Posts Tagged ‘Paraguay’

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.

Advertisements

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.

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)

Of the three games on tap, only Brazil – Ivory Coast seemed interesting.  It wasn’t but there was one other game that was.  Italy should’ve killed New Zealand.  They didn’t.  Now, Group F is still wide open and the reigning champs are in danger of missing out on the second round.  This World Cup is starting to get interesting.  Well…more interesting.

On to the games:

Slovakia – Paraguay (0-2)

Goals – Vera (PAR) 27′, Riveros (PAR) 86′

Paraguay OWNED this game but, surprisingly, Slovakia held a slight edge in time of possession.  From what I could see, Slovakia didn’t really have a purpose or a plan when they had the ball.  Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) had the ball a lot but he didn’t really do anything with it.  Slovakia had a ton of missed passes and off the mark shots.  It’s like Slovakia has never been pressed before because that’s what Paraguay did in all game.  Smart.

Sure, you had the ball but what did you do with it?

I’d be surprised if Paraguay didn’t handle New Zealand in their final game.  They moved the ball well and controlled the midfield against Slovakia.  Everyone on Group F is still alive but Paraguay surely goes through.

Italy – New Zealand (1-1)

Goals – Smeltz (NZL) 7′, Iaquinta (ITA) 29′ penalty

Italy continues to look plain in the World Cup.  God forbid they should ever score two against lowly New Zealand.  Let’s be honest, New Zealand doesn’t have many quality players.  Yet, they hung with the reigning champs.  Italy has never been a fan of making things easy.

The longer New Zealand could stay in this game the higher their confidence would be.  Shockingly, to the Italians and the world, they scored first and just like that, Italy were in trouble.  Italy regrouped and struck back on a Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus) converted penalty at 29′ and they took off from there.  Italy was peppering the New Zealand defense but the Kiwi’s were able to hold them off.  Good result from New Zealand, not so much for Italy.

New Zealand have two points after two games, two more than I thought they would have.  So much for them being one of the worst teams in the tournament.

Did anyone notice who the 4th official was for this game.  It was Koman Coulibaly from Mali.  Who’s that?  I’m sure American “fans” know.

Brazil – Ivory Coast (3-1)

Goals – Luis Fabiano (BRA) 25′ and 50′, Elano (BRA) 62′, Drogba (CIV) 79′

Red Card- Kaka (BRA) 88′

This was supposed to be the game of the day but it was a letdown.  Brazil seemed as thought they were toying with the Ivory Coast.  Another Sven Goren Erikkson team underperforms.  Why do teams still hire this guy?

Brazil looks to have bounced back from their lackluster performance against North Korea.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was on and played way better than in the first game.  Sure he got a red card and will miss the next game but who cares?  Brazil are already in round two.  Kaka gets to rest and be ready for the next round.

About that red card:  The Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita (Galatasaray) should either be punished or given an award for that performance.  Kaka shouldered him up but Keita acted as if he were punched in the face.  Terrible!

And the Oscar goes to...Kader Keita

Brazil looked like the powerhouse they are and with Germany looking plain against Serbia, Brazil look to be the class of the tournament.  They seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

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:

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 (1), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, Portugal/North Korea still to play

Group H

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

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

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

On to the games:

Netherlands – Denmark (2-0)

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

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

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

Oops!!!

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

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

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

Japan – Cameroon (1-0)

Goal – Honda (JPN) 39′

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

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

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

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

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

Italy – Paraguay (1-1)

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

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

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

Don't expect too much from Gilardino in big games

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

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

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

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

Group B:

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

Group C:

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

Group D:

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

Group E:

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

Group F:

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