June 21, 2010
BERKELEY - With World Cup fervor sweeping much of the globe, CalBears.com recently spoke to California men's soccer coach Kevin Grimes and women's soccer coach Neil McGuire to get their perspectives on South Africa 2010.
CalBears.com: What are your thoughts on the World Cup so far?
Kevin Grimes: We have seen so far a lot of conservative play. That will change when teams get to the final game of the group and the knock-out games. There have been some good games but a lot of conservative play.
Neil McGuire: I've certainly enjoyed the match-ups. I wish there were more goals scored. It's the world's greatest sporting spectacle, and it would be great for the fans to see more goals. There is some great talent on display.
CalBears.com: What was the best game to this point?
KG: From what I heard, Denmark-Cameroon [a 2-1 Danish win] was the best game. I have not seen it myself, but I heard it was very entertaining.
NM: Spain's performance against the Swiss was great from a pure soccer perspective even though it was low scoring. There was great passing and ball movement. Germany has been one of the most dynamic goal-scoring team thus far even though we've only seen about half the games.
CalBears.com: Which player has had the best performance so far?
CalBears.com: What is the best early goal of the tournament?
KG: Elano from Brazil has been very good. He not only scored but has been extremely active on the dribble, coming from tight spots to score goals. He took a bad injury in the last game against Ivory Coast. I don't know how bad it is. I think he's been the best player so far.
NM: Diego Forlan from Uruguay has scored two goals thus far. He has been impressive and is a very dangerous attacker.
The first goal by South Africa, that left-footed shot as the player was entering into the penalty area. To me, that's been the best goal of the tournament so far. That was a fantastic finish.
It seems that people are playing very cautiously so they position themselves well for the latter part of group play. There have been a lot of defensive struggles, which shows in the lack of goals scored. I think it will be incredibly interesting as you see the better teams find their rhythm and become more comfortable.
CalBears.com: Which team is going to win the World Cup?
KG: I think Holland is going to win it, because I always say they're going to win it, and they never do. I've got to figure at some point they're going to win it. One of these times they're going to break through. Holland has looked pretty good so far. I'm sticking with the Dutch.
NM: Germany and Brazil look very good from what I've seen so far. Spain certainly has great talent, but it has to have two wins. From what I've seen, Germany would be my favorite.
CalBears.com: Was the USA-England result what you expected?
KG: I think it was probably what I thought it would be - a close game and a one-goal game either way. I didn't think they were going to blow us off the field. England might have had an advantage. A tie was probably a just result.
NM: Yes. I think it was a good, physical match-up for the U.S. I think we're as athletic as England. We were organized, played together and were disciplined. It was a difficult goal to give up early in the match, but I think the U.S. rebounded and played very well.
CalBears.com: Would you do anything differently - change the starters, formation, etc. - with the U.S. team right now?
KG: They're going to have to make one change, with Robbie Findley out [due to yellow cards]. I would start Edson Buddle up top and go back with Ricardo Clark in midfield because he works so well with Michael Bradley.
NM: I'm not familiar enough with the talent pool to make those decisions. U.S. head coach Bob Bradley is a fantastic coach. His choices were based on real information so I trust his judgment.
CalBears.com: Which current or former player from your respective teams has the best chance to play in a World Cup?
KG: Stefan Frei, for Switzerland, at this point, because he plays the most of any of our pro players that are out there. But things can change so quickly in soccer. If any one of our players playing pro just gets a break or a chance to show his skills on a regular basis in MLS, next thing you know Tyson Wahl or Andrew Jacobson could be playing for the national team.
NM: Currently, with Alex Morgan being on the full national team clearly has the best foot forward to representing the U.S. whether it is in the World Cup or the Olympics. Katrin Omarsdottir also plays for the Icelandic national squad and Betsy Hassett could play for New Zealand if they do well in qualifying play.
CalBears.com: Will the current World Cup have any effect on local soccer, or will World Cup fever in the United States/Bay Area end after the tournament ends?
KG: There's always a letdown at some point, but as each World Cup goes by, the retention in interest in American fans gets stronger and stronger, and the media attention gets stronger and stronger. Before this year, I had never heard of World Cup games on KNBR or seen as many pre-game and post-game analyses in the United States, even in 1994, when we hosted. Soccer is here to stay.
NM: I think there's been growth in soccer after every cup, especially after it was held here in America. It's gone from good to great in terms of people playing the sport. We're tied for first in participation, and there has been a continued grand swell of players playing. They have more role models during the Cup because they're able to see players from all across the world. I think it's a great thing.
CalBears.com: Will the World Cup have any effect on the Cal soccer programs this season?
KG: We're hoping we get more fans just from the pure excitement of the World Cup and perhaps more kids coming to soccer camp throughout the summer.
NM: I do. I think that the players probably from the men's and women's sides are watching the games and learning nuances of the game that they may not have gotten in the college play. Our players are very serious about their development. With them watching soccer at a high level, they're clearly going to be able to put that into their game.
CalBears.com: Do you like the vuvuzelas?
KG: They haven't bothered me. I haven't really noticed them at all.
NM: I'm a huge fan of atmosphere at soccer matches. I think that it adds to the experience and excitement of the game, but I think they're just a little overbearing.
CalBears.com: What's the best place to watch the World Cup in the Berkeley area?
KG: I watch most of the games at home, but there are a ton of places showing games that are lively and entertaining.
NM: I'm sure there is a whole host of great places to watch, but as a staff, we've all been watching it on campus together.