Archive for June 24th, 2010

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

Archive for June 24th, 2010

What We Learned From Group F Eliminators

The Torture of Human Endurance Italy 2 – 3 Slovakia

They’re still at it. Day 3. The awesome Mahut and Isner are still going. 68 all. And I know this beause I was forced to switch channels and sports because ITV’s spastic half-time drivel is just so unremittingly tedious you have to leave. Anyway, they illustrate the positive power of sport in a way that nothing in the World Cup, this overblown spectacle presided over by grovelling arch-toad Sepp Blatter, has come close to.

The first thing to note is why on earth the Group F eliminators should be played before the Group E ones. Surely that’s morally incomprehensible. I blame FIFA. The second thing to note is that we are in the presence of not one but two sets of imposters. Italy, for instance, bear no resemblance to the team that won the World Cup in 2006, sure there’s the requisite amount of diving, cheating, feigning and general Italian tomfoolery, but no sign of the immaculate defending of Canavaro or the complete control of Pierlo, even though both of them appeared on the field. Ultimately, they just couldn’t rouse themselves out of the torpor that saw them draw with both Paraguay and New Zealand.

The other set of even more improbable imposters was the team pretending to be Slovakia. Now previously we may have given the impression that Slovakia was a made up country where all the stupid people in Czechoslovakia were conned into going which featured none of the benefits and all of the defects of that country; that its football squad was full of 23 utter incompetents led by the thoroughly useless Hamzik, who lacks any sense of control, spatial understanding, positional ability or general footballing skill; that the main thing they deserved was to be horsewhipped naked through town accompanied by the kind of bell-ringing that is normally reserved for residents of the nearest leper colony. So where have they hidden that team today? Even more spectacular than the transformation that overcame the Engerland team yesterday was the revelation that was Slovakia. Crisp passing, good movement off the ball and exciting, attacking play. You wondered why they apparently hadn’t bothered to do this against, say, the mighty New Zealand, who on the evidence of this should have been utterly pummelled. Italy seemed to have no answer to them until it was beyond too late and they then started with all the old Italian favourites, a desperately scrambled goal, a lot of jostling and bashing about and general Italian cheatery (which was matched it has to be said by some pretty blatent Slovak cheatidge), all to no avail. Excellent work. Slovakia go into the easy side of the draw, alongside the Yanks, Mexicans, Uruguayans and Ghanaians, so there’s every danger they could go even further. Italy, on the other hand, take the economy flights home.

Meanwhile Isner and Mahut have finished their war of endurance with Isner winning 70 – 68.  Way to go guys. One suspects Mahut will go back to France for some kind of presidential ovation and general award. Maybe he’ll get to man the guillotine when it deals with the shitty residue of the French football team. Isner meanwhile has got it all to do again as he moves into the second round.

Paraguay 0 – 0 New Zealand

So plucky New Zealand, you scored two goals, played two matches so astonishingly tedious that they were painful to watch and exemplified the kind of pub level ‘committment’ football that we are trying to eradicate in the civilized world. OK that’s as many goals and tedious games as Engerland, but hey, we can pass it around a bit when we really, really have to and have nicer kit. Paraguay play well and probably didn’t have to exert themselves too much here, knowing that there was nothing they could do to avoid topping the Group and thus getting into the shitty end of the draw.

So Bye-Bye Italy And New Zealand

At least New Zealand are certain to qualify for the next World Cup.

42 Down 22 To Go 19 Teams Remaining