What Lessons Can The Soccer World Cup Teach Rugby League

Well over the last few weeks I have watched the Soccer World Cup, basically because there isn’t much else on that late at night in Australia.

Now Australia were bloody terrible, but I take heart in knowing that at least we are not as bad at Soccer as England is. If you are English and you are reading this…wow, you suck at everything!

The Kiwi’s were plucky, not losing a single game. The French imploded a way that only the hysterical, melodramatic French could manage, while Germany look the ducks guts at this point, leading into the semi finals.

I’ve been wondering though, what could the Rugby League World Cup learn from what we have seen at the Soccer World Cup.

You must know the format by now!

Don’t Come Up With A New Ball Design
You know what the Jabulani ball is, mostly because its a piece of shit.

Heading into the Soccer World Cup, the official ball suppliers always claim to have come up with some revolutionary ball that is supposedly better than the normal balls used. Without fail, they are terrible, they have a heap of problems and it always comes out that one side has been given use of the balls for months leading into the competition, giving them an unfair advantage while everyone else tries to come to terms with the new ball.

In the 2000 Rugby League World Cup the RFL had their Jabulani moment when they revealed a revolutionary 8 panel ball that was almost completely round.

While the RFL officials patted themselves on the back for their marketing coup, and English coaches suggested the round ball that no one had ever used would negate Australia’s advantage as being the best in the world, the rest of the teams rocking up to the 2000 World Cup were aghast.

Australia were forced to tell the RFL to change the ball because, we use an oval ball in Rugby League. Changes were made, however the ball was still one that was never used before in Rugby League.

It was a mess, all so some company could try and sell a bit more product. We don’t need to have that mess again in 2013.

Allow The Vuvuzela
During the first game of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, I thought my speakers were broken. Then I thought my girlfriend was in bed having fun without me. With those two options unfortunately being dismissed, I then when and jumped into a bath full of water, completely submerging myself and breathing through a snorkel, for surely the wall cavities were full of bees.

Alas, 15 freezing hours later I was told that it was just the South African fans blowing on horns that were called Vuvuzela’s.

Now, I can’t say that word without thinking its a part of the female anatomy, however like it or not, it has given the Soccer World Cup a certain type of atmosphere. Whether its good or bad is up to you to decide. However the answer is, its been bloody terrible.

The point is, Rugby League World Cup officials should follow FIFA’s lead and let the fans do what they want. If fans want to bring in horns or musical instruments (Within reason!) then let them!

There are worse things in the world than a few fans wanting to generate a bit of atmosphere. If we can survive 80,000 South Africans with their mouths attached to a Vuvuzela for 90 minutes, we can handle a few drums and a trumpet!

Get The Best Referee’s No Matter Where They Are From
The officiating at the Soccer World Cup has been nothing short of abysmal! I don’t particularly care where the officials have come from, most have been bloody terrible.

In the last Rugby League World Cup in 2008, there was a great divide in the officials used that saw most teams complaining.

You had the English and French officials, which as always were terrible. Complaints by Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji just reinforced the fact that the standard of officials from the North Hemisphere are terrible.

Ireland, Scotland and France didn’t have much to say in regards to officials.

England were scathing of the Australian officials who hadn’t taught the English side how to tackle, read an attacking play, play with heart…..you get the idea.

Australia and New Zealand played out the final, controlled by an Australian, and it was brilliant. When you think of the final, you can’t think of a single bad call. We had the best official possible controlling the game. That is the way it should be at the World Cup.

New Zealand won a World Cup Final in Brisbane under the control of an Australian referee. That should be the death of neutral refs.

The Best Place To Hold The World Cup Is In Australia And New Zealand
The World Cup isn’t just about a sporting competition. Its about allowing fans from all over the world to come together, get behind their side, show their national colours and have a whole lot of fun (meaningless sex).

The 2013 Rugby League World Cup will be held in England, which is great for English fans, the couple of thousand Welsh fans, the few hundred Scottish fans and the group of drunken Irish louts who don’t know whats happening but just stumbled into the place because the pub was full.

Contrast that to the 2008 World Cup where the large Islander and New Zealand populations in Australia were able to get out and support their sides, along with a big group of traveling English fans, and a pretty sizable group of Irish fans in Sydney.

The fact is that more people from more backgrounds can attend games when the Rugby League World Cup is held in Australia or New Zealand.

With the price of travel and accommodation, as well as the prospect of leaving the Southern Hemisphere summer for a freezing, damn English winter to watch Rugby League tests in small regional stadiums with small crowds, you don’t get the traveling fans to England as you do by holding the event down under.

A Tough Preparation Is A Must
In 2006 the Socceroo’s had a two legged, winner takes the last spot death match with the 6th placed South American side, Uruguay. They had to go over to South America for the first leg, and play the second leg back on home soil.

After being all tied up after the first two legs, the second game went to penalty kicks. Australia won and go through. They had an impressive group stage at the 2006 World Cup, and were eventually knocked out by Italy after one of their players took a dive late in the game and got a penalty. Italy went on to win the whole thing.

For the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Australia qualified through Asia. They went from being the last team to qualify for the World Cup in 2006, to one of the very first teams to qualify. They had huge wins over a number of Asian teams.

They came into the World Cup, got smashed by Germany and just looked way off the pace.

They simply were not battle hardened by the harder qualification. They hadn’t needed to push themselves to the limit this time around and they went in under done.

They reminded me a lot of the English Rugby League team, who thought they were ready in 2008. They stayed at home, arrived late and failed to acclimatise, they almost got beaten by PNG and were saved by the referee, and they never won another game.

The World Cup is fun for one team….the winning team. Any side that wants to win the World Cup should grind themselves into the ground right up until the first ball is kicked. Anything else is going in under done.

Next time around, England, if they are fair dinkum, will look to play 6 games in the month leading into the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

You Can Win It All By Having A Real Dig
Brazil is known for three things. Coffee, Waxing and Soccer. That is it! Do you know anything else about Brazil? Neither do I. They do three things there and nothing else.

Even so, they were beaten in the World Cup quarter finals by the Netherlands.

Not, I don’t know much about them either, but I do know that as a country they are a lot smaller than Brazil and Soccer isn’t a religion there.

They got stuck into Brazil, they had a real dig, and now look at them. They are in the semi finals! In fact there have been a number of teams they have gone all out and come up with big results.

Now sure, Soccer is a bit different to Rugby League, however asked the Kiwi’s what can happen if you don’t just go through the motions during a World Cup and you have a real go at it.

The All Whites didn’t lose a game in the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and were incredibly unlucky to not qualify for the second round. As for the Rugby League side back in 2008, they did alright too.

Make Sure The Format Allows The Best Teams To Meet In The Final
People criticized the 2008 Rugby League World Cup for its interesting use of the Super Group concept. Basically organizers didn’t want lopsided scorelines, nothing games half way through and the best teams to meet before the final.

So they come up with the Super Group, and it worked really well.

Some people want to see the traditional random group draw as we see in Soccer, but have a loot at where we now stand going into the Soccer World Cup semi finals.

One one side of the draw we have had all but one of the best sides in the world getting knocked out, one after the other. Its such that many believe who ever wins between Germany and Spain will easily win the final.

In soccer that at worst means about a four goal different. In Rugby League that could mean a 60-70 point difference!

Rugby Leagues version of the World Cup needs to be full of good contests, from game one to the final. You would not get that with the Soccer World Cup set up because the difference between Australia and New Zealand, and the rest of the world, is huge.

The last thing you want to see is Australia taking on New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup semi finals, with the winners going into the Final for an easy win against a minnow like Fiji or England.

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