- 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.