Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup Thoughts: June 19th and 20th

Rounding up the action from the last 48 hours of World Cup play...

Netherlands 1, Japan 0

They're not doing anything spectacular, but the Netherlands are continuing to cruise through Group E, and in fact became the first team to qualify into the Round of 16. They used a goal by Wesley Sneijder in the 53th minute to do it in a pretty evenly contested match. Japan still has a chance to qualify with a win or tie over Denmark, so this loss doesn't kill them. By the way, have you ever heard of a thing called the Unofficial Football World Championship? It's hypothetically passed around like a boxing or wrestling belt, and the Dutch are your current title holders.

Ghana 1, Australia 1

Everything you need to know about this game happened in the first twenty-five minutes. Australia took an early if unexpected lead in the 11th minute and then planned on shifting into defense mode for the remaining eighty to escape with three points. But a red card on Harry Kewell in the 24th minute for handling a ball in the box set up a penalty kick for Ghana, and it was 1-1 after the kick was converted. That was about all Ghana could do though, unable to score the rest of the match despite being a man up and taking 15 more shots than the Aussies. Disappointing result here for Ghana, but they do lead their group and could very well advance, although a huge match with Germany looms.

Denmark 2, Cameroon 1

It hasn't been a very successful Cup as a whole for the African teams, and that continued as Cameroon became the first team to be eliminated from the tournament. Samuel Eto'o scored to put Cameroon up early, but the Danish came back to complete the upset (Cameroon was ranked 19th in the FIFA rankings heading into the Cup). Denmark doesn't qualify yet, as they have a big final match with Japan. The Japanese hold the tiebreaker in goal differential, and with both teams tied at three points, Denmark would have to win to advance.

Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0

After an impressive tie against the defending champions in Italy, Paraguay looked even stronger on Sunday knocking off Slovakia 2-0. Nobody really predicted Slovakia to do too much, but 2-0 wins are always a nice touch no matter who they are against. Paraguay hasn't advanced just yet, but they are in the Group F drivers seat. With this win, and with Brazil's win later in the today, South American teams are now 7-0-2 so far in this World Cup.

Italy 1, New Zealand 1

As much as the United States' tie against England was actually a "win", this tie was even bigger for New Zealand. Tying the defending champions is now the biggest win this country has ever had on the World stage, and with a win against Paraguay next week they could qualify for the Round of 16. Not bad for a team that was expected to go winless. Kind of a questionable result though, as New Zealand probably could have ended up with the win. The Kiwis scored early in the 7th minute off a set piece, but the Italian goal came much easier as it was by the means of a penalty kick. I am not a fan of penalty kicks, and think they should only be given in the most dire of circumstances, and Italy got one in the 29th minute for a contact foul that didn't seem all that terrible. It was almost a case of the ref I spoke of the other day, as Italy, in my opinion, was given the benefit of the doubt on this call because they were "supposed" to win. But, two airquotes in one paragraph means it's time to end the paragraph, so let's move on to the next game.

Brazil 3, Ivory Coast 1

Very disappointing Cup so far for Cote d'Ivoire, as they really didn't show any desire or hustle until the end of this game. Brazil basically did what they do best, which is toy with teams. Luis Fabiano scored the first two for Brazil, although on his second goal he seemed to have handled the ball multiple times while dribbling through defenders. Elano added the third goal in the 62nd minute, and at that point we were just waiting for the final whistle.

If you turned the channel though then, you would have missed a Drogba goal, and then about five to ten minutes of nothing but bickering and flops. The two teams got into it with each other throughout the last ten minutes, although it was nothing too serious (think of a dugout clearing brawl in baseball, although one where the players really just stand there and look at each other). Brazil superstar Kaka ended up getting a red card out of the whole deal and will miss their next game, although it's not too serious as it could be because Brazil has already advanced with their victory. Kaka's red card was a bit undeserving though, as it was mainly the result of overacting by Ivory Coast, which is why a lot of people hate soccer in the first place. Whatever though. In the last two days we got to watch six great games, and I'm looking forward to more tomorrow.

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