By Orville Higgins
I HAVE dealt with the topic on radio before, quite regularly in fact, and somebody suggested that I put the whole thing into writing to reach a reading, rather than a listening audience. I am talking about this argument that in sports - you can play better than a team and lose!
Nothing could be more ridiculous! That adage is more often heard in football than any other sport where often you hear that one side "kill the other team wid ball" but still lose the game. I don't think I have ever heard it associated with any other sporting discipline. In every other sport, it is accepted that the winner is the team that played better on the day, barring glaring officiating errors, but football aficionados still persist with this nonsense that the losing team could be playing better than the winning team.
In football, the objective is remarkably simple. Put more balls in your opponent's goal than he puts in yours. Everything else, all the complicated business about tactics and strategies and formation, is geared towards that very basic principle. All the "salad" and "pile" and running into position and great passing are really not ends in themselves. All of that are means to one purpose. All that is geared towards scoring more goals than your opponent. At the end of 90 minutes, clearly, the team that did better is the team that manages to achieve this basic objective.
The naysayers will ask, so what about the team that has all the possession, creates all the chances and don't score and then the other team scores a 'buck up' goal at the other end of the field?. It is my position that too many of us place too great an emphasis on this business of creating chances. I cannot understand why a team should be given credit for creating chances that they then 'bush'. To suggest that the team that created the most chances played better even when they lose, is effectively saying that the team that missed the most goalscoring opportunities should be considered the better team on the day! How can that be? If your team creates 30 chances and scores no goals, and my team creates one chance and scores, why should your team be considered to be playing any better than mine? Your team would have missed 100 per cent of the chances that came its way, while I would have scored 100 per cent of the chances that came my way. So why is my team considered to be doing any worse than yours?
The real reason is that, in sports, most spectators tend to have a greater appreciation for attacking as opposed to defensive play. I maintain that the reason why the team with all the possession wasn't scoring is because the other team must have defended well, including their goalkeeper, or that the strikers on the team with all the possession were just lousy. If we go by the tenet that a chain is as strong as weakest link, then we must accept that if your forwards are poor at converting goals then that must be an overall reflection on the quality of your team, and if my keeper is majestic and saves 30 shots from point blank range, well the keeper is part of my team and his brilliance is credited to my team. In other words, when one man scores a hat-trick and his team wins 3-0, they don't say John Brown beat the team 3-0, they say team 'A' beat team 'B' 3-0, because John Brown's efforts are considered to be intricately interwoven with his team's effort.
If we were to take this argument to its natural conclusion that the team that created the most chances must be said to be better even if they lose, then it is possible for a team to be beaten 4-0 and said to still play better! It is not inconceivable for one team to be making all the passes, creating all the opportunities, but one team scores from four free kicks! Or even from four 'buck up' goals. The argument cannot stand up to scrutiny. The winning team clearly was the most effective team on the day.
Orvillle Higgins is a sports broadcaster on KLAS FM. Send feedback to email@example.com