Monday, July 12, 2010

A boring final and why FIFA should keep the third place game.

Ok, I would not comment the final apart to say that it was a very boring game that showed the limitations of Spain and saw Holland becoming a second Italy (cheating, faking, and fouling). Also, a symbol of the tournament, we saw very timid refereeing that killed the game. But that has been said hundred if not thousands of times since yesterday.

I will concentrate on the other game, the one that meant nothing, the one that was the best of the tournament. Germany-Uruguay had it all. It was a celebration of offensive football, both teams going for it all the time. Until the end they tried not to be boring and pushed. After Khedira’s goal, the Germans tried to control the ball and the game but were not able because Uruguay was throwing everything that them. They managed to get a free kick on the last action of the game and Forlan almost kicked it in, he hit the bar.

So one must asks himself the question why that game was better. Why did we saw two teams going full tilt at each other when in the final they were very timid? This is simple psychology. In the third place game, each team wants to win the game. Even if the coaches make bench players play, even if it is for the Golden Pineapple and even if both team are picking up after devastating defeats. Losing the game is of little or no consequences, there is little distinction between fourth place and not getting out of the group phase. So teams want to win and go at it with all their hearths.

In the final situation, stakes are so high that players go back to their old reflexes that have been hammered into them since they began to play the game. They do not want to win, they want not to lose. This is an important distinction. A team playing to win does all the moves necessary to maximize their chance to win the game, this include moves that, if not successful may result in a goal by the opposition. A team trying not to lose is on the other hand, minimizing the risks of seeing the other team score. Also they are looking not to be criticized, so they do what it is expected of them. Compare the ways Germany played in the semi against Spain and against Uruguay and you will see what I am talking about.

The Euro has abolished the third place game and rumor has it that FIFA is considering it. My hope is that things will stay as it is for the future and allow soccer fans to see the only game in which people are playing to win of all the World Cup.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

And now they were 4….

I got to look at that positively, at least I got one semi right even if I was completely wrong fort he other one.

Holland vs Urugay

Urugay: They were not supposed to be there and they somehow managed to get there. They had an easy group, got South Korea, a defensive team perfect for their style and got lucky against Ghana. They are going to face a much better team with Holland and their best striker is suspended for the handball. Just to be clear, what Suarez did was the ONLY decision he could take. As one that always say that sports people are always taking the suboptimal decision I am not going to critize when one makes an optimal one. Suarez turned a 0% chance of victory into a 12,5% with this handball (Penalties are usually converted 75% of the time and let us assume that they had a 50/50 chance of winning on penalty). Gyan choose a very bad moment to miss and the other Ghanan were shooting like Pee-Wees. Finally, someone should have done his homework and tell Kinson that “El Loco” ALWAYS does that little lob. Their luck is going to run out.

Holland: kudos for beating Brazil but they are not playing pretty football. They are faking, complaining like Italians and lumbering through games like the late 1990s Germans. But they are effective and they win games. They should beat Urugay

Germany vs Spain

Spain: Another team that will run out of luck. They have been a shadow of their former self, where never seriously tested and have not shown that they are able to come back from 0-1. I do not buy into the “Torres can explode at anytime.” theory, the guy is hurt and Spain is a better side without him. This is a one track team, if you take out Villa they are unable to score. Their 1-0 win against a pathetic Portugal did not convinced anyone and their got lucky in the Paraguay game. Luck can only take you so far.

Germany: This team is VERY VERY VERY good and is going to be so for a long time, only 2 players were born in the 70s. They are the most tested team of the tournament and I was really impressed how they destroyed Argentina and how they clobbered Serbia with 10 men. I do not see how it can be beaten by anyone of the 3 other teams could beat them. But Paul does not agree with me.