Viva Adriano!Were Australia any good or are Brazil poor? I think probably a bit of both. Australia looked solid and workmanlike, although unspectacular, while Brazil looked lightweight in midfield and largely uninterested up front. It would be easy to become overexcited about Australia's chances (and by gum, the locals have been) but they clearly aren't a million miles off the pace. The truth is, international football no longer divides cosily into the rich and the paupers, and it's getting harder for the better sides to beat the less good. Australia lack the quality to go all the way in this tournament, but they should be good enough to draw with Croatia and their hardworking style will put them in with a chance against any side not willing to put their shoulders to the wheel. I'm thankful that England cannot draw them in the next round, because unwilling would very much describe them. England/Trinidad and Tobago was embarrassing to watch. We really don't look very good. Still, we can go on to better things now we've qualified for the next round and Rooney is likely to be fully fit for it. We have an easy draw, except for possibly having to knock out the hosts!
Argentina, contrariwise, do. What a treat their game against Serbia and Montenegro was. Serbia are no one's idea of mugs but they were made to look it. Riquelme shone in midfield. You never see the guy run but he's all over the place, prompting, organising, displaying his wonderful vision and making things happen. And, as though to demonstrate the depth of talent they have at their disposal, Argentina's three subs all scored. Tevez, a strong and exciting runner, would walk into most national sides, and Messi is a superstar about to shine. I hope he is unleashed against Holland, because he is a quite astonishing talent. Saviola was again excellent, as were Rodriguez, Crespo, Cambiasso and Mascherano. The midfield was just brilliant. I am a huge fan of the Argentine style: attacking, thoughtful football, played at fast pace with excellent technique. When it works -- as it did against Serbia -- it is the best football you are going to see. I hope Argentina can avoid imploding and keep up this standard.
I saw some of Italy/USA, most of the second half, and I was impressed with the USA's spirit. Arena has made them into a solid unit, which plays far above its grade. This hasn't been a great tournament for them but they certainly aren't disgracing themselves (no one can stop Czecho when they're in the mood and they were in the mood when they ripped the USA apart) and they have hopes still. Italy are the usual curious mix of immense talent and lethargy. They are far too defensive, which serves them well against the better sides but leaves them short of ideas against sides they might feel they should easily beat. They are likely to play Australia in the next round. I wouldn't bet my last euro on their winning that one.