Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gareth Bale's Left Foot Strikes Against Inter Make Europe Drool

When Gareth Bale first burst onto the scene at Spurs, nobody was sure where to play this immensely talented youngster. He had the skills and ability to play at left back or left wing. Superbly athletic, incredibly quick and possessor of the best left foot in England, Bale is now enjoying life and football on the left flank of Tottenham Hotspur.

His performances have picked up since Redknapp started playing him on the left wing at the tail end of last season. He ended last season with three goals and five assists. This season, he has picked up from where he left off and has drawn much praise from his manager.

And when one looks at his goals against Stoke and now against Inter Milan, it is no wonder why he is garnering so much attention from admiring managers.

Fernando Torres' Problems Pile Up

Rooney Debacle Brought Out Rare Fergie Vulnerability

When I first read the news that Wayne Rooney will leave Manchester United, I was hardly surprised. After all, the man has done that before. At a tender age of 18, he ditched Everton for the best club in the country at that time, Manchester United. So yes, he has done it before and should it be a surprise that he is ready to say goodbye to a club on the decline?

What was more surprising was the obvious vulnerability shown by Sir Alex Ferguson. That was really poignant for me. Never before had a player leaving been that heartbreaking for a man who has seen it all and won it all. Fergie was clearly hurt by Rooney's insistence to leave Old Trafford. In Manchester United, no one player was bigger than the club but in my opinion, Rooney came very close to being an iconic symbol of United. Every season, Rooney's performances and heart have mirrored that of United's legendary manager and these two could have been seen as kindred spirits. As such, for Rooney to turn away from United is a stab in the back for the Scot - something Fergie is not used to experiencing.

Quotable Evidences Of Roy Hodgson's Small-Club Mentality

Through his first 15 matches with Liverpool,  Roy Hodgson has come across as a considerate, media friendly and very much the elder statesman that the board at Liverpool would have hoped. His amicable English nature is a sharp contrast to the more arrogant and abrasive Benitez. After saying and expressing all the right words prior to the start of the 2010/11 Premier League season, his tactical plan, match decisions and overall management ability are being questioned.

The Reds are languishing 2nd from bottom, looking low on confidence and motivation. Much of this poor form must be attributed to Uncle Roy and his post-match interviews expose him as clearly a manager with a small-club mentality. Just like what Paul Tomkins and the rest of Liverpool fans have been suggesting.

His statements post-match have been low-key, bizarrely respectful to the opposition and definitely lacking the substance befitting a manager of a legendary club like Liverpool. Though I was happy Rafa was made to leave, Hodgson is making me think again of my misgivings about Benitez!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Positives Than Negatives For Newcastle

Written by Colin Hill, a sports blogger

Sunday's defeat at home to Stoke City was understandably met with disappointment from the Toon Army as Newcastle slumped to their second successive home defeat after losing 1-0 to Blackpool earlier in the month. Most disappointing of all was the manner of the defeat as not only did Newcastle throw away the lead but Stoke managed to win 2-1 despite only managing one effort on target, as a result of James Perch's unfortunate own goal.

All things considered, it was three points dropped and a sore one to take for all those wearing Newcastle soccer jerseys, but the fact that had they held on for victory, they would be sitting 5th in the Barclays Premier League table after 7 games, ahead of the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham and Liverpool, suggests that it should be not all doom and gloom at St James Park.

Such are the expectation levels at Newcastle, where fans remember the times of Kevin Keegan and the stars such as Faustino Asprilla, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, that the normal target for newly promoted clubs of "avoid relegation" is not applicable. In truth, staying in the fiercly competitive Premier League would be an achievement for a club whose financial constraints mean they have not significantly added to the squad over the past two seasons.

My feeling is that Newcastle should comfortably finish mid-table this season and will not be dragged into a relegation dogfight. Despite the inevitable setbacks which hamper even much more established Premiership clubs (take Spurs home defeat to Wigan for example), it has been a good start to the season for the Toon Army with far more positives than negatives.

From the resurgence of Joey Barton to the form of Andy Carroll to the six goal mauling of Aston Villa to the sweet strike from the left football boot of new-boy Hatem Ben Arfa, already Newcastle have served their fans up a rollercoaster of emotion and given us some memorable moments for the 2010-11 Premier League season.

There is of course a bit of trial and error to be done as manager Chris Hughton learns about his players as they come up against better quality teams than they did in their march towards the Championship title last seasons. Over the course of the season, systems will change, players will adapt to the increased pace and intensity of the Premiership and hopefully games such as Stoke will be closed out in a way that sends the fans home happy.

It's easy as a football fan to focus on the negatives - but there are definitely more positives at St James Park at the moment.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports blogger who write about kids football kits.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hammers Carling Cup Win Is Great Way To Prepare For Spurs Derby

West Ham had the best preparation ahead of their Saturday clash with Tottenham Hotspur winning their 3rd round Carling Cup match. The fact that it was against Premiership opponents (Sunderland) and that the Hammers finally registered their first away win of the year will give Scott Parker and his team mates a massive boost in confidence.

Piquionne and Obinna finally opened their account for West Ham. With Carlton Cole struggling for goals, the Frenchman and the Nigerian will be relied upon to get the goals. Coupled with that well-earned draw against Stoke City, it has been a happy week so far for West Ham and Avram Grant. Psychologically, this win will do wonders for the player's confidence. And the performance levels have been steadily rising as well.

It is by no coincidence that the introduction of Manuel Da Costa has presided over better defensive displays. His composed and awareness on the pitch makes a difference to players around him. With the Portuguese, James Tomkins becomes a better player. Around the ex-Fiorentina man, Matthew Upson had less to do against Stoke. Surely he has done enough to warrant a first team slot at the heart of the West Ham defence.

Left Side Of Defence Is Liverpool's Weak Link

The purchase of Paul Konchesky was meant to plug a glaring weakness at left back for Roy Hodgson's Liverpool side. The signing of free agent Fabio Aurelio was also designed to do so. Hoping Daniel Agger to be an adequate left back is plainly tomfoolery. Agger has a great left foot but he does not have the tools to play on the left.

Konchesky was replaced by Agger on the 82nd minute of the English "Superclassico" with the score at 2-2. Daniel Agger could not get into the game and his concentration affected by Nani's diving antics, he promptly conceded space for John O'Shea to provide the assist for Berbatov's hattrick. Paul Konchesky may yet prove himself worthy of the leftback position but for now, left back is a problem area for Liverpool.

Debates are rife about whether O'Shea should have been sent off and that decision turned out to be a pivotal moment for both clubs. Steven Gerrard scored from the ensuing freekick while O'Shea made amends when he provided that cross for Berbatov's winner. Jamie Carragher looked past his best and Berbatov's winning header is testament of how aged Carragher has been since last season. Danny Wilson's Liverpool  Premier League debut may be coming sooner than we think.

Manchester United have been leaking late goals lately and when Liverpool scored two quick goals to tie the match, it looked like it could be Everton all over again. In the end, it was a fair result and United deserved the three points. Dimitar Berbatov finally stamped his mark as a player at Old Trafford with a virtuoso performance, becoming the first Devils player in 64 years to score a hattrick against their fiercest rivals.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mauro Formica, West Ham's Rumoured January Signing And Team Jesus Revisited reports that West Ham will sign Mauro Formica from Newell’s Old Boys for an undisclosed fee (but likely about £3.2m) during the January transfer window. The 22-year-old is highly regarded in his homeland and has been tipped for a future in the national team.

The Argentine plays as an advanced playmaker, the classic Argentine no. 10. With a nickname like "El Gato" or "The Cat", his stealthy skills will be just what the Hammers fans enjoy watching, but will he help West Ham's relegation troubles though?

Mauro Formica represented Argentina at the U-17 level. The video suggests that El Gato is a cross between Kaka and Ronaldinho. If he can play like any of these Brazilian maestros, then Boleyn Park will be rocking with excitement. The video footage do portray the young Argentine as a Ronaldinho-type player, busy, skilled, influential and ever ready to try the spectacular. West Ham fans will lap it all up, for sure.

Avram Grant's absence from today's crunch match against Stoke have been well-documented in the newspapers and media. This is yet another example of how fortune continue to hide from West Ham, but perhaps there will be a divine intervention in the end.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Facing Stoke City Is A Welcome Change For The Hammers

West Ham played their first four matches against Villa, Bolton, Manchester United and Chelsea. All four can be considered as ball-playing teams. Matthew Upson and the frailties of the Hammers defence were exposed to dire effects by these clubs who attacked from all directions. Despite chopping and changing his defence, Avram Grant quite clearly still does not know his best defensive four. Come to think of it, Grant have not shown us that he knows what his first eleven should be.

Facing Stoke therefore, will be a welcome change for the struggling Irons. The Potters are a one-dimensional team albeit an extremely resolute one. Stoke have players who will fight but lacking the talent of the four clubs earlier. Stoke's game is built upon getting the ball early into the opposition's box. Even with West Ham's deteriorating confidence, the defensive quartet of Reid, Upson, Gabbidon and Ilunga will be happy to deal with high balls into the box all day.

It is great news that Thomas Hitzlsperger might be fit enough to start. The former Stuttgart captain will surely strengthen a midfield lacking in creativity and direction. For all the virtues that Scott Parker brings to the game, creativity is not what Great Scotts is about. Der Hammer if he plays, will bring a dimension of class to the West Ham midfield. The pace and close control of Barrera and Obinna will worry Stoke defenders immensely. West Ham must use these wide weapons to stretch and open up a well-drilled Stoke defence.

Players' Thoughts Ahead Of The Manchester United Liverpool Derby

Arguably the most awaited fixture of every Premier League season, Liverpool against Manchester United is the most intense football rivalry in English football. The fact that neither are currently top of the Premiership will not be lost to either team. This match comes at an opportune time not only to stamp one's superiority over the other but also to kickstart a bit of form in the Premier League.

Joe Cole and Raul Meireles (after an impressive substitute display against Birmingham) could both be set for a first team start against Liverpool's hated rivals. Confidence should be coursing through Cole's veins after the opening goal against Steau Bucharest. And he should be champing at the bit at the prospect of Premiership action after a harsh three-match ban.

Nani and Fletcher have been brilliant this season and they are the standout performers so far. The Red Devils are leaking goals and Ferdinand-Vidic strangely have suffered at the hands of Liverpool in the last two seasons. Torres have the hex sign over Ferdinand and Vidic but it has been a different start for Torres this season. Michael Owen cannot and must not haunt his old club, otherwise Roy could lost his job!

Gary Neville grudgingly acknowledged Liverpool's rich heritage by stating,
"I suppose it comes from jealousy through my childhood but I have more respect for them as a club in a sense of their tradition and their history than I do for some other clubs who've been coming on the scene in the last few years, throwing a load of money at it. Liverpool have got a good history, you have to hand it to them, and they've been successful."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pepe Reina Leaves St. Andrews Rapt In Admiration

When Pepe Reina signed a six-year deal to remain at Anfield until 2016 in April this year, he bucked a trend. He proved that loyalty and integrity have a place in today's increasingly mercenary football world.

I found this in the BBC Forums in reference to Reina signing that deal,
"It's refreshing in this day and age to see a player obviously very settled and happy, proud to wear the shirt and showing a lot of love for the club and the fans"
It aptly describes why Jose Manuel Reina in a Liverpool shirt, is well on his way to becoming the greatest Liverpool goalkeeping legend.

Martin Tierney of said that Liverpool have the Premier League's best goalkeeper, midfielder and striker, therefore Roy Hodgson should be relishing the chance to turn the ailing club into a dominant Premier League force once again. Unfortunately Birmingham in recent times are hard nuts to crack. Without a confident Torres, the task of beating Birmingham at St. Andrews just got tougher.

If not for three world-class saves by Pepe Reina, Liverpool could have whimpered out of Birmingham with no points. The resident Scouser, Reina dived low to his right to keep out Cameron Jerome's header off a Bowyer cross. Then he punched out a teasing cross from Larsson to stop Jerome again from getting on the end of it. Finally, he kept out the influential Craig Gardner from scoring with another one-handed save, diving to his right yet again. Birmingham never recovered from the brilliance of Reina in the first half and Liverpool got better in the second half.

Fortune Continues To Leave West Ham

When the second Chelsea goal flew in Salomon Kalou off a hasty clearance by Matthew Upson, the commentator uttered these words which ultimately defined West Ham's performance against Chelsea over the weekend just past.

Fortune continues to leave West Ham.....

These words rang so true in my mind. Chelsea scored an early 2nd minute goal through Michael Essien. The manner of Essien's goal has become the sort of sickening goals that Hammers fans are witnessing week in week out this season. No, sorry, these sort of goals have been conceded in regular fashion since last season. The West Ham central defence, though big and powerful, are getting beat in the air over and over again - it's baffling and I think it's all down to lack of confidence and concentration.

Rob Green is known as a shot stopper and never as a commanding presence in the penalty area. That job has always been Matty Upson and when he is also suffering from loss of confidence, the Hammers will continue to be a soft touch in defence. Quite where Manuel da Costa has been banished to, I don't know but Avram Grant had better find him and stick him back into the centre of defence before it's too late!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Season Of Sixes But Nine Goals At Old Trafford Still The Record To Beat

What an amazing start to the new Premier League 2010/2011 season! Defending champions, Chelsea kicked off their campaign with two successive 6-0 wins, prompting Carlo Ancelotti to declare that Chelsea are playing "Playstation football" at the moment. It's not the first time the Blues have thumped Wigan - last season they put eight past Roberto Martinez' Latics.

While it's true that West Brom and Wigan are among the relegation strugglers in the Premiership, to score six goals in two matches (and not conceding) is a feat to be lauded in any league. Not to be outdone, Arsenal blasted six of their own against Blackpool last weekend. Theo Walcott's second and third goal were reminiscent of a former French Arsenal legend. Will this season be the one in which Theo finally fulfills Wenger's belief that he can be a devastating striker?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stoke Goal Enhances Gareth Bale's Burgeoning Reputation

Gareth Bale capped a superb personal performance by scoring a sublime second goal which won the match for Spurs against Stoke City. If the first goal was a little fortuitous, there was no denying that the second goal was testament of what a wonderful left foot the Welsh star possesses. Easily man of the match, I was awestruck by the technique, power and accuracy of his volleyed goal. No keeper in the world could have saved that shot.

On the 29th minute, Aaron Lennon decided to take on two Stoke City players and ran towards the edge of the penalty area. Gareth Bale ghosted in on the left of the Stoke defence, virtually unmarked as the Stoke leftback was napping. With all attention focused on Peter Crouch, Lennon (for once!) lifted the ball over the entire Stoke defence in the direction of Bale. Everyone in the Britannia Stadium watched as the Welshman judged the flight of the ball to perfection and connected sweetly to send the ball past Thomas Sorensen into the top right corner of the Stoke goal. Amazing stuff from the lethal left foot of Gareth Bale!

Just Like Last Season - Deja vu For The Hammers

In West Ham's second game of the new 2010/2011 season, there is a feeling that they will struggle again. Whatever that Avram Grant have managed to instill into the team, it still looks like deja vu all over again for the Hammers. Just like last season, West Ham plays well in the first half and then capitulate in the second. I remember vividly how at one stage last season the Irons were in 8th league placing based on first half performance only. The same situation seemed to be recurring and is not improving.

Beaten again by bogey team, Bolton once more at home, this defeat makes it three losses in a row against the Trotters at Upton Park. Some may say that Bolton got lucky and that West Ham were all over them in the first half. Although it is true that Grant's players were great in the first half, the developing pattern is frighteningly familiar. I fear the phrase "West Ham turning the corner very soon" will once more be a well-used statement to describe how good the boys are playing but that "corner" will remain, like last year, elusive.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Error-Strewn Hammers Start To New Premier League Season

A solid pre-season, a string of "astute" signings and an experienced manager in Avram Grant would have filled most Hammers fans with renewed optimism. I was also pleased from reading reports about victories at Monchengladbach and thought that last season's poor showing will be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the same West Ham (bar Winston Reid) lined up against a managerless Villans and were made to look pretty much like what they were last season, utterly hapless. Watching the first-half performance could have made a grown man cry and the Hammers clearly could not settle into any sort of rhythm. Passes were terrible and the one West Ham threat, Carlton Cole was forced to come deep to collect the ball. The big Hammers striker did have one good run towards the Villa goal, outpacing Dunne but forced wide, Cole dragged the shot wide of goal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Growing Scottish Influence in English Football

Written by Martin Domin, a Scottish football enthusiast

In the not-too-distant past, Scotland's top footballers were prevalent in England's top flight. Archie Gemmill, Denis Law, Billy Bremner and Graeme Souness are but four who played in the old English First Division in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, 15 of the 22 players who went to the 1978 World Cup plied their trade south of the border, including four who were on the books of Manchester United. Now, 30 years on, Scotland's finest are once again making themselves at home in England including 13 of the original squad named to face Sweden, eight of whom play in the Premier League.

There is little doubt that Scotland can only benefit from these players' presence in what is widely considered to be the best league in the world. The gulf in class between England's top flight and the Scottish Premier League is growing ever larger with more and more players electing to make the move. What is of concern however is the number of Scots who have moved from the SPL to the Championship. Middlesbrough's Scottish spending spree has been well documented with Kris Boyd, Kevin Thomson, Andrew Halliday, Stephen McManus, Barry Robson and Lee Miller all moving since the beginning of the year. Indeed, four of those players have swapped European football and the prospect of winning trophies with the Old Firm for England's second tier.

The conveyor belt of talent leaving Glasgow in particular, and the SPL as a whole, is a damning indictment of the SPL, and it hardly comes as a surprise. Kris Boyd recently alluded to his delight at escaping from the goldfish bowl that Glasgow often become for Old Firm stars while the prospect of playing four games against Inverness and St Mirren every season is enough to drive any player to a division which has twice as many clubs and which offers the chance of a path to the promised land, something Charlie Adam will happily attest to.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Valencia Strike Sets Red Devils On Way To Premier League Curtain Raiser Win

It was a statement of intent by Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. Their 14th FA Community Shield capture is a record for the Red Devils and they are looking in good nick as the new Premier League season starts next weekend. Chelsea were unable to snap out of their pre-season slump and succumb to their fourth pre-season loss, this time at Wembley. The good news for Blues fans is that they start the season next weekend against relegation candidate WBA at home.

Antonio Valencia set United on their way to victory with a sweeping move which exposed the lack of pace in the Chelsea defence. Wayne Rooney created that goal but he had a quiet game by his high standards. However, the Red Devils did not have to rely on Rooney as much in this match. Valencia had the better of Ashley Cole all afternoon and he exploited it to the best of his abilities.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Liverpool Heading In The Right Direction Under Hodgson

At the tail end of last season, Liverpool FC looked to be in free fall. Heavily in debt, American owners that nobody liked and a manager who had outstayed his time at the club. Since then, the club has at least three suitors negotiating club purchase, the elder statesman Roy Hodgson became manager, inexpensive but quality signings walked into Anfield and suddenly optimism is high among Liverpool fans.

Joe Cole was perhaps the highest profile free transfer signing of the season. The fact that he chose to join Liverpool boosted the sagging confidence of the players at the club. His experience as a Premier League winner will help a Liverpool squad short on title challenge experience. Cole will undoubtedly be the most important influence on Liverpool's 2010/2011 season.

Animated Spoof - Thierry Henry At Heaven's Gate

France's record goal scorer, Thierry Henry recently added his high profile name onto the MLS soccer roster. This once again puts the MLS on the road towards global recognition. Henry joined the New York Red Bulls late last month on a designated player contract and will link up with fan favourite Juan Pablo Angel in a mouthwatering frontline.

Almost legendary for his footballing exploits, he sullied his reputation by two deliberate handball in a crucial World Cup playoff match against Republic of Ireland. To go to New York which has a substantial amount of Irish immigrants and descendants would literally be like walking into the lion's den. How the Irish community will take to this obviously talented footballer is anybody's guess.

Here's an animated spoof of Thierry Henry at Heaven's Gate confessing his "sin". It's great stuff.

Winston Reid A Budding Hammers Legend?

News have filtered through that Winston Reid is the fifth player to sign for West Ham in time for the 2010/2011 season. He completed his medical on Thursday and will begin life to become a Hammers legend. New manager, Avram Grant has gained my respect by making the right moves in the transfer market.

Firstly, the lack of width has been addressed through the signing of Pablo Barrera who excelled in Mexico's World Cup campaign. Then, stone-faced Grant convinced Frederic Piquionne to sign on the dotted line, providing cover and competition for Carlton Cole. Thirdly, the lack of a quality playmaker was alleviated when Thomas "Der Hammer" Hitzlsperger joined the Hammers. And now, that final piece of jigsaw is complete once Kiwi Reid steps through Boleyn Park. He is the right type of versatile defender West Ham need, able to play in that problematic right back slot as well as provide cover for Da Costa and Upson at centreback.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Red Devils Youngsters Primed For A Breakthrough 2010/2011 Season

Written By Abir Ahmed Chowdhury

Abir takes a look at the youngsters at Old Trafford who are ready for a major role in the upcoming season. These are, in his own words, Fergie's whiz kids at Old Trafford.

Nearly all United fans have expressed that Sir Alex won't be able to move on to greater things next season, unless he splashes-out on a new striker or midfielder (or both). But if you take a look at players like Kiko and Chicharito - who needs to spend when you have the most valuable asset of all: Youth...

Chief executive David Gill reiterated this week that Sir Alex Ferguson has cash for new signings if he needs it. However, most fans fear the money needed to service the huge debt heaped on the club by the Glazer family means their manager has no choice but to build from within.

With fans hoping that United will buy at least one more 'quality' player before the end of the transfer window, Fergie insists there is no value in the transfer market for the second summer in a row. For the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Van Der Sar and Neville, this season may be their last. Owen Hargreaves has been out for two years and he will never be the same player again. In this present situation, there are many who feel United will fail to win a trophy this year.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

South Africa World Cup 2010 - Moments To Remember

Our friends at captured the best moments from the recently concluded 2010 World Cup in this one-pager which they fondly refer to as a matrix. It's a great summary of the World Cup competition, sort of like a memory map. I do believe though that the standard of refereeing and the extremely talented Oranjemen "ugly" football approach should warrant some inclusion.

South Africa 2010 World Cup - Key Statistics At A Glance

This is a compilation of all the results, top scorers, key tournament statistics and winners cash pot allocation from the 2010 World Cup. It's a great one glance look at how the teams performed, who picked up the coveted awards and who the goalscorers were.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain Makes Winners List As Pale Face Scores Cup Winning Goal

Spain is officially the eighth nation to win the World Cup and best of all, they become the first European nation to win the prestigious World Cup in the Southern hemisphere. Andres Iniesta was brilliant throughout the match admidst very tough tackling by the Netherlands. He immediately dedicated his goal and Spain's World Cup triumph to the late Dani Jarque who died from a heart attack in August last year.

The Oranje battled hard and did whatever they could to disrupt the rhythmic passing of La Furia Roja. De Jong's "almost unintentional" kick aimed at the chest of Xabi Alonso was the pinnacle of nasty tackles that littered the whole game. Holland overcame Brazil by employing the same roughhouse tactic and so it did not surprise me that they would try the same again in the final. It worked up until the 116th minute when Iniesta was left unmarked on the right and he duly drilled a shot past Stekelenburg.

Spain started looking threatening as soon as Fabregas and Jesus Navas came on. The two introduced some much-needed attacking thrust and direct running needed to break down a Dutch defence excellently marshalled by Heitinga and Mathijsen. Cesc and Jesus brought a freshness to the final which meant that Spain exerted their superior possession play in extra time and was finally rewarded with a fantastic goal. The Red Fury's patience finally paid off and now they are finally World Cup Champions.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sami Khedira Heads Die Mannschaft To 3rd Place World Cup Finish

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said he was determined to prove Paul the octopus wrong by beating Germany in the third-place play-off on Saturday. Unfortunately Oracle Paul was proven correct once more when Die Mannschaft won the most entertaining match in the World Cup so far. Sami Khedira pounce on some haphazard La Celeste defending to guide a header past Muslera in the 82nd minute.

It was another five goal thriller which Uruguay unfortunately ended up on the losing end. There are no complaints though as Forlan and team were beaten by another great Germany performance. Jogi Loew braved his own flu condition to take his place on the team bench and he witnessed another masterful display from Schweinsteiger. Basti capped a great World Cup outing by captaining Germany in Lahm's absence.

Two mistakes from Muslera gifted Germany goals duly despatched by Mueller and Jansen. Diego Forlan's long range shooting has been a highlight of this World Cup tournament and he did not disappoint with another contender for goal of the tournament. Finally Khedira popped up with the winning header for the fully deserving German side. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Animal Pundits Split Decision On World Cup Winner, Game Sims Plumps For Oranje Victory

It's been quite an eventful World Cup in South Africa. We have had the whole works. Vuvuzelas, fans missing games due to airport congestion, Larissa Riquelme with her strategic mobile phone placement, an oracle octopus with 100% prediction, French mutiny and Bobbi Eden offering oral sex if the Netherlands win the Word Cup. And the football ain't half bad either.

As for Paul the octopus, he has attain worldwide status with his intensely accurate prediction about Germany's match results. He has now stepped out of his comfort zone and predicted that Spain will win the World Cup final. Paul also went back to Germany to triumph over Uruguay for third place.

As far as animal pundit goes, in Singapore Mani the Psychic Parakeet predicts a Dutch victory. So for two top quality teams, the animal pundits are unable to unanimously agree on a victor.

However, Imagine Games Network (IGN) simulated the upcoming Spain v. Netherlands World Cup Final and their prediction is a Dutch win after an extremely tense penalty sudden death shoot-out. Gerard Pique disappoints Spain with an effort that is too close to the keeper.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

La Furia Roja Outsmart Die Mannschaft With Setpiece Goal

It took an immensely powerful header to bring tears to German eyes. At that "twilight zone" period of the game, Carles Puyol rose virtually unchallenged to direct a bullet header past Manuel Neuer. There was no coming back for the Germans from that. Unaccustomed to coming from behind, the Germans will have to be contend with their outstanding performances against England and Argentina.

Perhaps Germany outdid themselves with those stunning four-goal victories in the earlier rounds. They succeeded in putting the spotlight on themselves and unfortunately, made all the would-be contenders take note of their strengths. You could say that Jogi Loew's exciting young side were definitely outsmarted by Del Bosque's tactical intelligence.

Carles Puyol represents the new ethos of La Furia Roja - a combination of intelligence, hard working, humility and dedication in a single flexible package. Spain these days are made of sterner stuff, not easily disheartened when things do not go their way. They have a zen-like patience to persist with their famed tiki-taka approach knowing full well that it will 100% bring goals and victories. The fact they are grinding out 1-0 wins while completely dominating possession is testament of their trust in their style of play.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oranjemen Hopes Third Time's The Charm In World Cup Final

There was a fear that the first semifinal of the 2010 World Cup between Uruguay and the Netherlands was going to be a tedious, hard fought match which will climax in a penalty shoot-out. I am glad we did not have to sit through that. Instead we witnessed a high-scoring match, two unstoppable long range shots and the best Oranjemen performance so far in this World Cup.

The absence of Nigel de Jong allowed for the introduction of Demy de Zeeuw. The Ajax defensive midfielder did not last long and had to be replaced at halftime. That turned out to be a pivotal moment in the game as Rafael van der Vaart came on and gave the Oranjemen the boost to emerge victors. Martin Caceres must be distraught as it was his overhead kick in the 27th minute that floored the Ajax man, resulting in the enforced substitution. A substitution which handed Holland the game winning initiative.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

La Furia Roja Unhealthy Reliance On "The Kid" Villa

Spain's second 1-0 victory allowed them to squeeze past Paraguay in the World Cup quarterfinal. Once again, El Guaje pulled La Furia Roja through the finishing line. Also for the second match running, Spain dominated possession (60%) over the opposition. They must be excited at the prospect of an open semifinal encounter against the counter-attacking Germans. Well, Del Bosque will have to think otherwise as the Germans also defend in numbers, just ask England and Argentina.

Like in the Portugal match, the Barcelona connection again proved effective as Iniesta-Pedro-Villa put paid to La Albirroja's dream of being first time semifinalist. Paraguay's exit is due to them not scoring enough goals. The loss of Salvador Cabanas was a total blow to Gerardo Martino and that firepower could not complement the excellent defensive solidity.

Due to the lack of goals from Santa Cruz and Barrios, Martino took a gamble and rang in the new striking cavalry - Oscar Cardozo, Nelson Valdez and Jonathan Santana. The trio worked well with each other, having Paraguay's best spell in the first half, with a Valdez goal disallowed.

Germany Braces For Spain By Humbling Maradona's Men

What can I say? I had thought that Argentina would be a real test for the young Germans. Argentina who had the most potent attack in the World Cup this year and also had only let in two goals all tournament, were as the English before them, outclassed by the young Germans!

Bastian Schweinsteiger was simply superb at the centre of the pitch, directing play, spraying the ball left, right or down the middle as he deemed suitable. Thomas Mueller, who will miss the semi final, once again played in a manner that belied his 20-year old age. His runs, passes and movement were a joy to watch. Schweinsteiger showed his new-found leadership when he consoled Mueller when he was clearly upset over his yellow card. Schweini's second World Cup campaign at 25 makes him an elder statesman compared to Oezil, Khedira and Mueller.

Germany's fourth goal against Argentina typifies the new Die Mannschaft footballing philosophy. An attack broken up by the German defence, a quick ball forwards to Podolski. Seeing the run of Oezil, Podolski laid it on to him who supplied a pinpoint cross for Klose to volley home. Shades of Manchester United at their counterattacking best, no wonder Jogi Loew attributes his team's success to a mixture of English energy, Spanish flair and Italian catenaccio.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Black Stars Denied Historic Semi Final Place

It was not a quality match. Surely not. What it was, it was a competitive match. Ghana played without fear and got the opening goal. Uruguay then stepped up their game and through the excellent Diego Forlan, they got their coveted goal. Once both teams were tied at 1-1, it was a tense match all the way. One goal, one opportunity would have sealed it.

A late late injury time Ghana attack caused panic in the Uruguayan defence, one unavoidable Luis Suarez handball later, Asamoah Gyan stepped up with the chance to be Africa's hero in extra time. And he struck the crossbar!! Penalties were needed to decide this extremely tough match.

Rampaging Robben Stars In Dutch Delight!

Brazil has not lost a match in which Robinho scores and he made the Dutch net bulge twice in the first half hour. The first one denied as Alves was offside but on the half hour mark, Robinho latched on to a through ball from Felipe Melo to bend one past Stekelenburg. Brazil one nil up and looking menacing as they repeatedly danced round the Dutch midfield and defence. The Selecao were in full stride in the first half and Brazil were on course for the semifinals as the Dutch looked shell shocked.

But football is played in two halves and the Oranjemen took over in the second half. It was now Brazil who looked uncertain and nervy. Arjen Robben's pace and dribbling trickery troubled the left side of Brazil and neither Bastos, Juan nor Melo could cope with the flying Dutchman's directness and constant provocation.

It did take an own goal and a straight red card for the frustrated Felipe Melo to completely swing the match towards the Dutch. By the time Melo received his marching orders, Clockwork Orange were already two up thanks to an Arjen Robben assist. Wesley "the Smurf" collected his third goal of a personally satisfying tournament.

El Guaje Steps Up To Lead Spain's Attack

The new Barcelona triumvirate took charge during the Spain-Portugal match. Xavi-Iniesta-Villa put to rest Portugal's interest in the World Cup earlier this week. With Fernando Torres misfiring, Villa is carrying the bulk of the Spanish attack on his shoulders and has not shirked that responsibility.

Against Portugal, Spain put on their most impressive performance. Their dominance was underlined by an unthinkable 61% possession. Portugal for all their talent, hardly did themselves any justice but credit should be give to Spain for their excellence in keeping Ronaldo starved of the ball. That clearly frustrated the Portuguese playboy, his spit and curt response to a journalist reflected that dissatisfaction.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Tale Of Inches As La Albirroja Moves Into Last 8

Paraguay succeeded in reaching an historic first quarterfinal berth by outlasting Japan, both physically and mentally, in a penalty shoot-out. La Albirroja converted all five of their penalties with minimum fuss. Japan suffered a heartbreaker when Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar. With this success, Gerardo Martino joins fellow Argentinian, Diego Maradona into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Paraguay had the more talent and it started out in that fashion. Lucas Barrios was the brightest player on the pitch during the opening exchanges. The match came alive when Barrios fashioned a one-on-one opportunity which he failed to convert in the 22nd minute. There was to be action at both ends as Daisuke Matsui crashed a shot onto the crossbar. Justo Villar was completely beaten by Matsui's thunderbolt but Paraguay was saved by the inches of the crossbar.

Selecao Scores Three Against La Roja, Books Quarterfinal Match With Oranjemen

When it mattered, Brazil have stepped it up. The Selecao did just enough against North Korea, they turned it on against Ivory Coast and then conserve energy with a draw against Portugal. Chile were touted as a much harder opposition than Brazil's group opponents. The lively and quick short passes are trademarks of Chile's attacking football and have been one of the highlights of this World Cup. Chile was expected to test the South American champions footballing-wise.

With such high stakes, Brazil proved that they are made of sterner stuff these days. They made quick work of La Roja. First, they withstood an early flurry of  Chile attacks. Gilberto Silva, Ramires, Juan and Lucio knuckled down and in typical European style, rendered the Chilean attacks ineffectual. Once that occurred, Brazil could then develop their own attacks to trouble the Chile defence, devoid of suspended stalwarts Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce.

Luis Fabiano stayed on course for the Golden Boot with his third goal in four matches. O Fabuloso's goal came off a superb move involving Brazil's "Big Three" of Robinho, Kaka and Fabiano. This was proof enough that Brazil are capable purveyors of the beautiful game. In truth, once Brazil scored the second goal, the match was all over. That three-minute salvo from Brazil knocked the stuffing out of a young Chile side. The third Brazilian goal was the icing on the cake and a thing of beauty as well. Ramires, deputising for Felipe Melo, dribbled the ball samba-style, leaving five Chile players in his wake before laying the ball expertly for Robinho's curler.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Clockwork Oranje Trumps The Repre With Ease

The most lopsided matchup of the last 16 World Cup matches was supposed to be an opportunity for the Netherlands to flex their footballing muscle and stamp their class on a low-key but effective campaign so far. Unfortunately, the Oranjemen again did just enough rather than dominate a match. Conversely, after falling behind to an Arjen Robben fine strike, Slovakia looked the better side as the Dutch sat back, defend and counter attacked with pace and power.

This is not a Dutch side that I enjoy watching but it is a truly effective one. Van der Vaart was the player sacrificed to make way for the fully recovered Robben. Risking the Dutch's most creative player in a crucial elimination match looked to be the right choice as Robben hit a sizzling near post strike to beat Jan Mucha in goal. Arjen Robben's pace and trickery are the most potent Dutch weapon and for him to be starting is a confidence booster for the Netherlands.

Carlitos Come Alive With Two Goals Against El Tri

Argentina is never far from controversy. The Albiceleste are often times soap-operatic with a hint of dramatism thrown in. As if not willing to be outdone by England's unfortunate "Wembley Goal", Argentina created their own talking point in the last 16 match against Mexico.

Once again, the referee and linesman decisions threatened to overshadow a potentially excellent match. Prior to that fateful offside goal, El Tri had rattled the Argentinians. Marauding fullback, Carlos Salcido unleashed a long-range shot which Romero did well to tip it onto his crossbar. Gio dos Santos was doing his best impression of Lionel Messi in the earlier minutes. Gio's through ball after some fine running, allowed Javier Hernandez a chance to flash his shot just wide of Romero's goal. Highly rated Andres Guardado was stunning in the first half, as he tried to find a way through the Argentinian midfield and defence.

All the Mexicans' good work and lively football fell apart as Carlos Tevez headed home a goal that was so offside that only Roberto Rosettie and Stefano Ayroldi can explain why the goal stood. That controversy completely knocked the wind out of Mexico's sails and they never recovered. Worse yet, El Tri conceded a poor goal which the predatory Higuain gleefully accepted and rolled it into the Mexican net. Those two pivotal moments killed off any Mexican hopes of upsetting the mighty Argentina.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

England's Golden Generation Hopes Crushed By German U-21 Graduates

It had to happen, hadn't it? Shades of 1996 all over again? Some sort of sick German vindication? Those thoughts went through everyone's mind as the referee overruled Frank Lampard's perfectly legitimate goal against Germany at Bloemfontein. A section of the England fans will argue that the match could have swung in England's favour if that goal had stood. That's fair enough, but when I considered how the young Germans cut open England defence at will, I doubt that it would make much of a difference. Still, it is too easy to hold on to a "what if" because England was completely ripped apart by an excellent German team.

England's lack of pace in defence was completely exploited by Klose and the delightfully talented gang of Mueller, Podolski and Oezil. Germany's first goal was route one football that even England would have been proud of. Klose moved nearer to his aim of beating Ronaldo's record 15 World Cup goals. Miroslave Klose is now on 12 goals and has three more matches to at least equal Ronaldo's 15.

Asamoah Gyan Strike Disappoints Rennes Mate Carlos Bocanegra

The Americans have been the comeback kids in the World Cup thus far. That's the manner in which they emerged top of Group C ahead of England. Going into a repeat match against Ghana, Landon Donovan and team have every reason to feel confident.

US captain, Bocanegra's friend and team mate, Asamoah Gyan steeled himself for the challenge by Bocanegra and then rode the tackle of Jay Demerit before rifling an unstoppable shot past Tim Howard. It was his third goal of the tournament and also his first from open play. Gyan's strike in extra time sends Ghana into the quarterfinals to face Uruguay. Ghana is bidding to become the first African side to feature in the semifinals and they look well capable of doing that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Luis Suarez Struck Twice As La Celeste Reach Quarterfinals

Uruguay and South Korea kicked off the second round of the South Africa World Cup in style when La Celeste stole the match 2-1 in dramatic fashion. Luis Suarez curled in a right footer in heavy rain to send Uruguay into the last eight of this tournament. His double in this match puts him in contention of the Golden Boot award.

Group H Decided! Viva Espana And Red Hot Chile Advance

As in Group G, Group H showcased Spain taking on Chile in their final group match. Chile had impressed throughout the group phase with the vibrant attacking style and also their determination. Spain however hadn't been playing at their best and therefore the match against Chile was potentially an elimination match. The matchup between La Roja and La Furia Roja turned out to be an excellent showpiece of attacking football at its best.

Vicente Del Bosque had to endure criticism about his tactics for Luis Aragones but in the end, he had the last laugh as Spain put together their best performance in the group matches to register three points against Chile. David Villa leapt to joint top of the World Cup scorers leader board when he netted a 40 yard goal after Chile goalie Bravo tried unsuccessfully to clear a Torres danger. Villa then created an opening for Iniesta who scored a sublime second goal. Speaking of Torres, he again looked out of sorts. El Nino's touch remained very heavy and his reflexes very slow, he looks like he is in need of a good holiday with Olala and Nora.

Group G Decided! Selecao I and Seleccao II Advance

Brazil and Portugal advanced from the group of death at the expense of Ivory Coast and newcomers, North Korea. Portugal was aided by a unexpected 7-0 rout of the Chollimas and therefore built up an unassailable goal advantage. It was never likely that Ivory Coast could emulate Portugal's feat but they tried gallantly.

Brazil and Portugal met in their final group match. It was a highly anticipated match but sadly, the match was marred by fouls and the referee took centre stage in the first half. Cristiano Ronaldo kept on blasting freekicks high and wide all through the match. Those were wasted setpiece opportunities. The best chance did fall for Portugal when Raul Meireles ran onto a loose ball (from a Ronaldo run) which Julio Cesar palmed away. At least Brazil kept a clean sheet and this should boost Juan's confidence. Juan is prone to errors and in the 93rd minute, his sloppy play almost let Danny in on goal.

Carlos Quieroz had a different opinion of the match or maybe he was watching a different match?
"I think it was a great show, a football feast. Brazil played very strong in the first few minutes but after their initial period of domination, Portugal slowly started to control the game. In the end, it was a game where we attacked and they defended. Today is a day to celebrate because Portugal has qualified with a great degree of merit. It was a great game of football, the players played extremely well and they must be congratulated. I think the draw was a fair result.''
Sounds just like the usual drivel coming from a manager with blinkers on. Make no mistake about it, Brazil-Portugal was one big yawn.

Group F Decided! The Repre And La Albirroja Advance

Marcelo Lippi's Italy struggled in this summer's World Cup finals. They even finished bottom in Group F with the surprise package, New Zealand in third place. The lack of creativity and quality became a real problem for the Azzurris. Paraguay looked set to progress but first they needed to fend off the Kiwis who, if they win, will advance to the knockout phase. Slovakia with one point after two matches, looked down and out, though still in with a distant chance.

Italy took on Slovakia in the final game with either side needing a win to try and make it to the last 16. Slovakia signalled their intent in the early stages of the game, with Marek Hamsik missing in front of goal. The Repre played the better football and it just goes to show how poor the Azzurris have been in this summer's football showcase. Italy was undone by their inability to beat New Zealand and had to face the dangerous Slovakia. Robert Vittek's two goals pushed him into the unlikely position of top goalscorer in the tournament together with David Villa and Gonzalo Higuain.

Only when the Italians were three goals down, did they manage to put to show any fight. The presence of midfield playmaker, Andrea Pirlo must have had something to do with that. The loss of Buffon quite clearly was a blow to the defence, as Marchetti is not as commanding as the Italian superstar. So a remarkable turnaround and a shocking defeat to Hamsik's side. Slovakia, unbelievably, took second spot in Group F.

Group E Decided! Oranje And Blue Advance

How different can a month make?  About three weeks ago, Japanese coach Takeshi Okada was under so much fire that he had offered his resignation after a dreadful defeat to South Korea. Japan went into the World Cup at the back of four matches and were low in confidence. But Okada knew he had a good team and was confident with his team. The best decision he has made is to push Keisuke Honda into a lone striker position. This is what he said at the time,
"The good thing about him is his ability to create goalscoring situations and his physical strength. He can probably be more lively through the middle."
Honda has scored two goals already in this World Cup, as Japan cruise into the last 16. He scored a Ronaldo-esque free kick against Denmark and generally terrorized the Danish defence. Japan's other deadball specialist, Yasuhito Endo also displayed his skill, using the Jabulani's unpredictability to great effect.

Keisuke Honda is revelling being at the sharp end of Japan's attack. His intelligent movement is a great complement for the passing skills of Endo, Matsui and even Nakamura. He also cuts a self confident figure, telling Shinji Okazaki,
“I will score a goal and you have to score another after you are sent in,’”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Closer Look At England's 2010 World Cup Jersey

By Olly Dyson, guest writer for The Flat Back Four

Most England fans will be happy to avoid replays of their uninspiring opening World Cup games, but at least one aspect of the ‘Three Lions’ team has been receiving a second glance: Their Team Uniform!

In a World Cup that predictably sees the majority of teams wearing uniform supplied by one of the big-three sportswear giants, England proudly stands by Umbro, the brand that has made their uniforms for their last 5 World Cup appearances.

Under the guidance of head designer David Blanch, Umbro developed the new England Home Jersey with a deliberate back-to-basics approach. The retro style jersey is a real tribute to days gone by when soccer existed in its purest form without the influence of big money commercialization.

Group D Decided! Die Mannschaft and The Black Stars Advance

Group D teams went into the final stage of the group phase with all teams with a chance of qualification into the Round of 16. Ghana were the group leaders ahead by a point, Serbia and Germany were tied at three points and Australia had one point. All teams were out for a win and if results went their way, any of the four teams in Group D could find themselves in the last 16. This meant a fantastic round of football was in store and it turned out to be two excellent matches as Ghana, Serbia, Germany and Australia fought tooth and nail to try and feature in the knock out phase.

In Soccer City, Jo'Burg, Ghana faced up to the young and energetic Germany. The Black Stars were not overawed by the challenge that Die Mannschaft pose in terms of attacking threat. Jonathan and John Mensah dealt capably with whatever Podolski, Cacau and Oezil threw at them. Ghana took the game to the Germans but were let down by poor finishing. I questioned Phillip Lahm's ability to lead this young German side but I was very impressed by Lahm in this match as he saved Germany time and time again. Sami Khedira is proving to be Michael Ballack's successor in the German senior side. The former U-21 captain showed that he is a world class act. who could do a bit of everything and do it well. Once the ever-dangerous Mesut Oezil had put Germany in front, Jogi Loew's team reverted to classic German rearguard action and closed out the game.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Group C Decided! Three Lions And USA Advance Comfortably

England and USA know that they needed to win their final matches. Anything less than three points will mean an early exit. The USA stuck with the players who had played so well in the previous two games. Bob Bradley's men are confident that they will beat the Algerians who are the weakest side in the group.

Michael Bradley signifies the growing confidence in the USMNT below,
"We have confidence in ourselves as a team, and as a player you want to play in the biggest games, where the spotlight comes on the brightest. I think there's going to be a real feeling of excitement on Wednesday. This is our time and we're ready to go. We'll give everything we have."
Capello said after a disappointing draw with Algeria that he did not recognize the England team that was on the pitch. The Three Lions must find their form quickly otherwise Slovenia will take advantage of any mental fragility. Jermain Defoe was drafted in for extra attacking option. Wayne Rooney is struggling for form in an England shirt.

England v. Slovenia
Matthew Upson stepped in for Jamie Carragher for this match. Fabio Capello for once, sat on his seat and was far less troubled than in England's previous two matches. This was definitely a much improved England performance with Defoe repaying the coach's faith by scoring the winner. Steven Gerrard again put in a captain's performance but could not get the goal his all-round play deserved. The Upson-Terry partnership for me is much better than Carra-Terry. Capello's worry that Upson's poor club form will translate to international form turned out to be unfounded. His late tackle as Dedic prepared to pull the trigger saved England from elimination.

Group B Decided! Albiceleste And Taeguk Warriors Advance

As the final group matches start winding up thick and fast, Group B was also decided last night. Again there were a few permutations possible. Not quite in the epic proportions of Group A but still quite tense. Greece had hope to beat the in-form Argentina while requiring Nigeria to beat Korea Republic. Nigeria on the other hand need to win, score at least two goals and then wait for news that Argentina had beaten Greece. Korea has their fate in their own hands, a draw or a victory over the Super Eagles would guarantee them at least second spot.

Argentina v. Greece
Diego Maradona ended the group phase on a high, with a 100% record. Three wins out of three and most of all, the Albiceleste put together wonderfully cohesive and creative performances. Although needing a win, Greece approached the match very negatively, packing everyone in defence. They rarely showed any intent to go forward and was happy just frustrating the Argentines. Unfortunately nothing can stop the talented Argentina from scoring. A reserve Argentina side took the field against Greece, but one would not be able to tell as Maradona's side dominated possession. The 2-time World Cup champions had to be patient and finally got the two goals in the last 15 minutes of the game. Messi has been unlucky not to have scored yet but he has been the brightest star for Argentina. Lots to admire about Argentina and Maradona so far. The focus, intensity, determination, spirit and comradeship will no doubt take the Albiceleste deep into the tournament.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Group A Decided! La Celeste and El Tri Advance

Group A was decided today. I try to unravel the action in two halves, highlighting the differences in attitude and excitement in both Uruguay-Mexico and France-South Africa.

La Celeste and El Tri need a draw for both to progress. France need a big win and hope that Uruguay win by two goals. Finally South Africa need three points, three goals and hope Mexico loses by two goals.

Action from the first half:
Luis Suarez made amends for a 5th minute miss by heading home a 43rd minute cross by Cavani. Mexico and Uruguay fought out an unexpectedly open first half with both teams having chances to score in this match. El Tri seemed to have the upper hand but always looked susceptible to the counter attack. Uruguay took their chance well and Luis Suarez further enhanced his reputation as a lethal striker. Uruguay on course for the top of Group A, possibly avoiding Argentina in the process.

Raymond Domenech said that a miracle is needed to advance. Les Bleus got off to the worst possible start, going a goal down and then having Yoann Gourcuff sent off within the first 25 minutes. South Africa clearly refused to accept that they are on the verge of going out in the group stage. Bafana Bafana need to win, score three goals and hope that Uruguay beats Mexico. Mphela got South Africa's second goal which meant that Group A is perfectly poised for more drama. Tshabalala was outstanding for South Africa as they played with a lot more attacking intent.

Villa Bag Two Goals As Spain Gear Up For Chile

The Spanish armada finally fired its first salvo at their World Cup rivals with a 2-0 win over Honduras. Just like against Switzerland, La Furia Roja dominated the match from start to finish, but the only difference this time round was that there was an end product. David Villa opened his quest for the Golden Boot with two goals. El Guaje could have had a hattrick but the normally clinical Villa showed he was human also by shooting wide of the Honduras post.

When asked about the miss,  the new Barcelona man said,

“I missed that penalty due to pressure with the scoreline at 2-0. I have been shooting penalties all my life, it just happened. It was pressure maybe."
So it's not just the English players who are having difficulty keeping a focused mind. This is the highest level of football, I think we should be able to expect some jangly nerves from even the best players.

It could have been more goals but unfortunately Spain could not finish off Los Catrachos. Looking a bit ring rusty, Torres had at least two chances that a sharper El Nino would have buried. Fabregas came on as substitute and his first contribution was to put his hand on his head in disbelief as he shot straight at the Honduras goalie.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mark Gonzalez' Heads La Roja To The Top Of Group H

Chile went about their business of playing progressive football, with the midfield and attack showing a lot of movement and quick passing. When Behrami got himself sent off, La Roja increased the tempo and the Swiss found it harder and harder to cope with the speedy Chileans.

Despite Chile's profligacy in front of goal, the breakthrough finally came when Parades was put through on goal. He beat the keeper and floated the ball to the far post for former Liverpool winger, Gonzalez to head home. It was exactly what Chile deserved for all the attacking verve they had shown in this game.

Cristiano Ronaldo Stars In Portugal's Seven Goal Romp

Finally, Carlos Quieroz is able to witness a performance that he must be extremely pleased about. This could have been a potential banana skin for the immensely talented but unpredictable Portuguese side. The last time these two sides met, Portugal won 5-3 at Goodison Park in the 1966 World Cup quarterfinal stage. The star of Portugal '66, Eusebio was at Cape Town to witness Portugal register their biggest ever World Cup victory in history. The Black Panther gave his thumbs-up approval for a seven-star Portuguese performance.

Cristiano Ronaldo who was largely anonymous in the first half, finally decided to make his presence in this summer's World Cup finals. He was his usual electrifying self in the second half, tormenting and skinning the North Korean defenders. In the end, he was the most outstanding player on the pitch and even had the opportunity to do a sheepish "head juggle" before netting his first goal and Portugal's sixth.

Kaka's Dismissal Overshadows Impressive Selecao Win

Brazil outclassed Ivory Coast and put three points on the board last night. They did so amidst the cynical tackles and rough plays by Les Elephants. The likes of the Toure brothers, Kalou, Dindane and Drogba could not cope with the passing and movement of the Selecao.

The physical challenges made the game less free-flowing and unfortunately it hampered Brazil's attacking rhythm. Luis Fabiano, like Maicon, chose to step up his game and against Ivory Coast, his finishing was devastating. Elano, making a habitual late run from midfield, scored in his second goal in as many matches.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kiwis Gains Point And Stuns Azzuris

Italian hearts were in their mouths as they saw 19-year old Kiwi giant, Chris Wood controlled the ball, turned Fabio Cannavaro stunningly and looked to have a clear shot on goal. Thankfully for the Azzuris, Wood dragged his shot inches wide of Marchetti's goal, preserving the 1-1 scoreline. The damage had already been done earlier. Shane Smeltz's first half controversial goal had given the Kiwis their second point in South Africa.

Mark Paston in goal had a barnstorming game, pulling off save after save denying and frustrating the Italians. New Zealand's "Thou Shalt Not Pass" ethos led by defiant captain, Ryan Nelsen held firm and were rewarded as Lippi's side ran out of fresh ideas.

Los Guaranies Stroll To Historic Win

Paraguay had never won a previous second group match in all their World Cup appearances but Gerrardo Martino's side are a different proposition this time round. The team qualified for South Africa, beating Argentina, Chile, Brazil in the process, to finish third with 33 points. It's a strong team with Dortmund duo, Valdez and Barrios, Sunderland-bound Cristian Riveros and Roque Santa Cruz.

Slovakia offered little in terms of attacking threat and it was all up to Los Guaranies to claim victory over the Repre side. Marek Hamsik was disappointing as captain of Slovakia. He was expected to lead the Repre as their most internationally known player but at 22, Hamsik seemed overawed by the occassion. We will have to wait four more years to watch a more mature and confident Hamsik as Slovakia's leader.

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