It’s been a World Cup of history and drama with the giants of Europe tumbling and the teams from South America rising to the Round of 16.
The Italian team had a midfield that didn’t work and was clueless in possession. The former World Champions knew this and they played scared, a shadow of the unyielding and relentless nature of the 2006 team.
France crashed out awfully and betrayed their history. Everyone is to blame. The French Federation should have let coach Raymond Domenech go several years ago when it was clear he was not the man for job and France crashed out in the early stages of Euro 2008. Instead, they were blindly loyal until it was time for an even bigger tournament – the World Cup – which is when they decided to hire (and announce to the world that they’d hired), Domenech’s replacement. The void of leadership was filled by an orgy of ego and disgrace.
England’s John Terry, awash in ego and Oprah, tried to stage an “airing of grievances” with his boss Fabio Capello after a “shocking” game against Algeria. Terry, sitting in front of the media, listed the names of teammates who supported this “airing.” Capello, being smarter than Terry, had his coaching staff (allegedly) discuss the matter with the teammates Terry named. Said teammates went to the media and denied they had anything to do with a rebellion. Then Capello went to the media and said, (paraphrasing and with a thick Italian accent), “there is no team problem. There is only a problem of one man.”
While English fans and media tolerate a lack of creativity, they demand their team hustle while doing it … lacking creativity, that is. England bounced back during the first half of their game against Slovenia and looked more balanced as a whole.
Not that it really matters. Their next game is against Germany.
Since 1966, Germany has been in 11 major tournament finals, of which they have won five. England’s been in two semifinals. As far as it goes, Germany doesn’t see England as rivals nearly as much as they do the Dutch.
Meanwhile, all five South American teams have advanced to the next stage – the first time that’s happened since the expanded format began in 1998.
North Korea showed that while team cohesion, a strong sense of identity, and an understanding of tactics can take you far, isolationism ensures your flaws will become obvious when you meet the wider world.
South Africa, the first host nation to bonk out at the group stage, showed how the world loves an open door to a colorful, friendly party.
Mexico has a chance to avenge their 2006 knockout by Argentina but Maradona’s men look ready to fly. He has inspired his men with his love of the game and his love of Argentina – two qualities that matter even more than formations in this tournament.
The U.S. has a chance to top off their greatest World Cup victory by paying Ghana back for knocking them out in 2006. And what a distance this team has traveled in those years. From a talented but listless team to a team that believes and never quits. Coach Bradley made adjustments in his team’s defense that brought needed cohesion in the second half. They’ll need to work defensively as a team and not allow an early goal as Ghana hitman Asamoah Gyan will be looking to score his third goal in three games.
10 am – Uruguay vs. South Korea, ESPN
2:30 pm – USA vs. Ghana, ABC
10 am – England vs. Germany, ESPN
2:30 pm – Argentina vs. Mexico, ABC
10 am – Netherlands vs. Slovakia, ESPN
2:30 pm – Brazil vs. Chile, ESPN
10 am – Paraguay vs. Japan, ESPN
2:30 pm – Spain vs. Portugal, ESPN
(All times Eastern US)