The World Cup draw is set and man, it's a tough one for the US men's national team. And for England and Italy and Uruguay. And for Spain and Netherlands and Chile. Like we expected, the draw produced several very difficult groups.
On December 6, in Salvador, Brazil, FIFA will stage the massive dog and pony show known as the World Cup draw, setting the field for next summer’s tournament. ... You can bet that there will be representatives from the football associations of at least a dozen countries holding their heads in disbelief when the dust settles and the names are all drawn December 6th.
The lack of really important football analytics contributions on display at SSAC '13, particularly compared to the great leaps forward being made in basketball, makes me wonder. Is there less here than meets the eye?
Ok, you can't deny this has been a very entertaining tournament so far. All of the final games of the group stage had stakes, and every pair of final matches in the groups had real drama. There was even some decent football.
Well, the mandarins at FIFA, one of the world's most venal and corrupt bureaucracies, have selected Russia and Qatar, respectively, as the sites for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
At one point late in the second half of the dreadful MLS Cup Final, with both of these mediocre teams protecting the 1-1 scoreline and heading to extra-time, I was actually tempted to flip over to watch the LA Lakers-Golden State Warriors NBA game, despite the fact that LA was up by 30 at the time. Seemed like it might be more compelling.
It was a bizarre weekend in the MLS playoffs. With the exception of LA (more on that later), every higher seed lost their first round series. New York Red Bull crashed and burned against San Jose. Columbus went down on penalties to Colorado after a regular time stalemate. And Dallas convincingly held Real Salt Lake to a draw at Rio Tinto, allowing them through on aggregate after their 2-1 win at home last week.
So, LA Galaxy went to Seattle, into one of the best (and, for LA, most hostile) atmospheres in the history of MLS playoffs, and came away with a one goal victory. Despite all of the pre-match hype about Seattle's pace, and midfield possession, and wing play, and how hot they were down the stretch, as I predicted, the Galaxy dictated the flow of the match and go back to Home Depot Center in the driver's seat.
With only a couple of games left in the MLS season, the playoff picture is relatively clear. And a large part of that clarity is just how fucked up and unfair the MLS playoff format truly is.
It's kind of an odd year for a Fulham supporter. After last season's magical run through the Europa League -- and believe me, as a Fulham fan it was truly magical -- there's an air of let-down about the team this year.
Well, the World Cup is over and Spain are champions. Good. Balance is restored to the universe. The best team playing the best style managed to win.
The New York Times has a piece on the Cruyff connection. Jonathan Wilson at The Guardian dissects the prevalence of the 4-2-3-1 formation at the World Cup, and contrasts the two examples of the formation on display in the final.
While I am delighted that Spain and Holland are in the final, I'm personally a bit conflicted about who to support.
I'm very excited about the semi-finals, because I think this World Cup hangs in the balance. There's less inevitability about these four teams than any cup I can remember. Any of these teams could win it. I'd put the Germans first on current form, fitness, and national football character; the Spaniards second on talent and guile; the Dutch third on efficiency and good luck; and the Uruguayans fourth, well, for a lot of reasons.
I got four things very wrong in my pre-tournament predictions. First, I vastly over-estimated the quality of the old European powers outside Europe (even though I explicitly discounted for their tendency not to travel well). I guess I thought that they would ultimately suck it up and perform on the big stage. I picked 6 European teams to make the Round of 16, and in fact 6 made it. While I got the trend right, I missed that France, Italy and England were far weaker than I suspected, and the youthful Germany far stronger.
Uruguay 2:1 South Korea -- actually a pretty good match. Uruguay took the game over in the 8th minute with a crazy play. Forlan sent a low cross through the penalty area behind the Korean back four, who all turned around and watched as the ball drifted through.
I'm kind of sick of the whole "what it means for US soccer" meme. It means we are through to the final 16 of the World Cup. As group winners, over England. If that's not enough, I don't know what's going to do it.
"Le Meltdown" as it's being called in the press -- the French disaster at the World Cup -- has received more than its fair share of snarky coverage, but this, from around 25:30 to 29:00, is both poignant and very interesting.
As of the end of the second round of group stage matches, the five major European teams -- those that received one of FIFA's coveted #1 seeds -- are a combined 4W-4D-2L. That's England, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain. They've taken only 16 of a possible 30 points. They have dropped points from matches against the likes of New Zealand, Algeria, and Switzerland, among others.
One of the great things about the FIFA World Cup format is the last match days of the group stage. It's unusual for a group to be completely settled prior to the last day, so there's frequently a good bit of drama.