The warm-ups are finished – so what exactly did we learn along the way?

Tim Rich on who shone brightest and which teams slipped up in the friendlies


Which teams are in peak form?

the one concern about Spain was what impact the injuries to Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres that ended their Premier League seasons early might have. Those who came to Murcia to see the favourites off with a 6-0 demolition of Poland on Tuesday, witnessed Fabregas take minutes to put his name on the scoresheet while Torres kicked the rust off his boots against some supine opposition. The outstanding performer was, however, Andres Iniesta.

Holland, the most thoroughbred of dark horses, had the opposite experience; with Arjen Robben a late casualty in a 6-1 demolition of Hungary in Amsterdam. Worse, is the indecision in the Dutch camp about whether their single most influential player could be risked in Monday's opener against Denmark. Their physio says yes, their manager, Bert van Marwijk reckons no.

Compared to the chaotic, careering way in which they approached the last World Cup, Germany's acceleration has been Mercedes-smooth, with comfortable victories over Hungary and Bosnia, although their former captain, Lothar Matthäus, claims they "lack individual class", especially without the injured Michael Ballack. But that is precisely the point. They were short of individual class in 2002 and in Euro 2008 and they still made the final.

Which sides have struggled?

step forward France. There are many who think that because of Thierry Henry's handball in the play-off against Ireland they should not be in South Africa at all, a view the French squad seem to share. Their preparations began with a lacklustre 2-1 victory over Costa Rica and went rapidly downhill, via a 1-1 draw with Tunisia and a 1-0 defeat to China. Reports of a player revolt and criticism of their luxurious training base have all added to a desperate mix.

It says something for the way England have prepared that they are the one team to have made Japan look good. The statements by their coach, Takeshi Okada, that they would "definitely" reach the semi-final are beginning to compare with Ally MacLeod's "Scotland will win the World Cup" in 1978 for fatuousness. After defeats to Serbia, South Korea and Ivory Coast , Okada claimed: "This is a team still capable of going places." Straight back home.

Fabio Capello might be relieved that Algeria, whom England meet in Cape Town, have lost their best player, midfielder Mourad Meghni, to injury and dropped their captain, Yazid Mansouri.

And who will walk away with the Golden Boot?

a word of warning. The player who scores more goals than anyone else in a World Cup is not necessarily the best player as Miroslav Klose proved four years ago. One hat-trick, such as Gary Lineker's against Poland in 1986, can be enough. David Villa was Euro 2008's leading marksman despite missing the final and the semi. His hat-trick against Russia was sufficient. So while Argentina's forward line looks formidable, their goals are likely to be shared among Higuain, Di Maria, Messi and Tevez. You need a dominant striker who will meet a terrible defence on their way to the latter stages. Wayne Rooney might strongly fancy his chances of tearing Algeria to shreds and Robin van Persie would think the same when Holland run into Japan in Durban.

Sometimes, the best striker in the world does end up with the Golden Boot. Ronaldo's displays for Brazil in 2002 is the case in point. Lionel Messi faces too much competition from his own strikers, Cristiano Ronaldo is part of a Portugal side that is in danger of not progressing to the knockout stages. It could be Rooney, it could even be Robinho, but much more likely it could and maybe should be Fernando Torres.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker