(Here's an example of what you can find on my World Cup blog.)
So, how are we doing so far?
A week-and-a-half ago, I posted my lame-but-clear “template for a good soccer match”. Once again, the rules:
- The margin of victory is one goal, or the match is a draw
- At least one of the teams must score multiple goals
I’m searching for matches that were competitive (rule #1), and attack-minded (rule #2).
The 7th match was the first to meet the criteria: England 1-2 Italy. There were 30 total shots (13 on goal), some inspired individual play (Pirlo, Balotelli), and if England never quite seemed like they had an equalizer in them, it wasn’t for lack of trying. On the same day, the Ivory Coast defeated Japan 2-1, in a match that was more lopsided than the score suggests.
Sunday the 15th had two more: Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador, and Argentina 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first was headed to a 1-1 draw until the thrilling extra-time winner by substitute Hans Seferovic, a case where the ending made the match seem a bit better than it was. Argentina-Bosnia was also saved by a goal, Lionel Messi’s sublime effort to put Argentina up 2-0 midway through the second half. Bosnia got a late goal to “fulfill” the template, and Messi’s wondergoal made the match memorable, but again, this one was not as competitive as the final score indicates.
Monday the 16th had one, which delighted U.S. fans: Ghana 1-2 United States. I can’t judge the entertainment value, since I had a rooting interest, but Ghana’s put so much pressure on the U.S. after Dempsey’s instant goal that there was a level of tension throughout the match, with everyone wondering if/when Ghana would break through. Which they did, with less than ten minutes to go. Which set up a classic finish four minutes later, when John Anthony Brooks headed home the game-winner.
Tuesday the 17th, Belgium 2-1 Algeria. Not a great match most of the way … Algeria only got off three shots, and their goal came from a penalty kick. Belgium dominated without actually being interesting, until Marc Wilmots made three substitutions in the early parts of the second half. Two of those substitutes scored goals, and Belgium got the win they deserved. But it was odd … Belgium clearly outplayed the Algerians, yet until the last 20 minutes, didn’t seem very potent.
Wednesday the 18th, and the real winner of the Template of the Cup thus far: Australia 2-3 Netherlands. The heavy underdogs Australia stayed with the Dutch for most of the match, even taking a brief 2-1 lead early in the second half. There were 43 total fouls (remarkably, only two by Nigel de Jong), it was a tough match, lots of give and take, and the best team won. But it was a five-goal extravaganza.
Thursday the 19th had two: Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast, and Uruguay 2-1 England. All three goals in the first match came in a nine-minute period midway through the second half. Uruguay-England was one of the best matches so far, with a lot of the excitement being contextual … it wasn’t just entertaining, it featured Luis Suárez in his first match of the Cup, scoring twice in an emotional performance against the English.
Finally, on the 20th, there was Honduras 1-2 Ecuador. The stat sheet shows some interesting individual performances. Carlos Costly scored the Honduras goal, and also led all Hondurans in committing five fouls. Enner Valencia scored both Ecuador goals, was fouled five times, and returned the favor three times. (Fouls are usually part of the discussion in a match that includes Honduras.)
That’s ten matches already that fit the template. But other matches, while not fitting the straightjacket I’ve chosen, were “good”, usually by featuring one team in a delightful blow out of their opponent. The Netherlands scored five against defending champions Spain, Germany plowed past Portugal 4-0, France got five against the Swiss.
And, as if to demonstrate the silliness of my template, arguably the best match so far was the scoreless draw between Brazil and Mexico.
Against all of the above, Iran-Nigeria and Japan-Greece were more typical 0-0 matches, i.e. boring, and other matches were merely OK. It’s worth noting, though, that “merely OK” would have been quite good in the 2010 World Cup.
So far, this has been an excellent World Cup. Partly because teams are scoring goals, and I like goals. But there are also fine individual exploits, and again, Brazil 0-0 Mexico was a terrific match to watch.
And I didn’t even mention this: