I didn’t get to see either of the weekend’s games, other than about five minutes at the start of the second half of the championship, so I have very little to say. I haven’t even seen highlights, as I had to spend the morning at the hospital for an intensely boring test, and they didn’t have SportsCenter on. I have seen the infamous head-butt, though, which I have to say is a fairly unique way of knocking a guy down.
The big topic of conversation is, of course, the fact that the title was decided on penalty kicks. In fact, something like half of the games after the group play stage were decided by penalty kicks. Like most Americans, this strikes me as an intensely stupid way of deciding a championship.
The only halfway convincing argument for the use of penalty kicks as a deciding stage in games is that if the game were extended further, exhaustion would become a factor not only for the game in question, but for the next game, as well. While this isn’t entirely convincing (if nothing else, it would seem to be a powerful incentive to, you know, try to score, rather than sitting back in a defensive alignment and playing for the draw), I can accept it at the quarterfinal and semifinal stages. It really doesn’t make any sense for the championship, though– there is no next game, not for weeks or months, so why stop play? Keep playing soccer until somebody wins– either through a continuing series of overtime periods, or by going to sudden death (I’d prefer to see them play the full periods out, even if somebody scores, because that’s both fairer and more entertaining), but get rid of this penalty kick nonsense.
Anyway, that’s my take on the crucial question of how to decide tie games in soccer. Feel free to leave a comment explaining how I’m just an empty-headed American pig with no appreciation of the beauty and elegance of the penalty-kick shoot-out.