The expert calls it how he sees it...Our first match of the World Cup was a 0-0 draw versus Ivory Coast.
This game highlighted the challenges of Group G also known as the ‘Group of Death.’ This means any one of the four teams has the potential to be one of the two teams that is capable of getting through to the next round. The Ivory Coast Coach waited until the deadline to decide if Drogba would dress and he did. He sat on the bench for Ivory Coast. No doubt he is their leader.
I noticed after the game he pulled his team mates together and form a circle. This leads me to believe he is also their spiritual leader. When he stood on the touchline to come into the match, the roar of the crowd shook the stadium. When he entered the field you can sense his presence. The only time that I had a similar sensation was when I was with the South African National Team and Henry from the French National Team came into the game. Like Drogba, when Henry received the ball everyone on the pitch backed off out of respect for his ability.
There were over thirty seven thousand people attending the game. All six African teams who have qualified for the world cup will be well supported and stadiums packed to the max.
Lots of attention has been given to the Vuvuzelas and the adidas soccer ball - Jabulani. My thoughts are that we are guests of South Africa and that the Vuvuzelas is part of their culture and we need to accept the Vuvuzelas as part of the match. The Vuvuzela has definitely made the South African World Cup unique. It is a reverberating sound that makes bench and player communication impossible. It's a plastic horn buzzing sound and has become an iconic accessory at the matches.
Everyone is going ballistic over the new adidas ball, Jabulani. The name of the ball Jabulani means ‘happiness.’ Apparently it has brought very little happiness to goalkeepers and field players. There are eleven colours in the ball representing the eleven languages in South Africa and also the eleven players that lined up before the game. Should Portugal get into the next round, we will play our matches in higher altitude. The ball will move a little faster and bounce higher. In my opinion, too much focus has also been given to the adidas ball.
The goals conceded that I have observed have not been a result of the trajectory of the ball but rather goalkeeper technical mistakes. It is what it is. Inside this ball are their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Players need to love the ball. Quality, technical players will adjust and discover the best way to manage the ball. The ball dips and bends and players need to keep their eyes on the ball at all times. Players cannot assume anything. The World Cup should not be about the Vuvuzelas or the adidas ball; it should be about the game.
In the past World Cups the African players were free spirited. They played with joy and imagination -- no fear of losing, sending numbers forward. Today, many of the African players are playing in top clubs around the field where they must be responsible and accountable for their actions. Tactically they are more disciplined and the African countries expectations are higher than the past. So, the fear of losing has increased. Fewer risks are taken. More of a defensive position with quick counters is implemented.
The entire country is euphoric about Bafana Bafana. The entire country stops to watch and support their national team. I hope they move on to the next round. This world cup is more than just a soccer tournament for South Africa. It's a moment for them to shine and potentially be a moment of glory. They want to prove to the world against all odds that they can successfully host the world's biggest sporting event. It's a rebirth, a second wind for this country and continent. It was Nelson Mandela's dream to unite the nation through sport. So far the World Cup has taken my breath away. The true test in any major event is to take this amazing and wonderful spirit beyond July 11th.
We need a positive result versus North Korea. They managed a goal against Brazil. They are disciplined and well organized with two quality forwards. We need to find the back of the net more than they.
Live the World Cup!
University of Hartford Men's Soccer Coach, www.hartfordhawks.com
Star Goalkeeper Academy Founder, www.stargoalkeeper.com
Connecticut Soccer School President, www.ctsoccerschool.com