Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Feature: World Cup Tomorrow

In honor of the 2010 World Cup, we’ve decided to launch "World Cup Tomorrow", the latest in our line of temporary permanent features (though, at this point I guess you could say that the Daily Super Bowl Hype Meme has transitioned from a temporary permanent feature into a permanent temporary feature. But I digress.)

Because the time-shifted schedule for the matches in South Africa makes it difficult to provide meaningful previews or reviews of a given day’s action, we’ve decided to instead put up a preview of the next day’s games. This approach has the advantage of sidestepping the timing issues, and also ensures that we can’t make any factual errors about the games, because they won’t actually have happened yet.

Confused? Excellent! Then let’s plunge ahead with a look at the games on tap tomorrow, Friday, June 11th.

South Africa v. Mexico (Group A, 10:00 AM ET)

Beginning with last summer’s Confederations Cup, South Africa put up nearly a full calendar year’s worth of uninspired football. The team didn’t even qualify for participation in the 2010 African Cup of Nations, and managed to draw consecutive home friendlies against powerhouses Namibia, Paraguay, and South Africa this spring.

But recently (and just in the nick of time), the Bafana Bafana have shown signs of friskiness, sandwiching close wins over Colombia and Denmark around a 5-0 whitewashing of a Guatemalan team who can’t have been happy about flying 2/3 of the way across the world just to get waxed. Combine that good recent form with the traditional bump that host nations get, especially on opening day, and all of a sudden there’s a chance for this match to get interesting.

That said, Mexico are still by far the more talented side--only SA’s Everton midfielder Stephen Pienaar would be a lock to see the field for Mexico. Mexico have had nice results recently as well, beating holders Italy 2-1 on a neutral field, and enduring a superficially bad 3-1 loss at England where Mexico actually carried the play for large parts of that game. The team has shown a commitment to attacking football (playing an offensive-minded 4-3-3 formation) that stands in stark contrast to some recent Mexican teams who featured a ratio of 3 kicks at the ball for every 2 kicks at an opposing player.

There’s still some lingering controversy about whether to go with experience or youth up front (Guillermo Franco v. recent Manchester United signee Javier Hernandez) and in goal (doesn’t matter; they both kind of suck). But shy of that, Mexico come in to the Word Cup in great shape. Honestly, if not for the vuvuzela-based crowd bounce for SA, Mexico would be heavy favorites. As it stands…?

Prediction: Mexico 2-1 South Africa. Game is tied at halftime, but class tells once the vuvuzelas drop out of hypergear.

Uruguay v. France (Group A, 2:30 PM ET)

A much less sexy matchup, but one with the possibility of producing a fun outcome because both teams are better up front than they are at the back.

France feature a slightly unusual attacking midfield trio of Franck Ribery (whose glamour shot is at right), Florent Malouda, and Yoann Gourcouff playing just behind a lone striker in Nicolas Anelka. That’s pretty good on paper, though it hasn’t translated to the field recently, where the French scored a total of 1 goal in two matches against Tunisia and China. At the back, France really only have one natural central defender, which is a problem given that their formation calls for two. They also have about 11 left-side defenders, but no natural right-side guy.

Uruguay can expect to exploit those issues at the back, given the strength of their strikers. Diego Forlan has blossomed into one of the better goal scorers in the Spanish Liga, and Luis Suarez, who showed this year that he’s probably too good for the Dutch league. The problem is that those guys might not get much in the way of service, because Uruguay tend to curl up into a pretty defensive formation on the field. That might be because their starting goalkeeper is a guy who was third-string for a middling English team this year. In any event, if you’re just rooting for a good game, pull hard for an early French goal, which will pull Uruguay out of its shell, and might tip off an unexpected goal fest.

Prediction: France 0-0 Uruguay. The early goal never comes, and nobody does nothing nohow.


El Angelo said...

That photo of Ribery almost made my breakfast reappear on my desk. Thanks.

Teddy said...

The man is the single greatest argument ever created in favor of a return to standard-def TV broadcasts.

El Angelo said...

The man is a great argument for radio coverage of all of France's games.