Jun 262010
 

Uruguay 2 – 1 South Korea
Luis Suarez (8′, 80′) Lee Chung-Yong (68′)

The Asians served notice early with a freekick that hit the post and had Uruguay goalie Fernando Muslera very thankful. Uruguay however were their attacking selves and threatened. Only a few short minutes after that incident Diego Forlan crossed low and no one among the available Korean defenders and especially Korean goalie Jung Sung-Ryong reacted well so the ball made its way to the other side of the penalty box for a relatively uncomplicated tap in for Luis Suarez. Koreans worked hard and created half chances. In the second half the heavy rain came and started to become a factor in the game. Uruguay took their feet off the accelerator and were punished. Lee Chung-yong headed into goal after both Diego Lugano and Muslera went for the high ball and almost got into each others’ way. As it seemed extra time was a distinct possibility Suarez swerved the ball into the far corner and solidified his status as an elite goal scorer in World Cup 2010. Uruguay awaited the winner of the USA vs. Ghana match.

USA 1-2 Ghana
Landon Donovan (pen 62′) Kevin-Prince Boateng (5′) Asamoah Gyan (93′)

Ghana bettered their 2006 World Cup showing by advancing to the quarterfinals. The game started very well for the Africans as Kevin Prince Boateng ran at a (unnecessarily) back tracking USA defense and shot low between Tim Howard and the near post. This was a goal both Howard and the US team could have avoided and surely wanted back. US slowly came on as the game went on. Ghana however showed resilience and were close on occasions. In the second half Clint Dempsey was pushed slightly by Jonathan Mensah and Donovan converted the penalty. The game had its moments but extra time was needed. The game was settled early in the extra time when Asamoah Gyan, from a Andre Ayew ball, scored a similar type of goal as the first except this time the ball was shot hard and high into the top of the net and from a more central location. USA daring to dream of a final berth went home early with Donovan now holding the record for most World Cup goals by an American player at 5.

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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 172010
 

Argentina 4-1 South Korea
Park Chu-Young (og 16′) Gonzalo Higuain (33′ 76′ 80′) Lee Chung-Yong (45′)

An unfortunate own goal off a freekick and off the foot of Park Chu-Young, who didn’t really know much about it, was an early omen for the Koreans. Argentina controlled and managed the ball better and showed some of the best attacking plays of the World Cup, through their usual star names. The aforementioned led to the second goal but just as half time was approaching Demichiles made a blunder and allowed the Korean to carry the ball in for a 2-1 half time score. The Korean goalie, Jung Sung-Ryong, deserved some credit for keeping the score low but that is not to say that Korea didn’t have their own chances as the Argentine defense looked iffy at times. Of particular note was the 57th minute glorious chance totally wasted by Yeom Ki-Hu. Amid some nervy moments for both teams the newly arriving Aguero worked well for Messi to deliver a simple tap in for Higuain and soon after another well worked play led to the hattrick for Higuain.

Greece 2-1 Nigeria
Salpingidis (44′) Torosidis (71′) Uche (16′)

Both teams needed a good result to get back into contention after opening game defeats. The game started with a glimpse or two of promise and it was Nigeria who scored first when Greek goalie, Alexandros Tzorvas, simply missed the ball off of a freekick. Then late in the first half Sani Kaita showed his studs in a kicking motion, got himself ejected and handed an advantage to Greece. Instantly the Nigeria goalie, Vincent Enyeama, came back into focus as Greece brought on Samaras and piled on the pressure. The move paid off as the Greeks managed to score off of a deflection just before half time. The game continued to have a totally different look after the sending off, Greece was more alive than ever and missed a glorious chance with Enyeama making one of the saves of the World Cup. Nigeria missed one of their own right after but could not cope with being one man down and conceded another not long after. At the end Nigeria proved their own worst enemies and Greece took full advantage.

France 0-2 Mexico
Javier Hernandez (64′) Cuauhtemoc Blanco (pen 79′)

France dropped Gourcuff and handed a start to Malouda while keeping both Diaby and Toulalan in the starting lineup. From the creative standpoint this solved little as the game was not impressive. Mexico seemed the better team but not by much, as they had to search and search for a decisive play. As both teams had started the World Cup with a draw a result was needed but the match trodded on reversing some of the exciting results starting to emerge. Substitute Hernandez made a nice run, however and evaded offside to dribble past Lloris and shoot into an empty net. Not long after that Blanco, the elder statemsman of the Mexican team and himself a substitute, converted a penalty that was delivered to Mexico via a clumsy Abidal tackle. And so France’s chances faded, as with their midfield creativity and freekick takers.

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Jun 122010
 

South Korea 2-0 Greece
Lee Jung-Soo (7′) Park Ji-Sung (52′)

Greece started a more adventerous style than recent history and reputation has suggested. Coach Rehhagel’s men though seemed disorganized and unprepared to deal with a hard working and counter attacking South Korea. The likes of Gekas and Karagounis were entirely none factors as Lee Jung-Soo and Park Ji-Sung scored for the Koreans. Cha Du-Ri for example exemplified the better Koreans but they still could fall to a more organized, pressing team.

Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria
Gabriel Heinze (6′)

Argentina left the likes of Milito and Maxi on the bench in favor of Higuain and Di Maria and also started Veron. Nigeria on the other hand left Martins on the bench. The most notable points from this games were the number of chances Messi missed or was thwarted by the competent goalkeeping of Enyeama. This game was a total write off for Veron who even struggled to complete easy passes. The aforementioned Martins made a difference in Nigeria’s shape and attacking intent with his speed and skill when he came on early in the second half. Argentina remained somewhat disorganized tactically and had the likes of Tevez and Gutierrez to thank for some hard work.

England 1-1 USA
Steven Gerrard (4′) Clint Dempsey (40′)

Heskey remains a mystery favorite of various coaches. In his defense is the ability to open paths and space for his striking partner(s) which in this case was Rooney, of course. After England scored early its lineup was tweaked with a relatively early substitution (Wright-Phillips for Milner) in the 30th minute, presumably Capello either saw something or didn’t like Milner’s early booking. Robert Green continued the English goalkeeping troubles by fumbling the ball and letting it trickle in from the Dempsey shot (does anybody doubt the fact that Green and David James are one and two in the English setup only because of EPL’s money bonanza?). England and indeed the US had many chances or perhaps half chances – by Ronney and Altidore for example – but in the end players like Lampard and Dempsey, for England and the US respectively, needed to be more involved if more goals were to be scored.

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