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Two days in…

June 13, 2010

One of the best pictures of the competition so far from skysports.com

…and the World Cup is limping into life after a few disappointing clashes. South Africa and Mexico played out a reasonably entertaining 1-1 draw on Friday afternoon in a game notable for the superb South African opener from Siphiwe Tshabalala, the shaky Mexico goalkeeper looking a bit like Morris from series 6 of 24, and the irritating coverage from ITV. From studio to gantry they had seemingly drawn the conclusion that everybody watching at home was supporting the hosts (“Mexico must be feeling the pressure now with minutes to kick off…this is Mexico against the world!”). No it’s not, it’s Mexico against a pretty limited South African side and they should really have had the game wrapped up by half time. But, in fairness, South Africa responded well and deserved their draw by the end.

The commentators’ propensity to refer to them by their nickname Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys) is almost as annoying as Sky Sports’ Andy Gray referring to Everton’s Yakubu as “The Yak” as if it is his real name. While we’re on that topic, Yakubu’s Nigeria side could have forced a draw against Argentina on Saturday afternoon but for some poor finishing. Maradona’s side have, though, been the best so far and should have won by more than one goal. Their passing was excellent and Tevez, Messi and Veron all linked up very well to create several good chances. Victor Enyeama in the Nigeria goal was excellent – two first half saves from Messi the highlights. He has certainly been the pick of the ‘keepers so far amid some unorthodox (and downright incompetent) performances. The BBC’s coverage of that match produced the best commentator/pundit combo so far, with Jonathan Pearce solid and Mick McCarthy consistently amusing. It was frequently unclear whether he was, for comic effect, pretending to have done little research into the teams on which he was opining, or whether he genuinely hadn’t done any. In any case it made for an entertaining accompaniment to a decent match.

Argentina's Gabriel Heinze celebrates putting his side ahead - skysports.com

It was certainly better than the appalling South Korea v Greece match at lunchtime, marred by Greece’s inability to attack or defend. Save for a few decent crosses into the box they offered little and South Korea fully deserved their win by pouncing on basic mistakes – Park Ji Sung scored the second a few minutes into the second half and the Greeks were unable to cut the deficit (insert your own political/economic joke here).

Uruguay and France played out a disappointing goalless draw on Friday evening, and England struggled to make an impact against a well-drilled USA side in the final game yesterday. They were average without ever excelling as a team. Emile Heskey, though, was superb, controlling everything hit at him and sending it wide, as was Steven Gerrard who provided the best deliveries. Wayne Rooney did well from a deep position and England could easily have won the game, but the US looked dangerous going forward. Robert Green’s error was, of course, poor, but it is easy to see why Capello picked him and, as the ITV team pointed out, it’s hardly something a manager can prepare for. Credit to the Sunday Mirror for the headline “Tainted Glove”. Gerrard’s finish was smart, though if you were watching on ITV HD you won’t have seen it in real time due to a “transmission error” – a fault that is becoming increasingly common and bizarrely seems to afflict only one station. Thankfully they showed the goal (and various other incidents) several times afterwards from several angles at several different speeds while the ball was in play so viewers could miss as much of the game as possible.

This match, too, was entertaining enough fayre but we’re yet to have the first really good match of the tournament. Perhaps one of today’s games will provide it.

Predictions:
Slovenia 0 Algeria 1
Serbia 1 Ghana 1
Germany 2 Australia 1

 

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