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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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 202010
 

Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay
Enrique Vera (27′) Cristian Riveros (86′)

This game should be most remembered for the tame effort by Slovakia, the disappointment of losing the three points at the last minute in their first game against New Zealand must have weighed heavily on the players. Vladimir Weiss, Marek Hamsik, and Robert Vittek very rarely featured and nothing was created by the Slovaks until a solitary shot on goal very late. The Paraguayans were not neccessarily a much superior team but didn’t need to be. Coach Marino was at least the more enterprsing as he gave a start to three forwards in Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez. The goals were nicely taken and the Slovak goalie, Jan Mucha, was tested on a few additional occasions.

Italy 1-1 New Zealand
Vincenzo Iaquinta (pen 29′) Shane Smeltz (7′)

One of those matches that on the day of the draw, back in December 2009, looked one sided produced something not so much one sided. That is not to say Italy didn’t dominate possession. New Zealand’s first goal came when a freekick took a slight deflection, ricocheted off defender Fabio Cannavaro and in the path of Shane Smeltz. The goal should have been offside if that slight deflection had been seen. Italy took control without being spectacular and were offered a penalty when Daniele De Rossi’s jersey was tugged. Marcelo Lippi made two somewhat early substitutions at half time (Camoranesi for Pepe and Di Natale for Gilardino) to get more movement out of the offense but things didn’t improve enough to take the match in the needed direction. Credit must go to New Zealand goalie and defender, Mark Paston and Ryan Nelson respectively, for doing the job when called on.

Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast
Luis Fabiano (25′, 50′) Elano (62′) Didier Drogba (79′)

The game started with the Ivorians showing hints of promises but Brazil, in particular defensively in Juan and Lucio, didn’t let them threaten. Minutes later some good passing with Robinho and Kaka involved freed Luis Fabiano to shoot hard into the top of the net. Brazil were working hard, frustrating the Africans and using the flanks well. As the second half started more of the same led to some good ball juggling by Fabiano and he scored again. The quality of the ball control was helped in part by the inept and naive Ivory Coast defense. However replays showed that Fabiano had handled the ball and subsequent replays showed that ref had seen that too! Ivory Coast then brought on Gervinho, who had ceded his starting place to Dider Drogba, and he changed the face of their attack with his speed and skill. This freed Drogba and he seemed to be able to do better. Before that could happen however, Brazil got another when an accurate low cross allowed Elano to tap in the ball. Later on Drogba scored an easy header that left Brazil goalie Julio Cesar stranded. The game ended poorly when Kaka was first shown a yellow for complaining. He then received a second yellow for what looked like an elbow into the face Kader Keita but replays showed that Keita had exaggerated. A Kaka-less – but owners of six full points – Brazil face Portugal in the coming week unless the sure to come yellow card appeal succeeds.

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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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