5 Things to Know About Soccer to Trick People Into Thinking You Know Something About Soccer
The pace of the match is too slow. A nil nil match can sometimes be considered a terrific result. Players dive better than Olympic swimmers. Bunch of pansies if you ask me.
It’s the least watched major sport in the United States and sure, criticisms abound, but one thing is indisputable. Soccer is the world’s game. Just ask the Brits and Germans who emerged from the trenches on Christmas Day 1914 for some footy free of bullets and bayonets, or the warring factions in the Ivory Coast, who upon the request of ex-Chelsea forward Didier Drogba following World Cup qualification, laid down their arms, ending a five-year civil war that had crippled the African nation.
Yet, explaining the nuance to the sports fan seems more important than the history itself, so without further ado, a quick guide to tricking people into thinking you know something about soccer:
Everyone hates a cherry picker, especially defenders. For this reason a referee runs up and down the sideline, parallel with the last defender. If an attacking player passes to an attacker who has any part of his body past the last defender, the attacker is offside and the referee’s flag goes up, nullifying the play. This is the most criticized role in soccer. Do not ever aspire to be a line ref if you care for the well-being of your family.
The most nerve-wracking phase of any elimination match, penalties are hands down the most unfair conclusion to any soccer match. Heroes are whittled down to mere plebeians with average feet and goal keepers often look like bystanders in a flurry of goals they statistically have very little chance of stopping. A few friends of mine must cover their eyes, leave the room or change the channel from stress.
Also known as a deadball. A set piece is given following a foul on an attacking player or a player puts the ball out on their own goal line. With calm and poise, a deadball expert can either cross the ball into the area for a teammate, or curl it over a wall of defenders and into the net. Impossible to score from a corner kick, you say? Just ask David Beckham.
Why dive? Sure, there’s nothing more putrid in sports than theatrics but put yourself in a soccer player’s cleats for a second. Your referee is incompetent and defenders are hacking away at you. An NFL coach can simply challenge a call, while a soccer coach risks ejection. An official is typically within 10 yards of a player in the NFL while a soccer ref can be up to 30 yards away. Solution? Make the ref see your hacker’s mistake—an extra roll here, clutching an unrelated part of your leg there can be the difference between a set piece and a squandered run at goal.
Aggregates, draws and ties
Home-field advantage is huge. So knockout rounds in all FIFA-sanctioned tournaments are settled with ties—two-match encounters played home and away with the sum of goals deciding who goes through. If the aggregate score remains tied after both fixtures, the victory goes to whoever scored more in its opponent’s stadium. It’s like winning a kissing contest with visible cold sores.
Not to be confused with ties, draws occur after 90 minutes of regulation time. Because soccer is just naturally so low scoring, it doesn’t make sense to subject the players, who already run a 10k per game on average, to continue to battle it out. If aggregates and the away goals rule can’t decide a victor, two 15-minute halves are played. If the poor lads end the 30 minutes of added time still tied, more drastic measure must be taken.