The Best of World Cup Soccer

As you can tell by this blog, I’ve been enthralled by this World Cup. I’ve always loved soccer, but I’ve been a little surprised by how much of this tournament I want to watch live. The highlights are fine (that’s how I typically watch American football), but I’ve really enjoyed watching the back and forth flow of each game–each team has such a unique style of play.

I watched today’s US-Germany game at a movie theater with a ton of excited fans. It wasn’t a great game to watch as an American, as the Germans put on a clinic of possession and well-timed aggression. I don’t think we held the ball for more than 5 seconds in the first 10 minutes. Yet it felt a lot more uplifting than the US’ dominating performance against Portugal.

I’ve compiled a few notes about this World Cup that I wanted to share here:

  • Penalty kick aerosol: I LOVE the aerosol spray the referees have been using to mark off the distance for penalty kicks. Apparently they’ve been using it in Brazil for quite some time, and it makes perfect sense given that walls seems to move forward several yards after the referee tells them where to stand. This is a great innovation.
  • Sportsmanship: Soccer is one of the few sports where players often help each other up after they knock each other down. There’s a mutual respect that I really like to see in any sport, especially given the number of kids who watch these games.
  • Goal-line technology: I never thought it would make a big difference, but the new goal-line technology has clarified two key goals in this tournament. I think it’s a good example of how technology can be used at the premier level of sports without taking away from lower levels that can’t use such technology. And it’s an instant decision–there is no consulting the replay for 5 minutes like in other sports. That’s how technology in sports should be used–it should be conclusive and instantaneous.

offside2On that note, there are two ways that I think technology could improve the World Cup:

  • Offsides: I was a soccer referee for years, and I can attest to the difficulty of making accurate offsides calls. You have to see exactly when the ball leaves a player’s foot AND exactly where their teammate is in relation to the last defender. I’m impressed by how often referees get it correct. However, this is an area where technology could definitively and instantly declare if a player is offsides or not. Instead of having players trying to call offsides for the referee, every play would continue until a natural stoppage happened, and by then the technology would have declared the play to be onsides or offsides.
  • Retroactive yellow cards: At the World Cup level, yellow cards are a big deal. If you collect two yellow cards in separate games, you miss the next game. However, referees can miss important plays, especially hard fouls and dives. I think more games should be reviewed after play has ended to cut down on those types of fouls/fakes–I think that would discourage more players for doing them during  the game. There are still way too many players who roll around in agony after barely being touched. As I told a friend today during the game, if you’re actually hurt, you’re going to be too hurt to roll around. That type of behavior should be discouraged by retroactively handing out yellow cards (in my opinion).

What do you think about the use of technology at the World Cup?

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