World Cup 2014

A peek at a few talking points thus far

By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor

As of this publishing the World Cup is still very much under way. However, despite the world’s top sporting event not yet being at its conclusion, there are more than a handful of plots to talk about.

Soccer is a game filled with scandal: match-fixing and theatrical dives on the pitch are simply part of the game. It’s only natural when every country on the face of the planet plays that there will be a few bad eggs. It’s due to the sport’s often seedy underhanded dealings that we find ourselves praising actions that really never need be pointed out.

One such moment came about thanks to the tight standings in Group G. Heading into the third and final match of the opening stage, Germany and the US were leading the group with four points each; Ghana and Portugal both had a mere one point. It so happened that for the last game Germany and the USA were facing each other. Both squads needing only a point to guarantee a ticket to the knockout stage, there were whisperings of the countries playing to an intentional draw. It wasn’t out of the question, seeing as Germany (as West Germany) had been there before.

In the 1982 World Cup, West Germany took on Austria in the third group match—a one- or two-goal win for West Germany would see both squads go through. West Germany scored in the 10th minute and then proceeded to pass the ball about its defenders for the duration of the game. Both advanced. And so, this year when Germany and the USA played a real game (Germany winning 1-0, though both still advanced due to the results of the Ghana-Portugal match), it was somewhat amusing to give them a standing ovation for nothing more than doing what any decent human being should do.

An article by John Doyle in the Globe and Mail slagged Wayne Rooney a few weeks ago when it likened his lack of development with all that is wrong in English soccer. The piece noted that he never progressed beyond that raw talent he possessed as a youth and has failed to become more than a “brilliant amateur.” A key beginning point for the writer as he became lost in his increasingly flowery, disparaging comments was that Rooney’s first World Cup goal came this year. It’s quite remarkable what some people can write from the depths of a closet. If Rooney is a brilliant amateur then there are precious few “professionals” in the world.

Rooney’s 200-plus goals in club play speak for themselves, and there is no doubt that the Manchester United star will go down in Premier League history as one of the greatest strikers to ever play the game. As to his low goal total at the World Cup, every soccer fan with a head of any kind of substance atop their shoulders knows that there is infinitely more to the beautiful game than goals; any who disagree can look to Lionel Messi’s stats—the Argentinian had only one goal himself prior to the 2014 tournament.

And a last note on English soccer, though their results were lacking this year due to a handful of unfortunate breakdowns, their overall play was a massive step up from previous English squads. There was creativity. Flare. Excitement. Flow. Rooney’s role with England may be lessened in the future, but the country itself is definitely headed in the right direction.