Six days into the World Cup, after all 32 nations played their opening matches and Uruguay and South Africa got to play their second, I’m proud to say we finally had a day to enjoy from beginning to end. Chile dominated Honduras showing some great passing and trickery, especially from Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez, although the finishing could be better. Honduras? Hardly able to create a chance.
Spain came in to the tournament as the big favorites to win, but maybe the favorite hat doesn’t fit the European Champions, who had their chances but just couldn’t break through the Swiss wall. Hitzfeld’s boys didn’t need too many chances, and in about their first opportunity got the winner, one of the bigger upsets in recent World Cup History.
And a shame for the South Africans, who probably won’t make it to the next round, as expected. Uruguay didn’t hold out against the hosts, with Tabarez opening with three strikers and sending many fans home early with a decisive 3-0 win.
Jean Beausejour scored Chile’s only goal, who did everything right throughout the match, dominating from top to bottom, with Jorge Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez providing most of the danger and flair for Bielsa’s team. It was Chile’s first World Cup win away from South American soil, last one coming in 1962. After Spain’s loss to Switzerland, who knows, but Chile could be sorry for beating the very weak Hondurans only 1-0.
On to the big favorites, Spain, who were stunned by a breakaway Gelson Fernandes goal in the opening minutes of the second half, as the Spanish defense looked totally confused on a rare Swiss attack. Del Bosque started without Torres, but there’s a good chance he learned from today.
When Spain play with two strikers they’re much more dangerous, and against a tight defense like the one led by Stephan Lichtsteiner, he needs more creativity and offensive weapons. David Villa didn’t seem to find a comfort zone, and David Silva, instead of creating chances was on the finishing end too many times. Switzerland, as expected, didn’t produce too much offense, but continued their fantastic World Cup defensive record, after not conceding once in regular play during the 2006 tournament.
South Africa fooled us on the opening day – making me believe that despite their lack of quality players, the home crowd and enthusiasm could carry them against mediocre opponents, like the soft Mexicans. Not against Uruguay. Tabarez’ group are very direct – they have a tenacious D and a very hard working midfield, led by the fantastic Diego Perez.
The ball hardly goes through the middle, skipping straight to Forlan, Suarez and Cavani who got his first start. The three strikers line up worked perfectly, while the back had no problem handling the South Africans.
Diego Forlan opened the scoring with a brilliant long range shot, helped a little by a South African back. In the second half it was Suarez who carried the load on his back, getting a penalty after diving, aided by a slight touch from the African keeper, Khune, who has probably ended his World Cup experience after getting sent off and Forlan converting another penalty.
Suarez, who troubled the Bafana defenders all day, got another assist, setting up Alvaro Pereira’s 90th minute goal. Forlan became the first player in this tournament to score two goals in one match.
1. Chile, 3 points (1-0)
2. Switzerland, 3 points (1-0)
3. Honduras, 0 points (0-1)
4. Spain, 0 points (0-1)
1. Uruguay, 4 points (3-0)
2. Mexico, 1 point (1-1)
3. France, 1 point (0-0)
4. South Africa, 1 point (1-4)
* Uruguay and South Africa have played two matches while France and Mexico play their second game tomorrow.
1. Diego Forlan (Uruguay), 2 Goals
2. 25 player with one goal, one own goal
Picture of the Day
Fans of the Day – Uruguay
What We’ve Learned
Chile – One of the more enjoyable sides to watch, blessed with excellent dribblers and tons of technique, but lacks a finishing touch. Although Honduras aren’t exactly a powerhouse, Chile should be pleased with their play, especially with Sanchez and Valdivia.
Honduras – Have nothing to sell. Should be happy with just being here. Maybe if David Suazo was in the lineup (injury), would have a better shot. Right now looking like 0 points when it’s all said and done.
Spain – Del Bosque might have complained about Switzerland’s tactics, but he should look at his. Inferior teams are going to play defensively, no matter how much people complain, they’re not here to lose. Del Bosque should have started with a partner next to Villa, relieving either Iniesta or Silva. The passing and flair were there, just not the finishing. They were a tad unlucky, but I think 4-4-2 suits Spain better.
Switzerland – Hitzfeld built a grand bunker, and his game plan worked perfectly. He got lucky on his break, with Derdiyok drop kicking Pique before the goal, but he wasn’t far from making it 2-0 after a brilliant slalom. His team looks solid to go through, having passed the toughest test.
Uruguay – Exactly how I imagined Tabarez’ team before the tournament. Great strikers and a solid everything else. Against France they played cautiously, against South Africa there was no need. Suarez was excellent as a second striker, Forlan was sharp, like he has been all year for Atletico and Cavani’s addition was a great move against a fragile South African side. Diego Perez ruled the middle, playing his destroyer role perfectly.
South Africa – Carlos Alberto Perreira looked on his bench and didn’t have anything in his arsenal. Enthusiasm can carry you only so far, and South Africa’s passion died after Forlan’s opener. Unless Mexico and France draw tomorrow, it seems the host nation is out.
Argentina – South Korea – Maradona’s side are favorites, but the Parks’ impressed against Greece, and this doesn’t look like an easy win, not by a mile. Expect the Koreans to stay on their heels, hoping to counter. As always, Messi’s day will decide how this ends.
Greece – Nigeria – A must win for both teams if they want to have a chance of making it to the last 16. Greece don’t seem to have the firepower to get more than a draw. Nigeria? They had their moments against Argentina, and if Odemwingie opens tomorrow, expect him to be the key factor of Nigeria’s potential success.
France – Mexico – After Uruguay’s 3-0 crushing of South Africa, a win here for any side will finish South Africa’s hopes. Mexico had decent moments in the opening match but faded away in the second half. Starting with Guardado will be a good move for Aguirre. France? Domenech can do pretty much anything and I wouldn’t be surprised. Smart move? Take out Govou and start with Henry or Gignac, letting Anelka feel free and stroll on the flanks and not get stuck in the middle.