Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Underdogs, amazing plays make World Cup a joy

June 15, 2006

The timing couldn't have been worse for me.

This little piece was supposed to be a bit of a push to get people on board with why I like the game of soccer and why they should at least take a little time to watch the planet's biggest sporting event happening this month in Germany.

The World Cup is an exciting event which I personally have enjoyed since 1990, and all the excitement concerning this year's event was getting to me, but then something funny happened on the way to my computer.

The United States, coming off one of its most exciting performances in Cup history in 2002, seemingly didn't bother to show up on Monday against the Czech Republic, losing 3-0 in embarrassing fashion.

When the final whistle blew, I could just hear the fringe fans that have been skeptical for so long, let out a collective 'I told you so.'

But I, like the American team, must regroup and find the positives in this year's World Cup which are worth watching.

First off, there have been many exciting games that have been played so far in the tournament's opening week (the United States' dismal effort not included).

To start, Trinidad and Tobago held Sweden to a scoreless tie. Now after you have finished laughing at the idea of a scoreless tie being exciting, bear with me.

Trinidad and Tobago is a speck of a country in the Caribbean, which has long been the doormat of many of the more powerful teams in the region.

On Saturday they held a traditional European powerhouse to a draw in game, which Sweden was expected to win going away.

We all love an underdog, and the team from Trinidad outhustled the Swedes in every sense of the word just as we all like to see the underdog do. And when the underdog hails from such a tiny place on the map and derails the plans of its seemingly gigantic opponent, it appeals to us (see Hoosiers).

Second there have been some great goals. To me, this is one of the primary reasons the game is great to watch. Now granted, many people don't care for the sport because there aren't enough goals being scored. This I understand.

But when they are scored, they can rival the most beautiful passes in football and the greatest dunks in basketball.

For example, in a game Saturday between Argentina and the Ivory Coast, an Argentinean player split the defense and delivered a pass to a teammate, streaking toward the goal.

The pass was so well timed, his teammate merely had to divert the pass just enough to sneak underneath the Coast's goalkeeper. The play seemed to happen in one fluid motion, which in my opinion is the essence of a great play in any sport.

Lastly, I would like to point out the power the game has on people around the world. One of the best examples goes back to the aforementioned Ivory Coast.

The game of soccer is so powerful it can overcome the ignorance, greed or whatever other forces drive people to do what they do.

The small African nation qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever. And in response, the country put an end to a bloody civil war which has gone on for years in order to root on the national team.

Now whether they stick to this remarkable cease-fire when the Coast is eliminated from the tournament remains to be seen, but for at least one precious week, the people of the nation can live in hope and peace, while enjoying the game they love.

I hope this can give some of you a reason to at least check out this wonderful tournament, for there are many more storylines and many more great goals to be seen.

A few weeks of watching this tournament may hopefully heighten one's curiosity for the game loved by the rest of the world.

Or at least it means you don't have to watch the Royals and you can kill a few weeks while waiting for football season to start.

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