FIFA’s corruption becomes immediately obvious when viewing how many countries were passed over as potential hosts of the 2022 World Cup in favor of Qatar, where the average temperature in June and July is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m not saying Qatar can’t push enough money forward to create a decent World Cup, but there were some other obvious contenders that were snubbed — countries where soccer is already huge, or on the rise. (The New York Times has an interesting feature on Qatar’s focused effort to promote soccer and win the bid. Some good things, but FIFA could have waited another round to get a clearer picture of Qatar’s progress.)
But that sort of corruption far from FIFA’s only problem. This World Cup gave plenty of reminders of the organization’s dysfunction.
Saturday’s third-place game gave the most recent example of FIFA inconsistency. Fortunately, it was not enough to affect the outcome of the match.
In just the second minute, Thiago Silva — just back after his disqualification from the semifinal due to two yellow cards — pulled Arjen Robben to the ground as he entered the box. Under almost any circumstances, that calls for a send-off, whether or not the foul happened in the penalty box.
Many critics believed at the start of the 2o14 World Cup that Spain would continue its bid for trophies after winning the past two UEFA European Championships and the 2010 World Cup. A number of others thought that Germany could compete with and even potentially beat out the Spaniards for this year’s World Cup.
I believed that Germany could win its first national trophy since the 1990 World Cup. While Spain could not escape the group stage, falling to the Netherlands and Chile in turn, Germany finally broke out of the slump of second and third place finishes at the past three World Cups to reclaim the title of World Champions, defeating Argentina 1-0 yesterday in extra time.
As we prepare for the final weekend of the World Cup with a consolation final Saturday (semifinal losers Brazil and the Netherlands) and the main event between Germany and Argentina on Sunday, let’s recap with a few of the highlights of this tournament.
Germany’s complete rout of Brazil
The most one-sided affair in a World Cup semifinal, and one of the most impressive routs in World Cup history, headlines this Cup so far. The Internet went crazy to the tune of 35.6 million tweets, and rightly so, as Germany sealed the match early with four goals in six minutes (part of five goals in the first 29 minutes). Miroslav Klose scored his record-breaking 16th World Cup goal. A late Brazil goal on a counter after Germany almost scored its eighth goal prevented the host country from the additional humiliation of a shutout.
Neymar’s injury may have factored into this match, but I can’t see how it would have substantially changed the result. The Brazilian defense unhinged as Germany played exceptionally well, picking their spots and hitting them time after time. They created space and used it, and the scoreline, 7-1, was a completely accurate picture of the match. The absence of Thiago Silva likely had more to do with the extreme number of goals, but one player, even one who seems to break up passes as a matter of course, can rarely change the atmosphere that substantially. (Unless his name is Tim Howard. But I’ll get to that later.)
While this semifinal game will likely be another exciting World Cup match, the odds I originally saw all over the Internet were somewhat puzzling.
A number of high-traffic sites gave Brazil the advantage, some at an 80 percent chance of advancing. The official odds, though, are more of a toss-up.
Brazil is missing its star, Neymar, after he suffered a fractured vertebra late in the quarterfinal against Colombia. It’s also missing captain Thiago Silva, who received his second yellow card of the tournament in the 64th minute of the same game. That means he’ll be suspended for the match. With the two best players out for the match, all hopes of the host country getting through to the final seem tenuous at best.
Brazil appealed to FIFA about the second booking, but it was never likely FIFA would reverse the decision. It would be incredibly controversial to do so, and FIFA is already getting enough flack for its selection of Qatar as the 2022 host of the World Cup. (Really, I still don’t get that, bribery or not.)