World Cup 2010 - Just my musings

I love watching soccer/football at the International level and the World Cup and Euros are always one of the highlights of the years ending in an even number. Since I don't follow league soccer it is always a bit of a surprise as to who is good is who isn't. But I still have my favorites, based on past experience (and since I really only pay attention every few years all you pros out there are welcome to correct me but no point in being uncivil about it!):

1. I always root for the home team if they have yet to win the World Cup. Except for team USA.

2. There is always an upstart, passionate Eastern European team that makes it to the round of 16 or the quarterfinals (but unfortunately not any further) and I always root for them as well.

3. The Netherlands is my favorite Western team. Last time I watched them play a few years ago, I felt they had a good mixture of attacking and defensive strategies always executed with intelligence and good sportsmanship. Germany is always too cautious to really be exciting, and Italy a little too, well, they are good actors and they are a hard team to cheer for if you are cheering for other teams because they put their desire to win above all moral considerations. Brazil's dominance may be boring (ironic as their attacks are so exciting) but, even though I never cheer for them, I rarely feel like there is something sketchy about their victories.

4. Why no USA? I could give you a bunch of boring Left-ish reasons, or just complain that we win everything else, which is boring to me, but really, at least a few years ago, they seemed like a bunch of ball-followers. Go watch a bunch of American kids play soccer and they all run after ball, not realizing that since they are all on the ball, if someone on their team wins the ball, that person will have nobody to pass to as all of their teammates, as well as the entire opposing team, will all be in a jumble between 10 and 1 feet away from them. Consequently, the person with the ball will try and fight their way through this morass and either make a solo run on goal, liable to fail unless the goalie is no good, or they will lose the ball and the pile-up will stretch to indeterminacy until a defensive player clears the ball halfway across the field straight to the opposing goalie. The few moments that the goalkeeper holds on to the ball will provide the players the opportunity to spread out again back to their initial positions but as soon as the goalkeeper puts the ball back into play, things start to fall apart again. I was never great at soccer, but I did do well at my level. When I played forward, I understood it to be a good idea to simply not be around all of the other players, and when I played mid, it understood it to be a good idea to PASS the ball to anyone who was smart enough to not be around the other players. Anyways, as great as the strides the American teams have made over the years, I still can't help but feel that there is still that 1% or 2%o of their "DNA" that still doesn't always quite get this, and so when they run into a team that prides itself on having absolute control of pace of the game, whether fast or slow, Team USA ends up tiring themselves out chasing the ball around, instead of letting the more conservative, slow-paced teams pass the ball around pointlessly or working on trapping more aggressive teams offsides. Many of the other mediocre clubs that win as often as the USA are playing good strategies with inexperienced players, whereas I still don't quite feel that the US has a coherent character yet that allows the decision-making process of its quite-talented players to be automatic.

Good luck to all teams and all players!

Edit: I can't be completely un-gracious. Please tell me I am wrong about the USA 'cause I haven't seen the national team play for four years. They are nice enough to go out there and represent this country for better or worse so thanks guys and good luck.

Also, what I love about this - I am watching right now a stream from a TV network in India while listening to audio from BBC Radio 5. Other tournaments have seen me watching and listening to other random combinations such as this and always seeing and/or hearing something completely unexpected...

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