World Cup Surprises

World Cup 2006

The USA's failure to challenge at all and open with a match where they weren't ready, didn't compete and essentially had no clue was clearly a surprise.  That they lost to the Czech's was not.  It was how it happened that made it such a negative.  Ok, enough on that.

Imagine the frustration of the fans of the French!  A team with an absolute boatload of world class, highly paid and celebrated players that has failed to score a single goal in their last four World Cup games.  Believe it or not, this talented team has not scored since Emanuel Pettit's goal that nailed down their victory in World Cup '98.  The real surprise here is that this drought has gone so long its no longer a surprise at all when they fail to score.  Unreal.

The collapse of Japan who seemed to be on cruise control in their opening round match with Australia with less than 10 minutes to play surrendering 3 goals to the Socceroos before the final whistle.  For fans of the game around the world this one was probably the highlight of the first round with the Aussies inspiring fightback that will be talked about for decades.  The injured late sub, Tim Cahill, not only scored Australia's very first World Cup goal, he also won them their first game with his second.

Ecuador's clean sheet victory over Poland was an unlikely result for many and surely a surprise for most.  It probably shouldn't be that way for a team that defeated both Brazil and Argentina on the road to qualifying.

Mexico's big win over Iran was a pleasant surprise as was T&T's solid game in their 1-1 draw with powerhouse Sweden.  Fans of Mexico are hoping that the loss of Jared Borghetti to injury can be overcome.

The turnaround of Saudi Arabia in the 2nd half against Tunisia who thoroughly dominated the opening 45 but managed only a single goal.  This led to the last ditch, last second header to knot it at 2 to save the day for Tunisia.

The equally thrilling match between Poland and the hosts' that saw late substitutes turn the game and win it in stoppage time for Germany.  This one was one of those tough and thrill a minute 0-0 draws until the very end with the superb play of Poland's keeper that kept them in it despite being shorthanded for much of the 2nd half.  The precise cross from Odonkor to always dangerous Oliver Neuville that decided it at the death served notice that the host side will test any and all comers and they better come prepared to play every second of the 90 minutes.

How about Spain?  Labeled a team of destiny Spain has been one of the more disappointing sides for the past three World Cups.  From their performance against Ukraine in a 4-0 thrashing it appears they have put that era to rest once and for all.  Could this be Spain's time to shine?  Remember, teams from Spain won both the Champions League (Barca) and the UEFA Cup (Sevilla) this season and a Spanish driver is the reigning F1 Champion and current points leader (Alonso).  Could it really be the biggest surprise in the making?

And of course, the always impressive Brazil.  An amazing collection of players that just have fun playing the game.  They also happen to be better than anyone else too.  The surprise here was that they scored only once!  Is that a signal that this team is vulnerable as some have been prompted to say?

I'd say thats a pipe dream.

There is another surprise here that is not really an open question and its really not "sour grapes" either, but there is a tendency by the officials to tread lightly at times when Brazil is on the pitch.  What are you talking about?

Play it back and watch carefully and you will see several times in a match where Cafu or Emerson will commit that so-called "professional foul" and they won't get a yellow.  It happens time after time.  While in the match with the host side Poland was punished repeatedly for the very same sort of foul and lost a player for a second yellow Brazil seems to evade that fate even when FIFA says its an "automatic" card.

Don't be surprised to see it called that way, Brazil or not, in later rounds before this tournament is over.  I hope it doesn't become a talking point that lasts forever because it decides a match or worse, determines the winner.

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