Apologies for the delay in getting this posted. Andy & I had a bit of a publishing mix-up. Got it sorted & updates will be more timely going forward.
The history! The pageantry! The anticipation! The crazy, vuvuzela-playing fans! Sepp Blatter telling everyone we’re in South Africa! Yes, the World Cup is upon us. Thank goodness!
Match Day 1 saw several Arsenal players take center stage as Carlos Vela led Mexico against the host Bafana Bafana of South Africa early in the day, while the evening match featured the Arsenal away team, also known as the French national side, taking on a resolute Uruguayan squad. With both tilts ending in a draw, the personal performances were somewhat of a mixed bag for the Gunners involved.
Football Gods Continue Hex On Vela
Carlos Vela is cursed. The Football Gods have it in for Carlos. During the Champions League they came down from their football Mount Olympus and hid his passport under the sofa. Yesterday, in a goal-draw against South Africa, they had another giggle at his expense by stealing a goal from the young Arsenal striker. Judging from the activity on Twitter, who knew that the keeper coming off his line, despite there still being a defender on the line, was actually the “last man”? That sounds like a question for the sports version of Trivial Pursuit, doesn’t it? In any event, Carlos got the start for El Tri and played 68 minutes, which I was pleased to see. Early minutes saw much of the Mexican attack coming from the wings, with Vela little involved from his central striker role. Vela’s first significant time on the ball, a slashing run towards the top of the box, saw him unceremoniously dumped by a stout South African defense. On 31 minutes Vela showed some nice skill in controlling the ball just outside the box and chipping deftly over the defender to a waiting Franco, but the play came to naught as the South African keeper was up to the task. Mexico won a corner on 37 minutes that was beautifully delivered to a left-alone Vela at the far post. The keeper whiffed on the cross, leaving Vela only to control with his chest and put it over the line. Alas, it was not to be as the flag had gone up and Vela was adjudged offside. With a defender still standing on the line, the side judge ruled Vela past the keeper, as last man, and the goal was disallowed. The Football Gods giggle…
Sagna Untested By Uruguay Attack
With Uruguay choosing to go the counterattack route for much of the first half, Sagna saw limited tests defensively down the right side. When challenged, he did close down nicely and kept possessions from turning into threats. Sagna did come in with a decent diagonal ball into the box mid way through the first half, but it was taken easily but the Uruguayan defense. Just before the half he sent in a quite decent cross to Anelka in the box, but it was headed wide. As with William Gallas, Sagna went untested for most of the match. Without a sustained attack from the South Americans, few opportunities presented for Bacary to be involved beyond the odd shuffling off on wide play. On 81 minutes Sagna took a knock on a red card, studs on ankle challenge from Lodiero. He hobbled off, took a drink and returned to the pitch.
Clichy Watches From The Bench
Gael didn’t get the start for Les Bleus on Match Day 1 and saw no match time. Sad, that.
Quality From Diaby Highlights Snoozing French Attack
Going with an offensive minded 4-5-1, Abou Diaby got the start at left central midfield. Perhaps more than any other French player on the pitch, Diaby gave a yeoman’s performance. Early minutes saw Diaby controlling beautifully at midfield, losing his defender with a spin move Arsenal supporters love to see, and releasing a pass to Franck Ribery who hit Govou in the box for France’s first chance on goal. Some nice work tracking back and winning possession from Diaby on 20 minutes led to a Gourcuff boomer from 25 yards out that sailed over the Uruguayan goal. Having the chance to lead the counter halfway through the first half, Abou showed excellent control in scything through midfield obstacles, maintaining possession far into the Uruguayan third and hitting Anelka wide right on another fruitless chance for the French. Some really keen possessions in the first half, strong, physical and composed but no joy in helping to find the goal. Although the match progressed without any great feats of effort by the French attack, Diaby showed some quality on the ball when given the chance but his performance grew inconsistent late on.
Quiet Night For Gallas
Gallas spent the early part of the match easily escorting balls back to Hugo Lloris in the French goal as Uruguay were unable to mount much of an offensive threat. While he looked rather spry, I’m wondering if that late season calf injury isn’t still nagging. The only time Uruguay seemed interested in crossing midfield was on the counter, without much effort to maintain the attack, giving Gallas a fairly quiet night on the pitch.
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