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 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 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 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 242010
 

Slovakia 3 – 2 Italy
Robert Vittek (25′ 73′) Kamil Kopunek (89′) Antonio Di Natale (81′) Fabio Quagliarella (90′)

Italy crashed out of the World Cup making it the second time a reigning champion has gone at the group stage after France suffered the same fate in 2002. Slovakia came into the match having disappointed and hadn’t even managed a handful of shots on goals in their first two matches. Italy’s much criticized aging squad didn’t show much enthusiasm and Marcello Lippi’s choice of giving a first start to Gennaro Gattuso seemed uninspired. Andrea Pirlo however was on the bench and fit for his first action. Wasn’t too long before Slovakia scored when Daniele De Rossi made a bad pass which was taken advantage of. The same Robert Vittek scored again from a corner kick later. By then Pirlo had been on for a few minutes and only at this point one could see some sense of urgency in the Italians. A couple of close misses later Antonio Di Natale got one back and still a draw would have been enough but Kamil Kopunek responded with a goal on his first action of the game. Italy goalkeeper Federico Marchetti perhaps could have done better here. Italy pushed forward and got a well taken one back but it was not enough.

Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand

Incredibly New Zealand left the World Cup undefeated finishing the group stage with three ties. They finished this match without a shot on goal but Paraguay were not very dangerous often either. Both Edgar Benitez and Cristian Riveros threatened but little else. It was just enough to keep South America’s undefeated run in South Africa intact.


Denmark 1-3 Japan
Jon Dahl Tomasson (81′) Keisuke Honda (17′) Yasuhito Endo (30′) Shinji Okazaki (87′)

Japan could count themselves as one of the surprises of the group stage as they made it two asian teams in the first knockout round. They beat Denmark with two of the best freekicks of the World Cup. Danish goalie Thomas Sorensen and his whole team surprised to find themselves down 0-2 in that way. Keisuke Honda’s star continued to rise as he did well but the possession statistics, especially earlier in the game, showed that Denmark tried but couldn’t finish. Veteran forward Jon Dahl Tomasson perhaps was entitled to be more frustrated than others as he even missed the penalty. Makoto Hasebe had a slight push on the back of Daniel Agger. The resulting penalty didn’t make it in but the rebound made its way back to Tomasson who was at least thankful to equal the mark set by Poul Nielsen for most goals (52) ever for the Danish national team.

Cameroon 1 – 2 Holland
Samuel Eto’o (pen 65′) Robin Van Persie (36′) Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (83′)

The first Dutch goal was a nicely worked one with moves from one end of the pitch to another involving the goal scorer, Rafael van der Vaart and Dirk Kuyt. Their second was from a Arjen Robben shot which had rebounded off the post. In the middle of the two goals a Geremi freekick was handled by van der Vaart and Eto’o, probably the only real threat for Cameroon, converted the resulting penalty. Arjen Robben’s first appearance and his fitness will be a boost to Holland’s chances in the knockout stage.

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Jun 192010
 

Holland 1-0 Japan
Wesley Sneijder (53′)

The first half was fortress Japan as the Asians defended well and didn’t let the Europeans do much at all. The second half necessitated a more open match because Sneijder scored early. He shot hard from the edge of the box, his shot was not properly handled by Japan goalie, Eiji Kawashima, as the ball made its way behind him. Japan tried to break down Holland and came reasonably close on a few occasions. Holland themselves had a few more clear cut chances of their own, especially by substitute Ibrahim Afellay. In the end Holland gained the three points without too much trouble.

Ghana 1-1 Australia
Asamoah Gyan (pen 25′) Brett Holman (11′)

The Game started brightly for Australia and they soon scored from a freekick. Kingson the Ghana goalie let the ball shot at goal rebound in front of him and Holman rushed and slotted it high into the back of the net. Soon after that Ghana actually grew in confidence and took control. Good play by Ayew, a cross later and a shot towards goal struck Kewell’s hand. Although he tried to plead innocence he had gifted Ghana a penalty and also got himself sent off. Asamoah sent Mark Schwarzer the wrong way and converted the penalty. Ghana continued to be the more dangerous team as the half ended all square at 1-1. The second half saw hints of more confidence or perhaps desperation by the socceroos as they made offensive subs to bolster their chances. Despite being one man up Ghana didn’t take much advantage but had their own share of solid possession.

Denmark 2-1 Cameroon
Nicklas Bendtner (33′) Dennis Rommedahl (61′) Samuel Eto’o (10′)

The game started with Eto’o taking up a much needed more offensive and direct position, it immediately paid off as he managed to score after a rather bad giveaway/bad pass from Christian Poulsen. A lot of opportunities followed, many due to questionable defendoing courtesy of both teams. Before the half Bendtner poked one in when Rommedahl, after receiving a 50+ yard ball from Kjaer, stormed down the wing and crossed into the area. Cameroon could claim to have the edge at half time and Eto’o hit the post late on too, courtesy of another one of the aforementioned questionable lapses. The second half saw an increasingly desperate contest that lacked defensive focus. This led to the second Denmark goal as Rommedahl curled one in to score inside the far post. More misses followed as the African challenge suffered another set back.

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Jun 142010
 

Holland 2-0 Denmark
Daniel Agger (og 46′) Dirk Kuyt (85′)

Holland, as expected, were fluid at times but Denmark, also as expected, held their own. Denmark however lacked the skills shown by their opponents and were undone by the own goal. The Second Dutch goal exemplified at least one case of enthusiasm and work rate difference when after the ball had come off the post Denmark defender Kjaer only walked and watched the ball without any apparent urgency allowing Kuyt to run around him to tap in the rebound and finish off the game.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon
Keisuke Honda (39′)

The match continued the run of early World Cup matches that most have characterized as boring with even some cries of anti-football. Japan, much like their fellow Asian qualifier South Korea, showed stamina and some determination and managed to score through the rising star Keisuke Honda. Cameroon and in particular Eto’o were more alive in the second half and managed some chances, notably hitting the post late on. The overriding conclusion from this game was that Eto’o needs to play a more offensive and direct game if Cameroon are to avoid an early exit.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay
Daniele De Rossi (63′) Antolin Alcaraz (39′)

Marcelo Lippi fielded a slightly more youthful squad than expected, Perhaps the absence due to injury of Pirlo forced the hand of the Italian. Therefore the line-up included Montolivo and Pepe. The Italians dominated territorially for long stretches and the Paraguay goal came off a bounce and against the run of play. Both teams showed some vulnerability to speedy attacks but, despite continued Italian dominance, perhaps the crucial part of the game occurred when the experienced Paraguay goalie, Justo Villar, misjudged the ball from a corner allowing De Rossi to tap in the ball to tie the game. Buffon, the Italian goalie, was substituted at half time for Federico Marchetti and any absence may prove decisive in future matches.

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