The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

July 4, 2014

Courrier: Three weeks of World Cup soccer was worthwhile

After three weeks of holding the attention of sports fans, the United States men’s soccer team has been eliminated in the round of 16 at the World Cup, a result similar to four years ago.

But this outcome seems to have a different feel, perhaps something that will last a little longer. Not that the mainstream sports of professional football, baseball, basketball or hockey need to worry about losing fan base, but perhaps soccer’s place in the pecking order is more secure.

If nothing else, soccer showed that when played at its best, it can steal your attention for two hours, even though the scoreboard rarely changes.

The World Cup has featured amazing athletes doing spectacular things, though the wide-open style of pool play has turned into conservative, defensive strategy, which is not as pleasing to the eye. But the conditioning of these players is tremendous, having to keep moving for nearly two hours in the climate of rain forest.

The fans are so passionate about their teams, often brought to tears by the outcome of matches.

Many of the players are singing their country’s anthem as loud as they can prior to the matches, and it’s only a guess, but they’re probably not all great singers.

There sport does have its warts. The flopping is embarrassing, and the fake injuries are a serious problem. Each of the major sports has had to deal with competitors trying to stop play with a fake injury, and soccer needs to address that somehow.

It seems like a lot of ground for one official to cover, then put up with the petulance of some of the whiny athletes. The extra time added at the end of matches seems kind of random.

But for the United States’ team’s four games in Brazil, this country was captivated by the action, finding ways to watch the games even though few were played in prime time. And it was fun.

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