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 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 152010
 

New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia
Winston Reid (90′) Robert Vittek (50′)

The pattern of timid matches continued with neither team dominating. Slovakia showed glimmers of better technic but Hamsik and others were rarely dangerous. The game didn’t change much as it went on but Vittek managed to score on one of the few real forays into any of the penalty boxes. New Zealand came alive, slightly, towards the end and Slovakia didn’t react much and as happens often were punished with a the late goal by the young New Zealand player.

Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

Drogba made only the substitutes bench and Simao couldn’t start due to a training knock. Cristiano Ronaldo showed glimpses of his power and hit the post early on. The teams seemed to cancel each other out with a few probing forays. Ivory Coast held a slight advantage throughout, however. The Africans started the second well but Portugal responded well soon after as well. Drogba came on in the 65th minute for Kalou, sporting the FIFA approved elbow cast. He was greeted with some of the loudest roars of the this World Cup. Among the notable incidents were Drogba and Keita, another substitute, getting close in added time amid several players suffering cramps.

Brazil 2-1 North Korea
Maicon (55′) Elano (72′) Ji Yun-Nam (89′)

This match will be most remembered for the defensive resistance and even few half chances that the North Korean unknowns created, especially by the player dubbed the Asian Rooney, Jong Tae-Se. Brazil seemed to be headed for a historic failure. But early in the second half Maicon rescued Brazil with a goal from the tightest angle possible, one that some may claim was only a cross. Instead the ball made its way between the Korean goalie, Ri Myong-Guk, and the near post. Minutes later a classic through pass from Robinho found its way on the foot of Elano who shot past the goalie. As the game was ending with a sigh of relief for the Brazilians Ji Yun-Nam ran through the Brazilian defense and scored a nice goal. Brazil have a lot to think about and need to show more variety offensively, but can they?

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