Goals! Goals! Goals! (World Cup Braindump #2)
As I’ve mentioned before, even bad World Cups are good, but already this is shaping up to be a great World Cup.
We’re averaging over three goals a game, the best rate since 1958. I think there had been some expectation that the heat would lead to defensive, cagey affairs, but instead we’ve seen a lot of great attacking football. Now, there is every chance that we’ll be regressing to the mean before long, especially as the later group games take on more significance and become de facto elimination games, but we should enjoy all this action while it lasts. Plus, it might continue – as players tire in the heat and as losing teams chase games we might see even more open football than we have so far. You never know.
Netherlands essentially destroying Spain was a lot of fun, not only because it was a complete shock, but because the Netherlands looked so good. However, this was a Spain side that is not used to going behind like that. There seemed to be no real Plan B as they are not used to going behind by two or more goals, and the Netherlands made the most of their indecision and lack of organisation. It was proof that if you have players the calibre of Van Persie and Robben then you can probably beat anyone, but you still need to catch the likes of Spain on an off-day. I suspect Spain aren’t that bad, and the Netherlands aren’t that good. Both teams’ games against Chile should be fascinating.
Greece were another team with a lack of Plan B. And when Plan A is “Defend a lot and hope for the best” they were in trouble as soon as they went behind to Colombia. I can’t see them getting very far, which I know is hardly an incredible insight, but it is still pleasing to see that a purely defensive set-up doesn’t work anymore.
Costa Rica and Uruguay put on a fun match. Costa Rica caused quite the upset, but both sides looked pretty vulnerable in defence, which probably made both sides look more dangerous in attack than they actually are. Uruguay were especially poor, and it looks like they will be relying on a half-fit Luis Suarez (or a massively underperforming Italy and/or England) to progress.
England/Italy – I may post some sort of post-mortem on this later, although there has surely been enough written about this game already.
Switzerland/Ecuador was probably pre-tournament one of the least appetising matches, yet was a really absorbing, enjoyable game, especially with the dramatic finish. I imagine it has stifled the Shaqiri hype somewhat too – it is one thing being confident, but that isn’t any use if you can’t back it up.
Honduras were more than willing to play the old stereotype of hot-headed, violent Latin Americans to France’s cultured Europeans. I have no idea how Honduras only had one player sent off and how France didn’t suffer any tournament-ending injuries. A pretty careless match, but a bit of a guilty pleasure too, that there still are matches like this. Proper retro football. BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce’s confusion at goal-line technology was priceless too.
Finally, that Messi chap is quite good, isn’t he?