The juggernaut nations need their stars to preform so they don’t follow Italy and France on their ride back home, and here are the six men who need to step up in order for their teams to continue and progress in the 2010 World Cup.
Lionel Messi, Argentina
So, how is the best player in the world doing, after a nearly super-human season? Three matches, three wins, 8 shots on goal, no goals or assists. Argentina are doing fine and Messi should have finished with a hat trick against Nigeria, who enjoyed a super day from Vincent Enyeama, but we want more from this kid, who turned 23 only two days ago. Argentina need more from him – After scoring 47 goals for Barca this season, we deserve more than a few dazzling dribbles and passes. We want goals, and despite the success so far, Argentina’s title hopes rely on his ability to create them.
Frank Lampard, England
After the best season of his career, scoring 27 goals in all competitions for Chelsea, Lampard was supposed to be one of the trio that carries England to glory. Well, we all know that not even Capello can make the Gerrard-Lampard thing work in the middle, so he’s been movin’ Stevie G all around the pitch trying to make things work, and although Gerrard looked much better against Slovenia, Lampard was still a no show, not showing any of the vision and his ability to create threats and opportunities like he has for Chelsea this season. Now it’s Germany, and the midfield battle with Schweinsteiger (doubtful) and Khadeira. England need Rooney, but Rooney looked much better against Slovenia. England must, must have Lampard playing better.
I didn’t like the booing against Brazil in yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Portugal. It was the result both teams wanted and felt comfortable with, but still, Brazil are more than just a team. It’s the “Joga Bonito” illusion created by dozens of magical players along the years. Dunga’s team, despite the talent it possesses, isn’t this type of side. Everything he’s built in the last three years which have been very successful is based on the fact he has Kaka, who is the heart and soul of this team. His ability to orchestrate the counter and the standing attack perfectly, to pick the ball up from the back or the DM’s is vital, and Brazil just don’t have the creativity in midfield to do otherwise. They have wonderful wingers and full backs and a very efficient, although he’s a cheating bastard, of a striker, but the bottom line is – Kaka has to be there for it to work. He’s back from his suspension against the dangerous Chileans, and he needs to look much better than he did for Real and more like the Kaka from before the sending off against the Ivorians.
Fernando Torres, Spain
It has been a rough season for Torres, and it’s showing. He got to training camp still recovering from the injury that set him back so many games with Liverpool, and it seems he hasn’t recovered from it, at least not mentally. Lucky for Spain they have David Villa, but Torres, who has looked awful in the matches against Chile and Honduras, has to start thinking. He’s a little rusty, understandable, but every time he has the ball he chooses the worst option possible, usually an attempt to dribble against two or three defenders. Spain, who haven’t exactly been looking like the “New Brazil” this tournament, need to have the Torres who has scored 72 goals in 116 matches for Liverpool the last three seasons, not the pale version we’ve been watching in South Africa the last couple of weeks. Portugal play a very tight defending game, and one David Villa might not be enough to make it through to the Quarter Finals. Or maybe Del Bosque should just bench Torres.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Oh, Ronaldo. I am one of those who thinks he’s a better player than Messi, but having such a huge ego gets in your way. He played one decent game so far, the 7-0 drubbing of the North Koreans, where he joined the scorers and didn’t seem to enjoy the fact others were until he grabbed the sixth. Against Brazil it was another one-man show, when it was evident the in the few times he did raise his head and look for teammates, Portugal were and are much more dangerous. He’s got so much attention on him, and instead of being the bigger man, the better player, he’s trying to be the only one who’ll decide things for Portugal. With that attitude, it won’t happen. He can do it all, but sometimes it’s better if he focuses on making others better, which is something Ronaldo doesn’t like doing.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands
Eighteen minutes against Cameroon were enough to see the Robben makes the Netherlands much better. After a fantastic season with Bayern (23 Goals in 37 matches), Robben got injured during a warm-up match vs Hungary, leaving him out of the first two matches in Group E. The Dutch managed without him, beating Denmark (2-0) and Japan (1-0), but looked very bad, needing a fluke own goal and the combination of bad goalkeeping and the Jabulani magic in order to get the six points. Robben is the best player they have and probably the only game changer, the one player who breaks out of the mold and creates havoc with the opposing teams and is impossible to keep in check the full 90 minutes. If he’s ready to start, then the Oranje fans have a lot to smile about.