Expect More Scoring in the World Cup
World Cup Teams are More Balanced than Ever
No Dominant Team Yet
How Soccer Stopped a War
Packed in Defenses are Paying Off for Underdogs
World's Most Reclusive Nation Plays in World Cup
N. Korea's Fans are Said to be Paid Chinese Actors
What Happens After the "Group Stage"?

Note From David. This newsletter was written on June 16, after watching Brazil North Korea, Portugal v. Ivory Coast and after Switzerland (a team with 200 to 1 odds) beat Spain (the favorite) in a huge upset.

Below are some thoughts as of June 16.

World Cup Favorites Such as Spain and England Must Win Their Remaining Games. This is written on the morning of June 17. Going forward, most teams must play to win instead of playing to not lose. That will make a difference and matches should be more exciting with more goals scored. I expect harder play at a faster pace and more aggressive attacking. Teams such as Spain and England must win or they might not advance to the Knockout Stage.

After the Group Stage. . After the Group Stage is the "Knockout Stage". The first part of the Knockout Stage is the "Round of 16" in which the winner of each Group plays against the runner-up from another Group. This is followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final. The losing semi-finalists play a match for third place. The "Knockout Stage" is what the name implies - one loss and you are out.

It appears that the teams in this World Cup are more balanced than I remember them being in recent World Cups. One reason might be that many of the underdogs such as North Korea are "packing in" the defense. North Korea at times had all 11 players in their Defensive Third. That makes it very hard to score, even for a great team like Brazil. Switzerland also beat the favorite Spain 1-0 and I understand defense was key. I have it recorded and will watch it soon.

Packing in the defense (meaning to Defend Deep and when your goal is under attack to put 9 players in your Defensive Third and leave one attacker at the halfway line) is a very smart strategy if you are an underdog. The idea is to keep the score close and hope to score on a breakaway or luck. That strategy worked well for N. Korea vs. Brazil and Switzerland vs. Spain. It is the best way for a team that is a big underdog to have a chance in soccer.

Thus far I haven't seen a dominant team. The only team to score many goals thus far is Germany which beat Australia 4-0, but Australia looked weak in that game.

The Brazil v. North Korea game was very interesting and well played. The Brazilians are beautiful to watch but might have been a bit complacent against North Korea which was a 1000 to 1 shot. North Korea didn't look like 1000 to 1 to me, or to the commentators who all gave them high marks. The Brazilians are a very classy team and Maicon and Elano had beautiful goals. The result was a 2-1 win for Brazil, but as the headline said "North Korea Shows Spirit". North Korea played good soccer and played with class.

I just read that the North Korean "fans" are Chinese actors paid to cheer the team. That is weird and hilarious. Even so, the North Koreans played hard and were very classy - no dives, faking injury, pouting or sneaky stuff. North Korea gained a lot of confidence from their match with Brazil. North Korea v. Portugal is on June 21. If you didn't know they were from North Korea, you would never have guessed by the way they played and acted on the field. Politics aside, they are well-mannered on the field and very brave. This was North Korea's first appearance in the World Cup in 44 years. I think it is fascinating that soccer can bring them out of hiding and hope that somehow it helps relieve some of the political tensions. North Korea packed in the defense but their defense was very well organized and they played very well as a team. On defense they shifted beautifully with the ball and were very well-disciplined and very brave. Many of Brazil's shots and passes were body-blocked by North Korean players. I never saw a North Korean player turn away to dodge a shot, they attacked the ball and intentionally blocked Brazil's shots and passes with their feet or bodies. Most of the time North Korea left an attacker out toward the halfway line which was smart because it kept 2 or 3 Brazilian defenders off the North Korean half of the field. If you ever play a superior team and pack in your defense, remember to leave an attacker near the halfway line when your goal is under attack, otherwise the opposing Fullbacks can push up onto your half of the field.

Another interesting match was the Ivory Coast (C'te d'Ivoire) and Portugal which ended in a 0-0 tie. Ivory Coast looked like the better team, even without Drogba who didn't play most of the game due to a broken arm. Ivory Coast played beautiful soccer - composed, hustling and fair. Ronaldo has gotten a reputation for taking dives to the point that the commentators talked about it being common knowledge. He got a yellow card that he shouldn't have gotten (he was fouled but the referee thought he was faking).

How did soccer stop a war? Drogba is credited with stopping a civil war in his nation (Ivory Coast) by begging the warring factions to stop. Here is the story from news sources: In 2006, after Ivory Coast had qualified for the World Cup for the first time, Drogba called his teammates together and made a plea in front of television cameras for his nation to stop the civil war that had started in 2002. He told his nation that if the players on the national team could come together from all over the Ivory Coast to work together as a team, then the warring groups should be able to put down their weapons and work together. The message was replayed for months on television and the warring groups reached an agreement in early 2007.