Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Day 4

There's still a lot of doom and gloom around this tournament. It's started slowly - with (including Day 4's matches) less than 20 goals scored and some of the drabbest games of football you're ever likely to see playing out with a frightening lack of urgency. Uruguay v Mexico on Friday was awful, as was Algeria v Slovenia and tonight's laboured 1-1 draw between Italy and Paraguay.

However, articles headlined 'is this the worst World Cup ever?' are laughably premature - as I saw in one newspaper. Yes, the matches have been uninspiring for the most part and teams seem to be cautiously finding their way into the tournament and struggling with, among other things, the much-maligned Jabulani ball, the altitude and the deafening buzz of the massed vuvuzelas - but this is only the first round of matches. There will be a spark, there will be memorable, exciting matches and there will be shocks and twists and turns. It's only Day 4, people.

I'm aware that it's mostly the press creating this atmosphere - but it's also the knee-jerk reactions of the amateur pundits and football fans online. Maybe the games seem boring, but is that just because you've spent too long looking forward to the tournament and got a little over-excited? There's only so much that football can really deliver on the fantasy of football - and we all know that the truly great games come along just when you least expect them. That's what makes them so great, after all.

So relax, is what I'm trying to say. I'm staying upbeat about the tournament and taking the fun where I can - great things are just around the corner.

Today's matches saw the much-tipped Holland take their bow against Denmark in the early kick-off, another mostly unremarkable game that saw the Dutch win 2-0 against a distinctly average-looking Denmark side - though the own goal which saw Poulson combine with Daniel Agger to ridiculous effect is well worth a watch.

In the 3pm kick off, Japan sneaked a 1-0 win past a Cameroon side devoid of the "fun" side they first became known for back in 1990, having seemingly had all the joy and flair sapped from their football by dour French manager Paul le Guen. I do appreciate that it is this tedious sort of result that is inspiring the negative "reviews" this tournament is getting so far - but what these tight results do suggest that, in this group at least, the identity of the team to likely join Netherlands in the second round is completely unknown.

Finally, tonight, Italy looked nothing like the world-beaters they were four years ago, despite the squad containing a surprising amount of those already-experienced players. Paraguay took the lead through a bullet header, and were equalised against thanks to a poorly judged cross by their goalkeeper, but Italy found them hard to play against all across the park. I have little doubt Italy will go on to win this group - but they'll have to play much, much better to stand any chance of retaining their hard-won title.

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