Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Portugal, Ivory Coast Fail to
Impress at World Cup 2010 Opener

What if Cristiano Ronaldo had scored instead of hitting the post today against Ivory Coast in the Group of Death opener at World Cup 2010?

Would we have had the dreadful snoozer we were left with?

We certainly would have had Didier Drogba enter the game sooner (at the half?) than we did. We certainly would have had the Ivory Coast attack Portugal with some vigor much sooner than in the 91st minute. And we certainly would have had Simao Sabrosa in the game much sooner than he appeared.

One thing's certain, however: Portugal and Ivory Coast owe us an apology for producing a goalless draw that wasn't even up to the depths of a kiss-your-sister tie. Neither team was interested in playing attacking, interesting or imaginative soccer. And as soon as the raindrops started falling, we were more than destined for goose eggs.

So much for the Group of Death producing exciting football. It's going to be tight, but it's not going to be great. Thank goodness Brazil and North Korea played a competitive game. Kudos to the North Koreans for solid tactical defense and for not being intimidated by Brazil's imposing size and patient passing. Say what you will for Brazil's style and flash, it's their patience that will kill you. It's the 10th, 12th pass in a sequence that you need to be alert for. Brazil wore North Korea down with its persistence, its ability to lean on the North Koreans and wear them down physically.

Hopefully Portugal and Ivory Coast were watching because they will need to do the same or they may be doomed to take but just one point from the mysterious Asian team. I'm thinking there was a similar approach from both nations today that they would be happy to take a point out of this game, have their way with North Korea and then let fate roll against Brazil.

Well, Portugal gets first crack at North Korea and assuming it gets a result and Brazil beats Ivory Coast, the Portuguese could be in the driver's seat needing just a tie against Brazil to advance. Then again, Ivory Coast closes against North Korea, and one would have to think that it would jump ugly all over North Korea if it needed three points. That would leave Portugal having to beat Brazil in the group finale. Nothing I saw today told me that could happen.

Hmm, maybe this will be a Group of Death after all.

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