After a week of predictable results, someone finally threw a spanner in the works and as fate would have it, one of the most fancied teams after the first round came unstuck against a team marshalled by the indomitable Michael Essien. The Czech Republic had no answer to the Ghanian midfielder, who showed just how good he really is when given the run of the midfield. He won tackles, made runs and created chances for his teammates.
At 25 mil, Chelsea have one of the best midfielders in Eurpoe and surely Essien will start in Makelele’s position next season – if he does watch for Chelsea to become more attacking than before as Essien provides them with a driving force as strong as that of Vieira’s and Keano’s in their time. Too bad United did not fight harder for Essien last year – seeing that we lost out only by 8 points, having Essien here could have more than made up the distance.
You would have thought though, that lightening won’t strike twice and that the other match in the group – Italy vs USA – would go as predicted. The media, politically motivated, had roundly condemned the USA after their 3-0 loss to the Czechs – with Suddenly Susan football ‘fans’ (and some of their more knowledgeable counterparts) laughing at USA’s no. 5 ranking by Fifa.
Personally I think that ranking does not reflect USA’s real status in world football, but the ranking is not based on something as subjective as class and talent and pedigree – it is based on form and results. By dint of their results, USA were ranked 5th. And seeing them hold Italy to a 1-1 draw after having one less body on the pitch was a reminder of the reasons the Americans went so far last time around and topped their qualification group – they simply refuse to give up and lie down. Reyna and Donovan had spectacular games with Donovan’s lung-bursting runs splitting the famed Italian defense several times, but the best player on the pitch was Kasey Keller who made the saves that kept USA alive in the group.
Speaking of rankings though – The Czechs were ranked 2nd, and today Ghana handed them a lesson in total football that they are unlikely to forget for a long time. Goes to show that football is a lot more than just rankings and class and talent and skill – it’s about heart, and fighting to the end. At this showing, the Czechs won’t be going too far.