Yesterday, the best soccer team in the world played what should have essentially been a warm-up scrimmage against the absolute worst, bottom-of-the-barrel, no-business-being-there team in the World Cup.
It was #1 versus #105. Brazil vs. North Korea.
I was getting tired of watching soccer games where only one or two goals were scored, so I had been looking forward to watching this match. If there was ever going to be a blowout, whatever that looked like in soccerland, this was sure to be the game that delivered it. You couldn’t find more disparity in all of soccerdom. This was the best against the worst. I figured I would see at least five or six goals scored as Brazil took it to the North Koreans.
The final score was 2-1.
To me, this highlights the essential and inherent problem with the game of soccer. When your absolute best can’t score more than two goals against the absolute worst, and when they can only win by a one goal margin, please tell me somebody higher up the FIFA ladder is thinking, “That’s not right.”
Think about it: North Korea was ranked 105th. There’s nothing comparable in American sports that matches this disparity. This isn’t like the New Orleans Saints not getting up for a game against the Detroit Lions. There’s only 32 teams in the NFL. No, Brazil playing North Korea would be akin to the Saints playing a pop warner football squad and needing a last second field goal to pull out a one-point victory.
This would be like pitting the Yankees against a Little League team and the Yankees winning by one point in extra innings.
We can’t even compare it to the NCAA tournament, because there the best against the worst would be #1 against #64. And number one seeds consistently beat number 16 seeds by 40 or 50 points. College football? Forget it. There are 119 Division I college football teams, and if Texas or Alabama ever played the worst college team out there the line would have to be -50 or so. I mean, c’mon – Texas came down and played my Wyoming Cowboys last season and whooped us 41-10. The Cowboys are bad, but we’re nowhere near the worst. (We even had a winning record last year!)
So what’s the deal with soccer? How in the world can North Korea hang with the Brazilians? How could Brazil only manage two goals against the worst soccer players in the World Cup?
Some people are trumpeting the close result as a positive thing. As parity in the game. But honestly – do you really want this kind of parity in any sporting event? I mean, we talk about “any given Sunday” in the NFL, but that’s only 32 teams and everybody understands that it doesn’t really mean any given Sunday. What’s the point of practice and hard work if the 105th ranked team can still hang with the best team in the world?
It is simply too difficult to score in soccer, and the Brazil vs. North Korea matchup proves it. The solution would be simple: make the field smaller and get rid of the offsides penalty. Transition soccer from a sport of defensive posture to one of offensive posture.
Then, athleticism might actually mean something and better teams would actually have an advantage over horrible teams like North Korea.