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World Cup 2010

The Plot Thickens

World Cup 2010

The few days ahead will clarify the final 16 in short order. Much as the few big surprise upsets were thrilling as events unto themselves, the equilibrium of favourites and major powers seems to be balancing out. I’m sure it will look largely as expected to those who made sensible crystal ball forecasts before the tournament’s start. I am not one of these wise wagerers, as I preferred to root for my team and wait for the dust to settle. For the US, it settles tomorrow. I won’t be alone in sweating through a nervous night tonight. And I hope England comes alive offensively and finds that stiff upper lip in giving Slovenia a good whacking.

Oh, the drama

There are a few issues that have been keeping the major press buzzing and bear mention here, even just to register their persisting significance for all concerned with the World Cup this year:

  • French Seppuku: Today Les Bleus fell on their own swords in utter and brooding disgrace. It’s as though Albert Camus had been the psychological trainer for the camp. Being and nothingness co-joined and scandal pages burned. Rage, horror and shame for supporters of France. Bemusement and glee beyond. And, of course, in Ireland the merry music was playing. Justice has been served. Au revoir France, we hardly got to know you.
  • England Uncorked: Could it be that the supreme bottlers of emotional turmoil in the name of imperial glory allowed their feeling genies out of the bottle. Yes, perhaps, but then it was recanted and everyone has tried to make the least of the incident. Can they return to that locked jaw of confidence and jolly sallying forth? The verdict comes tomorrow. Slovenia will not roll over and die without a fight.
  • The Referees: Is it just being North American that makes me so irritated to see the highest calibre of talent in this sport being subjected to the inept failings of antiquated and out-classed officiating? Maybe my outrage is because we are raised and braised in the Protestant work ethic and are living in societies that are less corrupt and more expecting of fairness than average. Perhaps the rest of the world expects less fairness, certainly of systems of justice and power, and can just sigh and move on past the miscarriage of justice that ensues. I still feel too many of the group round games have been determined by penalties and red cards. Far too many have been given in the most subjective circumstances and without parity to other calls. Why hold a tournament at all if the world’s best players aren’t allowed to play the games out fairly. FIFA: wake up! Pull your heads out of 1951 and look around at the world of sport today. The World Cup is the pinnacle of the most popular sport in the world, and players, fans and national teams deserve better than what we’ve seen so far.
  • Field Day for Underdog-ists: The group round has seen some stunning upsets — Spain losing to Switzerland, Germany rolling over to Serbia, New Zealand drawing with Italy, Algeria drawing with England, France… ahem. Much as it seems right to see the powers of the sport lining up to move forward, there is definitely some schadenfreude in watching many of them underestimate their opponents and/or underperform. It hasn’t gotten to elimination games yet, but that lies just ahead. Cheers to the small fries that have kept things interesting. May ye prosper yet.

Go USA!

May the ball bounce your way and the officials call it straight, with no monkey business.

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