Sunday, June 16, 2002

Well, here in England everyone is ecstatic about the 3-0 win in the World Cup over Denmark. Personally, as an Australian, I don't have anyone to cheer for directly (Australia last qualified for the World Cup in 1974, and their once every four years humuliation in the qualifying tournament generally ends with them skulking out of a stadium containing 120000 wildly cheering Iranians, or similar). The great thing about the world cup in soccer, however, is that there are so many teams who are capable of being competitive. This year we have Senegal, an African team who have never qualified before, defeating defending champions and favourites France in their first game, and now making the last eight teams. They play either Turkey or Japan in the quarter finals. While both of these are good teams, neither are invincible, and so Senegal making the last four is a real possibility. This is great.

When Cameroon made the quarter finals (and took England to extra time in the quarter final) in 1990, quite a few people thought that African football had arrived. The Africans haven't really impressed since, until now, but maybe this is it. Certainly the final 16 teams have quite a bit of diversity this year. We have nine European teams, two South American teams, two North American teams, one African team and two Asian teams. It may be just home team advantage for Japan and South Korea, but the improvement in the South American teams is also impressive. The days of the World Cup just being Europe versus South America may be coming to an end.

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