Posts Tagged ‘Argentina’

Day twenty-three saw a clinic put on by Germany and Spain edging past a very game Paraguay squad.  Argentina exits the World Cup and in the ninety minutes it took for them to lose, they went from a red-hot team with as good a chance as anyone to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy to a team that wasn’t very good in the first place and lucky even to get this far.  How fortunes change so quickly.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) went from a soccer God to a mere mortal in those same ninety minutes.  Before the game it didn’t matter that he hadn’t scored because he was creating chances and Argentina were winning.  After the game, his World Cup was a disappointment because he hadn’t scored and was put in the same bust category with Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney and Drogba.  Sure Messi has won almost everything in the last thirteen months but what have you done for us lately?

He was having a great tournament on Friday. Sunday morning; not so much

On to the games:

Argentina – Germany (0-4)

Goals – Mueller (GER) 3′, Klose (GER) 68′ & 89′, Friedrich (GER) 74′

Germany scored early and it looked like the game the night before between the Netherlands and Brazil.  I kept waiting for Argentina to finally break through but it never happened.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) and the rest of the German defense were up to the test.  Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, for now) was frustrated and he did more yelling and complaining than creating chances.

No Ballack, no problem

Argentina was a strike away from being back in this game but the wheels came off at 68′ with the goal from Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich).  Diego Maradona’s team started to panic and had to score but that just left them open for more German runs and two more goals.

The only damage done to Germany was that Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) received a yellow card and won’t be able to play in the Semi-final against Spain.  Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich) was named Man of the Match as rightfully so.  He was everywhere.  Germany has scores four goals three times this tournament and Spain better watch out.  This isn’t the old Germany or West Germany where they muscled their way through tournaments, happy to score a single goal and tighten things up on defense.  This is a young German team, the youngest team in the tournament, and each player has more freedom to create chances and make runs.  No more systems, just good open, creative play.

Paraguay – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Villa (ESP) 83′

Spain controlled time of possession but shots on goal were nearly similar.  David Villa (Barcelona) was Johnny-on-the-spot again and was able to put in a ball that had bounced off the post and onto his foot.  That’s goal number five for Villa and he’s now the top scorer in this World Cup.

He has a nose for goal

Paraguay had an early chance but Spain had more offense in the first half.  The teams took turns missing penalties in the second half.  First, Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) missed from the spot and then two minutes later Xavi Alonso (Real Madrid) missed his second chance penalty and the teams were still tied.  Alonso made his first attempt but referee Carlos Batres from Guatemala decided to call the rarely enforced encroachment on the Spaniards and Alonso had to try again.  Ooops!

Villa scores late and Paraguay were scrambling to get to the net.  It’s tough for a team like Paraguay to get goals quickly because they aren’t known for being big scorers in the World Cup.  Spain survives but this team doesn’t really scare me.  I think they’re the weakest team left in the tournament.  I’d rate Uruguay a tad higher but with Luis Suarez (Ajax) out for their Semi-final against the Netherlands, it’s real close.  Is Spain more talented?  Yes!  They just aren’t playing as well as the Uruguayans.

Speaking of Luis Suarez, he’s received a one match ban for his deliberate handball that saved Uruguay’s game against Ghana.  There’s been an uproar that something needs to be changed to stop it from happening again.  FIFA thought about banning him for two games but they really can’t.  His handball isn’t deemed worse than any other.  Rightfully so, Suarez just reacted to the situation.  It happened so fast that he really didn’t have time to think of the consequences.  I have no problem with what FIFA did.  We can’t change the rules every time something big happens.  Reader Aidan from South Korea via South Africa thinks that Suarez should be banished from this world for his actions but that might be a bit harsh.

In the Semi-finals on Tuesday it’s Uruguay – Netherlands and Germany – Spain.  Can’t wait.  Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Germany – Netherlands final but that’s just me.

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Day twenty-two saw Brazil’s run come to an end and Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) miss one of the biggest penalty kicks in the history of the World Cup.  It doesn’t top Roberto Baggio’s miss in 1994 but it’s up there.  The Netherlands find a way to fight back against Brazil and Uruguay continues its improbable run to the Finals.  With Brazil gone, it’s anybody’s tournament to win.

One of my darkest moments as a sports fan.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Brazil (2-1)

Goals – Robinho (BRA) 10′, Felipe Melo (BRA) 53′ own goal, Sneijder (NED) 68′

Red Card – Felipe Melo (BRA) 73′

Brazil scored at 10′ and it seemed like this was gonna be another Brazil highlight reel.  The Netherlands could not get anything going in the first half.  Brazil was running them all over the field on offense and were swarming them on defense.  Luckily, the half ended and Brazil was only up 1-0.  Manageable.

The second half started and it was a totally different game.  Brazil slowed its pace, looking content to hold on, and the Netherlands picked it up.  On offense they were stringing passes together and on defense they were coming up big.  An accidental header by Felipe Melo (Juventus) tied the game and Brazil seemed stunned.  Fifteen minutes later Wesley Sneijder (Inter) scores and panic started to set in for Brazil.  Melo then gets red carded for stomping Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the Dutch had the man advantage for the last 17+ minutes of the game.

Brazil tried to go forward but the Netherlands defense was up for it.  Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), a last-minute starter in place of  Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV), was brilliant.  He didn’t let anyone get by him and was physical to boot and the Brazilian players hate that.  The final whistle blew and I think most of the world was stunned.

How did Brazil fall apart so quickly to start the second half and how did the Netherlands adjust so quickly?  It was a fantastic game.  Robben, Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) and Sneijder didn’t seem too friendly out there and it seemed like there was some tension between them.  I know the team didn’t take too kindly to Van Persie’s actions after being substituted in the round of sixteen game earlier in the week and that spilled over in to practice.

The referee wasn’t that great and he lost control of the game somewhere late in the first half.  The players didn’t respect him and were jawing all game at him and he didn’t even card anyone for it.  A yellow card early in the game would’ve put an end to that.  Referee Yuichi Nishimura(JPN) always felt the need to explain himself to the players whenever he blew the whistle so there were a lot of conversations between him and the teams.  It’s like he had to validate why he blew the whistle and that’s not a good sign.

Yes i just blew the whitsle now let me tell you why

Brazil did a lot of complaining in this game and obviously the Dutch got under their skin in the second half and threw them off their game.  Usually Brazil does the talking with their play and not their mouths.  Dunga is probably already gone as Brazil’s coach and if he isn’t, he will be soon.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was off but I think the whole Netherlands physicality thing had something to do with it.

Uruguay – Ghana (1-1) (4-2 PSO)

Goals – Muntari (GHA) 45’+2, Forlan (URU) 55′

Red Card – Suarez (URU) 120’+1

What a great game!.  It was back and forth all the way.  Ghana had more time of possession and shots on goal but the difference in the game was some quick thinking from Luis Suarez (Ajax) and a huge miss by Gyan.  Both these teams deserved the result but there had to be one winner.

Sulley Muntari (Inter) was finally deemed good enough to start for the Black Stars and it paid off.  Milovan Rajevic should’ve done more with him in this tournament.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) did a lot of work for Uruguay and was rightfully named Man of the Match.

As I said, the game was back and forth but the result hinged on a late game scramble in front of the Uruguay net.  The game was about to be headed to penalty kicks.  After the second extra time period but just before the whistle could come, Ghana made a late rush and two shots were saved on the goal before a third was saved by a handball from Suarez.  Luis Suarez was on the line and punched the ball out of the air that was destined for the back of the net.  I don’t know who shot it but it was going in if not for the quick thinking of Suarez.  The referee pointed to the spot and Suarez was shown the door.  The penalty kick was going to be the last play of the game.  Make it and the game is over, miss it and we go to penalties.  Asamoah Gyan places the ball down, takes a few steps, takes a shot, the goalie is beaten, CLANK!!!  The referee blew the whistle for time and we have penalties.  How did he miss it?  That has to go down as one of the worst, clutch misses ever but not the worst.  Suarez stayed around near the tunnel to see the outcome.  Once the ball hit off the crossbar he jumped for joy and went to the locker room.  Sure, Luis Suarez is suspended for the Semi-final but he had no other choice.

Ghana was devastated going into the penalty shoot out and after two Ghana misses, Sebastian Abreu (Botafogo) makes Uruguay’s fifth shot and the South Americans move on.  Gyan was inconsolable after the match.  He was crying like a baby.  What a game!  It’s sad that Gyan will be remembered by the miss because he did have a great tournament.

I had a good tournament, really!

Tonight we have Argentina – Germany and Paraguay – Spain.  The winner of the Argentina – Germany game should automatically become the favorite to win the whole thing.  Don’t miss it!  Remember this name: Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen, for now).

Day nineteen brought the end of round two and now we have a few days off before the Quarter-finals this weekend.  Surprisingly, the Paraguay – Japan game was more exciting than Spain – Portugal.  If Portugal had showed up to play, that game would’ve been tops.

Paraguay continues to do enough to get by and now they’re in the Quarters for the first time in their history.  Too bad they don’t have enough fire power to make it past Spain in the next round.

On to the games:

Paraguay – Japan (0-0), (5-3 PSO)

I was surprised that this was the only game that went to a penalty shootout.  Usually in round two, the teams start to tighten up and the goals dry up.  It didn’t happen in South Africa and the games were more enjoyable.  Here’s hoping teams continue to go to goal to win games and not get conservative hoping to go to penalty kicks.

Paraguay had the edge in time of possession but the actual chances on goal were about even.  Japan is lucky that Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s (Nagoya Grampus Eight) clearance late in the game didn’t go into their own net.  Both goalies were very good.

Daisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) had a great game and was named Man of the Match.  He should get some looks from bigger clubs in Europe.  I still wonder why Shunsuke Nakamara (Yokohama F Marinos) couldn’t get into this game or even get more minutes in this tournament.  Honda and Nakamura would’ve been hard to cover.  You could bottle up one but not both.

This match came down to Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata) missing his penalty kick.  Komano hit the crossbar on Japan’s third shot.  Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) hit Paraguay’s fifth penalty and Japan’s run came to an end.  Japan over-achieved in this tournament and it looks like they will have a lot of turnover by the time Brazil 2014 comes around.  About twelve players from this team most likely won’t be around for the next World Cup.

Spain-Portugal (1-0)

Goal – Villa (ESP) 63’

Red Card – Ricardo Costa (POR) 89’

Spain controlled this game from start to finish.  They had a 63% time of possession and three times as many shots on goal.  Where was Portugal?  Carlos Queiroz decided that Portugal needed to go 4-3-3 but why?  Wouldn’t a player like Deco (Chelsea) have been better in a 4-4-2 than having Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen) playing out of position as the third forward?  Or, why not have Danny (Zenit St. Petersburg) or Liedson (Sporting Lisbon) in as forwards with Simao (Atletico Madrid) and just have Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) play as a midfielder behind the two forwards?  This game isn’t that difficult to figure out.

David Villa (Barcelona) scored his fourth goal of this World Cup and now he’s tied with Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) as the top scorer in the tournament.  Villa just seems to be in the right place at the right time.  He was in perfect position on the goal.  No, he wasn’t offsides, he was even with the last defender.  That’s how you play the game.  Thankfully, one of the bad linesman didn’t screw it up.

This is how the Quarter-finals stack up:

Uruguay-Ghana

Netherlands – Brazil

Argentina – Germany

Paraguay – Spain

All these games should keep our attention.  Netherlands – Brazil and Argentina – Germany should have a Finals like feel.

On day seventeen, England was finally put out of its misery.  A team that had so much promise coming in came up so small on the biggest stage in the sport.  Where was Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)?  He was so lethal in England and in the Champions League but was a non-factor in South Africa.  Midfielders Frank Lampard (Chelsea) and Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) did more for the English attack than all of the forwards combined.  Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain DeFoe (Tottenham), Rooney and Emile Heskey (Aston Villa) were terrible in attack.

I have no idea why England coach Fabio Capello is so enamoured with midfielder James Milner (Aston Villa)?  Sure he’s got talent but he wasn’t as impressive as Aaron Lennon (Tottenham).  Why not start Lennon in the game against Germany since his teammate Jermain Defoe is starting in the attack?  Sometimes coaches make the game so much harder than it really is.  Oh, I forgot, why couldn’t Michael Carrick (Manchester United) get any minutes in this World Cup?

Yes, the refs and linesman missed the Frank Lampard’s (Chelsea) goal that would’ve made it a tie game but lets not say that would’ve been a huge difference in the game.  This defense would’ve still been terrible regardless if the game was tied 2-2 at the half or not.

On to the games:

Germany – England (4-1)

Goals – Klose (GER) 20’, Podolski (GER) 32’, Upson (ENG) 37’, Mueller (GER) 67’ & 70’

Germany scored all four goals on breaks.  The England defense looked lost on all of them.  Would Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) have made a difference in this game or even this tournament?  Maybe but he’s only one player.  Whenever the Germans would make their runs, the England defense looked like they didn’t know who was covering who so they all decided to cover the player with the ball.  Bad move.

Upson and the entire England defense were terrible

Lampard was denied the tying goal because neither the referee or the linesman saw the ball (clearly) hit behind the goal line.  I know everyone will be clamoring for some sort of technology but technology doesn’t solve everything.  The referees cannot do a shitty job only to be bailed out by technology.  This World Cup had been officiated well but the first four games of the second round have not been as consistent.  The linesman have been terrible throughout.

England hit a few posts like they have all tournament but they deserved to be out.  A terrible defense and a non-existent offense won’t get you far, just ask the Americans.

Argentina – Mexico (3-1)

Goals – Tevez (ARG) 26’, Higuain (ARG) 33’, Tevez (ARG), Hernandez (MEX) 71’

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) was clearly offsides on the first goal but the linesman was too busy watching the buildup to be paying attention to the whole play.  No matter, Argentina would’ve won no matter what.

A dangerous man

Argentine coach Diego Maradona made a slight change in the lineup and sat Walter Samuel (Inter) for Nicolas Burdisso (Roma) and Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle) was benched for Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield).  Mexican coach Javier Aguirre had an odd lineup.  On paper it looked like a 5-2-3 but in reality it was a 4-3-3  The only problem is that there were only two true midfielders and defender Efrain Juarez (Pumas UNAM) was slotted in on the right midfield.  Sure, Giovani Dos Santos (Galatasaray) can help out in the midfield but he was playing too high to do that.

Argentina was just better.  People are wondering when Lionel Messi (Barcelona) is going to score but it really doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t need to score for this team to win.  He’s drawing so much attention on the pitch that someone always seems to be open.  Argentina is good but if Messi starts scoring, forget about it, this team can go all the way.

Up next is Netherlands – Slovakia and Brazil – Chile.  I’d be surprised if Slovakia and Chile put up much of a fight.

Day sixteen saw the start of the knockout stage round of sixteen games.  Both games were exciting and were in doubt until the final whistle.  Uruguay did enough in the first game to hold off South Korea.  In the second game, the USA didn’t do enough to hold off Ghana.  Now American fans can stop pretending to like soccer and go back to forgetting that soccer is even a sport until 2014 in Brazil.  MLS attendance isn’t going to skyrocket because of the USA’s performance in South Africa and soccer isn’t gonna surpass hockey to be the seventh most popular sport in the USA.  If someone tells you that, they’ve probably been saying the same thing since the 1994 World Cup in America.

on to the games:

Uruguay – South Korea (2-1)

Goals – Suarez (URU) 8′ & 80′, Lee Chung Yong (KOR) 68′

Uruguay scored early and didn’t seem interested in doing much except defending until South Korea scored midway through the second half.  South Korea deserved better.  They controlled the play but were unable to get the ball in the net.  A few posts here and there and they were stuck on one goal.

Luis Suarez’ (Ajax) first goal for Uruguay was odd.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) rolled a pass across the mouth of goal and South Korean keeper Jung Sung Ryong (Seongnam Ilwha Chunma) looked like he was going to steer the ball away but when he stretched, he didn’t quite stretch enough and Suarez was there all alone to put the ball in the net.  I think any other goalie in this tournament would’ve at least gotten a glove on the ball.

Suarez: In the right place at the right time

South Korea kept coming but Uruguay kept stopping them.  Diego Perez (Monaco) was everywhere and would’ve been my choice for Man of the Match if Suarez hadn’t scored two goals.  It probably helped that Perez is a teammate of Park Chu Young at Monaco.  Park Chu Young just couldn’t make the last move on the Uruguay defense.

After Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) scored, Uruguay turned it up again.  Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was building the Uruguay offense from midfield and he was playing both sides of the pitch.  Suarez scored with ten minutes to go but South Korea didn’t give up.  Defender Lee Young Pyo (Al Hilal) was making runs up the left side while his defense partner Cha Du Ri  (SC Frieburg) was doing the same on the right.  Somehow Uruguay was able to stop the final move to goal and they were through to the Quarterfinal.  Diego Forlan was quiet but it seemed Uruguay only really had three real chances to score.  Too bad for South Korea they scored on two of them.

USA – Ghana (1-2, aet)

Goals – Prince-Boateng (GHA) 5′, Donovan (USA) 62′ penalty, Gyan (GHA) 93′

USA had a slight edge in time of possession but it seemed like they controlled the game from the moment after Kevin Prince-Boateng (Portsmouth) scored for Ghana at 5′ until Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) scored at 62′.  Once this game was tied, Ghana seemed more interested in really going forward.  Both teams traded chances until the end of regulation.

Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) scored three minutes into the first extra time and that took a lot out of the Americans.  Ghana held on and they look like a team that can give any team fits.  They’ll be dangerous going forward.  This was the right result.  Ghana is just the better team.  Clint Dempsey (Fulham) was a monster.  He was going forwards and back all through the game.  He was the best player for the USA by far.

Dempsey: The man for the USA

The next set of games are Germany – England and Argentina – Mexico.  Both games should be awesome.  Germany and Argentina should win but who knows.  Maybe England will wake up and maybe Argentina will falter.  Who knows?  Watch, you won’t be disappointed.

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)

Day seven was very entertaining.  Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) put on a show in the Argentina – South Korea game, Greece came back from the dead to beat a now dead Nigeria team and Mexico might have done enough against France to punch it’s ticket to the next round.  Day seven also showed that sometimes coaches can’t even get out of their own way.  Huh Jung Moo (South Korea) and Raymond Domenech (France) were too smart for themselves and decided to replace key players from game one with players who probably should’ve stayed on the bench.  Mind you, South Korea played well and won and France played well but drew.  More on that later.

On to the games:

Argentina – South Korea (4-1)

Goals – Park Chu Young (KOR) 17’ og, Higuain (ARG) 33’ 76’ 80’, Lee Chung Yong (KOR) 45’+1

Argentina thrashed South Korea but it could’ve been worse and at the same time, it wasn’t that bad.  Argentina was running South Korea ragged in the first half and the time of possession was lopsided in Argentina’s favor.  A quick Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) strike just before the stroke of halftime brought life to this game that was quickly getting out of hand.

South Korea took the momentum of that first half goal into the second half and had Argentina scrambling to recoup.  A second South Korean goal looked like it was imminent.  South Korea was getting close and getting close.  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) and Lee Chung Yong were giving the Argentinian defense fits.  Then, Gonzalo Higuain spoiled the party and ended all hope for South Korea to get back in this game, let alone win.  2-1 is manageable but 3-1 is impossible.  South Korea knew they were defeated and Argentina kept their foot on the gas and Higuain scored the hat-trick to close the books on this game.

Higuain got it done against South Korea

You see the score and when a team scores four goals you think that the opposing goalkeeper had a bad game.  Not in this case.  The first Argentina goal came when a cross went off Park Chu Young’s leg and into his own goal.  Jung Sung Ryong (Suwon Bluewings) had no chance to keep the ball out of the net.  Jung made some fantastic saves and kept this game from being 6-1 or 7-1.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) showed why he’s the best in the game right now.  He can do whatever he wants when he gets the ball.  It must be frustrating for defenders to know that whatever they do, this guy is still gonna get over on you.  He does so much work in such small space and needs minimal separation to get off a shot.

The thing that frustrated me as the game went on is that Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg) didn’t start the game or even make an appearance.  I wrote after South Korea’s first game that Cha Du Ri was a monster and that he was all over the field causing trouble, not to mention how he was frustrating Greece with his defense.  So coach Huh Jung Moo decides that Oh Beom Seok (Ulsan Hyundai) is gonna do a better job stopping Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, for now) and Messi.  Wrong!  Most of the first half pressure came form the left side of the field (South Korea’s right) and Oh couldn’t handle it.  Why did Huh feel the need to make this change?

Park Ji Sung (Manchester United) was very disappointing.  He wasn’t involved much in the game and when he was, he wasn’t very effective.  I wouldn’t have minded if Hu had switched Park Ji Sung in the second half.

Greece – Nigeria (2-1)

Goals – Uche (NGA) 16’, Salpingidis (GRE) 44’, Torosidis (GRE) 71’

Red Card – Kaita (NGA) 33’

Before I get into this game, is Danny Shittu (Bolton) the fattest player in this World Cup?  Yes, he looks solidly built but fat is still fat.  Nigeria should’ve won this game because they are the better team.  In the early going it looked like Nigeria wasn’t going to have too much trouble with Greece.  Then, Sani Kaita (Alania Vladikavkaz) decided to show Vasileios Torosidis’ (Olympiakos) leg the bottom of his shoe.  The Referee had to show him the red and Kaiti was in disbelief.

Nice move Kaita

Greece then turned it up and Nigeria couldn’t keep up.  Greece ended the game with more than double the amount of Nigeria’s shots and shots on goal.  Greece could’ve had a third but two was enough.

I have to praise Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel with his roster moves in this game.  Some coaches get it.  In game one I questioned why Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) didn’t start, let alone play.  This game, Kyrgiakos starts.  Also in game one, I mentioned on how Georgios Samaras (Celtic) was a complete waste.  Samaras doesn’t start this game but Rehhagel brought him in as soon as Kaita was shown the red to bring in more attacking power.  Not starting Samaras was a good idea and so was bringing him in to strengthen the attack against a short-handed Nigeria.  Samaras did play better this game.  Maybe the benching got him to think about his play.  Who knows?

France – Mexico (0-2)

Goals – Hernandez (MEX) 64’, Blanco (MEX) 79’ penalty

Has a coach even been fired before during the World Cup?  I mean, have they been fired while their team was still in it?  If not, Raymond Domenech should be the first one.  If it’s already been done then he should join the list.  How does Youann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) not start this game, let alone play?  Next to Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Gourcuff has got to be one of the top, most important players on this team.  Florent Malouda (Chelsea) is very good but not good enough to play in the first game, a game France looked pretty good in.  Domenech decides France doesn’t need Gourcuff and so he wastes away on the bench while France sees it’s World Cup aspirations go down the drain.

As for the game, blah blah blah, France couldn’t finish but Mexico could.  Subs Javier Hernandez (Chivas) and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz) score the goals for Mexico and their ticket is close to being punched for the second round.  Mexico – Uruguay should be very good.

Blanco's still got it

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (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 (1), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (3), Ivory Coast (1), Portugal (1), North Korea (0)

Group H

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