Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 14

I hate to keep pointing back to my early analysis (see Preamble - Part I) but my initial assessment of Gli Azzurri was spot on, as they're joining France on the early 'bus' back home. So, for another first in the history of the tournament, both finalists from the previous edition are heading home [France has lived through a similar experience in 2002 (after winning the 1998 edition) but for the Italians, this is a new low; yet I'm not one bit surprised]. Just go back and read the little snippet about Italy from the 6/6/10 post and you'll see why.

The 'surprise' is so mush more significant since the group was considered one of the easiest. But from there to finishing last, there's a long way... really no excuse. Yet, I'm not gonna dwell on this... I'll stay brief since I'm on a flight back to Atlanta and the Gogo In-flight internet connection is poor...

So, Italy out (totally 'deserved' based on the aggregate performance over the 3 group games) and Paraguay and Slovakia through. None have impressed too much, but when the bar was so low, not much was required in order to go through. I think they will both bow out to Holland and Japan respectively in the next stage.

Yes, Holland topped their group with a perfect score (only other team to do that so far is Argentina) without even stepping on the gas... Cameroon has really disappointed with 0 points in the tournament. Japan (securing the second spot) were impressive against the Danes with an emphatic 3-1 victory.

Day 14, therefore, continued in the same surprise-generating fashion we've been witnessing in the tournament so far. Plenty of firsts:
  • Italy bottom of their group (first time they failed to win a game in a tournament)
  • Paraguay topping their qualification group (USA doing the same yesterday)
  • Both finalists from previous version eliminated in the group stage
...and with all the negative results, the obligatory carousel of "fired" coaches started its spin already; victims so far: Carlos Alberto Parreira (South Africa), Pim Verbeek (Australia), Paul LeGuen (Cameroon) - who's rumored to replace Pim, in a classic [yet typical] musical chairs game, and Otto Rehhagel (Greece). Aside from these, others we already knew will be replaced once the World Cup was over: Raymond Domenech (France) and Marcello Lippi (Italy). I'm sure many more will follow, especially those "mercenaries" I referred to in my earlier ramblings, with Sven Eriksson (Ivory Coast), Lars Lagerback (Nigeria) and Radomir Antic (Serbia) primary candidates.

Back to what matters, however, looking forward to the last day of group games, Ivory Coast and North Korea is simply academic unless (notice that's a big 'unless'?) Portugal loses to Brazil and they beat the Elephants by a cumulative total 9 goals... Like I said... 'Academic'

Brazil and Portugal will fight to decide who will top the group, but the Lusitans will need a victory in order for that to happen; either one would like to avoid Spain in the next round, unfortunately, that 'information' will not be available until later in the afternoon.

So the outcome of afternoon games could potentially result in 3 teams on 6 points, with the decider being goal-difference. Spain - Chile is a must-win for La Furia Roja, but the South Americans' defense is yet to be penetrated [granted they have only scored 2 goals in two games, but they do have 6 points]. Hands full for Xavi, Iniesta & Co.

The Swiss have the relatively easier opponent, and although they need the 3 points and as many goals as possible, they only found the net once so far in the tournament. Yet, I would not be surprised if they find their rhythm tomorrow. The way I see it [and again, Spain is my favorite to go all the way] is Spain over Chile and Switzerland over Honduras, with Chile going home on goal difference. Too bad that one of the teams in this group will leave the competition (with 6 points potentially) as most of the ones that have already qualified did so with less... But that's another story for another day.

Talk about stories, however, here's a good one I found on ESPN. Very well written (especially the parallel between tennis judges and soccer referees) and although I don't agree with it 100%, I liked the writing style and approach. Hope you enjoy it:

Let's hope tomorrow this blog will come back on a happy note!

¡Viva España!

1 comment: