Edgy camera angles and movement, noisy and unbearable plastic trumpets, upsets, tears and complaints about a ball... Here's what we've learned from the first set of group stage games.
Group A: The only hope for the Hosts to go through is Raymond Domenech. If he pulls another one of his bizarre starting eleven/formations (did anyone notice that Sidney Govou - who was released by Lyon before the end of the season - wears the famous number 10 shirt for Les Bleus, just like Michel Platini and Zizou?), then anyone might have a chance to create a surprise in the very serious group A. Uruguay proved they were there to win matches, and Mexico can pass the ball around 'till the end of time without losing it. They just need to find their striker, before it's too late.
Group B: The favourites (Argentina) looked good, but not as good as we expected (Nigeria was a decent contender, to be fair). Mikel's absence in Nigeria's midfield may cost them their qualification to the next round if they don't find a way around it. We'll find out when they play Greece, the '04 Champions of Europe (yes, that's right), who can't seem to find that form/luck that brought them glory 6 years ago. South Korea, whose games aren't broadcasted in Korea DPR :-), were sharper than most in their opener, and may well prove us (me especially) that their '02 run (they were semi-finalists) wasn't sponsored by Sepp Blatter himself.
Group C: "US beat England 1-1" said the headline... Bradley and the rest of the country showed how much that point meant to them (I met a U.S fan in NY last weekend wearing a blue and red scarf that read: "June 12th 2010 - Beat your mother"). Makes sense, considering the fact that their remaining matches are against sides they feel they can beat. Slovenia however, are top of the group. Which ups the stakes of each remaining game. Everyone needs to get full points against Algeria and it will be a 3-horse race. Unless the Algerians know the magic words: Robert Green.
Group D: The group may be decided in the next few days if Ghana can capitalize on Australia's traumatic experience of having played Germany in a Mundial. Serbia will have to "park the bus" - in their case, the plane - if they want to get anything out of their fixture versus the Mannschaft. But they will lose. If that happens, the Black Stars will have a date (a tasty group decider) with THE MOST IMPRESSIVE SQUAD SO FAR...Ze Germans.
Group E: It was supposed to be rated E, for everyone. The other group of death (I hope I'm not the only one appreciating the quality of all 4 squads) has lived up to expectations. So far. The flying (with only one wing vs Denmark) Dutchmen keep their slight edge over the others but it's going to be a nail-biter that may go down to goal difference rules to choose between 4 teams that have yet to find their soul/balance/bollocks. Saturday is gonna be fun! Especially if Robben comes back.
Group F: The Italians never seem in a hurry to find their form at the World Cup. They like to keep it for the second round. Or maybe it just takes them longer than others to gel. No pun intended. Lippi claimed he was very happy with the draw against the draw-seeking Paraguayan side. But can you really blame them for amicably agreeing to split the points, considering the considerably weak opposition that awaits them in games 2 and 3? No, not really. Slovakia was supposed to beat the worst team of the tournament, but didn't. Talk about making it hard on yourself. Too bad for my boy, Marty Skrtel, the Red.
Group G: Is this group called the "Group of Death" because Kim Jong-il is personally going to execute Korea DPR's players if they humiliate themselves against 3 World Cup contenders? Hmm...maybe not. The unknown team of the Cup showed some good attributes against the five time Champions. They also showed us what North Koreans look like. Jong Tae-Se, aka The People's Rooney (or crybaby) played better the real Rooney (against the Yanks). And their defensive discipline may become the atomic bomb (pun intended) of a group where points have become even more expensive. Brazil proved they've got the minerals. Against DPR. Côte d'Ivoire made Portugal look ordinary, and Cristiano settled the debate on the Jabulani (there is nothing wrong with the ball! Ask the post). The group of death is still the group of death. And because it is, it will take deadly finishes by the world's best commercial actors to separate these sides.
Group H: Thank you Hitzfeld for setting us up with some interesting clashes for the next games. Now that Spain has to win, they'll have to open up and will be more vulnerable at the back, thus paving the way for more balanced matchups in the group. The favourites were shaken. And proven beatable. Now, the World Cup has started...