Observations on the FIFA World Cup

I have to admit when this thing started I had very little (OK actually zero) interest in the world cup.

Who else is with me in ignoring the world cup? (except of course to see how I am doing in @flyboytyler world cup pool)Fri Jun 11 12:47:16 via TweetDeck

That changed pretty quickly, I don’t know if it was the USA being involved in exciting games, knowing a couple of people who were there, or just speaking to people every day who were knowledgeable about the game, and were able to explain some of the finer points, but in the end I got interested in the World Cup.  I doubt I will be watching much soccer (and yes it is soccer not football, in my vocabulary football means this, and starts in the fall) when this World Cup wraps up, but I will definitely be interested when the World Cup arrives in Brazil in 2014. Meanwhile, here are some of my observations after watching a number of games – Soccer is a tough game, these, these guys get hit, tackled, stepped on, kicked, and just keep going.   – The game is incredibly fast paced a 45 half takes about 48-50 minutes to play including the stoppage time added. (where a 60 minute Football game takes around 3 hours) – Goals are incredibly hard to come by, I can’t believe how many 0-0 and 1-0 games there were – I don’t like tie games, there were way too many of them in the first round, they should really play until someone wins (think NHL Playoffs where the game goes on until someone wins or they all drop from exhaustion) – The officiating has way too big of an impact on the game, I think they definitely need to add more officials on the field, and consider instant replay.  For the most part I like the way the NFL has implemented instant replay, I don’t want to see replay in Baseball, but from what I have seen Soccer really needs it based on all the controversy and missed calls that I saw watching a few games.  I also wonder why they don’t just RFID tag the ball, and automatically track if it is over the line. – I though baseball was the only sport that once you left the game you could not return, now I have learned Soccer is the same, with only 3 substitutions per game that means most of the players are playing the full 90 minutes (someone told me they run an average of 10-11 miles per game) – The players are all actors, diving, and otherwise acting like they were injured to influence the referee to make a call – Yellow Cards have a huge impact on the game, I find it hard to believe that a player can be forced to miss an entire game (especially in the elimination rounds) and that a team can wind up playing a man down for a good portion of the game. – I hope that the Vuvuzelas is not the next craze to sweep through US Sports stadiums, though someone already tried. – I am not sure I understand the timekeeping, is there a reason they don’t stop the clock like in other sports? This seems to be another area of the game where the referee can impact the game by arbitrarily deciding how much additional time to add at the end of each half, and when to call the game over. – The game stops for nothing, when a player is down and stays down they immediately bring in a stretcher and pull them off field. – The off sides rule is complicated, in Hockey off sides is basically about the position of the player, the puck, and a fixed line, in Soccer is is about the position of the offensive player, the ball, and the defensive players. – For the most part the players show true sportsmanship at the end of the matches win or lose, I like how many players swapped jerseys with their opponent at the end of each game. – ESPN is doing a terrific job broadcasting the games, as well as streaming them all live, with no tape delays or time zone issues (NBC and the Olympics wake up and take note please). I know the World Cup is not over yet, but the tournament really seems to slow down at this point, by the end of today 56 of the 64 matches will have been completed, and it will take another 12 days to play the remaining 8 games.

10 Responses to Observations on the FIFA World Cup
  1. Stuart McIntyre
    June 29, 2010 | 10:56 am

    ” I don’t like tie games, there were way too many of them in the first round, they should really play until someone wins”

    There you have the difference between US sport and the rest of the World. A draw can be a very good thing – life isn’t black and white like that. Sometimes a 3:3 or even 0:0 result is the right one, and theres satisfaction to be had from fighting back to salvage a draw…. The insistence on NBA or NFL matches ending in a result by forcing overtime (IMHO) diminishes the value of fighting to stay in the game.

  2. Karl-Henry Martinsson
    June 29, 2010 | 10:57 am

    Football – game where the players kick a ball (a round object) with their feet.

    American Football – game where heavily padded players hold an oval object made of leather in their hands and move it forward by a combination of throwing it and holding it and running with it.
    The so called “ball” (should it not be called an “oval”?) is only kicked when attempting a field goal or for a bonus point after scoring a touchdown.

    Did I get it right? Emoticon

  3. Kerr Rainey
    June 29, 2010 | 11:38 am

    Football vs Handegg

    { Link }


  4. Antoine Leboyer
    June 29, 2010 | 11:39 am

    – Tough game: yes, Why on earth is this sport played in the US by women ?
    – The problem with the world cup is that referees have to be from all participating countries. In practice, European referees have seen all possible tactics and know them by heart. Fooling them is far more difficult. FIFA should introduce videos.
    – There are more tie games in world cups than country seasons games
    – Off side rules, I will make you a simple drwaing next week ..

    Best, AL

  5. Oliver Regelmann
    June 29, 2010 | 11:46 am

    Re timekeeping: unless there’s some really big problem like heavy rioting in the stadium the clock doesn’t stop. It’s up to the referee to decide how much time is added to the 45 minutes per half. Usually this is based on the amount of goals and time lost on injuries. Until some years ago no-one knew how long a half would last exactly but since then the fourth referee displays the amount after 45 minutes.

    There are discussions to use technical helpers like a chip in the ball or allowing video replay for a long time now. FIFA always wanted to keep the “human touch” in the game. But because there have been a lot of really wrong decisions this world cup the discussions starts again. See for example here: { Link }

  6. Chris Whisonant
    June 29, 2010 | 2:18 pm

    @Antoine – Mitch does do better with simple drawings, so I’m sure that would be excellent for him… Emoticon Emoticon

  7. Adrian Spender
    June 29, 2010 | 4:37 pm

    I’ve played and watched (and even officiated) the game for most of my life, so it is interesting to see your views Mitch.

    In a league format, as the group stages of the World-Cup are, draws are an integral part of the game. Gaining 3 points for a win versus 1 point for a draw leads to fantastic dynamics in league-based competitions. A point is good enough, so do you play for the draw and risk going down to a last-minute goal, or go all out to win? The drama this introduces in the final group games (and hence why they kick off at the same time) or on the final day of the season when promotion and relegation (another alien concept probably!) is up for grabs is just one reason why this is the most popular sport on the planet. It’s the sheer dynamics of it and how it affects strategy. It’s not always just win or lose. If you are 1-0 down with ten minutes to go, scoring one goal to get a point (and take two from your opposition) is much more likely than scoring two to win outright.

    As you may have seen today with the Paraguay – Japan match, in a straight knockout format, which we are now in, then games to reach a conclusion that seems one team win. If level after 90 minutes it goes to a 30 minute period of extra-time, which if no team comes out on top leads to penalties. Penalties are another peculiar trait of the game which you’ll no doubt find amusing!

    Interesting that you think the game is tough. It certainly can be, but in comparison to Rugby, soccer (I’ll concede that for this comment only) is generally considered as a game more of finesse and skill rather than brawn. Rugby players would call soccer players lightweight pansies! However, you are correct that from an athletic point of view, soccer is an extremely demanding sport (which a lot of people don’t realise.) A midfielder will run around 5-6 miles a game (as another commenter said, the figure you quoted is likely kilometers.) However the main point is that you are *never* stood still. The game involves constant movement and you are constantly switching from jogging pace to full pelt running. When off the ball you are always finding position relative to your team-mates or the opposition, looking for opportunities, anticipating movements and passes etc.

    I won’t comment on decisions and replays etc. as I have a rare blog post of my own brewing on that subject.

    I’m glad you are enjoying the World Cup! Maybe one day you can help me appreciate NFL Emoticon

  8. axel
    June 30, 2010 | 3:15 am

    A 0:0 gives teams as Algeria or Trinidad & Tobago a real chance to accomplish a goal.
    Videos would slow the game down. I am very much in favour of a chip in the ball to clarify goal situations.
    I don’t think that some wrong decicions regarding offside harm too much. Well, with the first goal of Argentina against Mexico the referee really commited a serious mistake. Stuff like this happens in life, too.

    I enjoy watching NFL Super Bowl finals and I watched semi-finals, too, back when they were transmitted in free TV. Don’t use pay TV sport chanels, because of fear to watch too much of it. Emoticon

    Very few games are left, true. But more drama is added. The better teams play against each other. Many of those teams really are able to strike back, when the oponent leads by 1 or 2 goals. Those are the best games to watch.

  9. Shrinivas Sahadev
    June 30, 2010 | 7:35 am


    I think you need some time to understand Soccer rules. Soccer is a beautiful game of Skill and teamwork. I’ve played and watched and even officiated in few Soccer leagues in India.

    Though India is not qualified for Soccer WorldCup 2010, there is a hug craze for Soccer.

    With regards to Yellow crad, if the player gets Yellow card they do not miss the entire game, its just a caution to player. The player only miss the next match incase if he gets two Yellow card.

    If the player gets Red card were the player miss the current game and the next match.

    The Soccer Law is well defined. Which give each team a fair chance to make a goal.

    In WC 2010 there has been few mistakes by the referee, after all its difficult to officiate such a fast game with out hampering the tempo of the game.

    If you start watching Soccer you would definetly love this game.

  10. Frank
    June 30, 2010 | 1:34 pm

    Nice post, Mitch. I’m not ignoring World Cup, but like the recap of what you’ve found and learned. I can relate.

    btw – I also have twin boys now, so can relate with you on that level too! Emoticon