Late Run to the WC.

16 06 2010

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Volume two looks over the remaining opening round games.

Dutch & Danish dueled it out well, but the Dutch kid pushes the Oranje to victory.   Joburg had an orange and red tinge to its already unique look.

The first half was pretty lack-luster and seemed as if both teams were just adjusting to the African surroundings.  Goal-scoring opened up with the tournament’s first OWN goal.  Defender Simon Poulsen (a weird start for the danish) headed a Robin Van Persie cross into the back of teammate Daniel Agger that ended up in the goal.

Van Der Vaart (23) points at Simon Poulson (can’t see number) and Daniel Agger (4).

The dutch would make a key substitution of Van Der Vaart by bringing in Eljero Elia in the 66th minute.  Elia’s quick cuts and pace created some quality chances.  Wesley Sneijder slipped a beautiful pass into the area for Elia who toe-punched a shot towards the right side of goal.  The ball bounced off the post back into play.  A flying in Dirk Kuyt gave the Dutch the 2-0 lead.

A sweet moment between Liverpool teammates didn’t erase the the fact the Dutch are on top of the Group.

Two goal scorers (granted Agger reluctantly) embraced after the final whistle.  The game showcased that the Danes are legit (they beat Portugal in Lisbon during qualifying).  It also showcased that the Dutch line-up may need tweaking for it to gain its best results.  Elia especially looked strong and fast as heck.  His inclusion into matches should be a fore-gone conclusion (its just a matter of when).  Solid performance by both teams with the Danish gaining some more respect.  The Goalie’s were able to make serious saves making them stay fresh.

The Blue Samurai step up there game!!  The Japanese have made things VERY interesting in Group E.  The Africans out shot and looked the more talented team.   All that doesn’t matter or add up just like this fan’s interesting costume doesn’t add up?

????  The Japanese capitalized on a cross that went over all the Cameroon defenders and landed by young super-star in the making Keisuke Honda.  Honda’s 39th minute would be there only shot of the game.

The one goal would be enough for full points, but not after Cameroon tried there damnedest.  9 shots with one rocket slamming into the post (inches lower and upper 90′ goal!!).  The Africans looked more complete as a team and only really Eto’o was unable to get in his full rhythm.  He was slotted on to the right wing for some weird reason.  The Japanese got the early goal and went into turtle shell defense.  It paid off as they now have a huge advantage to move on to the next round.  Excitement wouldn’t cover the emotion reached from such a huge victory.  Still not sure what the Japanese have, but what a freaking start to group play.

Italy and Paraguay got to duke things out in lovely Cape Town.

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Green Point Stadium in front of Table Mountain.

Six of the starters brought home their country’s fourth WC trophy.

GK Gigi Buffon (1), Captain Fabio Cannavaro (5), Defender Gianluca Zambrotta (19 – unseen), Midfielder Danielle De Rossi (6), Forward Alberto Gilardino (11) and striker Vincenzo Iaquinta (9) all won 4 years ago (3 more on the bench as well).

The battle of Group F’s top two favorites was dominated early by the defending champions.  The rains poured down heavily in Cape Town and that may have helped with the big shocking moment of the first half.  5 minutes before the half Paraguay defender Antolin Alcaraz struck gold.  Paraguay had a long free-kick chance that Aureliano Torres fired towards the center of the box.  Alcaraz went over De Rossi and headed in the shocking goal.

Alcaraz (#21) scores his first international goal in only his 7th cap for his country.  Wigan’s newest Central Defender starts off the world cup in historic fashion.  The Italians kept the pace in attack mode to open the second half and it only took the 15 minutes to gain the equalizer.  A corner from Pepe was BADLY whiffed at by the Paraguay Goalie and bounced right in front of a waiting Danielle De Rossi.

#6 De Rossi got his right foot on the ball and tied the game up.  Italy put on its afterburners and really amped up the attack.  Midfielder Mauro Camoranesi especially proved himself as a much needed cog in the attack, he subbed on in the 59th minute for Marchisio.  Through all there pushing though the Italians couldn’t crack the Paraguay turtle shell defense.  Italy proved there are still legit when the amp it up, but they also showcased how they need to change their line-up to figure things out.  Paraguay showcased no killer instinct and were happy to pull a point out of the game.  This group may become very boring if both these teams win their next game.

Group F finished out its first round of games with Slovakia having a shocking end to its match against New Zealand.  The Kiwi’s came out looking fresh and ready for a battle.  They couldn’t capitalize on there chances and both teams went into half scoreless.  Slovakia came out of the half firing back and netted a 50th minute goal.

Forward Robert Vittek headed in a Stanislav Sestak cross to put the Europeans on top of there group.  For the next 38ish minutes Slovakia would lead the game.  The Kiwi’s got a miracle from 21 year old defender Winston Reid.

The goal happened 3 minutes into stoppage time and was a historic moment in Kiwi football.  Both teams looked better then there Fifa ranks and easily has a chance to oust Paraguay for a spot in the next round.  The Kiwi’s set piece work was impressive and does make you wonder if they can steal more points from this open group.

The middle game pitted the Elephants of Ivory Coast (Drogba with cast but not starting) vs CR and Portugal.

Both teams look top heavy on attack (when Drogba is in for Ivory Coast that is).  Young Lille striker Gervinho would slot into Drogba’s striker position.  Both teams seemed ready for a battle and the result was some ugly play.  CR had two blistering cracks, one hit the post from 35 yards out (badass!).  The first half didn’t see any goals, but we did see some fireworks.

Ivory Coast’s RB Guy Demel got into a heated yelling match with CR (after CR took an obvious dive).  Don’t worry the ref did side with Demel.

Another yellow card for diving in this World Cup (the beautiful game won’t tolerate fake plays).  Guy also received a yellow card for his kind words to CR.  The first half ended scoreless, but not boring.  The second half would see the Elephants come firing out of the gates.  A rejoicing roar from the Nelson Bay Stadium crowd as Drogba came into the game at the 66th minute for Salomon Kalou.

With all the excitement of Drogba the Elephants kept trying and Portugal kept trying themselves, but no dice.  The highly anticipated duel had some real highlights, but lacked the defining game-winning moment.  Both teams look primed to battle for the second spot to Brazil.  I’m not sure if one of these two gents realize today would have helped oust the other one.

Speaking of Brazil the late game pits the Samba club with North Korea.

The David vs Goliath of the tournament started slowly before North Korea established that they weren’t scared of the big bad Brazilians.  Both sides had early chances and the Koreans even tested Julio Cesar.  The Koreans even attempted a cheeky little midfield shot that didn’t catch Julio off his back line, but was interesting to see the bold move.  The scoreless first half wasn’t shocking because of the score, but more so because North Korea had 6 shots to Brazil’s 9.  Where did the men in red come from?  The second half finally showcased Brazil fancy goal-scoring.  Defender Maicon came flying off the right flank and “crossed/shot” across goal.  The North Korean goalie was a few feet off of the line and the ball rocketed in between him and the goal.  It smacked into the far left side of the net.  Maybe not an intended shot, but still a really cool goal by the Champions League winning Brazilian.

The Brazilians would go up 2-0 in the 72nd minute from a one-timer by Elano.  Robinho thru-pass split three Korean defenders and gently rolled to Elano’s right foot.

Goal-scorer Elano knows who to hug!!

The North Koreans did steal a goal and further proved that they are no-pushover (even against MIGHTY Brazil).  Ji Yum Nam took control of a, lovely headed knockdown from Jong Tae-se, ball and rocketed it past Cesar in the 89th minute.   The North Koreans showing they are a viable entry into the World Cup is the first (and only) thing you need to take from this game.

The final two games of the opening round of games was from Group H.  South American teams Honduras vs Chile battled it out in Mbombela Stadium aka the Zebra stadium.

Seats and field of Mbombela Stadium.jpg

Despite the ying yang look this match was a highly one-sided affair.  Chile dominated possession with 64% and also out shot their fellow South Americans 22 shots (5 on goal) to 7 shots (1 on goal).  When it came down to it the Chileans looked like a legit round of 16 team.  They were able to pick up a goal and three points thanks to Jean Beausejour 34th minute tap in.  The ball was crossed to the near right side by Alexis Sanchez and bounced off a defender then off Beausejour.  La Roja (The Red = Chile) really showcased a strong attack.

They weren’t able to turn those chances into a rout like Germany, but the offense looks legit.  Honduras didn’t look fully there line-up wise as David Suazo didn’t play at all.  After an hour or so Honduras even took out to of its veteran goal scorers in midfielde Amado Guevara and striker Carlos Pavon.  Its obvious if there play-makers aren’t up for the challenge the team goes into its own shell.

The final game of the opening round had Spain take on Switzerland in lovely Durban.

The match started off with pretty big news as both teams top strikers were not ready due to fitness.   Fernando Torres for Spain and Alexander Frei for the Swiss were on the bench.

The Swiss started things out with 5 fouls in the first 12 minutes of play before Spain would start to get its attack working.  Spain rattled off numerous shots on goal (9 total with 3 on goal) but both teams entered the half at a 0-0 draw.  The second half had the shocker moment as a Swiss club with only 35% of possession up to that point and only two total shots went ahead with a big goal.  23 year-old Left Mid Gelson Fernandes put the Swiss up 1-0 in the 52nd minute.

A long kick from Goalie Diego Benaglio set up a wacky few seconds of Spanish defenders missing the ball.  An on rushing Iker Casillas even missed the ball and allowed Gelson to toe-punch the go-ahead goal.  With-in the next 15 minutes Spain decided enough was enough and brought on Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas for David Silva and Sergio Busquets.  So many chances for Spain and they couldn’t muster a goal to save there lives.  Upset of the Tournament – CHECK!!  The Swiss were completely outworked and outplayed by the Mighty Spanish.  Even a rare 5 minute stoppage time – 5 minutes – NO MAJOR INJURIES, NO REDS, Swiss didn’t use there third sub till after the 5 minutes was announced.  Hell he didn’t blow the whistle until 5 minutes and 50 seconds.  As much as an insult it was to give a 5 minute stoppage time it didn’t matter as the Swiss defense held on.  Congrats to the red and white for fighting off Spain and the ref to pull off one of the biggest upsets.

A look over the groups:

Group A – The South African vs Uruguay game should give us the clear favorites for second place.  And with the two early favorites – Mexico and France – in tomorrow’s game this group is wide open.  I still think the South Africans can move on with Mexico, but that could easily be changed after today.

Group B – South Korea on top thanks to their beating they put on Greece.  The front runner will be decided tomorrow as Argentina and South Korea duke it out.   Nigeria needs full points from an old Greek team otherwise there final game against South Korea will be meaningless.  I still see Korea losing to Argentina and Nigeria winning setting up a win and your in game for the final group match.   Should be exciting if it all goes down like that.

Group C – Slovenia is the surprise leader after America’s “miracle” goal helped keep them tied with the English.  Friday’s match of USA vs Slovenia will be heartbreaking to one country’s hopes and dreams.  I still think back-to-back victories by America can lead them to Group success and a much easier game in the Round of 16.

Group D – So who’s the best team after the first round of games = GERMANY.  Their 4-0 drubbing of a game Australia was by far the most impressive moment and solidified Germany as top three favorites to win the whole WC.  Can’t argue against them if they keep up the goal-scoring and superb defense.  The second spot also seems shored up with Ghana’s victory over Serbia.  My hopes of Australia advancing seems almost completely dead.

Group E  – Cameroon’s shocking loss to Japan has thrown this group upside down.  Japan and the Dutch look like easy favorites to move on.  The Dutch hold the key as they play both teams.  Don’t count out the Danish though as they looked sharp and game against the Dutch.  This one is still wide open.

Group F – Everyone is even after the first round and means Paraguay has the easiest route into the Round of 16.  The Kiwi’s late game heroics really shook Slovakia’s chances of moving on.  Italy still look like the best all around team, but must find there goal-scoring touch.

Group G – North Korea is the story of the first round of games and even though they have no points and really no hope – they’ve become everyone’s underdog pick.  The group is looking as everyone thought it would – it’s just a question of who will gain full points from Korea AND at least a point from the Brazilians.  I’m still putting my money on CR and Portugal.

Group H – THE SHOCKING UPSET of SPAIN put the Swiss on everyone’s radar, but its hard not see Spain and Chile moving on.  If the Spanish can’t score goals against Honduras and Chile then this will be the biggest story of the WC BY FAR!!  Spain’s loss is story numero uno followed closely by the North Korea performance.  The Swiss have to be happy with three points and the early lead!! EXCITING GROUP!!!

Ok so here is my 3-5-2 team of the first round of game.

GK – Diego Benaglio – Switzerland

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Is there a bigger performance – don’t think so.  He even battled a yellow card for “time wasting” (BS since the ref obviously was pro-Spain with his 5 minute stoppage time (that he took all the way to 5 minutes and 51 seconds!) – YELLOW CARD FULLY WORTH UPSETTING THE NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE WORLD!!  No one was as important in the Swiss first victory over Spain in 18 games as Diego.

Defender – Stephan Lichtsteiner – Switzerland

Stephan Lichtsteiner
The Lazio striker is one of the most accomplished Swiss players and he helped stop the Spanish from gaining any leverage.  The 26 year-old is at the top of his game and already the leader in the Swiss defense.
Defender – Marcus Tulio Tanaka – Japan
Tulio  Tanaka
The man that injured Drogba did a wonderful job shutting down Cameroon’s top targets (including Samuel Eto’o).  Though the Africans did have two huge chances the Japanese defense was incredible.  Tanaka is the leader in the backline and deserves the mad respect.
Defender – Maicon – Brazil
Douglas Sisenando
The veteran defender netted one of the early favorites for goal of the tournament.  No doubt about it Maicon is one of the world’s best and his goal sparked his Samba brothers to STEP IT UP!!  His size helps on defense and his keen intelligence on when to go on his flanking runs makes him a super-star.  Its easily understandable why “The Special One” is trying to bring him to Real Madrid.
Midfielder – Siphiwe Tshabalala – South Africa.
Siphiwe Tshabalala
No more defining moment as scoring the opening goal in the first ever African World Cup.   The Soweto-born left winger may have scored the goal of the tournament (yep the first goal was that spectacular!!).  His pace, free-kick ability, and scoring touch make him an obvious choice for “find” of the tournament.
Midfielder – Steven Gerrard – England.
Steven Gerrard
Captain Gerrard didn’t hold back and got the early goal against the US.  England’s midfield looked pitiful, except Liverpool’s finest.  Steven was the only mid to attack and hold position.  His ability to play in the 25-35 yard area really makes him so important to England’s success.
Midfielder – Park Ji-Sung – South Korea.
South Korea’s captain and most talented export has shined brightly for Man U.   He showcased that brightness with a superb game against an old looking Greece team.  Park is the main reason why South Korea should move on in a tough Group.
Midfielder – Robert Koren – Slovenia
Robert Koren
Slovenia’s captain is a talented play-maker and creative force behind their attack.  His goal has them on the verge of a huge shocker in Group C.  He’s a threat no-matter where along the midfield he lines up.  A strong performance against US or England and the midfielder may see a spark in interest (more so then his play at West Brom).
Midfielder – Mesut Ozil – Germany
Mesut Ozil
21 year-old German (Turkish parents) DAZZLED in midfield for Germany.  His name didn’t get on to the scorer’s sheet, but he was instrumental in two goals.  His speed and lack of fear make him a unique talent.  He has great vision and a rocket leg.  Watch out for this youngster – he’s on the verge of stardom.
Forward – Lukas Podolski – Germany.
Lukas Podolski
The German #10 looked unbeatable against the Aussies.  He tallied an assist and the opening goal barrage.  He is labeled a forward, but he started the game as more of an attack midfielder – he’s lethal either way.  At 25 he’s not a “find” but he still has a chance to be a superstar.
Striker – Miroslav Klose – Germany.
Miroslav Klose
Yeah a theme is happening!!  Klose has a legitimate chance to break the all-time goal scoring tally this World Cup.  He does have pressure from Mario Gomez, Cacau, and youngsters Thomas Müller and Stefan Kießling.  He still fights on and continues to score goals.  The veteran is only 32 and could try again in four years, but the talent behind him is already on the verge.  Muller started in the midfielder for the first game and scored a goal.
Overall its been a historic World Cup and PSD hopes you’re enjoy it as much as we are.
Check back for our third edition  of Late Run to the WC.
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