Swiss spice up bland World Cup

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:33 PM ET

DURBAN - While an entire country was crying into its vuvuzelas over Bafana Bafana's loss to Uruguay, a pretty much boring South Africa 2010 suddenly gained some spice Wednesday.

Thanks to Switzerland.

After a relatively moribund start to a World Cup in which complaints about the ball and plastic horns overshadowed some pretty ordinary soccer, the Swiss pulled off the biggest shocker of the tournament by upsetting Spain 1-0.

With the conclusion of that contest, each team in the tournament had played at least one game.

And, one could argue, the best was saved for last.

Let's face it. Before the mighty Swiss pulled off their miraculous victory over the defending 2008 Euro champions, the most memorable play was a humiliating faux pas by England goaltender Robert Green in a 1-1 tie with the U.S.

Aside from any game in which South Africa plays, the tournament had lacked sizzle, lacked drama, lacked the unexpected.

Thank the Swiss for changing that.

Here's the intriguing part. Should Spain finish runners-up in Group H to either Switzerland or Chile, which is more of a realistic possibility after their shocking loss, the Spanish might be ticketed for a date with five-time champion Brazil in the Group of 16.

Many figured Brazil and Spain would meet here in South Africa. Just not that early.

With all of the 32 teams having played at least one game, here's a look at some of the trends in the tournament along with who's hot, who's not and who's flopped.

NET PAINS

Through the first 16 games, teams managed to score just 25 times, an average of only 1.56 goals per contest. Over that period, there were just two penalties awarded, both resulting in goals.

WHO'S HOT

- GERMANY: Forget about beating Australia 4-0. They could have scored 10 had they shown better aim.

- ARGENTINA: Maybe they only squeaked by Nigeria 1-0 but Argentine superstar Lionel Messi could have had three or four if not for goalie Vincent Enyeama.

- SWITZERLAND: Win over Spain ranks among biggest and best in team history.

- NETHERLANDS: Will be better when - and if - Arjen Robben gets back.

WHO'S NOT

- FRANCE: Dull effort in scoreless tie against Paraguay, Should be better given their talent.

- SPAIN: Have never won the World Cup. Losing to Swiss didn't help that quest.

- PORTUGAL: Too much talent to be shut out.

WHO FLOPPED

- ENGLAND G ROBERT GREEN: The Hand of Clod became world-wide news.

- DENMARK D DANIEL AGGER: Ball deflected off his back and into his own net, the first goal in a 2-1 Dutch victory.

- ALGERIA GOALKEEPER FAWZI CHAOUCHI: A Robert Koren 20-yard shot with 11 minutes remaining brushed off Chaouchi's arm and inside the right post, the deciding moment in a 1-0 win for Slovenia.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES

1. THE VUVUZELAS: Teams are now blaming them for poor play because players can't hear each other. What's the big deal? Does Peyton Manning complain because New England fans are too loud, preventing his teammates from hearing signals? Nope.

2. THE BALL: Enough! It's the same ball for everyone. Just play nice.

BEST MOMENTS

1. THE OPENER, Soccer City, June 11: An entire country stood up and cheered at the sight of Bafana Bafana.

2. THE GOAL. Soccer City, June 11. When South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament with a perfect shot to the top corner, an entire country stood up and cheered louder.

3. THE UPSET: Switzerland 1, Spain 0, June 16: This was supposed to be a new better Spain, wasn't it?

ON THE HOTSEAT

1. F WAYNE ROONEY, ENGLAND: Still has yet to score in a World Cup game. He'd better start.

2. G GIANLUIGI BUFFON, ITALY: Will his injury keep him out for a long period of time?

3. F FERNANDO TORRES, SPAIN: Returned from injury and looked dynamic. Now if he could only start scoring again ...

mike.zeisberger @sunmedia.ca


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