WC2014 Cameroon 0 – 4 Croatia

Song goes all elbowtastic as he loses his mind and gets a red card sendoff

Song goes all elbowtastic as he loses his mind and gets a red card sendoff

Bingo Big Boy, That Was My Bonus

Poor Cameroon, they haven’t had it easy. First, they were delayed getting to Brazil due to a contretemps over win bonuses. Two losses later and the team is in trouble. Already out of the World Cup, they face a long wait for a cheap flight home on PeopleSmuggler Airways, and the very real prospect that, should they fail to win their remaining game against Brazil, the entire team will be sold off to the highest bidder in an attempt by the Cameroon FA to recoup the cost of this campaign. The prospect of a lifetime of indentured servitude (and not at £100,000 a week mind) has obviously had a seriously detrimental effect on the players, who have taken to extreme on-pitch measures to counter the threat.


WC2014 Cameroon 0 – 1 Mexico

wet football pitch

It wasn’t quite as wet as this, but it wasn’t far off.

Wet, Wet, Wet

So much for Brazil being the country of sunshine. As Nick Cave might say, “And the rain it hammered down,” making this game more like something from the First Division of the 1970s. Which kind of suited these teams as Cameroon look like a side whose best days were in the 1970s, while Mexico look like a bunch of flyweight fancy dans, with lots of skills, yet utterly vulnerable to a side who appear to owe more to Wimbledon than the World Cup.


What We Learned From Group E Eliminators

Japan 3 – 1 Denmark

Quite why we should have been so scathing about Japan’s inadequate set piece play is a mystery. Their free kicks were outstanding, the first being a stunning long range missile from Honda, the second a great slip it in the corner by Endo. After that the Danes had no chance. The Japanese had one of the most exhausting build ups to the World Cup, apparently rolling around Asia, Europe and Africa in their tourbus playing every shitty venue that had goalposts. They gave Engerland a great game and would have utterly wiped the floor with them if it hadn’t been for their very genial habit of gifting their hosts a couple of own goals just to avoid causing offence. And all their work has paid off. They have a defence that seems utterly familiar with one another, ultra-organised and very capable of dealing with all kinds of attacks, in Tuilio Tanaka, they have an excellent central defender. They also pass the ball really well, moving it about the pitch and proving a real handful for any defence, especially one as laborious and slothful as the Danes’. They don’t look like the lightweights everyone imagined them to be and will be a real handful for Paraguay, who they play in the next Round.

As for the Danes, they are a disaster. Bendtner joins a long list of Arsenal players who have woefully underperformed at the World Cup. He looks like a striker with no confidence and no mental strength to adapt his game. Still he wasn’t helped by having the utterly useless Jon Dahl Tomasson as the team’s main striker, a forward who hasn’t scored internationally for two and a half years. But you think that, given their only meaningful attacks in their previous match against Cameroon came down the right via Rommerdahl, they would have attempted to exploit his pace down the wing. And to be fair, the one time they tried that, deep in the second half they created a useful goal-scoring chance, which Tomasson conspired to fail to even hit, let alone hit on target. Instead the Danes seemed content to waft the ball straight up the middle into the loving embrace of Tuilio Tanaka, who would then (in typical sneaky Japanese style) set up another graceful 22 or so pass attack for the Japanese. Even when they had a very soft penalty, the Danes could barely take advantage. Once again the thoroughly useless Tomasson was at the heart of the action, tamely slapping the ball at the goalkeeper and then attempting to do his best to knock the rebound wide. Being Tomasson, naturally, he failed even to do that and scored. I don’t see Denmark playing much of a part in any upcoming tournaments.

Holland 2 – 1 Cameroon

Cameroon are playing the useless African card. Inextricably bound up in the super-ego that is Samuel Eto’o they have become a team that is wholly subsumed by one individual in complete opposition to everything this tournament has taught us – namely that the team is everything. More than Messi or Rooney, Eto’o dominates the team to the point where he is the de facto manager, a situation which cannot be any good. Sure Eto’o is a great player, you can’t argue that he was the catalyst behind Barcelona’s defeat of Arsenal in the Champions League final, nor that his unselfish work on the wing for Inter helped them to this year’s Champions League, but he seems to require a firm managerial hand to really achieve and that’s obviously not what’s going on with Cameroon. Played 3, lost 3 is a woeful record in a Group that, the Dutch aside, is fairly well balanced.

The Dutch, meanwhile, are still playing that powder dry thing. They didn’t need to win this and, you know what, I don’t think they really tried. They’re still playing that stupid game where they start with both Snejder and Van Der Vaat, which you know makes no sense other than to pander to the super-ego that the latter obviously has. You know that the Dutch are so much more effective when they have both the clever passing of Snejder and the fast-paced wingplay of Elia, Robben and others. However, the Dutch haven’t remotely needed to play their strongest cards in this Group where they have comfortably won all three games.

So Bye-Bye Cameroon And Denmark

Frankly, this was one of the easiest Groups to finish second in. Economy class please.

44 Down 20 To Go 18 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What We Learned At The Halfway Point

The Competition Has Kicked Off

Yes, the Second Round of Group matches were certainly better than the First Round. Most teams understood that they couldn’t simply defend all the time and play for a draw, even the Swiss, whose adoption of an almost ‘Neutral Country’ option has seen them regularly top both the Haven’t Conceded and the Haven’t Scored tables, realised that at some point they’d have to come out and have a shot, although to be fair they did have something that vaguely resembled a shot in the First Round and it paid off handsomely. The games got faster and more meaningful as we saw Matches That Mattered and teams realised that there was a very real danger of their World Cup ending later this week.

The Goals Are Coming

As teams threw off the shackles of defensive cowardice and started attacking we began to see more goals. Few teams were content to sit on a one goal lead and continued to press their opponents. Some goals were even good, although few of them were up to the Tshabalala standard. However, I distinctly remember exclaiming, “What a goal” more than once during Round 2.

The Cheating Has Started

Grab and Dive, with or without pirouette, is the order of the day. Compulsive penalty box wrestling at every set piece. Not that much deliberate diving, but plenty of subtle blocking and writhing around. All in an attempt to cheat your way to a free kick or some colour of card for the opposition, or both. Not good. I think if it continues, we will see some kind of tv replay system introduced on the fly, if only because the whole world is watching.

Lots of Empty Seats

Now that it’s getting serious I suspect we won’t be seeing too many empty stadiums, but I’d lay money that there will be empty seats at the Uruguay Mexico match, where both teams need only to draw to go through (0 – 0 anyone?). However, too many venues have been conspicuously less than capacity.

Who Has Been Naughty?

It’s goodbye to South Africa, France (very naughty), Nigeria, Greece (very bad),  Algeria,  Oztralia (awful), Serbia (painful). Cameroon, New Zealand (rubbish), Slovakia (tedious), Ivory Coast (unlucky to get Group of Death for the second World Cup in a row), North Korea, and Honduras. You are all officially too crap for the World Cup. Book your flights now.

Who Has Been Nice?

And it’s hello to Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, South Korea, Ghana, Germany, Holland, Paraguay, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile. Nicely done South America.

And Who Is Bricking It?

Group C is totally up for grabs with two of Engerland, USA and Slovenia, the permutations are excruciating, but basically all teams have to win to be sure that they will qualify. In Group E Japan and Denmark will duke it out, a draw being enough to take the Japanese through. Group H is so complicated that Spain, Chile and Switzerland could all end up with 6 points and theoretically identical goal differences and goals scored, in which case as Spain will have beaten Chile, who have beaten Switzerland, who have beaten Spain lots would have to be drawn.  Makes penalty shoot outs seem tame by comparison.

And Who Is Really Bricking It Most?

Has to be ever-optimistic no-hopers Engerland, who just seem utterly unable to cope with the pressure of having to play a few matches away from home in front of large television audiences. Basking in unwarrented media acclaim and with performances getting more inadequate by the day, Engerland are a disaster waiting to happen. And while the French are imploding with a farcical degree of hilarity, Engerland can’t even manage an effective internal coup d’etat. One thing is clear, Wednesday could be the most excruciating game of football ever played.

What We Learned From Cameroon vs Denmark (1-2)

Football, Bloody Hell

Now previously, when we said that Cameroon were as useless as a bag of shite on a stick and that Denmark were less than ambivalent about their place in the tournament, we couldn’t have anticipated what this ‘Match of Losers’ would turn into. If we needed any proof that we were into the serious end of the World Cup we had it here, a win for one of these teams meant that the other one was going home. And unlike either of their previous matches, this one started like the teams knew it, which obviously makes their lacklustre performances in the first games all the more unintelligible.

Bang! Cameroon Are Going Through

After giving the Danes a quick look at goal, the Cameroonians turned up the heat, putting together some great moves and putting the Danes under so much pressure that they cracked, giving the ball to Cameroon and letting Eto’o get his first World Cup goal of the campaign, which he duly celebrated in emphatic style.

But No, The Danes Have Something To Say

Obviously by this time both sides had dispensed with any Mourinho style defences and were basically standing like two old sluggers beating the crap out of one another, trading attack for attack until there could only be one left standing. They replied with a classic Route 1 crossfield pass, cross and finish of sublime skill, the pass to Rommedahl from scrabbletabulous Kjaer was outstanding, while Rommedahl’s cross to Bendtner was just perfect, Bendtner deserving his goal for having the ambition to get into position in the first place.

Game On

From this point it was basically a brilliant cup tie, with each side trying to suss out the weakness in the other. Denmark looked susceptible to the Cameroonians’ clever interlinked passing and attempts to pull them out of position, but they held; while Cameroon always looked vulnerable on their left, as Tottingham’s Assou-Ekotto drove forward, leaving a glaring hole on the left of their defence. Unfortunately for Cameroon, this was exactly where Rommedahl was operating and he took full advantage, cutting inside Makoun to curl the ball into the net. From then on it wasn’t the usual leaders hang back letting the losers hammer at them until the end, instead it continued to be compelling end to end action.

Down And Out – Lessons Learned

Following two defeats, Cameroon become the first team to be eliminated, which is a bit sad, but they were abjectly rubbish against the Japanese and really should have raised their game much, much earlier. They are going home through a lack of ambition, organisation and application. You could argue that their real fault was that their defence was just not good enough and that, while skillful in possession, they suffered from a naivety and a lack of organisation and cohesion. Alternatively, they were unlucky that Eto’o didn’t score a second and had a sure goal saved by Sorenson.

26 Down 38 To Go 31 Teams Remaining

What We Learned From Japan vs Cameroon (1-0)

That Was A Knockout Match

Once again, goals change games. Once the Japanese had scored with the only halfway decent move of the first half, Cameroon had to score and that set the trend for the rest of the match. Japan had asked the question and Cameroon had none of the answers. It was quite interesting when it got to 85 minutes and you’re hoping Cameroon don’t score and they’re increasingly pressing forward. Cameroon’s failure to get into the game illustrates the drawbacks of a conservative opening attitude. Cameroon’s next match, against the Danes, who also lost today, is now a must win. Even then, they will have to get a result from the Holland match. Tempting to say Goodbye Cameroon.

Nice Try Nippon

They were fantastically unlucky in their friendly against Engerland where they not only bossed the game, but managed to score all the goals. This was Japan’s first World Cup win outside Japan, so nicely done.

Take Note Pragmatists

Those teams that are playing not to get beaten should take note here. Cameroon were the outstanding favourites for this game, but totally failed to get a result, primarily because they didn’t attempt to seize the game. They were happy to pootle around the Japanese, but came up against a well-drilled, functionally proficient side. It illustrates the need for teams to attempt to dominate the game and force a result rather than muddle along hoping things turn out alright.

10 Down 54 To Go