Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

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.

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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 fifteen brought the last games of round one.  Group G was pretty much set but Group H had everything to play for.  Spain, Chile and Switzerland all had legitimate shots at advancing but only two could make it.  Sorry Switzerland.  The round of sixteen is complete and it only includes one African team, Ghana.  It’s actually one more African team than I thought would make it.  The South Americans did extremely well but the Europeans had a bit of trouble.

On to the games:

Portugal – Brazil (0-0)

The game was very chippy in the first half with both teams picking up a total of seven yellow cards.  It seemed as if both teams really hated each other.  Brazil was in charge in the first half.  They had 63% of the possession and looked like they really wanted to win, even thought they didn’t really need to.  Portugal looked lost in the first half.  They could only chase Brazil around the pitch.

The second half was way different.  Both teams seemed to back off and looked content with a draw.  Portugal had the better of the chances but it wasn’t  very exciting soccer to watch.  I think both teams realized that they couldn’t afford more yellows and to lose players for the next game.

North Korea – Ivory Coast (0-3)

Goals – Yaya Toure (CIV) 14′, Romaric (CIV) 20′, Kalou (CIV) 82′

Ivory Coast knew they technically still had a chance to advance but realistically it wasn’t going to happen.  North Korea only had 39% of the possession and never really threatened.  Nice to see Salomon Kalou (Chelsea) finally do something in this tournament.  Another Sven Goran Eriksson team doesn’t live up to the hype.  Typical!

Chile – Spain (1-2)

Goals – Villa (ESP) 24′, Iniesta (ESP) 37′, Millar (CHI) 47′

Red Card – Estrada (CHI) 37′

This was the game that was probably going to be the most hard-fought of the day.  It was.  The long-range shot by David Villa (Barcelona) was sick.  What was the Chilean goalie thinking?  Spain bounce back from the opening game loss to the Swiss and win the group.  Defenders Waldo Ponce (Univ. Catolica) and Gary Medel (Boca Juniors) will miss Chile’s round of sixteen game against Brazil.  Spain has a meeting with Portugal waiting for them in the next round and Chile meets Brazil.

Switzerland – Honduras (0-0)

Switzerland just couldn’t figure out how to score against a weak Honduras team and that’s why they’re going home.  Not much else to say.

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 (7), Portugal (5), Ivory Coast (4), North Korea (0) – Brazil and Portugal advance

Group H

Spain (6), Chile (6), Switzerland (4),  Honduras (1) – Spain and Chile advance

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)

So Germany is human after all?  Serbia did just enough to frustrate Germany.  Slovenia let the USA off the hook and with England unable to score against Algeria, everyone in Group C is still alive going into the final games of the group play.

On to the games:

Germany – Serbia (0-1)
Goal – Jovanovic (SRB) 38′
Red Card – Klose (GER) 33′

I was skeptical when I saw that Serbian coach Radomir Antic decided to start midfielder Milos Ninkovic (Dynamo Kyiv) in place of forward Marko Pantelic (Ajax) and basically go 4-5-1.  Terrible idea because that makes Nikola Zigic (Birmingham City) your only forward and I’m not sold on him to be the workhorse up front.  Well, Serbia won so all is forgotten right?  Not exactly.  Zigic did play better this time and stayed in position which helps but he needed help up front and Pantelic played a pretty good game against Ghana.  I really didn’t notice Ninkovic until he was replaced by Gojko Kacar (Hertha Berlin) at 70′.

Germany didn’t look bad in this game but being a man down for over an hour didn’t help.  Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) was silly to get even one yellow let alone two.  Not very smart by the usually heady Germans.  Germany had a ton of chances, even a man down but just couldn’t finish.  Serbia keeper, Vladimir Stojkovic (Wigan) was everywhere and was rightfully named Man of the Match.  Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne) missed a second half penalty and the writing was on the wall for the Germans.  I can’t really find any problems with this lineup but Germany should’ve handled Serbia without much difficulty.  The Serbian goal came on a cross from the right that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) simply overplayed.  He got spun around and was unable to block Jovanovic, who was right in front of him.

Valdimir Stojkovic or Antonio Banderas

Now, Serbia, Germany and Ghana are all on three points going into the final games of round one.  Germany is lucky that they scored four against Australia but Ghana could go top of the group by beating the Aussies.  They should have no problem doing that.

What was up with the referee?  He was giving out yellow cards like they were going out of style.  The game was a bit physical but not nine yellow cards worth.

Slovenia – USA (2-2)
Goals – Birsal (SVN) 13′, Ljubijankic (SVN) 42′, Donovan (USA) 48′, Bradley (USA) 82′

This was a game of two halves.  The USA played well in both halves but Slovenia was more dangerous in the first and looked like they were ready to book their place in the second round.  Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) got a a goal back for the Americans just after half-time and the game was now in the balance.  USA did a great job fighting back to tie this game and the result was right, maybe.

USA played very well but I still don't care

You know I’m not a fan but the USA got robbed on that free-kick.  There was no offsides or fouls and that should’ve been a goal.  That being said, can the USA fans please shut the hell up!  This team isn’t going anywhere and they’ll never win the World Cup.  They’re here to make up the numbers but no one who knows anything about soccer thinks they have a legitimate shot at even making a semi-final.  I can’t wait until they’re eliminated so fans can go back to not caring about soccer and leave the rest of the world alone.

England – Algeria (0-0)

How does England not win this game?  Why can’t Michael Carrick (Manchester United) find a place on this struggling team?  How does Algeria end the game with the edge in time of possession?  As I ask these questions, England has two points and scored one goal in two games.  A spot in round two is not certain for this team that everyone, including me, had high hopes for.  Algeria has just as much of a chance to make the second round as England.  Terrible!!!  England had the better of the chances but just couldn’t get the ball in the net.

The good, Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) is having a hell of a tournament and he’s only twenty-three years old.  Ashley Cole (Chelsea) is doing a great job and is probably England’s best player through two games.  Fabio Capello came to his senses and replaced keeper Robert Green (West Ham) with veteran David James (Portsmouth).  I don’t think we’ll be seeing Mr. Green playing for England anytime soon, if ever.

With players like Aaron Lennon, the future looks brighter for England

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) looks frustrated by defenses in the first two games.  How can that be?  He dominated the EPL and Champion’s League all season and now he’s having trouble with the defenses of the USA and Algeria?

Yes, a couple of lucky bounces and England is in better shape but that can be said of most teams in this tournament.  Every team has his posts throughout this tournament.  England needs to score early next game to get some confidence because the longer the games goes without goals, the more frustrated England get.

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

Group D:

Germany (3), Serbia (3), Ghana (3), Australia (0) – Ghana/Australia still to play

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)

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)

Day six didn’t have me excited.  Sure, the Ivory Coast – Portugal match looked like a good one but with an injured Didier Drogba (Chelsea), that game lost a little bit of it’s luster.  Slovakia should’ve run all over New Zealand and Brazil should’ve thrashed North Korea.  I thought we would see the worst two teams in the World Cup in New Zealand and North Korea.  All the games were just, meh!  It’s hard for me to write a post for these games because they were so underwhelming.  Being the consummate professional, I’ll give it a go.

On to the games:

New Zealand – Slovakia (1-1)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 50’, Reid (NZL) 90’+3

Looking at New Zealand’s formation before the game I didn’t think there would be too many goals.  New Zealand showed a 5-2-3 lineup and that’s not good for scoring.  Sure you have three forwards but with most players playing defense how would they get the ball?  As the game progressed, it changed into more of a 3-4-3 formation.  It may not seem important but why would you throw three forwards out there with no one to really to help get them the ball?

Slovakia was losing balls left and right through 15’  New Zealand were doing just enough in the early going but Slovakia started to turn it up at around 30’.  Marek Hamsik (Napoli) had a nice chance from the top of the box at 44’ but goalie Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) tipped it over the goal.  New Zealand doing well in the first half, a million times better than Australia showed against Germany.

The New Zealand defense looked shaky to start the 2nd half and Slovakia made them pay when Robert Vittek (Ankaragucu) scored at 49’.  After that, Slovakia seemed to be content with the goal and really weren’t interested in getting another.  Bad move.  New Zealand looked to be interested in getting a point at 78’ by bringing in midfielder Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay) for defender Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City).  Slovakia continued to defend for the rest of the half but did look dangerous whenever they could be bothered to go forward.

In the dying seconds of the game, Winston Reid (Midtjylland) scored and New Zealand got their first ever World Cup point.  Slovakia only have themselves to blame for not walking out of this game with maximum points.  They put the brakes on instead of going for the kill.  Goal difference and goals scored could come into play when the group round is over and if Slovakia just misses out on advancing, they can look at this game as to why.

In case you didn't know, this is Winston Reid

Ivory Coast – Portugal (0-0)

Will Drogba start?  Will Drogba play?  If Drogba plays, will he be his usual self?  So many question.  The answers: no, yes, yes.  I thought Drogba would be feeling the effects of the elbow injury but he looked good in his 34+ minutes on the pitch.

Both teams moved the ball well, defended well and had plenty of chances.  Possession, shots and shots on goal were very similar.  Nothing really stuck out in this game.  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) was man of the match but maybe because they had to give it to someone.

Man of the Match Cristiano Ronaldo - Couldn't they just not have awarded it?

The few things I remember is that there were some bad tattoos and really bad hair in this game.  Not just this game but this has to be the some of the worst collection of tattoos and hair in one sporting event.

Brazil – North Korea (2-1)

Goals – Maicon (BRA) 55’, Elano (BRA) 72’, Ji Yun Nam (89)

Brazil had 63% of the possession, 26 shots and 10 shots on goal and still could only beat North Korea 2-1.  Even though they lost, North Korea came away from this game looking and feeling good.  The media back in Brazil is probably killing this team right now.

The goals from Maicon (Inter) and Elano (Galatasaray) were two of the best in the tournament but they really should have scored about five.  North Korea’s goal came when Ji Yun Nam (April 25) went through three Brazilian defenders to the left of goal and rocketed a shot into the net.  Brazil’s defense was half-assing it on the play and they paid for it.

Ji Yun Nam - I bet a statue is being erected somewhere in Pyongyang

Ivory Coast is up next for Brazil and they better bring their A game because Ivory Coast can run and cause problems.  Good for you North Korea, you captured the hearts of the soccer world and maybe now you can go home after this World Cup instead of being sent directly to some sort of labor camp.

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 (1), Slovakia (1)

Group G

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