It became obvious after the twentieth minute of the France Uruguay game (South Africa wanted to win for obvious reasons) that most teams would be content with a draw after their first game. This can be attributed to two factors. First, cohesion issues which is not unusual when national teams play. Second, is a negative play for draw strategy that was employed by some teams.
The cohesion issues are and were solved (see Portugal) but the play for draw strategy had some costly consequences.
Admittedly, labeling the strategy play for draw is a bit harsh since it was more of a don't lose the first game strategy. No matter what label you give it, this notion of making sure you don't lose your first game has led to the elimination of the finalists from 2006, the near elimination of both the US and England, and the likely elimination of the Ivory Coast.
Winning cures everything as we all know and it could be argued that a win in the first game would have eased the critics in Italy and calmed the tensions in France. Italy had Paraguay a good side but a side that Italy could handle and France had Uruguay traditionally defensive but can be broken down. The Ivory Coast had Portugal probably the toughest test for the three teams. However all three teams decided to take the safe way out and settle for a point in their first game.
This is shown by the either straight or negative substitutions granted Henry, Drogba, and De Natalie were introduced but at the cost of Anelka, Kalou, and Gilardino respectively. If all three teams wanted to get a postive result they would've taken the chance and taken a midfielder off. Except for De Natalie and Gilardino, Henry and Anelka, and Drogba and Kalou have plenty of experience playing together and would likely have combined to cause major problems for their opponents.
But they never had that chance.
For each team there were major and costly consequences. For France the draw failed to bring the team together and they would self destruct leading to a flight home in a converted cargo plane. For Italy their offense couldn't get going until the inclusion of Pirlo in the second half against Slovakia, by then it was too late. For the Ivory Coast, they were overpowered by Brazil and are likely heading home given the performance Portugal put on against North Korea.
Safe is death and for three of the more fancied sides in the World Cup it is a painful lesson to learn.
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