Tag Archives: Chile

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Round of 16 Finale

Dave, of upcoming band After The Explosions is back with his latest evaluation of the World Cup’s heroes and villains.

Winners


Spain

So it seems the world is still in love with the European Champions. Alan Hansen described it as a “victory for attacking football” and while that point is certainly arguable given Portugal’s suffocation tactics, Spain are looking very shaky indeed. There are holes in their defence and a better team should exploit it. I expect them to ease past Paraguay but once they come against Germany or Argentina, we shall see if they are World Champions material.

David Villa


Barcelona’s new boy can do no wrong.

Holland


Another win, another curious and not overly impressive performance. The question has become whether or not Holland are deliberately not playing at their best. The question will be answered on Friday when they line out against Brazil.

Brazil

Barely broke a sweat. Like Holland they haven’t really been challenged yet which makes their forthcoming clash all the more interesting. I would say mouthwatering but neither team has really excited thus far, despite showing flashes. Hopefully Friday will see the record being changed.

Paraguay

Into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. Gave us a fairly boring game but deserved their win.

Losers

English punditry


Tuesday saw a new low in the English presentation of the World Cup. It began with ITV’s Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate openly mocking the Paraguay/Japan game. While the match was undeniably dull, the relentless negativity from the ITV team was unprofessional and unnecessary.

Meanwhile over on BBC, commentator Jonathan Pearce dared to throw out some facts during the Spain/Portugal clash, leading his co-commentator Mark Lawrenson to sneer; “What were you doing before the game?”. Erm I don’t know Mark, his job perhaps? Lawrenson is a joke that is no longer funny, a decrepit and miserable dinosaur who violently lowers the quality of any football match he is allowed commentate on. Of all the complaints in this World Cup (and there have been many, both valid and invalid), my biggest one is the presence of “Lawro”. I’d rather get trapped in a lift full of tarantulas than listen to him again, but then again the alternative is George Hamilton so you can see my dilemma.

BBC also presented a solemn arthouse style film package about the the goal-line technology debate. A patronising easy listening piano plays over various footage of contentious refereeing decisions. The ref in the Germany/England game is jingoisitcally referred to as “England’s nemesis” while we get a cute little interview with nice English referee Howard Webb (who has never ever made mistakes EVER) who says he’s in favour of goal-line technology. There’s a shock.

But leave it to Alan Hansen to take the prize for the biggest idiot on display for offering the following during his analysis of David Villa’s match-winning goal; “There’s a hint of offside, but, who cares?”. His ill-timed, ill-informed and just plain disgraceful comment elicited laughter from Lineker and co but probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. If he was trying to be satirical, he failed. If he was trying to be funny, he failed. Terrible, as the man himself might say.

Portugal

Negative negative negative. With the exception of the mauling of North Korea, Portugal failed to score a single goal in the competition. That game flattered them hugely and gave false hope to anybody hoping to see the attractive attacking football shown by the Portuguese in Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006. It would seem those days are over, with Carlos Quieroz and his team choosing to employ negative anti-football tactics throughout, resembling a Greece side with more flair by the end of their campaign.

The autopsy report will make for grim reading. Ronaldo was ineffectual throughout, Deco signed off his international career with a whimper while once again Portugal were absolutely toothless up front. A lot of work needs to be done before Portugal become just another football team.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lived up to his reputation as someone who vanishes in big games by entering in several anonymous performances. He also made sure to enhance his reputation as a petulant brat by spitting at the camera as he trudged off the field in defeat. Many are hesitant to place Ronaldo in the elite “best of all time” bracket and it’s disgusting acts like this that hold him back from such greatness.

While many footballers have their dark side, including Lionel Messi who seems to get away with his gradually increasing petulance due to his ability, there is no excuse for lowering yourself to such a level. It’s frustrating because we all know just how phenomenal Ronaldo can be, but it’s times like these that give his biggest defenders no cause to do so.

Joan Capdevila

The worst piece of simulation to get a player sent off this World Cup will (hopefully) see. Absolutely shameful, but not surprising considering the actions of Torres in the previous round and Sergio Busquets for Barcelona against Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final.

Fernando Torres

Substituted just shy of the hour mark after another poor showing. He is clearly unfit and by starting him repeatedly, Vincente del Bosque risks harming both his player and his team. It will be interesting to see if  Fernando Llorente lines up alongside golden boy David Villa on Saturday night.

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World Cup Daily – International Press

Das Bild (Germany): Germany’s most popular tabloid reacted with glee to Die Mannschaft‘s victory over England. Das Bild proclaimed, “Jungs, we love you!”, a reference to the Jogi Löw’s young side and their phenomenal performance against the Three Lions.

Die Welt (Germany): Jetzt sind Deutschland and England quitt” (Now, Germany and England are even):

Die Welt described Frank Lampard’s controversial effort as ‘revenge for the Wembley goal’, referring of course to Geoff Hurst’s equally contentious strike against West Germany in 1966. In that case, the goal was given when perhaps it should not have been. The broadsheet prints a dizzying and unconventional match report, which emphasises the dream-like quality the result had for German fans.

The Mirror (United Kingdom): “FABIGO”


The Mirror pulled no punches in its evaluation of the defeat. Fabio Capello, they say has to go. The Mirror bemoans the new contract offered to the former Real Madrid manager just before the tournament which, they say, will entitle him to a vast sum in compensation.

The Sun: “Time to go Fabio. Clear off and take your players with you.”

The Sun also subscribes to the idea that the Italian is at fault while also offering partial blame to the players who they say “shamed the shirt”. The Sun argues that England’s results in the Group Stage were indefensible, referring to the 1-0 victory over Slovenia as “scraping through”, despite having praised Capello and England after that particular performance in previous editions.

El Universal (Mexico) : Se van de la peor manera – Un gol que no debió contar abre el camino de la debacle tricolor y la despedida para varios veteranos que no volverán a un Mundial”

“Gone the worst way – A goal that should not have been opened the way for the tricolour’s meltdown and a farwell to several veterans who will never grace the World Cup again.”

The Mexican broadsheet criticises Italian referee, Roberto Rosetti, for allowing Argentina’s opening goal which was shown to be clearly offside. The World Cup ended for Mexico where it had all begun in , Soccer City. El Universal bid its farewell to Blanco, Perez, Torrado and Rafael Marquez and damns the Argentine performance as showing ‘no spectacular football’.

It was an all too familiar end for El Universal. The newspaper drew parallels with Mexico’s demise in 2006, also at the hand of the Albiceleste.

De Telegraaf (Netherlands): Column Cruijff: Chili neemt rol Nederland over

In his regular and always insightful column, Johan Cruyff states that he believes that Chile have taken over the Netherlands’ role as a ‘trendsetter’ of beautiful football. Cruyff lends his ardent support to Marcello Bielsa’s side which he says create more chances than anyone else and entertain more fans than any other side at this World Cup.

Cruyff also considers the new push for technology in football in the wake of yesterday’s events. He firmly believes that goalline video technology is fine but in other instances, such as offside, handball etc, Cruyff firmly believes that technology should be avoided. The former Barcelona manager argues that football is a ‘game of mistakes’ and that placing too much emphasis on video technology would hinter the sport rather than help it.

And finally

The Daily Mail, which in the lead up to England v Germany purveyed a lot of copy offensive to Germans took it a step further in the aftermath of England’s 4-1 defeat to Jogi Löw’s side.

Outspoken, right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn had this to say:

And finally….again:

Our old friends in the New York Post have been at it again. Following the United States’ 2-1 defeat to Ghana after extra-time, ‘The Post’ has this to say about The Beautiful Game.


Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 10

Dave returns after a weekend break to evaluate the good and the great of the World Cup.

Winners

Portugal

And then some. Following a fairly tight first half, the Portuguese opened the floodgates in dramatic style, delivering the traditional World Cup drubbing in the process. While there wasn’t anything on display to rival the scintillating teamwork that led to Esteban Cambiasso’s goal during Argentina’s slaughter of Serbia & Montenegro in 2006, there was enough Iberian flair on display to significantly boost the confidence levels in the Portugal camp. Even Liédson got his name on the scoresheet.

The seven-goal tally also gives Portugal the added benefit of superior goal difference should they falter against Brazil in Durban on Friday afternoon.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Scored his first goal for his country in sixteen months. Just about.

Spain

Commanding but not convincing, or if you prefer Jim Beglin of ITV’s interpretation; “lovely but not lethal”. While the 2-0 scoreline somewhat flattered Honduras, Spain were wasteful in front of goal and really should have come away with a result comparable to Portugal’s romp against North Korea. A missed penalty and several missed chances kept things respectable and while things are definitely looking up for the European Champions, Spain will need to raise their game before they hit the second round.

David Villa

If his second goal was a tad fortunate, the first was anything but. A beautiful individual goal that will remain long in the memory, Barcelona’s newest acquisition displayed tremendous skill and determination to cut inside the Honduran defence before coolly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper while at full stretch. Villa really should have capped his performance off with a hat trick, but despite his missed penalty he was arguably the best man on the pitch in a red shirt. More please.

Chile

Although they made hard work of it. In retrospect it’s amazing that the game finished with only one goal scored and with 21 players on the pitch. At times it looked like a football had been thrown into the middle of a Royal Rumble, with the referee failing to keep control of things.

A combination of large egos and poor finishing meant the game finished with the slight scoreline of one nil, but the final quarter of an hour brought with it palpable excitement as both sides attacked one another relentlessly. Switzerland’s Eren Derdiyok will be left to rue a late miss when it seemed it was easier to score while Chile will go into their final game with Spain knowing that a point will leave them top of the group. They will also know that there is room for improvement.

Bookmakers

Al l those bets on Fernando Torres as top goalscorer currently look like an easy profit for Paddy Power and co.

Losers


Switzerland

While they did manage to net the rather unsexy accolade of becoming the team that went the longest at a World Cup finals without conceding a goal. Alas, their rigid defence finally came undone following wave after wave of Chilean attacks. At least Roger Federer mounted a ridiculous comeback at Wimbledon to save some of the nation’s blushes.

Valon Behrami

Got away with the first elbow but not the second. While the West Ham player’s ‘victims’ may have exaggerated the extent of Behrami’s actions, he can have little complaint at seeing red.

North Korea

Gamely held their own for 45 minutes before being torn to shreds in the second half. It’s rare that a team can take such a mauling and still exit a tournament with some degree of pride but North Korea played with conviction and ambition for the most part of their World Cup campaign and shouldn’t feel too dispirited. Hopefully the Supreme Leader feels the same way eh?

Ivory Coast

Portugal’s stunning haul effectively puts the Elephants out.

Swiss rolled by red hot Chile

Chile 1-0 Switzerland

Chile took advantage of Valon Behrami’s controversial sending off to beat Switzerland 1-0 in Port Elizabeth. Chile’s goal came courtesy of Mark Gonzalez’s 75th minute header.

Both sides won their opening fixture meaning that the winner in today’s match would take top spot in the group. Chile, true to form, were adventurous throughout but once again failed to convert most of the numerous chances that fell to them.

The return of Humberto Suazo for Chile was seen as a boost for La Roja. The Monterrey striker was involved almost immediately, receiving a yellow card for a robust challenge on Von Bergen.

Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal was tested with two stinging long range efforts in quick succession. The Vfl Wolfsburg ‘keeper first denying Arturo Vidal and then Carlos Carmona.

Alexis Sanchéz was a constant threat but Chile were unable to break a stubborn Swiss side down.

Switzerland’s Valon Behrami was wrongly sent off by the Saudi referee for an apparent forearm smash on Arturo Vidal just thirty into the game. Switzerland’s German manager Ottmar Hitzfeld was incensed on the sideline, the fourth official bearing the brunt of his protests.

Despite the sending off Chile would have to wait until the second half to take advantage of their numerical superiority. Alexis Sanchéz, the team’s star attraction, thought that he had broken the deadlock on 49 minutes. A well worked free kick saw the ball rolled to Sanchéz on the edge of the penalty area. There he sent a shot crashing through the legs of the Swiss defenders before finding its way past Diego Benaglio. His ecstatic celebrations were ceased by the linesman’s flag. This time it was the correct decision.

Having seen his earlier effort ruled out, Sanchéz looked doubly determined to score now. First he was denied by Grichting’s clearance and then by Diego Benaglio, who was enjoying an excellent World Cup. Benaglio rushed out towards the Udinese star and made blocked all potential avenues to goal.

Chile finally made the breakthrough just fifteen minutes before the end. A terrific through ball was played to substitute Oscar Paredes who crossed to the far post where Mark Gonzalez was at hand to score with a header.

For all of Chile’s domination they very nearly dropped two points. Derdiyok was given the ball just eleven metres from goal but pulled his shot wide of the post. Ottmar Hitzfeld collapsed to his knees in the dugout.

Chile hung on to secure a 1-0 victory which takes them three points clear of the Swiss at the top of Group H. Spain play Honduras this evening needing a win to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 6

Winners

Switzerland

Who saw that coming then? Considering even the word Switzerland hardly conjures up feelings of excitement, it was no surprise that the first half was an especially drab affair with the Swiss playing ultra defensive and rarely looking threatening. Mick McCarthy repeatedly scolded them for “being happy not to score” but thankfully once the second half rolled around they spat in the face of that particular assessment.

The opening round of games have proved to be mostly very tight affairs with teams playing very defensively, and while this has attracted criticism from viewers who crave goals, can it not be argued that certain teams simply need to play defensively? You can practically set your watch to the amount of times Arsene Wenger will complain about teams not allowing his beloved Arsenal to play their beautiful brand of football by suffocating his team and being happy to come away from the Emirates Stadium with a point.

While Wenger has a point, surely it’s nothing more than suicide for certain teams to repeatedly attack those clearly superior to them? Had Switzerland adopted a free and easy approach against the European champions they would surely have been crushed. As it was Spain had plenty of opportunities to win the contest and failed to do so, while Switzerland grew in confidence and pulled off a famous and deserved victory. This was not anti-football, nor was it winning ugly. And it certainly was no fluke.

Ottmar Hitzfeld


The wily veteran manager got his tactics absolutely spot on.

Eren Derdiyok

Made the goal and was cruelly denied a particularly sweet one of his own by the post. While the commentators were reluctant to heap praise upon the Swiss striker due to his direct nature, he made life difficult for the Spanish defence and his tenacity led to the decisive goal.

Chile

Impressive, but expectedly so. Having finished second in their South American qualifying group, many pundits have touted Chile to do well in South Africa. The 1-0 scoreline flattered their opponents, as Chile dominated the game and really should have come away with a more impressive goal tally. With Spain losing, it makes their upcoming clash all the more interesting.

Alexis Sanchez

The 21-year-old Udinese forward is one to keep an eye on.

Uruguay

Showed the creativity and killer instinct that was absent against France. With four points on the board and one game to play, they should be looking to win the group.

Diego Forlán

And he’s off. The man who destroyed the Europa League dreams of Fulham (and Liverpool) opened his World cup account with a spectacular brace. Both goals, in addition to his crossing, demonstrated that Forlán has little problems controlling the much-maligned Jabulani ball. One of the top strikers in world football, the Uruguayan is definitely worth a punt for top goalscorer should his country progress further. Please come back to Old Trafford Diego…

Losers

Spain

Oh dear. Just when they were beginning to shake off their choke artists tag, this happens. And yet I find it hard to be moved, considering their conduct. Spain, like their native Barcelona, have a quiet arrogance about them. While they do indeed play beautiful football, they seem to believe they have a divine right to victory simply because of their attractive output. Not so. Petulance was on display along with whinging and diving and in the end all that pouting, all that complaining merely amounted to a loss.

A shocking loss due to the identity of the opponent yes, but that Spain were defeated is not shocking at all. Hype is a killer, and as tournament favourites and with a history of failure in major competitions, don’t be surprised if Spain take the high-profile early exit this year.

Fernando Torres

Is it harsh to pick on a player who isn’t fully fit? Perhaps, but when you are labelled the greatest striker in the world (is Messi strictly a striker?) and you have thirty minutes to make an impact and proceed to scupper any and all opportunities that come your way, you certainly don’t belong in the winners column.

South Africa

May well suffer the ignominy of not qualifying for the second round of their own tournament.

Steven Pienaar

Sacrificed for the substitute goalkeeper after another poor performance. The new Premier League season can’t come soon enough for the Everton midfielder.

Itumeleng Khune


Perhaps unfortunate to receive a red card, the South African goalkeeper may well have played his final part in the competition.

Round One in Review

The first round of group stage fixtures at the 2010 World Cup is complete. Every team has now taken their World Cup bow in South Africa and we’ve already been left with some intriguing permutations for qualification to the last sixteen. World Cup Daily will now take a look back at this mini-milestone stage of the competition.

Group A:

Group A is a bit different by way of having already completed one game of the second round of fixtures. The result was a potentially crippling one for the Bafana Bafana, as they lost to Uruguay 3-0 while also losing their first choice goalkeeper to suspension. France play Mexico tomorrow with the winner of that game taking a massive step towards the next round. Here is the table as it stands.

Group A MP W D L Pts
Uruguay 2 1 1 0 4
Mexico 1 0 1 0 1
France 1 0 1 0 1
South Africa 2 0 1 1 1

The hosts, South Africa, achieved what may yet be their best result in the competition in the tournament’s opening game against Mexico. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s incredible strike will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. 1998’s winners France stuttered in a 0-0 stalemate against Uruguay. Although they failed to impress against Les Bleus, Uruguay now control Group A courtesy of their victory over Bafana Bafana in Pretoria this evening. Diego Forlan lead the line with conviction and scored two goals, taking him to the top of the goalscoring standings for the tournament.

The outcome of Mexico v France is key to the future of the group. If there is a winner to that game then the hosts will be all but eliminated and the victor should progress to the last sixteen alongside Uruguay. A draw will throw open a range of possibilities and will ensure an exciting climax, with South Africa’s participation in the World Cup still very much alive.

Group B:

The Republic of Korea and Argentina sit loftily atop Group B at the moment courtesy of victories over Greece and Nigeria respectively. The two sides meet tomorrow in the early kickoff at Soccer City.

The Republic of Korea were comfortable victors of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece. The Euro 2004 champions were both lethargic and sloppy and possessed none of the defensive nous that saw them capture the European Championships six years ago. On the other hand, Korea were excellent. Their captain, Park Ji Sung, has excelled in the playmakers role for South Korea for years and demonstrated his immense capabilities in their 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi was at his dazzling best in the Albiceleste’s 1-0 success over Nigeria. The tight scoreline flattered the Super Eagles and Nigeria will need to improve drastically if they are to have a future in the competition. Nigeria will face elimination from the competition should either South Korea or Argentina win and they are defeated by Greece. Lars Lagerbäck will refuse to accept a group stage exit and Nigeria should get the better of a Greek side devoid of ideas.

Group B MP W D L Pts
South Korea 1 1 0 0 3
Argentina 1 1 0 0 3
Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0
Greece 1 0 0 1 0

Group C:

To everyone’s surprise Slovenia sit in pole position in Group C. They capitalised on England’s 1-1 draw with the United States, beating Algeria 1-0. Slovenia were vulnerable on the flanks, where Ziani was a constant threat. The United States’ Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could pose similar problems to the Slovenians should they be allowed to transgress deep into Slovenian territory. Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic carried his remarkable Serie A form into the World Cup and will prove a difficult obstacle for Bob Bradley’s side.

The United States themselves were lucky to escape from Rustenberg with a point, Robert Green’s now infamous catastrophy allowing Clint Dempsey to score. USMNT are capable of producing a much superior performance against Slovenia. The Americans’ defensive core of Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit were solid against England, a huge boon considering Onyewu’s terrible recent history of injury. Bob Bradley will need to consolidate that defensive strength with a more potent strike force if the United States are to wrestle command of the group out of Slovenian hands.

England’s performance has been evaluated countless times since that night in Rustenberg. Last minute call-up Jamie Carragher was beaten easily on occassion by the pace of Jozy Altidore and if the rumours of him starting the next game are proven to be correct then John Terry will need to be on top form.

The conundrum of who is the best candidate to partner Wayne Rooney in attack has not yet been solved by Fabio Capello. Emile Heskey’s performance against the United States was bafflingly praised by some pundits in the immediate aftermath of the game. The reality is that Heskey is not a striker of genuine international-quality. Perhaps the best solution for Fabio Capello would be to move new captain Steven Gerrard forward into a support role for Rooney with a four man midfield behind the two.

Group D:

It is no surprise that Germany are the stand out performers in Group D thusfar. Their 4-0 demolition of Australia was founded on individual brilliance from Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski and fantastic distribution and holding from Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It will be a great relief to Jogi Löw to see Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski performing so effectively after both had endured difficult seasons for their club sides.

Australia on the other hand seem destined for elimination. They were powerless to prevent a drubbing at the hands of the Germans and to make matters worse their talisman, Tim Cahill, has been suspended. They must now face Ghana, who were better than their 1-0 scoreline indicates.

Stade Rennais’ Asamoah Gyan gave the Black Stars victory over Serbia. The real star performer, however, was Kevin Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth midfielder was busy, creative and determined against the Serbs and if he can continue that form against Australia then Ghana will stand on the brink of qualification for a second successive place in the last sixteen.

Serbia were predestined to be the tournament’s dark horses. They were abject against Ghana. Their celebrated defence was challenged by an under-strength Ghana and it is forgivable to think that they will have even greater difficulty against Germany’s multi-pronged attack.








Group D MP W D L Pts
Germany 1 1 0 0 3
Ghana 1 1 0 0 3
Serbia 1 0 0 1 0
Australia 1 0 0 1 0

Group E:

Holland failed to reach their potential against Denmark but still managed to escape with a comfortable 2-0 victory. The return of winger Arjen Robben will only add further strength to their challenge and they may yet become the swaggering champions that a large section of the world’s observers reckon they were born to become. The revelation of the game against Denmark was Eljero Elia. The young Ajax winger replaced Rafael van der Vaart and made an immediate impact. His energy and innate skill were clear to see and further appearances for the youngster are almost a certainty now.

Japan were everything their reputation told us they were. They were organised. They were boring. And they numbed Cameroon into submission. Keisuke Honda’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over the Lions. They will not be so fortunate against Holland.

Cameroon’s performance was toothless (pardon the pun). Samuel Eto’o was the only player to emerge with any credit and even he seemed powerless to prevent Japan from hanging on to a clean sheet and a victory. Cameroon should improve against Denmark, they have too many players of high quality not to. A victory is required. Anything less may spell an embarrassing early exit.

Group E MP W D L Pts
Netherlands 1 1 0 0 3
Japan 1 1 0 0 3
Cameroon 1 0 0 1 0
Denmark 1 0 0 1 0

Group F:

Paraguay 1 0 1 0 1
Slovakia 1 0 1 0 1
Italy 1 0 1 0 1
New Zealand 1 0 1 0 1

The immediately striking aspect of your first glance at the Group F table is Italy’s absence from top spot. The World Champions were perhaps the better side against Paraguay but could not convert their superiority into sincere shooting opportunities. If Marcello Lippi insists on keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation then he will need to remove Iaquinta. The Juventus forward was unthreatening throughout the encounter with Paraguay and his place in the starting line-up ahead of Antonio Di Natale is ponderous at best.

Of more immediate concern to ‘gli Azzuri’ is the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon. The decorated goalkeeper has suffered a recurrence of a herniated disc and may play no further part in Italy’s quest to retain the World Cup. Into the breach will step young Federico Marchetti. The Cagliari goalkeeper was a revelation in Serie A this past year and may yet prove to be a worthy replacement to one of the world’s greatest shot-stoppers.

Slovakia controlled the game against New Zealand but concentration lapses ultimately proved to be their undoing. Marek Hamsik, their captain and Vladimir Weiss were stand-out performers against New Zealand and must retain their creative flair if they are to overturn Paraguay as the second side to progress from the group.

There is a feeling that New Zealand have already achieved what they set out to do in drawing with Slovakia. It is unthinkable that they may claim another point against Paraguay or Italy despite their obvious strenghts in defensive organisation.

Group G:

Brazil showed their usual flair but were unable to score more than two goals against North Korea. Robinho and Maicon were the outstanding performers on the night for the Seleçao. They should prove too strong for Portugal, who were terrible against the Côte d’Ivoire, but may yet be tested by the Elephants.

North Korea were the unknown quantity in the ‘Group of Death’. Their star player, Jong Tae Se, garnered a lot of attention for his tears at the national anthems and his subsequent display which culminated in an assist.

Côte d’Ivoire were far more structured than they were in the Cup of African Nations. In Gervinho and Salomon Kalou they have players to supply the now fit Didier Drogba and also to beat fullbacks. If they can achieve a draw against Brazil and proceed to thrash North Korea, then the Brazilians may yet face an unlikely elimination from the World Cup.

Brazil 1 1 0 0 3
Côte d’Ivoire 1 0 1 0 1
Portugal 1 0 1 0 1
North Korea 1 0 0 1 0

Group H:


This group looked to be all about Spain. The European Champions and favourites to lift the World Cup were expected to breeze through this group with minimal fuss. They did not expect to encounter the managerial powerhouse that is Ottmar Hitzfeld and his appropriately strong Switzerland defence. The Swiss demonstrated the frailties within this otherwise exceptional Spain side.

Spain were unable to show the requisite cutting edge and for all of their possession, they mustered very few threatening attempts on goal. They will have a chance at redemption against Honduras, who were disappointing against Chile.

Chile were every bit as entertaining as we were led to believe. Marco Bielsa has created an attacking side with a remarkable flair and creativity to it. The tactical decision to field only three players was not exposed as folly by a blunt Honduras but achieving the same result against Spain may prove to be too difficult a challenge.

Resolute Swiss conquer Spain

Spain 0-1 Switzerland

In what will surely rank as one of the greatest upsets in this tournament’s history, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s rugged Switzerland caught Spain on the counterattack to record a famous victory. Spain dominated possession, controlling the football for an astonishing 88% of the game, but were unable to find a way through a terrific Swiss defensive effort.

Spain entered the World Cup as favourites to lift the coveted trophy for the first time, with recent performances in the World Cup warm-ups doing little to dampen the expectations placed upon them.

The first half was a catalogue of quick, accurate passing but the European Champions had few opportunities to test Diego Benaglio. Valencia’s David Silva felt that he should have had a penalty in the 14th minute after finding himself on the receiving end of a kick from Philippe Senderos. Despite his protests, referee Howard Webb was unmoved and allowed play to continue.

Sergio Ramos was operating in his usual marauding fullback role and was looking to break forward frequently. On one such run, he cut inside the Swiss penalty area but instead of rolling the ball back to David Villa he fired harmlessly into the side-netting.

La Roja continued to search for weakness in a wall of Swiss defenders, who appear to have been trained exceptionally by one of Europe’s most decorated coaches in Ottmar Hitzfeld. Gerard Piqué came the closest to breaking the deadlock before halftime, his exquisite drag back shook off the challenge of Senderos before he shot into the outstretched body of Diego Benaglio.

Spain’s trouble in front of goal continued towards the end of the half when David Villa found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat from the right. He failed to adjust the ball to his bodyshape, however, and his chip bounced away from goal.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, winner of two European Cups with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München, had brought nine players in front of the ball at almost all times in an attempt to suppress the passing flow of the Spanish. The tactic was working perfectly. Spain’s possession statistics at halftime were undoubtedly impressive but they had not seriously threatened the Swiss goal and found themselves suppressed by the careful marking of Grifting, Von Bergen and Huggel.

Spain started the second half brightly. David Silva controlled a wonderful pass from Xabi Alonso who beat his man before his cross was poked away for a corner. In terms of territory the ball was fixed firmly in the Swiss half. For all of their defensive intentions, Switzerland kept both strikers forward. Their resilience was rewarded in the 52nd minute. Benaglio sent a long kick forward into the Spanish half where it broke for Nkufo. The newest member of the MLS’s Seattle Sounders laid the ball off to his strike partner who was promptly challenged by Ilker Casillas. The ball rebounded loose. Gelson Fernandes was the fastest to react, poking home to score what would ultimately prove to be the pivotal goal.

Del Bosque attempted to wrestle control of the tie away from the Swiss, springing Torres and Jesús Navas from the bench in an attempt to add width and potency in front of goal to his hitherto blunt Spanish attack.

Attempts from Torres and Iniesta sailed harmlessly wide of the goal as Spain were forced to rely on long range efforts. Their best chance of the match fell to Xabi Alonso who’s first time effort from a corner roared onto the crossbar.

Switzerland almost found themselves two goals to the good just minutes later. Eren Derdiyok, standing in for regular striker Alex Frei, pressed forward with the ball, exercising breathtaking skill and guile to evade Piqué and Puyol before hitting the post with a low shot. The look on Hitzfeld’s face told us that this was a glorious opportunity to seal victory.

Spain poured forward in the dying minutes and exerted immense pressure on the Swiss. Their efforts proved to be in vain as they failed to create a genuine opportunity despite all of their possession and territory and Switzerland held on to secure a historic triumph.

The result is sure to be dissected in the Spanish sporting dailies. La Furia Roja shot 27 times in the game with only eleven of these attempts hitting the target. Spain will need to improve dramatically in front of goal. What looked to be a group which they should navigate with ease has now become a potential early stumbling block. Chile impressed against Honduras, while the Swiss already enjoy a three point advantage over the European Champions. Spain’s next fixture against Honduras represents an opportunity to re-calibrate their World Cup challenge. Anything less than an expected victory there may prove disastrous.