Jon Reed Goes Off On... June 2006
Wednesday, June, 21 2006
FIFA World Cup Ratings Fizzle With Coke
Picking on FIFA's World Cup ranking system is bad sport, but it sure is fun to pile on sometimes. Going into the World Cup, FIFA had the U.S. team ranked fifth in the world. Those without a financial stake in U.S. soccer understood that the U.S. was no better than fourth in their own four team group. FIFA, as it turns out, is sponsored by Coke, and far be it from me to imply that FIFA pumped up the U.S. team in order to make Coke's marketing job easier, but I'm not the first to cast that particular stone. As DJ Colin Cowherd said, our U.S. soccer team is full of "lunchables" and "mini-me's," basically the most talented athletes in America who are five foot eight and under. The first goal the Czech Republic scored on the American team reminded me of tetherball in elementary school, playing against the tall kids who would casually reach up and swat the ball where they wanted, or in this case, head the ball in the net. The U.S. team rebounded from their early loss to play their undermanned hearts out against Italy. It's just a shame that if they don't advance by beating Ghana that they will be considered failures. Beyond the fizzy Coke hype, the U.S. team had its work cut out for them in a really tough draw. As for those who are impatient for the U.S. to rise to the elite level of Germany or Brazil, pull up a chair and start reviewing retirement brochures. By the time you're riding through a gated community on a large tricycle, it's possible the U.S. team will compete at that level - or maybe not. I'm with Cowherd on this one - we're never going to win the World Cup unless soccer becomes the most popular (and lucrative) sport in America. Until that point, basketball and football will continue to snap up the best athletes, and we'll watch Lebron James and Michael Vick do their thing while our lunchable guys strain for head balls with gigantic Europeans towering over them. Soccer has always been a short man's game, but you still need some height and athleticism - not to mention obsessive dedication - to compete at the World Cup level. Far from being underachievers, our American teams are doing about as well as we should expect - though we do have a right to expect a grittier effort than we saw against the Czechs. FIFA could do their part by setting the proper expectation level and lowering U.S. in the rankings to fifteen or so - and that's on a good day.