Tag Archives: World Cup

US needs to be better

15 Jun

So the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup with a 1-0 win over the powerful French region of Guadaloupe. Woo freakin hoo.  Jozy Altidore scored on a rocket shot in the ninth minute and the U.S. basically coasted from that point on.  That is not good enough.

This was a team the U.S. should have beat by four or five goals, not one.  Who cares that it’s not Mexico?  Why can’t the U.S. get up for games against mid-level opponents?  There was no reason to take the foot off the gas against Guadaloupe and no reason to let them think they had a chance at earning a draw.  Why let a team hang around like that?

The epitome of the particularly lackadaisical second half effort was Clint Dempsey’s mind-boggling bungle of a wide-open tap-in late in the second half.  Check it out for yourself here:

That’s all laziness/showboating/being a jackass.  The U.S. can’t afford to play with an attitude like that.  Chances like that have to be buried in the back of the net.  Yeah, it didn’t matter for the end result in this one, but what happens when you do that against Jamaica Saturday?  The U.S. will get eliminated, that’s what.

It all stems from the team’s inability to play an entire 90 minutes of soccer, which has been an issue for what feels like forever.  The U.S. couldn’t play an entire game against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final or against England, Algeria, Slovenia or Ghana in the World Cup.  Same goes for all three group games in the Gold Cup.

Is that lack of intensity and preparation on the players or on Bob Bradley? The blame isn’t 100% on either party, but one has to look very strongly at Bradley as the main perpetrator.  He led the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup, but I still say that’s not good enough when the team clearly had the ability to do better.  The players seem to have regressed even from last year’s so-so World Cup form.  There’s always a risk of things getting stale with the same coach for two World Cup cycles and it really looks like we are already there with Bradley.  But Bradley’s not the one on the field either and the players need to step it up too.

Will he be fired?  I doubt it unless there’s a completely abysmal performance (and elimination) against Jamaica Saturday.  But something’s got to change if the U.S. is ever consistently going to perform at a high level.  What do you think it needs to be?

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FIFA: masters of shadiness

25 Feb

I wrote this short paper for my Socio-Cultural Dimension in Sport class because we had to write about sports and politics.  After all the shizz that went down with the World Cup voting, I just had to write about FIFA (even though I had to refrain from ranting too much about the World Cup voting politics).  After the research I did for this paper, I realized FIFA was even shadier than I thought (which is quite a feat).  Enjoy and let me know what you think…

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, known commonly as FIFA, is the world governing body for soccer. Article three of the organization’s own standards statutes state “FIFA is neutral in matters of politics and religion.”  When charged with running the world’s most popular game, that seems like a pipe dream and has proven as such. FIFA has long played a part in world politics, whether it wants to or not.  There are examples from history about FIFA’s involvement (or non-involvement) in political situations around the globe such as the role of Argentina’s military junta bribing its way to World Cup hosting duties in or the suspension of the Togo national team after a bus attack at the African Cup of Nations.

FIFA has power and authority over 207 member countries and the rules of the game; however the organization is not exactly renowned for its competence. If FIFA were the government of a nation-state and organization president Sepp Blatter was in charge, it would be like Sarah Palin had taken over – completely terrifying.  David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round states, “Many things in the world are badly governed. There are many elites who are incompetent, self-serving, self-important and arrogantly blasé about their evident limitations.  None of them can begin to compare with the circus masquerading as the global governance of football.”

Despite being in charge of the world’s most popular sport, FIFA is a notoriously secretive organization.  While it is easy as pie to go online and find the salary of the President of the United States, a Google search for ‘Sepp Blatter salary’ yields only estimated figures.  There is no accountability to the nations, clubs or players under the FIFA umbrella.  Earlier this decade, $60 million from Brazil’s Globo for TV rights was diverted to secret accounts and over $316 million in sponsorship money had simply gone missing.

Even the process of awarding the multi-million dollar crown jewel World Cup is carried out in extreme secrecy. FIFA’s 24 member executive committee votes in secret on the host country and what they say goes. Much like the process of securing Olympic hosting duties, this process has turned increasingly political.  Countries rely on prominent political figures to speak for their bid.  For example, when the U.S. was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, former President Bill Clinton was highly involved.  England sent Prime Minister David Cameron to the official vote in a final attempt to sway voters to the England bid for 2018.

Prominent politicians play only a tiny role in the process though as there are alliances formed between voting members and promises (and quite possibly bribes) made behind closed doors that have nothing to do with soccer. Call me crazy, but that sounds kind of like Congress. 

After FIFA awarded the bids for the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar, respectively, the rumours of bribes and oil money promises ran rampant (and still are too).  Despite the organization’s insistence on staying out of politics, after the hosts were announced, the secretary-general Jérôme Valcke told reporters, “It’s a political decision to open up onto the world. It was the same thing with hosts South Africa.”

Like I stated before, it is near impossible for FIFA to stay completely out of politics.  The line between soccer and politics is a blurry one and Valcke’s comment only verifies that.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is trying to create and protect a legacy of expanding the game to new places around the ground, thus, the awarding of the World Cup to places like South Africa and Qatar.  Despite the appeal of sending the world’s biggest sporting event to the far corners of the globe, FIFA fails to recognize the economic implications of such a decision.  When the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, all the stadiums used were already in place as either NFL or college fields.  There was not the need to build brand new stadiums which helped keep costs to a minimum. 

For the 2010 World Cup, South Africa spent over $1 billion to build and renovate 10 stadiums around the country.  Several of these stadiums now sit empty as they are not the correct size or dimensions for either cricket or rugby, two of the most popular sports in South Africa.  Green Point Stadium, for example, costs over $6 million just to maintain.  While some of the stadiums are able to be used for the South African soccer leagues, several are in areas such as Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit, where there are no major sports teams located nearby. There was a communication breakdown between the country’s soccer, rugby and cricket authorities as the needs of the cricket and rugby teams were not given much thought prior to the stadiums being built.  While there was an initial economic boom immediately after the World Cup, it has not been sustained.  FIFA’s priority was on bringing the World Cup to South Africa and the organization did not think that hosting the tournament could actually end up having a negative impact on the country.  There is no focus on the sustainability of the soccer culture and stadiums in South Africa; FIFA basically washed its hands of the issues once the World Cup final ended July 11.

FIFA is the “elite that faces no opposition, little scrutiny and is bound by no single legal jurisdiction” according to Goldblatt.  FIFA holds significant political influence, particularly when it comes to the World Cup, and in turn is influenced, whether rightly or wrongly, by the politics of the day.

How is there not more outcry over this?!

14 Dec

I saw these somewhat enigmatic tweets from Jonathan Alter (http://www.twitter.com/jonathanalter), an Newsweek columnist and MSNBC analyst, earlier today about the World Cup going to Qatar.  This is the kind of information that needs to be out in the public vein, not just on Twitter, if indeed true.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this was true. FIFA has proved over and over that it only cares about money, despite insisting that is far from the truth.

Sepp Blatter’s recent uip about homosexuals refraining from sexual activities during the World Cup in Qatar (since homosexuality is illegal there) struck nerves too and begged the question yet again, why the hell would you send the World Cup to Qatar?

Ballon d’Or final three revealed

6 Dec

Well, someone from Barcelona is going to win the Ballon d’Or. The three finalists were revealed today and Barca players Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are the three standing after the initial shortlist was cut down from 23. All three of those players are deserving, but Wesley Sneijder got shafted. He deserved to be on the list too after the stellar season he had for Inter in winning the treble as well as his crucial role in getting the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

All three finalists are clearly excellent players, but my vote would have to go to Xavi. The lynchpin in the midfield, Xavi led Spain to its first-ever World Cup. Without him, Spain does not hoist that trophy. Xavi’s passing skills and ability to control the midfield are second-to-none. I wish I had that kind of vision. He helped lead Barcelona to the La Liga title and Champions League semifinals as well.

Check out his skills:

Russia gets 2018, Qatar nabs 2022

2 Dec

Russia will host the World Cup in 2018, four years after hosting the Winter Olympics. In somewhat of a surprise move, Qatar earned the right to host the 2022 cup. As a fan, I’ve got to say that neither of those locations is particularly appealing. 115 degrees in July? No thanks. Anyways, I’m swamped right now, but I will elaborate on the phenomenal choices of the FIFA Executive Committee later tonight.

Get excited for World Cup host announcements

30 Nov

Forget Brazil 2014. Well, for now. Right now, it’s all about who will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. The U.S. is gunning for the 2022 bid along with Australia, Korea, Qatar and Japan. The 2018 Cup will be decided between Russia, England, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands. It’s looking like the U.S. is the favorite for 2022, but take that with a grain of salt.  The U.S. was also thought to be the favorite to land the Olympics in 2016 but ended up being eliminated in the first round of voting (granted a different voting body).

The 1994 World Cup was the most successful ever, in terms of attendance. If anything, the game has grown in this country since then so I would imagine even more interest in the beautiful game.  There’s not a lot of work to do as far as transportation or stadiums since they are already in place in all the possible host cities.  Of course, I would love for the World Cup to come back to the U.S.; I didn’t get to go in 1994, a fact I am still bitter about.

However, I would gladly attend a World Cup in Australia too.  The Aussies ran an extremely successful Olympic games in 2000, so there’s no reason to think they couldn’t pull off a World Cup despite having never hosted.  Korea and Japan combined to host the event in 2002, so it would be only 20 years between Asian World Cups, which doesn’t exactly seem fair to me.  Qatar is somewhat of an enigma. The country has spent a ton of money on celebrity endorsements as well as state of the art technology for stadiums, but is the size and politics of the country ready for the world’s biggest party?

England hasn’t hosted since 1966, but allegations of corruption and other shady dealings have dealt somewhat of a blow to the country’s bid.  Russia  has come on strong, while FIFA is said to be wanting to get away from joint bids. (That might be the worst sentence ever written.)

The annoucement of the hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be on Thursday, Dec. 2. It will be shown live at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, Univision, ESPN Deportes, CNN International and fifa.com.

Getting rid of extra time? Horrible idea

10 Sep

Sepp Blatter did not like the fact that the World Cup in South Africa was relatively low-scoring.  He thinks the potential solution to this “problem” is the elimination of extra time in knock out stage matches and after 90 minutes, teams will go straight to penalties.  This is a terrible idea.

The other option is the return of the golden goal, which was used at both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, in which the first team to score in extra time wins.  I would gladly take the golden goal approach over the complete elimination of extra time.

Blatter was unhappy with the admittedly rather boring first round of group games and thinks they need to figure out how to make teams play “free-flowing football”.  First of all, you aren’t going to be able to MAKE a team do anything.  Second, it’s the first game teams are playing in the World Cup.  They are bound to go out a little slowly to feel out their opponents and get comfortable in that atmosphere.

The elimination of extra time would not help this so-called problem.  Teams that were out-matched would just put everyone behind the ball and go for penalties.  Of course we all know that style of soccer is so fun to watch.  If anything, getting rid of extra time would make the “problem” of low-scoring matches worse.

And can you imagine the World Cup final with no extra time?  And the Netherlands winning on penalties?  How unsatisfying would that be?  Plus, Iniesta’s late winner in extra was pure class.  Or perhaps the Uruguay-Ghana game going straight to penalties?  All the drama in that game happened in the last seconds of extra time!  That late drama made the game so much more exciting.

And guess what, Mr. Blatter? Soccer is not meant to be a high-scoring game.  Part of the excitement is when teams take advantage of the few good chances they get.  It also seems like Blatter is the one that wants FIFA to study this “issue” just because he doesn’t like it.  Lame. The World Cup is not there solely for his own entertainment.

At least with the return of the golden goal, I wouldn’t have had to go through 27 minutes of agony after Ghana scored early in the first extra time period against the U.S.  So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.