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Impressions so far June 14, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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Team-by-team breakdown:

  • Argentina: Will Juan Sebastian Veron play so badly in his next game? It’s a vital question, because Veron is Argentina’s key offensive player. Against Nigeria, he ruined so many glorious Argentine moves with his sloppy passing, but the side’s play has to flow through him. Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez, who also stunk without playing quite as badly, can be replaced by men of equal quality. Not so Veron. His side’s chances will hinge on his ability to bounce back. Standout: Javier Mascherano, who basically took Nigeria’s entire midfield out of the game single-handed.
  • Australia: Let me start by saying that I don’t like Australia and I don’t know why, but I don’t think that colors my perception of the team. However, it’s difficult to judge, because I think they’re one of the least talented teams in the tournament, and are besides running a system that makes them worse than the sum of their parts. Standout: Harry Kewell, for the rest of the team making him look more important than he probably is in his absence.
  • England: I only saw the first half-hour of their game, before having to go to work. What I can say is that, based upon what I saw, the all-too-predictable doomsaying of their footballing press is misplaced. I can also say that I was outraged to see David James, who has earned his position, omitted from the starting eleven. I have nothing against Robert Green, and after seeing his very frank response to his error, I’m inclined to like him all the more, but I thought Capello deserved that error for leaving out James. Heskey is also a concern. He is unquestionably the best option to partner Wayne Rooney: Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe have repeatedly shown they can’t hack it at the top level, so the best choice is a man who can bring out the best in his partner. But for me the key problem with Heskey at international level is that he simply doesn’t want to score. I’ve seen him pass up the opportunity to run through on goal in favor of a benign pass too many times. One more thing: James Milner was an absolute disgrace of a player in there. He played like absolute, incompetent scum. If he gets another minute at this World Cup, every player on England’s bench except for Joe Hart, including David James, should feel wronged. And yet I saw no condemnation in the English press for a player who got hauled off before halftime because he was simply awful.
  • Germany: A team that isn’t as good as it’s being made out to be, because it was playing against a team of average players in a horrible system who didn’t believe in themselves to begin with. However, it’s also a team that allies organization and polish, with enough conjurers both in the eleven and on the bench to create a goal at any time. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Germany go all the way, especially with the draw. Standout: Thomas Muller, who was the most energetic and incisive German.
  • Ghana: Playing with only one forward, Ghana will never get enough goals to go deep in this tournament. That’s not to say it’s a bad decision and the Black Stars looked good all around, but they just don’t have the extra drive and quality to get the goals they need. Still well-organized and tough to beat without surrendering technical ability though, and good to watch. Standout: Asamoah Gyan. Not because he scored a penalty, but because his running kept Vidic and Lukovic out of the game.
  • Greece: I don’t actually think Greece is worse than in 2004. I just think football has evolved since. Actually, they are also worse. Standout: Alexandros Tziolis, who made Park Jisung look like Juan Roman Riquelme sometimes.
  • Mexico: The brilliance of Mexico’s approach play deserves a competent finisher to put the chances away. But neither Guillermo Franco nor Chicharito Hernandez is a competent finisher. You can’t help but think they’ll spend the entire tournament failing to get the results their play deserves. Standout: Cuauhtemoc Blanco. At his age, he is essentially immobile, but he has developed a wonderful way of creating himself the space to pick out a penetrating pass. I have yet to read a report that gives him the credit he deserves for his part in Mexico’s equalizer, when his flick gave Andres Guardado an outrageous amount of time to deliver a good ball.
  • Nigeria: I can’t like Nigeria. The sacking of Shaibu Amodu was either a case of criminal incompetence, or perhaps, based on what Glenn Hoddle said in the wake of his interview for Amodu’s job, something far more disgusting. I can’t separate my impressions of this team from my moral outrage, so I won’t even try. Standout: Vincent Enyeama. He’s been praised enough elsewhere that I don’t have to do it here.
  • Serbia: A team full of absolute fuckers who deserved their loss for being so cynical. There would have been more cards, but for the part of the game where the referee seemed to forget that that fouls are supposed to result in free kicks for the team that suffers them, not the one that commits them. To summarize, they seemed to like diving and fouling and got what they deserved. Standout: Aleksandar Kolarov, for being the most cynical of this team of fuckers.
  • South Africa: Pundits must love their own words. How else can you explain how many of them have been devoted to patronizing South Africa? The only explanation must be that they fantasize about having those words shoved down their throats in a week or two. Bafana is a very good team with one of the modern greats patrolling the technical area and organizing their defense, and more creative players in their starting lineup than most teams in this tournament have even brought with them. If they go far in the tournament, it should surprise nobody, but someone’s still bound to foist the tiresome “underdog” story on us. Standout: Itumeleng Khune, whose creative distribution could have won the game for his team.
  • South Korea: I immensely enjoyed the Taeguks’ rolling out with their given names on the back of their shirts like Brazilians. It’s really difficult to analyze them after their game against Greece, since Greece’s players seemed to confuse playing defensively with not trying to win the ball back or use it intelligently. South Korea got a lot of time on the ball, and their players are so technically gifted, energetic and passionate that they couldn’t really help but win against a team with none of those qualities. South Korea is developing into the Netherlands of Asia: a team full of Swiss Army knife players who are technically gifted and comfortable in many positions. Don’t be surprised to see them go deep. Standout: Park Jisung, who was given the time and space to pick out passes that go against the stereotype that he is a headless chicken. One of the most criminally underrated players of our age.
  • USA: America looked like what it is: a reasonably organized team with a few good players. Other bloggers have covered Ricardo Clark’s positional indiscipline adequately, so I won’t touch it. Again, I didn’t see the entire game, so I haven’t got much to say. Standout: Steve Cherundolo. All the internationals I’d seen him in before Saturday certainly didn’t suggest he was such a consummate jinker. He pretty much destroyed James Milner’s England career.
  • Algeria, Greece, France, Slovenia, Uruguay: Irrelevances who will be forgotten as soon as their early exits/teams I didn’t watch.
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