Friday, July 4, 2014

How I Would Change The World Cup

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

After watching or listening to all or parts of the sixty World Cup Soccer matches so far this year,  I think I am now in an unique position to offer advice on how to change the Tournament for the better.

I am ready to assume my position as Soccer Czar.

First of all, let me tell you what I like about this year's event. It basically starts and ends with the television and radio coverage on ESPN.

Living on the West Coast of the United States, I was in the perfect time zone for viewing or listening to the coverage even though I worked through the entire tournament and couldn't get to Brazil.

I set up shop at my favorite table (by the window) of my friend's cafe which is equipped with a large screen TV and around the corner from my office by the John Wayne Airport in South Orange County. I would watch part of a game at morning break and the last half of a game at lunch.

Coupled with live Wimbledon Tennis matches for breakfast, I have been in pretty good shape for the last couple of weeks during the work week when it comes to being a sports spectator.

On the weekends I have listened to all the World Cup games on ESPN Radio while working around my home.

ESPN has done a great job all around with excellent commentators.

My only pet peeve is the English chap on the Radio side who can't seem to pronounce the most basic of Latin surnames like Hernandez and Martinez.  But I will forgive him because he has such a darn charming English accent.

What are my criticisms and what would I change about the World Cup Soccer tournament?  I don't even know where to begin.

Let's start with the now archaic tradition of having all the games played in one country.

After over 14 billion dollars were spent and at human lives were sacrificed to get the country of Brazil ready for this World Cup when it sorely needed that money for more important endeavors and problems, it is seriously time to rethink this aspect of the tournament.

Adding to this is the reported problems and abuses that Qatar is experiencing in getting ready for their World Cup.  In my opinion, FIFA (the association that runs the event) is largely responsible and needs to take accountability for this abuse.  In all of this, it seems that it has been forgotten that soccer is just a game and sports is a toy box.  It's really not that serious in the grand scheme of things.

This is, after all, the WORLD Cup.  Why should one country monopolize the entire tournament?  Why can't the rest of the world enjoy parts of the tournament close to home?

The World Baseball Classic has it right.  As is the case with the WBC, the round robin tournament preliminary round of World Cup Soccer should be held in different countries all around the world in a regional setting.

For instance, this year Mexico, United States, Costa Rica and Honduras could have been in one group and those games could be played in Mexico City or San Francisco, or San Jose, Costa Rica or Los Angeles in an existing Stadium that did not have to be rushed to be completed in time.

The tournament could then move on to the host country for the "Knock Out Round".  One of the Groups (involving four of the South American countries) could have played their preliminary round robin tournament in the host country also.

The point is that all this money did not have to be spent in building new state of the art stadiums.  In a soccer rich country like Brazil and countries all around the world the stadiums already exist.

My next point of contention is the officiating.

Poor officiating has cost some teams this year.  The biggest example in my mind is the Mexico-Netherlands game last weekend.  It was clear to the rest of the world that Netherlands star player Arjen Robben dramatically "flopped" (faking injury and going to the ground) at least three times during the match but was never called for it.

With the game in the final crucial minutes and knotted at 1-1, there was yet another blatant flop by Robben and a free penalty kick (equivalent to a free throw in basketball from five feet away or a slam dunk) awarded to the Netherlands.  The result was an easy goal and a win for the Netherlands.

In the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals, this would not have happened because the officials, unless it is so blatant and undeniable would have let the players play and kept penalties, especially those that effect the outcome of the game, to a minimum.

At the very least there should be video review (similar to the NFL, MLB or NHL) to keep the officiating from becoming a factor.

Then there is the way the games in the knock out rounds are determined if tied after regulation and Overtime.

Shoot-outs are the most anti-climatic way to end a match after regulation.  There is a reason why the NHL Playoffs are the best, most entertaining and most exciting of all the championships.  It's because of the sudden death aspect of the games.

I realize that soccer would be physically brutal if it was allowed to go on to a sudden death OT with the length of the field, etc.

This is why I propose the following radical plan.

If after regulation and the two fifteen minute Overtime periods do not produce a winner, then the size of the field should be reduced to roughly the size of a hockey rink with plexiglass walls.  The goal should be reduced to a size of slightly larger than a ice hockey goal.  The size of the teams should be reduced to six on each side with free substitutions.  Then let the Sudden Death Overtime begin.

In this  method, those teams that are now content to play defensively and wait until the shoot out or are would not be good in a 6 on 6 game might want to try to get the job done in regulation.

And last but not least: Why is soccer the only game where the clock counts up and stoppage time added?  Why can't you count down and just stop the clock when you have to like every other game where a clock is involved?

Well, that's it for now.  I have to go and get ready for the first game today.  Not sure who I am going to root for now that my favorite team (Team USA) has been knocked out.

Leaning toward the team that USA lost to in the so-called "Group of Death" - Germany.

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