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The Libero - Time for World Cup 2010 to roar into life

Published: 16 Jun 2010 - 07:05:09

With this World Cup in danger of becoming the least exciting ever, what was needed was a rip-roaring start to the Group of Death as Ivory Coast took on Portugal. Unfortunately, what we got was a thorough disappointment - and largely in keeping with what has been served up previously over the past six days.

Not even the attacking might of Didier Drogba, nor the artistry of Cristiano Ronaldo could prevent a dull, drab and goalless draw in Port Elizabeth, which saw just two efforts registered on target throughout the 90 minutes.

Yet, as much as a goal-fest had been hoped for at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, we should not have been surprised by the outcome - cagey, defensive affairs devoid of flair or creativity have been par for the course in most opening games at the tournament.

With the exception of Germany - and possibly Argentina, although even they only managed to score once - no team has yet been able to stand out as an attacking force of any authority. Even the Netherlands' 2-0 win over Denmark failed to convince, while Brazil struggled to break down a militarily well-organised Korea DPR defence in their 2-1 victory.

- New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia
- Portugal 0-0 Ivory Coast
- Brazil 2-1 Korea DPR

Indeed, aside from the Germans, Dutch and Brazilians, the only other team to have troubled the scorekeepers more than once has been Korea Republic, in their 2-0 win over a dire Greece side.

Now, the Libero never excelled in maths at school, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that a total of just 23 goals in 14 matches does not equal even two goals per game - less than the worst tournament average to date of 2.21 at Italia '90.

Nor do the lack of goals make for entertaining viewing. And when many of those scored have been the result of a horrendous goalkeeping error, poor defending or a player putting into his own net, the criticism is perhaps understandable.

But all is not lost.

Major tournaments can be slow to get going, with a team's absolute desire to avoid losing their first game overriding their need to actually win it. Defeat in the opener can have disastrous consequences in terms of getting out of the group, yet a draw - no matter how dull and uninspiring - very much keeps hopes alive.

Sometimes, as we are witnessing with regularity in South Africa, coaches are simply not willing to take a gamble in that first match; hence the abundance of draws, lack of goals and claims of a boring tournament.

But that is not to say things will not pick up when the second wave of matches commence later today with the hosts South Africa playing Uruguay in Pretoria.

One game in, having acclimatised to the local conditions and spent more time together as a squad, this round of matches should herald a more entertaining brand of football as teams go out looking for victory and all three points that will put one foot in the next round.

And lest we forget that European champions Spain have not played yet. Their afternoon clash with Switzerland today will complete the first round of games and with Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres both having been declared fit, perhaps finally we will get to see the kind of entertainment we crave.

READ THE LIBERO EVERY WEDNESDAY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.

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