World Cup Expectations Too High!
Simon Kuper takes to the FT to argue that European teams should lower their expectations for the World Cup. The essay starts with several paragraphs of psychobabble about the pressure of fans demanding too much — hey, that’s Big Time Sports — before finally arriving at a point:
[W]estern Europe has just 5 per cent of the world’s population, yet from 1966 to 2006 it won a majority of World Cups.
But as this column has argued ad nauseam, the rest of the world is catching up. Bob Bradley, the American coach, is always sniffing around Barcelona and Milan. Switzerland, never previously much interested in football, in the 1990s aped the French system of performance centres for kids. Now they can bore Spain into submission. Algeria’s players have learnt dull western European tactics playing at middling western European clubs.
The same has been true of basketball, where Team USA can no longer simply show up and expect to dominate. Since the Original Dream Team made a mockery of the rest of the field in 1992, the rest of the world has made great strides in catching up.