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That's a pretty good list. I would still put Rooney top in mine even though he has anger issues because he is still by far and away the best player England have. Otherwise I pretty much agree with yours. If Lampard played anywhere near to his ability that he has shown at Chelsea then he would probably be number 2 on the list, but with the way he's playing at the moment where you've got him is exactly right. Also, if Owen was the player he used to be when he was 18 he would be fighting for number 1 as well.

Unfortunately, I don't get to watch many EPL games...had to decide between MLB EI or FoxSports package...went with my O's. But I'm beginning to wonder if Lampard is getting a bit exposed.

He sort of came out of nowhere for Chelsea, and in Mourinho's for 4-5-1 he can be disguised a bit. With Cole and Robben able to push up on the wings, and Makelele bruising in the deep middle...Lampard's job of facilitating is made rather easy. Not to mention that Terry/Cech/Gallas leading a brickwall defense makes it easier for Lampard to push up. Considering that they've moved on Ballack and watching the complete ying-yang performances of Essien and Lampard in the Cup...

Well...I guess I can't help but think that Lampard maybe odd man out...If Chelsea can make a move on a left back (Ashley Cole?), move Gallas back inside...I wouldn't be suprised to see this lineup by year's end:

GK: Cech

LB: Cole

CB: Gallas

CB: Terry

RB: Carvalho/Ferreira

CDM: Makelele

LWM: Robben

CM: Ballack

CM: Essien

RM: Cole

ST: Shevchenko

But...maybe I've got my head up my butt. Being a Yank and all...:D

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Like Britfan, I'm happy with penalties. There is no better way to settle a game if the deadlock can't be broken over 120 minutes.

I've been following this and watching lots of World Cup games on TV. I am not knowledgable about the game. But this tie-breaking shoot-out is just nuts. I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time here, I'm only giving my opinion so I can see where you think my opinion is reasonable and where you think it is flawed. I am not diss-ing soccer as a *sport* or trying to pooh-pooh it's widespread popularity. I am only talking about the *rules* of the sport, which I think indicate a problem. Not a problem about soccer as a sport, or about the expertise and talent required to play it well, but a problem about particular features of the *rules* of the game.

In the case at hand, fully 50% of the quarterfinal matches ended in shoot-outs. Evidently, these things do not happen frequently in normal play but their occurrence ramps up dramatically as the quality of play rises. Is this correct? Can I assume that this kind of thing is much more likely to occur when 2 really good teams play each other? If so, then I think that indicates a problem with the rules of the game. (I am not saying that they should change the game of soccer because Americans say so... I am only talking about my personal opinion about what makes a game a good properly-specified game.)

I think one of the more amazing things about baseball is how they got the rules right. Nomatter all the changes in the game itself, the size and strength and ability of the athletes, and differences in many other factors, it is remarkable that, way-back-when (about the same time that the rules of soccer were being formalized), the old baseball guys decided to put the bases 90' apart, to put the pitching rubber 60' 6" from home plate, and to successfully specify the other parameters of the game. If any one of several things were specificied differently, the overall balance of the game would be thrown *way* out of whack. As it is, those specifications turn out to be perfect. Whoever figured the rules out just flat-out nailed it. AFAIK, there is only one bad rule in baseball (the 'Error' rule) but that one rule is irrelevant to anything about playing the game on the field and instead is just about record-keeping.

In baseball (and in American football and in basketball and in lacrosse) it does not happen that top-tier, equally-matched teams play each other into unbreakable ties that must be resolved by resorting to means that are arbitrary and not-representative of the game as a whole. Rather, while ties sometimes happen, they are no more or less likely to occur in top-tier competition than in ordinary competition. Furthermore, when they do occur, they are resolved without resort to extraordinary and arbitrary measures. Instead, they are resolved simply by letting the players play a bit longer. In soccer, letting the players play a bit longer does not resolve anything. So, what we have is a situation that reminds me of the trench-warfare of the first World War: the "rules of the game" create unbreakable stalemates. (No, I am not saying that WWII was "better"... although I couldn't help noticing that, had England beat Portugal, this World Cup would have had 2 Axis powers in one semifinal, 2 Allied powers in the other, with a possible replay of Dunkirk for the final ;-)

AFAIK, soccer has always had this same fundamental problem. Earlier, somebody told me that 3-2 matches were very common occurrences in soccer, much more-so that 1-0 shutouts. Maybe so, beats me, I don't know. But then he sent me a link to a list of all the World Cup finals ever played. As I mentioned before, I looked at it. There was nothing commonplace about 3-2 matches in that particular list, unless you think that 8 games out of 140 means "commonplace". Compare those *8* 3-2 games with *38* 1-0 games. That's 38 games in which you *better not* have to go pee or else! Of those 140 games, 80 were shutouts. And 5 of those 80 shutouts were shutouts for *both* teams (nothing like a 0-0 match to emphasize the finer points of the game, I suppose). In 47 of those 140, the loser somehow mustered a ferocious offense that managed to score a single goal. And in 49 of those games *neither* team scored more than a single goal. When the runner-up in the world championship manages 1 goal or none in 127 of 140 championship games, that's not just saying "low-scoring". That's saying that scoring is close to *impossible*.

As a result, we have *half* of the quarter-finals resolved by these idiotic shoot-outs, and I think that's just nuts. If you take that idea and map it into baseball here's what you'd have: A tie game continues into extra-innings until you play the 12th inning. Once you play 12, you stop the normal game and instead have a little session of Home Run Derby. The particulars of Home Run Derby are that you get the 3 or 4 or 5 hitters from each team who hit with the most power, and you have some batting-practice pitcher throw X pitches to each such hitter. Whichever team's hitters hit the most pitches into the seats wins the game and proceeds towards the championship. If they did this in baseball, and if *half* of the league-championship series games used this to decide who goes on towards the World Series, there would be riots in the streets. Of course in baseball, they wouldn't need to do this. In baseball, most tie games are resolved on the playing field before the end of 12. And the very few that aren't resolved by the 12th get resolved in the 13th. Or the 14th. Or in as many innings as it takes. But that almost-never happens.

But it sure does in soccer. Often, matches at the top level of competition end up like trench warfare all over again. That is prime facie evidence of there being *some* flaw in the rules. I don't expect that soccer fans agree with me. I don't expect they will change the rules to fix this. The most I hope for is that they can come up with something better than these stupid shoot-outs to resolve the stalemates. Here's my best suggestion for how to do that: play 15 minutes overtime periods. Play as many such periods as required to break the tie. After the first such period (which is played by both teams at full strength), each subsequent OT period is played with each team losing one player from the field. The teams get to pick who plays, but the number of players that are permitted on the field gets reduced by 1 for each team, with the reductions increasing by 1 for each additional OT period. I expect this would open up the field, open up the action, and permit the players to get things settled properly, just by playing the game. The only time you'd have a "shoot-out" is when you played enough OT's that each team had only 2 guys left, and it would never get that far. (There may be far better ideas. That's just the best one I can think of.)

As for the underlying problem, I suspect it's mostly because there are just too many people on the field. Simply reduce the number of players on the field by one guy for each team, I'd bet that would pretty much fix it. Or, you could approximate what they do in lacrosse. In lacrosse they do this by specifying that each team must alwasy have at least X-guys on the offense-side of the field and Y-guys on the defense side of the field. This prevents the kind of thing that normally happens in soccer where you have the equivalnet of the entire population of a small town cluttering up things in front of the goal. I know that will never happen, but still...

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On the Sports Reporters this morning, they were talking about how horrible the PK are to decide such an important game.

HOWEVER, Bob Ryan pointed out that this is not OUR game and if the people who look at it as their game like the PK, then that is all that matters.

That makes alot of sense.

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Risking injury, games with no ends, and 7v7 still being contrived are all good objections. To the first I say, these guys are in unbelievable shape, I think they could handle it. It's possible that more injuries occur, we'll never know unless we give it a shot.

To the second objection I would have to disagree. The defensive soccer is played because teams know that penalty kicks are in the future, and are sometimes happy to get to that point if they feel overmatched. If teams knew they had to win or the game doesn't end I would think there would be less defensive play. Did you see how open the field was the second half of the US Italy game in 10 v 9? I would think that 7 v 7 would provide ample scoring chances, and would not last as long as you think.

To the third objection I say you're exactly right, but its the lesser of two evils. At least 7 v 7 tests players stamina, heart, and teamwork. Penalty kicks do not.

Bottom line is I think the idea is at least worthy of consideration. I would love to see a weak league like the MLS be bold and give it a shot. Worst that happens is players do get injured, games go on too long, and the players hate it. However it could be welcomed by the players, and if I'm right isn't that worth a shot? We will never know unless we try.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea or that I think it's rubbish at all, don't get me wrong. It's just that such a thing has a number of problems attached and just wouldn't ever occur in top flight soccer.

For example, here's another problem: say you do lower it to 7 v 7. Which players come off? Every single player will want to still be on there and it's not fair to take 4 guys out of the game just like that. And what's to stop each team picking their 7 most defensive guys and just defending like crazy?

I know the guys are in unbelievable shape but 120 minutes of football is a LONG time to be playing. I honestly think if you asked them they'd say they couldn't take anymore. I know that during the season the players complain that they play far too many games already as it is, they are not machines, and the number of games need to be cut down. I just don't think it's ever a good idea to play for longer than that.

I agree that maybe in a league like MSL it might be worth trying something like this out for fun but in top flight soccer it just will never happen. It's just not in line with the entire history of the sport and how it has always worked. I'm not saying it's bad and there's certainly alot of merit and sense in your ideas, but it's just one of those things where no matter what anyone says, they'll never agree to it. It'd be like trying to change the distance between the bases in baseball.

I would also disagree that penalties don't show heart. There is no greater hero than a keeper who saves a bunch of penalties like Ricardo yesterday or a player who puts away the decisive spot kick. It is pretty much the most intense kind of sporting pressure you can get and it takes tremendous heart to step up there and do everything you can to deliver in such a situation. One of the most amazing penalties I ever saw was Stuart Pearce who scored one in Euro 96. He had missed one of the crucial penalties that caused England to go out of Italia 90 and had a chance to redeem himself in 96. He stepped up there and fired one in the net and he turned to the crowd and screamed 'YES' with such ferocity and passion. You knew that for 6 years those demons had been eating him inside for missing that penalty and now finally he had the shot to get rid of them and did it. To me, that takes as much heart as any other part of the game.

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Unfortunately, I don't get to watch many EPL games...had to decide between MLB EI or FoxSports package...went with my O's. But I'm beginning to wonder if Lampard is getting a bit exposed.

He sort of came out of nowhere for Chelsea, and in Mourinho's for 4-5-1 he can be disguised a bit. With Cole and Robben able to push up on the wings, and Makelele bruising in the deep middle...Lampard's job of facilitating is made rather easy. Not to mention that Terry/Cech/Gallas leading a brickwall defense makes it easier for Lampard to push up. Considering that they've moved on Ballack and watching the complete ying-yang performances of Essien and Lampard in the Cup...

Well...I guess I can't help but think that Lampard maybe odd man out...If Chelsea can make a move on a left back (Ashley Cole?), move Gallas back inside...I wouldn't be suprised to see this lineup by year's end:

GK: Cech

LB: Cole

CB: Gallas

CB: Terry

RB: Carvalho/Ferreira

CDM: Makelele

LWM: Robben

CM: Ballack

CM: Essien

RM: Cole

ST: Shevchenko

But...maybe I've got my head up my butt. Being a Yank and all...:D

I don't think Chelsea will be buying Cole because Arsenal will do everything they can to keep hold of him and there have been strong rumours that Chelsea are going after Roberto Carlos after the world cup is over so he would be their new left back.

While your plan makes alot of sense I think you're undervaluing Lampard alot. Although he had an abysmal world cup and didn't look good, for Chelsea he is the real deal. When he is on form for them he is by far one of the best midfielders in the world. He is one of the few midfield players who can tackle, pass, run with the ball, take free kicks and score from open play all at a world class standard. He scores more goals for Chelsea than most strikers do for their club and he is the engine that keeps them running. Sure, he has good players around him but he on his own is a magnificent player as well. England also have a pretty much brick wall defense and yet he couldn't push up for them really, so I'm not sure if that is the reason why he does well for Chelsea.

Having said all that, there have been alot of rumours flying around that he is off to Barca soon as he and Ballack are too similar as players and won't be able to play together, but Mourinho has rubbished those and I would tend to believe him.

Now that they have signed Shevchenko and Ballack I don't know if I would call him Chelsea's best player anymore but he is a world class player and he could walk onto any team in the world in a second. But your ideas are still very highly plausible.

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A few things...

1) Football is not a very fair comparison because there are two different ways of scoring points. It would be a lot different if teams were forced to score a TD, and couldn't settle on a field goal.

2) Lacrosse as well...as the amount of scoring and probability to score is much higher.

3) Actually, baseball too since it has no clock. Like you, something I truly love about the game and seperates it from all the rest.

4) Also, keep in mind that penalty shoot outs are actually very rare. During regular season matches, the game simply ends in a draw. And for the Champions League, it is only used in the knockout phases and only then on the rare occasion that both teams end up having the same goal differential in two games. So...with the exception of international playoffs (Euro, World Cup) or tournament championships (Champions League Final, League Cup Finals) it is rare to see a shoot-out. Although, it seems like a large percentage of games...it's really not.

Unfortunately, these shootouts occur during some of the most visible and international games.

...

The most comparable sport was hockey. Which had similar scoring, rules and fatigue issues. As we all know, they've actually increased the number of shootouts....along with making several rule changes to increase scoring.

...

Basically, I don't think limiting the number of players is fair. Let's take the Brazil/Ghana match. Ghana has some very good players, but there are definite weaknesses along their starting 11. Brazil is basically loaded top to bottom. Why should Ghana be allowed to take off a weak link, while Brazil has to remove a valuable component?

Also, you can't limit players to one side of the field or the other (like lacrosse). Certain defenders like Roberto Carlos, love to push up the wing and are a key part to their teams attack (even deadly kick takers). Or some like John Terry are some of the best finishers on set pieces and corner kickers.

The only solution I can see is allowing for a new set of subs. But even then you'd have some players that would have to stay on and would be absolutely dead.

It's not an ideal way and can leave a sour taste...but it's really the best thing they have. Anything else and I think you are compromising the spirit of the game just as much as a shoot-out. As Yuds said, if you can't decide a winner after 120 minutes of soccer...it's probably safe to assume that both teams are rather equal. Scoring a goal on 7 on 7, or limiting teams from pushing defenders up is no less random or arbitrary than a penalty shootout. In all cases, neither team was able to win the way the game was meant to be played....

P.S. This is also an issue with almost every low-scoring sport outside of baseball. The NFL/College overtime rules don't really prove one team better than the other and you simply can't keep playing without killing the players. Sports like Lacrosse, Basketball can get away with endless overtimes because so many points are scored that the probability of teams remaining tied gets exponentially less.

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Basically, I don't think limiting the number of players is fair. Let's take the Brazil/Ghana match. Ghana has some very good players, but there are definite weaknesses along their starting 11. Brazil is basically loaded top to bottom. Why should Ghana be allowed to take off a weak link, while Brazil has to remove a valuable component? ...

The only solution I can see is allowing for a new set of subs. But even then you'd have some players that would have to stay on and would be absolutely dead.

It's not an ideal way and can leave a sour taste...but it's really the best thing they have.

If I understood you correctly, what you said boils down to:

  • If the 2 teams are equal playing their best starting 11, it is unfair to resolve the game by finding out which team is better when playing their best starting 10 in an OT.
  • A better way to find out which side is best by permittiing teams to run a lot of fresh scrubs into the game.

Is that what you mean?

If so, this makes no sense to me. This would do *more* of the very thing that you didn't want Brazil doing to Ghana.

If I don't understand you correctly, which part did I get wrong?

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I'm not saying it's a bad idea or that I think it's rubbish at all, don't get me wrong. It's just that such a thing has a number of problems attached and just wouldn't ever occur in top flight soccer.

Completely agree, that's why I said make MLS the guinea pig!:D

For example, here's another problem: say you do lower it to 7 v 7. Which players come off? Every single player will want to still be on there and it's not fair to take 4 guys out of the game just like that. And what's to stop each team picking their 7 most defensive guys and just defending like crazy?

I see this as one of the advantages, not a problem. I think it brings an interesting element of strategy. What formations would you use? 3-3-1, 3-2-2, 2-3-2, 4-2-1? What combinations of players? There's a lot of room for creativity for the players and coaches. As a fan I'd be excited to watch what moves were made. As a player I would've loved to run around on such an open field.

I know the guys are in unbelievable shape but 120 minutes of football is a LONG time to be playing. I honestly think if you asked them they'd say they couldn't take anymore. I know that during the season the players complain that they play far too many games already as it is, they are not machines, and the number of games need to be cut down. I just don't think it's ever a good idea to play for longer than that.

Again you may be right, and I think it should ultimately be up to the players. Personally I loved when games went into OT and we were running on adrenaline. It really tested your mental and physical toughness.

I agree that maybe in a league like MSL it might be worth trying something like this out for fun but in top flight soccer it just will never happen. It's just not in line with the entire history of the sport and how it has always worked. I'm not saying it's bad and there's certainly alot of merit and sense in your ideas, but it's just one of those things where no matter what anyone says, they'll never agree to it. It'd be like trying to change the distance between the bases in baseball.

It's just a fun idea, 99% chance it never happens. I could see a league trying it as a promotional ploy though. A way to make their game different and potentially attract more fans. C'mon, don't tell me you wouldn't be excited to watch these guys go at it with all the open space to work with.

I would also disagree that penalties don't show heart. There is no greater hero than a keeper who saves a bunch of penalties like Ricardo yesterday or a player who puts away the decisive spot kick. It is pretty much the most intense kind of sporting pressure you can get and it takes tremendous heart to step up there and do everything you can to deliver in such a situation. One of the most amazing penalties I ever saw was Stuart Pearce who scored one in Euro 96. He had missed one of the crucial penalties that caused England to go out of Italia 90 and had a chance to redeem himself in 96. He stepped up there and fired one in the net and he turned to the crowd and screamed 'YES' with such ferocity and passion. You knew that for 6 years those demons had been eating him inside for missing that penalty and now finally he had the shot to get rid of them and did it. To me, that takes as much heart as any other part of the game.

I'm with you here. It's exciting as hell, and what Ricardo did yesterday was one of the best goalie performances I've ever seen. Just unbelievable. But its still an arbitrary way to decide a winner! I think it takes more heart to keep playing when you've got nothing left.

Finally, this whole debate reminds me of when I attended lacrosse camps trying to get recruited. In the event of a tie we did a "braveheart." Goalie and one field player for each team. Start with a faceoff and just go until somebody scored. You'd run the length of the field and then if the goalie made a save run right back. That was exciting and so much fun.

Finally Finally, all I'm really advocating is some experimentation. I could see my idea being a disaster, in which case fine ditch it. Other people probably have much better ideas. Try them too. I really just don't see a downside to attempting something new, worst thing that happens is it sucks, and you go back to what you have. There is a chance that one of these ideas prove to be better, I think that chance justifies the experimentation process.

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If I understood you correctly, what you said boils down to:
  • If the 2 teams are equal playing their best starting 11, it is unfair to resolve the game by finding out which team is better when playing their best starting 10 in an OT.
  • A better way to find out which side is best by permittiing teams to run a lot of fresh scrubs into the game.

Is that what you mean?

If so, this makes no sense to me. This would do *more* of the very thing that you didn't want Brazil doing to Ghana.

If I don't understand you correctly, which part did I get wrong?

But my point is this is relative...

Ghana might be running out fresh scrubs but to do so they'd have to take off one of their best players.

For Brazil, they can run Juninho or Adriano or Robinho, elite level players. Players that would not only start for Ghana, but would probably be their best player.

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Shack, that was a great post. Alot of stuff to think about in there. I don't know if I'll be able to do it justice in my response but I'll try.

I've been following this and watching lots of World Cup games on TV. I am not knowledgable about the game. But this tie-breaking shoot-out is just nuts. I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time here, I'm only giving my opinion so I can see where you think my opinion is reasonable and where you think it is flawed. I am not diss-ing soccer as a *sport* or trying to pooh-pooh it's widespread popularity. I am only talking about the *rules* of the sport, which I think indicate a problem. Not a problem about soccer as a sport, or about the expertise and talent required to play it well, but a problem about particular features of the *rules* of the game.

In the case at hand, fully 50% of the quarterfinal matches ended in shoot-outs. Evidently, these things do not happen frequently in normal play but their occurrence ramps up dramatically as the quality of play rises. Is this correct? Can I assume that this kind of thing is much more likely to occur when 2 really good teams play each other? If so, then I think that indicates a problem with the rules of the game. (I am not saying that they should change the game of soccer because Americans say so... I am only talking about my personal opinion about what makes a game a good properly-specified game.)

I would say that your assumption isn't on the mark here. Keep in mind that the latter stages of the world cup are a knockout tournament. The vast majority of soccer matches played are not knockout games but are done in a league format. In that kind of game, if it's tied at full time, then it's tied. End of story. Only in knockout tournaments do you eventually go to penalties. And even then, not always. In the English FA Cup, if it's tied at full time then there is a replay, which usually settles matters. If you watch a league match between two top sides you'll find that generally they are not low scoring stalemates like the ones you have seen, because as it is a league match the play is much less conservative and open.

Additionally, what you have to keep in mind is that the games you have been watching are not only knockout games, but they are knockout games in the latter stages of a major tournament. So if a side loses, they know that they have come all that way and are now out. This naturally leads to a style of play that is much more conservative and aiming to have a lower margin of error. A side will almost never go totally attacking in such a game because you just can't risk it. Better to slowly chip away at getting a goal than go all out and risk letting one in yourself and blowing the whole thing.

Think about baseball. How often do you see a game 7 in the playoffs that is a 14-5 ballgame or something along those lines? Not too often I would think, because naturally with it being the deciding game the players are more conservative as they have more to lose by being careless. Every game at this stage of the world cup is like a game 7 of the playoffs. It's just human nature to be more cautious in such a situation.

Overall, I don't think it's anymore likely that there is a deadlock when 2 top teams face each other than when 2 crap teams face each other. The most deadlocked game of the world cup so far was the Ukraine vs Switz match, and they were the 2 worst teams in the round of 16 by far.

I think one of the more amazing things about baseball is how they got the rules right. Nomatter all the changes in the game itself, the size and strength and ability of the athletes, and differences in many other factors, it is remarkable that, way-back-when (about the same time that the rules of soccer were being formalized), the old baseball guys decided to put the bases 90' apart, to put the pitching rubber 60' 6" from home plate, and to successfully specify the other parameters of the game. If any one of several things were specificied differently, the overall balance of the game would be thrown *way* out of whack. As it is, those specifications turn out to be perfect. Whoever figured the rules out just flat-out nailed it. AFAIK, there is only one bad rule in baseball (the 'Error' rule) but that one rule is irrelevant to anything about playing the game on the field and instead is just about record-keeping.

I agree with this 100% and have wondered about it myself many times. How on earth did those guys manage to just pick 60'6" and 90 feet out of the air and get it so on the money? Those distances allow a perfect balance between offense and defense. It's absolutely genius.

In baseball (and in American football and in basketball and in lacrosse) it does not happen that top-tier, equally-matched teams play each other into unbreakable ties that must be resolved by resorting to means that are arbitrary and not-representative of the game as a whole. Rather, while ties sometimes happen, they are no more or less likely to occur in top-tier competition than in ordinary competition. Furthermore, when they do occur, they are resolved without resort to extraordinary and arbitrary measures. Instead, they are resolved simply by letting the players play a bit longer. In soccer, letting the players play a bit longer does not resolve anything. So, what we have is a situation that reminds me of the trench-warfare of the first World War: the "rules of the game" create unbreakable stalemates. (No, I am not saying that WWII was "better"... although I couldn't help noticing that, had England beat Portugal, this World Cup would have had 2 Axis powers in one semifinal, 2 Allied powers in the other, with a possible replay of Dunkirk for the final ;-)

See above, I don't think it's any more likely that stalemates happen with top teams than with crap teams. Also, don't forget the world cup is THE ultimate prize in soccer. These guys are so nervous of going out because it may be their only shot. If they mess up it's 4 years til they get another go. If you watch domestic league games, even if they are cup finals, deadlocks are less likely because players know that hey, they always have another shot next year.

AFAIK, soccer has always had this same fundamental problem. Earlier, somebody told me that 3-2 matches were very common occurrences in soccer, much more-so that 1-0 shutouts. Maybe so, beats me, I don't know. But then he sent me a link to a list of all the World Cup finals ever played. As I mentioned before, I looked at it. There was nothing commonplace about 3-2 matches in that particular list, unless you think that 8 games out of 140 means "commonplace". Compare those *8* 3-2 games with *38* 1-0 games. That's 38 games in which you *better not* have to go pee or else! Of those 140 games, 80 were shutouts. And 5 of those 80 shutouts were shutouts for *both* teams (nothing like a 0-0 match to emphasize the finer points of the game, I suppose). In 47 of those 140, the loser somehow mustered a ferocious offense that managed to score a single goal. And in 49 of those games *neither* team scored more than a single goal. When the runner-up in the world championship manages 1 goal or none in 127 of 140 championship games, that's not just saying "low-scoring". That's saying that scoring is close to *impossible*.

As a result, we have *half* of the quarter-finals resolved by these idiotic shoot-outs, and I think that's just nuts. If you take that idea and map it into baseball here's what you'd have: A tie game continues into extra-innings until you play the 12th inning. Once you play 12, you stop the normal game and instead have a little session of Home Run Derby. The particulars of Home Run Derby are that you get the 3 or 4 or 5 hitters from each team who hit with the most power, and you have some batting-practice pitcher throw X pitches to each such hitter. Whichever team's hitters hit the most pitches into the seats wins the game and proceeds towards the championship. If they did this in baseball, and if *half* of the league-championship series games used this to decide who goes on towards the World Series, there would be riots in the streets. Of course in baseball, they wouldn't need to do this. In baseball, most tie games are resolved on the playing field before the end of 12. And the very few that aren't resolved by the 12th get resolved in the 13th. Or the 14th. Or in as many innings as it takes. But that almost-never happens.

Again, you are generalising to all of soccer from what you are seeing in world cup finals. It's like generalising everything about baseball based on past results of world series game 7s. As explained above, by nature they are conservative games because so much is at stake. Scoring is certainly not impossible, it's just that every player on the pitch is focused on not slipping up for that game so it makes it a different kind of atmosphere from just about any other game of soccer you'll ever see.

The analogy to baseball also doesn't work. With baseball, half the time you're either sitting on the bench or standing around doing nothing. I'm not saying that it's not physically tough because I know it is, but it just doesn't compare to running around for 90 minutes covering about 7 miles a game. It's easy to keep on playing baseball for hours and hours because you're not exactly exhausting your stamina doing so. Soccer can only be played for so long.

But it sure does in soccer. Often, matches at the top level of competition end up like trench warfare all over again. That is prime facie evidence of there being *some* flaw in the rules. I don't expect that soccer fans agree with me. I don't expect they will change the rules to fix this. The most I hope for is that they can come up with something better than these stupid shoot-outs to resolve the stalemates. Here's my best suggestion for how to do that: play 15 minutes overtime periods. Play as many such periods as required to break the tie. After the first such period (which is played by both teams at full strength), each subsequent OT period is played with each team losing one player from the field. The teams get to pick who plays, but the number of players that are permitted on the field gets reduced by 1 for each team, with the reductions increasing by 1 for each additional OT period. I expect this would open up the field, open up the action, and permit the players to get things settled properly, just by playing the game. The only time you'd have a "shoot-out" is when you played enough OT's that each team had only 2 guys left, and it would never get that far. (There may be far better ideas. That's just the best one I can think of.)

I'm sure you know already that there are 2 OT periods played at the end of a knockout game of soccer if it's a draw after 90 minutes. Each of these is 15 minutes long. So your basic idea is already in place. But like I said before, you can only go on playing for so long. Taking one player off etc is a nice idea but it just wouldn't work. It would mean that the remaining guys have to cover even more ground and they would just be too fatigued to do anything. My guess is that rather than ending up with an open free flowing game, you'd end up with a bunch of guys that were so tired that they would barely be running and would just be slowly passing the ball backwards and forwards to each other trying to make something happen.

Such an idea is interesting but I just don't think that it would ever be feasible for the human body to be able to withstand playing like that.

As for the underlying problem, I suspect it's mostly because there are just too many people on the field. Simply reduce the number of players on the field by one guy for each team, I'd bet that would pretty much fix it. Or, you could approximate what they do in lacrosse. In lacrosse they do this by specifying that each team must alwasy have at least X-guys on the offense-side of the field and Y-guys on the defense side of the field. This prevents the kind of thing that normally happens in soccer where you have the equivalnet of the entire population of a small town cluttering up things in front of the goal. I know that will never happen, but still...

I don't think the number of players has anything to do with it really. Like the 60'6" and 90 feet in baseball, it is one of those rules where the original creators got it spot on right from the start in my opinion. I think it allows just the perfect balance between teamwork and space for individuals to shine. As for requiring x number of players to be on defense or offense, that's just anathema to everything about how soccer works. The whole great thing about soccer is that you can play as many guys as you like in any positions. There have been teams in the past like the Tottenham of the early 90s managed by Ozzie Ardiles who used to play 6 (!) forwards and barely any defense. The average score in their games was about 4-3 which was exciting but it didn't win them enough games so he got canned. Other teams, such as the Arsenal of the early 90s did exactly the opposite, playing with a rock solid defense and using the long ball tactic to hoof the ball up the field, score, and then shut up shop for the rest of the game. It wasn't pretty, but it won them alot of trophies. And that's the whole great thing about soccer. All these different systems are available and can change the whole personality of the team. A team like Brazil just will never be a defensive side no matter how much you try and force them to be. A team like Italy, on the other hand, will always be defensive minded. Both have very different styles yet both manage to win alot of games. And that's what's so great and makes managing such an art in soccer. Using the right formations and the right players can make even a small team successful, as Greece were in the last European Championships. Each team needs to figure out on their own the magic formula for success because there is no template there and it's all up to them. Change that and you take away all that is magic about soccer.

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I see this as one of the advantages, not a problem. I think it brings an interesting element of strategy. What formations would you use? 3-3-1, 3-2-2, 2-3-2, 4-2-1? What combinations of players? There's a lot of room for creativity for the players and coaches. As a fan I'd be excited to watch what moves were made. As a player I would've loved to run around on such an open field.

Again you may be right, and I think it should ultimately be up to the players. Personally I loved when games went into OT and we were running on adrenaline. It really tested your mental and physical toughness.

It's just a fun idea, 99% chance it never happens. I could see a league trying it as a promotional ploy though. A way to make their game different and potentially attract more fans. C'mon, don't tell me you wouldn't be excited to watch these guys go at it with all the open space to work with.

You bet your ass I'd be excited to watch it! I think that for rec games or a bit of extra fun it's a great idea, but you just can't do that a top level. Otherwise of course it makes alot of sense as a fun and exciting match to take it further.

One other thing you have to remember, you guys keep saying 'to attract more fans'....soccer is the most popular sport in the world and outside of the US most people find it exciting enough. I can understand why in American culture it needs a bit of spicing up but for 99% of the people out there, they're happy with it as it is, and you can't change a whole sport for one country, even if it is the best country in the world. :)

I'm with you here. It's exciting as hell, and what Ricardo did yesterday was one of the best goalie performances I've ever seen. Just unbelievable. But its still an arbitrary way to decide a winner! I think it takes more heart to keep playing when you've got nothing left.

Finally, this whole debate reminds me of when I attended lacrosse camps trying to get recruited. In the event of a tie we did a "braveheart." Goalie and one field player for each team. Start with a faceoff and just go until somebody scored. You'd run the length of the field and then if the goalie made a save run right back. That was exciting and so much fun.

Oh, sure it's arbitrary. But sometimes in life that's just the only way to go to decide something when there's no other way around it. I don't think anyone would tell you that penalties were anything other than arbitrary, but they'd also say that at that point, arbitrary was the only way to get past the deadlock. Apparently, England practiced penalties all the time in their training camp and yet still couldn't put them away when it counted. So that shows you how much luck it is.

Finally Finally, all I'm really advocating is some experimentation. I could see my idea being a disaster, in which case fine ditch it. Other people probably have much better ideas. Try them too. I really just don't see a downside to attempting something new, worst thing that happens is it sucks, and you go back to what you have. There is a chance that one of these ideas prove to be better, I think that chance justifies the experimentation process.

The downside is that you're messing with 100 years of much-loved tradition around the world. Good idea or not, people very rarely are inclined to mess with something like that.

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Try this analogy, not perfect but it illustrates my point...

Let's say I organized a Foreign vs American basketball game, with 3 subs:

Foreign:

PG- Steve Nash

SG- Manu Ginobili

SF- Dirk Nowitzki

PF- Pau Gasol

C- Yao Ming

Andres Nocioni

Tony Parker

Boris Diaw

USA:

PG- LeBron James

SG- Dywane Wade

SF- Kobe Bryant

PF- Tim Duncan

C- Shaquille O'Neal

Elton Brand

Vince Carter

Carmelo Anthony

Despite recent debacles, I think we can both agree that the Americans will likely win this game but it will be close. Keep in mind, that it's soccer rules so once you are subbed out you're done.

Let's say each team uses it's 3 subs through the 4th quater and they're all tied up, leaving:

Foreign:

PG-Tony Parker

SG- Andres Nocioni

SF- Boris Diaw

PF- Dirk Nowitzki

C- Yao Ming

USA:

PG- LeBron James

SG- Vince Carter

SF- Carmelo Anthony

PF- Elton Brand

C- Tim Duncan

Now, these players are probably exhausted...but the teams are relatively competitive, remain tied and they are forced to take off one player after the first OT.

Parker, Diaw, Nocioni, Nowitzki vs James, Carter, Anthony, Brand.

IMO, this is a hug benefit to the foreign team because not only can they take off an exhausted Yao, but they also get to take off Duncan and level the playing field. There's more room for their shooters...etc.

Now, let's say we do it my way, and allow them to have 2 more subs.

The foreign team has to choose between letting an exhausted 5 on the floor or sending in the likes of Nenad Kristic or Darko Milicic or Nene Hilario.

The US team, however, can replace their tired players with Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Garnett...

.....

Basically, by taking off a player and disallowing more subs. The European team has a much greater chance of winning the game. But I don't think this means they are better. On the other hand, the US team can show just how deep they are by bringing in a fresh, elite superstar to finish the game off. They're being rewarded for their depth, not penalized for it.

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You bet your ass I'd be excited to watch it! I think that for rec games or a bit of extra fun it's a great idea, but you just can't do that a top level. Otherwise of course it makes alot of sense as a fun and exciting match to take it further.

One other thing you have to remember, you guys keep saying 'to attract more fans'....soccer is the most popular sport in the world and outside of the US most people find it exciting enough. I can understand why in American culture it needs a bit of spicing up but for 99% of the people out there, they're happy with it as it is, and you can't change a whole sport for one country, even if it is the best country in the world. :)

The downside is that you're messing with 100 years of much-loved tradition around the world. Good idea or not, people very rarely are inclined to mess with something like that.

Yuds I'm tellin ya, that's why we implement my stupid ideas on the MLS. Where the competition is not top level. Where soccer is not the most popular sport, or even close to it in the country, and where there's no tradition to ruin! Stupid Americans will eat it up!

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Yuds I'm tellin ya, that's why we implement my stupid ideas on the MLS. Where the competition is not top level. Where soccer is not the most popular sport, or even close to it in the country, and where there's no tradition to ruin! Stupid Americans will eat it up!

Haha, alright here's the deal then....

You convince the MLS to implement it and I'll back you up. How's that for you? :D

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