A weekend into the World Cup and hasn’t it been rather good?
We have had a couple of upsets, and Costa Rica has thrown Group D wide open, Australia showing a surprising amount of pluck, a much better Italy v England game than expected, the anti-football Greeks getting blown off the park, and the hilarity of the English physio doing in his ankle while celebrating a goal.
Costa Rica lead one group and Spain are bottom of another
But the highlight has to have been Holland’s destruction of Spain. It wasn’t just the victory; the defending champions lost their first game in South Africa too, it was how it happened. By the end of it Spain was humiliated, pummeled and apparently disorientated. It’s a long way back, mentally, for their encounter with Chile later in the week.
As a match it was the complete antithesis of the World Cup final in 2010 between the same teams. That was such a scrappy niggly affair; 14 yellow cards, with Spain grinding themselves to a 115th minute winner.
In that match the Netherlands went out to frustrate, here they backed themselves. They went behind dubiously early, but didn’t stop believing. There is something about the Netherlands. When they click they are as mesmerising to watch as anyone. A blinding hear from a long-ball, Robben toying with the Spanish defence twice, and Van Persie hassling down the Spanish keeper to rub it in.
The Van Persie header from behind. See the cameraman on the right….
…Well he’s taking this picture.
In the last two major tournaments Spain conceded three goals in 13 matches. Here Iker Casillas sums up what it’s like to concede five in a match.
Meanwhile, back in Eindhoven 50,000 fans were quite enjoying themselves.
The only blight has been a couple of soft penalties, and the perception that the hosts are going to get the rub of the green. There is actually nothing new in that, and it won’t be the last time either.
The weekend produced 28 goals from the eight matches. After eight games in South Africa there had only been 13 goals scored, and that included Germany putting 4 past Australia.
Only Greece and Cameroon failed to score a goal of the 16 teams on display.
Thinking of England.
For 70 minutes they were actually pretty useful. As in 1998 their best player is a teenager, and Sterling played without the weight of previous disappointments, which was in complete contrast to Gerrard and Rooney.
But, ultimately, Italy were just the better side. In Pirlo they had the classiest player on the pitch, and were able to attack with accuracy down the flanks. The way Candreva toyed with Baines before setting up Balotelli for the winner said a bit.
In the end it all got a bit comical. Rooney took probably the worst corner ever televised then Johnson sent a cross also into the crowd as if in sympathy.
Welbeck needs to be dropped and Hodgson needs to show more faith in his youngsters. Sterling worked, why not start with Barkley?
You do worry about the physio though.