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Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: Day seven

Another weird day at the World Cup saw favourites Spain beaten, while hosts South Africa were humbled. Thank goodness Greece are back to lift everybody's spirits...

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Wednesday's action
Honduras 0-1 Chile - Group H - Nelspruit

An enjoyable game gave us just about the most one-sided 1-0 win you will ever see. Chile lived up to their 'dark horses' tags, giving the tournament a welcome injection of flair and imagination. The goal was far from a classic - a clearance hit Jean Beausejour and went in from close range. But some of the Chilean interplay was a joy, particularly that involving Alexis Sanchez, and the South Americans claimed their first World Cup finals win since 1962.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland - Group H - Durban

Typical Spain performance - 70 per cent possession, hundreds of neat, short passes and over 20 goal attempts. And yet they ended up on the wrong end of the  tournament's biggest shock to date (although in fairness Spain always lose at the World Cup). Having come into this game with an incredible 45 wins from their last 48 games, Spain could not break down the Swiss - Xabi Alonso came closest with a long shot off the bar - as Ottmar Hitzfeld's team defended brilliantly. Gelson Fernandes scored the only goal with a scrappy, probably offside effort, but they all count.

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay - Group A - Pretoria

After an uplifting opening game, the hosts' inadequacies were painfully exposed by a Uruguay side inspired by Diego Forlan. The Atletico Madrid man found space to roam all over the attacking third, and fired in a long-range shot that deflected off Aaron Mokoena in the first half. Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was sent off for a foul on Luis Suarez, and Forlan converted the penalty. Alvaro Pereira added a third in stoppage time, by which point fans were streaming out of a freezing Loftus Versfeld.

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Thursday preview
Argentina v South Korea - Group B - Soccer City

Maradona geared up for this one by taking pot shots at fellow football legends Pele and Michel Platini for daring to question his managerial ability: "Pele should go back to the museum. We all know what the French are like and Platini as a Frenchman thinks he knows it all." Still, El Diego will be laughing if he inspires a repeat of the opening win against Nigeria. Argentina are without injured Juan Sebastian Veron, with Maxi Rodriguez coming in. Korea also won their first game and both teams know another victory will all but guarantee a place in the last 16.

Greece v Nigeria - Group B - Bloemfontein


These two teams' opening defeats were met with differing reactions. Nigeria were praised for giving it a go against Argentina - particularly goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who made some sensational saves. Greece, however, were abject against Korea, producing probably the worst performance of the tournament to date. Nigeria coach could bring in forwards Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins who impressed as substitutes against Argentina.

France v Mexico - Group A - Polokwane


An unhappy French squad are down to 22 players after reserve keeper Cedric Carrasso was ruled out of the tournament with a thigh injury. Coach Raymond Domenech is considering restoring Thierry Henry up front at the expense of either Yoann Gourcuff or Nicolas Anelka. Asked about the mood of pessimism in France, Domenech remarked yesterday: "I don't give a damn." That'll pick them right up. Guillermo Ochoa may replace the shaky Oscar Perez in goal for Mexico.

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Water cooler chat: Have Spain blown it?
For a team that have never won the World Cup before, Spain remarkably came into the tournament as white-hot favourites. Despite a history of high-profile chokes on the biggest stage, it was hard to argue - they won the European Championship two years ago and compiled an incredible record of 45 wins in 48 games. Ten of those wins came in World Cup qualifying, the best record in history. Then they lost 1-0 to Switzerland. So - hiccup or Hindenburg?

I'm sticking with the former for the moment. Spain were basically good, if only a little imaginative, and Switzerland's goal was a total freak (and offside). But with Chile impressing against Honduras, there is no doubt Spain have a job on their hands reaching the last 16 from Group H. And if they do, there is a good chance they will play Brazil - many people's idea of a final.

What to say: 'Spain winger Jesus Navas suffers from acute homesickness - he must be thrilled.'
What not to say: 'If you take away Torres, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Fabregas, Pique, Puyol and three world-class goalkeepers, they're really not all that good.'

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World Cup jargon: Delusions of adequacy
I'll hand right over to Sol Campbell for this one, talking to ESPN: "I wouldn't mind being out in South Africa with the England team. The way I have been playing for Arsenal, don't you think I should be? I do. For sure. Regrets? You could say that. I regret the fact that the England camp didn't think of me. I would have put my heart and soul into playing for my country again. I played my heart out for Arsenal again and thought it was worthy of a chance with England. It never came. Surely, you pick people in the groove, and I was back in the groove, and I was fit. Instead, Capello picked a couple of half-fit players. It fell right for them. Not for me. I can understand if Capello was thinking 'this guy is for England's past' but then he went back for a couple of players who had retired from international football. That I couldn't understand if he wasn't interested in going back to me. Not only that, Capello has gone for one centre-half who didn't have a very good season, and another who just missed out on relegation. I was really, really hurt to be totally overlooked without even having an opportunity."

1 comment:

JT said...

As a Spurs fan I'm loathe to admit it, but... Sol's actually right this time. He was solid for Arsenal towards the end of the season and definitely deserved to be ahead of Carragher and Uspon. His words clearly show that he feels Dawson and King were worthy of selection, but that the Liverpool and West Ham lads were questionable choices.