World Cup Update: Are You Not Entertained?!

Okay, maybe you don’t care about soccer and truly aren’t entertained by the World Cup. But I am! Here’s an update with my current thoughts:

We’re entering the quarterfinals with several predictable entrants (France, Uruguay, Brazil, Belgium) and an entire half-bracket that hardly anyone expected to get this far (Russia, Croatia, Sweden, England). This is awesome! It means that the semis are certain to feature two of the unexpected teams, and the final match will feature one of them. While I’m not rooting for Russia, it’s pretty cool to see such a low-ranked host country make it this far.

I love seeing how each match has a completely different feel to it. Japan/Belgium featured swingy, back-and-forth play, with each team going full-speed forward almost the entire game. Today, there were almost no fouls or flops for the entire first 20 minutes of the Switzerland-Sweden game…later juxtaposed by Colombia seemingly fouling every few minutes (some called, some not).

I’ve noticed that the announcers love to say that there’s “nothing the keeper could do” almost every time a goal is scored against them. It’s perhaps the most overused and inaccurate phrase they use, because there’s almost always something a keeper can do: They can position themselves better before the shot, they can react quicker, they can more precisely direct their defense, etc. Yes, being a goalie against the world’s elite players is difficult, but there’s usually something they could have done.

Also, I continue to be a little baffled by how coaches use substitutions. Each team is allowed 3 substitutions for the first 90 minutes, and if a team is up by a goal or more, they rarely make any subs until the 85th minute as a way of wasting time. I get that strategy, and I also understand the importance of holding on to a sub or two in case someone gets hurt. But these teams are stacked with the best players in their country, and it’s human to get tired after sprinting for 8 kilometers. Why don’t more coaches make one strategic sub–offensive or defensive–at the 60-minute mark? I can’t imagine that the difference between most starters and their equivalents on the bench is that big, but I can imagine that a tired player isn’t going to be nearly as effective as a set of fresh legs. What do you think?

Last, here are my picks (some driven by hope, others by reality) for the rest of the tournament:

  • I think France will beat Uruguay and I hope Belgium (my pick in my pool) will beat Brazil. I think Croatia will beat Russia and I hope Sweden will beat England (I’m secretly rooting for England, but I need them to lose to have a chance in my pool).
  • I then think France will unfortunately beat my beloved Belgium and Croatia will win over Sweden.
  • In the France-Croatia final, I think it’ll be a close game with 3-5 goals, and I think France will prevail.

I’m curious to hear any thoughts, predictions, or favorite moments you’ve had from the World Cup so far.


4 Responses to “World Cup Update: Are You Not Entertained?!”

  1. I have to say, this is the first time I have showed any interest in the World Cup. I have really enjoyed keeping up with the group phase and the Round of 16 so far. Really, there is an amazing story that each team goes through and it’s really tough to get a sense of it by simply looking at the scores after the games. Even watching the replays does not give you a sense of what passion these players exert on the field.

    Example: Iceland. If you look at the points they acquired in the group phase you would see that they did very poorly. However if you watch the games you see how painfully close these guys were to making it to the round of 16. And considering that Iceland’s total population is about the same as the CITY of St. Louis, you would realize how difficult it is to draft that many good players to the world stage.

    I personally love Belgium. I think they have a commanding presence on the field and I feel they are one of the more “fair” teams. Sure, they foul, but they are more tactical fouls, not malicious in intent. I love seeing a strong team dominate without the use of shady tactics to win.

    Compare that to some of the ridiculous antics of Brazil, (namely Neymar) or the violence of Columbia. Honestly those countries should be ashamed of those players. They represent your country on the world stage for all to see. I know I would be ashamed, however, the United States didn’t even show up to the World Cup, so I guess I need to wait ti 2026 to see if our players are just as shameful.

    In reference to your comment about players getting tired, yes they do get tired, but not like you and me. These people are highly trained athletes that train to play a full 90 minutes without a break. While they do tire, they take a lot of breaks while on the field. They are the best of the best for a reason. Leaving the managers to make substitutions for strategic reasons not necessary reasons.

    Wow… I could just go on and on about the World Cup. I have truly enjoyed this experience and cannot wait to see what happens next!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s an interesting observation about watching the games versus the highlights. I didn’t see Iceland play much, but I was fascinated by Senegal’s style of play. I think they had a lot of potential.

      I agree with what you’re saying about the antics and violence of certain teams. Sometimes when I see them play like that, I think, “Don’t they know they’re being watched by hundreds of millions of people on TV? They look ridiculous.” That type of behavior makes me want to root against those teams.

  2. Nathan Mestler says:

    The World Cup is so great. Right now I think Belgium and France look fantastic. I think Belgium will find it’s way past Brazil and France will surpass Uruguay. The Belgium vs France semifinal might be the de facto final. I think it will be one of those teams. My heart is cheering for England. They’re the Chicago Cubs of the World Cup; I’d love to see them get over the hump.

  3. Shiny Happy Meeples says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I watched my first game only last night and I was extremely entertained! 😀 I thought it was about time I got involved. I forgot how intense it can be and anxiety inducing when it goes to penalties, but a nice excited kind of anxiety. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game now! EN-GERRR-LAAAAND!!!

Leave a Reply to Shiny Happy Meeples