FIFA and the World Cup can learn two important lessons from Ice Hockey. First, the football/soccer needs a second referee on field. The game has gotten to fast with long passing putting the current lone referee in no position to make a good call – witness what swarming TV coverage showed viewers time after time in the current World Cup games- botched calls. The NHL adapted to this same problem by adding a second referee – and the two refs patrol roughly one half the ice but certainly follow action and are dedicated to calling a good game jointly.
The second lesson is that defense may very well win championships but it can be a loser in the long term if goal scoring declines. The excitement of the game trends ever downward. The NHL and Ice Hockey had to learn this lesson over 30 years and now tweaks it rules to ensure that scoring goals remains a part of Ice Hockey. FIFA should do the same.
The third lesson is that assists are vital to the game of Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer and any team sport. So assists should be measured that way. Yet FIFA and soccer/football have largely ignored assists – see here for the details around this comment about assists in FIFA leagues:
Record of assists was virtually not kept at all [in Football] until the end of the 20th century. The North American Soccer League kept assist statistics from its foundation in 1968, as its forebears the United Soccer Association and National Professional Soccer League had done the previous year. Analogous statistics were already being kept in basketball and in ice hockey, both established North American sports.
Instead the Golden Boot is awarded to the player who scores the most goals no assists in the World Cup. As well in recent proposals for rating players, FIFA has proposed two points for scoring a goal and one point for an assist. In contrast the NHL scores tallies one point for a goal and one point for an assist.
And look at the semi-finalists in this years World Cup. Germany, Netherlands and Spain interestingly enough are in the World Cup semifinals. All are passing oriented teams. In the quarterfinals, Germany dismembered Argentina 4-0 in which 3 of the 4 goals were tap or head ins after brilliant passing. The emerging soccer/football powers recognize that passing and assists are the real gold in football. FIFA should recognize that and like the NHL/Ice Hockey and award accordingly the power of assists.