Saturday, July 01, 2006
Western Europe's World Cup
Thierry Henry nets the game winner for France/AP
Four short years after Soccer proved to be more of worldwide game than many Europeans would give credit for, thanks to the Quarterfinal runs of Senegal and USA as well as the semifinal appearances of Turkey and South Korea, the football world has been turned back right side up. This World Cup, every nation that has reached the semifinals is a Western European nation, and suprisingly both England and Holland were not among the final four. Winning matches on European soil if you are not a European nation continues to be elusive. For all the hopes of other nations and some guilty fans in western Europe, this was not the World Cup for the breakthrough of a developing football nation be it an African power (such as Ghana or the Ivory Coast both of whom seemed to have boatloads of talent), the United States (whose disgraceful performance has been much discussed on this website) or South Korea. A World Cup on European soil is once again a European Championship two years early.
These European sides are different though incorporating the best of world football in their teams. Portugal has an unmistakable Brazilian influence, Germany has two African born players as well a manager who takes his knowledge of American sports and implements them on his squad, and France has far more black players than white players, as well as an attacking philosophy that bears little resemblance to the great French teams prior to the 1990s. France's team also incorporates the influence of its neighbors since France's top players make a living all over the continent in different leagues. National teams in so many ways are no longer simply products of the domestic environment.
But as has been the case so many times in the games history, Europe is impregnable as a force in the World Cup. The best of the game worldwide gravitate to play in Europe not just for the money but also for the experience. Germany 2006 has reinforced the European dominace of international football and has made a loud statement to aspiring nations, such as our own United States that our time has not yet come.