2010 World Cup – thoughts after two games

What we’ve learned during the World Cup so far:
  1. France and Italy are over the hill.
    • France’s team is in shambles – at this point they need a miracle just to salvage dignity. Locker room fights, federation officials quitting, scoreless in 2 games – the French have lost and looked bad doing it.  Italy has better results, but in typical Italian fashion has cheated their way to two draws. Unless the Azzurri can put things together in their last group stage game, the two teams that made the finals in 2006 are going to be going home early.
  2. England needs to blow its team up.
    • First it was Sven-Göran Eriksson. Then it was Steve Mclaren. Now it’s Fabio Capello. The only common thing between these three managers is that they’ve been in charge of a squad that has consistently underperformed at the world stage. Hopefully the FA will be smart, keep Capello, possibly one of the stars (my vote would be Gerrard), and blow the rest of the team up. If there’s anything we’ve learned in this World Cup, it’s that teams that are well organized and lack talent can beat super stars who don’t play well together.
  3. South American teams are ?????
    • To listen to the pundits, we’re looking at an all South American final. Maybe for the next 50 years. European football, they say, is in serious trouble, and South America is on the rise. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon at this point, but I’ll reserve a ticket just in case.For my money, the facts just don’t add up to South American dominance just yet. Brazil – South America’s #1 ranked powerhouse – beat the worst team in the tournament 2-1, and didn’t look terribly impressive doing it. Portugal – a currently highly ranked but generally middle of the road European team – put 7 goals on the same team. Uruguay only managed a draw with the dysfunctional French, Argentina looked marginal at best against a Nigerian squad that Greece beat worse, Chile escaped with a 1-0 win against a ten man Swiss team, and Paraguay only managed a draw against the impotent Italians. Sure, the Argentinians took South Korea apart, and Brazil did well against Ivory Coast (if you don’t count their young players losing their temper when the Ivorians got nasty), but those have been the only two real bright spots for South America.
      And those European teams? The Dutch, Spanish and Germans have all looked great against their opponents, and for the two losses endured by those teams, Germany lost to Serbia playing with ten men for most of the match, and even a man down looked dominant with plenty of scoring changes. Spain’s loss against Switzerland was a display of bad luck if ever there were one – Spain simply couldn’t catch a break. And by the way both of those losses were against European, not South American, teams. Sure, Europe has a couple of dogs in the tournament. Yeah, the Slovaks haven’t looked so good, but nobody really expected them to contend anyway. France and Italy may be big news, and England isn’t really giving a great account for the continent at the moment, but at the moment, I like European teams deep into the tournament over South American ones.

      For all of the supposed South American success, it seems to be beating up against weak African or Asian sides.

      Which leads to…

  4. African teams are not contenders.
    • We wanted an African contender on African soil, but it’s not happening yet. African football is getting better, but it has a ways to go before it can really compete against the powerhouses of the international game.
  5. No matter who you are, if the result didn’t go your way, you have a legitimate case to blame the officials.
    • This is probably rule number 3 of soccer. There have been some poor calls in this cup to be sure – Kaka, Cahill, Kewell, and Klose being sent off certainly merit some big question marks.  Italians diving in the box, yellow cards for borderline challenges, and yes, even the non-foul foul called against the American team. In soccer, perhaps more than any other sport, the referee has the power to change the game, and the unfortunate reality in soccer is that, for the most part, he only has the power to ruin the game. The fact of the matter is that every game, no matter how well officiated, is full of borderline calls.  Some go your way, and some go against you.  It’s just a part of the game. Fans can (and will) always complain, but at the end of the day, the team’s job is to play in such a way that they’re not at mercy of a bad call – at least as much as possible.

There’s certainly a lot more excitement to come – shaping up to be a great third round of games.

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