One week of the 2010 World Cup down and how are we doing? Picking the upsets? Enjoying the way every airborne ball looks impossible to control? Or how it skids wildly off the grass after landing? How about the horns – is the hum ringing in your ears yet?
Despite some of the oddities of the South African soccer affair, the first week has been a treat for fans around the world. No, the football hasn’t always been faultless, nor has it stunned with the regularity you might expect from the globe’s best players. But there have been some inspired performances and even a few pleasant surprises. The United States, for example, were barely given a chance against the Premier League All Stars of England. And yet, in spite of a fortuitous goal, one couldn’t help but feel America had gotten the better of the Poms. They never dominated, but they probed, strung some passes together and their keeper, Tim Howard, stood tall – well, taller than usual.
Then the US came back against Slovenia, a match that seemed irretrievable. They might have even won it if not for a contentious refereeing decision. And how about the Dutch? While not lighting it up, nor impressing commentators, they are quietly going about their business, dispatching both Denmark and a plucky Japanese squad. Next come the Cameroons, who have nothing to play for but pride. It should be a handy warm down for the men of orange.
So what else have we learned this past week?
- England, despite their caliber, are under performing, uninspired and apparently without a game plan. Do they even realize Wayne Rooney is on the pitch?
- Ghana are pretty good, in case you were wondering. They tamed a fierce Serbian team and met a desperate Aussie team with equal measure. They’ll need some extra gas against Germany, but victory and next round qualification are not beyond the prowling Black Stars.
- Argentina are in control. Their attack is enterprising and Messi’s first touch is mesmerizing. But once they leave the group behind, will defenses be so relenting?
- Italy have some work to do. The team is stacked with talent, young, old and rusty. The question is: can they blend as needed before it’s too late?
- New Zealand deserve some praise for their spirit, humility and hard play. Few are on their bandwagon, and yet, their simple, straightforward soccer is attractive and a great base for future campaigns to build on.