Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Paraguay: Points shared in Superclásico (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on September 5, 2011

Paraguay’s Superclásico took place this weekend with Olimpia and Cerro Porteño having to be content with sharing the spoils following a 1-1 draw in the capital city of Asuncion on Sunday.

Record champions Olimpia may have amassed 38 league titles to date in their glory-laden history but the last of those championships came eleven years ago which is far too long for a club of its stature. Cerro Porteño have caught up a little on their arch-rivals in the title stakes in recent times having won four championships in the last decade (the last was the 2009 Apertura) taking their tally up to 28. Both clubs have started off well in the current Clausura campaign, occupying places in the top four with the new tournament six games old. Club Nacional, who won the opening Apertura championship this season, and Club Libertad, Paraguay’s most successful team in the last decade with seven title wins since 2000, also occupy spots in the top four so it was important for one of Paraguay’s traditional big two to get all three points in the Superclásico this weekend.

Alas, for both teams, this proved to be too tough a task and they had to settle for a point each. Cerro Porteño took the lead three minutes into the second half with Freddy heading home from close range but host side Olimpia equalized in the 62nd minute through Sergio Orteman’s powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area following Cerro’s inability to clear the ball. The point won meant that Olimpia preserve their place at the top of the standings with thirteen points from six matches, two points ahead of Cerro Porteño who lie in fourth place as an inferior goal difference means that they are sandwiched by Club Libertad and Club Nacional.

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CONMEBOL: Paraguay to meet Uruguay in Copa final

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 21, 2011

Copa AmericaThe Copa America will see Uruguay take on Paraguay in the final on Sunday after both nations secured their berths with semi-final victories over Peru and Venezuela respectively.

The Uruguayans are now many people’s favourites to win the competition after their 2-0 win over Peru on Tuesday. A brace from Luis Suárez early in the second half helped him become the tournament’s top scorer, along with Argentina’s Sergio Agüero, on three goals and he will hope to secure himself the Golden Boot as well as the Copa itself in the final. Their attacking approach has endeared itself to the watching public and many will hope they lift the trophy for a record 15th time.

In contrast Paraguay reached the final for the first time since 1979 without winning a single match in regular time. Following three drawn matches in the group phase, Paraguay have played out successive goalless draws against Brazil and Venezuela in the knockout stages so far and have progressed both times thanks to the lottery of a penalty shootout. Venezuela, who reached the semi-finals for the first time, are unlucky not to have gone all the way to the final after hitting the woodwork three times and having a goal disallowed for offside. The match, however, will sadly be remembered for the post-match brawl in which players and officials threw punches at each other and were restrained by local police before things really got out of hand.

If history is anything to go by then Uruguay will be celebrating another title on Sunday as they are the only team other than Argentina to have won the Copa America on Argentine soil. Paraguay, however, will more than likely stick to the negative tactics that have got them this far but they will probably have to do it without coach Gerardo Martino on the touchline as he was shown a red card in last night’s match.

Peru and Venezuela will meet in the 3rd/4th place play-off on Saturday in La Plata whilst the final will kick-off at 16:00 local time in Buenos Aires.

Paraguay: Club Nacional claim eighth championship (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on June 6, 2011

Club Nacional finally managed to get their hands on the Torneo Apertura following their Matchday 22 win over Cerro Porteño.

Nacional were two points clear of record champions Olimpia before the final round of matches began on Sunday. At the half-time break Nacional were drawing following a goalless first half whilst Olimpia led against 3 de Febrero thanks to a 34th minute penalty from Juan Ferreyra. After the break Nacional went behind in the 54th minute after Francisco García gave Cerro the lead but parity was restored just four minutes later thanks to Victor Aquino. The winning goal for Nacional came in the 68th minute with Silvio Torales scoring the goal which puts his name in the history books. As it turned out Olimpia, who led 1-0 at half-time, ended up losing 3-2 to 3 de Febrero so Nacional’s title win looked all the more sweeter as the gap increased to a five point margin (Pld 22, Pts 47)

WATCH CERRO PORTENO v CLUB NACIONAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

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FIFA World Cup Review – South America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIFA: 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: 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: 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

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.