And so the day it came. When the plucky underdog went up against the entrenched giant. When the game went on so long, the cows actually did come home. Did you think I was talking about Australian v Serbia? We’ll get to that in a minute. I was thinking of Mahut v Isner, Slovenija v England and Rudd v Gillard actually.
But in the last two days we saw the Goliaths of football – Argentina, Germany, England – progress at the expense of the David’s.
For many Australian’s, this morning will be the last time they hear the dulcet tones of a Vuvuzela. Shows over folks, you can go back to your football played at Cricket Stadium noise level now. To distract you from going out and forgetting about Football for four more years you got a new Prime Minister today.
Before this mornings game, my first thought was I’m not Australian what am I doing awake at 4.30am? My next one was if anyone put money on Australia winning the worst disciplinary record of the tournament? Fortunately, they managed to all stay on the field today. Albeit Brett Emerton did his best to taunt the ref into giving him a second yellow due to the amount of whinging he directed at the ref following a ridiculous booking he received after a 50-50 tackle.
It appears they never learn, and this “small boys” type of attitude which many of the Australian players display was evident in other ways – especially early on. I’m talking about the impact of forgetting what you are supposed to do and following the ball rather than making sure your man or the space is covered. I admire the keeness Australia, but early on you were too often caught out on the break when the space a player was covering was abandoned, by the chase the ball, jumpers for goalposts attitude. You should be thankful you have a giant between the sticks.
Serbia can only have themselves to blame for going out. A draw would have done them. But having dominated early on and running the Aussie defence ragged at times, they were finally caught cold by two wonderful goals in 5 minutes. Cahill’s header completely indicative of what the sending off against Germany did to the entire campaign. He surely would have been a huge threat versus Ghana.
That’s not to excuse the woeful Australian tactics in the first game, but that could’ve been recovered from with two wins. And the way they played this morning, you have to imagine that even having a go against Germany would’ve at least reduced the goal difference impact and got them off the back foot from early on.
At least the Aussies and Serbs attacked. Unlike Greece. Someone needs to tell Otto Renhegel that when you are behind in a game you have to win, you need to actually go forward. Perhaps he thought it was 2004 still and the element of shock that Greece could actually qualify for a finals, not to mention win the bloody thing was still going to work. If you ask me depending on the idea the Argentineans would fold once that .0001% chance they might go out started to nag on their brain was a bit mad really.
At one point when they were already a goal down, they abandoned Samaras alone upfront. He expertly held the ball up for the team, and was slowly joined by one teammate. I know it was late on in the third game in less than 10 days, and it’s then in games I guess tiredness sets in. It must become a challenge for any team to constantly run up and down the park.
The attitude appeared to me symptomatic of the coaching style which Renhegel brings to the team. It reminds me of the reasons why Rafa Benitez ultimately failed at Liverpool. Fair to middling players need to be given a positive mindset, else it’s just a job and they’ll only play as well as the team is. If the mentality is always about goal prevention rather than goal scoring, it has to effect the players eventually.
Meanwhile at Wimbledon two fellars you never heard of before were taking the small boys at play thing, i.e. “not stopping until dark” idea to new extremes. Almost 10 hours later they were still playing. The fifth set was longer than most Ladies Champions play at the entire tournament. Some football players could learn a thing or two about that.
Speaking of English locales, England squeaked past Slovenija this morning, proving again that most often Goliath slays David. They must have thought, looking at was happening in the other game, they were going to have the easy draw in the Second Round and Quarter Finals as a reward. Instead the USA and their goal hero Landon Donovan scored a New Zealand style late winner to secure top spot and a second round game against the only remaining African team. With Uruguay or Korea the potential opponent in the Quarter Finals.
Englands reward for introducing a more attacking flavour to their team with Milner and Defoe was to get Germany on Sunday, followed by a potential Quarter final Against Argentina or Mexico. If England get to the Semi-Final (potentially against Portugal, Spain, Chile or Italy) after that, they’ll deserve some reward.
Tonight Italy attempt to qualify for the 2nd round as do New Zealand. You have to think Paraguay will take New Zealand. The benefit for the All Whites is that Paraguay know a draw v New Zealand is enough while Slovakia must beat Italy to have a hope. It’s the most open group left. The prize for the winner of the Group (likely Paraguay or Italy) is a game versus Denmark or Japan while the runner up likely gets to see if the Netherlands can up their tempo in a more challenging environment.
My tips are Paraguay and Italy to win and qualify one and two with Paraguay to play Denmark and Italy v the Netherlands on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
Finally, one of the things which has been playing on my mind throughout this years World Cup was the invention of words. For example, in FIFA’s, and the commentators lexicon it appears to not be allowed to say or write ‘cheating’. Apparently you must use ‘Simulation’. Check all of the definitions, and tell me if FIFA and commentators are not only trying to fool us, but also fooling themselves. I say if looks like cheating, smells like cheating, feels like cheating, its not simulation.