Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 2 Review

Hurrah! England have won their first match! Rejoice!

With 15 minutes played I was beginning to think my prediction of a 2-0 win to England was going to be a little inadequate. Beckham's free kick was flicked into the net by Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra and the entire defence for the South American's was looking completely inept and ill at ease.

Sadly for England, despite dominating the first half with lots of possession, they weren't actually able to fully take advantage of the momentum. No further goals came and Paraguay gradually found their feat with plenty of their own possession in the second half.

England defended well, but offered somewhat less than we'd hoped for in attack. Gerrard and Lampard were confined to long range shots and Crouch and Owen were rather isolated up front, unable to use each other for support when the rare opportunities arose.

Paraguay had their moments, but they were largely kept well at bay by the conscientious defending of Terry and Ferdinand. For my money, though, Ashley Cole still doesn't look match-fit and Gary Neville was... well... Gary Neville.

Still, three points in the bag and England can now look forward to Wednesday's encounter with Trinidad & Tobago who stubbornly refused to be beaten by a lacklustre Sweden side yesterday. While still having many players of undoubted quality, Sweden, it's fair to say, are now a shadow of their former selves.

Trinidad & Tobago looked a little ragged round the edges, but they were content to try and play a quick attacking game which, had it not been for some better shooting, could have resulted in a couple of goals. The Swedish defence held on, however, but one can't help thinking they must have had an easier time of things than their opposite number at the other end.

Shaka Hislop's display in goal for the Caribbeans undoubtedly earned them the point they deserved. I personally thought he was the man of the match, but FIFA thought better of it and gave the award to Hislop's team-mate Dwight Yorke. To be fair, the ex-Man United striker did orchestrate his team well on the day and should perform similarly well in the England match next week. I've got a feeling Trinidad & Tobago will prove they're a different proposition from Jamaica altogether, and Sven Goran Eriksson will do well to realise that...

The last game of Day 2 saw Argentina face Ivory Coast in 'The Group of Death'. Through most of the match, Argentina looked slick, competent and skilful, scoring two goals before Half Time thanks to Crespo and Saviola. The Africans weren't to be outshone, however, and often showed a dogged determination to attack when the chance arose. Sadly they too suffered from a lack of sufficient fire power up front, although a late goal from Didier Drogba did provide some late hope of an upset.

As expected, Argentina took all three points, but Holland won't be expecting a walk-over when they meet Ivory Coast next week. As for Argentina, they've begun their campaign in a confident mood and look good enough to reach the latter stages of the competition, in my book.

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