Today we complete the first set of 2010 World Cup group play games. I’ve watched more than 90% of all the minutes – and yet managed to miss five goals live (Holland, Argentina, Slovakia, Brazil’s second and North Korea’s). It’s been an educational experience. I’ve learned many interesting factoids (many acquired by virtue of this being the first Twitter World Cup) and made a few observations as well.
I. Denmark’s starting lineup on Monday had just as many Dutch League players as the Netherland’s lineup (three).
II. Nigeria is the only country in this World Cup without any domestic league players on its roster. On the other hand, Germany, Italy and England’s rosters are made up completely of domestic league players.
III. Brothers in the Cup: The Boateng brothers on Ghana and Germany will face each other in the group stage. Kevin-Prince and his half-brother Jérôme are in the same group and will be on opposing sides June 23rd in Group D’s final match. It’s a fascinating story. After calling up forward Jerry Palacios on Tuesday to replace injured Julio Cesar de Leon, Honduras becomes the first World Cup team ever to roster three brothers. Jerry’s brothers Wilson and Johnny are also on the team.
IV. I thought I heard on the telecast that Ghana’s John Mensah was 19 years old and already had 63 caps. Turns out he’s 27. If he were 19, it would’ve made him the most capped player at that age this side of Mia Hamm…instead it means this is a meaningless factoid…though he does have a half-brother, Ekow Benson who has played for the Ghana National Team. Makes me wonder, which brothers have played for the USMNT…
V. Both goalkeepers in last Sunday’s Serbia vs. Ghana match, Richard Kingson and Vladimir Stojkovic played for Wigan last season. Neither impressed last season, so they may both soon be former Wigan keepers.
VI. The four youngest teams at this World Cup are: Ghana (24.1) followed by North Korea (24.8), Germany (25.0) and Cameroon (25.2). Ghana gets its youth by including Ghana’s World Cup roster includes eight members of its 2009 U-20 World Championship squad. Surprisingly to me, the oldest is not Italy, but the Italians are in the top four: Italy (28.2), Australia (28.4), Brazil (28.6) and England (28.7). The youngest team at each of last three World Cups has been African– 1998 Cameroon, 2002 Nigeria and 2006 was also Ghana.
VII. Impressive how many folks noted the resemblance between German midfielder Mesut Ozil and apparently not forgotten actor Peter Lorre.
VIII. 17 of 23 players on Algeria’s roster are from France.
IX. Three former MetroStars coaches are head coaches in this World Cup: Bob Bradley (USA), Carlos Alberto Pareira (South Africa) and Carlos Queiroz (Portugal). Perhaps Eddie Firmani can take over Italy in the knockout round.
X. More countries (204) competed to be in the 2010 FIFA World Cup than are in the United Nations (192).
XI. Brazil’s starting lineup Tuesday was numbered 1-11.
And some observations:
* Be careful what you wish for: While many were surprised that Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi had his suspension for head-butting a referee commuted for the World Cup, Slovenia wasn’t complaining after it’s opening victory was decided by Chaouchi’s alligator arms.
* Slovenian defensive midfielder Alexander Radosavljevic shares the same little used last named of former US National Team star and current Toronto FC Head Coach Preki. For a moment I considered the chances of Preki and Alex being related, but then I figured “Radosavljevic” is probably to Eastern European soccer what “Washington” is to the NBA.
* Super slo-mo replays really bring out the emotions of players, coaches and fans, but the most startling effect of the high tech replays for me is the clarity of fouls. Either this is the most dangerous World Cup in memory or the slo-mo replays are translating the risk and violence of the sport more than traditional camera work does.
* Soon after I made my surprising World Cup bracket picks public last week I felt a twinge of regret…I wished that I had selected Cameroon and Serbia to go through to the second round instead of Denmark and Ghana. But the Danes stoic performance against the Dutch and Ghana’s win over Serbia now have me thinking I was right the first time.
* I had another crazy idea to improve interest in this little tournament: In the future, FIFA should qualify 31 teams the same way it currently does and then create a 32nd team made up of the best players left off of other teams and countries failing to qualify. This would be an incredibly talented team with very little time to train together. The team could be coached by one of the World Cup’s carousel coaches: Bora Milutinovic, Carlos Alberto Parreira or Guus Hiddink. This quadrennial’s 32nd team could include Pato, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Neymar from Brazil, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Amr Zaki (Egypt), Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Iceland), Javier Zanetti (Argentina), Antonia Valencia (Ecuador), Tomáš Rosický (Czech Republic), Karim Benzema (France), Karim Benzema (France)….and Brian Ching.
* Things that bothered me, rightly or wrongly, during the US/England match: An arrogant and bombastic (until the 4oth minute) England supporter standing in front of me, ignorant American fans, John Harkes, US not winning, assumption that US was outplayed, focus on Robert Green’s glaring goalkeeping gaffe.