Monday, 12 June 2006

Where Have All the Shooting Boots Gone? - My World Cup 2006 Journal (Part 3)

The first encounter of the Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro last night was unexpectedly exciting. The players were much more energetic than the English and the Germans. In high spirits and top shape, both teams were fast, powerful and dedicated. This is precisely something real football fans should appreciate, regardless of the result.

However, there was only one goal, scored by the Netherlands' left-wing striker Arjen Robben. This was disproportional to the number of shooting and attempts to shoot of both sides. Indeed, most of the shootings were not even close to the target, but at least they were conscious attempts to score as opposed to England's obsession of ball possession in the midfield.

A distinctive issue emerged from the matches I have watched so far is the difficulty of scoring, as compared with previous World Cups. I am not sure what the reasons are, but have a gut feeling that there is something more than the elevation of football standard in terms of skills and strategy among various national teams, including defence and goalkeeping. This means the competitive advantages of traditional strong teams, such as Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Spain (pardon me that England is not included in this list as I am not convinced that they are the among the first tier of the world's football teams), are no longer as advantageous as they used to be. While many first-time World Cup participants have some difficulty in scoring due to their relatively low level of skills in real terms, the frequent World Cup finalists either have a hard time to keep up the standard of their seniors in previous World Cups or are reluctant to fully utilise their capabilities playing against whom they may consider unworthy. This is, however, why the strong and famous, arrogant and complacent, are often defeated in the first few rounds.

I think the team coaches and managers should start looking for the shooting boots more seriously. After all, football is a scoring game. Too many matches ending up with no goals are bitterly disappointing.

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