullus at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2010


If you notice a guy is offsides by a foot, you should also notice that he's being mugged without having to refer to the video.

Which is why instant replay is necessary. He either:

1. Saw something that wasn't there; or
2. Said he saw something that wasn't there.

Either way, no-one was offisde, and at least one of our players was being physically restrained. But, no. The current system is set up so that the ONE official on the pitch gets to make a shitty call that gets to stand. It's like there's no desire to see an outcome based on the facts.
posted by grubi at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2010


Yeah, instant replay is something that soccer could really, really learn from US sports.

Great comeback by the US, by all accounts. The group remains interesting.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:34 AM on June 18, 2010


Yeah, it was frustrating, but on the other hand, given how fucking terribly we played in the first half, I can't complain about coming away from that game with a point and in decent position to advance (assuming we can manage not to fall behind Algeria by three goals next Wednesday).
posted by Nothing... and like it at 9:37 AM on June 18, 2010


given how fucking terribly we played in the first half, I can't complain about coming away from that game with a point and in decent position to advance

It doesn't matter how bad you play if you score the goals. I keep hearing this excuse "yeah, but, that first half..." So what? We played badly and made up for it.

And the official took it away.

I'm not asking for the bad play to be forgiven just 'cause; I'm saying the US team completely made up for the bad first half and then some. But because of a crappy call, it means nothing.
posted by grubi at 9:59 AM on June 18, 2010


Crappy calls happen all the time though, at all levels, to everybody. Ask the Irish. Hell, ask the English team of 24 years ago. The key to consistent good results is to play in such way that a single bad call doesn't cost you a victory. We didn't do that today. You can blame the referee all you want, but me, I'm more inclined to blame Onyewu.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2010


me, I'm more inclined to blame Onyewu.

And Torres. I don't want to neglect his utter stinker of a half.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 10:07 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, instant replay is something that soccer could really, really learn from US sports.

Ha. There was a huge controversy just recently about instant replay and how the uniquely US sport of baseball might be improved, or not, by having it. Seriously, hugely long discussion (even here on MeFi!) of a missed "Perfect Game" that could have been saved by the addition of instant replay. So yeah, even some US sports could really, really learn about instant replay. Or not, if you're a purist and want to keep the "human element" of the game.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2010


Crappy calls happen all the time though, at all levels, to everybody. Ask the Irish. Hell, ask the English team of 24 years ago.

So fix the bloody system. Don't shrug and say "Oh well." If it's broken, and everyone acknowledges this, then FIX THE SYSTEM
posted by grubi at 11:26 AM on June 18, 2010


USA-Slovenia Stolen Match Proves Why Soccer Needs Tech
posted by homunculus at 1:53 PM on June 18, 2010


For Sale: 1 England 2010 jersey, white. Only worn twice, practically brand new!
posted by dnesan at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2010


Wayne Rooney? Is that you?
posted by Nothing... and like it at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2010


For Sale: 1 England 2010 jersey, white. Only worn twice, practically brand new!

...

Wayne Rooney? Is that you?


Doubtful. Rooney's not showing that much initiative.
posted by grubi at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2010


At least Hercules Gomez got to play. Plus, we may have been robbed a goal, but we were not robbed of Landon Donovan's magnificent abs.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2010


Or his enormous..... forehead.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 3:54 PM on June 18, 2010


I think the referee of Serbia - Germany was over the top with his yellow cards. Some of these were ridiculous.

Klose got absolutely BONED out there.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:32 PM on June 18, 2010


An explanation of what the referee whistled for. It's the most sensible explanation I've read so far.
posted by Kattullus at 9:52 PM on June 18, 2010


Or his enormous..... forehead.

Yeah, there were several moments during the US/England game where several nerds screamed "GO FOREHEAD MAN! GO! GO FOREHEAD!" at the TV.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:57 AM on June 19, 2010


Separated at birth: Landon Donovan and Klaus Nomi.
posted by Kattullus at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2010


Hey, I give Donovan credit - most guys his age with that hairline would have done the "defensive shave" by now. He's an inspiration for prematurely balding men everywhere!
posted by deadmessenger at 8:56 AM on June 19, 2010


It's the most sensible explanation I've read so far.

Except it seems dependent on Howard Webb not being a completely shite referee.
posted by inigo2 at 9:20 AM on June 19, 2010


Ha. There was a huge controversy just recently about instant replay and how the uniquely US sport of baseball might be improved, or not, by having it. Seriously, hugely long discussion (even here on MeFi!) of a missed "Perfect Game" that could have been saved by the addition of instant replay. So yeah, even some US sports could really, really learn about instant replay. Or not, if you're a purist and want to keep the "human element" of the game.

Ah, I see: I guess I assumed all American sports did it. You'd think replays would be ideal for a sport like baseball, where the play is broken up into discrete units. Harder to implement in soccer, but definitely required I think [the arguments about the human element are the same, as well as arguing that replays undermine the authority of the officials on the field]
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:03 AM on June 20, 2010


Oh my New Zealand oh my...
posted by Kattullus at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2010


What we have learned today: Kaka's elbow has magical face punching powers!
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:25 PM on June 20, 2010


Dr. Zira: "What we have learned today: Kaka's elbow has magical face punching powers!"

I turned off the game at that point and I'm not sure if I'm going to bother watching any more. The diving and theatrics really make it hard for me to watch soccer.
posted by octothorpe at 4:22 PM on June 20, 2010


Keita vs Kaka.
posted by homunculus at 4:47 PM on June 20, 2010


To be fair to the Ivorians* Luis Fabiano had gotten away with scoring his second goal in Maradona like fashion.

Also, goddamn do Brazil play boring football (though the Elano goal was great). I guess one can't but understand given that death-football has brought them victory in 2 out of the last 4 World Cups.


* Coolest demonym ever!
posted by Kattullus at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2010


The diving and theatrics really make it hard for me to watch soccer.

You know, I watched my first basketball game in about 10 years the other day (game 7 of the finals), and the very first thing I noticed was that diving was apparently not unique to soccer. I don't disagree that it's a blight and I certainly wouldn't blame you if it turned you off to the sport permanently, but it was notable to me that it's not solely a soccer problem.
posted by Errant at 8:13 PM on June 20, 2010


> You know, I watched my first basketball game in about 10 years the other day (game 7 of the finals), and the very first thing I noticed was that diving was apparently not unique to soccer.

There is some intentional flopping in b-ball to play up a foul for the refs, but in more cases it's simply easier for them to take a controlled dive and go with the momentum.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 PM on June 20, 2010


Meh, Brazil was doing a fair amount of theatrical dives. Throw Whinaldo in the mix, and Friday's Brazil v. Portugal match promises to be positively operatic.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2010


I don't watch NBA games very often and Didn't know that diving was a thing there too. I live in a non NBA city that only knows about football, hockey, and baseball.
posted by octothorpe at 3:43 AM on June 21, 2010


Does it count as doing cardio if you're not actually exercising? Because my heart has been fucking POUNDING for the last half hour watching the USA-ALG game.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2010


I had to take a second shower after the game...
posted by Kattullus at 9:49 AM on June 23, 2010


That goal... that beautiful fucking goal...
posted by grubi at 10:12 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Donovan was crying right before his postmatch interview with ESPN. He wasn't the only one.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:35 AM on June 23, 2010


You know, I watched my first basketball game in about 10 years the other day ... and the very first thing I noticed was that diving was apparently not unique to soccer.

It's not, but Footballers make BBall players look like goddamn Spartans.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:46 AM on June 23, 2010


I take back what I said about Donovan.
posted by contessa at 12:10 PM on June 23, 2010


GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL
posted by smackfu at 1:58 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Blimey. Even though it's condemned England to a probable round of 16 match with Germany, and thus near-certain elimination, well done to the USA.
posted by DNye at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2010


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