It appears to be difficult for people who don’t know Football to start watching isolated games and comment on them in a way which makes sense. They often don’t see the bigger picture in a tournament or lengthy league situation. This appears to be especially true here in Australia.
In most countries, football is played in a ‘league’ environment, where knockout competitions are separated from the key bread and butter competition. In Australia, most people here are conditioned to the “finals” football delivered in AFL and Rugby League. Where the reward doesn’t automatically go to the team which in my view has earned the respect as Champion.
For more average teams, they target the top 4, 6 or 8 and build strategies on how to get there throughout the season. Sort of like what the Qualification for the European Champions League (European Cup) does in the bigger leagues in Europe. This impacts results across the league as a whole, especially what would otherwise be “dead rubbers” and most likely the fitness and training strategy for individual teams.
I was surprised to see then some of the commentary during and after the game yesterday between Serbia and Germany. Especially as it applied to what it meant for Australia’s chances. Here’s the facts, Germany mullered Australia. What happened in the Serbia v Germany games has little or no relevance to Australia’s performance against Germany. And has little relevance for the upcoming Australian games versus either Ghana (who beat Serbia) or Serbia.
In the World Cup, teams play just three games against three teams in order to qualify for knockout rounds. A somewhat shortened version of the traditional Australian League/Finals season. For each of those three games, it is likely most teams will play a specific strategy to counter the opposition.
Aside from perhaps the Rugby World Cup, you’ll never seen the variation which International tournaments create in any sport more familiar to an Australian Audience. The introduction of the other variables like the unfamiliar location and officials are the pieces which introduce unknowns into your strategy for those games.
Germany have played two games against two vastly different teams with two vastly different sets of tactics. It’s possible that when Australia play Serbia next week they’ll win. Just as it’s possible the Spanish referee who sent off Miroslav Klose and otherwise ruined the first half of the Germany v Serbia game last night won’t send off any more players in his next game.
In the commentary on the Slovenia v USA games and Algeria v England games, the commentators did their viewers a disservice by favouring both the USA and England in their comments when talking about the scorelines. This “traditional” mentality ignores the sharp reality of the context of the game.
Slovenija were excellent in the first half and were continuing the good form form their previous half dozen competitive international fixtures, including twice against Russia. But the commentator indicated it was a ‘surprise’ they were 2-0 up at half-time. Similarly, Martin Tyler’s comments at half time (I forgot to note exactly what he said), gave the lie to England as the “better team”.
To anyone who was watching the game, England were nothing but 11 fancy-dan players incapable of playing together as a team. They rarely created anything, until perhaps late on, which could be conceived as a threat to Algeria. Those non-Football watchers who endured England’s attempt at playing football this morning might also say that Algeria are stars to play so well in that game. What they fail to understand is that, in perhaps the weakest group of the entire tournament, an overpaid group has been unable to do anything befitting their ‘traditional’ stature.
Other examples of this misunderstanding of football is the myth which exists that Brazil only ever play with flair and charisma. For this mainly I blame the Media and associated Advertisers. Brazil is a great brand, and they are the greatest football nation on earth, but they play football like any other team. They have bad games and good games. They sometimes have players who don’t live up to the myth. And when that happens, they have to develop tactics which support the strengths they have. Some examples I challenge you to watch include the 1982 Brazil v Argentina game and the entire 1994 tournament (which they won).
What Brazil have often done successfully is something England patently have rarely been able to do, and especially this year with Wayne Rooney. By far the most potent attacking threat in the World Cup, he regularly when playing for his club side destroys defences better than those of countries like Algeria or the USA. For England, however, he is ineffectual, hardly used and wasteful. Fingers have to be pointed at the coach, despite Capello being massively successful practically everywhere he has been. He chooses to play Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard together when it is pretty apparent to anyone with eyes there is room for perhaps two of them at best.
Finally, referees. Possibly more than any other international support the Referee is the lone ranger for the decision making. Fortunately, the rules are reasonably simple. But as with AFL where often Umpires discretionary interpretation of those rules leaves fans shaking their heads or fists in dismay, in Football some of the decisions make us look skywards in fury or more often confusion. This is why when you hear fans complain about referees, they do it not on the basis of bad decisions, but on the inconsistency of those bad decisions.
I’ve already mentioned the idiot who ruined the Serbia v Germany game, but I’m still shaking my head about the third goal for the USA being disallowed last night. A fabulous game, otherwise ruined by an unfathomable decision, especially when it appeared to be the Slovenijan defenders who were doing the fouling at the time.
The non-football folk who got up to watch Traditional England and avoided minnow Slovenija got the bum steer today. When both teams meet next week to decide qualification from their group, we still have to expect England to win, because circumstances dictate it. But if Slovenija draw they will go through at England’s expense no matter what the result in the other games.
Just as with Serbia and Switzerland’s wins this week, that’ll be billed as an upset. But it won’t be, it’ll be the group of players who played as a team getting the results they deserve.