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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Lazy Bloggers Watch Football, Compile List

A German man watches football, yesterday

With the World Cup in full swing, there’s barely time to take a break from watching all the games to do any writing about them. So we haven’t bothered. Instead, we’ve argued a bit and made a list about some stuff that we’ve noticed in a so-far quite listless World Cup.

1. Slow starts should be expected

‘Right lads, let’s go out all guns blazing in our first group game’, is advice pouring from the mouths of precisely no international managers this week. The first few days of the tournament has widely been earmarked as fairly boring, but opening fixtures – tight, won by the odd goal mainly – were always going to seem tedious. This has happened for two reasons. The first of these is that no one wants to find themselves three points adrift of the top of a group with only two games – against teams that are all increasingly in with a shout – to catch up. That is uncomfortable.

The second is that not all 32 teams in the World Cup are that good. There’s absolutely no point expecting the World Cup to be even better in quality than the Champions League just because it is a step up to international rather than club sides. Most of the best players in the world are at the tournament, sure. But so are some of the more average. And when mostly average players play against each other, you get mostly average matches.

This foundation results in a sort of horrible football purgatory where, so paralysed are mediocre teams by the fear of losing to other mediocre teams, they totally fail to remember to try and win and we never find out if they were good enough to do so or not. Fear not though. This catatonic approach will give way to the whirling dervishes of desperation after round one. Hopefully.

2. Germany are better without professional fouler but highly-regarded international footballer Michael Ballack

We sort of knew this anyway, given that without Ballack, Chelsea actually manage to move forwards on something resembling a counter-attack and not a steamroller going up an icy hill. But Germany were still good in their opener. Very good. The emergence of Mesut Özil in Ballack’s place suggested he could have a significant influence on their midfield and Löw must have been delighted that all the strikers he could reasonably have expected to score (i.e. not Mario Gomez) duly delivered. That said, Germany were assisted by the least aggressive Australian performance since Harold Bishop in Neighbours.

It could be a good World Cup for German football in general as the Bundesliga looks to have provided some of the tournament’s potential stars. What with Cacau’s goalscoring appearance as a substitute, Özil’s star turn and Eljero Elia’s decent cameo for the Dutch, the German top flight’s status as one Europe’s most powerful leagues is enhanced further. Plus, just imagine how good Franck Ribery is going to have to be if the French are going to go anywhere.

3. Lionel Messi will be class whenever and wherever he plays

Messi is the only one so far who has really looked able to manipulate the ball as he would so desire (more on that below). Any worries that he might be a bit of a flop under the stewardship of Diego Maradona looked a bit wayward as he caused the Nigerians all sorts of problems. His finishing was not quite as lethal as we have come to expect, but he seemed to have got the hang of at least making shots look like they were going in, rather than ballooning them over the bar like most.

Argentina, though, were not perfect. Deploying Gutierrez at right back made them look extremely vulnerable and his relative lack of defensive nous had them on the back foot a few times, most notably when he faced the Nigerian substitute Peter Odemwingie. Veron was relatively effortless, but it was a shame Mikel wasn’t fit for Nigeria. You can’t help but feel Veron’s tournament will depend on how efficiently he can be protected by Javier Mascherano – I can’t see him enjoying being harried like the Italians were by Paraguay on Monday night. Up front, profligacy reigned supreme as none of Argentina’s cooks spared a single solitary thought for the broth.

4. There is nothing wrong with the ball

I’ve heard that this ball is, in some hi-tech capacity, the roundest ever. Why, then, is it expected to dip and swerve and behave like an aggravated parrot? Surely a perfect sphere should equal truer and more predictable flight? I have seen no particularly late dips or awkward swerves; in fact if there really is a problem with the ball it is that it seems very hard and very light. It bounces very high and almost everyone is over-hitting free kicks, corners, crosses, shots and so on. Bad ball? No. Careless players.

The only problems goalkeepers are having are those age-old ones. Flapping at corners and crosses (Justo Villar, Paraguay), ludicrous own goals (Simon Poulsen and Daniel Agger, Denmark) or just not being very good at football (Faouzi Chaouchi, Algeria; Rob Green, England). We can’t really analyse the ball until the first 30-yarder screams in having horribly wrongfooted the ‘keeper. If we feel it is necessary to analyse a FOOTBALL at all.

There would be more of course, but Ivory Coast-Portugal is just about to start. And this one should be good.

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