It ain't been a good World Cup. Some thoughts on doings in South Africa as we head to the quarterfinals:
The vuvuzelas are a nightmare. They ruin the experience and drama of a live contest. Their relentless mechanical drone produces affectless. It has a sense of purposefully drowning out the reactions of the crowd. It's like the matches are taking place next door to a huge activity which is off screen. It's like watching a sporting contest with insect robots instead of people. It's a travesty on TV at least.
The refereeing has been so bad, it's turning the matches meaningless as sports contests. Pro wrestling, anyone? Bad luck, a bad call, is one thing. Bad call after bad call is just non-sport. Astounding.
Playing with a new ball so shortly before the tournament -- and this particular ball, this whiffle ball Jubalani -- is another bad joke.
FIFA, which oversees the refereeing, the ball, and in some measure the vuvuzelas, is one colossal lousy gag.
Big stars have fizzled: Rooney, Ronaldo, Ribery (supposedly one of the great wingers around). Nada.
Brazil is not the Brazil that was automatic second choice of every soccer lover regardless of country. This is not a joyous Brazil. This is the Brazil of Dunga, an ex midfield hardman. Brazil still fields magical old style players (there are a couple of kids on Santos, Pele's old club). Dunga left them at home.
Maradona has been the tournament's success story. Amazing. Many people (like me) thought he'd ruin everything, as he almost did in the qualifiers. Lo and behold! Argentina is playing more like old Brazil than this Brazil.
Spain is getting its act together, but... Torres is looking woeful. In proper form he is one of the deadliest strikers around. Now it's like playing with a bodyful of novocaine. His touch is awful. Villa of course is on fire. But is the team lethal enough?
The young Germans are a delight: Oezil, Mueller, Lahm. I never imagined I'd be delighted by a German team. Their match against Argentina should be open and wonderful. But probably they're still too young.
The Dutch are succeeding but not inspiring. They are different team with Robben and without him. Robben, in the form he has now, is one fantastic player. Everybody knows he's cutting across from right to left and letting fly. No one seems to know how to stop him.
Argentina-Spain semifinal should provide some glory for this misfiring tournament.
Prediction: Brazil-Argentina final. Spain in the final also would be grand. But I think Argentina's attack options are just too strong.
Please, can we nix the vuvuzelas for at least the last game?