Saturday 3 July 2010

World Cup thoughts - Day 22 & 23

Day 22

What a day. What emotion!

The first of this World Cup's Quarter finals.

Brazil 1 Holland 2

Ghana 1 Uruguay 1

Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties.

I'll start with the first game of the day - Holland v Brazil.

How disappointing were Brazil?

At half time this game was heading towards a routine win for Brazil. You couldn't see how Holland could get back into the game.

Clearly the turning point came with Holland's first goal mid way through the second half. Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar was at fault, coming off his line and failing to punch the cross that came into the box. Instead, midfielder Philipe Melo got in his way and headed into his own goal. It was one mistake which Brazil never recovered from.

After going 2-1 down Brazil's Melo got himself sent off for stamping on Arjen Robben, a completely stupid thing to do.

Brazil didn't exactly 'lose their heads' but they certainly lost their discipline and composure after Holland equalised. It was strange to watch as this team were the tournament favourites.

When faced with a slight setback and some increased pressure from the Dutch they couldn't handle it and suffered an emotional collapse! It was bizarre.

So why did they lose it?

I have my own theory - For many of the so called bigger nations some of the first and second round games aren't challenging enough, they're not tested sufficiently.

Once they reach the Quarter finals they face teams that should on paper offer a proper test. It's at this stage that serious questions are asked about a team's credentials. Last week, England's weaknesses were embarrassingly exposed against Germany and we saw today that Brazil simply weren't the team we all assumed they were.

Up until this afternoon Brazil had been fine when they'd been in front, when things were going their way, but faced with a bit of pressure and suddenly they couldn't deal with it.

Dunga the manager is unlikely to survive this result. His team were hardly loved by the Brazilian public, but they at least won games. They can't even say that now.

In saying all of this, lets give credit to Holland, they hung in there and took their chances in the second half. They deserved to go through.

Ghana 1 Uruguay 1

Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties

Talk about emotional, this is already a World Cup classic which will be remembered for years to come.

Sport never ceases to amaze with the range of emotions it can generate. This game had it all.

Before the game my heart said Ghana would win 1-0 but my head said Uruguay would score at least once. I haven't been overly convinced about Ghana's goal scoring threat, but I have to say I was surprised at just how well Ghana played overall.

After the game finished 1-1 at 90 minutes, the first period of extra time looked as if Uruguay were going to go on and win it. Second period it was all Ghana, but nothing could prepare you for what was about to unfold.

last minute of extra time, Ghana have a header handballed off the line, Suarez gets sent off and Asamoah Gyan steps up to take the penalty to send Ghana through to the semi finals!

But no, he hits the crossbar - unbelievable!

The penalties

Fair play to Gyan for stepping up and scoring the first penalty, that took a huge amount of guts which has to be admired, but you just felt the momentum was now with Uruguay.

The missed penalties by John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah were some of the worst penalties I've ever seen in a shoot out. With Mensah's you knew as soon as he took a one step run up there would be no happy ending.

After two misses by Ghana and one miss from Uruguay, it was left to Sebastian Abreu to send Uruguay through.

People are already arguing that Ghana were cheated out of victory by luis Saurez's handball. Was it instinctive or was it deliberate?

If Gyan has scored the penalty we wouldn't be having this debate. The officials got it right by sending Saurez off and awarding the penalty but the fact that Ghana missed the penalty makes you feel that justice wasn't really done.

All I can think of is that the rules could be changed were a 'penalty goal' could be awarded in such situations where clearly a goal would have been scored had it not been for the handball.

It's a tough one, but it's the nature of sport and life in general. You don't always get what you deserve, and things aren't always fair.

Ghana have been excellent in this tournament and deserve a lot of credit, they've represented African football well, unlike teams like Nigeria and Cameroon who have underachieved yet again.

The script was meant to be all about Africa's first World Cup and an African team going further than ever before, but life doesn't always follow the desired script.

Some credit should be given to Uruguay as well. This was a massive game for them, their biggest in 40 years, a country who most people know little about, with only 3 million people but who have a proud footballing tradition. They've played some good football as well and a Semi final place isn't undeserved.

Day 23

Two more Quarter final clashes in another fascinating day at the World Cup.

Germany 4 Argentina 0

This must be the result of the tournament - who realistically thought this would be the final score?

The dream of Maradona leading Argentina to World Cup glory smashed to bits here as Argentina were taught a footballing lesson.

Germany have to be the team of the tournament so far, and must be favourites for the World Cup. With Germany teams of the past you've always been able to admire their discipline, efficiency and know how in progressing through tournaments, but this Germany team is also highly entertaining.

As for Argentina - total humiliation. This was another example of a fancied team facing their first real test and failing spectacularly.

To win a World Cup it usually helps if you have a midfield that consists of something more than just one defensive holding player!

They had Mascherano as the holding midfielder and on the flanks there was Angel Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez, but after that nothing. They needed someone in the middle, in front of Mascherano to act as a creator.

This was cruelly exposed today which made my pre tournament prediction of Argentina winning the World Cup look like a laughable joke!

Germany's manager Joachim Low correctly identified that there was no creative outlet for Argentina between their defence and attack, it meant for all the talent of Messi, Tevez and Higuain, they barely troubled the German keeper!

Secondly none of their great attacking players really contribute defensively which allowed the Germans more time and space when they had possession.

Watching this game I couldn't help but admire and respect Germany's overall footballing culture. The amazing consistency in major tournaments and the ability to organise and reinvent themselves over years and generations.

If only England could learn something from how they do things.

Spain 1 Paraguay 0

It's hard to believe that tonight's result sent Spain into a World Cup Semi final for the first time in their history.

Spain haven't totally convinced so far, stumbling through matches and not quite playing the beautiful passing game so many people were expecting.

I imagined this game would be one of Paraguay defending in numbers, making life difficult for Spain who would monopolise possession but struggle to break Paraguay down.

This is exactly what happened until the game sprung to life in the second half with 3 penalties in 3 minutes.

Paraguay had a penalty and missed it, a minute later Spain had a penalty which Xabi Alonso scored which he was made to take again, as the referee said there was player encroachment into the box.

Alonso steps up for a second time, but the keeper saves the spot-kick. From the rebound Fabregas comes running in to try and score but is upended by the keeper! Ridiculously no penalty was given by the ref!

Thankfully for Spain David Villa came to rescue to score their winner in the last ten minutes. Where would they be without Villa? He's the only player scoring goals.

At the moment Torres just isn't performing, and looks a shadow of the player we've seen in the Premiership. He's clearly not fit and I don't think there's enough games left for him to get fit and find his true form.

How much longer is the manager Del Bosque going to persist with Torres? Spain seemed to play better earlier this week beating Portugal after Torres was replaced by the Athletic Bilbao forward Llorente.

Spain's victory sets up a great looking Semi final against Germany. This is a tough one to call. Spain haven't been great so far but you feel they have the players and talent to beat Germany.

Germany have proved already that they don't need the so called 'star players' as they function so well as a team. I'd make them slight favourites now, mainly because they're Germany.

Despite Spain's talents, this is still uncharted territory for them. How will they cope with the pressure and expectation. There's this nagging voice in my head that says they'll bottle it!

I hope not. We shall see.

1 comment:

  1. . . . but if Ghana had scored in the last minute Uruguay would feel that justice wasn't done and they were 'cheated' out of the semis. The Ghanian free kick was not a foul and shouldn't have been given, and two Ghana players were subsequently offside for the cross that led to Suarez's handball. It's all about perception.

    If people had been talking about penalty goals when Harry Kewell handled on the line against Ghana for Australia I would have been more receptive, but you can't introduce the idea because the outcome isn't to your liking.

    Ghana bottled it. Simples.