The 2018 World Cup is in the process of winding down. By this time next week, either England, France, Belgium, or Croatia will be in seventh heaven as the winning nation.
I’ve always liked soccer, growing up in the Tampa Bay area and being so close to the Rowdies, the local pro team. As I’ve probably mentioned before, they were part of the NASL that attempted to gain national prominence in the 1970’s by signing Pele, who is considered to be one of the great players of all time in the sport. But once he left, the popularity of the sport has waned in our country.
Interest hasn’t been too high in this year’s World Cup because, for the first time since 1986 – the United States didn’t make the final batch of teams playing for the championship. Germany was booted after the round-robin stage. Brazil lost in the second knockout (single elimination) round to Belgium. In a way, it’s been a good tournament to watch – so many teams that haven’t had the chance at to be at this level for a long time (or ever) are close to making history for their respective countries.
The one thing that drives me crazy about soccer, and not in a good way, is the penalty kick shootout at the end when the 30 minutes of extra time is completed and a winner is needed. It always seemed to me to be a stupid way to decide a winner, because penalty kicks have very little to do with soccer in a general sense. It would be like deciding a baseball game by a home run derby, or a basketball game by free throws.
Other sports (with the exception of hockey to some extent) – they decided games that need a winner by continuing to play the game some more. The problem with soccer deciding outcomes the way they do is that a penalty kick doesn’t happen every game. In fact, you could go and watch a handful of games and not see a PK being taken.
No, I’m not “soccer savvy” enough to tell you what I’d replace it with. I always thought the Florida high school soccer playoffs had a fairer system when I was of that age. First, they played an “extra time” format, but instead of going right to a shootout – they played up to two five-minute “sudden death” periods. I always liked that – that way, teams couldn’t play passively in extra time and hope to get lucky in the shootout. And yes, I once saw a playoff game get decided in the “sudden death” portion on, you guessed it, a penalty kick.
I’m pretty sure FIFA can’t get rid of penalty kicks entirely, but I’d love them to add a “sudden death” element to their tiebreaking format. They experimented with it back in the turn of the century, but then went back to the “extra time, then a shootout” format. Hopefully, they might revisit this soon – pretty please?