Pete Sixsmith appreciates an urgent new dimension to the World Cup after the often turgid fare of the group stage. England fans of a nervous disposition should stop reading before the end …
After the chess games of the Group stages, the cynicism of the likes of Portugal and Chile and the ineptitude of England, we saw some real football today, with belting games in the first of the Round Two games.
They were very, very interesting, in that both of them saw a team with natural flair and a football history against well organised teams who were relatively new to the game – and the Old World (football wise) won.
First of all Uruguay, a country which says of itself “Other countries have history, Uruguay has its football”, beat a well drilled Republic of Korea team with two superb goals from Louis Suarez, both taken absolutely brilliantly. The first was set up by Diego Forlan, who is the fourth best player I have seen in the tournament after Da Silva, Riveros and Mensah. Oh, alright then, the best player I have seen.
The other Uruguayan who impressed me was Maximiliano Pereira, who plays for Benfica. He must have played against us in Amsterdam last year but I was probably unable to pick him out from the lofty vantage point we had been allocated. Today, he worked hard, tackled fiercely and pushed forward whenever he could. He looked a real good ‘un.
The Koreans had learnt their routines but they don’t really play with any natural feel for the game. The ball was there to be moved on, while the Uruguayans (Forlan in particular) chose to caress it, Swiss Tony style, before gently passing on to a team mate. Uruguay looked good but they have to get past…….
Ghana!! They beat the USA in an engrossing game in Rustenburg. They too scored two very good goals through Boateng and Gyan to make it to the quarter finals.
It was a fitting win for a side who are very well coached but who have flair and excitement in their make up. The USA team lack this and make up for it with a work ethic that is almost Stakhanovite. They run, chase back, get into position, but they just lack that natural rhythm that Ghana had.
The Black Stars celebrated their 50th year of independence with a performance that owed as much to strength of character as it did to flair. The whole team worked for one another from Wigan Athletics third choice keeper, to Rosenborg’s Annan, a player surely destined for something better and warmer than Norweigan football.
The Two Mensah’s (“And you’re not getting past me. And you’re getting past him”) did really well. Big John played 120 minutes, which is the equivalent of four Sunderland games for him, but young Jonathan grew up in this game and baled Big J out a couple of times.
Gyan’s winner was a great goal, showing up the lack of pace in the US defence and making England’s limp attempts in the same stadium a fortnight ago look even tattier. It could well be a good thing that they are facing Germany, as I think that the Ghanaians would have run rings round the leggy and pedestrian midfield, while the Mensah Boys would have pocketed Defoe and Rooney rather easily.
Tomorrow, a nation grinds to a halt as “The Big One” takes place. Yes, the Argentina Mexico clash should be a good game and clear the roads in Guadalajara and Buenos Aires. In England, prepare for a roadside mountain of cheap, tatty St George’s crosses as they are hoyed out by disappointed England fans.
Predictions?cArgentina and Germany to go through on Sunday, the Netherlands and Brazil on Monday and Paraguay and Spain on Tuesday. That leaves some tasty quarter finals for next weekend.