Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Russia: Can Zenit reach the zenith?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 21, 2010
Zenit Saint Petersburg

Zenit enjoyed great success under Dick Advocaat. Can they repeat such glories under Luciano Spalletti?

Zenit Saint Petersburg enjoyed great success under the guidance of former coach Dick Advocaat from 2006-09. In that era they won their first Russian Premier League title in 2007 and the treble of UEFA Cup, Russian Super Cup and European Super Cup in 2008. The European success was very special for the team from Russia’s second city as it came only three years after CSKA Moscow had won the UEFA Cup and thus entered an exclusive club of Russian teams to have won a European trophy. Since then things have gone a bit quiet as Rubin Kazan have dominated the league in the last two seasons winning back-to-back titles but things could be about to change under the guidance of Luciano Spaletti.

Zenit Saint Petersburg currently lead the 2010 Russian Premier League table by six points from second place CSKA Moscow after thirteen games, with defending champions Rubin a further point behind in third place. Zenit are currently the only unbeaten side in the league and have already chalked up a win in the 2010 Russian Cup final in May having defeated Sibir Novosibirsk. It is impressive form that Zenit are showing and they have done it without being overly reliant on any one player to score the goals. In fact the goals have been spread amongst a number of players in the squad and the solidity of the defence ensures that not too much gets past keeper and club stalwart Vyacheslav Malafeev who has been with the club all of his career.

Vladimir Bystrov has been an essential part of the team with the right winger scoring five times in twelve league appearances so far and is the club’s top scorer at the moment. Danny has re-ignited his form this season after a difficult 2009 season in which he only played eight games and has scored four times in his attacking midfield role. Roman Shirokov has also contributed to the goalscoring from midfield as Zenit’s attacking players of Alexander Kherzakov and Danko Lazović have struggled to hit the net with such prolific players from elsewhere on the pitch. Even Belgian left-back Nicolas Lombaerts has scored more goals than the attacking pair as Zenit show that they have options all over the pitch when it comes to hitting the back of the net. But it’s not just about the attacking side of matters. Zenit’s defence has only conceded five goals in thirteen matches – only Rubin Kazan have conceded fewer at the moment (three goals). Nonetheless the experienced Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, coaching outside of his native land for the first time in his career, has made Zenit compact but direct at the same time. They are adept at turning defence into attack and have profited, in particular, from the pace of Bystrov down the right side.

Zenit’s most recent game in the league was at home against their opponents from this year’s Russian Cup final Sibir Novosibirsk. Goals from Lombaerts and Roman Shirokov gave the home side a 2-0 win to keep the gap between themselves and CSKA, 1-0 winners away at bottom club Krylya Sovetov, to six points. WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

MLS: Galaxy into orbit thanks to Donovan (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 20, 2010
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in Galaxy's 2-1 victory over DC United

Who needs David Beckham when you’ve got Landon Donovan? Despite the publicity and interest which the former England captain brings to Major League Soccer (MLS) and to his club, it is the all-American hero Landon Donovan who is helping Los Angeles Galaxy maintain their strong position at the top of the league in the absence of Beckham.

Not only do the Galaxy have a healthy nine point lead at the top of the Western Conference standings but they also appear on course to win the MLS Supporters Shield, the trophy given to the team with the best regular season record in the whole of the league after thirty games. Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew, who have the second best record in the league at the moment, are eight points worse off although they do have a game in hand on the Galaxy. Nonetheless with the league’s meanest defence – only eight goals conceded – and the second best attack having scored one goal less than Real Salt Lake (28 goals) then it is clear that the Galaxy are there as the team to beat in MLS this season and Donovan has been instrumental to their success.

Donovan has the best stats in the Major League for assists and “game-winning” assists plus he has chipped in with two goals of his own this season. The latest of which came in the Galaxy’s 2-1 win away at DC United on Sunday night. The league’s top-scorer Edson Buddle kept up his good form by giving LA Galaxy the lead seven minutes before half-time and his goal separated the two teams at half-time. Then Andy Najar equalized for DC United in the 54th minute but this only brought about a reaction from the Galaxy who, just three minutes later, dispossessed United in midfield and, having worked their way into the box, won a penalty kick thanks to a handball. The resulting penalty was dispatched by Donovan who was back in the team having missed the previous match away at New England Revolution, a game which the Galaxy lost 2-0 and recorded only their second defeat in MLS this season. The other defeat came one day before the FIFA World Cup kicked off in South Africa as Galaxy lost 1-0 against Real Salt Lake; Donovan didn’t play in that game either.

The standings in the Western Conference show LA Galaxy with 39 points after seventeen games, their nearest challengers for the Conference title being the defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake who are nine points adrift but have a game in hand. In the Eastern Conference Columbus Crew top the standings with thirty one points from sixteen games, five ahead of Thierry Henry’s new club New York Red Bulls.


Super Cup: CFR Cluj secure treble; Dinamo defeat rivals Hajduk (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 19, 2010

The Super Cup matches of Romania and Croatia were decided this weekend. In the former CFR Cluj kept up their domestic dominance by securing the third of a possible treble but only after winning in a penalty shoot-out. In Croatia old rivals from Zagreb and Split were involved in the fight to win the traditional curtain-raiser to the season.

It is far from contentious to suggest that Unirea Urziceni must be sick of the sight of CFR Cluj in recent years. Unirea have been beaten by the Transylvanian outfit in the 2007-08 Romanian Cup final as well as the last two Romanian Super Cup matches including yesterday’s game played at the Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu in Cluj-Napoca, a town which lies approximately 450 kilometres away from the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Dominique Kivuvu opened the scoring for CFR Cluj as early as the 12th minute before he was unfortunate to put through his own net, thus restoring parity for Unirea in the 53rd minute. With no further scoring after ninety minutes the game went into extra-time and it wasn’t long before Laurenţiu Marinescu put Unirea in front. Ciprian Ioan Deac equalized for the home side on the stroke of half-time in extra-time and the game would then peter out into a 2-2 draw sending the game into a penalty shoot-out. Unbelieveably Unirea missed all four of their spot kicks in the shoot-out so it only needed two successful attempts from Felice Piccolo and Emil Dică to secure CFR Cluj the trophy for the second time in their history. Watch the goals HERE:

Watch the Penalty shoot-out HERE:

In Croatia there was one goal that decided the Super Cup match between old rivals Dinamo Zagreb, who won the Croatian League title for the eleventh time last season, and Hajduk Split, last season’s Cup winners. After 76 minutes it was former Liverpool player Igor Bišćan who sealed the game for the champions after he headed home a cross from Brazilian striker Dodô to give Dinamo their fourth Super Cup title. Watch the goal HERE:

CAF: Mazembe win; Record champions in stalemate

Posted in African Football by peterbein on July 18, 2010
Given Singuluma

Given Singuluma scored twice for TP Mazembe in their 2-0 away win at Dynamos

The opening matchday of the African Champions League took place this weekend and it was a good one for defending champions TP Mazembe whose campaign goes from strength to strength following a 2-0 win in Zimbabwe. Record champions Al Ahly, however, had to come from behind to snatch a draw away at Nigerians Heartland FC.

The weekend began with in Group A and a battle between two north African heavyweights. Tunisian giants Espérance Sportive travelled to Algeria to face ES Sétif and came away with the three points following a Wadji Bouazzi strike early in the second half. TP Mazembe’s two goal victory away at Dynamos FC has given the defending African champions a perfect start and the top spot in Group A thanks to Zambian striker Given Singuluma whose brace came in the first half to secure the three points from the team hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Group B record champions Al Ahly were ultimately grateful to seal a point from their game away at Heartland who took the lad after 49 minutes thanks to Joshua Obaje. But the Egyptians got their equalizer in the 75th minute from the penalty spot which was scored by Abou Treika much to the relief of their coach Hossam El-Badry. In the other Group B match played in Egypt home side Al Ismaily were narrowly defeated 1-0 by Algerians JS Kabylie thanks to a lone strike from Belkacem Remache with fourteen minutes remaining of the match.

In the CAF Confederation Cup record champions CS Sfaxien could only draw 0-0 in their play-off, first leg match away at Angolan side Atlético Petróleos. The big winners in the opening legs were Zambians Zanaco FC who hammered their Nigerian opponents Enyimba by four goals to nil and, in the last game of the weekend on Sunday, Sudanese club Al Hilal went one better by scoring five past Zimbabwe’s CAPS United without reply. Other winners in the opening legs were Ittihad (2-0 v Primeiro de Agosto), Gaborone United (1-0 v Haras El Hodood) and Supersport United (2-1 v FUS Rabat) whilst the games involving Al-Merreikh v ASFAN FC and Djoliba v CR Belouizdad finished 2-2 and 0-0 respectively to ensure a nervous second leg in each case.

Asia: Too close to call in Big Three nations

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on July 18, 2010
Kashima Antlers

Kashima Antlers remain on top of the J-League after a 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale

Things are getting interesting in the three biggest league championships of Asian football. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog highlights the latest developments in Japan, China and South Korea.

The top of the J-League table shows the top three teams separated by just two points after thirteen games. Champions Kashima Antlers are back on top of the table after a 2-1 win at home to Kawasaki Frontale with Jung Soo-Lee scoring the winning goal for Kashima in the 78th minute. Kawasaki had played with ten men for all of the second half after former Eintracht Frankfurt star Junichi Inamoto was sent off late in the first half and would eventually be made to pay after resisting the Kashima attack for so long. Shimuzu S-Pulse were top of the table before the weekend’s matches but drop into second place after a disappointing goalless draw at home to twelfth place Jubilo Iwata whilst Nagoya Grampus Eight closed the gap thanks to a Joshua Kennedy strike in the 76th minute to gain a slender 1-0 win over Omiya Ardija. Omiya are second bottom after Shonan Bellmare managed to jump from bottom (18th) place into 16th thanks to a 1-0 win away at Kyoto Sanga who now occupy the bottom spot thanks to that defeat.

In South Korea four points separate the top seven teams in another closely fought championship race. Ulsan Hyundai occupied the top spot before the weekend’s matches began but suddenly found themselves in fifth place after their 1-0 defeat at home to Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Jeju United are now at the top of the table following a 5-0 rout over second bottom club Gangwon FC. Seoul FC stay in third spot despite their 1-0 defeat away at Incheon United while Gyeongnam occupy fourth place after they defeated mid-table outfit Gwangju Sangmu 1-0. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Busan I’Park lie in sixth and seventh respectively having each put four goals past their hapless opponents. Jeonbuk beat lowly Daejeon Citizen 4-0 while Busan ensured that 2009 Asian Champions League winners Pohang Steelers remain in domestic despair following a 4-2 win. The Steelers are just two points and three places clear of bottom team Daegu FC as their K-League form remains in stark contrast to their performances at Asian level.

China’s Super League also sees a neatly bunched selection of clubs at the top of the table with six teams separated by four points. Shanghai Shenhua remain top despite dropping two points at home to fifth place Henan Jianye following a spectacular match which finished 3-3, the away side coming from 2-0 down to take the lead before Shanghai equalized fifteen minutes from time thanks to Duvier Riascos. This allowed Luneng Taishan to close the gap between themselves and Shanghai to just a point after they defeated Nanchang Bayi 1-0 with Zheng Zheng’s 55th minute goal enough to settle the match in Luneng’s favour. Hangzhou Greentown also remained in the running after a 2-0 victory over Shaanxi Chanba while Liaoning jump into fourth place on the back of a 2-1 win over Jiangsu Shuntian. Defending champions Beijing Guo’an missed the opportunity to close the gap and remain in sixth place following a heavy 3-0 defeat away at Dalian Shide

Denmark: Superliga begins with the usual suspects as favourites

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 17, 2010
FC København

FC København have made a regular habit of winning titles in the last decade

The new Danish Superliga begins this weekend and many people will be wondering if there is anybody who can stop FC København (FCK) from claiming another championship. The capital club, formed as recently as 1992 due to a merger between traditional clubs KB Copenhagen and B1903, have won the championship eight times in their history but it is in the last decade where they have maintained a stranglehold of domestic dominance winning the title seven times since 2001 including four of the last five championships, only AaB Aalborg  interrupting their run in the 2007-08 season. Can coach Ståle Solbakken keep the title at Parken Stadion or will one of the other teams finally achieve some league glory of their own?

The league programme kicks off on Saturday in Odense where local club OB, runners up for the last two seasons, will meet Esbjerg fB with the home side most people’s tip to be the team that can end FCK dominance. With former Manchester United players Roy Carroll and Eric Djemba-Djemba, last season’s top scorer Peter Utaka and former AC Milan star Thomas Helveg in the team there is plenty of experience for De Stribede who are an ambitious club but have been starved of success in recent years save for a couple of Danish Cup triumphs in 2002 and 2009. However it is a first league title since 1989 that the third-city club are craving whilst their opponents Esbjerg last won the title over thirty years ago and finished a respectable fourth place last season but were a distant eighteen points behind the champions in the process.

Before FCK came along there was only one team in Denmark who were well known outside of their home country and that was Brøndby IF. The club who gave the world such great players as Peter Schmeichel, Kim Vilfort and the Laudrup brothers have been, by their own high standards, unsuccessful since they achieved the Danish league and cup double in the 2004-05 season. With only the Danish Cup of 2007-08 to show for their efforts since many feel it’s about time that Brøndby IF supplied a major title challenge again and having finished in third place last season they will hope to start this time around with a good win over Randers FC, a small club from northern Jutland who survived in the Superliga by the skin of their teeth having finished just a mere two points ahead of relegated Aarhus GF.

As for the champions they begin their title defence with an away game at SønderjyskE, a team who have just about survived in the top flight since their promotion from Denmark’s 1st Division in 2007-08. The last two seasons have seen the team from southern Jutland (hence the name) finish in tenth and ninth places and their target for this season will be something along the lines of mid-table security. In Zealand, the island on which the capital Copenhagen is located, FC Nordsjælland will face off against Silkeborg IF with both teams fully aware that there was very little other than goal difference separating the two teams last season although in their head-to-head meetings in the 2009-10 season FCN won two of the three games so will have that little advantage going into today’s game in the city of Farum.

The remaining two games in Matchday 1 involve last season’s promoted teams AC Horsens and Lyngby BK. The former went up as last season’s 1st Division champions having pipped the latter to the title by four points. Both teams, who have replaced Aarhus GF and HB Køge in the Superliga, will play against FC Midtjylland and AaB Aalborg respectively upon their return to the top flight. AC Horsens, back in the Superliga after just one season away, will play their first game at home on Sunday whilst Lyngby BK will complete the round of games upon facing the 2007-08 champions from Aalborg on Monday night.


17/07/2010 Odense Boldklub v Esbjerg fB

18/07/2010 AC Horsens v FC Midtjylland

18/07/2010 Randers FC v Brøndby IF

18/07/2010 FC Nordsjælland v Silkeborg IF

18/07/2010 SønderjyskE v FC København

19/07/2010 Lyngby BK v AaB Aalborg


CAF: African club competitions resume after two month break

Posted in African Football by peterbein on July 16, 2010
Al Ahly

Can record champions Al Ahly progress from the CAF Champions League group stage?

After a two month break which allowed for those national teams involved in the FIFA World Cup to prepare for that particular tournament it is back to African club competition this weekend. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League has reached its group stage with two groups of four teams battling it out for the semi-final places. The CAF Confederation Cup must play an extra round of matches before it reaches its group stage and involves sixteen teams with half of those teams being losing teams from the last round of the CAF Champions League, similar to what occurs in European club competition. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the action in both competitions.

Amongst the eight teams remaining in the CAF Champions League are the record champions, Egypt’s Al Ahly, and the current defending champions, TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both of these teams were kept apart thanks to the seedings and means that there’s a real chance they could face each other in the last four or even the final. TP Mazembe in Group A have been drawn with Espérance Sportive (Tunisia’s record champions and African club champions in 1994), Algeria’s ES Sétif (1988 African club champions) and Zimbabweans Dynamos FC. Al Ahly, record champions with six titles to their name, will face compatriots Ismaily FC (1969 African champions), Heartland FC from Nigeria (last year’s losing finalists) and two-time African champions JS Kabylie from Algeria in Group B. Here are this weekend’s fixtures:


16/07/2010 ES Sétif v Espérance Sportive

18/07/2010 Dynamos FC v TP Mazembe


18/07/2010 Heartland FC v Al Ahly

18/07/2010 Ismaily v JS Kabylie

CS Sfaxien

Can Tunisia's CS Sfaxien win their third CAF Confederation Cup in four years?

After two rounds in the CAF Confederation Cup, Africa’s equivalent of the UEFA Europa League or Copa Sudamericana, there is a further play-off round before the competition enters its group stage. Eight drop-outs from the CAF Champions League enter the tournament at this stage and hope to keep their interest in African club competition alive for this season. After the defending 2009 champions Stade Malien were knocked out in the second round the favourites for the tournament are Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien, who won trophy in 2007 and 2008 and are looking for a third title in four years although Stade Malien’s conquerors FUS Rabat may well fancy their chances after taking such a scalp. Here is the draw for the third round with the Champions League drop-out teams on the left-hand side in every case:

Ittihad (Libya) v Primeiro de Agosto (Angola)

Al-Hilal (Sudan) v CAPS United (Zimbabwe)

Al-Merreikh (Sudan) v ASFAN FC (Niger)

Atlético Petróleos (Angola) v CS Sfaxien (Tunisia)

Zanaco FC (Zambia) v Enyimba FC (Nigeria)

Gaborone United (Botswana) v Haras El Hadood (Egypt)

Supersport United (South Africa) v FUS Rabat (Morocco)

Djoliba FC (Mali) v CR Belouizdad (Algeria)

First Leg: 16-18 July; Second Leg: 30 July-1 August

UEFA: European club draws round-up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 16, 2010

European Club Trophies

The Third Qualifying Round of both UEFA European club tournaments were drawn in Nyon, Switzerland, today. Firstly came the draw for the UEFA Champions League which was split between two different categories, “Champions” and “Non-Champions”:

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – 3rd Qualifying Round (Champions)

SK Liepājas Metalurgs/AC Sparta Praha v FC İnter Baku/Lech Poznań

FK Aktobe/FC Olimpi Rustavi v Hapoel Tel-Aviv/FK Željezničar

FC Sheriff Tiraspol/Dinamo Tirana v Dinamo Zagreb/FC Koper

Litex Lovech/FK Rudar Pljevlja v Birkirkara FC/MŠK Žilina

FC Levadia Tallinn/Debreceni VSC v FC Basel 1893

AIK Solna/AS Jeunesse Esch v Linfield FC/Rosenborg BK

FK Partizan Belgrade/FC Pyunik Yerevan v FK Ekranas/HJK Helsinki

BATE Borisov/FH Hafnarfjördur v FC København

Bohemians FC/The New Saints FC v RSC Anderlecht

Omonia Nicosia/FK Renova v Red Bull Salzburg/HB Tórshavn

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – 3rd Qualifying Round (Non-Champions)

AFC Ajax Amsterdam v PAOK Thessaloniki

Dynamo Kyiv v KAA Gent

BSC Young Boys v Fenerbahçe SK

Sporting Braga v Glasgow Celtic

Unirea Urziceni v Zenit St. Petersburg

Later on in the afternoon came the draw for the UEFA Europa League with a couple of big names of European football who have to start this season’s campaign following a disappointing 2009-10 season. Here is the draw for the next round of the UEFA Europa League:

UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – 3rd Qualifying Round

Odense BK v NK Zrinjski/SP Tre Penne

Stabæk IF/FC Dnepr Mogilev v FC WIT Georgia/FC Baník Ostrava

Liverpool FC v FK Rabotnicki/FC Mika

CS Marítimo/Sporting Fingal v FC Honka Espoo/Bangor City

PFC Beroe Stara Zagora v FK Sūduva/SK Rapid Wien

FC Timişoara v MyPa 47/UE Sant Julià

CSKA Sofia v Cliftonville FC/HNK Cibalia

KR Reykjavík/FC Karpaty Lviv v FC Zestafoni/Dukla Banská Bystrica

Shamrock Rovers/Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv v Juventus FC

IF Elfsborg/FC Iskra-Stali v FK Ventspils/FK Teteks

FC Nordsjælland v Sporting Clube de Portugal

FC Videoton/NK Maribor v Hibernian FC

Crvena Zvezda v Slovan Bratislava

Inter Turku v KRC Genk

Valletta FC/KS Ruch Chorzów v FK Austria Wien/NK Široki Brijeg

FC Viktoria Plzeň v Beşiktaş JK/Vikingur

KS Besa/Olympiakos FC v Maccabi Tel-Aviv/FK Mogren

KFK Šiauliai/Wisla Kraków v Portadown FC/FK Qarabağ

SK Sturm Graz v Gefle IF/FC Dinamo Tbilisi

Anorthosis Famagusta/HNK Šibenik v Cercle Brugge/TPS Turku

FK Baku/FK Budućnost Podgorica v Brøndby IF/FC Vaduz

Molde FK/FK Jelgava v VfB Stuttgart

Maccabi Haifa v Dinamo Minsk/JK Sillamäe Kalev

FC Utrecht/KF Tirana v FC Luzern

FC Sibir Novosibirsk v Apollon Limassol

ND Gorica/Randers FC v FC Lausanne-Sport/FK Borac Banja Luka

FC Olimpia Bălţi/FC Dinamo Bucureşti v HNK Hajduk Split

AZ Alkmaar v IFK Göteborg

FC Differdange/FK Spartak Zlatibor Voda v Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk

FK Atyrau/Gyõri ETO v Montpellier HSC

Aalesunds FK v Motherwell FC/Breidablik

Kalmar FF/FC Dacia Chişinău v PFC Levski Sofia/Dundalk FC

Galatasaray v OFK Beograd/FC Torpedo Zhodino

Jagiellonia Białystok v Aris Thessaloniki

FK Tauras/APOEL Nicosia v FK Jablonec

FIFA World Cup Review – Europe

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on July 15, 2010
Spain World Cup champions

Spain finally managed to win the FIFA World Cup beating the Netherlands in extra-time

In the last of Stoppage Time’s continental reviews we look back at the varying fortunes of the thirteen European teams that competed in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

With the exceptions of Brazil and Argentina, most people’s predictions before the World Cup tended to centre on teams such as England, Germany or Italy but it was to be two nations that had never previously won the competition who were to reach the final. Spain, a very popular choice of team due to their 2008 UEFA European Championship success, would face off against two-time finalists Holland in a game which, as most finals do, tended to disappoint but did at least have the justice of seeing the right team win the game.

But more on the final later. In the group stages the biggest disappointments were unquestionably Italy, France and England. In the case of Italy and France it was difficult to believe that these two nations competed in the most recent World Cup final in 2006 such was the depths to which team had sank during this tournament. They both finished bottom in groups which, on paper, seemed amongst the kindest in terms of difficulty. England, on the other hand, did manage to make it through the group stage but even the most hardcore England fan knows that they were poor in their first two games, scraped past Slovenia in the final group match before going out to a classic Germany performance in the round of sixteen. Even arguments over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal cannot escape the fact that the Germans were the better team.

After the group stage had been completed seven of the thirteen European nations had failed to qualify for the round of sixteen. As well as Italy and France, the countries who feel that they should’ve done better in the group stage were Denmark (third behind Holland and Japan), Switzerland (finished third after defeating Spain in their first group game), Serbia (who admittedly suffered some bad luck against Australia) and Slovenia (lost out when USA beat Algeria) whilst Greece would’ve been happy just to score a goal, let alone win a game, before the competition kicked off after their one and only previous appearance in 1994 saw them goalless and pointless. In the event they did finally score their first World Cup goal in their second match against Nigeria in which they also chalked up their first victory. Alas they lost to Argentina in their final game and failed to progress any further.

The round of sixteen saw England, Portugal and Slovakia say goodbye although in the case of Slovakia they did have many good chances to beat the Netherlands before suffering a 2-1 reverse at the hands of the Oranje. The quarter-finals saw previous talk about South American dominance turn to European dominance as Spain, Netherlands and Germany all made it through with victories over Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina respectively. The semi-finals saw Spain reassert their style of play over a Germany team who were perhaps weighed down with expectation after two earlier against England and Argentina. Despite the dominance of possession and territory for the Spanish it took until the 73rd minute for Carles Puyol to head home the only goal of the game to gift the Spain a place in their first ever FIFA World Cup whilst the Netherlands got the better of Uruguay with a 3-2 win securing their third World Cup final appearance.

So the only certainty about the FIFA World Cup final would be that it would create a first time champion. Many neutrals before the game saw it as a breath of fresh air that none of the previous winners had reached the final for, in theory, this should’ve provided the motivation for two hungry teams to go out and secure their place in the history books. Sadly the game as a spectacle failed to live up to expectations but that has happened on so many occasions. Much of the post-match reaction centred upon English referee Howard Webb who dished out a World Cup final record 14 yellow cards and one red card in a game which saw many tough challenges (how Nigel de Jong didn’t go for his lunge on Xabi Alonso is a mystery) and a controversial moment at the end where, just before Andrés Iniesta’s 116th minute winning goal, a Wesley Sneijder free-kick was deflected by a Spanish player and should’ve been a corner but Webb gave the goal kick for Spain instead. With this incident leading up to the goal the Dutch were understandably furious but even allowing for this incident the Spanish had the more positive approach and were deserved winners. Spain became the third nation in history to win the UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup double after West Germany (EC 1972, WC 1974) and France (WC 1998, EC 2000) and ensured that Europe overtakes South America in World Cup wins with a 10-9 lead.

FIFA World Cup Review – South America

Posted in International Football, South America Football by peterbein on July 15, 2010
Diego Forlán

Diego Forlán won the Golden Ball award after his performances in the World Cup

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog continues its continental journey to review the performances of those teams involved in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In this blog we review the teams from South America.

During the tournament the South American countries impressed everybody with their attacking play and their winning results. All of the five countries from this particular continent managed to progress to the round of sixteen with four of those getting through to the last eight. The luck started to run out in the quarter-finals with three out of four eliminated leaving surprise package Uruguay to fly the flag in their semi-final against the Netherlands.

Uruguay began the tournament with two wins in three matches in Group A, wins over South Africa and Mexico followed their opening day bore draw with France. They did have one of the ‘easier’ draws (a term I use loosely) in the round of sixteen when they faced off against South Korea who gave Las Charrúas a real scare before the Uruguayans eventually got through with a 2-1 victory thanks to a double strike from Luis Suárez. In the Africa review we highlighted the amazing catalogue of incidents that occurred in the quarter-final against Ghana in what was arguably the match of the tournament. After Uruguay won the quarter-final penalty shoot-out by four goals to two they faced the Netherlands in the semi-finals. Diego Forlán, who would go on to win the Golden Ball award for being voted the tournament’s best player, equalized for Uruguay late in the first half after Giovanni Van Bronckhorst had given the Dutch an early lead with, perhaps, the goal of the tournament. Sadly for Uruguay Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scored two quick goals to give Holland a good enough cushion to protect late in the game. That was just as well seeing as Maxi Pereira scored a consolation for Uruguay deep into stoppage time to reduce the arrears but ultimately the Dutch came through 3-2 winners. Uruguay lost by the same scoreline to Germany in the 3rd/4th Place Play-Off match but the competition was already a success for the country who finished fourth for the third time in the nation’s history.

For the other South American nations things looked very promising at the beginning with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay finishing, along with Uruguay, top of their respective groups whilst Chile finished in second place in Group H behind eventual World Cup winners Spain. After the conclusion of the group stage it was clear that one of the continent’s teams would soon be going home when Brazil played against Chile. Juan, Luis Fabiano and Robinho secured an easy 3-0 win against Chile in what was, for the most part, a comfortable game for the five time world champions. To Chile’s credit they still attempted to attack after they conceded the third goal on the hour mark but that was as good as it got for La Roja. Argentina won all three games in Group B against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece whilst Paraguay were made to work for their progression as they eventually came top in the group involving Italy, New Zealand and Slovakia which was the tightest group of the lot.

In the round of sixteen Argentina’s win over Mexico, Paraguay’s over Japan (albeit via a penalty shoot-out), Uruguay’s over South Korea and Brazil’s over Chile had many pundits wondering whether this was going to be South America’s year with half of the quarter-finalists hailing from that continent. Sadly, for those of a Latin American persuasion, the Netherlands’ come-from-behind victory over Brazil signalled the beginning of the end for any perceived dominance. Wesley Sneijder was the inspiration for the Dutch as they got over the early setback of Brazil’s tenth minute goal to come back and win by two goals to one. Uruguay stemmed the tide with their win over Ghana but Paraguay and Argentina were to sample the taste of defeat for the first and only time in the competition going down to Spain and Germany respectively in two amazing quarter-final match-ups. The Paraguayans winning and then conceding a penalty in their contentious game against Spain in a game which saw all penalties saved and a late David Villa winner dispelling of the challenge from Paraguay who, by some way of consolation, had their best ever tournament whilst Argentina were hammered by a fantastic Germany performance. Goals from Miroslav Klose (2), Thomas Müller and Arne Friedrich ensured that Diego Maradona wouldn’t be joining the ranks of Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo as one of a unique club of people to have won the FIFA World Cup as a player and a coach.

One can say that the only conclusion for the South Americans is that their chances of winning the next tournament, to be played in 2014, will be significantly greater due to its being held in Brazil. Of course the host nation will want to secure a record-extending sixth title in front of their home fans but history shows that they can be beaten on home turf with Uruguay securing the title over Brazil in the 1950 tournament. Nonetheless, in the first tournament to be played in South America since Argentina won on home soil in 1978, the Brazilians have pledged to learn the lessons of the South Africans and will hope to put on as colourful a tournament as we have just experienced in the last month.