Some thoughts on the world cup as we close in on the knockout stages.
- The ball matters – FIFA tinkered with the ball and the result has been bad. Free kicks look like the ones that amateurs take and goalkeepers have made some howlers. Tinkering with a ball before a major tournament isn’t the best idea.
- There’s no clear favourite – Of course, you have Brazil, Holland, and Argentina who’ve won both their matches but none of them have looked unbeatable. Argentina looks impressive but their defense seems suspect, Brazil are missing that creative spark, and the Dutch, well they’ve not moved out of 1st gear yet. Portugal looked impressive yesterday but the big question is if they can be consistent? If they can, I don’t think many teams would fancy playing them based on the way they dismantled North Korea yesterday. Germany looked brilliant one game and then lost. Spain, the supposed favourite, lost to Switzerland. The Italians have had two draws. Like I said, open world cup.
- What’s up with the Africans? – Ivory Coast were supposed to be a strong team, they’re struggling to qualify. Cameroon, whose coach tinkered a bit too much with the team, are out. The hosts, South Africa, too failed to qualify for the 2nd round. Nigeria and Algeria are struggling as well. Ghana’s fate is better but they have a tough game against Germany. Not the best situation for the Africans given that they had home continent advantage.
- Oh Brazil, where art thou? – I can’t remember a Brazilian team that has been so dull to watch. I know that their coach, Dunga, is focused on winning but he’s doing it at the expense of the style that has made them the most loved team in the world. The current team is clinical but doesn’t have that distinctive Brazilian, samba style.
- The blues of Les Bleus – If you stick with a coach who has, in the past, picked players based on their sun signs, you’re asking for trouble. Nobody thought that France would do too well given that they had problems in the run-up to the World Cup. But, I don’t think anyone could’ve foreseen the way that things have imploded. Domenech’s reign is over but he’s leaving behind a big mess. Laurent Blanc, the next coach, has a tough job ahead of him.