BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

The opening round of games in the opening round of the nineteenth World Cup finals come to an end with the team which many believe will become the first European nation to win a outside of Europe: Spain.

The Spanish side are the current European champions and there is a belief – mainly espoused by the Spanish – that the strength of the current team is the unity of modern Spain. Basque, Catalonian, Spanish. One banner, One Spain and an end to the years of infighting that have stopped the league the houses two of the powers of European football in Barcelona and Real Madrid from winning anything on the international stage.

Such talk would be anarchy to the famously passive Swiss nation who have a tidy, organised side who qualified ahead of Greece, Latvia, Israel and Luxembourg – who they lost to at one point – but are a limited outfit to say the least and for the first fifteen minutes of this competition they are left watching a display of Spanish passing which underlines the impressiveness of the Iberian peninsula country.

The Spanish – without the injured Fernando Torres in the forward line – are a team who use confidence manifested as fluidity. The layout of the side is all Real Madrid rather than the Barca style employed by the Dutch and created in the image of Cruyff – a vocal agitator of the kind of discontent that split Spanish squad – and the speed of the full backs and wide players moving back and forth interplaying with two holding midfielders providing increasingly complex triangles of play all over the field is reminiscent of the Fabio Capello Real Madrid side of three years ago.

Sergio Ramos is full back but could be placed anywhere on the right hand side twice getting into advanced positions but wasting chances. Central defender Gerard Pique gets fed by Xavi in the box but sees the best chance of the game so far saved by Diego Benaglio. Benaglio’s opposite number Iker Casillas has only a single save to make in the first half collecting a free kick by Reto Ziegler at the second attempt.

At the other end a similarly placed free kick is whacked into a wall by David Villa following Andrés Iniesta falling on the edge of the box although a look at the reply suggests that English referee Howard Webb has been harsh to Stephane Grichting. The Spanish seem to have near constant control of the ball but no breakthrough.

The Spanish cause is aided by Swiss central defender Philippe Senderos departing injured to be replaced by Steve von Bergen. Son of a Spaniard Senderos leaves the field with heavy heart and looks back over his shoulder at another Spanish attack which threatens although does not deliver.

The longer the game goes on without a goal…

The Spanish start to snap not at passes but at chances with Iniesta and Xabi Alonso both wasting half chances with long range efforts and uncharacteristically David Villa slipping the attentions of the Swiss defence but cutting back to chip a nothing cross or a bad shot weakly across the face of goal. Two minutes later and David Villa and begging for penalties without a foul.

For forty five minutes the Spanish have been superb everywhere outside the penalty area – the ninth goalless first half of the World Cup comes to a close – and this looks like it may continue for the second forty five as the Spanish start with pressure but seem to – and this is a team who scored 103 goals in 45 games – lack belief that they can penetrate the Swiss back line.

And then, it happened.

A ball down the middle to Eren Derdiyok who manages to beat Pique for pace charging ball and all into Casillas leaving an almighty pile of players of both sides, keepers and the ball in the six yard box. Gelson Fernandes seems to take an age to locate the ball as it bounces around Pique’s body and when he does find it he knocks it the short distance into the waiting, empty goal.

The Spanish response is a shell shocked on. They carry on with possession but increasingly adopt a tendency to cross to David Villa who is crowded by a sea of white Swiss shirts. The help he needs in the form of Torres who waits at the side of the field as the best chance created thus far – a flicked pass by Xavi which David Villa is a yard too slow for – is cleared out by Benaglio.

It must be desperate: Jesus has just come on.

Torres and Jesús Navas arrive to inject pace and the Swiss are left watching them work on the right before the ball comes to the profligate Iniesta. Tranquillo Barnetta and goalscorer Fernades are wingers playing as double full backs against a Spanish team who continue to enjoy significant possession but look unlikely to be the first team to come back from behind to win in this World Cup.

David Villa and Torres start to combine getting behind the Swiss back line but some excellent defending from von Bergan turns Torres around and forces him to try a long range effort that bends over and wide. A second time Torres is away and forces a save which – from the resulting corner – ends up with Xabi Alonso thundering ball agianst the bar and seeing it bounce away.

The Swiss hit the post as Derdiyok slips into the box and turns Carles Puyol both ways before side footing the ball past Casillas but seeing the ball bounce away. Both Derdiyok and Xabi Alonso are desperately unlucky as the clock ticks down on the first round of first round games in exciting fashion.

Navas hits a shot from outside the box a half a meter wide and Spanish resolve is tested as the Iberians continue to hold possession and their nerve to seek possession but still the belief of a team that averages two and half goals a game seems absent. Xavi ghosts through the midfield but his delivery is mopped up by Swiss defenders, Barnetta flashes a shot over the bar on the counter attack and then forces a corner with some good midfield movement. Soon though the pressure is back on.

Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Swiss side seem comfortable defending frustrating the Spanish and holding the ball on the rare occasions which they have it. Navas tries a powerful cross but Benaglio takes it from the air with a confidence. Another Navas centre is high higher than it is far by Torres, a minute later David Villa chests the ball into his path but the Liverpool forward endures a heavy first touch and the ball skims out of play.

Five minutes of stoppage time seem entirely unjustified with a single goal, and five substitutions still only accounting for three minutes. The first two minutes are wasted by Benagilo who is booked for his troubles. The remaining three promise to seem like a long time in Bern as they do for the Swiss on the field.

The Spanish force a final corner after Xabi Alonso puts a wonderful ball down the line to Navas but the corner results in a blast by Xavi over the ball and seconds later the final whistle blows.

The World Cup’s first round has it’s headline.


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