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Page last updated at 05:42 GMT, Saturday, 26 June 2010 06:42 UK

Alan Hansen's column

Jermain Defoe

Highlights - Slovenia 0-1 England

Alan Hansen
Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

It has been a weird and wonderful World Cup so far and I think it is a case of expect the unexpected as we move into the second round.

France have gone home, Italy finished below New Zealand and even Spain had their work cut out to get out of their group after their shock defeat by Switzerland.

In terms of a potential winner, it is wide open and I think any one of six teams have a genuine chance now - Brazil, Argentina, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany... and England.

Brazil's performance in their 3-1 win over the Ivory Coast was the best I have seen so far. They had the right balance between being brilliant on the ball and solid without it.

Argentina are a classic example of a team that is excellent going forward but suspect at the back

Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo, their two holding men in midfield, were very, very disciplined which gave Maicon the licence to get forward from full-back while in front of them, Kaka, Elano and Robinho had the quality to get past defenders.

But Brazil did not get going against Portugal, who put eight or nine men behind the ball. There were two strong defences and a point suited both sides but it was still disappointing because I expected more.

I cannot see Portugal winning the competition but they have got a great defensive set-up and Cristiano Ronaldo too, of course. I thought he did very well in the second half against Brazil when he was up front on his own with no support but still caused them one or two problems.

Argentina are very interesting because they are a classic example of a team that is excellent going forward but suspect at the back. Their key-man is obviously Lionel Messi, who has been exceptional, but they have a number of weak spots.

Newcastle's Jonas Gutierrez is not even a left-back, let alone a right-back, and every time I've seen Bayern Munich centre-back Martin Demichelis play he has made a mistake.

606: DEBATE

Spain are interesting because we have seen now what they do when they come up against teams like Switzerland who set out to defend with two banks of four players - they try to play their way through.

I think they might have to vary that approach, particularly against Portugal in the last 16. I am not advocating that they try to be more direct but they may have to use the flanks more - you have to be able to vary your tactics sometimes.

The Dutch have got a nice balance in midfield between Nigel de Jong and Wesley Sneijder, who I think is a fantastic player. They should go a lot further.

England? If they play like they did in the group stage they will be beaten by Germany but they at least showed signs of life in their win over Slovenia.

They were average against the United States and abysmal against Algeria but at times in their last game they were exceptional, even if it was only for a 10-minute spell after their goal.

Fabio Capello
Capello's England face Germany in the last 16 on Sunday

Then Fabio Capello's side went back to being a bit sloppy and they will have to eradicate that. The Germans are contenders themselves but they have been inconsistent so far in South Africa too and they are certainly beatable, like Argentina will be if they meet in the quarter-finals.

In terms of the squad they have got, England should reach the semi-finals at least now.

But they have to get a grip of their game and play at the higher tempo that suits their players and their set-up better.

Yes, if they had topped their group they would have had an easier path to the last four, but then they would have probably played Brazil, who are the team you want to avoid for as long as possible.

At least they are still in the tournament, unlike defending champions Italy. Their manager Marcello Lippi was not wrong to go with experience but perhaps several of his players had aged a bit too much.

Azzurri captain Fabio Cannavaro is probably the outstanding defender of his generation and has been around a long time but he has had a few niggling injuries and certainly is not the player he was in 2006.

But not only did they struggle defensively but you were left wondering where the quality was going to come from in midfield and they had no creativity in the final third.

The Kiwis were brilliant

If you are in the same group as New Zealand and you finish bottom, then it shows how bad things are.

Considering they had some players who play non-league in England, I thought the Kiwis were brilliant, though, and it proved what can be done if you have commitment, team-work and spirit.

France, who were by far the tournament's biggest disaster, had none of those attributes and showed that you need them even if you do have quality players.

They were in disarray before they came out to South Africa with their manager Raymond Domenench, the French Football Federation and the squad all pulling in different directions. Ultimately, that was always going to lead to carnage, and that is exactly what we got.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan in Cape Town.



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see also
James unfazed by penalty prospect
25 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England spirit delights Capello
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
French government in finals probe
25 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Italy lack top talent - Cannavaro
25 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
BBC's World Cup coverage and team
08 Jul 10 |  BBC coverage
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010


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