America plays football too

29 June 2009

As most of my friends will know, I’m an authority on pretty much anything and everything.  Today that includes association football’s Confederations Cup, which judging by the amount of Twitterspew on my Facebook newsfeed was a very popular event.  (It was a veritable clusterfuck of social networking, believe you me.  And as a note for those of you who find it necessary to tweet a sporting event live, please get your timing right if you insist on counting down.  Football has injury time.  It’s annoying to see you post “One minute left” and then say “Three minutes left” five minutes later.)

In the event, the Confederations Cup is interesting – and useful – principally as a dry run for the World Cup next year.  In that vein my thoughts:

  • South Africa’s much-maligned World Cup preparations came through very well.  Attendance was good, though not stellar, and by all most accounts the administration of the tournament was excellent, aided by a large number of volunteers, extra security personnel and perhaps a little local bonhomie.  The stadia in use are obviously only a portion of those in the real deal, but they were complete and there weren’t technical problems.
  • Speaking of the crowds, those horn things?  No.  Absolutely not.



  • Of the competitor nations, Spain was the most disappointing.  As my friend Aldo is fond of pointing out, they are  vastly overrated.  A European Cup champion does not a great team make, and Spain’s loss to the US was due much more to their failure than our success.  Granted this is a tournament of marginal importance to them and they are much more reticent to risk injury to their best players, especially in the midst of World Cup qualifiers.   But then that didn’t stop Brazil.  Spain has an easy qualifying group that they are not dominating and they only took third place to host South Africa (who have a right to be proud of themselves) with difficulty.  They should be worried about 2010.
  • This overlooks Italy.  But their loss was a fluke, and a bizarre one, and they only missed out on the semifinals on the tiebreak.  (In my opinion, if two teams in a group are tied and one beat the other, as Italy did America, the winner should move on; but I have basically nothing but minority opinions.)  They hardly shined following their dismal European Cup performance last year, and they too are having trouble in an easy qualifying group for 2010.
  • New Zealand is living proof that Oceania shouldn’t have its own league.  Australia was smart to get out while the getting was good and score a guaranteed place in every World Cup.  Iraq and Egypt both turned in respectable performances, though there’s a reason why the former didn’t qualify for 2010.  South Africa, as noted, did very well.
  • That brings me to the US.  The good news is that we’re no longer a third-rate team.  We are a second-rate team.  Brazil struggled in the first half and failed to control the ball, but what I imagine was the threat of an anonymous death in a Sao Paulo stream riled them to usual form.   Once Brazil decided to win we were not a match for them, and it brought into pretty stark relief where we stand.  The US is a team on par with Australia, Japan, Argentina or Denmark.  We are far from bad, and I would be legitimately surprised if we missed out on the group of eight next year.  But I’d be equally surprised if we made it to the semifinals, much less further.

That’s about the extent of my uneducated commentary.  Feel free to set me right!   It’d bring me down a peg, which would be good for me.


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