Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Recap

Wednesday 21 June

Portugal 2 Mexico 1

Portugal scored two early goals, by Maniche in the 8th minute and Sambrosa Simao on a penalty kick in the 24th minute, and survive the Mexican onslaught (José Fonseca scoring in the 29th minute was the lone goal). Both Portugal and Mexico advance, however and will meet Argentina or the Netherlands, depending on the results of that match later.

Iran 1 Angola 1

Had Angola won by three goals, they could have advanced to the elimination round, so it was surprising to see them play so cautiously and defensively. Scoring first in the 60th minute (Flavio), Angola seemed to settle back and wait. And sure enough, Iran capitalized on their sloppy play, scoring in the 75th minute (Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh) off a corner kick.

Netherlands 0 Argentina 0

The featured match of the day pits two perennial powerhouse teams, both undefeated, and both advanced into the elimination round. If Argentina drew with or won against the Netherlands, they would play Mexico in the first game of elimination. Lose, and they face Portugal. The Dutch seemed to play a fairly conservative game, perhaps resting their side for the next round, even taking Ruud van Nistelroy and Robin van Persie off almost before the first hour of play was complete. Argentina pressed hard in the first half, but turned it down a notch in the final half.

Argentina to face Mexico, Netherlands to take on Portugal in what may be the match of the tournament as two perennial disappointments go head-to-head to advance.

Ivory Coast 3 Serbia & Montenegro 2

Nothing at stake in this game, except pride. Serbia & Montengro played a mean-spirited game, 5 yellow cards and a red while Ivory Coast earned 3 yellows. Serbia & Montenegro scored at the tenth and twentieth minute of the first half and tried to hold on as Ivory Coast crept close at the end of the first half with a penalty kick goal for a hand ball in the box, scored by Aruna Dindane in the 37th minute. Dindane later scored the equalizer in the 67th minute off a cross from Kader Keita as Serbia and Montenegro played ten men to their side off the red card shown to Albert Nadj at the end of the first half. In the 84th minute, Milan Dudic hand-balled in the 18 yard box, allowing Bonaventure Kalou a penalty kick, which he converted. A red card was shown to Cyrille Domoraud of the Ivory Coast in the 92nd minute, but with no affect on the outcome.
Thursday 22 June
Italy 2 Czech Republic 0

Two goals made the US job easier, while the Czech Republic, which looked so dominant against the US' pathetic "team" of individuals, could barely muster any type of attack in their final two games, apparently collapsing in the heat of a German summer. The second goal was a thing of beauty, scored on a half-field run on a two-on-nil breakaway. Italy did their part. Could the USA make it happen?

Ghana 2 USA 1

No. The sole bright spot of this game was that the US finally scored a goal on their own, as Clint Dempsey fired home a perfect shot off a gorgeous DaMarcus Beasley cross, which equalized the game. All show, no go. Ghana scored in the 2nd minute of stoppage time in the first half off a highly questionable penalty. A paranoid would think that the US specifically was targeted by FIFA with bad refereeing, perhaps as payback for our lack of humility in the world arena. Speaking of arenas, Bruce Arena, probably the worst choice for coach, failed to even make it interesting. His conservative line-ups and failure to coordinate his offense around someone other than Landon Donovan, who had a miserable tourney, made his appointment more than questionable.

Brazil 4 Japan 1

No surprises here, but this game is of note as Ronaldo scored two goals to tie for the all-time World Cup scoring lead with Gerd Muller of Germany.

Australia 2 Croatia 2

One of the dirtiest game of the tournament saw Croatia fighting for a win, literally. Australia scored late in the second half and the Socceroos move on to the elimination round.

Ghana will face Brazil in the first game of the next round. Italy, a favorite in the Group of Death that was Group E, faces Australia. If the Americans had shown the kind of passion they exhibited today against Italy and the Czech Republic, they'd be in the elimination round.