If you watch our news on a regular basis or follow me on twitter, I am sure by now you know that I am a huge fan of the World Cup, or soccer in general. Being born to a German mother, and having been raised in Germany for the first half of my life, I guess you can say it is in my blood! With World Cup 2010 now officially over, I thought I would give a few of my thoughts on this Cup.
American interest in International Soccer just keeps on growing and was at an all time high this World Cup. Notice I said, "International Soccer." I am sorry MLS fans, but I don't think the MLS will ever be considered one of the top soccer leagues in the world, much less draw a big following. BUT, US Soccer is getting better with every passing year, and I do honestly believe that we can win a World Cup before I die. I'm not saying we will be the favorites to win, but I think we can get good enough to go far enough into the tournament where we would only need one or two upsets to make it happen. Think about it... We are now at the point that we are no longer just happy to be in the World Cup, but expect to advance out of the group stage. How do we take that next step? To me, two things need to change, and we will be on our way…
1.) Do not extend Coach Bob Bradley's contract. No, not because he has done a bad job, in fact, he has done everything that he has needed to do plus some. We need to take the next step. We need to utilize our young and good midfield by picking up the pace of play and being much more aggressive. That is not Bradley's style, but that is Jürgen Klinsmann's style. That's right, the "Golden Bomber" has said multiple times that he would coach the US International team. If you watched Germany and all their fast paced counter attack style of play from this World Cup and World Cup 2006, that is the direct result of Jürgen Klinsmann as coach. (He was the head coach of Germany in 2006 and his assistant then, is now Germany’s current coach.)
2.) Simply put, we need a decent striker. Jozy Altidore is still young, and is playing in good leagues overseas, so maybe he will develop into the striker we need. If not, then let's hope some great young stud comes up from the ranks.
Even with these changes and the more interest in the sport, I don't think we will ever be a soccer powerhouse simply because it is not in our culture. I will use my personal example of the German side of my family and growing up in Germany. When I moved to Texas, my high school had a football team, hockey team, swim team, cross country team, tennis team, soccer team, basketball team, baseball team, and track team. Now let's compare this to Germany. I grew up in a small farming village of less than 500 people, and we had a soccer complex, but no other sports. My grandparents live in a bigger town that has several soccer complex's, but no other sports. I have only met one person ever from Germany that plays a different sport than Soccer and that is my cousin who has to drive to the big city so he can play basketball. Simply put, in the US if you are an athlete you may play several different sports until you pick one. In Europe and South America, if you are an athlete, you play soccer. Just imagine if the only sport we had was baseball (since that is our "past time"). The only sport that everybody played when they were a kid, and in high school was baseball and the only professional sports league was baseball. Think about how much crazier the fans would be, how much more pressure would be on the athletes, and how much more passion would go into any international play. Not to mention how much better we would be at baseball, since every one of our good athletes played baseball. That is my best attempt at explaining what soccer means to other countries, if you still don't understand it, then I guess you will have to live it to understand it.
So I don't make this too long, let me finish with some quick hits from this World Cup:
South Africa did a great job hosting this World Cup, but thank god it won't be there again for a while, because those Vuvuzela's are the most annoying thing on TV since Fran Drescher! For those of you new to the World Cup or soccer, don't think that is a soccer thing. Vuvuzela’s are strictly a South African thing.
The middle of this World Cup was full of action! The first round of games was very boring and the final was boring, but all games in between were really good.
Although it was an absolutely horrible final game, the right team ended up winning. Spain has been the best team for the past two years and deserve their first World Cup Championship.
Diego Forlán deserved the Golden Ball for being the best player of the tournament. He was tied with the most overall goals, and single handily led a very average Uruguay team to a fourth place finish.
The England soccer team is the most overrated sports team in the history of the world. Every year they talk like they are the best in the World and every year they can't even compete with the second tier countries. US soccer should never be considered beneath English soccer again, until proven otherwise.
My favorite memories from this Cup... France completely falling apart. The Spain - Paraguay game in which there were back-to-back penalty kicks during the game that were not converted. The Uruguay - Ghana game, probably the craziest finish I have ever seen in sports... A handball save by Luis Suarez (he isn't the goalkeeper) in the last minute to prevent the Ghana goal. He gets the red card, Ghana gets the Penalty Kick, and the penalty kick is missed! They go to overtime, nobody scores, and Uruguay ends up winning in Penalty Kicks! Heart breaking for Ghana.
And finally, my team to watch... Germany! I know I am biased, but I think a lot of people will agree with me on this. They were the second youngest team in the tournament with an average age of 25. Their two outstanding young stars include the Golden Boot Winner (most goals in the tournament) and best Young Player, Thomas Müller, who is only 20, and Mesut Özil who is only 21. They finished 3rd overall, and were arguably the most exciting team to watch in this Cup! The only player they will lose for next World Cup is Miroslav Klose. He is a big loss, but strikers seem to be dime a dozen in Germany (if only one of them would switch over his citizenship to us!)