Friday, June 02, 2006

Jogo Bonito...just a few more days to go..

I remember watching on TV, the 1990 World Cup in Calcutta, the '94 WC in Salem, '98 WC in Chennai and '02 WC in Hyderabad/Tokyo. This time, its destined to be in New Delhi. As the WC caravan moves on from continent to continent, so do I move on from one city to another, a permanent nomad..

Getting to the point though, Jogo Bonito or the beautiful game, football comes suddenly into primetime focus during the World Cup, when the whole world's attention is rivetted on it. Not surprising, for the entire world is represented by nationalities participating in this month long extravaganza. Yet, for me, the World Cup is extravagant indeed in terms of amount of attention it recieves, for I feel that (and I am sure I am in the minority), somehow the quality of the World Cup is lower than say Club Football fought out in say the UEFA Champions League. And I think that this is not a phenomenon that existed previously, but a relic of the present. Ever since the gaze on the players has been immense and their careers linked invariably to their performances in the World Cup, the pressure on the players/coaches has been immense. Teams on the whole have tried to play it safe rather than go full hog with their style of play except for a few traditionally attacking teams like Brazil. Even Brazil, last time around with their conservative coach, Phil Scolari had threatened to deviate from the Jogo Bonito path, but thankfully logic dawned upon Scolari, arguably due to the pressure put upon him by his players, who were loath to play anything else apart from free flowing football (the loss of captain Emerson to injury in the early stages of the WC was yet another factor).

Last WC was a case of bad refereeing and atleast two teams, Italy and Spain had valid grievances with the kind of refereeing their games were subjected to. A resilient and sharp, yet qualitatively lowish South Korean squad forced its way to the semifinals and it had lot to thank the referees apart from their clever coach Guus Hiddink, not to mention their beloved Red Fans, whose vociferous and steadfast support was heartening to see, for an Asian.

This World Cup however, does not really excite me not because of forthcoming referee goofs, but because of the sheer amount of teams that are playing. Every 4 years, there has been a increase in the number of teams playing and this time there are 32 teams, and in my humble opinion, some squads don't actually deserve to be in the Finals. Yet again, the fact that the game needs multiple representation; I agree to that and therefore I am not going to complain about the representation of lowly squads. The trouble however, for me, lies in the fact that increasingly squads have taken a defense-first approach over the years and this World Cup doesn't seem to be different. I hope to be proved wrong. The average goals per match has been on the decrease (1990 was the lowest and 2002 wasn't great enough either).

Coming to the question of support, although I love the way Brazilians play and have a sentimental affection for Argentina, I am a keen infracaninophile and I am hoping Spain comes good at last. Being an aficianado of La Liga football, it is only normal for us La Liga fans to see some of their qualitatively superior players, expert in the virtues of technical football (ball movement, quintessentially passing quickly, taking right positions, and quicksilver moves like dribbling, possession keeping etc) to go up the next level and blend as a team to win it. Spain boasts a very exciting midfield in Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Xavi and Iniesta (Barcelona), Fabregas (Arsenal), Albelda (Valencia), Senna (Villareal), and Joaquin (Real Betis). All clever, nimble footballers (except for Albelda and Senna who do the dirty work), who promise a lot. The concern for Spain is the forwardline. Raul is in woeful form and was among the worst players in the La Liga this season. Fernando Torres is in my opinion, overrated and David Villa is untested on the national scene. The defense seems way better than last WC and the left wing, the traditional weakness of the Spanish squad over the recent years, has been bolstered by two promising left backs, Mariano Pernia and Antonio Lopez. Spain sound interesting and look good on paper.

As for soccer writers, the evergreen caustic football critic Brian Glanville will be at his crackling best on www.worldsoccer.com, I am sure as well as in the Sportstar. The fact that this WC is to be telecasted on ESPN/Star is also good news. These sport channels have a good bevy of perspicacious commentators well versed in technical stuff and they can add a lot of sense to the proceedings. World Cup football must be a treat to watch yet again, hopefully, so should there be a increase in the average goals per game and the reincarnation of the Beautiful Game.

1 comment:

Dust-Biter said...

I am a big fan of the African teams - the raw stamina and power of Cameroon, Nigeria etc.. (Milla, Yekini...great players...)...

It's a treat to watch them play without getting tired and giving others a run for their energy...

I just can't wait to see them play at the world cup this year...

I used to be a die-hard fan of Argentinians - now, I like anyone who plays well - Iran to America to Saudi...

Cheers
Varahasimhan.