The qualifying round in the World Cup is a bit like losing your virginity; you want to get over it with the minimum of embarrassment. It’s not that accurate an indicator of who will win. This tends to be the team that gathers momentum. Italy, for example, only got 3 points in 1982 in the qualifying round but, after beating Brazil in one of the best ever World Cup games, went on to win. Holland in the 70s were slow starters too.
Four teams have won all their games: Argentina Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Of these, the latter two have looked the most convincing … and they may well meet each other in the quarter finals. Argentina do not seem to have found the right shape but they have Messi. I was never convinced by Belgium. True that they have many players in the Premier and premier leagues elsewhere but, aside from Kompany, none of them in top form.
France have played captivating football that has produced goals and entertainment, even without Franck Ribery. Sadly, Honduras and England are the two teams that have fallen short in the entertaining category. It’s said the English players are not good enough but Geoff Cameron, the USA centre back, would struggle to get into the Stoke central defence ahead of Ryan Shawcross, let alone the English one. Alan Tanner was holdng forth by email on how well Halliche, a Mark Hughes signing for his beloved Fulham, and Bryan Ruiz have played in their national colours but English players consistently shrink once they don the 3 lions jersey.
Although it never seems to run to form, it looks like the semi finalists will be Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Holland. However, who would have predicted that England, Italy and Spain would now be home and Algeria and Costa Rica in the next stage ?