Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Advanced Kick Ball

We have been recording and watching most (or many) of the games in this year’s World Cup Soccer. The team we most hoped would win (Croatia) was eliminated early on, but fought an admirable first game against Brazil, losing 1 to 0. This, against the tournament favorite was enough to give us hope that maybe Croatia would make it to the second round, if not the finals. But, as with the United States team, there was disappointment ahead and neither team made it to the second round.

My favorite underdog team was Ghana. Even though Ghana was a part of the problem for the U.S., we were sorry to see them tossed out so early in the second round (losing to Brazil in a predictable game). I don’t think I’ve seen a more sportsmanlike underdog team, ever. In a tournament that has had more than its share of temper tantrums and bad calls, the Ghana team played cleaner than any I’ve seen, even holding the ball until a fallen opponent was back on his feet. In their surprising (and first ever World Cup) win, against the Czechs, I cried. And the people of Ghana enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. They won that game fairly and tactically. They were solid and deserved every victory.

So far, every finals game we have watched was won in the last minutes, if not seconds, of play, most in overtime and/or penalty kicks. France just beat Portugal in the semi-final match on a penalty kick and Italy beat Germany by scoring two goals in the last two minutes of overtime. The teams are all so evenly matched. Germany (playing on its home field) beat Argentina when it blocked England’s final penalty kick after a double overtime and no goals. Portugal beat England in similar fashion, on penalty kicks. It’s always disappointing to me when a game goes that long without scoring and is ultimately decided on penalty kicks, where everything falls on the shoulders of just two men, face to face.

If there is one thing to walk away with after watching the World Cup, it’s the capacity for man to push himself physically to the limits. I don’t think there is a group of athletes out there that can compete with soccer players for best overall fitness levels. With 90 minutes of regulation play and only one break at half time, and many games running into 30 minutes of overtime, we’re talking about running, jumping, kicking, shooting, rolling and tumbling at full speed, at full force for nearly 2 hours straight! I’d rather watch a soccer game over an American football game any day of the year. The tactics and skill required are far superior, imho.

There’s still time to watch the final game if you haven’t been keeping up with the earlier games. The final game pits Italy against France next Sunday afternoon (at least that’s when it will be aired here). Germany and Portugal will duke it out for third place on Saturday. France may be the underdog, but I think we’ll be rooting for Italy.

And now I’m going to say something very girly and shallow. Guys, close your eyes. There is no better sports uniform than the soccer uniform. You can have all the Speedos, lycra cycling shorts, football, basketball and baseball uniforms. Those do nothing for me. But put a man with incredible legs in a pair of loose fitting soccer shorts, a white shirt and shin guards, and there’s just a certain boyish quality that I find incredibly charming. Okay, I’ll be going now. 8-}


At 6:17 AM, July 06, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Gwynne, when reading your post my internal dialogue was something like, "Hm, soccer...sports stuff that I'll never get...Croatia, oh too bad...more soccer...more sports stuff...Mmmmm...guys in soccer uniforms." Totally with you on the uniform thing. Otherwise - I will definitely agree that soccer is the only sport I'm likely to watch on TV but...well, that's not saying a whole lot. Somehow I missed the sports gene.

At 8:06 AM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Beth, I think too there's a difference between the sports participation gene and the sports spectator gene because I don't possess the latter (except in limited doses). And you know, it's all about the uniforms but I didn't want to lead my post with that because that would just be...well, shallow. ;-)

At 11:17 AM, July 06, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Hmmm...I think I'm lacking both then. Well, I'm lacking key nuclei of the "Sports Participation Gene" - those would be the:
1) Actually looks like someone worth picking for a team
2) Actually coordinated enough to do something other than:
a)*whiff* if trying to kick something or,
b) sustain bodily injury if trying to catch something or run somewhere

But hey, I still give it a go now and again. :)

At 11:36 AM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

I would pick you to be on my team though, for the humor and strategic thinking that you would bring to the team. You can be captain. ;-)

At 2:25 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Oooh cool! Promotion to my level of incompetence! ;) (I've always contended that I'm much more incompetent than people seem to believe...wait...that didn't sound right...)

At 10:59 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Lyn said...

Can I interupt this conversation? You see, soccer is b.o.r.i.n.g. No scoring, no action (well, running up and down the field is action, but it's pointless since no one scores!), no scoring, no strategy (at least I can't see any), no scoring. 90 minutes of nothing to least you can get a conversation in with the person you went to the scoreless game with. (Don't end the sentence with the preposition with.)

At 11:19 PM, July 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bucket of cold water please coming up for our very own gwynnster

At 11:48 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Lyndon, I'm going to have to disagree there. There is tons of action...and strategy...and athleticism. Sure, more scoring would be nice, but it's not like they're not trying to score. Besides, it's not about the points, as Beth and I were discussing before you interrupted. ;-)

Susie, thanks for watching my back. ;-)

At 6:22 AM, July 07, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Lyndon, it's ok that you don't get it. However, perhaps you might enjoy women's soccer? Mia Hamm has some nice legs I'm told. But yeah, soccer is not about the game, it's about all those tan, muscular legs running about, and running and running. :)


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