The World Cup of upsets

What’s up with all the “strong” teams? So far, Argentina’s the only team that impressed in both of its matches. Germany started out extremely well before falling to Serbia; Italy’s just about managed to draw both of its games against Paraguay and New Zealand; England gave away a goal to the US and couldn’t find the back of the Algerian net; Portugal drew nil-nil with Ivory Coast; France is almost certainly on its way home; Brazilian magic worked mainly in the second half; and Spain crashed and burned against Switzerland!

None of the footballing stars have been able to really control the Jabulani ball, and goal keepers haven’t been able to always predict its trajectory. The most successful goalkeepers in this World Cup have been the ones that have punched the ball out instead of trying to catch it, and commentators’ favorite line has been “the ball was too long and went out of play.” The number of times that crosses fly over the penalty box and shots go into the stands is only increasing. Have the best players in the world suddenly forgotten how to play? Or is the reason for all of these gaffes the Jabulani ball, with which players are unfamiliar with, and which England boss Fabio Capello describes as “the worst ball” ever?

It might be sensible to bring the best stars in the world to play in winter conditions, on high altitude, on porous pitches (those in Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Rustenburg are more suitable for planting potatoes or accommodating homeless moles), and deafen them with vuvuzelas. After all, Sepp has always promised to bring the World Cup to Africa. But to make those stars play with a completely new ball on the biggest stage in the world is more than outrageous. That kind of decision shows total lack of respect for all involved – the players, the fans, the World Cup and the game as a whole. (you can read the entire article on

But then how do you explain how Maradona floated a beautiful free-kick into the net during practice? It simply demonstrates that the best players keepers are the ones that adapt the quickest to the way a ball reacts, particularly at altitude.

So maybe the fault doesn’t lie in the Jabulani ball; maybe it’s just first-round fears, with many of the teams paralyzed at the thought of being on the back foot after a match. As the teams get into a more “do or die” situation, chances are we’ll see some world class football once again. If you saw Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast yesterday night, you’d know what I was talking about!

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