June 21, 2010

World Cup disappointments

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

So who has looked worse at the World Cup so far: The referees, or the African nations? The truth is that they’ve both been equally bad. And, really, this could be a huge issue.

Referees have officiated matches as if they were the stars of them, not the players. It’s long been said that the best refs in any sports are the ones that you don’t really remember. Why? Because refs shouldn’t the focus of the game.

Think about it this way: When was the last time that there was a positive story written about a referee right after a game they officiated. With the exception of milestone games or retirements of long-time refs, it just doesn’t happen.

Well, in this World Cup, we’ve seen goals disallowed for no reason, straight red cards that were hardly deserved, cases of too much added injury time, missed hand balls and flurries of yellows that should have merely been fouls. Commentators and analysts alike have panned officials so far and rightfully so; these sorts of things shouldn’t be happening with the world’s supposed best on hand for the Cup final.

Could you imagine if the disallowed goal for the USA against Slovenia cost them from advancing to the second round? Or if the Germans don’t advance because of the ref in the Serbia game got too happy with the yellows, sending off Miroslav Klose in the first half for undeserved yellows. There could be riots.

But, equally as poor, and even sadder, have been the African nations’ performances. Of the five teams from the host continent, only one has a win through two games each. That team, Ghana, is also the only one of the five with more than a point. Nigeria and Cameroon haven’t even claim a tie yet.

Sadly, South Africa will more than likely become the first host to miss out on the group stages. If they want to advance, they’ll have to beat France, hope Mexico loses to Uruguay and then also make up their minus-three goal differential to win the tie breaker. This is not a very desirable position to be in.

There’s also a better than decent chance that the current top African squad, Ghana, may not make it through. A loss to Germany and a Serbian victory over Australia will put them in third in Group D.

Wasn’t there supposed to be some sort of advantage for the hosts and – in this specific tournament at least – for the African nations? If so, I haven’t seen anything close to this.

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