So the Round of Sixteen is completed in the FIFA World Cup with eight teams having to face up to the stark reality of flying back home to face the critics whilst eight teams look forward to the quarter-final stage in what remains a fascinating tournament. South America has performed well with the possibility of all four semi-finalists hailing from that particular continent should they overcome their respective opponents in the last eight. However there are three European teams and the sole African representative remaining who would like to deprive the Latin Americans of complete domination. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the Round of Sixteen and provides the quarter-final draw.
The knock-out stages began last Saturday with Uruguay playing against South Korea who appeared to be Asia’s best chance of a last eight representative. Sadly for the Koreans it only took eight minutes to fall behind as Luis Suárez gave Uruguay the lead and, thus, added to the goal he scored against Mexico in his team’s final group game. The Koreans though didn’t give up and were back on level terms on 68 minutes when Lee Chung-Yong headed the equalizer from a free-kick and set up a fascinating climax to the contest. With ten minutes remaining it was to be Luis Suárez again who would settle the game in Uruguay’s favour showing his class with a beautifully curled shot into the top right corner of the net. The second game on Saturday saw Ghana create history as they defeated the United States to put themselves into a World Cup quarter-final for the first time. Kevin-Prince Boateng gave the Black Stars the lead after just five minutes after his run from the halfway line saw him steer the ball hard and low into the net past Tim Howard. The Americans restored parity in the second half when Landon Donovan shot home from the penalty spot after Clint Dempsey had been brought down by Jonathan Mensah in the box. It was a classic game of two halves which finished 1-1 and, thus, needed thirty minutes of extra-time. Just three minutes had passed when Asamoah Gyan continued his wonderful tournament by scoring an excellent goal from distance and, with no further scoring in the game, ensured that Africa had its sole representative progress into the last eight of the competition.
Sunday saw two potential classic matches on paper turn out to be pretty one-sided affairs. There was much controversy in the Germany versus England match (it wouldn’t be Germany v England otherwise) when a Frank Lampard shot hit the underside of the bar and came down at least a metre over the line but the linesman didn’t see it and denied England an equalizing goal which would’ve tied the game at two-all. Before then Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski had given the Nationalmannschaft a two-goal lead before Matthew Upson halved the deficit by getting on the end of a Steven Gerrard cross. Sadly for England that was as good as it got as even the most die-hard fan of the Three Lions would admit that they were outclassed by a Germany team whose splendid counter-attacking play created two goals for young starlet Thomas Müller in the final quarter of the match to give Germany a convincing 4-1 win. Later that evening any ideas that Mexico had to get revenge on Argentina for knocking them out of the 2006 tournament were soon dispelled in equally controversial circumstances. Carlos Tévez was in an offside position upon giving Argentina the lead on 26 minutes but the linesman, once again, failed to spot the indiscretion and the Mexico players were furious. Gonzalo Higuaín doubled the lead on 33 minutes and the Albiceleste sealed the win in the second half when Tévez scored his second seven minutes after the break. Javier Hernández did score a consloation for El Tri but Diego Maradona’s men came through any potential fightback to claim a place in the next round.
Monday night saw two of the tournament favourites, Brazil and the Netherlands, continue their good progress. The Netherlands continue to win despite playing football which is far from what we expect from the pioneers of Voetbal Totaal. Arjen Robben gave the Oranje the lead thanks to a trademark left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty box and one was expecting the Dutch to go on and stroll the game from there. However they were made to fight for their victory which they finally sealed in the 84th minute when Dirk Kuijt squared the ball to Wesley Sneijder in the box to make it 2-0. Up until then the Slovakians had plenty of chances which were spurned and, as a result, they would rue their profligacy in front of goal especially as they halved the deficit with the final kick of the game, a penalty from Robert Vittek after Martin Jakubko was brought down in the box. There was no time after the kick to continue and the Dutch went through to the next round with what was ultimately a slender 2-1 victory. Brazil made much easier work of their all-South American encounter with Chile, a team who finished just a solitary point behind them in World Cup qualifying. Two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half from Juan and Luís Fabiano were complimented by a beautiful finish from Robinho on the hour mark to give the Seleção an easy 3-0 win over a disappointing Chile team who did, to their credit, try to play some direct football once they conceded the third, no doubt believing that they had nothing to lose from such an approach. Dunga’s men are looking ominously good but many will feel that their quarter-final with the Netherlands will be their first real test of the tournament. A fascinating encounter awaits.
The final two matches in the Round of Sixteen were played today and, once again, there was joy for the South Americans but only after Paraguay had been taken all the way to a penalty shoot-out by a Japan team who were unfortunate to have to lose in such a manner. The only missed penalty in the shoot-out was by Japan’s Yūichi Komano whose spot-kick hit the crossbar and went over. Because Paraguay had the first kick in the shoot-out their final goal from Óscar Cardozo meant that a fifth kick for Japan was unnecessary and La Albirroja progressed to the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth. To finish the round we had an Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal which looked like a mouth-watering match on paper but which, sadly, failed to live up to expectations. Cristiano Ronaldo, just like Wayne Rooney and Franck Ribéry, failed to shine during this tournament and he was amongst the most disappointed of the Portuguese side after the final whistle blew after their 1-0 defeat probably because he knew that he hadn’t done his talent any justice. The goal which won an otherwise poor game came in the 63rd minute from David Villa, whose initial shot at keeper Eduardo was parried back to his feet and then forced home going in off the bar at the second attempt. This meant that Villa joins Gonzalo Higuaín and Robert Vittek on four goals each and one wouldn’t bet against him adding to that total in Spain’s quarter-final match against Paraguay on Saturday.
FIFA WORLD CUP – QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
02.07.2010 Netherlands v Brazil (Port Elizabeth)
02.07.2010 Uruguay v Ghana (Johannesburg)
03.07.2010 Argentina v Germany (Cape Town)
03.07.2010 Paraguay v Spain (Johannesburg)
Figures given are as follows: Games Played/Points Scored:
GROUP G: BRAZIL 3/7; PORTUGAL 3/5; IVORY COAST 3/4; NORTH KOREA 3/0
The Seleção have, as expected, topped the group after Dunga’s men saw off a spirited show from unknown quantity North Korea in the opening group match before going on to beat Ivory Coast and gain a point in an uninspiring ninety minutes of football against Portugal. The Portuguese were held by the Ivorians to a goalless draw in their first match but were able to rout the North Koreans by seven goals before getting the point they needed against the five-time world champions in their final match. The North Koreans provided one of the tournament’s most emotional moments when Jong Tae Se cried his eyes out during the national anthem ahead of the game against Brazil and gave real football fans hope that there are still real footballers out there who feel the emotion about wearing their favourite football shirt. Sadly this emotion couldn’t be transferred into points as the brave North Koreans ended up without any points after three games. As for the Ivorians they will hope for a kinder draw should they qualify for the next competition as they have been dealt the Group of Death in the last two tournaments which has hindered their ability to progress to the knock-out stages.
GROUP H: SPAIN 3/6; CHILE 3/6; SWITZERLAND 3/4 ; HONDURAS 3/1
After a poor start to the tournament Vicente del Bosque’s Spain team progressed to the next stage as group winners thanks mainly to the efforts of David Villa who has scored all but one of La Roja‘s goals so far. Spain were shocked on the first matchday losing 1-0 to Switzerland which makes it all the more surprising that Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men never made it to the knock-out stage after such a promising opening to their campaign. Spain went on to win both their next two matches against Honduras (2-0) and Chile (2-1) with Villa scoring three of the goals; only Andres Iniesta got on the score sheet when he settled the latter game in Spain’s favour by scoring the second goal. Chile played some good football in the tournament but will face the toughest test in the Round of 16 when they play against South American rivals Brazil in Johannesburg on Monday whilst the Derby of Iberia will feature in Cape Town on Tuesday when European champions Spain face neighbours Portugal in a much anticipated game.
Figures given are as follows: Games Played/Points Scored
GROUP E: NETHERLANDS 3/9; JAPAN 3/6; DENMARK 3/3; CAMEROON 3/0
Whisper it quietly but if there’s a team who are creeping in under the radar to win the FIFA World Cup then that could be the Netherlands. They won all three group matches to finish with maximum points and look like they could be a prime contender to lift football’s greatest prize. Having enjoyed a bit of good fortune to take the lead in games against Denmark and Japan the Dutch were always in control in their final game against Cameroon and Bert Van Marwijk must now keep a lid on expectations and keep his players’ feet on the ground. Japan made history by qualifying beyond the group stage for the first time outside of their native land with the 1-0 defeat to Netherlands being their only reverse. Two fantastic free-kick goals in the third match against Denmark set-up them up for a famous win and they now get to look forward to a Round of 16 tie against Paraguay.
GROUP F: PARAGUAY 3/5; SLOVAKIA 3/4; NEW ZEALAND 3/3; ITALY 3/2
Well who would’ve thought it? The defending world champions not only going out of the competition but finishing below rank tournament outsiders New Zealand in the process. Not very much went right for Italy in their three group matches but the truth is that they were just not good enough. In any case credit should be given to Paraguay who topped the group with a win and two draws and they were joined by Slovakia who played their part in the game of the tournament so far when defeating Italy by three goals to two. Arguably the unluckiest team in the competition are the All Whites of New Zealand who were unbeaten in three games and still failed to progress to the next stage but Rikki Herbert’s men can be rightly proud of their performances in this tournament which gives them a platform to build on for future competition. Paraguay will play Japan in Pretoria on Tuesday whilst Slovakia’s reward is a tough tie with the Netherlands in Durban on Monday afternoon.
Figures given are as follows: games played/points scored
GROUP C: USA 3/5; ENGLAND 3/5; SLOVENIA 3/4; ALGERIA 3/1
The United States left it very late to clinch top spot in the group but their stoppage time winner in the 1-0 victory over Algeria provided one of the FIFA World Cup’s most dramatic finishes thus far. It was justice served for the Americans after they had two perfectly good goals disallowed earlier in the tournament and it seemed that they would lament those two particular moments of bad luck until Landon Donovan’s 91st minute winner over the North Africans settled the contest. Thankfully the late winner made any arguments about the legitimacy of the disallowed goals academic and meant that the United States finished top of the group on goal difference from an England side who were made to work hard for their place in the Round of 16. Jermain Defoe scored the all-important winning goal for England against Slovenia after 22 minutes to give the Three Lions their first win of the tournament and provide Fabio Capello’s men with a much-needed boost in morale ahead of their game on Sunday afternoon against a familiar foe.
GROUP D: GERMANY 3/6; GHANA 3/4; AUSTRALIA 3/4; SERBIA 3/3
And so it was meant to be. Germany, after the scare of losing to Serbia in their second group match, eventually saw off a determined Ghana side in the final group game to set up a Round of 16 clash with England. Mesut Özil scored the winning goal for Germany in their 1-0 success over Ghana when unleashing a powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the box to seal the deal for the Adlerträger. Despite the defeat the Africans were able to celebrate after the match as they too had qualified for the knock-out stages. Australia beat Serbia 2-1 but had an inferior goal difference to Ghana who became the only one out of five African nations to progress beyond the group stage. Ghana’s reward is a Round of 16 tie against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday whilst Germany face-off against England in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
GROUP A: URUGUAY 3 /7; MEXICO 3/4; SOUTH AFRICA 3/4; FRANCE 3/1
Unfortunately for South Africa they made history by becoming the first host nation not to make it to the knockout stage of a FIFA World Cup but they did restore some pride by chalking up their first win of the tournament against a French side whose internal strife under coach Raymond Domenech has been well documented. Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela were the men who did the damage for Bafana Bafana in Bloemfontein giving the hosts a 2-0 lead at the break. Florent Malouda pulled one back for Les Bleus with twenty minutes of the game remaining but the celebrations were gradually beginning in Rustenburg where Uruguay won by a Luis Suárez goal in the first half and the Mexicans, despite defeat, knew that the South Africans hadn’t done enough to overturn the goal difference in their favour. Uruguayan coach Oscar Washington Tabárez will be relieved that his team have avoided one of the tournament favourites, Argentina, in the next round and may now fancy their chances of springing an upset later in the competition. Mexico, however, will have painful memories of the most recent FIFA World Cup in Germany where they were knocked out of the competition by Argentina, the team who they now face in this year’s Round of Sixteen.
GROUP B: ARGENTINA 3 Games/9 Points; SOUTH KOREA 3/4; GREECE 3/3; NIGERIA 3/1
With all due respect to lovers of Greek football it is one of the great reliefs of the tournament that Otto Rehhagel’s Greece team is out of the tournament after playing some of the most negative football I can remember seeing in a FIFA World Cup tournament. They kept Argentina at bay for 77 minutes but the deadlock was finally broken when Martin Demichelis scored the opening goal from a corner kick to cue customary manic celebration on the touchline from El Diego. Veteran striker and substitute Martín Palermo sealed the game for the Albiceleste in stoppage time turning in a rebound from a Messi shot and Argentina deservedly go through to face Mexico in Johannesburg. Sadly for African football Nigeria were unable to become the first side from the continent to reach the next stage after managing a 2-2 draw against South Korea. After taking the lead early on through Kalu Uche Nigeria surrendered the lead early in the second half after the Asian side had turned it around with goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young. Ayegbeni Yakubu did dispatch a 69th minute penalty kick to give Nigeria hope but they were unable to break Korean resistance any further and it was South Korea who reached the last 16 with a tie against Group A winners Uruguay, who they will meet in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, June 26th.
The second round of matches in Groups G and H were completed today with Portugal making themselves heavy favourites to go through to the Round of Sixteen stage along with group leaders Brazil in the former while Chile and Spain won their games to make the final round of games in the latter on Friday potentially very interesting.
Portugal versus North Korea has stirred up some memories of the only previous encounter between the two countries in the 1966 FIFA World Cup where the Asian side went three goals up only to be eventually beaten by Eusebio’s Portuguese side 5-3 in one of that tournament’s most eventually matches. This time, however, the game wasn’t to be anywhere near as close although North Korea did restrict the Portuguese to a mere one goal lead at the half-time break, Raul Meireles taking his goal with great aplomb in the 29th minute. Sadly for North Korea coach Kim Jong Hun he saw his players lose their heads in the second half as the Portuguese set about taking the game to the Far East outfit at every available opportunity. Portugal were four nil up by the hour mark thanks to goals from Simão, Hugo Almeida and Tiago and then put the cherry on the cake with further strikes in the final ten minutes of the game from Liédson, Cristiano Ronaldo – remarkably scoring his first international goal in two years – and a second from Tiago to seal a seven goal rout of the helpless North Korea who will hope to claw back some pride in their final group match against the Ivory Coast on Friday whilst Portugal will fight it out with Brazil to see who wins the group.
The first game of the day in Group H saw Chile keep up the South Americans’ incredble record at this year’s FIFA World Cup. In ten matches involving teams from that particular continent in the competition so far there have been eight wins and two draws. Chile won the eighth game for that part of the world with a narrow 1-0 victory over a Switzerland side who had surprised everybody in their opening match by defeating European champions Spain and were determined to follow up on that result. This was not to be a feast of football with Ottmar Hitzfeld Swiss side adopting very much the same tactics that stifled Spain’s attack but once Valon Behrami got himself sent off in the 30th minute for a needless use of the elbow against Arutro Vidal the Swiss were always up against it. The game’s decisive moment came with sixteen minutes of the second half to play as Esteban Paredes beat the offside trap to run on to a through ball from Jorge Valdivia, crossed the ball towards the far post where Mark González was waiting to guide it home with his head. The result ensured that Chile will remain on top of the group irrespective of Spain’s result later in the day.
Spain, simply put, had to win against Central American outsiders Honduras if they were to fancy their chances of progress. The game never looked like being anything other than a Spain win either on paper or when the match began on the pitch as La Roja dominated the possession and the territory throughout the game. David Villa added to his amazing goals/games ratio tonight when it mattered. The newly-signed FC Barcelona striker already had forty goals from sixty internationals before tonight’s game and he could’ve added a lot more than the two which he did score against a weak Honduras side. He scored his first in the 17th minute, receiving the ball outside the box, jinking past two defenders before taking a touch in order to curl the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net. His second came six minutes into the second half when his shot from the edge of the penalty box took a deflection and deceived Noel Valladares in the Honduras goal. Villa then had the chance to become the second player in the competition, after Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuaín, to score a hat-trick but missed his spot kick as the ball shaded just past the post as he sent the keeper diving in the opposite direction. Nonetheless Spain were comfortable winners and they now must get three points against leaders Chile in their final Group H match to qualify for the next stage. Anything less and La Roja will be sweating it out on the other game between Honduras and Switzerland which takes place at the same time.
In the second of our blogs looking at the draws for the two major European competitions we focus this time on the UEFA Europa League. The draws went on a lot longer than their UEFA Champions League counterpart because of the huge number of teams that enter this tournament from the very beginning. Fifty-two teams entered at the first qualifying round stage with the first and second legs being played on July 1 and July 8 respectively. The second qualifying round includes the twenty-six winners from the previous round and another fifty-four entrants who will play their two-legged fixtures on July 15 and July 22 so there was considerably more to do in this particular draw for the men in suits. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog provides the full draws for each qualifying round here:
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – 1st Qualifying Round
UE Santa Coloma v FK Mogren
Olimpija Ljubljana v NK Široki Brijeg
Anorthosis Famagusta v FC Banants Yerevan
FK Khazan Landakar v FC Olimpia Bălţi
HNK Šibenik v Sliema Wanderers
FC Tobol Kostanay v HNK Zrinjski Mostar
FC Ulisses Yerevan v Bnei Yehuda FC
Lusitanos FC v Rabotnički Skopje
KF Tirana v Zalaegerszegi TE
FC Zestaponi v S.C. Faetano
NSÍ Runavík v Gefle IF
Torpedo Zhodino v Fylkir FC
Randers FC v F91 Dudelange
Portadown FC v Skonto Riga
TPS Turku v Port Talbot Town
KR Reykjavík v Glentoran FC
Dundalk FC v CS Grevenmacher
Kalmar FF v EB/Streymur
Llanelli AFC v FK Taurus Tauragė
Trans Narva v MyPa Anjalankoski
FC Dacia Chişinău v FK Zeta
KF Laçi v Dnepr Mogilev
Shakhter Karaganda v Ruch Chorzów
Dinamo Tbilisi v FC Flora Tallinn
FC Nitra v Győri ETO
FK Qarabağ v Metalurg Skopje
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – 2nd Qualifying Round
Cercle Brugge v TPS Turku/Port Talbot Town
Motherwell FC v Breiðablik
HNK Šibenik/Sliema Wanderers v Anorthosis Famagusta v FC Banants Yerevan
Lausanne FC v Borac Banja Luka
FK Šiauliai v Wisła Kraków
Kalmar FF/EB Streymur v FC Dacia Chişinău/FK Zeta
FC Utrecht v KF Tirana/Zalaegerszegi TE
ND Gorica v Randers FC/F91 Dudelange
CS Marítimo v Sporting Fingal
FK Sūduva v Rapid Wien
FK Ventspils v FK Teteks
OFK Belgrade v Torpedo Zhodino/Fylkir FC
FK Khazan Landakar/FC Olimpia Bălţi v Dinamo Bucureşti
Trans Narva/MyPa Anjalankoski v UE Sant Julià
Videoton FC v NK Maribor
Brøndby IF v FC Vaduz
Stabæk FC v KF Laçi/Dnepr Mogilev
IF Elfsborg v Iskra Stal
KR Reykjavík/Glentoran FC v Karpaty Lviv
Maccabi Tel Aviv v UE Santa Coloma/FK Mogren
Austria Wien v Olimpija Ljubljana/NK Široki Brijeg
Llanelli AFC/FK Taurus Tauragė v APOEL Nicosia
Molde FK v FK Jelgava
FC Zestaponi/S.C. Faetano v FK Dukla Banská Bystrica
FC Honka Espoo v Bangor City
Levski Sofia v Dundalk FC/CS Grevenmacher
WIT Georgia v Baník Ostrava
Lusitanos FC/Rabotnički Skopje v FC Mika Yerevan
FC Atyrau v FC Nitra/Győri ETO
FK Qarabağ/Metalurg Skopje v Portadown FC/Skonto Riga
Beşiktaş JK v FC Víkingur
FC Differdange 03 v Spartak Zlatibor Voda
Dinamo Minsk v Sillamäe Kalev
Valletta FC v Shakhter Karaganda/Ruch Chorzów
FK Baku v FK Budućnost Podgorica
FC Tobol Kostanay/HNK Zrinjski Mostar v Tre Penne
Dinamo Tbilisi/FC Flora Tallinn v NSÍ Runavík/Gefle IF
HNK Cibalia v Cliftonville FC
KS Besa Kavajë v Olympiakos FC
The draws for the first and second qualifying rounds of UEFA club competition for the 2010-11 season was made at the headquarters of European football’s governing body in Nyon, Switzerland today. Only a month after Internazionale FC and Club Atlético de Madrid celebrated success in the UEFA Champions Leage and UEFA Europa League respectively, the oncoming tournaments came into focus and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog gives you the full draw to each competition. We start in this blog with the draw for the UEFA Champions League which begins with four teams in the first qualifying round with the first legs played on June 29-30 and the second legs on July 6-7:
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – 1st Qualifying Round
Tre Fiori v Rudar Pljevlja
FC Santa Coloma v Birkirkara FC
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – 2nd Qualifying Round
Liepājas Metalurgs v Sparta Prague
FK Aktobe v Olimpi Rustavi
FC Levadia Tallinn v Debreceni VSC
Partizan Belgrade v Pyunik Yerevan
Inter Baku v Lech Poznań
Dinamo Zagreb v FC Koper
Litex Lovech v Tre Fiori/Rudar Pljevlja
FC Santa Coloma/Birkirkara FC v MŠK Žilina
FC Sheriff Tiraspol v Dinamo Tirana
Hapoel Tel Aviv v FK Željezničar
Omonia Nicosia v FK Renova
Red Bull Salzburg v HB Tórshavn
Bohemians FC v The New Saints
BATE Borisov v FH Hafnarfjarðar
AIK Solna v Jeunesse Esch
Linfield FC v Rosenborg Trondheim
FK Ekranas v HJK Helsinki
First legs played on 13-14 July; Second legs played on July 20-21
The FIFA World Cup doesn’t fail to surprise with New Zealand gaining another point in the competition at the expense of world champions Italy who are failing to find their form. This draw means that Paraguay are top of Group F having beaten Slovakia 2-0 earlier in the day. In the final match of the day Brazil ensured that a sense of normality remained at the tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast to remain top of Group G although the game was marred by a controversial red card shown to Kaká.
With one point already in the bank after a dramatic last-gasp equalizer in their opening match against Slovakia, New Zealand were hoping not to be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to world champions Italy. The Azzurri had to play Federico Marchetti in goal in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon but were otherwise unchanged from the team that scraped a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. Sadly for the Italians they would have to come from behind again as an early New Zealand free-kick found Shane Smeltz, the Australian A-League’s top scorer in the last two seasons, unmarked in the box although there was a heavy suspicion of offside about the goal. Alas, for Italy, the linesman kept his flag down and the All Whites were ahead but not for long. Ricardo Montolivo had already come close to scoring when his long-range effort hit a post before Daniele de Rossi, who scored the equalizer for Italy in their first game, was brought down in the box after Tommy Smith had pulled his shirt. Vincenzo Iaquinta was at hand to convert the penalty in the 28th minute and restore parity for Italy.
The second half would see a flurry of chances from Italy with New Zealand’s defence resisting wave after wave of attack from the defending World Cup holders. Perhaps the best chance of the second half, though, fell New Zealand’s way when substitute Chris Wood evaded the attention of Fabio Cannavaro and shot narrowly wide of the post with just three minutes remaining. Had that have gone in it would’ve set-up one of the great World Cup shocks but, nevertheless, the All Whites got what they deserved from this game even though they were under pressure for significant periods of the game.
Earlier in the afternoon a rather less exciting game was decided in favour of Paraguay who were relatively untroubled from a Slovakia side who didn’t have enough creativity to break down the solid defence from Gerardo Martino’s men. After a pretty dire opening twenty-five minutes of the game Enrique Vera scored the opening goal for Paraguay as he received a pass just inside the penalty box and shot with the outside of his right foot to give La Albirroja the lead. If anybody expected the Slovakians to wake up from their slumber after the goal then they were to be disappointed as the Eastern Europeans had no answer to Paraguay’s superior play. The only surprise was that it took until five minutes before time until Paraguay sealed the deal through a Cristian Riveros power driver from the edge of the box after an Aureliano Torres free-kick had eventually worked its way to him. With two games played in Group F it is Paraguay who lead the way with four points, followed by Italy and New Zealand on two and Slovakia prop up the rest with one point. The final games in the group take place at 16:00 local time on Thursday with Paraguay winning the group should they overcome New Zealand and Italy hoping to secure at least second place with a win over Slovakia.
In the final game played on Sunday Brazil impressed in a 3-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast to stay top of the group with a perfect six points from six. Luís Fabiano found his scoring boots in the 25th minute when put through by Kaká to fire the ball into the roof of the net and Dunga’s troops never looked like losing it from there. Just five minutes into the second half and Brazil had doubled their lead although there was a suspicion of handball in the build-up to Luís Fabiano’s second goal in which he took on three defenders before firing the ball home from twelve yards out. Brazil were coasting it thirteen minutes later as Kaká went down the left hand side and pulled the ball back to Elano who caught the Ivorian defence napping and slipped it past the keeper from close range. Didier Drogba did pull one back for the Ivory Coast on 79 minutes when converting a right-sided cross from Yaya Touré with his head to bring an ounce of respectability back to the score.
Sadly the match began to get tetchy and, with two minutes of normal time to play, Kaká was the victim of the most ridiculous refereeing decision of the tournament so far when he was adjudged to have hit Abdel-Kader Keïta in the face although they merely touched shoulders at worst. Keïta went down holding his face and the referee showed the red card to the Brazilian star who could face anything from a 1-4 match ban depending on the outcome of a FIFA enquiry into the incident. Thankfully there were no further flashpoints after that but Dunga’s night would’ve been soured somewhat after the incident. Nonetheless Brazil should be happy with their night’s work and they will end the group phase of the competition on Friday with their match against Portugal in Durban.
The 2010 Baltic Cup competition came to a close on Sunday with Lithuania crowned the champions of the region for the eighth time in thirteen post-Independence championships having secured a 2-0 win over Estonia. In the opening match of the tournament, which was played on Friday, Lithuania and Latvia shared the points after a goalless draw which neither side would’ve been truly happy with. Latvia, the defending champions going into the tournament, were to rue their profligacy in front of goal after they also drew 0-0 with Estonia twenty-four hours later and knew that they had effectively blown their chance to successfully keep hold of the trophy. A win of any kind would allow Estonia or Lithuania to take the silverware as they played the final match of the tournament in Kaunas. Mantas Savėnas gave Lithuania the lead after 31 minutes having converted a penalty kick conceded by goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu and it wasn’t until second-half stoppage time that Lithuania secured the trophy when Artūras Rimkevičius made it 2-0 to allow the home crowd to start celebrating a precious win. Lithuania gained four points from two games with Latvia two points further back and Estonia propping up the others having only scored one point.
The weekend also saw an Under-21 competition in Marijampolė where the host nation would again be victorious. They beat Latvia’s U-21 team by two goals to one on the opening day thanks to strikes from Povilas Krasnovskis and Marius Papšys with the visitors pulling one back in stoppage time through Daniils Turkovs. After Latvia U-21 defeated Estonia U-21 on day two of the tournament by a goal to nil it meant that the hosts needed only a draw against Estonia U-21 to win the trophy. Eivinas Zagurskas gave Lthuania U-21 the lead just before the hour mark but Estonia U-21 made life difficult for Lithuania in the closing stages of the match when Juri Jevdokimov equalized in the 72nd minute. The game finished with no further scoring and allowed Lithuania to win the Under-21 tournament with a one point advantage over Latvia and secure a very proud double for the host nation.
Watch Lithuania v Estonia Highlights HERE: