Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro 2012 Preview – Group B

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoStoppage Time – International Football Blog continues its preview of the oncoming UEFA European Championships which begin on Friday. In this blog we look at Group B which contains Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.

GROUP B

DENMARK: Best Performance = Winners 1992

Most football fans will know of the legend that has built around the 1992 European Championship winning team. The country hadn’t even qualified for the tournament but an oncoming civil war in Yugoslavia meant that Denmark would enter the tournament in their place and with a team including Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel the nation would go on to enjoy a 2-0 final success over favourites Germany. A repeat of that performance looks beyond the current crop as a tough draw has handed them three of the favourites in the form of Germany, Netherlands and Portugal. There is still hope for Denmark, however, who reached Euro 2012 by topping qualifying Group H over Portugal who, in turn, needed a play-off to reach the tournament. Many observers are expecting 20 year old Christian Eriksen to make his name in this tournament whilst Niklas Bendtner will hope to put a poor season firmly behind him and help Denmark progress.

COACH: Morten Olsen

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 10

GERMANY: Best Performance = Winners 1972, 1980 (as West Germany), 1996 (as Germany)

Footballing aristocracy at its finest, the Germans always expect to, and usually do, perform at the major international tournaments. West Germany became the first nation in 1972 to hold both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship titles, a fate only matched subsequently by France (2000) and Spain (2010). Further successes in 1980 and in 1996, under the guise of Germany, have helped ensure that the Nationalmannschaft maintain their position as the most successful European national team. A faultless qualifying campaign saw Germany top Group A with ten wins from ten, a massive thirteen points ahead of Turkey, and become the first team outside of joint hosts Poland and Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2012. In a side containing a quality blend of youth and experience there are lots of potential match winners including Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski whilst the further development of players such as Mario Götze and Mesut Özil will be paramount to Germany’s chances in the competition.

COACH: Joachim Löw

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 2

NETHERLANDS: Best Performance = Winners 1988

The Dutch are always amongst the favourites in any international tournament despite only ever having been victorious in one major finals. The fabulous team of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard swept all before them in the 1988 tournament in West Germany as the Oranje won their only major trophy so far when defeating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the final in Munich. The Netherlands kept up their marvellous record in qualifying by topping Group E with nine wins and one defeat in ten matches and heading the table over Sweden. Just like Germany, the Dutch are an exciting team with lots of potential match winners. Most eyes will be looking at Robin van Persie, who has been in exceptional form for Arsenal FC this season, but there are lots of other stars in the squad including Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder to name but three.

COACH: Bert van Marwijk

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 4

PORTUGAL: Best Performance = Runner Up 2004

Portugal is arguably the most talented footballing nation never to have won a major international tournament. Their disappointing defeat on home soil in the 2004 European Championship final was the nation’s best chance to win a maiden title but a shock defeat to Greece has set the Portuguese team back. The most recent European Championship in 2008 saw Portugal lose to eventual finalists Germany in the quarter-final stages and with the Germans in their group this time around as well as the Netherlands there is a chance that Portugal will struggle to progress beyond the group stage. Even in qualifying the Portuguese finished second in Group H behind Denmark, the third team in their group in the 2012 finals, so the omens aren’t looking favourable. This will mean more pressure heaped upon the shoulders of star player Cristiano Ronaldo whose personal levels of performance have grown to exceptional levels playing for Real Madrid over the last few years. He will, however, need to be supported by an able cast including the likes of Nani, João Moutinho and Hélder Postiga if Portugal are to defy the odds.

COACH: Paulo Bento

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 5

GROUP B FIXTURES

09/06/12 Netherlands v Denmark

09/06/12 Germany v Portugal

13/06/12 Denmark v Portugal

13/06/12 Germany v Netherlands

17/06/12 Denmark v Germany

17/06/12 Netherlands v Portugal

Holland: Alkmaar belatedly triumph over Ajax in cup replay

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 19, 2012

Dutch CupThe KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) clash between Ajax Amsterdam and AZ Alkmaar, which was suspended due to an attack on AZ keeper Esteban Alvarado in the initial encounter, was completed today in the Amsterdam ArenA with the home side going down to a 3-2 defeat.

Siem de Jong gave Ajax the lead as early as the 10th minute only for the visitors to restore parity fourteen minutes later through Maarten Martins. AZ were then able to take the lead in the 32nd minute with Charlison Benschop getting his name on the score sheet only for the hosts to peg back six minutes before the break with de Jong grabbing his second goal of the game and that was how the game finished after a lively first half.

The second half, by way of contrast, only saw one more goal with Rasmus Elm netting the crucial strike from the penalty spot in the 55th minute to give Alkmaar a sense of justice following the first game which saw their players leave the pitch following the attack on Alvarado. Ajax, on the other hand, would be forgiven for thinking of what might’ve been as they had lead in the initial tie with a 1-0 score line after 38 minutes before the game had to be abandoned.

AZ Alkmaar’s reward for reaching the last eight of the competition is a quarter-final match against third-tier GVVV Veenendaal. The other games at this stage will see PSV Eindhoven take on NEC Nijmegen, Heracles Almelo at home to RKC Waalwijk and Vitesse Arnhem host SC Heerenveen. The games are due to take place on January 31st.

Netherlands: Twente claim successive Super Cup win over Ajax (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 31, 2011

For the second successive year FC Twente have won the Dutch Super Cup fixture against Ajax Amsterdam. The Enschede based side won this title in 2010 as defending league champions but were going into this season’s competition as cup holders having been pipped to the 2010-11 Eredivisie title by Ajax in a dramatic last day showdown. Saturday night saw FC Twente gain an element of revenge as they won the season curtain-raiser by two goals to one thanks to goals from Marc Janko and Bryan Ruiz with Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld scoring inbetween. With the 2011-12 Eredivisie season starting next week both teams are on the road for the opening match of the new campaign with champions Ajax away at De Graafschap and FC Twente locking horns against NAC Breda.

Feyenoord: From Big Three to bottom three

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 21, 2010
Mario Been

Feyenoord coach Mario Been is a man under pressure

Feyenoord Rotterdam is a footballing institution in the Netherlands. For many years it is often referred to as one of the “Big Three” along with Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven but, although this is historically true, it is very much diminishing in terms of achievement for most of the last decade. Since winning the UEFA Cup in 2002, a tournament win which was supposed to herald a renaissance within the club, Feyenoord have only won one trophy since and that was ‘only’ the Dutch Cup in 2008. For a club whose hopes are to challenge for the title, each passing year without a trophy hurts. What’s worse is when your team, so used to being at the top, is hovering dangerously close to the bottom of the league table.

That is the precarious position which Feyenoord now find themselves in following their 2-0 defeat away at FC Groningen today. FC Groningen went up to third place as a result of the win, a position which Feyenoord would normally both aspire and expect to be at worst. Even more embarrassing for Feyenoord is that their cross-city neighbours Excelsior, hardly a rival on any scale, are currently looking down at the more illustrious Rotterdam giants. Even if the gap between the two teams is just one place and one point the fact is that Feyenoord are in a big mess and for coach Mario Been, a former Feyenoord player, the job just gets harder and harder.

Feyenoord’s last league championship win was in 1998-99, since then PSV Eindhoven have dominated the Eredivisie having won it seven times whilst Ajax have won it twice. In the last two years there have been two new teams who have savoured title success in the form of AZ Alkmaar and Twente Enschede. When provincial clubs such as those can boast they’ve won the title it makes Feyenoord’s title drought all the more depressing for their hardcore loyal supporters who, most would agree, are the most vociferous and passionate in Holland. Signs of danger weren’t so apparent in the first few years following the last title win. In 2002 Feyenoord beat Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Cup final and for six out of seven seasons following their last championship win the Rotterdammers finished in the top three. From the 2006-07 season, however, things have not been easy for Feyenoord and a distinct lack of success – bar the 2008 Dutch Cup win against Roda JC Kerkrade – weighs over the club especially in light of less glamourous but ambitious clubs such as AZ and Twente having their moment in the spotlight.

This season has seen many a lowlight but none more so than the 10-0 defeat at the hands of PSV Eindhoven which has gone down as the club’s heaviest ever league defeat. That defeat in late October has certainly rocked the club to the core and they have taken only five points from the last five games since that infamous day. In today’s encounter at Groningen a brace from Slovenian striker Tim Matavž sent Feyenoord down into 16th place in the 18 team Eredivisie. If this position was to be replicated at the end of the season then Feyenoord would see themselves in the relegation play-offs. Feyenoord’s fans could be forgiven for thinking that even their club is not too big to go down when taking such bad form into account. The only point of stability is that the club are standing by coach Been, but for how long? Only time will tell.

Holland: FC Twente claim Super Cup in Amsterdam (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 1, 2010

The Dutch domestic season began in earnest yesterday at Ajax’s Amsterdam ArenA with the annual Super Cup match, known as the Johan Cruijff Schaal, played between last season’s Eredivisie (Dutch league) champions FC Twente Enschede and KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) winners Ajax Amsterdam. With home advantage Ajax were the slight favourites going into the game but it has been anything but an uneventful summer for the four-time European champions who fought tooth and nail to keep their coach Martin Jol at the club following interest from English Premier League club Fulham FC. The match got under way and within eight minutes Ajax were behind when FC Twente’s Luuk de Jong took advantage of a poor goalkeeping clearance from Maarten Stekelenburg and powered the ball past the hapless Ajax keeper. The match didn’t get any better for Ajax as Uruguayan Luis Suárez, back after a successful FIFA World Cup tournament in which his team reached the semi-finals, was sent-off with three minutes of the first half remaining for a two-footed lunge on Cheick Tioté. After a first half in which FC Twente dominated Ajax became more of an attacking force in the second half but, if truth be told, the Amsterdam club were very much second best overall. FC Twente won the trophy for the first time in the club’s history with their only previous appearance coming in 2001 when they were defeated by PSV Eindhoven. Is this victory a sign that the Enschede club can move on without Steve McClaren? Their current coach Michel Preud’Homme certainly hopes so….

Watch FC Twente v Ajax highlights HERE:

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 – 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 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.