The World Cup 2010: International Soccer Reaches Maturity

The most remarkable thing about this current World Cup is not that it has resurrected this blog (I’m still alive!), nor that America got robbed (as it surely did of the winning goal against Slovenia), nor the omnipresent droning of the vuvuzelas. It is that this is the first World Cup where you can honestly say, as was once said of pro football in the U.S., on any given day, any team good enough to be in the Cup is good enough to beat or draw any other team.

We have seen some remarkable results – the United States tie against England, England’s subsequent nil-nil match against Algeria, the utter collapse of France, Germany losing to Serbia after aboslutely dominating Australia, Spain’s loss to Switzerland, and perhaps most significantly, the just-concluded 1-1 match that had New Zealand, ranked #78 in the world by FIFA, holding off the defending World Champion and current #5 Italy.

It’s a shock to the system for the European old guard of soccer, but after they recover, they’ll realize it’s good for the sport. This is the first World Cup where the favorites, not just one or two, but as a group, are struggling to even move past the group stage. There are some blaming it on the ball, blamining it on the altitude, blaming it even on the vuvezelas…but what it really means is \that international soccer has finally matured. Talent is no longer concentrated, but is worldwide. Tactics, too, have matured, as coaches have learned how to play a defensive game against the world’s best without completely sacrificing offense.

In short, this World Cup is wide open…very few teams are resting easy, and only one has been eliminated (unfortunately, the entertaining African side, Cameroon). My own pick at this point? Argentina…but it will be a very, very intense set of third round matches in group play as almost the entire field has its tournament on the line. Great stuff!…

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