Posts Tagged ‘Bayern Munich’

The World Cup is over and Spain are your new Champions.  First Euro 2008 and now this?  I guess we have to respect Spain in international competitions now and not wait for them to eventually choke.  The Final was probably one of the best deciding games since I can remember (1982).  Both teams wanted to win and not just play conservatively, hoping they could put the ball in the net while not really going forward.  Both teams gave it a go but one goal was all it took.  Thank God we didn’t go to penalties because this game was just too good to be decided like that.

Spain: Your 2010 World Cup Champions

On to the game:

Netherlands – Spain (0-1 aet)

Goal – Iniesta (ESP) 116’

Red Card – Heitinga (NED) 109’

Before the match, referee Howard Webb’s wife said she was surprised her husband got the call to be the Final’s ref because he can’t even control his kids at home.  Funny, but she was right.  He was not in control of this game.  The players cared very little if they were getting a yellow card or not.  It’s the Final and there’s no tomorrow so if you have to foul, foul hard and don’t worry about jawing at the ref, all he can do is give you a yellow.  Webb was giving out card like they were going out of style, fourteen in all, including a red to John Heitinga (Everton) for his second yellow of the game.  Webb had no control of a game that most referees would’ve had trouble with.  Did he do a good job?  Kind of.  A red earlier in the game would have put an end to the chippy play.  Otherwise, he did about as good as anyone could have in same situation.

The statistics say Spain had 57% of the possession but watching it I thought it was much closer than that.  Spain would go on runs where the Netherlands couldn’t put anything together and then the Netherlands would control the ball and have Spain on it’s heels.  Spain had more shots, 19 to 13, but the actual shots on goal were only 6 to 5 in favor of Spain.  Maybe it was that sixth shot that made the difference.

Both teams looked as if they could’ve played another ninety minutes but as soon as Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) scored at 116’, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the rest of the Dutch players had a look of disbelief and all the energy was sucked out of them.  Robben lay on the ground, shaking his head and looking like a man defeated.  It didn’t matter that four minutes plus injury time were left on the clock.  They just didn’t have the will to fight anymore.  One second more was one second too much.

Iniesta will probably never have to buy another drink in Spain, ever.

I don’t understand what Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk was thinking with his substitutions?  Now’s the part of the post where I second guess the coach and tell you how I would’ve done things better.

The first substitution was Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) in for Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) at 71’.  So a forward playing as a midfielder was taken out for a forward who likes playing midfield.  Why?  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) was the only true forward on the pitch for Holland and he managed to get all of one shot on goal and it wasn’t even on target.  Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Robin were doing all of the work of front and Van Persie was along for the ride.  Why not bring in Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan).  I know I extolled the virtues of Elia in an earlier post but that was then and this is the Finals.  Huntelaar is a proven goal scorer who actually scored in one of his sub appearances.  Maybe Kuyt was spent but Van Persie needed to go at that point.  Kuyt probably worked as hard as anyone this whole World Cup.

Substitution number two was Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) for Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) at 99’.  So a holding midfielder was taken out for an attacking midfielder.  Why?  Again, why was Van Persie allowed to stay on when he obviously wasn’t doing anything except accusing the Spanish players of diving.  In the twenty-eight minutes since Elia came in, Robben and Sneijder were still carrying Van Persie.  I’m not saying De Jong should’ve stayed in but Huntelaar would’ve worked in that situation also.

The third and final substitution was defender Edson Braafheid (Celtic) for defender Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) at 105’.  Van Bronckhorst was probably out of gas by then but why bring in unused Braafheid when you have proven defenders in Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven) and Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) on the bench?  Both played well when they were called on to start in earlier games.  Puzzling call.  Not to say that Braafheid caused the Netherlands to lose but I would’ve went with a more experienced player at that time of the game.  Braafheid doesn’t see any action all World Cup and then you expect him to play in the last fifteen minutes of the whole tournament.  Again, why?

Congrats to Spain.  The shook off an opening game defeat to Switzerland to win the whole thing.  No way this team was the best team in the tournament but they played like it.  You’d think a team with this many great names would’ve scored more goals but whatever they did was effective.

One question for Vincente Del Bosque, how many times were you going to let Pedro (Barcelona) do nothing on the pitch before you decided that maybe Fernando Torres (Liverpool, for now) should’ve started instead.  Pedro is a good player but not in this tournament.  Plus, the first sub for Spain was forward Jesus Navas (Sevilla) for Pedro.  Jesus Navas?  You have Torres, Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao) and Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia) and you choose Navas?  Really?  Torres finally came in at 106’ for a nearly dead David Villa (Barcelona).  A bit late don’t you think?  Luckily Iniesta bailed him out or he would’ve had to explain why he made or didn’t make those moves.

In the Third Place game, Germany beat Uruguay 3-2.  I won’t talk about it much because the Third Place Game really doesn’t mean much unless your from Uruguay or Germany or whoever is involved in this game.  Germany fought back from 2-1 down to win the game.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) scored one for Uruguay and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) got one back for Germany.  With that, Forlan wins the Goldon Ball for tournament’s MVP and Mueller wins the Golden Boot for the World Cup’s leading scorer (five goals, three assists).  Mueller also picks up the Best Young Player award.  Teams are lining up to sign Mueller, who’s only twenty years old.

We're gonna be hearing alot from Mueller for years to come

All in all it was a great World Cup.  South Africa should be proud.  There were no glaring problems and the tournament went off without a hitch.  Hopefully the vuvzela can be banned before the next World Cup.  Interesting note:  New Zealand is the only team not to lose a game in this tournament.  Good for you All Whites.  I picked you to be one of the worst teams coming in.

See you in four years time.  Look for my preview somewhere around June 1, 2014.  Thanks and I hope you enjoyed following this tournament with me.  I saw all sixty-four games and they weren’t all great but it was fun writing about them.  Thanks to Aidan and Joe S. for all the feedback.

I can't believe I have to wait four years!

The Semi-finals are over and we will have an all European Final and a first time winner.  Uruguay held on as long as they could against the Dutch but Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) couldn’t win the game by himself.  Germany was missing Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) and couldn’t get over on Spain.  Both very good games and the Finals should be must see.

On to the games:

Uruguay – Netherlands (2-3)

Goals – Van Bronckhorst (NED) 18’, Forlan (URU) 41’, Sneijder (NED) 70’, Robben (NED) 73’, Pereira (URU) 90’+2

I don’t know how many people outside of Uruguay actually thought Uruguay would win this game.  It would have been a nice story but realistically the Netherlands were just too strong.  Even if Luis Suarez (Ajax) wasn’t suspended it would’ve been hard for the South Americans to advance.  The Netherlands are clicking and even though you may only be hearing about Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), this team is stacked and everyone has played fantastically.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) is doing a lot of work that goes unnoticed when you don’t score.  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) is attracting defender which leaves more space for Sneijder and Robben.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich) is starting everything from the midfield.  All great stuff but you only get your name in the highlights and the stories if you score.

The main statistics were about even with the Netherlands holding a slight advantage in time of possession.

With Luis Suarez missing, Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was in as the other forward to compliment Forlan.  Cavani is mainly a forward but has been playing more of a midfield role when Suarez has been in the games.  No big deal there except Suarez is slightly better but it probably didn’t make much of a difference.

The Netherlands were without defender Gregory Van Der Wiel (Ajax) and midfielder Nigel De Jong (Manchester City), who were both sitting out due to yellow card suspensions.  Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) took over in defense while Demy De Zeeuw (Ajax) was in the midfield.  Boulahrouz played well but De Zeeuw, not so much.

Goivanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) put the Netherlands on the board before the twenty minute mark with what has to be the best goal of the tournament.  He ripped in a shot from at least thirty meters.  Nice!  Not to be outdone, Diego Forlan drew Uruguay level right before the half with a long shot that Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax) got a hand on but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

The second half was all Oranje and the late Uruguay goal from Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica) really didn’t matter.  The Netherlands had the game in hand by then.  This game could’ve very easily been 4-2 or 5-2.

Just a note, how far has Ryan Babel (Liverpool) fallen?  He can’t get on the field at Anfield and somehow he makes this team only to never see the light of day.  He needs a switch.  He should leave Liverpool and go to a team that would give him quality minutes.  He’s only twenty-three and his career is at a stand still.  On the other hand, with Fernando Torres most likely leaving Liverpool will Babel get more playing time?  Just a thought.

Germany – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Puyol (ESP) 73’

Spain had the greater time of possession, more shots and more shots on goal.  How?  Germany was only missing one player, Thomas Mueller, but they looked like a completely different team.  Germany was lost and how does that happen.  Germany was flat.  That should not happen to a German team.  As good as they were throughout the World Cup, this game tarnishes that.  Sure Mueller was a big loss but that doesn’t erase having Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen) and Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) on the pitch.  How does a team with that time of midfield creativity and firepower only manage two legitimate shots on goal?  Shocking!

It’s just me but why didn’t Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) play in place of Mueller instead of Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV)?

Thanks to Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) this game wasn’t 4-0.  Spain kept coming and coming but Neuer was always up for it.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen) and Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV) looked ordinary.  They were employing the England and USA technique of giving guys too  much space.  Ouch!

Manuel Neuer was the only German player who did any real work

Pedro (Barcelona) got the start over Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and I’m not convinced it was a bad thing.  Torres has been average in this World Cup.  I wonder who will get the start against The Netherlands in the Final or will Spain go with one, lone forward in David Villa (Barcelona)?  My feeling, Spain would be wrong to think that they can be effective with only one forward against The Netherlands.

Sunday it’s Netherlands – Spain and I’m not really that excited.  I was hoping for a Netherlands – Germany matchup and Spain winning took away most of my excitement.  Will I watch the game?  You better believe I wouldn’t miss a World Cup Final for anything.  The only time I would consider not watching is if the USA were in the Finals but we all know that’ll never happen.  Expect to hear a lot of Clockwork Orange references in the buildup to the game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Netherlands beats Spain 3-1.

The Netherlands have great fans

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.

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 eighteen is in the books and Brazil and the Netherlands continue to roll.  Should be a good game this weekend when these two teams meet in the Quarter-finals.  Brazil looks too good at this point to say that they won’t win the whole thing.  Argentina is good but can they get past Germany in the Quarters?  Germany also make a case but don’t underestimate how bad England was when you look at the final score.  This weekend is going to be awesome!

On to the games:

Netherlands – Slovakia (2-1)

Goals – Robben (NED) 18’, Sneijder (NED) 84’, Vittek (SVK) 90’+4

Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) gets the start after his performance as a sub in the last group game.  Who did he replace?  You guessed it, Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid).  I’m pretty sure I said something about that before.  Robben is back in form and that’s dangerous to whoever has to play this Dutch team.

Bad news for Brazil?

Slovakia are just too young and inexperienced to really make a dent in the Netherlands’ hope of advancing.  Midfielder Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) was back in the lineup for Slovakia.  God knows why?  If this team can stay together, I can see this team making noise in Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014.

On a side note, I was watching CNN International this morning because that’s the only news channel I get that’s not in Korean.  Woe is me.  CNN is terrible and especially terrible when it comes to sports.  CNN probably hasn’t been relevant on the sports scene since the late 80’s.  I wish we could get BBC or SKY but I don’t think it’s happening.  I was watching the highlights and Mark McKay called Arjen Robben, Aryan Robben.  I’m pretty sure it’s not Aryan.  Then you have Pedro Pinto overenunciating all the Latin/Spanish names and also naming those players by their nickname or using their middle name.  Diego Maradona is Diego Armando Maradona and Gonzalo Higuain is Gonzalo Pipito Higuain.  I don’t know what’s worse, CNN’s World Cup coverage or the biased ESPN coverage?  Poor CNN, they try so hard.

Breaking news: No one cares about CNN

Brazil – Chile (3-0)

Goals – Juan (BRA) 35’, Luis Fabiano (BRA) 38’, Robinho (BRA) 59’

Losing defenders Waldo Ponce (Univ. Catolica) and Gary Medel (Boca Juniors) to suspension didn’t help Chile.  The return of Kaka (Real Madrid) was a bad sign too.  Just too much Brazil.  Chile came out in a 4-3-3 and Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) finally got the start up front but that was short-lived.  Bielsa came to his senses and brought in midfielder Jorge Valdivia (Al Ain) to replace Gonzalez right after halftime and changed back to a 4-4-2.

This Brazil team seems to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  That game against North Korea was just an anomaly.  The Netherlands are next but it remains to be seen if midfielders Elano (Galatasaray), Felipe Melo (Juventus) or Julio Baptista (AS Roma) will be back from injury by then.  Brazil went 5-3-2 in this game but if any of those players can be fit before the Netherlands game, there’s no reason they won’t go to a straight 4-4-2 formation.  We’ll see.

Luis Fabiano is the real deal

Tonight it’s Paraguay – Japan and Spain – Portugal.  I don’t have a clue who’s gonna win these games.  Paraguay has been solid but Japan has surprised me with how good they can play and defend.  I like Portugal in the second game but that’s just my gut.  Should be fun.

Day fourteen is over and the reigning champions are going home and rightfully so.  More on that in a bit.  New Zealand proved they weren’t one of the worst teams in the World Cup and actually had a shot at advancing.  Japan proved me wrong and they’re moving on to round two while the Dutch continued to shine in a win over Cameroon.

I thought Italy would get lucky, like the always do, and go far in this tournament but I was so wrong.  It’s easy to get lucky when you have a talented team but this team was awful.  This has to be one of the worst Italian teams, on paper and on the pitch, in a long long time.  The first mistake Marcello Lippi made was bringing Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus, soon to be Al-Ahli Dubai) to South Africa.  Yes, he was the darling of 2006 but memories don’t win you games.  His career has been in decline since the final whistle blew in Germany four years ago.  It’s not a good sign when your oldest player is also your starting center back.  The rest of the defense wasn’t much better.  Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan) is a name everyone probably knows but his play wasn’t the greatest in Serie A this season.  No matter, Lippi coached him at Juventus so that has to count for something.  Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa) and Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), do those names scare you?  Weak!  Maybe I’m being biased but one of the AC Milan youngsters of Ignazio Abate or Luca Antonini would’ve looked good on this Italian team.  Hell, bring them both.  They’re defense was outstanding this season and they can make runs up the sides of the field.  That’s just me.

It's not 2006 anymore. What have you done for me lately?

The absence of Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) in the first two games was huge but they should have had someone to make up the difference.  Who?  You can’t tell me that Marco Boririello (AC Milan) wouldn’t have looked good up front for this team.  Instead, let’s bring Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) and watch him come up small in big games.

How much of a dent does this put in the legacy of Marcello Lippi?  He was riding high after taking the World Cup to Italy in 2006 but he has to be the goat for bringing this team to South Africa.  An Italian team can’t win one game in a group with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia?  Merda!

On to the games:

Slovakia – Italy (3-2)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 25’ & 73’, Di Natale (ITA) 81’, Kopunek (SVK) 89’, Quagliarella (ITA) 90’+2

Italy knew a win would get them through and even a tie might be enough.  They did neither.  Both teams were even in time of possession but Slovakia looked a step faster.  Robert Vittek’s (Ankaragucu) first goal came on a defensive mistake and his second goal came when all the Italian defenders were standing around watching while Vittek was going to goal.  Italy brought it back to 2-1 at 81’ but Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava) scored before the end of regulation to condemn the Italians to taking the walk of shame back home where the media and fans will have lots of venom for them.

It was nice seeing Gannaro Gattuso (AC Milan) starting for this team.  It was odd because he wasn’t good enough to even play in the first two games and now he’s a starter.  My joy didn’t last long because he was substituted at 46’.  He was a monster and had so much heart/anger.  The rest of the team should have so much heart.  I’m surprised Zdenko Strba (Xanthi) continued after the clash he had with Gattuso.  It was an accident but Gattuso slid in and his cleats hit Strba’s knee and sliced it open.  It was pretty gruesome.  Strba was about five seconds from being replaced because of the cut but he jumped up as his replacement was walking to be introduced into the game.  Gattuso said he would retire from the national team after this World Cup and that’s too bad, for me.

You will be missed. Maybe not but Zdenko Strba but definitely by me.

Paraguay – New Zealand (0-0)

Paraguay only needed a tie to advance and that’s just what they did.  Not to say they didn’t try but they just couldn’t put the ball in the net.  New Zealands goalkeeper Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) had a fantastic game.  Paraguay had the edge in time of possession, shots and shots on goal.  Actually, New Zealand didn’t really have an actual shot that Justo Villar (Valladolid) had to worry about saving.

I have to give props to New Zealand because they left this tournament with three points and not losing a game.  I truly believed they would get killed by Paraguay and Italy.  I thought Slovakia would beat them too.  Again, I was wrong.  New Zealand showed that they deserved to be here.

Denmark – Japan (1-3)

Goals – Honda (JPN) 17’, Endo (JPN) 30’, Tomasson (DEN) 81’, Okazaki (JPN) 87’

The winner goes through in this one and a tie favored Japan.  Who wanted it more?  Japan played better even though Denmark controlled the ball longer.  The goals from Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) both came from set pieces outside of the Denmark area.  Honda and Endo put the ball directly in the net.  I think it’s the first time all tournament that there’s been a goal directly from a free kick.  Most times, players have been smashing the ball into the wall or launching it over the goal.  I’m surprised it took this long for a free kick to make a direct goal.  I think the ball still might have something to do with it.

So much for this being a down tournament for Japan.  They have played very well and their defense is pretty good.  Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus Eight) is everywhere in defense and probably deserves a look from a mid-tier club in Europe.  Denmark was my dark horse in the tournament but they couldn’t get it done against the Netherlands and Japan.  The absence of Simon Kjaer (Palermo) to suspension was huge because he was a big part of the defense.

Cameroon – Netherlands (1-2)

Goals – Van Persie (NED) 36’, Eto’o (CMR) 65’ penalty, Huntelaar (NED) 83’

Netherlands were playing for fun and Cameroon were playing for pride.  Fun wins.  Cameroon have to be disappointed to be leaving the World Cup without even garnering a single point.  Much to no one’s surprise, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen stepped down after the match.  Most likely he’ll take the Australia job and run them into the ground.

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) finally scored after threatening in the first two games.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) made an appearance and also scored but that won’t be enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup.  Oh yeah, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) entered the game at 73’ and looked good.  The injury looks to have cleared up and that doesn’t bode well for Slovakia in the next round.  The only question is, who gets dropped to make room for Robben?  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid)?

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:

USA (5), England (5),  Slovenia (4), Algeria (1) – USA and England advance

Group D:

Germany (6), Ghana (4), Australia (4), Serbia (3) – Germany and Ghana advance

Group E:

Netherlands (9), Japan (6), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands and Japan advance

Group F:

Paraguay (5), Slovakia (4), New Zealand (3), Italy (2) – Paraguay and Slovakia advance

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)

If you’re looking for some insight on the USA – Algeria game, go elsewhere.  This post is gonna be light on the information not only for that game but all the games.  I have no interest in talking about Landon Donovan’s  (LA Galaxy) late goal against Algeria to not only qualify the Americans but put them atop Group C.  If you want to know more about this game, go ask your friends who just jumped on the USA Soccer bandwagon.

On to the games:

USA – Algeria (1-0)

Goal – Donovan (USA) 90’+1

Red Card – Yahia (ALG) 90’+3

The USA moves on to the second round.  Bully for them!

Slovenia – England (0-1)

Goal – DeFoe (ENG) 23′

England looked odd in those all red uniforms.  Jermain DeFoe’s (Tottenham) goal puts England through as second best in this group.  Hopefully they can wake up now.  I don’t know what Capello’s fascination is with James Milner (Aston Villa) but Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) is too good to be on the bench.  Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) continues to dissapoint.

Ghana – Germany (0-1)

Goal – Oezil (GER) 60′

Germany knew a win would put them into the next round but a tie might also do.  They decided winning is better.  Cacau (VfB Stuttgart) started in place of the suspended Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich).  Ghana’s coach, Milovan Rajevac continues to puzzle me by not being able to find a place for Stephen Appiah (Bologna) and Sulley Muntari (Inter).  There was something about two brothers playing against each other.  Kevin Prince-Boateng (Portsmouth) of Ghana played against his half brother Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV).  Both were born in Germany but Kevin decided the Black Stars were the team for him.

Australia – Serbia (2-1)

Goals – Cahill (AUS) 69′, Holman (AUS) 73′, Pantelic (SRB) 84′

A Radomir Antic team fails to live up to expectations.  I’m not surprised.  Marko Pantelic (Ajax) is not good enough to start, yet again.  Tim Cahill (Everton) came back from his suspension to put the Aussies on the board first.  Australia improved a lot from the drubbing they got from Germany in game one.

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:

USA (5), England (5),  Slovenia (4), Algeria (1) – USA and England advance

Group D:

Germany (6), Ghana (4), Australia (4), Serbia (3) – Germany and Ghana advance

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)