Monday, 16 June 2014

2014 World Cup - so far

Well, we have now had three-and-a-bit days of World Cup action, so how are things going?
I remember that around this stage in the 2010 World Cup, the general consensus was that the tournament had been "boring", giving rise to anguished phone-ins on radio stations here in the UK, speculating on the reasons for the malaise. Happily, the 2014 edition of football's global spectacle has started quite brightly, although there is a tendency to get a little over-excited. World Cups have that effect on people....
The football has generally been enterprising and positive, with a decent goals-per-game ratio, which is often employed (somewhat simplistically, I feel) as the barometer of a tournament's quality. One or two pundits have remarked cynically (or level-headedly) that we are also witnessing the further demise of defending as an art. Having said that, you can attribute the high level of goals scored in the World Cups of the 1950s to the prevailing lack of tactical acumen and defensive solidity in those times.
The conditions, at least in some parts of Brazil, should promote high-scoring games, as defenders tire towards the end of matches, and become more prone to committing errors. Substitutions could become key in deciding the outcome of many games as the World Cup progresses.
Of the teams which we have seen so far, Brazil clearly have abundant talent, even if they were deemed to be slightly fortunate in their opener against Croatia. Holland have potent attacking resources, although the overall level of quality and flair in their line-up is perhaps not as sparkling as some Dutch outfits of the past.
Before the tournament, I thought to myself that France might do well. Nobody was talking about them, the discord and disunity of the last World Cup was gone, and a quite confidence was being exuded. In their game against Honduras they played some constructive football, with a few of the younger, more hungry players really catching the eye. Deschamps has achieved some real cohesion, it would appear.
A mantra before every World Cup is "never write off the Italians", and in their game against England they proved the wisdom of this maxim. Playing in their compact and economical style, they gave England, and other teams, plenty of food for thought, Andrea Pirlo strolling imperiously around the pitch as if he was in the local park on a Sunday afternoon.
Although the football has been entertaining, the undoubted highlight of the World Cup thus far has been the employment of "vanishing spray" by referees, to discourage encroachment by defenders at free-kicks. This has to be the most important innovation in football in decades, and a significant boost to the level of entertainment!

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