Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

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: South Americans cruise to victory; Italy held by New Zealand

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2010
Shane Smeltz

Shane Smeltz gave New Zealand the lead in their 1-1 draw against world champions Italy

The FIFA World Cup doesn’t fail to surprise with New Zealand gaining another point in the competition at the expense of world champions Italy who are failing to find their form. This draw means that Paraguay are top of Group F having beaten Slovakia 2-0 earlier in the day. In the final match of the day Brazil ensured that a sense of normality remained at the tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast to remain top of Group G although the game was marred by a controversial red card shown to Kaká.

With one point already in the bank after a dramatic last-gasp equalizer in their opening match against Slovakia, New Zealand were hoping not to be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to world champions Italy. The Azzurri had to play Federico Marchetti in goal in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon but were otherwise unchanged from the team that scraped a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. Sadly for the Italians they would have to come from behind again as an early New Zealand free-kick found Shane Smeltz, the Australian A-League’s top scorer in the last two seasons, unmarked in the box although there was a heavy suspicion of offside about the goal. Alas, for Italy, the linesman kept his flag down and the All Whites were ahead but not for long. Ricardo Montolivo had already come close to scoring when his long-range effort hit a post before Daniele de Rossi, who scored the equalizer for Italy in their first game, was brought down in the box after Tommy Smith had pulled his shirt. Vincenzo Iaquinta was at hand to convert the penalty in the 28th minute and restore parity for Italy.

The second half would see a flurry of chances from Italy with New Zealand’s defence resisting wave after wave of attack from the defending World Cup holders. Perhaps the best chance of the second half, though, fell New Zealand’s way when substitute Chris Wood evaded the attention of Fabio Cannavaro and shot narrowly wide of the post with just three minutes remaining. Had that have gone in it would’ve set-up one of the great World Cup shocks but, nevertheless, the All Whites got what they deserved from this game even though they were under pressure for significant periods of the game.

Earlier in the afternoon a rather less exciting game was decided in favour of Paraguay who were relatively untroubled from a Slovakia side who didn’t have enough creativity to break down the solid defence from Gerardo Martino’s men. After a pretty dire opening twenty-five minutes of the game Enrique Vera scored the opening goal for Paraguay as he received a pass just inside the penalty box and shot with the outside of his right foot to give La Albirroja the lead. If anybody expected the Slovakians to wake up from their slumber after the goal then they were to be disappointed as the Eastern Europeans had no answer to Paraguay’s superior play. The only surprise was that it took until five minutes before time until Paraguay sealed the deal through a Cristian Riveros power driver from the edge of the box after an Aureliano Torres free-kick had eventually worked its way to him. With two games played in Group F it is Paraguay who lead the way with four points, followed by Italy and New Zealand on two and Slovakia prop up the rest with one point. The final games in the group take place at 16:00 local time on Thursday with Paraguay winning the group should they overcome New Zealand and Italy hoping to secure at least second place with a win over Slovakia.

Luis Fabiano

Luis Fabiano was on target twice in Brazil's 3-1 win over Ivory Coast

In the final game played on Sunday Brazil impressed in a 3-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast to stay top of the group with a perfect six points from six. Luís Fabiano found his scoring boots in the 25th minute when put through by Kaká to fire the ball into the roof of the net and Dunga’s troops never looked like losing it from there. Just five minutes into the second half and Brazil had doubled their lead although there was a suspicion of handball in the build-up to Luís Fabiano’s second goal in which he took on three defenders before firing the ball home from twelve yards out. Brazil were coasting it thirteen minutes later as Kaká went down the left hand side and pulled the ball back to Elano who caught the Ivorian defence napping and slipped it past the keeper from close range. Didier Drogba did pull one back for the Ivory Coast on 79 minutes when converting a right-sided cross from Yaya Touré with his head to bring an ounce of respectability back to the score.

Sadly the match began to get tetchy and, with two minutes of normal time to play, Kaká was the victim of the most ridiculous refereeing decision of the tournament so far when he was adjudged to have hit Abdel-Kader Keïta in the face although they merely touched shoulders at worst. Keïta went down holding his face and the referee showed the red card to the Brazilian star who could face anything from a 1-4 match ban depending on the outcome of a FIFA enquiry into the incident. Thankfully there were no further flashpoints after that but Dunga’s night would’ve been soured somewhat after the incident. Nonetheless Brazil should be happy with their night’s work and they will end the group phase of the competition on Friday with their match against Portugal in Durban.

FIFA: World Cup Guide – Part One

Steven Pienaar

Can Steven Pienaar guide his South Africa team beyond the group stage?

With only days to go before the big kick-off in Johannesburg “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” provides you with a guide to each of the thirty two finalists in South Africa this summer. In a three-part series we start off with the teams that qualified from Africa and North America (Note: FIFA World Rankings correct from May 26th):

SOUTH AFRICA – Qualified as hosts; FIFA World Ranking = 83

Things didn’t always go so easy for the organizers of the South African World Cup bid but the stadiums and infrastructure now seem to be in place for a successful tournament. The national team, known as Bafana Bafana, didn’t compete in the African Cup of Nations earlier this year so it’s hard to gauge how competitive they can be but they will hope to reach the knockout stages. Will find it difficult against France, Mexico and Uruguay and could be the first host nation not to make it beyond the group stage of a FIFA World Cup.

Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira

Star Player: Steven Pienaar

CAMEROON – Winners of Africa Group A; FIFA World Ranking = 19

Cameroon were made to work for their World Cup place having gone toe-to-toe in their group with improving Gabon. One of the more fancied teams from the African continent, along with Ivory Coast,  to provide a challenge in the finals. Since qualification they have reached the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations only to fall to eventual winners Egypt. Will hope to pip Denmark into second place in their group.

Coach: Paul Le Guen

Star Player: Samuel Eto’o

NIGERIA – Winners of Africa Group B; FIFA World Ranking = 21

Nigeria thought they hadn’t done quite enough after their final qualifying game, a 3-2 win over Kenya. Fortunately for the ‘Super Eagles’ news came through that their rivals Tunisia had surprisingly been beaten by Mozambique therefore allowing Nigeria to qualify by a point. Nigeria reached the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations this year losing to tournament runners-up Ghana. They may be missing John Obi Mikel to injury but their aspiration will be to finish at least second in their group behind Argentina and ahead of South Korea and Greece.

Coach: Lars Lagerback

Star Player: Obafemi Martins

ALGERIA – Winners of Africa Group C (following a play-off against Egypt); FIFA World Ranking = 30

In the final group match Algeria were one minute away from direct qualification for the finals but Egypt’s late second goal meant that a play-off was necessary to separate two teams who had identical records after six matches. Algeria won the play-off played in neutral Sudan 1-0 to go through at the expense of their eternal rivals. Since qualification Les Fennecs reached the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations but were subject to revenge by Egypt who thumped their World Cup conquerors by four goals to nil. With teams such as England, the United States and Slovenia in their group a third place finish seems the best they can hope for.

Coach: Rabah Saadane

Star Player:Karim Ziani

Ghana National Team

Ghana may struggle to progress from a tough group

GHANA – Winners of Africa Group D; FIFA World Ranking = 32

Secured qualification with a game to spare in an easy group that contained Mali, Benin and Sudan. Reached the final of the African Cup of Nations earlier this year but were beaten by record champions Egypt. Although they have some good players they don’t appear strong enough to progress from a group containing Germany, Serbia and Australia but still have the potential to shock any perceived superior opponent on their day.

Coach: Milovan Rajevac

Star Player: Sulley Muntari

IVORY COAST – Winners of Africa Group E; FIFA World Ranking = 27

Like Ghana, the Ivorians qualified for the finals with a game to spare in a group that contained Burkina Faso, Guinea and Malawi. Since qualification for South Africa the Ivorians were expected to do well in the African Cup of Nations but could only reach the last eight before being knocked out by fellow World Cup qualifiers Algeria. Didier Drogba’s presence means that the ‘Elephants’ will fancy their chances of getting out of the group stage but they will have their work cut out against the likes of Portugal and Brazil but should beat North Korea.

Coach: Sven-Göran Eriksson

Star Player: Didier Drogba

UNITED STATES – Winners of CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Rankings = 14

The United States topped the six team group in North and Central America to qualify for the finals and can be proud of securing a place at their sixth consecutive World Cup tournament. Since qualification for the finals the United States reached the final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup having beaten tournament favourites Spain in the semi-final before losing by the odd goal in five to Brazil in the final. All in all the Americans have a good chance of progressing to the Round of 16 stage.

Coach: Bob Bradley

Star Player: Landon Donovan

MEXICO – 2nd in CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Ranking = 17

Mexico struggled early on in the World Cup qualifying campaign and changed their coach in the process. New coach Javier Aguirre steadied the ship and secured the runners-up spot in the group lying just one point behind their neighbours United States. The Mexicans are the current champions of North and Central America having won the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament defeating arch-rivals USA by an amazing 5-0 scoreline. El Tri will fancy their chances of progress beyond the group stage as they compete in one of the most open groups of the tournament along with France, South Africa and Uruguay.

Coach: Javier Aguirre

Star Player: Rafael Márquez

HONDURAS – 3rd in CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Ranking = 38

Honduras took the final spot in the group in the most dramatic fashion. Their 1-0 victory away at arch-rivals El Salvador was coupled with the USA’s last minute equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw against Costa Rica, the loss of two crucial points denied the latter a place at the World Cup. In the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup the Hondurans lost 2-0 in the semi-finals to United States. Success for Honduras will be if they don’t finish bottom of a group containing Spain, Chile and Switzerland.

Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

Star Player: David Suazo

Honduras National Team

The Hondurans are appearing in their first FIFA World Cup since 1982

Differing fortunes for African Cup champions and favourites

Posted in African Football by peterbein on January 13, 2010
Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast could only draw their first game in the African Cup of Nations against unfancied Burkina Faso

Going into this year’s African Cup of Nations many pundits have predicted that Ivory Coast, including the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Touré, will win the tournament. At the same time Egypt, who are back-to-back defending champions having won the most recent two tournaments in 2006 and 2008, have been written off especially as their big guns of Mohamed Aboutrika, Amr Zaki and Mido are missing either through injury or non-inclusion in their national team. However their opening matches in Angola in the last couple of days have given these pundits food for thought.

When Ivory Coast played against Burkina Faso on Sunday many thought that three points for the former would pretty much secure their passage into the quarter finals, especially as they are in the group which Togo have now been disqualified from due to their reluctance to participate after the gun attack in Cabinda last Friday. However the Burkina Faso side were determined to prove that they are not in Angola just to make up the numbers and held their more illustrious opponents to a credible 0-0 draw in Group B’s opening match. This means that the second game of the group between the Ivory Coast and Ghana is something akin to an early cup final. If the Ivorians lose then a draw in the final game involving Burkina Faso and Ghana would be enough to send ‘Les Éléphants’ crashing out of the tournament at the group stage, something which was unthinkable before the competition began.

In contrast Egypt have started the tournament strongly. They went behind to a super strike from Chinedu Obasi after only twelve mintes in their 3-1 win over Nigeria. The defending champions equalized when Nigeria’s keeper came out of his penalty area which allowed Emad Moteab to go around him and put the ball into an empty net on 34 minutes. Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan, playing in the African Cup of Nations for a remarkable eighth time, scored the second goal ten minutes into the second half albeit thanks to a wicked deflection of Taye Taiwo. Mohamed Gedo completed the victory for the Pharaohs three minutes from time to give the Egyptians the perfect start in Group C, especially as their other group opponents Mozambique and Benin could only draw 2-2 in their encounter.

Perhaps the fact that Egypt haven’t qualified for the FIFA World Cup this season means that they will try their level best to secure a history making third consecutive African Cup of Nations trophy. It is possible that the Ivory Coast will get through their group and go all the way but after the opening match results they must be fearful that yet another opportunity to become continental champions is going to be squandered. But in what appears to be an open tournament so far I don’t think too many pundits should be making predictions just yet….

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.

FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 1, 2009

Thirty two teams, one World Cup

The excitement is already building ahead of the draw for the 19th FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. Ever since the original competition kicked off in Uruguay in 1930 the tournament has gone from strength to strength and there is great anticipation that the next competition will be amongst the best yet. On Friday, December 4th there will be thirty two nations anxious to find out their opponents for the group stage of the tournament that will kick-off on June 11th, 2010. Over the next three days “Stoppage Time” will take a look at how the thirty two nations qualified for the finals. Today we profile the nine nations from Africa and North/Central America:

SOUTH AFRICA – Qualified as hosts; FIFA World Ranking = 86*

It’s been a shaky build-up for South Africa as critics have complained about the organisation, the slow progress of stadium development and poor results from the ‘Bafana Bafana’ which has seen the national team drop down the rankings. Without an African Cup of Nations tournament to prepare for in early 2010 it will be difficult to assess how competitive they could be during the World Cup.

CAMEROON – Winners of Africa Group A; FIFA World Ranking = 11

Cameroon were made to work for their World Cup place having gone toe-to-toe in their group with improving Gabon. Arguably the most fancied team from the African continent to provide a challenge in the finals.

NIGERIA – Winners of Africa Group B; FIFA World Ranking = 22

Nigeria thought they hadn’t done quite enough after their final qualifying game, a 3-2 win over Kenya. Fortunately for the ‘Super Eagles’ news came through that their rivals Tunisia had surprisingly been beaten by Mozambique therefore allowing Nigeria to qualify by a point.

ALGERIA – Winners of Africa Group C (following a play-off against Egypt); FIFA World Ranking = 28

In the final group match Algeria were one minute away from direct qualification for the finals but Egypt’s late second goal meant that a play-off was necessary to separate two teams who had identical records after six matches. Algeria won the play-off 1-0 played in neutral Sudan to go through at the expense of their eternal rivals.

GHANA – Winners of Africa Group D; FIFA World Ranking = 37

Secured qualification with a game to spare in an easy group that contained Mali, Benin and Sudan.

IVORY COAST – Winners of Africa Group E; FIFA World Ranking = 16

Like Ghana, the Ivorians qualified for the finals with a game to spare in a group that contained Burkina Faso, Guinea and Malawi. Didier Drogba’s presence means that the ‘Elephants’ will fancy their chances of getting out of the group stage and challenging some of the stronger nations in the finals.

UNITED STATES – Winners of CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Rankings = 14

The United States topped the six team group in North and Central America to qualify for the finals. Despite football not being among the nation’s top sports the Americans can be proud of securing a place at their sixth consecutive World Cup tournament.

MEXICO – 2nd in CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Ranking = 15

Mexico struggled early on in the campaign and changed their coach in the process. New coach Javier Aguirre has steadied the ship and secured the runners-up spot in the group lying just one point behind their neighbours United States.

HONDURAS – 3rd in CONCACAF Group; FIFA World Ranking = 38

Honduras took the final spot in the group in the most dramatic fashion. Their 1-0 victory away at arch-rivals El Salvador was coupled with the USA’s last minute equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw against Costa Rica, the loss of two crucial points denied the latter a place at the World Cup.

* FIFA World Rankings correct on December 1st, 2009