Jul 102010
 

Uruguay 2-3 Germany
Edinson Cavani (28′) Diego Forlan (51′) Thomas Muller (19′) Marcell Jansen (56′) Sami Khedira (82′)

The 3rd-4th places matches at World Cups have produced an average of almost four goals per game and the 2010 edition did not disappoint. As expected the game was pretty open. Germany started a changed side with Miroslav Klose on the bench with a knock and Dennis Aogo, Hans-Jorg Butt and Marcell Jansen starting in place of Lukas Podolski, Manuel Neuer and Philip Lahm. Uruguay were much closer to the full squad with (the constantly booed) Luis Suarez back. The game was open if not spectacular. Muller’s opening goal from a rebounded shot was followed by Cavani for a half time tie. Diego Forlan provided a lead for Uruguay with another rather long range shot that fooled the German goalkeeper. Marcell Jansen tied it soon after when a high cross was missed by both Fernando Muslera and Diego Lugano. The game was lively and saves were required by both goalies and before the game could go to extra time Sami Khedira headed in over the hands of Muslera and into the far corner. And so the Germans took third place for the second World Cup in a row.
Of note, Klose was not able to attempt to tie or break the record for most World Cup goals scored and Brazil’s Ronaldo will probably be holding on to that record for a while yet. Also, Canadian Hector Vergara became the record holder for most World Cup matches as a referee, linesman or assistant at 14.

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Jul 062010
 

Uruguay 2-3 Holland
Diego Forlan (41′) Maxi Pereira (90′) Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (18′) Wesley Sneijder (70′) Arjen Robben (73′)

This semi final started with Holland looking the more assured. Even though Holland were missing key players Gregory van der Weil and Nigel De Jong due to suspension they seemed not to be affected defensively or otherwise. That was partly due to Uruguay missing a key figure of their own in forward Luis Suarez. The game wasn’t the speediest or the most urgently played one until Holland captain and full back Giovanni Van Bronckhorst decided to go for it. He shot from the left side and 30+ yards away almost straight in to the far top corner. Uruguay were stunned, probably as much as Holland themselves, but responded. Uruguay gained and won more of the ball and before the half was over Diego Forlan tied it from a more central location. The ball swerved and left Maarten Stekelenburg in the Holland goal only able to get fingertips to it. The second half saw Holland replace Demy De Zeeuw with Rafael Van der Vaart. The Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, probably realizing the extra defensive presence in midfield was not really required. The game’s shape didn’t change too much however as Uruguay maintained some useful balls if not overall control of the possession. That all changed when Wesley Sneijder shot another ‘semi-deflected’ ball low into the far corner. Replays showed that Robin Van Persie was perhaps (very few) inches offside as the ball moved very near to him and in to the goal. Moments later a good cross lead to a headed third, one that left Fernando Muslera stranded and motionless in the Uruguay goal. Uruguay tried and got a goal back in added time to get an over all fairer final score but not a trip to the finals.

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Jul 022010
 

Holland 2-1 Brazil
Felipe Melo (og 53′) Wesley Sneijder (68′) Robinho (10′)

This game was a chippy one with the likes of Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo and Mark van Bommel not far from getting themselves ejected. Brazil dominated early possession and at moments played a classic crisp passing game. Andre Ooijer starting for the injured Joris Mathijsen seemed to shoulder the blame – for not playing the offside trap – for the early Robinho goal but Felipe Melo was given too much time to find him from midfield. The duel that seemed the first to be trouble for Brazil was the Bastos vs Arjen Robben one so it was little surprise that Bastos was withdrawn early in the second half. But soon after the Holland goal came. Wesley Sneijder collected from Robben and crossed high into the area. Both Melo and goalie Julio Cesar rose for the ball and the ball just brushed the former’s head and made its way in to the goal. As Holland’s confidence grew they capitalized on a chance from a croner. The ball was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt and headed in by Sneijder. Minutes later Melo received the somewhat inevitable red card for a foul on Robben and a deflated Brazil exited South Africa. The Confederations Cup win, a year earlier in the same country, now a distant memory and as has been said before perhaps a curse.

Uruguay 1(4)-(2)1 Ghana
Diego Forlan (55′) Sulley Muntari (45′) Asamoah Gyan (pen miss 120′)

The first half was somewhat a tale of two halves with Uruguay getting the better chances early and then Ghana starting to grow in confidence. As half time was seconds away Sulley Muntari collected a ball won in midfield not far inside Uruguay territory and let a shot go. The replay showed that the ball swerved and fooled Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal. The second half still remained balanced with the teams exchanging chances. It fell to Diego Forlan to rescue his team with one of his excellently taken freekicks. So extra time beckoned with the African support in the stands growing and hoping. And so the game would have one of the most dramatic endings in World Cup history. With a penalty shootout seconds away Ghana pressed and forced a goal line clearance and then another. However the second was a handled ball by Luis Suarez. So with Suarez only barely having left the pitch Asamoah Gyan’s penalty struck the crossbar and produced an escape for not only Uruguay but the guilty player. Several of the shootout penalties were tame and Ghana suffered along with whole of Africa.

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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 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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