Saturday, 26 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 16 thoughts

Glad I'm not Italian

Despite how poor Italy had been in their first two games of this World Cup, I still expected them to beat Slovakia. I predicted 2-1 to Italy, but instead it was one of the games of the tournament with Slovakia winning 3-2.

From what I saw of the game and reading reports it wasn't until the last 20 minutes that they really started to play.

This is so typical of Italian football. They're so conservative and withdrawn in their approach. They may have been unlucky with the goal that was disallowed for offside. That would have made it 2-2, but over the course of three games they didn't do enough, in a group which on paper was one of the least demanding for a seeded nation like Italy.

Italy seem to be having problems in finding the next generation of players to come through, and it's really significant the Italian national team don't have a single player in the squad from from Inter Milan.

Inter did the treble last season winning the both the League and Champions League. They did so with a squad almost entirely made up of overseas players!

In the long run this can't be good for Italian football.

Japan and South Korea

It's been slightly overlooked at just how well these two Asian countries have done so far. Both have made it to the Second round with South Korea narrowly losing out to Uruguay.

It's an important breakthrough as the only time either of them had made it out of the groups stages was when they held the World Cup jointly in 2002.

I was really impressed by Japan when they beat Denmark, I thought they'd be a little lightweight up front, but they posed a threat and played good football.

Even though South Korea are now out, Japan face Paraguay and they must have a decent shout of making it to the quarter finals.

Spain

Just when it was looking like history might repeat itself with Spain underachieving, they managed to beat a very useful Chile side last night and top Group H.

This is good for the tournament, they would have faced Brazil in the second round had they finished second, and that would have been too big a match for this stage of the competition. Brazil v Spain could quite easily be the final.

They do however have a tough game against Portugal which I'm looking forward to. It won't be easy for Spain, but I think they should have enough to come through.

Uruguay, USA or Ghana in the Semis

With England failing to claim top spot in Group C and France barely turning up as a footballing team, this side of the draw has really opened up. Uruguay beat South Korea today to make it to the quarter finals for the first time since 1970. They'll then face the winners of USA v Ghana.

This is a great opportunity for these countries, and I'm going to predict Uruguay to make it. I think the USA will win tonight against Ghana, who I just don't see scoring enough goals, and Uruguay will beat the USA as a result of their defence and Luis Suarez up front.

Disappointed with the African Nations

With this being the first World Cup staged on African soil, there's been a general consensus that it would be good to see the African nations do well and for one of them to progress quite far in the tournament.

As I type this, Ghana have made it to the second round but overall I've been disappointed with how African nations have done, and how they're generally progressing in world football.

South Africa

The hosts have acquitted themselves well and it was always asking a lot for them to qualify from the group stage. Had they not been hosting the tournament they would have got nowhere near the finals.

Nigeria and Cameroon

I think these two are the biggest disappointments in African football. Back in the 1990's Nigeria and Cameroon will trailblazers.

Cameroon could and maybe should have beaten England in Italia 90 to make it to the Semi finals. Nigeria lost narrowly in the second round to the Italians in USA 94 before winning the Olympic title in 1996. For me they've never really progressed from those promising starts.

Since these two first emerged other countries have started making an impression on the footballing world with Ghana and Ivory Coast now appearing in their second successive World Cup.

Back in the early 90s it was lazily said that African players and teams were 'tactically or defensively naive'. This soon became a tired cliche which you can't say now, as most top African players all play in Europe's best leagues winning titles with the biggest clubs.

What's happening is that Africa is producing the players but individual countries aren't bringing the players together to form successful teams.

The players being produced

Leading on from this, too many similar types of players are being produced. Watching Cameroon and Ghana all their players look identical to each other, all big and physically strong. It seems everyone wants to produce a 'Michael Essien' type midfield player.

I think Essien is a superb player but where is the African Messi or Iniesta? The skillful creative midfielder? And what about the strikers? Outside of Drogba and Samuel Eto I don't see many great African centre forwards.

To be a successful footballing nation you can't have players who are all the same. A lot of it comes down to coaching, an issue that was featured on the BBC this week in a short film report shown following the end of one match they were covering.

The report looked at the lack of African coaches coaching African teams and the barriers African coaches face in having the chance to coach their national sides.

Too many African countries look to bring in average or mediocre White European coaches in the belief that somehow they are technically superior. They need to give their own coaches a chance as I think it helps to create a homegrown footballing culture and identity which in the long run will be better for national success.

I look at Ivory Coast who individually have a very strong team, but didn't really make a great impression under Sven Goran Eriksson who impossed the same cautious negative approach on them as he did with England.

At the moment African football seems more about producing good indvidual players for the European club market without much thought for the success of their national teams.

Look at Japan and South Korea

I don't think it's a coincidence that Japan and South Korea are now using their own native managers after years of using foreign coaches. Both are having their best World Cups outside their own countries this time round.

I'm about to go and watch Ghana v USA* now, so perhaps Ghana may prove me wrong and make it to the Quarter finals.

It would be great to think that in the next World Cup there would be at least one African nation being managed by an African coach. This is something African countries need to start doing if they want to achieve international success.

*Second round - Ghana 2 USA 1 AET

Well done Ghana, you've become only the third African nation to make it to the Quarter finals of a World Cup.

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