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World Cup highs and lows through six days

Each nation has played at least one match, and from a tournament standpoint, the World Cup is more than 25 percent complete (17 of 64 games).

Some observations:

*Bafana Bafana rode the emotions -- and a sensational goal by Siphiwe Tshabalala -- to a draw against Mexico in the opener, but following their 3-0 defeat at the feet of Diego Forlan and Uruguay, the host team is on the brink of elimination. It will need Mexico and France to draw Thursday, then defeat Les Bleus in the finale and pray for help in the other match.

Failure to reach the elimination stage would be historic -- no host has ever fallen short -- but not unexpected. Carlos Alberto Parreira has squeezed all he could out of this overachieving bunch. The most disappointing aspect of elimination would be the dulling of enthusiasm in a country that has embraced the World Cup with passion, song, vuvuzelas and makarapas. The tournament will go on, the fun will continue, fans will remain gripped to the results and fill Fan Fests, plazas and outdoor cafes to watch, but it won't feel -- or sound -- the same.

Much more.....

*Only 28 goals have been scored for an average of 1.65 per match, a significant decline from this stage of previous tournaments. Forlan's opening strike against South Africa was only the third scored from beyond the penalty area; the others came on goalkeeping blunders by England and Algeria. Brazil's 2-1 victory over North Korea was the only match in which both teams scored and did not end in a draw.

*Like with conferences in the NCAA basketball tournament, confederations are judged on how they fare:

South America 4-0-2
Europe 4-4-5
CONCACAF 0-1-2
Africa 1-4-2
Asia 2-2-0
Oceania 0-0-1

Most impressive team: Germany.
Worst teams: Australia, Greece, Algeria.
Biggest disappointments: Spain.
Work in progress: Italy, England, Brazil.
Biggest surprises: Switzerland, Japan.

Record of past Cup champions: 4-0-4.

Top players: Germany MF Mesut Ozil, Uruguay F Diego Forlan, Brazil D Maicon, Nigeria GK Vincent Enyeama.

Best quote: "Pele should go back to the museum." -- Diego Maradona

How would you assess the first six days?

By Steve Goff  |  June 16, 2010; 6:19 PM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , South Africa  | Tags: Bafana Bafana, South Africa, World Cup  
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Next: Thursday World Cup kickaround

Comments

Through six days, the shooting has been awful. We're seeing slow rollers to the Keeper, long blasts to Row Zed, or mis-hits comically wide.

That said, we're also seeing some focused, committed defending from otherwise over-matched sides.

Finally, this long suffering ESPN hater has to give a tip of the ol' cap to the 4 letter network for doing a very good job of broadcasting this tournament. There's been a minimum of trying to 'Americanize' the broadcast, the pictures are gorgeous, and there's lots of ways to see it.

Oh, and the officiating has been better than could be expected.

Posted by: JkR- | June 16, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The futbol, for whatever reason, has been mediocre. Coverage has been good, though . . cept for Harkes and the inability to drone out the awful horns.

Here's to hoping things pick up soccer wise.

Posted by: delantero | June 16, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

CNN has an interesting behind the scene look at ESPN's operations in South Africa

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/sports/2010/06/16/bs.world.cup.espn.tour.cnn?hpt=C2

Posted by: emanon13 | June 16, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

for the first WC since 1994, I can't watch every game. work keeps getting in the way.

while I haven't been able to watch the games, I'm pretty pleased with how things are going. no sacred cows, serious upsets (or threats of upsets). I'm loving this.

Posted by: troy6 | June 16, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Disappointing first round, certainly not a convincing show of the beautiful game for the most part. Except for Germany, the supposed obvious winners failed to perform up to expectations. Packed and disciplined defenses are partly to blame - or credit - for this. Seems that athleticism is so far triumphing over artistry.

And yes, lots of unhappily off-target shots, corners and crosses. The ball, the altitude, whatever -- players at this level should be doing better no mater what tools are at hand.

Posted by: 22206no1 | June 16, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

For me the best (criteria is most exciting) has to have been South Africa v Mexico and England v USA -The USA, England game was way to intense for me. I just remember it being way too open and scary.

Also, the Honduras Chile game was pretty good today.

I think the goals will increase now that we are through the first series of games. Teams will realize someone has to win and start to go for it. I keep hoping Italy go out.

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 16, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

"Pele should go back to the museum."

And Maradona should go back to Cuba, where he can drink rum all day with Uncle Fidel, get fat and laugh while watching real men face a firing squad for fighting for freedom and their own dignity.

Maradona hasn't done squat as a "manager." Defeating a disorganized Nigerian team isn't an accomplishment. North Korea could do the same. He's lucky his squad is in the "Group of Dearth." Otherwise, Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast would hand him his pot belly and jowls (among other organs).

Posted by: JosephDHippolito | June 16, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

One of the big stories is the epidemic of injuries that has kept major stars out of the tournament or on the bench.

The South African fans have turned up for many matches that didn't involve SA. I think we'll continue to see and hear them. They will especially turn out for matches with big name players.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 16, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I’m surprised N. Korea wasn’t a surprise but Japan was. We knew Japan had a decent team with some European talent…but we didn’t know a thing about N. Korea. As a US fan I think I would be happy for a 2-1 loss against Brazil. I expected a 4-0 blowout by Brazil.

Switzerland and N. Korea are proving that with a very strong and well organized defense anything is possible.

Posted by: Southeasterner | June 16, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

"Pele should go back to the museum."

And Maradona should go back to Cuba, where he can suck rum with Uncle Fidel, get fat and laugh as he watches *real men* put in front of a firing squad for fighting for freedom and their own dignity.

Maradona hasn't done squat as a "manager." Beating a disorganized Nigerian squad isn't an accomplishment. North Korea could have done the same thing. Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast would hand him his pot belly and jowls (among other organs).

Posted by: JosephDHippolito | June 16, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Really, anyone of us (even the monolingual anglophones) could have "coached" Argentina into the finals.

Maradona and Pele have had this "I'm greater than you" thing going on for years and it's really stupid. In a recent documentary, former Argentinian and Brazilian players were asked who is the greatest. Predictably, they sided with their countryman. Except for Socrates, who essentially said that it's a futile argument and that one should throw in Einstein and Galileo and ask who was the greatest for mankind.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 16, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Best thing: ESPN all day every day, with quality work and an amazing investment in time and talent. A great platform to convert more USA fans.

Worst thing: Vuvuzelas. A real detriment to conversion of general USA fans.

Second worst thing: The soccer on display through the first round sort of bleaus. ZZZZZzzzzzz Boring play and lots of diving and whining. Hopefully things will open up and players will adjust to the Jabberwocky and whatnot.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Posted by: OWNTF | June 16, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

PS -- Another surprise is that North Korean striker -- that goal was top quality . . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | June 16, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

OK. I decided that I'd had enough of the quadrennial soccer-is-boring comments from people who can't tell a corner kick from a corner flag. So I decided to fight back, for all of us, on their turf, i.e. Tracee Hamilton's chat.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 16, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh man I hope South Africa gets eliminated. I hope they get creamed by an 8-0 score in their next game. Maybe that will teach those obnoxious fans of theirs where they can put their game atmosphere-destroying vuvuzelas. Allowing those awful things anywhere near any world cup venue is the stupidest thing FIFA has ever done.

Posted by: Ron16 | June 16, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Funny that one of the top players is someone who got a yellow card for diving...

Posted by: DadRyan | June 16, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

AND Thank you to both VTUnited and BlackandRed337 for the tips on Virginia Beach US viewing options. Folks at Green Oak Pub sound like they're opening up early and have been broken in appropriately and it's actually a Scottish pub soooooo, you know...

Looking forward to getting away from it all as much as possible and catching as much World Cup as need through the weekend. Less than I'd like to, but I've seen plenty this week.
Cheers guys! And GAls!

Posted by: DadRyan | June 16, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Maradona... another reason why i hate you.

Posted by: StewartDC8 | June 16, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

"Pele should go back to the museum."

And Maradona should go back to Cuba, where he can drink rum all day with Uncle Fidel, get fat and laugh while watching real men face a firing squad for fighting for freedom and their own dignity.

Posted by: JosephDHippolito | June 16, 2010 8:36 PM

WTF??

Posted by: fischy | June 16, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JosephDHippolito | June 16, 2010 8:36 PM

WTF??

Posted by: fischy

Diego went to Cuba for rehab a ways back. DHippolito is a staunch anti Castroite. Look at the threads after the U.S. played Cuba. Clearly not a soccer fan, but a purely political dweeb.

Posted by: delantero | June 16, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Maradona has tattoos of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez/ That's pretty much all you need to say about him.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 16, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

OK. I decided that I'd had enough of the quadrennial soccer-is-boring comments from people who can't tell a corner kick from a corner flag. So I decided to fight back, for all of us, on their turf, i.e. Tracee Hamilton's chat.

Posted by: I-270Exit1


You forgot to mention how exciting golf typically is! Seriously, you're right, it is funny how the I-still-don't-get-soccer articles come up every World Cup like clockwork (like today's Rick Reilly article). Granted, not every minute of the games is super-exciting, but don't these people know they can simply change the channel? That's what most of us do when something isn't working for us.

Posted by: adamsmorgan | June 16, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Good writing from a recent column by Dave Barry:

"I personally find the diving to be one of the more entertaining aspects of soccer, which is a wonderfully theatrical sport. But don't be fooled by the histrionics: Soccer players are amazing athletes, playing a sport that requires extraordinary toughness and stamina -- and, at the international level, almost unbelievable skill. Scoring a goal in soccer is one of the most difficult feats in sports: Everything favors the defense, so the offensive players usually have to do something brilliant just to get off a halfway decent shot. That's why there aren't many goals. But that's also why, when the goals do come, they tend to be spectacular. And because goals -- especially World Cup goals -- are so rare and valuable, the tension preceding them is often deliciously unbearable, leading to the cathartic moment -- GOOOOOOALLL -- that can cause an entire nation to erupt in joy, and plunge another into years of black despair.

I truly believe that, even though many Americans say they hate soccer, if they gave it a fair chance -- if they took the time to actually watch a World Cup match or two -- they would still hate soccer. I don't know why this is, but apparently it's not going to change. I've given up arguing with guys who tell me how boring soccer is, but will happily spend four hours watching a baseball game in which 97 percent of the action consists of batters calling timeout.

I don't care. I love soccer, and I love the World Cup, and I'm rooting for the inexperienced but likable U.S. team."

Posted by: adamsmorgan | June 16, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Dave Barry: Rock on, dude!

As for the WC and the USA...every 4 years, it gets closer and closer to summer Olympic level. If the USA national team somehow makes the quarters against Argentina, it might just do it.

We've come a long way since 1978 when I "watched" the WC using rabbit ears to pick up mainly audio and a lot of snow from the "Spanish International Network" (Ese - Y - Ene).

44 matches in Hi Def and on my phone? You cannot be serious!

But it's true.

As for the haters...yawn.

American Football is not too far away, but with all the business (Conference Realignment), cheating (USC, FSU scandals), greed (Haynesworth), incessant commercials, and instant replay, my interest has faded in what was once a great game.

Everyone else: Enjoy the spectacle.

Posted by: wxdancer | June 17, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Didn't anyone else get annoyed (or in my case, actually wanted to hurl something at my TV) when ESPN would cut away from ACTUAL SOCCER ACTION to show replays (all ridiculously slo-mo) of say, David Beckham clapping, Bob Bradley staring at the team, or Tim Howard swearing (though probably deservedly) at his defense? Replays of goals, shots, fouls, etc. are fine, especially when there is nothing going on on the field. Cutting away from the actual game to show coaches, bench players, and other assorted hangers-on (such as Becks) doing stupid things in slo-mo is beyond annoying. Also, stupid to show the easily-lip-read f-bomb in slow motion anyway.

Overall, I'd give ESPN a B- on the coverage, maybe down to a C+. I don't remember, did they make all the announcements and intros for the 2006 World Cup in the most stereotypical German accent they could find, or are they only doing that for South Africa? Glad to see (most of) the games online and free, though.

Posted by: revsfanindc | June 17, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Regarding South Africa's early exit and fan enthusiasm -- It's hard to capture the magic of England '66, Argentina '78, Italy '90, France '98 or Germany '06 -- it certainly can't be expected, unless the host is a a soccer powerhouse. Mexico in '86 and South Korea in '02 are the exception, but they only made the quarterfinals. It is pretty amazing to be there when the host country is doing well -- I've seen it in Mexico, Italy, France and Germany. Still, the difference between going out in the first round or going out in the Rd. of 16, like the USA did? Not that much, I suspect.

Posted by: fischy | June 17, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Maradona has tattoos of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez/ That's pretty much all you need to say about him.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 16, 2010 11:23 PM
------------------------------------------------------------

If that's true, you cannot look at it from an American perspective. You have to look at it as an indigenous person who grew up in a barrio in a country where the dividing line between rich and dirt poor is as obvious as the tint of one's skin or color of one's hair. There was a time when Mandela and the ANC were derided as communist revolutionaries and terrorists. He was also a tower of strength and an icon of resistance for the oppressed and disenfranchised. Then came the events of June 16th, 1976, in Soweto. Pretty soon, even most in the West started lionizing Mandela and his cause. You may not share Maradona's politics, but then again you don't come from the same place he did.

Posted by: fischy | June 17, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Ona a slightly different subject: Real Maryland went up to Reading and came back winners in USOC play. Next week, they head south to take on Richmond, who beat Palace tonight. I bet the Monarchs would love to go up against DCU. They gave the reserves all they could handle this spring.

Posted by: fischy | June 17, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

"If that's true, you cannot look at it from an American perspective. You have to look at it as an indigenous person who grew up in a barrio in a country ... blah-blah-blah"

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed, milque-toast gobbledygook.

Posted by: Ron16 | June 17, 2010 6:21 AM | Report abuse

fischy: are you comparing Maradona to Mendela? That's insane.

Maradona is not a poor teenager. He's a rich, worldly man. He chooses to cast his lot with dictators. You think Chavez is a folk hero? Maybe if your idea of heroism is to suppress all opposing point of view.

You're right, I don't come from the same place as Maradona, but don't pretend to know where I come from.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 17, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Maradona became rich, but then blew all his money up his nose. I would take Pele over Maradona without hesitation. As a player and as a person.

Posted by: GeneWells | June 17, 2010 7:27 AM | Report abuse

@I-270 -- I was comparing Maradona to those who saw Mandela as a folk hero. Back in the 80s, I was dancing wildly to the Specials' "Free Nelson Mandela" and Hugh Masekela's homage to the man. We didn't do tattoos then. Yes, Maradona earned lots of money, but that doesn't change the circumstances he was born in. It might even explain, in part, why he was so cavalier with his earnings. I don't know where you came from, but unless you came from an Indian reservation, it was probably better circumstances than Diego knew as a boy.

I'm not defending his choices, or saying he's a great person - just saying that there was a time when Fidel was a folk hero in much of Latin America, and Chavez was very much one when he first rose to power -- still is, for many.

Posted by: fischy | June 17, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

The ANC were communist revolutionaries and violent terrorists. Google "Church Street bombing."

Doesn't mean the struggle against apartheid was wrong, but bombing a marketplace full of civilians is terrorism by anyone's measure.

And the communist ties are also undeniable. Again, doesn't mean the struggle against apartheid wasn't a just cause, but facts are facts.

Posted by: OWNTF | June 17, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Hahah. Looks like Diego's comments brought out the lunatic fringe in everyone.

Maradona's retort telling Pele to go back to the museum may have something to do with the building of a Pele Museum in Santos, Brazil.

I was dubious as anyone about Maradona being appointed head coach but so far he has done things well. Using lots of players to keep everyone happy. Aguero's substitution really helped spark some of the later Argie attack this morning.

I would much prefer someone like Pekerman or any other experienced Argie manager over Maradona as a coach or any kind of boss. But so far, Maradona's team management has been good in this World Cup. We'll see if he can keep his emotions in check if things besides his figure start going...

PEAR SHAPED!!!

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | June 17, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | June 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

OWNTF: The ANC was in a state of war against the apartheid government. It was inexcusable that they killed civilians, even though the timing of the detonation was accidental. It was also inexcusable that the South African government killed civilians in Sharpeville, Soweto, and elsewhere, and that even peaceful assembly was illegal.


What was shameful and sickening was that the USA sided with the apartheid government, vetoing UN sanctions in the Reagan years and solidifying the ANC's communist ties. ANC's much feared "communism" meant nothing when the ANC took power. The idea that, rather than help the powerless and weak, we should oppose any attempts at organizing for reform led plenty of racist, bigoted Americans to condemn MLK as a communist, as well.


Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | June 17, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yep I agree with all that M-J. But the ANC committed terrorism in furtherance of their war, about that there can be no dispute. That Mandela turned away from communism is all to the good.

There's a vast difference between history and hagiography, and we tend toward the latter as regards figures like Mandela and King . . . and Reagan for that matter.

Now back to soccer . . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | June 17, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I never really understood the use of "communist" as a slur, even by otherwise bright people. Personally, I find "Republican" to be waaay more derogatory, but I also have plenty of friends who are Republican.

You can be committed to communist ideals/politics/ideology and still be a good person. Even a good soccer coach.

Equally strange is the assumption that Argentina doesn't actually need a coach to succeed. Thus, Maradona's only job is not to screw things up. Really? We're going with that one?

Posted by: vivzig | June 17, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

delantero, why don't you talk to the Cubans who actually left their country? I have. I've done articles on them. Most of took a tremendous risk, especially leaving families behind. But they did it because they were tired of being hungry and oppressed in a "socialist paradise."

Politically, Maradona is a poseur, just like Sean Penn. When he supports bastards like Castro and Chavez, he's basically throwing poor people under the bus. Who the Hell is he to talk? He's nothing but a narcissistic parasite...much like his political heroes.

Posted by: JosephDHippolito | June 17, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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