The World Cup is finally underway, and all the evidence of the opening day suggests that we are yet to see the team that will lift the trophy. South Africa and Mexico served up a cracking 1-1 draw to kick off the tournament, before France and Uruguay played out an utterly uninspiring stalemate. There were impressive moments (none more so that the terrific strike from the brilliantly named South African Tshabalala) but nothing that will scare the rest of the competition.
It was also a day featuring many of Arsenal’s representatives. Carlos Vela nearly scored the tournament’s first goal, only to be (correctly) denied by an attentive assistant referee, but he otherwise disappointed in a Mexico side that could find themselves struggling to qualify after failing to punish South Africa’s tentative first half.
The French trio of Sagna, Gallas and Diaby will be disappointed with their opening result, especially as Uruguay went down to ten men late in the game, but on an individual level they should be happier. Gallas was solid at the back, Sagna was more of a wing back threat than Evra (and will be grateful not to have been injured by Lodeiro’s X-rated challenge), but the real star was Abou Diaby, who was a constant threat in an advanced midfield role, and was the sole player who appeared capable of terrorising Uruguay’s somewhat suspect defence.
Diaby has always been a divisive player, but his performance tonight was reminiscent of the run of form he enjoyed early in 2010, before he tailed off again towards the end of the season. Running with the ball, he is a mesmerising sight, and could enjoy a prosperous World Cup if those surrounding him showed more intent. France looked rudderless and impotent up front, and provide so little goal threat that their stay in the competition may be shortlived.
The next time we see an Arsenal player in action will be Monday, when Van Persie, Bendtner and Song kick off their campaigns, but there are plenty of matches to get your teeth into over the weekend, so enjoy. They can’t be any worse than tonight’s snoozefest.
A great start for the betting tips, tracked to your right – having tipped 1-1 for the opening match, I predicted a card-fest in the second game, and both bets came off. I’m not getting too smug though – it may all go horribly wrong tomorrow.
As ever, you can follow the bets as they are placed on Twitter, or just keep an eye on the tracker to the right. No doubt some red lines will be appearing soon.
And that is it for today. I will be missing much of Saturday’s football due to a wedding, but they have kindly incorporated the England game into proceedings. Good thing too – we were planning on watching it either way. See you on the other side.