More random impressions!
First off, Latin America has gone even better with, IIRC (it’s surprisingly difficult, by the way, to simply find an overview of the results… weird) every country winning bar Honduras. Oh actually, apologies for excluding Honduras from my previous blurt.
Not just winning but most did so with excellent attacking football, too.
Uru 3-0 SAf; Mex 2-0 Fra; Arg 4-1 SKo; Bra 3-1 CIv; Chi 1-0 Swi. Very good!
Forget what I said about Asia… they’ve slumped.
And Africa seem to be hitting their unfortunately usual lows, with only one African nation even looking like progressing – Ghana – and they face Germany and might still go out if they lose that.
Second round results for Africa look dismal
SAf 0-3 Uru; Nig 1-2 Gre; Alg 0-0 Eng (not a classical African nation, as I said before, but getting a point – against England…); Ghana 1-1 Aus (with 10 men); Cameroon 1-2 Denmark; CIv 1-3 Brazil.
Both Nigeria and Cameroon lost a 1-0 lead as well, never a sign of stability.
And who’d have thought before the tournament that after two rounds played, none of the five “big European nations” are through? Even though France was considered weak, most, including myself, thought they were still going to get through their fairly easy group. For the other countries – England, Germany, Italy and especially Spain, this is an even bigger surprise. Fascinating.
The Netherlands are difficult to get an idea about
On the one hand, they haven’t shown any sparkle, were occasionally brittle at the back (but got away with it), and lacklustre in attack (and got away with that, too).
On the other hand, as one of the English newspapers put it, having 6 points from 2 matches does look rather good from an English, Italian, German, Spanish or French perspective.
So I cannot call them… very enigmatic.
England are worse than anyone, including me, had anticipated
I thought that even this not-very-great England would still walk this group… but they aren’t. Still, even a scrappy 1-0 will see them through, possibly even as group winners – this would only illuminate the low quality of this group.
They would need to play better to win in the next round, no matter who they play next – Ghana or Serbia (not to mention Ze Germanz).
Refereeing has taken a clear dip
In the first round, I thought the umpires did very good with some great calls… but now some of them have been decidedly rubbish. I don’t know their names but the refs in Germany-Serbia, Brazil-Cote d’Ivoire, Chile – Switzerland were especially dismal (honourable mention to the refs in France-Mexico, Italy-New Zealand [soft penalty] and Ghana-Australia [soft red card]).
Free kicks are still all over the place
Correct me if I’m wrong but there hasn’t been a single goal scored from a direct free kick from outside the 18-yard area? With all these specialists I can’t think of a better reason than… that wretched ball. Long passing hasn’t been great either. Frustrating (more so for the players than for me I’d imagine :P.