Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Goals and gaffes in the opening games
Soccernet selects its best, and worst, moments from the opening round of fixtures at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
• Hush: Stuttering start for Africa
• Hubbard: Tactical review • Fifth Official: No knockout blowsBest Team Performance: Switzerland. The biggest shock of the first round of fixtures came in the very last match, as Switzerland produced a gutsy display to frustrate Euro 2008 champions Spain. Having soaked up wave upon wave of pressure from a side littered with some of the world's biggest stars, Gelson Fernandes prodded home and despite pushing hard for an equaliser Spain couldn't find a way past a determined and impenetrable Swiss defence.
Best Player: Mesut Ozil, Germany: With Michael Ballack missing, Germany had a rather sizeable gap to fill, which they managed to do easily with the Werder Bremen star. Excellent on the ball, creative and with great vision, Ozil's versatility was one of the main reasons for their four-star performance against Australia.
Best Game: Argentina 1-0 Nigeria. After the passion of the first game and the drudgery of France v Uruguay, the football has not been of the greatest standard with few sides looking to attack. However, Argentina showed their intent with 20 shots on goal (even though they only scored one) and Nigeria had a fair few themselves. Plus, you got to watch Lionel Messi.
Gaffe: Robert Green, England v USA. Not difficult. With the ball swerving all over the place, goalkeeping errors have happened with more than usual regularity, but West Ham 'keeper Green goes in the book for his slip against USA. A simple gather, Green knelt to pick up the ball, watched it spin off his hands and then desperately tried to get back before it crossed the line, to no avail.
Best Goal: Maicon, Brazil v North Korea. It looked for a while as if North Korea would pull off a shock, but Inter defender Maicon broke the deadlock with a stunning strike from just inside the dead-ball line. Smashing it across goal, Korean 'keeper Ri Myong-Guk was caught out as it beat him at the near post and the Brazilian was reduced to tears for the celebration. It may have been meant as a cross, but it was Roberto Carlos-esque.
Highlight: For the first World Cup to be held on African soil, it was fitting that the opening goal went to an African side. Siphiwe Tshabalala's stunning shot in the 55th minute for South Africa against Mexico ensured that the tournament would always be memorable for the hosts. An elaborate celebration enforced the image, although it will be hard to remove that of the giant dung beetle from the opening ceremony.
Lowlight: Protests surrounding the stewards at some of the stadiums has added to the negative PR for the tournament. While crime and security has been largely a non-issue, the decision to tell the stewards they would get R500 (just under £45) a match before actually paying them R200 (less than £20) left a bad taste in the mouth and the police had to step in to ensure the Brazil v North Korea game was safe.
Talking Point: The ball or the vuvuzela? While the ball has had its fair share of critics, so too has the vuvuzela. The African trumpet has been played at every game, meaning that even native South Africans have ended games going home with a headache. With 60,000 being blown at once is quite a racket, but it is the sound of the continent and won't be banned by FIFA.
Ref Watch: Generally excellent, even if the football hasn't been, the refs have avoided the spotlight unlike in past tournaments. The best decision goes to Julian Rodriguez Santiago from the Germany v Australia game as he booked Ozil for diving, causing him to noticeably stay on his feet when he could have gone to ground for a penalty claim later on.
Stat Attack: Miroslav Klose went up to fifth in the all-time scorers chart when he scored against Australia. He is now tied with Sandor Kocsis and Jurgen Klinsmann on 11 goals.