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Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Soccer May Be Better In England, But. . . (and Other Soccer Observations)

the sports medicine is better in the U.S.

Just ask star English striker Michael Owen, who has decided to have his knee repaired in the colonies and not his home country.

Perhaps that's what U.S. soccer needs, a new lend-lease program. We'll send some good sports medicine docs to Britain, and the Brits can send us some Premiership players to patriate in the U.S. and then play for the U.S. team in the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa.

Then again, can the Brits stand the heat of the South African climate? The analysts on ABC yesterday reported yesterday that the Brits were sorely disappointed not getting further in this World Cup, because their sources told them that the Brits didn't think they'd fare so well in the heat of South Africa.

That may be so, but it struck me that the English team never got to full throttle, that they played a conservative game with only one striker, and that they need their very talented striker, Wayne Rooney, to grow up. True, the hooligans will be mad at Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo for provoking the tempest that caused his Man. U. teammate Rooney to get a red card with 37 minutes to go in the game yesterday, but if they get angry at Ronaldo, they're as delusional as Rooney. It wasn't the young Portuguese midfielder who stepped on the crotch of a Portuguese player -- it was Rooney. It wasn't Ronaldo who shoved Rooney, it was the other way around. So before you get angry with Rooney, Man U. fans particularly, think the whole thing through -- and be happy he's on your team. As for the rest of the English fans, channel your anger -- and forget about it. Your team didn't deserve to win this World Cup -- and you know it.

Four more observations:

1. If they gave out acting awards for sports, they'd give them to soccer players. Talk about 1) diving and 2) bellyaching to referees -- it's a bit ridiculous. The Portuguese did outplay England yesterday, but they also struck me as a bunch of fakers, divers and whiners, more so than any other team in the World Cup. That may be saying a lot, but they have enough talent to shed the histrionics and just play the game to win. They (and anyone else who acts similarly) dishonor their teams and the game by going through the trickery that they adopt to gain an advantage. While soccer may have some advantages over the major American sports (after all, it's the most popular sport in the world), the "crap" that goes on here wouldn't get tolerated in the U.S. Or would it? After all, American fans have had steroids and HGH, among other things, to deal with in the recent past. Still, enough with the diving, grabbing body parts and gesturing to the referees.

2. I applaud the former U.S. national team members for their candor during the World Cup, particularly Eric Wynalda. He's the Johnny Miller of soccer, and if soccer is to have a future in this country Wynalda should be a part of it. He's not spared the rod of criticism on anyone, and he was frank about America's team, about the coaching of the English team, the discombulation of the Brazilian team yesterday and waxed eloquent on a whole host of other topics. He was, in a word, great. When you compare Wynalda to the rest of the commentators in the sporting world, he's just a breath of fresh air. Too many are reluctant to speak frankly, either because their talents lay in playing their sport and not talking about it or they feel that they have to be cheerleaders and not critics. Julie Foudy also did some good work. That said, some of the former players who did color commentary during the games left something to be desired. Right now, I'll chalk those disappointments up more to inexperience than anything else.

3. I've blogged before about the officiating and the fact that it's played too large a role in the World Cup. I have some simple solutions -- add more officials. The NHL did it to cut down on fouls behind the referee's back, and the World Cup could adopt a format with two or three referees. American football has more than half a dozen officials who can call penalties, and world soccer should consider the same thing. In this fashion, you won't have to rely on one official to cover the entire field, especially on a hot day. The other thing that the officials need to do is be more consistent on when cards are issued. In the match between France and Brazil yesterday, Frenchman Wily Sagnol got called for a yellow card on a phantom push, yet later in the game a few Brazilians had late, rough tackles on French players where no cards were issued and, in one instance, not even a foul was called. That's but one example of woefully inconsistent carding in this World Cup.

4. Franck Ribery of France has had a coming out party of sorts in this World Cup. True, in early June Arsenal and Man. U. made huge offers to Marseille, his current club, for this speedy 22 year-old player. To my knowledge, Marseille hasn't bitten at transfer offers that approach 25 million pounds. Just watching him in France's last two games has made it clear that this guy is an international star in the making and that France should have solid leadership in World Cup play in the years to come.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An additional referee would help with the phantom diving. I'd also like to see quick replays with instant red cards for divers (I'm looking at you Maniche and Ronaldo!). Maniche dove yesterday and the England defender never touched him. ABC showed the reply 2 seconds later and the pro-English crowed booed loudly—before the ref even pulled his yellow card. What should happen is the ref runs over to the spot while one of the sideline refs looks at the replay. The sideline ref, in this case, would have told the on-field ref that Maniche never got touched. The onfield ref could have then showed Maniche the red card for diving. There would be zero to little slow down in play and divers would suffer the ultimate sanction. I think such a system would dramatically cut down on diving.

3:29 PM  

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