Now that half of the first set of games of the first round of the 2010 World Cup is complete (confused? Think Thursday night of the NCAA tournament), now is an appropriate time to sit back and digest what just happened. I'm not going to say we witnessed the most thrilling soccer on the planet -- no 3-2 nailbiters, no stoppage-time winners and only 1.6 goals per game -- but some surprising results have definitely set up an intriguing tournament moving forward.
Below, check out a few top 5 lists from the first three days of the 2010 World Cup that include the following eight games:
South Africa 1, Mexico 1 ; Uruguay 0, France 0
South Korea 2, Greece 0 ; Argentina 1, Nigeria 0
England 1, USA 1 ; Slovenia 1, Algeria 0
Ghana 1, Serbia 0 ; Germany 4, Australia 0
The Top 5 ...
Goals of the weekend:
1. Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa) vs. Mexico: A stunning, left-footed strike to open the tournament.
2. Gabriel Heinz (Argentina) vs. Nigeria: It's never easy scoring a header from the penalty spot, but Heinz found a way. Figures it takes a defender to score for Argentina.
3. Park Ji-Sung (South Korea) vs. Greece: Ji-Sung fought his way through two defenders and executed a perfect finish.
4. Steven Gerrard (England) vs. USA: Ditto for Gerrard, who made a terrific run and an even better touch to beat Tim Howard for an early lead.
5. Miroslav Klose (Germany) vs. Australia: The best aerial finisher in World Cup history? That's 11 goals for the German, seven of which have come off his noggin'.
Most impressive performances:
1. Germany: A laugher of an opener for the always-consistent Germans. Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose made us forget about their club team woes within minutes.
2. South Korea: Aside from Germany, the only other thoroughly dominating performance of the weekend.
3. South Africa: Talk about pressure. On their home soil, "Bafana Bafana" scored the goal of the weekend and earned a point against Mexico to prove Group A isn't a three-team race.
4. USA: The Americans were punched in the jaw within four minutes against the talented Brits, but calmed down and got the point not many people expected.
5. Ghana: In a tough, three-team race for two spots, Ghana got the necessary three points against one of the best defensive units in the tournament.
Least impressive performances:
1. Australia: The Aussies were thoroughly beaten by the Germans and made a few questionable tackles as the game got out of reach.
2. Greece: It's highly doubtful this team can beat the Argentines, so you do the math.
3. Algeria: In what was the ultimate win-or-go-home match, Algeria was shut out and appears to be on its way home.
4. Serbia: The tournament's darkhorse "favorite" (oxymoron?) laid an egg in its opening match against a team playing without its leader.
5. France: Uruguay is a talented team, but France has way too many weapons to open the tourney with a scoreless draw.
Things I noticed about the coverage:
1. I just feel 10 percent smarter after listening to Martin Tyler for two hours.
2. You would think ESPN just invented slow-motion replays last week. I absolutely love a nice slow-mo after a hard tackle or a well-struck shot ... but not the case of a goalie yelling, a coach grimacing or a blade of grass growing.
3. Speaking of technology, I do have to give credit to ESPN for its offside graphic. Very simple, yet effective.
4. HD soccer ranks in the top 3 of all HD sports.
5. I watched Univision's coverage sparingly because my friend's apartment didn't have ESPN (seriously). I couldn't understand everything that was said, but I could tell they were definitely having more fun.