Give the World Cup a chance - it′s just getting started! | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.06.2010
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Give the World Cup a chance - it's just getting started!

People all over the planet have been grumbling about the 2010 World Cup for a variety of reasons. It's the ball, the altitude, the teams are rubbish. But DW's Nick Amies says that the tournament should be given a chance.

A man sleeps on a chair

The group games have been a snooze but things will improve

If you think back to the great World Cups of the past, how many of them are remembered for the incredible games that lit up the group stage?

More often than not, the early matches which determine who gets to the more exciting knock-out phase are just a means to an end. You have to take the rough with the smooth and watching games like Italy versus Paraguay or France against Uruguay is just a necessary evil one has to endure before you can get to the really tasty clashes.

Accepting that the group stages are going to be cagey affairs - at least at the start, when teams are feeling their way into the tournament - is all part and parcel of enjoying a World Cup. Once you realize that the first couple of weeks are hardly going to be filled by a feast of goals, the whole experience becomes easier to take and you're less disappointed when faced with New Zealand versus Slovakia. You can even find it in your heart to thank the inept competitors for curing your insomnia.

We keep hearing that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has been a bit of a let down so far. It's the ball, they say, it's the altitude, it's the fact that there are too many teams and too many mediocre countries in the competition.

Okay, until recently so there haven't been many goals. And there have been some dire games - and not only those featuring so-called minnows. And yes, on the whole, the performances of teams expected to set the tournament alight - Germany aside - have been hugely disappointing.

Cagey opening games the norm before knock-out rounds

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the World Cup group G soccer match between Ivory Coast and Portugal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Tuesday, June 15, 2010.

Even Cristiano Ronaldo couldn't liven up the cagey Ivory Coast-Portugal stalemate


Consider the context in which we're talking: this is the World Cup. Of course teams should go out there to entertain the billions of fans which are tuning in to watch from every corner of the globe. But the fact is, these teams are in South Africa to win and when valuable points are up for grabs, quantity of goals will always take precedence over quality of play. It's a slightly different kettle of marginally better fish once the knock-out rounds begin.

The first fortnight at any World Cup is all about getting to the second. If you go out there in your first three matches and attempt to blow the opposition away with lightning fast, attacking play, a couple of things can happen.

You can meet a team who can soak up the pressure and then hit you on the break - meaning you can lose. That's three points gone.

Or you could fight as though your life, rather than just qualification, depends on it - leaving broken and tired bodies scattered throughout your squad. This may bring victory on the day but the chances you will line up in your next match without your star players are certainly higher.

Surely then, it's better to approach these early games tactically and earn the chance to show your more cavalier side when you're safely though to the knock-out stages?

Things get more exciting as desperation sets in

Spain's David Villa reacts during the World Cup group H soccer match between Spain and Switzerland at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Wednesday, June 16, 2010.

Countries like Spain can't afford to sit back in their next games, adding to the growing excitement

On average, things do tend to start getting better at World Cups in the second week. If the cagey approach has backfired in the first game, as it has done so far for teams like Spain, Serbia and Italy, then the final two group games take on even more significance and an all-out attack approach must be employed a little earlier. Panic sets in and more teams have to go for it in a bid to remain in the tournament – so be patient.

That said, teams which have done well in their first game still need to secure qualification and so their second games could also be a little on the cautious side. But pitch a group leader on three points against the bottom team on one and see what happens.

The games aside, this World Cup has been up there with the best for atmosphere so far. Forget the vuvuzelas argument: what do you want the South Africans to do? Sing "You'll Never Walk Alone"? Such calls reek of cultural imperialism and should be given short shrift.

Africa has generated a unique experience to date and from all accounts coming out of the host cities, the streets are alive and the world's biggest, most inclusive party is in full swing. If you can't stand the horns then visit one of the many street entrepreneurs who are selling earplugs on every corner. Or if you're at home, turn the sound on the TV down. (Or learn something about your television's sound settings - many newer sets have equalizers that can take the edge off the vuvuzelas' frequency.)

For all the killjoys who say that South Africa 2010 is a wash-out, consider the fact that we are currently in the early stages of the marathon rather than the sprint finish. Everyone is jostling for position, hoping to be part of the lead pack when the breakaway takes place. But now is not that time.

Come June 26th, the wheat will have been separated from the chaff and everyone left in it will be there to win it. Those teams who've won the right to take part in the knock-out clashes will really start playing like their lives depend on it. And it's only then that we'll start seeing the best of players like Messi, Xavi, Rooney and Ronaldo - if they're still in the competition, that is.

Then you'll know where you are - at the World Cup.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann

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