Monday, June 19, 2006

World Cup: 2nd week

Reactions from a long weekend of exciting soccer.
It is finally getting really exciting, as teams are making their push for the 2nd round.  Winning the first game is important, as you don’t want to get into must-win situations too quickly.  However, teams usually get over their first game jitters and start playing ball like they mean it, and we’ve seem some interesting trends.

The Argentines are playing like they’re all channeling Maradona (who has been in the stands, by the way, as ESPN can’t stop panning over to see what he’s doing).  I haven’t seen better creativity or energy out of any team in the Cup so far.  After their thrashing of Serbia on Friday, they are in the 2nd round.  So is Holland, after probably one of the best games at the cup so far.  The Ivory coast played well and looked dangerous the entire game, but were unlucky to win over an equally skilled and determined Dutch team.  So many balls went just wide or hit the bar in this game that I was in permanent Ooooh and Aaaah mode.

Wednesday’s Argentina v. Holland game should be the Must-See game of the entire group round (sorry, team USA, but if I had to pick…).  I think it would be a mistake for either of these teams to give up momentum just because they have a guaranteed spot in the 2nd round.

Oh, by the way.  I had an interesting couple of comments about my group of death post last week.  Many people argued that Group C was the group of death this year and I got a pretty nasty comment when I declared that it was group E (foolish American).  Well, the two teams expected to come out of group C did, after two games.  Group E is still entirely up for grabs.  Any more arguments?

Portugal has finally shown some life with 6 points and a berth in round 2.  Mexico looks like a train wreck waiting to happen, and if Portugal takes this game seriously on Wednesday they could be looking at their first early exit from the World Cup in a long time.  It’s looking OK for them, but there’s a chance.

OK, I’m not going to comment on Saturday’s games too much, as in America here they’ve already been taken apart by everyone. 

The Czechs seem to have disappeared in game two, just in time for the Americans to wake up and take it to the Italians.  Yes, I’m surprised on both accounts.  I expected the Czechs to do better, and the Italians really should have taken the USA to the cleaners.  However, I’m wondering if after the first game both European teams relaxed a bit.

The Americans definitely played better in game two, and did very well to hold Italy to a draw.  But they have yet to score a goal in the tournament, and they need to solve that before playing a Ghana team who embarrassed a team that just finished thrashing the USA 5 days earlier.

Brazil.  What can you say.  They’re in round 2 and your not.  They haven’t looked like the magical samba band that they are known for, but they usually take a few games to really get going. 

Tough for the Australians, though.  They played a great game, and still have a great shot at getting into round 2.  I’m excited to see them there, as they look really good.  Harry Kewell is playing inspired ball right now.

France.  Ugh.  Check please, Monsieur.  At least they finally broke that 8 year scoring drought at a World Cup.  Friday is going to be a long day for the French.  Zidane got another yellow card and won’t be playing on Friday.  He’s looked pretty slow lately.  Will his absence be a bad thing?

Spain.  For a while in today’s game I thought that Tunisia had their number.  Spain tends to fall apart and choke at some point in every big tournament, despite their talent.  Would it be this early in the Cup? 

The answer was no.  They’re still able to create, and scored 3 quick goals toward the end of the game.  They still look really good, and controlled the ball well in the game, but we’re still holding our breath.

In the next round so far: Germany, Ecuador, England, Argentina, Holland, Portugal, Brazil, Spain.
Looks like a pretty familiar group.

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