Who could have predicted that? In the build up questions were asked about the age of the Italian squad. Lippi responded by pointing out that in a World cup you only need to win seven games. The world champions tepid exit will come as a huge shock. Expectations were low but failing to get out of the group is a disaster. Surely the inclusion of Cassano and Balotelli would have brought some much needed energy. The outcome of the group was particularly suprising because Slovakia had been uninspiring and dull in the first two games. Without wishing to demean Slovakia’s victory it was more about Italian lethargy than any silky Slovakian skills. They got through but Holland don’t have too much to worry about. And remember, my predictions are usually 100% wrong!! New Zealand didn’t quite have the craft to open the Paraguay defence but they can be proud of the achievements. To go out unbeaten is impressive. In years to come the Kiwis will look back on this as a special time in their lives.
For Japan’s first goal Tommy took a slight move to the left as it was being struck and that wrong footed him. That was the beginning of the end of Stoke City’s representation in the tournament. The TV companies will be hoping that doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the viewing figures. Across the globe millions will now turn away from the World Cup. Would Adidas and Macdonalds been so keen to invest so many millions in sponsorship if they had known it’d be Stokeless from the second round onwards? Surely not. Blatter will have some explaining to do. To make it worthwhile the TV cameras will be scanning crowds for Stoke fans in Stoke shirts just to satisfy the hunger of sponsors and get some Stokeness in. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Another big question that’s been thrown up is about Maradona. Is he becoming normal? Admittedly, he did say Pele should go back to the museum, but in other areas he’s been saying things other, more sane, less unhinged managers say. He’s even said that Brazil were favourites. In itself, this wasn’t a particularly controversial observation but it was a rare moment of chivalry towards the deadly rivals. Hopefully the pressure of the knockout stage will bring around a bit more madness from him.
So we now have one eye on the game against Germany. One difference between this and the other three games is that we won’t be favourites. Given the fragile metal state of our players will that work in our favour? A bit less pressure maybe? Looking back to the 1990 semi David Platt observed that deep down inside, in their heart of hearts, the England players didn’t believe they could win that game. Will we dogged by those doubts on Sunday? It’s in the head.
This World Cup has been underway for nearly a week and the most amazing shocking thing is the refereeing so far…..it’s actually been quite good!! There have been a couple of goals that may have been given offside but overall it’s been competent which is pleasing. This time FIFA seem to have gone easy on the new directives that are introduced on the eve of compettitions which serve only to confuse players and refs alike. Which means Domenech can only blame balltitiude and vuvuzelas for France’s lame tepid clueless unimaginative trudges. The big question is how he’s managed to cling onto his job. He’s nearly gone and few French football fans will be sorry. When Thierry handled them to the finals there were even some French fans who were disappointed because it meant another six months with him in charge. Although the point has to be made, their players don’t emerge from this with much credit either. They never showed any desire to go out and make the difference and win either game. Suicidal against a technically proficient well disciplined side like Mexico. But all isn’t lost. France could yet go on to lift the trophy and, now I’ve praised the refs, Algeria will beat England in controversial circuimstances.
When South Korea pulled the goal back against Argentina it was refreshing that the South Americans continued to move forward. Too many sides would have taken the cautious route and sat resolutely on what they had. They got the reward too. In the hullabaloo surrounding Messi it’s pleasing that Higuain got some acclaim. It’s hard not to feel though that when they face higher class opposition the defence could be exposed and the lack of Cambiasso could yet prove costly to them. Another entertaining aspect of Argentina’s games is Maradona patrolling the touchline with the air of an evil genius. It seems a matter of time until he does something crazy. When they face trouble you can imagine him dashing on the pitch and digging a hole or doing an Ozzy Osbourne and biting a bat’s head off or something.
England tomorrow morning!! James is replacing Green in goal. Why? What has Green made a mistake or something? Gareth Barry’s return is welcome but he’ll experience a strange kind of pressure. Usually long awaited comebacks are for strikers. There no pushovers at this level but Algeria is a game we can reasonably expect to win. Lets blow the cobwebs away and get the job done. COME ON ENGLAND!! (although I’ll be pleased enough with a dirty crappy 1-0 with the goal a deflection off a passing dog!!)
The real irritation with the vuvuzela is the one tone deadness of the din. No variation, no tune can be played. Just an ongoing honk. That’s all I intend to say about the aforementioned trumpet! Enough has been expressed elsewhere. It’d be hard to find an original angle!!
ANYWAY, The South Africa v Mexico game was a bright way to start it all. There seemed to be an abundance of space all over the park yet painfully few moments of craft to unlock either defence.After South Africa took the lead and celebrated with a delightful piece of choreography, Mexico looked beaten. Then South Africa, being the gracious hosts they are. allowed three opponents hatfuls of space at the far post to pick their spot and equalise. How could anyone have doubted their ability to host when they show such hospitality? Mexican manager Aguirre seemed to age about fifteen years during the game. At the start he was a dashing well dressed charmer. By the end he looked bedraggled and anxious.
As for France, well….their ideas drained away as they game went on. The worst thing was the late Uruguay red card because they set their stall out for the draw and rarely looked in danger. There was that late penalty appeal but it smacked of desperation. At least Thierry Henry had the decency not to look indignant. Him complaining that a handball hadn’t been given would be a rather ironic twist to proceedings. This will hardly help to brighten Domenech’s legacy.
As for tonights games, it’ll be fascinating to see if Maradona can be as entertainingly mad as he was in qualification. Anything can happen. A disputed throw in could result in him baring his backside or something. He makes Neil Warnock look like Bjorn Borg.
And tonight’s other poignant question is, if the USA take the lead, or just threaten to, how many references to Belo Horizonte 1950 will the commentators cram in? My prediction is 12. Hopefully it won’t come to that but the longer the game goes on without us scoring the more the ideas may drain away like France’s did.
This is Wayne Rooney’s time. In the last twelve months he has fulfilled all the rich potential and evolved into one of the world’s best players. He will also be aware that beiong our one truly world class player .so many of our hopes and dreams rest on his stocky torso. He can make as many appearances in Nike ads as he likes, now he really does have the chance to write the future. So come on Wazza, justify the hype!!
Come on England!!!