Lee Dixon: Spain will bounce back, but don't be so sure about Germany

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The Independent Online

It has taken its time – especially when you have sat through every game – but the competition is coming alive. Spain's defeat provided the first moment of real drama and since then we have plenty to get our teeth into; Messi at his mesmerising best, mixed messages from an exciting new generation of German players and the shambles that is the French camp.

Spain took plenty of stick back home for the Switzerland defeat, and of course they will have been extremely disappointed, but the manner of their performance suggests there is not too much for them to worry about. They were great to watch and passed and moved so well, as they usually do.

The concern about the Spanish is that they had no real threat up front with David Villa, all £35m of him, on his own. They definitely did miss Fernando Torres, but he should be back to full fitness in time for the next match against Honduras, and certainly for what promises to be a testing final game in Group H against Chile – the winners will probably top the group and then avoid a possible second round meeting with Brazil.

There will be no panic stations in the Spanish camp. This is still a team that knows how to win (leaving aside that result!) and at this stage of their development, that is, as just about the best team around, they will not be too concerned with one defeat – a nod and a wink from the manager, the experienced Vicente del Bosque, and I would have thought all will be OK.

In the first round of matches there were several games where you thought one of the fancied teams was going to hammer their opponents, the Spanish for one, Italy against Paraguay or Argentina against Nigeria. But there was only one team who did, and they took me by surprise. Australia may have defended with all the mobility of a bunch of mannequins, but the Germans were very good in game one. They caught the eye like no other side over the first round of group games, but now you have to balance that with their defeat by Serbia yesterday.

The talk before the tournament was that losing Michael Ballack was a big blow, but it actually looks something of a blessing even given their loss yesterday. No Ballack means there is no big personality who might overshadow what looks a promising group of youngsters. The energetic Sami Khedira is very Ballack-like in midfield and Mesut Ozil takes up some great positions on the whole. He has really impressed. Then they have players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, although the striker didn't have the best of days against Serbia, who are young and energetic but have experience; they are both 25 and have over 70 caps.

Even with 10-men against Serbia – in a game that was ruined by an over-zealous referee, who was booking people for absolutely nothing – they created plenty of chances (and to see a German missing a penalty... let's hope that doesn't come back to haunt us!). They will be under pressure now, but they should beat Ghana and get through without too much problem.

My one doubt over the Germans after the Australian game was their defence. It was not tested there but Serbia did show up some flaws. They were caught in the middle for the goal, with Per Mertesacker sucked out of position – it was poor defending. But more worrying for them was young Holger Badstuber. He had looked so good going forward against the Aussies, but had a game to forget yesterday. He was caught several times on the inside, which for a full-back is criminal.

Five asides

1. Just how did the French get that bad?

What a shambles. I can't quite believe what I have seen from them. The players do not look interested in the slightest and you can see the splits in the camp on the pitch. They are all over the place – so, so poor.

2. My South American dark horses are looking good

So far so good. Chile looked really sharp, they have decent players and lots of pace. Diego Forlan has been outstanding for Uruguay, backed up by a mobile midfield. They have a bit about them.

3. Rooney could learn a lesson from Fabregas

It is interesting to contrast Wayne Rooney's boring take on being in camp, with that of Cesc Fabregas, who said being there was no chore – they are there to play football, it's what they do. That's the right mentality to have. They are being paid to play in a World Cup finals. Does it get any better for a footballer?

4. Such a pity that the hosts fell silent

It will be a big blow to the atmosphere of the tournament around the country if the hosts go out, and it is certainly looking that way. When they lost on Wednesday, Cape Town was really quiet. For once, you couldn't even hear a single vuvuzela.

5. The England team's old boy network

There are so many ex-players out here working for TV channels that it's like being back in the dressing room. There is a great vibe with everyone taking the mickey. But it's a relief that the football is getting better as there have been some games where it's been difficult to find anything to say.

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