Recaps and game analysis to follow one or two hours after each match.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Game 29: Brazil vs Ivory Coast

Brazil beat Ivory Coast 3-1. Goals by Fabiano (2), Elano (1), and Drogba (1).

Summary over.

Opinion time:

Ivory Coast, for shame!

What was shaping up to be wonderful game, in which Ivory Coast could make an attempt to lessen the goal differential after a dominating performance by Brazil turned into an ugly slug fest.

Tiote, what was the point of basically ripping of Elano's leg? Instead of playing the ball when Elano came in for a tackle, you went straight studs up into his shin, forcing the curly haired winger to be literally carried down the tunnel to get medical treatment. To top if off, you had quite a few fouls like that, be happy you only got away with one yellow.

Keita, you must have attended acting school. You practically run into Kaka, who puts his forearm up to protect himself (touching Keita's chest), and you crumple over like you just got punched in the face by an in-prime Mike Tyson. What wast he point? There was four minutes left in the game (including stoppage time) and you try to get the player kicked out, it's not like your team was coming back anyway.

Jokes on you Keita, Kaka misses the next game, a game in which Brazil has already qualified for the next round, so they probably wouldn't start Kaka anyway.  Now you just look like an idiot to the world.

But there was also some diving from the Brazilians, including Bastos and Lucio, who rolled around on the floor like a priest needed to come out to read the last rights. Note, I hate diving, I do not condone it, but they dove for a free kick. Ivory Coast, you guys dove because you could, because you wanted Brazilian players to be kicked off. You had lost already, try losing with some dignity.

The surprising thing is, Drogba, who is known for his diving, didn't do it. In fact, he acted as a mediator, shielding Kaka from his fellow Ivorian players. Props to you Drogba, I respect you more.

Let me be clear, I never cheer for Brazil to win the world cup, it's like cheering for the Yankees: It's unoriginal. I like the under-dogs, I was cheering for Ivory Coast, but after this display, I hope the Ivorian players are fined and lose the rest of their matches.

I fear this game will cease to exist in the future, to be replaced by a stage and some spot-lights, where players act out a match. I fear this diving, this acting, will be a blight on the game for years to come.

It sickens me.

Come on Portugal or North Korea (ick, did I just say that?), grab that second qualifying spot.

Game 28: Italy vs New Zealand

New Zealand shocked defending champions Italy on Sunday with a 1-1 draw.

The All Whites struck first in the 7th minute when Shane Smeltz was able to get onto the end of a long-range free kick, staying on-sides due to the flick on by Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro.

However, Italy would soon level in the 29th minute when De Rossi's shirt was tugged, and the Italian theatrically went down into the box to be awarded a penalty. Vincenzo Iaquinta would calmly even the score, and from then on out it would be a dog fight for the Aussies.

Only having three shots the entire game, one from Chris Wood narrowly missing at the end of the game, New Zealand was constantly on the defensive. Big stops from skipper Ryan Nelson were integral, but even he could not outshine the brilliant display from New Zealand keeper Mark Paston, who would come up huge on numerous occasions, denying Iaquinta, Montolivo, and others as he managed to keep his team in the game.

This is the second draw for both teams this year at the finals, New Zealand having tied the struggling Slovakians, while Italy drew 1-1 to Paraguay.

Although the much needed Andreas Pirlo is likely to return against Slovakia, something all Italians will be relishing, number one keeper Buffon could be out for the rest of the world cup due to his back injury.

In truth, Italy dominated the entire game, having 23 shots, and controlling 72% of the possession, but they just could not break down the New Zealand defense.

Italy almost tied up the match in the 27th minute, when Montolivo drilled a shot into the post, and it would remain there best chance of all their shots throughout the match.

At the final whistle, players on both sides calmly exchanged jerseys, and shook each others hands, but around the world views on the game will not be taken so lightly. Italian fans are dreading a display that France did in 2002, when after winning both the World Cup and the European Championship, the team crashed out without scoring a goal. Italy now has two goals from both their games, but they will need to win their match against Slovakia in order to progress. Normally, that would seem like an easy prediction, but with the Azzuri struggling to find the back of the net, the result could be anyone's guess.

Game 27: Slovakia vs Paraguay

Paraguay went top of the table on Sunday after a comfortable 2-0 win over Europeans Slovenia.

With this win, South American teams are now 6-0-2 at the World Cup finals, being the most successful qualification region so far.

The first goal came in the 27th minute off of Enrique Vera, after a defensive mistake from Slovakia allowed a cross into the box, to which Vera deftly hit the ball with the outside of his foot to send it past goalkeeper Jan Mucha.

Following this goal Slovakia would try to push forward with a possession game, but due to many lapses in judgment they would once again find themselves out of the game in the 86th minute when Cristian Riveros would score Paraguay's second goal of the match.

Paraguay's next game is against New Zealand, and they must be feeling very confident about going through. Meanwhile Slovakia is hurting, with only one point in two games they will next take on defending champions Italy.

In all honesty, Paraguay were easily the better side. Having improved on their passing game from their first match against Italy, the South Africans rarely looked like they were in trouble.  Having double the amount of shots (15) than Slovakia (6), Paraguay was constantly on the offensive.

One thing they could really work on is attacking more down the sides, as they mostly just went straight through the middle. By going down the flanks the team could, in theory, get more corner kicks which would allow them some more set piece plays, opportunities that are much harder to defend against.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Game 26: Cameroon vs Denmark

Unfortunately I missed most of this game due to certain reasons, which is a shame because it looked like a good one from what I saw.

So instead, here is a link to ESPN soccernet:

... As it would be a shame for me to do a recap when I didn't see it.

Anyway, Cameroon is now eliminated, the first team in the tournament to crash out. Their loss also ensured that the Netherlands is the first team to go through.

For the first ever World Cup on African soil, the African teams sure are doing bad. I had Ghana and Cameroon to go through, the latter is eliminated, and the former might not even make it! Meanwhile South Africa and Nigeria have very little chance of going through. Ivory Coast may upset Portugal, but we will have to wait for the next two days to see.

Once again, my apologies, I'll be back tomorrow with all the recaps.

Game 25: Ghana vs Australia

Heartbreak for Australia, as they would lose yet another star player to a red card, as they would draw against Ghana 1-1 on Saturday.

Bret Holman would put the Socceroos up in the 11th minute, after yet another goalkeeper blunder, this time from Ghana's Kingston, as he failed to control a long distance shot, Holman playing the role as a true goal poacher, was able to jump onto the ball and calmly lob it into the net.

However, in the 24th minute, after a cross was played into the box and a shot from Jonathan Mensah would be blocked on the line from Harry Kewell's arm. The official did not hesitate and produced a straight red. This allowed Asamoah Gyan to score from the penalty marker a minute later, his second of the tournament, both off of Penalties. This was Kewell's first game back after having only played five minutes of football for any team since February.

Even though Australia was a man down, they looked like the better side for much of the second half. By controlling the possession and waiting for opportunities, they would trouble Ghana's defense.  Only in the last ten minutes did Ghana start to mount any kind of real opportunities, but sadly it all came a little to late.

Ghana now sit atop the group with four points, one ahead Germany who lost their game yesterday against Serbia. Australia, on the other hand, is bottom of the table with a single point from today's draw. However, both teams could still advance depending on the outcomes from other matches if they each win their games (or in the case of Ghana, win or draw).

Tim Cahill, who received Australia's first red-card in the opening match against Germany, will be returning for the teams' final match. Australian fans are praying he might be able to work some of his magic to net a win, and hopefully, put the team through after some disappointing first two matches.