Prior to the World Cup, there was widespread concern that chaos from strikers and protesters would negatively affect the event. It turns out chaos reigns more inside than outside of the stadiums.
After four days worth of games, including Friday’s 5-1 thrashing of defending World Cup Champion Spain by Holland, the conservative ball possession style made so successful and popular by the Spanish squad four years ago clearly has been abandoned for a more aggressive, offensive-oriented style.
Just four years ago, Spain served as the model for the rest of the world’s teams. Every team envied and many tried to emulate Spain’s dominating style of ball control. There skill and style created a 90-minute game of keep away whereby opponents refrained from taking risks. With its talented midfield, the Spanish team controlled the ball 70 percent or more of the time. However, most of this possession happened well outside their opponent’s goal and the Spanish team only attacked the goal when it saw a high-probability opportunity. Soccer enthusiasts marveled at their focus on possession and ability to control the game but this led to few scoring opportunities–for Spain, or their opponents
In the last four years, whether the result of an aging Spanish team or its opponent’s loss of patience, teams began to challenge Spain’s keep away strategy. This opens up the game. The premium on possession soccer has been deemphasized by not only Spain but everyone else as well. The fear to pressure the control style diminished as the world figured out that an aggressive pressure style can lead to success.
This year’s World Cup sees more goals, more shots, and more excitement as teams push forward. With this push there have been more deflections for goals and own goals (kicking the ball accidently in your own goal) as chaos has ensued from the pressure. Not only has the pressure created mayhem for defenses but it has created confusion for referees which has led to more controversial calls around the goal. This controversy has only intensified the excitement and interest in the World Cup.
Lack of goals has always been a knock against soccer in the United States. But it is not the lack of goals but the lack of scoring chances that has turned away many Americans. By comparison, Friday night’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and the Rangers played as a fan’s dream. The television ratings scored despite almost fifty minutes of a scoreless third period and overtime. Both teams traveled up and down the ice throwing the puck and their bodies in front of the net hoping for a goal. Fans (old and new) glued to the TV with increase excitement with each near miss. The pressure play in the World Cup creates interest among casual fans in a similar way.
The US team competes in a brutal bracket. But they play an aggressive of style of soccer that pleases the crowd. Later today, when the US team plays Ghana at 6 p.m. Eastern, American fans find out if the exciting style also plays as a winning style.