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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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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Well 3 good games today, Dark horses Paraguay strengthened their position, Underdogs New Zealand achieved one of the greatest moments in World Cup history, and Brazil tamed Les Elephants and sent out a message, but the day will be overshadowed but the cheat that is Kader Keita, used to like him as a player at Lille, but moments like that need to be stamped out of football, if FIFA do not do the right thing and ban Keita and let Kaka play the organisation as usual will look like a joke, now back to the games.

SLOVAKIA

0

 

PARAGUAY

2

      Enrique VERA (27′)  
      Cristian RIVEROS (86′)  
         
1.Jan MUCHA     1.Justo VILLAR  
2.Peter PEKARIK     3.Claudio MOREL  
3.Martin SKRTEL     6.Carlos BONET  
6.Zdenko STRBA     9.Roque SANTA CRUZ  
7.Vladimir WEISS – Y     13.Enrique VERA – Y OUT – 88
8.Jan KOZAK     14.Paulo DA SILVA  
9.Stanislav SESTAK – Y OUT – 70   15.Victor CACERES  
11.Robert VITTEK     16.Cristian RIVEROS  
16.Jan DURICA – Y     18.Nelson VALDEZ OUT – 68
17.Marek HAMSIK – C     19.Lucas BARRIOS OUT – 82
21.Kornel SALATA OUT – 83   21.Antolin ALCARAZ  
         
Subs     Subs  
13.Filip HOLOSKO IN – 70   17.Aureliano TORRES IN – 68
15.Miroslav STOCH IN – 83   7.Oscar CARDOZO IN – 82
      8.Edgar BARRETO IN – 88

MY THOUGHTS:

Not a bad game to kick off the day, Paraguay looked to get forward at all times, some nice play, loved the fullbacks bombing forward all game, Morel and Bonet worked very hard, never caught out of position and happy to join the attacks, the front three of Santa Cruz, Barrios and Valdez played well, Valdez worked extremely hard never giving the Slovakia defence any time on the ball, Barrios played the target man well, holding up the ball, setting up Vera for the first goal, Santa Cruz looked leggy at times for me, not fit surely, but looked at times to be getting it back, maybe he’ll be up to speed come the knockout stage, Alcaraz in defence was a rock in the back four, nothing got past him, good in the air and on the ground, it looks as if Wigan have found a gem, his partner da Silva although caught out in the air at times, nothing got passed him on the ground and it looks a comfortable duo, the midfield trio of Vera, Caceres and Riveros without having too much flair and creativity showed they work hard and will get forward if they see a gap, proved with Vera’s goal a lovely outside of the boot finish and Riveros shot from the edge of the box had power and accuracy.

Slovakia disappointed again, needing to win to have a chance they showed nothing of an attacking threat Hamsik had been pushed further forward but again he was ineffectual, this cut the supply to Sestak and Vittek, Weiss on the right shows he has pace and skill but doesn’t seem to know how to trouble the opposition, I have to say I was disappointed in Weiss Snr’s tactics in not attacking and then it got to a stage where they had no fight left, and only really troubled Paraguay for 5-10 minutes.

Paraguay have basically qualified for the last 16, and they look as if they still have extra gears to step into, Barrios has more to offer still, Cardozo for me should play instead of Santa Cruz as he is really dangerous, I wouldn’t want to play La Albirroja, Slovakia have a massive mountain to climb to reach the last 16 they need to beat Italy to have a chance, although Italy have not been fantastic they have not been beaten, I don’t fancy the Slovak’s chances.

ITALY

1

 

NEW ZEALAND

1

Vincenzo IAQUINTA (29′ PEN)     Shane SMELTZ (7′)  
         
12.Federico MARCHETTI     1.Mark PASTON  
3.Domenico CRISCITO     3.Tony LOCHHEAD  
4.Giorgio CHIELLINI     4.Winston REID  
5.Fabio CANNAVARO     5.Ivan VICELICH OUT – 81
6.Daniele DE ROSSI     6.Ryan NELSEN  
7.Simone PEPE OUT – 46   7.Simon ELLIOT  
9.Vincenzo IAQUINTA     9.Shane SMELTZ  
11.Alberto GILARDINO OUT – 46   10.Chris KILLEN OUT – 93
15.Claudio MARCHISIO OUT – 61   11.Leo BERTOS  
19.Gianluca ZAMBROTTA     14.Rory FALLON OUT – 63
22.Riccardo MONTOLIVO     19.Tommy SMITH  
         
Subs     Subs  
10.Antonio DI NATALE IN – 46   13.Andy BARRON IN – 93
16.Mauro CAMORANESI IN – 46   20.Chris WOOD IN – 63
20.Giampaolo PAZZINI IN – 61   21.Jeremy CHRISTIE IN – 81

MY THOUGHTS:

What a game, what a result for the All Whites, a great defensive performance for the boys from New Zealand, Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid and Tommy Smith were heroes this evening the Italians bombarded the All Whites goal but they held strong and with goalkeeper Mark Paston behind them they had a great evening, Bertos ran himself into the ground on the right hand side, Simon Elliott has the conductor in the middle and the brains of the operation. Fallon and Smeltz had a torrid time upfront wrestling with Chellini and Cannavaro a very physical confrontation and they gave as good as the got.

As soon as Italy went behind they picked up the pace and hounded the New Zealand, and probably deserved the equaliser, De Rossi’s shirt being tugged by Tommy Smith in the box and the referee pointed to the spot and Iaquinta made no mistake, however after this, I got a feeling from the Italians that they already thought they were winning, they took their foot off the pedal, Lippi brought on Di Natale and Camoranesi at half time, but they couldn’t find the opening, and apart from long distance shots they never got in behind the All Whites back-line, Gilardino had a shocking game and was hauled off at HT, Iaquinta was decent but couldn’t find an opening, I was surprised Camoranesi didn’t start and again he looked busy when he came on, Marchisio for the second game in a row did nothing, just doesn’t look good enough for me.

New Zealand will play Paraguay in the last game knowing a victory will put them through and in dream land, Paraguay probably the most impressive team in the group will be hard to break down, but no one’s writing off the All Whites, Italy need to beat Slovakia to secure progression and Slovakia will have to play 200 times better to trouble the Italians, and I would expect Lippi’s man to go through.

BRAZIL

3

 

IVORY COAST

1

LUIS FABIANO (25′, 50′)     Didier DROGBA (79′)  
ELANO (62′)        
         
1.Julio CESAR     1.Boubacar BARRY  
2.MAICON     4.Kolo TOURE  
3.LUCIO – C     5.Didier ZOKORA  
4.JUAN     8.Salomon KALOU OUT – 68
5.Felipe MELO     9.Cheik TIOTE – Y  
6.Michel BASTOS     11.Didier DROGBA  
7.ELANO OUT – 67   15.Aruna DINDANE OUT – 54
8.Gilberto SILVA     17.Saika TIENE – Y  
9.Luis FABIANO     19.Yaha TOURE  
10.KAKA – Y/R     20.Guy DEMEL  
11.ROBINHO OUT – 93   21.Emmanuel EBOUE OUT – 72
         
Subs     Subs  
13.Dani ALVES IN – 67   10.GERVINHO IN – 54
18.RAMIRES IN – 93   18.Kader KEITA IN – 68
      13.ROMARIC IN – 72

MY THOUGHTS:

Apart from Luis Fabiano’s goal the first half I thought was awful, Ivory Coast showing nothing of an attacking threat Drogba becoming frustrated, even BBC’s highlights showed 2 clips from the first half. Now he second half had so many talking points, I will not be mentioning the cheat though. Brazil seemed to settle down passing the ball around with control and poise, Luis Fabiano’s second goal although it was hand ball it was a great moment flicked over 2 defenders and fired past Barry, some of the passing moves were breathtaking, and they are warming up nicely.

Robinho was quieter tonight than against Korea, Kaka in the second half got some of his sharpness back, setting up Elano for the third, the defensive duo of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo were so good, bossing the midfield like experts never looking stretched allowing the free flowing football to open up the Cote D’Ivoire, Luis Fabiano played a good game, playing as the big target man that he didn’t do in the first game and deserved his 2 goals, Maicon has been Brazil’s best player so far, charging down the right, his desire to run at every moment helps Brazil open up the defence.

Brazil have now qualified for the Last 16 and they have lots more to show, another 2 gears perhaps, and I would want to avoid them, problems for Dunga, Elano went off injured, not sure how bad the injury was and if Kaka’s red doesn’t get rescinded, that’s 2 of his midfield gone, this is the kind of Plan B the fans wanted Ronaldinho in the squad for.

Les Elephants were poor this evening, Eriksson brought Drogba in and left off the best player from the first game Gervinho, and they never got going until the 2nd half when Gervinho came on, his willingness to attack defenders at pace cause some problems for the Brazilians and it was his breakaway run then led to Drogba’s goal he laid the ball back the cross came in and Drogba’s run was timed to perfection and he headed what could be an important goal for the Ivory Coast.

Not many more performances to talk about, Drogba was frustrated, Tiene was not as effective on the left, Kalou and Dindane didn’t add anything, Like Capello Sven Goran Eriksson’s substitutions left a lot to be desired, mostly like for like, never at anytime did they show a belief that they could win it and they will need to buck up their ideas when they take on the hardworking Koreans in the last group game.

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Group G was the focus today Ivory Coast v Portugal and Brazil v North Korea and the day was started with New Zealand v Slovakia, a few of the worlds best players on view today with mixed results and there was one team that stole the show but went away empty handed.

NEW ZEALAND

1

 

SLOVAKIA

1

         
Winston REID (90′ + 3)     Robert VITTEK (50′)  
         
         
1.Mark PASTON     1.Jan MUCHA  
3.Tony LOCHHEAD - Y     3.Martin SKRTEL  
4.Winston REID – Y     4.Marek CECH  
5.Ivan VICELICH OUT – 78   5.Radoslav ZABAVNIK  
6.Ryan NELSEN     6.Zdenko STRBA - Y  
7.Simon ELLIOT     7.Vladimir WEISS OUT – 91
9.Shane SMELTZ     9.Stanislav SESTAK OUT – 81
10.Chris KILLEN OUT – 72   11.Robert VITTEK OUT – 84
11.Leo BERTOS     16.Jan DURICA  
14.Rory FALLON     17.Marek HAMSIK – C  
19.Tommy SMITH     18.Erik JENDRISEK  
         
Subs     Subs  
23.James BANNATYNE     12.Dusan PERNIS  
12.Glen MOSS – INJ     23.Dusan KUCIAK  
2.Ben SIGMUND     2.Peter PEKARIK  
8.Tim BROWN     8.Jan KOZAK  
13.Andy BARRON     10.Marek SAPARA  
15.Michael McGLINCHEY     13.Filip HOLOSKO IN – 81
16.Aaron CLAPHAM     14.Martin JAKUBKO  
17.Dave MULLIGAN     15.Miroslav STOCH IN – 84
18.Andy BOYENS     19.Juraj KUCKA IN – 91
20.Chris WOOD IN – 72   20.Kamil KOPUNEK  
21.Jeremy CHRISTIE IN – 78   21.Kornel SALATA  
22.Jeremy BROCKIE     22.Martin PETRAS  

MY THOUGHTS:

Not a bad game for me, both teams tried to control the game at time, New Zealand started well, Simon Elliot the chief playmaker in midfield, Lochhead made some moves down the left, the front 3 of Smeltz, Killen and Fallon were too quiet, Killen had one chance the whole game, but Slovakia’s defence kept them smoothered for most of the game, the team as a whole worked really hard for each other, giving 100% effort and then some, the 3 centre backs, Vieclich, Nelsen and Reid were superb, switched off for only a second for Vittek’s goal but apart from that the Slovak’s struggled to find space, Winston Reid espeically was fantastic, not only did he make a game saving tackle on Sestak,but then he popped up at the other end to head the injury time equaliser, a few scouts will have taken note of him as I did here.

I expected more from Slovakia with players with Hamisk, Sestak and Weiss quality they should have cause more trouble for the All Whites, Weiss was busy looking to take people on at all time, which I like in a winger, looks to maybe not have the top level speed to make it at the top level, too early to write him off though, Vittek did very well for his goal, I mentioned earlier he was a threat with his head and he punished New Zealand with it, cross from Weiss and Vittek guided it into the net.

Hamsik disappointed me, big build up, big reputation and he didn’t play anywhere near his full potential as captain he is meant to take charge of the game and he went missing at times, New Zealand deserved their point in the end, Slovakia will be devastated by losing the 2 points in the end, they will need to play a lot better if they want to advance.

IVORY COAST

0

 

PORTUGAL

0

         
         
1.Boubacar BARRY     1.EDUARDO  
4.Kolo TOURE     2.Bruno ALVES  
5.Didier ZOKORA – Y     3.Paulo FERREIRA  
8.Salomon KALOU OUT – 66   6.Ricardo CARVALHO  
9.Cheik TIOTE     7.Cristiano RONALDO – Y  
10.GERVINHO OUT – 82   8.Pedro MENDES  
15.Aruna DINDANE     9.LIEDSON  
17.Saika TIENE     10.DANNY OUT – 55
19.Yaha TOURE     16.Raul MEIRELES OUT – 85
20.Guy DEMEL – Y     20.DECO OUT – 62
21.Emmanuel EBOUE OUT – 89   23.Fabio COENTRAO  
         
Subs     Subs  
16.ZOGBO     12.BETO  
23.Derek YEBOAH     22.Daniel FERNANDES  
2.ANGOUA     4.ROLANDO  
3.Artur BOKA     5.DUDA  
6.Steven GOHOURI     11.SIMAO IN – 55
7.Seydou DOUMBIA     13.MIGUEL  
11.Didier DROGBA IN – 66   14.Miguel VELOSO  
12.GOSSO     15.PEPE  
13.ROMARIC IN – 89   17.Ruben AMORIM IN – 85
14.KOUAMATIEN     18.Hugo ALMEIDA  
18.Kader KEITA IN – 82   19.TIAGO IN – 69
22.Sol BAMBA     21.Ricardo COSTA  

MY THOUGHTS:

All I’ve read on twitter is how bad this game was, and I just didn’t see that, both teams came out the blocks fast, Ronaldo for 10 minutes looked in the mood until he was booked, Ivory Coast had a definite gameplan got all the bodies behind the ball and try and hit on the break, I think this gameplan can only work without Drogba, as he won’t chase back for 90 minutes, but with the front 3 they had on, they chased back and frustrated the Portuguese and overall the Cote D’Ivoire were the better team, they had the better chances, Gervinho should have done better with his header in the 2nd half, a point a decent start for both teams, if there had been a loser you would think that would have been game over for their tournament, now they both have a point and both have Brazil and Korea DPR to play, anything can happen.

Zokora and Toure at the back had a great game, didn’t give Liedson a sniff of a chance and backed up by Eboue and Tiene the wide players didn’t trouble them either, Yaya Toure did what he does best, controlling the game from the middle all moves start with him and he never looked stretched at any stage, Tiote looked vvery busy, not a player I have seen often but he looked good and worked very hard trying to create openings, of the front three Gervinho was the better of the three, he looked to take on the Portuguese defence, for me his pace was wasted in the middle and with Drogba coming back I would put him on the wing to take on the fullbacks, Dindane was ok but quiet for his ability and even more so with Kalou he just wasn’t involved at all, I can’t remember him doing anything of any good.

Drogba came on and got 25 minutes but failed to make an impact, just didn’t look like he got up to speed, he will start the next game I’m sure, with his power and world class ability it will change the dynamic of the Africans front line, and they will need him against Brazil.

Portugal were very disappointing, Ronaldo smashed the post after 5 minutes and after that they struggled, Danny on the left went missing, Deco and Liedson didn’t add anything, Ronaldo failed to terrorise the defence the way he could, Raul Meireles did a good job in the middle always available for a pass and was trying to create chances, Portugal’s best players were Paulo Ferreira and youngster Fabio Coentrao both fullbacks did a great job stopping the wide threat of Ivory Coast, Coentrao looked very impressive young full back plays for Benfica and I will be keeping an eye on him.

Portugal will need to show so much more against Korea DPR they need to create more chances and i think they are too lightweight in the middle to do that, Simao will replace Danny I would think, if the Koreans defend the way they did tonight against Brazil then Portugal could struggle.

BRAZIL

2

 

KOREA DPR

1

         
MAICON (55′)     JI Yun Nam (89′)  
ELANO (72′)        
         
1.Julio CESAR     1.RI Myong Guk  
2.MAICON     2.CHA Jong Hyok  
3.LUCIO – C     3.RI Jun Il  
4.JUAN     4.PAK Nam Chol  
5.Felipe MELO OUT – 84   5.RI Kwang Chon  
6.Michel BASTOS     8.JI Yun Nam  
7.ELANO OUT – 73   9.JONG Tae Se  
8.Gilberto SILVA     10.HONG Yong Jo  
9.Luis FABIANO     11.MUN In Guk OUT – 80
10.KAKA OUT – 78   13.PAK Chol Jin  
11.ROBINHO     17.AN Yong Hak  
         
Subs     Subs  
12.GOMES     18.KIM Myong Gil  
22.DONI     20.KIM Myong Won  
13.Dani ALVES IN – 73   16.KIM Kum Il IN – 80
14.LUISAO     12.CHOE Kum Chol  
15.Thiago SILVA     14.PAK Nam Chol  
16.GILBERTO     16.NAM Song Chol  
17.JOSUE     19.RI Chol Myong  
18.RAMIRES – Y IN – 84   21.RI Kwang Hyok  
19.Julio BAPTISTA     15.KIM Yong Jun – INJ  
20.KLEBERSON     7.AN Chol Hyok  
21.NILMAR IN – 78   22.KIM Kyong Il  
23.GRAFITE     23.PAK Sung Hyok  

MY THOUGHTS:

Everyone was waiting for the arrival of Brazil and I think for 45 minutes everyone was a bit dumbfounded, noone had given Korea a chance of doing anything, I myself had said 4-0 in an earlier prediction, myself and pundits alike couldn’t have been more wrong, for 55 minutes the Koreans defended expertly, not giving Brazil any time in the middle of the park and containing them out wide, then when they got the ball they looked to pour forward and cause an upset, once Maicon had opened the scoring some more space opened up and Elano made it two, everyone like me probably thought the goals would come now, this wasn’t to be and Korea snatched a dreamland goal by Ji Yun-Nam after a great knockdown by Jong Tae-Se a great performance from the Koreans.

Brazil at times looked superb, but in contrast at times looked to lack ideas, the Koreans worked to stifle them but Brazil could have done more to open them up, only once did Michel Bastos take on the Korea right back, too often did he cut inside making it easy for them to defend a narrow side, he did smash a cracking free-kick just past the post with his thunderous left foot, Lucio and Juan looked stunned by the early play by Tae-Se but dealt much better with him in the 2nd half, Melo and Silva did the usual job of the water carriers, breaking up any of Korea’s fast breaks.

I lost count of how many times Fabiano was caught offside, he didn’t have a good night, some nice touches but overall disappointing, Maicon was one of the better players athough he didn’t attack the byline as much as he could but when he did he smashed in a wonderful goal true Brazilian style outside of the boot with great swerve, the man of the night though was Robinho he looked superb from the first minute he looked up for it, pulling tricks and flicks and taking on players everytime he had the ball, if anything was going to happen it was going to come through him, and the 2nd goal was superb a fantastically weighted ball was dispatched first time by Elano, Robinho deserved a goal but his performance was good enough and looks like he has more in the bag.

I think Brazil will get better as the games go on, it’s hard taking on a team with 9 players behind the ball and a back 5 trying to stop you playing, in the confederations cup they played at their best on the break and they will get more space against Portugal and Ivory Coast.

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3 games that I am actually looking forward to today, got New Zealand v Slovakia, I admit I know very little of the New Zealand team, Chris Killen, Rory Fallon, Ryan Nelsen and that’s it so will be interesting to see them play, Slovakia I think have a chance to shock a few times, Martin Hamsik is a quality player, Vittek upfront is great in the air, not seen the teams yet, so don’t know who’s playing.

Then we have Ivory Coast v Portugal, what a game this could be, 2 very strong teams and this match could guarentee 2nd place in the group, rumours are Drogba will play, an Ivory Coast team packed with stars against what is to me a Portugal team rebuilding after their Golden Era but they still have quality players.

Then it’s a match I am really looking forward to Brazil v North Korea, so many memories watching Brazil at World Cups, against a team that is the unknown entity, not one household name player, but they will have the eyes of a nation on them….only if they win, North Korea will only be shown the game back home if they win apparently, which is such a shame, can they pull off a shock like they did in ’66

**Players to Watch**

1.Vladimir Weiss (Slovakia) – Hot young prospect and the coachs son, was on loan at Bolton from Man City this season, plays on the wing, has alot of skill, great platform for him to shine.

2.Martin Hamsik (Slovakia) – The Napoli forward is a great player, likes to play off the front man, has an eye for goal, great technique, if he played for one of the top nations the media would be purring over him.

3.Robert Vittek (Slovakia) - the former Nuremberg and Lille front man is a great target man, holds the ball up well, great in the air, his best days may be behind him, but a player you still need to give respect to.

4.Chris Killen (New Zealand) – Didn’t have the best time at Celtic but his Hibs scoring record was very impressive, could lead the All Whites attack, but he hasn’t exactly set the league alight in Middlesbrough, could this be his stage.

5.Gervinho (Ivory Coast) - The Lille winger has had a great season, after a slow start he exploded, with his blistering pace and ability to score a great foil for Drogba, Looking forward to seeing him reproduce his club form for the world to see.

6.Michel Bastos (Brazil) - Following the great tradition of Brazilian Left Backs next comes Bastos, who is actually a Left Winger for his club Lyon but will suit Brazil’s style of pushing forward, he has an absoulte rocket of a left foot and will let fly if he gets the chance, and will take over the set-pieces, I predict a “next Roberto Carlos reference from the commentators

7.Ramires (Brazil) - I hope Ramires comes on at some stage today, Dunga has been playing Elano I prefer Ramires in the midfield he charges forward but defends well also, gives his all, powerful running and showed he can score in the game against Tanzania, the Benfica man could be the missing piece of this Brazilian jigsaw.

8.Jong Tae-Se (North Korea) - Never seen him play, but I read that he promised he would score in every game he played at this World Cup, so he’s made the claim, let’s see if he can deliver, I refuse to believe that they can be as bad as people think they will, time will tell.

**Predictions**

NEW ZEALAND 0 – 2 SLOVAKIA

IVORY COAST 2 – 1 PORTUGAL

BRAZIL 4 – 0 NORTH KOREA

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