Spain fail to get us on our feet
So are you still watching? It's fair to say that the neutrals (excluding Switzerland for once) wanted Spain not just to win, but to win well. This has been a World Cup that, thus far, has been lacking in world-class play. It comes to something when Germany - efficient, mechanical old Germany - are considered the flair team of the tournament.
The obvious answer is that managers have learnt their lessons from mistakes by their predecessors. Avoiding defeat in their first match has become their priority. As Arsene Wenger put it this week: "In the first round teams play more not to lose than to win. The games are quite locked tactically with very few chances and very few have had a go. The pressure of the World Cup is so intense nobody wants to lose that first game."
The ball is also a factor in the tournament's slow start. FIFA, Adidas and Loughborough Uni boffins may stick their heads in the sand, but if everyone is complaining about it, there must be a problem. Diego Maradona is the latest. "I don't want to go into the ball again because everyone is talking about it, but it is important and it does play a part ," said the Argentinean manager.
There is also a question to be asked about the quality of the teams at this tournament. Apart from Germany and Argentina, there has been a paucity of brilliant attacking play. Moments to get us out of our seats have been few (and no you can't include getting up to shout obscenities at Robert Green). There has been no equivalent of the Cruyff turn, the Pele dummy, the Maradona dribble. The few players who have caught the imagination so far (Messi, Dos Santos, Ozil) have been those willing to take risks, to try and take their man on and make something happen. Despite Maicon's goal (which I'm unsure he meant), even Brazil are a functional outfit this time around. Their most creative players, Kaka and Robinho (although he did well against North Korea), are coming off poor domestic seasons, while there was no place in the 23 for the mercurial talents of Ronaldinho and Pato.
Which is why so much rested on Spain. They have the players to provide those moments that are replayed again and again. Like so many World Cups past, they failed.