Welcome to the World Cup 2010 playoff-round coverage from yer Fútbol-lovin’ Web-centric mobile-enabled couch-huggin’ amateur semi-fan.
By and large, I thought the right teams made it through to the Round of Sixteen. You have to grant that Côte d'Ivoire, who are out, are a lot more interesting than Japan, who are in, but in every World Cup there’s going to be the equivalent of this year’s Group G. And it’s a pity the hosts won’t be there, but the goal differential in this case tells the truth; Mexico is just a better team.
This round is where the favorites usually start to win; which means that it would be really unsurprising if the final were to be between the winners of a Netherlands-Brazil on July 2nd and Germany-Argentina on the 3rd. Here’s my one bold contrarian prediction: Brazil is vulnerable, brings less than meets the eye.
On day one of the round, I thought the right teams won, the style was entertaining, there were six goals in two games, and the refereeing was (relative to the round-robin, which isn’t saying much) mostly OK. I hope things stay that way.
Uruguay 2 Korea 1 · Korea had better positional play and more aggression and and slicker passing, but at the end of the day lacked scoring punch. Uruguay probably doesn’t have enough midfield magic to get much further down the road, but they can score; Suarez had the game of a lifetime, particularly on that second goal, which gets more astounding every time I watch a replay. But for the Uruguayans to have any chance, Forlan is going to have to show more than we saw today.
USA 1 Ghana 2 · For my money the most entertaining match of the tournament so far. Both sides played their hearts out for all 120 minutes and neither was afraid to take the ball forward and damn the consequences.
It wasn’t as close as the score sounds. Ghana obviously had more attacking skill, and also the most goaltending magic I’ve seen displayed in a single match in years; Kingson looked eight feet tall and faster than three snakes.
What wasn’t obvious was the spring-steel flexibility and discipline of the Ghanaian defense and midfielders; go back and watch a few minutes, any part of the game, and notice how effortlessly they form lines to meet attacks, simultaneously getting bodies in the way of any thrust while leaving someone open to take a clearance. Their Serbian coach obviously has something on the ball.
And please, can we stop beating up the US defenders already? On that first goal, the problem wasn’t that they lost the ball in midfield — that’s gonna happen, lots of times — the problem was that Boateng put on one of the single most amazing bursts of raw speed I’ve ever seen in any sport and threaded a needle into the bottom left corner. And on the second, Ayew floated a brilliant long shot forward to Gyan, who held off a defender with one arm, broke free, and fired a fucking rifle cross the goal and into the toughest possible corner. Ain’t no defense going to save you from a burst of inspiration like that.
Another point: I thought Ghana’s direct free kicks were absolutely deadly; it could easily have been 4-1 not 2-1.
Did I say that I thought the refereeing was good? Well except for that second yellow card that’ll cost Ghana Ayew’s services against Uruguay was a complete dive by the USA player, I thought.
Can Ghana beat Uruguay? Don’t know, but they’ll have me cheering for them.
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: Ante Barac (Jun 27 2010, at 01:20)
I really enjoy your World cup coverage. It's great to see some fresh perspective from someone who is not bombed through media with so much news, marketing and all kinds of expert opinions regarding the game. It can really distort your view here in Europe.
As for European teams poor performance, i think there are two reasons:
a) They generally play worse when WC is in southern hemisphere or anywhere other than Europe. Just to compare winners (1982 Spain - Italy won, 1986 Mexico - Argentina won, 1990 Italy - Germany won, 1994 USA - Brazil won, 1998 France - France won, 2002 Japan/S. Korea - Brazil won, 2006 Germany - Italy won). It goes even further in history like that (Brazil winning in Sweden being the only exception, i think).
b) Internazionale FC won the Champions League with defensive tactics, albeit with a healthy dose of aggressive pressing, but still a predominantly defensive style. It got into the head of a lot of European coaches, especially the way they eliminated Barcelona FC, a team much better then Inter. BTW, you would love the way Barcelona FC plays.
From: Tommy Carlier (Jun 27 2010, at 01:51)
That second goal from Ayew was awesome. He got hit hard by the USA defense, but did not fall over. That's one mean player.
From: Andres (Jun 27 2010, at 13:52)
>> Can Ghana beat Uruguay? Don’t know, but they’ll have me cheering for them.
I hope Uruguay can beat Ghana! :) (I'm Uruguayan). I'm a reader of your blog since a long time, I hope you can cheer for Uruguay too ! :)
A big salutate from Montevideo, Uruguay!.
From: Jim Harvie (Jul 04 2010, at 20:16)
I have been missing the commentary. I had to go the archives and watch the grey cup.
Then I saw this game. WOw!
comment on this! World Cup! Shmuld Cup!