Some of you may be upset, disgruntled, disappointed that theU.S. tied England on Saturday, but for those of you unfamiliar withthe international soccer scene, trust me, that's a victory forAmerica.
The next thing that comes out of everyone's mouth after I saythat is: "We got lucky."
You know what? You're right.
The U.S. did get lucky and we ended up with a point against oneof the best teams in the world. Many experts argued the U.S. wasthe underdog, but the American 11 proved them wrong. Say what youwill about the goal the Americans put in the back of the net beinga fluke, the fact remains England wasn't able to score more thanone goal to give themselves some breathing room.
Which brings me to the second reason soccer is the best sport inthe world.
Reason #2: Everything Matters As I alluded to in my article on reason#1, the anticipation to the one moment in a World Cup matchthat changes everything is unlike anything else in the world. Whatmakes that anticipation so worth enduring is the fact that eachmoment of a World Cup soccer match matters so much and that momentcould come at any time.
In football, if a team scores a touchdown on their firstpossession of the game, so what? The other team will shortly getthe ball back, barring a turnover, but even if they do turn theball over, they will get the chance to score at some point and change thegame. In baseball, there is always a top and bottom of the inning,always a chance to hit and catch up. Same in basketball, always anopportunity to counter any scoring on the following possession.
In soccer, a team might not get back inside the 18-yard box,they might not get another open shot, another corner kick oranother penalty kick. There is so much uncertainty in soccer, theball never bounces the same way twice, so everything matters.
I know what you're thinking: "You're telling me that when adefender kicks the ball back to his goalie, that it matters thesame as a penalty kick?"
That's exactly what I'm saying. If that goalie gets the ball,bobbles it and a striker for the opposing team happens to becharging in, that could be a goal.
On the contrary, if a striker runs at the goalie and a chainreaction of players shift up the field, but the goalie doesn'tbobble it and instead strikes it deep downfield, an open player onhis team could have a straight lane to the net for an easyshot.
But wait, that striker doesn't have a guaranteed goal becausenow his dribbling skills matter, his awareness of the defendersmatter, his knowledge of the goalie's position matters and how hestrikes his shot matters.
I could go on for hours about the chain reaction of touches,passes and positioning and how it all influences the entire outcomeof the game at any given moment, but you don't want to read allthat.
Think to the United States' game against England this pastSaturday. The United States was lucky. The goal scored by ClintDempsey was a rather routine shot and save that shouldn't havemattered, but it did. It affected the entire outcome of the game.The U.S. came away with a point because a shot that seeminglydidn't matter, did matter.
What if Clint doesn't take that shot knowing it's not the bestposition? What if the defenders had shifted over just a few inches?What if Robert Green dives on that ball instead of trying to stopit in front of him?
This goes for almost every game played in the World Cup so far.What if Ghana's cross against Serbia misses Zdravko Kuzmanovic'shand? What if Cameroon's Stephane Mbia hits his shot just an inchlower against Japan? What if Denmark doesn't have an accidental owngoal, bouncing off a player's back against the Netherlands?
It all matters.
From a spectator's point of view, I was a victim of not knowingthat everything matters during the 2006 World Cup, so I don't blameAmerican spectators that are left wondering "huh?" I was very busyduring the summer of '06 and kept the World Cup matches on asbackground noise. As a result, I didn't see a single live goaluntil halfway through the tournament because I didn't realize thatevery second, minute and hour of the game matters. If you're notpaying attention, you miss the moments that change everything.
Soccer is wide, unpredictable and uniquely minimal. You show mea game where a free kick is taken from the same spot, a shot isrepeated or a long ball is struck the exact same distance.
This is not to mention that not only is qualifying for the WorldCup extremely difficult to do, but if you don't win two games injust the firstpart of the World Cup, that's likely it. Not even a chanceto run for the championship.
Everything matters. There is no casual conversation during thesegames, no going to get a beer during play, not even time forcommercials on TV.
You can't miss a second because that second matters.
Check back with me and WCPO.com in the coming days because youalso won't want to miss the nine other reasons why soccer is thebest sport in the world.