World Cup – A mini-review.

Posted: June 16, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Sport, World Cup
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Now that every team has played a match in South Africa, we have a better idea about the form and the prospects of each side. Spain, England, Italy and supposed dark horses Serbia have been disappointing, while Asian sides Japan, South Korea and even North Korea have put in some fine performances. Brazil, Argentina and Germany all came through their first matches unscathed, but are well aware that the competition is only going to get more intense from now on.

There’s no doubt that the best is yet to come in this tournament, but let’s have a look at the main talking points that have cropped up from the first round of matches.

Underrated in the Premiership, Park Ji Sung is now showing off his considerable talent on the world stage

The ease of South Korea‘s 2-0 win over Greece will have come as a surprise to many, but Greece’s aging side put in one of the worst performances of the week. Relying on old stalwarts like Angelos Charisteas and 33 year-old skipper Giorgios Karagounis, they were always one step behind the hard-working Koreans. Defensively, the Greeks were all over the place, and in contrast, Park Chu Young and Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung were outstanding, and thoroughly deserved the win.

_Q7Y0417 by mustapha_ennaimi.

Le Guen: driving the Cameroon into the ground with some bemusing tactics

Japan were another Asian team who did themselves proud, defeating Cameroon by a single Keisuke Honda goal. While their victory can be attributed to their defensive discipline, swift counter-attacks, and by generally playing to their strengths, the big story that emerged from this game was the sheer incompetence of Paul Le Guen’s Cameroon. Only Greece could rival them in terms of defensive calamities. Nobody on the Indomitable Lions side seemed to know what to do or where to go when they got the ball. In our World Cup preview, I was more than generous with my praise of these lads, and even predicted they could get to the quarter-finals. This was based on a few factors I had taken for granted, such as Samuel Eto’o playing as a striker, not wide on the right wing, and Arsenal’s Alexandre Song starting the match. Le Guen’s tactics had lost the game for Cameroon before it had even started, and the BBC’s Lee Dixon was quite right in his conclusion  that the Frenchman “should take full responsibility for them losing this game.”

Lionel Messi was inevitably at the forefront of Argentina‘s 1-0 win over Nigeria, but overall, Maradona’s side have a long way to go before they get themselves into World Cup-winning form. Nigeria had countless chances for an equaliser in the final ten minutes, and some of Diego Maradona’s team selection raised a few eyebrows; Jonas Gutierrez, a left-winger, started the match as a right-back, a position where Javier Zanetti would have been a more natural choice. Up front, Gonzalo Higuain was pretty poor, wasting a lot of chances and getting caught offside far too often. Tevez and Messi were, perhaps predictably the fulcrum of the attack, but if ever they were to struggle for form, the rest of the team could struggle as well.

Robert Green, England goalkeeper

Green: seen here looking typically nervous in the England goal

Robert Green’s howler against the USA will live long in the memory, but England have absolutely no reason to let their heads drop just yet. There’s no doubt they have the players to beat both Slovenia and Algeria, provided they keep their heads. Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi was also responsible for an error in his side’s defeat to Slovenia, and it will be interesting to see whether Green or Chaouchi will feature again in the tournament. David James and Joe Hart will both be expecting to starts in their next match, against the north Africans, and they will be hoping the Americans can defeat Slovenia to keep the group tight. There are still question marks about much of Capello’s team, and I believe that Joe Cole, rather than the thoroughly overrated Shaun Wright-Phillips, holds the key to England’s success in the coming weeks.

Easily the best performance so far came from Germany. Their 4-0 demolition of Australia could not have been easier. Michael Ballack’s injury has proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing youngsters Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil to take hold of the game, and completely dominated from start to finish. It was the only game so far that was properly one-sided. When we looked at the fixtures prior to the competition starting, Brazil v North Korea looked like it could have been the Germany v Saudi Arabia of this tournament, but it proved to be a tight, well-contested battle. The Koreans proved to be no pushovers, Jong Tae Sae impressed, while Ji Yun Nam took his goal with style. Brazil played well without being spectacular, and were definitely the better side. The very average displays by Gilberto Silva and Kaka may be a cause for worry though. In the other game in Group G, Ivory Coast and Portugal slugged it out in one of the worst games so far. It promised so much, but the overly-cautious approach that both sides employed really took the energy out of the game. The same could be said about Ghana v Serbia, but at least Ghana were able to find an all-important goal.

There’s little doubt as to the biggest story of the first round of matches – Spain‘s loss to a fairly average Switzerland side, with Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta all failing to deliver on the day. It was tough to watch, there was none of Spain’s characteristic swift passing, and no real sense of urgency even when they went behind. It’s still not time to panic if you put your money on the Spaniards, though. A few tweaks to their XI (perhaps try Fabregas or Javi Martinez in midfield for the next game) and they should be back on top form. Much like England, it now comes down to their attitude; if they can show the required resillience they can go on to win the whole thing.

Two more things:

-Ban Vuvuzelas

-That ball is definitely too light

In response to criticism that the Jabulani ball was too light, it replied; "It's not my fault really, I'm the roundest ball ever produced, they should have taken the high altitude into consideration."

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