Friday, June 23, 2006


Africans - Naive No Longer

The reasons for the Americans’ 2-1 loss to Ghana Thursday and their three-and-out elimination from the World Cup are obvious enough: an inability to attack creatively (witness the dozens of hopeful long balls hoofed uselessly right to the Ghanaian defense); a poor tactical set-up (a 4-5-1 when it had already been proven that the Americans cannot score with a lone striker); a lack of highly skilled players (the Yanks have no field player who comes close to matching Essien, Appiah, Rosicky, Nedved, Del Piero or Gattuso); and poor preparation that depended on excessive secrecy and that somehow left the players psychologically overwhelmed. The blame spreads around evenly among the players, the coach and the federation — though it does seem as if the man most responsible for the missteps in preparation and tactics, Bruce Arena, bears the biggest share of that blame.

Referees Need Help
I felt for Graham Poll last night. In one respect - making the Croatia v Australia game flow - he did pretty well. But in pretty much every other he had a shocker, booking one player three times, blowing for full time just as a Tim Cahill shot was crossing the line, and missing a blatant handball to boot.

He's not the only ref to struggle in Germany 2006, of course. We've had a phonebook-sized number of erroneous yellow cards, three goals that weren't spotted, and myriad incorrect penalty decisions.

The first problem could be solved by Fifa toning down its gung-ho directives to officials, and by introducing a panel to review and rescind yellow and red cards after the match. It won't happen though: Fifa has an almost-Catholic belief in the infallibility of referees, and themselves.

The second solution is also obvious, if contentious: introduce instant video replays.

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