Saturday, 26 June 2010

Over the hill

Group stages are over. A quick over view of the groups, and then picks for today’s games.


Group A


France will be remembered for being in possibly the worst state that a national team has ever been in. In-fighting, out-fighting, flat, nothing on or off the pitch of any use. It is probably a good thing for the French team that this happened, as they were due a total overhaul in 2002, but decided to put it off until the elephant in the room became a mammoth. Uruguay snuck in and became the tidiest team in the group, Mexico looked good but exposed and South Africa rued one bad game, but had fun.


Game of the group: Shadenfreude aside, Mexico against France was a game of one team showing another how to play attacking football.

Goal of the group: Tshamalala’s opening goal of the tournament was a great strike on the back of a joy of a pass.

Player of the group: Forlan. Waking up after a dire first game, he became the player that all non-Man Utd fans think he can be.


Group B


The group was all about Argentina, who grew and grew, but most teams didn’t really put up much of a challenge to them. Korea were fun to cheer on, Nigeria imploded against Greece, and Greece managed their first goals and win of the World Cup, but were, in truth, very poor.


Game of the group: Argentina v Korea was a little too one-sided and a bit damp in the first half. Nigeria v Korea had a lot of excitement, and contained the miss of the tournament so far.

Goal of the group: Argentina’s third against Korea featured a lovely build up, including an absolutely beautiful chipped pass into the area by Messi.

Player of the group: Messi – by a long way. He may not have scored, but his movement on and off the ball has just been masterful


Group C


England won their last match to what would normally be considered a poor England performance. However, given what had preceded this, it seemed like a master-class of flowing football! Granted their possession for this game was great, but the two games before this were shockers, and it will take a lot to wipe that from many people’s memories. USA have been great, entertaining and attack minded, but their usual flaws have seen them draw more than win. Algeria shouldn’t have even bothered. Slovenia were lucky to get a win.


Game of the group: SVN v USA had almost everything you could want from a game – an amazing come-back from the US and a disallowed goal that should have stood made this a great game for a natural.

Goal of the group: Donovan’s last minute strike against Algeria to put the US at the top may not win prizes for beauty, but it was a great goal in another great game.

Player of the group: Between Donovan and Bradley for me, both have been huge in keeping the US pushing on and attacking.


Group D


A real non-group in many ways. Germany were upset by a sending off and a missed penalty, and Australia were perhaps unkindly presented in their first game, but Serbia and Ghana were just ticking along really, with Ghana making it through the group thanks to two penalties.


Game of the group: AUS v SRB – a proper game of football, in the respect that two teams were going for the win across the whole game.

Goal of the group: Germany’s opener against Australia was a glorious strike on the run by Podolski

Player of the group: Ozil – has looked every bit the exciting play-maker he did at U21 level.


Group E


Holland stuttered along to three wins, Denmark looked old and stoic, Cameroon were a huge disappointment and Japan were fantastic!


Game of the group: A great comeback from Denmark against Cameroon gave the Danes hope, but the game for me was DEN v JPN, where the Blue Samurai took all that hope away from them.

Goal of the group: Honda’s freekick against Denmark showed what a player can do when a goalkeeper gives an opening and they just hit the ball rather than banging on about it being new.

Player of the group: Sniejder has looked the pick of a on-off Holland.


Group F


Well... what can one say about this group. Paraguay have remained calm and casual and gotten their just rewards, Slovakia can count themselves fortunate to be out of the group, New Zealand became everyone’s favourite second team, and Italy...well... see France and England really...


Game of the group: as plucky as New Zealand were, the game for me was SVK v ITA, it just seemed to want to go on and on and on, with both teams, sometimes literally, fighting for pride.

Goal of the group: Slovakia’s second and third goals stand out, but nothing really jumps to mind in a group where the play seemed to mean more than the goal (except PAR v ITA – dire).

Player of the group: Alcaraz did everything he needed to do as a defender, and also shone a bright light on Italy’s failings as a squad from the get-go.


Group G


Was supposed to be the group of death, the group of beauty, the group of the unknown... ended up being a damp group with two of the worst games yet. Portugal have been dire in two games, and overwhelmed the whipping boys in their third. Not pretty at all. The end of the BRA v CIV game was painful.


Game of the group: BRA v PRK was like watching the trailer to a Roland Emerich movie, contained all the good bits, and made you wish you hadn’t bothered to watch the rest of it.

Goal of the group: Droba’s goal against Brazil was very well worked.

Player of the group: Maicon edges it, for his first game.


Group H


A little bit of everything in this group – a team of champions looking the business one moment then being upset the next, a game so boring it should never be shown again for fear of scaring future generations from the game, and lots of dirty tackles! Pique dancing away from the ref after Estrada got unfairly sent off was a low.


Game of the group: ESP v CHI was an exciting little number, with both teams seeming in danger of losing their heads.

Goal of the group: People will no doubt sing on and on about Villa’s in the above game, first time strike into an empty goal from distance, but Iniesta’s goal was a lot more beautiful as he gracefully curled a low pass past the diving keeper into the bottom corner.


So that’s the group stages done.


Picks for today:


URU 2 v 0 KOR (Forlan) – Uruguay seem to have found the perfect balance of attack and defence at just the right moment.

USA 0 v 1 GHA (Gyan) – I hope I’m wrong on this one, as I would really like to see the US keep on going, but they must be getting tired, and Ghana have “home” advantage.


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