Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA: Qualifying rounds for 2014 World Cup ready to begin

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 13, 2011

FIFA 2014 World Cup logoThe first match-up of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign will begin in earnest on Wednesday. Belize and Montserrat, ranked in positions 172 and 202 of FIFA’s World Rankings respectively, will begin the qualification process in the CONCACAF region with a two-legged fixture taking place on June 15th and 19th. The first leg takes place in Trinidad as the Montserrat national team has no adequate facilities to hold the game on the island. The second leg will be played in the Belizean capital of Belmopan on Sunday and the likelihood, looking at the rankings, is that Belize will go through to the next round.

The other four matches in the first qualifying round matches of the CONCACAF region will be played in early July. Anguilla face off against the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia plays Aruba, the Turks and Caicos Islands are paired against the Bahamas whilst a derby of sorts will be contested between the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

Amongst the other regions the next continent to begin their qualification process will be Asia (AFC) with sixteen teams playing eight two-legged matches from late June to early July. Oceania (OFC) will begin their process in August when the men’s football tournament in the 2011 Pacific Games will also double as the first round of World Cup qualifying. African (CAF) qualifying begins in November, following the completion of the qualification rounds for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. South American (CONMEBOL) qualifying will commence later in the year following this year’s Copa America tournament whilst European (UEFA) qualifying doesn’t get under way until next year after the completion of the UEFA 2012 European Championship tournament finals in Poland and Ukraine.

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FIFA: Russia and Qatar win bids to host 2018 and 2022 World Cups

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 2, 2010

Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup bid logoThe 2018 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Russia following the announcement made by FIFA president Sepp Blatter this afternoon. The 2022 tournament bid was won by the small Middle Eastern state of Qatar which had demonstrated the huge amount of wealth that they intend to invest in stadia and infrastructure as a result of winning the bid. For both tournaments it will be new territory as neither region has hosted football’s biggest competition before and it proves, with Russia’s status as an emerging power politically and Qatar’s economic muscle, that FIFA has chosen to go with the new world order.

When Russia’s former President Vladimir Putin opted out of going to the Zurich for the two days of intense politicking and bidding many saw this as a sign that he wasn’t confident in the bid. However it seems that he may well now have a change of heart and get on the first plane now that his country was ultimately successful in their quest. This afternoon saw Arsenal FC and Russia football star Andrey Arshavin make a passionate speech in favour of Russia’s bid and it helped turn the tide in their favour. Many experts predicted on Wednesday that England’s bid had been boosted by the presence of David Beckham to such an extent that they had become favourites to win it. This was such a dramatic change of fortune for the English bid following a terrible start to the week following the broadcast of an English TV documentary making allegations of corruption against certain FIFA members. Perhaps the tide turned once more last night following some disturbing scenes in an English League Cup tie between Birmingham City and Aston Villa, which saw rival fans throw a flare and numerous seats towards each other. Nonetheless the Russians were also up against joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland but rumours had circulated before the announcement that FIFA officials were not happy with the idea of another jointly-held tournament. All in all it seems that Russian strengths as well as rival weaknesses combined to give them the honour of hosting their first ever tournament in eight years time.

Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid logoThe Qatari bid t0 host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was given the thumbs up following a tightly fought contest also involving previous hosts the United States, Japan and South Korea as well wannabe first time hosts Australia. It seemed only a few weeks ago that FIFA were concerned following the publication of a report in which views relating to security concerns were aired, suggesting that the country was “a high overall operational risk”. However the talks over the last couple of days have done much to calm fears regarding the subject as well as the Qatari team providing guarantees in other areas. The Qatari delegation, led by chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, made their final presentation speech to the FIFA Executive Committee on Wednesday sandwiched in third place in the running order amongst the five candidates. The victory for Qatar means that the country can really show the world well in advance of the 2022 tournament what it can do as early as next year when the Middle Eastern nation hosts the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

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CFU: Semi-Finalists decided; Group Stage Review

Posted in International Football, North and Central American Football by peterbein on December 2, 2010

Digicel Caribbean Cup logoThe CFU Digicel Caribbean Cup is now approaching the business end of the tournament with the group stages having come to a conclusion last night. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the group stages and provides the draw for the semi-finals which will be played tomorrow.

GROUP H

Neither host nation Martinque nor record champions Trinidad & Tobago could qualify for the last four of this tournament leaving it to unfancied Cuba and Grenada to take the plaudits and two of the four places reserved for Caribbean teams in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. Cuba topped the group with two wins and a draw from their three games finishing just two points ahead of Grenada, with whom they shared a goalless draw in the final match of the group. Trinidad & Tobago at least won their final game which, in effect, turned into a 3rd place play-off against Martinique. The host nation, winners for the one and only time in 1993, propped up the table with just a solitary point from their three games whilst T&T managed to finish with three points.

GROUP I

Defending champions Jamaica easily qualified for the semi-finals of the Caribbean Cup with a 100% record from their three group matches. Last night saw the Reggae Boyz win their final group match against Guyana by four goals to nil and seal top spot. They are joined in the semi-finals and the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup by Guadeloupe following their final match win over Antigua & Barbuda, a win which confirmed second place in the group and saw them overtake Antigua & Barbuda in the standings. Guadeloupe now face a tough semi-final encounter with Group H winners Cuba whilst Jamaica’s plight seems easier to predict as tey face off against outsiders Grenada in the final four.

SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Cuba v Guadeloupe

Jamaica v Grenada

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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.

FIFA World Cup Review – Africa

Posted in African Football, International Football by peterbein on July 15, 2010
Bafana Bafana fans

South African supporters were amongst the most colourful in the tournament

In our review of the FIFA World Cup Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at the fortunes of host continent Africa.

For many months before a ball was kicked in South Africa there were many fears about some of the problems within the country, with issues such as crime at the forefront of people’s minds. In January 2010 there were many critics who took advantage of the situation in Angola during the African Cup of Nations tournament where the Togo national team bus came under fire and used this to further the cause of taking the World Cup away from Africa. Thankfully this did not happen and as the last four weeks have shown, as well as previous sporting tournaments held in the country, South Africa knows how to put on a great show and should be proud despite the early exit of its national team from the tournament.

The Bafana Bafana had some of the most colourful supporters in the World Cup and they certainly made the most noise, not just because they were the host nation but for the vast amount of vuvuzelas at each of the stadiums. The instrument is something that football fans around the world either came to love or hate but there was no denying the increased volume added to the atmosphere in the stadiums. Come the opening day of the competition South Africa drew their first match against Mexico with Siphiwe Tshabalala putting the hosts ahead before Rafael Márquez gave El Tri a share of the spoils. It was unfortunate that the next opponents for South Africa would be the surprise package of the tournament Uruguay who would eventually reach the semi-finals. South Africa were on the receiving end of a 3-0 drubbing due to a brace from Diego Forlán and a late stoppage time goal from Álvaro Pereira. This meant that a big enough win over France and a big enough win for Uruguay or Mexico in the other final group match would be enough for South Africa to reach the last sixteen. Sadly, despite achieving a 2-1 win over the 1998 FIFA World Cup winners thanks to goals from Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela, South Africa missed out due to an inferior goal difference behind Mexico.

The pride of Africa in this tournament would be Ghana. Having finished in second place in Group D, two points behind winners Germany, Ghana played against the United States in the round of sixteen and had Asamoah Gyan to thank for it was his goal early in extra-time that separated the two sides in what was a tight contest, the Black Stars getting the 2-1 victory to set up a quarter-final against Uruguay. In what was arguably the match of the tournament Sulley Muntari gave Ghana the lead on the stroke of half-time only to see Diego Forlán restore parity ten minutes into the second half. However it was events at the end of extra-time that would really get the world talking. Firstly Luis Suárez was sent-off in the last minute for handling the ball on the line when it was almost certain to go in. Ghana’s player of the tournament Gyan, who had already scored twice from the spot in the tournament, fluffed his lines when it mattered most and hit the bar from the resulting penalty, thus providing the necessity for a penalty shoot-out after the extra-time period. With the weight of expectation upon their shoulders Ghana were unable to progress due to missed penalties from John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah which denied Africa a World Cup semi-finalist for the first time.

One of the biggest disappointments in the competition were Cameroon who, with one of the world’s best strikers in Samuel Eto’o in the team, never looked like they could be a threat and were duly beaten in all three of their group matches by the Netherlands, Japan and Denmark. Ivory Coast were, for the second tournament running, unfortunate to be drawn in the “group of death” with the likes of Brazil and Portugal as well as the World Cup rank outsiders North Korea. The third of these teams accounted for the Ivory Coast’s only victory in the competition with the Elephants going down to Brazil and picking up a point in their game against Portugal. On account of their 7-0 win over North Korea Portugal just had enough to qualify for the next round meaning that Didier Drogba and co had to miss out once again. Last, but not least, Algeria performed admirably in Group C although they could only gain one point from three games, that coming in their 0-0 draw with England. After narrow 1-0 defeats to both Slovenia and United States the north Africans could leave the tournament with their heads held high as they were far from disgraced in their results. With a bit more luck it could’ve been them rather than England who qualified for the round of sixteen but, alas, it just wasn’t their time.

FIFA World Cup – Final Preview

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 10, 2010
FIFA World Cup

The Netherlands and Spain will contest the 2010 FIFA World Cup final. Who will be victorious?

So we’re almost there. After four weeks of quality football (ok, maybe barring the first week in which almost every team played not to lose) the tournament is about to come to its conclusion and, in what was already an historic competition due to its setting on the African continent for the first time, the FIFA World Cup will be won for the first time by either the Netherlands or Spain. The Dutch have played in two finals before but lost in consecutive tournaments in 1974 and 1978 losing out to the respective host nations of West Germany and Argentina. Will it be third time lucky for Bert Van Marwijk’s men? Or will Vicente del Bosque secure a European Championship and World Cup double for the Spanish? Having lost the first match of the tournament to Switzerland the tournament has seen Spain get the job done. Having been on the verge of elimination the Spanish reached their first ever World Cup semi-final and have, likewise, reached their maiden final appearance with effective performances and having survived a few scares on the way. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the Road to Johannesburg for both teams:

KNVB LogoNETHERLANDS

GROUP STAGE: v Denmark 2-0; v Japan 1-0; v Cameroon 2-1

The Oranje were drawn in one of the easier groups of FIFA World Cup 2010 but, as the old cliché goes, you can only beat the team that’s in front of you and that’s what the Dutch did in effective, if not spectacular, fashion. In their first game against Denmark the Dutch were the beneficiaries of some poor defending which saw Daniel Agger score an own goal before his team mate at club level, Liverpool’s Dirk Kuijt, sealed the game for the Netherlands with five minutes to go. In a tight contest against Japan a Wesley Sneijder shot proved too hot to handle for Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima and this gave the Dutch a narrow 1-0 win before they made sure of qualification in to the Round of Sixteen with a 2-1 win over Cameroon thanks to goals from Robin Van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

ROUND OF 16: v Slovakia 2-1

The Netherlands were pushed all the way by a determined Slovakia side and one could argue that Vladimir Weiss’s team should’ve done better with the number of chances they created against the Dutch. The difference between the two teams though was the better quality of finisher in the Dutch team and it was thanks to a superb strike from Arjen Robben that Netherlands took the lead after 18 minutes. Wesley Sneijder doubled the lead for the Dutch with six minutes left but the Slovaks did pull a stoppage-time goal back after Róbert Vittek converted from the spot having been brought down in the box. Victory had been hard-fought for the Dutch but their reward was a mouth watering tie against Brazil in the last eight.

QUARTER-FINAL: v Brazil 2-1

A classic come-from-behind performance from the Dutch as they progressed into the last four of the competition with victory over record champions Brazil. The Brazilians took the lead after just ten minutes through Robinho and the Seleção looked in total control throughout the first half. After the break the Dutch got back on equal terms when Wesley Sneijder’s cross troubled the Brazil defence and the ball went in off Felipe Melo. The pivotal moments of the game occurred within five minutes of each other with, firstly, the Dutch taking the lead in the 68th minute thanks to a Wesley Sneijder header from a Van Persie corner and, secondly, with the sending-off of Felipe Melo in the 73rd minute for a needless stamp on Arjen Robben to complete a terrible day for the Brazilian defender.

SEMI-FINAL: v Uruguay 3-2

Uruguay came into the semi-final after an amazing conclusion to their quarter-final match against Ghana against whom they ultimately progressed via a penalty shoot-out after Asamoah Gyan missed the chance to score from the penalty spot for the Africans in the last minute of extra-time. In the semi-final Gio Van Bronckhorst scored what will arguably go down as the goal of the tournament after just eighteen minutes to give Holland the lead but Uruguay’s talisman Diego Forlán equalized with four minutes of the half remaining. The second half tested the fingernails of many fans inside the stadium as even after Holland had gone 3-1 ahead after strikes from Sneijder (70 minutes) and Robben (73 minutes) the Uruguayans set up a grandstand finish when Maximiliano Pereira pulled one back in stoppage time. Sadly for Uruguay there wasn’t enough time to score a crucial equalizer and the Netherlands were the team celebrating a place at the FIFA World Cup final.

RFEF LogoSPAIN

GROUP STAGE: v Switzerland 0-1; v Honduras 2-0; v Chile 2-1

The European champions were hoping for the perfect start to the Fifa World Cup but were denied by a compact, defensive Swiss team who ultimately gained victory thanks to a 52nd minute strike from Gelson Fernandes. The Swiss could’ve doubled their lead fifteen minutes from time but Eren Derdiyok hit the post with the goal at his mercy but Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men held out for a surprise win which meant that the Spanish had to win their next two games in order to qualify as group winners. The second game should’ve seen more goals for Spain but, in the end, they had to settle for the 2-0 win with both goals coming from a certain David Villa who would begin his goalscoring adventure in the World Cup. The final group game for La Roja was against South Americans Chile who had won their first two games of the tournament but who never really threatened the Spanish in their match-up. David Villa scored from long distance with the keeper off his line on 24 minutes and Andrés Iniesta doubled the lead after 37 minutes. Rodrigo Millar did pull one back for Chile just two minutes after the break but both teams seemed to be happy with the result in the final minutes of the game and it meant that both went through into the next round.

ROUND OF 16: v Portugal 1-0

This much anticipated clash of the giants didn’t quite provide us with the feast of football we were expecting and this was maybe in no small part down to Cristiano Ronaldo’s lacklustre performances throughout the whole tournament replicated in this game. It was to be David Villa once again who would provide the main highlight of the game as his first attempt at scoring in the 63rd minute was saved by Portugal’s keeper Eduardo only for the newly-signed FC Barcelona hitman to finally break the deadlock when his second effort went in off the underside of the bar. Portugal’s misery was confounded in the last minute when Ricardo Costa was unfairly sent-off for a non-foul on Joan Capdevila. Nonetheless the result was a fair one and a quarter-final against Paraguay awaited the European champions.

QUARTER-FINAL: v Paraguay 1-0

This extraordinary game fitted in with all of the other quarter-final matches in that there was so much to talk about after the game such was the amount of incident. After the first half had petered out as a goalless stalemate the second half began with a bang as Paraguay received a penalty in the 57th minute when Gerard Piqué brought down Óscar Cardozo. Sadly for Paraguay Cardozo missed his spot kick and then, two minutes later, saw their opponents receive a spot-kick of their own when Antolín Alcaraz brought down David Villa in the Paraguay penalty area. But, amazingly, Xabi Alonso had to re-take his successful penalty kick after the referee had seen encroaching which then allowed Paraguay keeper Justo Villar to keep out Alonso’s second effort. After all the drama both teams went for the winning goal but it was once again to be decided by a bit of predatory instinct from David Villa who guided the ball in off the post and into the net after Pedro’s initial effort had come to him from off the post. This gave Spain their first ever place at the Fifa World Cup semi-final stage.

SEMI-FINAL: v Germany 1-0

A repeat of the 2008 UEFA European Championship final and a similar scoreline gave the Spanish a place in the FIFA World Cup final for the first time in the nation’s history. Germany had been the best team of the tournament chalking up four goals in each of their knock-out round encounters en route to the last four. Having seen off England (4-1) and Argentina (4-0) perhaps the expectation finally weighted down Germany who never really got a grip in the match against Spain. The Spanish, normally so reliant on David Villa’s goals in this tournament, were ultimately grateful to defender Carles Puyol who rose highest from a Xavi corner in the 73rd minute to guide home a bullet header past the helpless Manuel Neuer in the German goal.

FIFA: Round of 16 Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 29, 2010
Germany v England

Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski celebrate Germany's 4-1 win over England

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.

Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez scored twice for Argentina in their 3-1 win over Mexico

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)

FIFA: Groups G and H Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 25, 2010
Dunga

Brazil coach Dunga has plenty to smile about after his team topped Group H unbeaten

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 HSPAIN 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.

David Villa

David Villa has been the main man for Spain in their FIFA World Cup campaign

FIFA: Groups E and F Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 25, 2010
Keisuke Honda

Keisuke Honda was amongst the goalscorers for Japan against Denmark

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.

Vladimír Weiss

Vladimír Weiss led his Slovakia team to the knock-out stages after a 3-2 win over Italy.