Jul 112010
 

Spain World Cup
Spain 1-0 Holland
Andres Iniesta (116′)

Fernando Torres was once again on the bench as Pedro got another start. Holland had their suspended players back and therefore had a full first choice side. The game started unevenly with small fouls, especially by the Dutch, dominating the proceedings. English referee Howard Webb was influencing the game somewhat with a succession of yellow cards. It was not so much a question of the cards themselves but if or not they would be awarded by all referees for the same fouls in a consistent manner. Despite the so-called chippy play neither team adapted a defensive stance but they did manage to almost neutralize one another. Spain’s Sergio Ramos was the first to produce and get good chances when he headed the ball once low and then crossed well into the Dutch area. The best chance of the first half fell to Arjen Robben but he failed to beat Iker Casillas in the Spain goal. The second half was more open with more chances but again neither team had a stranglehold. Spain continued to enjoy better possession stats however. The introduction of Jesus Navas for Pedro livened up Spain further as his wing play opened up space on more than one occasion. Robben had another clear chance but again failed to get it past the Spanish goalie. So extra time was needed with the threat of shootout looming yet again. Substitute Fabregas had a chance to end it before that but failed on a clear chance. John Heitinga somewhat inevitably received a second yellow and reduced the Dutch to 10 men. Torres finally came on very late, for David Villa, and was part of a move that freed Iniesta who in turn placed the ball well and just beat Maarten Stekelenburg for the winning goal.
Spain became the World Cup champions for the first time and deserve a place in the best teams of all time list if for nothing else than holding the European and World Cup trophies at the same time.

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Jul 102010
 

Uruguay 2-3 Germany
Edinson Cavani (28′) Diego Forlan (51′) Thomas Muller (19′) Marcell Jansen (56′) Sami Khedira (82′)

The 3rd-4th places matches at World Cups have produced an average of almost four goals per game and the 2010 edition did not disappoint. As expected the game was pretty open. Germany started a changed side with Miroslav Klose on the bench with a knock and Dennis Aogo, Hans-Jorg Butt and Marcell Jansen starting in place of Lukas Podolski, Manuel Neuer and Philip Lahm. Uruguay were much closer to the full squad with (the constantly booed) Luis Suarez back. The game was open if not spectacular. Muller’s opening goal from a rebounded shot was followed by Cavani for a half time tie. Diego Forlan provided a lead for Uruguay with another rather long range shot that fooled the German goalkeeper. Marcell Jansen tied it soon after when a high cross was missed by both Fernando Muslera and Diego Lugano. The game was lively and saves were required by both goalies and before the game could go to extra time Sami Khedira headed in over the hands of Muslera and into the far corner. And so the Germans took third place for the second World Cup in a row.
Of note, Klose was not able to attempt to tie or break the record for most World Cup goals scored and Brazil’s Ronaldo will probably be holding on to that record for a while yet. Also, Canadian Hector Vergara became the record holder for most World Cup matches as a referee, linesman or assistant at 14.

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Jul 072010
 

Spain 1-0 Germany
Carles Puyol (73′)

Thomas Muller was missing from this second semi-final due to suspension and that put the so far successful German 4-2-3-1 in doubt. Piotr Trochowski got the start instead. Spain featured Pedro and David Villa with Fernando Torres on the bench. The early signs were not positive for Germany as they sat back and Spain deployed their possession and passing game. Jerome Boateng was not having a comfortable night as Sergio Ramos was taking advantage of the right wing. The game was slow with the Germans surprisingly not pressing for the ball. The first half featured very little real chances on Manuel Neuer and the feeling was that the Spaniards needed to convert their possession into something or regret it later. The second half showed glimmers of liveliness but again the Spanish were playing their game without getting their goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski were rarely seen and would perhaps be the disappointments of the night. Joachim Low, the German coach, seemed to realize mistakes and made two changes which he probably wasn’t expecting to need to. Marcell Jansen and Toni Kroos came on for Jerome Boateng and Piotr Trochowski. The game changed little however and it was left to Carles Puyol to show determination as he rose ahead of team mate Gerard Pique to head in from a corner. Germany woke up and opened up leaving wide open spaces behind them. Pedro could have easily made it 2-0 if he had taken advantage of one of the openings. Amid apologies to his team mates he was soon replaced by David Silva. Germany came close to punishing Spanish misses but never really too close and so Spain will play Holland for what will be a first World Cup crown for either team.

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Jul 062010
 

Uruguay 2-3 Holland
Diego Forlan (41′) Maxi Pereira (90′) Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (18′) Wesley Sneijder (70′) Arjen Robben (73′)

This semi final started with Holland looking the more assured. Even though Holland were missing key players Gregory van der Weil and Nigel De Jong due to suspension they seemed not to be affected defensively or otherwise. That was partly due to Uruguay missing a key figure of their own in forward Luis Suarez. The game wasn’t the speediest or the most urgently played one until Holland captain and full back Giovanni Van Bronckhorst decided to go for it. He shot from the left side and 30+ yards away almost straight in to the far top corner. Uruguay were stunned, probably as much as Holland themselves, but responded. Uruguay gained and won more of the ball and before the half was over Diego Forlan tied it from a more central location. The ball swerved and left Maarten Stekelenburg in the Holland goal only able to get fingertips to it. The second half saw Holland replace Demy De Zeeuw with Rafael Van der Vaart. The Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, probably realizing the extra defensive presence in midfield was not really required. The game’s shape didn’t change too much however as Uruguay maintained some useful balls if not overall control of the possession. That all changed when Wesley Sneijder shot another ‘semi-deflected’ ball low into the far corner. Replays showed that Robin Van Persie was perhaps (very few) inches offside as the ball moved very near to him and in to the goal. Moments later a good cross lead to a headed third, one that left Fernando Muslera stranded and motionless in the Uruguay goal. Uruguay tried and got a goal back in added time to get an over all fairer final score but not a trip to the finals.

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Jul 032010
 

Germany 4-0 Argentina
Thomas Muller (3′) Miroslav Klose (68′, 89′) Arne Friedrich (74′)

Germany exposed the defensive frailties of Argentina and at the same time managed to frustrate the South Americans to shots straight into the hands of Manuel Neuer. A defense still featuring Nicolas Burdisso and Martin Demichelis in the center and Nicolas Otamendi on one side was exposed as early as the third minute when it failed to deal with a German freekick. Germany’s 4-2-3-1 featuring Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, and Thomas Muller behind a lone forward has been trouble for most and with the aid of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Samir Khedira did its job and even more against the Argentinians. On the other side Lionel Messi had a World Cup he would like to forget as in this game he was limited to moves far away from the German goal and when he did manage to get closer two or three German players blocked any progress. Carlos Tevez worked hard as usual but didn’t really come close to the required. Gonzalo Higuain’s World Cup ended almost as disappointingly as the rest because the German defense did an even better job than before considering the talent it was facing.

Spain 1-0 Paraguay
Xabi Alonso (pen miss 61′) David Villa (83′) Oscar Cardozo (pen miss 59′)

The first half produced little as Spain were frustrated by the Paraguayans who had made six changes from the team that started against Japan days earlier. The new starters which included the likes of Jonathan Santana and Dario Veron were solid but if the changes were to inspire more goals it failed to materalize. The second half seemed to be headed in the same direction as the first but a series of back to back to events added excitement as well as question marks. First Gerard Pique granted a penalty to Paraguay when he almost blatantly held on to Cardozo. The same Paraguayan took charge of the penalty and had it saved, some players seemingly insisting on shooting low and off center. Barely two minutes later David Villa found a 50-50 penalty and Xabi Alonso scored, but the ref demanded a re-take (because of players moving into the box early?) and this time it was saved. Spain found slightly more impetus from the events but it took them a long time to convert. Substitute Pedro ran into the area and shot towards the corner of the net, his ball hit the post and came back to the feet of Villa, his shot in turn bounced off the post and just made it inside the goal at the other post. Spain held on and made their way to a semi final meeting with the Germans.

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Jul 022010
 

Holland 2-1 Brazil
Felipe Melo (og 53′) Wesley Sneijder (68′) Robinho (10′)

This game was a chippy one with the likes of Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo and Mark van Bommel not far from getting themselves ejected. Brazil dominated early possession and at moments played a classic crisp passing game. Andre Ooijer starting for the injured Joris Mathijsen seemed to shoulder the blame – for not playing the offside trap – for the early Robinho goal but Felipe Melo was given too much time to find him from midfield. The duel that seemed the first to be trouble for Brazil was the Bastos vs Arjen Robben one so it was little surprise that Bastos was withdrawn early in the second half. But soon after the Holland goal came. Wesley Sneijder collected from Robben and crossed high into the area. Both Melo and goalie Julio Cesar rose for the ball and the ball just brushed the former’s head and made its way in to the goal. As Holland’s confidence grew they capitalized on a chance from a croner. The ball was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt and headed in by Sneijder. Minutes later Melo received the somewhat inevitable red card for a foul on Robben and a deflated Brazil exited South Africa. The Confederations Cup win, a year earlier in the same country, now a distant memory and as has been said before perhaps a curse.

Uruguay 1(4)-(2)1 Ghana
Diego Forlan (55′) Sulley Muntari (45′) Asamoah Gyan (pen miss 120′)

The first half was somewhat a tale of two halves with Uruguay getting the better chances early and then Ghana starting to grow in confidence. As half time was seconds away Sulley Muntari collected a ball won in midfield not far inside Uruguay territory and let a shot go. The replay showed that the ball swerved and fooled Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal. The second half still remained balanced with the teams exchanging chances. It fell to Diego Forlan to rescue his team with one of his excellently taken freekicks. So extra time beckoned with the African support in the stands growing and hoping. And so the game would have one of the most dramatic endings in World Cup history. With a penalty shootout seconds away Ghana pressed and forced a goal line clearance and then another. However the second was a handled ball by Luis Suarez. So with Suarez only barely having left the pitch Asamoah Gyan’s penalty struck the crossbar and produced an escape for not only Uruguay but the guilty player. Several of the shootout penalties were tame and Ghana suffered along with whole of Africa.

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Jun 292010
 

A distraught Yuichi Komano after the final whistle

Paraguay 0(5)-(3)0 Japan

This was one of the quieter matches of the World Cup with chances and moments of magic or skill sparse. Paraguay had the edge in possession in the first half but Daisuke Matsui probably had the best chance when he collected the ball and hit the crossbar. Eiji Kawashima and Justo Villar were rarely troubled in the respective goals and nothing of great note transpired, the match went into extra time with a few relatively lively moments but it ended perhaps rather predictably. Japan’s third penalty was by defender Yuichi Komano, he hit hard and at the crossbar. In the end Oscar Cardozo clinched it with his penalty to make it 5-3 leaving Komano the most distraught of the Japanese contingent.

Spain 1-0 Portugal
David Villa (63′)

The match featured some good but not overly impressive passing displays by the Spanish and some if not spectacular defending and forays by the Portuguese. Portugal threatened to open the scoring when they moved forward and Iker Casillas somehow pulled the ball behind him and into the net. The Portuguese’s main impetus was occasional runs through Fabio Coentrao down the left hand side but the Spain penalty box was not often in any big danger. Spain had the more possession and Andres Iniesta was often the offensive catalyst but mostly to no avail. When Spain threatened they were equaled by Eduardo in the Portugal goal. In the 63rd minute however, Xavi passed to Villa, who all night was cutting in from the left side, his first shot was well saved by Eduardo but he then received his own rebound and directed it into the net. Cristiano Ronaldo was not heard from or seen often and his World Cup ended perhaps more disappointingly than his country’s. And so a Spain vs Paraguay quarter final match up was set.

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Jun 282010
 

Netherlands 2-1 Slovakia
Arjen Robben (18′) Wesley Sneijder (84′) Robert Vittek (pen 90′)

Slovakia came into the match having only beaten a poor Italian team but otherwise not impressing at all. Holland were efficient and had done enough and may be a bit more. The flow of the game was predictable and Arjen Robben getting a first start of the World Cup was the danger man. So it didn’t take too long for Robben to cut in from the right of midfield and shoot inside the near post to beat Jan Mucha in the Slovak goal. Robin van Persie had done well to mix up the defenders by overlapping to the other side. The game didn’t feature too many minutes of flowing football with the Slovaks again not doing much. It took until the 66th minute for Robert Vittek and Slovakia to force a save from Maarten Stekelenburg. There were cracks appearing in Holland’s central defense but Vittek was unable to threaten further. Hard working Dirk Kuyt helped Wesley Sneijder to double the lead. As the game was about to end Vittek fell at the hands of Stekelenburg which resulted in a questionable penalty. As the ball went in to make it 2-1 time had expired and Holland moved on to the quarter finals.

Brazil 3-0 Chile
Juan (34′) Luis Fabiano (38′) Robinho (59′)

Perhaps the telling story of this match was the absence of Chileans Marco Estrada, Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce due to suspension. Brazil had the more effective start with Luis Fabiano, Gilberto Silva and Robinho threatening. In the 34th minute Brazil scored with Juan jumping high to meet the ball, soon after Fabiano scored again, this time from a well worked piece made by Robinho and Kaka. In the second half Brazil were more solidly settled into their counter attacking ways and a Ramires run opened the path for a third Brazil goal by Robinho. Chile threw all they could, bringing on Rodrigo Tello, Jorge Valdivia and Rodrigo Millar, and came close to troubling Julio Cesar. Chile and Marcelo Bielsa didn’t discredit themselves as they kept up their push. It was not to be however as Brazil set up a quarterfinal meeting with Holland.

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Jun 272010
 

Germany 4-1 England
Miroslav Klose (20′) Lukas Podolski (32′) Thomas Muller (67′, 70′) Matthew Upson (37′)

England were outplayed but also undone by an event that will be talked about for years to come. Germany started brighter and showed more skills. It wasn’t long before a high ball was misjudged by John Terry and allowed Miroslav Klose to run, out muscle Matthew Upson and score. Soon after Lucas Podolski out ran the English defense and tucked the ball into the very far corner. The second goal awoke the English team and the response came. Upson jumped well to meet a high ball and was quicker to it than the outstretched hand of German goalie Manuel Neuer. Minutes later Lampard shot fiercely off the crossbar the ball landed on the floor before Neuer scrambling back grabbed it. Many were sure that it was 2-2 but crucially not the linesman. Replays showed that England and English fans were correct and the ball had landed easily a feet or two inside the goal line. The second half started more tamely and it took classic counterattacking prowess for two more German goals to finish the World Cup for the English. The Lampard ‘disallowed’ goal now becomes the stuff of legend and much talk will follow recalling the 1966 World Cup final featuring the same two teams that had a somewhat similar non-goal. Except in that case England were given the goal that may not have been.

Argentina 3-1 Mexico
Carlos Tevez (26′, 52′) Gonzalo Higuain (33′) Javier Hernandez (71′)

A repeat of the same fixture four years ago produced a similar but somewhat less lopsided result. back then Maxi Rodriguez scored a goal to eliminate Mexico in extra time. This time the game was over by the 52nd minute. Mexico worked hard, had a ball come off the cross bar but their efforts were mostly long range with Carlos Salcido doing a lot of shooting. The First goal came from Carlos Tevez, replays showed him to be offside and the Mexicans spent a good two minutes protesting, to no avail of course. Minutes later Gonzalo Higuain doubled the lead after a Ricardo Osorio mistake gifted the ball to the Argentinian. Early in the second half the game was almost done when Tevez scored one of the better goals of the World Cup with a shot high into the top corner that eluded Mexican goalie Oscar Perez. Argentina lost a lot of interest after that and allowed Mexico to cut the lead to two goals when Javier Hernandez, getting a first start, grabbed one back. The game finished with a few more semi-exciting plays and a few semi-rough challenges. And now Germany awaits Argentina.

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Jun 262010
 

Uruguay 2 – 1 South Korea
Luis Suarez (8′, 80′) Lee Chung-Yong (68′)

The Asians served notice early with a freekick that hit the post and had Uruguay goalie Fernando Muslera very thankful. Uruguay however were their attacking selves and threatened. Only a few short minutes after that incident Diego Forlan crossed low and no one among the available Korean defenders and especially Korean goalie Jung Sung-Ryong reacted well so the ball made its way to the other side of the penalty box for a relatively uncomplicated tap in for Luis Suarez. Koreans worked hard and created half chances. In the second half the heavy rain came and started to become a factor in the game. Uruguay took their feet off the accelerator and were punished. Lee Chung-yong headed into goal after both Diego Lugano and Muslera went for the high ball and almost got into each others’ way. As it seemed extra time was a distinct possibility Suarez swerved the ball into the far corner and solidified his status as an elite goal scorer in World Cup 2010. Uruguay awaited the winner of the USA vs. Ghana match.

USA 1-2 Ghana
Landon Donovan (pen 62′) Kevin-Prince Boateng (5′) Asamoah Gyan (93′)

Ghana bettered their 2006 World Cup showing by advancing to the quarterfinals. The game started very well for the Africans as Kevin Prince Boateng ran at a (unnecessarily) back tracking USA defense and shot low between Tim Howard and the near post. This was a goal both Howard and the US team could have avoided and surely wanted back. US slowly came on as the game went on. Ghana however showed resilience and were close on occasions. In the second half Clint Dempsey was pushed slightly by Jonathan Mensah and Donovan converted the penalty. The game had its moments but extra time was needed. The game was settled early in the extra time when Asamoah Gyan, from a Andre Ayew ball, scored a similar type of goal as the first except this time the ball was shot hard and high into the top of the net and from a more central location. USA daring to dream of a final berth went home early with Donovan now holding the record for most World Cup goals by an American player at 5.

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