Dé hAoine, Iúil 02, 2010

World Cup: (What the Fuck Ghana?)

So much for the idea of Brazil being a mentally tough team with Dunga as coach. Once Holland tied the game they started to play the role of the arrogant favorite in a Disney sports movie; truly and sincerely shocked that the other team would dare to fight back, and remaining that way even unto the last second, even after their last realistic chance was turned away. Incredible. It's the Dutch, generally considered to be the best world soccer 'program' not to have won the cup, who have the history of flaking out like this, and in fact this could well be the only time that they have ever won a game they weren't expected to. Still it was damned good theater, and though you can hardly call the Dutch underdogs they're going to have to pass for one with Ghana out.

As for that game, ouch. Tied after regulation, Ghana gets a free kick on a Uruguay handball at the end of extra time, the clock runs past the end of injury time, everyone knows that play is being allowed to continue only to allow the penalty, that the whistle is going to blow after that one kick by Ghana's pk specialist, Asamoah Gyan.

Missed, off the bar. In a smart coaching move, he gets the first kick in the shootout and hits it perfectly, but this time it's worth far less than everything.

Two of his teammates miss, and Uruguay advances by 'winning' this glorified coinflip, essentially winning the game on a handball, a hand that which stopped a ball that was unfuckingdeniably going in. This is surely a far worse thing than the cheating by Maradona and Henry that won games because the refs missed them. No, this handball was sighted, and duly punished with a red card and spot kick, a spot kick specifically designed to be a huge advantage for the shooter, to be a near sure-thing.

If only the ref hadn't been playing by the book. If only he had simply asserted, (over what probably would have been physically threatening howls of protest by Uruguay) that he "knew" he had seen the ball go over the line before it was handled, even let Suarez get by without penalty, why bother kicking a man off of a dead team in a finished game anyway?

But no, in the end the only effective punishment for dirty play is to score against it. Gyan didn't score, and so Uruguay is victorious on a duly noted handball. People still complain about the way Ghana flopped and and walked and otherwise wasted time against the USA after going ahead on us; but the fact is that they knew that simply stopping the game would be an effective defense against our ragged and jangly attack, and it was. If we had had enough smoothness and flair to our game, the ability the create something quickly between disruptions and score with it, than they would have regretted milking the clock.

In a way it is a shame that the low-scoring nature of soccer makes it more likely that one dirty play or boneheaded call can give the game to the bad guys. On the other hand there s something pure in the way that the victimized team is its own best cop. All you have to do to stop cheaters from prospering is to outplay them, the only problem is goals.

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