Today, Brazil crashed out of the world cup at the quarter final stages to Holland which is the biggest shock so far. You expect Brazil to be in the final, just like you expect Roger Federer to be in a Wimbledon final. With all world cups, there are shock stories though, there are over and under achievers…
Italy & France
These two old reliables were sent packing in the group stages. Bottom of their groups. Both 2006 finalists. Nobody expected them to reach the final again this time around, but i fully expect both to make it out of their groups. France hit the self destruct button and egos got the better of them. Italy just never played, never got going. Choked under the pressure that comes with being world champions. Ireland played both and held their own against both in qualifying, so it was even more disappointing to see them put in such a poor effort. Ireland would at least have given 110%.
Although others will beg to differ i feel South Africa disappointed. They were the host nation. They had a chance to do what South Korea done in 2002. Announce yourself on the world stage. Wow people. They didn’t. Home support didn’t help them and for the first time in world cup history, the hosts failed to get out of the group stages.
England going out in the last 16… was that a shock? No, but they have such a huge media circus around them that you can very easily get sucked in to believing England can go very far in every world cup. Rooney was a massive let down. Terry was shockingly poor at the back and Robert Green can probably be thanked for single handedly costing England top spot in their group… a result that would have left them facing Ghana rather than old foes Germany.
I predicted Africa sides would struggle in this world cup.
There were rumors of fixed matches and corruption and i hope that was indeed the case because the vast majority of matches i sat through were rubbish. I fear for African sides if they play like they did in the African Nations. Theyâ€™ll be embarrassed in South Africa.
That’s exactly what happened. All bar Ghana were eliminated in the group stages.
Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, South Africa, Ivory Coast… A huge let down and African football in general is in big trouble now. They seem to struggle with controlling the ball and controlling the tempo of matches. It’s as if they can only play one way and can’t vary tactics during a match. On home soil (well, close to home for many), they were found out which makes it even worse as they had the support. Ghana weren’t great in qualifying but i’ll cut them some slack because neither were some of the bigger guns. Uruguay will be a test for them although should they progress, you have to say they’ve had an easy path to the world cup semi finals. 4 points from 9 in the group, last minute winner against the USA in the last 16… we’ll see if they can impress later on this evening with all of Africa behind them but i feel it will be a step too far.
The suprise packages
Argentina have been in cruise control from the first minute of their first match. 9 points from 9 in the groups, goals galore… 3-1 over mexico (who are no mugs) in the last 16…. again i’ll quote myself from day 1;
My favorites for the world cup this year are Argentina & Spain. Argentina have the players but narrowly just made it in to the world cup, so they donâ€™t have the form. Still, form matters little when the spotlight is on.
I just had a feeling they’d start fresh under Maradona and forget about how they so nearly missed out on this world cup. You can see everyone plays for the team and respects the manager. The more i watch them the more i think they’ll win it. They have everything.
They face Germany tomorrow who have had a good tournament themselves. I don’t think the Germans will go all the way though, they can be got at as England so nearly proved. At 2-1 up, England had them on the ropes but stupidly went hell for leather, over-committed high up the field and got stung by a young, pacey german side who love to counter attack. They won’t have it so easy against Argentina tomorrow who are a much more polished ‘team’ compared to England’s individuals.
Now that Brazil have been eliminated, Spain must feel they are two games away from victory. Beat Paraguay and it’s (probably) Argentina in the semi’s. Win that and they’ll be heavy favourites against Holland (assuming Holland beat Uruguay who must beat Ghana.)
Still a lot of ifs and buts but i had predicted a Spain / Argentina semi final. With the winners of that going on to win the final. I also had England / Brazil in the other semi final by the way which is now a non runner 🙂
If i had to call a winner now, based on form i’d say Argentina although my original choice Spain still seems a solid bet.