This post had to be done before it was too late, (where too late = end of FIFA World Cup). So I will get right to the point. This is a not-so-SHORT REPORT CARD on the Group Phase of FIFA World Cup 2010. Also, this is an extremely judgmental post. If you don’t like to see your favorite players or teams being mocked, ridiculed or judged, then feel free to skip this post and browse the rest of the blog. But if you are one of those people who wants to have a look at a very unforgiving, yet fair judgment of the quality, flair and entertainment (or the lack thereof) in the matches that we have witnessed, then by all means please read ahead.
First up, make no mistake. This World Cup has sucked balls so far! Any of you nimrods who think otherwise have, I can guarantee, never followed any of the European Football leagues. You know- the ones in which all the Football players play week in week out all through the year? Not like just showing up once in 4 years to play a bunch of matches in a month and hope to be declared World Champions! There has been a total and glaring lack of quality in the football that has been played in almost all of the Group phase matches. Apart from the clear lack of goals, most of the games involved just dull passing and hopeful long balls into the box. And most of the intended shots on goal ended up as just that- intended shots on goal. I literally lost count of how many times the players tried to take a shot on goal from outside the box and the ball just ended up either hitting a defender who was like 3 feet away or went sailing comfortably some 10-20 feet above or away from the goal posts.
And screw that Jabulani football! If I am not mistaken, out of the 48 matches that took place in the Group phase, just 1 match (that’s right just one!) produced goals from a direct free kick! And that too it was one of the last matches where the Jap dudes Honda and Endo sent one free kick each curling past the goal keeper and actually INTO the net. This is in contrast with literally all of the other free kicks being perfectly aimed at the row of people in the stands who are at least 20 rows above the cross bar. I am convinced that the blame lies mostly with the ball as practically all the best free kick takers have been unable to keep the ball down. (Or maybe they should take a lesson or two from the Japs.)
Now lets get a bit more specific and talk about teams. Spain and Brazil started off as favorites and it took all of 1 match to played by each of them for them to be stripped off that spot. Spain, I strongly believe, expected to be awarded 3 points against Switzerland just for showing up and passing the ball around. Brazil, having consciously renounced the Sambha football, I suspect, forgot that they still needed to score goals to win a football match. England, on the other hand, were still trying to figure out how to make use of World class players such as Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Terry and Cole (both J & A) to muster an actual shot on target ever since Gerrard scored that opening goal against the USA in the 5th minute. Germany promised some real entertainment after that opening display against Australia and then quickly decided that they were giving all their fans and viewers too much to be to be happy about. And those of you who are firmly behind the Oranje Netherlands better admit the fact that the Dutch have played some of the most boring and dull football among all the teams. The fact that they have produced results from all their games better not be mistaken for some kind of a strong showing in the football sense. After all, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon are not countries you pride winning 2-0, 1-0 and 2-1 against if you are aiming for the title.
Italy, on the other hand, had apparently forgotten that they were playing in the World Cup Finals and instead continued to play each match as some kind of a practice match! They realized their mistake somewhere half way through their match against Slovakia, after which they produced what turned out to be BY FAR the most entertaining and gripping match of the entire Group Stage! If it meant that Italy had to go out in order to produce that awesome match, then so be it! Which now brings us to France! I just have two words: IRELAND Schadenfreude. And as far as Portugal is concerned, well, apart from that 7-0 drubbing of North Korea (which really doesn’t count btw), they haven’t really scored a single goal have they? Sparing a thought for the USA, who eventually ended up playing the wrong sport (Soccer) against Ghana (which played football) in the Last 16, I have to say I felt awesome to see them getting knocked out by an African team! Which finally brings me to Argentina. And simply put, this is the only team that seems to make any effort to play football in ALL the matches. And I sincerely hope they go on to win the World Cup.
Getting a little more specific, lets talk about the players who have made any or no difference to the matches played so far. For a long time now, I have strongly been against the continued presence of totally redundant football players, most of them in a forward role. And this World Cup, if anything, has only proven me totally right! I shall start with the most redundant of them all, namely an Englishman named Emile Heskey. He is simply put the most worthless, useless, unproductive and shameless football player in the entire World Cup. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if he starts for his club (whichever that is). Next comes any Italian striker you can think of. Less said about them the better. Then come the likes of Klose and Anelka. Though I am strong Chelsea supporter, I still don’t approve of Anelka’s inclusion in ANY team! And also, one good kick or one headed goal doesn’t absolve any of the above mentioned players’ inability to perform consistently. Also, it seems to me that Fernando Torres is making every effort to jump in to the bandwagon of unproductive strikers.
On the other hand, we have had some real scintillating displays of football by the likes of Messi and the rest of Argentina. On the same plane comes David Villa and Luis Suarez. But I have to say, among all the people who have stood out, the one that really caught my eye was the Argentine Sergio Kun Aguero. The Athletico Madrid playmaker created some of the best moves for Argentina in the last two group matches. He is being strongly linked with Chelsea and Juventus and he ending up in either place will be pretty awesome as far as I am concerned!
So now lets choose the best and the worst of what the FIFA World Cup 2010 has had to offer in the group stages:
Most Entertaining Team: ARGENTINA. By far the only team which made a sincere effort to play attractive football without yielding to the temptation of defending deep and wasting time when in the lead.
Most Boring Team: NETHERLANDS. Anyone disagreeing has some really really low standards regarding Football entertainment.
Most Entertaining & Gripping Match: ITALY vs SLOVAKIA. The 5 goal thriller went right down to the last second corner when Pepe could have still put Italy through to the next round but used the wrong foot to put in the corner kick.
Most Entertaining Player: SERGIO AGUERO. The Argentine playmaker played less than 2 matches but if his skill and pace are anything to go by, he is pretty much the next big thing in Football history for sure.
Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella’s goal for ITALY against SLOVAKIA. The Napoli frontman’s shot on goal from outside the box is the stuff of Champions. Keeping his cool at such a high pressure situation and taking the shot with a “Screw-all-you-Italian-losers-I-will-do-this-shit-myself” body language, he saw the ball sweetly sail just under the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Best Howler: Quite a few contenders with Serbians Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Vidic’s awesome handballs along with Mark Schwarzer’s fumble against Serbia (Last I heard, Arsene Wenger was already looking to bring Schwarzer to Arsenal! :P) but the winner is clearly ROBERT GREEN of England because of which they finished 2nd in the group and ended up facing Germany and then get raped 4-1.
Most Disappointing Team: ENGLAND. As I write this, England just got raped 4-1 by Germany. But even before this, England hardly looked like a team that was going to pose any threat. Rooney hardly got a worthwhile touch, thanks to some archaic strategy that only Don Capello seemed to understand. Scoring 2 goals in 3 matches against 3rd rate teams and claiming to be Title contenders is the same as India narrowly beating teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and then getting royally humped by the Aussies in Cricket.
Most Disappointing Player: FERNANDO TORRES. It takes real effort and skill to consistently mess up every single clear cut chance created regularly by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Villa. And Torres seems to have mastered that art.
Most Disappointing Match: PORTUGAL vs BRAZIL. Yes I know Kaka wasn’t there nor was Robinho and a draw would see both teams through. But this was still the lamest, most retarded match in the entire group phase. CR7 could have done better to show he can actually score some goals but alas not to be.
So there you have it. My not-so-short assessment of the Group Stages of the FIFA World Cup 2010. My judgment of players and teams is based solely on their performances in the Group stage. It should not come as a surprise if it turns out to be the complete opposite in the Knock out stages. I will be making a separate report card for the Knock out stages. So if you strongly feel the urge to comment on this post by saying how I will be proven wrong about the players and the teams, then first realize that I have spoken about that possibility myself. Then feel free to comment. Till then, keep watching FOOTBALL (not Soccer)!!!