In the Premier League his performances are staggering, spectacular. In the Champions League he is good, but less so. In the national team, he struggles rather more — Xabi Alonso on Wayne Rooney
We have witnessed the unexpected happen as the 2010 Football World Cup enters into the semi-final stage. South American survivor Uruguay, who won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950, has rightfully earned the term fighters and survivors. The Netherlands, aiming for their first World Cup win, have been hauled up for the lack of creative flair despite winning five matches on a trot. Favourites Spain has already made history by reaching the semi-finals for the first time while a young German team is teaching the world what teamwork really means.
Players in Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi and Rooney failed miserably along with their respective teams to light the big stage — forget living up to expectations. Reigning champions Italy were unceremoniously dumped out by charging Slovaks in the very first round. England, who scraped through to the second round, followed as Germany thrashed them 4-1 at the Free State Stadium. Brazil and Argentina were the main disappointment of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Let's look at the top-four teams that failed hands down for an early way home. And why?
Italy — The defending champions' humiliating first-round exit was too much to handle. They topped their Group from the bottom with just two points, only managing 1-1 draws with Paraguay and with New Zealand. Marcello Lippi's side came to South Africa without any strikers to start with. With the ageing squad, the Azzuris lacked in both the tactical and psychological aspects of the game. Italia showed some signs of life when injured Pirlo came back to the side but it was too little, too late. Their inability to fill in the boots of Alessandro del Piero and Francesco Totti put them in a spot more than the most. What I fail to understand is that after four years of preparation you come at the World Cup without — Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli? Why?
England — The team was studded with stars on papers but on field proved a dud. Players in Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard looked tired during their short-lived campaign. The Three Lions were knocked out of the World Cup following an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Germany in their Round of 16 clash. Englishmen departed ignominiously in the second round quashing the belief that the best football is played in England. Rooney failed to score in four appearances and looked a shadow of the player who was unstoppable for Manchester United last season. Coach Fabio Capello needs to take the blame as much as the players themselves. The Italian failed disastrously what Sir Alex Ferguson does with the opportunist striker (Wayne). Just before their World Cup campaign, Capello had cautioned Rooney about fits of temper. Fergie, who knows the nerves of English players, gives Rooney the license to play the way he wants and not worry about discipline and all that. Fabio's authoritarian approach was one of the main reasons behind England's underwhelming performance in South Africa.
Brazil — You know why I love this game — it changes so quickly. The favourites started the quarter-final match with a bang and bang they were abusing linesmen, kicking Robben, leaving Sneijder alone, getting red-cards (yellow too) and eventually losing the game 1-2 against Holland. As soon as the equaliser went in, Brazilians forgot all their flair and put pragmatic approach to rest. Brazil, where football is a religion, players sought to do away with the god and paid the price for an over-cautious approach. The South American side forgot their samba magic, which they discovered in a previous game against Chile, and did not push enough to enhance the lead and take control in their own hands. They were rather playing Italian style of soccer where you tend to score early and defend it to the last. After suffering the most shocking exits of the 2010 World Cup, as they say, Dunga and his entire coaching staff were sacked. The favourites have fallen and Brazil has a long look forward at how the samba magic is to be recreated.
Argentina — That they are more comfortable when their strikers have the ball was known and well-aware Germans just toyed with their clueless defenders. After Argentina's result, I was left comparing as to whose defeat was more humiliating? Just joking, but they played like one…Mascherano against Schweinsteiger in the midfield was a battle less-matched with the later ripping through without any bothering. World Player of the Year Lionel Messi got little, almost no assistance from its playmakers to stop the annihilation at the hands of curious Germans. The South American team was defused much before their release and the counter-attack was so fast that the defence failed utterly to deal with it. The cigar-smoking, bearded Maradonna could only see Argentina's football dreams go up in flames. In the midst of all this I want to ask one question? Why Nicolas Otamendi was persisted with instead of Sergio Aguero and most importantly where the hell was 'The Wall' Samuel?
Was it the big-stage phobia or the big-match pressure that took toll on the players is a debatable issue; however Portugal great Eusebio was of the opinion that football today has become too commercial and that you can count good players on one hand. I tend to disagree with the argument that 'commercialization has hurt football' because these players are unstoppable when they are playing for their clubs and tend to score at their will. Commercialization will only make it beautiful and bring competition among the players to top the wish list — rest is on the individual on how he wants to be tackled.
Yes and don't get me started with what happened to France…