Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Soccer--A Bit Baffling

Any soccer fans out there? Perhaps you can answer a question. I've been recording some Champions League matches the last couple of days for a young footballer that I know from church, and have been watching the games myself while I've been at it. As with most sports that don't involve people beating each other senseless, I generally enjoy soccer, although I don't watch it much. I didn't grow up on the sport, and find myself with enough questions as I watch to find it sometimes frustrating, and much to my disappointment, the TV announcers don't spontaneously answer those questions--a ridiculous and inexcusable oversight, if you ask me. (Truth is, my questions are so basic that any announcer spending his time addressing them would be driven off the airwaves by all the massively bored soccer fans who actually understand the sport already and are looking for more substantive commentary.) My husband, who doesn't usually have much patience for watching sports on TV, watched several World Cup matches with me two years ago, which was fun, since we had the opportunity to be confused together. If you're going to be confused, it's much better to do it with company. We did learn a lot during that World Cup, mostly about yellow cards, or at least we think we did, but since we were explaining things to each other, it was pretty much the blind leading the blind.

It's an interesting sport, once you get past the basketball-and-American-football-induced desire to see actual scoring--which brings me to what's baffling me this time around. I understand that soccer is not a high-scoring sport, I have watched enough of it to know at least this much, but the match I'm watching right now is a European Championship semi-final, and--if I heard this right--one of the teams vying for the right to move on to the championship game hasn't scored in their last eight match-ups!! How does that work?! How did they manage to get this far without scoring at all? Is it really just that this team is so outstanding defensively that no one else scored either, and they moved on by virtue of superior league record or something, or is there something else I'm not getting? Basketball teams that don't ever score don't reach semi-finals. There must be more to it than there seems to be. Or, maybe not. If you are an Internet-surfing soccer aficionado, perhaps wandering by because the word "soccer" appeared in the blog post title, take pity on my ignorance, please, and explain a few of the deep soccer mysteries which puzzle the uninitiated.

If you're ever in Portland. my husband and I will take you to Kells and buy you a pint in reward.

Update: The team with the scoring drought just got the ball into the net. tying the game. Their fans are on cloud nine. When points are that few and far between, their occurrence is momentous indeed. Of course, if you can win without them...

Update II: Turned out to be quite a fun game, with overtime goals determining the winner. This further exacerbates my confusion about how a team with no scores advances to the semi-final. Were there no overtimes in the matches leading up to the semi-final? Do overtimes and penalty kicks only enter into the equation further into a tournament? How does this work?!

Update III: An apparently shy person sent me an email rather than leaving a comment, but shyness is to no avail--I'm posting it anyway!! (I got permission):

OK. You missed some stuff in your blog post about the game. The graphic they presented regarding Liverpool was that they hadn't scored in 8 games played at Stamford Bridge, which is Chelsea's home pitch. Liverpool have scored very well recently, and also have a good defense. They were unfortunate to lose, and should have won the home game last week. This was the 2nd game of a home and away. The first game was 1-1. Liverpool scored and would have won if not for a last second own-goal in the dying minutes of injury time. Heartbreaking. But soccer often is.

This makes much more sense, and I'm feeling rather silly, but I often am rather silly, so I'm quite comfortable with that. I think the problem was that I didn't actually see the graphic. I heard them talking while I attended something else. I don't think the game had started yet, and who sits and watches the talking heads? (Although, if I'd known there would be explanatory graphics I might have paid more attention!)