Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 6

Well, well, well…What a day to wrap up the first round of group games! And a harsh reminder to my earlier comment, that I should not write off any team [read Switzerland] without allowing them to prove themselves on the field…Yet, sustainable proof that anything can happen at a World Cup and past statistics only enforce that “rules” are there to be broken. Let’s just hope that the one rule that says no team that lost the first game ever went on to win the World Cup will be broken also. Looks doubtful though, as Spain (if they’ll make it out of the group) they’ll likely meet Brazil in the round of 16 [incidentally, I had these two meet in the final, during my pre-tournament ‘analysis’]. But enough of that…Here’s the story as it unfolded:

Chile managed an easy win over Honduras, which was more comfortable than the 1-0 scoreline. It could have been better if they capitalized on their chances…still, they were happy to record another World Cup victory after 48 years!

Spain’s loss, on the other hand, was a complete paradox. The game stats were overwhelmingly in favor of the Spaniards: 63% possession, 24-8 shots (8-3 on goal), 12-3 corners…Even the historical numbers were pointing to a Spanish victory: they had not lost to European opposition in their last 37 games and never lost to Switzerland in any of their previous 19 encounters. To their credit, the Swiss have now gone 484 minutes without conceding a goal at the World Cup [only Italy – 550 and England – 501, can boast a better record] and have equaled Italy’s record of 5 consecutive clean sheets (even though they have not kept a single clean sheet in any of their 22 previous World Cup games prior to this run). In the end though, a bit of luck and plenty of resilient defending is what contributed to the most important statistic [and biggest upset of the competition so far]: the 1-0 scoreline.

Without taking anything away from the Swiss, La Furia Roja had only themselves [and lady luck] to blame for heading into the halftime without a goal. That’s been the theme so far: if you fail to score early, it gets increasingly more difficult as the game progresses. And even if the goal was a combination of lucky bounces and fortunate deflections, the Spanish defense (Casillas primarily) should have done better.

It’s all academic now. Surely a game they’ll want to forget. Heads up and better luck going forward!

So, after the first round of group games, some interesting statistics to take note of:

  • 24 games / 24 different goalscorers. Another first for the World Cup!
  • 1.5 goals per game on average. Lowest (in the overall tournament) to date have been 2.2 (Italy ’90) and 2.3 (Germany ’06). This number should definitely increase as teams get over the fear of losing the first game and employ a more attack-minded approach in order to qualify out of the groups. But this is clearly something that FIFA should look at if they want to get back to the higher averages recorded during the competition’s early years [yes, the game is not the same, but the approach and mentalities of the teams have also changed].
  • The South American contingent have the best points-per-game average (2.2), with Asia at 1.5, Europe at 1.38 and Africa (.83) at the opposite end

* * *

Round 2 of Group Games

In line with what I just mentioned, the teams now feel unshackled by the fear of losing the first game and start showing what they’re really capable of (good or bad). Uruguay proved that the tie with France was not just happenstance, with an emphatic victory over Bafana Bafana. Forlan scored a splendid ‘Jabulani’ goal to become the first player to score 2 so far [did you see that ball swerve and drop?!?]. South Africa, on the other hand, might make some history of their own [unless they beat France in the next game] by becoming the first host country not to make it past the group stage. They really were poor, showing that their ‘performance’ of not qualifying for the African Cup this year was justified. Mexico should really feel bad for not taking all 3 points from their encounter last Friday.

* * *

I pick up the USA Today newspaper every morning to see what ink has been wasted over the World Cup by totally inept [so-called] ‘reporters’. It makes me cringe every time. Here’s a couple of snippets:

  • A certain State Department spokesman called North Korea “a criminal state” because they’re “trying to steal South Korean TV signal of World Cup matches”

1. Why/how is this newsworthy?

2. Why does the US State Dept care? Is this what our taxes pay for?

3. I’m not defending the communists, but it’s not about the country. This is about soccer fans for whom that would be the only option to watch their beloved game. I know…I’ve been there countless times watching games via the Bulgarian TV. Just wondering what the US fans would do if the games were not broadcast domestically…

  • On a story about the Jabulani ball, a certain ‘journalist’ [Joan Murphy] notes that the current ball construction “makes the ball rounder”!!! Wow…imagine that…the game has been played so far with a less rounder ball…

* * *

In an unrelated bit of trivia, an USA Today poll asking if Americans would favor ‘sin taxes’ on sodas and junk food, 56% said “no” (only 33% approve of such a measure). Not surprising, but sad…

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