Category: Latest

The American Dream?

Italy 1-1 USA This, of course, is the day that everything went, well, a bit crazy. If things hadn’t been bizarre enough earlier on in the evening between the Czechs and Ghana, the USA and Italy threw up an extraordinary match of bad temper, astonishing fouls, and, eventually, two goals. It all started relatively calmly, with Gilardino scoring a smart diving header. Five minutes later, Zaccardo scored what will probably turn out the be the bizarrest own goal of the tournament, slicing a routine clearance into his own net. Then suddenly, everything went a bit mad. First up, De Rossi, going for a routine header with Brian McBride, seemed to momentarily forget that he was a footballer and assumed the identity of Jackie Chan, and elbowed the unfortunate American so violently that he was left prostrate on the ground, covered in blood. He will of course, miss the next match, and can expect FIFA to extend his exile from the first team for longer than that. So, it was advantage America, but they couldn’t take advantage of it. In fact, within fifteen minutes they’d contrived to turn it to their disadvantage. First of all, Mastroeni had what doctors call, “a sudden rush of blood to the head”, and lunged in with two feet on Pirlo. Ten men each. Deuce. Then, two minutes into the second half, Eddie Pope joined...

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Czeched Out

Czech Republic 0-2 Ghana The rest of the day was taken up with results that no-one could or would have predicted. I know it sounds like excuses, but consider this: Ghana, whilst they had showed flashes of inspiration against Italy, hadn’t shown that they had anything like the defensive nous to deal with the likes of Thomas Rosicky, Pavel Nedved, et al. The Czechs, however, had turned in one of the performances of the first round of matches against the USA. People were talking about them possibly going all the way. There is no question that the Czechs were outplayed. Had it no been for Petr Cech, it could have been five or six. But it wasn’t. It was a bad day at the office for the Czech defender Ujfalusi, whose error gifted Asamoah Gyan to open the scoring just after a minute in. In the second half, he was red-carded for bringing down Gyan (although the referee didn’t appear in any hurry to send him off, there was a good two-minute wait while he calmed down protests and, mystifyingly, booked Gyan for taking the penalty too quickly. It was second time lucky for the Czechs. Having scored with his first penalty, Gyan hit the post. And, yes, the yellow card keeps him out of their final group match. Muntari scored a near perfunctory second goal with twelve minutes...

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Still In The Running

Angola 0-0 Mexico A recurrent theme of this World Cup has been this: smaller countries going into matches against “bigger” opposition, getting eleven men behind the ball, and playing for the goal-less draw. On the whole, it hasn’t worked. Paraguay conceded a late goal against Sweden, as did Poland against Germany Trinidad managed it against Sweden, but the two late goals that they conceded against England have left them requiring a mountain to climb to get through. I’m glad that this phenomenon has not really worked. It has spoilt matches that should have been far more entertaining, but it’s nice to know that, even now, football matches are still being won by the teams that score the most goals, rather than the team that concedes the least, if you catch my drift. It may be easier to play ultra-defensively, but it still doesn’t seem to be quite easy enough yet. You’ll forgive me, though, if I cast aside my irritation at this concept when it comes to Angola, though. They were excellent against Portugal, and in this match, though they barely had a shot on target themselves, what alternative did they have? They’ve cobbled a team together from wherever they could find anyone. Their goalkeeper, Joao Ricardo, isn’t even signed to a club. He’s spent the last year reportedly training on his own. I can’t see this still being...

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Ivory & Out

Holland 2-1 Ivory Coast Well, we’ve enjoyed them being here, but the Ivory Coast’s elimination is, on balance, just about justified. Not because they haven’t played well. They’ve been technically excellent. However, Holland have played better, taken their chances and just about deserve it. The comments made about Didier Drogba needing seven chances to score once have turned out to be correct. He only had about six chances today. Holland, on the other hand, were almost infuriatingly European. They were tight across the back, passed the ball around and crisply, and took their chances. Even Van Nistelrooy, who scored the second goal, looked as if he was interested in what was going on. Marco Van Basten should get special commendation for getting Van Nistelrooy involved. Old Horse Face hasn’t appeared terribly interested in football for the last eight months or so. Van Basten appears to have woken up that has been laying dormant for this period of time. Van Persie looked sharp, and took his free-kick for the first goal well, although I hold the Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Tizie somewhat responsible as well. Bad positioning. Kone pulled one back with an outstanding strike, Ivory Coast hit the post, Van Der Saar made a couple of terrific saves and Van Persie had to clear a shot off the line… the list goes on. It’s reasonable to argue that the Ivory...

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Simply The Best

Argentina 6-0 Serbia There’s so much that I could say about this performance, and it wouldn’t be enough at the same time. We’ve just witnessed the performance of the World Cup, eleven individuals playing the game of their lives. On this form, as I have suggested on here before, there isn’t a team in the world that can match Argentina and, most significantly of all, it will strike fear into the hearts of everybody that they have to play for the remainder of the tournament. But first, a quick word about Serbia & Montenegro, because it would be shoddy reporting on my part if I didn’t mention them. They were atrocious. Absolutely terrible. They appeared to have no game-plan short of putting as many players as they could behind the ball. When Argentina scored after five minutes, there was no Plan B. They fell to pieces. When Kezman was sent off in the second half, the floodgates opened. All of this, though would be doing the Argentinians a disservice. There were no mitigating circumstances. The excellence that Argentina had threatened during their match against the Ivory Coast shone through brilliantly. If they had been played England on this sort of some form, one dreads to think what they might have done to them. Take, for example, the second goal, which will be repeated and repeated for the remainder of...

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