Archive for June 29th, 2010

What We Learnt From Spain vs Portugal (1-0)

Tippy Tappy Tikki Takka At Last

We’re at the halfway point, three and a half matches in, a little way into the second half and Iniesta finally gets the ball. He pivots, circles around, the ball trapped to his feet, blocking the way in for the two defenders around him, and passes the ball to the nearest Spaniard. And on it goes. They play it around the park, back to front, left to right. The Portuguese can’t buy the ball. Ronalda is totally isolated. He barely sees the ball for the rest of the World Cup. He goes back to Madrid and ignominy.

So after three games where it seemed as if Spain had had a complete crisis of confidence, they emerged back where they started, tippy tappy tikki takka chicken tikka masala. Bastards.

Like all the Second Round matches, bar the Argentina one and Engerland’s spastastic display against Germany, this was a dull, dull, dull, dull, dull match. Very few chances. Very little ambition from Ronalada and his Portuguese winkers. In fact, the most interesting thing to watch was Portugeezer Carlos Queroz, who is looking more and more like that John Travolta chap out of Saturday Night Fever. Except Carlos goes for a black outfit rather than the full on Bee-Gee-tastic white one. I said it was a shame that the two Second Round matches with Brazil and Spain weren’t intercontinental affairs and the familiarity Spain and Portugal have for one another’s football made this, like the Brazil Chile match, a bit tedious. I thought the Portuguese would defend better and have something more than a carthorse for a main attacking threat. But no. They had the Iberian Penninsula’s answer to Emile Heskey up front. Only he was worse than Heskey. Once they went a goal down, again thanks to a goalkeeping error and David Villa’s fast response, there was no way the Portuguese could get back in the game.

And the tikki takka began.

56 Down 8 To Go 8 Teams Remaining

Archive for June 29th, 2010

What We Learned From Paraguay vs Japan (0-0)

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Both these teams are like bad Premiership centre halves approaching the opposition half and suddenly realising where they are and immediately falling into panic mode. They have achieved beyond their wildest dreams. For Paraguay, this is as far as their nation has ever gone, while Japan, prior to this tournament, had never won a World Cup game not held in Japan. Their coach, who was prepared to resign during the team’s charabanc tour of every footballing venue in Europe, can now retire gracefully to his farm, where he will always be addressed as Football-Manager-San and probably won’t have to pay for anything ever again.

The saddest thing about this match was that it was essentially a throwback to the very First Round of matches. Both sides emerged like frightened rabbits, too scared to attack, happy to pass it around their back four and stultifyingly dull. The Japanese actually seemed to have the better of it, making more vaguely attacking moves, but none that had the cutting edge of their match against Denmark.

You sense that there is a huge unseen psychological impact that the World Cup exerts on teams and players. For Japan, you sense that they gave it all in the match with Denmark and somehow felt that they had reached the summit of their achievement, that this match was one match too far. You can see it writ large in the dreadful, painful Third and Fourth place play-off that neither side wants to be in and which too often collapses under the pressures of the previous semi-finals. Paraguay just don’t seem very good, yet, thanks to the failings of Italy and Slovakia, have lucked out into this, the easiest of Second Rounds. How Engerland would have like to be playing Japan. Actually, on second thoughts based on our previous friendly with Japan, we’d probably lose that one 4 – 1 as well.

It went to penalties. Paraguay won’t get past Spain.

55 Down 9 To Go 9 Teams Remaining