I’d missed the games on Sunday. Domestic duties had to be prioritized over international clashes. Thankfully one day was enough and I was able to finish most of the work on a day of relatively boring fixtures.
Having caught up with the highlights of the first two and the complete replay of the Brazil game I can now say that Paraguay did well against Slovakia and New Zealand were phenomenal against Italy. There wasn’t much to watch in either of these games except perhaps the pressing skills of the South Americans. Paraguay put pressure on the ball really high up and it was exciting to see. For the first goal they had 8 men pressing the throw high in the Slovakia half and the ninth one scored as he ran through acres of free space. The finish was quite neat as well.
Brazil’s performance against Ivory Coast was not really fascinating but they still ended up with three goals. One could argue that the second goal should have been disallowed but the way the top ranked team were cruising they could have scored another at any time if they really wanted to.
Sven Goran Eriksson screwed another country’s World Cup hopes with some very poor tactics. Ivory Coast had a team that could have put up a fight but for most parts they played in a clueless manner.
When the draw was announced I was really looking forward to Brazil V Portugal but now I’ve a feeling both teams will play out a drab draw.
The Portuguese plundered the hapless North Koreans. That virtually kills any chance Ivory Coast would have had of qualifying and I’ve a feeling Ronaldo and co will just sit back against the Brazilians, who will not be too keen to exert themselves either.
Ronaldo’s goal was a lucky one as he was off-side but some of the goals scored by the Portuguese were a joy to watch. The first one was a peach and we won’t get many better goals at the World Cup with a midfield runner arriving in the box and scoring off an inch perfect through ball. Tiago’s header for the last goal was quite brilliant as well.
Portugal were imperious in possession but I wouldn’t read too much into this performance as the North Koreans lost the plot in the second half. They tried going forward as they needed a result but it was always going to be a tough ask against an experienced and highly talented side.
In the second game of the day Chile boosted their qualifications chances with a win but I’ve a feeling they’ll miss out on goal difference. It will be interesting to know how many teams have gone out of the World Cup in the first round after winning the first two group games!
Hopefully the Swiss will falter against Honduras and Chile will get a crack at Brazil in the second round. I don’t have anything against the Swiss but as I’d said after their win over Spain, they are a team who need a lot of luck to win and aren’t exactly fun to watch.
This game was full of controversial decisions by an incompetent trigger happy referee. None more so than the Behrami red card. Technically you could say it was an arm to the face so it should be a sending off but the ref also needs to use some common sense. Still, this was in keeping with many other decisions we have seen so it’s hard to sympathize with only one.
I don’t think the game changed too much because of that decision. Chile created a lot of chances before and after the sending off but converted only one. The South Americans did lose their concentration towards the end and the Swiss had a glorious chance to equalize but Derdiyok blasted wide.
While Derdiyok provided us with a miss-of-the-tournament contender, Villa provided us a goal of the tournament candidate in the last game of the day.
Spain started against Honduras with a couple of changes. Iniesta and Silva were replaced by Torres and Navas, with Villa taking up the position wide on the left.
Honduras were far more adventurous than the Swiss had been and so it was only a matter of time before the Spaniards took control. Villa rattled the bar with a shot from distance to signal his intentions. Then he opened the scoring with a delightful solo effort. Receiving a measured ball from Pique on the left, he ran at the full back and went through two players with one trick before holding off the central defender and finishing in the far corner even as he lost his balance while shooting.
Honduras kept trying but Casillas was rarely troubled. To those who didn’t get it till now, this World Cup has clearly shown the value of top quality attacking players as smaller teams have struggled in the final third. Just like many others, Honduras put up a fight in defence and midfield but couldn’t create a chance of note after they got to the business end.
Villa duly collected his second goal on a counter. He scored via a deflected shot after a cut back from Navas found him in space just outside the box.
The Spanish striker missed his hattrick when he failed to convert a penalty. He went on to miss a couple of other good chances just as Torres had done when he was playing in the centre initially. Spain could have emulated Portugal’s scoreline but I don’t think it matters that much. If they win against Chile they will qualify. I’m really looking forward to that game as two teams with a positive intent go face to face, probably for the only time in the first round!
Fabregas came on just after the hour mark. I couldn’t understand his body language but he didn’t look his usual composed and mature self. El Capitan could have scored within seconds of arriving as he ran onto a chipped pass breaking the off-side trap. His touch let him down and he had to round the keeper, narrowing the angle and allowing the defender to get back on the line. The fact that he didn’t square it for Torres was highly uncharacteristic.
I don’t think he was happy with a role on the bench and looked too eager in the first few minutes. Soon after, Spain stopped playing the pass and move game as they held on to the lead so it’s difficult to judge how Fabregas performed.
The final round of group games will be played simultaneously with groups A and B in action tomorrow. I’m looking forward to another Messi master class and hopefully Uruguay and Mexico will help each other go through and more importantly will finally shut the door on France.