Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA: Cameroon out as Denmark win; Aussies and Ghana draw; Holland win again

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 19, 2010
Dennis Rommedahl

Dennis Rommedahl helped Denmark come from behind to beat Cameroon 2-1

Cameroon became the first team eliminated from the FIFA World Cup as they went down to a 2-1 defeat to Denmark and, thus, remain pointless after two group matches. Even if Cameroon were to win their third group match against the Netherlands on Thursday their inferior head-to-head record against the other two teams would render them unable to gain the second spot in Group E. In the other Group E game today the Netherlands won their second match of the tournament but only after scraping a 1-0 win against Japan thanks to some bad goalkeeping. Group D saw Australia reduced to ten men and unable to keep hold of a lead as they drew 1-1 to Ghana in a frustrating game for the Socceroos.

Dennis Rommedahl was the central figure for a Denmark side who had to come from behind to clinch a 2-1 win over Cameroon. Things started well for the four-time African champions when deadly striker Samuel Eto’o took advantage of some sloppy Danish defending to give the Indomitable Lions the lead after just ten minutes. In what was a game full of energy and commitment both teams went forward and tried to put opening match defeats behind them. With twelve minutes remaining in the first half Denmark got their reward when Simon Kjær’s long pass reached Dennis Rommedahl who squared the ball for the oncoming Niklas Bendtner to equalize for the Scandinavians. Rommedahl was to prove decisive in the second half when he picked the ball up outside the Cameroon penalty box, weaved his way past Jean Makoun and curled the ball around the keeper to complete the victory for Denmark. Despite Paul Le Guen’s Cameroon trying to attack frantically in the time remaining the Danish defence held out for the win and they can now play against Japan in their final game on Thursday, June 24th in what will be a winner-takes-all encounter.

This is because Japan, who beat Cameroon in their opening match, were unable to get the better of the Netherlands who won their second consecutive game thanks to some questionable goalkeeping from Eiji Kawashima. He parried a long distance shot from Wesley Sneijder into the back of the net to gift the Dutch the only goal of the game. In a game short of creativity and chances the Japanese set out to frustrate the Dutch and keep chances at a minimum but once Sneijder had scored they had no option but to attack. This they did and they had a couple of chances to equalize, most notably when Shinji Okazaki got into the box and hit the ball over the bar from a good position in the last minute of the game. But although the Dutch were not at their fluent best they did enough to win and only need a draw against Cameroon in their final group match to seal top spot in Group E.

Asamoah Gyan

Asamoah Gyan scored to give Ghana a share of the points against Australia

In the third game of the day the Australians set about restoring battered pride by playing a Ghana side who had overcome Serbia in their opening Group D game. Australia took the lead in the eleventh minute of the game when a Marco Bresciano free-kick was spilled by Ghana keeper Richard Kingson, allowing Brett Holman to dispatch the rebound and give the Socceroos the advantage early on. The Australians were fuming mid-way through the half though when Harry Kewell, back in the side after injury, was adjudged to have handled the ball on the goal line which led to match referee Roberto Rosetti showing him a red card. Asamoah Gyan put away the resulting penalty kick to restore parity for the Africans who seem to be the continent’s best chance of further progress in the tournament. Even though there was no further goalscoring the match didn’t suffer entertainment-wise as both teams went looking for a winner but the luck just wasn’t with either team. Australia will have been happier with the point considering they played the match for more than an hour at a numerical disadvantage whilst the onus should’ve been on Ghana to finish the Antipodeans off but found themselves keeping the Aussies at bay as the game reached its conclusion. The final group matches in Group D, to be played on Wednesday June 23rd, see Australia play Serbia in a bid to keep their tournament hopes alive whilst Ghana will hope to remain unbeaten by gaining something against Germany.

FIFA: Setbacks for Germany and England; USA denied victory

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 19, 2010
Milan Jovanović

Milan Jovanović scored the only goal in Serbia's 1-0 defeat of Germany

The FIFA World Cup is far from predictable and the events of yesterday are a classic case in point. Germany, who had thrilled everybody with a great display in their opening match defeat of Australia, were on the receiving end of a defeat themselves going down to a Milan Jovanović goal moments before half-time. In the same group the United States came from two goals down to gain a 2-2 draw against Slovenia but the controversial decision to disallow Maurice Edu’s late goal could ultimately prove detrimental to the USA’s chances of progression. England had a chance to stamp their authority on the tournament but were denied by a resilient Algeria side who were worthy of the point gained in the goalless draw between the two sides in Cape Town.

Germany went into their game against Serbia as clear favourites but the Balkan nation had other ideas as they were far from willing to let the Germans walk all over them. The game was played at a lively pace throughout with both teams having a clear number of chances, especially Lukas Podolski who missed a seven attempts including a penalty kick on the hour mark which would’ve equalled the score for Germany. However there were sixty seconds of madness that decided the game for Serbia. Firstly, in the 37th minute, Miroslav Klose picked up his second yellow card and saw red thus reducing Germany to ten men. One minute later Serbia were ahead thanks to Milan Jovanović. His colleague Miloš Krasić ran down the right and crossed it for Nikola Žigić who knocked it down with his head for the unmarked Jovanović to steer home from six yards out. Germany’s keeper Manuel Neuer had been a little slow to come out and the Serbian hitman made him pay for his brief moment of indecision although, to be fair, Neuer had been left exposed by his defence. The game saw Serbia hit the woodwork another couple of times in the second half and the truth is that Germany, for all of their waste in front of goal, could’ve been beaten by a couple more and were ultimately grateful just to lose by the solitary goal. In Group D today Ghana meet Australia which, if the Socceroos win, would see all four teams on three points. An interesting game in Rustenburg awaits.

The United States were looking down and out in the Group C game against Slovenia who took an early lead in the 13th minute thansk to a great 25 yard strike from Valter Birsa who was left unmarked and had the time to weigh up his shot before rocketing it home. Things got better for the Eastern European side with three minutes to go before the break when Milivoje Novaković played a well-timed through ball into Zlatan Ljubijankič who guided it past an oncoming Tim Howard to double Slovenia’s lead. The half-time break came at just the right time for the Americans who had time to re-group and get their focus back after a disastrous first forty-five minutes. After the break the USA pulled one back through their talisman Landon Donovan who, having received a long pass from Steve Cherundolo down the right flank, chose to run direct to goal and hit the ball fiercely into the net from a tight angle and instantly brought his side back into the game. With ten minutes remaining the game was tied when Michael Bradley was on hand to steer home Jozy Altidore’s knockdown from a long pass from Donovan. The game had turned and the Americans were the only team who now looked like winning it and, three minutes later, thought they had but Maurice Edu’s goal was disallowed for a foul in the box and the Slovenians had been saved by what was a very harsh decision. Nonetheless the USA are still in the competition after what was a fantastic fightback and they will hope to progress in the final match against Algeria in Pretoria on Wednesday, June 23rd.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney couldn't break the deadlock in England's 0-0 draw against Algeria

England had high hopes going into the tournament but those hopes are increasing wearing thin after another clueless display from Fabio Capello’s men against Algeria in Cape Town last night. It’s not that the Three Lions couldn’t create any chances, if anything they created a decent number with eight on target, but they just lack something up front. For all Emile Heskey’s work rate the sad fact is that he doesn’t look remotely like scoring when he gets the ball and seems to lack any natural inclination to want to strike at goal with the ball at his feet. Captain Steven Gerrard didn’t always seem to be on the same wavelength as his colleagues and the likes of Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney spurned their chances by not striking the ball cleanly enough. Algeria were tough to beat and had a resilient defence and should be congratulated for their determination to pick up a point although their attack does seem a little lightweight with striker Karim Matmour lacking any predatory instincts in the box. However it was a job well done for Algeria who will meet the USA in their final match whilst England, who faced the wrath of an angry supporter who invaded their dressing room after the match, will play Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, June 23rd in a game they have to win in order to progress.

FIFA: Argentina win again; Greece get first victory; France stumble to defeat

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 17, 2010
Gonzalo Higuaín

Gonzalo Higuaín scored a hat-trick for Argentina in their 4-1 win over South Korea

Having lamented the lack of real action in the opening week of the FIFA World Cup, with only Germany being spared from any criticism due to their fantastic 4-0 triumph over Australia, the tournament now seems to have opened up and the goals have been flying in over the last two days of action. Many pundits have suggested, quite justifiably, that every team in the competition was frightened to lose in their opening matches and, therefore, placed an emphasis on defence with no real inclination to attack. But now that every team has played their opening game it is evident amongst those teams that have played their second matches already that there is an instinct to attack that wasn’t there before. Suddenly the action is better and the games have become more of a spectacle. Today’s action is a case in point.

The Group B table saw Argentina top after the first round of matches and it remains the case after the second round as the Albiceleste saw off a spirited South Korea side by four goals to one with the brilliant and, in my humble opinion, under-rated striker Gonzalo Higuaín scoring the first hat-trick of the tournament. Argentina, though, did have to rely on a bit of luck to take the lead after a 16th minute free-kick from the left by Lionel Messi was inadvertently turned into his own net by Park Chu-Young from six yards out. The second goal for Argentina began in the same area of the pich with a cross from Maxi Rodríguez flicked on by Nicolas Burdisso, an early substitute for Walter Samuel who went off with a hamstring injury, and Higuaín was able to direct the ball goalwards at the far post to double the lead. At this point the Argentines were coasting the match but were given a wake-up call from South Korea when Lee Chung-Yung dispossessed Martín Demichelis on the edge of Argentina’s penalty area and tucked it past Sergio Romero to pull one back on the stroke of half-time.

The second half would belong to one man and that man was Gonzalo Higuaín. His second goal was a true poacher’s effort with Messi and Sergio Agüero combining well with the former’s shot hitting the keeper and a post before crawling along the line where a grateful Higuaín tapped it home to make it 3-1 with thirteen minutes to go. Three minutes later and he’d got his hat-trick thanks once again to some fantastic work between Messi and Agüero. Messi fed Agüero with a lofted ball into the box, with Agüero supplying a beautifully weighted cross over to Higuaín at the far post and his header sealed what was a well-deserved scoreline for a team who have seemingly found their rhythm in this tournament now.

In the other Group B game Greece, who had started the tournament so appallingly in their opening game against South Korea, looked to be heading in the same direction after just sixteen minutes when Kalu Uche’s long distance free-kick somehow avoided everybody in the box and deceived Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas into diving the wrong way. But the Greeks finally got that bit of luck when Nigeria’s Sani Kaita was shown a red card in the 33rd minute for kicking out at Vasilis Torosidis after a needless scuffle on the touchline. This provided the perfect platform for the 2004 European champions to get back into the game and, with just seconds of the first half remaining, they did just that. Even then Greece, who hadn’t scored a single goal in World Cup finals football before today, finally broke their duck thanks to a cruel deflection, Dimitris Salpingidis’ shot came off Lukman Haruna and sent the keeper the wrong way to make the score 1-1 going into the break. From the second half the Greeks took the game to the Super Eagles who had decided to try and hold on to what they had. But constant Greek pressure soon paid off in the 71st minute when Torosidis, the man at the centre of the red card furore earlier in the game, saw Alexandros Tziolis’ shot from the edge of the box parried by Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama and it was Torosidis who put the rebound in from just inside the six yard box to give his country its first ever victory in the FIFA World Cup after they lost all of their previous four games from the 1994 and 2010 tournaments. In the final Group B matches, to be played on Tuesday June 22nd at 20:30 local time, Argentina meet Greece whilst South Korea face off against Nigeria.

Javier Hernández

Javier Hernández gave Mexico the lead in their 2-0 win over France

Group A had already seen the host nation South Africa crumble to an efficient Uruguay side on Wednesday night, Diego Forlán’s contribution of two goals and an assist for Álvaro Pereira saw the two-time winners victorious to the tune of three goals to nil to silence the vuvuzelas in the crowd. Thursday saw the second game in the group for France and Mexico, both of whom drew their opening matches in the tournament, therefore a win was absolutely imperative for both teams to stake a serious claim of further progress in the competition. Despite the lack of goals in the first half the Mexicans gave a good account of themselves and were clearly the hungrier of the two teams. The French, personified by their expected star of the tournament Franck Ribéry, were lacklustre, devoid of ideas and barely threatened their opponents all night. The second half saw Mexico break the deadlock on 64 minutes when Javier Hernández, who came on as a substitute just ten minutes earlier, beat the offside trap and had all the time in the world to take the ball past a helpless Hugo Lloris and into the French net. The game was won fifteen minutes later when another second half substitute Cuauhtémoc Blanco dispatched a penalty kick which had been won when Patrice Evra brought down Pablo Barrera in the box. The celebrations started in the stadium and the result seriously hinders French chances of qualification to the next round. In the final Group A games, to be played on Tuesday, June 22nd at 16:00 local time, group leaders Uruguay and Mexico meet each other in Rustenburg, with both teams knowing that a draw will be enough to take them both through, while South Africa plays against France in Bloemfontein in what will almost certainly be their last match in their home tournament.

Eastern Europe: Baltic Cup 2010 Preview

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 16, 2010
Baltic Cup Logo

The Baltic Cup tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20

The FIFA World Cup is not the only international tournament going on in the world of football at the moment. The Baltic Cup football tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20 with three matches in as many days deciding which of the Baltic States will triumph over their rivals. Latvia, defending champions after winning the most recent competition in 2008, will help kick off the tournament by participating in the opening game against hosts Lithuania. Latvia will then face off against Estonia in the second game twenty four hours later and the tournament will conclude with the host nation meeting tournament outsiders Estonia on June 20th. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the tournament with a short history of the event and a look at the current teams ahead of the big kick off.

The first ever Baltic Cup tournament took place in 1928 in Estonia and it was Latvia’s Arkādijs Pavlovs who secured his place in the competition’s history books by scoring the first ever Baltic Cup goal after just two minutes in a 3-0 win over Lithuania. Latvia won the first ever Baltic Cup after beating Estonia in the tournament decider by a goal to nil. Estonia won their maiden Baltic Cup the following year gaining revenge on Latvia by pipping the tournament hosts to the title on goal difference by one. The third tournament in 1930 saw Lithuania win their first tournament and it was again decided on goal difference with Lithuania’s final match 3-3 draw being enough to give them the trophy. The tournament was won fairly evenly up until 1938 with Latvia winning the event five times (1928, 1932, 1933, 1936 & 1937) compared to Estonia’s three (1929, 1931 & 1938) and Lithuania’s two (1930 & 1935). After Estonia’s 1938 triumph the Baltic Cup would fail to be played between independent states for another 53 years after many years of Soviet occupation. During the Soviet era a tournament did continue to take place in most years but it was re-instated as a tournament between nation states after each of the Baltic countries secured their independence between 1990-91.

Post-Independence Baltic Cup football has been a two horse race with Latvia and Lithuania sharing the titles between them. The year 1991 saw host nation Lithuania win their third title on goal difference from Latvia. The tournament would continue to be run as an annual event until 1998 and, during this time, Lithuania were the regional power chalking up six title wins in eight tournaments with Latvia victorious in two tournaments (1993 & 1995). Since the beginning of the 21st Century the Baltic Cup has been held every 2-3 years depending on each nation’s various commitments in the international footballing calendar. In the last decade the tournament was held four times with Latvia returning to prominence as the regional footballing power winning three titles out of four (2001, 2003 & 2008) with Lithuania winning their ninth ever title in 2005 with the event being reduced to a one-off game due to Estonia’s inability to find a place for the team in their schedule. Lithuanian Igoris Morinas scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Latvia to gift them the 2005 title but the defeated finalists got their own back in the most recent tournament in 2008. After both Lithuania and Latvia had secured victories against Estonia the two teams met in the tournament decider in Riga and it was host nation Latvia who won a record tenth title with Kaspars Gorkšs and an own goal from Vidas Alunderis giving Latvia a 2-0 lead before Ričardas Beniušis pulled one back for Lithuania with nine minutes to go. Watch the goals from the 2008 Latvia v Lithuania match HERE:

For this year’s tournament Latvia and Lithuania have created squads with a balance between youth and experience whilst the Estonian squad mainly consists of players who have plenty of caps. Only five out of twenty players in the Estonian set-up have fewer than twenty caps compared to eleven players for Latvia and seventeen out of twenty-four from Lithuania. Perhaps the players to look out for in the tournament will be Latvia’s striker Kristaps Grebis, who was the Latvian league’s top scorer last season with 30 goals, Lithuania’s Darvydas Šernas who has just completed his first season in Polish football scoring twelve goals in 34 league games, and Estonia’s Kaimar Saag, a promising 21 year old who scored his first international goal in December 2009 and has recently won his twentieth cap.

BALTIC CUP 2010 FIXTURES

18.06.2010 Lithuania v Latvia (in Kaunas)

19.06.2010 Latvia v Estonia (in Kaunas)

20.06.2010 Lithuania v Estonia (in Marijampolė)

FIFA: Spain shocked by flukey Swiss; Chile make history

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 16, 2010
Gelson Fernandes

Gelson Fernandes scored the winning goal in Switzerland's 1-0 win over Spain

After Brazil squeaked their way past a resilient North Korea on Tuesday another FIFA World Cup favourite Spain had less luck in their opening group match against Switzerland on Wednesday. The Spanish lost to a Gelson Fernandes goal in the 52nd minute of their Group H encounter in what proved to be the first major shock of the tournament. That means that the Swiss top the group along with Chile who, earlier in the day, had beaten Honduras by a lone Jean Beausejour strike ten minutes from the break.

La Roja, as the Spanish national team are known, have been the pre-tournament favourites and were widely expected to beat Switzerland in their opening Group H match in Durban. Sadly for Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque his troops were to go down by a goal to nil despite his side having the lion’s share of the possession and the chances. In face Switzerland’s only real chance in the game came along with the goal seven minutes after the break. A traditional route one goal was started with a punt upfield from goalkeeper Diego Benaglio which was headed on by Eren Derdiyok. He made a run and received the ball back before having a run into the penalty box before being tripped by Spanish keeper Iker Casillas. After Derdiyok was left sprawling in the box the loose ball was tapped in from Fernandes who was chased unsuccessfully by Gerard Piqué and the Swiss had the lead with their first real opportunity of the game. After that there were two great chances which hit the woodwork, one for either side. Xabi Alonso hit the crossbar after shooting from distance on 72 minutes while Switzerland’s only real chance to put the game to bed came three minutes later when Derdiyok, after a mazy run, shot without the outside of his right foot only to see his shot cannon back off a post. The Spanish, try as they might, were unable to summon up an equalizer and it was Ottmar Hitzfeld and his troops who were to celebrate a wonderful three points after the game.

Earlier in the day Chile made history by winning their first FIFA World Cup match a mere 48 years after winning their last one which was played on home soil in the 1962 tournament. A deserved win for the South Americans was sealed when Alexis Sanchez played a lovely through ball down the right to Mauricio Isla who squared it to Jean Beausejour who turned it home from a few yards out. The game could’ve been over as a contest on 65 minutes but Waldo Ponce’s close range header was stopped brilliantly by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares to keep the Central American side in the game. Unfortunately for the Hondurans it was Marcelo Bielsa’s men who had done just enough to take the three points in one of the FIFA World Cup’s more entertaining affairs so far.

After one game each Spain and Honduras are propping up the Chileans and the Swiss before the second set of games in the group sees Spain meeting fellow opening match losers Honduras in Johannesburg on Monday, June 21st whilst Chile meet Switzerland earlier on the same day in Port Elizabeth.

FIFA: Kuijt and Honda secure wins; de Rossi saves Italy

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 14, 2010
Dirk Kuijt

Dirk Kuijt scored the second in the Netherlands' 2-0 win over Denmark

The Netherlands got day four of the FIFA World Cup under way with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Group E opponents Denmark. With the Dutch among the favourites to lift the trophy on July 11th there was always going to be huge expectations on Bert Van Marwijk’s team to start the tournament with a win but, in the end, there was nothing to worry about even after the first half had ended goalless. That’s because, after an even first half in which no team dominated proceedings, the Dutch were gifted a bizarre own goal just thirty seven seconds into the second half after a Robin Van Persie cross from the left-hand side was headed by Simon Poulsen towards his own goal and, ultimately, went in off the back of Daniel Agger. This seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Danes who offered little resistance to the Netherlands’ superior play with the Oranje enjoying two thirds of the possession and many more shots at goal than their opponents. The victory was wrapped up with just five minutes left to play when substitute Eljero Elia was played through by Wesley Sneijder and his shot hit the post only for Dirk Kuijt to tap the ball home from just a couple of yards out to seal the win for the Netherlands. No doubt that Kuijt enjoyed talking about that one to the world’s press after the game.

The second game of the day was also in Group E and a match which both Japan and Cameroon saw as their best chance to take three points. With the Netherlands and Denmark to come for both sides the magnitude of this game was multiplied for the group outsiders and it was Japan who were to be jubilant at the end of a game which didn’t offer too much by way of goalmouth action especially at the Japanese end of the pitch where, sadly, one of the world’s best strikers Samuel Eto’o remained a strangely anonymous figure on the right-hand side of the park. The goal that decided the match came in the 38th minute when a dangerous cross from the right by Daisuke Matsui found Keisuke Honda in the six-yard box who just about had enough time to take a touch to control the ball and then send it past keeper Souleymanou Hamidou. After that the Japanese were very organized and allowed Cameroon very little space to roam until the last twenty minutes when they started playing deeper. Even then it would’ve been very harsh on the Japanese had they conceded an equalizer which they very nearly did on 85 minutes when Stéphane Mbia struck a beautiful shot from long range only to see his effort come back off the woodwork. Thankfully for Japan they managed to hold on to the win and now meet the Netherlands on Saturday, June 19th in Durban while Cameroon must pick themselves up for their clash with Denmark in Pretoria on the same day.

Daniele de Rossi

Daniele de Rossi saved a point for Italy in their match against Paraguay

The third game of the day was the first game in Group F and it was a decent, if not a classic, affair between defending world champions Italy and South Americans Paraguay. The first half couldn’t build up too much attacking rhythm due to the particulary harsh weather conditions in the stadium which saw a torrent of hailstones and a lot of rain drenching the players throughout the first forty-five minutes but at least it didn’t prevent any goalmouth action. There were a couple of half chances before the main action took place in the 39th minute when a free-kick from Paraguay’s Aureliano Torres found the head of Antolín Alcaraz, who rose well above Daniele de Rossi and Fabio Cannavaro in the box, to give Paraguay the lead which they took into the half-time break. If Daniele de Rossi felt partly responsible for the goal in the first half then he made up for it in the second half equalizing after 63 minutes when Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar completely missed his attempted punch of Simone Pepe’s corner which allowed de Rossi to tap in from a couple of yards out at the far post to put the Azzurri back on level terms. After that it was the Italians who looked most likely to score a second but, unfortunately for them, their best chance to win it was saved when Villar turned Riccardo Montolivo’s long-range shot round for a corner.

In the end Paraguay must’ve been glad to pick up a point but if it weren’t for some dodgy goalkeeping from Villar then they could’ve been celebrating more tonight. Nonetheless they start the tournament with a point and will hope to get a win against Slovakia on Sunday, June 20th in Bloemfontein whilst for Italy a meeting with New Zealand in Nelspruit on the same day could see their FIFA World Cup take off in style.

FIFA: Slovenia and Ghana scrape wins; Germany impress in opener

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 13, 2010
Robert Koren

Robert Koren scored the winning goal for Slovenia in their 1-0 victory over Algeria

Day three of the FIFA World Cup began with another contender for the Most Boring Match award, at least in the first half anyway, as Algeria and Slovenia played out a pretty dull forty-five minutes of football with each team having just one major chance each. Rafik Halliche had a great oppotunity to put Algeria ahead from a corner in the 36th minute but his header bounced wide of the far post. One minute before the break and it was Slovenia’s turn to register their first meaningful shot on target when Valter Birsa shot from long-range dipping at the last moment to force keeper Faouzi Chaouchi into making a great TV save, tipping the ball over the bar. Sadly the same couldn’t be said about Algeria’s custodian late on in the game. Algeria were already at a disadvantage in the 72nd minute upon having substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal sent off just fifteen minutes after coming on due to gaining a second yellow card through handballing in the box. Seven minutes later Robert Koren sealed the game for Slovenia when hitting a shot from 25 yards out which Chaouchi allowed to bounce over him and into the back of the net. Slovenia held on to the lead to secure their first win at a major football tournament and now have a two point lead over both England and the United States in Group C. The next games in this group both come on Friday, June 18th with England facing Algeria and the USA meeting up with group leaders Slovenia.

Group D got under way in the second game of the day between Ghana and Serbia and just when we thought the competition needed a shot in the arm to really kick start it in to life this game sadly failed to provide it. Save for free-kick opportunities for Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan and Serbia’s Alexsandar Kolorov the game saw precious few chances of any note and, like the pattern set in most of the games in the FIFA World Cup so far, we had a goalless first half. The game opened up in the second half but it was still a tactical stalemate with both teams cancelling each other out but then came a red card for the aforementioned Kolorov for a foul on Gyan in the 74th minute. Eleven minutes later came the pivotal moment of the match when Serbia’s Zdravko Kuzmanović handled the ball in the box and thus set up Gyan to score from the spot to give the Black Stars victory. A disappointing Serbia lost their first game of the tournament and it is difficult to see how they can pick themselves up for their next game against Germany on Friday, June 18th.

Miro Klose and Lukas Podolski

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski were amongst the scorers for Germany in their 4-0 hammering of Australia

Speaking of Germany they sent shockwaves through the footballing world tonight with a mesmerising performance against an Australian team with plenty of experience but lacking any quality in attack. The Socceroos‘ best chance of the match came very early when Philipp Lahm cleared a Tim Cahill header off the line in the 4th minute with Richard Garcia unable to dispatch the rebound. From then on die Mannschaft took over with Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, whose performances and form in the German Bundesliga this season led many to question their inclusion in the squad, scoring the goals to put Germany 2-0 ahead at half-time. Most of the plaudits in the morning, though, should and will be set aside for Mesut Özil whose creativity and ability to run into any free space allowed by the Aussie defence means that he should be taken seriously by future opponents as a major threat. In the second half Germany were playing champagne football and a chance for Thomas Müller should’ve seen them further ahead before Australia’s Tim Cahill received a harshly given red card from Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez in the 56th minute. But, in any case, Müller got his goal in the 68th minute to make things comfortable for the Germans with Cacau coming off the bench to make it four just a couple of minutes later. There were no further goals but there was a demonstration of just how well Germany can keep possession when they put their minds to it and should they meet any of the favourites such as Brazil or Spain later in the tournament then they shouldn’t fear them. Australia have a chance to make amends for this ghastly defeat on Saturday, June 19th when they meet Ghana in Rustenburg.

English TV Station Scores Another Own Goal

Posted in Uncategorized by peterbein on June 13, 2010

British commerical station Independent Television (ITV) is once again embarrassed after its coverage of a football match was rudely interrupted by a mis-timed advertisement break. For anybody who missed it, ITV’s coverage of the FA Cup 4th round tie in 2008/09 between Everton and Liverpool was strangely interrupted by some advertisements with three minutes of extra-time still to play. When the station realized its mistake and put the football back on screen millions of viewers were annoyed to find out that they’d just missed out on seeing Dan Gosling’s winner for Everton. See the video here:

Roll on to the 2010 FIFA World Cup match between England and the United States in Rustenburg, South Africa. With just three minutes of the match played viewers watching the game on ITV’s High Definition channel were surprised to see an advertisement interrupt the match coverage. And, as if that weren’t bad enough for ITV, they were again unlucky to re-instate the match coverage just moments after a goal had been scored. Steven Gerrard’s strike came four minutes into the match and, once again, millions of viewers missed it.

Once bitten, twice shy, eh? See the video here:

Europe: Summer Leagues Special (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on June 13, 2010
Aleksejs Višņakovs

Aleksejs Višņakovs was on the scoresheet for FK Ventspils in their 2-1 win at home to Skonto Riga

Although the focus for the next four weeks will heavily be centred upon South Africa and the FIFA World Cup, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog will continue providing the latest news in some of the European leagues which take place throughout the summer months. In Latvia yesterday there was a top of the table clash between FK Ventspils and Skonto Riga, Lithuania saw a new leader in the A Lyga championship race whilst in Estonia there are three teams on the same number of points at the top of the table. We also keep you up to date with the latest news from Belarus and Finland.

The biggest game of the weekend in Latvia was between FK Ventspils and record champions Skonto Riga, the latter having a six point lead over FKV before the match kicked off. A crowd of one thousand turned up for the game and, after a goalless first half, it was the home supporters who were cheering first in the 48th minute when Aleksejs Višņakovs received a long ball into the penalty box, controlled it neatly with his right foot and guided it home from ten yards out to give FKV the lead. Six minutes later and it got better for Nunzio Zavettieri’s Ventspils side when captain Grigory Chirkin received the ball midway inside his own half as Ventspils broke on the counter attack. Chirkin then went down the left before cutting inside and unleashed a shot from just outside the box which Skonto keeper Kaspars Ikstens was unable to hold onto and the Yellow and Blues had a two nil lead. Skonto did pull a goal back late on when Armands Pētersons shot low into the bottom right corner to halve the deficit but FK Ventspils managed to hold out for a much-needed victory. With defending champions Liepājas Metalurgs also winning their game at home to FC Tranzits by two goals to nil it was imperative for FK Ventspils to win in order to stay in touch with the title chasers. After yesterday’s games Skonto still lead the table with 25 points from 10 games, FK Ventspils have 22 points from 9 games and Metalurgs are a further point behind having also played nine games. Watch FK Ventspils v Skonto Riga highlights HERE:

In Lithuania there is a new leader, for at least twenty hours anyway, as defending title holders FK Ekranas won 5-0 at home against FK Mažeikia with Ramūnas Radavičius and Vīts Rimkus each scoring a brace and Egidijus Varnas scoring the other one to put FK Ekranas level on points with FK Žalgiris Vilnius. The capital side play later today against third-placed FK Sūduva in a match which could have important consequences for the title race. FK Sūduva, fresh from qualifying for the Triobet Baltic League final earlier in the week, will go to within a point of the top two if they can beat second-placed Žalgiris so it’s an important match for all concerned.

The Estonian Meistriliiga is shaping up into a fascinating three horse race with traditional powers Flora Tallinn and Levadia Tallinn fighting it out with surprise challenger FC Trans Narva. FC Flora, who lost out to FK Ventspils in the Triobet Baltic League semi-finals this week, beat FC Lootus 4-0 away from home and were grateful to learn that FC Levadia, champions for the last four seasons, had dropped two points at home to JK Nõmme Kalju in a goalless stalemate. FC Trans’ 3-0 home win against FC Kuresaare took them to the forty point mark, the same number as the Tallinn “Old Firm”, but FC Trans have played 19 league matches so far compared to FC Flora’s 16 and FC Levadia’s 17.

Finland’s Veikkausliiga could prove to be a tight contest this season as there are ten teams separated by just seven points although some teams have yet to play their ninth game whilst some teams already have done so. Friday night saw JJK Jyväskylä beat FF Jaro by three goals to one with striker Tommi Kari getting on the scoresheet twice whilst on Saturday AC Oulu kept up their title challenge with a 3-0 win away at FC Lahti thanks to a brace from Mika Nurmela and a lone strike from Jean Ngambe Ngambe. Defending champions HJK Helsinki are amongst the six teams playing on Sunday, facing off against MyPa in their Matchday 9 tie, whilst second-placed Honka Espoo face KuPS Kuopio and FC Haka plays against bottom club IFK Mariehamn. Two further games on Monday, FC Tampere v TPS Turku and Inter Turku and VPS Vaasa, complete the round.

The 14th round of games will take place on Monday in the Belarussian Vysshaya Liga with BATE Borisov in their usual first place position in the table. They have a five point lead as they go into their match with fifth-placed FC Minsk whilst second-placed Dinamo Minsk will fancy their chances of keeping up with BATE with a win at home to third bottom side FC Neman Grodno. Poor old Partizan Minsk have still to win a game in the championship, having only scored two points from thirteen games, and will seek that maiden victory away at eighth-placed Lokomotiv Vitebsk.

FIFA: Wins for South Korea and Argentina while England stumble to draw

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 12, 2010
Lee Jung-Soo

Lee Jung-Soo scored South Korea's opening goal in their 2-0 victory over Greece

Saturday saw six more teams get their FIFA Wold Cup campaign underway with Groups B & C taking centre stage. The first match of the day is an early contender for the Stoppage Time Most Boring Game Of The Tournament award as South Korea and Greece provided an utterly underwhelming exhibition – a term I use very loosely – of football which could’ve put an insomniac asleep. The only moments to behold in an otherwise forgettable affair were Lee Jung-Soo’s seventh minute opening goal and Park Ji-Sung’s goal which doubled the lead for the Koreans in the 52nd minute. The defending from Greece for the first goal was poor with an entire back four standing still while Lee turned the ball home at the far post whilst unmarked. Another defensive slip allowed the Koreans to double the lead with Loukas Vyntra giving away possession to Manchester United star Park who bust a gut to get into the box before sliding the ball home past a helpless Alexandros Tzorvas.

The unforgivable crime from the Greek side, even worse than their defending, was their inability to raise themselves for the occasion in a game they were, on paper at least, most likely to obtain any points from. They seldom looked like any kind of threat up front and it is no surprise that their unenviable record of having never scored a goal in FIFA World Cup finals to date still stands true after this match. After the Greeks scored no goals in three matches in the 1994 tournament I wouldn’t be surprised to see them replicate that statistic this time around. Credit, though, must go to the South Koreans who didn’t need to be at their best to obtain three points from this most dire of football matches.

The irony is that, despite the sorry football on show in the first game, there were more goals to be seen between South Korea and Greece than there were in the following Group B encounter involving Argentina and Nigeria which was a much more entertaining game. The game was decided by an early Gabriel Heinze header with the Argentine centre-half completely unmarked twelve yards out to head home a Juan Sebastián Verón corner in the sixth minute. Their opponents Nigeria were finding it difficult to get going in the first half with the Argentines having much more possession but unable to find the second goal with it. Lionel Messi had at least four great chances in the match to get on the scoresheet and, as the game went on, the Nigerians were finally encouraged to go further forward by otherwise defence-minded coach Lars Lagerbäck, therefore allowing for a much more open game as it entered the final twenty minutes. Taye Taiwo had Nigeria’s best chance in the 71st minute when his toe-poked effort from the edge of the box shaded past the post and Obafemi Martins’ long-range effort seven minutes brought a decent stop from Sergia Romero. Diego Maradona was restless on the touchline but was able to celebrate the victory after the final whistle and provide a much-needed three points to start the tournament for La Albiceleste.

Steven Gerrard

England captain Steven Gerrard scored after just four minutes in their 1-1 draw against the United States

The final game on the second day of the competition was in Rustenburg where Group C got under way with an intriging clash between England and the United States. It was a confident USA team who got the game under way but they were made to pay for some slack defending after just four minutes when Steven Gerrard, replacing the injured Rio Ferdinand as England captain, ran into some clear space in the penalty box and was put through by Emile Heskey to give the Three Lions an early lead. England looked comfortable early on but the Americans gradually grew into the game with Jozy Altidore having their first real chance  after twenty minutes and then the USA had the most possession for the rest of the half. Just when it looked like England would go in at the break holding on to a slender lead it suddenly disappeared when goalkeeper Robert Green failed to hold on to Clint Dempsey’s speculative drive in the 40th minute to restore parity for the Americans and this was how it remained going into the interval.

The second half saw no real improvement from England and there were times when the United States looked the better side. They certainly had the best chance of the second half when Jozy Altidore got the better of England substitute Jamie Carragher and his low shot was turned against the post by Robert Green, who made up for his first half blunder at that moment. The expected stars of the match, England’s Wayne Rooney and USA’s Landon Donovan, didn’t really live up to star billing although the former did become more prominent in the last fifteen minutes of the game winning a number of free-kicks whilst the latter had a couple of shots from distance but didn’t really trouble the England keeper. The Man of the Match, in my opinion, was Emile Heskey whose tireless devotion to the cause made some of his critics, including yours truly, eat their words. As well as setting up the goal he was hard-working, won many aerial challenges and was a menace both in and around the USA penalty box until replaced by Peter Crouch in the 79th minute. Next up for England is Algeria in Cape Town on Friday, June 18th whilst the USA face Slovenia in Jo’Burg on the same date.