Pierre Boisrond has followed soccer and the World Cup
closely for many years and also writes for other websites. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
The World Cup Contenders: En Route to the Round of 16
The contenders are about to be in the second round. Among the contenders, we have found Argentina conducted under the helm of the maestro, Juan Roman Riquelme. So far he has displayed some of his skills; however he is saving his brilliance for the rounds of elimination. We are also sure that Brazil conducted by Ronaldinho earned the ticket to the second round. We have also seen Germany conducted by the talented Ballack have reserved their seats for the second round. The England national team under the direction of David Beckham has found themselves in the second round as well. Portugal, after 40 years, under the direction of Luis Figo has also booked their ticket for the second round. The Spaniards, under Raul Gonzalez Blanco, have booked their flight for the second round. The Netherlands also booked their ticket to join the big dance in the second round. Now we are waiting for the French and the Italians to book their tickets. For the Italian, it is possible; however for the French it is rather complicated. The advantages are that they can control their own destiny to book their tickets for the second round.
Many journalists are saying that the World Cup starts in the second round. I disagree; it does start in the first round. A national team that wants to win the World Cup, then their players must be focused from the start not from the second phase. It is for the same reason that France is struggling to past the first reason. The French are not in harmony and therefore they are destroying their chances. Those who claim that the World Cup starts in the second round, they need to go back and revisit 2002 where Argentina and France respectively earned their ticket for Buenos Aires and Paris after the first round in Korea-Japan 2002. It is for that reason that we have seen a much focused Argentina national team. And they are ready for the second round.
In the second round or the round of 16, FIFA need to make sure that the referee gets the calls according to the rules. Although, we have seen some improvement from 2002 to 2006, some referees are still making some crucial errors. It is not good for the games when there are some obvious faults and the referees decide to ignore it. We have seen this in the game of Swiss vs. Togo, where the referee did not sanction two clear penalty kicks for Togo. This is unacceptable at this level. In the rounds of elimination, no team should loose a game because of a referee. Enough about the referee, letís continue with our subject.
The contenders are ready for the second round. This is when the superstars of these countries will raise their game to another level. There wonít be a second chance because any mistake can cause a team to pack their bags for the capital city of their country. So far we have not seen Ronaldinho of Brazil. So far we have seen nothing from David Beckham of England. So far, we have not seen the true Mikhail Ballack. On the other hand we have seen a focused Juan Roman Riquelme of Argentina. We have seen Raul come from the bench to lift up the Spaniards. We have witnessed the fantastic plays of Robben of the Netherlands. Now, the time has come for these superstars to show why they are about to drive their teams to the Promised Land.
On the other hand, the pundits started to say that Argentina will win the world cup. However the Argentines have rejected this notion but their goal is to go from game to game. Thereís one more thing deep inside Juan Roman Riquelme, and that is to bring great joy to the people of Argentina. He is focused, he is ready, and he knew what had happened during the Champions league this year; and he will make sure that does not happen again this summer. Last summer, Juan Roman Riquelme lost the confederation cup against the Brazil of Ronaldinho. As he always said, what matters is to win the finals, nothing else. He has his eyes on that big prize. With some help from the Messi-ah, he will have a chance to dethrone Ronaldinho. In 2002, he knew that Marcelo Bielsa made a ridiculous decision for not choosing him, but in 2006 heís about to show Bielsa that he deserved to be in the National team in 2002. It is somewhat absurd to me that Riquelme is now playing his first World Cup. Somehow, I sense that Riquelme is going to take this World Cup by storm because along the way he has suffered under the hands, of Luis Van Gaal who refused to play him in Barcelona. He has also suffered in the hands of Radomir Antic; I hope that Mr. Antic had appreciated the Argentina vs Serbia-Montenegroís game. He has seen the dislikes of Frank Rijkaard who shipped him to Villarreal but luckily for Rijkaard he escaped the fury of Riquelme in the Champions League. And thanks to Manuel Pelligrini for helping Riquelme in his most difficult moments. When Riquelme was going to play with #8 for Argentina in this World Cup, Pekerman made it clear that the #10 is for Riquelme. It is the magical moment of the great Diego Armando Maradona. Now, the opportunity is there, and Riquelme wonít miss it.
On the other hand, we have Ronaldinho. We donít have to worry about him, because at any point, he will raise his game up and give Brazil the win. He has proven himself. He has danced over the ball like he is dancing the Samba. He even said that he likes to dance the Samba because that has helped him with his game. Ronaldinho is Ronaldinho; he can do anything he wants with the ball. Brazil has not been playing well, but they are winning. As long as I win, I can careless about playing good football. Did the Argentina team of 1990 play good football? The answer is no, but they reach the finals and Germany won. Did Brazil of 1994 play good football? The answer again is no, and they won the World Cup in USA 1994. Didnít the Brazil of 1982 play some fantastic football? Did they win? The answer is no; Italy eliminated them. Only Ronaldinho can beat you, and the same can also be said for many superstars of the other contenders. The goal is to focus and not to make any silly mistake. One can believe it that Ronaldinho will involve some magical moves and itís all over for the opponent. Remember Brazil is Brazil; letís forget about Jogo Bonito. Itís about winning the World Cup. Do you think anyone will care if Brazil plays some fantastic games and fails to make it to the round of 16? I donít think so. The goal is to make it to the next round; it is always good to play some great football. Thus if Brazil does not play some great football, then you can look for some magical moments from Ronaldinho. I can guarantee anyone that Ronaldinho will bring something special in any game. So the opponents need to be on their best behavior or Ronaldinho will make them pay.
Now, that brings me to England. The journalists have stated that England is not playing well. True, but England is winning, this is what matters. I would like anyone to ask the players of an eliminated team how they are feeling at this time. Ivory Coast played well; Togo also played well. They are now out of the second round. For those who keep saying that England is not playing well, I would warn them not to be surprised if they see England in the finals. Some are saying that Beckham is not playing well. There is some truth to that, but he can decide the outcome of a game at anytime. Opponents better be not awarding him a free kick, or heíll crucify the goalie. Didnít he make the cross that helped England win the game Paraguay? Didnít he make the cross when Crouch scored the opening goal against Costa Rica? Thereís no need to worry about Beckham, heíll step it up, and the main goal is for England to continue to win whether or not the team plays well against the opponents.
What can we say about Germany? Well they are at home and they have Ballack. The Germans have an advantage over any team because they are playing at home. Letís not forget that Germany was in the World Cup Finals in 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002. Whoever wants to listen to Pundits to bet their hard earned money against Germany must think it over. The Germans are not going to make it easy, and Ballack is not going to be unnoticed in this world Cup.
What can we say about Dutch? Well, the Dutch looks very good and Robben is about to lead the team. The Dutch always plays good football, and now they have learnt how to play defense as well. The game against Argentina will be a great game to watch and this is a first round final games. However, both teams might decide to start some substitutes. The Dutch national team does have great players such as Van Persie, Van Nilsteroy who can finish a game in a blink of an eye. Letís not vote the Dutch out because they would make it difficult for any opponent.
For Spain, we have to ask can they do it. They have great players to get it done. But I am wondering do they still have it after Tunisia complicated the game for them. Any strong team would have finished Spain pretty quickly. But they are playing well and they are winning. I like Raul and he is the brain of the National team as he showed in the game against Tunisia. Spain is definitely a contender that no opponents should take lightly. I hope that at this stage of the game that the players know the games will be more complicated and the team that committed fewer mistakes will advance.
What we can say about Portugal? Portugal has a good team with Deco, Figo, Pauleta and Cristiano Ronaldo. However the selfishness of Ronaldo can cause them a nightmare. Can they pass the second round, Iíve seen it pretty difficult because they would have to face Argentina or Holland. However, these players that I mention above can finish a game at a time. Conducted by the talented Deco, no opponents should think that Portugal will be an easy walk. We must remember that their coach, Scolari, have won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.
What about Italy and France, what can we say? Well Both France and Italy are fighting to go to the next round. Italy has always been solid, but crumbled against the USA. France, on the other hand got a lesson from the Korean. They do have the potential to make it through the second round. If they do, can Zidane and Totti drive their country to the worldís biggest sporting prize? That remains to be seen soon.
We must not also forget Mexico that can spoil the party as well. In the round elimination anything can happen. Teams must be alert or the dream can be over in a millisecond. This weekend will be a weekend of joy and sorrow. However, let us be ready to enjoy the rounds of elimination. There wonít be a second chance. It is about winning or going home. It is about playing not speculating. It is about for the superstars to raise their game to a level that no one has ever seen before. It is about bringing joy to a whole country. The most important of all is that at the end of the game your coaching staff will say ďjob well done, but the journey continues.Ē Then it is about dreaming and to make the dream a reality on July 9th. And, what a moment will it be when the people will take the streets to celebrate the championships and what a special moment shall it be?
For the good of the game, may the referees keep it clean.
Until next time, enjoy it!
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