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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Jun 222010
 

Mexico 0-1 Uruguay
Luis Suarez (43′)

Fears of a convenient draw, one which would guarantee both teams’ qualification to the first knockout round at the expense of South Africa and France seemed unfounded. Not only the starting 11s seemed offensive but the early exchanges showed intent to play the game. Mexico enjoyed better possession but not better chances. Cuauhtemoc Blanco starting for the first time for Mexico was not an important factor in the game but Giovani Dos Santos was more so and so was goalkeeper Oscar Perez who had a better game than his previous two. Late in the half Luis Suarez, somewhat disappointing so far, received a high ball and headed it to into the net for a half time Uruguay lead. Second half followed similar patterns with the a slight upper hand to Uruguay, Mexico searched but couldn’t find anything. Therefore Mexico consigned themselves to another meeting against Argentina, coming up in the second round.

France 1-2 South Africa
Florent Malouda (70′) Bongani Khumalo (20′) Katlego Mphela (37′)

The turmoil in the France camp had reached epic proportions with players refusing to train, Anelka sent back home and an official apparently resigning. The starting lineup hinted at all that with the likes of Florent Malouda and Patrice Evra on the bench. The game predictably didn’t go well for the French. Not only they conceded a relatively early goal but had Gourcuff sent off for a suspected elbow which replays showed wasn’t necessarily deserving of a card. The South Africans took advantage and scored again before the half. Thierry Henry made his first appearance of the 2010 World Cup and Malouda, a half time change, scored to make 1-2. The score however was not enough for South Africa as they became the first host nation ever to be eliminated in the first round.

Greece 0-2 Argentina
Martin Demichelis (77′) Martín Palermo (89′)

Greece had resurrected their chances after winning their second group game versus Nigeria. Argentina made many perhaps surprising changes in giving starts to Nicolas Otamendi, Diego Milito, and Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero. Greece adopted a very defensive stance and had Georgios Samaras up on front on his own for most of the game. That didn’t mean that Greece had no chances as the Argentinian defense featuring Nicolas Burdisso and Martin Demichelis remained shaky and vulnerable. How ever it was the Argentinians who commanded the attacking story. Messi threatened often but was equaled by Greece goalie Alexandros Tzorvas every time. It took almost of all the game for the Greek defense to break and it seemed almost inevitable that it would. And so Greece exited the World Cup and Argentina got the full nine points available.

Nigeria 2-2 South Korea
Kalu Uche (12′) Yakubu Aiyegbeni (pen 69′) Lee Jung-Soo (38′) Park Chu-Young (49′)

South Korea had two hard worked games behind them with three points as reward. Nigeria had nothing to show for their disappointing efforts but could somehow escape if they won. Since Greece was perhaps unsurprisingly losing to Argentina three points by Nigeria could have been enough. A defensive lapse allowed the Nigerians to take the lead but the possession statistics was rising for the Asians and they took advantage off of a freekick. A second South Korea goal dampened Nigerian hopes but they did come close to getting their own and were offered a penalty to make up for their many misses. A second African team fell at the first hurdle – handicapped by poor finishing – on this first day of the third and last group matches.

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Jun 162010
 

Chile 1-0 Honduras
Jean Beausejour (34′)

Honduras’ squad, for the first time at a World Cup, featured 3 brothers. Wilson Palacios in the starting line-up with Johnny and Jerry on the bench. Chile missing Humberto Suazo to injury and therefore less of an scoring threat, Honduras missing a good scoring chunk as well with Carlos Costly and David Suazo missing. And therefore the offense left in the hands of veterans Carlos Pavon and Jorge Valdivia for Honduras and Chile respectively. Early possession and half chances were almost exclusively for the attacking Chileans with Alexis Sanchez and Matias Fernandes doing some good work. The 65%+ possession paid dividends with Beausejour scoring from a low cross. The domination mostly continued and had the Honduran goalie, Noel Valladares, making one of the nicest saves so far in the 63rd minute. In the end Honduras produced little and Chile came reasonably close on many occasions, dominated possession and showed more attacking intent than most, as promised by coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland
Gelson Fernandes (52′)

The game had Frei and Behrami missing for the Swiss while Torres not starting for Spain. For the second game in a row one team had a good lock on domination as Spain controlled the ball for long stretches. Early in the second half we witnessed one of the bigger shocks of the World Cup when the Swiss, through Fernandes, scored first. Iker Cassilas, Pique and the whole Spanish defense made a meal of a high ball. The Spanish were then forced to bring on Navas and Torres for Silva and Busquets. Of the many close calls that followed Xabi Alonso’s crossbar was perhaps the closest. Not long after the Swiss themselves were a post away from making it 2-0 and the game turned into one Puyol and Pique would want to forget. Iniesta left the field due to injury and was replaced by Pedro but half and full chances amounted to little as Switzerland changed the face of group H. Criticism of Spain’s starting line-up followed.

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay
Diego Forlan (24′, pen 80′) Alvaro Pereira (90′)

Uruguay started with more of an attacking line-up in this their second game as all three of Forlan, Suarez and Cavani started. The advantage of the earlier exchanges went to the South Americans but Tshabalala wasn’t shy to shoot when he could. The game wasn’t the most exciting but Forlan did his part with a long range shot that showed that the Adidas Jabulani ball is not all bad. Uruguay had the better of chances with Cavani in particular very wasteful with those few chances. In the last quarter of the match the South Africans became more desperate knowing a loss would make second round very unlikely. Soon after however a debatable penalty and red card resulted from Khune’s slight contact with Suarez, the South African goalie perhaps too harshly judged. Forlan scored and as the crowd was leaving in dismay Alvaro Pereira finished it off right at the whistle.

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Jun 112010
 

South Africa 1-1 Mexico
Siphiwe Tshabalala (55′) Rafael Marquez (79′)

Vuvuzelas in full blast Mexico controlled the match early, especially down the wings, but the South Africans soon settled. A Mexico goal was correctly called back for offside. South Africa resisted and showed some good passing – and goalkeeping courtesy of Khune – before Tshabalala scored from a rather tight angle with a fierce shot. Marquez rescued Mexico when the South African defense failed to hold the line. Mexico goalie Perez – along with Mexico’s defense – seemed to struggle often and the South Africans had a few chances, one off the post, to get off to a winning start.

France 0-0 Uruguay

France left Malouda on the bench and neither team could create much excitement. Skills of the likes of Ribery or Gourcuff were very rarely in evidence. Discipline was a factor with a few yellow cards that eventually had Uruguay’s Lodeiro sent off for a double yellow for a bad tackle on Sagna. France coach Domenech tried to change the shape of the offense by bringing on Henry, Malouda and Gignac (for Anelka, Diaby and Govou respectively) but with little success.

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Jun 032010
 

The following five players are 23 (or under) years old. They are not the biggest names in football but are stars at their clubs and are ready to make an impact. Their young careers suggest a big potential to shine at World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

Marek Hamsik
Date of birth: 27 July 1987 Country: Slovakia Club: Napoli

Alexis Sanchez
19 December 1988 Chile Udinese

Mesut Ozil
15 October 1988 Germany Werder Bremen

Luis Suarez
24 January 1987 Uruguay Ajax

Eljero Elia
13 February 1987 The Netherlands Hamburg

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