Haradona (a.k.a Avijit Das Patnaik) reflects on his diary notes made during the WC 2010 Round 1 matches (Group Stages)
Tales of the Jabulani: Its faster, lighter, bounces more, dips lesser and doesn’t have ‘that’ extravagant swing. No goals have been scored off free kicks or long range screamers.
Tales of the Vuvuzela: Along with the Jabulani, these are the two new cuss words in this WC. For players, coaches it could be a nightmare, but the Vuvuzela gives a unique identity to the South Africa world cup, and i dare say, an edge to teams who are used to ultra noisy stadiums (Africa, South America).
Is this the worst world cup ever?: At 1.6 goals per game from the first 16 matches, this sure threatens to be. There were just two matches which featured three or more goals and even if we factor that teams will get better, it’s difficult to fathom goal fest classics. Be prepared for more listless drab performances, upsets, quite a few penalty shootouts and more noises about altitudes, pitches and conditions.
Hype and Hoopla: There is a clear attempt by the media to go overboard on everything related to the world cup. Each time a player got injured it was prematurely followed by a tag “out of the world cup”. There were several world XIs made of players not in the tournament! Reality was close by. Robben will start the 2nd match, Drogba played the 1st match and Nani is wondering why he was sent home in a hurry!
Bust up whispers from big team camps: French players revolted against Domenec over team selection (They wanted Henry & Diaby to start over Gourcuff & Govou); Capello has had a go at reporters, Dunga had to cover up Baptista-Alves coming to blows and it was evident that Sneijder wasn’t giving any meaningful pass to Van Persie.
Go Green: The only difference is that England, in Robert Green, have got a scapegoat early in the tournament – to join the elite list of Pearce(‘90), Beckham(’98), Seaman(’02) and Rooney(’06). Capello is under the hammer, so much, that you get the feeling he selected Green over Shilton and Banks!
Standing alone, against all of the above are the BBC commentators! Using all their skills, vocal power, range of expressions, literature and wit to liven up the games, as best as they possibly can!
Africa: The biggest dampener amongst the continents. With six teams participating in this edition at ‘home continent’, you would expect most of them to progress to the next round. The only flicker of hope came from the hosts and Cote’d Ivore. Cameroon has regressed in every edition. Hell, the best barometer of the standards would be Egypt – winner of the last African Nations cup and yet couldn’t make it to the World Cup.
Asia Oceania: or should I just say Korea? South Korea humbled Euro 2004 champions Greece, North weren’t bad vs Brazil. Japan won, New Zealand showed resolve while their higher profile neighbours, Australia, embarrassed. Mixed.
Central and North America: Unarguably the biggest improver amongst teams outside Europe and South America. Green blunder apart, USA was impressive, Mexico is still alive in the group of death and Honduras didn’t embarrass.
Europe: Barring the Spain upset, all the biggies are alive and running. It’s the east European teams which are struggling to counter the conditions – we sure expected more from Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia! Mixed.
Sud America: It could be their tournament – At most we may see one, from their five teams, eliminated in the group stages. Watch out for Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile, also. The former had a golden chance of topping the South American qualification, ahead of Brazil, but took their last game easy and lost to Columbia.
Ivory Coast: they are in a “must not lose” situation vs Brazil. If they lose and Portugal pick up three points (vs DPR Korea), then Brazil will have every reason to take their last group encounter vs Portugal easy, give the bench some exposure and be happy with a draw. That would be very very unfair on Ivory Coast.
Group H: the Spain upset has thrown this world cup wide open. There is every possibility that Brazil and Spain will meet at the pre-quarters, and this would get the entire world interested.
Cherries on the cake
El Messiah – Could be his tournament; still has tremendous pressure to hit the net in the world cup.
CR9 – Hasn’t hit the net for his nation for close to 16 months now. Worse in the qualifiers he didn’t have a single assist.
Ozil, Muller – Much of Germans soccer’s progress in European leagues this year was attributed to luck, Robben and referee. But in Ozil and Muller, you see the future.
Robben – Eagerly awaited, and pray he dazzles fast, before he gets injured again!