Today’s footie

July 1, 2014 • 4:29 am

After today we get a break until we get to the quarterfinals on Friday (Brazil vs. Colombia and France vs. Germany—two great games!). I watched most of both games yesterday (including of the France/Nigeria game; this football is killing me! I’d love to watch both games today (I want to see Messi play but I feel I should also watch the US lose to Belgium), but don’t think I’ll accomplish that.

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Put your guesses for victors and scores in the comments below. There are no prizes except the warm appreciation of your host.

I’m getting sick of the diving, which seems ubiquitous. I’m starting to think that, as one reader suggested, games that are tied after overtime should be settled on red and yellow card scores throughout all matches. That would give a huge incentive to avoid diving, bad tackles, and so on.

Germany defeated Algeria 2-1 but Algeria, like Nigeria, played a good game:

France beat Nigeria 2-0, with Nigeria scoring an own goal in the last few minutes. They also missed an earlier goal which was nullified because the Nigerian striker was offside. Here are the highlights (click on screenshot):

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The animated Google Doodle is very cute today, but see it soon before it vanishes (click on screenshot):

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70 thoughts on “Today’s footie

  1. I’ve been sick of the diving for years. An instant red card for diving/rolling around like a wuss would stop it but for some reason FIFA never seems to take it seriously. In some parts of the world, as we’ve seen, diving is very much part of the “win at all costs” attitude to the game.

    Like most working class kids from the north of England, football has been entwined into my life for as long as I can remember but there’s still a lot of elements of the modern game that annoy the hell out of me, diving being one of the worst.

    1. I agree, however there was however an example of a player badly tackled in the area who jumped over the tackle- had he gone down he might have won a deserved penalty but he stayed on his feet & the ref gave nothing…

      Yesterday there was a bad tackle by one German – cannot recall who – & it ought to have been a red.

    2. I absolutely agree. Robben’s diving in yesterday game was pathetic to the point he went to a press conference to apologize for it. But, make no mistake, the apologies were made to mitigate any issues with the refs in the upcoming Holland’s games.
      Players like Neymar and Robben should realize once and for all that they are constantly tackled down by opponents due to their quick dribbles. Therefore, diving might “benefit” them for a game only, but they will the refs more aware in the upcoming games. As a result, the refs will be less prone to give the fault when a tackle really happens.

    3. Agreed, for me diving is by far the worst problem in the game and has been for at least 30 years. Far worse than match-fixing or dangerous play.

      As you say, what is so infuriating is that FIFA, UEFA or the refs could wipe it out overnight if they wanted to, with proper penalties for diving, including retrospective cards from video evidence.

      The only real problem with that would be dealing with those cases where a player has been fouled, and should get a free kick, but not enough to knock him over. However badly fouled you have been, if you stay on your feet the ref rarely gives anything, so the convention has built up that you have to fall over to get the free kick. If you always stay on your feet then you’ve put a big “kick me” sign on your shirt.

      Not everyone dives of course. At the two extremes we have

      a) Rivaldo writhing on the floor in 2002 when the ball went vaguely near his face.

      b) Stuart Pearce in 1992 swearing blind that nothing had happened after Basile Boli clearly head-butted him.

      1. Alexi Lalas as a former player and defender had interesting commentary on diving. He basically said it is part of the gamesmanship that happens in any sport. Players do all kinds of things to gain advantages – diving is only clear due to instant replay. This is no different than keepers leaving their line on pks or so many other rule violations. If defenders know that players dive, then why act in ways to make it possible like sticking a leg out when you get beat. Of course you could act like the “No Fun League” and referee the game after it has been played – handing out cards and fines, but you still can’t replay the game.

        I think the center refs have been pretty good about having players play on – leaving multiple divers stranded on the ground looking stupid until they get up and play on.

    4. Yes, diving is horrible. To me, equally horrible is the inept calling or non-calling of bad tackles. There is not enough emphasis on the angle of the tackle. Going into a tackle full force when it’s a fifty-fifty situation should not be allowed. Judging whether it’s fifty fifty, or of greater disparity in which one player must decide to take a defensive position instead of tackling immediately due to the improbability of making proper ball contact will improve with playing experience, as will the judging of such with ample refereeing experience.

      As far as an attacker staying on his feet through a bad tackle . . . that’s a result of how the play unfolds. If a tackle, or any action for that matter, doesn’t greatly affect the play then it will not be called and the referee will allow ‘play on’. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the chances of scoring in that situation are likely greater than if play is stopped and the defending team allowed to fully regroup behind the ball. I’ve more scores come from plays in which the attacker played through a bad tackle than I’ve seen PKs given for diving. Messi has made a living off beating bad tacklers despite the frequent contact.

      The amount of deplorable, sloppy play that occurs in the professional levels of soccer is embarrassing. Look at how much shirt pulling goes on in professional level games. None of it is called unless the pull is hugely egregious, affecting play. I would love to see fouls given for every tug. It wouldn’t take long for the players to adjust, quite likely before the 90 minutes is up on the first game, although I’m certain that pattern would be repeated for a successive number of games before the players drop frequent tugging altogether.

      There is much that could be done to make soccer the perfect sport. The rules are perfect. The natural action is perfect. Unfortunately children are at the highest levels of the ruling organizations.

    5. Red cards for diving would not stop it. They’d change it. But they wouldn’t stop it.

      The one way to stop diving is to get more calls right in the first place. Diving is a “skill” that has evolved and been positively selected for because it earns rewards for the players and makes sure that calls that are missed get made. Unfortunately, because of those rewards, diving went further and further and includes outright fabrication and exaggeration today.

      But again, if anyone thinks just red-carding players for diving would work they’re not really thinking this through.

      1. It’s virtually impossible for the referee and assistants to call it correctly. TV evidence is the way to cure it. Blatter is a Luddite and he’s the main obstacle to football joining all other major sports.

  2. Google have obviously decided that as England is/are out they will not put football-related doodles up on!

    1. Oh – & yet another Norwich player scored! Well, Yobo was on loan at Norwich & he got the own goal, poor fellow!

  3. There are two problems with awarding matches based on the fewest red/yellow cards.

    The first is that the team with the worst record starts extra time effectively a goal down. Given that extra time is only played if the teams can’t be separated after 90 minutes of (possibly hard fought) football, I think it’s harsh to then hand one side an immediate disadvantage.

    The other problem is that sometimes a sending off can cause the remaining ten players to raise their game resulting in a possibly heroic defence. For example, Costa Rica had to play an hour of football against Greece with only ten men. They managed to hold on for a draw and then win on penalties. Bearing in mind that the man who committed the offences (two yellow cards) was punished, would we want to punish the rest of the team if they do rise to the challenge?

  4. The problem with determining the outcome based on the number of cards given is that the card could still have been given erroneously by the ref – A player could take a dive getting the other player sent off and then they draw so on top of the initial injustice of the player being sent off the team lose based on number cards given.

    The only viable solution is a video ref as used in rugby. It wouldn’t need to be used for every decision just the most contentious – free kick on the edge of the box, penalties, were a player is injured.

    1. Yeah, I think Jerry’s new proposal would reward diving even more and possibly cause there to be an increase in diving. If the referee is fooled by your flop in that scenario, it may just win you the match.

      1. Exactly. It’s an understandable but short-sighted reaction to one aspect of the game that’s a particular turn-off but that could be better dealt with by understanding why it exists in the first place.

  5. Argentina 2 – 1 Switzerland
    Belgium 2 – 0 USA

    Belgium never lost a game with Coutois in goal. He’s going to keep that record. 🙂

  6. By the way, for USers not aware of the fact, current USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann was one of the most notorious and extreme divers in the history of the game.

  7. What you see can be deceiving, some embellishment happens but many a clobbering goes uncalled. The game is faster than you realize and the fouls are harder than they look. Even if it’s called it doesn’t undo the beating a good players takes over the course of a game. Reduce the fouls and you will reduce the diving. Robben was fouled twice on one play in the first half inside the box with nothing called…Of course he would then be prepared to exaggerate the next time he was in a similar play. I would like to see less of both but it may not be as bad as it looks.

    1. I don’t agree. It is clear that there is a large amount of acting with the express purpose of trying to gain an advantage. I can understand the opinion that some have that it is an acceptable part of the game. But for my tastes, or rather in my opinion, it is simply cheating. It makes it really difficult for me to enjoy the sport anymore and I have no respect for players that habitually do it. Used to really piss me off playing against players that do so. Can’t win playing straight up, so they cheat.

      Regarding fouls, how hard they are, missing ones that were legitimate fouls and the beating the players take. There are two schools of thought with a whole spectrum in between. In my opinion, it was the way I learned from the beginning*, soccer is a contact sport. As long as players are playing the ball and not intentionally fouling the other player the refs should allow a certain level of bumping and other unintentional mishaps. That does of course leave things up to the refs judgement, but that is not necessarily a problem if the refs are held accountable.

      * To clarify in case of any thoughts along the lines of “big silly USian is confusing US football for soccer,” I am not very big and I learned to play soccer growing up in Germany.

      1. It’s not that it’s an acceptable part of the game, it’s not. Neither is fouling. And they go hand in hand. Saying “eliminate diving from the game” without doing anything about fouling is not going to do anything.

        Intent has nothing to do with fouls in soccer (well, actually, you can foul by intending to, but you can’t and shouldn’t be forgiven for a foul just because there was no intent to foul – the ref doesn’t get to measure intent when he’s deciding whether something is a foul or not).

        Saying intent should be a part of it isn’t a school of thought, it’s a lack of understanding of the rules of the game.

        1. I agree. People seem to think this is something unique – in baseball, catchers “frame” pitches to get strikes, no less than Derek Jeter has faked getting hit by pitches to get a free base, first basemen pull their foot on close plays to decoy the umpire. Not to mention what goes on in basketball…

          There are plenty of cynical fouls with raking of shins and mashing of toes and ankles, shirt-tugging, elbowing and the like. Marquez was beaten badly by Robben and lashed with a foot. Did Robben need to go down, probably not. Had Marquez let him go, there would be no opportunity for Robben to go down, but then he could have had a clearer shot too. It is a calculated risk for both players. If Robben goes down and doesn’t get the call he loses possession and the chance is gone after a good run.

          1. If you are referrng to this particular discussion then, no, you are wrong. People do not seem to think this is something unique to soccer. People are saying it is rampant in soccer and that they don’t like that it is. And they are saying that here and now about soccer because that is the topic right here and now.

            If the topic were baseball I’m sure anyone who gave a shit about baseball would be commenting about how they don’t like Derek Jeter cheating to get on base.

            If you are not referring to this discussion then, oh well, carry on.

        2. It is considered an accpetable part of the game by many. And here you are building strawmen in defense of it.

          And no, it is merely your opinion that intent shouldn’t be a part of it. That is fine with me. I don’t feel any urge to disparage you for that. I once had a coach, briefly, that shared your point of view. Coincidentally he was the worst coach I ever had, though for various other reasons.

          And no, you are wrong, I understand the rules fine. My opinion, which is not unique in the slightest, differs from yours. Hopefully the rules will never be enforced in perfect technically precise adherence to the written word, as you seem to indicate they should be, because that would well and truly screw up the game.

          Whether you like it or not refs have always been deciding how to apply the rules of the game based on many factors that they have to assess in the moment, on the spot. Like intent, the magnitude, the specific circumstances, the specific results, the impact on the flow of the game and more. That is not a problem. A problem is creating and maintaining an environment that results in refs making calls that are typically fair and equitable.

  8. I’m getting sick of the diving, which seems ubiquitous.

    I completely agree. I really really hope FIFA allows use of cameras and enforces the rules on diving. I really love Netherlands and German geams and I think both teams area great but watching Robben and Muller dive, fake, and act the shit out of every contact sometimes makes me want both teams just lose horribly. If there’s anything that would stop me fropm watching football is the ridiculous amount of acting, and complaining going on in the game.

  9. Hi Jerry
    Love your blog.
    Don’t you know why the diving exists? It’s the same explanation Michael Shermer provides for ‘patternicit’y. It’s an optimal trade-off between type 1&2 errors. Soccer is very low scoring so the cost of diving is low compared to the chance of a cheap goal.
    Enjoy the beautiful game!

  10. Are American pundits aware that the nickname for the Belgian team is ‘The red devils’? (‘de rode duivels’)
    Ought to make for some amusing chatter…

    1. I hope Belgium has the same success as another group of Red Devils (British 1st Airborne) had at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. Your name sounds Dutch so that comment may just be cruel. I had an uncle in the Polish Parachute Brigade.

      1. Well, I hope the casualty rate in any football match remains zero, but that’s just me.
        I am indeed Dutch and actually live some 50 kilometers from Arnhem.
        Btw I do like the reference, though you might have worked on it a bit 😉

        1. Did not have to work on it – grew up with the history. During the Arnhem fiasco, my father was at the HQ of the Polish 1st Corps in Scotland working the radio. Montgomery claimed the operation was 90% successful. Browning tried to make Sosabowski the scapegoat. Holland starved during the winter of 1944-5. And Prince Bernhard said, “My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.”

  11. That France-Germany match would be good to watch. I like watching toward the end. I’m back at work Friday though. Boo!

  12. First predictions: Argentina 1-0 over Switzerland on a Messi goal, and Belgium over the U.S. 3-2 in extra time.

    That being said, I of course agree with the prevailing sentiment about diving in the beautiful game. I say this as a die-hard football fan and an American who spent some time living in Scotland (go Jambos!). I truly believe that diving is one of the reason soccer has been slow to catch on in a major way in the U.S., but it’s not even the diving per se, but rather the apparent apoplexy and writhing agony which follows a dive 90% of the time, only to have the player pop up and be fine when it’s clear the appeal has reached finality. Hockey has diving, to be sure (though not on soccer levels) but the players remain stoic. It’s a striking aesthetic difference. While I’d prefer diving to be gone altogether, if the players would simply act like the tough guys we all know they are (Clint Dempsey getting kicked in the face is a good example), I think it would go a long way.

  13. Argentina 2 – 1 Switzerland
    Belgium 2 – 1 USA

    I want very much to be wrong on the Belgium / U.S. game, though.

  14. I thought that Ronaldo had surpassed Messi as the best player in the world. Uh – no. He was outstanding this entire game. The Swiss defender tried to foul him on the play that led to the goal. As usual, he did not dive, he avoided the defender and delivered the ball for the winning goal. WOW!

    1. Tomorrow (I hope) I will adduce statistical evidence that Messi is far better than Ronaldo. But it was a good game, and the Swiss fought hard. The last goal by Angel di Maria with a pass from Messi was just like a ballet.

      I am SO glad that this game didn’t go to penalty kicks. And I still think that there has to be a better way than settling a game that way!

      1. Make sure to include Suárez in a three-way comparison… in-between his moments of madness he is in their class, like him or not.

      2. It’ll be a difficult one to prove.

        I personally prefer Messi – he’s more interesting to watch, relying on his footballing intelligence, balance and trickery, as opposed to Ronaldo, who is mostly a stunning all round athlete, who I would imagine has spent many more obsessive hours on the training pitch to perfect every aspect of his game.

        Granted, Messi has had a better World Cup, but generally, in terms of pure efficacy, I would argue there’s very little to choose between them.

        Messi seems like a much nicer guy, however.

  15. At 90 minutes this is the best 0-0 so far. U.S. a class below Belgium but they are real triers.

  16. I’m watching on Their scorebox is a couple minutes ahead of their video stream, which gives sufficient notice to pay attention at the important times.

  17. Well, Belgium won, but it was a great game. One thing I realized is what a great goalkeeper Tim Howard is. Without his skills the point disparity would have been much higher.

    I couldn’t help but root for the U.S. towards the end!

    1. A great effort in the second half of extra time by the US; how they didn’t equalise is beyond me! Tim Howard is an excellent keeper, but the US have some excellent outfield players too. Johnson’s replacement was a revelation. But Belgium were the better team over the 120 mins, so probably deserved to go through.

    2. Tim Howard is one of the best in the world.

      I wish the US played the first 90 minutes the way they did in overtime.

    3. May I suggest a nice glass of Duvel golden ale to celebrate such an excellent match? I personally couldn’t be happier. For a team that doesn’t always qualify for the cup from a country with a population less than that of Chicago and New York City combined, I say very well done indeed!

  18. I would suggest instead of considering the yellow and red cards, as proposed here, they should consider the number of corner kicks. It is a good measure of how dominant one team has been over the other.

    When I went to High School in Latin America, we used to have tournaments, with a big noisy inauguration parade, and something we called “Torneo Relámpago”, literally “Flash Tournament” in which the teams play a knock-out round of 15 min matches, so you can have the same day a Flash-Tournament-Champion (the normal tournament starts within few days).

    In basketball there was no problem cause the 0-0 tie is broken after a few seconds. But football is another thing, after 15 min the most probable score is 0-0. So we took into account the corner kicks, and I think it was a great solution. The best team on the field always gets more corner kicks.

    Nice overtime USA and Belgium gave us today, BTW.

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