Sunday, June 22, 2014

Has the Clock Struck Midnight for the Worlds Soccer Giants?

The last time I wrote about soccer here I believe was when I had just gone to see Brazil play in the US for a friendly match. I remember being completely underwhelmed by the utter lack of passion that the players exhibited throughout the course of the game.  Now it’s the World Cup.  Soccer’s biggest stage.  And what have the greatest talents brought for us?  Well, it all depends on your point of view.

In the first comic on the left is my initial impression of what was happening at the World Cup.  Spain, the defending champion, was walking around with a target on its back and all teams were gearing up to not only stay with Spain through a match but to beat them (Yes, that is a flying Dutchman in honor of Robin van Persie getting ready to drop a hammer on Spain). This was a task completely unheard of occurring over the last 6 years. Some have said Spain came in overconfident. Others that many Spanish players were tired or broken down after a grueling Liga and UEFA Cup.  Others say that Spain's time was over and that the rest of the world had 1) caught up from a talent perspective and 2) finally figured out how to counter the tiki-taca style of play that had enabled Spain to dominant literally everyone.  I myself even pointed to the fact the players seemed to lack chemistry between the generations.  Perhaps there was a flawed strategy of pairing Diego Costa with 2 FCBarcelona playmakers (Iniesta & Xavi) versus having him play alongside his regular pass feeder in Koke.  And yet even when Koke finally got on the pitch Diego Costa was mysteriously taken out.  Or why not leave in the pieces that made the Spain motor run (i.e.: the Barça players) and add into the mix David Villa that played with them during his stint at Barça rather then plugging in Fernando "El Niño" Torres that proved just as equally inept upfront as Costa. Then of course there’s the element that Iker Casillas is washed up. I mean after all just look at how pathetic he looked on the goals scored by the Netherlands.  But let’s keep in mind 2 key things; the 3rd goal scored by the Netherlands should have been disallowed. The rules clearly state that any time the goalie is interfered with the play is dead. And yet, the referee on this occasion swallowed his whistle. Secondly, the goal that would have tied the game was disallowed due to off-sides. The rules clearly state that when there is a shot on goal there is no offsides.  Silva was not directly involved in the action when the rebound came to him and he neatly settled it into the back of the net.  The score would now have been 2 – 2. Giving the match a completely different complexion. Could Iker have then coughed up 3 more goals? Sure. After all for some unknown reason he fisted the ball back to the exact area that the free kick had come from in the match against Chile and then absentmindedly floated away from that space back to the centre of the goal rather then staying put to cut down the angle.  Brain-freeze?  Loss of confidence after getting shellacked by the Netherlands?  Over-the-hill?  Whatever the case is at the end of the day Spain is gone with only Australia to play and left to still defend their European Championship. 

But now with Spain being thrashed solidly by the Netherlands then being handled by Chile (really??), Italy losing to Costa Rica (my apologies to any fans of Costa Rica but really Italy losing to Costa Rica???), Ghana tying Germany (yet another one that no one on the planet would’ve have thought could happen), England going home early and Argentina narrowly escaping from Iran (another one that just kinda leaves you wondering what in the wild world of sports is happening in the soccer universe) one is left to wonder maybe this is the year of the Cinderella World Cup. After all, the NCAA basketball tournament, commonly referred to as the Big Dance or March Madness, typically has at least one Cinderella team that defies the bookies odd, sends a #1 seed home early and marches into the Final Four. Why not the World Cup?  

So taking that into account I thought..heck! Why not have Colombia fill that role?  Hence the second comic on the right.  After all they are certainly better then Ghana and Costa Rica but not quite at the legendary status (yet) of Argentina, Brazil, Italy, England or Spain. So perhaps, just maybe, the soccer gods will take pity on Colombia after filling the role of the heavily favoured yet widely disappointing performance in the 90, 94 & 98 World Cups and let the Cafeteros take home the Cup..guess we’ll see!

Until next time..Gabon!!

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