Thursday, June 17, 2010

The best and the worse of the first round

With Spain and Switzerland's match today all the participants in the World Cup have been in action, and we get an idea of the best and the worse so far.
Let me start with the worse:
  • Defensiveness and goals: 25 goals in the first 16 matches gives an average of 1.56 goals per match, an incredibly low average, which is only a sad showing of teams that are afraid to lose (good post on this on, take risks, and playing awfully defensive football. Add to this the fact that many of the goals followed grave mistakes, and the quality of many matches have been outright second-rate, barely reaching levels of a second-tier European league.
  • The goalkeepers, or the ball? English goalkeeper Robert Green made a huge blunder giving away a goal to the USA, but he is not alone, as other goalkeepers have given goals away and had problems. It may be the controversial ball, and this seems likely, as many players have also seemed to struggle with the jumpy ball.
  • Gonzalo Higuaín's misses
  • Zlatko Kizmanovic's handball that otherwise gave the Black Stars a well-deserved victory.
  • The many injured players.
  • Empty seats in the stadiums.
  • Pelé talking about other people for no reason whatsoever.
The biggest worry is the low quality of the football and few goals. But there are many great things to be happy about.
  • Mesut Ozil, the German youngster was in my view the revelation of the first round (
  • Victor Enyeama was the sole reason Argentina didn't destroy Nigeria, and he has by far been the best goallie of the tournament.
  • Lionel Messi was great, giving hopes to see his brilliance in the tournament, that surely will be a joy for any fan, although the Nigerians made it easy for him.
  • The fans: All fans have been great, in particular the South Africans making noise with vuvuzelas. But the best and happiest have been the Ghanaians: "Feel it! Ghana is here!"
  • The referees: Totally unexpected, the referees have been great - the off-side calls have been outstanding (yes, you Mexicans, the annulled goal against South Africa was correct), and although there have been controversial calls, I tend to see them all as vindicated.
  • South American teams: on a continental basis, not a single of the South American teams lost, and the unlikely fact that all five South Americans will go to the last-16 seems a bit closer to reality.
  • A quote from the great Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina's coach, after their victory against Nigeria, commenting on the many missed chances and why they needed to concentrate more in the next matches: "In football it is never the one that deserves it who wins. It is the one that scores the most goals."
I have the top five of what I found the most disappointing teams.
  1. Cameroun: they are having internal problems and played really bad against Japan. A huge African disappointment.
  2. Greece: The way they played against South Corea one questions how in the world they qualified, as there are many better European teams.
  3. Nigeria: Played with fear against Argentina, and gave the Argentineans too much space. An African giant that should do better, but I doubt they will get beyond the first round. But a great goalkeeper!
  4. Spain: Has seemed to forget that all teams are good, and that they need to win against "smaller" teams to get to the next round. Their mind was already in the quarterfinals. But the loss to Switzerland may wake up "la furia".
  5. Australia: They were up against the best team of the tournament, but considering the qualified as the best of Asia, they were a huge disappointment.
What I found to be the top five best teams:
  1. Germany: Played extraordinary attacking football, the only team to do so, against Australia. They don't play what people connect with "typical" German style, and are with many young players, but they surely put themselves at the center. Will be exciting to watch them!
  2. Ghana: Surely the best African team until now, they won an important victory against the strong Serbians. They are the youngest, and surely one of the most exciting teams of the tournament.
  3. South Corea: Although up against an appalling Greek side, the South Coreans were efficient, physically superior and disciplined. Anyone who underestimates them will have difficulties.
  4. Chile: They won their first match in a World Cup since 1962, and although only winning 1-0 against Honduras, they were faithful to a possessing and attacking style that got them to South Africa. Will surely be interesting to watch.
  5. Argentina: they were good against a poor opposition, but missed too many chances. Maradona's team nevertheless seems confident and with a very optimistic attitude that can carry them far. In spite of all the negativity against Maradona, I am certain that he is a good coach (with the reservation that is not always enough to win a tournament... But I could write an entire post on this...)
Anyway, this is only the first round of an epic tournament. For the next matches everything may be totally on its head!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Erik,

I would like to add a few considerations to your excellent evaluations.

The Green issue in the England-USA match migth be crusial for Englands chances in the tournamant. I have previously stated that I dont expect England to pass the quaterfinals, but now I got in doubt.

Greens fumble highlights Englands weak point to the rest of the team. First, I dont think he will fumble again - and this time the fumble didn't cost anything, as if it had been in the knock-out stage. Second, the English defensive players will most likely step a little on the attacking-brake, which actually might make them play "italian" - increasing their chances in the knock-out stage. My guess is that England will not loss any games due to being "over-confident" in own skills.

Englands progress in the tournament really comes down to whether they end up being first or second in the group - giving an easy or harder way to the final. I think they will score more goals than US in the two teams victories in the next matches - giving England the first spot in the group. I project England to go through to the semi's then.

but anyway - lets enjoy the next matches where some teams have to win - that will surely give more entertaining matches

see you