WC2010: Round One

June 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, we’ve seen everyone once. Round-up!

The big cheeses:

Of the teams in with a shout of the trophy, Spain were the most comprehensively slapped about the chops; that loss puts them in a sticky place in the group, probably needing two wins (then possibly goal difference) to avoid the winners of Group G. Which looks likely to be a Brazil side that looked every bit as effective-yet-slightly-uninspired as we were expecting. Can they rely on moments of magic for the whole tournament? Their Group G opponents Portugal were lacking in cohesion, and don’t seem to have a plan beyond joga Ronaldo; when he’s in feeling pouty, the team suffers. And my, he was pouty.

France were hideously poor, probably because I tipped them, and could well limp out of the group stage with a whimper unless they sort their heads and their formation out. England looked disjointed, though it’s worth remebering that without Green’s cock-up the USA game would have been pretty comfortable. They will qualify with ease (as will the USA), and will be grateful that other results have taken the heat off them a little. Meanwhile, Argentina were thrilling going forward and hilarious at the back. His name is Jonas.

The Netherlands were steady if unspectacular, though they do have Robben to return; Italy will be hoping that their awkwardness was down to the absence of Pirlo, and their traditional slow start. Finally, Germany were excellent: imaginative, penetrative, and bursting with invention and pace. At some point, though, they’ll have to play somebody competent.

The best of the rest:

Massive kudos to Switzerland, first of all. Ignoring the inevitable chirps of ‘anti-football’ from holidaying Arsenal fans: well done, Mr Hitzfeld; well done, the Swiss. The other managerial hero in the same group, Marcelo “Loco” Bielsa, has taken the opposite approach in constructing an unorthodox but entertaining Chilean team that break like lightning, though that might well lead to a tonking at the hands of the wounded Spanish.

Credit to the two Koreas: the South for their busy and inventive running, the North for their sheer chutzpah. And also to Ghana – the pick of the African teams – who look like they could cause a problem for most of the teams above, and might end up playing England in the round-of-16. If only Essien were fit.

Hero of the first round:

Jong Tae-se. The tears, the endless running, the gesticulations, the heart, and the lovely cushioned header for Yun Nam Ji. For a man who was born and raised in Japan, and has never been to the People’s Democratic Republic, he loves his Dear Leader. One can only hope the one-striker formation doesn’t make him lonely

Villain of the piece:

Cristiano, I have nothing but respect for your footballing talents, and gratitude for your goals in the red shirt, but you’re a tit. Stop it.

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