Monday, 21 June 2010

Cesc Fabregas has a beautiful beard

Today, Raymond Domenech described his own team as 'exceptionally stupid' in a cunning attempt to improve morale. Despite his best efforts, the only player to be sent home today was not a Frenchman. Sulley Muntari is constantly falling out with someone, and he's done it again. I don't think he's a big loss, but still that's hardly helping preparation for Ghana's crunch game with Germany this week.

On to the football; I think North Korea were unlucky but also their tactics seemed strange to me - It would have made more sense to play like they did against Brazil, try to get a draw and bank on beating Ivory Coast. They started really well, but their expansiveness cost them in the end and the space Portugal got late in the game was crazy. Despite the scoreline, I still don't think there's much to the Portuguese. Against tougher sides (and even against the Ivory Coast, who aren't particularly good) they rely far too heavily on Ronaldo, and the midfield is seriously lacking in creativity. Given that they could face Spain or Chile in the second round I'd be surprised if they get much further.

Talking of Chile, how did they not thrash the Swiss? Mark Gonzalez scored, but once again managed to miss an absolute hatful of chances. He will be as much to blame as anyone if they fail to qualify. A draw with Spain would be enough, and even a defeat if Switzerland don't beat Honduras. Really they should have qualified already, their goal difference could, and should, be at least 6 better than it is now. That would have given them such a big cushion that the final game would have been irrelevant. Instead they are the ones in the most perilous position despite being by far the most impressive side of Group G. Believe me, Chile will not sit back against the Spanish, they just don't do that. Instantly that gives them a problem as Spain will relish having a team attack them, and I'd be very surprised if the game isn't an absolute goalfest. Not only is their style of play probably going to make it difficult, they are also without a couple of players thanks to another terrible refereeing performance. I thought Valon Behrami was extremely unlucky to be sent off, it wasn't quite as bad a decision as last night's, but it wasn't far off. For a game where there wasn't any really poor challenges, 9 yellows and a red is ridiculous. I still have no idea what Mati Fernandez got booked for. FIFA has got to sort this out.

Now we're into the 'business end' of the group stage. Tomorrow is the start of the final round of matches, and for a number of teams it's win or bust. For France, it could be win and bust anyway. They must beat South Africa, hope the other match isn't a draw and that there's a 3 goal swing in goal difference. it would be quite funny if Mexico and Uruguay play out a draw to send the French out, but Mexico really need to try and win. A second round meeting with Argentina awaits them unless they beat the South Americans tomorrow. I hope they do, they've played some nice football so far and both their matches have been entertaining. They would fancy their chances against South Korea or Nigeria as well, so a quarter final place could beckon. They must win tomorrow first.

I left Greece out of that equation because they have to play Argentina, which they aren't going to win. It'll be interesting to see whether Maradona rests many players for that game, even if he does they have enough strength in depth, attacking wise at least, to ensure it doesn't make too much difference. The big game in Group B is between South Korea and Nigeria. Both teams have 3 points, but the Koreans have a worse goal difference. I fancy them to win it, they were unlucky to come up against the Argentians in the form they did, but against Greece they looked impressive. Much more so than Nigeria have in either game. No team that loses to the Greeks deserves to qualify.

It was good to see Fabio Capello put John Terry in his place today. Come on, it'd be funny if he dropped him, wouldn't it?

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