Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 3

Day 3 had started on a really bad note, with a very poor encounter between Algeria and Slovenia, but it got much better an hour or so later as Ghana and Serbia put together a very entertaining game (best so far, in my opinion) and ended with a cat-and-mouse play between Germany and Australia, where the 4-0 score line only tells half the story…

Hard to stay awake during the first game of the day where Slovenia and Algeria [both surprise qualifiers, and if you read my ‘Preamble’ neither of them should be here] did not show anything. Nada. The game (lowest quality to date in this tournament) was heading towards a nil-nil draw, but Chaouchi decided to make the headlines with another goalkeeping blunder (not as bad as Green’s though) and let in a speculative shot from Koren. From what I saw on the pitch, England and the US should have no problems qualifying from this group…

The Black Stars, in the second game, put together a very strong performance against an equally strong Serbia, and took the 3 points thanks to an idiotic hand ball in the box from Kuzmanovic. Yet, the Serbs only had themselves to blame, as several times they came close to scoring earlier on…Reduced to 10 men in the second half, they had a mountain to climb after going down 1-0, and never pulled it through. Ghana, with a strong Kinson in goal (celebrating his 32nd birthday) looked confident and will surely progress if they continue the energetic, high-tempo style of play they showed against Serbia. The victory – great reason for celebration for all of Africa – was bittersweet for Milovan Rajevac (one of those ‘mercenaries’ I mentioned a few days back) who saw his home country defeated by the team he coaches…I’m only wondering what the Serbian papers are writing about him (or if his family and friends are safe back home)…

The Germans, although favorites in the 3rd game of the day, never thought they’d have it so easy against Australia. I mentioned in my pre-tournament analysis that most of their key players are past their prime (30+) and it showed, as the young German team ran circles around the Socceroos. The scoreline could have been much higher if the Germans did not waste several good chances, and to add insult to injury, Tim Cahill will likely miss the rest of the World Cup after being shown a red card in the 56th minute. Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez was trigger-happy with the cards, and with Cahill’s elimination practically ended any hopes for the Aussies in the tournament. [It seems like there’s always a Mexican referee that wants to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Officiating standards – pretty high overall so far – were shadowed by his performance. If he had some dubious calls during the game, the red card was given way too easily and later on another “cheap” card was given to Cacau for ‘diving’ (most referees don’t give that even in the penalty area; he did it for such a display on the midfield line…)]

So yes, the games seem to be improving in quality (and tempo) but there have been (and likely to be) some ‘snoozers’, especially as the group standings take shape and teams that are already qualified (or have no longer a chance to qualify) will either rest players and or take the foot off the pedal... For argument’s sake, let’s take a look on how FIFA can improve that aspect of it, and change the mentality from “I can’t afford to lose the first game” to “I have to go all out and win the first game” (or all the group games, for that matter):

· Do not award any points to either of the teams for a 0-0 draw [critics would say that the first two games, although entirely opposite from a quality perspective, were both heading towards a blank draw, but the fact is, that both Ghana and Serbia showed that they were going for the win, while Algeria and Slovenia were content with “not losing”]

· Award an extra point for the team that scores 4 or more goals per game. In that case, Argentina would have not stopped and be content with a slim 1-0 lead.

I know, the over-conservative FIFA would never go for anything like that, but could you imagine how much better [open] the games would be? How many more goals would be scored? And how much more interesting the mathematical permutations on group standings would be?

Anyway…back on Earth, more exciting World Cup action coming up over the next couple of days…unfortunately, work gets in the way and I won’t be able to experience the action “live” again until Friday…This blog will surely suffer as a result, and my fans (all three of them!) will be disappointed…Apologies in advance, and I’ll try my best to keep up with the action in the evenings!

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