Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Group Stage is Over, So Now the Real World Cup Can Begin…

That headline makes it sound like I hated the group stages. I did’t. I enjoyed the group stages. They were an enjoyable way to whittle the World Cup down from 32 to 16 teams, and there was plenty of fun along the way. But we all know the knockout rounds are better. For all kinds of reasons.
Chief of which is the fact that from here on out every single game matters. Every game will have a winner and a loser. Winner goes forward, loser goes home. No draws.
For the very uninitiated, any game that’s tied after 90 minutes in the knockout rounds of the World Cup goes to extra time. The teams play an extra 30 exhausted minutes, where players on their last legs are equally capable of producing horrible lapses in concentration and breathtaking moments of glory. Both of which will be remembered forever.
If there’s still no winner after 120 minutes, it’s a penalty shootout. The horrible drama of a penalty shootout, which is not only guaranteed to produce a winner, it also guarantees that one player from the losing team will be singled out to take the blame. Harsh. But great viewing. Enjoy.

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