Category - Controversy

Dive Sh*t Get Banned

Jamie Vardy

We’ve all seen the match or the highlights by now of Jamie Vardy getting sent off for a second yellow for simulation. You all know simulation as it’s hipper street name of “diving.” Diving, that nefarious act that was once only the domain of “cheating foreigners” and Arsenal is now part and parcel of the game. Team needs a goal? Take a dive, bruv!

As with most cultural behaviors, once the indigenous population begins to engage in the behavior you get a lot more apologists than before and some even coming round to condoning the previously “heinous” act. Seriously, once upon a time it was as if the English looked upon diving about a step under committing war crimes. Break an opponent’s leg? “Sorry, mate, it’s a contact sport. Get on with it.” Dive in the box to attempt to win a penalty? “Oy ‘e’s provably mates wif Hitla, yeah?”

Diving has been with us for years now but Vardy’s dive is a type that I’ve started to notice creeping more and more into the landscape recently. Previously, diving was either a player going down to simulate contact or going down far too easily with minimal contact. But Vardy’s dive as well as in a few others that I’ve seen recently a player actively throws himself into the player such that they ensure the legs will get tangled and thus create contact knowing home fans will bay for blood. In Vardy’s case yesterday this was complete with a subtle scissoring of the legs to make sure he and the defender’s legs were entangled. This then puts all the pressure on the officials knowing full well the dim view most people take of the quality of officiating decisions these days. However, I’m not sure how anyone can watch that aforementioned clip closely and continue to argue honestly that Vardy didn’t dive. It looks very clear to me that Vardy throws himself into the defender to create unnatural contact.

Diving such as this is why I am definitely in the camp that would like to see official review panels for diving and wouldn’t be against further retroactive punishment for those that are found to be guilty of diving. If it’s really the scourge we all claim it to be the only way to remove it is to come down on it thoroughly. It certainly is no longer just a tactic of the “cheats” or certain footballing cultures where such gamesmanship has been traditionally more acceptable.

Furthermore, it’s also interesting that Vardy is controversially sent off (to Leicester fans, anyway) at a time when there was some contention in the removal of the original match official assigned to Leicester’s match because of his affiliation to the Leicester area. And as Alan Smith points out in this article that Vardy’s impending suspension may prove more costly than just the punishment of suspension. Although personally I don’t think Vardy’s absence will be quite that damning to Leicester’s chances as Leicester prefers to play on the counter and cede possession. This is provided he only misses the one match for second yellow and doesn’t incur any further punishment for “bringing the game into disrepute” which was being bandied about yesterday and earlier today.

I do wonder if Vardy now being sent off for diving if it creates further doubt in the future for potential penalty calls in Leicester matches. But if we learned anything it’s that your luck has to run out some time as Vardy has won 50/50 or controversial penalties before and at some point if you dive shit, you get banned.

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Kopp To The Topp Under Klopp

The international break has come and gone (many cheers) meaning club football is back in full force. Put down yout pitchfork intended for Klinsmann and take a listen to all the happenings of a European club football weekend. On this week’s episode:

  • Jurgen Klopp makes English managerial debut
  • Are Chelsea’s title and top 4 hopes toast?
  • What’s In A Name & This Week In Daftness
  • FIFA corruption rolls on.
  • And more!

Listen to/download the podcast below or listen on your mobile device via StitcherTuneIn or iTunes

TDY: Kopp To The Topp With Klopp

 

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Pocket Full Of Shills

The USMNT has had it’s worse week ever and the federation is teetering on Nero like destruction circa 64 AD under the “leadership” of Klinsmann. If you are brave enough listen to the Yanks or if you wish, fiddle away. On this week’s episode:

  • MLS Bots On Parade
  • Klinsmann’s tactics to blame?
  • Comparing Mexico XI to USMNT XI
  • Trying to make money ruining system from top to bottom?
  • And more!

Listen to/download the podcast below or listen on your mobile device via StitcherTuneIn or iTunes

TDY: Pocket Full Of Shills

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I Believe But Why Bother?

Geiger stacks

I’ll say right off the bat that I know some people will disagree with this position but I’ll say it – the Gold Cup is really starting to become a tournament I really don’t give a damn about. On top of the ridiculousness of holding it every two years (can you say “ka-ching?”) the recent refereeing decisions in Mexico matches just leave a really bad taste in your mouth.

It’s always apparent that CONCACAF sets up their premier tournament in the hopes of a United States versus Mexico final but it’s hard not to believe they don’t outright rig it that way as well when Mexico gets such iffy penalty calls and in such late stages of the matches. I see some people say they would have given those penalties too. Yeah, you would have? Well, you would have been a terrible referee too then, guy.

It was hard enough to find motivation to watch this tournament after such a good Copa America tourney for me but the recent underwhelming USMNT performance coupled with blatant-looking CONCACAF corruption (yeah, because corruption is cured overnight, right, referee apologists?) are just more steps towards disliking international football more and more. I’m not against big money in sports but taking big money and kowtowing to big money and sponsors’ and television networks’ wishes are two different things. It’s similar to the people who complain about corporations buying politicians but they elect the same politicians over and over again. Well, somebody has to be taking the money. Corruption isn’t a one way crime.

I don’t want to get off into a political rant but just suffice to say I personally won’t be watching the United States’ third place match versus Panama or the final between Mexico and Jamaica. I would love it in fact if Panama boycotted and didn’t even show up and the US then proceeded to kick the ball around for 120 minutes not scoring just to show what a farce it all can be. And at the current moment I’m not even sure if I care about the Confederation’s playoff in October as well. It all smells like a giant farce right now. Sports bread and circuses, if you will. Wouldn’t you agree, Juvenal?

I believe.

I believe that.

I believe that CONCACAF is corrupt.

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What’s Wrong With Brazil?

Soccer - International Friendly - Brazil v Republic of Ireland - Brazil Training - The Emirates

This past Saturday’s defeat on penalties to Paraguay has shown a light yet again on a growing issue within Brazilian football- Brazil is, frankly, pretty average these days. They are still blessed with skilled players with lots of technique but as a team, they are pretty pedestrian by their standards. They no longer look the innovative, impish but intelligent artists of football.They were always likely bound to play more conservatively following their 7-1 demolition at the hands of Germany on home soil in last summer’s World Cup but they are hardly recognizable as a Brazilian team any more and with Dunga at the helm of Seleçao, they looked bereft of ideas in their Copa America campaign once Neymar was suspended.

When you watch Brazil now they are a team that look all runners and no creators or playmakers in their midfield or strike force. Even their fullbacks, especially Dani Alves, were often the runners who got forward more often and end up in more forward positions than their main striker, Roberto Firmino. Now, I’m no tactical expert but in my somewhat rudimentary understanding of tactics, Brazil look to have too many trequartistas or running attacking midfielders and no out-and-out strikers or the kind of strikers who play more through the middle and run the channels. They seem to run around too much at times, often looking like they’re lacking true attacking purpose and in this Dunga Brazilian side it seemed Roberto Firmino as the main striker often got into others’ way and positions where runs could be made the players seemed to get in each other’s way and clog their areas of attack.

This style of play is also compounded by how Brazilian sides tend to play in their domestic league since the nineties as well where they seem to attack almost in platoons or groups of three of four with the fullbacks often providing the only width. Narrow formations of 4-2-2-2 with a “box” midfield proliferate Brazilian domestic clubs and it isn’t the 4-2-2-2 of the Brazilian ’82 World Cup side that had four creative number tens in midfield. The current midfield that dominates Brazilian football is a pretty stale boxed four that often consists more of two number sixes and two number eights than anything resembling a samba midfield of days gone by. Some clubs have gone to narrow 4-2-3-1s with three attacking midfielders but they generally play so narrow that their attacks lose impetus because the attacking midfielders get in each other’s way because they’re similarly styled, generally. Or the two outer attacking midfielders spend time trying to provide a bit of width with the fullbacks causing attacks to peter out. Picture domestic leagues with midfielders trying to beat several players on the dribble before losing it outside the box. Repeat ad infinitum and sprinkle in the odd goal and that’s Brazilian Série A matches for the most part. Couple that with a pragmatic coach in the likes of Dunga and you can see why sans Neymar, Brazil has a bleak outlook in their near future for their national side. So, while Dunga tightened up their defense and salvaged some pride following the embarrassment versus Germany, his current team doesn’t instill any sort of awe or entertainment and skill that history is littered with from Brazilian sides of the past.

What’s interesting about this situation is not only that Brazil is struggling but it’s a good case study in how even a nation that was at the top of the footballing food chain for decades can not only stagnate but regress in their standards. Brazil are by no means terrible but by their standards they are in what might be considered a crisis. For all the talk of progression in this country about the standards of our soccer/football, we can use the case of Brazil (and to a lesser extent the Magic Magyars of Hungary of the fifties) to remind us that while we may very well be getting better at the sport, it’s by no means a guarantee that we will be on top because other nations are progressing as well. In fact, in my opinion, despite regularly getting out of World Cup groups recently and even winning our group in 2010, as far as our actual talent, despite our talent pool being much larger than in the past, in terms of how we currently fit into the global game, it feels like we’ve stagnated.

Others have talked on this point at far greater length and much more detailed than myself but the point is, getting better isn’t the same as being good or great and even when you’re great, like Brazil has been, it doesn’t mean you’ll remain so forever. Evolve or die; repeat cycle perpetually lest you get caught by the chasing pack. Because here’s the thing that sometimes people forget for those who aren’t geologists or geographers- not only is climbing the mountain difficult (e.g., getting better at football like the US or being good at football like Brazil) but because of active plate tectonics (e.g. tactical evolution, socio-economic changes, etc.) the mountain can actually get higher. As Brazil as found out, sometime you remain on a plateau.

Like Germany’s revitalization of their development structure in the 2000s which led to their rebirth of being at the top of world football, Brazil is also in need of drastic change but their domestic federation is so traditionally corrupt (hint-hint, MLS) it will take a historical revolution in the administration levels of Brazilian football and as you are likely  aware if you listen to the podcast regularly, I like to remind people that people in power tend to only give up power through revolution or scandal. With the political undercurrents in contemporary Brazil there’s a chance that change may occur but it is still far on the horizon at this point. Maybe the Seleçao sliding into mediocrity will be the catalyst of change both on and off the field. The initial post Copa America exit comments coming from the Brazilian camp, however, sounds more like they’re in denial than actually being closer to the solution.

I hope Neymar gets stronger because he’ll be carrying an entire nation’s hopes on his shoulders like a Latin Atlas. Because short of him, the days of samba soccer, sadly, look to be dying.

 

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