The Suarez Play (And Other WC Thoughts)

So if you haven’t heard already, Uruguay made it into the semifinals, where they’re playing in less than 8 hours from now. However, how they got there is considered by some as “controversial”, others “unethical”, and few  as “what just happened, but absolutely genius and awesome”. I’ll explain exactly what happened, as well as other thoughts (in a different format than what I usually do).

That Suarez Play

So what happened?

Uruguay and Ghana were tied 1-1 going into the second extra time. Ghana pretty much dominated extra time, with numerous attacks against the Uruguayan defense unsuccessfully. Then comes into the 120′ of the game. Uruguay concedes a free kick outside of the 18-yard box and chaos ensues in the box as Uruguay is trying to clear the ball and force a shootout. Ghana gets a cross into the box and Ghana’s Stephen Appiah heads the ball towards the goal. Uruguay striker Luis Suarez is one of two men on the goal line as the ball is about to cross. Suarez uses his hands to knock the ball away. Ghana is screaming for handball and the ref blows his whistle, giving Suarez a red card. Ghanian striker Gyan comes up to take the penalty, hits the woodwork and watches it the ball sail over into the crowd. The ref blows the whistle to call to the end of extra time. The teams take penalties, with Uruguay winning the shootout and the game.

Isn’t what Suarez did considered cheating?

No, it’s not cheating for someone to handle a ball. Technically, you can handle the ball, whether accidentally or intentionally. If it’s the former, depending on the situation, it’s a foul or a yellow. If it’s the latter, it’s an automatic red, as the case for Suarez.

Shouldn’t the shot be considered a goal since it was going to go over the line?

No, it shouldn’t have. There is no rule for goaltending, unlike basketball.

But it would have been goaltending since it was going in!

There’s no such thing as goaltending. This isn’t basketball. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be goalkeepers in this game.

Isn’t what Suarez did unethical?

Think about it this way. If you were in his position and you had a ball heading right towards the back of the net, in the dying seconds of the game, would you just let it go in and lose the game because of it? Or would you punch it out, take the card, and give your team the chance to stay in the game? I’m pretty sure that 9 out of 10 players would have done what Suarez did.

What would you describe the play as?

Save of the tournament. Fifty times better than Stekelenburg’s save against Kaka.

What was your initial reaction when you saw the play?

When I saw the ball get knocked off the line and the ref blew the whistle, I had no idea what was going on. Then they showed the replay of what happened and I got really nervous since it was going to result in a penalty for Ghana. However, I knew that was just an instinctive play. He saved his team from the brink of elimination because of it. And what do you know? The play resulted in his country progressing into the semifinals. Even if Gyan made the goal, Suarez would have been considered smart for making such a play and giving his team a chance to stay in it. So basically, it was absolutely genius what he did.

But what about Ghana? Any sympathy for them?

What about them? They could have made the penalty and just won the game outright there. However, Gyan lost his nerve and missed the shot. Then in the penalties, they did absolutely awful, taking two awful penalties. Also, they supposedly didn’t prep for the possibility of penalties, which lead to their own undoing. Sure, the last African team is out of the tournament, but they had a number of chances to win. They just failed to take advantage of their chances. Even then, they were lucky enough to have Muntari score the goal in the way that they did.

Last thoughts?

Like I said earlier, Suarez is still an absolute genius. And don’t call him a villan. If Gyan did the same play, I would think the same thing. When you’re fighting for your tournament life, you do whatever you can to stay in. And that’s what Suarez did. It was a no-lose situation for him, so he did it. If they go onto win the World Cup, Uruguay will probably name a holiday after him, make sure he gets free meals every day for the rest of his life, and call him the greatest player to ever live… Alright, I’m exaggerating, but he will definitely go into World Cup lore for the sacrifice that he made.

Thoughts on the semifinal matches

I have to admit, the match-ups are pretty exciting. Seeing three new teams that haven’t made it into the semis in several decades makes this really interesting. Then you got Germany, the silver collector of the last several major tournaments, in the mix as well. It’s a contrast of styles of play as well. The Dutch are all about total football. Uruguay is about defense and the counterattack. Spain is all for the beautiful passing game and finesse. Germany is simply about execution, technique, and efficiency. All different styles of play make for a really exciting finish.

Who’s going to win in the semis?

While Suarez was what kept them in the tournament, losing them against the Dutch was huge. He would have been there to mess with the Oranje’s backline. While Forlan can do some great stuff, he really needs Suarez to help out. Without him, he’s their only real threat. The Netherlands have way too many attacking options at the moment, with Sneijder playing out of his mind right now, Van Persie available, Robben providing attacking threats, and Kuyt being the silent but extremely supportive opposite winger to that of Robben. I can’t see the Uruguayans getting through here.

While Germany is on a hot streak right now in terms of scoring, I think that Spain is starting to pick things up. They broke through several stingy defenses to get to where they are. Paraguay was tough as nails to get through offensively, giving up one goal before the quarters. Portugal hadn’t given up a goal until Spain scored and eliminated them from the tournament. Torres is expected to be on the bench and replaced by Fabregas, who has been a major spark for La Furie Roja. Also, they aren’t like Argentina. They do have a younger back line and are much more disciplined than the Argentineans were. I have Spain advancing by the slimst of margins.

What do you think of your team France getting eliminated in the group stage?

I have a lot of “colorful” words for the French manager Raymond Domenech. The French Football Federation should have seen this coming. I mean, seriously… How do you hire a guy to manage your team when he makes personnel decisions based on what players’ astrological signs were? Euro 2008 should have been an obvious clue to get rid of him after their dismal performance. But they didn’t, so they got what they deserved. His ego, along with others, was just a ticking bomb waiting to go off. And his inability to unite the team together didn’t help either, as seen with the players’ strike after Anelka was expelled from the squad. Here’s to Laurent Blanc not making the same mistakes as Domenech did?

Thoughts on the U.S. performance?

They did a good job. Michael Bradley’s performance was overshadowed by Donovan’s amazing heroics. But Bradley did a great job in the midfield. The U.S. still have a good future ahead of them going into the 2012 campaign. Bradley will need to work on his tactics a bit more, but he’s done a good job with the team.

Player of the tournament thus far? Team of the tournament?

It’s pretty close. Villa has been clutch for the Spanish. And while Iniesta hasn’t scored goals, he’s been vital to the Spanish attack. Klose has been great all tournament as well. Sneijder has been excellent for the Dutch, as well as their keeper Stekelenburg. Forlan has been great for the Uruguayans in their attack.

Team of the tournament so far has to be Germany, just taking out team after team, but it’s likely that the semis will be the farthest they’ll go to the Spanish armada.

Thoughts on the tournament thus far?

I thought it’s been simply great. It’s been a great display and stage for the beautiful game. Far better than the NBA finals, Super Bowl, or any other major championship in the world. Lots of emotion. And ultimately, it brings the world together to watch nations battle it out to see who will be called the world champions for the next four years.

But the World Cup really beats any other tournament by a huge margin. The only thing I can think of that comes close is the NCAA tournament, as players in both teams are ultimately playing to represent their nations (and schools if we’re talking NCAA). There isn’t really a motivation for money, you can’t just get traded or sold to a championship-caliber team, and it’s not like they have 15-20 chances to do it. They have a limited number of changes over the course of their career to do it, so you have to make the most of it.

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