Another 4 games today and a bit of a shock, the reigning World Champions Italy are out, and 2 teams that failed to impress in their first game have advance, anything can happen at this World Cup.

SLOVAKIA

3

 

ITALY

2

Robert VITTEK (25′, 73′)     Antonio DI NATALE (81′)  
Kamil KOPUNEK (89′)     Fabio QUAGLIARELLA (90+2′)  
         
1.Jan MUCHA – Y     12.Federico MARCHETTI  
2.Peter PEKARIK – Y     3.Domenico CRISCITO OUT – 46
3.Martin SKRTEL     4.Giorgio CHIELLINI – Y  
5.Radoslav ZABAVNIK     5.Fabio CANNAVARO – C – Y  
6.Zdenko STRBA – Y OUT – 87   6.Daniele DE ROSSI  
11.Robert VITTEK – Y OUT – 92   7.Simone PEPE – Y  
15.Miroslav STOCH     8.Gennaro GATTUSO OUT – 46
16.Jan DURICA     9.Vincenzo IAQUINTA  
17.Marek HAMSIK – C     10.Antonio DI NATALE  
18.Erik JENDRISEK OUT – 94   19.Gianluca ZAMBROTTA  
19.Juraj KUCKA     22.Riccardo MONTOLIVO OUT – 56
         
Subs     Subs  
9.Stanislav SESTAK IN – 92   2.Christian MAGGIO IN – 46
20.Kamil KOPUNEK IN – 87   18.Fabio QUAGLIARELLA – Y IN – 46
22.Martin PETRAS IN – 94   21.Andrea PIRLO IN – 56

MY THOUGHTS

What a game this was Slovakia started well showing more pace to their passing than the first two games, and a bit of purpose to their play, Italy started poor, bad touches, wayward passes, looked a poor Italian side compared to sides of the past, and Slovakia took the lead a nice slide rule pass from Strba into Vittek and big Bob placed it in the only place Marchetti couldn’t save it, a dream start for Vladimir Weiss’s men.

Di Natale had a great chance to level it before half time but his shot was skewed wide, Lippi made changes Zambrotta and Quagiarella coming on and they made a impact, italy came out all guns blazing but couldn’t penetrate the Slovakia back line, Skrtel had a great game, entipified by his clearance of the line denying Italy a route back into the game, and then it was 2-0 a low cross from the right was turned in by Vittek for his 2rd of the tournament, Italian defenders slow to react to the danger and the big man put his country one step closer to the Last 16, Vittek was superb leading the line on his own helped out by Hamsik behind him and Stoch out wide.

With 35 minutes left Lippi played his last card, the mecurial Andrea Pirlo entered the game trying to find that killer pass and he improved the team with his range of passing, however it was Quagiarella that opened up the Slovaks his run from deep then the flick from Iaquinta put him in on goal, Mucha saved his shot but the rebound fell to Di Natale and he made no mistake. The Italians back in the game, and it should have got better, Pepe’s cross from the left was met by Quagiarella and he turned it past Mucha, the linesman had his flag up, Offside, I don’t agree, the rule states if you have any part of your body that can play the ball ahead of the defender your offside, to me Skrtel’s leg is behind Quagiarella’s header, the goal should have stood.

Slovakia then killed the game off, substitute Kopunek just on, ran from deep and caught the defence sleeping he met the throw in and placed it over Marchetti’s head a great finish for your first touch in a World Cup, the Slovak fans went mental, it wasn’t over though.

With 3 mintues another lifeline for the Italians the really impressive Quagiarella picked the ball up on the edge of the box and placed a delightful chip into the top corner over Mucha’s head a great goal, and begs the question why didn’t the Napoli striker appear earlier in this group he had a drive and a purpose and that touch of Italian class missing from the side, 3-2 and into injury time, would the reigning Champions get another chance.

Yes they would and it fell to Pepe, the ball came over from the right and Pepe who started on the right found space at the back post, he attacked the ball with his right foot and the great chance was lost as the ball went wide, surely if he had taken it with his left the Italians would have qualified, he didn’t and they have finished bottom of the group, a nightmare World Cup and proves the point….You never go back!!!

Slovakia will take on the Netherlands in the last 16, after watching the first 2 games you wouldn’t give them a chance, after watching this game, you never know what can happen.

PARAGUAY

0  

NEW ZEALAND

0
         
1.Justo VILLAR     1.Mark PASTON  
3.Claudio MOREL     3.Tony LOCHHEAD  
4.Denis CANIZA     4.Winston REID  
5.Julio Cesar CACERES     5.Ivan VICELICH  
7.Oscar CARDOZO OUT – 66   6.Ryan NELSEN  
9.Roque SANTA CRUZ – Y     7.Simon ELLIOT  
13.Enrique VERA     9.Shane SMELTZ  
14.Paulo DA SILVA     10.Chris KILLEN OUT – 79
15.Victor CACERES – Y     11.Leo BERTOS  
16.Cristian RIVEROS     14.Rory FALLON OUT – 69
18.Nelson VALDEZ OUT – 67   19.Tommy SMITH  
         
Subs     Subs  
19.Lucas BARRIOS IN – 66   20.Chris WOOD IN – 69
10.Edgar BENITEZ IN – 67   22.Jeremy BROCKIE IN – 79

MY THOUGHTS

Just watched the extended highlights of this game, didn’t seem the best game ever Paraguay doing enough to qualify, they were definitely the better team over the 90minutes, 35 year odl fullback Dennis Caniza seemed on a personal mission to score for his country firing 3 or 4 shots close to the top corner, New Zealand did a good defensively, limiting Paraguay to shots from long range, and with the struggles teams have had with the Jabulani ball that’s not a bad plan.

Riveros managed to flick a header towards goal in the second half that Mark Paston had to be lively to palm away, I have been impressed with Paston, not the first choice keeper, but he has shown to be very capable and a good shot stopper the Wellington Phoenix player although he’s 33 he might be watched by a few British teams.

I was disappointed with Oscar Cardozo, getting the start ahead of Lucas Barrios and from what they showed it looked like he didn’t get very involved, looks like he is still short of match fitness and that will be why Martino gave him the minutes, I will hope he shows more in the knockout phase.

New Zealand can go home with their heads held high after 3 games 3 points, much better than anyone had predicted, and only 1 goal away from going to the last 16, Paraguay move on to face Japan, which would see either team make it to the Quarter-Finals for the first time, lots to play for there.

DENMARK

1

 

JAPAN

3

Jon Dahl TOMASSON (81′)     Keisuke HONDA (17′)  
      Yashuito ENDO (30′)  
      Shinji OKAZAKI (87′)  
         
1.Thomas SORENSEN     1.Eiji KAWASHIMA  
2.Christian POULSEN – Y     2.Yuki ABE  
4.Daniel AGGER     3.Yuichi KOMANO  
6.Lars JACOBSEN     4.Marcus Tulio TANAKA  
9.Jon Dahl TOMASSON – C     5.Yuto NAGATOMO – Y  
10.Martin JORGENSEN OUT – 34   7.Yasuhito ENDO – Y OUT – 91
11.Nicklas BENDTNER – Y     8.Daisuke MATSUI OUT – 74
12.Thomas KAHLENBERG OUT – 63   16.Yoshito OKUBO OUT – 88
13.Per KROLDRUP – Y OUT – 56   17.Makoto HASEBE ©  
15.Simon POULSEN     18.Keisuke HONDA  
19.Dennis ROMMEDAHL     22.Yuji NAKAZAWA  
         
Subs     Subs  
14.Jakob POULSEN IN – 34   9.Shinji OKAZAKI IN – 74
18.Soren LARSEN IN – 56   15.Yasuyuki KONNO IN – 88
21.Christian ERIKSEN IN – 63   20.Junichi INAMOTO IN – 91

MY THOUGHTS

I choose this game to watch over Netherlands v Cameroon as I love a situation when both teams in the same game can seal their own fate, and that’s what we had, Japan v Denmark, winner takes it all.

Both teams started well, cagey but at the same time quite open, Japan took the game to the Danes Matsui and Hasebe creating half chances Hasebe’s shot narrowly going wide, Japan’s midfield has been superb this tournament Hasebe, Endo and Matsui working very hard but also have that creative edge you need to back up the talents of Honda, Okubo and Okazaki, and it was Honda that opened the scoring and in some style, a free kick 30 yards out, looked to far out to have a try, Keisuke Honda had different ideas, he smashed the ball into the far corner some movement on the ball but Sorensen should have done better, but no doubt a quality free-kick from the CSKA Moscow man.

13 minutes later Japan won another free-kick and Honda stood over it with Endo, everyones money on Honda having another go, with all eyes on Honday, Sorensen could only watch as Endo curled the ball round the wall and past the Stoke keeper into a dream 2-0 lead. Been really impressed with Endo midfield qualties nice to see him showing a danger from set-pieces too.

Japan were in control and heading the second round, Denmark needing something to spark them into action, help cam in the form of 19-year old midfielder Christian Eriksen, showing sme industry in the midfield he had a shot sail narrowly over the bar, the lifeline came with 9 minutes to go Hasebe bundled into the back of Agger and the referee pointed to the spot, Jon Dahl Tomasson stepped up trying to equal a record 52 goals for his country, poor penalty saved by Kawashima the ball rolled back to Tomasson and his second attempt although unconvincing just made it into the net.

The come back was short lived though, the superb Honda danced into the box, a superb turn past the defender, he then slipped the ball to Okazaki and he tapped it into the empty net, sealed Japan’s qualification and sent the Samirai Blue fans into delirium.

Japan will face Paraguay in the 2nd round and you would have to say they have a chance to make the quarters if they perform like todays match, Honda the man to stop.

CAMEROON

1

 

NETHERLANDS

2

Samuel ETO’O (65′ PEN)     Robin VAN PERSIE (36′)  
      Klass Jan HUNTELAAR (83′)  
         
16.Hamidou SOULEYMANOU     1.Maarten STEKELENBERG  
2.Benoit ASSOU-EKOTTO     3.John HEITINGA  
3.Nicolas N’KOULOU – Y OUT – 73   4.Joris MATHIJSEN  
7.Landry N’GUEMO     5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST – C – Y  
8.GEREMI     6.Mark VAN BOMMEL  
9.Samuel ETO’O     7.Dirk KUYT – Y OUT – 66
11.Jean MAKOUN     8.Nigel DE JONG  
12.Gaetan BONG OUT- 56   9.Robin VAN PERSIE OUT – 59
13.Eric CHOUPO-MOTING OUT – 72   10.Wesley SNEIJDER  
14.Aurelien CHEDJOU     12.Khalid BOULAHROUZ  
19.Stephane M’BIA – Y     23.Rafael VAN DER VAART – Y OUT – 73
         
Subs     Subs  
4.Rigobert SONG IN – 73   11.Arjen ROBBEN IN – 73
17.Mohamadou IDRISSOU IN – 72   17.Eljero ELIA IN – 66
23.Vicent ABOUBAKAR IN – 56   21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR IN – 59

MY THOUGHTS

I have not had chance to watch the Holland v Cameroon highlights yet, and my system at work can’t play videos from BBC website which is highly annoying, good victory for Netherlands and they progress with a 100% record and win the group, I will add some more thoughts later when I see the game.

They will play Slovakia in the 2nd round, and they are heavy favourites to progress from that, is this Hollands year to finally win the biggest prize?

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Day Four will not go down as a classic in World Cup history however 6 teams got their tournament under way and I’m not sure many people would have predicted the outcomes, the much anticipated Dutch started off with a 2-0 win, but didn’t play anywhere near their famed “Total Football”, Japan then shocked Africa by beating Cameroon 1-0, some strange tactics from Paul Le Guen that I will get back to later, then Italy struggled againt Paraguay, the South Americans are my dark horses and I was happy they held onto the draw.  

NETHERLANDS

2

 

DENMARK

0

         
Daniel AGER (46′ OG)        
Dirk KUYT (85′)        
         
         
1.Maarten STEKELENBERG     1.Thomas SORENSEN  
2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL     2.Christian POULSEN  
3.John HEITINGA     3.Simon KJAER  
4.Joris MATHIJSEN     4.Daniel AGGER  
5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST   6.Lars JACOBSEN  
6.Mark VAN BOMMEL     10.Martin JORGENSEN  
7.Dirk KUYT     11.Nicolas BENDTNER OUT – 62
8.Nigel DE JONG OUT – 88   12.Thomas KAHLENBERG OUT – 73
9.Robin VAN PERSIE OUT – 77   15.Simon POULSEN  
10.Wesley SNEIJDER     19.Dennis ROMMEDAHL  
23.Rafael VAN DER VAART OUT – 67   20.Thomas ENEVOLDSEN OUT – 56
         
Subs     Subs  
16.Michel VORM     16.Stephan ANDERSEN  
22.Sander BOSCHKER     12.Jesper CHRISTIANSEN  
11.Arjen ROBBEN     5.William KVIST  
12.Khalid BOULAHROUZ     7.Daniel JENSEN  
13.Andre OOIJER     8.Jesper GRONKJAER IN – 56
14.Demy DE ZEEUW IN – 88   9.Jon Dahl TOMASSON  
15.Edson BRAAFHEID     13.Per KROLDRUP  
17.Eljero ELIA IN – 67   14.Jakob POULSEN  
18.Stijn SCHAARS     17.Mikkel BECKMANN IN – 62
19.Ryan BABEL     18.Soren LARSEN  
20.Ibrahim AFELLAY IN – 77   21.Christian ERIKSEN IN – 73
21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR     23.Patrick MTILIGA  

 MY THOUGHTS:

A decent performance from the Dutch,a few good performances, tactical wise it just didn’t work havng van der Vaart and Sneijder in the same team,not width or pace down the left, both trying to play down the middle and without Kuyt giving natural width the Dutch played really narrow, a few times van der Wiel got down the right and cause some problems, de Jong was very lucky not to get sent off, quite a few bad tackles, van Persie suffered with the lack of service, they came to life when Elia came on giving natural width and his skill and electrifying pace terrorised the Danes, latching onto a pass from Sneijder he was unlucky to score himself but Kuyt was there to finish it off.

I would not be surprised if in the next game if Robben is still not fit Eljero Elia would start, I would if I was van Marwijk, the duo of Sneijder and van der Vaart just doesn’t work, kinda like Gerrard and Lampard for England.

The Danes started very well, defending well and hitting on the counter attack, Bendtner had a great chance to score with a header at the back post, Jorgensen and Rommedahl played well, maybe just a little old to really trouble the Dutch back line, they were dealt a major blow losing the goal so early, if they had kept a clean sheet for 10/15 minutes who knows what could have happened, they played well enough to show they can still com 2nd in the group, but they will need to execute a lot better.  

 

JAPAN

1

 

CAMEROON

0

         
Keisuke HONDA (39′)        
         
         
1.Eiji KAWASHIMA     16.Hamidou SOULEYMANOU  
2.Yuki ABE     2.Benoit ASSOU-EKOTTO  
3.Yuichi KOMANO     3.Nicolas N’KOULOU  
4.Marcus Tulio TANAKA     5.Sebastien BASSONG  
5.Yuto NAGATOMO     9.Samuel ETO’O  
7.Yasuhito ENDO     11.Jean MAKOUN OUT – 75
8.Daisuke MATSUI OUT – 69   13.Eric CHOUPO-MOTING OUT – 75
16.Yoshito OKUBO OUT – 82   15.Pierre WEBO  
17.Makoto HASEBE – C OUT – 88   18.Eyong ENOH  
18.Keisuke HONDA     19.Stephane M’BIA  
22.Yuji NAKAZAWA     21.Joel MATIP OUT – 63
         
Subs     Subs  
1.Seigo NARAZAKI     1.Idriss KAMENI  
23.Yoshikatsu KAWAGUCHI     22.Guy N’DY  
6.Atsuto UCHIDA     4.Rigobert SONG  
9.Shinji OKAZAKI IN – 69   6.Alexander SONG  
10.Shunsuke NAKAMURA     7.Landry N’GUEMO  
11.Keiji TAMADA     8.GEREMI IN – 75
12.Kisho YANO IN – 82   10.Achille EMANA IN – 63
13.Daiki IWAMASA     12.Gaetan BONG  
14.Kengo NAKAMURA     14.Aurelien CHEDJOU  
15.Yasuyuki KONNO     17.Mohamadou IDRISSOU IN – 75
19.Takayuki MORIMOTO     20.Georges MANDJECK  
20.Junichi INAMOTO IN – 88   23.Vicent ABOUBAKAR  

MY THOUGHTS:

A truly uninspiring game, I expected so much more from Cameroon, how you can play Samuel Eto’o on the right wing and not in the middle where he is one of the most dangerous players in the game, plus the inexperience of Matip and Choupo-Moting and not selecting Emana or Alexander Song surprised me.

Cameroon lacked any creativity and never really got going till late in the second half, they moved Jean Makoun to the middle and he controlled the play and was beind the chances they created, for me Le Guen got his team all wrong, of course I don’t know the ins and outs of the squad’s chemistry, but I’m sure I could have picked a better XI for this game.

Japan on the other hand will be estatic, against the run of the play, Matsui crossed in a great ball and everyone missed it except Honda who controlled it well and finished calmly, Endo has a good game playing very well in the middle of midfield, Honda was dangerous the whole game, he is the star player in the Japanese team, he has a good footballing brain, moves well, and also got an eye for goal, Okobu worked very had the whole game and ran himself ragged until he was replaced by Yano and although he didn’t sure he helped his team with all his hard work.

ITALY

1

 

PARAGUAY

1

         
Daniele DE ROSSI (63′)     Antolin ALCARAZ (39′)  
         
         
1.Gianluigi BUFFON OUT – 46   1.Justo VILLAR  
3.Domenico CRISCITO     3.Claudio MOREL  
4.Giorgio CHIELLINI     6.Carlos BONET  
5.Fabio CANNAVARO     13.Enrique VERA  
6.Daniele DE ROSSI     14.Paulo DA SILVA  
7.Simone PEPE     15.Victor CACERES  
9.Vincenzo IAQUINTA     16.Cristian RIVEROS  
11.Alberto GILARDINO OUT – 72   17.Aureliano TORRES OUT – 60
15.Claudio MARCHISIO OUT – 59   18.Nelson VALDEZ OUT – 68
19.Gianluca ZAMBROTTA     19.Lucas BARRIOS OUT – 76
22.Riccardo MONTOLIVO     21.Antolin ALCARAZ  
         
Subs     Subs  
12.Federico MARCHETTI IN – 46   12.Diego BARRETO  
14.Morgan DE SANCTIS     22.Aldo BOBADILLA  
2.Christian MAGGIO     2.Dario VERON  
8.Gennaro GATTUSO     4.Denis CANIZA  
10.Antonio DI NATALE IN – 72   5.Julio Cesar CACERES  
13.Salvatore BOCCHETTI     7.Oscar CARDOZO IN – 76
16.Mauro CAMORANESI IN – 59   8.Edgar BARRETO  
17.Angelo PALOMBO     9.Roque SANTA CRUZ IN – 68
18.Fabio QUAGLIARELLA     10.Edgar BENITEZ  
20.Giampaolo PAZZINI     11.Jonathan SANTANA IN – 60
21.Andrea PIRLO     20.Nestor ORTIGOZA  
23.Leonardo BONUCCI     23.Rodolfo GAMARRA  

MY THOUGHTS:

The top two teams in Group F meet in a rainy night in Cape Town, noone has been picking the Italians as potential winners and from tonights game you can see why, usually slow starters, but this was really slow, Paraguay played well with their 2 banks of 4 defending well and no often did the Italians get in-behind them, the 4-3-3 lacked creativity without Pirlo, when they switched to 4-4-2 with Camoranesi on the right and Pepe on the left they created more problems, and apart from some good defending by Paraguay Italy would probably scored a 2nd.

Pepe impressed me in the second half throwing in lots of good crosses, Montolivo played well in the 4-4-2 he seemed more comfortable, as did Iaquinta when he moved to the middle and not on the left wing, with the players they had in the team tonight 4-4-2 suited their styles more.

Paraguay did well, played to their gameplan, smoother the Italians play and hit on the counter attack, and it worked until De Rossi’s 63rd minute goal, Paolo da Silva had a fantastic match nothing got by him and he was a man-mountain along with Alcaraz they deserved a clean sheet, Barrios and Valdez up front ran the channels all game doing their best to provide an outlet ball, they didn’t get many goal scoring chances but they worked their socks off.

Paraguay will qualify to the last 16 I believe although Slovakia could be dangerous, it will take a good team that breaches Paraguays defence, and it will take a solid defence that’s not breached by Barrios and Valdez.

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