Monday, May 17, 2010

25 days until kick-off

The sun is shining and the snow has melted. Dare I say it? Winter might finally be over...for a week atleast. Having seen snow storms in every calendar month in Canada, I am never convinced of the disappearance of that fluffy white stuff. Betting on snow in a Canadian summer might be a safer option that betting on this summer's world cup winner. Maybe age does change one's priorities but I approach this summer's tournament with even less enthusiasm than the 2006 edition. Although I had reason to not care for the 2006 World Cup because the 2002 edition was such an awful joke, with all the tired European league based players not able to muster decent performances and the ones that were able to compete for 90 minutes were thwarted by incompetent decisions by refs and linesmen. Only South Korea, Japan, Senegal and Sweden provided some genuine world cup memories in 2002. 2006 was thankfully much better and it featured a rarity in the semi finals when Italy fielded 3 attackers. Watching an Italian team attack and not defend is an occurrence that is seen less frequently than Halley's comet but the attacking habit paid off as Italy overcame the hosts Germany in brilliant fashion.

The 2006 final was a bet of a let-down but then again most world cup finals hardly ever live up to their reputation. One would have to go back to the 1986 final between Germany (then West) and Argentina as being a worthy duel. The Italia 1990 final was decided by an incorrect penalty decision after an otherwise wretched game, USA 1994 was uneventful but that owed more to the extreme heat the game was played in because the organizers wanted to have the game kicked-off in time for the evening European tv market, France 1998 was completely one-sided because Brazil did not show up and the 2002 final was mostly average.

In a way, the 2010 World Cup has an unknown factor around it because the tournament is held in Africa for the first time. Yet, the ultimate outcome will be decided by how fresh and motivated the European based players are after yet another long season. North Korea will be the exception in this regard as they have only one European based soccer player but then again, no one knows what North Korea can bring to the table. Back in 1966, they were able to spring a surpize because they were an unknown entity. So it is remarkable that 44 years later, the North Korean soccer team still remains largely unknown despite increased soccer coverage from around the world. There are no new tactical formations that have to emerge on the global scene so it would be quite the story if North Korea provided a formation along the lines of 2-3-2-3 or 3-1-2-3-1.

On paper, Brazil's squad looks to be the weakest in decades but that owes more to Dunga's decision to have a more efficient and tactical team that is concerned about winning than style. So Brazil might either be boring and win or they will be plain awful, almost as bad the 1990 Brazilian team which had no flair or style.

Technically, the best players in the world are Messi (Argentina), Ronaldo (Portugal), Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and David Villa (Spain), Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie (Holland). These guys exhibit exquisite ball control, precision passing and are capable of beautiful goals. Yet, injury and fatigue will play a part in whether these players can shine. The Dutch trio will once again have that injury question mark over their heads, while Iniesta and Cesc still have to prove their fitness. Ronaldo will be found doing his step overs and dives but it is hard to see him shine in an otherwise average Portuguese side. Messi will be invisible and that will have more to do with Maradona's bizarre selections and formation than anything.

Drogba, Rooney and Torres have proved time and time again that they are the three best strikers in the English league but out of the trio only Drogba is fit and ready to go. Fernando Torres is still injured but if he recovers then he has the ability to show why he is the most complete striker in the world. The extent of Rooney's injury is a mystery. I believe he may be more injured that what is let out but no matter what his situation, he will still take to the field for England. It is impossible to imagine him not playing for the English.

All the 30 member squads for the 32 teams. The squads will have to be trimmed down to 23 come June 1.

Buried in movies...

Back in December I had fully expected to finish watching all my 32 movies from all the world cup countries before the tournament kicked off on June 11. With under a month to go, I still have 10 movies left to watch. I may still be able to meet my target date but it will be close. Thankfully, there are no interesting movies opening in the local cinemas to tempt me away from these world cup films.

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