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.

Indomitable Lions Exits South Africa After Loss To Denmark

Samuel Eto'o was restored to his customary centreforward position. Imposing midfielder, Alex Song was back in the Lions' midfield. Geremi as well was reinstated into the starting lineup. Paul Le Guen acquiesced to player pressure and went back to a more comfortable lineup.

Cameroon were rewarded when Poulsen's defensive error allowed Eto'o to open his account in South Africa. At that point it looked as if the Lions were on their way to victory as they were the team most likely to score. But Dennis Rommedahl had other ideas. The Ajax winger had the better of Benoit Assou-Ekoto all match and was clearly the best player on the field yesterday.

Thanks to Rommedahl, Denmark were level by the stroke of halftime when he supplied a precise low cross for Bendtner to sweep home. This followed a fantastic cross field pass from Simon Kjaer. Cameroon continued to show more desire to get the win, and that desire led them open to counter attacks from the Olsen-Banden.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Socceroos Deny Black Stars Three Points

The Jabulani ball struck again. Richard Kingson could not cleanly collect Mark Bresciano's free kick shot and Brett Holman pounched to give Australia the lead against Ghana. It was just rewards for the Aussies who shot off the blocks and went on the attack immediately.

What happened after that changed the game completely.

For the second match in a row, the Socceroos collected an undeserved red card, this time on Harry Kewell. With both Tim Cahill and Kewell out for the final crucial match against Serbia, it will be hard for the Aussies to score the required three goals to qualify for the knock out phase.

Great Links About The World Cup And The Nike T-3 CT

Here are some great links about the World Cup.

If you like Lego animation, you'd like the England USA Lego Highlights World Cup 2010

Steve Nash's adventures as CBS Sports correspondent in South Africa are worth spending time on.
Steve Nash shouts Gooooooool!
Steve Nash Special World Cup Correspondent

Cadencia: A special look at Brazillian football by award winning documentary maker, Daren Bartlett

Oranjemen Slay The Blue Samurais!

The Netherlands are doing all they can to ensure that Arjen Robben have a role to play in the World Cup. They have one foot in the Round of 16 with a comfortable 1-0 win against the Blue Samurais. In registering their second win in the group phase, the Oranjemen need only a Cameroon-Denmark draw to be the first team in the knockout phases.

Sneijder had the Jabulani ball to thank for his goal. Kawashima, brilliant against Cameroon, was caught out by the swerve and movement of the ball. This Jabulani ball can make even the most experienced goalkeeper look like rookies on the world stage. I am not sure that players are fully exploiting the unpredictability of the ball.

Lions In The Winter, Lambs In The Summer

England is so frustrating for me. Thankfully, I am not the only one feeling this way. The 25,000-strong travelling English supporters made their feelings known by booing the team off-field after the Three Lions' poor showing against Algeria.

Perhaps Michel Platini was right after all with his comment that England was like lions in the winter but lambs in the summer. England was devastating during the World Cup qualifiers, romping to victories against Croatia and the rest. Under Capello, it would seem that England  players had rediscovered the art of translating excellent club performances into international prominence. Qualification was won without breaking a sweat prompting expectations of winning the World Cup in South Africa to skyrocket. That expectation is currently crippling this England team.

Worse of all, even Fabio Capello is affected by the hope of the entire nation. All through qualifying, he had been the calmest man in the stadium. Here in South Africa, he has been very animated and the facial expressions tell him that the England team he had shaped over the last two years is now reverting to shrinking violets in the face of high-pressure competition.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slovenia Dents US World Cup Hopes

What an awesome match! Slovenia raced to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first half, United States came storming back to force a draw in the second. USA could have won the tie if Maurice Edu's goal had not been disallowed.

United States never say die attitude was evident throughout this match. Even though Slovenia had a 2-goal lead, they had never looked in control of the match. Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley and Altidore were the attacking threats and they worried the Green Dragons defence.

Serbia Escapes Handball Deja Vu And Beat Germany

First it was Kuzmanovic against Ghana, then in the second game against Germany, Nemanja Vidic decided to indulge in some deja vu and conceded a needless handball. Would it be too much to expect a third handball when Serbia plays Australia? That would be some record!

Let's see....Serbia were not pretty against Germany but they were effective. Against Australia, Germany's midfield were excellent with Khedira, Oezil, Schweinsteiger, Mueller always supporting Podolski and Klose. None of them had such joy against Serbia who played a very high defensive line and pressured the German midfield constantly.

Mexico Substitutes Shoot Down Awful French World Cup Hopes

I guess after yesterday's match, there is no longer any denial that the French team is poor. Talks about Yoann Gourcuff being a recluse with only one true friend in Toulalan implies that there are player divide within the French team. For the talent that they have in Ribery, Gourcuff, Evra, Gallas, Anelka, Malouda, it is very hard to find reasons why they are underperforming in South Africa. There can only be one reason - a lack of team spirit and determination. Oh, and a bungling Domenech.

Lest we forget, France stumbled into South Africa. They were unconvincing against Republic of Ireland but they were still expected to regroup and come out stronger. After all, Argentina regrouped and now their football is on a different level in this World Cup but France have indeed regressed.

World Cup Stars Who Will Succeed In The English Premier League

Posted by Adam Howard, an Everton fan and guest writer for The Flat Back Four

The World Cup is, quite simply, the biggest shop window in football. A great chance to see a whole host of unknown players performing on the biggest stage of all, it is the perfect way to judge whether they have got what it takes to shine under pressure, and Premier League managers will be out in South Africa in force even as you read this.

Indeed, the likes of David Moyes and Roberto Martinez are there on punditry duty, but I’ll bet anything you like that they won’t reveal absolutely everything they take from the games they see to the millions of listeners around the world – it’s a dangerous game hunting for rough diamonds, you never know when the likes of Mancini or Redknapp are gonna’ be peering over your shoulder, ready to outbid.

The one thing that is certain though, is that some of the players we see turning out for their countries in this World Cup will secure a dream move to the Premier League later in the summer, or even a little further down the line. So, to keep things interesting and to give you some players to cast your eye over, here are five players I think we’ll be seeing in the Premier League in the not too distant future.

1. Andrés Guardado; Mexico.
Currently plying his trade in La Liga with Deportivo La Coruña, the Mexican winger is a player who I have admired for some time now and though Deportivo are certainly no minnows, I don’t think it will be too long before a bigger club comes calling. The 23 year old has already made no less than 57 appearances for Mexico and this is his second World Cup for El Tri.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sani Kaita's Red Card Gifted Greece Vital Win

The Super Eagles were leading 1-0 when Sani Kaita was given his marching orders. An idiotic kung-fu kick on Tsoridis put paid to any hope that Nigeria may have had of advancing to the round of 16. Yes, there is still a remote chance of progress if they beat Korea and Greece lose to Argentina.

At ten men, Greece took off their customary defensive shield, brought in Samaras as a third striker and started driving at the Nigerian goal repeatedly. Georgios Karagounis was instrumental in getting the Piratiko back into the game. His inspiration and leadership in pushing Greece forwards allowed them to get this valuable win. He was everywhere on the pitch and got Greece ticking over as Piratiko took advantage of the extra man advantage.

Lio Messi Sparks Albiceleste Second Group Win

Every team needs "The Spark", according to Zinedine Zidane. In the stylistic Adidas viral, World Cup legend Zidane sets about looking for "The Spark" to make the ultimate 11, that player turned out to be Lionel Messi. Yes, every team needs The Spark but at the moment, only one team has him and that team is the Albiceleste.

Messi was excellent for Argentina against Korea Republic. He architected two of the Albiceleste's goals and was a constant threat throughout the game. He is really enjoying his football right now in Maradona's system. The mental block he suffers whenever he pulls on the blue and white of Argentina looks to be over and that will boost Argentina prospects in trying to win the World Cup for a third time. Messi is looking as awesome playing for Argentina as he does playing for Barcelona.

Forlan's Double Destroys "The Boys" World Cup Dream

Bafana Bafana or "The Boys" was dealt a crushing blow to their hopes of advancing past the group phase when they were given a footballing lesson by Uruguay. After a confidence-boosting draw against Mexico in which South Africa played well, Parreira's players would not be faulted for thinking they could get at least a draw against Uruguay especially with home support.

South Africa dream came crashing down thanks to an almost perfect performance from Diego Martin Forlan Corazo. A perfect performance would be a hattrick obviously.

La Furia Roja Unbeaten Run Ended By Swiss Resistance

Spain dominated open play, totalling 63% of ball possession and 42 minutes of actual playing time compared to the Swiss team's 37% and 25 minutes, but in the end, fell to a smash-and-grab goal from ex-Manchester City player, Gelson Fernandes in the 51st minute.

No team has ever won the World Cup after losing in their opening match and as such, Spain must defy history as well as their own mental frailties to lift the trophy come July 11th. A solid Swiss defence and inability to deal with Jabulani's erratic attributes put paid to Spain's total dominance in this match.


Chilean Flair And Creativity Inspire Win Over Honduras

Marcelo Bielsa is a very good coach. Perhaps a touch overdramatic and maybe eccentric but he knows how to prepare a team for tournaments. Still, the 2002 World Cup disappointment with Argentina must still rankle in his mind and so he is determined to put things right this time round. The opening match has shown how progressive his Chile team can be and there is a growing sense that they could go far in this tournament.

The football by this young Chile side is exciting and free flowing, something you'd expect from Brazil or Spain or Holland. It was quick, incisive, intelligent movement and a wonderful sight to watch. Admittedly, it was only Honduras but you could feel the confidence flowing through the Chilean team. It was fun and enjoyable football.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brazil Gets Off To Winning Start Thanks To Elano's Excellent Goal!

The Selecao overcame a well-organized North Korea team to start their World Cup campaign on a winning note. However, it was far from being an easy victory as the North Koreans showed why they are worthy of a place in the greatest show on earth.

Brazil was expected to win by at least four goals but a superb North Korea defence ensured that honours were even at the break. Dunga must have instructed his players to shoot on sight in the second half because that's exactly what they did. That rattled the North Koreans a bit and finally the breakthrough came courtesy of Maicon who caught the Chollimas keeper by surprise to score almost from the touchline.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Drogba Misses Goal Chance While C Ronaldo Hits Woodwork In Draw

It was meant to be a mouthwatering tie in a potentially explosive Group G. Drogba's Ivory Coast against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. What took place was a match which did not live up to the hype it created. Both team employed a cat-and-mouse approach and while Portugal had much of the possession, they lacked a sharp edge in attack. Ivory Coast was intent to soak up the pressure and then hit with pace on the break with Gervinho, Eboue, Kalou and Dindane all extremely quick and dangerous.

The match was filled with niggly fouls and players falling over at the slightest touch. In truth, the stop-start manner did kill some of the fluency of the game. Ronaldo ended up on the floor every time he tried to go on a potentially explosive run. Sven Goran Eriksson clearly recollecting the dangers of Ronaldo from England's 2006 quarterfinal World Cup match and decided that Cristiano must be stopped at all cost. This tactic worked as Ronaldo is still searching for his first goal in more than two years.

Danish-Kiwi Winston Reid Grabs New Zealand's First World Cup Points

Ricki Herbert said that the Kiwis aim to surprise Slovakia in their opening World Cup match at Rustenburg. New Zealand did exactly that, and in dramatic injury time fashion.

Winston Reid, who until three months ago still harboured dreams of representing Denmark, scored the equaliser giving New Zealand a fair share of the spoils against a tiring Slovakia. Reid's inclusion into the New Zealand's squad raised some controversy among fans of the All Whites but he most definitely played his part today to secure a historic point for his country of birth.

Reigning World Champions Expertly Marshalled By La Albirroja

Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz said that the current 2010 Paraguay squad is the best for years. The opening game performance against Italy fully backed up this claim. With this draw, La Albirroja has a decent chance of progress into the knockout phase.

This was a spirited, hard working and physical Paraguayan display. A setpiece headed goal in the first half stunned Italy.  Danielle De Rossi equalized and relieved the pressure on the Italians.

The criticism that the Italian media have had about the team being too old and aged holds water now. Italy were looking extremely tired and devoid of ideas. Marcelo Lippi's constant reluctance to include Francesco Totti is looking like a big mistake now. How Italy need a playmaker to provide a creative thrust. Andrea Pirlo will definitely find his way back to the Italian lineup soon enough.

Monday, June 14, 2010

FFC World Cup Diary - An England Fan's Experience

Football FanCast writer, Oscar Pye-Jeary documents his time in South Africa following England in the 2010 World Cup. This is Part 1 of a journey which hopefully will end in triumphant fashion.

If you like this, make sure you subscribe to the SN&CK Media YouTube channel.

Keisuke Honda Breaks Indomitable Lions' Spirit

Japan finally registered their first World Cup win on foreign soil. This deserved win over Cameroon has to be a massive confidence booster considering that Japan was on a four-match losing streak while preparing for the 2010 World Cup finals.

Keisuke Honda showed why he is destined to assume Hidetoshi Nakata's mantel as the darling of Japanese football. He is a special talent and he showed the world just how hot a property he really is. The control, movement and finish for his goal are evidence of a player at the top of his game.

Nigel de Jong Was Key To Oranjemen's Win

Legendary Dutch midfield enforcer, Edgar Davids would have been pleased to see Nigel de Jong's performance against Denmark. The Netherlands need an inspired Nigel de Jong as much as Argentina relies on Javier Mascherano. De Jong's first half performance was awesome as he broke up play after Danish play. He gave the Danish midfield no time at all, disrupting their rhythm. Martin Joergensen and Christian Poulsen looked extremely nervous with De Jong snapping at their heels.

His hard tackling style will get him into card trouble but a suspect Dutch defence will always need a defensive shield ahead of them. Thus his athleticism and ability to recover the ball are qualities which makes him an important feature in this Dutch side loaded with natural attacking talents who do not like defending.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rampant Germany Scores Four Against Aging Socceroos

Germany addressed the lack of goals in the World Cup in style. Die Mannschaft put on an impressive display of attacking football to thrash Australia 4-0. The intelligent movement off the ball was a joy to watch and a big change from the low-key affair seen so far. Mesut Oezil, Schweinsteiger, Podolski and Khedira played with an understanding and fluency that was almost telepathic.

Joachim Loew justified his decision to include six strikers into his German squad with Podolski, Klose, Mueller and Cacau all scoring. But it was the way Germany carved open chance after chance which impressed all of us who watched the match. It was truly breathtaking.

Socceroos coach, Pim Verbeek sprang a surprise naming Tim Cahill as a lone striker. His desire to get involved got the better of him as he was red-carded in the second half. An unfair red card, if you ask me and Cahill's dismissal makes Australia's chances of progress very slim indeed.

Gyan Scores Penalty After Serbian Handball

Serbia had stars like Milos Krasic, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Vidic, Nenad Milijas and Dejan Stankovic. They have the tallest striker of the World Cup, Nikola Zigic. Ghana lined up with a massively powerful eleven players. Kevin-Prince Boateng, John Mensah and Gyan makes up a physically strong Ghanaian side, capable of competing against Serbia.

In the end, a rush of blood settled the tie. The first penalty awarded in the this summer's World Cup was scored by Gyan. You can see the goal animation here.

Group C Second Goalkeeping Error Hands Slovenia An Undeserved Win

If Rob Green's goalkeeping error was seen as terrible, then Faouzi Chaouchi's blunder could be incriminating evidence of a suspected bribe. Yes, it was that horrible. Chaouchi may have been unsighted by the defenders in front of him or perhaps the pace of the ball surprised him, but he made no attempt to save Robert Koren's shot at all.Group C now has the unwanted reputation for "keeper curse".

Slovenia and Algeria played each other for the first time in a World Cup match but did not provide any reason for us to want to hope for a rematch. This was the most boring match of the World Cup so far. The most exciting part of the match was to watch Zinedine Zidane climb into his stadium chair.

Green's Unforgivable Slip Lets USA Off The Hook

England's first match in the 2010 World Cup started on a high note but unfortunately ended with a whimper and a disappointing draw. While watching the game, it was hard to not feel that there is a need for a world class second striker alongside Rooney.

As good as Emile Heskey is in linking up play, he cannot hit a barndoor, hence the dilemma facing Capello. I say sacrifice the link play with attacking potency. The option of playing Gerrard as the second striker off Rooney may prove a better attacking risk. Let's face it, scoring goals are what wins tournaments and therefore, it is crucial that England must find their scoring form soon. Otherwise, opposing teams like the USA will just crowd out Rooney and snuff out England's only scoring threat.

Gerrard marked his England captaincy in the World Cup with a well-taken goal. He was everywhere yesterday, trying his best to win the match for England. He covered the most distance (11 km) among the English players and was also most involved in the match with 451 seconds of high activity time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

La Brujita Gets Fifth World Cup Assist As Argentina Wins

Lionel Messi would have scored four if not for Nigeria's brilliant goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama. Enyeama was the star man in this Group B match. So don't let the scoreline fool you, it was a one-sided 1-0 affair! For all Enyeama's heroics, a Gabriel Heinze header was enough to edge out Nigeria. Heinze's goal was literally dropped onto his head by Juan Sebastian Veron. It was his fifth World Cup assist, making him the second highest Argentinian assist leader behind Diego Maradona.

These were the four moments in the match that Vincent Enyeama denied Messi, keeping the scoreline respectable.

Speedy Koreans Overpowers Lethargic Greece To Claim Victory

Korea Republic became the first team to put three points on the board in this summer's World Cup finals. They did so in style beating a lethargic Greece 2-0. The result was so comprehensive that the Greek players were constantly chiding each other. The speed and quickness of the Korean attack were simply too much for Greece to contain.

Under Otto Rehhagel, Greece have become known as a tough, organized and disciplined outfit. And so it was very surprising that they fell behind in the 7th minute to a setpiece goal. The second goal was an even bigger gift! Greece indulged in some loose passing which resulted in Korean captain, Park Ji Sung intercepting the ball. He then went on a determined run to score the killer second goal.

Early Sidney Govou's Miss Set Tone For Dull Draw

Raymond Domenech ruminated at the end of a drab draw that,
"We lacked that last bit, the last pass.The other two have the advantage. We had to guard against an unlucky counter. It is almost a beautiful 0-0 but the result is what it is."
In the end, France lacked that cutting edge against a resolute Uruguay. Nicolas Ledeiro collected the first red card in this summer's World Cup finals. France and Uruguay battled to a draw in a match where Nicolas Anelka, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez were supposed to supply the goals.

Only Forlan looked like he was capable of providing that decisive goal but for all his positive running, he had only one clear chance - a chance that he skewed left of the French goal.

Friday, June 11, 2010

South Africa's Tshabalala Stunner Not Enough For Win

Siphiwe Tshabalala unstoppable left foot shot into the top corner of Mexico's goal was not enough to give the Bafana Bafana three points. Rafa Marquez cool finish ensured that Mexico's late push for an equalizer would be rewarded. South Africa started nervously against Mexico at the Soccer City Stadium but eventually got a grip in midfield and that allowed the hosts to gain control of the match.

Some very nice interchange of passes in midfield and a through ball allowed Siphiwe Tshabalala to break clear of the Mexican defence. The desired effect of the Jabulani ball took over and Mexico's Oscar Perez had no chance in saving that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 World Cup Group H Head To Head

Group H has a very distinct Latin slant to proceedings. Spain, Honduras and Chile will provide the flair and creativity and cynical diving. Switzerland will use its hardworking and hard running style to try and counter the raw talent of David Villa, Nando Torres, Iniesta, Xavi, Suazo, Figueroa and Palacios.

2010 World Cup Group G Head To Head

The "Group of Death" is the term used to describe Group G. Footballing-wise, this group have the potential to produce the most memorable matches of World Cup 2010.

2010 World Cup Group F Head To Head

The defending champion, Italy is drawn in Group F with New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia. Marcelo Lippi is said to be struggling with his lineup and the general consensus is that as a powerhouse, Italy have regressed. Yet, history has taught us to write off Italy at our peril as they have the experience , mentality and tactical acumen to do well in competitions.

2010 World Cup Group E Head To Head

Japan enters Group E with a run of four consecutive defeats in their World Cup preparations. Generally, that's good news as it means that the players are peaking at the right time i.e. just before the World Cup. With talent like Yasuhito Endo, Shunsuke Nakamura and Keisuke Honda, Japan has the technical ability to compete with Cameroon and Denmark.

2010 World Cup Group D Head To Head

Group D brings about potentially some interesting matchups. Serbian connections in Australia will divide family loyalty when Australia takes on Serbia.

2010 World Cup Group C Head To Head

Group C pits England with unfamiliar foes. Apart from the United States, England have not played in a competitive match against Algeria or Slovenia. The unknown factor, nevertheless should not be seen as a disadvantage to England. In fact, Nadir Belhadj and Robert Koren are familiar faces in the English Premier League. The quality of the opposition would surely have been topmost on Capello's World Cup preparation.

2010 World Cup Group B Head To Head

Group B like Group A has a familiar feel to it. Argentina, Greece and Nigeria were paired in the same group in the 1994 USA World Cup. Argentina triumphed over both Greece and Nigeria then. It should be the same in South Africa as well.

2010 World Cup Group A Head To Head

South Africa and Mexico kick off the 2010 World Cup over in Africa this Friday 11th June. The first match from Group A will be much anticipated, simply to signify a full month of football mania. France and Uruguay round up the first day's match schedules.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Committed To The Game - Lionel Messi Video

Along with Frank Lampard, Maxis (the leading mobile operator in Malaysia) has signed on Lionel Messi as their brand ambassador for the 2010 South Africa World Cup finals. Messi was featured in a Maxis video and you can see it here.

In the video, Argentina's Lionel Messi reveals how his parents did everything possible to enable him to realise his dream of being a world-class footballer. Of course, Messi's story is well-known and Barcelona basically took care of Messi, physically and technically transformed a raw 13-year old  into this year's World Player of The Year.  Though I am fairly sure Messi was referring to his parents, I do believe he also indicated his  undying loyalty to Barcelona for their part in making him the best player in the world.

He is certainly the jewel in a star-studded Argentina team who will be the team that everyone wants to avoid in South Africa.

Committed To The Game - Frank Lampard Video

In view of the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, Maxis (the leading mobile operator in Malaysia) signed on Frank Lampard and Lionel Messi as brand ambassadors. There is an awesome video of Frank Lampard talking about how his father encouraged him as a young boy to finally become one of the best attacking midfielder in the world today.

In the video, Lampard Jr. spoke about how his dad told him to keep fighting and that's precisely what he had done throughout his career. He has overcome nepotism in West Ham, unwarranted nicknames like "Fat Frank" and even booed while playing for England. He is definitely a Chelsea legend and one of those select few players who can be relied upon to turn a match. His performance in the England team will be very important if the Three Lions are to be successful.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Money Politics Of The 2010 World Cup - Who Really Wins

News at Soccernet reveals that FIFA has considered the first World Cup held in Africa a success. Secretary general of football's world governing body, Jerome Valcke, has said that holding the tournament in Africa has helped FIFA increased its income since 2006, when the tournament was held in Germany.

Valcke said last week,
"Commercially it has been a success," 
"In fact, we have increased our income by 50% since 2006 in Germany to 2010 in South Africa."
But what about income for South Africa?

According to consulting firm Grant Thornton, the World Cup will pump around USD2.8billion into South Africa’s economy, generating an estimated USD1.7billion in direct spending and creating an estimated 159,000 new jobs. The country’s tourism industry will benefit from the estimated three million visitors expected for the tournament, while construction and engineering companies will look to a slice of the billions to be spent on infrastructure in the lead-up to the event. Another good thing about this sporting event is that small business and ordinary people will benefit.

Michael Dawson Rejoins England in South Africa

After being told of his omission from the final 23 last week, Michael Dawson overcame his initial disappointment when Fabio Capello called him up as a straight replacement for the injured Rio Ferdinand.

He looks extremely pleased in this video when he shook hands with Capello and then John Terry. He will compete with Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson for a place alongside John Terry at centre defence.

Online Streaming of all 64 2010 World Cup Matches: Univision Futbol

Football fans in Puerto Rico and USA have the best reason to watch the 2010 World Cup from the comfort of their rooms! Why? because Univision recently announced a new Futbol site that will be streaming all 64 2010 World Cup matches online for free, in addition to a new free iPhone application.

Already, UnivisionFutbol.com is providing the latest World Cup news, videos and photos from the tournament, and dedicated blogs and social media fan pages to engage users. Once the games begin, fans in the U.S. and Puerto Rico will be able to watch all games live online for free.

Enthusiasts will also access real time game stats, interviews with players and coaches, exclusive behind-the-scenes video of soccer stars, and Univision sports show coverage. FIFA World Cup 2010 and worldwide soccer coverage from UnivisionFutbol.com is also available on the Univision Fútbol App, downloadable for iPhone and iPod touch. Launched in April 2010, it has become one of the most popular free sports apps in the Apple App Store. The app will soon be available on Apple’s iPad, and on Blackberry and Android Smartphone platforms.

Steve Nash Covering 2010 World Cup in South Africa


CBSSports.com today announced that two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and self-described "football freak" Steve Nash will travel to South Africa to file a series of video segments and reports on the 2010 World Cup. CBSSports.com has partnered with Nash's video production company, Meathawk, to give fans around the globe a unique perspective on the world's largest sporting event.

Nash, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, will post a series of eight videos to CBSSports.com and the CBSSports.com page on youtube.com (youtube.com/CBSSports) and also upload daily photos, iPhone vignettes, and status updates on CBSSports.com's social media platforms while interacting with fans about his travels and Cup experiences.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Argentina's 23-Man Squad Getting Ready For War

Diego Maradona and the Argentinian national team arrived at Pretoria very early ahead of the World Cup 2010. Clearly he has learned a thing or two about high altitude acclimatisation from that horrible 6-1 Bolivia bruising back in May 2009. Argentina will be my pick to lift the World Cup in South Africa. But the road to ultimate glory will not be easy, at least not until the quarterfinals.

I ran the Castrol Football Opponent Predictor and these are Argentina's likely opponents in the knockout stages. In short, Spain and Brazil are the two teams clearly better than Argentina so with a bit of luck, Argentina have a very good chance. After all, any team with Messi, Aguero and Milito have a better than 50% chance of lifting the World Cup trophy.

Altitude Effects At The World Cup

The 32 teams participating in the World Cup from June 11 to July 11 will be faced with tactical decisions about altitude as well as soccer. Matches at seven of the ten stadiums in South Africa will be played at elevations ranging from 2,165 feet in the agricultural hub of Nelspruit to higher than a mile in Johannesburg. Hence acclimatisation is very important.

The NY Times reported this,
The United States team will arrive at its base camp, at about 4,755 feet, or 1,450 meters, between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Americans will have nearly two weeks to adjust to the altitude — the minimum period required for effective acclimating, said Randy Wilber, a senior physiologist with the U.S.O.C. and an altitude expert who is advising the team.
In a soccer match, players can run from six to eight and a half miles. The effects of altitude lead to faster heart rates, less oxygen in the bloodstream and reduced power. An athlete participating in the United States-England match without first adjusting to altitude could experience a reduction of performance of 10 percent, according to the London Altitude Centre.
Arriving in South Africa early should allow a player to perform more efficiently in thinner air as the body begins to produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and as changes occur in respiratory capacity, Wilber said.

Tesco's Video For The 2010 World Cup

Tesco joined the World Cup mania by releasing this video of Frankie Lampard and Peter Shilton providing handy tips to young players at a Tesco FA Skills session. It is an excellent video and a showcase of Lampard's gift as a footballer. Watch it here and you will know what I mean.

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