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It Seems To Me. . .

Despite high marks, World Cup 2014 exposed areas that need improvement.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, July 16, 2014) -- At every World Cup, incidents occur during the tournament that should be viewed by world governing body FIFA as potential learning experiences. They should serve as the basis for changes in rules and regulations for the future.

World Cup 2014 in Brazil was no different and here are some changes I believe should occur.

The most obvious is also the most difficult -- what to do about penalty-kicks shootouts to determine the winner after a match remains deadlocked following a half hour of extra time.

It seems like everyone hates it, players, coaches and fans, but few have been able to come up with any suggestion as to how to change the current process. FIFA is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Its medical committee insists players cannot go longer than 120 minutes, something that was obvious during this year's tournament.

FIFA has fiddled with the extra-time period over the years, instituting changes that included determining the winner by golden goal or playing only 15 extra minutes. Players and coaches revolted against both, saying that sudden-death allowed matches to end on fluke goals and 15 minutes is just not long enough.

In some domestic competitions, the rule is that if a match remains drawn after 120 minutes, the result is voided and a replay is called for. (In some countries, the venue is changed to that of the visiting team in the drawn contest.) Obviously, in a rigidly configured competition such as the World Cup, this is impossible.

One very modest suggestion is to allow an additional substitution -- or two -- during the two extra periods. That would bring in fresh legs and might spice things up a bit. To go one step further, another suggestion is to treat the overtime as a separate 30-minute match and allow players who have been substituted for to come back and play 30 new minutes, allowing perhaps one additional substitute.

An easier rule to change at the World Cup is to wipe out accumulated yellow cards (or allow additional yellow cards) before a player is suspended. To limit a player to two yellows over five or six matches is unnecessarily sending star players to the bench for important games.

Another change would be to use head-to-head matchups instead of goal differential as the first tie-breaker in group play. Goal differential came about in an attempt to encourage goals and offensive play. But it is hard to justify if Team A beats Team B, but Team B advances because (for instance) it beat Team C by more goals.

Another change that has to be made, world-wide television revenue be dammed, is that both semifinals need to be played on the same day. To automatically give one semifinal winner the advantage of an extra day's rest, is unfair.

Refereeing is always an issue at World Cups. One way to get better officiating is to take politics out of the equation. Instead of selecting one officiating team from each confederation, choose the best six or eight teams worldwide regardless of country of origin. This will undoubtedly start arguments, but might result in better officiating.

Even with the geographical method of choosing officials, some way should be found to even out the officiating. In one contest, there might be 50 or more fouls called and two yellow cards awarded, while in another, there might be 30 fouls called and six cards shown.

Diving? What to do? At the very least, if a player goes down in the penalty area, either a penalty kick should be awarded or a yellow card for diving should be issued. In a minority of cases, it might simply be chalked up to incidental contact -- play on -- but when a player goes down and rolls around and screams for a penalty, the referee should not simply ignore the play, but call a penalty or caution a dive.

One can also talk about ways to make the eight groups more even and fairer. No more "Groups of death." However, that would result in making them less random and already there are charges of manipulation. One way might be to not use the FIFA rankings as the basis for the eight seeded teams. Perhaps a committee could pick the eight.

FIFA made a start at listening to its critics this time around by finally implementing goal-line technology to end arguments about whether balls crossed the goal-line or not. It would be nice to think about ways technology could be used to improve the accuracy of various key calls in a match, but it would not be possible to do this and not the flow of a game is hard.

Getting FIFA to move on any rule change is difficult. A glacial pace is always its answer, but one can hope that some changes will result from Brazil 2014.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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