I’ve stopped blogging game by game. I simply couldn’t keep pace, and my priority is to enjoy the experience rather than create color commentary for a web site. Yet I’m not without things to say (ever), so I thought I’d collect a few of them here now that we’ve seen every team play once.
Clearly Netherlands and Germany look daunting. Both played quality opponents and leveled them. Tough to see other team not making at least the semis, and I would not be at all surprised to see both end up in the finals. We’re a long way from there, obviously, but both teams looked magnificent. Italy is another team that should not be overlooked. Why England didn’t man-mark Pirlo out of the game is a question for the ages. He dominated midfield, and unless teams have a solution for him, he could make them pay. I thought Argentina played relatively poorly. Messi had a terrible game, except for his free kick that led to the first goal and his brilliant run and shot that counted for the second. If he can play that badly and be responsible for two scores, imagine what Argentina might do when he actually plays well.
Obviously Spain and Portugal, the two teams on the receiving end of the Dutch and Germany juggernauts, need to get it together. Spain played a reasonably good first half, but on the basis of the second half, questions about them being too old aren’t going to go away. It’s still an incredibly talented side who should get out of group play, but a long tournament is not good for old, tired legs. Portugal will go as far as petulant, self-absorbed man-child Cristiano-Ronaldo can take them. That may be to the semis if things break their way, but the team displayed a horrible egocentrism and attitude against Germany. Fans will rightly cheer for that squad against them just for that.
I, for one, did not foresee Mexico having any kind of impact on this Cup. Their keeper had to play out of his mind for them to draw Brazil, but he did, and their team spirit is excellent. They may yet make it out of group, though I still think Croatia will be the second team to go through. Uruguay clearly misses Luis Suarez. How could you not? It’s a talented side even without him, but their loss to Costa Rica(!) really has English hopes still alight even after their loss to Italy.
The Portugal debacle against Germany and US victory against Ghana leads us to what is likely the high watermark for US hopes this go-around. Despite the thrilling victory, the US played a terrible game. They were out-possessed something like 60-40 by Ghana, and played ragged, scrappy defense almost the whole match. This will simply not work against the likes of Portugal or, it hardly needs be said, Germany. The loss of Jozy Altidore also highlights the questionable player selections from Klinsmann, as we have no one else on roster to play holding forward. Another element lost in the euphoria of US victory is just how badly Bradley played. He ran well, as always, but Ghana simply man-marked him out of the game and the US had no other answers in midfield. You’ve got to think that Portugal and Germany will do the same.
After an iffy bit of officiating in the opening couple of matches, the refereeing has happily been quite good. The games themselves have been fantastic. So far, this may be the best World Cup I’ve seen, and I’ve seen everything since 1986. I don’t know if it’s just something in the air down there in Brazil, but we can only hope it continues.