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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

USA loses to Belgium:

Belgium dominated the entire night.  Via great goalkeeping, we kept it to a tie until overtime, but after that Belgium quickly scored two goals and USA was out of luck.  We scored a consolation goal in the last few minutes but, just like Germany's victory over Algeria, it was most likely because by then Belgium had just ceased to care because their margin of victory was already safe.  It's obvious that our level of talent just isn't ready for the top 16 in the world yet.  We made a lot of bad passes, bad traps, bad marking decisions, and flubbed shots.  The only thing good about the USA was our goalkeeper.

We weren't alone in this.  The #2 seed (the runner-ups from each of the eight groups) all lost to the #1 seeds (the winners of their group) in this round.  8 #1 seeds, 8 winners.  That's a pretty grim total, but it just goes to show that merit wins out in the end.  Even though we had 5 overtime games this round, all 5 went to the #1 seed and not a single one, not even the penalty kick ones, ever went to the #2 side.

Those overtimes seem to have disbalanced the game however.  In the group stages, ties were rare and scores quickly went above 0-0.  In the round of 16, however, teams hung back defensively, just hoping to reach the penalty kick shootout, and the better teams found it nearly impossible to score even a single goal over their weaker opposition.  That isn't exactly what soccer should look like, ideally.  Perhaps penalty kick shootouts are a bad way to resolve games, because they encourage teams to just huddle up on defense.  Instead, you could give teams who had more shots on goal the win if the game ends in a tie, which encourages more offensive play styles.  Or if that would encourage people to take too many easily defended shots just to rack up their tiebreaker total, you could have judges award the victory at the end of the game to the team they felt played best overall.  But five ties in regular time out of eight games is too many.  It shows it's too easy to stay tied in this game.  Make the goal wider so that scores can differentiate further, or else even the best team playing the worst team will end up 0-0 at this rate.  That's no longer even a sport, when your rules can't even differentiate the winner from the loser.

In any case, eight very good teams are left in the tournament.  I'm fine with any of them winning at this point, though I guess Netherlands would be my favorite now.  Their 5-1 thwacking of Spain was just too much fun, so watching them coast from there all the way to the championship would be rewarding.

The summer anime season starts tomorrow.  My first impressions will follow accordingly.

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