Monday, July 12, 2010

See You In Brazil

TigerBlog was disappointed when he came into work this morning, since there was no 9:30 World Cup game to watch. Or a 2:30 game to look forward to. Or, going back to the very beginning, a little more than a month ago, a 7:30 game to see the end of as he came in the door.

Nope, the World Cup is over. TB watched all of the U.S. qualifying games, some other qualifiers, the draw (which was fascinating) and probably three-quarters of the games from South Africa.

And after a riveting month of games, the final between Spain and the Netherlands was, uh, nightmarish for the sport.

In short, it was everything that non-soccer people say is wrong with soccer. There was no scoring and little attempting to score, for fear of losing the World Cup on a bad counter. There was flopping all over the place. Every call made by the English ref (what was he supposed to do, not make these calls?) was greeted by incredulous looks by every player, as if each call was the worst ever made in the sport's history.

In the end, there was only one redeeming part of the game, and that was that it didn't end in penalty kicks. At least Spain scored a goal, and mercifully replay showed that Andres Iniesta wasn't offsides on the play.

If you're looking for someone who completely embarrassed himself in the final, it was Arjen Robben of the Netherlands. Robben's day included missing the best chance of the first 90 minutes and coming across like a spoiled baby with every reaction he had to every play.

TigerBlog is always struck by the reaction of coaches and players at the end of a season, or at least what seems to be the reaction. TB has been around numerous teams on the final day of a season, and the vibe almost always is "can't wait for next year to start."

When it's an event like the World Cup, there's no next year. The next Cup will be four years from now, in 2014, in Brazil. Of the players and coaches who participated in South Africa, only a small fraction will be back in 2014.

The World Cup process is so involved, beginning with the earliest qualifying rounds, that to come as close as the Netherlands did only to fall short has to be, in TB's opinion, the most excruciating thing in sports. It's worse than falling short in the Olympics, because it appears that an Olympic window lasts longer than it does for the World Cup.

It doesn't seem like that huge of a time frame from the last World Cup to this one, but it is. Between now and when the 32 teams head to Brazil, there will be mid-term elections and another Presidential election, a Summer Olympics in London, a Winter Olympics in Russia and four Super Bowls, among other things.

Here at Princeton, there are 33 head coaches. Of those, the line is split almost evenly between those who coached here before the 2006 World Cup (17) and those who started after the 2006 World Cup (16). In other words, nearly 50% of the head coaching staff turned over between Cups.

As for athletes, about 1,500 will compete at Princeton between now and the opening kickoff in Brazil. Among those who will be Princeton athletes by then are those in the Class of 2017, who just completed their freshman years of high school.

It's possible that Princeton will have a new Director of Athletics by 2014 (Gary Walters started his tenure during the 1994 World Cup), and perhaps a large turnover in its athletic administration and staff.

Between the 2006 and 2010 Cups, Jamie Zaninovich left Princeton to become the commissioner of the West Coast Conference and Mike Cross left to become the Director of Athletics at Bradley. Perhaps the current athletic staff will have similar career advancement between now and 2014.

Of course, some will still be here at Princeton, including, in all likelihood, TigerBlog. In fact, TB will probably watch the 2014 World Cup on the same little TV in his office that he watched the most recent one on.

First, though, he has to go through a bit of World Cup withdrawal.

Oh, and it's impossible for him to do better on his 2014 prediction than he did on his 2010 one. Back on June 11, TB said Spain would beat the Netherlands in the final.

For 2014? How about Brazil to win at home over the United States.

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