Half-way home in the first round we've seen some surprising victories, more surprising losses and quite frankly stunning goals. But there can only be three substitutions made each match(day) so let's see who's coming on, and who's heading off.
OFF: Mario Balotelli's Love Life--The Italian striker who spends his down time collecting Panini stickers of himself, and making jokes about getting a smooch from Queen Elizabeth, seemed to have put much more preparation into those gags and not nearly as much into preparing an attack against Costa Rica. Sorry Mario, you and HRH will be a missed connection, yet again.
ON: Everything Karim Benzema Does--He's only on three goals, though he has a case for two more (the rebound off the Honduran keeper which should not be an own goal/the final whistle strike against Switzerland, since you shouldn't whistle dead a match on an attack). Even without the goals, he's been integral to making everything happen for France, the goals, the goals against, the celebrations, the crepes suzette.
OFF: Diego Benaglio--The Swiss Keeper's tepid, depressed showing was utterly exposed by France until his teammates boosted their goal differential by netting two late goals. Worse still, by getting compared constantly with Swiss Cheese, he risks single-handedly tanking the Swiss economy*.
*Note, I know that's not true...but hey, stereotypes are funny...
ON: The Other Valencia--Enner is his name and driving La Tri is his game. As Ecuador strides towards a showdown with France, their chances of a knockout round spot are in doubt, not in doubt is the media's fondness for the Ecuadorian striker who has hurdled to the top spot of teams' summer transfer must have list. A modest proposal: Valencia? He's got your name written all over him.
OFF: The Letter "H"--Honduras' nickname? "La H" A fact the Letter H can't be too happy about right now. For as many bad teams as there have been in the cup (Cameroon and Spain come to mind), Honduras is the only one that combines brutally thuggish defense, with unblinking use of handballs, with zero attacking inspiration. The longer they go, the more Sesame Street must be considering pulling the letter's cushy sponsorship deal.
The second weekend of action seems just as promising as the past week. I'll even be trying to go out and party with real live people (rather than just my pets--who appreciate the companionship but don't care much for the football).