Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Uruguay: Recoba seals 44th title for Nacional

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on June 17, 2012

Montevideo giants Nacional have claimed the 2011-12 Uruguayan championship following last night’s play-off final against Defensor Sporting. Alvaro Recoba scored the only goal of the game in the 41st minute to ensure that Nacional win the title for the 44th time in their history, just two behind eternal rivals Peñarol. Nacional, as the team with the best aggregate number of points following this season’s Apertura and Clausura championships, only needed to win last night to claim the overall crown. Defensor Sporting, who won the Apertura title, needed to win last night in order to force a second leg but the defeat ensured that a return fixture won’t be necessary.

CONMEBOL: Uruguay provide a victory for football

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 26, 2011

Uruguay Copa AmericaThere will be many who will have gloried in the success of Uruguay in Sunday’s Copa America final. The record champions of football’s oldest international tournament won the competition for the third time on Argentinian soil and 15th time in total in a 3-0 win over surprise finalists Paraguay, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan (2) doing the damage with the goals.

After all the Uruguayans had shown attacking intent and a positive attitude from the very beginning even if it took them a little while to get into their stride. Paraguay, on the other hand, were prepared to play pragmatically even if it meant the football became devoid of entertainment and ambition. Ironically the only game in which Paraguay showed any ruthlessness in front of goal was also the match in which their defensive line was breached the most, albeit in the last couple of minutes, in the 3-3 draw against Venezuela in the group stage.

What made Uruguay stand out in this tournament was having a couple of stars such as the aforementioned Suarez and Forlan there to compliment the rest of the team. The two teams who were touted as tournament favourites before a ball was kicked, namely Brazil and Argentina, had many more stars in their squads but they couldn’t really gel as teams. After all both nations only managed to scrape a win in their third group stage game in order to seal qualification to the knockout rounds.

Uruguay admittedly got past Argentina in the quarter-finals thanks to the lottery of penalties but they took the game to their eternal rivals on their home turf and did so from early on, Diego Perez’s fifth minute goal proof of their early intent to take the game to their opponents.  However it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that either team could’ve won it in the end such was the attacking nature of the match. Uruguay easily disposed of Peru in the semi-finals once Luis Suarez had grabbed both goals early in the second half. It would’ve been easy to presuppose that Uruguay would change their style ahead of the final in the face of a Paraguay team that had become used to closing teams down and denying them space. This, however, went against the grain of what Uruguay stood for and they proved it in fine style in the Estadio Monumental on Sunday.

Nearly 48 hours after the tournament came to a close and Uruguayan football has a lot to feel happy about right now. Not only did they win the Copa but it has been on the up in the last twelve months having reached the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, their Under-17 team finished runners-up in the FIFA World Under-17 Championship to hosts Mexico earlier this month and their record champion team Peñarol made it to the Copa Libertadores final for the first time since 1988 earlier this year only to lose out to old rivals Santos FC. Hopefully for a nation which was, until recently, a sleeping giant of international football this win will not prove to be a false dawn and that they can build on this success in the future.

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.

FIFA: Hosts Mexico claim Under-17 trophy in style (+video)

Posted in International Football by peterbein on July 11, 2011

FIFA World U-17 Championship logoThe FIFA World Under-17 Championship has been won by hosts Mexico in what was a thrilling climax to a hugely successful tournament.

Mexico got to the final having topped Group A ahead of Congo, North Korea and European champions the Netherlands before getting past Panama, France and Germany in the knockout rounds. Uruguay came second in Group D behind England but managed to defeat Congo, Uzbekistan and neighbours Brazil en route to the final which was played in the Estadio Azteca on Sunday.

The mecca of Mexican football was crammed with 100,000 spectators which proved just how important it is for the local football fans to get to see the next generation of players to grace the shirt of El Tri. Antonio Briseño sent the home fans wild in the 31st  minute when turning the home from close range to give the hosts the lead. The game wasn’t settled until the second minute of stoppage time when Giovani Casillas held his nerve to slot the ball past Uruguayan keeper Jonathan Cubero to secure the game and the tournament for the Mexicans.

Not only did Mexico emerge triumphant from this competition but they shone in the individual awards too. Julio Gómez won the Golden Ball after winning the player of the tournament award whilst compatriots Jonathan Espericueta and Carlos Fierro won the Silver Ball and Bronze Ball respectively. Amongst the other significant awards in the tournament the Ivory Coast’s Souleymane Coulibany won the Golden Boot award after top scoring in this year’s competition with nine goals, the aforementioned Cubero won the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper whilst the Japanese team went away with the Fair Play trophy.

Mexico are world champions at this level for the second time in their history following their previous triumph in the 2005 tournament held in Peru but they will still have to qualify for the next tournament which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in two years’ time. Only the host nation qualifies automatically for that tournament.

South America: Titles decided in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on June 13, 2011

Three domestic championships were decided in South America this weekend. Vélez Sársfield claimed their eighth Argentinian championship having defeated Huracan 2-0 on Matchday 18 with goals from Santiago Silva and David Ramírez sealing the win whilst their only title challengers CA Lanús lost 1-0 at home to Argentinos Juniors, Nicolas Blandi scoring the only goal of the game. The results meant that Vélez Sársfield have a four point lead with just one game left to play. They complete their Torneo Clausura campaign at home to Racing Club next Sunday.

WATCH HURACAN v VELEZ GOALS HERE:

In Uruguay the respective champions of the Apertura and Clausura championships, namely Defensor Sporting and Nacional, went head-to-head in a play-off. Because of the rules of the competition Nacional, whose aggregate total of points for the two championships was greater than that of their opponents, only had to win yesterday’s match to take the title whilst a Sporting win would mean a further two-legged play-off. Fortunately for Nacional they managed to defeat their title rivals by just a solitary Tabaré Viudez goal in the 19th minute to claim their 43rd championship.

WATCH DEFENSOR SPORTING v NACIONAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

There was also an exciting climax to the season in Chile where defending champions Universidad Católica, having enjoyed a 2-0 first leg lead in their final clash with eternal rivals Universidad de Chile, were shocked to lose the second leg 4-1. Universidad de Chile turned things around and claimed their fourteenth domestic championship thanks mainly to a Gustavo Canales hat-trick with Católica’s Juan Eduardo Eluchans scoring an own goal. Despite Lucas Pratto pulling one back it wasn’t enough as Universidad de Chile settled matters by virtue of a 4-3 aggregate win to claim the Torneo Apurtura.

WATCH UNIVERSIDAD de CHILE v UNIVERSIDAD CATOLICA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Uruguay: Nacional gain edge with win over Peñarol (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on May 9, 2011

In Uruguay’s Torneo Clausura on Sunday old rivals Nacional and Peñarol faced each other with both teams level on points at the top of the standings. A win at this late stage of the season would see one of these traditional powers grab the advantage with only three matches left to play. Nacional (played 12, points 28) sneaked ahead of their rivals in the Estadio Centanario on the hour mark after Santiago García ghosted into the penalty area to ram the ball home from just outside the six yard box. It proved to be an important win as Nacional not only gained a three point edge over their eternal rivals but also increased the gap over Torneo Apertura champions Defensor Sporting to four points following their surprise 2-0 away defeat at the hands of Central Español.

WATCH NACIONAL v PENAROL GOAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

South America: Uruguay league kicks-off; Leagues Review (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on August 23, 2010

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at the latest South American league news:

There wasn’t a full programme of matches this weekend in Uruguay but the ball got rolling nonetheless with three teams getting off the mark with a win while the two other matches played at the weekend finished in stalemates. Liverpool had the biggest win of the weekend over Rampla Juniors and had to come from behind at home in order to gain the victory. After Nestor Moiraghi had given Juniors the lead just six minutes into the second half the home side managed to score three times in the space of five minutes thanks to strikes from Hernán Figueredo (70 minutes), Diego Vera (73) and Juan Álvez (75). Central Español, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, also started with a win with Federico Rodriquez’s 65th minute goal being the difference against newly-promoted Bella Vista. There was better luck for another promoted team after El Tanque Sisley, last season’s Segunda División champions, also got the better of their opening day opponents Racing Club de Montevideo by a goal to nil with Maximiliano Callorda scoring the only goal of the game. The two other games saw C.A. Fénix draw 1-1 at home to Tacuarembó and a goalless affair between Cerro and Danubio. To complete the opening round two matches are played on Wednesday with River Plate v Defensor and giants Nacional facing off against Montevideo Wanderers who also provide the opposition for defending champions Peñarol in their opening match on Saturday.

Three games into the new Argentina Apertura season sees contrasting fortunes for the big two of the league. River Plate are one of two teams (along with Vélez Sársfield) with a 100% record after los Millionarios defeated Independiente at home by three goals to two. An eventful opening twenty minutes saw a double from River’s Rogelio Funes Mori sandwich a lone strike from the visitors’ Andrés Silvera. Paulo Ferrari extended the lead for River after just 25 minutes but the crowd would have to wait until the final minute of the game before Independiente were to pull one back to provide the game with a nervous finish. River held out to win 3-2 and are in a great position to fight head-on the battle against relegation (based on the three year points average). Their arch-rivals Boca Juniors have had no such luck in the Apertura thus far going down to the second defeat in three games, the latest setback coming against newly-promoted All Boys who scored both their goals in a 2-0 victory in the first half which sends Boca down to 19th place in the table and increases the pressure on new coach Claudio Borghi. Joint leaders Vélez Sársfield had to wait until the last twenty minutes to secure their 2-0 win over last season’s Clausura champions Argentinos Juniors. Goals from Leandro Somoza (70 mins) and Santiago Silva (76) secured the perfect record for Vélez who are hoping to win a national title for the first time since the Clausura 2009 tournament.

WATCH RIVER PLATE v INDEPENDIENTE HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

The Brasileiro still continues to be tight between the front runners with two points separating league leaders Fluminense (15 games, 33 points) from Corinthians. Fluminense took the lead in an all-Rio de Janeiro match-up with rivals Vasco da Gama thanks to an early 6th minute strike from Gum but Vasco turned the match around with strikes from Éder Luís (37 minutes) and Fagner (48) before parity was restored through Júlio César on the hour mark to give Fluminense a share of the points. There was another local derby when Corinthians got the better of São Paulo FC by three goals to nil with Elias scoring twice in the first half before Jucilei sealed the deal on 70 minutes to narrow the gap at the top. This weekend sees cross-city rivalries take centre stage for both title chasers as Fluminense play Palmeiras at home whilst Corinthians travel to Rio in order to play Vasco da Gama.

WATCH FLUMINENSE v VASCO DA GAMA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

In Chile’s Primera División league leaders and record champions Colo Colo (21 games, 47 points) had Matias Quiroga to thank for keeping the club at the top of the table by scoring the only goal in their 1-0 victory over Unión Española. Nearest challengers Universidad Católica remain just a single point behind Colo Colo following their 4-1 destruction of bottom club San Luis whilst third place Universidad de Chile managed to put a first minute goal behind them and come back to beat Huachipato by three goals to one to maintain a five gap between themselves and the leaders but Universidad de Chile have played one game less than the top two and can get back in the title race should they win their game in hand.

WATCH COLO COLO v UNION ESPANOLA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

In Colombia Santa Fe (6 games, 16 points) and Tolima are the only two unbeaten teams after six matches in this year’s edition of the Copa Mustang. Mario González struck just before the hour mark to give league leaders Santa Fe a slender 1-0 win over Pereira FC while Tolima, two points behind the leaders, kept up the pace with a 3-1 victory over Chicó FC. In Venezuela two teams have 100% records after three games in the new Primera División season with Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC leading the way although Real Esppor club have the chance to join these teams on this statistic as they have played only two games so far. Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC gained their latest victories against Trujillanos FC (3-1) and Estudiantes de Merida (1-0) respectively.

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 A and B Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 22, 2010
Raymond Domenech

Raymond Domenech saw his France team go out of the tournament with a 2-1 defeat to host nation South Africa

GROUP A: URUGUAY 3 /7; MEXICO 3/4; SOUTH AFRICA 3/4; FRANCE 3/1

Unfortunately for South Africa they made history by becoming the first host nation not to make it to the knockout stage of a FIFA World Cup but they did restore some pride by chalking up their first win of the tournament against a French side whose internal strife under coach Raymond Domenech has been well documented. Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela were the men who did the damage for Bafana Bafana in Bloemfontein giving the hosts a 2-0 lead at the break. Florent Malouda pulled one back for Les Bleus with twenty minutes of the game remaining but the celebrations were gradually beginning in Rustenburg where Uruguay won by a Luis Suárez goal in the first half and the Mexicans, despite defeat, knew that the South Africans hadn’t done enough to overturn the goal difference in their favour. Uruguayan coach Oscar Washington Tabárez will be relieved that his team have avoided one of the tournament favourites, Argentina, in the next round and may now fancy their chances of springing an upset later in the competition. Mexico, however, will have painful memories of the most recent FIFA World Cup in Germany where they were knocked out of the competition by Argentina, the team who they now face in this year’s Round of Sixteen.

Diego Maradona

Unlike his French counterpart, Diego Maradona saw his Argentina team win all three group matches

GROUP B: ARGENTINA 3 Games/9 Points; SOUTH KOREA 3/4; GREECE 3/3; NIGERIA 3/1

With all due respect to lovers of Greek football it is one of the great reliefs of the tournament that Otto Rehhagel’s Greece team is out of the tournament after playing some of the most negative football I can remember seeing in a FIFA World Cup tournament. They kept Argentina at bay for 77 minutes but the deadlock was finally broken when Martin Demichelis scored the opening goal from a corner kick to cue customary manic celebration on the touchline from El Diego. Veteran striker and substitute Martín Palermo sealed the game for the Albiceleste in stoppage time turning in a rebound from a Messi shot and Argentina deservedly go through to face Mexico in Johannesburg. Sadly for African football Nigeria were unable to become the first side from the continent to reach the next stage after managing a 2-2 draw against South Korea. After taking the lead early on through Kalu Uche Nigeria surrendered the lead early in the second half after the Asian side had turned it around with goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young. Ayegbeni Yakubu did dispatch a 69th minute penalty kick to give Nigeria hope but they were unable to break Korean resistance any further and it was South Korea who reached the last 16 with a tie against Group A winners Uruguay, who they will meet in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, June 26th.