Sports this time of year are generally pretty boring. The NBA playoffs are over, the novelty of baseball returning has officially worn off, and thoughts of linemen and tailbacks dancing in my head are still at least a month away. Golf and tennis usually provide us sports fans with some interim entertainment but the US Open was a rainy affair (to say the least) with no big push from Tiger, and sure the French Open saw Federer win his 14th Grand Slam title but it's not like he beat Rafa or anything. Thankfully, the FIFA Confederations Cup has kept me going the past 2 weeks.
Now, I haven't been a soccer fan for very long, but, since the '06 World Cup, it's quickly risen to become one of my favorite sports. As any real patriot should, I watched all the United States' matches in the Confederations Cup, and here are the 5 biggest things I took away from the last couple of days...
1) South Africa is definitely ready to host the 2010 World Cup. After a lot of setbacks, including reports of FIFA searching for an alternate host country and a lot of arguing about funding, it seems as if everything has gone according to plan for the host nation. The stadiums looked great and the fans were insane. Sure, those horns were kind of annoying during all the telecasts, but at least it shows that these people are out there having a good time and are ready and willing to display their culture on one of the world's biggest stages in a year's time. Not too long ago, FIFA retracted their ruling that the Cup would rotate every 4 years among each of the 6 Confederations, which I thought was a terrible move. These kinds of events put countries on the major world stage and bring money and life to areas of the world that many people would not otherwise visit. If they, and Brazil in 2014, can pull it off without any hitches it will be a great victory for developing nations when it comes to hosting major sporting events. June 11, 2010 cannot come soon enough.
2) The United States has a long way to go. Players were sent off in 4 of 5 games played. Once we were up we passed and cleared the ball very sloppily, nearly costing us the game against Spain and finally aiding Brazil in their win. Compared to the top-level teams we faced (Italy, Spain, Brazil twice), our conditioning was poor. All things we need to work on. However...
3) ...we will contend in the 2010 World Cup. After 2 very sub-par games, the team dug deep and bounced back in a big way when they needed to. They played as hard as they could and they played with great chemistry. With a lot of young talent and a few guys coming back from injury the future, both immediate and long-term, bodes well for both players and fans.
4) Landon Donovan should be the captain for our World Cup campaign. The bottom line is: as he goes, the team goes. He's fast, knowledgeable, and a great veteran presence on the team. Despite only 2 goals to his name in the Confed Cup, his play in key moments was outstanding.
4) Tim Howard must be mentioned in every conversation about the best goalkeepers in the world right now. If you watched him play, you can't argue otherwise. Period.