Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup: Has the rest of the world caught up to Europe?

The collective record of the best European teams at this World Cup so far is dreadful:

Team - W-D-L
France: 0-1-1
England: 0-2-0
Germany: 1-0-1
Netherlands 2-0-0
Italy: 0-2-0
Portugal: 0-1-0
Spain: 0-0-1

for a combined record of 3 wins, 6 draws and 3 losses. If you consider that neither of the Netherlands' wins have been convincing, you're left with one solid win from 12 matches. This could be seen as a crisis of continental proportions.

What it is is boring. Only Germany in their first match (and maybe the Dutch in theirs) were adventurous and attacked with skill, flair and intent. Other than that it's been boring, boring football from Europe's leading football powers.

I wonder if it hasn't become more about minimizing the damage to a team's reputation than anything else. It is so damaging to lose that teams don't venture forward in numbers, or they try to control the game as much as possible, with possession more important than chances on net.

Most of these teams still have good chances of going through to the Round of 16. France are almost certainly going home and the Dutch are already through. With wins in their next matches England, Italy and Germany will progress. Portugal and Spain have only played one each, so it's harder to judge, but both could struggle.

It would be interesting to compare this to other World Cups. My memory of team records isn't great, so I don't know if this is an anomaly or if it happens every World Cup. What is obvious is that teams like Paraguay, Mexico and Chile seem to have narrowed the distance between themselves and the traditional European footballing powers. Depending on how the next few games go, we might even be talking about how they have been surpassed.

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