First and foremost what a start!!!! Bang! Bang! Bang! 17 minutes and its three goals in. If you were late in coming home with your packet of Lays and Coke, you would have been too late. Old-timers in the world cup who are so used a 1-0 scoreline in the opening match were in for a German treat as one spectacular goal was followed by another. Breathtaking long-rangers
from Lahm and Frings and brilliant positioning/poaching from Klose gave us a feast, not to forget the hollow defence which allowed Costa Rica to get a couple back. A young attacking German side, a 4-2 scoreline - just the start required. So did a shift in tradition do the trick for FIFA? Traditionally, the defending champions kicked off the tournament but from this year onwards the hosts did so. The opening match proved to be a curse for most champions. Ask Argentina (1990) and France (2002) who bit the dust in the hands of Cameroon and Senegal respectively. Some of the champions scraped through with 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines while others managed a few 1-1s. The Germans had no excess baggage like the "favorites" tag and went for the kill right from the beginning.
Now as we round up the first leg of group matches and having seen all the big guns in action, here are my views:
- No major upsets which shows that the big guns did not suffer from the any 'first match blues' (I dont care much about the Swedish)
- England and Portugal were disappointing in their 1-0 wins. It was most ridiculous to hear Sven Goran Erikkson blaming the heat for the disappointing show. Mr Erikkson, this is not Mexico City. Wonder what would the English do if the world cup were to be held in Mexico (Most infamous for 12 noon kick-offs). Portugal made a brilliant start but ended up being booed by their own supporters
- Most big guns are firing right from the word go and taking a 1-0 lead asap. Some like England and Portugal preferred to sit on it. They could afford to as their opposition were not dangerous. The Dutch tried hard but could not get more. The Czechs demolished the opposition after a 4 min lead.
- Italy was the major surprise. I was prepared for the same defensive game being satisfied with a 1-0. But it turned out to be cracker. Non-stop back and forth and a very worthy 2-0 scoreline.
- The Argentina - Ivory Coast match was the most fought. One more Drogba and Ivorians could have well snatched a point. The Argentines did not give an inch, did the simple things right and were home. Most importantly Crespo and Saviola were at the right place at the right time.
- The 'socceroos' from down under showed their true Aussie spirit and gave the indication that it wont be long that they reach the top in this game too. Watch out Croatia!! (Too early to say watch out Brazil!!!). Has it got to do with the man with the 'midas' touch? Yes, I am talking about coach Guus Hiddink.
- Brazil were good but the chinks in the defense was obvious. Had the Croat strikers shot the ball a yard or two on either side of Dida, the strory could have well been different. Instead each time they shot straight to Dida's hands.
- The long-rangers that are being fired time and again - Frings, Lahm, Rosicky, Kaka it would be good idea to send some strikers back home. At least it applies to two of the best - Ronaldo and Henry. Only in the 2nd half did I realize that Ronaldo was playing in the game.
- The best from Africa: Ivory Coast
- The best goal: Frings (Germany V Costa Rica)
- Most entaining of the big-guns: Germany
- And lastly, the most disappointing big gun award undoubtedly goes to the French. Henry once again realized France was no Arsenal. One of the shots he took at the goal almost looked like a back-pass to his own goalie. Such was the lack of power is the foot of the French. Now France has gone 4 world cup matches without scoring a single goal, ever since Emmanuel Petit scored that 3rd goal in the 1998 final. Looking at the forward line, this goal-less streak is likely to continue.
So after the first set of matches, what I am looking forward to most is Group E, the key to which belongs the Italy-Czech republic showdown on the 22nd. Firstly, because of the great show by both these teams and secondly and most importantly, whoever loses this match or are runners-up in Group E faces Brazil in round 2. I cant wait for that mouth watering encounter.
Something just tells me its going to be Italy. And the memories of '82 come back.
P.S. This article was posted before Spain has kicked off their World Cup campaign.