iSAW 02.11 The Beautiful Game

I say football, you say soccer. The foot and the ball connect repeatedly in football, a game first played in England in 1863. The word soccer, also coined in England, is a contraction of the words association football, as opposed to rugger from rugby football. According to Wikipedia, football is played by 250 million players from 200+ countries, making it the world’s most popular sport. Every four years the top 32 teams meet to decide a winner of the World Cup. ‘Jogo bonito’ is Portuguese for ‘the beautiful game’ – Brazilian fans not only want to win the World Cup for a record sixth time they want to win it beautifully. After the vuvuzela helped make South Africa 2010 the worst World Cup event since it all began in 1930 we already have the makings of Brazil 2014 being one the best World Cups.

Brazilian Highlights

There are far more goals. Twice as many. Very few teams have failed to score585 (oops Portugal, and now Brazil). There are fewer draws and more upsets (poor Spain and Uruguay). Great skills, more adventure, more fun and less caution. This event has more own goals, some priceless dives to deceive inept referees, and you should see the hairstyles… Oh, and way more sweat. The weight on the home team to win is stultifying their game. They look vulnerable. Heaven forbid they don’t make the finals. The US v Ghana match drew the largest TV viewership of any football match shown in the USA. The US played entertainingly and well to win against their bogey team.

Winners and Losers

Only players that have starred in, and have lifted the World Cup can be considered greats. These greats include Pelé and Ronaldo (Brazil), Maradonna (Argentina), Müller (Germany), Moore (England), and Meazza (Italy). Choose your birth country well. Good players from smaller nations like George Best and Gareth Bale (Wales) will never be considered greats. Even CR7 and Messi can’t be considered until they lift the Cup.

Speedy Revenge

The Netherlands team has been in three World Cup finals. No wins so far. Back in the 70’s they invented ‘total football’; whereby each player could play interchangeably as a forward or back and be covered by a teammate,  like on a carousel. But, can Dutch household names like Cruyff and Neeskens be considered greats if they didn’t lift the cup? The Dutch lost the final to Spain in 2010 in a bad-tempered and ugly match. The two teams met again the other day and this time the Dutch won 5-1. In my last post I talked about fast running, so it was interesting to note that Dutch forward Arjen Robben was clocked at 37 kph when he totally outstripped Sergio Ramos to score one of the goals of the tournament. That’s a 10.2 second hundred meters! Can the Oranje go all the way this time?