One of the many criticisms against Almunia has been that he is not an international keeper i.e. doesn’t play for his national team. I’ve never seen any sense in that argument and going by the performances in this World Cup, can anyone really claim there is a correlation between the quality of a keeper and being an international?!
I’m not sure if the combination of altitude and the ball is having a big effect or not. There is an argument that it might be affecting the players’ judgement of the flight of the ball. So far I haven’t seen the ball swerve or do anything that might be considered extraordinary but we can’t really judge the flight on TV. It could be that the ball floats a little more than expected as was predicted in this article on Untold Arsenal.
We didn’t see many problems in the first game mainly because the keepers had very little to do for large periods and hardly dealt with aerial balls in the whole match. One guy who did have to deal with it and did a Diaby was Simon Poulsen. While attempting to head a Van Persie cross to safety, the Dane got his timing wrong and the ball hit Agger on its way for an own goal.
Funnily enough, Agger was credited (or discredited) with the goal and that left me wondering whether Poulsen would get an “own assist” against his name!
Denmark played a very tight game and didn’t let the Dutch have too much space or time on the ball. It was working till that mistake early in the second half and after that the Danes just didn’t have enough to come back.
In some ways the Netherlands won while not playing too well and that should be a positive sign for the Dutch supporters. Another positive for the Oranje was that Elia and Affellay looked sharp after coming on as subs.
In contrast, Van Persie and Van der Vaart had an off day and Robben was sorely missed. RvP, in particular, looked rather unhappy on the pitch. His touch wasn’t very good, nor was his body language. And he was lucky that he wasn’t sent off while playing on after the off-side whistle had blown. In the previous games we have seen the referees apply the letter of the law and didn’t think twice before giving a second yellow, but the French ref Stephane Lannoy was a lot more lenient in this one. Even De Jong got away with some rash tackles.
Bendtner had one good chance but failed to hit the target. Apart from that he didn’t get much service but his overall game was quite impressive. His first touch was better and he did a good job of holding the ball whenever he got a chance. Some of his turns were quite good as he created space for himself and his team mates. I think he was substituted around the hour mark because of fitness issues. The Danes did look better than the two sides that followed.
The second game was one of the most boring games of the tournament so far. Neither Japan, nor Cameroon ever got going and some composure and cool finishing saw Japan take the points. The Japanese keeper was all over the place while dealing with crosses but the Indomitable Lions just didn’t have any bite.
Song didn’t feature in this one at all and that makes me wonder if all is well in the Cameroon camp. Surely, that decision was not based on sporting reasons alone!
In the final game Paraguay almost gave Italy a taste of their own medicine. The South Americans were well organized and threatened on the break. Neither side created many chances in the first half but Alcaraz, who will play for Wigan next season, scored with good header from a set piece. He had no problems judging the flight of the ball!
The same cannot be said for his keeper who let the Italians back in the game with a world class flap. The defending champions did improve considerably in the second half but will need to do much better, especially in the knock out stages, if they want to harbour any realistic hopes of holding on to their trophy. They are lucky to have a group which has no other team ranked in the top 30 and that should make qualification a formality even for an off-colour Azzurri.
Some of the players linked with us were on field today.
Simon Kjaer started for Denmark and had a decent game until the final few minutes when he went to sleep and allowed Kuyt to sneak in for the second goal. That is exactly the kind of lack of awareness and alertness that troubled us last season but I don’t think it would be a big factor in Wenger’s decision making. He was physically strong, quick, and decent in the air. I’d like to see how the youngster plays with a high line of defence but that is unlikely with this Danish team.
Gregory van der Weil started at Right Back for Holland. I thought he was solid without being spectacular. Something many have been saying about Sagna all season long. Unless we see anything extraordinary from him in the next few games I can’t see Wenger taking interest as it’s not a priority area.
Stephane Mbia is another one who has been linked with us regularly. Reports mentioned him as a holding midfield target but he played most of the game as a right back. Apart from a cracking strike from long distance that rattled the bar there isn’t much to mention about his performance. Surely worth keeping an eye on him though, his real test will come against the Dutch.
So far I don’t think any individual has delivered a stand out performance. Ozil and Podolski were good but it was a great team effort against a tactically weak side.
Hopefully the group of death will give us something to rave about.