The past three days’ matches in South Africa have certainly provided action, talking points and controversies. The start of the second round of group matches seemed to signal an upward shift in the quality in terms of how exciting they were to watch, however England and Algeria did try to buck the trend. Firstly, on Thursday, Mexico provided the second shock result of the tournament with a 2-0 win over France. The second Mexican goal was the result of a penalty, that was a bit dodgy, to say the least, although from where I was watching the game the general consensus was that no-one cared after the circumstances surrounding France’s qualification methods. The result means France could beat hosts South Africa and yet still be eliminated from the tournament next week, should Mexico and Uruguay draw.
Earlier in that day, Argentina showed their class again, with a convincing win over the South Koreans, Higuain capping the display with an impressive hat trick. Nigeria’s Sani Kaita introduced his nomination for the ‘Most Stupid Way to get Yourself Sent Off Award’ with a quite blatant kick at a Greece player, with Greece later going on to win 2-1 and virtually eliminate Nigeria from the tournament.
Friday saw two shock results, although maybe for some people the England result wasn’t a shock, considering the performance last week. In the two earlier games, two big refereeing decisions were questioned. Germany had Miroslav Klose dismissed after collecting two yellow cards in a game that seemed to be played with the added rule that any foul was a booking. The Germans, who had looked so impressive last week against Australia, were contained by a resilient Serbia team, who went on to win the match 1-0 after Lukas Podolski’s poor penalty was saved. USA versus Slovenia didn’t really sound like it was going to be a classic, but how wrong we were. Possibly one of the most entertaining matches so far, both teams put in decent performances, with the USA coming back from two goals down and putting the ball in the net for a thirdwith just five minutes remaining. Instead of allowing the goal, however, or perhaps awarding America a penalty for the various incidents of wrestling holds by the Slovenian defenders, the referee disallowed the goal for something no-one else but himself seemed to witness, resulting in a 2-2 draw.
It may seem silly to have left the England game till last in this piece, but quite frankly that’s were that display belongs, at the bottom somewhere. In a game where ITV were so bored they repeatedly showed footage of a bird making itself comfy on the goal, England just didn’t turn up. Mr Rooney’s sarcastic comments at the end didn’t particularly do himself any favours either. These fans will have paid thousands of pounds to go and support the team, and when they are greeted a performance that poor, they have every right to vent their frustration. So come on Wayne… pull your finger out, maybe if you actually turn up and put in a performance, the fans might just change their opinion. Maybe the only positive on the night was Jamie Carragher picking up a yellow card, meaning he and his snail like pace will be unavailable for the match next week. As it stands, though, even if England defeat the might of Slovenia, the team could be home this time next week, to face the wrath of the British media and the supporters.