It was a lazy Sunday in Chateau Steelypips, what with the party Saturday afternoon, so I watched a fair amount of soccer. I saw nearly all of the England-Ecuador game, and the second half of the Portugal-Netherlands game. This has made something clear to me:
The most difficult thing to find in international soccer is not a good goalie, or a great midfielder, or a skilled striker. The most difficult thing to find in international soccer is a good referee. Because otherwise, I can’t explain why the idiot working the Portugal-Netherlands game was drawing a paycheck.
Miscellaneous other observations:
- England striker Wayne Rooney doesn’t look so much like a world-class athlete, as a guy who ought to be picking fights in a pub somewhere. Which, judging from his on-field temperment, he probably does in the off-season.
- There have been a remarkable number of long-range goals in this World Cup, including Beckham’s sick free-kick yesterday. It seems like more people are scoring from outside the penalty box than inside. I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence, or if there’s some strategic reason for it, but it’s interesting.
- The announcers continue to be horrible. I eventually switched over to Univision for the end of the first half of the England game, because I was getting really sick of the commentary. I went back to ABC at halftime, though, because studio analysis really loses something when you can’t understand the language…
- To be fair to the referees, it’s got to be really hard to officiate international soccer matches– you’ve got the flopping problem, and the language barrier, and you’re only one guy trying to keep twenty-two players in line. The only worse gig has to be officiating international rugby games (fifteen to a side, and all of the violent). Still, that was horrendous.
- England is set up either for an easy path to the semis, or a failure that will echo down through the ages: Portugal had two guys sent off in the great card-o-rama, and a third (one of their best players) was injured and left the game in the first half. The English haven’t been all that inspired, but they ought to be able to beat a depleted side. You would think.
Anyway, it was nice to see that it’s possible to have an incredibly ugly game not involving the United States. Here’s hoping for some better play in the upcoming games.