Friday, 18 June 2010

Blog #2: The tournament springs into life...

While nothing any team can do on the road to Soccer City will in any way dampen my enthusiasm for my trip to the World Cup Final, I'm not blinkered enough by my excitement to deny that it has been a very poor start to the tournament.

Teams like Switzerland, North Korea and New Zealand do not exactly make you dive for the remote in anticipation, and the brand of football some of these teams have brought to the competition is frankly shocking. Walter Smith may have guided Rangers to a UEFA Cup Final with similar tactics, but that cannot justify any team stepping out onto the pitch to do a Mourinho, i.e. "parking the bus"

Perhaps I'm biased as these teams are in South Africa while Scotland's players are off lazing about in the sun somewhere in Europe.

My already-ridiculous enthusiasm will certainly go up another gear if the tournament comes to life, and all signs since Wednesday morning suggest it will. Is it coincidence that this is when I found out I was going?!

The Honduras v Chile game, I'm told, had some decent attacking football on display by the Chileans. I couldn't possibly comment as while the television was on, I had just checked my inbox and was jumping around like a loon, completely crazed at the news I was going to South Africa for the Final.

Spain v Switzerland, for which I had taken the day off work, was a fantastic spectacle. While the result didn't go the way I had hoped - I always root for Spain, a simply phenomenal attacking side with my favourite player in the world, Andres Iniesta - any game in which one team has 22 shots on goal is wonderful entertainment. As Del Bosque remarked after the game, the Swiss did not deserve their win at all, but that's football!

At night, hosts South Africa put on a show as only Bafana Bafana can, and their magnificent fans brought the stadium to life until their hopes were dashed with the award of a penalty. A personal highlight of the tournament has to be the sub keeper who came on and stood in Diego Forlan's face, grinning, to distract him from the task at hand. He failed, but a funny sight nonetheless!

So for me Wednesday was the real start of the tournament, coming off the back of the excellent Brazil 2 - 1 North Korea game as it did. Thursday saw Argentina deliver South Korea a masterclass in attacking football (whilst showing how potentially weak at the back Maradona's Argies are) and Mexico providing another massive shock with a highly deserved victory over France.

French excluded, is there a football fan in the world rooting for "Les Bleus"? After their scandalous qualification at the expense of the Irish, I can't wait to see them dumped out! Henry can stick his hand in the air and give us all a wave on his way home...

With Mexico and Switzerland nabbing wins against Top 10 teams and Brazil conceding a shocker to North Korea, as well as the surprising amount of drab 0-0 and 1-0 games, it highlights just how difficult this tournament has been to predict. To say this World Cup has been tough on gamblers is an understatement... I haven't seen a coupon burst this badly since the BBC's slow-motion HD shot of Frank Ribery.

My Germany/Holland/Italy accumulator was ruined by those pesky Paraguayans (is that a word?) and the sneaky Swiss stomped all over my Brazil/Spain/Argentina treble. I give up!

While I would like some combination of those three teams - Brazil, their rivals Argentina and the Euro 2008 champions Spain - in the final, I won't dare predict who will make it to the last game come 11th July. I've lost enough money at Ladbrokes this summer!

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