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Winners and Losers

June 11, 2010

It was a busy day today, what with all of two goals being scored. We were all awed by the offensive might of Group A, but rather than go through each match, we are going to bring you a brief recap in the form of winners and losers, where we tell you who did well, and who did poorly.

Winners:

Abou Diaby – Perhaps France’s best player today, he justified Raymond Domenench’s decision to start him in the midfield. His poise on the ball provided most of the spark for the French offense (what little of it there was), and though his passing was, as always, a mixed bag, he performed excellently.

South Africa – Despite a rocky start to the opening match, the home team got more and more comfortable as the match progressed. The movement that led to Tshabalala’s goal was a gorgeous and incisive counter attack, and the goal clearly lifted the spirits of the South African team. They seemed to be much more confident and aggressive for the rest of the match, even after Marquez’s equalizer. That confidence could make them a dangerous opponent for France and Uruguay.

Goalkeepers – Despite erratic decisions all around (like Oscar Perez’s insistence on coming out of the box to head the ball away, or Itumeleng Khune playing Carlos Vela offside in a move of incompetence brilliance), goalkeepers managed to cope with the vicious swerve of the Jublani ball. We can only hope that eventually the players will learn how to strike them properly.

Thierry Henry – Despite only coming on for 20 minutes, Nicolas Anelka made an excellent argument for the inclusion of the Barcelona striker. Henry did seem more likely to score up top, and certainly less likely to go it alone against the entire Uruguay back 7.

Giovanni Dos Santos – He was the impetus of Mexico’s attack, and always looked dangerous on the ball. On a day when Franco apparently wasn’t sure of exactly where he had to put the ball, and Carlos Vela was struggling with the offsides rule, and being useful in general, Dos Santos was the only Mexico player who ever really looked like scoring a goal. And then South Africa momentarily lost their mind, but more on that later.

Ireland – After watching France struggle and enjoying the sweet sweet schadenfreude, they were doubly blessed with the irony of ironies. Watching Thierry Henry plead for a handball in a desperate attempt to find some way to score was absolutely priceless. While it wasn’t a handball, I almost wish it was, just to make it that much funnier.

Losers:

Sidney Govou – His performance was generally useless. It wasn’t quite to the level of atrocious, because unlike Franck Ribery he managed to be disciplined about his runs and where he was, he just generally never seemed to be able to actually DO anything. What a different game it would have been if he had put away that first opportunity…

South Africa’s Set Piece Defending – You have the game won, Mexico looks impotent on offense, and you insist on leaving not one, not two, BUT THREE Mexico players unmarked at the far post? Really? I mean you performed excellently everywhere else, but that was awful.

Anyone who watched the Uruguay/France match – It was boring. Extremely boring. Diego Forlan at least looked threatening when he got the ball in a decent position, something that can’t be said of anyone else on the pitch. But then again, Uruguay found it difficult to move the ball forward and keep all 11 players on defense. Luckily, France found it equally hard to understand that you have to shoot balls at the goal, rather than aimlessly into the stands, in order to score. My favorite quote of the day came from Ally McCoist, who said “That nearly frightened the corner flag half to death” after watching Yoann Gourcuff shoot.

Nicolas Loderio – Why? Because he played for 18 fucking minutes and still managed to pick up two yellow cards. Bravo good sir, your stupidity almost ruined a great team effort, hope you’re happy.

Alexi Lalas and the ESPN Commentary team – I really couldn’t stand Alexi Lalas today. Every time he opens his mouth to argue with Ruud Gullit or Roberto Martinez it just makes me laugh. But worse than that was the coverage team in the first match clearly not understanding the offside rule. After Vela’s goal was (correctly) disallowed, the commentators moaned and bitched about how they had no idea why that was the call. Bravo ESPN!

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