As the second round of the group stage begins, let’s take a moment to reflect on what’s happened so far. While it may not be the goal-fest fans were hoping for, the World Cup flower is starting to bloom to the delight of viewers all over the world. Games are opening up, forwards are fulfilling their roles, and fantasy teams all over the Internet are beginning to take shape. That being said, there have been some downright atrocious elements infecting this beautiful tournament. Errors, cards, and noisy plastic contraptions have conspired to ruin the competition before it really began. Either way, the World Cup is finally looking like the World Cup with compelling stories coming from every angle.
I think it’s better to start with the bad (and ugly) so we can continue on a high note. A part of the tournament that has gone, you could say, not unnoticed would be the now infamous Vuvuzelas. While they may be part of a proud tradition in South Africa, the remainder of the world would prefer to have them destroyed, sooner rather than later. The major complaint from viewers is that they feel as if a swarm of bees is accompanying their World Cup experience. Not so bad if you’re a bee keeper, but the World Cup is making no new friends with these obnoxious blowers in its stands. There are a number of movements to expel the horns from games, but to the chagrin of many fans, it’s doubtless any will be successful.
This is sadly a World Cup that has so far been marred by costly goalkeeping errors. Poor Robert Green had to seal his name into football history, and not by aiding his team to a second World Cup, but by making an atrocious howler in their first, and extremely important game against the USA. Pubs around England gasped in horror as the ball bobbled over the line, and the man now pinned with the headline “Hand Of Clod” has a lot of making up to do. Lucky for him, other keepers followed suite. Just as the U.S. can thank Green for their fortuitous draw, Slovenia can thank Algerian keeper Faouzi Chaouchi for flapping at the ball that led to their solitary goal. Rather than take responsibility for the blunders, the managers and players are blaming the Jabulani ball for the mistakes. At least Adidas have stepped forward to defend themselves and bluntly remind the teams that they’ve had ample time to practice with the lightweight ball, and while altitude may be a factor in its behavior, it is by no means the ball’s fault that goals were conceded. You stick it to them, Adidas.
What may be the ugliest part of the tournament so far is neither the buzzing vuvuzelas nor the slippery ball, but the enormous amount of yellow and red cards referees have been flashing all over the place. I think overall the referring has been top quality, but the red cards shown so far have ruined a number of games, and a few were far from deserved. Tim Cahill from Australia comes to mind. His foul was innocuous, at worst, and his utter bewilderment at the red he saw after was completely understandable. Australia were already 2-0 down, but their chances of coming back against a strong German team were nigh on impossible with Cahill’s sending off. South Africa’s loss to Uruguay was tragic enough after the host nation earned an impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico in their opening game without the sending off of their goalkeeper. Again, a very harsh call which essentially killed the match along with South Africa’s hopes of qualifying beyond their group. Player error and lack of goals are part and parcel of the game, but poor calls have a way of destroying a game like nothing else can.