Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: Day eight

After Argentina sparkled and France flopped, England take to the field again as they face Algeria...

Thursday’s action
Argentina 4-1 South Korea - Group B - Soccer City

Two wins out of two now for Diego Maradona’s side, who played with real swagger and togetherness, and have been installed as co-favourites along with Spain and Brazil. Park Chu-Young deflected a free-kick into his own net early on, before Gonzalo Higuain headed the second just after the half-hour mark. Bolton’s Lee Chung-Yong pulled one back against the run of play just before the break. Higuain tapped in from close range after Lionel Messi hit the post, before Higuain completed his hat-trick with another header to round off a brilliant team move.

Greece 2-1 Nigeria - Group B - Bloemfontein

Greece’s first World Cup win came after Nigeria self-destructed having gone in front. Kalu Uche’s long-range free-kick somehow eluded everyone and found the net early on, but it all changed when Sani Kaita was sent off for a senseless studs-up kick on Vassilis Torosidis. Dimitris Salpingidis equalised with a deflected free-kick late in the first-half. Chinedu Ogbuke missed an open goal before the previously brilliant Vincent Enyeama spilled a shot from the edge of the box and Vasilis Torosidis tucked away the rebound.

France 0-2 Mexico - Group A - Polokwane

It would be nice to focus on a vibrant Mexican display, but you simply cannot ignore how atrocious the French were. Dressing room splits came boiling over as a divided, sullen-faced Bleus side sulked their way through the game. Thierry Henry sat morosely, shivering on the bench under a tartan blanket, while Patrice Evra tore off his captain’s armband at the end having been left for dead by Pablo Barrera. New Manchester United signing Javier Hernandez beat the offside trap to score the first, before Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored a penalty after Eric Abidal upended Barrera.


Friday’s preview
Germany v Serbia - Group D - Port Elizabeth

Joachim Loew’s side impressed greatly in their 4-0 demolition of Australia, and can all but book their place in the last 16 if they take care of a Serbia side who lost their opener to Ghana. Germany are expected to be unchanged, although Cacau has put Miroslav Klose under pressure. Serbia must replace Aleksandar Lukovic who saw red against Ghana, although coach Radomir Antic must be tempted to make multiple changes after a dismal performance.

Slovenia v USA - Group C - Johannesburg

The country with the smallest population of any at the World Cup know a second win will book them a place in the last 16. They face a nation with 154 times as many people (308m versus 2m) but they took down Russia in qualifying, and hopes are high. US goalkeeper Tim Howard is carrying a rib injury sustained during his superb display against England, but will play. A draw is a good result for England, while a Slovenia win also means Fabio Capello’s men control their own fate in terms of topping the group.

England v Algeria - Group C - Cape Town

Deep breath. Part two. On paper, a mediocre Algeria side should not pose much of a threat, but in practice it promises to be tough going. Robert Green may lose his place in goal to David James, while Gareth Barry returns in midfield at James Milner’s expense. Fabio Capello seems set to stick with much-maligned target man Emile Heskey, while we can expect better from Wayne Rooney. Jamie Carragher is favourite to partner John Terry at the back. Algeria are without Abdelkader Ghezzal, who was sent off shortly after coming off the bench against Slovenia.


Water-cooler chat: What on earth is up with the French?
Let this be a warning to everyone - if a team with individuals as good as Lloris, Evra, Malouda, Ribery, Anelka and Henry can come unstuck, so can you. Captain Patrice Evra seemed to stop trying, Thierry Henry never got a look-in and the substitutes went for a jog behind the goal and stayed there as time wound down. Raymond Domenech is already leaving at the end of the tournament, but that has not saved him from an absolute savaging from the press. They are not out yet, but most Frenchmen and women will just be pleased to get it over with. Irish fans denied by the Hand of Frog last autumn can be forgiven their smiles.

What to say: “Now the French are demanding an apology from Henry for getting them to the World Cup.”
What not to say: “Chin up Raymond, Liverpool are looking for a manager.”


World Cup jargon: Carve-up
When two teams contrive to produce a mutually beneficial result. The most famous of these came in 1982, when West Germany played Austria. If the Germans won 1-0 or 2-0, they would both reach the knock-out stages at Algeria’s expense. They duly went 1-0 up and both sides stopped trying - it was one of the World Cup’s most shameful moments. Next Tuesday, a draw between Mexico and Uruguay will guarantee both sides go through to the last 16, sending France and South Africa out. Now I’m not suggesting the two teams would collude over the outcome of the game - just pointing out that when one result suits both teams, it inevitably becomes, well... more likely.

ADDENDUM: Not long after writing this, it seems Germany and Serbia are guilty of the offence, with Germany blatantly missing a penalty and throwing the game in an apparent attempt to kick Ghana out of South Africa 2010...

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