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On England V. Portugal

Penalty kicks are such a stupid way of deciding a soccer game. Over 120 minutes of a team sport with final score determined by a series of mano a mano face-offs.

Penalty kicks are so dissimilar to regular soccer that it's almost a different game entirely, like the outcome of a tied Cavaliers v. Timberwolves basketball game settled by LeBron James and Kevin Garnett playing Twister at mid-court. Come to think of it though, that, unlike penalty kicks, might be interesting to watch.

Posted on July 01, 2006 to Observations



Posted by: premiump on July 1, 2006 11:32 AM

What would you suggest after 120 minutes of game?

If they just allow more substitutions and let the game take as long as necessary, are the same teams even playing anymore?

Much worse was the old "golden goal". In that mode, after the regular time the teams played until one scored and then that was it. Game over. Whoever scored won.

The penalties at least let whoever has a consistent team prove that they are the ones, after playing 120 minutes, that deserve to win.

But new options are always appreciated. What would you do?

Posted by: C.E. Lopes on July 1, 2006 11:49 AM


Posted by: C.E. Lopes on July 1, 2006 11:49 AM

mano a mano means 'hand to hand', not 'one on one'. Penalty kicks are more mano a pie.

Posted by: t on July 1, 2006 11:51 AM

what would i do? face off Kirk and Spock style to funky music. that or just not watch england because the're dull.

Posted by: patrick on July 1, 2006 12:25 PM

The problem isn't penalties. The problem is that some teams refuse to recognise that penalty kicking is a SKILL to be LEARNT and to be PRACTISED. The teams that do train for penalties, and practise, win penalty shoot-outs.

Can you believe that previously England did NO practice for penalty shoot-outs, none what so ever? At least that has changed. But England still hasn't learnt that more than practise is required. They actually have to learn how to take them and win.

BTW, if you score more goals than the other team during normal time, then there isn't a shoot-out. Penalty shoot-outs do not decide the better team, they decide the least worst team. And that is fair. If you want to be sure of winning, win during normal time.

Posted by: jon on July 1, 2006 12:35 PM

I like penalties. They're rather thrilling. All that suspenseful buildup, and it's decided in a split second.

Perhaps another option would be to resume play on a pitch half the size, with the same number of players. Scoring would surely be more likely. You could have a 'golden goal' setup or not. If no goals are scored in 20 minutes, halve the pitch again.

Or you could have 11 fans from each side selected from the stands, and they would decide the outcome. That way you could have a full match again without having to pay the players obscene amounts of money.

Posted by: Piers Morgan on July 1, 2006 1:07 PM

Do a true one-on-one - have one defender and a goalie try to stop a striker who dribbles from midfield from scoring. If the defender clears the ball out it's a loss for the striker.

Posted by: Ed on July 1, 2006 1:20 PM

I like Ed's idea. On Boston Bruins games, they used to have what they called "Mini One-on-One" between periods. A bunch of kids playing (IIRC) first one-on-one, then two-on-one, then three-on-two. You could do something like that to decide the match.

Posted by: Dave P on July 1, 2006 1:33 PM

You know, it's interesting that you'd compare soccer and basketball here, because 99% of close basketball games *are* decided through a contest that bears no resemblance to the regular play. It's a bizarre competition called "making free throws", and it's a skill which bears even less resemblance to the sport of basketball than penalty kicks do to the sport of soccer. At least the soccer guys run up a few steps to kick the ball.

Then there's the endless supply of time outs. Few things are less entertaining than the last two minutes of a basketball game.

Posted by: five toed sloth on July 1, 2006 3:24 PM

Now that Brazil has lost and my hopes utterly crushed (but they deserved to lose!)...

You know, there are worse things than penalty kicks.

Baseball comes to mind.


Posted by: C.E. Lopes on July 1, 2006 5:06 PM

Let 'em play until they drop. It's the World Friggin' Cup; let the most momentous tournament on the planet be decided in the most momentous way--Sudden Death. It's exciting as hell in hockey playoffs, and it would be just as exciting on the pitch.

Posted by: LOD on July 1, 2006 5:41 PM

forget sudden death. call it "eventual death" and have the game last as long as cricket match.

Posted by: Tim on July 1, 2006 8:02 PM

I'm with you, man. The fact that England played the second half and extra time as if they weren't a man down, to me says that they were the better team. However, they've always sucked at penalty kicks, but that doesn't mean they weren't a good team. Sigh.

Posted by: gillian on July 1, 2006 8:46 PM

What they need to do is something to allow scoring to be a little easier. I feel like every time I turn on a World Cup game, I'm at about the 60 minute mark and the score is still 0-0, or maybe--MAYBE-- 1-0. If scoring was a bit easier (off sides, schmoff sides, let's say) the likelihood of needing PKs would be slim to none. And the game itself would be FAR more interesting.

Now before you soccer nuts get your panties in a wad, I'm not talking about making the scoring easy, just easier, so that instead of an average score being 1-0 or (gasp) 2-1, it might be something more like 5-4.

Posted by: oz on July 2, 2006 6:07 AM

I think nearly anything would be better than penalty kicks. The one-on-one suggestion sounded good. Or perhaps alternate corner kicks.

Or finally, for overtime you could increase the size of the goal or pull the goalkeeper.

Posted by: Mournful Dutch Fan on July 2, 2006 7:23 AM

penalty kicks are still better than the old thing (penalties as a way of finally deciding the game only started to be introduced into soccer in 1970), which was: drawing lots. do that in a final, and all hell breaks loose.

Posted by: rrho on July 2, 2006 8:36 AM

It's called football

Posted by: too-pussy-to-leave-a-name on July 2, 2006 9:11 AM

I believe the match is 90 minutes, not 120. That's two 45-minute periods, plus excess time for injuries and other official reasons.

Posted by: daveb99 on July 2, 2006 10:10 AM

Dave - If the score is tied after 90 minutes, they play two more 15 minute periods, bringing the total time before penalty kicks to 120 minutes.

Posted by: Iggy on July 2, 2006 10:34 AM

Ok, I stand corrected. I watched the U.S.A. tie Italy 1-1 and that was the end of it. So we have different rules in the final rounds. That sounds like a concession to the Americans who hate ties.

Posted by: daveb99 on July 2, 2006 10:40 AM

I think, after the standard time runs out for a game, that rather than sudden death or golden goal or whatever, they let the coaches have one more lineup change and then establish a no-substitutions rule. When the players faint on the field, they are not replaced. Game then continues for another 45 minute period, and if they are still tied, give them a ten minute break and have them play ANOTHER period, and just keep going like that until everyone has collapsed from exhaustion.

Posted by: Sam on July 2, 2006 3:46 PM

PK's are a test of the goalie and thats it. The regular players are great they can put the ball in just about any corner they want when no one is on them. The test is if the goalie can guess what corner its going in. I like the idea of having corner kicks it would definitely make scoring more challenging and keep the suspense and excitement of PK's

Posted by: Jake on July 2, 2006 4:34 PM

"That sounds like a concession to the Americans who hate ties."

It's more of a concession to the fact that two teams can't advance in the playoffs... what do you do when you have 7 teams advancing to the semi-finals?

Posted by: HeadlessCow on July 2, 2006 8:55 PM

Personally, I'd like to see the Twister thing. Forget penalty kicks, let's get a bunch of these fit European guys to play Twister in the middle field ... more Americans would watch the World Cup anyway :]

Posted by: Kelsey on July 2, 2006 10:13 PM

Part of why indoor soccer is more fun is because there is more scoring. no offsides, less players(6+keeper), and a smaller field with walls help to make it more fast paced.

Posted by: Adam on July 3, 2006 12:56 AM

You could do what Boxing does and have points assigned and the winner then goes through. Or you could base it on who has had the least number of fouls. But either way you make the referee the judge and that's not sensible.

Also, it'd be missing the point of football. As someone who watches English football and supports a Championship (that's the second tier of football teams) teams I'd feel cheated if the best team were given the win at the end for no real effort. Penalties provide you with the ultimate "we should have won but we were robbed" excuse (aside from diabolical ref'ing decisions) and therefore allow you to maintain your pride knowing that your team is the best, played the other team off the field, but they got lucky on the penalties.

Posted by: Mark on July 3, 2006 2:56 AM

This highly amusing set of suggestions reminds me of a Budweiser advert which ran here in the UK recently which showed a set of possible US 'upgrades' to the beautiful game including a kind of extra time 'multiball' and cheerleaders all over the place. The tagline at the end was 'We'll do the beer, you do the football'. Obviously pandering to the terrible misconception that all Brits think that little attention should be paid to people who think the game should be altered to appease the 'Johnny-come-lately' Yanks.

Posted by: England are crap at loads of stuff on July 3, 2006 4:57 AM

I think I'd rather let Americans handle the rules, if it meant we could keep Budweiser away from the beer. Good grief. It's like refrigerated radiator coolant.

Posted by: ajay on July 3, 2006 6:00 AM

The KING of refrigerated radiator coolant

Posted by: Mournful Dutch fan on July 3, 2006 6:58 AM

Piffle to penalties.
Open the field to the fans, say I, and let them sort it out gladiator style.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on July 3, 2006 7:33 AM

Get rid of offsides in overtime. Or at least add a blue line as in hockey. Actually, just add a blue line for the entire game.

Posted by: Anonymous on July 3, 2006 8:18 AM

Back when I was a kid, playing in high school, we used the "shoot-outs" method as described by Ed above. Player at midfield, keeper in the goal, go!

As a keeper, I much preferred that to penalty kicks, which are really just a crapshoot for the goalie and the kicker. When you are learning to be a keeper, they tell you on PKs to just decide which way you are going to go before the kick, and then go that way, regardless of what the kicker looks like he has done. Because with a good kicker, that's your only hope, (and even then it's a slim one). The shootout method is far cooler, as there is some skill involved in deciding when to charge the incoming player, based on when he puts it out just a bit too far in front of them.

And there are often really cool collisions involved...

Posted by: Windopaene on July 3, 2006 8:53 AM

What does it say about America that in FIFA soccer, their "golden goal" is our "SUDDEN DEATH!"?

Posted by: Johnny on July 3, 2006 10:08 AM

You could give the win to the team with the least worst yellow/red card record. So if you are down to 10 players and they have 11, you lose.

In Streetsoccer, if the game is still tied after 10 minutes extra time, the team that equalised is the winner (see Matt, gaming has the answer!). This puts pressure on the side that had been 1 goal up to score, or not to hang to a 1 goal lead (that is, make it 1+ goals lead).

Posted by: jon on July 3, 2006 3:07 PM

I have heard of soccer.. it's kind of like hockey, right?

Posted by: matt on July 4, 2006 12:35 PM

Nobody has yet mentioned the best thing about your post: the idea of Kevin Garnett playing Twister. KG would wipe up the mat. It'd be like going up against a daddy longlegs.

Posted by: James on July 4, 2006 12:56 PM

Although it's true that penalties are a pretty unfair way of deciding a match (especially when you're team loses!), most will admit it is very thrilling and not a boring way to end the match. Even in FIFA videogames, people always rush to get to the shoot-out to decide a tie.

Posted by: Simon on July 5, 2006 7:40 AM

Here's another idea. Instead of having a half hour of extra time followed by PKs, have shorter extra periods - say, 5 minutes or so - after every period, each team has to remove one player of their choosing. Goals would follow pretty quickly.

Posted by: Dave_E on July 5, 2006 8:26 AM

If the game is tied at the end of 90 minutes, the home-run derby starts.

Posted by: John I on July 5, 2006 11:13 AM

My suggestion to this problem is as follows: After the extra time, the team captains move indoors where they play matches on the x-box FIFA YYYY game to decide the winner.

Posted by: Lost Poke on July 5, 2006 1:04 PM

Precisely. Penalty kicks are a retarded way to end a game which is why the thought of them is supposed to spur one side to go balistic and score. Just like Italy did. With the same kind of attitude that Portugal had today when they sent the goalie down to the other side of the pitch to help out with the corner. Basically someone has to lose and if no one on the pitch can score in 120 minutes then it gets retarded. If both teams have scored and it's even, however, it's a knife in the gut.

Posted by: maccers on July 5, 2006 9:22 PM

There's no greater thing than penalty kicks.
Yknow, Europeans are not made of the same stuff as Americans sitting hours n hours before the TV or in the stadium watching sports which are not limited by time. After 2 hours watching soccer in the night we prefer getting to sleep.
And after all, I'm German...and we've never lost on penalty kicks...unlike England who does it *EVERYtime* Hey that's what I call fun...

BTW the penalty shoot-out has been invented by a German. Hehe, didyaknow Mr. Beckham ?

Posted by: Tsammy on July 6, 2006 10:22 AM

I've always thought that it would be best to do something along the lines of what Dave_E says.

After the first 90 + 15/15 mins extra time, they should then keep playing in 15-minute blocks (7.5/7.5). Unlimited substitutions throughout.

In the first of those, it's 8 players each.
If still tied, then in the second of those, it's 6 players each.
If still tied, then in the third (and all subsequent) of those, it's 4 players each.

Until we have a winner.

Penalty-kick shootouts are atrocious, because thye bear no resemblance to the game of soccer. At least in even the comical four-vs-four scenario above, the winner would still have won by getting a realistic soccer goal arising from realistic soccer play.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Posted by: Bryce on July 8, 2006 6:10 PM

"Even in FIFA videogames, people always rush to get to the shoot-out to decide a tie."

That's because the gameplay in FIFA video games is garbage. Try the Winning 11 series, now THAT is a soccer game.

State College, PA

Posted by: Seth on July 8, 2006 8:44 PM

How 'bout this? Line up the starting 11 for each time at one end of the field. Each player tries to kick the ball into the unguarded goal on the other end of the field. Any SOB that can kick a ball 120 yards with accuracy deserves to win.

Posted by: Davey on July 8, 2006 11:25 PM

Here's my blog entry on the subject:

"During the commercials of the Wimbledon tennis coverage, I've occasionally switched over to the World Cup matches to see what all the fuss is about.

And it became obvious right away:

Soccer is completely f*cking retarded.

I saw parts of 3 games, two of them 0-0 yawnfests decided by "Penalty Kicks". The other a wide-open, high-scoring (1-0) affair between France and Brasil.

Let's get right to the point, shall we?

The field is too damn big. Near the end of "regulation" the commentators are talking about how dead most of the players are by then, after running around in the heat all over this HUGE field. It needs to be shrunken down big-time. That way the players won't have to do so much running and they won't be completely exhausted by the end of the game, like they are now. And you know what would happen if the field were smaller? Yeah - they might actually score once in awhile. 90 minutes of 0-0 games, wow, how exciting! This is why Soccer will never get anywhere in the States. NO SCORING == BORING.

The game takes too long. 90 minutes? No wonder they're all exhausted. It should be 60 minutes, max. Less time means more time pressure (notice how the Brasilians woke up when they were under the gun at the end of the France game?). We already know how much more exciting it is in (American) Football during the 2-minute drill.

And what's this about "extended time"? That's totally gay. If the timer says 90 minutes, make it 90 f*cking minutes. Not "90 minutes and then a few more 'cos we picked a random number out of a hat and tacked it on at the end". If it's for stoppages, how's this for a radical idea? STOP THE DAMN CLOCK WHEN THERE'S A STOPPAGE AND THEN YOU WON'T NEED "EXTRA TIME". Jesus.

"Yellow cards" and "Red cards" are gay, too. It should be like Ice Hockey - if you foul somebody, you go off the field. Like a 5 minute major. If you do a Rooney (that's named for the English guy who stumbles over this Portugal player like a drunken soccer hooligan, then kicks him in the balls for good measure), you give him a Game Misconduct.

3 substitutions is f*cking gay. Every other team sport allows for constant substitutions, why not Soccer? It keeps the players on the field fresh and it lets the guys that get minor injuries get a rest but then be able to get back in. Don't you think David Beckham would've liked to have been able to go back in the game before the end? The "once you're out you're out" concept is retarded.

And you know what? Acting like you've been hurt is lame, too. If you're going to pretend (like some English friends of mine told me) that Soccer players are all "hard" because they can take a physical pounding without needing those namby-pamby pads all over like in American Football, give me a break. First there's those hidden shin guards (I always wondered why they needed those gay 70's knee socks) - that's padding. But more importantly, I've seen more Actors out there on the German pitches than a Stella Adler acting class. These guys get tapped by somebody else's foot or leg and they go down in a heap, clutching themselves with well-practiced tortured grimmaces. And magically within a minute they're back on their feet, grimmaces gone. Please, spare me! These guys are all play-acting trying to draw "yellow cards" - they'll even plead with the ref to get one. If you're all "hard" why not take it like a man and not take a swan dive like a goddamn fake-ass pussy?

And last but not least - "Penalty Kicks"?!? SO gay. Let's spend 120 minutes playing a team sport, but if they don't score, let's completely change it into an individual sport that's stacked the decks against the goalie. Yeah! That really makes sense. NOT. So f*cking retarded. How about making the overtimes be 5 minutes each, and during each overtime, each team has to send a player off, and they play 'til somebody actually scores a goddamn goal? Imagine it - England-Portugal goes 0-0, they play 6 overtime periods in 30 minutes and during the 6th overtime, somebody scores a goal on a breakaway 'cos there's only half the teams left on the field and they're so dog-tired that somebody with a little extra juice can run past the defender and get in on goal.

Yup. Soccer is f*cking gay."

Posted by: Riot Nrrrd™ on July 10, 2006 12:41 AM

You need to break any sport into its offense and defense sides. I see soccer as a HIGH skill offense sport and a LOW skill defense sport.

Anyone with two good legs can play soccer defense. Thus, take world-class athletes playing World Cup soccer and you get a defense that's hard to break. That's the bottomline on the low scoring.

Baseball is HIGH skill for both offense and defense. Here's an idea - have a soccer team play a baseball team in a baseball game and then in same teams in a soccer match. Then add the two scores together. The result? The baseball team wins by 100+ points because like I said anyone with two good legs can play soccer defense. This is why soccer lags behind in America - it is only 1/2 a good game.

Posted by: Dave F. on July 10, 2006 8:35 AM

I've tried to force myself to develop an interest in soccer. I feel somewhat of an obligation what with the increased interest in the sport by America's youth. I even watched the entire World Cup final yesterday hoping something would click inside and I would actually find a modicum of entertainment in it all. Well, unfortunately that didn't happen and I sit here today still wondering what in the hell could possess the rest of the world to allow such an uninspiring sport, played by a bunch of uninspiring athletes, to literally define their lives? I would rather stand in front of a mirror and watch my five o'clock shadow develop than to ever watch an entire soccer match again. Can someone tell me why there are 11 players on each team yet only 3 or 4 ever attack the opposing team's goal at any given time? Do they not want to score? And what's up with the penalty kicks and the size of that freaking goal? Anyone with an ounce of coordination would have a 50%/50% shot at scoring on one of those goalkeepers. They should change the rule from kicking the ball to trying to drive a Hummer through the goal without the goalkeeper tagging it first. However, I think the worst part was seeing those knuckleheads glance off of each other, flop around on the ground like a piece of bacon in a frying pan holding their leg like they need on-the-spot knee-replacement surgery, watch an entire hospital staff run out with a stretcher while someone pours water on the presumed injury before helping the faker off the field, then witness him come back in the game inside of 30 seconds later. Are you kidding me? I can truly say that bowling, curling and horseshoes is much more interesting than this coma-inducing past-time. To be fair, baseball is just as coma-inducing.

Posted by: Bored... on July 10, 2006 12:05 PM

I think it's hilarious looking at the posts from all these Soccer Aficionados trying to justify penalty kicks. I agree with the majority here...Penalty Kicks are retarded and no way to end a game. I would absolutely die if I was watching the Superbowl and they ran out the field goal kickers if the teams were tied at the end of regulation and preceded to have them do a kick-off starting at the 20 and continuing until someone missed. It's the most anti-climatic way to end a game. The reason people that watch soccer find penalty kicks so exciting is because the whole damn game is so boring that you're starving for some offense after 120 minutes of ineptitude. Here's a suggestion that one of my clients gave which is totally outside the box, but certainly would work. To those people that say that the poor soccer players would be exhausted if they had to play any longer, you start by shortening the overtime periods. Then if both teams still can't score, you widen the goals. Yep, that's right widen the goals. You could simply have sections that you could add-on. Eventually, the damn goal would be so big that no goalie could possibly defend it and then it would be up to the teams to prevent the other team from getting within about 50 yards of the freakin' goal (because that would be a sure score). Bottom line is...soccer is lame.

Posted by: Tim Reid on July 10, 2006 8:49 PM

Yo...MLS has played around with concept of faceoff style instead of pk's and it was much more exciting, had some gnarly collisions and was an actual test of skill. But....MLS in its infinite wisdom switched to PK's. What if instead of PK's to decide match (still have PK's during game) kicker had to shoot a dead ball anywhere from outside the 18. Shooter can set the ball whereever and whenever. Everyone would have their own favorite spot.....Countries could have their special spot that specialize in. If you do keep the damn PK's then allow the goalie to move for crimony sake and let them play more head games with kicker. At least they might be more interesting.

Posted by: Dude on July 12, 2006 12:44 PM

Ok, so this has become two different topics:

1) Futbol doesn't appeal to everyone, and
2) Penalty kick decisions.

1) Futbol generally only appeals to people who have played it. This is pretty much true about any sport. Love basketball or baseball? I bet you play it when you can. Look at any sport and ask yourself how available it is for average Joe or Jane to play, and you will know how popular it is. Any polo fans out there? Remarkably few, since it isn't particularly easy to own and practice on a polo horse. Who watches golf? Golfers. Who cares about sports like, err, is it called, crew? Rowing? Sculling? It's the one with long sleek boats and everyone gets an oar except the coxswain. Well, the only people who give a whiff in the wind for it have done it themselves, or someone they really care about did it and they were a fan of that person. Bottom line: If you have never enjoyed playing futbol, you probably won't enjoy watching it.

And, yes, it is a low score game. It's actually called a 'match', because the idea is to see how two teams match up. Maybe (how un-american can I be here?), just maybe, the match is so near to even that neither team deserves to lose. We americans like to see clear winners - preferably ourselves - but that just the way it is when you select the two or three thousand best players on the planet and have them test out against each other for four years.

Only 32 teams make it to the World Cup. 32 teams with 23 players each. 736 players from the entire human population of the earth. And americans are looking for a Yankees-style team to just sweep through and prove they are the right 23 players? Get real. What is our obsession with scoring? Does it, perhaps, reflect our inability to see the beauty of a game because all we can see are statistics? Like, 'goals scored', for example? If we can't measure it, we can't understand it. What a bunch of stupid americans. "America: Quantify Me, Baby!"

Success is measured quite differently here, isn't it? Well, here's the wake-up call; we're not alone on this planet, and the World Cup involved 142 national teams, and it had a viewership of 20 billion people. I know it's hard to imagine 20 billion people when you know there are only a few hundred million people in the US. But try. Try to imagine that, actually, we're the extreme minority. There are more people under the age of fifteen in China than there are people who have ever watched, much less enjoyed, an NFL or NBA game. You don't have to love futbol; hell, you don't even have to like it. But railing against it out of ignorance is like campaigning against oxygen; it's ubiquitous. You'll get a lot more respect for your ideas if you understand it and talk about it intelligently because pretty much the entire world takes it very seriously. Frankly, I'm surprised it's not our national sport, since futbol is by far the richest sport in the world. Top players sign contracts that would make an MLB player blush. Ronaldinho just turned down an offer from New York that would have made Michael Jordan look poor... $122 million.

And before rumor festers into fact, I would like to point out that futbol is not, in fact, boring, lame or gay any more than basketball or baseball or hockey or american football. It's actually insanely difficult to play this game well. I think whether you love or hate futbol, you should be proud of your US team and support them. Go to the mat for these guys because you know what? They hate the divers and the whiners and the fakers, too. The reason the US didn't advance in this cup is that they tried to play the game with a fair's-fair-and-the-best-man-wins attitude, and that doesn't cut it for the World Cup. They had a lot less to lose than these other teams. But they played for their country with the attitude that a lot of the haters in this thread have; they wanted to score often, commit few fouls, keep the game moving, never fake an injury and win through dedicated teamwork. Now how can you mock that? They actually went to the Cup and represented *you*, whether you cared about them or not, and it's plain as day to the rest of the world so take some ownership of that national attitude and say to people that we got there and saw that a lot of other teams were willing to sacrifice their pride to advance in the Cup, and we were not.

Because, as earlier mentioned, we had less to lose. Point of fact: nobody in the US is committing suicide over the results of the World Cup (see Italy and Germany). Nobody is assasinating our players because they failed to advance (see Columbia). The leader of our country did not before the World Cup, as the leader of Cote de Voir (formerly Irovy Coast) did, stake the pride and honor of our country on our team's performance.

If you doubt my argument about having to enjoy playing a sport to love it, or how a play-by-the-rules attitude will not suffice, I offer you this further evidence: China and India are enormous countries. Statistically, they should be fielding two of the best national teams in the world, based simply on the number of potential natural futbol superstars they should be producing. Yet they are two of the worst teams out there. But try to beat India at cricket, or China at table tennis. It's all about what sports you get to play and how much you enjoy them, not about the potential 'lameness' of a sport.

Oh, and the final note in this section: if you want to express deep displeasure with futbol, send a thank-you note to the creator of 'Get Fuzzy', and learn this particular phrase... "Soccer!? What a bunch of shin-grabbing, swan-diving mamma's boys!" I happen to love the sport of futbol and find this term still applies to mine enemies on the pitch.

2) Penalty Kick determiners.

Ok, first of all, *only* an american announcer could ever conceive of calling a penalty kick a 'PK'. A PK? Is that like a KO? Or an RBI? If you want to know how wrong this sounds in the ear of a futbol fan, try to imagine that Bonds parks one and the announcer shouts into the mike, 'It's an HR, baby!'.

That aside, I'll make this short and sweet.

Everyone has pointed out that a penalty kick heavily favors the shooter. Congratulations. That's the point of a penalty kick. It's like saying, 'It's a goal already, unless an angel intervenes.' Someone pointed this out earlier with a perfect comparison: when a professional basketball player steps to the line for a free throw, you are looking at a 90% or better chance that it's in. I's a goal. The only thing that can keep that player from scoring is that player; their body can make that shot in it's sleep, and only their brain can get in the way.

Penalty kick shoot-outs are all about which players can have the entire world watching them and *not think about it*.

The Swiss national team retired from the World Cup 2006 without conceding a goal. They never let a point in, in any game. They lost because they could not control their egos. Now that is a true contest of willpower, mindfulness, and, yes, luck. But, then, if you don't think luck is a factor in sports, I'm inclined to question your definition of the word 'think'.

Posted by: zipl on July 13, 2006 3:44 AM

I think zipl makes two very good points:

1) That (generally speaking) people gravitate towards and enjoy watching sports that they have direct experience with (via either playing, attending, or watching over a period of time).

Having a personal history with a sport puts the experience of watching that sport in a different context. It allows you to differentiate between "good" and "bad" play and allows you to be invested in individual teams/players. After enough experience with a particular sport, it can become part of you identity.

To watch a sport without that personal history, all you are left with is the ability to recognize (and critique) the bare bones basic elements of the sport (the rules, the score, the statistics, etc..). And lets face it....there are flaws in the basic elements of every sport.

So for someone who lacks a personal history with a particular sport to have criticisms about it....is inevitable. For that person to mock others (who have more experience with it) for enjoying it....is distasteful. And for that person to use their limited experience to suggest changes to the basic elements of the game...is just ignorant.

Understanding the intricacies of a sport and having the ability to place watch you are experiencing (from entire seasons to a single tackle) in a historical context is directly linked to how much one enjoys and appreciates a sport.

This applies to all sports. So those criticising american football (who's only experience with it is watching a superbowl or two) sound just as foolish as those criticising football (who's only experience with it is watching this year's World Cup final)

2)That one of the main points (and intriguing aspects) of football penality kicks is that they are "easy". But....they are equally "easy" for both teams. So why don't penalty kicks at the end of game go on forever? Because under extreme pressure, "easy" tasks become very difficult. I think penalty kicks in the World Cup fall under the category of "looking much easier than they really are".

Side note: Why can't there be a discussion with people from different sides of the ocean without stereotypes. Will we ever get past the tired stereotyping of Americans, English, Germans, etc... Aren't a majority of countries these days melting pots of all different kinds of people (ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc...). Sure....the usual stereotypes will apply to pockets of people in respective countries....but if they only apply to small groups.....they are no longer stereotypes.

For example, in the United States "soccer" is one of the most popular sports (as far as participation rates go) among youth. In every county across the country, there are "soccer" leagues at all age levels. Nobody is forced to play. They play because they enjoy the game. And those playing today will appreciate watching "football" when they're older. And this is not a new phenomenon (ala the U.S.' success in the 2002 World Cup). My mom was a "soccer mom", and I'm 30 years old.

Posted by: Average Joe on July 13, 2006 5:33 AM

I’ve tried and tried but I just can’t see what the big fuss is about with soccer, it is just too damn boring. Just because the rest of the world is fanatic about soccer doesn’t mean America has to embrace it. We have our football and we don’t need another style over here. I keep hearing people try to compare soccer players to other athletes like football and basketball stars. Well first off quit comparing them as if they had to play soccer. How would Brazil, Italy, and France soccer teams match up against any NFL team on an NFL field? It wouldn’t even be close; actually somebody would probably get killed. But if the played soccer against each other, yes the NFL players would lose, but they would make a game of it.

Posted by: Dave B. on July 13, 2006 9:43 AM

This trite is almost as boring as soccer, itself! Here's an idea... play a real game!

Posted by: Anonymous on July 13, 2006 10:17 AM

But for arguments sake, couldn't a lot of sports be perceived as boring? Nascar, baseball, golf, etc.... Watching any sport can seem ridiculously tedious to some.......while being incredibly enjoyable to hoards of others. To each his own. At least Americans have so many professional sports available to them to pick and choose from. There's bound to be at least one out there that appeals to each individual.

Comparing athletes between sports seems kind of apples to oranges to me. Football and American football require entirely different skill sets and body types. The French National team and the New York Giants would slaughter each other at their respective sports. Saying that the Giants could make a game of it on a football field might be underestimating the skills required to play football. Playing soccer at a high level is a lot tougher than it looks.

There does seem to be this perception that Americans hate football. Maybe it's not that they hate it, but just don't have time for it. There are so many other professional sports to choose from. Not that any of these other sports are better or worse than football. There's just only so much time one can spend following sports. American sports fans are splintered among several different major sports.....leaving not much of a niche for football (especially the every 4 year World Cup). Whereas the choices (to watch and actually play various sports) may be more limited in other countries, providing a large fanbase for football.

Posted by: Average Joe on July 13, 2006 10:32 AM

Hockey, now there is a sport, so much damn skill and stamina and strength is needed.

Posted by: Max on July 13, 2006 12:16 PM

My 2 cents. ALL sports have odd rules, not just soccer. How about these...

1) Basketball. Late in a game after a time out, you can inbound the ball from half court! Say what?? Like placing the ball at the edge of the green for Tiger Woods during a sudden death 1 whole game for him to chip in.

When a foul is called, play is stopped even if you had passed the ball to someone in front of you about to dunk the ball (no advantage rule like in soccer!). So you basically nullify all the advantage you had by making a great play and give back all that advantage to the fouling team by forcing you to inbound the ball.

allowing TV time outs. When you're at the basketball/hockey game and the action is stopped and you have no idea why, it's a TV timeout!

2) Football. 1st down measured by a 10 yrd chain sometimes with as much as a quarter chain-link accuracy (I've seen a referee place a sheet of paper between the ball and the 1st down stick, to see if it was a 1st down!) even though the referee can't possibly place the ball within a foot accuracy in the first place!! Ever see a running back dive head first under a pile-up? Where is the ball exactly? Or Jerry Rice being tackled 30 yards ahead of where the line judge is and then 10 seconds later, determine where the knee went down or out of bounds. Pleeeeeaaaaase! Let's not also forget the chains on the sidelines are moved by "lining up" the marker to where the ball seems to be in the middle of the field! This is comical!

3) Baseball.

One has to witness 4 pitches to a standing catcher for an opposite player to take a base he is given anyway. (Yes I know he could throw a wild pitch, big deal!) Waste of time!

So on, so forth.

Posted by: Mr Cynic on July 13, 2006 12:54 PM