More ridiculous than sublime (World Cup Braindump #5)

by Steve

Apologies for the lack of Hot World Cup Action here on the blog, but I have been happily distracted by other matters. But without any further ado, here is my latest braindump, as we enter the final round of group games.

  • In terms of games played we are halfway through the tournament, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. While we’ve had a few memorable moments, the tournament still feels very much in first gear. I’m hoping that this just means we’re getting a World Cup that builds and builds, improving right up to the final. If it doesn’t, it will have to go down as a disappointment.
  • All the truly great 2010 World Cup moments have come from the underdogs. New Zealand’s two draws, in particular against Italy, have added some romance and unpredictability to the competition. Switzerland beating Spain was a massive shock too, while North Korea were the definition of ‘plucky’ against Brazil, if not against Portugal.
  • In contrast, the top teams haven’t yet reached their peak. Every team looks beatable, and there is no guarantee of consistency – as Germany showed, losing to Serbia after stuffing Australia. Every team has big old question marks hanging above them.
  • I guess the main benefit of underperforming favourites and overperforming outsiders is that it still feels like a very open World Cup. The majority of teams still have a mathematical chance of qualifying, and also of getting knocked out. No result is a foregone conclusion. I wouldn’t like to choose who is going to win this thing. There should be plenty of twists and turns ahead.
  • The actual football seems to have been overshadowed by off-the-pitch shenanigans. Great fun for in between games, but a shame when it becomes the focus. France, as many predicted, have gone into meltdown, with the team going on strike and some players on the brink of refusing to play. England’s John Terry, meanwhile, tried to launch an insurrection of his own, but failed miserably, as his bleating to the press about sorting out the team went down like the proverbial lead balloon with England players and staff alike.
  • Oh England. Where will the disappointment end? Friday’s game with Algeria was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some bad football in my time. The sheer lack of quality from both sides was shocking for an international sporting event. Was it Capello’s fault? Well, his tactical choices seem pretty uninspired, and the players appear unmotivated. But how on Earth can any professional player appear unmotivated and directionless at a World Cup? It was a poor display from all concerned. Tomorrow’s final group game is obviously pivotal. I don’t dare call the outcome right now.
  • I have no such qualms calling today’s games. I’ve had a little flutter on the following results as win doubles, plus a tiny accumulator, so I need at least two to go right for me, really.
    South Africa to win (well, why not?)
    Mexico to win (everyone is expecting the draw, I think both teams will want to win the group and avoid Argentina)
    South Korea/Nigeria to draw (should be a close game, you’d think)
    Argentina to win (no doubt I’ll come unstuck on this one as Maradona picks a bizarre side)