21 June 2006


Argentina constructed the best move of the match in the 7th minute. Milito hit a ball
into Tevez who held off two defenders before passing to Messi, Messi split the defence
with a lovely through ball and Boulahrouz made a brilliant tackle with Cambiasso about
to strike. Kuijt (according to Gullit pronounced Kout) stole off a ball off Burdisso when
the defender laboured near his box  but selfishly he tried to shoot from a tight angle
with Van Nistelrooy better placed. Boulahrouz almost sliced a Riquelme free kick into
his own net and Maxi Rodriguez whipped a half volley just wide of a post. Coloccini
was extremely lucky to get away with a wild sliding tackle on van der Vaart, had the
forward not vaulted his challenge it would have been a penalty and red card. Milito
wasn't too clever with a follow-up challenge on van der Vaart, the ball fell to Cocu
and he drew a great save from Abbondanzieri. The ref possibly should have awarded
the Dutch a penalty for persistently hacking Babel in/on the edge of the box.

I'm not sure why anyone expected this to be one of the matches of the tournament,
with qualification secured neither team were going to over-exert themselves and
both coaches used the match to rest several players.

Attendance : 48,000
Assists : n/a


Dindane 37 (Pen), 67  

Zigic 11

Kalou 86 (Pen)  

Ilic 21

I'm not sure why Tizie was dropped for this match, ok he's not great but the fact that
he's first choice should give you some idea as to the qualities of the Ivory Coast's
reserve 'keeper the wonderfully named Boubacar Barry. After pinging around
passes in midfield Stankovic smashed a long ball upto Zigic, Barry came off his line
got nowhere near the ball and Zigic tapped into an empty net. More charitable
defending from one of the reserves gifted S & M a second. Jobber Domoraud tried to
intercept a free kick but he sliced the ball straight to Ilic and he rounded Barry before
tapping in the second. Dudic punched out a cross with a fantastic volleyball spike,
wrong sport idiot. The ref booked him (why wasn't he sent off?) and pointed to the
spot. Having scored the ref forced him to re-take it for encroachment but he kept his
nerve. The ref booked Dindane, who has a reputation for being a diver, for simulation
after Jevric appeared to floor him with a wild tackle. If you look the replays
Dindane slips, he doesn't dive but as he's falling Jevric clips his trailing leg, Jevric
can consider himself extraordinarily lucky to get away with that one.

Nadj got a second yellow for going through Keita from the side and winning the ball.
He didn't make a great deal of contact and Keita feigned injury, again harsh. Blaise
Kouassi (another great name) struck the crossbar with a ridiculous long range shot.
Dindane headed Keita's fabulous cross into the bottom corner. Stankovic missed a
free header when the Ivory Coast defence went to sleep on a free kick. Dudic gave
away a second penalty for handball. This is bullshit. Now as some of you may know
Alessandro Nesta has special dispensation from FIFA which allows him to handle the
ball in the box at will but Dudic doesn't. If the ref gives a penalty he has to be booked
surely? Kalou converted and everyone did a silly little dance around a corner flag.

The Ivory Coast, I don't like the term Elephants (Elephants are big grey pussies) have
been involved in three of the best games in this World Cup and thoroughly deserved
to win at least one of them. Brilliant team, in any other group they would have easily
made it to the last  16. I imagine it won't be long before we see Yaya Toure, Zokora
and the African Bobby Carlos, Arthur Boka, at big European clubs. Yaya and either or
Zokora seem destined for Spurs.

Attendance : 66,000
Red Cards : Nadj 47 (Serbia & Montenegro), Domoraud 91 (Ivory Coast)
Assists : Stankovic, n/a, n/a, Keita, n/a
16 June 2006


van Persie 23  

Bakary Kone 38

van Nistelrooy 27    
The referee awarded the Dutch a free kick when Kolo Toure curtailed van Persie's
jinking run towards the box. Standing on the right hand edge of the D the Arsenal
forward struck the ball with incredible velocity over the giant Ivory Coast wall into the
back of the net. Four minutes later a failed offside trap gave one of the greatest
strikers of the modern era his first World cup goal. Zakora beat van der Sar all ends
up with a fantastic shot from distance but the ball rebounded back off the crossbar.
Zakora seemed to have wasted a quickly taken free kick by passing to Bakary Kone
who had his back to play 40 or so yards from goal. He turned but he was forced wide
right by the Dutch, probably assuming it was his weaker side given he lined up on the
left, as he got to the edge of the box he let rip with a missile that flew into the top left
corner of the net, it had to be a hell of a strike to beat van der Sar from that range.

In a dull second half Drogba was booked for no good reason and van Persie chested a
shot off his line.

Attendance : 47,757
Assists : van Persie (won fk), Robben, Zakora (fk)


Rodriguez 6, 41    
Cambiasso 31    
Crespo 78    
Tevez 84    
Messi 89    
Rodriguez played a one-two Riquelme before passing to Sorin who was hugging the
left flank, Sorin hit a firm back heel to Saviola, as he cut inside the box he slipped the
ball outside Gavrancic and Rodriguez arrived with impeccable timing to shoot past
Jevric. A damn fine goal but it was nothing compared to Argentina's second. The two
time champions strung together 24 passes, patiently stroking the ball around the
length and breadth of the pitch. Once again Sorin and Saviola were at the heart of the
move. Saviola spun away from a defender as he received a pass from his captain then
played a one-two with Riquelme, who returned his pass with a delicate flick, Saviola
juggled the ball from his left foot onto his right before volleying a pass into
Cambiasso, he poked it forward to Crespo, Crespo took one touch to control the ball
before playing in Cambiasso with a back-heel and he rifled a left foot shot into the
roof of the net. One of the all time best goals in any competition ever. The
irrepressible Saviola made the third with an excellent tackle, he ripped the ball off
Krstajic as he tried to shepherd it to safety, this could have easily been given as a
foul, as he strode into the box he pulled the ball away from a defender with his right,
then suddenly stepped inside by bringing the ball onto his left foot and shot with his
right, Jevric parried and Rodriguez arrived at the back post to slam the ball in off a
post. A long range shot from Milosevic was the only notable effort the masters of
bondage could muster.

Either side of Kezman's red card, for a studs up foul on Mascherano, Tevez came on
for Saviola and Messi for Rodriguez. A quickly taken free kick began Argentina's
second half salvo, Riquelme found Messi charging into space down the left and he
pulled the ball across the face of goal for Crespo to tap-in his second of the
tournament. While Argentina's first four goals owed much to the teams guile and flair
the fifth was raw power. Tevez, with a new haircut that no longer makes him look like
a member of the Prison Break cast, gathered a long pass from Riquelme before
skipping over Gavrancic's dangerous two footed slide tackle, he brushing off a feeble
challenge from Duljaj then slotting into the bottom corner. Tevez exchanged passes
with Crespo 20 yards from goal before playing in Messi who made a run on the
blindside of the S & M defence and shot between Jevric's legs. Rosetti sparred
Serbia & Montenegro further humiliation by blowing for full time a minute early.

Anyone for Tennis? The last time I saw Argentina play this well was in the 2004 Copa
America final against Brazil, a match they completed dominated but lost on penalties
after Adriano scored a last second equaliser.

Attendance : 52,000
Assists : Saviola, Crespo, n/a, Messi, n/a, Tevez
11 June 2006



Robben 17

The hopeless Kezman and Milosevic wasted the games first chance. After Djordjevic
had mugged Heitinga on the on the left he pulled the ball back for a certain goal but
the misfiring duo got in each others way. You'd think a team that only conceded one
goal in 10 during the qualifiers wouldn't be dumb enough to play offside on the half
way line but that's exactly what S & M did. Van Persie volleyed on a long ball out of
defence, Robben, who started behind two defenders, left them eating dust before
beating the advancing Jevric. Minutes later Jevric brilliantly saved the wingers ferocious
left footed drive.

The Dutch suddenly ran out of steam in the second half and couldn't get going neither
could their opponents although Koroman, who came on as a sub late in the first half,
at least forced van der Sar into a save. Van Persie came closer than anyone else
to scoring, sending a wicked free kick wide of a post. Koroman protested to Merck after
being checked, holding up his hand appealing for a card and Merck granted his wish
by booking him. How I laughed.

The 6ft 8in Zigic, who came on at the start of the second half was hopeless and failed
in every way imaginable to make use of his height. Someone should send him tapes
of Koller and yes even Crouch. Van Nistelrooy's usually outstanding movement was
nowhere to be seen. He looked very rusty.

Attendance : 37,216
Assist : van Persie
10 June 2006


Crespo 24  

Drogba 82

Saviola 38    
After two wretched matches this one didn't disappoint. Both teams attacked from the
start with the World Cup debutants playing the slicker football but it was Argentina
who took the lead, twice. Ayala rose majestically to head a Riquelme corner, Tizie,
Ivory Coast's weak link, fumbled the ball over his goal-line before quickly recovering
and the ref gave him the benefit of the doubt. Riquelme floated a free kick into the
box, Drogba tried to head clear but knocked the ball against Heinze and Crespo
stabbed in the rebound. Ayala, who had his best game in an Argentina shirt for as
long as I can remember, made a great block tackle on Drogba after Kalou dropped a
pass over the top of the Argentina defence. Keita overran the ball after muscling his
way past Mascherano, Ayala under-hit a pass back to Burdisso and as Yaya Toure
intercepted at great speed he took the ball away from Burdisso with his left foot
before bringing the ball onto his right and heading for the box, he hit an inch perfect
pass to the unmarked Kalou who tried to place the ball into the corner but ended up
shooting embarrassingly wide. A criminal waste of a wonderful piece of skill. Akale hit
a high cross to the back post Drogba knocked the ball down to Keita but he headed
straight at Abbondanzieri. Against the run of play Argentina made it 2-0. Riquelme's
disguised pass caught the Ivorian defence flat footed as they stood waiting for the
linesman's flag with Crespo standing in an offside position, Saviola however wasn't
and pushed the ball past Tizie.

Riquelme whistled a free kick wide of a post. Drogba went down theatrically in the
box under a challenge from Burdisso but when the ref didn't blow he sprang to his
feet and shot, the ball took a deflection and fell to Keita, he centred but from 6 yards
out Bakary Kone blazed over the bar. Yaya Toure threaded a ball through to Bakary
Kone, he fired a cross towards Drogba who managed to miss the target from 2 yards
out, Dindane recycled possession, got past two defenders and pulled the ball back for
Drogba to finally score.

'CIV' played the better football. Zakora faded after a great first half but Yaya Toure got
better as the game wore on. He's going to be World Class, just like his brother.

Attendance : 49,480
Assists : n/a, Riquelme, Dindane
R Mehdi