I am suffering from major football withdrawal. I find myself screaming ‘GOAL!!’ and ‘PENALTY!!’ in my sleep (well not really, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it did happen). To say that I am anticipating the start of the World Cup would be an understatement. I am one of those persons that started counting down the days/years to the next World Cup as soon as the last one finished. We are just days away now, the last tournament seemed like ages ago. The longest 4 years of my life if I am being honest. Now we are less than a week away.
Here is a brief guide on what to watch out for in Brazil:
This has become a sore point for all parties involved and has the potential of giving the tournament a black eye. There are always obvious missed calls or other blatant refereeing errors at every tournament. Who could forget the host of bad calls Italy and Spain endured at the 2002 World Cup? Or how South Korea seemed to ride refereeing decisions all the way to the semi-finals? At the 2006 World Cup, referee Graham Poll gave three Yellow Cards to Croatian Josip Simunic. Most recently, at the 2010 World Cup Frank Lampard’s equalizer against Germany was incorrectly ruled out. I could go on and on but by the time I got through all the blown calls and controversies it would be time for kick-off. There is a silver lining over the dark cloud of poor refereeing decisions though. The 2014 World Cup will see the introduction of Goal Line Technology. After years of pleas from fans and players alike, FIFA finally caved.
There is a lot of talk that the Brazilian heat will be a cause for concern during the 2014 World Cup. Hot temperatures and hot-headed players might lead to explosive situations. Bad behavior is not uncommon at these tournaments. This will be an issue for the referees. It’s the referee’s job to control the match and ensure that the players stay in line. That being said, the referee cannot be blamed for reckless tackles, blatant fouls, dives, deliberate hand-balls and play-acting. Expect to see this and a lot more bad behavior at the 2014 World Cup. Keep an eye out for Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Nigel De Jong, Balotelli, Suarez and Ronaldo. Of course there will be other culprits but these players are notorious for their bad behavior.
I am going on ‘record’ and saying that I expect to see at least one record broken at the 2014 World Cup. The thirty-six year old Miroslav Klose needs two goals to surpass the Brazilian Ronaldo’s record (15 Goals) for Most Goals in World Cup history. There is good and bad news for Klose. The good news is that he is the only out-and-out striker in Germany’s twenty-three man squad. The bad news is that Germany is expected to use a ‘False Nine’ formation in Brazil; this might see Klose spending extended amounts of time on the bench if they decide not to use him from the start.
If Spain were to upset hosts Brazil and win the 2014 World Cup, They would become the first team to win four consecutive major tournaments. Having already won the 2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros, it might be too difficult a task for them to claim the 2014 World Cup trophy.
If Spain or another European team were to triumph in Brazil, that would also be a record-breaking feat. No European team has ever won a tournament held in the Americas. Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are Europe’s best hope of ending this curse.
“The ball is round…” This is the go to statement from many football fans when they are justifying a team’s chances against a superior opponent. What they mean to say is that anything can happen on a given day. Statistically speaking that is not the case, most times than not the team with the better players will win the match. However, there are times when the better team loses. When favorites lose it can be very upsetting. Hence the term ‘Upsets‘. The World Cup always throws up some ‘Upsets‘. France’s performances at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups were particularly upsetting for fans. South Korea managed to upset a lot of teams on their way to the semifinals in 2002. Spain’s lost to Switzerland in their first match and Italy’s lost to Slovakia in their final group match at the 2010 World Cup were upsetting. A result which saw them not advancing from the group stages for the first time.
The 2014 World Cup should be no different. Expect upsets. There are more improved teams at this tournament. (Colombia, Belgium) These teams might not be favorites but they do have quality players. I don’t want to upset (sorry couldn’t resist) anybody reading this but there will be a few surprises. I predict Netherlands getting the better of Spain in their group match. I also foresee Spain getting revenge on Brazil if/when they meet.
The footballing world is split when it comes to penalty shoot-outs. Some people love it for the sheer excitement and unpredictability it provides. Others hate it because they feel it’s a ‘lottery’ and might not be the best way to decide a match. I have to admit that losing in a penalty shoot-out can be cruel and heartbreaking but there are not many viable alternatives. Some people have suggested unlimited extra time; playing until there is a winner. There are two obvious problems with this option: fatigue and the time factor. Playing unlimited extra time would increase the players’ chances of getting injured. The time between matches and the time the players have to recover would drastically decrease. This would also affect the organizing of tournaments because matches would have to be rescheduled.
Another alternative put forth is a return to ‘sudden death‘ or ‘golden goal‘ as a tie-breaker. If penalty shoot-outs seem cruel then sudden death should be seen as inhumane. Imagine a tournament favorite losing in extra time because of a fluke goal or a dubious penalty decision? Sudden death is definitely a no-no!
Until FIFA can come up with another universally accepted tie-breaker we have no choice but to accept the lottery of the penalty shoot-out. Germany and Argentina are the two most successful teams at Penalties. England, Mexico and Italy are some of the worst teams. Pay special attention to these teams during the 2014 World Cup if they are involved in penalty shoot-outs.
That’s it from me for now (maybe). May the best team win. Who am I kidding? ARGENTINA ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!