Sunday, June 18, 2006

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You wanna know why America is unilateralist?

After a timid and embarrassing peformance against the Czechs, the United States tied Italy in its World Cup match today, 1-1. In doing so, the US team earned its first point in a World Cup tournament held in Europe.

The outcome of the game also helps to explain the source of the occasional American impulse towatds unilateralism -- when Americans agree to play by the rules, the rules are suddenly changed to stack the deck against the Americans. The U.S. team outplayed Italy in this game, and might have won if the friggin' ref hadn't gotten red-card happy. Apparently the British commentators were even more cheesed off about the bad refereeing in the game than ABC, according to Frank Foer. His comment about the refereeing is on point:

How can we account for his Mickey Mouse performance? What hint of corruption will be turned up? Was this a display of anti-Americanism? Or just sheer incompetence? Clearly, his miscues affected both sides--and clearly they affected one side more than the other.
I implore the referees to announce prior to the U.S.-Ghana game that they will be vigilant and even-handed -- otherwise, I can see either Bruce Arena authorizing a pre-emptive raid against FIFA or George W. Bush authorizing a pre-emptive strike against Ghana.

posted by Dan on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM


Well, i don't know which british commentators he listened to. but the ones I was listening to , both live and with highlights on ITV & BBC were pretty agreed that both of the US's sendings off were justified.

And the offside goal was clearly and indisputably offside.

"Was this a display of anti-Americanism?"

Yeah, sure because after all no other team in the history of the world cup has ever had a card happy ref.
no it must be down to 'they all hate us', or corruption by those dirty foreigners.

posted by: kb on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

I only caught the game half way through, just in time for the third sending off, and my gut reaction was bad referring -- the referees this World Cup have handed out a _lot_ of cards, and I assumed this was the case here.

However, on watching the highlight reels, all the cards were deserved. Mastroeni's tackle could easily have broken Pirlo's ankle, and FIFA mandates a red card in that situation. Pope's late tackle, entirely off the ball, broke up the play and deserved a yellow; it was his own fault that that made two for the day and sent him off.

As to McBride being declared offside, that was correct, too. Even if it hadn't bounced off his foot, as it did, he was actively involved in the play since he was screening the Italian goalkeeper.

posted by: Elio on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

There is certainly a primadonna effect where fouls against stars are more severely (or more usually faster) punished than those against underdogs (ie this time, the US). The football royals (Italy, France, ...) have a certain advantage.

Tackling is ok in American Football, never in football. Some years ago, the agressive behavior may not have resulted in a red card, but FIFA wanted to clean up the game. Everybody was notified and the change has been effective for some years. Perhaps, some did not read the memo.

Different experts (of widely different European countries) agreed that the red cards were justified and I completely concur. I think your commentators are the odd ones out. Just watch the slow-motion.

Playing by the rules used to be a British (and American) export article. The current flavor of violating rules wins neither respect nor games. In football, Americans will remain underdogs for some years to come. They are getting better, though.

Threatening referees should be a big no-no, but seems to become a US theme (Blix, Al-Baradei, Red Cross, Amnesty, ...). And bombing Ghana might be just the next mad idea we get from GW Bush.

posted by: jaywalker on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Sounds like a good ploy to get Americans interested in soccer. We may not care much whether our team wins or loses a game, but we definitely pay attention when we hear that anti-American foreigners are picking on us. I predict a significant uptick in American interest in soccer, especially among right-wingers.

posted by: FXKLM on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

It was interesting to compare the ABC coverage (was Lawless the commentator?) with that of Univision. The color man on ABC was convinced that the first red card was a 'make up'. In contrast, on Univision, the color man started to question the call, but when the tape was replayed declared that the card against Mastroenni was 'justo'.

I'd agree, because the challenge was way late and he went in with spikes up (intentionally or not) hitting the Italian broadside on the shank. Very dangerous when you remember that that leg bone is worth several million bucks. In soccer terms, the US foul was more severe than the elbow to MacBride's face.

Now, the second red (actually a yellow) probably could have been avoided, but who knows if the ref actually had in his mind that the US player (Pope?) was carrying a yellow from a previous game.

(BTW, Univision 'gets' the WC spirit of celebration, ABC doesn't for all its 'joga bonito' talk. A rare good thing about immigration.

And I don't know if its just me, but I am really beginning to think the Euro's and others are right in complaining about jingoistic US sports coverage. Sure Univision focuses on the Mexican team , but they seem to cover the other teams and their situations better than ABC , which is nearly all Americans all the time)

posted by: Mitchell Young on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Oh quit being such babies.

posted by: Racer X, Speed Racer's (unbeknownst to him) brother on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

The Italian red card was obvious. The two American reds were justified, but perhaps on another day, with a different ref, might not have been given.

It was a tremendous performance by the American team and I was cheering for them till the end(I''m a Brit by the way)

In terms of foreign policy implications it was a rare chance for most of the world to cheer for an American team of gutsy underdogs....

By the way, the TV adverts for Budweiser (unbelievably, the official world cup beer) portray a couple of US sports presenters who are totally clueless about football. NOT a good image for the USA.

Anyway, can't wait until you guys start playing cricket against England, the Windies, India, Pakistan, Australia ... that would be something to look forward to.

posted by: Chris Black on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

What did you think of the officials who completely missed a valid goal for France in their game with Korea?

Game ended a 1-1 tie

posted by: SportsFan on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Possibly the most idiotic and irrational post you've ever made, mate.

Really. Whinging on about a possibly somewhat marginal red. You want something to whinge on about, try thinking about being on the other side of "The Hand of God" incident.

On the other hand, perhaps it is an incredibly clever satire of weak-minded irrationality in My Team superficiality in thinking about FP, and American provincialism in particular.

Very hard to tell actually.

posted by: The Lounsbury on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

That's the dumbest think I've ever heard. Are you really a professor at the Fletcher School? I think when I went there the standards must of been a tad higher...

posted by: rajkmd on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Well considering the ref in question has been suspended not to long ago for unequal rulings I wouldn't be surprised if he had botched this game. I only started watching in the last twenty minutes, so i didn't see the red cards, but even if drezner is wrong its uncalled for to question his academic credentials based on sports commentary.

P.S. excuse the multiple spelling errors.

posted by: LDoc87 on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Once again, my point in an earlier thread is borne out. Soccer is not appealing to Americans because the team that plays better *that day* doesn't win enough of the time. The whole thing starts to seem somewhat futile, with the outcome decided mostly by luck unless one team is absolutely dominant.

posted by: srp on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

On fouls in American sports: Germany these days is in the ban of basketball (Nowitzki). German soccer commentators now talk of a "basketball foul" when a ref calls a soft push or touch foul. So, the perception here is that soccer is much rougher and that much more is (and should be) allowed than in basketball!!

Having played soccer at a high level, I don't think that Americans appreciate how physical soccer really is: getting your legs kicked out underneath you by a two footed tackle from behind with the ball nowhere near would carry a very long suspension in any US sports (and perhaps even in Hockey).

posted by: Zaoem on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

...I don't think that Americans appreciate how physical soccer really is: getting your legs kicked out underneath you by a two footed tackle from behind with the ball nowhere near would carry a very long suspension in any US sports (and perhaps even in Hockey).

For good reason. Americans tend to view such tactics as unsportsmanlike. Retaliation (if not escalation) is pretty much assured.

In order to prevent games from devolving into riots, doing that kind of thing is usually prohibited by the rules, and the rules are usually enforced pretty strictly.

Europeans who think these rules exist because Americans are wusses have it precisely backwards.

posted by: rosignol on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

srp :

One of the joys of football is that in a one-off match the little teams have a chance. It doesn't matter how wealthy your club or players are, or how good their reputation is, on the day it's 11 v 11 (well, obviously not for USA v Italy).

That's why results such as USA 1 England 0, Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 and Trinidad and Tobago 0 Sweden 0 will linger in people's memories for decades.

It isn't about 'playing well' it's about scoring one more goal than the other team.

posted by: Chris Black on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

It's not just the Americans that are feeling put out by blatant favourtism by umpires for the star teams: In that game, all you had to do to be awarded decisions was wear Brazilian yellow.

posted by: qoz on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

1. The red cards were probably justified. If anyone's at fault it's the players for giving the ref an opportunity to even up the game. Arena should have yanked Pope at the half while he was carrying the yellow.

2. As Arena said, good teams tend to get the breaks. This wasn't anti-Americanism.

3. Helluva performance by the US. Quite possibly the most significant result ever (right up with USA-Colombia, USA-Portugal, USA-Mexico and USA-Germany). Gave as good as they got under difficult circumstances against a powerhouse. Never been more proud of them.

posted by: Colin on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

As Randy Newman would say:

No one likes us
I don't know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful.
They don't respect us so let's surprise them;
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded
And Europe's too old.
Africa's far too hot,
And Canada's too cold.
And South America stole our name.
Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

We'll save Australia;
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.
We'll build an all-American amusement park there;
They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,
And boom Paris.
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it'll be;
We'll set everybody free;
You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby,
There'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow,
So let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now.

posted by: Jim Harris on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Dan, Bush isn't going to drop the bomb on Ghana over soccer. It's not as if the World Cup were over anything important - like the World Series or the Super Bowls.

The day the Eities bribe the refs to throw the Super Bowl to them is the day Roma should go on nuclear alert......

@Jim Harris - thatnks for the song - in full and not a link. Do you have anything original to say about this?

posted by: Don S on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

but who knows if the ref actually had in his mind that the US player (Pope?) was carrying a yellow from a previous game.

If he was carrying a yellow from a previous game a second yellow wouldn't have given him a red. he got the yellow card in the first half so the ref knew because he gave it to him.

Carrying a yellow from a previous game and getting a yellow card in the following game in the WC gives means you sit out the next game.


This is poppycock:

while there were claims both Brazilian goals should have been ruled out for offside.

Utter poppycock.

posted by: Randy Paul on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Mastroeni's tackle was card-worthy, but not red-card worthy. He wasn't THAT late. It was not a first-offense card.

Eddie Pope's sending off was deserved. You simply do not make borderline slide tackles when you already have a yellow card in a game of such importance.

Now, we can talk about the Penalty Kick that should not have been. Any Brits contesting that?

posted by: Jake on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

Jake, I don't think it was a penalty. But that's football. England notoriously lost out to Maradona's Hand Of God, but we benefited from the Soviet Linesman in '66.

I'm sorry the USA are out of the cup. But they didn't really play well enough against Ghana.

posted by: Chris Black on 06.18.06 at 12:23 AM [permalink]

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