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July 10, 2006

The World Cup is over

And so the World Cup is over, and so is the 2005/06 football season. Assuming FIFA's ban gets lifted, a Greek team will be involved in the start of the 2006/07 season Intertoto Cup this weekend, so it is a bit of a case of the king is dead, long live the king.

In the end the final pretty much epitomised the tournament as a whole - a bright start and lots of early promise, but ultimately it faded out into a stalemate where neither team could find the cutting edge. Then there was a sending off.

I felt a bit sorry for the Italians and the ref - after Zidane's red card they seemed to get every touched or decision booed by the crowd in the stadium. They don't have the benefit of any kind of replay on the big screens within the ground, so I can only assume that the majority of the crowd didn't understand what had happened, and will feel a bit sheepish when they see the TV pictures today.

So was the 2006 World Cup any good? Well, not that great to be honest.

On the down-side:

  • In the fifteen knock-out games there were only 26 goals - less than two per game on average.
  • In the fifteen knock-out games there were only four games in which both teams scored.
  • Too many games seemed to turn on a refereeing deciscion (Italy's penalty against Australia, Brazil's second goal against Ghana being allowed, England getting a free kick against Ecuador, Thierry Henry earning a free-kick against Spain).
  • There was only one real hammering.
  • There were hardly any comebacks - France v Spain and Australia v Japan were the only teams to come back from behind and win in matches that mattered. The Ivory Coast did the same against Serbia and/or Montenegro, but the match was already a dead rubber.
  • The draw ended up being very kind to the "bigger" teams in the way the fixtures fell - it meant that a lot of the most anticipated heavyweight match-ups - Argentina/Netherlands, England/Sweden, Portugal/Mexico - ended up being about the bragging rights for topping the group, rather than a life or death situation.
  • The new interpretations of the laws may have cut down on player injuries, but it is simply too easy to win free kicks - which breaks up play too often, and rewards players for falling over at every opportunity.

On the up-side:

  • The stadiums were magnificent, and all the games seemed sold out.
  • Although there were a large number of public order arrests during the tournament, there were no large scale street confrontations like we saw in Euro2000 or France98 - well not that made the press anyway.
  • I finally got to see a World Cup Finals match - I was in Marseilles during 1998 for England's opening game but couldn't get a ticket, and Japan/South Korea was just too far. I am planning to go to South Africe in 2010 though.
  • Portugal didn't win it ;-)

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