Well, my job and my life have interfered heavily with your authoritative Web Geek’s World Cup 2010 coverage. And — let’s get this out of the way — my predictions as to which matches were going to be fun and how the groups would play out have been almost entirely wrong.
In fact, the only games I watched end-to-end were Argentina-South Korea on Day Seven, and Brazil-Côte d'Ivoire just now, until I switched off at Brazil’s third; too depressing for this Elephants fan. So rather than games, just some impressions and notes as we approach two-thirds of the way through the round-robin.
Disappointed · In the quality of play in general. With the notable exception of Argentina I haven’t seen any team really show seriously hot stuff for more than a few minutes of a match against a first-rank opponent.
Just now, I caught a bit of Brazil-Côte d'Ivoire post-game and the commentator remarked on having seen ten or fifteen minutes of “real Brazilian football.” No. Your real game is the one you play for most of the match, innit?
In particular, I’m shocked by the big-name teams apparently concluding they don’t need their “A” game against non-marquee opponents; as in Spain against Switzerland or Germany against Serbia.
Disappointed · In the refereeing. It seems like every game I watch has egregiously-botched calls, sendings-off that are travesties, flagrant hand-balls in the penalty zone missed, innocent tacklers punished and guilty divers rewarded. I assume they send the best, so we’re watching either a run of bad luck or a profession in bad shape.
Disappointed · In the ethics of the players. This is the fucking World Cup, what’s with the grabbing and clutching and above all the diving? I eventually gave up watching the Tour de France when I realized I had no respect for any of the chemically-enhanced performers; I’d hate to walk away from soccer, but this is starting to get seriously up my nose. I say give all the referee’s assistants the power to issue an instant red card for diving, with a presumption of guilt.
Disappointed · In African soccer. The traditional story is that the African teams run at opponents and terrify defenders and then lose when it matters because they don’t have the defensive precision. This year’s been like that only without much attack, either. Next time, right?
Impressed · By the play of the Latin-American teams. Yes, every other commentator has highlighted this too, but good heavens. The odds of the Cup staying in the Northern Hemisphere seem increasingly long. Even Mexico and Paraguay have looked stronger than supposed powers like France and Italy. Which is fine by me; European soccer, even when it’s played well (as by Germany, this time around) is boring.
Impressed · By Argentina. The clear standouts in the round-robin play. Also, they play with a little more courage and less diving than the World-Cup norm.
But here’s the thing; the round-robin results become instantly meaningless when it ends. Teams which have disappointed so far can get through and suddenly come alive. Despite the dominance of the New World teams in general and Argentina in particular, it’s perfectly possible that one of the old-guard Eurobores will grind their way through to the Cup.