June 23, 2010

You heard it right...USA advances in the World Cup!

United States 1 – Algeria 0…The USA comes away from this game with a sigh of relief mixed with exuberance for advancing to the round of 16. Things started out a bit shaky as Algeria put a serious shot on goal that deflected off the cross bar in the first ten minutes. On top of that was the fact that the US played at the same time as England, and got to watch the scoreboard knowing that England was playing up 1-0 in their match. It was a 0-0 tie at the half, as both teams played a defensive struggle. The USA felt the sting of the officials again when at the 21′ mark, Clint Dempsey appeared to score off the rebound of Herculez Gomez’s shot. The goal was called offside and taken off the board.

The second half was a different story. The USA seemed to get a lot more aggressive and had many more shots on goal.  They finished with a strong 10 shots on goal. The game ended 0-0 in regulation and 4 extra minutes were put on the board. The USA only needed one minute in the extra time. Tim Howard started the fast break counter-attack that led to the goal when he knocked down an Algerian shot and rolled the ball to Landon Donovan. Donovan moved upfield and passed ahead to Jozy Altidore just inside the 18-yard box. Altidore’s right-footed cross was flicked by Dempsey as he crashed into goalkeeper Rais Bolhi. As Dempsey tumbled over the goalkeeper, the ball rolled back out. Donovan waltzed in with a right-footed shot from 7 yards, and slammed the ball into the lower left corner of the net 45 seconds into 4 minutes of injury time.  It’s the 44th career goal for Donovan, USA’s all-time scoring leader. The USA had redeemed itself and got the win it rightfully deserved. USA won Group C and will move on to the round of 16 and play Ghana, which for American fans is a very winnable match. The only other time USA won its World Cup group was the first World Cup in 1930, when USA finished third.

England 1 – Slovenia 0…In what was basically a re pretty even match, England scored a goal at the 23′ mark and the defense clamped down in typical England fashion to hold Slovenia scoreless. This was a huge match as the winner knew they would advance to the round of 16. England is set to play Germany in the next round. Slovenia’s best chance to tie the game came in the 68th minute after Barry lost possession and Terry and Johnson blocked shots from Zlatko Dedic and Milivoje Novakovic. Slovenia was the smallest nation in the Cup. Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said, “I hope these players will be role models for [those] who might play for Slovenia in the future. They are maturing a lot and they will come to a point where they will play their best. We have created huge potential and it’s up to us to use it. We need to benefit from this.”

Australia 2 – Serbia 1…In a game that meant very little as both teams have been eliminated from Cup play, Australia and Serbia both gave a valiant effort.  The match was tied 0-0 at the half, but that was only due to excellent goalkeeper play on both sides. Australia went up 2-0 from goals by Tim Cahill and Brett Holman. Serbia added a goal to avoid the shutout at the 84′ mark. Australia felt pretty good about gaining 4 points in the three games, but did not advance due to the goal differential. The 4-0 loss to Germany in their first match really came back to haunt them.

Germany 1 – Ghana 0…Germany may have won the match, but both teams were winners as Ghana learned it too would advance to the round of 16. Even though they tied with Australia in points, the goal differential was the difference, and it favored Ghana. Ghana will face the USA in the round of 16. The Black Stars knocked the Americans out of the Cup in 2006. Ghana has now progressed in both of its World Cup appearances, becoming only the second African nation to reach the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups, along with Nigeria in 1994 and 1998. Germany which started out the Cup with a 4-0 rout of Australia has come back down to Earth, and has even disappointed the tough German fans a bit. They are slated for a European showdown versus England in the next round.

June 24, 2010

Paraguay 0 – New Zealand 0…New Zealand plays their defensive hearts out, but they just can’t score. With only 4 shots and 0 on goal, New Zealand impressed by at the very least, tying a hot Paraguay team. They played three draws in the World Cup, and are only the fourth team ever, to not move on to the round of 16, without losing a game. Congrats to Paraguay as they win their group. They are set to play Japan in the round of 16.

The picture says it all...Slovakia is flying high while Italy has crashed and burned!

Slovakia 3 – Italy 2…Yes , you read it right. Italy lost and is out of the World Cup. THE DEFENDING CHAMPS! This was the match of the day as Slovakia went up 2-0 on Italy, shocking the soccer world. Italy knew what was on the line with this game. “I take full responsibility,” said coach Marcello Lippi, who led the Azzurri to the 2006 championship. “If the squad went out with fear in their legs and hearts it means the coach didn’t prepare the match well tactically or psychologically.” The match had many goals and some great shots that just barely missed from scoring. Antonio Di Natale scored at the 81′ mark for Italy, and hope was still flickering.  Slovakia put the nail in the coffin when they added another goal by Kamil Kopunek at the end of regulation.

“We were a disappointment and everyone saw it,” regular goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “The difference between 2006 and 2010 is that there are no longer enough players like [Francesco] Totti and Alessandro [Del Piero]. He [Prandelli] will have to start a new cycle and I hope he’s got his ideas in order, because the current situation of Italian football isn’t great.” Italy’s squad featured nine players 30 or over and Prandelli will be charged with a major overhaul. Italy hasn’t won since beating Sweden 1-0 in a friendly in November, drawing five times and losing twice. Expect major changes in Italy. As for Slovakia, well they face the Netherlands in round 16 play. Good Luck.

Netherlands 2 – Cameroon 1…The Netherlands continue to show they are a mighty bunch, as they win their group and go 3-0 in first round play. Cameroon had one good shot till that point. But it was the typical solid play of the Dutch that we all have come to expect. They looked smooth with some nifty give and go passing to score at the 36′ mark. Cameroon had some moments. They scored on a penalty shot from a hand ball at the 65′ mark to tie the game up. At the 83′ mark the Netherlands moved right down the field and put a deflected ball back into net to seal the game. The Dutch win Group E, capturing all three matches, and will face Group F runner-up Slovakia in the round of 16. Netherlands is now 18-1-6 under coach Bert van Marwijk and is 8-1-6 in its last 15 group stage games. Cameroon finished the Cup 0-0-3 and is winless in its last 10 games overall (0-6-4) and winless in its last 10 matches with European sides at the World Cup.

Japan 3 – Denmark 1…Japan advances to the next round after an impressive victory versus Denmark. Honda scored at the 17′ mark and Endo scored at the 30′ mark. Both were remarkable shots off of Free Kicks. Denmark scored off a deflection on a penalty kick,  something you don’t see much in soccer. At the 87′ mark, Japan scored again after nimble footwork by Keisuke Honda. The Japanese have now reached the knockout round for the second time. They also advanced in 2002, when they were tournament co-hosts with South Korea. Japan will face Paraguay in the second round. Denmark fails to advance for the first time in its four World Cup appearances.