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 Greece vs Nigeria (2-1)

A Win Is A Win, But The Greeks Are Still Shit

Only the unbelievable implosion of the Nigerian team, whose self-immolation hasn’t been seen since Rafa Benitez went on his “that is a FACT” rant when Liverpool were still a team with a realistic hope of winning the Premiership, saved the Greeks from looking like the miserable, bankrupt losers that they are. Only when their opponents were down to 10 men (thanks to a thoroughly mindless Beckhamesque kick out at your opponent) did the Greeks appear to even bother to get back into the game and even then they needed a deflection to gift them an equaliser. They are thoroughly shit and should be sent home immediately irregardless of how many points the get.

Samaras Is Like A Shit Butch Wilkins

Like ‘The Crab’, Samaras seems only capable of movement in the horizontal direction. Now for a midfield player the horizontal option might be alright, for a forward it is tantamount to suicide. And even when he’s crawling horizontally across the pitch, he’s ineffective.

You’ve Got To Make The Breakaways Count (pt 2)

2 – 1 down and defending their own goal, the Nigerians manufacture a fantastic, free-flowing break very reminiscent of Man U, Arsenal or Chelsea at their best, the kind of break that gets the adrenalin rushing and leaves you screaming, “Pass it, pass it”, and they do and there’s a one-on-one with the keeper and… they fluff it. At this level, you’ve got to take these chances.

The ‘Green’ Strikes Again

As if opting to go down to 10 men and then gifting your opponents a jammy deflected goal wasn’t enough, the Nigerians decided that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery and basically duplicated the Rob Green howler to gift the Greeks with a tap in. All of which doesn’t excuse the cack-handed Engerland goalkeeper, who deserves all the opprobrium that is obviously coming his way.

19 Down 45 To Go

What We Learned From South Korea vs Greece (2-0)

Beware of Greeks Being Shit

By far the worst team on view so far (and with everyone in Group A in the mix that’s saying something), the Greeks have elevated themselves to a unique position in World Football. Coming into this match they had never won a World Cup game, nor had they ever scored a World Cup goal and on this level of performance, nothing was set to change (and you know what nothing did). They are indisputably a bad day Bolton in disguise, playing a game that involves extensive use of the in-the-back barge at every opportunity, along with petulant whining and ref-baiting. Once they were a goal down they never looked like getting back into the game. But when you consider that their main striker, Samaras, finds it hard to get a game, let alone make an impact in the Scottish league, it’s unsurprising that their main talent is bare knuckled defending. They are the MuckDonalds Shit Sandwich of this World Cup buffet. I can’t wait for Argentina to give them the rapacious spanking they so utterly deserve.

The South Koreans Are Kind Like Bunk Moreland

Yes, like Bunk Moreland from The Wire, the South Koreans were gentle when it came time to fuck the Greeks for the first time. They never ran wild, never really tried to force the game and Park Ji-Sung’s solo goal aside, never went out to blatantly humiliate a side that was never really in this game. Admittedly they never really got out of second gear and once they had gone 2 up they really didn’t look too enthusiastic to bust a gut to make it 3. Their match against Nigeria will determine who goes through alongside Argentina.

That Pitch Was Wemberley Class

Cut ups, divots, browning patches. The pitch looked like a badly laid Subbuteo baize that’s been stepped on by those new fangled nail shoes. I don’t fancy being one of the teams playing the fifth game there. It will be a dump by then. Oh hold on, that will be Solvenia vs Engerland. Still at least the boys will feel at home.

Can We Have A Good Game Please

Because so far nothing has really lived up to Premiership quality, let alone Champions League quality.

3 Down 61 To Go