by Michael Cree
Guest blogger Michael Cree looks back at the first week of the World Cup. For more coverage of the tournament, go to BBC.com/sport. – KW
Well, has everyone enjoyed the first week of World Cup 2010? Or has the constant drone of the vuvuzelas driven you to drink? Whatever your view, I’m sure we can all agree on one thing – it’s nice to have the games finally underway. So let’s review some of the action.
After two games, Group A is not how your humble blogger expected it to look. Having drawn 0-0 with the mediocre French in its opening game, Diego Forlan-inspired Uruguay rebounded to thrash hosts South Africa 3-0, leaving them sitting pretty atop of the group. The Mexicans, meanwhile, also took advantage of ‘Les Bleus’, spanking the hapless French 2-0 in its second game. France and South Africa, who drew an exciting opening game 1-1 with Mexico, now face an improbable, if not impossible, challenge to qualify for the next stage.
Group B is less of a surprise. Argentina, boosted by a hat-trick from Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, took apart South Korea 4-1 in the second of their games, having also won their opener against Nigeria. The Koreans, meanwhile, lie second by virtue of their opening day victory over Greece. All four teams can still qualify, but it looks bleak for the ‘Super Eagles’ of Nigeria – with no points and only one game left, they need a miracle to qualify.
Anglophenia contributor Gustavo Schneiderhoff at the Argentina-South Korea game.
Fans waving the flag of Argentina. Photo by Gustavo Schneiderhoff.
The South Korean flag. Photo by Gustavo Schneiderhoff.
Group C opened with what some consider a surprise result, while others consider a deserved one. England 1-1 USA was, in truth, not a great game. England was awful and the U.S. didn’t offer much. Both teams will be hoping they can pick up victories in their next games, especially as Slovenia opened up with a 1-0 victory over Algeria that leaves them in first place. While England will be expected to beat Algeria, the U.S. must concentrate against leaders Slovenia. Anything less than a win, most certainly a loss, will make advancing beyond the group a very real challenge. A critical, critical game.
England goalkeeper Robert Green was slaughtered in the UK press for his costly error in the England-U.S. match.
Group D‘s Germany has been the toast of the tournament so far. Free-flowing soccer, slick interplay, and lethal finishing saw “ze Germans” trounce the poor Australians 4-0 in the opening game of the group. To the jubilation of the African supporters, Ghana managed to break down Serbia‘s mean defense and pick up an unlikely win. While very early, the Germany looks like it’s up for the tournament.
Group E saw one shock loss and one expected win. Cameroon, with a raft of top quality players, couldn’t break down stubborn and workmanlike Japan. But credit where credit is due – the Japanese deserved the win, as the speedy “Honda“ (you love it, people) hit the back of the net to put them in the “driving seat” (Ok, enough). It took an own goal from the Danes to give Holland the lead, and a scrappy Dirk Kuyt second to wrap up the points. Neither team was great. Holland vs. Japan should be an interesting game.
Group F couldn’t be any more even. Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, and Slovakia have one point each, scored one goal, and conceded one goal. Italy didn’t look great, but neither did anyone. The Paraguayans looked lively, so their game with the Italians should be good. Game on to qualify.
Group G perhaps offered up the shock of the tournament so far – the North Koreans scored a goal – and a good goal – against the Brazilians! They did, of course, still lose. BUT, only 2-1. In the most anticipated game of the opening round, Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal took on the practically one-armed, Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast. And despite the abundance of talent on show, and the former rattling the bar from 30 yards, the game ended in a big, fat 0-0 tie. Brazil could rue only beating the Koreans by one goal, as this group could come down to goal difference.
Group H produced, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the opening round. European Champions and World Cup favorites Spain, who had only lost twice in the last couple of years (to the U.S. and, would you believe it, the perennial under-achievers Northern Ireland), succumbed to a 1-0 loss against Switzerland. Worse for the Spanish, the impressive Chile overcame Honduras, putting them top of the group. With two teams with 3 points and the Spanish and Hondurans on zero, it all depends on the next game. Spain couldn’t fall at the first hurdle, could they?