Claudio Ranieri’s Roma haven’t exactly set Serie A on fire this year, escaping from a tough group can they escape their league inconsistency and find success in Europe. Stuart Harper from trequartista.net is the man to answer that question.

Wednesday sees Roma host Shakhtar Donetsk in round sixteen of the Champions League. Despite the Ukrainian outfit making their first ever appearance in the knockout stages, it is pure folly to assume that the Italians will inevitably progress against Mircea Lucescu’s ‘pitmen’.

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A meeting between two of the best footballing sides in the world, a mouthwatering match-up so let our guest writers talk you through it. In the red corner is award winning writer Sian Ranscombe her blog “From a girl who loves the Gunners” is superb. And she hopes her team can follow in her trophy winning ways.

Up until a few weeks ago, I think both neutrals and fans were largely assuming this tie would be a one-way battle won easily by Barcelona. Arsenal have been inconsistent this season and if they can drop points to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, and let leads slip as easily as they have done, what chance do they stand against the mighty Barcelona?

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After yesterday’s great games setting up the great Quarter Final of Germany v Argentina I started today hoping that the games today would set up another great Quarter Final and Netherlands v Brazil, standing in that way were the shock nation Slovakia and the very entertaining Chile.

NETHERLANDS

2

 

SLOVAKIA

1

Arjen ROBBEN (18′)     Robert VITTEK (90+4′)  
Wesley SNEIJDER (84′)        
         
1.Maarten STEKELENBERG – Y     1.Jan MUCHA  
2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL     2.Peter PEKARIK  
3.John HEITINGA     3.Martin SKRTEL – Y  
4.Joris MATHIJSEN     5.Radoslav ZABAVNIK OUT – 88
5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST     7.Vladimir WEISS  
6.Mark VAN BOMMEL     11.Robert VITTEK  
7.Dirk KUYT     15.Miroslav STOCH  
8.Nigel DE JONG     16.Jan DURICA  
9.Robin VAN PERSIE OUT – 80   17.Marek HAMSIK – C OUT – 87
10.Wesley SNEIJDER OUT – 92   18.Erik JENDRISEK OUT – 71
11.Arjen ROBBEN – Y OUT – 71   19.Juraj KUCKA – Y  
         
Subs     Subs  
17.Eljero ELIA IN – 71   10.Marek SAPARA IN – 87
20.Ibrahim AFELLAY IN – 92   14.Martin JAKUBKO IN – 88
21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR IN – 80   20.Kamil KOPUNEK – Y IN – 71

MY THOUGHTS

Arjen Robben made his comeback and gave a whole new balance to the side, giving the width that van der Vaart just doesn’t provide, and he completely terrorised the Slovak defence breaking down the right cutting inside and firing the ball low past Mucha in the Slovakian net. Robben was superb looked very fit and sharp, Sneijder also played well, trying to always stay open and controlling the play.

Heitinga and Mathijsen were caught out of position a few times today, Vittek had a chance to equalise in the second half, but he could only fire his shot straight at Stekelenberg, he should have done better, any attempt to place it, would have brought the scores level. Questions had been asked over the Dutch defence before the tournament and this was the first time they had been tested.

I feared the worst for Slovakia before the game and they proved me wrong and played pretty well, Weiss and Stoch cause problems down the channels always looking to find Vittek with the final ball, Slovakia could have easily have brought the scores level, until that is Holland got their second, Mucha charged out, Kuyt beat him to the ball, he then squared it to Sneijder and he made it 2-0 and the game was safe.

Vittek eventually got his goal, Stekelenberg brought down Jakubko inside the box, Vittek picked up the ball put it on the spot and with the last kick of the game he made it 2-1 and got his 4th goal of the World Cup.

Slovakia will leave the World Cup knowing they have exceeded their own expectations, and you can’t ask anymore from a team than that.

BRAZIL

3

 

CHILE

0

JUAN (35′)        
LUIS FABIANO (38′)        
ROBINHO (59′)        
         
1.Julio CESAR     1.Claudio BRAVO  
2.MAICON     2.Ismael FUENTES – Y  
3.LUCIO – C     4.Mauricio ISLA OUT- 62
4.JUAN     5.Pablo CONTRERAS OUT – 46
6.Michel BASTOS     6.Carlos CARMONA  
8.Gilberto SILVA     7.Alexis SANCHEZ  
9.Luis FABIANO OUT – 76   8.Arturo VIDAL – Y  
10.KAKA – Y OUT – 81   9.Humberto SUAZO  
11.ROBINHO OUT – 85   11.Mark GONZALEZ OUT – 46
13.Dani ALVES     15.Jean BEAUSEJOUR  
18.RAMIRES – Y     18.Gonzalo JARA  
         
Subs     Subs  
16.GILBERTO IN – 85   10.Jorge VALDIVIA IN – 46
20.KLEBERSON IN – 81   20.Rodrigo MILLAR – Y IN – 62
21.NILMAR IN – 76   21.Rodrigo TELLO IN – 46

MY THOUGHTS

A commanding performance from Brazil, although Chile started the better team, they never really tested Julio Cesar, along with Lucio and Juan putting in imperious performances it never looked any more than a stroll from the Samba boys. Kaka looked more like the player we know and love, making some nice runs, setting up Fabiano from the goal, with every match he looks sharper.

Robinho is playing very well so far, linking with Fabiano and Kaka so well, his goal was set up after a powerful run by Felipe Melo replacement Ramires, a very strong powerful players, he danced through 5 Chile players layed the ball off to Robinho and he curled it past Bravo, this was the cherry on the cake, at the bottom of the cake was Communication and discline first and a great header from Juan got them on their way.

Alves did a good job filling in for Elano although not as creative, he filled in well for Maicon and fought hard in the middle of the pitch.

Chile tried to play their attractive football and for all they have twisted and turned and dazzles us, I just wonder if they have a finishing product a cutting edge, only 2 goals in this World Cup is not good enough for an all out attacking team. Again Beausejour and Sanchez showed nice glimpses, Suazo was very ineffective not the same player of the qualifying process.

They picked up fans on the way through this tournament however on the grand scheme of things it was just a step to far to think they could beat Brazil in this form, it will take a good team to put the Brazilians out, unfortunately for England the better team won.

QUARTER FINALS – NETHERLANDS v BRAZIL

What a match we have here, 5 times champions against the wannabes, my mind already casts back to the 5 goal thriller of 94 with Romario’s goal and the cradle celebration, then the penalty defeat for the Dutch in France 98, Taffarreal the hero, so many attacking players, 2 similar styles either it will cancel each other out or it will be a classic, I’m hoping for a 6-5.

Brazil just edge it.

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Day Two of the Last 16 and with three of the favourites playing, at least one of them was going out, but noone thought it would happen the way it did. Controversy in both games, Video technology would have completely changed the events of June 27th.

GERMANY

4

 

ENGLAND

1

Miroslav KLOSE (20′)     Matthew UPSON (37′)  
Lukas PODOLSKI (32′)        
Thomas MÜLLER (67′,70′)        
         
1.Manuel NEUER     1.David JAMES  
3.Arne FRIEDRICH – Y     2.Glen JOHNSON – Y OUT – 87
6.Sami KHEDIRA     3.Ashley COLE  
7.Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER     4.Steven GERRARD  
8.Mesut ÖZIL OUT – 83   6.John TERRY  
10.Lucas PODOLSKI     8.Frank LAMPARD  
11.Miroslav KLOSE OUT – 72   10.Wayne ROONEY  
13.Thomas MULLER OUT – 72   14.Gareth BARRY  
16.Philipp LAHM – C     15.Matthew UPSON  
17.Per MERTESACKER     16.James MILNER OUT – 64
20.Jerome BOATENG     19.Jermain DEFOE OUT – 71
         
Subs     Subs  
9.Stefan KIEßLING IN – 83   11.Joe COLE IN – 64
15.Piotr TROCHOWSKI IN -  72   17.Shaun WRIGHT-PHILLIPS IN – 87
23.Mario GOMEZ IN – 72   21.Emile HESKEY IN – 71

MY THOUGHTS

When this match was decided I had said, If England play 4-4-2 against Germany’s 4-2-3-1 then they would find it very hard to keep the ball in midfield and there would be space at the back, and this was one prediction I have got spot on.

3 of Germany’s 4 goals were scored from the fast break, exploiting the space in the wings overloading the English defence and using their pace, at times they ripped Upson & Co. apart.

The 4-1 scoreline in a way will water down the main talking point, at 2-1 Frank Lampard chipped the ball over Neuer’s head it hit the underside of the crossbar and I think the only people not to see it cross the line were the linesman and the referee, it was a foot over the line, and should have been the equaliser which would have changed the whole complexion of the game, the half time whistle seemed to stop England’s momentum and for me they never seemed to have the same drive in the second half after Lampard’s free kick smashed off the crossbar.

It was 2 goals in 3 minutes from Thomas Müller set up by Mesut Özil, both were superb the young turk cause so many problems finding space between the midfield and defence, then opening up gaps for his teammates, along with his goals it was Müller that set up Podolski for the second, the front four of Germany could have had 5 or 6 goals, David James coming to England’s aid on a few ocassions.

Question marks still hang over the heads of Mertesacker, Boateng and Arne Friedrich, in the air Mertesacker could not be beaten however when turned he finds it very hard to recover, players like Messi and Tevez will cause him problems, Boateng did a bad job in closing down James Milner, letting him cross balls in at will, Boateng is not a fullback and it really shows, I’m not sure Badstuber is a better option.

Not many England players to pick out for positive reasons, Lampard was the most effective that he’s been all World Cup, could easily have scored 2 goals, Milner delivered quite a few dangerous crosses, Defoe coming closest to converting them, David James the other England player to just about come out with pass marks, saves from Klose and Özil, should have been out faster for the first goal though.

Cole, Gerrard, Rooney, Barry and Upson had poor games, Upson was pulled out of position so many times by the German movement, Rooney as has been well documented played poor the whole tournament, bad touch, bad shooting even his movement was sub par.

Taking away all the controversy Germany were the better team and deserved to win, inflicting the worst defeat in a World Cup in England’s history.

ARGENTINA

3

 

MEXICO

1

Carlos TEVEZ (26′, 52′)     Javier HERNANDEZ (71′)  
Gonzalo HIGUAIN (33′)        
         
22.Sergio ROMERO     1.Oscar PEREZ  
2.Martin DEMICHELIS     2.Francisco RODRIGUEZ  
4.Nicolas BURDISSO     3.Carlos SALCIDO  
6.Gabriel HEINZE     4.Rafael MARQUEZ – C – Y  
7.Angel DI MARIA OUT – 79   5.Ricardo OSORIO  
9.Gonzalo HIGUAIN     6.Gerardo TORRADO  
10.Lionel MESSI     14.Javier HERNANDEZ  
11.Carlos TEVEZ OUT – 69   16.Efrain JUAREZ  
14.Javier MASCHERANO     17.Giovani DOS SANTOS  
15.Nicolas OTAMENDI     18.Andres GUARDADO OUT – 61
20.Maxi RODRIGUEZ OUT – 87   21.Adolfo BAUTISTA OUT – 46
         
Subs     Subs  
1.Diego POZO     7.Pablo BARRERA IN – 46
21.Mariano ANDUJAR     8.Israel CASTRO  
3.Clemente RODRIGUEZ     9.Guillermo FRANCO IN – 61
5.Marco BOLATTI     10.Cuauhtemoc BLANCO  
8.Juan VERON IN – 69   11.Carlos VELA  
12.Ariel GARCE     12.Paul AGUILAR  
13.Walter SAMUEL     13.Guillermo OCHOA  
16.Sergio AGUERO     15.Hector MORENO  
17.Jonas GUTIERREZ IN – 79   19.Jonny MAGALLON  
18.Martin PALERMO     20.Jorge TORRES  
19.Diego MILITO     22.Alberto MEDINA  
23.Javier PASTORE IN – 87   23.Luis MICHEL  

MY THOUGHTS

The second game of the day and FIFA would have been hoping for a quiet game with no controversy, not today Sepp.

After Mexico starting as the better team, Guardado came close and Salcido smashed the crossbar, I thought we could have been in for an upset. That was until the 26th minute, Messi played in Tevez his initial shot saved by Perez fell back to Messi he chiped it to Tevez and he headed it in, once we saw the replays it was clear Tevez was at least 2 yards offside, it got worse for Mexico as the teams were lining up for kickoff, the big screen showed the replay and all the Mexican players saw it, and quite rightly confronted the referee and linesman, they had also seen it, and looked embarrassed, of course there was nothing anyone could do now as the goal had been given, another massive call for video technology.

Things went from bad to worse for the Mexicans, Ricardo Osorio tried a little heel drag near his own box, mis controlled and Higuain was in on goal he rounded Perez and made no mistake with the finish, Mexico had gone from the better team to 2-0 down.

There was no way back from this, a Tevez wondergoal made it 3 and apart from Hernandez superb goal for Mexico Argentina never looked troubled again.

Otamendi looked loads more stable at right back than Jonas Gutierrez, Otamendi can also play at centre back so he knows how to cover the middle also, a solid performance. Higuain and Messi were very quiet, they never got many chances to trouble the Mexican defence, I only remember one run from Messi near the end of the match, but players can’t be brilliant all the time, and he has showed so far in this tournament that you need to respect his talent.

I can’t say it was a classic Argentina performance however it was a great victory and they roll on to the next round to face the Germans.

Mexico were very impressive and the much better footballing side in the whole match, sometimes decisions go against you that you can’t come back from and that was the case last night, Hernandez looks a good player Sir Alex has unearthed a gem there, along with dos Santos and the substitute Barrea they caused endless problems to Maradona’s men, I would have started Barrea he looked great against the French and Bautista was poor and was right to be taken off, Barrea looks to have bags of pace and the skill to match.

Shame for the Mexicans to go home, they have entertained us in South African and I hope they grow as a team for the future who knows what can happen in 4 years.

QUARTER FINAL – GERMANY v ARGENTINA

What a match this could be, Argentina weak down the flanks were Germany are so strong, you then have the midfield battles, Özil, Khedira and Schweinsteiger versus Messi, Mascherano and Rodriguez however I would not be surprised if Veron came back in, in a similar role to Schweinsteiger

I’m hoping for a thriller maybe a 5 goal thriller at that, it will not be boring.

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The start of the knockout stages and if the other games are to be as good as the two we had today then it shall be a great tournament, at stake for the teams today the knowledge that 1 of the 4 teams would be in the semi-finals on the 6th of June.

URUGUAY

2

 

KOREA REPUBLIC

1

Luis SUAREZ (8′, 80′)     LEE Chung Yong (68′)  
         
1.Fernando MUSLERA     18.JUNG Sung Ryong  
2.Diego LUGANO     4.CHO Yong Hyung – Y  
3.Diego GODIN OUT – 46   7.PARK Ji Sung  
4.Jorge FUCILE     8.KIM Jung Woo – Y  
7.Edinson CAVANI     10.PARK Chu Young  
9.Luis SUAREZ OUT – 84   12.LEE Young Pyo  
10.Diego FORLAN     13.KIM Jae Sung OUT – 61
11.Alvaro Pereira OUT – 74   14.LEE Jung Soo  
15.Diego PEREZ     16.KI Sung Yueng OUT – 85
16.Maximiliano PEREIRA     17.LEE Chung Yong  
17.Egidio AREVALO     22.CHA Du Ri – Y  
         
Subs     Subs  
6.Mauricio VICTORINO IN – 46   19.YEOM KI Hun IN – 85
14.Nicolas LODEIRO IN – 74   20.LEE Dong Gook IN – 61
20.Alvaro FERNANDEZ IN – 84      

MY THOUGHTS

This game for me went from really exciting to poor at times but after Korea equalised it perked back up, only for Luis Suarez to curl an absolute beauty into the top corner and Jung could do nothing to stop it, Korea were stunned and couldn’t do anything in the last 10 minutes to salvage the match.

Uruguay keeper Muslera went missing for the Korea goal, flapping wildly at a cross and Lee was there to head it into the net, so far Muslera had looked pretty solid but he was to blame for Uruguay losing their first goal of the tournament, Forlan has a quiet game for his high standards apart from the cross that Jung missed that led to Suarez first goal, he didn’t really create anything else, however he did work very hard, running over 10km in the match that’s 2.5km more than the Uruguay team ran in average, shows the strikers work rate for his country. Cavani also had a good game, wandering all over the pitch trying to find space to open up the Koreans, failed to get any attempts on goal, but it was his running and passing that created chances for Uruguay.

Korean were decent but nowhere near the performances against Greece and Nigeria, Ki Sung-Yueng again was the architect in the midfield most moves go through him and he linked up well with Park Ji-Sung and Park Cho-Young, Lee Chung-Yong was busy down the right providing a few great crosses there was just no quality in the final third and it was only a goalkeeping error that got them back in the match.

In the end the better team won, Suarez answering some critics about his goal scoring record, scoring one of the goals of the tournament.

USA

1

 

GHANA

2

Landon DONOVAN (62′ PEN)     Kevin Prince BOATENG (5′)  
      Asamoah GYAN (93′)  
         
1.Tim HOWARD     22.Richard KINGSON  
3.Carlos BOCANEGRA – C – Y     2.Hans SARPEI  
4.Michael BRADLEY     3.Asamoah GYAN  
6.Steve CHERUNDOLO – Y     4.John PANTSIL  
8.Clint DEMPSEY     5.John MENSAH  
10.Landon DONOVAN     6.Anthony ANNAN  
12.Jonathan BORNSTEIN     7.Samuel INKOOM  
13.Ricardo CLARK – Y OUT – 31   8.JONATHAN Mensah – Y  
15.Jay DeMERIT     13.Andre AYEW – Y  
17.Jozy ALTIDORE OUT – 91   21.Kwadwo ASAMOAH  
20.Robbie FINDLEY OUT – 46   23.Kevin Prince BOATENG  
         
Subs     Subs  
9.Herculez GOMEZ IN – 91   10.Stephen APPIAH IN – 78
19.Maurice EDU IN – 31   11.Sulley MUNTARI IN – 113
22.Benny FEILHABER IN – 46   19.Lee ADDY IN – 73

MY THOUGHTS

Africa will be smiling tonight, after a great start and a great goal from Boateng, Ghana were the better team in the first half, the second was all about the US, Bradley made changes and they cam out fighting and pulled it back with Donovan’s penalty, they couldn’t however capatilise on the pressure they applied, the game went to Extra-Time and looked set for penalties until Ayew played a high ball over the top Gyan raced onto it, rode a challenge from Bocanegra and smashed a volley past Howard and sent the whole continent into raptures.

Left back Sarpei was solid chasing up and down the flank and also helping in the middle, was also impressed by the Mensah dup at the back John and Jonathan a mixture of young and experienced and they good had a good game, young Jonathan has come into his own in this tournament, the older Mensah needs to not give the ball away so much.

The performances of the midfield and striker were fantastic, Boateng, Asamoah, Ayew and Gyan played at their best, all covering each other and also supporting Gyan upfront whenever they could, not afraid to take a shot or charge forward, they would have troubled any time with this performance, I need to single out Asamoah Gyan, he played his best game for me, it’s a tough job to play up on your own, looking at the game stats you can see how hard he worked, running over 12.5km the old cliché “worked his socks off” applies to Gyan, 7 shots on goal and 55 passes also showing he linked up well with the midfield two of the qualities you need when playing up on his own. Adding then to his great performance a wonder goal, chasing the ball over the top then did so well to hold off Bocanegra after a blatant shoulder barge then managed to set himself for a fantastic volley, Howard had no chance and wild celebrations followed.

Ghana will now play Uruguay in the Quarter-Finals and only a fool would write off Ghana’s chances, they will have a go at Uruguay probably more than anytime has so far in this tournament, Uruguay will start as favourites as they have only conceded 1 goal and impressed doing so.

A very close game for me, I think Uruguay will just sneak it, Extra-Time may be needed.

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