Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA World Cup Review – Asia

Posted in Asian Football, International Football by peterbein on July 12, 2010

Keisuke Honda

Keisuke Honda celebrates his goal in Japan's 3-1 win over Denmark

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the Asian nations’ performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Japan and South Korea both qualified for the knock out stages of a World Cup for the first time outside of their own continent. Both countries reached the last sixteen in their co-hosted 2002 tournament and this competition was a small bit of history for Asian football’s two powerhouse nations. Australia were playing for the first time as an “Asian” country having qualified in 2006 through the Oceania regional qualifying round. North Korea played in only their second World Cup finals having competed for the only time in 1966.

Japan had the best record out of the Asian nations winning two of their three group games, their only reverse in this section being against eventual World Cup finalists the Netherlands to whom they lost by a slender 1-0 scoreline. Their two victories came against a disappointing Cameroon (1-0) and Denmark who they impressively swept aside by three goals to one with Keisuke Honda amongst the goals, thus increasing his blossoming reputation. Japan met Paraguay in arguably the least entertaining of the round of sixteen matches and were unfortunate to have to lose in a penalty shoot out, Yuichi Komano being the unlucky player to miss his spot kick in a 5-3 defeat for the Japanese.

South Korea were in an easier group on paper and looked impressive in their opening group game against Greece (2-0) but were brushed aside by Argentina (4-1) before scraping the point they needed to qualify for the round of sixteen stage when drawing 2-2 with Nigeria. Ultimately it was Argentina’s 2-0 win over Greece that helped the Koreans qualify for a knock out encounter with Uruguay, a match which began the post-group stage football. Lee Chung-Yong was the scorer for South Korea but his goal was the filling inbetween a Luis Suárez sandwich of goals in a game that the Uruguayans won 2-1. It was a sad end to what was a good tournament for the South Koreans and the idea of them having reached the quarter-final was never far-reaching but, alas, the South Americans just had that little bit more experience in the end.

Australia were confident going into their group matches but were given a huge wake-up call by a wonderful Germany team whose 4-0 victory over the Socceroos was one of the team performances of the tournament. They improved for their second game against Ghana but after Brett Holman had given the Socceroos the lead, Asamoah Gyan, one of the players of the tournament, equalized to give the west Africans a share of the points. The Australians were not to have much luck in the competition as Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell were both sent off in their opening two matches and, despite winning their final match against Serbia by two goals to one, they were to miss out on a place in the knock out stages due to an inferior goal difference against Ghana.

North Korea provided one of the moments of the competition when, during the national anthems before their opening group match against Brazil, Jong Tae Se’s emotions got the better of him, crying throughout. North Korea put up a respectable performance against the five-time world champions, keeping them goalless at half-time. However Maicon and Elano gave the Brazilians a two goal lead before Ji Yun-Nam pulled one back in the dying moments of the match. But that was as good as it would get on the goalscoring front for North Korea as they were totally outclassed in their other two group matches against Portugal (7-0) and Ivory Coast (3-0). Nevertheless it was fantastic to see them make an appearance and one can only wonder if it will take another 44 years for them to make another World Cup appearance………

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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asamoah Gyan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniele de Rossi

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

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

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

FIFA: World Cup Guide – Part Two

Brazil

Brazil celebrate winning their fifth World Cup in 2002.

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s build-up to the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on Friday June 11th, we profile the ten teams who have qualified from South America, Asia, and Oceania (note – FIFA rankings correct from May 26th):

BRAZIL – Winners of South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 1

The most successful country in FIFA World Cup history kept up their amazing record of having qualified for every single World Cup tournament, the only nation to have achieved this feat. Dunga’s side won their qualification group by a point from nearest challengers Chile and Paraguay. Strongly fancied to add to their tally of five World Cup wins, the last of whch saw Brazil lift the trophy in Japan/South Korea in 2002. Face tough group matches against Ivory Coast and Portugal but should have enough to qualify and go far in the tournament.

Coach:  Dunga

Star Player: Kaka

CHILE – 2nd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 18

The Chileans have impressed under the stewardship of Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa. Took Brazil all the way in World Cup qualifying but still managed to finish a very respectable second place. La Roja are favoured to progress to the Round of 16 stage from their group which contains favourites Spain, Switzerland and underdogs Honduras.

Coach: Marcelo Bielsa

Star Player: Humberto Suazo

PARAGUAY – 3rd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 31

Paraguay surprised a few people with their final position finishing third only on goal difference behind Chile but they would’ve finished top of the ten nation group had they not lost to Colombia at home on the final matchday of qualifying . Nonetheless Paraguay could spring a surprise or two in South Africa but will be fighting it out for second in their group behind Italy. Can they get the points they need against New Zealand and Slovakia to go through to the knockout stage?

Coach: Gerardo Martino

Star Player: Roque Santa Cruz

ARGENTINA – 4th in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 7

Diego Maradona’s side qualified the hard way. After a fantastic start to the campaign Diego Maradona took over the reins of the national team from Alfio Basile a little more than halfway through qualifying. With two matches to go there was a possibility that the Argentinians had thrown away their chances of automatic qualification but a last gasp 2-1 win over Peru was followed by a 1-0 win away at eternal rivals Uruguay. The Albiceleste have perhaps the easiest group out of the heavyweight teams and should progress without too many problems against Greece, Nigeria and South Korea. But have they got what it takes to go all the way?

Coach: Diego Maradona

Star Player: Lionel Messi

URUGUAY – 5th in South America Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 16

Uruguay had to play against Costa Rica (4th in CONCACAF group) in a two-leg play-off after failing to secure an automatic berth during the main qualification stages. Uruguay won the first leg 1-0 away from home and things looked comfortable when they doubled their lead with a goal from Sebastian Abreu in the second leg. However the Costa Ricans equalised on the night to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Uruguay were made to sweat for their place in South Africa. Now in South Africa they face an open group fighting it out with France, Mexico and the host nation for a place in the Round of Sixteen.

Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez

Star Player: Diego Forlán

Australia National Team

The Socceroos are appearing in their third World Cup finals

AUSTRALIA – 1st in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 20

Australia breezed through their group finishing five points clear of fellow qualifiers Japan. After losing to a harsh penalty against Italy in the 2006 World Cup the “Socceroos” will be hoping to spring a surprise in South Africa especially with a host of players plying their trade in Europe. Since World Cup qualification was assured Australia have also qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finishing top of their qualifying group over Kuwait, Oman and Indonesia. In South Africa the Aussies will face tough opposition in Germany, Serbia and Ghana and progress into the knockout stages will be far from easy.

Coach: Pim Verbeek

Star Player: Tim Cahill

JAPAN – 2nd in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 45

Although they finished five points behind Australia the Japanese team finished the same number of points ahead of Bahrain to take the second automatic qualifying spot from Asia Group One. Since World Cup qualification the Japanese have secured a place in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup topping a group containing Bahrain, Yemen and Hong Kong. Despite regular appearances in the FIFA World Cup since 1998 they have yet to get past the second round of any tournament and aren’t expected to trouble too much in a group containing Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon.

Coach: Takeshi Okada

Star Player: Shinji Okazaki

SOUTH KOREA – 1st in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 47

South Korea kept up their good run of qualifying for the World Cup by remaining unbeaten in Asia Group Two which pitted them against neighbours North Korea and traditional Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE. Since World Cup qualification the South Korean team have not, unlike Australia and Japan, had to play in 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as they have an automatic berth in the tournament and have, therefore, played many friendly matches instead. Despite regular appearances in this competition South Korea are expected to struggle again in a group containing Argentina, Greece and Nigeria but one feels they could do better than the pundits expect.

Coach: Huh Jung-Moo

Star Player: Park Ji-Sung

NORTH KOREA – 2nd in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 105

The North Koreans secured their second ever World Cup finals qualification with a runners-up finish in Asia Group Two. It was a close run thing between themselves and Saudi Arabia who finished on the same number of points. However the North Koreans’ superior goal difference proved to be crucial in the end. Since qualification for South Africa there has been competitive action for North Korea in the form of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup in which they beat Turkmenistan in the final to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. In relation to the 2010 World Cup as much as people would love to see a modern day Pak Doo-Ik, the hero of the 1966 tournament, a repeat of his exploits seem very unlikely in a group containing Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.

Coach: Kim Jong-Hun

Star Player: Hong Yong-Jo

NEW ZEALAND – 1st in Oceania Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 78

Having easily negotiated their way past New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu in Oceania qualifying, the All Whites were made to work hard against a determined Bahrain (3rd in Asia Group One) in a two-leg play-off. A Rory Fallon header just before half time in the second match in Wellington secured both their place in the finals and Fallon’s place as a Kiwi sporting hero. Since then New Zealand have struggled in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup scoring only one point in three games and finishing bottom of their group. It is expected that they will also struggle in what is to be only their second World Cup finals appearance but could have an element of surprise about them in games against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.

Coach: Ricki Herbert

Star Player: Ryan Nelsen

Asia: Three big leagues take a break for World Cup

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on May 29, 2010
Shimuzu S-Pulse

Shimuzu S-Pulse (in orange) currently lead the way in Japan's "J League"

With the FIFA World Cup only days away the three biggest leagues in Asian football are taking a break ahead of the big kick-off in South Africa on Friday, June 11th. Although China has failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup the Chinese Super League has taken a break until July 14th along with Japan’s J League whilst the South Korean K League returns three days later on July 17th. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the latest developments and looks ahead to the next matchday in each country:

JAPAN (Shimuzu 12/25; Nagoya Grampus Eight 12/22; Kashima Antlers 11/21)

Shimuzu S-Pulse are making the early running in the Japanese championship after twelve rounds although defending champions Kashima Antlers are still hanging on having been involved in the AFC Champions League until their recent exit in that competition at the hands of Pohang Steelers. Shimuzu S-Pulse, the only club in the current top four who have a Japanese coach, enjoy a three point cushion at the break having only secured a 2-2 draw away at FC Tokyo on Matchday 12.

Kashima Antlers’ chances at the top have significantly increased after their recent 4-1 drubbing of second place Grampus Eight in Nagoya last time out. Takuya Nozawa, Shinko Koroki, Marquinhos and Masashi Motoyama were on target for the champions with the lone reply coming from Australian Joshua Kennedy whose strike in this game took him to the top of the J League’s goalscoring charts with eight goals. But Nagoya, currently coached by former Crvena Zvezda and Olympique de Marseille star Dragan Stojković, have performed well thus far and will hope to get back on track on Matchday 13 against lowly Omiya Ardija. Elsewhere Urawa Red Diamonds and Kawasaki Frontale, both tied on twenty points, lost the chance to put further pressure on the top three having lost points in their most recent matches, a 1-1 at Vegalta Sendai and a 3-1 defeat at Jubilo Iwata respectively.

NEXT FIXTURES (14/07/10)

Kashima Antlers v Shonan Bellmare

Kawasaki Frontale v Omiya Ardija

(17/07/10)

Omiya Ardija v Nagoya Grampus Eight

Shimiuzu S-Pulse v Jubilo Iwata

Kashima Antlers v Kawasaki Frontale

(18/07/10)

Gamba Osaka v Urawa Red Diamonds

Sanfreece Hiroshima v Yokohama Marinos

CHINA (Shanghai 10 games/20 points; Shandong 9/16; Liaoning 10/15)

Defending champions Beijing Guo’an have found it tough going so far in the current campaign, perhaps aided by their AFC Champions League exploits, and currently lie in mid-table eight points behind league leaders Shanghai Shenhua. Having lost their most recent game 2-0 to Hangzhou Lucheng perhaps Guo’an can step up their title challenge upon the resumption of the league, especially now that South Korean side Suwon Samsung Bluewings have knocked them out of the Asian Champions League at the Round of 16 stage.

Shanghai Shenhua have a four point lead going into the break after their narrow 1-0 home win against Shenzhen Ruby and have accumulated twenty points from the first ten games thanks mainly to the goals of the league’s top scorer, Colombian striker Duvier Riascos. Their nearest challengers at the moment are Shandong Luneng who, sadly for them, lost their most recent fixture 1-0 to Shannxi Chanba but they still have a game in hand on the leaders so can close the gap in their next outing against Qingdao Jondon. The big surprise so far is newly promoted Liaoning Hunyong who lie third after ten games following their recent 1-0 win against Chongqing Lifan but Henan Jianye hang on to their coat tails despite dropping two points at home to Qingdao Jondon on Matchday 10 of the league.

Next Fixtures (14/07/10)

Shannxi Chanba v Shanghai Shenhua

Beijing Guo’an v Chongqing Lifan

Henan Jianye v Changsha Ginde

Qingdao Jondon v Shandong Luneng

Nanchang Bayi v Liaoning Hunyong

Changchun Yatai v Hangzhou Lucheng

Waldemar Lemos

Waldemar Lemos has just recently been sacked by Pohang Steelers after a string of poor results

SOUTH KOREA (Ulsan Hyundai 12/24; Jeju United 12/22; Seongnam Ilhwa 12/21)

It’s been a strange season in South Korea up to now especially regarding the clubs involved in AFC Champions League (AFC CL) action this season. Pohang Steelers, the defending champions of Asian football’s elite competition, have just fired their Brazilian coach Waldemar Lemos after the Steelers’ form at domestic level was in total contrast with that at international level. In the K League Pohang have lost four out of their last five matches with their most recent defeat, 5-2 at home to Jeju United, being the final straw for the Steelers’ board. Pohang currently lie in twelfth place but this is still better than their fellow AFC CL participants Suwon Samsung Bluewings who are rooted to rock bottom of the K League table after eleven matches played and their most recent match saw them lose 2-0 at home to table toppers Ulsan Hyundai.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma are the best performing out of the AFC CL participants and currently lie in fourth place with a game in hand on Ulsan after easily overcoming Chunnam Dragons in their last outing by four goals to nil. Ulsan Hyundai finished fourth last season and will have ambitions to remain in this area especially as they find themselves top of the table going into the pre-World Cup break. Until recently FC Seoul led the way but a 1-0 reverse to sixth place Incheon United saw the capital side lose some valuable ground whilst fifth place Gyeongnam FC also lost their last league game by the same scoreline, their opponents being Busan I’Park.

NEXT FIXTURES (17/07/10)

FC Seoul v Chunnam Dragons

Ulsan Hyundai v Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma

Jeju United v Gangwon FC

Daegu FC v Suwon Smasung Bluewings

Busan I’Park v Pohang Steelers

Gyongnam FC v Gwangju Sangmu

J-League and K-League champions signal the old and the new

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on December 7, 2009
Kashima Antlers

Kashima Antlers have secured their third straight J-League title

Two major championships concluded in Asia this weekend, one championship congratulating a team who have turned winning into an art form on the domestic stage, the other congratulating a club who have finally landed their maiden national title.

Kashima Antlers were crowned champions of Japan this weekend securing a third straight title courtesy of a 1-0 win away at Urawa Red Diamonds. Shinko Koroki’s goal in the 66th minute proved enough as the Antlers finished two points clear of Kawasaki Frontale, whose 3-2 victory away to Kashiwa Reysol ultimately proved fruitless. Kashima cement their place as the most successful club in the J-League era as they have won the J-League championship seven times since its formation in 1993. At the bottom of the table JEF United, Oita Trinita and Kashiwa Reysol were relegated and they’ll be replaced in 2010 by Vegalta Sandai, Cerezo Osaka and Shonan Bellmare.

Things were different in South Korea where the K-League saw Jeonbuk Hyandai Motors lift their first ever league championship trophy. Jeonbuk had already clinched the regular league title finishing four points ahead of FIFA Club World Cup participants Pohang Steelers and FC Seoul. Following the regular season a play-off series was contested, Jeonbuk’s prize for finishing first in the regular table was a bye into the final. Five teams entering at various rounds were hoping to contest Jeonbuk in the final and, after three rounds, it was Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, who had finished fourth in the regular season, who were to be the lucky opponents with a shot at title glory. After the first leg of the final had finished in a goalless draw, Jeonbuk took no prisoners in the second match played at their home stadium in Jeonju. Eninho scored the first goal of the game after 21 minutes to set them on their way. After the Brazilian scored his second just before half-time, former South Korean international Lee Dong-Gook confirmed the match with a 72nd minute penalty for Jeonbuk to seal the deal, Seongnam getting a consolation goal through Kim Jin-Yong in the 84th minute.

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 Two

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 2, 2009

Cafu lifts the FIFA World Cup in 2002 for Brazil

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s build-up to the FIFA World Cup draw, we profile the ten teams who have qualified from South America, Asia, and Oceania:

BRAZIL – Winners of South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 2*

The most successful country in FIFA World Cup history kept up their amazing record of having qualified for every single World Cup tournament, the only nation to have achieved this feat. Dunga’s side were a model of consistency losing only twice in the eighteen match campaign and won the group by a point from nearest challengers Chile and Paraguay. Strongly fancied to add to their tally of five World Cup wins, the last of whch saw Cafu lift the trophy in Japan/South Korea in 2002 (picture).

CHILE – 2nd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 17

The Chileans have impressed under the stewardship of Argentinian coach  Marcelo Bielsa and are seen as an outside chance to go far in South Africa due to their exciting brand of football.

PARAGUAY – 3rd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 30

Paraguay surprised a few people with their final position finishing third only on goal difference behind Chile. Had they not been defeated by Colombia at home on the final matchday of qualifying they would’ve finished top of the ten nation group. Nonetheless Paraguay could spring a surprise or two in South Africa if they get a decent draw.

ARGENTINA – 4th in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 8

Diego Maradona’s side qualified the hard way. After a fantastic start to the campaign Diego Maradona took over the reins of the national team from Alfio Basile a little more than halfway through qualifying. With two matches to go there was a possibility that the Argentinians had thrown away their chances of automatic qualification but a last gasp 2-1 win over Peru was followed by a 1-0 win away at eternal rivals Uruguay. Despite having players such as Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain the jury is out on whether “El Diego” can lead his country to a third World Cup triumph.

URUGUAY – 5th in South America Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 8

Uruguay had to play against Costa Rica (4th in CONCACAF group) in a two-leg play-off after failing to secure an automatic berth during the main qualification stages. Uruguay won the first leg 1-0 away from home and things looked comfortable when they doubled their lead with a goal from Sebastian Abreu in the second leg. However the Costa Ricans equalised on the night to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Uruguay were made to sweat for their place in South Africa.

AUSTRALIA – 1st in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 21

Australia breezed through their group finishing five points clear of fellow qualifiers Japan. After losing to a harsh penalty against Italy in the 2006 World Cup the “Socceroos” will be hoping to spring a surprise in South Africa especially with proven experience players such as Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell.

JAPAN – 2nd in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 43

Although they finished five points behind Australia the Japanese team finished the same number of points ahead of Bahrain to take the second automatic qualifying spot from Asia Group One. Despite regular appearances in the FIFA World Cup since 1998 they have yet to get past the second round of any tournament and aren’t expected to trouble too much in South Africa.

SOUTH KOREA – 1st in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 52

South Korea kept up their good run of qualifying for the World Cup by remaining unbeaten in Asia Group Two, a campaign which pitted them against neighbours North Korea and traditional Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE.

NORTH KOREA – 2nd in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 84

The North Koreans secured their second ever World Cup finals qualification with a runners-up finish in Asia Group Two. It was a close run thing between themselves and Saudi Arabia who finished on the same number of points. However the North Koreans superior goal difference proved to be crucial in the end. As much as people would love to see a modern day Pak Doo Ik, the hero of the 1966 World Cup, knocking out some of the big boys a repeat of those exploits seem very unlikely.

NEW ZEALAND – 1st in Oceania Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 77

Having easily negotiated their way past New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu in Oceania qualifying, the “All Whites” were made to work hard against a determined Bahrain (3rd in Asia Group One) in a two-leg play-off. A Rory Fallon header just before half time in the second match in Wellington secured both their place in the finals and Fallon’s place as a Kiwi sporting hero. However it is expected that they will struggle in what is to be only their second finals tournament, the first being the 1982 tournament in Spain.

* FIFA World Rankings correct on December 1st, 2009.