The World Cup is turning out to be better than expected, and fingers crossed I don’t jinx it by saying that. After being tortured by Inter Milan in the Champions League with some extremely boring, highly tactical anti-football these matches feel like a breath of fresh air.
Korea opened the day with a good win over an inept Greece. I was really worried that the Europeans will turn up to defend in numbers, a formula that won them the Euro 2004. Thankfully, they were quite prepared to play, although that did lead to their downfall and their fans would be wondering if prioritizing defence might have been a better tactical choice.
Korea had better talent on the pitch and that made the difference as the Greeks made some individual errors while the Asian players capitalized. In particular, Park Ji Sung’s goal deserves special mention as he pounced on a poor touch and rode a couple of challenges before sliding it expertly between the keeper and a lunging defender.
Greece just didn’t have any quality in the final third and some of their players looked disinterested. I can’t see them troubling Argentina and they will need massive improvement if they want to avoid a whitewash.
Argentina are one of my favourite teams, not as potential winners but just as a team I love to watch. To be frank, I thought they started with a ridiculous formation and starting eleven. Playing Higuain, Tevez, and Di Maria alongside Messi didn’t make any sense.
The world’s best player is the best by quite some distance and he showed his class once again even though his record of not scoring for the national side from open play now stretches to ten games. Only a man of the match performance from Vincent Enyeama kept the Argentine genius out of the scoresheet.
The tactical weakness of Maradona’s formation can be seen from the amount of work done by Messi and the contribution of others. The Barcelona star had 100+ touches and 65 completed passes in the game which is the second highest in the tournament so far. This was far higher than the midfielders Veron and Mascherano. It was also higher than Tevez and almost 4 times the successful passes by Di Maria, who looked woefully out of place in this system.
Normally, at Barcelona, the midfield does a lot more work and Messi thrives as a creative and destructive force.
Even their defence is extremely weak and this system didn’t provide sufficient cover for the back four. Nigeria created plenty of half chances and a better final ball or finishing skills could easily have seen them sharing the spoils.
On the basis of this performance I can’t see Argentina winning the Cup but all their games will be fun to watch so I’m hoping they get some luck and progress to the latter stages.
The final game was the most hyped encounter of the day as England took on the USA. Many observers, especially those that have been following the US team, believed that the Americans could challenge one of the pre-tournament favourites and Bardley’s team didn’t disappoint.
Capello needs some serious rethink if he wants to win the Cup as this performance showed England need a lot of improvement. I can’t believe England keep playing B-level strikers like Heskey and Crouch in big games when Rooney has done so well as a target man for United and England have far better midfielders than they have strikers! It’s a waste of one critical spot in the team and puts extra pressure on the others.
The fact that Terry had the maximum number of passes for England shows how badly they are missing a midfielder who can pull the strings. It’s a different matter that Arsene hasn’t developed one and so England don’t really have anyone who can do the job!
In the second half England were much more positive and dominated most of the play. If they had better composure and finishing skills they might have scored a couple of goals but credit goes to the American players for a hard working and intelligent defensive performance.
Of course, the biggest talking point of the game and Capello’s worst nightmare was a moment when Robert Green decided to apply for the goalkeeping role at Arsenal. A lapse in concentration and poor technique while under no pressure is the perfect combination for us and Arsene will probably get a good deal on Green after this blooper!
On a more serious note we have to realize that there are very few top quality keepers out there who can perform consistently under pressure. James has always been inconsistent and now Green has joined that list. Hart is third choice even though Capello sees them in training all the time so he can’t be all that better.
I don’t really care about England but it is a serious problem for Arsene and we can only hope he finds the right solution.
Tomorrow’s games will present some interesting battles. I don’t know anything about Algeria or Slovenia so I’ll just watch out for Majid Bougherra. Le Boss had some kinds words for him and we need plenty of defenders. Will he be one of them?
Serbia and Ghana is also likely to be a tussle between strong, organized defences so keep an eye on that one as well. Obviously Subotic, if he starts, will be the man to watch.
In the final game Germany take on Australia. That one is going to be a real battle as both teams have a fantastic fighting spirit and never say die attitude. Hopefully, we will get a look at Mesut Özil.