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