2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa: First thoughts

The FIFA World Cup is taking up most of my reading and blogging time; I love my sports 🙂 you see. So in place of Short Monday, here are my impressions and thoughts of the World Cup So far:

  • The host, South Africa – I cannot rave about nor praise South Africa enough.  The country and its gracious people are doing a phenomenal job as host. I enjoy watching the matches.  All the newly built stadiums look great and the players can’t complain about the pitch. I think that it’s all been worth it, the monetary expenses and all. And the country is still very enthusiastic even after the exit of  their national team, Bafana Bafana. So what if the vuvuzelas are noisy and the jabulani ball is crazy 😉  South Africa has really done Africa proud. Thank you SA.
  • The dismal performance of the 5 African nations – We Africans are really something.  And I don’t mean that in a positive way.  But what else is new on this continent, especially where soccer is concerned.  Our football associations continue to treat the world cup and other cup competitions as mere events.  There are no forward looking plans to develop and nurture talent on the continent.  No good structures to support the sport.  Just talk.  And a dependence on foreign based players and foreign coaches.  The Southern African team in their last group match played much better than all of the African teams in their group matches.  And it’s a pity that SA did not advance to the round of 16.
  • The ‘Smaller” Football Nations –  It’s heartening to see smaller football nations doing so well. By smaller, I mean countries whose fan bases are relatively smaller like the USA or those who are relatively new to the sports like the Eastern European nations.  I think that Japan and South Korea have been just wonderful.  I like their style of play and their speed on the pitch. The breakup of the USSR has been really good for the sport 🙂 The teams of  eastern Europe with the exception of Russia are very hungry for football glory and that is good for the sport. Oh, I look forward to seeing more of New Zealand too.
  • The European League thing – The assumption that a country will do well if most or all of their players are based in Europe is just wrong for the sport.  Most of the players in the South Korean and Japanese teams play in their national leagues and let’s all observe that they both got to the round of 16.  This attitude prevents a lot of countries from developing their national leagues.  It is more important that players are familiar with each other and that they play as a team.  Putting together a squad where most of the players play in Europe just looks good on paper.  It doesn’t mean that they are going to bring the cup home or even play well.
  • France and Italy – Just bad. Need I say more?
  • England – Once again, England has disappointed.  And people are going to blame the manager and the players.  They are not to blame.  I think that the English FA priorities club football over national football.   What is the English FA doing to develop and nurture English talent?  What structures are there to support the national team?  Consider that a talented English youth is competing with all the other talented youths the world over to play in the EPL.  Consider again that the Rooneys, Lampard, Terrys play with a lot of foreign based players. Why run one of the best leagues in the world and not use that as an avenue to develop and support the national team?  What is good for the EPL is not neccessarily good for the national team. It’s like Wimbledon – year in year out the Brits run this great grand slam, with the exception of Murray, there aren’t any good British players on the tour.   Look at this mostly young German team that beat England 4-1.  It’s not hard to see that Germany will remain a force in world football for decades to come.  The Bundesliga (German league) is not as rich as the EPL, they can’t afford the high salaries to lure a lot of foreign players so they must develop and use German players to be successful.   This seems to be the fundamental difference between the German and the British national teams. England has to change it’s approach to national football or else face more disappointment.
  • Argentina, the rise of Uruguay, Brazil – Argentina is playing really well.  It is entirely possible for Argentina to win the World Cup and Messi not score a single goal.  They play as a team.  Their defense remains their weakness but the advancing line of Messi, Tevez and Higuain is the best in the world right now.  And Maradona seems to have such a rapport with his players.  I’m loving all those hugs and kisses!  Uruguay is back in contention for the cup after 80 years.  The duo of Forlan and Suarez is very effective as a striking force.  Brazil is Brazil.  Always a contender for the cup.  We are yet to see them at their best.
  • Portugal and The Netherlands – these two teams are the strongest European sides and could go all the way.
  • My Country, Ghana – Ghana was the only African team to survive the group stage.  For the first time, we are in the round of 8 after we defeated the USA 2-1.  I’m pleased… But for the Black Stars, our inconsistency is our only constant.  We will play well in one match and completely bomb the next!  It’s often painful and frustrating to watch my national team. Still, it’s good that an African team is still in the competition.  We face Uruguay on Friday, July 2nd.  It will be tough match but if the boys play their best, we may be able to defeat Uruguay.  It’s a small chance and  all is possible in football 🙂

Discussing World Cup football is never complete without predicting who will win the cup.  For the remaining round of 16 matches, I pick:  Netherlands over Slovakia (an upset would be great though), Brazil over Chile, Japan over Paraguay and Portugal over Spain.  Then for the round of 8, Uruguay over Ghana (I know, I should root for my own country but the odds are not in our favour),  Netherlands over Brazil (upset), Argentina over Germany and Portugal over Japan.  Leading to semifinals of Netherlands over Uruguay, Argentina over Portugal.  And then Argentina over Netherlands for the cup.  Everything is subject to change 😉

That’s all for now.  More updates will follow and hopefully I will get some reading in before the tournament is through.

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14 comments

  1. Your post was so interesting and you are correct in saying how and why England have again been a disappointment. The media put so much pressure on the players and then the fans expect too much. I have always said and agreed with yourself that England have too many different internationals in the English league. There are so many good players needing to develope in our lower leagues and if teams were told they were only allowed a certain amount of foreign based players then these players could be nurtured.

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  2. […] Netherlands v Brazil – Well, we all know that football is a physical sport. We often forget the game is also played in our heads.  Obviously, Brazil thought that the Dutch could not score a goal against them. How else can I describe what happened?  The shock of the Dutch equalizer sent Brazil into a tailspin and in the end they barely resembled the team we had watched in the earlier rounds of the tournament.  Talk about playing yourself out of contention. Don’t ask for I won’t tell what I saw when I predicted that Netherlands would beat Brazil. […]

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  3. aah..its a lot like our nation. Here in India, cricket is the only sport that has caught on big time. You hear people complaining about the lack of facilities and opportunities in other sports but it comes down to the public. Its a shame our country doesn’t even get to play in FIFA. It is disappointing.
    South Africa has surpassed itself when it comes to hosting the world cup ^_^

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    • I totally agree with you. BTW, I think it would be great if India got into football and other sports. I love sports for it can do in developing young people. But the public wherever they are have to demand more and hold their sports governing bodies accountable. It’s become really easy to blame players and coaches instead of looking at management and infrastructure. Look what has happened to the West Indies in cricket. They are a shadow of their former selves – and I just can’t believe that the talent is not there in the West Indies. Anyway… the debate goes on..

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  4. we were idre Kinna ,I found this group games very tedious this time seems as thou no one want to grap the games by the neck and attack at times ,last 16 games better ,feel it’ll be south american winner my self ,although netherlands have a good chance and haven’t fallen out yet :).

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  5. Heh, Im sure many would be happy to subscribe to your vision of the tournament over here. Of course, they would be a bit disappointed that you chose Argentinia over the Netherlands. I don’t think the Netherlands will win from Brazil. Then again, I didn’t expect them to last this long. I never know if the Netherlands is really a favourite anywhere, but I assume not, and it is very tiring to watch people in my country proclaim we will win because “we’re obviously very good” and then have to listen to weeks of discussion of what went wrong.. I’m not very patriotstic, am I?

    I have to admit that I thought of you the two times I saw Ghana play and I loved it when they beat the US.

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    • Yes, its the same old story again, isn’t it? Netherlands are playing really well as they’ve done in the past. Somehow, they always fall short of the crown. I was being mischievous when I picked your country over Brazil 😉

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      • That makes a lot more sense. Couldn’t quite believe that a soccer fan like yourself really thought we’ll stand a chance against Brazil. (Did I just use “we”, I meant the Dutch soccer team :P)

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  6. I enjoyed very much reading your post on football 🙂 I think Ghana has done exceedingly well and I think your beautiful country’s chances are bright against Uruguay. I think that it is extremely difficult to pick a winner at this stage – I think Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Portugal and Netherlands are playing really well. I also think that after the initial upset, Spain has come back really well and it is a treat to watch their forwards in action. I think Chile and Paraguay are dark horses – I think on a given day they can beat anybody. I am just looking forward to watching some fascinating matches 🙂 I was hoping that Nigeria and Cameroon will do well, but unfortunately, they got out in the first round. Algeria’s performance was really sad – being the country of origin of the great Zinedine Zidane, I was hoping that they would do better. France’s exit was sad. Though Italy’s exit was disappointing I felt that they went out with all guns blazing. The match they played against Slovakia was really awesome and Slovakia really did well to get into the next round. It was sad that England went out in the second round, but their play has been patchy throughout and they qualified for the second round by the skin of their teeth. It was also unfortunate that the referee didn’t see Lampard’s goal – who can say what would have happened if England had equalized at that point? Maybe the momentum of the game might have shifted.

    I am looking forward to reading more football posts in your blog, in the next few days and weeks 🙂 Maybe you can read a football book or two while watching football matches 🙂

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  7. Wow, great pics! I was surprised to see so many of the African teams drop out so early (and can I just say that my Nigerian friends are NOT happy about how their team did!) but congrats that Ghana has been doing so well! I was quite pleased to see you beat the US. heh.

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    • In a way, some of us are not that surprised at the early exit of most of the African teams, such has been the bad performance of the teams of late. On the US: a Ghanaian fan said that USA team are our ex-wives, given that we’d beaten them and sent them home in the 2006 World Cup!

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      • LOL that is hilarious. I like the analogy. I don’t really follow sports so I had no idea what to expect, but I listened to my African friends too much and believed them about the superiority of their teams, I guess!

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