The Antagonist - World Cup 2010 has been anything but predictable

By 09 July 2010 06:26

As the Monty Python crew once commented, "Nobody expects the Spanish capitulation" (or was it "inquisition"?)

If there has been one constant in this World Cup, it has been the general belief that the Spanish would play through their turgid form at the start of the competition and show us their true colours when it really mattered.

They have stuttered and spluttered at times but maintained the belief in their passing and possession game, eventually breaking down a gutsy performance by Germany, ironically from a set piece, to reach their first ever World Cup Final and ensure a new name on the trophy.

In most of our minds, Brazil and Spain were stand out favourites with England a good outside bet. Indeed, the Guardian's experts' pre-tournament predictions on the 10th June strongly favoured the Spanish to reach the final, with seven of the 12 consulted ticking their box, whilst only one had the temerity to go for the Dutch as their opponents.

- Webb to referee final / Blatter rules out penalty goals

Only the spookily clairvoyant Sports Editor, Sean Ingle, was spot on with Spain and Holland as his chosen teams. Interestingly he followed this up by predicting that England would get knocked out in the second round, David Villa would get the golden boot and that the biggest controversy would be the lack of video replays. 100% success rate is now a likely outcome.

Go to the top of the class Sean! My point is that Sean Ingle is very much an enigma in the prediction stakes and, apart from the general consensus of opinion about Spain, the rest of us really hadn't got a clue about the patterns that this World Cup would weave.

As a rather cruel example, for which I am sure he won't thank me, the Guardian's chief football correspondent, Kevin McCarra, forecasted a Brazil/Argentina final, England to reach the semis, Denmark to be the dark horses, Wayne Rooney to win the Golden Boot and the game to most look forward to would be Brazil v Ivory Coast. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

In defence of our Kev, no one could have anticipated the uninspiring performances of Torres, Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney and Kaka whilst Miroslav Klose, who had barely managed three goals all season for his club, ended up competing for the Golden Boot award with David Villa.

Who would have picked out Ghana to be the most successful of the African nations or earmarked both of the last World Cup finalists, France and Italy, to be two of the teams returning home after the group stage?

Who would have expected to see Uruguay, a country with a total population of less than half the size of London and with only two players approaching world class in their ranks, reach the semi-finals? And who would have believed that a team of spotty Teutonic adolescents, barely out of short trousers, could have been within touching distance of a World Cup Final?

At least Alan Hansen's prophetic statement, "you don't win anything with kids", just about holds water on this occasion.

Even when the tournament passed through the initial group stage, and the experts were waxing lyrical about the strength of the South American countries compared to the waning power of the European contingent, they were made to eat their words when, one by one, the Latinos were blasted out of sight by the Germans, the Dutch and the Spanish leaving only Uruguay left to vainly contest the semis.

Somehow other sports are less unpredictable. I mean, no one seriously expected Andy Murray to beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon did they? Did the Welsh rugby union XV really have a prayer against the All Blacks on their recent tour? Can England possibly retain the Ashes in Australia? I don't think so (fair point on the tennis and rugger Antagonist, but England can definitely do the Australians down under this time - ED)

It is the uncertainty and unpredictability of tournament football that makes it so engrossing, if, at times, for an England supporter, so frustrating.

So, I am leaving all predictions about Sunday's match to the renowned expert Paul the octopus who, once again, was correct in his prediction of a Spanish victory on Wednesday.

Let's hope it keeps him out of the pot for a few more days because I have the feeling that once it's all over he won't have a leg to stand on.

PS - What a relief to be spared the pedantic comments of Jim Beglin during the first semi-final when, fortunately for us, due to an ear infection, he failed to make it to the ground. It was a real pleasure to go back to the old days when you had one commentator and were trusted to make up your own mind about the action in front of you. If the BBC is trying to save money it should take note and follow suit!

Source: DSG

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