June 2010

Group H Round-up

The Rojas have arrived in Group H and as I exclusively predicted, took off like a rocket, even if the scoreline didn’t reflect their superiority against the game but limited Hondurans. Jean Beausejour (who sounds like he’d appear if you say his name three times) scored for Chile with a tap-in on 34 minutes and they squandered plenty of other opportunities to extend their lead and dominance. Their 3-3-1-3 formation cutting through the Hondurans at will who couldn’t get any change out of a disciplined backline led by the appropriately World Cup named – Gary Medel.

Astonishingly, this was Chile’s first World Cup victory in 48 years, since they hosted the tournament in 1962 in fact. The Hondurans hope to fare better in their next match against the Spanish and have called up a replacement for the injured Cesar De Leon – Jerry Palacios. His name should be familiar as he is the brother of Johnny and Spurs Midfielder Wilson, making Honduras the first country to include three brothers in their squad. At least they’ve made a bit of history.

Switzerland 1 Spain 0. There, that’s the scoreline out of the way so let’s go into exquisite detail of how the fancy-dan Don’s met their cumppence at the hands of a defense containing Phillipe Senderos, a man so prone to top-level ineptitude, he couldn’t get a game for Everton’s reserves earlier this season.

The first legitimate shock of the competition, Spain reverting to pre-Euro 2008 type – you can pick your cliché but like the best, they all contain an element of truth. This was a Spanish team that seemed genuinely affronted when the Swiss deemed to tackle them, seeming to believe that the world had assembled to watch them pass it about the midfield between themselves and even the act of scoring was a necessary evil which detracted from their artful probing. The bottom line of the beautiful game is that along with beauty, there must come steel or at the very least, some kind of cutting edge. You can keep the ball as long as you like, pass it around and get as many oohs and aahs from the crowd but as this year’s Champions League Final showed, the only thing you have to do is score one more than your opponents. Switzerland have now equaled Italy’s record of five consecutive World cup clean sheets, so you might have thought that Spain would realize that they needed to get about them early. Nothing doing. Spain were intent on racking up a record 271 passes inside the first half hour alone but frankly, I could do that against a wall, which is what the Swiss defense and midfield became. The goal came in the 52nd minute and if anything, Switzerland was more likely to add to it after-wards. Like the tortoise and the hare, the swift, dazzling Spanish didn’t see the danger until it was too late as the ponderous Swiss shell nudged itself over the line. Spain will probably go through in the group but the possibility of a second round clash with the other purists’ wet-dream, Brazil, must now be on the minds of the passing party.

Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at guy@yanksarecoming.com.

Guy Bailey