5 Things I learnt from Monday’s World Cup matches

1. Goal keepers are getting crazier

Rob Green had his moment; the following day Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi had his. And then on Monday, Paraguay goalie Justo Villar, miscued to cost his team a couple of points against defending World Champs, Italy. Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, but three times means we’re getting into a habit.

2. Players appear to be getting stupider

Uruguay saw substitute Nicolas Lodeiro being sent off for two bookable offences (well, the second challenge was worthy of a red card on its own) against France. Then Algeria, again, get in on the act with an even more inexplicable red card as Abdelkader Ghezzal handled the ball needlessly. Serbia’s Zdravko Kuzmanovic continued the pointless handball motif and on Monday I was certain Nigel de Jong would be sent off for similar stupidity. But, somehow, his two-footer went unpunished and he only received a booking later on in the match. Instead it was the nature of Holland’s opening goal that left me wondering just what is going on at the moment at this World Cup.

3. Vuvuzelas get their first questioning in a match

Robin Van Persie claimed he couldn’t hear the whistle when he was offside and finished cutely past Denmark’s goalkeeper. The Arsenal man didn’t look best pleased when signalling about the noise of the plastic horns. But then again it could just be an excuse because he ignored the whistle.

4. The Dutch need width on the left

It was obvious for everyone to see that Holland played far too narrowly. But what’s unclear is whether it was due to the coach’s instructions or Van der Vaart’s stubbornness to impinge on Sneijder’s territory. Whilst in possession Holland’s central tendency congested the forward line; Van der Vaart was the main culprit as he moved central leaving Sneijder with less space to operate and Van Persie was subsequently starved of service and forced to pull wide left more often to compensate (ironically it was his drifting left that led to the opening goal). Elijero Elia provided some natural width and may have a case to start should Robben not be fit enough for their second match. I would have thought Van der Vaart coming off the right, tucking centrally, allowing van der Wiel to overlap would be far more fruitful than leaving the veteran captain, Van Bronckhorst’s flank without midfield cover.

5. Italy lack creativity

There is a blatant lack of pace running through the team but more worrying than that is last night’s inability to create. Though they waltzed through qualification and were drawn in a largely simple group they remain outsiders to retain their crown. I was surprised not to see Di Natale starting and equally shocked to see the defence playing a high line. But the forwards really do fail to inspire any Italian fan, let alone neutrals. Pirlo’s injury has caused some problems for the deep sitting playmaker’s role but what Italy are lacking more than that is a position they have, historically, provided so well; the classic number 10. Being without Totti for the first time since 1998 means there is no inspirational creative figure in the team. The trequartista position is key in creating for Gilardino’s intelligent movement. We’ll see what Lippi has in store for their next match considering how much better they played in a 4-4-2.

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