Saturday was a wild and wonderful day of futbol, covering four matches across the mass of Brazil featuring past cup winners, favorites, dark horses, and supposed also rans. Rather than giving an On/Off award for each match, here were the big themes from the day.
ON: Young Defenders--Oscar Duarte and Pablo Armero each struck a marvelous goal, taking their relative inexperience and lack of mainstream exposure and tossing it out the window. Speed, pace and strength served them well, both in shutting down their opponent attacks and in adding a new dimension to their team's attack.
OFF: "Veteran" Defenders--For all the talk that you need a strong veteran presence in the back to ground your squad during the game's premier event, it sure didn't do much to help two of the most veteran lines in the Cup: Greece and Uruguay. The Greeks got picked apart, and the Uruguyans looked first creaky, and then increasingly cranky when they drew a raft of cards to make an even bigger hole than their two goal deficit.
ON: Myth Making of Legends--Running errands, and experiencing life with my wife, I did not let the matches consume my day. But ESPN certainly has their opinions about what happened: "Balotelli Beat England"; "Drogba Distracts Japan"; "Colombia Overcomes the Loss of Falcao" and "Suarez's Absence Leads to Shock Defeat". Basically, if you're a star, you're responsible for everything...good to know, eh?
OFF: Role Players Grabbing Headlines--As a result of the ma-star-bating media, anybody else looking for some credit can just keep right on looking...the attacks of Junior Diaz and Christian Gamboa for Costa Rica...nothing; Claudio Marchiso's first goal for the Azurri...nothing; the Ivorians youthful combo of Wilfried Bony and Gervinho...nothing. Well, that's what we're for I guess.
ON: Loving Futbol--People who actually watched the matches are obviously fans first and critics second, but it was amazing to see the burst of pure love on Twitter for the game: Joel Campbell is suddenly everyone's must have transfer target, Daniel Sturridge has runs that are something out of a smart phone game, we're all watching and ranting and cheering together. That's what we love.
OFF: Hating Referees--After a pretty bad first pair of matches, the referee bashing has (thankfully) taken a back seat to the players, plays, events and actions. The more invisible the men with the whistles get, the better for all of us.
It's Father's Day so stay tuned for a special post on how my father learned to love the game alongside his sons. And also--you know--watch the big matches of the day: Switzerland/Ecuador, France/Honduras, and a great capstone: Argentina/Bosnia.