As a companion to the World Cup, I’ve been reading Soccernomics, and it has been revelatory. The book borrows from Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, an in-depth look at Billy Beane’s strategy in looking at statistics and buying for cheap to build a very competitive team of relative unknowns, and then making a further profit by selling those players for much more. The book talks quite a bit about modern day Arsenal and its manager, Arsene Wenger, who as a trained economist, employed Beane’s methods to not only keep the club in the positive, but also manage to make a highly competitive team with its “youth players.” Part of my love for Arsenal lies in Le Professeur and his ability to discover great young talent and develop them into world class players. I’m glad that there’s a book that actually details some of the inner workings of soccer.
But I digress.
Democracy Is Better
Korea survived their battle with Nigeria and advance to the round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil. This is an amazing accomplishment and a dream come true for us Koreans. I remember growing up in Korea, whenever a World Cup came around, all the newspapers and all the coaching staff would say “our goal is to advance into the round of 16”. It would be splashed around in every kiosk, every newstand, and every subway advertisement panel. And with hope in their hearts, Koreans would buy their newspapers and ride their subways, but alas hope is meant to be deflated and dreams are meant to be crushed.
For the past few days I was quite furious at the way Korea played (as evidenced by my colorful Facebook updates), especially from the likes of Cha Du Ri (who practically rolled out the red carpet for the Nigerians to score in the box) and Kim Nam Il (who made an elementary mistake of dribbling the ball into the box instead of outside), and a little left over for Park Chu Young (despite his wonderful free kick goal). I had some scathing remarks for them, but since it’s been a few days I’ve cooled down quite a bit. Good thing I didn’t write this the day after. But if I can say one thing, coach Huh should not play Kim Nam Il, even as a substitute.
Playing against Diego (!) Forlan and Uruguay will be tough, and it will require a much more defensive approach and a fast counter attack. I would think a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Park Chu Young as the loan striker, and Ki Seung Yeung and Lee Chung Yong on each flank supporting the attack. Four backs lining up the defense and Park Ji Sung holding up central midfield just might do the trick in stopping Uruguay’s fast paced game through the middle.
Before I get into my cynical doomsday mentality, one bright spot about the Korea National Team is the successful transition and development of their youth. Ki Seung Yeung and Lee Chung Yong are both 21 and have become an integral part of the squad. The new keeper Jung Sung Ryong has been a breath of fresh air and looks to make a move to Europe after the World Cup. All of this combined, shows that Korean football is on the rise and will only get better. I suspect, many more Korea fans will become EPL fans and Scottish league fans as they follow the likes of Lee Chung Yong (Bolton), Ki Seung Yeung (Celtic FC) and Park Ji Sung (Man United).
By now, it’s old news that the French
team had a complete meltdown and have left South Africa early. Domenech refuses to shake Carlos Perreira’s hand after the match with South Africa, Le Sulk
does what he does best, Evra is left out of the game because of his insubordination, and the entire French team flies back home economy class. Oh la tragedie! Fondue in the largest proportions!
Meanwhile, Laurent Blanc is quietly plotting a course for a French comeback, and this time, Benzema and Nasri will be towing the line.
The defending world champions, the mighty Azurri have fallen and the unlikely heroes, Slovakia, have taken their place in the round of 16. I suspect some of the blame must be put on the coach for his team selection. Camoranesi was the one to provide the spark and the lead up to goals in the past two matches, yet he was left on the bench. And as my friend pointed out, Pirlo was nowhere to be found, despite the fact that he is probably Italy’s best playmaker. Without him, truly Italy has to rely on their operatic acting skills more than their passing.
To be fair, the latter half of the match was a thrill to watch. Italy did wake up from their slumber and pressed for the attack, eventually netting two goals. Yet, in the end you could tell there was just not enough gas in the tank.
And as the runners up France and the champions Italy fell in group stage, it is a telling sign that once you’re on top, it’s hard to sustain the hunger and the drive to keep going, especially since the tournament is every four years. A back to back title has not been done since 1962, and even then Brazil had possibly the most gifted footballer in the history Pele on their side.
How good is Mesut Özil? He’s been instrumental in Germany’s attack every game, and had a beautifully struck goal against Ghana. Now there’s even talk that Arsenal may be interested in the 21 year old. I won’t succumb to the rumor mongers just yet, but suffice to say part of the fun in watching Germany this tournament is because of the Werder Bremen wonderkid.
Van Persie Strikes
And finally, my man Robin Van Persie scored a beautiful goal in the otherwise lackluster match against Cameroon. RVP is always a joy to watch, and exemplifies the Dutch way of playing football. With Robben back on track and Sneijder firing on all cylinders (do these guys ever get tired?), truly the Dutch look like they might go very far this time around. With all the English players fatigued after a grueling season in the EPL, the Brazilians not yet dominating like they are expected to, and the Germans showing some weakness in their back four, you could say that the Netherlands just might push ahead of their European counterparts.
Joachim Low puts as much effort into his sartorial taste as he does into the strategy on the pitch. Against Ghana, he sported a black double breast trenchcoat and scarf. Can you imagine his directive to his staff before arriving to South Africa?
“I want all of you to pack the following: powder blue v-neck, slim black sport coat, black double breast trench coat, white pressed shirt, black pants, and oh yeah, it’s cold so a dark scarf is optional.”
Next match against England, I predict Jogi and staff to don a white shirt and black sport coat with a nice watch to give some accent.
Posted via email from Long Way Round