Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup notes ... by gimleteye

The World Cup divides according to unpredictable team performances at the start that distill the best, advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament. What starts out as nervous team play quickly reveals team character. Argentina may still find 100 ways to lose, but so far the team that wouldn't start Lionel Messi four years ago has found the discipline to keep him the focus of the offense, and he, the ability to be a brilliant playmaker slightly behind other talented stars eager to score. You cannot teach that level of talent. It is there. It must be teased out, and if Maradonna succeeds it will be one of the quirkiest triumphs in football history. In contrast, the British star Wayne Rooney looks lost as a five year old in the Underground. 0-0, with Algeria. Ouch. It was painful to watch, as all England's flaws were naked. The division between the teams is marked by those who are extraordinarily well prepared, as teams-- both Koreas and Japan have played quite well, and the US too-- and those whose stars are reconstituted all-stars from first division teams in Europe. Maybe it is just the case that British football cannot produce first-rate talent. Surely the coaching must come into play. But why can't England can't come up with a coach to coax the talent out? The pressure on England can't be greater than in Brazil, obsessed with the beautiful game. The Brazilian stars seem to weave together seamlessly, the lesser known lights shining alongside the superstars; not only playing with sublime skills but tactically, too, to match and exceed the Europeans. It is all a mystery how this level of play happens, and one of the great reasons the World Cup is the best sporting event on the planet.

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