Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup First Games

The first set of games for World Cup 2010 have been played. I have a few observations to share.

The first is the overall play of the first round was cautious. It had to be, teams can't afford to go all out and then lose on one counter attack. Some call this boring. However, in every other sport the first game (in American football it's usually the first quarter) is usually a feel out game. It takes time for the teams to understand what the other team is trying to do before taking chances. This was the prevailing mood in the first games. Germany seemed to be the only team to get out of the feeling out phase quickly enough to win by 4.

The most boring game of the first round had to be Portugal vs the Ivory Coast. Neither team seemed inspired nor willing to do what was necessary to score. Those two teams had better pick it up in their next game or they will be the ones left out of the group of death given the way North Korea played Brazil.

Surprises? North Korea holds Brazil to a scoreless half and gets a goal late to make the game respectable at 2 – 1. Japan beating Cameroon. New Zealand grabbing a late equalizer against Slovakia. And of course the biggest upset so far, Switzerland taking down Spain 1 – 0 (BTW, Casillas should have been booked for his reckless challenge just before Switzerland's goal).

Howlers? At least three of them by the goalies of England, Paraguay, and Algeria. In the first two it lead to the tying goal. In the last case it was the game winner.

The ball? I don't think the ball is the issue. Players not being in technically good position to hit the strike is more at fault. Look at the replays to verify this. Also, the players have been playing with the ball for a long time now, excuses are just that.

Officiating? I can't remember a set of first games where there wasn't at least one controversy. None so far. Let's hope that remains. Even today's sending off of the South African goalie can't be construed as a controversy.

Boring? Yes a couple of matches have not been entertaining. However, there have been enough games where the entertainment value has been high. There has been excitement in several matches and some have come down to the final minutes.

As the second set of games begins teams will want to win. This will produce better football and should also provide more entertaining games. Hopefully the teams I like will continue to play well (are you listening US and Chile?). After this set of games the picture will become clearer. There may even be some teams that will have clinched a spot in the next round.

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