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.
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.)
I wasn’t initially going to write about today’s U.S.-Belgium match. But the thoughts came anyway.
Sometimes soccer is a cruel sport. But in this match, it could have been far more cruel. The U.S. created some chances, but Belgium had far more. The team that ends with 38 shots ordinarily comes out on top. At the same time, the Americans don’t have to hang their heads about taking Belgium into extra time.
A number of players stepped up in this round, not all of them the usual suspects. In fact, only one of the truly shining spots today has been a force for the U.S. in years past.
Really, what a performance from Tim Howard. It’s hard to overstate his importance to the success of the U.S. in this tournament, and especially this knockout round game. The Everton goalie only missed blocking two shots all day; neither was his fault. He did his job and then some, stopping an incredible 16 shots. It’s a World Cup record, at least as long as the stat has been recorded. As well as Howard played in goal, though, the final outcome went the right way. It’s hard to get a loss on such a stellar performance from the keeper, but the opponent was the better side.