June 16, 2010

Where are the contenders?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Wow, after watching the second half of teams play in the World Cup, you have to wonder how many true contenders are in this whole thing. The total lack of finishing and the fact that teams are really settling in defensively and not willing to advance too far in fear of counterattack is really bogging down this tournament. Really, these teams “parking the bus” in the front of net is nearly as annoying as the constant drone of the vuvuzelas.

Pleasant surprises
-North Korea: Written off before the tournament even began, DPRK held off Brazil for far longer than anyone could have expected and even when they first conceded, it took a dazzling effort by Maicon to break the scoreless draw.
-Switzerland: If it weren’t for the unpredictability of this sport in general, the Swiss’ upset of Spain would almost certainly already be named upset of the tourney. Their goal – and win – wasn’t pretty, but it still got the job done.
-Japan: Took advantage of a Cameroon side that lacked cohesion. Played truly like a team and earned their first ever win in the World Cup on foreign soil. They’ve proved that they could be a really tough out.
-New Zealand: Their injury time goal to tie Slovakia got them one more than I had figured they would score in the entire tournament. Sadly, it should be all downhill from here.

Contenders
-Brazil: Sure, they did win, and applied pressure for most of the game. But shouldn’t the No.1 team in the world do a bit better than the No. 105 team? It will be interesting to see how they do in a bigger test against Ivory Coast next.
-Netherlands: Eljero Elia looked special during his time on as a sub, but the fact is that it really took a horrible own goal to put the Dutch in front.

Where they should be
-Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba didn’t have much of an impact in the minutes he played, but that can be expected from a guy with a broken arm.
-Chile: With Spain falling, Chile has quite a good shot at winning the group. That’s more than this squad might have imagined coming in. It will come down to their faceoff with the Spanish, which should be a marvelously offensive match.
-Honduras: For a team that was supposed to be quite offensively gifted and poor on defence, they held their own against the darkhorse Chileans. They couldn’t get onto the score sheet, but played a game that should be up to their low standards.
-Paraguay: Started strong but couldn’t hold their lead. If not for their keeper’s error, they would be on top of their group and primed to go through. Now, they’ll have to work for it.

Disappointments
-Portugal: Clearly outplayed by Cote d’Ivore and now have Cristiano Ronaldo playing on a yellow card. Yep, no more diving buddy, or you’ll miss a game. They were lucky to get their draw.
-Italy: Forced to pick up their game after conceding to Paraguay. De Rossi’s goal was more of a goalkeeper’s error than skill. If I were a fan of Italy I’d be really concerned. Especially with Gigi Buffon likely out for a while.
-Cameroon: By the time that the Indomitable Lions put together a decent attacking presence, it was far too late. Samuel Eto’o should have been playing striker all game, not out on the wing and their offence suffered. They should have at least gotten a point from a weaker Japan side.
-Denmark: Their supposed stout defence didn’t look too stout when two players combined on one own-goal. Their attack had its moments, but wasn’t too inspiring overall against the Dutch.
-Slovakia: It’s the worst to give up a goal in injury time, especially when it ties the game and leaves you with a draw. NZ was the best chance the Slovaks had to win in their group and they blew it. It’s harder from here on out.
-Spain: The upset of the tournament so far. Opening the Cup with a loss is something that no team wants to do, even more so for supposed contenders. Losing to the offensively challenged Swiss, who didn’t even score at WC 2006, is painful.  It really makes you wonder why they opted to really just hold possession early instead of genuinely attack.

1 Comment

  1. The Vuvuzela, just when you though kazoos were the most annoying “musical instruments”

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