PassingNone of the Group C teams should be proud of their passing performances. All of them gave up space and snuffed out their own chances because the passes simply weren't connecting. Short, long, lob, and through, none of them were able to string enough together to use the passing game as a cutting edge. Blame the ball, field conditions, weather, altitude, vuvuzelas, and anything else you like, but this is a problem that needs a quick solution. All four of the Group C teams tried to adjust to short passes and that didn't significantly improve things. England carry the highest profile, and with it the biggest problem. Wayne Rooney needs better service than he got against the USA. Unless England expects him to go on 40-yard runs like in that shoe commercial, he needs passes that connect.
ShapeWhat the TV broadcast normally doesn't show enough of is how a team looks along the width of the field. Simply put, are they keeping shape? For most of England-USA, the United States looked like a diagram in a coaching guide. It was the correct response against an England team that was getting bogged down trying to work the ball into the attacking third. When the US began to shift defensively, they did it with the knowledge that defender Steve Cherundolo was having a standout game and controlling his side of the field. That made it tough for England to get the kind of service into the box they expected along with the space to take advantage. More of the counterattack mismatches were falling the USA's way late, and part of that was because the US kept shape.
DefenseEver been to an NBA game that uses that stupid "Dee-fense" audio clip every time the away team is walking the ball up the court? Well, that's the key so far in Group C. Every team has shown they can frustrate the opposition. It's that disruption game we talked about on Thursday. Take away passing lanes, limit final touches, and route attacking players so if they do get a shot on goal it's right at the keeper. It's not as much of a tightrope walk as it seems, with every team in the group showing they're capable of putting together 90 minutes of intelligent soccer. Sure, it was more fun to watch with England-USA, but don't discredit Slovenia or Algeria.
Michael BradleyLet's make this USA-specific point, because they had the best midfield in the opening Group C match day. A lot of that was down to the play of Michael Bradley. Though the player ratings crowd tended to discount his performance, it was Bradley adjusting his positioning again and again to make sure he was in the right place to make things a little more difficult for the England attack. At one point, he correctly saw that his mark was out of position for a pass, took two steps in the opposite direction, and got the interception. It's that kind of work that makes a team better.
SubstitutionsThis might turn out to be the real story in Group C. England forced themselves into a position to need an early sub by starting a sick player. The United States could be criticized for leaving it too late with their offensive adjustments. Algeria's sub came on in the 58th and was shown a second yellow by the 68th. Slovenia's 53rd minute sub to bolster their attack didn't, and they were lucky to end up with a soft goal to go with that man advantage. Someone needs to establish the super sub on Friday. It's a message sender, setting up the idea in the mind of the final match day opponent that they could lose to a late adjustment. Right now, none of the Group C teams should be overly concerned.
Organisers will not ban vuvuzelas -- from BBC Sport: "I think you notice it more when you are watching on TV."
England shrank when they should have been aiming high -- from The Guardian's Kevin McCarra: The assertion that England played well in Rustenburg is shameless.
History insists winners do not appear in blaze of early glory -- from The Independent's James Lawton: There is one more reality that Capello is sure not to have put aside.
Marcello Lippi faces an uphill task to keep Italy on top of the world -- from The Telegraph's Ian Chadband: And the answer always comes back: Lippi.
'Resilient' US soccer team again finds a way to rally -- from USA Today's Kelly Whiteside: "You can let it rain on you or respond."
Time for US to Capitalize on Gift -- from Fanhouse's Jay Mariotti: Certainly, America is ready for a soccer surge in ways we've never seen.
US got lucky against England; it must be better against Slovenia in must-win -- from The Philadelphia Daily News' John Smallwood: And after the first round of games, nothing has changed.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.