Musings on the World Cup Thus FarBy: Joshua | June 23rd, 2010
As the domestic leagues take a backseat to the action in South Africa this month, I wanted to take some time and comment about the Sevilla players in the World Cup and their performances thus far. Please feel free to agree or disagree, as this article is mostly opinion.
I wanted to start with France, as the drama of this squad has reached epic proportions over the past few days. France were horrid in this world cup, but I can’t help but comment on how proud I was of Squillaci throughout the France games. His main accomplishment this week might be that I saw him mentioned relatively little in the articles about the French National Team’s dramatic self destruction. He wasn’t singled out, like Gourcuff, and was reportedly against the training boycott, as pointed out by Sarah in her post on the France World Cup Blog. A few key highlights of this post are quoted below:
• Gourcuff is dropped from the starting XI vs Mexico- reportedly because his teammates won’t pass the ball to him. He is replaced by Malouda.
• The France team travels to the training grounds but refuses to train. The players arrive without shoes, indicating they had no intention of ever training. When Patrice Evra explains this to a member of the training staff, he and the staff member have to be pulled apart by Domenech as they get into a fight in front of the press.
• Le Parisien reports that a dozen players on the team did not support the boycott which the paper suggests that Abidal, Gallas and Malouda spearheaded. Though the paper indicates a dozen players were not comfortable with the idea, they only list Gourcuff, Lloris, Mandanda and Valbuena as opposing the idea. L’Equipe suggests the players against the strike included Lloris, Govou, Mandanda, Clichy, Squillaci, Sagna, Diarra, Gourcuff, Malouda, Valbuena and Toulalan.
A translated portion of the Le Parisien article is also found below:
If the sling has been conducted by Abidal, Gallas, Malouda, a dozen players among them Mandanda, Lloris, Valbuena and Gourcuff were not favorable. But they are silent. “Some came in the room and Raymond in the evening and were in tears,” said Henri Monteil, general secretary of FFF “Charente free”, confirming that this decision was not shared by everyone.
On the field Squillaci has been a staunch defensive presence. He started the last game against South Africa, and was one of the few solid players in an otherwise horrible French showing; however, it is those events off the field I will give him the most credit for. It is hard to be one of the few opposing the action of the team captain, and his silence is the matter—while not ideal—is understandable. I am just happy to see he was against this training boycott in the long run, and that he was able to avoid much of the drama the enveloped most of the rest of the French squad.
Squillaci had this to say of his World Cup experience:
“This campaign will leave marks,” explained Squillaci. “We can only blame ourselves.” The question now is what state incoming coach Laurent Blanc will find the team in when he takes over in July. Out-thought tactically, lacking conviction and unable to impress on the pitch, the players must quickly face up to their failings.
They could also benefit from recalling some forgotten values, as brought back to mind by Squillaci. “It’s an indescribable feeling to wear the France shirt and sing La Marseillaise,” he said. “Playing in a World Cup was a childhood dream for me. As long as I’m still called upon to play for the national team, I’ll be ready.” A little more of that same desire would have served Les Bleus well in South Africa.
I really don’t have much to say here. Zokora hasn’t impressed me much this World Cup. With all of his caps, and his impressive nickname, I just can’t help but feel he hasn’t been the leader that the Elephants needed this time around. After two games, the Ivory Coast remains at 1 point with a -2 goal differential. Even with a win in the next game, and a Portugal loss, the Elephants would need Brazil to deliver a beat down to Portugal—while winning handily themselves—to hope to advance. I just can’t see this working out to their advantage.
Zokora has never been a huge goal scorer, for club or country, but he is a well-respected defensive midfielder known for his leadership skills, and tough challenges. Watching the Ivory Coast games, that passion he usually exudes hasn’t been seen, like in 2006, and at times I have hardly remembered he was even on the pitch.
I could really just repeat what I said of Zokora here. Romaric has provided only one shot on goal this tournament for the Ivory Coast. I haven’t seen the creativity I am accustomed to from him, and I can’t help but feel that this is one of the reasons the Ivory Coast midfielders have thus far been unable to put forth many chances for their strikers.
He was planning on the world cup being a stage for his return to form, and so far that has not really happened. It is good to see him healthy though.
Fabiano has been just as hard working and dangerous as ever in this World Cup. He always puts forth a great performance for his country, and currently has 2 goals in 2 games for Brazil. He sits in the sixth position for the Golden Boot, and will have a chance to improve that position in the next game and in the round of 16.
However, O Fabuloso had his own Thierry Henry moment in the last game when he handled a ball twice before putting it in the net. The ref asked him if he had played it off his chest, which can be seen in some highlight videos, and Fabiano seemed to confirm the referee’s scenario when questioned. Not one of my favorite moments of his, but it is rare that a player actually admits to handling a ball if the referee doesn’t call it. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in our striker at that moment.
Despite his lack of accuracy in the last game, Navas has still been great for Spain in this World Cup. He began as a late sub in the warm-up matches leading up to the world cup, and has moved into a starting role in the last match.
While Phil Ball and I apparently disagree, Navas is not entirely at fault for some of his crosses failing to connect. It is his job to put the ball in play for the strikers, and it is the strikers job to be there to receive that ball. To be fair, Spain has yet to put forth a striker that has that killer instinct in this World Cup, and some of Navas’s crosses have failed to connect due to that—others have just been poor crosses.
The threat he brings forth from the right side has often forced a second defender toward him and opened up room on the left. He has put a lot of crosses into the box this World Cup, and I suspect a few more of those will connect for Spain making people forget about the poor ones.
Navas has looked comfortable for La Furia Roja, and his accuracy will improve. He has been a spark for Spain from the bench, and I don’t blame Del Bosque for giving him more playing time. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out, but I think the right side attack (Navas and Ramos) for Spain has served them well when other options proved less fruitful. Improvements in finishing will see fewer rumblings about cross accuracy, as Jesús gains more confidence playing on this stage with this team.