Posts Tagged ‘Uruguay’

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

on to the games:

Uruguay – South Korea (2-1)

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

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

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

Suarez: In the right place at the right time

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

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

USA – Ghana (1-2, aet)

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

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

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

Dempsey: The man for the USA

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

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

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

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

On to the games:

Mexico – Uruguay (0-1)

Goal – Suarez (URU) 43’

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

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

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

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

France – South Africa (1-2)

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

Red Card – Gourcuff (FRA) 25’

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

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

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

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

Nigeria – South Korea (2-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greece – Argentina (0-2)

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

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

Sometimes crazy but always entertaining

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

Thanks for coming Greece.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

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

Group B:

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

Group C:

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

Group D:

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

Group E:

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

Group F:

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

Group G

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

Group H

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