Wednesday, June 16, 2010
And what a dreary specatcle it has been, on the whole. Commentators are running through their repertoire of polite terms for dull football: "cagey", "cautious", "a chess match", "patient", "probing", etc. In other words, dour, unambitious, grab-a-goal-at-a-set-piece football which is unworthy of the World Cup and an insult to the fans who have paid good money to see the games.
Not all of these strictures are applicable to all the games, of course, but there has been a fair bit of knocking the ball across the back four while both midfields are reluctant to go for more than the occasional brief stroll.
Two deadly dull games here, with Holland nicking the points against a Denmark side horribly short of ideas thanks to an own goal and a late tap-in. The Dutch look short of a genuine target-man up front, while the Danes simply look short of quality in midfield. The wing power of Gronkjaer, Jorgensen and Rommedahl might have been effective eight years ago in Japan and Korea, but it's hardly threatening now.
But if Denmark were poor, Cameroon were woeful. Even after they went behind against Japan, their attacks were languid at best and plain uninterested at worst. They were expected to be the poorest African team on show, and they certainly looked like it. Credit to the Japanese for gaining their first win away from home soil, but they have played much, much better than that in the qualifiers.
Good old Kiwis. Ricki Herbert's side, one might glibly say, did all the things right that Australia did wrong: a system that fits the personnel, a mix of caution and aggression, and ultimately a well-deserved point was the result. New Zealand were in fact the moral victors in a sense, given that Slovakia's goal was clearly offside. The Slovaks have a compact and competent team, with some bite on the wing provided by Vladimir Weiss (junior), but they must be considered underdogs in the group compared with Italy and Paraguay...who produced a very watchable game, Italy's greater fluency balanced by Paraguay's tightly organised defence. A pity that it took yet another goalkeeping error to give Italy their goal.
The first half of Ivory Coast v. Portugal was stupefyingly boring, but at least the game opened up in the second period. The Africans looked the more likely winners, troubling Portugal in the air, but 0-0 looked a likely scoreline from the outset. In the other game, North Korea did themselves proud: very strong in the air by Asian standards, and offering a little up front thanks to the speedy Jong Tae-se, they certainly made the Brazilians work. Maicon's goal was an absolute peach...Amarildo, eat your heart out.
So who has looked the most impressive in their opening hit-out? I'm tempted to say Germany (for obvious reasons), and Brazil would not be far behind. Spain are yet to take the field...let's hope they can provide a spectacle that the tournament has been lacking as yet.
Don't forget they represent the A-League. Not goof enough for the World Cup eh? Would Sasa Og and Simon Collositimy has done better than Neill and Moore?
Australia in this and the warm ups went straight to fouling as soon as the going got tough.
Overall this is a disaster for the promotion of the A-league. You can hear the TVs being switched off - just over the din of those awful horns that put the overseas carriage of TV data back 30 years.
And what is happening in Nth Qld a new coach that sounds credible but only 13 players and now Robbie Fowler is suing them (for the sake of other players - yeah right - that will encourage investment).
Pim has shown we need either exciting coaches that promote the local game or local coaches. Most people who turned on the Germany game probably didn't watch a qualification match. get them back on free to air.
Spain getting done by Switzerland is pretty much a barometer of how things are playing out at this WC though!