Day: July 3, 2010

World Cup 2010: Paraguay 0-1 Spain

What a world. Regardlesss of the lie of the fixtures, if anyone had said two days ago that Paraguay and Uruguay would be the last South American representatives in the 2010 World Cup, they would have been dismissed as cranks. But here we are. We have had three marvellous quarter-finals so far (for an almost baffling variety of different reasons) and here we are, all set for the final match between Paraguay and Spain. The Paraguayan flame has burnt intermittently in South Africa so far. Their penalty shootout win in the last round against Japan came at the end of possibly the worst match of the tournament so far, but they demonstrated their capability in winning their group as Italy imploded. Spain, meanwhile, have also been a mixed bag. They play in a style so relaxed that it could almost be described as “louche”, stroking the ball around as if they are playing a jazz solo on a bass guitar, but this has costs as well as benefits. Two of their three wins have been some degree short of outstanding, and their opening game defeat at the hands of Switzerland seemed to demonstrate cracks in the invincible aura that they had built up around themselves. Fernando Torres seems out of sorts. Paraguay have nothing to lose. A match that may have filled the Paraguayans with trepidation a couple of...

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World Cup 2010: Argentina 0-4 Germany

Some games need no introduction, and they fall into two camps. One camp is the poor games that are best left forgotten (which can only be known after the event). The other games are games like this one, where everything that can have been said in advance, has already been said (and, considering England’s history on and off the pitch with both nations, everything that doesn’t need to be said has probably been said by the tabloids). Games where all the previous encounters in the competition have either been classics (1958, 1986 and 2006) or notorious (such as 1966 and 1990). The game starts with a bang. Miroslav Klose puts in what could be described as a reducer on Javier Mascherano. It’s from behind, nowhere near the ball, and worse than either of the bookings he rightfully received against Serbia, but Ravshan Irmatov (the Uzbek referee now officiating his fourth game of the tournament) keeps his cards in his pockets. Seeing the lenience, Nicolas Otamendi lets Lukas Podolski know that he is there, but this second foul is more costly. Bastian Schweinsteiger floats in a beautiful free kick from the German left hand side, Thomas Muller nips in ahead of Otamendi and heads past Sergio Romero. We’re in the second minute, it’s already full of incident, and the deadlock is already broken. 1-0. Muller threads a through ball for...

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Brazil Undone By Dutch Pragmatism

Never meet your heroes, they say. It is possible that a lot of people met theirs yesterday in the form of the 2010 version of the Brazilian national football team. A team that was widely-tipped to win the competition is out at the quarter-final stage for the second time in a row, and it seems unlikely that many people will actually miss them that much. On more or less any other day of the tournament – of any tournament – this would have been big, big news. Events in Port Elizabeth were overshadowed by what was to follow in the evening, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth having a quick look at how they managed to get things wrong. They hadn’t been firing on all cylinders in their previous matches, but the assumption was that they had plenty more in the tank. They had showed their brilliance sporadically, but there were indicators that not all was not right in the Brazilian camp in their previous performances. The laboured win against a North Korea side that showed something of their true colours in conceding ten goals against Portugal and the Ivory Coast, a lifeless goalless draw against Portugal in their final match – the clues were there. Perhaps we were choosing to not see them. What we can say for certain is that they needed to raise their...

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Luis Suarez, Or Why Football And Morals Don’t Mix

It was the perfect storm at the end of the perfect match. This morning, though, moral outrage is brewing. With one movement of his hands, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez has ignited yet another “debate” at this year’s World Cup finals. There is, however, one small problem – there isn’t really any “debate” to be had. There was no failure on the part of the laws of the game in this match, though. The failure was on the part of Asamoah Gyan, who blasted the resulting penalty kick against the crossbar and over. Had he scored, ninety per cent of the debate that is being had this morning would not be taking place. However, when an incident like this occurs, there are plenty of people willing to fill the moral vacuum. Whether moral absolutes have a place in a game for that has been all about the winning for longer than anyone on the planet has lived, though, is something of a moot point, to say the least. It may surprise some of our younger readers, but even deliberate handball on the goal line hasn’t always been an automatic red card offence. Deliberate handball was lumped in with other “professional fouls” (which FIFA now call “denying an opponent a clear goal-scoring opportunity) and, as such, was only usually punished with a caution. An incident in the 1980 FA Cup Final, however,...

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World Cup 2010: Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (Uruguay Win 4-2 On Penalties)

If this isn’t the signature match of this World Cup, an absolute classic awaits. All the “total football” focus had been on Holland v Brazil but in the end only Brazil played like they did in 1974; while this… this match was total… everything. The streets of Ghana’s capital Accra are not as packed as Ned Boulting and ITV would have been hoping when they flew 3,000 miles to get there. Most of the locals are filmed showing two fingers to Boulting and his cameras and we are assured that this is a prediction of the scoreline, rather than an invitation to the patronising outsiders to foxtrot oscar. To be fair, Boulting, the panel and commentator Clive Tyldesley – immediately breaking his own first rule of commentary (“no bias”) – are just the right side of patronising throughout and the tension of the occasion has slowed Marcel Desailly down from Adebayor-ese to considered analysis. Tyldesley tell us “all of Africa” is behind Ghana, and what was lazy generalisation when Peter Drury said it before Ghana/USA turns out to be very true. It’s just an accident of timing that Tyldesley gives his “Uruguay v an entire continent” spiel as the cameras pan out over hundreds of empty seats in Soccer City itself. If the Ghana players are nervous early on, then they’re hiding it very…badly indeed. But the sense is...

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