Monday’s games were all entertaining but the trend of sloppy play continues.  I know not everyone is Argentina but why are so many passes and crosses being missed?  Is it the ball or are the players just a bit off.  Maybe a little bit of both.  The ball seems to just fly off the players’ feet.  I have a strange feeling that we won’t see a brilliant spot kick that just curls into the goal anytime soon.  The ball is not coming down like it usually does.

The Netherlands – Denmark game was the marquee matchup on the day but most fans had to see how the defending champs, Italy, would fare against Paraguay.  Netherlands – Denmark didn’t disappoint and Italy needs a little work.  In other news, Japan didn’t do much but managed to beat Cameroon.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Denmark (2-0)

Goals – Agger (DEN) 46’ og, Kuyt (NED) 85’

I was surprised the Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk decided to go 4-5-1 and leave Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) on the bench.  But hey, he’s the coach and he can do whatever he wants.  The first 20’ of this game went back and forth and it was a bit sloppy.  Denmark was the (slightly) better team in the first half even though the Netherlands had most of the possession in the half.  Danes Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal) at 27’, Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax) at 36’ and Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) at 36’ all had quality shots on goal but were unable to get it in the net.

To start the second half, Dane Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar) wanted to head away a cross out of the box but instead headed into the back of teammate Daniel Agger (Liverpool) which went into the Denmark goal.  1-0, just like that.  It looked bad.  Looks like Poulsen wanted to flick it away but it caught him by surprise and it hit off the side of his head.  Actually, this is probably the first and last time I really noticed Agger.  Not good.

Oops!!!

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) had a few chances for the Netherlands but he doesn’t like to shoot until the moment is just right.  Too bad the defenders moved when it was.  Van Persie is lucky he didn’t get his second yellow at 60’ when he kept playing and shot after the referee blew the whistle for offsides.  He blamed the vuvuzela’s but I think he’s just a punk.

A limping Bendtner was replaced at 61’ by Mikkel Beckmann (Randers).  Bendtner is coming off an injury and he didn’t look too good coming off.  Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) came on for  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) at 67’ and immediately caused trouble for the Danish defense.  Elia is fast and has tons of moves.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) closed the scoring at 85’ when Elias’ shot bounced off the post and right on to his foot.  Tap in.  Game over.

The Netherlands were miles better in the second half and Denmark never recovered from the own goal.  I expected Denmark to lose this game but they should do better against Japan and Cameroon.  Both these teams still go through.  Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) was on the bench nursing an injury to his leg.  I’m not sure when/if he’ll return.

Japan – Cameroon (1-0)

Goal – Honda (JPN) 39′

Japan is not the team it used to be and looking at their players it looked as if they’d be lucky to get a point.  Thanks Cameroon, you just made Japan’s World Cup.  I wonder if Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen (retread) has ever seen Samuel Eto’o (Inter) play before this game.  If he had, he would never have put him on the right wing let alone keep him there for the whole game.  Explain to me how one of the best goal scorers in the world isn’t playing in the center of the field and why is he crossing into the box instead of being on the end of those crosses?

This guy isn't a winger, he scores goals...lots of them

Cameroon controlled the play, had more time of possession, more corner kicks, and more than double the shots, and lost.  Why was Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) on the bench when clearly he’s one of the best midfielders on this team?  Heck, let’s throw Asia in there as well.  After Japan scored in the first half they looked like they didn’t need or didn’t want to score again.  Whenever Cameroon had the ball, there were ten Japanese players behind it.

At 82′ Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg) had a nice shot that Cameroon keeper Hamidou Souleymanou (Kayserispor) had to work to save.  The rebound went to Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse) but his shot hit the post.  There’s been a lot of post shots this World Cup already.  At 85′ Stephane Mbia (Marseille) hit a rocket that beat the keeper but clanged off the post.  Unlucky.

Japan will be happy with the result because this might be the only one they get.  Cameroon will be wondering how they let this slip away.  They needed this because the Dutch and the Danes will be much harder to handle.

Italy – Paraguay (1-1)

Goals – Alcazar (PAR) 39′, De Rossi (ITA) 63′

Italy are the reigning World Cup champs but they started the game like any other Italian teams, slowly.  Paraguay literally had one shot on goal and made the most of it.  Paraguay was better in the first half but Italy remembered how to play in the second and had the South Americans on their heels for the last forty-five minutes.  The Italian lineup was not impressive and neither was their bench.  Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) was on the bench but injured so he wasn’t gonna see any action anyway.  This has to be one of the weakest Italian teams in a long time.

The game was very chippy with a lot of whistled.  Surprisingly, there weren’t many yellows.  The first 20’s were very sloppy but the pitch was wet so I’ll cut both teams a little slack.  Unsurprisingly, Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) was not a factor in this game.  He can’t play on the big stage, ask AC Milan fans.  I would go with Fabio Qauagliarella (Napoli) or Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) in the next game but that’s just me.

Don't expect too much from Gilardino in big games

Giorgio Chiellini’s (Juventus) stupid foul on Nelson Valdez (Borussia Dortmund) at 37′ led to Paraguay’s goal.  Antolin Alcaraz (Club Brugge) headed in the free kick and it was 1-0.  To make matters worse, Italy’s keeper, Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) injured his back in the first half and had to be replaced by Federico Marchetti (Cagliari) to start the second half.  Buffon says he’ll be back for the next game but we’ll see.

Italy dominated the second half and Paraguay was lucky they only scored one goal.  Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) replaced Claudio Marchiso (Juventus) and immediately brought a spark to this team.  I expect Camoranesi to start the next game.  At 63′ Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma) knocked in a  goal from a corner and the Italians were saved from embarrassment.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

South Africa (1), Mexico (1), Uruguay (1), France (1)

Group B:

South Korea (3), Argentina (3), Nigeria (0), Greece (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand and Slovakia have not played

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