First, England should have gotten that goal. Why the Uruguayan referee didn’t see it will be a subject of heated discussion in England for some time.
Second, it wouldn’t have mattered, really. Germany just tore through England in the second half, and while there was the occasional moment of hope (Lampard’s shot bouncing off the post), there was nothing sustained about the way England were playing. They were just a bunch of very highly paid footballers out there who were unable to adapt to more aggressive playing. And I say this in full appreciation of how England played against Slovenia to get to this round, which was very well. But Germany is a vastly superior team, as should now be clear. This was the form Germany displayed against Australia, which, based on today’s performance, could have given England a good run. So I’m looking for Germany to do well from here on out. Could Germany go all the way? They’re disciplined, they don’t incur unnecessary fouls, they don’t take cheap shots (hey Spain, are you listening?), and they’re young, so they can run like hell, as they did against an increasingly tired looking England side. Granted, England is one of the older teams in the tournament–but that should mean they have the necessary experience to deal with a young attacking team. They didn’t.
Elsewhere, there’s much mourning here in the US (where I currently am) for a US team that got put out by Ghana yesterday. But Ghana was the superior team, and probably should have won by more. Still, kudos to Landon Donovan, who scored more goals than the country of France. But can he keep himself in shape for this event in four years? He’s 28, which means he’ll be 32 then–not unheard of, but not easy either. Ghana, on the other hand, looked impressive. They’re aggressive, big and strong, and will be a challenge for Uruguay, who are a smoother team, but may not be able to keep up.
Germany/Argentina will be a dream match to watch. I’m going with Germany. Yes, Argentina hasn’t lost a match yet, and look to be on good form. But I don’t think they’ve faced a team of the quality of Germany yet. They had a pretty straight run so far. But it will be interesting to see if they can hold up to someone as polished and aggressive as Germany, who won’t let up if they play the way they did today.
Elsewhere, tomorrow we have the Netherlands against Slovakia, which I expect the Netherlands to handle capably. The Dutch remind me of Germany, in fact. Slovakia is big and aggressive, but that won’t be enough. Brazil should have no trouble with Chile, who have surprised so far. I’m not happy about this, by the way–I would love to see Brazil get surprised. They remind me too much of those Argentina teams of not all that long ago who wouldn’t speak to anyone. They play well, certainly, but I would love to see Chile pull an upset. I have no view on Spain/Portugal, not really liking either team. They both play superb European football, and I was very happy to see Spain win the European championship two years ago, when they were a joy to watch. But their boorishness against Honduras I thought was unnecessary–entirely too much of tromping on other players’ feet, and some obvious dives, that sort of thing. I suppose I would like to see a Portugal upset, just to keep things interesting, but I’m not counting on it. And I would love to see Japan scrape by Paraguay, but I don’t see that happening either.
Note that at this point it is still possible that the semi-finalists could all be from South America. No other continent can make that claim. My predictions, as if I knew what I was talking about? Netherlands, Brazil, Paraguay and Spain to the next round. Then we’ve got some great football in store: Germany/Argentina and Netherlands/Brazil should both be great games, and Uruguay/Korea and Paraguay/Japan should at least be entertaining and lively.
Just keep in mind I rarely know what I’m talking about.
The above stamp design, recently discovered, would have been issued had England won the 1970 World Cup. Designed by David Gentleman, it was never issued, of course. Too bad–it’s a really attractive design.