Biggest disappointments

2010-06-22 07:24
It’s the end of the second round of matches of this World Cup, and although there will always be expectations and disappointments in any instances. These I feel, are the biggest disappointing teams thus far:

They never had an easy qualification process, but a lot was still expected of the French national team. Having won the tournament in 1998 as hosts, they were also finalists against Italy at the last world cup 2006 in Germany. Their current performance though is not convincing and is similar to their dismal Korea Japan 2002 World Cup where not only were they unable to advance beyond the group stages as defending world champions, but failed to score a single goal in all their matches.

I still doubt that they can qualify this time around either, but their soccer pedigree would be seriously dented if they lose their final match against the hosts South Africa. With recent developments where the French team boycotting Sunday’s training session and the walkout of one of their team members, it clearly seems that this whole team is getting undone. It would be a real surprise seeing them getting anything now.

This is a team that is always expected to do well in any major tournaments such as the European Championships and World Cups they participate in. For some reason, regardless of how successful their domestic league might be and what great individual players they might have, they never seem capable of translating those performances at the national team level. Since the appointment of Fabio Capello as head coach and their great performances in the qualifications where they qualified with two games to spare and only losing one match whilst scoring 34 goals in the process. It was not a surprise that again they were regarded as one of the favourites to win the World Cup.

After two unconvincing matches against the USA and Algeria so far with both ended in draws, the English team looks far from the world beaters they promised to be at the start of this tournament. They might go on to prove their mantle, but they will have to really start playing as a cohesive unit if they would like to emulate their 1966 team that saw them win the World Cup on home soil. Their biggest criticism will always be the number of foreign players in the English Premier League, relegating most of the English players to the benches of their respective teams.

Without a doubt one of the favourites to actually win this year’s World Cup, although something seems to be missing with this greatly talented Spanish team. With players like Torres, Xavi and Fabregas, there is no doubting the ability of this team. As the reigning European champions and having gone on to record 35 consecutive matches with a record 15 game winning streak, a lot was to be expected from this team.

Things seemed to go a bit undone during the Confederations Cup where their unbeaten run came to end when the United Sates beat them 2 – 0 in the semi-finals. Spain was further rocked by a shock defeat by Switzerland in their first group stage opening match. Sure they are still likely to regain their form and advance to the group of last 16, but this was by far one of the World Cup disappointments. I still question why they only arrived in South Africa 5 days before their first kick-off match, leaving little time to acclimatise and settle in the country.

Regarded as one of the best teams to have never won a World Cup, Portugal is another one of those teams that has great players and is always expected to play well at some point, but never seem to do so.  With talented and skilful players like Christiano Ronaldo and Deco, it’s amazing why they have yet to win any major tournaments. They can still continue to do well in this World Cup since they only drew their first game against Ivory Coast. Being in this World Cup’s “group of death” with Brazil in it, I am yet to be convinced they have what it takes to win it due to their over-reliance on Ronaldo.

Having come to this World Cup as the highest ranked African team by FIFA, a lot was always to be expected from this team in the first World Cup on African soil. There is not much more to say about this team after being the first to be mathematically eliminated from this World Cup after losing both their opening matches to Japan and Denmark and still to meet group leaders Netherlands in their last match. There was no greater disappointment for all African fans that had a lot of faith in The Indomitable Lions.

Along with Cameroon, much focus was also on Nigeria doing well as the second highest ranked African team in this World Cup. They too have been unconvincing and disappointing and will sadly be eliminated as well after losing against Argentina and unimpressive Greece. Although they still have a mathematical chance of advancing to the next round, it will surely be a miracle if they are capable of surmounting that obstacle.

South Africa
I could never end this review without mentioning the hosts South Africa. Having come in as the lowest ranked team in a World Cup ever, a lot was still expected of this team. And having gone 12 matches unbeaten in the build-up to the tournament, even more was expected of Bafana Bafana. They started convincingly in their opening match again Mexico, but displayed a mediocre performance against Uruguay in their second match. This had made it very difficult for them to now advance to the next round with Mexico beating France as well. There is some hope and optimism from many South African’s that they can still qualify from their group, especially with the troubles surrounding the French team with Nicolas Anelka being axed from the team. But any realistic supporter will know that the odds are heavily stacked against South Africa making it through. Here is pride over logic more than anything.

I was not going to include Italy in this list, but after their dismal match against New Zealand on Sunday, I am now inclined to do so. As the current reigning world champions, they were always going to be expected to defend their title and at least make it to the semi-finals if not the finals themselves. OK, they drew their opening match against Paraguay; but we all knew there was more to come from the Azzurri. They are one of those teams that start off slowly and always seem to peak at the right moment. That is why not much was made about their opening match. After drawing to minnows New Zealand and their second match in a row, they better start finding their form soon if they want to successfully defended their title.

It is still fairly early days and with some of these teams still have a chance to redeem themselves and their reputations. This does not mean that their current dismal performances should be accepted. With only one team that can win the World Cup, there were undoubtedly going to be upsets along the way. It was just surprising to see some of these teams do so poorly when they were regarded so highly.

It is fair to say that not all teams will do as expected at the World Cup, but some teams seem to have gone by their business as usual, regardless of controversies surrounding the vuvuzela or the Jabulani ball. These are teams like Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands and Germany, teams who certainly do not belong in this list.

Here’s to hoping for more enterprising and exciting from some of the most rated players and teams in the world.

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