29 June 2010

SPAIN 1 (Villa 63)

Spain kicked-off, 57 seconds and 15 passes later Torres cut in from the left and gave Eduardo a fright with a hugely ambitious shot. His strike partner also tested Eduardo from distance. Unlike that clown Ricardo, Eduardo is an excellent goalkeeper. Five minute later, same thing, Villa from the left, Eduardo saved, this joke is getting old. Despite Spain's dominance it was Portugal who had the best chance of the half. The fabulous Coentrao backheeled a pass into Meireles who played an angled ball inside two defenders to Tiago, Casillas spilled his shot high in the air and Almeida was too slow and too weak when challenging for the ball with the net gaping. Seven minutes Casillas he fumbled a Ronaldo free kick and the Spanish scrambled clear. The awful Almeida missed another glorious chance, heading a fantastic Meireles cross wide of the right post.

Unfortunately for Portugal the chances kept falling to the wretched Almeida, he surged past Pique on the left, turned inside him, played an awful centre towards Ronaldo, the ball came off Bam Bam Puyol's knee and bounced wide of the right post. Llorente replaced the hopeless Torres and gave Spain's limp attack a doze of Viagra. He launched himself at Ramos' inswinging cross only to be denied by a miraculous point blank save. Two minutes later Villa broke the deadlock after Ronaldo gave the ball away with a lazy pass out of defence. Three of Barca contingent were involved, Xavi backheeled Iniesta's pass to Villa as the Portuguese appealed for offside, Villa's initial effort was saved but even the incredible Eduardo was helpless on the rebound. Eduardo made fantastic saves from Ramos and Llorente. Capdevilla feigned injury when Costa beat him to a cross, he fell clutching his face, implying he had been elbowed and the weak referee, Argentinean Baldassi, showed Costa a red. There was no contact whatsoever. The talk about the wide distant angle is ridiculous, of course it looks like he made contact from afar, that's not really the point. Capdevilla cheated to get an opponent sent off and he's the second Spanish player at this tournament to do that.

Poor Ronaldo, poor Portugal, neutered by the defensive minded coward Queiroz. Forget about the so called golden generation, this is the best Portuguese squad of the past 20 years. The goalkeeper is great, the defence is great, Meireles and Ronaldo - wonderful players. I'm not sure who will coach them post Queiroz but once that defensive straightjacket is lifted they have the potential to be one of the top sides in Europe.

As for Spain. Typical Spain. I've never been a fan of tiki-taka and the diving and playacting in La Liga is endemic. Through via an offside goal, through via the ref only whistling one way and also through after the shameless feigning of injury cheated their opponents out of a player. They were the better side by a mile but only after they scored. Paraguay are the South American Portugal without anywhere near the talent. They'll be playing for penalties.

Attendance : 62,955
Red Card : Ricardo Costa 89 (Spain)
Assists : n/a


Barrios turned onto a pass ala Bergkamp but Japan's Kawashima cut the angle and saved with his feet. A minute of so later Matsui ran onto a loose ball and clipped the top of the crossbar with a brilliant first time shot. One season wonder Santa Cruz wasted the clearest chance after a ball fell to him from a corner. Honda sliced wide from the edge of the box from a Japanese counter attack.

Four minutes from time match-point Japan. Honda held up a ball on the left, Tamada took it off him, surged forward, lost possession but the deflection was kind to Okazaki, he played an outrageous backheel through the legs of a defender, Tamada only had to square the ball and it was 1-0 but he overhit the pass.


Barreto - low, bottom right, Kawashima almost makes it
Endo - top left with pace, perfect penalty
Barrios - exactly the same as Barreto
Hasebe - again similar to his team-mates penalty, not as high
Riveros - just right of centre, poor penalty but Kawashima went the wrong way
Komano - was shitting himself and it told, struck the crossbar, a bit unlucky
Valdez - left of centre, hard, in off the underside of the crossbar. Looks like a shirt lifter
Honda - nonchalant penalty, sends Villar the wrong way. A class above every player on the pitch
Cardozo - casually walks to the ball, Kawashima dives left, the ball rolls into the bottom right corner

Terrible match but as ever Davids was magnificent on analysis. He's absolutely hilarious and has ten times the charisma of Seedorf who offers little on the BBC. ITV's Jim Beglin mocked my claim of Japan's mastery of the Jubulani after the blown penalty, ignoring the fact that it was a penalty which is more mental than technique but in any case at least someone has been reading and picking up on my comments.

Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties.

Attendance : 36,742
Assists : n/a

28 June 2010

BRAZIL 3 (Juan 34, Luis Fabiano 38, Robinho 59)

The only noteworthy effort before the goal came via an unexpected source, Gilberto Silva, his 25 yard drive drew an athletic save from Chilean goalkeeper Bravo. Juan headed Brazil into the lead from a Maicon corner. Barely four minutes later Dunga's Brazil killed off Chilean hopes with their not so secret trademark weapon - the counter attack. Maicon whacked the ball out of his own penalty area, Luis Fabiano backed into a midfielder and headed the ball wide to Robinho, he played in Kaka' and Luis Fabiano spun onto his glorious first time pass, skipped over Bravo and tapped into an empty net.

Ramires intercepted a poor header in midfield, ran through the Chile defence, suddenly changed direction and laid off a pass to Robinho who curled the ball low first time past Bravo. In injury time Bastos flicked the ball over the head of a defender, twice (without using an arm), eased pass another defender as he telegraphed a challenge but shot hopelessly wide. It would have been a magnificent goal.

I must be the only person who doesn't get Chile or Bielsa. I don't even think they play great football, they attempt to play great football but it always breaks down. It's like watching Colombia from the 1990s or Arsenal.

Attendance : 54,096
Assists : Maicon (ck), Kaka', Ramires

NETHERLANDS 2 (Robben 18, Sneijder 84)
SLOVAKIA 1 (Vittek 93 Pen)

Robben scored a typical Robben goal after the Dutch won back possession from a Slovakian throw-in. Robben chased down Sneijder's pass, drilled inside two players and beat Mucha with a low shot into the corner. Robben latched onto a hurried clearance and beat two players before taking ANOTHER shot from distance, Mucha got down brilliantly well to save. The Slovaks were pinned back on the resulting corner, Mucha making another great save, point blank from Van Bommel.

The Slovakians had been a non event going forward then suddenly created two chances within a minute. Stoch dribbled past Van der Wiel on the left of the Dutch penalty area before blasting a high shot at goal and despite a deflection Stekelenburg tipped over. A Slovakian forward stretched to poke through Durica's pass, with his back to goal Vittek trapped the ball, turned and shot as the Dutch defenders stood waiting for offside but it was straight at Stekelenburg, should have been 1-1.The directors missed the build-up to the second goal, concentrating on showing replays of Skrtel protesting over the award of a free kick. It was taken quickly, played long upto Kuyt, Kuyt headed over Mucha as he came off his line and centred for Sneijder to tap into an empty net. Stekelenburg dived for the ball from a deflected shot, didn't get near it, Jakubko touched it past him, hooked his right leg under the goalkeepers left arm and won a cheap penalty. Vittek scored and the ref blew for full time.

Attendance : 61,962
Assists : Sneijder, Kuyt, Jakubko (won pen)

27 June 2010

ARGENTINA 3 (Tevez 26, Higuain 33, Tevez 52)
MEXICO 1 (Hernandez 71)

Salcido hit the crossbar with a sensational 35 yard strike. As the debate over Lampard 2010 raged on Argentina took the lead with an illegitimate goal. Tevez ran onto a through ball and into Mexican goalkeeper Perez, who is about an inch taller than him, Messi lobbed the ball goalwards, Tevez, standing two yards offside, headed in. The Mexican's surrounded the linesman Ayroldi, pointing to the giant screens in the stadium which showed Tevez was offside but of course Rosetti's hands were tied. No doubt FIFA's response will be to ban replays in stadiums. That's the best course of action, bury your head in the sand. Osorio underhit a square pass across his box, Higuain intercepted, Osorio jumped on his back, but he rode the challenge, dragged the ball back, rounded Perez and tapped into an empty net. Tevez was trying to play in a team-mate on the overlap (Otamendi?) but kicked the ball into two defenders, he quickly turned onto the rebound and unleashed an extraordinary foot shot which tore into the top right corner, best long range goal of the tournament. Manchester United new boy Javier Hernandez bagged a brilliant consolation goal. With his back to play inside the D he spun onto Torrado's pass, with a fabulous first touch took the ball away from Demichelis then thumped into the top left corner.

Argentina showed very little ambition to attack after going 3-0 up. They still haven't been tested, their goalkeeper is crap. Still no goals for Messi. He'll have to turn it on against Germany otherwise Argentina are going home.

Attendance : 84,377
Assists : Messi, n/a, n/a, Torrado

GERMANY 4 (Klose 20, Podolski 32, Muller 67, Muller 70)
ENGLAND 1 (Upson 37)

Schweinsteiger released Ozil with a glorious ball over the top of a square English defence, Cole prevented him from cutting inside but he managed to shoot nonetheless, drawing a good save from James. Neuer hit a booming goalkick deep into the England half, Klose ran straight through the middle, held off Upson and poked the ball into the bottom corner as James advanced off his line. His 50th Germany goal. The German's fashioned another chance minutes later from a throw-in. Lahm passed to Muller, who played a one-two with Khedira, running onto his backheel, he drifted infield and threading a reverse pass through Terry's legs, Klose angled his run between Johnson and Terry to stay onside but James dived at his feet to kick clear. Beautiful football. England won a throw-in, Cole hurled the ball at Upson who hit a caveman longball out of defence, straight to Mertesacker, he passed to Lahm, Lahm to Khedira, Khedira into Muller, Muller drove a pass into Ozil as he spun around Ashley Cole, Klose lobbed a first time pass over Upson's head, Muller ran though, lobbed the ball over Johnson to Podolski out wide left, he took a touch before shooting between James' legs into the bottom right corner. Another marvellously crafted goal. England responded with Lampard throwing himself at a low Milner centre but Neuer blocked and Lahm cleared. The German response was swift, Klose forced a corner then a subsequent save from James. England won a corner and played it short, Milner feigned to cross before giving Gerrard a reverse pass, Gerrard crossed and Upson leapt in the air, closed his eyes and the ball dropped over Neuer. 2-1. Within a minute we witnessed what will surely go down in history/infamy as one of the most controversial non-calls of all time. England recovered the ball from kick-off, Milner passed into Defoe, as he was tackled the ball fell to Lampard who took a touch before lobbing over Neuer, Neuer dived to catch the ball from 2 yards inside the goal, no goal. 1966 and all that in reverse. Neuer immediately booted the ball downfield, Klose held it up while waiting for support which arrived quickly, Muller's cross should have been cleared by Upson but he gave the ball straight back to the Germans, Muller headed across to Ozil, he feigned to shoot, rolled the ball back to Podolski and his drive flashed wide of the right post.

Lampard slammed a free kick against the top of the crossbar. Muller had a shot blocked and Friedrich stole the ball off Defoe's feet as he ran through onto a Rooney pass. Schweinsteiger bounced a shot wide of the left post. Rooney dived to win a free kick, Lampard's shot was charged down, Barry was tackled by Lahm as he tried to force his way into the box and Boateng released Muller in space down the left, Muller switched play with a pass out wide to Schweinsteiger, Ozil charged forward in support distracting Johnson, Schweinsteiger ran infield, Schweinsteiger rolled the ball to Muller and from angle wide right on goal he blasted the ball into the bottom corner, James parrying it into the net as he dived in the opposite direction. Another counter attack, another German goal. Joe Cole's lazy centre was intercepted by Klose who released Ozil with a magnificent first time crossfield pass, Ozil left Barry for dead, cut in from the left, poked the ball between Ashley Cole's legs and Muller smashed in his second and Germany's fourth. Chasing three goals Capello brought on Heskey for Defoe while his opposite number substituted Klose and man of the match Muller. The director cut to a shot of two England fans dressed as RAF Pilots. It's not about the war you stupid bastards. Neuer denied Gerrard with an excellent save following good link-up play between Lampard, Barry and Rooney. England's worst ever defeat at a World Cup finals tournament.

The debate over the use of VT will run and run and the UK are the victims of their stupidity. The IFAB, the rule makers, which originally consisted of representatives of the UK Football Associations i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland allowed FIFA on board and now FIFA hold as many votes as the four UK associations. It was the Welsh and Northern Irish FAs that voted against the use of technology at an IFAB meeting earlier in the year.

The goal that wasn't a goal will be used to excuse England's performance but they were a distance second best. As Alan Hansen said :

"I went to the game against Algeria and I thought they (England) were abysmal. Today they were four levels below that ".

Germany could have scored eight. A succession of England coaches have failed, Capello the most high profile of them all. He made many mistakes of course and he was undermined by Terry and dressing room mutiny. The lack of imagination shown by English players is galling. Getting the ball wide and sending crosses into the box is an archaic tactic and that's how most England teams play. Where are the one-twos and triangles? Where is the patient passing which drags players out of position, where is the intelligent movement? Long-term, short-term, England are doomed because, as I have said time and time again, the football played in the EPL is not conducive to success at international level. It's too fast, too furious, lacking in intelligence, like the players themselves.

Thomas Muller is the best young midfielder in the World, a player of extraordinary intelligence. Levels far above Ballack whose absence has liberated this team.

Attendance : 40,510
Assists : Neuer, Muller, Gerrard, Ozil, Schweinsteiger

26 June 2010

USA 1 (Donovan 82 Pen)
GHANA 2 (Boateng 5, Gyan 93)

Clark lost possession in midfield following a lame attempt to dribble past a Ghanaian, Boateng collected the ball on the half way line, ran straight down the middle of the US defence before suddenly changing direction and beating the poorly position Howard with a grasscutter. Cherundolo was booked for raking his studs down the back of Ayew's calf, it should have been a red. Jonathan Mensah gave away the ball with an awful clearance deep in his own half but Findley failed to take advantage, shooting Dempsey's through pass straight at (Kofi) Kingson. The appropriately named De-Merit failed to deal with a longball, Asamoah raced past him and Howard got down to save with his right leg, excellent save.

Feilhaber replaced Findlay at the start of the second half and almost had an immediate impact. Altidore held up a deflected Donovan centre, a great first touch took Feilhaber away from a defender but in doing so he kicked the ball against his opposite foot, giving Kingson enough time to close the angle and save. Donovan back heel flicked a Feilhaber pass into Dempsey, he nutmegged John Mensah then went down rather easily under a Jonathan Mensah challenge, penalty. The All American American Landon Donovan curled the ball in off the right post. Bradley broke from midfield, his team-mates strung together passes before Altidore played him in but he hit a weak shot at Kingson. Big chance. Appiah replaced Boateng who appeared to pull a hamstring. Altidore chased down a longball, wrestled with John Mensah, gave him a hand-off before losing his balance then shot wide of the right post. Poor miss.

Gomez replaced Altidore at the start of extra time and as bad as Altidore was (is), Gomez was even worse. Addy headed out a longball, getting great distance, Ayew helped it forward, Gyan ran between the US centrebacks, Bocanegra took a quick glance at the ball then planted a headbutt into Gyan's left cheek, Gyan kept his balance, took one touch then lashed a half volley over Howard who was once again poorly positioned. Great finish, cynical play by Bocanegra. Should have been another red. Bornstein overhit a cross to the back post, Dempsey headed down, Feilhaber shot through a ruck of players and the ball bounced out for a corner. The Ghanaians began time wasting. Inkoom (wasn't he in Scorpion King?) jumped in the air to overhead kick clear the ball watched it bounce out for a throw-in, turned then went to sleep. As soon as he was loaded onto the stretcher he did The Undertaker's sit up spot then the Ghanaians wasted even more time by substituting him a few minutes later.

The US were largely devoid of ideas, swinging crosses into the box against this team is a complete waste of time, they are phenomenally athletic and usually get miles on their clearing headers. Donovan and Dempsey have one more World Cup in them after that the US are in terrible shape. Well they're already in poor shape because of their forward line and defence but their midfield is their saving grace.

Attendance : 34,976
Assists : n/a, Dempsey (won pen), Ayew

URUGUAY 2 (Suarez 8, Suarez 80)
SOUTH KOREA 1 (Lee 68)

Park Chu-Young curled a right footed free kick against the outside of the left post. Fantastic strike. Korea's goalkeeper gifted the Uruguayans the lead. Forlan swung in a low centre, far to close to the Jung Sung-Ryong however he was slow off his line and the unmarked Suarez tapped in at the back post. Uruguay should have been awarded a penalty on half time. Max Pereira took a Suarez cross on his chest, flicked the ball over the head of a defender then struck a right foot volley, Ki Sung-Young charged into the ball with his left arm outstretched. Clear as day penalty. I didn't see the ref in the shot but his linesman was perfectly placed.

Park Chu-Young failed to punish an uncharacteristic mistake by Lugano, snatching at a volley. The Uruguayans were content to sit on their lead and weren't really being troubled by their opponents. Victorino headed an innocuous free kick high into the air, Muslera ran into traffic and Lee Chung-Yong headed into an empty net. Fucile failed to track Lee Chung-Young's run onto a through ball but the midfielder shot straight at Muslera. Fucile punted a loose ball back into the box after the Koreans failed to clear a corner, the Korean defenders had already pushed up, leaving Suarez free in the box but he headed into the ground. Six minutes later he scored a brilliant winner. A Forlan corner was cleared to the edge of the D, Perez headed the ball down to Suarez who threw REVERSE stepovers at two defenders as he ran backwards, suddenly flicked the ball forward, collected his own pass via a deflection and whipped a shot inside the right post. One of the goals of the tournament, fit to win any game. Lugano botched an offside trap, leaving Lee Dong-Gook with just the 'keeper to beat, he shot straight at Muslera, the young 'keeper couldn't hold the ball and Lugano arrived to clear, making up for his earlier mistake.

Uruguay are heading for the semi-finals. It's hard to see how they will struggle to beat Ghana who have lost Boateng to injury and Ayew to suspension. They've got a lot more firepower than any of the teams Ghana have faced so far.

Attendance : 30,597
Assists : Forlan, n/a, n/a