World Cup Runneth Over for Spain

Well, Spain lived up to the favorite’s role and won its first World Cup, beating The Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

The Spanish had reached five Cup quarterfinals — in 1934, 50, 86, 94 and 2002 — but never advanced beyond that….until this year.

Meanwhile, The Netherlands are now the Brooklyn Dodgers of World Cup soccer. The Dutch made the finals for the third time, but came up empty once again. Previous losses were to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.

Three random thoughts on the World Cup:

No Shootout

1. Thankfully somebody scored in the extra time, thus avoiding a penalty kick shootout for the championship. the way Brazil beat Italy in 1994 and Italy defeated France for the 2006 Cup..

IMHO, elimination games — and especially championship matches — should be not be decided by artificial shootouts. Go to sudden death overtime.

And if there’s a concern that the games might last too long, play the OT with less players and open up the field.

Yes Replay

2. Go to the replay to confirm questionable goals. Hey, I’m not an instant replay freak — it’s overdone in the NFL, for instance. But it’s foolish not to use the technology that’s available today to ensure the right call is made.

Not advocating replay for offsides calls, penalties, etc. Just goals.

Vuvezela Music

3. At first, we wondered what was that sound. The vuvuzalas sounded like a swarm of bees, and they were obnoxious in the beginning. But as the World Cup rolled on, they became the defining sound of the 2010 World Cup.

When in South Africa, do as the South Africans do.


World Cup Report: No .300 Shooters in Soccer

American fans had plenty to cheer about at the World Cup, but at the end the US came up long on heroics but short on glory — and the quarterfinals.

They always say the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball. Watching the World Cup, however, it’s plainly apparent the hardest thing to do in sports is to score a goal in soccer. There are plenty of .300 hitters in baseball, but no .300 shooters in soccer, at least none in the World Cup.

Although the United States had a valiant Cup showing with some memorable rallies to make the round of 16, their inability to avoid the early deficit doomed them in the end. Playing from behind all the time wears on a team, and it seemed like the US was always playing catch-up, even in group play where they beat Algeria 1-0 in overtime on a goal by Landon Donovan, below right, in extra time to avoid elimination.

The US team played 390 minutes of soccer in South Africa — and led for just three of them.

The US had a chance to advance and perhaps gain some world recognition, but once more failed to take that next step. The 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana was disappointing, especially when one considers the USA has nearly 15X the population of that tiny African country.  The same Black Stars that knocked out the US in 2006 — and by the same score.

With so many other team sports in America, it’s no surprise that soccer has never really caught on in this country. Oversaturation will do that, and there are just so many sports Americans can absorb.

At the end of the day, the US team still has work to do in order to reach world class status. The last (and only) time the United States even made it as far as the semifinals was in the first World Cup in 1930. They were beaten 6-1 by eventual champion Argentina and finished third that year, and they haven’t been that close in 80 years.

As the New York Daily News said: “Going, Going, Ghana.”

Play in the World Cup is certainly dramatic, but FIFA must get with the real world and use available technology — at least for goal-scoring plays. Not a big advocate of instant replay for offsides and penalties.

But the whole world saw England score a second goal against Germany — everyone but the officials on the field. At the very least, position a goal judge directly behind the net to make goal calls and avoid controversy.

The Germans would argue the call makes up for 1966, when England’s Geoff Hurst (Sir Geoffrey Charles Hurst) scored a controversial goal in overtime against West Germany at Wembley Stadium to spearhead a 4-2 triumph and Britian’s only World Cup. Hurst remains the only player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

Heck they even had video replay 44 years ago, as this You Tube link attests. You make the call.


Quick Hitters: SportsLifer Observations

Listening to all those annoying vuvuzela horns at the World Cup in South Africa reminds me of a swarm of bees. Commentators have described the sound as “annoying” and compared it with “a stampede of noisy elephants,” “a deafening swarm of locusts,”a goat on the way to slaughter” and “a giant hive full of very angry bees.”Ouch, dammit, just got stung!

Not a big soccer buff, but that gaffe by England’s keeper Robert Green that handed the United States a goal and ultimately a 1-1 draw with the favored Brits brought back memories of Bill Buckner.

BTW, why is England called England in the World Cup and the UK everywhere else?

These college conference shifts are making me dizzy. If this merry-go-round somehow turns into a football playoff system, it’s all good. If not, it’s bookkeeping .

Could’ve made some nice coin betting that Francisco Cervelli would have the same amount of RBIs as Joe Mauer (27) going into play on June 12.

Pete Carroll got out of Dodge just in time, leaving those USC penalties in his wake.

Playoffs make for strange heroes. The endearing image of the NBA Finals so far is little Nate Robinson hugging Glen “Big Baby “Davis aka Donkey and Shrek, shown right.

If we were living in an alternative universe and Butler’s Gordon Hayward had made that half-court heave to beat Duke, would it have gone down as the best shot in history? That’s a tough one, but well, the answer is yes. It beats Christian Laettner’s  buzzer-beater, as well as any of Michael Jordan’s game winners. Jerry West made a 63-foot shot to send a playoff game into overtime in 1970, but the Knicks went on to beat the Lakers that night. Then there was Gene Sarazan’s double eagle at the 1935 Masters. And Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world, that helped the Giants win the pennant in 1951. Would any of those top Hayward? Not in this alternative world.

Speaking of college hoops, why is Jim Calhoun hanging on at UConn.

Is there a better Jack Nicholson than Randle Patrick McMurphy in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”? How about here’s Johnny, Jack Torrance, in Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Or Melvin Udall in “As Good As It Gets.”

Tom Izzo isn’t taking that Cavaliers job unless he knows LeBron is coming back.

Do you think Patrick Kane would trade his name on the Stanley Cup for an Olympic gold medal? Kinda wondered the same thing about Sidney Crosy, but he’s already got both.

Is Brett Favre retired yet?