For me, what has marked the 2010 World Cup more than previous Cups is the sense that upsets abound, that the “giants” of the beautiful game (Germany, Italy, etc.)can be got at with sophisticated slingshots. That, Goliaths do get felled by Davids, that overconfident teams falls under the pressure of their own hubris, and that true sportsmen are virtuosos of great skill and heart.
The 2010 Cup has also been marked with a plethora of shots saved by the post. The post is mostly unforgiving, like the rim in basketball; one could safely say, iron unkind, and it would apply to many of the 2010 Cup matches. Futhermore, I don’t see how divine intervention was not at hand during Serbia vs. Germany, or Spain vs. Switzerland. On Tuesday, Guardado rocketed a left that almost broke the transept of Uruguay’s goal, or so it seemed. So many shot have been saved by the post, you’d think it was the 12th man.
There’s also been considerable chatter about the Jabulani, the ball designed by Adidas for the 2010 Cup. The Jabulani is not stitched together, the hexagons on its face are thermally bonded, and there are rivulets and channels on the ball that only an engi-nerd could explain. I even heard one of the goalies was so shook up about the wiley Jabulani that it drove them to tears.
Last, referees have been a hot topic this Cup. It seems that FIFA has attempted to exhibit its reach by having refs that are from exotic and far-away locales when it should instead opt for refs that have more experience and are better versed in protocols. Exhibit A: the ref that officiated at the Slovenia vs. U.S. match, Koman Coulibaly. Coulibaly, a native of Malawi, has surely officiated games in his native country, but how many matches of international stature? To this day, neither he nor FIFA have ever given any explanation for the invalidation of a third goal by Edu that would have put the U.S. over Slovenia, 3 to 2. The game was hotly contested and then hotly debated for the next couple of days. And, there was the egregious hand ball during the match Brazil vs Cote D’Ivoire that no referee seemed to see.
WORLD CUP 2010: STUNNING UPSETS
There’s the case of Germany, which was bested by a Serbian scissor kick authored by Jovanich, and a missed penalty by Podolski. There’s the case of France, which was the obvious choice against Mexico (France made it to the Finals in 2006). But, they were no match for el Chicharita’s torero moves or a swift penalty booted in by Cuahtemoc. How about Switzerland beating Spain, how about little old blond-haired, blue-eyed Switzerland besting the Red Tide of Spain. The boys of South Africa were also able to topple the problematic French team with two headers that were sheer, unadulterated excellence. I heard Bishop Tutu was praying for his boys to beat the French; it seems that the soccer Gods were listening.
WORLD CUP 2010: MATCHES EXPERTLY PLAYED
There has also been a fair share of matches expertly played. For example, Brazil’s spanking of Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday was an expert, flamboyant spanking with three of the pretties goals I have seen all Cup. True, the second goal saw the Brazilian player lowering the ball with what was his hand; the goal should have been nullified, but he still does an expert job of kicking it in. Both teams played an aggressive, physical style with loads of creative, technical passes. The first goal by Fabiano was surgical; he was almost parallel with the goalie but manages to slice it into the opposite pocket. However, it would not have been possible without Kaka’s wrangling of a volatile, overhead pass. The second goal, I thought, even more masterful. Again, the ball finds Fabiano who cascades it over three defenders in lock-step, positions himself in front of the goal, and extends a killer rocketball past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry. That is not to say that Drogba’s goal against Brazil wasn’t equally as spectacular. My man fields a pass and uses the momentum of it falling to equalize on Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar.
The Paraguay vs Slovakia game was a dazzling match. Paraguay played a vivacious futbol, full of stop-and-go, suicide sprints, and misdirection that proved magical to watch. The main problem is that Slovakia gave Paraguay openings and Paraguay was able to define; in the 27 minute Enrique Vera burst through the Slovakian defense to bumrush it in; in the 86th minute Rivieros sails one in after balon does a little pinball wizardy in the goalie box. All in all, Slovakia seemed dazed and confused and Paraguay capitalized on that.
My surrogate team this year is Mexico. My wife is an L.A.-raised Chicana, and I have lots of love for mis cuates. For Father’s Day, my wife bought me the Mexican kit and there was a minor diplomatic scuffle after I donned it and sent a cellphone photo to my pops, Hinchas Argentinus. He called me just to make sure I hadn’t defected and to remind me that my paltry inheritance rested on me boostering for Argentina in all international matches of stature and renown. He was not amused, and he also told me that the World Cup is just now about to get good.
WORLD CUP 2010: NAILBITTERS
I watched the Mexico vs. Uruguay game eagerly. As soon as the game started you could tell two things: one, Uruguay was going to try to use their superior weight to their advantage; and two, Mexico was going to have to rely on their superior agility, while down-shifting forceful strikes. If Mexico were to stand a shot they would have to be superior “dancers”. Uruguay were going to throw their weight around and Mexico was going to have to don a no-stick, Teflon coating to even have a chance of boxing with God.
Despite, superior weight advantage, the Mexican team not only held their own but took calculated shots and hustled hard. Guardado’s izquerdazo in the 18th minute hits on what I am talking about; the Goalie-Cam shook with the force of that left-legged volley, and seemed to raise Mexican spirits. The game was hotly contested and vigorously played; at one point, el Ruso Perez, a Uruguayan hit-man-cum-striker, is fully bleeding from his skull and trying to convince the sideline ref that the bleeding is under control while blood trickles from the gauze. He comes out of the game for 20 seconds and comes back head-wrapped in blue gauze like a daffy Jerry Lewis.
Unfortunately, Luis Suarez scores for Uruguay in the 43rd minute with a spectacular head past Suarez, Mexico’s goalie, also known as the Rabbit. In the second half, Uruguay covered Mexico with that additional weight so there were alot of theatrics, shirt-pulling, and name-calling. Mexico played with heart, and they lost with heart, but they’re qualified for the next tier of play, despite being in second place (behind Uruguay of course).
by Yago Cura