16 June 2010

World Cup 2010, Match Day 6

Here's a first for this cup: Nine points available, nine points earned! That is, there was a victor in all three matches.

Chile 1:0 Honduras — I slept in. No grades.

Spain 0:1 Switzerland — Oh my. The Spanish fragility and inability to come back from adversity rose up to bite them after going behind. This is, obviously, the first big upset of this Cup. Interestingly enough, the real man of the match for Switzerland was not the goalkeeper; it's not that Benaglio didn't have an excellent match, but that Stephan Lichtsteiner and Reto Ziegler were truly outstanding in front of him.

For a tactics afficionado, this was a nice demonstration of the power of intelligent defensive tactics in front of a spot-on goalkeeper. Spain did not play badly; even the goal surrended to the Swiss counterattack was properly defended on the first ball (and a defender was just a hair slow reacting to a deflection that turned the goal into a tap-in). Time after time, the center of the Swiss defense cut out the second-to-last ball before it became truly threatening, which kept the goalkeeper's workload manageable. Spain would perhaps have benefitted from more switching of play across the wings, but the personnel on the field weren't really optimized for that in the first place. (Indeed, it's arguable that there are only three or four teams at this tournament that are equally threatening on both wings: Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, and maybe the US.) Meanwhile, the officials managed to remain almost completely anonymous, and yet again in a good way. B-/A/A-.

And with that, the first matches for all teams are now complete. Only the Spain–Switzerland result is a true surprise; perhaps some eyebrows would be raised by a couple of others (in particular, New Zealand earning its first-ever point), but that's it. That said, none of the results were "undeserved."

On to the second matches in the group stage.

South Africa 0:3 Uruguary — This match had more than a bit of zombie to it, as somebody had clearly eaten Parreira's brain with his tactical setup... and things went downhill from there as the RSA team piled little mental errors on top of that, culminating in a needless penalty-plus-ejection by the keeper (who had played pretty well up to that point, even if looking a bit shaky at times). C-/B+/B+