Fred de Jong: Germany set tournament standard

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All 32 nations have now played their opening matches at the World Cup. It is still too early to make any real judgments on who will lift the trophy, but there were some revelations in the first week.

Overall, the soccer has not lived up to pre-tournament expectations. Too many teams have been more concerned about not losing their first game than with going for all three points on offer. Especially disappointing have been teams that have been happy to sit on a one-goal lead rather than push on for decisive victories. We can only hope that the next round of matches produce more attacking play.

One team has set the marker for others to follow. Germany's demolition of Australia has easily been the standout performance thus far. The Germans showed how crisp, incisive passing coupled with decisive running off the ball can cut a side to shreds. Australia were lucky the 4-0 scoreline was not doubled and it is difficult to see them recovering to make any sort of impression on the tournament.

I spoke to Franz Beckenbauer before that match and he was confident that Germany would have a good tournament. He said the Germans have a very good team spirit and an excellent work ethic. I'm sure his confidence will only have grown after such an impressive performance.

Of the other favoured teams only Argentina showed anything like World Cup winning ability. Argentina v Nigeria was an enthralling encounter. The brilliance of the Argentinean attack in Messi, Teves and Higuain was worth the wait. The opening 15 minutes was one-way traffic towards the Nigerian goal and only the brilliance of their keeper kept Nigeria in the match. The 4-1 result against South Korea confirmed that the Argentinean attack would be a handful for any team.

Brazil and Italy looked short of a gallop and will hope their next outings will blow out the cobwebs. England was unconvincing and already have injury problems in the key centre back position. Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier summed up France quite nicely: "France has very good players, was better than in qualifying but something is not quite right."

For that something, look no further than their coach. Then there is Spain. Shocked by Switzerland, it is now an uphill task for the European champions. Spain will hope to emulate the 1974 German team by winning the World Cup after losing a match.

Of course the stand-out moment of the tournament for all New Zealanders was Winston Reid rising to claim that historic point in the dying moments against Slovakia. As that ball nestled in the back of the net, the New Zealand commentary position in the Royal Bafokeng stadium resembled the final moments of a pogo competition. Bodies going up and down in celebration drew sidelong looks from the surrounding world media. Did we care? Not a bit. A great moment to be a Kiwi.

* Fred de Jong is a former All White

- NZ Herald

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