Thursday, 17 July 2014

World Cup Brazil

This has been the best World Cup in a long while. For me, probably the best one since I was old enough to remember. In saying that football is still pretty boring to me most of the time. My personal prediction is like 1 in 10 matches are good to watch, and that's just too low of a percentage to bother watching full matches all the time. But statistically this World Cup has had more goals, less sending offs and generally a much higher quality (especially from the lesser sides) in tactics and skill.


WHAT A DIFFERENCE A BALL MAKES

The Brazuca was one of the most highly tested balls in World Cup history. One of the most disappointing things about World Cup South Africa, was the unpredictability of the ball, leading to huge miscalculations in power, overhitting crosses and strange path flights. This meant that games were effected, with lower passing accuracy, less shots on target and therefore less goals. It was amazing how far off the standard ball they had come, especially for professionals who expect and has trained with a certain standard.



It is comprised of 6 uniquely shaped panels, and surrounded by pimples, which allow the aerodynamics of the ball to flow more consistently through it. Every beach ball you have kicked is totally smooth, and that (as well as its super light weight) makes it fly through the air in an unexpected fashion. This was the emphasis for the design, and extensive testing was done to make sure that this wouldn't happen. BBC has a pretty cool report on the Brazuca.


IN NUMBERS



This year's World Cup actually has equaled the record for number of goals scored since the France 98 World Cup. Whether this is a direct correlation to the design of the ball its hard to say, but it does seem to be that way. The reason that this is hard to prove is because not all goals are scored necessarily by anything that would need the ball in flight long enough to effect it. Things like crossing for headers, long balls, shots from distance would be within this category. However, there are still goals scored from close range, by close passing penalties or even deflections or own goals.

In saying that, there is a direct correlation between exciting games and more goals. No one can deny that this World Cup [which has had more goals] is more exciting then the last one in South Africa. In conjunction with these goals, it does seem that this year's cup seemed to have more aggressive strategies over defensive ones. Not that I'm saying that defense wasn't important, the top tier teams have great defenses (maybe not Brazil lol). My theory is that since Brazil did not need to qualify, there was an extra spot for another South American team to qualify. South America got 5 spots where Uruguay won the play off, so in total there are 6 South American teams, and we might as well add Mexico to that list as well. Why? Because South American football is known to be very aggressive end to end football, where it seems that offense is more emphasized over defense. 

Brazil 2014 also saw a substantial drop in bookings. Maybe something was said to the referees to keep them down, as from an entertainment point of view players getting sent off and/or missing matches because of multiple bookings doesn't make for good football viewing. Whatever was said, it was apparent that there were hardly any bookings at beginning of matches, but more so later in the game, when referees had given fair warning to the players for their constant fouling.


AWARDS

Best Goal - James Rodriguez in Columbia vs Uruguay



Best Match - Germany vs Brazil Semi Final

This was my favorite match of the tournament, but in an unconventional way. The traditional match of the tournament typically is where both teams are playing amazingly and it really close. But here, its about how one team just fell apart under the weight of its nation, and the other completely ruthlessly outclassing them without mercy. All 8 goals in this semi final were awesome, the Brazilian defense was terrible. One of the goals was even scored within seconds of kicking off again after conceding! It was a testament to actually how far Brazil had progressed in the tournament when they really shouldn't have.

Final score =  Germany 7-1 Brazil

Classic Internet Reaction!

Coolest Tactic - Holland vs Costa Rica

A never before seen strategy of substituting your goalkeeper for the soul purpose of when going to penalties was done by Van Gaal as he brought on Tim Krul. Holland had previously only had one penalty shootout in 98 and Van Gaal had decided to preemptively prepare something for it. When interviewed afterward Van Gaal said that he had decided that this was what he was going to do, as Tim Krul was taller and had a longer reach. Tim Krul also played "mindgames" with the shooters by telling them he knew where they were going to shoot and showcasing confidence during the penalties.

It is going to be very hard to prove that this tactical move is something that would have an edge in penalties because of the lack of sample size that this specific opportunity would happen. But in theory having a taller, bigger reaching, and don't forget much fresher keeper, in comparison to the kicker who will be tired from playing for 2 hours, should get as much edge as possible from penalties. However, lets not kid ourselves, penalties is massively in favor of the kicker always. I mainly like this because he realized that Holland did not have a good record in penalties, and decided to do something about it.

Ironically Holland lost in the Quarter Finals in the next round to Argentina... in penalties. But Van Gaal had used up all his substitutions by this time and stated later on in an interview that he would have subbed out Tim Krul again.



Best Managerial Celebration - Miguel Herrera (Mexico)

How can you not like a guy that is as passionate as him?



Worst Managerial Celebration - Roy Hodgson (England)



This is our England manager. Celebrating after our 0-0 draw with Costa Rica. Why is he celebrating? I have no idea because this is England's worst World Cup performance since 1958. Since then England has always qualified past the group stages and made the knockout stage.

But what he greatest skill is actually creating an air of mediocrity and low expectation. That is a quote not from myself, but actually my friend who is a Liverpool fan, and Hodgson was a manager of them for a year. So whilst everyone is saying classic Hodgson style excuses like "It was a good effort" (it really wasn't), and  "We lack skilled players", we look over at Costa Rica, USA, Chile, Mexico who played with heart and drive and made it work as far as they could go.

Despite our worst World Cup since 1958, we are keeping our manager (mainly coz he's a lot cheaper then a foreign manager, of which we had much better results), and we will continue to be mediocre until he is replaced. We actually waste the talent of our generations by getting bad managers, and our attitude in England is terrible... the worst actually, because it is a disaster and we need to fix it, but Hodgson has convinced everyone otherwise.


New Stuff / Doh! Award - 

Goal Line Technology - Ironically goal line technology is here! Annnnd we didn't use it at all lol. But of course its super useful and taken ages to implement after the stubborn FIFA representatives thought that human error is all part of the game. (wat -_-). Yeah lets look around us and NFL, Rugby, Cricket, and lots of other sports are already using video replay.

Cooling Breaks - Another unbelievable obvious thing that has only been implemented this year. With players out in like 35 degree heat, it actually becomes dangerous to play. So finally something was done where every half, of half time would be breaks to get water and cool down.

Foam Spray - This actually is not a "doh" obvious thing and I genuinely thought it was a fantastic idea. The referee carries a spray foam can around with him so that he can spray temporary lines of how far players can stand away from a free kick, and of where exactly the ball should be placed when taking it. This is great as players are constantly shuffling forward and/or misplacing the ball. With this method, there is no argument or confusion to where they should be.


Strangest Excuse Award - Luiz Suarez (Uruguay)

After Suarez was caught on camera biting an Italian player, he stated that he "lost his balance and hit my teeth against Chielinni"! However the camera clearly shows his intent on hurting the Italian player and was swiftly given a 9 match ban, including the 2nd round match of which Uruguay lost. Strangely enough this is Suarez' 3rd biting incident, so even trying to come up with some kind of defence was a complete joke! A crazy moment for what it seemed to be one of his best seasons ever with Liverpool, and being in great form at the World Cup too.






CONGRATS TO GERMANY, WORLD CUP 2014 WINNERS!

Nearly everyone agrees that Germany were worthy Champions, and showed that they were the best team overall at Brazil. Our stereotypes of Germans are that they are efficient, organised, and don't have a sense of humour. Its hard to say whether this side had a sense of humour, as its quite hard to show that on the pitch but they definitely showed the other two qualities, as well as having a great defense starting with the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer.

Germany has a ridiculous World Cup record, only not reaching the Quarter Final stage twice in their history. It is unbelievably consistent, and they keep coming up with generations of great players within their squad.

For me, they showed a great balance of teamwork in their play, unselfishly passing to the player who was in the best position to score, rather then going for solo goals, of which I felt a lot of the iconic players did. Did was shown in their complete demolition of Brazil in the semi final, as nearly all the goals involved 3-4 passes before finally putting it in the net.

Amazingly, Ronaldo's (Brazil) record number of goals scored at World Cups has been broken by Miroslav Klose, with 16 goals to his name. That is, 16 unmemorable goals when compared to Ronaldo, what strikers would call "poacher's goals", meaning that they are goals scored from very close distance to the goal, most of the time tapping it in off a rebound or something. But that is what most managers love to see, doesn't matter what the quality of the goal is, just matters that it goes in.

Defending has come a long way in the game, a lot more knowledge and better execution of things like the offside trap is even prevalent in lesser known teams. However, as the tournament progressed towards the knockout stage, it has become more popular for teams to implement a more defensive "don't wanna lose" style as their squads become more stretched and injures start. The lesser known teams struggle in the later matches, and a lot of the time they will have an attitude of getting to penalties to hope to win. This means that teams are not as willing to go for a more all out attacking style, with no buffer like in the group stages.

However, as shown in the final, Germany did not take that stance. A very defensive Argentinian side with Mascherano leading the backbone, hoping to counter attack with the formidable Messi ready and waiting. They still went for the win, and let themselves be vulnerable and I found it really admirable.

A lot of the teams in this World Cup were basically hoping that their stars would carry them to the win, like Neymar, Robbin, Messi, Rodriguez, and Ronaldo, but in this day and age with the defenders being so good when they're isolated its hard to see what most team's Plan B was.

I'm really glad it didn't go to penalties, as I got a feeling that Argentina wanted. And Germany scored a great goal in extra time to take the competition. It was a much harder chance then the 2 glaring ones that Argentina had, but they took it and won. I think Germany won a lot of people over with their win over Brazil, where everyone (even Brazilians) had to acknowledge the German's great teamwork and skill in scoring those goals, and showing that they were the best team overall in the World Cup 2014.




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