World Cup 2010: The Biggest Surprises of the First Round
The first round of matches of the 2010 World Cup is now over and so far, the trend has been that the big teams are a disappointment when it comes to attacks, and the smaller teams are being solid in defense.
This is proven by the lack of goals, and it has meant that there have been a number of interesting results.
Here are the teams that have provided the biggest surprises so far.
7. Paraguay—FIFA Rank 31
Paraguay was handed what appeared to be a tough first game against Italy, but the South American team made sure that the world champions did not have a comfortable start to their campaign.
In the end, the Paraguayans may consider themselves unlucky not to have won a game that they initially led 1-0 after a headed goal from Antolin Alcaraz, before the Italians equalised through Daniele de Rossi.
The Paraguayans finished just one point behind group-topping Brazil in qualification, and they did so conceding only 16 goals in 18 matches. This is no doubt due to the disciplined way in which they defend, which frustrated the Italians for so long.
This style of play should help them progress in the competition.
6. Ghana—FIFA Rank 32
Ghana, four-time African champions, are one of the continent’s best chances to do well in its first World Cup as hosts. They began their tournament with a 1-0 win over Serbia; this may not be considered a particularly large upset; however, Ghana were able to dominate their European opponents for large periods of the match.
Judging by this performance, they have a good chance of beating Australia in their next game, which should mean that they assure themselves a qualification from the group stages.
5. Japan—FIFA Rank 45
Japan sneaked a 1-0 win in their opening game against Cameroon, courtesy of a goal from Keisuke Honda. Despite showing little in terms of attack, their defence was able to hold strong against the key figure of Samuel Eto.
The Japanese will now face the Netherlands before coming up against Denmark in their last game. They will probably need to show a bit more attacking intent in order to get a result against either of these two teams, but don’t discount their chances of qualifying from their group.
4. New Zealand—FIFA Rank 78
New Zealand were involved in probably the most dramatic finish to any match in the first round with Winston Reid scoring an injury-time equaliser after Robert Vittek had netted for Slovakia. Although Slovakia probably had the better of the chances, New Zealand kept on going and were rewarded in the dying minutes of the match.
The draw was the first time New Zealand have not lost a World Cup match, unfortunately this may be the high point of their tournament given that they now have to play Paraguay and Italy.
3. South Africa—FIFA Rank 83
The unfancied host nation was under pressure to get the World Cup off to a good start and they produced a very impressive performance to draw 1-1 with Mexico. Siphiwe Tshabalala scored one of the best goals of the tournament so far before Rafael Marquez equalised for Mexico.
Both France and Uruguay will probably provide more of a challenge, but the Bafana Bafana will enjoy great levels of support for the remainder of their time in the competition, which may help them produce more surprise results.
2. North Korea—FIFA Rank 105
In terms of FIFA rankings, this match was the biggest mismatch in World Cup history. However, the way that the match unfolded did not suggest that this was the case. North Korea produced probably the most organised defensive display of the tournament so far to deny Brazil a goal for 55 minutes.
It took two moments of brilliance to break the North Korean resistance and they even showed that they are competent in attack by scoring late in the game. Unfortunately they are in the group of death and they have Portugal and Ivory Coast to contend with; however, if they continue to defend in the same manner for the rest of their games, they have a genuine chance of causing an upset.
1. Switzerland—FIFA Rank 24
Switzerland produced what was surely the biggest shock of the round by defeating European champions and competition favourites Spain. Swiss teams are usually renowned for their strong defences and this performance was no different. Spain were poor in front of goal but Switzerland took their chances and deserved their win.
Chile are also a strong team and so Group H definitely looks like one to watch because there is now a genuine possibility that the favourites could fail to qualify. This appears to be a World Cup where the established big teams are not going to have things all their own way, and there are certain to be more surprises in the next round