Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Good riddance to Greece

Just for a while, it looked like South Africa could do it. They could (and arguably should) have thrashed France today. Unfortunately they fell short, but South Korea did not, they managed to just about hold on to a draw. It's hard not to love the Koreans, not just for the way they play football but also for how much qualifying meant to them. If the England team cared half as much as they do, we wouldn't be disappearing up shit creek quite as quickly.

Laughing at the French can't fail to be a good starting point. They put every other crisis into perspective. A truly disastrous World Cup is over, but the repurcussions will continue for a while yet. The government has even got involved and ordered an investigation into what went on. I've slated Domenech many times, but not all of this can be put down to him. The players have disgraced themselves with their conduct, starting with Florent Malouda's bust up with the manager before the first game. It never really improved from there, I don't know what choice they had with Anelka, it's not acceptable to challenge Domenech's authority as he did. The way the rest of the squad reacted to that was pathetic, and I'm sure many of them have played their last game for France. Their greatest achievement at this tournament is how much entertainment they've given us. There's nothing like watching a team completely implode.

Credit to South Africa, they gave everything they had, and if they'd taken their chances then could well have pulled off the biggest shock ever at the World Cup. In the end though I'm pleased Mexico have made it, they are an exciting team to watch, and their match with Argentina is going to be a cracker. 4 years ago they put on a real spectacle at this stage, with any luck we'll have the same again. Despite the Mexican's pretty football and South Africa's fighting spirit, Uruguay have been the most impressive side of Group A. They have won the group without conceding a goal, and seemingly without playing anywhere near their best. Given they're in the weaker half of the draw, they must be looking at the quarter finals at least. Since that quarter final opponent could be England, a semi final is not completely out of the question. In fact, I wouldn't rule out an all South American last 4.

On to Group B, I was flicking between both games, and managed to miss all of the goals. Greece were a complete disgrace, the gameplan seemed to be 'hope Nigeria win'. It's one thing to play as Switzerland did against Spain, i.e. get men behind the ball, but when you get the ball in attacking areas commit some players forward and at least vaguely attempt to score. Greece were cynical, constantly fouled the Argentinians and timewasted from the start. Even after they knew that they would have to win (after South Korea had equalised) they made no effort to attack or get any players forward to support Samaras when he got on the end of an aimless hoof forward from the defence. They are not a loss to the competition.

The other game in that group seems to have been a real thriller. I saw the last 15 minutes or so, and the Nigerians really should have won it in that time. Yakubu's miss was hilarious and shocking in equal measure, but he did well to recover himself and score a penalty a few minutes later. I did notice the commentator describe that pen as 'a super goal', which is quite confusing, it wasn't even that good a strike.

On to England. Rumour has it Defoe and Milner are replacing Heskey and Lennon. Oh dear. When has Rooney and Defoe ever worked? It's almost like Capello is being stubborn and deliberately not doing what everyone else can clearly see is the right thing to do. Gerrard is going to refuse to play on the left again and try to play in the middle, leaving a huge gap where he's supposed to be. Why this still hasn't been solved is beyond me. I'd love to know what Joe Cole has done to deserve being completely overlooked again. Regardless, I expect England to win, Slovenia are quite a good side going forward, but have considerable weaknesses at the back. I can't believe England will play as badly as they did against Algeria ever again, so even if it's an unconvincing 1-0 we'll get through.

How's that for positivity?

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