Not that surprising: The Netherlands finished group play 3-0. Sort of surprising: A game today ended in a 0-0 draw. Just plain surprising: Japan looked like a team that needs to be reckoned with. Really surprising: New Zealand drew for the third-straight game. Holy crap, you've just about got to call someone you don't believe it surprising: Italy is going home.
Here are the five things we learned from the most surprising day of the tournament so far.
1.Don't mess with the football gods, they believe in karma.
France got to the World Cup via one of the most blatant missed calls in modern memory, Thierry Henry's "Hand of Gaul" in a two-leg playoff with Ireland. They finished at the bottom of their group and are back home. Italy spend every game they play pretending they are fish in a drained lake, pissing off football fans worldwide. They finished at the bottom of their group and are headed back home. Nearly every team left (save maybe Uruguay and Switzerland) play open and relatively attractive football. This is the kind of soccer the football gods love.
2.New Zealand don't go home losers.
Sure the All Whites didn't win a single game, but their 0-0 draw with Paraguay means that they didn't lose a game either. Good for them. They were serious underdogs and they showed the world they know how to play. Here's a Flight of the Conchords song just for funsies.
I saw a bit of their game against the Netherlands and, for the life of me, I can't figure out what the heck happened in the first two games. They were controlling the ball, taking the game to the Dutch and generally looking very dangerous. They did the same thing against Denmark. Really, they should be in the next round. Maybe they should've tried to score more goals or something. (That's the kind of expert analysis you get when you come to The Full 90.)
4.Japan figured out the "jabulani."
It's no surprise that Japan (who seem to produce great free-kick takers about as often as Adam Sandler makes a crappy movie) were the first team to really figure out the controversial World Cup ball. It's just surprising it took them so long. They made Denmark's goalkeeper look foolish not just once, but twice.
5.Italy puts the "old" in "Old Europe."
ZING! I should send that joke to Rick Reilly, he'd love it.
Honorable mention: The continued involvement of Slovakia and Portugal could deplete our global supply of hair gel. ... Neven Subotic and Giuseppe Rossi could still be playing soccer right now (I'm just sayin' is all). ... I thought Denmark would do better than they did. Of course, I thought the same thing about Greece. And South Africa. And Serbia. And Italy. I'm not good at this prediction thing, huh?