What are my (random) impressions? Well…
Goals have been scarce. Only one (1!) impressive result, the 4-0 trouncing of Australia by Germany. I blame three factors:
1) Many of weaker teams play solid, organised, defensive (negative) football. Gone are the days they happily played along to a massacre. ‘Guilty’ of this (I don’t think they can always be blamed) are the USA, Switzerland, North Korea, Paraguay and Denmark (there might be more).
2) Many of the stronger teams still play solid, organised, disciplined football, using too few attacking players (or play too slow) against weaker teams. I’d say that was the case with Italy, Spain and Brasil; I haven’t seen enough of other matches to list more teams. England might become guilty of this when they are planning to start Barry, a holding midfield player, against Algeria. Algeria! What are they needing a holding midfield player and 4 defenders for against Algeria!? They should play a good old 1950s-style 3-1-2-4: Carragher/Terry/A.Cole – Barry (OK OK in this system he’s got a use) – Lampard/Gerrard – Wright Phillips (or Dafoe)/Rooney/Crouch (target man!)/J.Cole and slap them 5-0. Or 5-1 maybe.
3) That ball… can somebody shoot the next rep from a ball manufacturer who thinks that every next tournament needs to have another fancy, shiny, wobbly plastic monster? Shooting has been horrible and with all the world’s best players that can’t all be due to nerves or lack of technique.
Asia is doing very well indeed
Japan 1-0 Cameroon, South Korea 2-0 Greece and North Korea a very honourable 1-2 to Brasil. Can they keep this up?
Africa is doing not too bad, not too great either
Good is the win of Ghana over Serbia; OK are the draws of South Africa and Ivory Coast, but Cameroon’s loss to Japan, oh my. Nigeria losing to Argentina is not unexpected so it’s too early to call them. Algeria is usually not counted as ‘proper Africa’… they’ve lost too, of course.
South America is doing very well too
Easily the most successful continent (no losses at all yet), with Brasil, Argentina and Chile winning, Paraguay holding Italy to a draw, and Uruguay drawing France. All teams looking good to go through to the KO stages.
England need not be so worried (yet)
Despite not scoring enough, they played well enough and with the USA, their toughest opponent, behind them they should just ratchet up the score against Algeria and Slovenia and finish 1st by goal difference.
Holland… impossible to call
In the end they won easily enough but not after a lucky own goal for 1-0; they might have ended like Spain, on the end of a sucker-punch defeat. Like England, they can now focus on the weaker opponents to still finish 1st in the group.
The draw is a bit unfortunate
In that many strong countries have now already played the strongest opposition in their group, so the next matches could be anticlimactic. I think it would have been ‘nicer’ to have Argentina-Nigeria, Italy-Paraguay, Holland-Denmark, USA-England… as the final match with both teams within 3 points of each other and ‘winner becomes group leader’.
Although the noise drowns out everything else, I do think it is part of the football culture of South Africa and/or this World Cup, so we’ll just have to put up with it.