Wednesday, July 01, 2009

a few thoughts on the confederations cup, part four (and the end): New Zealand and Iraq

And now we come to the two teams I saw the least of in this tournament. (It was a scheduling issue, not deliberate avoidance!)

New Zealand. You know, as a sometime-supporter of the US team and an always-supporter of the Portland Timbers, I have an inkling of what it felt like to be a New Zealand fan in this tournament. These guys' reward for winning the OFC Cup (Oceanic Football Confederation) was to be sent to South Africa, where they were pummelled by Spain (5-0), kicked for good measure by South Africa (2-0), and hung on screaming by their fingernails for their most respectable showing against Iraq (0-0). They never looked like a strong squad, and aren't terribly likely to turn up in the World Cup given the difficulties of qualifying from Oceania (the generous .5 spot for a team from the region means a 3rd place Asian team must be beaten to make it in), although they did make it in back in 1982, and stranger things have happened.

Iraq. You always want Iraq to do well because, well, it just sorta seems like the average Iraqi soccer fan has enough angst in their life these days without the footie sucking as well, you know? And their success story at the 2007 Asian Cup won everyone's hearts, unless you possessed one of Grinch-sized proportions. But the team has some strikes against it, not the least of which is their inability to play home games on their own soil. They're already out of the running for next year's World Cup, having fallen third place to Australia and Qatar in an earlier group round. And like New Zealand, they exited the Confederations Cup without having scored a single goal. Serbian manager Bora Milutinović, who actually coached the US in the 1994 World Cup, has been there less than three months. If he sticks around perhaps he'll be able to shape them up a bit for 2014.

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