Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Surprised? Don't be

The first shock of the tournament. Doubt anyone predicted that. But I'm not surprised. The theme of this first week has been discipline and organisation. The South Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans have all done it. Even New Zealand. Organisation with a disciplined execution works.

It might bore us but it gets results. Doesn't matter how mad the ball is.

Switzerland under a twice European Cup winner in Ottmar Hitzfeld were always going to line up, two banks of four against a fluid, passing Spanish team. Alas, Spain couldn't make a real breakthrough as many teams have found slightly lesser opposition. The gap is finer across the board. Teams can't just turn up and do what they knew best. They have to be organised. And so it is Spain find themselves in a spot of bother. Honduras next. Spain'll want 3 points and should get them. But doubt has crept into them now.

Chile were by far the most attractive team so far. Speed and solid passing and movement. Fernandez was at the centre of everything. Good side. Sanchez on the right was frightening and with a fit Suazo, Chile will be hot to handle....wahay.

The Honduran media know how to look on the bright side though. Daily Diez newspaper, ran with a headline on goalkeeper Noel Valladares' stunning save from Ponce's close range header. That is looking on the bright side.

Should've been two but Bielsa has warned that his side need 16 chances to score one. Might be their downfall. As a result, the Chilean newspapers are fairly content but conservative in their outlook. Concepcion's daily (Concepcion was the focal point of this year's quake) La Estrella runs with an interview with goalkeeping captain, Claudio Bravo urging his team mates to keep their feet on the ground.

That is the complete first round of matches and what a way to end the first real phase of the tournament. A surprise; nice or not. And anyone picking Villa in their fantasy XI will be a bit disappointed.

But we move back to group A tonight. South Africa and Uruguay meet in a game that will decide much of the host nation's chance of getting out of this group. I don't think they will do it and I don't think they deserve to. As hosts they qualified but they didn't qualify for Germany nor the last African Nations Cup. That's not a pedigree and as much as South Africa is hosting a great tournament this team isn't quite deserving. Durban's The Independent runs a rallying piece but they will need much more to beat a resilient and skillful Uruguayan side.

Ovacion Digital of Uruguay's El Pais (The Nation) newspaper is in a state of confusion as how to approach tonight's game in Pretoria. Considering that South Africa play a similar sort of counter attacking football, do the 'Celeste' play with 3 strikers or with one upfront on his own. Neither can really afford to lay back. El Pais says that tonight's match is like standing at a road crossing. Once you've pressed the button you will know whether there is an opportunity to cross in the near future.

How metaphorical an analogy for a nervous nation it would seem. No or never I say. If they don't win this, they have to rely on their final game against Mexico and that is the reason there is so much conjecture on the part of the Uruguayan media. Mexico are attacking. Uruguay are counter attackers and this provides them with their best opportunity to win. So do they settle for a draw here and try and qualify in the last match? Risky.

We see much of England's media and their approach to the national team and it is a touch refreshing to see how other countries do their bidding.

Anyway, looking forward to it. Uruguay to win.

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