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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: day five

Get set for a world-class diva duel - Didier Drogba versus Cristiano Ronaldo as Ivory Coast take on Portugal. And Brazil prepare to make their entrance...

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Monday’s action
Netherlands 2-0 Denmark - Group E - Soccer City

A slightly flattering scoreline for Bert van Marwijk’s Dutch side in the deafening sound of Soccer City - players from both sides complained they could not hear above the vuvuzela noise. With Arjen Robben still nursing a hamstring strain, Netherlands struggled in the first half but went in front less than a minute after the restart when an attempted clearing header by Simon Poulsen went in off team-mate Daniel Agger. Dirk Kuyt added a late second from close range after Eljero Elia hit the post.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon - Group E - Bloemfontein

Any fan thinking ‘I could do a better job than Manager X’ is normally completely wrong. This might have been the exception. Why did Cameroon boss Paul Le Guen put one of the best forwards in the world, Samuel Eto’o, on the wing and not get him the ball? Yes, Inter Milan play him wide, but they have a world-class striker in Diego Milito. Cameroon do not. Keisuke Honda’s second-half finish earned Japan their first World Cup win on foreign soil. Le Guen blamed his players’ attitude. Everyone else blamed Le Guen.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay - Group F - Cape Town
The holders came from behind to nick a point in an uncertain start to their title defence in the wet. Marcello Lippi’s ageing side looked sluggish during a first half when Wigan-bound defender Antolin Alcaraz headed Paraguay into the lead after easily outjumping Fabio Cannavaro. The Azzurri were better after the break, and drew level through the excellent Daniele De Rossi, but only after keeper Justo Villar completely misjudged a corner. Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon went off at half-time with a back complaint.

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Tuesday preview
New Zealand v Slovakia - Group F - Rustenburg
Probably the least attractive game of the tournament (topping the podium ahead of Slovenia-Algeria and Honduras-Switzerland), the winner of this one will go top of Group F.

Ivory Coast v Portugal - Group G - Port Elizabeth
A game inevitably dominated by its two leading figures - Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo. For all the diving, pouting and general look-at-me behaviour, they are both wonderful footballers and their presence greatly benefits the tournament. Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson (remember him?) is expected to unleash Drogba little more than a week after the striker broke his arm. He will wear a cast, but how much will the injury hamper him? Manchester United’s Nani misses the World Cup with a collarbone injury - Portugal have denied the real reason was a bust-up with coach Carlos Queiroz.

Brazil v North Korea - Group G - Johannesburg
Five times winners against a team of unknowns who have been playing in a public gym. This looks like a complete mismatch - just as it did on North Korea’s only previous World Cup appearance in 1966 when they played Italy... and won 1-0. Brazil coach Dunga has come in for plenty of criticism after leaving fans’ favourites Ronaldinho, Pato and Adriano out of the squad. Nothing less than a comprehensive win will do for Dunga’s men.


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Water cooler chat: Ledley King’s groin
When Fabio Capello picked King for his World Cup squad, the debate centred on whether the Spurs defender’s fragile knees could stand the strain. Nobody thought to consider he might sustain another, separate injury. King tweaked his groin in the first half of the draw against the USA on Saturday and, although he is being assessed ‘day-to-day’ he will almost certainly not play before the quarter-finals. You know, if England get there. None of the possible partners for John Terry - Jamie Carragher, Michael Dawson, Matthew Upson - seems completely convincing and none of them has much pace.

What to say: ‘I’ve seen continents shift quicker than Terry and Carragher.”
What not to say: ‘I thought the ban on WAGs would stop the players’ groins getting them in trouble.’


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World Cup jargon: Fabian Moritz
Moritz is a 19-year-old German who made himself an internet legend with his brilliant Lego recreation of Bayern Munich’s Champions League victory against Manchester United. Moritz and the good people at legofussball.com have now turned their attention to the World Cup, making a Lego version of the 1966 final and of England’s 1-1 draw against the USA. Robert Green’s howler looks just as bad when rendered in plastic.

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