And so the days are filled...

10 July 2006

italy 1(5)-(3)1 france

stencil art in my neighbourhood reminds me not to foul anyone each time I walk by...
I'm $12 richer this morning as a result of pulling Italy's name out of a hat a month ago as part of the office World Cup sweep.
I can't say I'm altogether thrilled with the outcome. Not only do I hate to see the Italians win after the way they knocked Australia out of the competition, I don't think a win based on penalty kicks is a glorious win. In fact, my dissatisfaction with penalty kicks in general was the one recurrent theme in my thoughts on the World Cup. It seems like so many games were decided by penalties - either in the shoot-out scenario, or in free kicks given during regular time.
In a game as free-flowing but as low-scoring as football, I don't think the penalty kick should have as big a role as it does. It pits striker against goalkeeper, momentarily reducing one of the most complex team sports to a one-on-one face off, more suited to a game like tennis.
Sure, there should be a way to reward teams who are fouled. I would prefer a free kick be awarded from where ever a foul took place, with both teams being allowed to assemble their players, defensively or offensively, as they wish. In the case of fouls occuring in the penalty box, a free kick such as this would reward the foulded team with an increased chance of making a goal, but by allowing the opposition to defend the net, there wouldn't be the near-dead giveaway that a penalty kick offers.
And as a decider of a the world's premier football tournament? The penalty shoot out is just a complete anti-climax. The fact that so many of the 64 World Cup games finised in a draw or at 1-0 demonstrates that (in the World Cup at least) teams are playing too defensively - Three of the 8 games from the quarter finals to the final were decided either in extra time or a penalty shootout. 18% of the World Cup games (12 out of 64) ended 1-0 (5 of those in the knock-out stages). Only 28 games had a goal difference of 2 or more goals.
Bring back the sudden death extra time, I say, and force both sides to go on the attack, rather than sitting back and playing 2 more defensive periods of extra time in order to pin their hopes on the (relatively easy) penalty shootout.