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 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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