Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Not-So-Glorious Certainties of Football.

Football, any fan will be quick to assert, is a game of glorious uncertainties. I beg to differ.

Sure, there are upsets (like there are in every other sport), but if you look at the history of the World Cup, there have been far too many "certainties" for my liking. Let's take a look at just the finals for now, shall we? Here are some striking facts:

1. In 17 World Cups this far, we've had only 7 different countries lift the trophy. Even more surprisingly, the 34 teams that have competed in these 17 Finals have come from only 10 countries. I find this figure especially telling -- not only are new teams not winning the Cup, they aren't even reaching the Final!

2. In the 9 Finals since 1970 (18 teams), there's been only one entry from outside the traditional powerhouses of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands. (The exception of course was France in '98.)

3. The last time a team made the Final for the first time (again excluding the French exception) was the Netherlands way back in 1974. The last time we had both Finalists appearing for the first time was in the 2nd edition in 1934!

So all the "glorious uncertainties", it would appear to me, happen in the early stages of the World Cup. But once it comes down to the games that really matter, we only see regular faces! When will the Senegals and the South Koreas of this world have what it takes in them to actually win the damn thing?

Another interesting point that one realizes is that home advantage plays a crucial role as far as the Football World Cup is concerned. Here are some more facts:

1. The two countries that have one the Cup once each -- England (1966) and France (1998) -- accomplished this on home ground. The only other team to have played in the Final only a single time -- Sweden (1958) -- also did so on home turf.

2. Countries seem to do well either in their own country or not too far from it. 6 World Cups were won by the home country and only Brazil has actually managed to win the Cup on a continent other than their own (Sweden '58, Mexico '70, USA '94 and Japan '02). When one adds to this the fact that no team from either North America or Asia could realistically be given too much chance of taking the Cup, the only real 'away-continent' victory remains Brazil in Sweden '58.

3. South Korea put their home advantage to good use in the last tournament and wound up reaching the semi-finals. I don't think any home team has been knocked out of the World Cup in the Group stages.

So why do teams have such a problem traveling away from home in this sport? And when will we have some new teams winning the Cup? Any answers?

[Cross-posted on Silly Point -- here.]


Salil said...

You're restricting the 'uncertainties' only to *World Cup* *finals*.
They may also happen during the semis, quarters, and the leagues. You're overlooking Ronaldinho's free kick goal against England in '02, South Korea beating Italy and Spain to reach the semis (pls dont say they won because of the home advantage) or N. Korea beating Italy in '66, Baggio missing that penalty in the '94 final...

Basically I see all this as a completely arbit rant you're making.

Arnold said...

salil - Of course there will be upsets. Otherwise there would be no need to have the tournament at all -- just hand the trophy to the favorite.

I'm not overlooking all the incidents you mentioned. My question is why can't one of the other teams ever win the BIG PRIZE? And why can't teams do well in countries farther away from home? And you haven't answered any of these two questions.

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

Who cares about the useless teams? I mean, hey pal, i'm an indian, never gonna see my flag even amongst the participating teams, but i still worship the German team.. Its not about 'all inclusive'-ness for me.. Gimme the big-league-gig..Thats all i ask

Freaky Chakra said...

see the thing is take any sport which isnt based on luck, & u'll have the more talented & skilled team/player winning more often.

The thing about football is that even sides that suck can look "respectable" when they are losing... & can sometimes even pull off a victory; giving the spectator & players a semblence of parity amongst teams inspite of the absence of the same

Arnold said...

facesmasher - who knows dude? convince the Indian Government to put a bid for the 2014 world cup.. u never know what might happen!

freaky chakra - i agree.. football should in most ways be a sport that's quite "under dog" friendly.. defend well for a while and maybe get tht one lucky goal and you might just beat the best.. let's see how this year's cup goes..

alice said...

though i dont understand football much...but i enjoy it ...love all that drama...