THE 2006 WORLDCUP had its glorious moments--Italy's heart-stopping defeat of Germany in thesemis, a 24-pass wonder goal by Argentina against Serbia & Montenegro,Fabio Cannavaro's brilliance in the final (page 48)--but there was room forimprovement in the on-field product. Never had more yellow and red cards beenissued in a World Cup, and scoring dropped to an alarming 2.23 goals per game,barely more than the record-low 2.21 in 1990. "The football isn't bad,"lamented FIFA president Sepp Blatter, "but there aren't enoughgoals."
What should FIFAchange when South Africa hosts the next Cup, in 2010? Here are SI'ssuggestions.
CAST WIDER NETSThis might be heresy to purists, but some of the sport's staunchest advocates(like U.S. Hall of Famer Alexi Lalas) back the idea. Superathletic goalies likeItaly's 6'2" Gianluigi Buffon can cover far more ground than their20th-century predecessors, and goals that are taller and/or wider could givethe game back to the attackers. There's no reason not to test bigger goals in adomestic league--like, say, MLS.
GO TO THEVIDEOTAPE One of the turnoffs of this World Cup was the rampant diving byplayers looking to draw whistles. Refs are permitted to yellow-card a"simulation" but are reluctant to make such difficult split-secondcalls. That's where video replay can help. If FIFA is serious about cuttingdown on theatrics that slow the action and make players look like fools, itshould conduct postgame video reviews and penalize floppers with after-the-factfines or yellow cards.
RECOGNIZE THENEED TO SEED FIFA only seeded the top eight teams, which made some groupsinfinitely more difficult than others. (While the unseeded U.S. opened againstthe Czech Republic and Italy, its seeded rival, Mexico, met lightweights Iranand Angola.) The luck of the draw has far too much impact on the World Cup.It's time for FIFA to take a page from the NCAA tournament and seed all 32teams, preferably with help from an improved ranking system.
CUT THE CARDSBlatter harmed this Cup more than anyone with a pretournament edict requiringyellow cards for several misdemeanor offenses. The result: card-happy refsduring the tournament's early weeks who caused stars to miss matches for sillyreasons. After Blatter backtracked, referees used common sense, and (surprise!)their work improved. In 2010 Sepp needs to stick a sock in it. It wouldn't hurtto increase the number of accumulated yellow cards needed to earn a suspension,from two to three or even four.
FRANK MAY/EPA (LEFT REFEREE); JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (MIDDLE REFEREE); MICHAEL KOOREN/REUTERS (RIGHT REFEREE)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (BUFFON)
NET LOSS Goalies like Italy's Buffon helped keep World Cup scoring near record lows.