The world cup has come alive! Or not. Controversy reigned for the whole of the past week and, frankly, I am not sure if it is really that good for football's reputation. Here's a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly for those of you who have missed it all (and shame on you).
Says the man who thought NZ would be rubbish
RG has been proven very wrong, as they lead the underdogs contingent by not only coming back on the last minute of stoppage time to draw with Slovakia, but also holding title holders Italy to a draw. Never thought I would say this, but come on all whites!
Other than Oceania, Asia has also been making an impact. Their greatest hope may have been with Australia (but I'll save talk on them for later), but it was the East Asians who really showed their mettle. South Korea's light has since faded with a resounding 4-1 loss to Argentina. But Japan and North Korea still cling on, going down to narrow 1-0 and 2-1 defeats to tournament favourites Netherlands and Brazil. Japan still has a large chance of qualifying for the next round, with only Denmark standing in their way. North Korea however, will have to prove themselves worthy today, by hopefully drawing or even beating the thus far lacklustre Portugal.
Finally, European minnows have fought to outshine their more lavish counterparts. Slovenia tops Group C, with qualification for England hanging by a thread. Over in Group H, Switzerland beat European champions Spain in a match where the Spanish never got into gear.
Is this African world cup a tournament for giant slaying? The signs are positive so far.
This is still total football - totally boring football
The best Spanish squad in recent history. The best German squad the captain has ever played with.
The best Paraguayan squad ever. (Well, at least they have proved themselves.)
This was supposed to be a world cup when the best teams showcased the best football in a continent that has long wished for a chance to prove themselves to the world. South Africa has done a terrific job as hosts, but the beautiful game failed to show up as promised. Here is a rundown of the culprits:
- France. Despite Thierry Henry's best efforts, they never looked like they wanted to be in South Africa. The stars did not align and all that. Which is good for them since they are bound to be leaving soon. And thankfully, it'll be the last we see of the soon-to-be-sacked mad astrologer.
- England. The team that always manages to snatch defeat (or draws) from the cusp of victory has a lot to prove. But first, they should start playing football instead of just talking it.
- Netherlands. Yes, they won both their matches. Yes, they lead their group on maximum points. But did you watch their match? Total football has disintegrated into totally boring football. Robin van Persie and company ought to be ashamed.
- Italy. The reigning world champions drew with a country ranked 78th in the world. Near the end of the match, New Zealand even had an opportunity to seal the win. Enough said.
- Spain. This is the one let down team that I cannot critisize for not playing beautiful football. Too bad their pretty passing game could not work pass the Switzerland defense. When your team is down 1-0 in the dying embers of the game, you clobber their goal. Instead, the Spanish passed the ball around.
Most of them only have one match to prove their worth the kitchen sink better be ready. Either for throwing at the opponents, or for ducking behind when the fans throw rubbish at them.
But none of them think 3 yellows make a red
And that is the referees' only saving grace. The tournament's referee quality has dropped even further from when I last posted, which was something I had imagined impossible.
Firstly, neither of Miroslav Klose's offences merited a yellow card. The fact that he was given two and consequently a send off is incredible. Germany's spirits when down after that. Many point to Lukas Podolski's missed penalty for the defeat. But the fact is, he should not have been the one taking it in the first place.
Next, one handball is bad enough to cancel out a goal. That the referee missed the two handballs that led to Luis Fabiano's goal is simply amazing. Either that, or he decided he wanted to be on the front page of sports headlines the next day.
Too bad that Kaka managed to snatch it away from him then. The usually calm and collected player was yellow-carded for an obvious shove just minutes before another push caused him to be sent off. Kader Keita may have dived, but he was always going to make it theatric with Brazil's best player on a yellow card. Instead, a player of Kaka's quality should have known better. As Beckham once proved, you only let the cheater win if you let them get the better of you.
I'll be watching his twitter on any updates he has for us. Hopefully he will come out and apologize for not being more careful when already on a yellow card.
And now for some football
Spain and Portugal have opportunities to redeem themselves, while North Korea and Switzerland will be on giant-slaying duties once again. Join us here at the following times:
- Portugal vs. Korea DPR (12:30 GMT+1)
- Chile vs. Switzerland (15:00 GMT+1)
- Spain vs. Honduras (19:30 GMT+1)
Heading quotes by: RubberGoat, Lukeh, Steven Roy and again Lukeh. Thanks!