Sepp Blatter has given football fans all over the world another reason to rub their foreheads in befuddlement, once again. In an attempt to eradicate negative tactics from football, the seemingly increasingly incompetent head of FIFA has announced that football’s governing body is considering bringing back the ‘golden goal.’
The decision to reconsider the games’ playing format comes after the 2010 world cup failed to produce a lot of goals. In fact, the group stage tallied the least amount of goals ever in a world cup. Blatter blames the defensive strategies used by the coaches, who overwhelmingly lined up their teams with only one striker (all four semifinalists resorted to a strategy that employed two holding midfielders).
Finding a solution for ‘negative football’ could prove very difficult. In part because negative tactics are probably not the sole reason for the decline in goals. Football today is a lot different from football twenty years ago. Teams that used to be pushovers then, can now cause problems for traditional powerhouses. Even teams that were regularly thrashed in double figures have found ways to reduce the number of goals they concede. For example, Andorra and Lichtenstein, two teams that were routinely thumped by their opponents are now proving to be far tougher. In their last European cup qualification matches, Andorra only lost to Ireland 3-1, and Lichtenstein suffered the narrowest of defeats against Scotland, in Scotland. Ireland and Scotland are certainly not football powerhouses, but the gulf between them and their respective opponents is enormous. One can argue the reasons behind the closing of the gap between good and bad teams, but one can’t argue that there is more parity in the game today than ever before.Although one can’t criticize Blatter’s push for more positive football (positive being a euphemism for more goals), resorting to an already failed experiment as a potential remedy is senseless and reeks of desperation. Introduced by FIFA in 1993 to correct the same issue, the ‘golden goal’ quickly proved to have the opposite effect. In the 1996 and 2000 European cups, as well as the 1998 world cup, teams that went into what was then referred to as ‘sudden death’ resorted to more defensive tactics in order to avoid surrendering a fatal goal. The cagey 96 final between Germany and Czech republic was the first major tournament decided by the rule, after Petr Kouba mishandled Oliver Bierhoff’s weak shot. The European cup in 2000 also included a dismal final that was decided by a David Trezeguet ‘golden’ goal, but only after the French beat Portugal in the semis with a controversial penalty shot converted by Zinedine Zidane. Which brought about another problem: what was to be done about refereeing decisions that would prove so decisive? The rule was abolished in 2004 after FIFA received a tremendous amount of criticism.
One thing is for sure: Sepp Blatter is once again focusing on the game’s trifles instead of the things that do need correction. Like video replay. Or have we forgotten about that already?