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Original Issue



This is the way the World Cup ends—not with a bang but a whimper. (My apologies to T.S. Eliot.)

World Cup Soccer
I totally agree with Alexander Wolff that the World Cup should not end in a penalty-kick shoot-out (World Beaters, July 25). The shoot-out takes six players from each team and hangs the game on their shoulders. The event is no longer a team game. I don't know what the best solution is, but anything is better than ending the most important soccer game in the universe with a shoot-out.
NICK PANETTA, Philadelphia

I was disappointed that Wolff jumped on the anti-shoot-out bandwagon. In the final, two excellent, fairly evenly matched teams could not score in 120 minutes. Who's to say when or if these two tired teams could ever have scored, even in five more overtimes?

Granted, penalty kicks are too easy to make, and they involve a great deal of luck. But the shoot-out does provide drama on every shot—drama that was missing through much of the final. And the shoot-out saves by the keepers in that game were things of beauty.
JIM BEGGS, Modesto, Calif.

I disagree with Wolff's assessment that it was largely luck that helped the Italian team reach the final. Luck manifests itself in a single moment; it does not last an entire tournament. What got Italy to the final was outstanding defense, good teamwork and Roberto Baggio's goals. If Giuseppe Signori had played alongside the injured Baggio for the entire final or had replaced him in the second half, Italy might very well have won.

Baggio should not be credited with a "superb performance" in the championship match. He was a nonfactor and hurt the Azzurri more than he helped them. I applaud his courage, but he should have stepped aside once it was apparent he could not help his team, especially with a healthy scorer of Signori's caliber waiting in the wings.
ANDY BERLIND, Middletown, Conn.

Here is a suggestion for how to replace the penalty-kick tiebreaker. After 30 minutes of overtime, take the goalies out of the game and play sudden death. This would bring the dominant team to the fore and provide a deserving winner.
ROBERT LATOUR, Wilbraham, Mass.

Rather than a shoot-out, implement five-minute overtime periods, the first one allowing nine players on each team instead of the full complement of 11, the second one seven players, and so forth. A worthy winner would surely materialize within two overtime periods.

When I lived in Peru in the '80s, I was introduced to the World Cup but soon forgot about it. Now I remember why. Two teams drift endlessly back and forth across a field with nothing on the scoreboard to show for it. And the final results are numbingly predictable. The same four teams win, tournament after tournament, decade after decade. World Cup soccer? I call it world-class boredom.
DOUG RICE, Pendleton, Ore.

It's implausible that soccer will ever experience more than incremental gains in popularity in this country, at least as a spectator sport. Soccer lacks compelling subgoals that provide indexes of accomplishment throughout the game, sustaining interest even when a score is not imminent or the outcome is no longer in doubt. Baseball has at bats and innings; U.S. football has plays and first downs; golf has shots and separate holes. Games that lack a strong subgoal structure may be fun to play, but they don't offer spectators much to sink their teeth into.
MARTIN FORD, Clifton, Va.

I would like to thank soccer in general and the World Cup in particular. I hadn't slept so well in front of the TV in ages.

When will we see an INSIDE SOCCER section in SI?
Cape Coral, Fla.

I'm a happy subscriber to your magazine, but I'm not a knowledgeable soccer fan. Something related to soccer must have triggered the remarkably funny picture of the Dutch players on pages 24 and 25 of the July 18 issue (Having a Ball). I hope you'll explain to us "American soccer dummies" what it was.

•You are not alone in being puzzled. In soccer, when a player is fouled and his team earns a free kick, the opponents are allowed to line up in a "wall" 10 yards from the kicker, and the players in the wall are allowed to protect themselves without being called for use of their hands.—ED.



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