The Soccer World Cup started today and I watched the first ever match played in my country of birth. Was very excited about it, more because it will be a great spectacle for South Africa, less because I fancy my team’s chances. But we held Mexico to a draw, so you never know..
The home team normally fares very well actually. I looked it up. Did you know that in 8 out of 18 previous World Cups the home team has reached the finals? And in 6 out of 8 finals, the home team has won the World Cup. So if a miracle happens and South Africa makes it to the final then we will be favorites to win (!). We'll see what happens.
Spain probably has the deepest line up of really good players, but the smart money is on Brazil. I’ll tell you why for two (not very scientific) reasons: 1.) In 18 previous World Cups a northern hemisphere team has never won in the southern hemisphere. In fact, Brazil is the only team that has ever won outside of its hemisphere. 2.) Another curious fact which basically reinforces reason number one and may go un-noticed by television viewers is that the players will not be able to hear each other at all on the pitch, owing to noise from the crowd. Watch minute 88 of the SA Mexico game and you will see exactly what I mean.
In all the big games in the next 6 weeks rest assured the crowd noise will be deafening from start to finish. There will be no lulls like in other venues. Reason being, a good portion of the crowd in South Africa come armed with these foghorns called vuvuzelas, which makes it very easy to generate an incredible amount of noise and sustain it for a long period. I think they even have pressurized versions that you don't need to blow on. These make one hell of a noise throughout the game - so much so that the players on the pitch cannot hear each other, never mind the goalie or their coach. The teams that can play without communicating (verbally) will do well. Brazil is one team that can do this.
I know that soccer is a great complimentary sport to squash for juniors. The thing that soccer players have that is not found in many sports is the development of good foot-speed. There is no doubt that soccer develops good motor skills and the muscle memory that is needed in the legs to get around short distances quickly, and to do this by stepping lightly and remaining balanced. I am not talking about simply running, by the way. I am talking about quick bursts and changes of direction over a very short distance, which apparently can be learned—unlike foot-speed over a straight line sprint, which is basically genetic - point in case, Usain Bolt.
Granted, squash players rely on a lot more than just foot-speed. They also need strength, aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, flexibility, etc. But drills for increased foot-speed on the soccer pitch certainly won’t hurt a developing squash player. I am guessing there quite a few professional squash players who did loads of shuttle runs, short sprints between markers, the infamous beep test, and dribbling around cones, etc., while they were growing up. Perhaps many of them still do these. Or has ghosting replaced this? As far as I can tell, there is not much emphasis on foot-speed, but rest assured it is very important to squash.
The USA plays England on Saturday in the World Cup. They have only played once before on the greatest stage and the US goalie won them the game by saving all the England shots on goal. I am guessing there will be more than just a few shots on Tim Howard’s goal this Saturday. I bet he has great foot speed.
Maybe that is Nick Matthews's secret too.