27 June 2006
 
SPAIN 1-3

FRANCE

Villa 27 (Pen)  

Ribery 41

   

Vieira 83

   

Zidane 92

     
France failed to clear a corer and as the ball was played into Pablo, Thuram stamped
on the back of his right ankle, penalty. Barthez guessed right but Villa's spot kick had
too much pace. Spain's naive, high offside trap was bound to get them in trouble
sooner or later especially against a French side featuring Henry who is an absolute
master at using the 'not interfering with play' nonsense to his advantage. Henry and
France's DMs combined for the equaliser. Makelele turned away from Raul and passed
Ribery, Ribery played the ball into Vieira and as he turned he skipped away from
Pablo's sliding tackle and looked at Henry, who was standing yards offside on the left,
before playing a disguised pass through to Ribery on the opposite flank, Ribery left
Pernia and Puyol for dead, rounded Casillas and rolled the ball into an empty net.

Vieira and Zidane combined to create a chance for Malouda, the Lyon midfielder forcing
Casillas into making a spectacular one handed save with an equally acrobatic volley.
Aragones made two early, brave substitutions 10 minutes into the second half. Joaquin
replaced the non event that was Raul (he should never have started) and that thumb
sucker Luis Garcia came on for the static Villa. Joaquin skinned Abidal on the edge of
the box but dragged his shot wide of Barthez's near post. That was as close as Spain
got in open play all match. Henry tried to get Puyol a second yellow card by clutching
his face after the defender's elbow brushed against his chest when they chased down
a ball. He only got a free kick but it enough to win the official, FIFA sanctioned, Diving
Twat of the World Cup (TM) Award. Zidane's delivery was pure evil, just above head
height, an utter nightmare to defend, Xabi Alonso tried but failed miserably, heading
straight to the back post and Vieira thumped a low header into the bottom corner off
Ramos. The hungry French weren't finished, Zidane and Wiltord mugged Cesc on the
half way line, Govou gathered the ball and as Cesc approached, passed to Wiltord,
Wiltord chipped the ball first time out wide to Zidane on the left, Zidane controlled a
high bounding ball with his right thigh, took two touches as he cut inside Puyol, ran
through the defenders outstretched leg, passing up a stone wall penalty, and fired
a low shot past Casillas. MAGNIFICENT, and I don't even like Zidane.

Premature ejaculation. After handing out a 4-0 thrashing in their opening game
Spain were suddenly among the favourites, despite past history. Doesn't anyone
ever learn? Vieira, Zidane, Ribery and Makelele were off the charts. Vieira, who was
made to look like a tired, old man by Cesc in Juventus' Champions League clash
with Arsenal, turned the tables with an intimidating, imposing performance. Spain's
young pretenders were totally and utterly schooled. It's taken France 8 years to turn
in a performance that made them the best, the most feared side in the World and
on this showing Brazil are in for one hell of a game. Best match of the World Cup
so far and it was an absolute privilege to watch some of the greats of the modern
game rise to the occasion, apart from Henry whose two notable contributions were
standing still and feigning injury.

Attendance : 43,000
Assists : Pablo (won pen), Vieira, n/a, Wiltord
 
 
BRAZIL 3-0

GHANA

Ronaldo 5    
Adriano 46    
Ze Roberto 84    
     
In their three group matches Ghana defended deep and defended hard so I would
love to hear Ratomir Dujkovic's explanation for playing a high offside trap against
of all teams Brazil who in Kaka' have the best counter attacking player in the World?
The only feasible explanation is that he is a complete IDIOT. Kaka' gathered
a pass from Lucio and rarely misses an opportunity to have a run at a defence only
he didn't have a defence to run at, they were all on the halfway line, so he hit an
angled pass through to Ronaldo and he rounded Kingston and tapped into an empty
net to claim himself a piece of history as the World Cup's all time leading scorer
(15). Adriano should have made it 2-0 as Brazil once again tore through Ghana's
shambolic offside trap but dived over Kingston, earning himself a well deserved
yellow card. Slack marking allowed Mensah a free header in the box but he headed
down at Dida's feet and the 'keeper slashed clear. Ghana were sort of threatening
before they were suckered on the break. Gyan played a one-two with Appiah on
the edge of the box before running into Lucio then theatrically falling down, Juan
took possession before Appiah flattened him with a superb tackle, Lucio ran onto the
loose ball and charged to the half way line before flicking the ball out wide to
Kaka', who had an overlapping Cafu in support, Kaka' pushed the ball to Cafu,
he swung a cross to the back post and Adriano, who was offside twice (when
Lucio passed and when Cafu centred) put the ball into an empty net with his knee.

Ghana had Brazil chasing shadows in the second half but despite their pace,
power and excellent technique, everything broke down in the final third.
Gyan got a second yellow for diving. Ze Roberto punished Ghana's offside trap
for a third time to complete a slightly flattering victory.

Ronaldinho was even more useless than Adriano in this match. Still I figure he's
good for at least one blockbuster performance.

Attendance : 65,000
Red Card : Gyan 81 (Ghana)
Assists : Kaka', Cafu, Ronaldinho
 
 
26 June 2006
 
ITALY 1-0

AUSTRALIA

Totti 94 (Pen)    
     
In the second minute Toni wasted a superb Del Piero cross, heading wide from
6 yards out. The Fiorentina striker headed down a cross to Gilardino, he took the
ball high off his chest and struck an acrobatic volley which Schwarzer parried with
ease. His save on another Toni effort was considerably more impressive. Pirlo
chipped a ball into the box, Toni rolled his maker, Grella, and hit a low shot which
Schwarzer sliced clear with his left foot, the less said about Gilardino's 'header'
on the rebound the better. It took the Aussies half an hour to get a shot on target.
Chipperfield shot straight at Buffon following a mix-up in the Italian defence on a
set piece. Toni missed another sitter,  Perrotta helped on a Pirlo cross but the giant
striker headed over the bar. Moore was lucky not to be sent off for a lunging foul on
Toni, he escaped without a booking.

Materazzi scythed down Bresciano on the edge of the box and he made sure the ref
noticed by rolling over four times. Materazzi's foul was no different to Moore's
challenge on Toni in the first half, in fact that was arguably worse, but the ref
showed Materazzi a red. Despite their man advantage the Australians failed to put
the Italian's under a great deal of pressure and Hiddink waited until the 80th minute
before bringing on Aloisi, Lippi had already introduced Totti and Iaquinta. In the last
minute Iaquinta missed an absolute gift. Perrotta had run into traffic in a packed
penalty area, when attempting to smashed the ball clear, a defender kicked it against
Iaquinta, it bounced off Iaquinta, against Moore and back to Iaquinta again but he
shot straight at Schwarzer. Grosso burst down the right flank and turned inside
Bresciano before running into the box, Neill went in with a sliding tackled, Grosso
turned away from him, hooked his left foot over the defender and took a dive and the
ref pointed to the spot. Totti smashed the ball into the top left corner. It was hard
luck on Neill who had been outstanding all match but he only has himself to blame.

Attendance : 46,000
Red Card : Materazzi 50 (Italy)
Assist : Grosso (won pen)
 
 
SWITZERLAND 0-0

UKRAINE

     
During a brief spell in the first half this was shaping up to be a decent game, despite
telling a friend this had penalties written all over it. Wicky intercepted Tymoshchyuk's
square pass and let fly with a shot from the edge of the box which Shovkovsky made
an unnecessarily theatrical save. Shevchenko clipped top of the crossbar with a diving
header from Kalinichenko's free kick. Frei rattled the crossbar with a ferocious free
kick.

Gusin shaved a post with an excellent flick header from a corner. The remainder of the
second half was a complete non event. In extra time Gusin made a fantastic block
tackle to deny Streller when the forward was sent in on goal. There were two notable
substitutions in extra time. Milevsky, on for Voronin, gave an instant spark to the
Ukraine attack though I'm not sure what taking off Frei and bringing on Lustrinelli was
supposed to achieve.

Penalty Shoot-Out

Shevchenko sends the ball low to Zuberbuhler's right but it's saved. That's one
thing Milan won't miss.

Streller's kick is delayed by his own goalkeeper Zuberbuhler, who is standing on
the right hand side of the box, the ref tells him to walk off the pitch. Streller, who
looks nervous as hell, hit's a weak shot towards the centre which Shovkovsky saves
with ease.

Milevsky who looks like a cross between a rock star and Thor the God of Thunder,
does a Panenka. He takes a few steps before chipping a gorgeous right foot shot
which starts curling towards the right hand post before dropping towards the
centre of goal, a prostrate Zuberbuhler watches the ball hit the back of the net.
F*cking brilliant penalty, so good I'm putting on DVD.

Barnetta rattles the crossbar with violent shot.

Rebrov with an awful penalty, poor height, poor placement but Zuberbuhler dives the
wrong way.

Cabanas hits the ball just right of centre but Shovkovsky maintains his policy of
diving at the last second and saves.

Match point to Gusev and he doesn't let his team down, slamming the ball
into the bottom left corner.

I've given Shovkovsky hell in the past but he came up big today. The Ukraine
probably deserved to win but in truth neither team showed much ambition.

Milevsky has already been dubbed the new Shevchenko and from what I have
seen at the U21 European Championships and briefly in this match he's got
tremendous potential.

Ukraine win 3-0 on penalties

The weekend football died, yes I know it's Monday. To those who were complaining
about how the first round, are you satisfied now?

Attendance : 45,000
Assist : n/a
 
 
25 June 2006
 
PORTUGAL 1-0

NETHERLANDS

Maniche 23    
     
'The Battle of Santiago' is one of the most infamous matches in World Cup history.
Contested between Italy and hosts Chile in the 1962 World Cup, two Italian players
were sent off, one had his nose broken from a left hook and the game degenerated
into a brawl. With 16 yellows and 4 reds, this match will go down in history as the
modern day equivalent.

The insanity started in the seventh minute. Boulahrouz was only booked for a bringing
his boot (studs showing) down into Ronaldo's left thigh, leaving the midfielder writing
in pain and with a nasty bruise. It was actually the second foul on Ronaldo, five
minutes earlier Van Bommel was booked for tripping him from behind. Robben taking
a stage dive between two Portuguese players, no booking for diving however Ivanov
decided to give a yellow to Maniche for a foul on Van Bommel a minute earlier in the
build-up. In between the hacking and diving there was a great goal Deco volleyed on
Miguel's throw-in to Ronaldo, the midfielder wriggled free of Giovanni van Bronckhorst
(GVB) and Ooijer before passing the ball back to Deco, Deco hit a superb low cross
into the box, Pauleta stopped the ball, laid it back to Maniche, with his first touch he
evaded Boulahrouzís sliding tackle then blasted into the top right corner of the net.
Ronaldo collapsed and was subbed just past the half hour mark. Costinha should have
been shown a red for an awful two footed lung on Cocu but got away with a yellow
card. Van Persie turned Nuno Valente inside out six times on the right flank, Carvalho
arrived to help him out only to join Valente on his backside but van Persie shot wide.
The absolutely hopeless Kuijt, he's so bad you clamour for Kluivert, tried to overhead
kick a cross, he sliced the ball as Robben was about to shoot Nuno Valente flew in with
a high kick to his shoulder, red card, penalty the works but the ref had already blown
for some other infringement so took no action. Maniche found Simao in acres of space
on the right with a superb crossfield pass, Simao teased (GVB) before hitting a low
centre into the box, Figo back heeled and Pauleta hammered a shot on the turn which
van der Sar saved brilliantly with his feet. At the end of the first half Costinha got a
second yellow for a stupid handball.

Cocu and that waste of space Kuijt worked an opening down the left, Cocu darted into
the box, Kuijt swung in a cross, van Bommel attempted an overhead kick but missed,
the ball hit a Portuguese defender, bounced to Cocu and from six yards out he
slammed it against the underside of the crossbar. As the players were readying
themselves for a free kick after Deco had been fouled by GVB on the edge of the box,
Figo ran upto Van Bommel and gave him what can only loosely be describe as a
headbutt behind the referees back so why was Figo booked? Minutes later Figo went
down clutching his face after Boulahrouz caught him with a stray, unintentional elbow.
Second yellow, only 55 minutes too late. Carvalho hurt his bollocks when blocking from
Sneijder, as the Portuguese launched a counter attack the ref stopped play so
Carvalho could get some treatment. The ref gave a drop ball to the Dutch and instead
of giving it back to the Portuguese, the unwritten rules of footballing etiquette,
the Dutch ran downfield and attacked, a furious Deco chopped down Heitinga from
behind, yellow card. As everyone argued with Petit standing over Heitinga, Sneijder
ran in and pushed over Petit, right in front of the ref and only got a yellow card. Two
minutes later the Dutch won a free kick on the half way line, Deco was slow to move
away so Cocu came up from behind and hurled him to the ground, second yellow to
Deco for time-wasting, nothing to Cocu. More bullshit. That waste of space Kuijt
missed a great chance when put clean through on goal. GVB got his marching orders
for tripping Tiago after loosing possession on the edge of his box.

I remember Ivanov from a Champions League match between Inter and Milan. He
let several Inter players get away with murder, failing to punish some brutal fouls.
Every time I've seen him he's done the exact same thing and his failure to send off
Boulahrouz for a criminal foul on Ronaldo is what lead to this match becoming a
clusterf*ck, he is entirely to blame for setting the precedent. Players are obviously
going to take advantage and seek retribution if they see their team-mates get
kicked and chopped down. The Dutch may have taken the game into extra time had
Van Basten not persisted with the wretched Dirk Kuijt, he makes the Japanese
strikers look World Class, and introduced Van Nistelrooy.

Attendance : 41,000
Red Cards : Costinha 45 (Portugal), Boulahrouz 68 (Netherlands), Deco 78 (Portugal),
van Bronckhorst 94 (Netherlands)
Assist : Pauleta
 
 
ENGLAND 1-0

ECUADOR

Beckham 60 (fk)    
     
Tenorio latched onto poor headed clearance from Terry, leaving him one on one
against Robinson, he pulled the ball down and just as he shot Ashley Cole arrived
from nowhere to make a fantastic block, deflecting the ball against the crossbar.
Beckham, whose delivery from set pieces and open play were poor all match, scored
with a brilliant free kick, the ball catching the inside of Mora's post. Robinson made a
good save from Valencia after the England defence went to sleep on a cross. Rooney
gathered a huge Robinson free kick on the left wing and destroyed Hurtado with the
Ronaldinho lollipop then pulled the ball back for Lampard who blazed over the bar,
probably the third good chance Lampard wasted.

There can't be another coach in the World who is as reliant on the media as SGE is for
his tactics. They've been clamouring for Carrick to play as DM so Lampard and Gerrard
can support the attack so that's EXACTLY what he does. I hope they've got some ideas
how to beat Portugal.

Attendance : 52,000
Assist : Lampard (won fk)
 
 
24 June 2006
 
GERMANY 2-0

SWEDEN

Podolski 4, 12    
     
Germany were rewarded for an aggressive start with two early goals from 'Das
Wunderkid' Lukas Podolski. Klose headed down a longball out of defence to Podolski
and he laid it back to Ballack, Ballack hit a first time pass to Klose who brushed aside
two Swedish defenders with ridiculous ease but as he was about to pull the trigger
Isaksson dived at his feet to block, the ball broke to Podolski and he fired at an empty
net, via Lucic's hilarious spectacular diving header. The defending on Germany's
second goal was even worse. Three players tracked Klose as he edged towards the
right hand side of the box, Podolski ran into the space, Klose gave him the ball via
a slight deflection and he fired past Isaksson. The ref blew for a foul against Lucic
following a tussle with Klose, they were both pulling each others shirts. Two German
players (Frings and ?) then talked the ref into giving Lucic a second yellow, and
Podolski patted the ref on the back after Lucic walked. An absolute disgrace.

Larsson went down theatrically in the box under minimal contact from Mertesacker but
the ref pointed to the spot. 10 years ago it would be unthinkable to award a penalty
against Germany, how times have changed. Sweden's coach, Lars Lagerback, then
made one the dumbest decisions of all time. With Larsson ready to take the penalty
he decided this would be a good time to make a substitution. Needless to say after
Wilhelmsson came on for Jonson Larsson blazed the penalty into orbit. Obviously
there's not guarantee Larsson would have scored even if the substitution hadn't been
made but we've seen in the past how easily some players can lose their concentration
in the built-up to a spot kick. Isaksson tipped a stinging drive from Ballack onto a
post and there was a major lull in the play until late chances for Ballack and
Schneider.

Attendance : 66,000
Red Card : Lucic 35 (Sweden)
Assists : n/a, n/a
 
 
ARGENTINA 2-1

MEXICO

Borgetti 10 (og)  

Marquez 6

Rodriguez 98    
     
Mendez flicked on Pardo's free kick and Marquez slid in at the back post to slam a
volley into the room of the net. Borgetti, under pressure from Crespo, headed
Riquelme's corner against Crespo's high boot, the ball rebounded off his head and
into the net. Crespo should have given Argentina the lead following a lovely flowing
move but having ran onto Cambiasso's pass he lifted the ball over the advancing
Sanchez and wide of a post. Heinze escaped with a yellow card for a lunging last man
foul on Fonseca, having lost possession with a terrible first touch on a pass from his
goalkeeper.

The Argentineans continued to ride their luck, Morales found Borgetti with a fantastic
pass, he controlled the ball on his chest just as he was about to shoot Sorin leapt in
the air and kicked him in the face, catching the ball a split second before catching
Borgetti, clear as day penalty and dangerous play, nothing given. Argentina
immediately broke and Saviola was denied by an excellent save from Sanchez.
Fonseca missed an easy header with a weak leap and Messi had a goal incorrectly
ruled out for offside minutes before full time.

Sorin hit a deep crossfield pass over to Maxi Rodriguez who was standing on the
right hand edge of the box, Rodriguez juggled the ball off his chest, took two steps
forward then hit a magnificent left foot volley, the ball flew through the air before
dropping into the left corner of the net. As good as Cole's goal against Sweden and
a goal worthy of winning any match.

I think the refereeing has been of a decent standard in this tournament but Massimo
Busacca and his linesman were terrible. Argentina's quality was the difference overall
but they did get the breaks from the officials, they won't against Germany.

Attendance : 43,000
Assists : Mendez, n/a, Sorin