JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: I’m kind of an idiot, but not really. And did you see that goal?
So, on the surface, my prediction of a Spain victory against The Netherlands yesterday seems pretty awful. And it was. In fairness though, I don’t think anyone saw that beat down coming, and I was pretty much correct about how The Netherlands would seek to attack Spain and about the effectiveness of Arjen Robben’s patented “cut inside on to his left foot and release a thunderbolt” maneuver, which he executed perfectly at least three times, leading to two goals an another shot that cannoned off the crossbar.
The talk of the match, however, was Robin Van Persie’s unbelievable headed goal, which drew the Dutch even before half after Spain had gone ahead thanks to another soft penalty award (Dodgy Refereeing with another strong performance yesterday thanks to that penalty and two perfectly good goals by Mexico getting wiped out. One wonders if Own Goal can respond today.) Here’s the odds on favorite for Goal of the Tournament:
Here’s a better quality version that I can’t embed on this page. Go ahead, that deserves a couple of looks.
Now, a couple of things to note here. Obviously the diving header part of this goal was a phenomenal piece of skill. The ability to track the ball, time the leap, and delicately head the ball over the keeper with that kind of accuracy pretty much defies description. Don’t lose sight, however, of the tremendous pass and the timing of Van Persie’s run that made the goal possible in the first place. If Van Persie breaks too early or if midfielder Dailey Blind reacts too slowly then the play likely results in an offside call, or if Blind’s superb long ball isn’t quite so accurate then Spain keeper Iker Casillas has a chance to make a play on the ball in the air (though he was so poor yesterday that he likely would have made a hash of it anyway.) Taken together that is one of the most beautiful plays you’ll ever see in any sporting event.
The real mystery yesterday was how poor Spain was. David Silva seemed to Spain’s only real attacking threat, with a couple of excellent chances, including one that was in the net but correctly ruled offside. The rest of the team looked a step slow, their usual crisp passing game was basically nonexistent, and striker and resident horse placenta enthusiast Diego Costa was very lucky not to have received a red card for his petulant head butt in the second half. Spain did lose it’s first match in the 2010 tournament before going on to win, but they are certainly facing an uphill battle suddenly to even qualify for the knockout after that shellacking.
Man of the Match: Arjen Robben
There’s four matches and a solid eight hours of football on tap for today, and the final two matches featuring England v. Italy and Ivory Coast v. Japan are the highlights in my book. England and Italy seem pretty evenly matched and both share a common bond of eternal optimism that often turns quickly to disappointment in this tournament. I frankly don’t know what to expect from either side, but Mario Balotelli is playing, which means you could literally see anything. He’s simultaneously the most exciting and terrifying player to have wearing your team’s shirt (cut to my fellow Manchester City supporters, nodding), so tune in for him if nothing else.
The last match of the day features a great contrast as the very talented and athletic Ivory Coast face a well organized and disciplined Japan side. Seriously, Ivory Coast fields probably the biggest (as in size of the players) squads you will ever see, lead by African Player of the Year and Man/Mountain Yaya Toure, who terrorized the English Premiere League with 20 goals from midfield. When he is on his game it’s impossible to take your eyes off his combination of speed and power when tearing through the midfield. Also, his brother Kolo Toure plays for the team and is recovering from a case of malaria. Seriously, what other sport do you get malaria listed as an injury?
Since I’m a glutton for punishment apparently, I’m putting on my prognosticator hat and predicting a 1-1 draw for the first match and a hard fought 2-1 Ivory Coast win in the second.
Cheers and happy viewing.