another dustspeck on the muckheap of world cup commentary
Hard to avoid commenting on the amazing and in some respects disappointing world cup action, which has been keeping me going through a bout of illness and attendant black dogginess.
Brazil and Argentina are shockingly out, France regained its assertiveness, even its hauteur, towards the end of the match against Spain, and hustled and bustled Brazil off its game. At this level, psychology is a major factor, and I do think that France's thumping win in the 98 final had an impact. They have to be my tip now for winning the cup.
England didn't shine in this tournament, aside from a great Joe Cole goal. In fact, both the Coles distinguished themselves throughout. Too much old-fashioned kick it long and hope, and Eriksson seemed clueless.
The Germany-Argentina game provided the biggest surprise though. A lesson, never get into a penalty shoot out with the Germans. I agree largely with Paul Doyle's summary here. It was a tight game in the first half, with Argentina dominating with superb short passing and close control, though they rarely looked like unlocking the German defence. When they scored early in the second half the game unsurprisingly opened up, and when Riquelme was substituted, Argentina's midfield melted away completely. Even worse, the lumbering Julio Cruz was put on instead of the much sharper Messi. It was like wilful sabotage, or is that 20-20 hindsight? A shame, I thought Argentina the best team.