As in 2002, I took advantage of my liberal employment schedule to watch most of the games of the World Cup. I enjoyed it as much as last time, too. I normally don't watch much league soccer, even though Spain has the best league in the world, because I have been unable to choose a team to follow and support. But with the World Cup, I find myself much more interested in which country wins. The final last night was a pretty entertaining match. There were lots of close shots on goal. Italy dominated the first half, and France the second. For some reason, I really like Thierry Henry, France's star forward. I think it's because he did some car commercials in England, and he seemed like a nice, good-looking guy. That's the only reason I can come up with. That, and he's a fantastic soccer player. So anyway, based solely on some car commercial a few years ago, I went into the match hoping that France would win.
But then in the first half, the referee gave France a penalty kick that they didn't deserve, and I started rooting for Italy. Once Italy scored (legitimately), I definitely wanted Italy to win, since the score should have been 1-0, not 1-1.
The whole match, I was trying to figure out what it is about Zidane that I don't like. Something about his face makes him seem like someone I wouldn't want to meet or be around (ditto for Rooney). He's a great soccer player with a great career behind him, but I just don't like him. Then, as if to answer my ponderings, he showed his true colors. With only 10 minutes to go in his entire career, he head-butted the chest of an Italian player, knocking him to the ground. I don't care what kind of taunting the Italian gave him, a true sportsman like Michael Jordan or Jack Nicklaus would never do something like that. He got expelled from the last game of his career for being unsportsmanlike. What an ass.
Here's his head-butt:
Marga had an equally absurd reason for hoping that Italy won. She heard that a company in Italy, similar to Best Buy, has been running a promotion from the beginning of the year that is if you buy an LCD television before the start of the World Cup, and Italy wins, you get the television for free. The same company did the same offer in Spain, but they decided against it in Germany because of the perceived odds. So Marga wanted Italy to win to punish some marketing geniuses in Italy. Something tells me the company made money on the whole thing, though.
In general, I have been disappointed with FIFA and the World Cup rules and referees. So very many of the games have been decided by arbitrary split-second decisions from the referees. Every team has suffered from bad refereeing. They do their best in a thankless job, but it's just too difficult for one referee to see exactly when fouls happen and when it just looks like they happen.
I propose a fourth referee that is in a video editing booth somewhere in the stadium that can immediately see the slow motion, multi-angle instant replays that the television viewing audience gets to see. The ref on the field will whistle when he thinks a foul has happened, but won't act on it until 4 seconds later, the ref in the booth confirms that it was a foul. If the ref in the booth sees a foul that goes unwhistled by the field ref, he can either sound a play-stopping buzzer or tell the field ref via radio to whistle and stop play.
In the entire World Cup, I saw no cards given at all for diving (pretending to be fouled). That's ridiculous. When the booth ref decides that a whistled foul did not actually take place, he should also, probably in the majority of the cases, declare that the perceived foulee be penalized for acting hurt.
When you get to such a high level of soccer ability as you have in the World Cup, scoring becomes very difficult. A good defense can almost always stop even the best attackers. Without a doubt, the most exciting events in a soccer match are the goals. There should be more of them. Soccer scores should be more like baseball scores: 7-4, 5-0, 6-3, etc. I think the game would be a lot more fun to watch if it were like that. So how can we get more goals scored?
I don't like the idea of making the goals bigger. The fact that 80% of penalty shots go in is enough proof that the goalie's job is hard enough. Maybe the offsides rule should be changed. The offsides rule makes a lot of sense, and it makes life a lot more fair for the defense in games of players with low skill levels. But in professional matches, I think it's giving too much advantage to the defense. I propose modifying the offsides rule to allow no more than one offensive player to be behind the last defensive player. I think that would make professional soccer matches a lot more interesting.
In closing, I would like to point out that the US team scored a 1-1 tie (with one goal slightly given to them) against Italy, just like France did last night. We can therefore logically conclude that the US is the second best team in the world right now. :-)