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In Defense of the 2010 World Cup

 In Defense of the 2010 World Cup

It’s only five days into the 2010 World Cup and the critics are already taking digs at the tournament. And most of those criticizing the World Cup are soccer lovers, not haters.

I’ve had the good fortune to watch each game live on TV and while I agree that the games have not been very exciting, my response is this: Come on, get a grip. With so much on the line for each country, the team’s have been playing quite conservatively as they try to feel each opponent out.

I can’t remember when the last World Cup had a sensational first round. In 2006, it was perhaps even more boring because most teams employed a 4-5-1 formation that forced the game to gridlock in midfield. Formation wise, this tournament isn’t as negative as that one, but the goals have hardly flourished. And that’s a good thing.

The vast majority of matches have been very close with two teams battling through the 90 minutes hoping for a win. New Zealand grabbing a late equalizer against Slovakia. North Korea pulling a goal back to make the last 10 minutes of the game against Brazil an uneasy experience for fans of the yellow and green. The list goes on and on. You can look at every match except for Germany versus Australia and South Korea against Greece, and mark them all as very close encounters.

With the games being so close, the balls haven’t found the back of the net. But I expect that the second games in each of the first round groups will open things up as teams are forced to be more desperate in search of a win. Mexico knows it has to push forward to beat France. Italy needs to score a few goals against New Zealand on Sunday to go into the third game comfortably. Ivory Coast needs to attack Brazil. And so forth.

As for England and the United States, it’s a different story. I feel sorry for Algeria because I believe England will unleash the pent-up pressure that’s on their shoulders by scoring several goals to get the monkeys off their back. With the United States, however, it’s going to be a very close game against Slovenia. The USA doesn’t do well against Eastern European teams in the World Cup and they’ll have a tough time breaking down the very organized Slovenian side especially considering the fact that the US is weak up front. Yes, I believe the US will make it through to the next round, but Friday is going to be no walk in the park. We’ll see what the real United States side is like on Friday.

That leads me to another argument why the first round games have been uneventful thus far. The pressure. The game between USA and England was so full of hype both on and off the field that the footballers played so nervously and couldn’t perform to their abilities under the intense scrutiny of the world that was watching. The same goes for many of the other nations who have looked lackluster in the opening round. Almost all of the players look like they’re suffering under the pressure and are afraid to try something special in case they make a mistake.

So my answer to the critics regarding how underwhelming the World Cup games have been thus far is this: It’s early. Give the teams and players a chance to settle down first and the goals will come, as will the talent and excitement that we so crave. The World Cup is a marathon, not a sprint. Teams are pacing themselves for qualification from the opening round. Don’t expect miracles. Not quite yet, at least.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

23 Responses to In Defense of the 2010 World Cup

  1. NYSpursFan says:

    I agree. Teams are taking a page from Jose/Inter and playing practical, defensive, not-to-lose football…at least for the most part. There are exceptions. I think Brazil tried to run up the score. but DPK played decent defense. Some teams played poorly. Things will open up as teams become desperate to win.

  2. Cricketlover says:

    People who don’t understand the nature of the World Cup and the tactics that need to be employed to get through to the next round are the ones who are complaining about the lack of goals. The first match is always about being cautious. The second match for each team is usually when winning becomes more importatnt so one should expect more goals and more attacking football.

    • soccer fan says:

      I`ve watched a lot of world cups & this is one of the worst.some teams haven`t their best players out, ie: france,benzima; brazil, ronaldiho,netherlands, vanistle roy, and it goes on. in the end this is entertainment, and for increasing popularity in north america, this is as exciting as watching paint dry! if you had the $, witch game would you drop $$$$$ to see 0-0 or 1-1? I also think it that crap addidas jubilani ball is affecting lack of scoring. All great strikers have missed so far Messi, Ronaldo, roninho, kaka. shots that they would normally make.its not pressure as all have played in big games before, fifa should do itself and its fans a favour like all the big leagues have done, USE NIKE!!!! Addidas sucks, from their shoes to the balls. why did they think they needed to re-invent the soccer ball? germans, arrogant pricks. trust me there will be penalty shoot outs in crucial games, a sad way to end a great tounament of the best sport in the world!

  3. SSReporters says:

    23 goals in 14 games. It’s never been that low in the 32 team format (at this point we’ve had at least 31).

    The problem is teams playing not to lose instead of trying to win. You don’t need to play 4-5-1 to be a defensive unit.

    It will get better. Hopefully.

  4. Scott Alexander says:

    It seems to me that people are actually complaining about the lack of goals not the lack of quality. I’ve personally been riveted my most of the matches. There have been very few Algeria Slovenias

  5. Andrei says:

    I think that the current format is contributing to overly cautious football. Very few teams qualify from the group after loosing an opening game. And qualifying from the group is the bottom line goal for majority of World Cup teams except for few real contenders.

    The solution could be to scrap group qualification. Have teams play group round robin to rank them. Then play elimination games starting with round of 32. Playoff games will always be mostly cagey affair – there is not much can be done about it. But we may get to see some truly exciting football without any reservation in round robin. Even if a team doesn’t do well at the group stage they still have a second chance. It will also give teams opportunity to settle down and adjust to the tournament. Which in turn may result in better quality football at the knock out stage.

  6. I think the pressure of a nation is the real reason. Teams, especially the seeded ones have huge pressure put on them by media and their public to win and certainly not lose. I think this plays into the hands of the underdogs as they go out on the field with a ‘nothing to lose attitude’,

    I’m sure the World Cup will improve when teams have to start going out and winning games.

  7. Smokey Bacon says:

    Let’s face it, its been mostly rubbish so far. In addition to the understandably cautious approach of most teams, I believe the ball is a real problem, as is the incessant noise from those f-ing wasps. Every free kick seems to sail over the bar from players who regularly stick it in the top corner at club level. Players have complained about the noise making it impossible to communicate on the pitch. Most of the games have no real atmosphere for the players to feed off apart from the constant droning. Hopefully Spain will liven things up with their free-flowing football. Euro 2008 was a much better tournament as teams seemed to favor attack over defence. At least I don’t feel as bad about England now as nobody else has really set the world alight.

  8. What i can’t underdtand is why there are so many south africans at every match, I’m used to seeing the stadium full of supporters from each of the two teams playing.
    At the moment you get a 50,000 seat stadium, 10,000 for one team, 10,000 for another and then 30,000 south africans that don’t really care and just want to blow there fog horns. Just seems really bad to me.
    I think if the tickets were 50/50 between the teams playing we wouldn’t need to listen to that bee noise either

    • Robert says:

      Instead of attending the cup in South Africa you want to complain about the people who are actually there. God, you’re a prick.

    • Pakapala says:

      <<>>

      Yeah blame the South Africans! those horns that you hear constantly at every game are being blown for the most part by supporters of the teams. Almost every shot of fans blowing the horns @ the game that I see are foreigners who came to support their team and caught on the vuvuzela fever. But folks are blaming the poor south africans who most of them have been complaining because they can’t afford the tickets and FIFA is certainly not lowering the prices of the tickets despite the fact that there are still empty seats available. But nooooooooo blame the south africans!

  9. McBride says:

    “and then 30,000 south africans that don’t really care and just want to blow there fog horns.”

    Yeah, blame the South Africans. That makes sense

  10. It’s not a case of blaming the South Africans, well not the ones in the stadium anyway, but someone has decided that they are only going to give a small percentage of the seats to the actual fans of the countries playing. This in my opinion is wrong. Surely it would be better to have fans that actually care about the two teams playing rather than ones who just happen to live close to the stadium.

  11. Carolyn says:

    The reason there are more South Africans at the stadiums is because most countries who qualified and had tickets alocated to them returned them. How can you blame the organizers for that.

  12. ovalball says:

    World Cup 2010……the vuvuzela effect. A thesis in the making.

  13. ‘The reason there are more South Africans at the stadiums is because most countries who qualified and had tickets alocated to them returned them. How can you blame the organizers for that.’

    Most?

    I’m sure there are a lot of countries e.g England, Italy, Germany that certainly did not return any tickets and were actually wanting more than they were allocated. I admit that some countries with small populations or less interest in the game may not have needed more and even returned some, but this is certainly not the case for all the countries out there and THAT IS something I canl blame the organisers for.
    When I watch an England team I want to see atleast half the stadium full of England fans, not South Africans blowing fog horns for 90 minutes.

  14. wc2010awesome says:

    If u actually watched the games, you would notice that fans of the country playing are blowing the “fog horns” just as much as the South Africans, infact, it is believed that the vuvuzelas may be used by premier league fans in England this upcoming season.

    • ianm says:

      Yeah…right…that’ll last about 30 seconds into the game when the first numpty stands up, whips out his vuvuzela and presses his lips up to it.

      Those fans standing directly around him will then demonstrate another orifice the vuvuzela can-but-shouldn’t be played from and that’ll be the end of him sitting down for the rest of the match.

      It will never catch on over here.

  15. James Dean says:

    According to FIFA the sale of tickets outside South Africa has been very poor with the result that they received many unsold tickets which then went on sale in South Africa. So if there are more South Africans at games it is because of this.

  16. zico says:

    If you read this comments section from top to bottom, it’s interesting to see how it steers off course from the article’s topic. And it all started with someone mentioning the vuvuzelas. God help us all.

  17. Eious says:

    As a football fan, I love this World Cup as defense is a great part of the game

    But I get that to others, they need action and scoring to stay interested

  18. Johannes says:

    You mention that the 2006 World Cup was mainly played with a 4-5-1 setup and that this one would be different. I don’t fully agree. From what I remember, in 2006 4-4-2 was the dominant model, mostly played with a midfield diamond while winners Italy played a flat midfield (they actually had some kind of 4-4-1-1). France reached the final with a 4-5-1, but their setup was with 2 defensive and 3 offensive midfielders, i.e. 4-2-3-1.
    That is, besides 4-4-2, the dominant system at this Wold Cup so far.
    I did a more detailed analysis of the tactical developments at the last World Cups on my blog, please feel invited to visit (just click on my name above)

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