4 Things About the World Cup I Don’t Understand

(Christopher Lee / Getty Images)

(Christopher Lee / Getty Images)

If you’re an American who cares about the World Cup, you’re probably as devastated as I am that the US lost a victory today with 25 seconds left to go. I have a few quick things to say about the match before I get to the topic of today’s post.

  • As a whole, the US played remarkably well. In fact, this is one of the best games I’ve ever seen them play on the world stage. They were aggressive, sharp within the attacking third of the field, and put constant pressure on Portugal’s goal.
  • That said, the defense wasn’t great. They had some good moments, but they were also quite lucky that Portugal didn’t score several more goals.
  • Tim Howard was great in goal, but I can’t help but think that he could have done more on the first goal. If you watch the replay, he goes to ground before Nani kicks the ball. Of course, no one likes getting a 100 mph ball in the face, but he’s a world-class keeper–stay on your feet!
  • Last, much ado has been made about Bradley giving up a ball in midfield with 30 seconds left to go, allowing Portugal to score. Yes, he could have done better, but that wasn’t the reason the game ended in a tie instead of a win. The reason is that Bradley didn’t score 30 minutes before that when he had a completely open net. The goal was wide open, and Bradley shot it straight at the lone defender on the line. That, for me, was the defining moment why the US didn’t win.
  • Actually, this will be last: I’m being critical here, but again, overall the US actually played really well. I don’t think they stand a chance against Germany, but hopefully they’ll keep it close and advance anyway.

Okay, now for the actual topic of this entry:

  1. Why isn’t every corner kick perfect? Sure, I have high expectations for these elite, world-class athletes. But I think this one is reasonable: Every corner kick should be perfect. Or at least pretty damn close to perfect. I’m talking about the kick itself, not the mosh pit inside the box–these athletes have taken thousands of corner kicks since they were 8 years old. By this point, no corner kick should go behind the goal or way short or way long. It simply shouldn’t happen.
  2. Why do some teams “turtle” after scoring 1 goal? This confounds me. It seems like the worst strategy ever to sit back on defense for the rest of the game after score a goal. The best way to ensure a victory isn’t to let the other team pound you for 70 minutes–rather, the key is to score more goals. This isn’t rocket science.
  3. Why do coaches wait until 5 minutes to go to sub in new players? In professional soccer, you get 3 substitutions. You need to save 1 pretty much the whole game for injuries/yellow cards. But why do most coaches wait until the very end of the game to make the other 2? Sure, you want to field the best team, which is presumably the starting team. But I would bet you anything that a 9-star player with fresh legs is better than a 10-star player who has sprinted for the last 65 minutes. Especially in the Brazilian heat and humidity, it confounds me that coaches wait until the last few minutes to make subs.
  4. Why do players think the best time-wasting strategy is to run to the corner with the ball? This seems like something I did in pre-school when I thought girls had cooties. It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now. If you want to waste time and force the other team to chase you around, pass the ball. It doesn’t matter how fast the opponent is–they are not faster than a crisp pass.

Is there anything about World Cup strategies that you have a hard time understanding? Also, this chart explaining the US’ chances to move on to the elimination round is pretty awesome.