Group A may be the most interesting group, not for entertainment but for speculation. The four teams drew in the first set of matches. No team seemed to have an advantage. Unfortunately, that could mean. Uruguay are paper favorites. They are sound and organized defensively. They will show more positive intent than they did against France. Diego Forlan should be crucial. Uruguay will play him behind a front two of Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani to get him more involved.
The South Africans should give them a game, though. Once they found their footing against Mexico, the Bafana Bafana showed a competitive spirit and fed off the crowd’s energy. The have skill with players such as Modise and Pienaar. They have athleticism down the wings. The issue for South Africa will be converting their chances. As Siphiwe Tshabalala exhibited with his rocket finish, they are more than capable. [Photo via Getty]
Now, about Spain…. Switzerland beat Spain 1-0. It’s an upset. A huge upset. It was not inconceivable, but it’s the biggest since Senegal beat defending World and European champs France in 2002. The Swiss defended wonderfully. They pressed Barcelona’s midfield when they crossed the half-way line. Like North Korea against Brazil, they gave away nothing through the middle and forced Spain to attack down the flanks. Spain still created chances, but there was no one to capitalize on them. They played two distributors, Xavi and Xabi Alonso, and a holder, Busquets, in central midfield. Balls were played into the box, to no one. They missed a player like Fabregas willing to run forward and take a rip at goal.
The Spanish went with their Spain-based players. They don’t play defense like that in La Liga. The players could not break it down. It was no coincidence that Spain became more dangerous when Torres, used to that type of defending, entered the game.
The Spanish should be worried. Spain did not look like Barcelona. They looked like Arsenal, struggling away at Stoke. They also sounded like Arsenal. Vicente Del Bosque’s post-match comments could have come straight from Arsene Wenger’s mouth.
”They played a defensive game and tried to take advantage of any counter-attack and dead-ball situation,” said Del Bosque. ”I feel it’s an excessive prize for them considering the football they displayed.”
Switzerland played the style that suited their strengths and gave them the best chance to win. It worked. You can’t fault them for it. Romance is written afterward. The great thing about soccer is there are many ways to win, even if some of them aren’t beautiful. Arsenal have made complaints rather than coping adeptly for years. They haven’t won a trophy. Don’t whine. Win.
The loss could be catastrophic for Spain. Spain no longer controls its own destiny. There are scenarios where Spain could win their next two matches and not qualify on goal difference. If they finish second, they will likely meet Brazil in the first knockout round.