First week thoughts...
Ok, so the first round of group play is completed. What do we now know?
- I’m of the mind that the ball is having an effect, but it’s mainly hurting the supporters. Sure there’s the odd goalkeeping gaff and when that goalkeeper plays for West Ham Utd there’s bound to be an outpouring of grief around the planet. But it’s having more effect on attacking play and the supporters are missing out on goals goals goals (exactly 10 less in the first round compared to the last World Cup).
- It’s surprising how these first rounds all emulate each other. England play a bit crap, likewise France, Spain lose and Brazil don’t look too fussed but win.
- Sadly, it looks like the hosts will not make the round of 16. This was always going to be a gamble with staging it in Africa and it hasn’t paid off. The only other time this has happened in the last 30 years was in the USA finals in 1994 and it did have an effect on local interest. The finals in 2002 were also a gamble in Japan & Korea but the hosts rose to the challenge wonderfully, not going to happen this time around unfortunately.
- The only team to surprise me so far have been Australia. I didn’t realise how bizarre their coach’s plans were until I saw Richard Garcia (a winger) stroll out as the sole striker against Germany. They were bad against us a few weeks ago but were diabolical against the Germans on Monday. How could it have all gone so wrong?
- The All Whites have done wonderfully this week. Calm in the pre-match and composed during it. We have to savour this one.
- Everyone sees the brilliant irony of France being put out by a team in green, right?
- It hasn’t been a great week for Africa. Most hopes resting on Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire now.
- Franck Ribery; feet of an angel, face of a monster? No wonder he has to pay for it, if you know what I mean...
- Good value win of the week? Has to be Chile with their first World Cup win in 50 years followed by a tidy wee riot in Santiago. Now that’s some proper World Cup action.
- The vuvuzelas; have to say they didn’t really bother me too much to begin with, if anything their continuous noise gave a South American feel to the Cup. But during the Spain game there were a couple of times when the noise faded slightly and you could hear the fans singing underneath the racket and it made me feel a bit sad, it really is taking something away from the spectacle.
So, what can we expect over the next week?
The second games have already started and we’re really into business time now. First game nerves are gone and all teams now know most of what they have to do to progress. So I reckon that;
- Capello will pick a better team this week, Gareth Barry will be a proper holding player and England will have more penetration, possibly with Heskey dropped for Jermain Defoe or Peter Crouch. Algeria will be soundly beaten but not thrashed.
- Rob Green will be in goal.
- Germany will go through to the next round by sneaking past Serbia, as will the Netherlands in their match against Japan.
- New Zealand will be beaten by an under pressure Italy. A lot will depend on whether they can get pixie-faced playmaker Andrea Pirlo back in the team in time but I just feel we’re finally going to buckle after a run of fantastic performances.
- Potential match of the 2nd round of group play – Brazil vs. Cote D’Ivoire. CD have to throw everything at this while Brazil will also feel a draw might be a bit light with Portugal still to come. Expect some stress.
- And then there’s Group H. Nothing short of a decent win will do for Spain now and I suspect Honduras may be in for a spanking. The key match is between the winners, Switzerland and Chile. If it’s a draw then the sangria and Rioja will be flowing up Iberia way, and setting up a mouth watering final round prospect where Spain will meet Chile.
So that’s my thoughts. Whaddya all reckon?