Day: June 29, 2010

At Last, The Penalty Shoot-Out Arrives

Although so many of the normal constituents of a World Cup finals – complaints about the ball, Sepp Blatter contradicting himself in public, Cristiano Ronaldo’s pained expression & enormous Adam’s apple combo, England getting dumped on their backsides – have been present and correct, it had begun to feel as if something was missing from the 2010 World Cup finals.  The penalty shoot-out. In fact, until this afternoon only one second round match had even gone to extra-time from the six already played. Over the last few days, it has at times felt as if this stage of the competition, a straight ninety minutes with no need to worry about permutations and what might be happening elsewhere seems to have suit the strongest teams, and the wins for Germany, Argentina and Brazil had the air of a stroll in the park about them. This afternoon, however, two well-matched teams played each other and we finally got a battle to the very end. Paraguay and Japan didn’t set the world alight with the one hundred and twenty minutes of normal football that they played, but they did at least manage to bring the world some tension with the penalty shoot-out that followed. There are good penalty shoot-outs and relatively dull shoot-outs, but there is no doubting that they are all moments of stomach-clenching apprehension. Even if you are watching the...

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World Cup 2010: Paraguay 0-0 Japan (Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties)

They say that consistency helps in football. Especially in terms of number of players you use. This seems to be one of Japan’s tactics, as they enter this game with the same XI that began each of the group games with. Paraguay give first starts to Edgar Benitez and Nestor Ortigioza, as they become the sixteenth and seventeenth players to start for the South Americans (with two others having played as substitutes). Ortigoza makes his World Cup debut, leaving Dario Veron and Rodolfo Gamarra as the only two outfield Paraguayans to see any action. This is an ideal game to see if consistency is a better plan than rotation, as history sees these two sides equally matched. The World Rankings see Paraguay fourteen places ahead of Japan, but the South American teams get a slight advantage in the World Rankings due to the number of World Cup Qualifying games that they play – Japan may play more friendlies, but these as less valuable than competitive games (especially World Cup games) as far as FIFA’s rankings. A more reliable barometer is the head to head games between the two. The two nations didn’t meet until 1995, when Paraguay won in Tokyo. However since, then it’s Played 5 Japan won 1, Paraguay won 1, Drawn 3. These teams are nicely matched. In fact, maybe they’re too matched, as they cancel each...

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