Today heralded the arrival of attacking football, with Group H's Spain, tournament co-favorite, and Chile getting their campaigns underway. The second Group A match, which pitted the positive host South Africa against a Uruguay team that needed to come out of its shell, also looked likely to give things a kick up the backside.
Chile kept its side of the bargain with ceaseless waves of attack, overwhelming Honduras as much as any side can be said to overwhelm a side while winning 1-0. Three-quarters of its shots might have been off target, but the Chileans peppered
The game everybody was waiting for, however, was Spain's meeting with Switzerland. Chile showed adventure but a quality final touch was often missing -- something we were counting on Spain to have to spare. But, though Spain had 63 percent of possession (it seemed like much more) and stroked some nice passes around, Chile beat it for neat, quick, attacking football; Uruguay beat it for penetration. Switzerland packed two rows of four in front of its penalty area and forced Spain to come up with a plan B.
But it never materialized and five minutes into the second half, the Swiss bundled home a messy goal after goalkeeper
We're still scratching our heads trying to work out why
One of -- if not the -- finest attacking nation was surprisingly comfortably held by a team with an earnest defense, who no one imagined would resist Spain's advances for 95 minutes. The even bigger surprise was that Switzerland seemed to get better as the game went on, growing in confidence after penetrating a Spanish defense that had hardly had a thing to do in the first half. I, like so many others, bemoaned the Swiss defensiveness as a primary tactic, so it was pleasing to see
Boo! The ball's rubbish, no one's scored from distance, moan, whinge. No matter how much paint Forlan's
Question marks over whether Vicente del Bosque got it right today. It may sound silly -- had Switzerland made a mistake, you fancy Spain would have pounced on it -- but given how tough his team found it to get through or even around the Swiss back line, waiting until the hour mark to bring off Sergio Busquets is a move worth debating. Busquets, playing behind Xavi and the already defense-minded Xabi Alonso, was surplus to requirements -- the Swiss bypassed the midfield in any case when they scored. Andres Iniesta played 77 minutes but was only occasionally at his sparkling best. No doubt del Bosque felt, like the rest of us, that a Spanish goal was only a matter of time, but an instant reaction to Switzerland's 50th-minute goal might have done the trick. Having Navas
"We all know how the French are, and Platini is French, and he thinks he is better than the rest" --
At the end of the first 16 matches in South Africa, the goals average stood at a measly 1.56. If you take out Germany's 4-0 destruction of Australia, that drops to 1.4 goals per game.
Argentina will play without
Greece will get a boost in defence with the return of
First out of the blocks tomorrow will be Argentina and South Korea, current leaders of Group B.
The meeting between Greece and Nigeria is a must-win match for both if either is to make a dent on Argentina and South Korea's ambitions. Nigeria, which has already got Maradona's team out of the way, looks the stronger and has promised to chase a win. The lackluster display with which Greece began the tournament suggests Nigerian goalkeeper
The day finishes with France vs. Mexico, a game that Mexican forward