Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: Day 14

What was everyone worried about? England are through, and their next victims are Germany. Now Italy face a win-or-bust game...

Yesterday's action
Slovenia 0-1 England - Group C - Port Elizabeth

Fabio Capello's men needed to win to reach the knock-out stages, and produced a much-improved performance to do just that. The goal proved a triumph for the coach, as the two men brought in as tactical changes combined to unlock Slovenia - James Milner crossed from the right and Jermaine Defoe finished from close range. However, Defoe and Wayne Rooney were guilty of misses that ultimately cost England top spot in the group on goal difference and condemned them to a much more difficult draw. Brave defending from John Terry, Matthew Upson - deputising for the suspended Jamie Carragher - and Glen Johnson snuffed out what chances Slovenia had. 

USA 1-0 Algeria - Group C - Pretoria

The Americans were heading out - and Slovenia were heading through - until Landon Donovan's dramatic stoppage-time winner propelled them into top spot in the group. The US dominated proceedings after Rafik Djebbour hit the bar early on for Algeria. Clint Dempsey had a goal controversially disallowed, Jozy Altidore missed a sitter, then Dempsey hit the post. Algeria played very  defensively considering they needed to win to have a chance of going through, but they finally succumbed when goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi fumbled a cross and Donovan slotted the winner.


Ghana 0-1 Germany - Group D - Soccer City

Germany had to win to ensure they went through after their surprising defeat to Serbia, and narrowly prevailed in an entertaining encounter. Both sides carved out chances in a refreshingly open game, but it fell to Mesut Ozil to break the deadlock with an unerring left-foot shot from the edge of the area. Ozil has been one of the stars of the tournament and will be a major threat for England on Sunday. Ghana also qualified on goal difference, and will almost certainly be the only African side in the last 16.

Australia 2-1 Serbia - Group D - Nelspruit

Australia started the competition miserably and ended it in combative form, but went out as a result of their opening 4-0 defeat to Germany. Tim Cahill opened the scoring with a trademark header on 69 minutes before Brett Holman doubled their lead with a bouncing bomb from 25 yards. At that point the Australians were two goals from overtaking Ghana on goal difference, but Mirko Pantelic put paid to such hopes, grabbing a consolation for Serbia after Mark Schwarzer spilled the ball.

Last 16 matches
USA v Ghana - Rustenburg - June 26 - 9.30pm

Germany v England - Bloemfontein - June 27 - 5.00pm


Thursday's action
Group F Slovakia v Italy (Johannesburg) and Paraguay v New Zealand (Polokwane) - 5.00pm

Italy find themselves in a similar position to England after drawing their first two games, and know a win against Slovakia will take them though to the last 16. A draw will even do it as long as Paraguay beat New Zealand. The South Americans are in top spot and a win against the as-yet unbeaten All-Whites should ensure they avoid a tricky last-16 tie against the Netherlands. Slovakia will go through if they beat Italy and New Zealand do not beat Paraguay.

Group E Cameroon v Netherlands (Cape Town) and Denmark v Japan (Rustenburg) - 9.30pm

Cameroon were the first team eliminated from the competition after losing to Denmark last week, but will be looking to end with a flourish in a disappointing tournament for African sides. Netherlands need a point to guarantee top spot and coach Bert van Marwijk could be tempted to rest some players. The winner of Japan versus Denmark will join the Dutch in the knock-out rounds. A draw sends Japan through on goal difference.


Water cooler chat: Wayne Rooney's injury
The Manchester United man was substituted with an ankle injury against Slovenia, and appeared to be in some discomfort. He was replaced by fans' favourite Joe Cole, who was roared on but disappointed in a 20-minute cameo. Rooney suffered an ankle injury in Manchester United's Champions League tie against Bayern Munich. Fabio Capello has attempted to play down fears it could be serious, saying: "I think Wayne will be okay for the next game." Like most of his team-mates, Rooney was significantly better against Slovenia than in the first two games.

What to say: 'It's just a flesh wound.'

What not to say: 'It's nice to see your players limp off, that's loyal footballers.'


World Cup jargon: Elfmeterschießen

What the Germans call a penalty shoot-out, usually with a sly cackle. It is a true that Germany are brilliant at penalties, although irritatingly they very rarely need to use them. Since beating England on spot-kicks in 1990 they have only had two shoot-outs in major tournaments - versus England at Euro '96 and against Argentina at the 2006 World Cup. They won both, of course. But there is hope for the rest. England now practise penalties in training (well, duh...) and Germany's Lukas Podolski had a penalty saved against Serbia - the first German failure from 12 yards in a World Cup since 1982. Mind you, Podolski was born in Poland. We can only hope for a repeat on Sunday afternoon.

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