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World Cup Round Up: Groups G and H

In Football on June 26, 2010 at 1:16 am

Group G

Brazil And Portugal Canter While Ivory Coast Bow Out

Ironically, the group that seemed the tightest on paper was the only one that lacked a nail-biting finish. Portugal’s seven strike outburst against a dispirited North Korean squad gave them the edge going into the final day, and their snoozer of a 0-0 with Brazil saw those two sides slide into the last 16.

The ludicrous sending off of Kaka marred the group stages for Brazil

First things first. Dunga’s Brazil are real contenders. They may not exude the flair for ‘Joga Bonito’ which the purists demand, but all that will be forgotten if they can capture the ultimate prize. Dunga has fashioned a side in his own image, and their base is in a rock solid back four. The defensive trio of Julio Cesar, Lucio and Maicon showed their obstinance while guiding Inter Milan to the Champions League, and they are joined by the veteran Juan and Michel Bastos. Bastos, a winger by trade, could be a potential weak link, but it will take an excellent team to expose him.

The back four are augmented by two shielding players, in Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo. The link between the lethal Luis Fabiano is the key for this side, and when Kaka, Elano and Robinho were missing against Portugal, they struggled creatively. The Samba stoppers did their job though, and Cesar was rarely called into action as they plucked the point they needed against an obliging Iberian outfit. Read the rest of this entry »

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World Cup Round Up: Groups E and F

In Football on June 25, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Group E

Dutch Cruise As Japan Down Denmark

The Netherlands largely lived up to their pre-tournament billing as potential winners as they bagged a perfect three wins from three. At the other end of the scale, Cameroon’s less than indomitable lions failed to snag a point, while Japan came out on top in their winner takes all showdown with Denmark in the final fixture.

The Dutch have a frightening array of attacking talent to choose from

Strolling home in first place with all the laid back calm of an Amsterdam cafe owner, Holland will be absolutely delighted with how things have worked out. The Danes really put it up to them in the first match, before finally crumbling in the second half, before a hard-fought win over the plucky Japanese confirmed their passage to the second round. A point was needed against Cameroon to confirm top spot (and the favourable side of the draw), and despite conceding their first goal from the penalty spot, some Robben magic eased them to their third win on the bounce.

They now face the limited Slovakians, and will be confident of a quarter final appearance. If Robben can stay fit, they are a ferocious prospect going forward. Attacking options like Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar are up there with the very best. Van Persie and Huntelaar both found the target against Cameroon after being set up by van der Vaart and Robben. Following hot on the heels of Sneijder’s two man of the match efforts in the opening games, they look in ominously good nick. Read the rest of this entry »

World Cup Round Up: Groups C and D

In Football on June 24, 2010 at 12:37 am

Group C

England Toil As USA Top The Group

England came into the tournament as one of the favourites, but nearly slunk out before the knockout stages as key players failed to fire. Continuing the theme of the Group stages so far, this one also went down to the wire. Slovenia were through when the final whistle went at Soccer City, but an injury time strike from Landon Donovan sent the Americans into the second round as group winners.

The USA deserve enormous credit for toughing their way out of this group, coming from behind to sneak points against both England and Slovenia, before finally breaking the deadlock in an incredible game against Algeria. They don’t have too many household names, but they play as a team, and have the self belief and will to win that characterises American sportsmen. In the words of captain Landon Donovan, “We are Americans. We get on with it, we don’t complain”.

USA celebrate their late winner against Algeria

Their mentality is admirable, and they will fancy their chances of advancing to the quarter final at the expense of Ghana.

The Americans are at their best when bombing forward, as they were forced to do in throwing caution to the wind in all three group games. Scoring four goals and creating a host of chances bodes well for their chances of breaking down the solid Ghanaian back four. They need to be alert though, because the Africans love to play a counter-attacking game. Should they commit too many men forward, they may well regret it. The movement and link up play between Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Donovan will be their best chance of getting on the scoresheet, but Onyewu will need to make sure his defence stay on top of Asamoah Gyan.

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World Cup Round Up: Groups A and B

In Football on June 23, 2010 at 12:40 am

Group A

French Farce Opens The Door For Uruguay

Irish bile was rising ever since Thierry Henry left them with nothing to do for the Summer but bombard phone-in shows with their righteous self regard, and set up Facebook groups demanding inclusion as a ‘33rd team’. But all those bitter prayers paid off as the French collapsed in a quite astonishing manner, leaving the path clear for Uruguay and Mexico to advance.

Luis Suarez nets the winner against Mexico

First of all, praise must go to Uruguay. The South Americans deservedly topped the group by a clear three points, and they had to do it the hard way by taking on the 2006 finalists when they were still in relatively good health. That 0-0 draw may have been the first match that sparked the usual World Cup doomsayers into action, but they repaid their debt in full by spanking South Africa 3-0 in their own backyard and pipping the Mexicans in an entertaining final game. Luis Suarez finally got himself on the scoresheet in that game, after Diego Forlan had sparked their bid into life with a virtuoso display against the hosts. With Edison Cavani  slowly finding his feet aswell, they have the firepower to make a real dent in the competition.

This lively strikeforce may be getting the headlines, but their backline has quietly amassed three clean sheets to kick off the tournament. Captain Diego Lugano had some awkward moments against France, but has dug in and is now a rock at the back. Partnered by the younger Diego Godin for the first two games, and Mauricio Victorino for the Mexican showdown, the backline holds the key for this side. If they can keep it tight at the back, they will have a chance against anyone.

They dominated the midfield against Mexico, and if they can do the same against the South Koreans then a quarter final spot should be well within their scope. Read the rest of this entry »