Archive for June 20th, 2010

What We Learned From Brazil vs Ivory Coast (3-1)

Ivory Coast Are The New Croatia

It’s now well accepted that Slaven Bilic’s dive to get Lauren Blanc sent off in the 1998 semi-final was the most cynical bit of cheating in recent World Cups. However, the bit of Ivory Coast cheating to get Kaka sent off in this match has elevated cheating to a new high. Keita, who dumped himself to the floor having run into Kaka, has effectively lied to the entire planet and cheated his way into the record books. Like Croatia, let’s now hope that Ivory Coast get everything they so richly deserve and are consummately dumped out of this competition. You could argue that Keita is merely aping the floppy diving style of renowned primadonna Diveba, whose writhing on the floor is legendary, but it’s not acceptable here.

Brazil Are Beginning To Turn It On, Ivory Coast Turn It Off

3 – 0 up and Brazil start to play some nice little passing things, but they were given a bit of licence in that Ivory Coast failed to play the Mourinho Discipline. You have to suspect that, like most of the African teams here, they don’t have the inclination or the managerial instruction to do this. You would have thought that a team that boasted both Toure bothers and Zakora would have the nous to be able to play a more accomplished defence (or indeed a more adventurous attack). I recall the Ivory Coast from the last World Cup and they were just a fantastic dynamic attacking side, whose progress was only impeded by being in the Group of Death with Holland and Argentina. This World Cup, in addition to giving them the kind of draw that would make you feel that FIFA is against you, has seen them become less adventurous, interesting and turned them to the dark side of football.

Brazil Are Going To Explode

And not just in a footballing sense. They will be a bit grumpy about Kaka’s sending off and will be pretty insistent that FIFA rescind it. In some ways it doesn’t matter, Kaka will only be suspended for one game and Brazil have all but qualified – their match against Portugal is something of a formality. But you would like to see some kind of justice done. Also it is an indication of the pressure that the refs are going to come under in the latter stages of the tournament, where grabbing and manhandling in the box are likely to be rife and every incident is going to be viewed from multiple camera angles in high definition. It will only take one really bad decision for FIFA to be getting out the video replay machines.

29 Down 35 To Go 31 Teams Remaining

Archive for June 20th, 2010

What We Learned From Italy vs New Zealand (1-1)

Laugh, We Nearly Cried

Now it’s palpably obvious that New Zealand are a rubbish team, whose inclusion in the World Cup is simply part of a plot by Sepp Blatter to bring in all one million of the Pacific Islands into the ‘Football Family’ thereby gaining him enough votes to be President for life. However, it is clear that as they have now scored more goals and have the same number of points as Engerland, they are a world force to be reckoned with, an obviously welcome addition to the international football fabric. How we laughed when New Zealand, who have a superior FIFA ranking to the cheeky North Koreans it must be said, scored against the haughty Italians in the first few minutes.

Same Old, Same Old

Now the limitations of New Zealand are the limitations of a classic Sam Allerdyce team, like Blackburn Rovers, whose clumpy defender Ryan Nelson stars for the All Whites (alongside former Halifax Town luminary Shane Smeltz), namely sub-Mourinho Discipline defending, two banks of four cloggers who think that physical intimidation and hard tackling are any substitute for skill or class. However, the reality is that teams who want to be great have to find ways of getting around this dour defensive mindset. Italy, like Engerland are crammed full of old favourites, the only difference being that the Italian old boys have a nice pile of medals from the tournaments they have won. However, like Engerland, they don’t seem to have any idea of how to overcome this kind of robust, nay tedious football, and found themselves utterly perplexed at the unsympathetic Kiwis and their thoroughly unsporting behaviour. Last match they managed to respond to the physical game that Paraguay brought, albeit to come from behind and secure a draw, and, yes, the same tactics (bring on Calamari-boy, get some extra zip and drive into the game) did deliver similar results (coming from behind to secure a draw), but you really have to expect more from the reigning World Champions. With Paraguay winning and Italy facing the mighty Slovakia, who will have to win to have any chance of going forward, the future for Italy looks anything but secure.

Meanwhile, The First Team To Implode Is…

We stated in our initial World Cup piece that there were two key questions we needed answers to, Would the French do worse than in 2002 and which team would be the first to implode. Now our predictions for the second was either Cameroon or France. Following the fallout from their rubbish performance against Mexico, the French have, officially, become the first team to fully implode, what with lovely Nicholas Anelka being sent home for calling his coach a bit of a ‘c**t’. It’s hard to know what is the most difficult element to bear, the squad’s refusal to train as a gesture of support, or their forcing Domenech to read their statement criticising the French Football Association to the press. In any case it’s the funniest footballing implosion since the Engerland squad threatened to go on strike following Dopey Rio’s failure to attend a dope test. France take on hosts South Africa on Tuesday and you have to wonder how bothered they are going to be.

28 Down 36 To Go 31 Teams Remaining

Archive for June 20th, 2010

What We Learned From Paraguay vs Slovakia (2-0)

It’s A Game Of Make Believe

I’m playing a little game here while I watch this match, not because it is somehow more excruciatingly dull than any others – on the contrary it’s a pretty gripping encounter – but because I had a bit of an epiphany. This thought transformed the game for me and made it utterly compelling. I suddenly thought, Are Slovakia better than Engerland (or more realistically, Are Engerland any better than Slovakia)? And I started comparing the teams in an almost man-to-man way.  Is Slovakia’s defending conspicuously worse than Engerland’s? Is Robert Vittek the Slovakian Emile Heskey? Is Marek Hamsik their Wayne Rooney? Is Vladimir Weiss their Aaron Lennon? Ultimately, are Slovakia as disappointingly shit as Engerland?

It totally changed my view of the game as I substituted Engerland related commentary on top of the match commentary, and the game itself changed. I was thinking what are Slovakia doing the change the game, to mix things up, to get the ball back when they lose it (as they regularly do). I was thinking, what would Rhino do, why can’t the midfield actually pass it about, and most importantly, why are they always hoofing it to Heskey (sorry Vittek). Because Slovakia’s problems are identical to Engerland’s. They don’t seem to have any clear gameplan other than defend in a sub-Mourinho way and desperately hope to catch the opposition on the break. They have players who can, apparently pass to one another and control the ball, but seem unable to demonstrate this on any consistent basis, they don’t seem to have the patience (or skill? or belief?) to develop moves through the middle and rely on a hoof and hope tactic that really isn’t working for anyone at this tournament, in contrast to the Paraguayayayans who develop their moves through neat passing and use the full width of the pitch. So far the jury’s out, but Slovakia are running Engerland a close second in the race to be most rubbish.

A Different System From The Paraguayayayans

Like Chile, Paraguay have eschewed the Mourinho Discipline, instead going for a 4 – 3 – 3 formation, which they use in an attacking positive way. They also press very well and drop into a 4 – 1 – 3 – 2 defensive formation when they are being pressed by the opposing team. Their defenders even apologise to one another when they lose composure and simply hack the ball away, which is a very un-European thing to do. Certainly there was no sign of their previous hack and tackle philosophy which they used to not very much effect when playing Italy – another indication of how much teams have had to adapt their games as the tournament goes on.

Stupidly Interesting

Slovakia share the same kit design as Denmark, only theirs is blue where the Danes’ is red. If I was either country I’d feel really, really cheated.

27 Down 37 To Go 31 Teams Remaining

Archive for June 20th, 2010

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