Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: day four

Sunday’s action
Algeria 0-1 Slovenia - Group C - Polokwane

The Balkan nation claimed their first World Cup win and went top of Group C after Robert Koren’s late shot somehow evaded goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi and found the right corner. While not on a par with Robert Green’s howler, it was a bad mistake by Chaouchi. Algeria blamed the Jabulani ball (Lionel Messi has also now spoken against it) but the replay showed no major movement in the air.

Serbia 0-1 Ghana - Group D - Pretoria

A stodgy game eventually went Ghana’s way after Serbia pushed the self-destruct button in the second half. Aleksandar Lukovic saw red in the 74th minute after two needless bookings, and Zdravko Kuzmanovic conceded a penalty five minutes before full-time with a blatant, and blatantly stupid, handball. Asamoah Gyan converted the winner. The extended Ghanaian celebrations at the end were a little odd for a strong team that have a real chance of making an impact in the knock-out stages.

Germany 4-0 Australia - Group D - Durban

Joachim Loew’s side produced the best performance of the tournament so far, destroying Australia with a consummate display of slick, decisive football. All four strikers found the net - Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller and substitute Cacau with virtually his first touch. Klose now has 11 World Cup goals, joint fifth all-time and one behind Pele. Things look bleak for Australia, who had Tim Cahill sent off - he misses the next game against Ghana.


Monday preview
Netherlands v Denmark - Group E - Soccer City

The much-fancied Dutch qualified brilliantly with eight wins out of eight, and there is hope that coach Bert van Marwijk has at last given them steel to match their natural flair. But there have been too many false dawns to get carried away, and star winger Arjen Robben misses the game with a hamstring injury. Nicklas Bendtner, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Daniel Jensen are all injury doubts for pragmatic Denmark coach Morten Olsen, who has already admitted a draw would be a great result.

Japan v Cameroon - Group E - Bloemfontein

Japan have lost four friendlies in a row coming into the tournament, but had reasons for optimism after their 2-1 defeat to England, in which Japanese players scored all three goals. Cameroon should receive much support from local fans, mirroring the backing of fellow Africans Ghana on Sunday. They feature Premier League stars Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Alex Song and Sebastien Bassong, plus Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o.

Italy v Paraguay - Group F - Cape Town

The defending champions have been written off by everyone, including their own media, coming into the tournament, and coach Marcello Lippi took time to berate them on Sunday over his team selection, snapping: “If you don't understand the line-up you should change jobs, you have no excuse, you know exactly what it is." Unless Lippi is bluffing he has dropped regular number 10 Antonio Di Natale and will play a front three of Simone Pepe and Vincenzo Iaquinta either side of Antonio Di Natale.


Water cooler chat - Those Germans!

Gott im Himmel! Weren’t Germany supposed to be no-hopers this year? Siasa Duni certainly thought so, especially with Michael Ballack out. If anything, the absence of their injured captain has made them slicker, younger and more dynamic. The World Cup always seems to bring out the best in them - Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose scored three goals apiece in the Bundesliga this season but looked world-beaters against the Aussies. The first game in the tournament to give us more than two goals puts Germany among the favourites. And if England fail to win their group they will almost certainly face the Germans in the second round.

What to say: ‘Time to step up penalty practice.’

What not to say: ‘Never has an Australian failure given me less pleasure.’


World Cup jargon: Catenaccio

An Italian term meaning ‘padlock’ or ‘door bolt’, describing a tactical formation with four man-marking defenders plus a libero. The Inter Milan side of the 1960s were masters of it, but now the term is used as a catch-all phrase - usually derogatory - to describe excessively defensive or cynical play. Even though Italy have not played a sweeper for years, they are accused of playing Catenaccio at the slightest hint of defensive organisation. Never mind that they don’t have a recognised left-back in the squad, and 36-year-old captain Fabio Cannavaro is one of the oldest players at the tournament - expect it to be bandied about in relation to Marcello Lippi’s side against Paraguay.

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