Monday, August 16, 2010

Sepp Blatter once again focused on the wrong problem

Once again Sepp Blatter brings up a topic to distract us from the real issues from the past World Cup. So rather than figuring out to use technology to assist officials we are going to spend our time debating golden goals and eliminating draws. Why am I not surprised. As usual the "brains" behind the FIFA wants everyone to forget the no accorded goal for England versus Germany or the blatant offsides for Tevez against Mexico...amongst a few egregiously bad calls from this past World Cup. Instead let us revisit the golden goal and eliminating draws. Sigh. To me another reason why the Swiss needs to go...but of course that will not happen. So why is this ridiculous?

First, the goal of the idea is good - make the first round games more open. Every manager knows that dropping the full 3 points makes it very difficult to get out of the first round, therefore we all play for the draw and take our chances in the last 2 games. Of course the way Sepp is approaching this...misses the point and of course the unintended consequences are apparent. What this past World Cup has shown us is that while opening round games tend to be cautious affairs, the second and third games are high drama. Look at the USA v Algeria match, on paper that game looked like a non important match. But because of the way the group was working its way out that game was nothing but drama. The Italy versus Slovakia game? Same thing. Even the Spain versus Chile game carried high drama, since the eventual champions had to win that match to continue. Every World Cup group stage will have some groups that are decided after the second game while others will go down to last game drama. That is the nature of the beast. If we wanted high drama...then maybe the World Cup should go to single elimination from the start. Make it like the NCAA basketball tournament. No thanks.

So if draws go right to a penalty shoot out that will do what? According to Sepp it will make it more competitive? Um really. Instead what I can see is more teams playing for draws and hoping they get rewarded in the penalty kick lottery. Just what we need. Penalty kick shoot outs are exciting I will admit, however they are a lottery. They are dramatic since they occur in the knock out stages, when you have teams that are evenly matched - France v RFA in 1982, Holland v Brazil in 1998, England v RFA in 1990 just to name a few. It is not as if you had a squad such as New Zealand playing for the draw and their keeper "wins" the game in PKs. How does that make the World Cup better Sepp? Since the World Cup expanded, why is it surprising that group stage games are not all a replays of Italy v West Germany 1970 match? Fans of footy and of the World Cup, recognize that the beauty of the tournament is due to the entire experience - starting with qualifiers, through World Cup group draws, to the actual games, through the knock out stage and culminating in the final game.

Speaking of France v RFA 1982 or Italy v RFA 1970...know what these two games have in common? Went to extra time where there were 9 combined goals scored in both games! Throw in the golden goal and you would never have had this drama - many would argue these are two of the greatest games ever played. The golden goal rule does not make a team more offensive in style. Teams will continue to play the way they are used to, and if that manner is defensive...the golden goal rule might make it more defensive in mind set.

An example for me, France v Paraguay in 1998, France was without Zidane playing at Lens in a first round of the knock outs where the golden goal rule was in place. Clearly the best player for the South Americans was their keeper - Chilavert. They played accordingly - defensively and looked to counter.

France pushed and looked to win the game in regulation, why? Because they knew that Chilavert was a clear asset in the penalty shoot outs. Once the game went to extra time this only became more evident, golden goal or not. To my eye it only made Paraguay play even more defensive! Forget the counter attack, let us just get to the penalty shoot out. The golden goal is also a lottery - ask Azzurri fans about how they feel about the way the game ended versus South Korea in 2002. I remember a Confederation Cup finals between France and Cameroon where a fortunate bounce off a Titi Henry thigh gave Les Bleus the title. Lottery.

I rather see and extra time the way we have it currently constituted, the penalty shoot out is already a lottery, let us not add another "chance" exercise added to the equation. However typical Sepp, let us not focus on the real issues - making sure we granted goals when they are scored, better calling off sides and giving officials the tools they need to better officiate the matches. That would not be productive now would it Sepp?


CB said...

The key phrase you insert here is, "How does that make the World Cup better Sepp?"
And the answer is, he does not nor will he care, for he knows that if he makes decisions on the bigger issues (goal line technology, extra officials,a third yellow card) he's more likely to be unpopular and lose his post.
Just like Bud Selig in Major League Baseball.
I agree on all points, but that goal by our Coach against Paraguay was something...

GFC said...

I completely agree, I question Sepp's motivation on many of these topics. The fact that the goal line technology and additional officials is not the primary topics discussed is indicative of what Sepp really believes in these changes that would make the game better.

Too bad. The game survives even with an idiotic leader at the helm.