22 June 2006


Materazzi 26    
Inzaghi 87    
The Czechs fielded a half fit Baros in attack. Italy were equally handicapped by playing
Totti. Nesta went off with a groin injury and his chances of playing any part of the
rest of the tournament look slim. Fortunately Cannavaro was out of this World.
Materazzi headed Italy into the lead from a corner. After missing two excellent
chances Inzaghi finished off the Czechs on the break.

Another dreadful performance by Totti in an Italy shirt. He was so bad that his own
fans booed him when he tried to lob the 'keeper and barely got the ball off the
ground. He'll get a last chance against the Aussies, after that Del Piero has to start
in a three man attack, assuming Italy go through to the quarter-finals.

Attendance : 50,000
Red Card : Polak 46 (Czech Republic)
Assists : Totti (ck), Perrotta


Dramani 22  

Dempsey 44

Appiah 46 (Pen)    
Reyna, standing near the edge of his box, received a back pass and while he was
weighing up his options and figuring out who to pass to, Dramani steamed in, ripped
the ball from his left foot with an excellent tackle, ran into the box and curled beyond
Keller. An equally poor piece of non defending at the other end got the US back on
level terms. Boateng slid in to intercept a Beasley pass, as he turned he gave the ball
straight back to Beasley, Beasley ran down the left wing and sent a low, out-swinging
cross to the back post and Dempsey hammered a right foot volley past Kingston.
Pimpong fell under an innocuous challenge from the giant Onyewu and Merck, one of
the most experience refs in the competition, pointed to the spot. Appiah sent Keller
the wrong way. McBride's spectacular diving header came back off a post.

Essien picked up a yellow card for going through the back of Reyna in the fifth
minute and thus misses Ghana's mouth-watering clash against Brazil.

Attendance : 41,000
Assists : n/a, Beasley, Pimpong (won pen)
17 June 2006


Gilardino 22  

Zaccardo 28 (og)

Pope was booked for pushing down Gilardino. Gilardino got his revenge to give Italy
the lead against the run of play when he headed in a free kick from Milan team-mate
Pirlo. Zaccardo levels matters by slicing Convey's free kick into his own net. De Rossi
was sent off for smashing an elbow into McBride's face. Mastroeni followed for trying
to break Pirlo's ankle with a disgraceful two footed lunge right in front of the ref.

Pope got a second yellow for a late challenge from behind on Gilardino. Not worthy
of a yellow card in itself but given that he and the rest of his team-mates were
continually fouling from behind all match he had it coming. The cretin who officiated
this match, Jorge Larrionda, should have clamped down on it much earlier. The USA
packed the defence and Italy struggled to break through. Bocanegra headed a Pirlo
free kick against his own crossbar then left Perrotta in a heap when sliding in for a
50-50 ball. Having used all their subs, a lame Perrotta had to soldier on. The one
moment of magic was provided by Pirlo, who hit a delightful lob over the top of the
US defence, Del Piero volleyed but Keller saved.

It would be an absolute travesty if the USA make it to the knockout stages having
kicked their way to point in this match and if they take the same approach against
Ghana they'll get absolutely mugged but to the  detriment of the game.

I swear to God there isn't a national team in the World that takes you through the
gamut of emotions like Italy and more is in store in the next match against a Czech
team missing it's main strikers and best defender. For most teams that would be a
certain three points.

Attendance : 46,000
Red Cards : De Rossi 28 (Italy), Mastroeni 44 (USA), Pope 47 (USA)
Assists : Pirlo (fk), n/a



Gyan 2


Muntari 82

Ujfalusi missed when trying to head clear an Appiah cross, Gyan bounced the
ball off his chest before lashing a half volley into the bottom corner. Having
displayed composure in front of goal Gyan reverted to type and blew a great
chance mid-way through the first half after good interplay between Essien and
the monster Appiah who looks even more jacked than he did last week.

The Czechs failed to take advantage of a quick counter attack when Appiah?
lost possession in midfield. Nedved and Rosicky worked the ball out wide to
Stajner, he pulled the ball across the face of goal only to see the unmarked
Plasil denied by an incredible save from Kingston. Ghana wasted one of many
opportunities on the break by over-elaborating around the box, Ujfalusi cleared,
Essien hammered a shot at goal, the ball struck Amoah and as he turned to shoot
Ujfalusi tapped him on the ankles, penalty. After what seemed an eternity the
ref sent off Ujfalusi, just as Gyan had blasted the penalty past Cech. The ref
booked him for not waiting for this whistle, which means he misses the next
game, and to make matters worse on the re-take he hammered the ball against
a post. Cech made brilliant saves from Amoah and Muntari. Appiah and
Gyan played a double one-two on the right hand side of the Czech box, Gyan
passed to Muntari and in one motion he controlled the ball as he turned then
sent a shot screaming into the roof of the net. AWESOME. Kingston made the
save of the tournament from Sionko's point blank header and from the resulting
corner made another from Polak (shouldn't he be playing for another team?).

What a bloody fantastic match. Ghana could have scored 6, the number of chances
they had on the break was unreal and if they play half as well against the US they
should make the last 16 with ease. I don't care what anyone says, Kingston is
great. I didn't realise Gyan was 20, that excuses his finishing.

Attendance : 45,000
Red Card : Ujfalusi 65 (Czech Republic)
Assists : Appiah, Gyan
12 June 2006


Pirlo 40    
Iaquinta 83    
Italy won a succession of corners in the first half and on every single one Kingston
hung himself out to dry. At this point I couldn't understand why Adjei had been
dropped. A fantastic counter attack should have yielded the first goal. De Rossi started
it by charging down Appiah's free kick and carrying the ball forward before passing to
Totti who in turned played in Pirlo in space down the right, as Pirlo was closed down
he chipped the ball into Totti, Totti swung a cross into the box, Toni stretched but
couldn't connect and Gilardino saw his shot rebound off Kingston for a corner. The duo
combined for Italy's next chance. Gilardino flicked up De Rossi's through pass towards
Toni, Toni headed the ball over Mensah before blasting a right foot volley against the
underside of the crossbar. Gyan almost caught Buffon by surprise with an early shot
which bounced just wide of a post. Pappoe wasted Ghana's best chance, ballooning
a shot high over the bar after Gyan's deflected header landed at his feet in front
of goal. Following this brief interlude Italy went back on the offensive. Totti stung
Kingston's palms with a tremendous shot from 35 yards. Totti played a short corner
to Pirlo and, standing wide left on goal, he sent a shot flying into the bottom right
corner, a bit like Lahm's goal without the lift. The action replays suggest the ball took
a deflection off either a Ghana player, Gilardino or maybe both. Kicker have given the
assist to Totti so I'll go along with that. Curiously after conceding the goal Kingston
was suddenly rock solid on crosses and corners.

On the one occasion Essien got a long range shot on target, Buffon punched it to
safety. Perrotta drew a great save from Kingston after Roma team-mate De Rossi
threaded a pass between two defenders on a counter attack. Another Roma player,
Kuffour, was lucky to escape a red card when he chopped down substitute Iaquinta
as he ran in on goal - the ref had already blown for offside. After Ghana had their
second half arsed penalty appeal turned down karma caught up with Kuffour. Pirlo,
who had his best performance in about a year, stole a ball off Appiah deep in his
own half before dropping a pass over Iaquinta's shoulder. Kuffour was goal side
and should have hacked clear but sold his 'keeper short with a hospital pass and
Iaquinta touched the ball past Kingston before tapping into an empty net.

Italy gave the most complete performance of any of the teams so far. Ghana
were exactly as I expected, strong midfield, rubbish attack. It's a good job
Italy plays the Czech's last, they can rest some players against the US before
going all out in order to avoid Brazil in the next round.

Attendance : 43,000
Assists : Totti (ck), n/a
USA 0-3



Koller 5


Rosicky 36, 76

Rozenhal hit a long ball out of defence to Grygera and Lewis, who should have been
picked him up, was absolutely nowhere. Grygera fired a cross into the box which
Koller emphatically headed into the net. Reyna struck the outside of a post with a shot
from 25 yards and that was as close as the US got to scoring in the entire match.
Onyewu could only clear a Nedved cross as far as Rosicky, he took one touch to bring
the ball under control then from 25 yards unleashed a stunning shot which curled inside
a post. Koller did his hamstring late in the first half and will miss either the rest of the
tournament or the rest of the group stages.

Rosicky clipped the top of the crossbar with another shot from distance. US sub
Johnson looked threatening after coming on as sub but Rosicky quickly ended any
hopes of a comeback with his second after gathering a pass from Nedved, bursting
into the box and lifting the ball over Keller, excellent finish.

Without Koller I don't see the Czech's beating Italy and thus avoiding Brazil in the
second round especially as by the third game Nedved will be on his last legs
physically with all the running he'll have to do against the Ghanaian midfield.

Attendance : 50,000
Assists : Grygera, n/a, Nedved