Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoughts after the end of the first round

Allow me to go a little off topic here and talk about other teams and not just Argentina. It's just that I'm obsessed with the World Cup (always have been) and in a way, all 32 teams are related and they all take part of the same competition.

So here we are. Some people say: "The real World Cup starts with the Round of 16". I would tell those people to look at Italy or France and think again.

I would go even further...the real World Cup starts with the World Cup Qualifiers! But they are history now. We need to talk about the present and here are some points I thought I'd raise for all of us to engage in conversation.

- What a great pleasure it is to see South American teams doing so well. Chile were the only ones which couldn't top their group and/or finish undefeated. They were just one goal shy of making it. The other four? No defeats and top of their groups. Uruguay didn't even concede a goal. Up to the point when David VILLA scored Spain's first goal on Friday, no South American team had even trailed at any time in any game! They were never behind in the score until VILLA scored. That defeat by Chile meant that it will be impossible for all CONMEBOL teams to make it to the Quarter-finals (can you imagine 5 out of 8 teams from the same region?). It will be impossible because La Roja will now face Brazil (a clash which, on the other hand, guarantees at least one South American side in the QF).

-Asians did a good job too. 2 out of 4 is not that bad. Australia are from Oceania but they qualified though the AFC so they count as an Asian representative in my opinion. And they missed out on goal-difference mainly because of their terrible performance v. Germany. South Korea and Japan are still alive and this time nobody can say it's just because they are hosting the tournament!

-What a disappointing tournament for Africans! Cameroon 0 pt; Algeria (no goals scored) and Nigeria 1 pt; Ivory Coast and South Africa (only host in the history of the World Cup to be eliminated in the group stage) 4 pts and only Ghana qualified (also 4 points). It was a perfect opportunity for them to shine and they were terrible (the exception being the Black Stars, a team that coped well despite missing their main star Michael ESSIEN and suffering with Sulley MUNTARI bothered by injuries too).

-CONCACAF? The only two decent teams from that confederation surprised a few people and made it to the Round of 16. Mexico did so by coming out of the so-called Group of Death, whilst the USA topped the group their shared with England. Honduras on the other hand...

-And the Europeans...well...only 6 out of 13 teams from the UEFA are still alive in the competition. But guess what? They will all face European rivals in the second round. So three of them will be eliminated. Not what you can call 'progress' after we saw four European sides playing the semifinals in Germany 2006. Giants like France and Italy have hugely disappointed. Greece and Switzerland came to take part in a track and field competition or something like that...because they didn't care about the ball. They were just running around. Preferably just a few yards away from their goalkeepers. And then some other teams like Slovenia, Serbia and Denmark which didn't have what it takes to advance.

-One big concern for me going forward is THE REFEREES. We've seen some guys call things they wouldn't get away with in my neighbourhood. It seemed like some of these referees have never played or even watch enough football. I've seen matches ruined single-handedly by refs. Switzerland-Chile is an example of a man possessed showing yellows and reds at will. The joke of a referee that ignored TWO hand-balls by Luis HANDIANO...sorry...Luis FABIANO in the same move -that ended in Brazil scoring their vital second goal v. Ivory Coast- was just that...a joke. He topped it up with a good laugh with Luis LIARIANO...sorry...Luis FABIANO, who swore he never touched it with his hand! Not to mention the man who denied the USA of a fantastic comeback win over Slovenia when he saw a ghost pushing a Slovenian defender in the penalty area. I mean...if we are going to see this kind of referees in the knock-out stages, we better brace ourselves for a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride. Sort it out, FIFA! Sort it out!

-Enough with the Jabulani argument. When I hear it from Diego, I respect his opinion, but you have to admit that it would be impossible to blame the ball for every sin there is in this World Cup after seeing how HONDA and ENDO sent the damn thing wherever they wanted to send it. Or how PODOLSKI, MÜLLER, LAHM and ÖZIL seem to have no problems with it. Or how MESSI keeps being denied by the woodwork or whoever is in goal against Argentina but he rarely sends a ball off target. None of the many goalkeeping blunders can be blamed on the Jabulani either. They were all human errors (especially Robert GREEN's). Very short grass and wet surfaces, however, topped with a little bit of altitude could very much be more solid arguments to explain the lack of precision and the below-average level of football we've been watching.

-When it comes to the best players from this first round (and after having watched every match -the exception being those which happened at the same time of others in the third round of matches, though I checked the highlights and some of them I watched simultaneously in two different screens-), here's my attempt of the ideal starting XI:


Diego BENAGLIO (SUI - He kept Switzerland alive until the very end. Conceded only one goal and was the main reason why they got a win over Spain and then lost only by one goal to Chile. A shame he couldn't score. Neither could his team-mates!)


MAICON (BRA - You gotta give it to him. Scored a brilliant goal against North Korea to help settle the nerves of his entire team. Played a good game v. Ivory Coast too and didn't make mistakes v. Portugal. Didn't play his best yet, but with what he did, it proved to be enough).

Tulio TANAKA (JPN - This is the man who scored two own-goals in two friendly matches just before the World Cup -England and Ivory Coast-, though he became famous for breaking Didier DROGBA's arm. It looks as if he left all that madness behind and he has become the backbone of a very tough Japanese defence clearing everything that went his way for a team that lost only marginally to Holland and conceded just 2 goals in three matches).

Bruno ALVES (POR - No goals conceded by his team. Very solid and commanding. Impossible to beat in the air -so far- and able to start attacking actions from the back).

Fabio COENTRAO (POR - Yes. Two Portuguese in my ideal defence. Who would have thought? But this man has been immense. Great pace and very dangerous going forward without forgetting about his defensive duties. One to keep a close eye on).


Mesut ÖZIL (GER - Impressed v. Australia and was the best player in a very solid Germany team. Faded out a little v. Serbia -though the manager replaced him with 20 minutes to go- and then gave Germany the ticket to the next round with a great goal v. Ghana. He is a very classy left-footed playmaker that is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very industrious team).

Egidio AREVALO (URU - One of only two players from Uruguay (the other is sub GK Martín SILVA) that are still competing in his domestic league. He plays for Peñarol. This bald holding midfielder has been a beast for Uruguay. He is everywhere. He is a constant help for his defenders and he can also show up by surprise in the opposing penalty area. A motor in the middle for La Celeste).

Keisuke HONDA (JPN - Yes. My second Japanese here. Somebody should check this blonde Japanese's passport because he looks like someone from South America. The way he plays is just a joy to watch. He gave Japan three points with a sweet finish against Cameroon. Then he opened the scoring in their crucial match v. Denmark with a rocket of a free-kick (Jabulani is not a Japanese word, is it?!) and to finish up a glorious first round for him and his team, he created something out of nowhere and gave his team-mate Shinji OKAZAKI a lovely back pass for him to score in front of an empty net. More of this, Keisuke San please!

Forwards: (I'm going with a 4-3-3 formation, yes. It could be a little unbalanced with only RIOS marking, but I don't care!).

Lionel MESSI (ARG - He didn't score yet, but who cares if he will provide the kind of performances he is providing. The best thing about it is that he is still not even close to his best. Everytime he is on the ball, things change. With him being at a 6 out of a possible 10 it was enough for Argentina to walk through their group and be one of only 2 teams with perfect record (the other being Holland). Played a part in 4 out of 7 goals scored by Argentina).

David VILLA (ESP - He missed a penalty v. Honduras. Had he scored that one, he would be top of the scoring charts in this World Cup. All important goals for El Guaje, especially on Friday v. Chile to help La Furia get closer to the Round of 16 after being in danger for losing to Switzerland in their debut. He is a constant threat and he has become Spain's all-time leading scorer at the World Cup -beating legends such as RAUL and Emilio BUTRAGUEÑO).

Robert VITTEK (SVK - No Gonzalo HIGUAIN for me. He is up there together with VITTEK and VILLA with 3 goals, but he played only two matches -this could be a reason to rank him higher, though I'm not going for it- and his performance v. Nigeria left a lot to be desired. VITTEK, on the other hand, was more consistent and his goals gave Slovakia 4 points (they got four points to qualify from Group D). He scored against New Zealand and then he scored two v. Italy. Big, strong centre forward with a surprising speed. A big reason to explain Slovakia's qualification to the next round).

Best Manager: Takeshi OKADA (JPN) - He keeps saying Japan are going to get to the semifinals. I'm starting to believe he is being serious about it. There was a brilliant and very funny Japanese TV show I used to watch when I lived in England and it was called 'TAKESHI's CASTLE'. Well...this Takeshi is damn serious about his job. Nothing to laugh about here.

Bench (one in each position):

Fernando MUSLERA (URU - Only one of two goalkeepers that haven't conceded a goal yet -the other being EDUARDO from Portugal. MUSLERA has been safe whenever someone managed to get past the tough Uruguayan defence).

Rafael MARQUEZ (MEX - Rafa has been crucial for Mexico. El Tri's captain scored against South Africa and sent a clinical assist to Javier HERNANDEZ for Mexico to open the scoring against France. Apart from that, the Barcelona defender-midfielder has been excellent in every aspect of the game).

Michael BRADLEY (USA - He has proven many times that he is not there just because he is the son of the manager. Michael scored many crucial goals for the USA in the WC qualifiers and he came up big when it mattered the most, scoring the equalizer for the Americans v. Slovenia. He's been outstanding for the USA in every game they played so far).

Landon DONOVAN (USA - And if BRADLEY was crucial for the Americans...what can you say about clutch performer Landon DONOVAN? He started the comeback v. Slovenia with a great goal and then clinched the USA qualification for the Round of 16 with a late late late goal v. Argelia).

Outstanding figure in this first round: Who else but Diego Armando MARADONA? Not only he managed to get 9 points and give all but one outfield player (Ariel GARCE) some minutes, but he's been stealing all flashes and microphones since he arrived in South Africa. He sent PELE to the museum, he had an argument with KARAGOUNIS when the Greek midfielder wanted to pick up a fight with MESSI, he gave Lio the arm-band he wore like no other man did in the history of our national team and he even stopped a ball coming his way with a sweet 'taquito'. And all of this wearing that grey-almost-silver suit with a tie and a white shirt. May this endless series of serious and fun moments continue for a few more rounds. Four more rounds to be exact!


Anonymous said...

wow grt article but the Luis HANDIANO and LIARIANO was very funny!!!! keep it up!!! grt job!!!

Anonymous said...

I also was thinking about all WC group stage team. Here is mine:
GK: Benaglio (Switzerland): amazing saves throughout the tournament.
DF: Maicon (Brazil): the best right back in the tournament.
DF: Lugano (Uruguay): Uruguay defense isn't supposed to be strong, but how many goals they have conceded goals so far? He almost scored one against Mexico.
DF: Bruno Alves (Portugal): he and Carvalho both are good so far.
MF: Tiago (Portugal): box to box midfielder. good defensively and score as well.
MF: Elano (Brazil): although he played for 2 games only, but he makes Brazil right side, along with Maicon, the best in the world. Very very efficient. Not a 'flamboyant midfielder', but an amazing role player. Exactly what Brazil need.
MF: Ozil (Germany): maybe he would have still been better than Ballack had Ballack been in the WC. I can't remember the last time Brazil have players like him.
MF: Donovan (USA): 2 crucial goals that secured his team to top the group.
F: Messi (Argentina): stats don't say all. But the best team, thus far, has the best player in the tournament. He is Messi.
F: Villa (Spain): "just" 2 goals and a miss penalty, but he's always a threat whenever he touched the ball. Definitely the best player of Spain.
F: Higuain (Argentina): just 2 games, yes...but whenever he shot the ball--you may check the stats-- it's either on goal or hit the post. Maybe just one time he blazed it over the bar. Very very effective.

GK: Muslera (Uruguay)
DF: Terry (England)
DF: Carvalho (Portugal)
MF: Alexis Sanchez (Chile): the only other player other than Messi who played extremely good but is not written on stats.
MF: Vera (Paraguay)
MF: Sneijder (Holland)
F: Forlan (Uruguay)
F: Vittek (Slovakia)

Coach: Diego Maradona (Argentina)


Anonymous said...

Correction: Ozil is German I mean. Villa scored 3 goals and a miss PK.


Anonymous said...

Correction: Ozil is German I mean. Villa scored 3 goals and a miss PK.


bombonera said...

hi! everybody, am a new fun 4rm coast of east africa(mombasa-kenya), since this my 1st comment i'll like to introduce myself n say something little....thanx so big sebastian i never knw that some of our argentines like u guys will one day come n form this forum of sharing comment on our favourite team(Arg) in ENGLISH,born in 1986 the yr Maradona delivered our 2nd victory, my 1st wc waz 1994, wz a fun of BATIGOL N REDONDO cz i saw them in copa america' since then Arg would always disappoint me wen it comes to wc and any other tornament like copa america,confederations except our youth team or olympic team,do u know the worst moment i experiance with our team? wc2002,i felt like leave away watching futbol 4gud,,,despite allthat I NEVER gave up, i always hope that one day i'll b lucky 2 c Arg get into the history of winning 3rd tym

Anonymous said...

Maradona want to strenghten wings side. Mexico was good in this position. They attack using winger especially in counter attack. Maradona choose maxi solely based on tactical reason. With messi as a playmaker, I think the priority is balance of team. Veron probably go to the pitch at second half or when we in leading position. I hope players not make mistakes. No room for error, because this is knock out stage. It's better for us to push for winning in 90 minutes, no extra-time moreover penalties shoot.

Anonymous said...

Dan said,

We get Mexico, Germany/England, and then Spain.

Effing Brazil gets
Chile, Netherlands, and probably Uruguay. a freaking joke...

I am sorry but FIFA needs to ensure quality teams make it to the round of 8 and beyond. It is an absolute joke that Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana, and USA are going to send a team to the semis while some power houses are being sent home early because of the draw. Does anyone actually believe these four teams make a difference? They will be a meal for whoever they finally have to play that is good. I swear Brazil gets this shit every 4 years...what a joke. And by the way, I saw the Portugal Brazil game...two dirty teams with no class.

Anonymous said...

@bombonera from mombasa kenya...please dont give up bro...this team is not going disappoint you..i think this team have the pedigre to be there..Vamos argentina... Vamos maradona

Anonymous said...

It is very important for FIFA that Brazil wins. Due to the recession, and the World Cup being in South Africa, their revenue has been lower than expected. With the next World Cup in Brazil, they can't miss this opportunity.

If Brazil wins the World Cup, imagine the marketing opportunities they'll have for the next 4 years. Pele will have a much more high profile role as the ambassador of the beautiful game, the original soccer great and the World Champs hosting the World Cup.

Most rich casual soccer fans around the world always root for Brazil. Just ask the rich folks in the USA, they might not be soccer fans, but it seems hip and cool now, plus they heard Brazil is a beautiful country with beautiful babes and the best soccer and they might make the trip of a lifetime to Brazil in 2014.

That's why I think Brazil have to win this World Cup.

bombonera said...

history repeating itself for us in this wc, 1st s.korea just like '86, then NIG n GREECE '94, now we r facing MEX in Rd16 then most likely GER in the QF(just like 2006),wat remains is to see messi acting like diego of '86..... guys,that waz just by the way.lets leave alone histry and luk for the facts,,2moro the only mexicans players who shd always be marked on their moves are SALCIDO and DOSANTO,with this regards i think it will be better to see MAXI instead of VERON on the RM to neutralise SALCIDO counter attacks(though i dont think he's going to attack us frequntly like wat he does coz of our threatening trio-forwards),,using OTAMENDI intead of GUITEREZ
(i dont need to explain) cz the match against Greece gave everyone of us the afraid of using Micho since Mexico play speed 4rm the midde 2 up-front,i dont mean he is too slow bt the only Argentine player who has never get used to the JUBULANI BALL is MICHO,get him off and put BURDISSO...lastly If MASCHERANO and MESSI play at their best 2morro then we gona win by even four goals.and by the way i wud like to see MILITTO PLAY atleast 15min,im sure he gona hit the net thiz time

Anonymous said...

I am hearing that Samuel has not recovered sufficiently from his injury and will not play against Mexico. His place will be taken by Burdisso. Can anyone confirm?

gebrihell said...

i feel sick that brazil gets easy draw into final. but the fault is france's and englands. should they have won their groups, brazil or holland will have faced either of them instead of facing uruguay/s.korea/usa/ghana. france and england suck big time. at least now we have 3 difficult matches before lifting the cup. Againts Germany/England, Spain and Brazil. This is what I predict. With this stupid Jabulani ball, we might see a Korea Vs Japan final.

johnny said...

Hi Seba-great job. BTW-those grey suits worn by Maradona and his assistants are referred to as "Sharkskin" suits.

Anonymous said...

-fabriano called his goal a hand of god that alone has cursed brasil he shouldnt have said that theres no meaning to it other than copy diego who ment something spiritural and true when he said it fab cursed brasil with that comment so dont worry about them

hand of god indeed i think you just made god very angry your just a cheating lying overly lucky brasilian and your aragance will cost you dear

Anonymous said...

-argentina had the best group stage by far go thru 9 points event leading ball posession we get nothing for it nothing at all

brasil get a easy root its always the same we all know that thats why winning the cup will be all the more sweeter real champs not fifa aided along like daddy holding are hand brasil bullshit

Anonymous said...

-we aint got a hard match vs england or germany as the 1 we face will be exhursted and brused and maybe missing first choice players it works for us not against us think about it