Wednesday's FIFA friendlies avalanche produced more telling results than routine ones. Some final score lines were downright revelations, peeks at what may come this summer in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In a series of articles we dissect the significance of 16 of those matches.
Spain 1, Italy 0
This is a very misleading score line. At Vicente Calderon Stadium, in Madrid, the Spanish side simply dominated play in a match that saw coach Vicente del Bosque try out 17 players, including an out-of-place Diego Costa who mostly seemed superfluous to the team’s rhythms let alone its needs.
With David Silva as an effective and inspired field general, for example, Spain simply toyed with the four time World Champions who admittedly did not have Mario Balotelli nor Daniele De Rossi at their disposal. But also absent a few Spanish players no one could argue both teams were not otherwise at full strength for large stretches of the match. Yet there was no competition here.
When Spain shifted from third into fifth gear the Italians simply could not keep up. If the Iberian masters had wanted to score pedestrian goals, and in the end they settled for just that, they could have scored a bushel, but they seemed intent on seeking a worthy, classy goal, instead of a workmanlike one. Thus, it took many pretty misses before the ugly rebounded score (http://bit.ly/P9AjfH).
Italy was not playing possum, but they were not t their best. They seemed unsure of how to handle a team that last beat them 4-0 in Euro 2012 (http://bit.ly/1qfVp9Y). Coach Cesare Pandeli has his work cut out for him as he awaits his injured troops to heal in order to put on the pitch a team that can represent Italy’s heritage with honor. That team has yet to be fully formed. But don’t count the Azzurri out, they will be a force, if not at their usual level, come June-July.
La Furia Roja, on the other hand, seemed an inspired team on the day and it may well have been the mix of normally absent talents wanting to showcase their wares coupled with the fact that when starters replaced them they also wanted to remind the coach of why he had started them when it mattered, but the team was clicking on many cylinders and regardless of the pieces used.
Anyone doubting this team’s stature will be in for a rude awakening, and that includes the Germans and Brazilians, both rated above the current holders as favorites to win it all at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro come Sunday, July 13, 2014.
South Korea 2, Greece 0
At Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki, in Piraeus, Greece, two Brazil bound teams took each other’s measure and hosts Greece found out just how much they need improve to have any hope of coming out of Group C with Colombia, Ivory Coast, and Japan.
South Korea’s 2-0 win away with goals from Arsenal FC loaner Chu-Young Park (18’) and Bayern Leverkusen’s Heung-Min Son (55’) on the other hand showcased the Asian team’s aspirations in Group H with Belgium, Algeria, and Russia. If this game was any indication, the South Koreans are shaping up just fine (http://bit.ly/1oxW2rS).
The Greeks substituted half their team during the game to the Koreans’ four substitutes, but the hosts did not seem to find a rhythm to carry them over a team they outrank by 49 spots in FIFA’s rankings. Korea played a tough tackling but energetic game while the Greeks tried to play their patented defensive game with the quick counters.
The Koreans surprised the Greeks by scoring quickly at the beginning of each half and then maintaining a 56% to 44% possession advantage. Throughout the match it seemed the hosts were a bit weary while the visitors maintained their vigor to the last whistle. The Koreans are a young team with all but four of their players under 28 years of age and fitness would seem their strong suit.
Colombia and Ivory Coast are still my favorites to move on from Group C, but Japan’s performance was also impressive on Wednesday and they may have something to say particularly if Radamel Falcao does not make it back from knee surgery in some semblance of his prior form. But Greece seems to be outclassed in their group and Wednesday’s performance did not inspire.
South Korea, though, was showcasing its regained prowess after January losses to Mexico (4-0) and the USA (2-0). In their prior incarnation, November of last year, they had beaten Switzerland 2-1 at home and lost a close 1-2 game to Group H contenders Russia, in Dubai. Depending on which South Korea finds the pitch, this squad has shown that it might, on a good day, give all three of its rivals a run for their money.