June 27, 2016
While its pretend currency plummets in value and its government falters ,on the brink of collapse, Europe's footballers are also failing , seemingly unable to lift the curse on its teams in a World Cup held in the new world.
No European team has ever triumphed out with its own continent and the signs are that this year will be no different.
Spain, the favourites, must do what no other country , European or otherwise, has ever done and shrug off a first game defeat to win the cup, England are doubly hindered by history, as no country has ever achieved success with a foreign coach. France are on the brink of elimination just like in 2002, when as holders they crashed out in Asia without scoring a goal, Italy may have to do without their first choice goal keeper for the rest of the tournament and are finding scoring goals difficult, even Germany have stalled after a promising start. Only Holland , currently playing Japan, of the fancied European nations can look forward in confidence.
Meanwhile, the South Americans and Mexico could be set to dominate the latter stages. Might the vuvuzela be drowned out by the samba beat of Brazil, the tango of Argentina or even Mexico's la cucaracha ?
Even the less celebrated teams such as Paraguay and Chile have made good starts and Uruguay look likely to win their group . Clearly the South African winter has not disagreed with these teams as some had feared and perhaps the intensity of four weeks of tournament football suits the Latins , who are used to sometimes manic situations while playing on their home continent, more than their European counterparts.
Even the long, hard European club season, which appears to have taken its toll on players such as Wayne Rooney, the English talisman ,cannot be blamed for a less than sparkling display by its top teams, as the majority of the South American players earn their living there. Indeed Internazionale , the Italian and European champions have only a handful of Europeans in their squad , the rest made up of sundry Brazilians and Argentinians with a Colombian and African for company.
The European game is still built more on effort and endeavour than the South Americans though, and perhaps some such as France and Italy are running out of steam.
France appear to be fighting among themselves , Thierry Henry ,reclining on the bench against Mexico looked disinterested in that typically French way, while his coach Raymond Domenech has perfected the Gallic shrug and looks to be longing for the tournament to end, so that he can relinquish the post to Laurent Blanc. His selections become more bizarre ; throwing on Gignac on Thursday night , not to play in his normal position as centre forward, but wide on the right where his strength and height cannot be fully exploited and ignoring Yoann Gourcuff, when his midfield was lacking a playmaker and being overrun. His centre half, Gallas is refusing to speak to the press, sulking, it is claimed ,because Domenech overlooked him for the captaincy. Unruly teams, run by the players rarely triumph .
Spain have other problems , over confidence maybe, and a style of play that can be countered. "The Special One", Jose Mourinho may not be coaching at these finals, but his influence was there for all to see in Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's way of containing "La Roja" until they became more and more "furia"( furious).It was reminiscent of the way Mourinho's Inter eliminated the free flowing Barcelona from the European Cup, at Camp Nou, last season, stifling their creative players , denying them space and limiting them to , on the whole, speculative long range shooting. Spain are reliant on their full backs providing width, as their midfield players like to play centrally and play the tiki tiki (touch, touch) short one touch passes that can be delightful to watch but can lead them up blind alleys. Ramos and Capdevila did not have the best of games in the full back roles against Switzerland and eventually Spain passed themselves to a standstill. Future Spanish opponents, including Brazil, possibly as early as the next round ,will have taken note.
Germany will rue the absence of Miroslav Klose , top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, for their next game against Ghana and their young team may lack the experience needed to beat Argentina , their potential opponents in the quarter finals.
Brazil may be described as "European" by their more disillusioned fans, because they have eschewed some of the flair of previous incarnations, but they still have the likes of Kaka , Robinho and Maicon to turn it on when they need to and against North Korea were able to win when not playing particularly well , a vital gift in tournament football.
Argentina and Uruguay both struggled to get to South Africa and both can be fragile defensively ,but which other country can boast of forward players like Messi, Higuain, Milito, Kun Aguero and Tevez or Forlan , Suarez and Cavanni respectively? Maradona appears to have found a way of getting the best out of Messi and he, himself, has reined in most of his excesses. Argentina look well placed if the competition comes down to a test of firepower. If they can secure the back door and retain their discipline, they have a great chance.
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