Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 1

Well, the much anticipated event got under way today, and although the preceding ceremonies (and concert) were vibrant, full of color, and highly energetic, the games that followed (particularly the second one) were at the other end of the spectrum...

Mexico and South Africa should both consider themselves happy with the result; if Mexico (with a bit more focus in the third half) could have put it away early, they were lucky not to concede all 3 points, especially with an uninspired Oscar Perez in goal. Mphela's shot off the post would have been the icing on the cake for Bafana Bafana...Yet Mexico had more chances, and whenever they did not waste them on their own, Khune was there for some big saves. But there's a well known unwritten law in football: you don't capitalize on the early chances, you'll regret it later...

The highlight of the match (and the day for that matter): a superb left-footed goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala (such a nice ring to it!) running at full speed. It will definitely feature in the video footage of top goals scored at this World Cup.

In the other game of the day, the French were nothing but PATHETIC, in line with their recent performances. Yes, the Uruguayans - in typical fashion - defended stoically, in a relatively clean [aside for the double-yellow / red card] yet effective manner. But Domenech should have known that already, he should have been well aware of their style [yes, yes, I know... I'm giving him too much credit]. Aside from a Gourgouff free kick that Muslera saved brilliantly, and a close miss by Govou in the opening minutes, I don't recall any clear chances. Not much on the other end either, aside from a couple of shots from Forlan (the one towards the end of the second half, from inside the area, came quite close).

With a bit more courage, Uruguay could have potentially stolen the 3 points from an uninspired Les Bleus team (and equally uninspired coach, whose second half subs made everyone scratch their heads). Gorcouff (despite the Zidane references) is nowhere near that level... Ribery was in and out of the game (more "out" than "in"), and as I said in the Preamble (Part 1) the likes of Anelka and Govou will be isolated without any serious support from the midfield. But what support should one expect when the team employs two defensive midfielder [Toulalan and Diaby] with not a dram of creativity between them...France has relied for so long on a midfield marshal of Zizou's statute, that they're just lost right now...

Yes, people will tell you that France warms up slowly, but personally, I just don't see any potential this time around.

On a positive note, the "men in black" [or red, as there was the case today] were "spot-on"! Yes, even the offside call on the Mexican goal was 100% legit, despite what some uninformed commentators would have you believe. The Laws of the Game clearly state that a player is in an offside position if he is in his opponents' half of the field and is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the next to last opponent. Note that it says "opponent" not goalkeeper. Yes, goalies are usually the last, but that's not always the case, and it does not mean it's not offside...So bravo for the referees! I know they'll stir up some controversy, eventually, but so far they've been on top of it!

Enough for today. Argentina - Nigeria should be a good early one tomorrow, then of course, the much anticipated England - USA [as much I want the US to do well, I think England with come out on top] (with Korea - Greece squeezed in there too).

One thing I hope - regardless of outcomes - is that we see some quality football. So far (with some exceptions in the tournament opener) I haven't been too impressed [of course, I'm hard to please, yes]...Yet, it's early...with 62 games to go...most are bound to be good!

For now, go U.S.A. !!!!!

PS - Are those vuvuzelas just annoying to you as they are to me? I can imagine how the players would feel... At some point they wanted to ban the darn things, but they didn't, citing African culture, spirit, etc. From what I know, Africa - when it comes to rhythm - is known for drums, good "beats", nice percussion...not this flat, ear-piercing buzzing annoyance that provides the background "noise"... Eeegghh!

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