Friday’s games showcased everything that makes international soccer maddening for Americans to watch: dreadful officiating, lack of scoring, and annoyingly conservative strategy. The referee in the Germany-Serbia game handed out cards like it was a poker tournament, with the result that, in the second half, every time two players got within about a meter of each other, both fell down, figuring it was about 50-50 that he would call something.
The cavalcade of cards eventually got German striker Miroslav Klose thrown out (for a nothing little tackle), so Germany spent the last hour or so of the game playing 10 on 11. Not that you would’ve known from the play on the field. After scoring a goal to take the lead before halftime, Serbia spent the entire second half all turtled up, letting Germany control the ball and bang away futilely at the goal. They mounted only token offense, and really should’ve been tied, but Lukas Podolski, Germany’s other Polish forward, had a nightmare afternoon in which he missed at least three wide open shots, including a penalty kick.
If there’s any (poetic) justice, Serbia will finish group play tied with another team, and fail to advance on goal differential, which they could’ve done something about, but chose not to. Watching them run out the clock for an entire half was just pathetic, even more pathetic than the officiating.
Bad as that was, the ref for the US-Slovenia game was even worse.
It wasn’t just the mystery foul that disallowed what should’ve been a winning goal, either. In the first half, he issued a yellow card to Michael Findley for, apparently, hitting the ball with his face. This is especially galling because it will cost Findley the next game, as it was his second yellow card this tournament.
There’s very little I can say about the mystery disallowed goal that hasn’t been said already. Nobody is even sure what sort of foul the referee thought he saw, because soccer is one of the very few sports in which the referee doesn’t give some sort of clear signal as to what he was calling, and FIFA doesn’t have any interest in providing an explanation.
This could’ve been very costly for the US, but fortunately, the gods of soccer have decided to maximize the potential hilarity of Group C, having England settle for a 0-0 tie with Algeria. This sets up a win-and-you’re-in scenario for both England and the US, with a chance that England might fail to advance, which would be incredibly funny after that “England Algeria Slovenia Yanks” headline.
Saturday was a pretty “meh” day. Japan put up a good fight against the Netherlands, but was outmatched. Ghana and Cameroon continued the dismal showing for African teams, with a tie and a loss, respectively. The Cameroon-Denmark game was some of the worst soccer I’ve seen this tournament– they looked like a couple of American junior high teams, kicking the ball more or less at random, with no clear plan of what to do. This did at least produce a lot of shots on goal, but most of them were pretty bad.
So, there’s my half-witted analysis. As always, feel free to explain how I’m an idiot in the comments…