A sen­sa­tion of un­cer­tainty

A World Cup where giants have fallen and min­nows fight for a claim, by CÉSAR LUIS MENOTTI.

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

WE now have the teams who have qual­i­fied for the round of the last six­teen: A small group of cer­tain­ties and a larger group of un­cer­tain­ties. Al­though it is cer­tain that these un­cer­tain­ties ex­ist, very lit­tle can be an­a­lysed at this time.

We have a World Cup com­pe­ti­tion in which the knock­out rounds have fin­ished, and we have seen signs and events wor­thy of men­tion. We saw Brazil, for ex­am­ple, em­ploy­ing de­fen­sive tac­tics, but also us­ing their in­born skills, to im­pose their col­lec­tive pres­ence on their op­po­nents, which mark­the­masa­goodteam, but it is a team that doesn’t sparkle and, in ad­di­tion, is vul­ner­a­ble.

Ar­gentina, mean­while, in the favourable po­si­tion of hav­ing met lit­tle op­po­si­tion, im­posed and gen­er­ated not just re­spect but fear in their op­po­nents, squash­ing their ad­ver­saries with sharp at­tack­ing play, ca­pa­ble, but with­out much­col­lec­tive feel­ing in the team. How­ever, they pos­sess an out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual player, Messi, who to­day is mak­ing an amaz­ing dif­fer­ence. With the ball at his feet he gen­er­ates space, dan­ger, dis­or­der. He­can­doany­thing and ev­ery­thing. He has the magic of un­pre­dictabil­ity and ev­ery­thing he does is threat­en­ing, dan­ger­ous.

Spain must demon­strate more clearly, some­thing they al­ready did, that in the face of ad­ver­sity they can de­fend their own style of play, a strat­egy that is more planned and clear, which can ex­cite and move the fans even when the team loses — which hap­pened un­justly in their de­but match.

Ger­many did not keep in mind what was needed to de­velop from the first out­ing, but dis­played the same gen­er­ous hon­esty which his­tory and tra­di­tion de­mands of them, es­pe­cially Ozil and Muller, who are ca­pa­ble of un­bal­anc­ing their op­po­nents, cre­at­ing dis­or­der amongst their ad­ver­saries and are se­cure in and con­vinced of their own skills in the game.

Eng­land, on the other hand, will have to look for the mir­a­cle of be­com­ing a com­pet­i­tive en­tity — not just wear­ing their coun­try’s shirt, but un­der­stand­ing the game. They reached the last 16 round with an enor­mous amount of luck. Eng­land has the play­ers, but what they don’t have is an idea.

Mex­ico fielded its most fluid team to date, if we take into con­sid­er­a­tion their last ap­pear­ances in a World Cup. It is the se­cret in­gre­di­ents of foot­ball, which they pos­sess, which per­mit them to con­tinue mov­ing for­ward.

Hol­land, with the no­bil­ity of old, are play­ing foot­ball that is nour­ished by good skills, con­sci­en­tious plan­ning of tac­tics and a mag­nif­i­cent con­duc­tor in Snei­jder. They have showed some great in­stances of team foot­ball and could still be a can­di­date for hon­ours, see­ing they now have Robben back in the team — that in­ci­sive and dan­ger­ous drib­bler of the ball — who was ab­sent in the first two matches through in­jury.

Ja­pan, Ghana, Paraguay, Uruguay, South Korea, Slo­vakia and the United States will try to shake off their role as pro­tag­o­nists and will fight for recog­ni­tion. But for now they present only an ob­sta­cle on the way to World Cup glory. In an iden­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion is Por­tu­gal, who al­ways looks as if it can progress if it has the op­por­tu­nity to do so.

Progress is, of course, al­ways pos­si­ble, but it is also un­cer­tain. One can­not pre­dict that some­thing new will emerge, oth­er­wise it would not be new. At present this is not imag­in­able.

The un­ex­pected: Italy and its de­cay, al­ready ob­vi­ous in the last World Cup, al­though the team went on to win against France. A ro­man­tic, cre­ative, artis­tic coun­try, it has the re­sources to re­com­pose its foot­ball his­tory if it can only mod­ify its spec­u­la­tive im­age and en­cour­age and save good play­ers. Italy needs to think about the past great­ness of play­ers like Scirea, Mal­dini, Baresi, del Piero, Totti, Cau­sio, An­tognoni, Bet­tega. The way back will be hard.

It is said that recog­ni­tion of the facts de­pends on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the same. It will de­pend on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what has hap­pened to date how great the pos­si­bil­ity is of an im­prove­ment in the level of game. Up to now, we have seen very lit­tle great foot­ball, few out­stand­ing char­ac­ters, few great play­ers, no sur­prises.

Aspe­cial men­tion now­for two out­stand­ing foot­ball play­ers who, be­cause of their po­si­tions, per­haps do not re­ceive the recog­ni­tion they de­serve: Philipp Lahm and Gérard Piqué, the best cen­tral marker I have seen since Franz Beck­en­bauer re­tired.

PHOTO: AP

OUT OF THE SHAD­OWS: While Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro and other

giants suf­fered, min­nows like Slo­vakia have thrived in the 2010

World Cup’s un­pre­dictabil­ity.

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