Five days into the world’s biggest and most anticipated sporting event, we are left hopelessly begging our television sets to give us more. More goals, more chances and just more excitement in general.
So far, 26 countries have scored only 20 goals between them in 13 fixtures. With Germany being the only team to have provided anything close to attractive and entertaining football, their impressive 4-0 victory over a rather chaotic Australian side on Sunday has been the only game to feature more than two goals. The rest has passed me by in an increasingly irksome fashion.
In a tournament that has so far seen an average of only one goal every 59 minutes and, what feels like a higher number of mexican waves than attempts on goal, what are the reasons for such a tedious display? and is there anything better on the horizon?
Adidas’ new ball, designed specifically for this World Cup, has been partially blamed for the poor standard of football so far. And the pre-tournament fears that it was too light and did not fly properly, look to have been proved correct as Adidas have already sent scientists to South Africa to undertake further tests on the ball’s flight at altitude (better late than never…).
In my opinion, it is by no coincidence that the only team to have played well at the tournament so far, have been using the Jabulani in their domestic league (from which all the players in the national team hail) for nine months. I refer, of course, to Germany and the Bundesliga.
It is unclear what steps can be taken to counter the apparent problems. With replacing the ball entirely out of the question, it seems that we, the spectators, might have to wait until the multi-million pound footballers manage to work out how the hell to play with it before the standard improves. And that includes goalkeepers too. (mhm… ‘Calamity Green’).
The buzz of the vuvuzelas has become customary, and seems to have replaced, or at least drowned out traditional cheering and singing in the terraces. Whilst their have been calls for a ban on the traditional South African horns, event organizers have so far refused to oblige.
It would be careless and naive to suggest that the vuvuzelas are the cause of poor quality football. Although I have noticed that they do contribute to the air of boredom which has unwelcomely crept into my World Cup viewing.
Imagine, if you will, a situation where you are forced to watch a man doing nothing but pace up and down in a straight line for ninety minutes. Pretty boring eh? Now imagine if that man was constantly humming loudly to himself in a tiresome, monotonous manner. No longer is it just boring, but it begins to materialize into a natural and aggressive annoyance.
I have no doubt that vuvuzelas contribute to a magnificent atmosphere within South Africa’s impressive stadia. But I fear they do not lend themselves to the hundreds of millions watching on television.
Perhaps I am over reacting. After all we are yet to complete the first round of group matches and it could be argued that everything up until now can simply be termed a ‘cagey opener’. However, when presenters, pundits and commentators all begin to use phrases like “it’s just been absolutely dyer” (Andy Townsend – Half time in the Ivory Coast, Portugal match) and “I’m not expecting very much from this game in terms of attacking play” (Mick McCarthy before Italy’s first group game against Paraguay on Monday night) you get the feeling that, so far, the tournament has not quite conformed to the script.
In fact the only thing that has unfolded in line with many people’s pre-tournament expectations is England’s disappointing opening result against the USA on Saturday, and the unsurprising negativity that continues to drone on in the national press as a result.
Still, there is hope. We have reached the time in the tournament when five-time world champions Brazil begin their challenge. And, as is proclaimed every four years at this stage: “the World Cup hasn’t really begun until Brazil kick off their first game.” Everyone is hoping that something special is around the corner. With the South Americans playing a little-known North Korean side this evening, surely even a dodgy ball cannot scupper what promises to be a bucket load of World Cup goals.
Also, with European champions and hot favourites for the tournament Spain in action tomorrow against Switzerland, there is feeling that this World Cup might just wake up as we approach the end of the week. And not before time. Always look at the positives. It cannot get any worse.