That’s right, a brief interlude in our live commentary and States’ analysis to drop a Jumble right here, right now.
For those new to TSG, the Jumble is just a series of questions posed to experts outside the TSG family of writers.
Here go. This post focus on “Surprises”:
1) What team surprised you the most in the first round?
Neil Blackmon, senior writers, TheYanksAreComing.com
I suppose the obvious answer is Switzerland. The less obvious answer is Ghana, who controlled the match against a Serbia side many football writers fancied, and had better than usual width in the absence of Essien, which surprised me.
Aaron Stollar, sole proprietor The FightingTalker.com, BigSoccer Blog Network
South Korea. Yes, the Greeks were utterly dire, but the Koreans looked like the far more talented and poised outfit – despite the big World Cup stage. I think the stereotype says that the East Asian teams are a bit naive and cannot compete with European teams in terms of physicality (and especially off of Asian soil). I hope the wins by the Koreans (and Japanese) go some ways to dispel those kinds of stereotypes.
Richard Farley, ringleader EPLTalk.com
Definitely New Zealand. Ricky Herbert did a great job preparing his team for the tournament, it seems, switching to a 3-4-3 that then caused Vladimir Weiss to (mistakenly) move away from his strengths and go 4-3-3. He got the point, which was a great result.
Connor Walsh, lead typist NinetyPlus, occasional TSG contributor
How about North Korea. Stout defense and giving the favorites Brazil all the could handle and then some.
I’m joining Richard Farley and going with New Zealand. Serbia was a trendy pick that’s got the jitters and I think the Swiss will have trouble against both Chile and Honduras. New Zealand–I team who I somehow managed to watch a lot–just skirted by Bahrain–a team that I am certain has iron-on numbers on their jerseys. With the change in formation and a dedication to maintain shape, New Zealand produced an excellent first round draw. Nod to the Black Stars as well and their Ewing effect win over the troubled Serbs…oh and Steven Appiah on the bench!
2) What team disappointed you the most in the first set of games?
The Netherlands gave me the biggest, “what’s happened to these guys in the last week” moment. Good result, 2-0 over Denmark, but unconvincing versus a very reverential Danish team. They didn’t play with the movement and style we’ve become accustomed to, they rely upon, and I don’t think they have a back-up plan (part of the reason they have many more plaudits than major titles).
I’m gonna get punished for this, but I’m gonna go with England. Fabio Capello started two players who were either hurt or sick, and England suffered for it. So much for his great technical acumen.
First off, I’m not even counting the French. Disappointment seems to imply I had some kind of expectation for the French in the first place. In fact, I’m just impressed that no one on the French team has actually slugged Domenech. But in terms of real disappointment, it’s the Dutch. For goodness sake, the Dutch, if nothing else, are at least supposed to score some goals, and play some pretty soccer.
France. Outside of Evra, they were lifeless. Anelka was dreadful and continues to convince me he can’t do much when the opponent isn’t Sunderland, Stoke City, or a bottom-tier EPL side. Zizou possessed both greatness and an insatiable, Kobe-like will to win. It’s time to put Henry on the field and see if he can give them enough passion to get out of the group.
How about Greece. They post 10 players from Olympiakos and if any game should allow teamwork and familiarity to breed success it’s the first one. Laid a fat one there Zeusmen.
3) Based on watching the 1st round, change a prediction that you made before the tournament. Why did you change it?
I predicted that attacking talent would shine through. I am dead wrong. Instead, I think the increasing ubiquity of the midfield clogging-4-5-1 and its Mourinho-inspired siblings are slowly crushing the life out of the game at the international level. The 4-5-1, along with the better coaching of “smaller” teams and the fatigue of European-based players, is turning the international game into the bastard stepchild of the club game.
One of Europe’s “big six” teams fall out of the competition during the group stages (France, Italy, England, Spain, Germany, Portugal). 1 win and 4 draws amongst the teams who’ve played. Someone will fall.
Cameroon to the quarterfinals. Even if they finish second (which I don’t see after the disarray that was their performance against a well-disciplined Blue Samurai), I no longer can justify the prediction that they would knock off an aging and offensively-inept Azzurri. Mbia was disappointing and Eto’o was starved of service- both signs of a three and out.
Slovenia beating the United States for second in Group C. The U.S. were much stronger than Slovenia, in my mind, last weekend. That was the worst I’ve seen Slovenia play in two years, and I’m not sure they’ll rebound. I had heard that there were worries in Slovenia about their mentality (and rightfully so). I think the U.S. is now set to overcome their tactical disadvantages based on pure will and talent.
First, not changing my prediction on South Africa making it out of the round (oops, this didn’t publish yet). Also, don’t be the New York Times and anoint Chile a World Cup finals favorite; Honduras had less discipline than a four-year-old hopped up on pixie sticks. Changed prediction? I thought the reffing would be called into question more and replay would be demanded already at this point in the tournament. Beyond a Tim Cahill red card, the officials have been phenomenal and I expect it to–and hope it to–stay that way.
More coming: USA vs. Slovenia predictions, And more on the “bazooka horns” on Thursday