Since I play goalkeeper in an indoor league, I find myself rooting for the keepers. I was particularly excited when the Portugese keeper found his way to the French penalty area for a corner kick in the final minute of the semi.
Like “football in the groin”, “France losing” falls into the “never gets old” category.
I have envisioned my ultimate career ending like Zidane’s did, head down in shame after getting fed up with a cheating D hack and letting him have it. That would suck.
The "problem" with soccer isn't that the refs suck or that the players cheat, it's that the system causes the refs to have too much importance and provides huge incentives for the players to dive in hopes of getting a call. I couldn’t find the stats in a minute of googling, but I’d estimate that 1/3 of the World Cup goals came on penalty kicks, 1/3 on corners and direct free kicks, and only 1/3 on what most people (including diehard fans) think of as soccer, the free-flow attack and counterattack. (I don’t really mind the corner kicks much, since it seems that they are almost entirely earned by good play, and the conversion rate is low enough that you would not waste a decent scoring opportunity just to get a corner kick, whereas you might take a dive for a foul call rather than continuing to play the ball.)
It seems that a player has a better chance of scoring by drawing a foul call than by beating the defenders, and the number of goals in a game is small enough that every goal opportunity can be the gamewinner. It is said that ultimate players are more likely to make questionable or petty calls when the going gets tough. Economically speaking, this makes sense. At 0-0, a goal is only about 3-4% of the remaining scoring for the game, so a bad call then might change a team’s winning percentage from 50% to 53%, and who wants to risk their integrity for that little, especially when the other team can then make up for it with their own bad calls? At 14-14, game to 15, it’s a game to 1, and having possession might change your probability of winning from 25% to 75%, with no chance for rebuttal. In essence, every minute of a soccer game is double game point.
Changes to increase scoring from this year’s 2 goals per game (for both teams combined) to 3 or 4 would still retain the feeling that goals are stingy but not so much that a team plays conservatively with a 1-0 lead after 10 minutes. The obvious solutions (change offsides, wider goals, fewer players, more substitutions) have obvious problems, but why doesn’t someone try it out? How many leagues are there with something approaching world-class play? The MLS would be a perfect testing ground.
But the real problem isn’t that games are 1-0 or 1-1, but that the one goal that is scored can be a random award. A covered player in the penalty area with the ball might have a 5% or 10% chance to score but can change that into an 80% chance by drawing a foul call. What if instead of tinkering with the rules which some feel are essential to the game, we simply changed the penalties? The penalty shot in hockey is only awarded when there is a clear and good scoring opportunity. None of the (admittedly few) penalty kicks that I saw awarded in the World Cup would have qualified by this metric. Make it at the referee’s discretion whether a foul in the penalty area or on a breakaway is worthy of a penalty kick. Alternatively, move the kicking spot back so that it’s a 25% or 50% shot (and you could easily change the distance for lower levels of the game to retain that 25% or 50%). That way, it would be in the player’s interest to continue after a loose ball after some incidental contact in the box rather than doing a swan dive.