OK, so we’ve only had the first week of the World Cup, but let’s be honest, with the exception of the Germany game, most of the matches have been rather disappointing. In fact a few of them – notably Algeria vs. Slovenia – have been shockingly poor.
Is this just a blip? A slow start to the tournament as the players adjust to the altitude? Or something more endemically wrong with the best sporting tournament in the world (and yes, that does include the Olympics; anything with badminton in it will always pale in comparison to the World Cup)?
I’m worried the latter may be the case – although I really hope I’m wrong! Here’s why:
The Hype Machine
The number of column inches devoted for the weeks leading up to the World Cup really inflate our expectations. Then add every brand and supermarket jumping on the bandwagon and from the start of May you can’t move without seeing Fenando Torres’ cheesy grin at every turn.
Oh, and then there’s the politicians trying to get us to like them blurting some bombastic line every two seconds. Even David “I have to admit I don’t like football” Cameron came out with some bilge about how England’s World Cup bid is just like his “We’re all in this together” mantra.
With this amount of hot air it’s inevitable that we will be disappointed by what the World Cup actually delivers. Does that mean it’s a worse World Cup? Maybe not in real terms but in terms of how much we actually enjoy it, the answer is “yes”.
Worse still, the media attention inevitably burdens most footballers with an exceptional amount of pressure. I think this is certainly the case with the England team. Let’s hope Rob Green has helped get that out of the squad’s system!
France and Portugal are arguably only at this tournament because FIFA conveniently seeded the playoffs AFTER it was clear these big guns were in them! Whose fault is that? Probably ours, the fans – at the very least the wider public.
Although we say we want to see the underdogs do well, as long as that wasn’t at the expense of the big teams. We want to see the best players and the biggest nations on the biggest stage, yet we’re also guilty of complaining that it’s become predictable – with the ‘same old teams’.
So, FIFA feel like they have to protect what we want, and make decisions accordingly. Worryingly, it’s all going a bit Superbowl.
Club vs. Country
That old chestnut. But perhaps I have a new spin on it. It’ not that players are saving themselves for club football… I think they genuinely care (even Jamie Carragher). The problem is that the standards of club football are so high that we’re always disappointed that a team of players who have spent no more than a few weeks together can’t play as a team – remember what a difference it made to South Korea when Hiddink had the squad together for months before World Cup?
Club football is also now too big a physical burden on the modern player. So many players are injured or carrying knocks going into the World Cup, it will inevitably affect performances. I strongly suspect that more and more players will be taking a leaf out of Paul Scholes’ book and retiring from international football.
Finally, I would argue that great players like Messi and Rooney have a tendency of disappointing at the international level, because they just don’t have the same quality of players around them. No disrespect to Veron and co., but they just can’t offer the same service as Xavi and Iniesta. Internationals just aren’t “up a level” from the Champions League these days. Maybe the format needs changing? Brings me nicely on to my next point…
OK, I might get some stick for this, but although I think that we should work harder to ensure the teams that deserve to be at the world cup should be there (not just the ones best at cheeky handballs and eating cheese), I also think that there are too many rubbish teams in the world cup.
The worst case of this was on display this weekend with Algeria vs. Slovenia. I never want to be subjected to a game like that again. Ever.
Perhaps a smaller, shorter World Cup would give all the teams that qualify (fairly!) more chance to get prepared, to the benefit of the tournament?
Finally, for the benefit of everyone’s entertainment and sanity the organisers have to ban the vuvuzelas. They drown out all the chants, they make your TV sound like it’s broken, and they were originally invented to scare off baboons!
Just re-read this, and boy do I sound pessimistic!! I really hope I’m wrong and the rest of the tournament is a great success… what do you guys think?
Adam Hawes is the Founder of Schport – a free online service that makes organising your football team dead easy – (he’s also the Gaffer of “Gunshow FC”!).