Kicking things around….

I’ve decided that I don’t just have to wait for big, lengthy things to pop into, then out of, my head in order to post here. This way I can post more frequently and hopefully still keep things interesting.

I’ve had a lot of little things flow through my brain during the early pool play stage of the World Cup, which I’ve watched a lot more of than I thought I would before it began. Here are a few….

  • First of all, the referees. There have been some terrible calls so far in the tournament, one of the most recent being Kaka’s second yellow card that earned him a suspension from Brazil’s final pool play game against Portugal on Friday. It seems like many of the complaints recently (ask the Swiss about losing Valon Behrami in the 31st minute to a suspect red card) have surrounded foul calls and cards, but as far as I’m concerned the soccer world has brought this on itself. Many players go out of their way to draw cards with what can honestly best be described as histrionics of an appalling degree. As long as such ridiculous behavior isn’t more discouraged in some way, such calls will be made.
  • Speaking of bad calls, the fact that FIFA acted so quickly in saying that Mali official Koman Coulibaly would be investigated only to come out later and say they’re satisfied with the performance of their officials should make fans and others only more incensed about the United States’ lost game-winning goal by Maurice Edu — and the three points that went with it. The fact that officials don’t have to explain such game-changing calls, even after such controversy, is even worse. They could use a little more Jim Joyce culpability. I wonder if getting “coulbalied” will work its way into the lexicon because of this. If it does, it might actually be a good sign for soccer.
  • I didn’t realize until I saw the story that Monday morning’s Portugal-North Korea match was aired live in North Korea in a rare display of openness by the government. In the past, the fans there have mostly only gotten extremely edited highlights. And what do fans get for the ability to watch their beloved team play on the biggest stage in the world for the first time since 1966? They got to see Portugal score six second-half goals for the biggest blowout so far this tournament and knock out North Korea … just as it did back in 1966. The AP story noted that as the match ended, the broadcast was quickly ended with “The Portuguese won the game and now have four points. We are ending our live broadcast now.” Gee, you think this might have an adverse effect on future attempts at “openness”?
  • If the Washington Redskins players can see how stupid it is for Albert Haynesworth to whine about the defensive scheme the team uses and demand a trade just after getting a truckload of money, why can the French players not see how incredibly stupid it was to “strike” Sunday and not practice for a match that could still get them to the knockout stage of the Cup to protest a player being sent home after screaming obscenities at the coach? Is it worth one player to potentially ruin what was presumably four years of preparation? Apparently so. Even better is that supposedly team captain Patrice Evra initiated the walkout. If I were South Africa, I would be drooling over the chance to face such an obviously disorganized squad in front of my home fans, even if it’s unlikely a win would lead to advancement barring an epic blowout. I have a feeling the vuvuzelas will be especially loud this morning.
  • Can the U.S. ever win enough to win over American fans and make the sport more viable in this country? It’s hard to say. I thought with all the kids playing thanks to their “soccer moms” that it was inevitable, but it seems that a fair number of those kids don’t necessarily stay with the sport or even know what they’re doing enough to follow a game on TV or in person — or have the desire to. I think it’s mainly because the soccer team has never been competitive on a level with other such world events like the Olympics. Until they are consistently (and will they ever be?), my guess is it likely won’t happen.
  • I’m not a fan of the final pool play games being played simultaneously, though I can understand it prevents teams from seeing they’re already through and they can rest up for the Round of 16 with another team’s loss earlier in the day. At least the games are on neighboring channels (on my cable system, anyway).
  • I don’t think there’s anything I want to see more than New Zealand stun Paraguay Thursday. What the All Whites have done so far has been amazing to watch, and I just have to root for that kind of an underdog to get out of pool play.

Well, I’d better wrap this up, it being so late. This is set to automatically post in the morning, so that I can concentrate on getting up to watch more soccer. Wow, did I just type that? Crazy.

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