Being the second outing in the bloggification of World Cup 2010.
Korea 2 Greece 0 · The first comprehensive pounding of this year’s tournament. The Koreans apparently recognized fairly early on that the Greeks were having a rotten day and decided to go into all-pressure-all-the-time mode, and then it was over. It’d take real courage for them to try the same approach next time, which happens to be Argentina, but I’d sure like to watch it.
I think just maybe the Koreans are underrated; among other things, I find it hard to believe the Greeks are as bad as they looked today. To be fair, Greece’s team have historically been World Cup chokers, but still.
In particular, the commentators on my TV channel put both Korean goals down to defensive lapses, which just isn’t true. In particular that second goal by Park Ji-Sung, who’s a real force at Man United let’s not forget, may have started with a clumsy give-away, but that was at mid-field and then he blasted through two defencemen and made the keeper look bad; that was a class effort.
Nobody seemed to notice that while Greece didn’t bring much pressure to bear on Korean keeper Jung Sung-Ryong, he handled some nasty high balls coming right out of the sun without any apparent effort; seems a cool cat. I’m hoping the Koreans surprise some of the big names and I’m afraid the Greeks are out of their depth.
Argentina 1 Nigera 0 · Obviously, the boys in blue and white are among the favorites, and this game offered evidence both for and against that ranking. On the “for” side is Messi, who is the real deal. I’m pleased that with he and Ribéry, two of the tournament’s biggest-name attackers like to take the ball straight at, as opposed to around, the defense. Messi, I suspect he’s the single person on the planet that a defender least likes to see incoming with momentum.
Also in the “for” side is the remarkable Argentinean discipline and precision; they routinely pull off these jaw-dropping passing sequences that happen so fast you have to reconstruct it your mind later. Truly hot stuff.
On the other hand, the margin was only 1-0, and Nigeria looked pathetic to me: sloppy, poorly conditioned, and just not that hungry. With the obvious exception of Vincent Enyeama, who put on as good a goalkeeping display as I think I’ve ever seen. But that’s a lousy excuse; a properly-set-up goal in soccer is one that leaves the keeper no chance, and Argentine could only manage one of those in 90 minutes. I think some of their players not named Messi are going to have to up their game a couple of notches if they’re going to get anywhere.
But jeepers, those hell-for-leather charges by Messi sure are fun to watch.
England 1 USA 1 · (I only watched the last third).
What a terrible disappointment for the English. You can’t ride a shaky keeper very far in the World Cup, and you also can’t go far if you finish your scoring chances with a shot straight at the other keeper’s chest. People were praising US keeper Tim Howard to the skies, and yeah, he stopped Rooney cold three times in the part of the game I saw, but none of those shots actually made him worry about anything but rebound control.
England may have more to offer than we saw today; they’d better or they’re in for a short run. The USA are a lovable team and may just make it out of the first round, but nobody’s expecting any more than that I think.