Thursday, June 17, 2010

2010 World Cup: Rain on Spain?

So, as discussed yesterday, not a vintage start to the 2010 World Cup.

Dismay has been expressed at the performance of a number of big teams: Brazil and Holland in winning their games, England, France, Italy and Portugal in their draws.

Germany were impressive (although Australia looked poor) and Argentina drew some muted plaudits and confidence from a win against a shaky Nigeria.

But it was in the final game that one of the "big" nations fell victim to a big shock. Spain were big favourites, darlings of the pundits, and had lost only once in 47 games.

Make that twice in 48. A great defensive performance from Switzerland who came with a plan and carried it out to the letter to get a 1-0 win.

With Chile beating Honduras by the same score it makes the group a lot tighter than Spain might have expected.

Probably nothing more than an aberration.

But - and prepare yourself for a stat attack - they do seem to have left themselves with a mountain to climb.

No team has ever lost their first game and gone on to win the World Cup. Only two teams, England in 1966 and Italy in 1982, have failed to win their first game and won the tournament.

The idea that teams that start slowly tend to excel is also proved to be a nonsense. Actually I think this myth has partly been propagated by the English media either because they view 1966 as the template for all World Cups or to console themselves after England's traditionally poor starts. Whatever, the winners tend to start by winning.

This is all probably meaningless although it does suggest Spain now need to conquer history if they are going to win the World Cup.

But I guess they already knew that.

World Cup winners and their first game results

2006: Italy beat Ghana 2-0
2002: Brazil beat Turkey 2-1
1998: France beat South Africa 3-0
1994: Brazil beat Russia 2-0
1990: West Germany beat Yugoslavia 4-1
1986: Argentina beat South Korea 3-1
1982: Italy drew with Poland 0-0
1978: Argentina beat Hungary 2-1
1974: West Germany beat Chile 1-0
1970: Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 4-1
1966: England drew with Uruguay 0-0
1962: Brazil beat Chile 2-0
1958: Brazil beat Austria 3-0
1954: West Germany beat Turkey 4-1
1950: Uruguay beat Bolivia 8-0
1938: Italy beat Norway 2-1
1934: Italy beat United States 7-1
1930: Uruguay beat Peru 1-0

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