SWC 2010, the Story so Far…
I think I blew one of my lungs through a vuvuzela somewhere between Thursday and Saturday night, my lips feel like I’ve been motor boating my way around Hooters restaurant (story for another day) and I’ve feel like my brain and liver have been vacuum-packed.
Walking from Cape Town city centre to Green Point Stadium on Friday night was one of the most festive experiences I’ve found myself in, never did I imagine this level of enthusiasm, excitement or expression. A truly heart swelling moment to be a South African, and from what I can gather South Africans abroad have never missed home as much as they did on Friday, living vicariously along with the other 500 million viewers as Soccer City unveiled the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the opening ceremony, 45 minutes was enough of what seemed like a lackluster and quite random affair. Thankfully were not celebrating opening ceremonies, but instead the game of football.
Bafana had received a tidal wave of support from South Africa’s 49 million devoted fans, dwarfing anything I’ve seen before. I think the weight of a nations hopes weighed heavily on the team’s shoulders as they strode out to face Mexico in the opening match. A nervous first twenty minutes had supporters wondering when Mexico would penetrate our defense, but as nerves settled we began to find some rhythm, upping the tempo until Siphiwe Tshabalala found the net with the first goal of the 2010 soccer World Cup, what a magnificent strike. Bafana had a much stronger second half, and unfortunately didn’t capitalise on some genuine opportunities. Mexico eventually equalised with ten minutes remaining on the clock…so close Bafana, so close, but ultimately a fair result with Mexico also having their share of convertible opportunities flying wide. I thought our keeper Itumeleng Kuhne had a fantastic game. Javier Aguirre was clearly trying to invoke the spirit of some Mexican war-god throughout the match, poor bugger nearly blew a gasket as he systematically lost the plot from the sidelines. Passionate display pal.
The Uruguay France game didn’t live up to the excitement of the previous game, partly because I didn’t have a vested interest in either team, but mainly because neither teamed played to their potential and the game never really got out of first gear. France’s on-paper potential seemed like a fairy tale compared to their on field performance, I did notice a couple of leprechaun looking spectators mumbling curses throughout the game and perhaps Henri’s new arm band contributed to the impotent display. So all square in Group A, and by the looks of it, its anyone’s pool for the taking.
Argentina shone against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, I really hope Nigeria qualify in this group, but on current form it looks like it’ll be Argentina and Korea advancing to the next stage. I think there’s more to come from the South Americans and what we saw on Saturday is just a glimpse of the magic they can potentially weave. Messi looks set to ignite this tournament, and with his strike partners in Tevez and Higuain, the Argentine front three offer scintillating prospects. Korea look like a well organised squad with rubberised endurance, and strict discipline, it’ll take moments of brilliance from Nigeria to unlock their pattern.
Korean girls love fit footballers
Greece had few chances and was left pondering the unenviable record of keeping a clean sheet of goals scored at World cup tournament.
That brings us to Saturday night’s game, and for me, the best game of the tournament thus far. The British press is infamous for swinging more than Anne Heche when it comes to their sports reporting, and before the USA game this was expected to be a walk in the park for the Three Lions. The Americans, in their pageant like outfits, came out fired up with a ‘go team’ attitude and continuously reminding each other of the ‘good job’ they were doing. England opened their 2010 World Cup account with a slick finish from Gerrard and English pundits began penning their headlines for the following day’s front page. Eeeeiisshhhh, not to be I’m afraid, mostly thanks to goalkeeper Green going on a mental holiday after 40 minutes, probably wondering what type of frame he’d get around his world cup winner’s medal. Dempsey must have spotted Green chewing up his mental air miles and poked a relatively innocuous shot at goal. Green’s world dissolved as he fumbled the save and lay prostrate watching the ball rolled over the line. FAIL – I guess every green has a hole.
England didn’t do themselves any favours, firstly by playing Heskey, why is this guy still in the team, and still trying to Tekken boot the ball through goal keepers, what a waste. Rooney with his tireless running seemed to lack the first touch finesse we expect of his caliber, and the gap between midfield and defense meant the Gerrard, Lampard and co were run ragged. The USA rose to the occasion and although fortuitous on the night, it goes to show that teams on paper are about a useful as a concrete life jacket in this tournament. Its how you take your chances on the day, and I’m afraid England squandered what should’ve been a win for them. 30-odd shots on goal from the two sides last night made for a thrilling game, and had I a vested interest in England I’d have probably ripped clumps of hair from my head. Still expect England to top this group, perhaps this early wake up call is just what they need.