Day: June 20, 2010

World Cup 2010: Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast

There is a lot of hyperbole spoken about the Brazilian football team. Probably more than is spoken about any club or national side on the planet. It’s almost a mythology. Admittedly, it’s a mythology based on a handful of the most gifted players that have ever lived (see, even I buy into it, to a degree): Pele, Garrincha, Rivelinho, Zico. Even Brazil teams have their fair share of poor players in the national side: Serginho, Roque Junior, most of the team they took to Italia ‘90. It’s because of the former group of players that every Brazilian who is remotely half decent becomes overrated to the point of greatness: Careca, Romario, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and of the current crop Kaka. All of whom have great technique, and are wonderfully gifted players, but when we consider the all time greats in the sport, it is unlikely any of those will appear. They are more fortunate to live in an era where footage of them is between readily available and covered to the point of saturation, whereas the Brazil team mythology is helped by their peak co-inciding first with the introduction of television to the masses, and then with the first World Cup televised in colour. Players such as Alfredo di Stefano, Just Fontaine, Gunnar Nilsson, Sandor Kocsis, Estanislao Basora, Oldrich Nejedly, John Charles and Tom Finney as...

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World Cup 2010: Italy 1-1 New Zealand

When the World Cup was expanded to twenty-four nations for the tournament in Spain in 1982, the decision didn’t come without criticism. Some of it was reserved for the fact that twenty-four nations meant that the tournament had to take an almost absurd looking shape with two group stages (which was jettisoned after one tournament), but the majority of it was reserved for the notion that an expanded World Cup finals would lead to lopsided matches, with new teams getting thrashed out of sight by the old guard. The transitional period was  difficult one (El Salvador’s 10-1 defeat at the hands of Hungary springs immediately to mind) but, over all, this expansion was required to make football more of a global game. The 1982 World Cup finals was significant for both of this afternoon’s teams, but for vastly different reasons. For New Zealand, this was their first (and until this year only) appearance in the finals of the World Cup. In a difficult group with Brazil, the Soviet Union and Scotland, their record of no wins with two goals scored and twelve conceded may look poor, but it was a primarily semi-professional and amateur team playing three teams that (with varying degrees of delusion) had aspirations of winning the competition. Those days are long gone. New Zealand arrived for the 2010 World Cup with a bang, a last minute...

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World Cup 2010: Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay

So, it’s Sunday lunchtime and time for the stout yeomen of Slovakia and Paraguay to enter into battle in The Group (so far) Of Parity. Slovakia need a win more desperately than Paraguay today, having been held by New Zealand in their opening match. They will, of course, finish their group matches against Italy. Paraguay, by contrast, will take on New Zealand in their final match and may well consider that a draw today will be enough to leave them in pole position to qualify for a place in the last sixteen. Curiously, though, Paraguay have chosen to play three forwards this afternoon. Are they going to go for it anyway? It would certainly seem that way. It may be that they already have one eye on the next round of the competition. Winning today could well prove to be the difference between playing the Netherlands and playing Japan or Denmark in the next round. A draw would do them today, but a win would be even better. If Paraguay are going to “go for it” today, the same probably can’t be said of the South African match-going public. There are a lot of empty seats in Bloemfontain today. This is no bad thing, really. Empty seats were a feature of World Cups until the Americans sold the 1994 tournament out, and those using this as a stick to...

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Anelka’s Outburst Shows Up French Shortcomings

Sitting an watching from the other side of “La Manche”, one of the few crumbs of comfort for England supporters over the first week of the 2010 World Cup finals has been the apparent disintegration of the France team over the same period of time. This reached its natural conclusion yesterday, when Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the tournament over a his refusal to apologise for a verbal attack upon the French coach Raymond Domenech during their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico on Thursday evening. Anelka has, unsurprisingly, subsequently announced his retirement from international football. France’s first half performance against Mexico had been less that inspiring, and amongst the least effective of all of their players had been Nicolas Anelka. In a match during which France desperately needed an opening goal, Anelka had frequently been playing in a deeper and deeper position. It is, with the benefit of hindsight, hardly a major revelation that he should be criticised – there weren’t that many players in the team that didn’t warrant criticism at half-time during the match, after all. According to France Football, Domenech’s criticism was offered in a “firm and aggravated, but polished tone”, but Anelka’s considered response will probably now go down as one of the definitive quotations of this particular tournament. Go fuck yourself you son of a whore. Comparisons have been drawn between...

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World Cup 2010: Cameroon 1-2 Denmark

A match so good even Peter Drury couldn’t spoil it. “Two nations living just a little on their history,” he notes, as the teams come out. And, as an English football commentator, he should know. The unfashionable games are becoming the ones to watch, after Slovenia v America yesterday, and now this. Expect Slovakia v Paraguay to be a humdinger. This one quickly becomes a particularly “good watch,” the verb “to watch” turned into a noun  – as ITV blast from the past Ron Atkinson used to do (“that’s a good arrive by Robson” etc…). Cameroon appear to have undergone a radical shake-up, with centre-forwards playing at centre-forward and Alex Song and Geremi playing at all. “Eto’o will be happy to be playing alongside Webo,” says Drury, possibly introducing Eto’o to an entirely new emotion. Achille Webo does make Eto’o’s 11th minute opener, but only after the Danish back line faff around with the ball – the green shirts of Cameroon’s advancing forwards apparently some sort of camouflage. Eto’o has enough time and space to make his finish one for the cameras, if he wants to. He does. Daniel Agger is described as a “recognised centre-back,” which will have confused most watching Liverpudlians. But no-one will be as confused as Charlton fans watching the Dennis Rommedahl tribute act destroying Cameroon down their left flank. He sets up Nicklas Bendtner...

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