Finally the long wait was over and the most awaited sporting event in the world kicked off in South Africa . What a start this has been!!. Yes, the first round of matches were a bit sedate in nature,but the teams could be forgiven for this as they had to acclimatize with the tough conditions.But all credit to them,as they adapted themselves to playing at high altitude ,which definitely helped the tournament getting better and better. By the time I am writing this post, the group stages(A to D) have finished and we know the identity of the qualifiers from these groups.
Group A: The qualification from this group was always going to be “An Almighty Scrap”. No wonder ,it went right down to the wire. South Africa, much like other African teams, looked very inconsistent throughout the tournament.They started their campaign very brightly and although later they defeated the French , a heavy defeat from the hands of Uruguay didn’t help their cause. Uruguay were by far the best team in this group.They looked sharp.They were consistent throughout. Their top players are looking in great touch. But there will be tougher test for this team in the next stage. I think Mexico should consider themselves very lucky. Had South Africans defeated them in that opening game, it would have been curtains for the North Americans.They haven’t looked great and I don’t expect them to cross the hurdle of “Round of 16″. Honestly speaking , I wasn’t surprised with the manner in which French exited from the tournament. This was inevitable. The tempers were running high in the French camp,since last few years. The players always had the problems with coach Raymond Domenech. But this surely can’t be an excuse for the unprofessional attitude that the players have shown in this campaign and I believe these players should be shown the door.
Group B: This was probably one of the easiest groups, when picking the winner. Argentina were the overwhelming favourites to win this group and they proved just that.For me, they have been the best team in the tournament. They won all their games with utmost ease and style. They looked sharp in their passing. Their ace players like Messi, Tevez, Higuain are looking in terrific form. They look a great bet to reach at least Semis. Nigeria played like a typical African team, great to watch but lacking in discipline. Korea Replublic , I thought looked the next best team in the group after Argentina. They did just enough to qualify. Their movement in all the matches was pretty good. They are surely capable of providing a shock in the next round. Greeks looked toothless in the attack and lacked creativity. Once they had conceded the goal, it never looked like that they would come back into the game.
Group C : This group was considered by many as “The most straight forward” group since it had England and USA, teams with tremendous world cup experience, who many thought would make the meal of the other two opponents in Slovenia and Algeria. But if the things would have gone as per the plans in football, it wouldn’t have been the most loved sport in the world.England, to the delight of their millions of fans somehow managed to scrape through. They were far from their best.They looked jaded. Players like Rooney,Lampard looked out of touch. But in their last game against Slovenia,when backs were against the wall, they put on a fantastic and high tempo performance, which we always expect from them. I still believe we should not write England off. They will be a force to reckon with in the next rounds of this tournament. USA looked the best team in the group and thoroughly deserved their top place. They showed great team spirit and fighting abilities in all their games. They look brilliant in going forward with charismatic Landan Donovan leading the attack. Condering the draws for the next rounds, I won’t be amazed if we see USA in semis. Slovenia performed to their best levels but, they were just not good enough. But for such a small country,its a great achievement and I really hope that they will only get better.Algeria were very disappointing and boring to watch. Unlike their African counterparts,They were very negative in their approach.
Group D: Prima facie, this group looked very similar to Group B. Germany were the clear cut favorites to win the group. Though they topped the group, by no means it was an easy ride for them. They started their campaign with a landslide win over Australia. But a shock loss to Serbia meant a nervy last game against Ghana. In the end, it was their class which helped them to overcome the Africans. I think Ghana are very lucky to find themselves in the last 16. Their performances were a bit “Jekyll and Hyde” througout the campaign. But one thing we should accept that they were pretty entertaining and looked the best amongst the other African teams. Serbia, I thought were very unfortunate. For me, they looked better than Ghana. They were more organized, more disciplined and good going forward. Australians were not capable enough to go through. But football is making great progress in that country and we will see much better performances from “Socceroos” in future.
Round of 16 Verdict:
Uruguay vs S.Korea : tough to call, but Uruguay, for me.
USA vs Ghana : USA for sure.
England vs Germany : huh!! I will go with England.
Argentina vs Mexico: Argentinians to give footballing lesson.