Thursday, 17 June 2010

All hail the little pea

A week ago, Argentina and France looked quite similar. Raymond Domenech and Diego Maradona were both seen as joke managers, who had stumbled their way into the tournament and had left a couple of big players out of their final 23. Tonight, Maradona looks like he's been on a two year long wind up. But Domenech seems to have left the one part of his brain still functioning back home in Paris.

I'm still at a loss as to how Raymond has held onto his job for so long. He's been unpopular in France for almost as long as he's been in charge and his one success, the 2006 final, was really down to the fact they had Zidane. Tonight the team was wrong, the subs were wrong and I'm not sure they even bothered with tactics. Anelka and Govou should not have started, Ribery in the middle was a mistake and Eric Abidal at centre back was an accident waiting to happen. As for the substitutions, if he doesn't think Henry is good enough to come on then why is he in the squad? Valbuena was just a strange one, France needed experience by that point, which he was never going to bring. Finally, the steadfast refusal to make the 3rd change was completely inexplicable. It was almost like he was trying to make a point, that the best team was on and it was all the players' fault, which would've been fine if the the best team was on and it was all the players' fault.

The hammering France get in the press tomorrow will take away from Mexico's performance, which is unfair. In truth they were hardly troubled defensively, but going forward they were excellent again and this time managed to take some chances. Javier Hernandez has now played about an hour combined in the two games so far, and without wanting to judge too early, he looks some player. On top of that, 'El Chicarito' or 'the little pea' is a great nickname. I hope they don't settle for a draw with Uruguay in the final game, because winning the group means avoiding Argentina (who they lost to last time).

Maradona's men turned in another brilliant performance. It's unbelievable that Lionel Messi is yet to score a goal in either game, with a bit of luck he could have won the Golden Boot already. As it is, he's just winning it for Gonzalo Higuain instead. In defence there is still a worry, particularly if Walter Samuel is out of the tournament. Martin Demichelis is terrifying to watch at centre back and has managed to give a goal away without coming under much sustained pressure as yet. The first 'big' team they face could be England, which would be interesting.

Or a complete humiliation.

A quick glance at the other game in Group B; Greece have scored their first ever World Cup goal and at the same time registered the luckiest win in tournament history. They were absolutely shocking again until Sani Kaita got himself sent off, then the first goal took an enormous deflection and the second was thanks to a terrible goalkeeping mistake. Despite having three points, I'm going to confidently say they will not qualify.

Looking ahead, Germany and England get a second chance to state their credentials tomorrow night. Serbia will be far tougher to break down than Australia but they really need a win, so will be forced to attack at some point. When they do that they could be in trouble. Algeria aren't going to cause England too many problems but we could do with a big win, not least because goal difference is likely to decide the group winner. All I want is a good performance. Well, I also want Carragher and Shaun Wright Phillips to be exiled from the squad, but I won't hold my breath.

The most important thing to remember tonight, however pessimistic an England fan you are, is that at least we aren't French.

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