Judging by the reaction to my last column, it seems that anybody who dares to trash the World Cup is a tea-partying, clueless fool. While this certainly wasn't the first time I've been insulted for my opinion, and one only needs to look in my archive to see how far I am from a tea-partier, it does speak to a paranoid defensiveness that many soccer defenders have. With that being said there have certainly been some great moments of the past few weeks.
Even though they only led for three minutes total during their exhilarating run, nobody can claim that the US's games lacked drama. They played valiantly and advanced farther than former powerhouses Italy or France, and honestly that's all we can ask. America's sports culture cares about their national Soccer team for a month leading up to the World Cup. Everyone else cares about it for four years. It's ludicrous and a shining example of American hubris to think that we will ever have a chance to win the whole thing. Ghana was favored to win last Friday and they played like it. The US scored on a penalty kick but otherwise were completely outplayed. Spare me the theatrics about how we're so much better than Ghana as a country. We're clearly not better in soccer, and Friday that's all that mattered.
The games have gotten better since teams started facing elimination, both because of bad teams getting weeded out (looking at you Kim Jong Il) and the elimination of those ridiculous draws. Still, a major problem is threatening to overshadow the entire tournament in some parts of the world: The unwillingness of FIFA to listen to any advice and change its obsolete practices.
Clearly the refereeing has been horrible the entire tournament. It's baffling how some of these refs can be so blind. It's preposterous that a tournament that's played twice a decade can have games decided by a single man's ineptitude. Unlike an umpire's blown call in baseball, these games can mean life or death to many around the world. Ask Andres Escobar's family whether the outcome of a World Cup match, can have ramifications. Looking at the news today, you can see that this is not just an isolated issue in South America. Clearly people get violent when it comes to soccer, though I'm not sure why. If those who plan this event made the refs use instant replay when it comes to goals it wouldn't slow down the game at all, and might save a life in the process.
On a less serious note, why can't FIFA put a stop to the absurd flopping/stalling that becomes a team's strategy once they take the lead late in a game? It's frustrating enough to lose; it's nearly unbearable when you can't go 10 seconds without a player falling down like they got shot. Youtube what a Ghana player does after they took a 2-1 lead last Friday.(Warning-Explicit Fan Language). This is embarrassing for the player but more for the game itself. This behavior is passed off by the experts as "strategy" when it should be banned. The refs should punish these clowns by allowing them to lie on the ground and not do anything so their team will play 11 V 10.
The heads of FIFA will likely do nothing to rectify either of these problems. Similar to the "old boys club" which used to run the south, these guys refuse to listen to the pragmatic advice of outsiders. It's a shame because many Americans, myself included, would embrace this tournament more if they did.