THE 2006 WORLD
CUP had its glorious moments-- Italy's heart-stopping defeat of Germany in the
semis, a 24-pass wonder goal by Argentina against Serbia & Montenegro,
Fabio Cannavaro's brilliance in the final (page 48)--but there was room for
improvement in the on-field product. Never had more yellow and red cards been
issued in a World Cup, and scoring dropped to an alarming 2.23 goals per game,
barely more than the record-low 2.21 in 1990. "The football isn't bad,"
lamented FIFA president Sepp Blatter, "but there aren't enough
What should FIFA
change when South Africa hosts the next Cup, in 2010? Here are SI's
CAST WIDER NETS
This might be heresy to purists, but some of the sport's staunchest advocates
(like U.S. Hall of Famer Alexi Lalas) back the idea. Superathletic goalies like
Italy's 6'2" Gianluigi Buffon can cover far more ground than their
20th-century predecessors, and goals that are taller and/or wider could give
the game back to the attackers. There's no reason not to test bigger goals in a
domestic league--like, say, MLS.
GO TO THE
VIDEOTAPE One of the turnoffs of this World Cup was the rampant diving by
players looking to draw whistles. Refs are permitted to yellow-card a
"simulation" but are reluctant to make such difficult split-second
calls. That's where video replay can help. If FIFA is serious about cutting
down on theatrics that slow the action and make players look like fools, it
should conduct postgame video reviews and penalize floppers with after-the-fact
fines or yellow cards.
NEED TO SEED FIFA only seeded the top eight teams, which made some groups
infinitely more difficult than others. (While the unseeded U.S. opened against
the Czech Republic and Italy, its seeded rival, Mexico, met lightweights Iran
and Angola.) The luck of the draw has far too much impact on the World Cup.
It's time for FIFA to take a page from the NCAA tournament and seed all 32
teams, preferably with help from an improved ranking system.
CUT THE CARDS
Blatter harmed this Cup more than anyone with a pretournament edict requiring
yellow cards for several misdemeanor offenses. The result: card-happy refs
during the tournament's early weeks who caused stars to miss matches for silly
reasons. After Blatter backtracked, referees used common sense, and (surprise!)
their work improved. In 2010 Sepp needs to stick a sock in it. It wouldn't hurt
to increase the number of accumulated yellow cards needed to earn a suspension,
from two to three or even four.