By MITCHELL KAHALLEY If you watched any of Fox’s World Cup coverage yesterday you’d know that the first matches in Group H resulted in two SHOCKING upsets. In actuality, Group H is the most evenly balanced group in the World Cup. If you spoke with an informed soccer fans they would say that Japan’s win over Colombia and Senegal’s win over Portugal were mild surprises at best. They’ve decided to talk down to a massive, informed American soccer audience and condescend to the rest of American viewing public.
Looking at Group H solely through the lens of FIFA rankings, then yes, Group H saw two massive upsets, but mine a little deeper and you’ll find four evenly matched teams each with a legitimate shot to advance to the Round of 16. It’s hard to quantify how good a team’s chance to advance to the next round is, but before the first matches were played, FiveThirtyEight gave Colombia a 69 percent chance of making it to the second round, they gave Poland had a 55 percent chance, Japan a 43 percent chance and 33 percent chance. Today those odds stand at 74 percent for Japan, 60 percent for Senegal, 40 percent for Colombia and 26 percent for Poland, easily the closest percentages for any of the groups after one round of matches.
For more qualitative proof, a quick scan of Senegal’s World Cup squad shows that nearly all player play in one of Europe’s top leagues. American soccer fans are already familiar with the likes of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Liverpool’s Saido Mane, but even if Fox is attempting to introduce them to a non-soccer savvy audience presenting their win over Poland as a monumental upset is at the least condescending and at the worst racist.
It would be a little unfair to just criticize Fox. I’m being harsh on them because this is just one of countless problems with their World Cup coverage. I might expound upon them in a later column. (Would y’all want that? Let me know.) Even quality Western-based international soccer coverage has problems giving African and Asian teams their due. Of course, Africa and Asian football aren’t the main focus of Western-based media, nor should they be, but often times the way they discuss these teams and their players are inadequately researched and loaded with racist clichés. I can almost guarantee that a Premier League commentator described Sadio Mane, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho as “athletic, strong and physical” with little attention played to how they actually play the game.
It’s a shame that Fox feels the need to use such hyperbole to make the most interesting sporting spectacle on the planet interesting to an American audience and it’s even worse that they have fallen into the same trap many media outlets fall into when talking about teams from Asia and Africa. At least they’ll have eight years to course correct…