Welcome to the ongoing World Cup 2010 blogathon.
Mexico 1 South Africa 1 · It’s a pity the Bafanas couldn’t have won. Their opening-segment nerves were forgivable, and their recovery admirable. Tshabalala’s goal was pure beauty, the kind of thing that makes soccer worth watching.
I also was impressed by keeper Itumeleng Khune’s quickness and coolness under fire; he covered for some appalling South African defensive lapses.
Except for one; on the equalizer there were three Mexican attackers lined up behind the defense, no South African anywhere near. What sets the elite European teams apart is, among other things, that they simply don’t make that class of mistake.
As for the Mexican game, it felt very European to me: cautious, orchestrated, focused on at all costs avoiding mistakes. I don’t think they have enough attack to get very much further in this tournament, once they’re up against world-class defense. But we’ll see.
Uruguay 0 France 0 · I came away from this one liking the French, and remembering that four years ago they also started slow; slower, if memory serves, than this pretty-good outing.
Let’s be honest: I also like watching France because, unlike so many of the other teams, they don’t look like a bunch of TV stars, but like some guys you might meet in an ordinary bar somewhere. And Ribéry’s monumental scarfaced homeliness is remarkably appealing; makes me smile almost every time he crosses the screen.
Speaking of Ribéry, you have to love his relentless runs, given the slightest opportunity, straight at the defense. None actually got through against Uruguay, and maybe none will in this tournament, but they may stress out a few of those defenses to the point of opening up other attacking lanes.
France is going to have to play better to get very far into this tournament, but it’s easy to believe they have it in them.
As for Uruguay, after the match I found a blank spot where my opinion of the team ought to have been. I don’t think my attention wandered that much, but I just couldn’t bring anything memorable to mind, aside from keeper Fernando Muslera’s remarkable save against Gourcoff’s nasty corner-bound free kick.
Being colorful or memorable is not necessarily required for success in the World Cup tournament; but surely we can ask for a little more than we saw on Day One.