Day twelve was the start of the final games of round one.  Some teams were not mathematically assured to advance but they were pretty certain while others had to play their way in.  Everyone was alive in Group A & B so the games were bound to be exciting.  They were.

Aside from the actual games, the drama surrounding the French team was probably the biggest story of the day.  Would the players boycott the game or would they show up?  The result was going to be the same either way.  France played with little heart in their last game against Mexico.  Since then, Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) was sent home for berating a French team official or coach Raymond Domenech, I’m not sure which.  The French players staged a revolt and refused to train on Sunday and their appearance in the final group game against South Africa was in doubt.  What a mess.  Domenech is a douche but he is still the coach and the players have to respect that and play the game.  It’s the World Cup, why would you decide to mess with that?  You never know, you may never get a chance to come back and play on the biggest stage in the sport.  They shouldn’t have been here anyway.  We should’ve been watching Ireland instead.

France Football is not without fault.  Domenech was on the brink of being fired before qualifying even began.  The players were losing respect for their coach and he had to prove his worth or be fired.  They snuck into the tournament in controversial fashion and yet Domenech was still the coach.  To make the situation worse, Laurent Blanc was named the new coach of France before the tournament.  So, you had a lame-duck coach in Domenech who was never really popular with the players and France in a World Cup that the entire world believed they didn’t deserve.  You had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well for this team.  France has been known to fold under the slightest of pressure and I don’t mean just on the soccer field.  Why did I think France was going to show up for this tournament and do enough to make it to the next round?  How stupid am I?

On to the games:

Mexico – Uruguay (0-1)

Goal – Suarez (URU) 43’

Going into the game both teams knew a draw was all it would take to move on and that’s how they played the game.  Mexico dominated time of possession but that’s deceiving because most of the game was played near midfield and it was all about not making mistakes.  Sure, Mexico wanted to win and claim first place so they wouldn’t have to face Argentina in round two but going through was the top priority.

Uruguay scored at the end of the first half on a Luis Suarez (Ajax) header and Mexico prayed South Africa wouldn’t beat France 4-0 or 5-1.  It didn’t happen and Mexico are moving on.

Mexican forward Carlos Vela (Arsenal) was injured so Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz)) started in his stead.  Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna) finally got the start for Mexico and he rattled the post on an early long-distance shot from about 30 meters.  Francisco Rodriguez (PSV Eindhoven) missed a late game header but that wouldn’t have made much difference anyway.

Uruguay are playing some of the best soccer in the tournament.  Their passing is on the mark and they can control the ball well.  They’ve surprised me since they haven’t really been a force internationally for a while.

France – South Africa (1-2)

Goals – Khumalo (RSA) 20’, Mphela (RSA) 37’, Malouda (FRA) 70’

Red Card – Gourcuff (FRA) 25’

Would the French players even bother to show up for the game?  C’mon now, they aren’t that stupid are they?  Could you imagine the chaos if they boycotted the game?  The punishment would have been so severe.

Both teams knew that with some help and lots of goals they might be able to sneak in to the second round.  Not so much.  Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport Utd.) scored early and France could see the writing on the wall.  I thought Columbian referee Oscar Ruiz was a bit harsh with his red card to Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) at 25’.  I saw the forearm but was that really his intent?  Not so sure on that.  Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns) scored soon after and France was in all kinds of trouble.

South Africa was running a ten man France all over the pitch for the rest of the game.  Florent Malouda (Chelsea) scored for France at 70’ but that did more to dent South Africa’s hope than it did to help them.

France goes home as a major disappointment.  Laurent Blanc should have no problem turning this team around.  They have the players and I think the players should respect him (more).

Nigeria – South Korea (2-2)

Goals – Uche (NGA) 12’, Lee Jung Soo (KOR) 38’, Park Chu Young (KOR) 49’, Yakubu (NGA) 69’ penalty

Huge game for both teams.  Nigeria didn’t have any points after two games but they still had a chance to advance with a win because you had to figure Greece had no chance against Argentina.  If Nigeria won this game 1-0 or 2-0 they would advance with an Argentina victory over Greece.

On a side note, I got up at 3:15 am to catch the game.  I was legitimately excited about this game.  Everyone in town and at my school was buzzing about this game.

Korean coach Huh Jung Moo came to his senses and started defender Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg).  I’m not saying South Korea beats Argentina last week if Cha plays but I would like to think it wouldn’t have been 4-1.  Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback still has me puzzled.  Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) couldn’t find a place in the starting lineup, again.

When Kalu Uche (Almeria) scored for Nigeria at 12’ I did the math and South Korea were out.  I started to feel anxious.  Lee Jung Soo (Kashima Antlers) tied it up before the half and Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) put Korea ahead after the break and everything was going to be ok.  Not so fast.

Yakubu (Everton) converted a penalty at 69’ and the game was open again.  In the last twenty minutes Nigeria had some very good chances.  I forget who but I think Uche was all alone in front of goal late in the game and he pushed a shot wide left.  The keeper was no where in sight.  I think it was harder to miss than to make it.  South Korea survived and a nation rejoiced.

There were a lot of tired faces at school today but everyone said it was worth it.  They were right.

Greece – Argentina (0-2)

Goals – Demichelis (ARG) 77’, Palermo (ARG) 89’

Before I get to the game I have to tell you how excited I was that Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors) scored.  He’s like my favorite Boca player ever.  The 1995-2000 era Boca Juniors, next to any AC Milan team, are probably my favorite teams ever.  I couldn’t wait for Sunday afternoons when the games from Argentina would come on.  It didn’t matter who Boca played because they always put on a show.  Racing, River Plate, Huracan, whatever, they were fun to watch.  They had some exciting players.  Palermo, Jorge Bermudez, Cristian Traverso, the Schelotto brothers, Nicolas Burdisso, Mauricio “Chicho” Serna, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Hugo Ibarra and I could go on and on.  Palermo’s career is winding down and it’s nice to see him score in the World Cup.

Sometimes crazy but always entertaining

I don’t really have much to say about the game.  Argentina coach Diego Maradona didn’t think this game was too important so he had only a few regulars starting the game, Lionel Messi (Barcelona) was one of them.  Too bad for the Greeks.  Greece never really threatened and Argentina controlled time of possession 67% to 33%.  There really should’ve been more goals from Argentina in this game but they really didn’t need them I guess.

Thanks for coming Greece.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (7), Mexico (4),  South Africa (4), France (1) – Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B:

Argentina (9), South Korea (4), Greece (3), Nigeria (1) – Argentina and South Korea advance

Group C:

Slovenia (4), USA (2), England (2), Algeria (1)

Group D:

Ghana (4), Germany (3), Serbia (3), Australia (1)

Group E:

Netherlands (6), Japan (3), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands advance, Cameroon eliminated

Group F:

Paraguay (4), Italy (2), New Zealand (2), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (4), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, North Korea eliminated

Group H

Chile (6), Spain (3), Switzerland (3),  Honduras (0)

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Comments
  1. sittingpugs says:

    Which sports inspirational would you watch? The one where Mexico beats France? or the one where the US beats Algeria?

    • The Mark says:

      The one where Mexico beats France. To be honest, whenever the USA is in an international tournament, I tend to hate all the inspirational/redemption angles the media tries to get us to care about. Everyone overcomes, some more than others.

      The fact that that person or team is closer in location to me doesn’t make me feel more sympathy or empathy for them.

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