By: Emmett Williams
It’s rare that the opening matches of any World Cup live up to the pre-tournament hype. For a variety of reasons teams don’t play up to their best, leaving the viewer wanting for more action, quality, and excitement.
The first games of 2010 followed suit with many mind-numbing matches, a few one sided affairs, and almost every team not living up to its hype. Not until Switzerland defeated Spain and South Africa was pretty much knocked out did the tournament start to feel like a World Cup.
Perhaps the biggest reason teams don’t perform in the opening matches is because it’s simply their opening match. Though they’ve played many
Photo from fOTOGLIF
exhibitions in the weeks leading up to the tournament, it’s rare that the starting eleven have spent much time on the field together, as managers figure out their best sides while not giving too much away about possible tactics. Teams like France, England and Holland seemed disjointed and played like 11 separate players instead of cohesive units.
Another reason for poor first round matches is that it seems like teams were using the Jabulani ball for the first time. How many times did we hear announcers say “he shoots…it’s over the crossbar”? Every team had the chance to play with ADIDAS ball since January, but maybe only Germany took advantage of it. Playing at altitude certainly affects how a ball travels but we can hope that in the next round of matches players will adjust. Group G teams Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugual had a combined 41 shots, but only 16 were on target.
Luckily for the viewer the games that really matter are the next matches, as the hosts sadly discovered yesterday. With an extra time Alvaro Pereira goal, South Africa went from in-with-a-shot due to goal difference to having practically no chance for the same reason. Going into Day 7 of the World Cup, every team still has even an outside possibility going into the Round of 16, so it’s literally do or die in every match.
First games are about survival and not shooting yourself in the foot. Second games are about taking the next step or starting your summer vacation.