Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 World Cup: Get this party started

So 16 games down and the first round of group matches complete.

Time to call the 2010 World Cup a disaster? No. People probably will but it's still to early to write off the entire tournament.

A few random thoughts:

Lack of goals: The lowest ever number of goals for the first 16 games of a World Cup - and a dearth of exciting fixtures.

Not that it has been without merit. Germany were impressive in demolishing a poor Australian side. North Korea - suddenly everyone's favourite rogue state - served up a treat against Brazil in a fascinating clash of tactics. Spain and Switzerland did much the same this afternoon.

Why? Maybe the tactics have been too negative, teams too scared of losing the first game. Certainly a lot of players have looked nervous and the uniformity of tactics is bound to result in more stalemates than we would want to see.

There is, of course, a difference in playing to your strengths and being overly cautious. Thus North Korea and Switzerland can thrill us with their defensive game while Italy and England just look jittery and dull, mistaking caution for a reliable gameplan.

There's only so many variations on 4-5-1 with worried looking players you can endure before you ask yourself why you're wasting the summer watching extravagantly rewarded players pretending to be in the SPL.

Maybe throughout football there is now an imbalance between the fear of losing and the desire to win, it's just concentrated at the World Cup.

Over the course of the next two games we'll see which of the big teams can shake off the torpor and start to perform. That should liven things up.

The ball: Shut up about the ball. As Chris Waddle said on Radio 5 Live this evening it remains a football. Not square, not a rugby ball. Not a balloon. Most of these players have been training with it for the best part of a month or longer. Stop moaning. If it was as bad as they say surely it would favour attackers. The lack of goals suggests the ball is not the problem.

The hosts: Spaces in the stadiums are not pleasant to watch. Anecdotally it sounds like South Africa is getting behind the World Cup. But actually going to the games is too expensive for the majority. That's a problem that FIFA should have addressed. So far the predictions of anarchy and rampant crime seem wide of the mark. South Africa isn't letting anyone down.

The TV coverage: Awful. The BBC remains ahead - especially online - but winning with a team that includes the smug Gary Lineker, the lazy Alan Hansen and the irritating John Motson is a fairly hollow victory. It's probably not cheering anyone up when they realise how hugely well paid Adrian Chiles has been for committing career suicide in moving to ITV. Radio 5 Live remains a cut above.

What's next?: Hopefully less moaning. Time for a lot of teams to get over the nerves, shed the negativity and do something. That should mean that the football improves. If it doesn't then we might see some surprising teams in the second round. Either way it's going to be more interesting than the first six days would suggest.

South Africa v Uruguay this evening is the perfect place to find the spark we need.