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.